When it comes to innovation, the MMORPG scene, overall, has been lacking in it for quite some time. Most MMOs try and copy the features of World of Warcraft in order to attempt to copy the success that Blizzard has experienced since releasing WoW. Most MMOs, as a result, end up not doing as well as the developers anticipate. The MMORPG market is 100% different than it was at the time before WoW’s release more than 10 years ago.
Gamers now want something different than WoW—something they can sink their teeth into and enjoy without having to dive through scripted quests, tiring endgame currency systems, and silly grinds. A game with open-ended systems and features that are totally original and refreshingly unique. If we wanted to play WoW, we’d play WoW, right? Simply put, we’re looking for something more.
One game that might very well deliver that long-awaited more is EverQuest Next. The developers have announced a great deal of features and systems that appear to be truly unique and may forever change the scope of MMORPG development. The creative team behind EQN knows how a good MMORPG is made and is taking every precautionary step as to ensure that the game isn’t rushed and isn’t over-simplified. MMO fans are willing to wait for a unique, fully complete MMORPG as long as it’s made well. We might just be in luck.
Here are some of EQN’s most promising, innovative features and how they might change future games:
We’ve all leveled a billon times in MMORPGs now. The rush of dinging level 10 is something most of us are kind of over. Sure, it’s fun progressing on your character, gaining new abilities, becoming stronger, and getting to utilize new gear, but the act of having to grind/quest for a certain amount of time before gaining access to what’s generally referred to as the real “meat” of any MMORPG (otherwise known as endgame) is extremely repetitive and in many cases just not fun.
EverQuest Next is finally trying something different than the same ol’ level grind we see in every single MMORPG. The game is doing away with levels completely, and will instead let players progress however they choose to. New abilities are learned and advanced by progressing through “tiers” that require certain accomplishments to obtain. New gear is acquired from crafting and monster drops. If a player wants to progress their character by running one dungeon over and over with a friend, they can do just that. If they want to explore the world and see every nook and cranny, that’s an option as well.
With this system, players are free to jump in challenging content any time they wish. They’re free to advance their characters for as long as they want, or switch to other classes and work on class advancement in any order they choose. Players are given complete freedom and can create their own meaning of what character advancement should be and is.
A system like this is completely unheard of in the MMORPG scene, and many gamers have been eagerly awaiting such an innovative concept. If created well, it’ll let players customize their gameplay entirely around their preferences. This concept is just what the MMORPG scene needs to keep the genre fresh.
Players will also be free to choose from over 40 classes in EQN and even multi-class into various classes. While multi-classing is slowly starting to become a bit more popular in MMORPGs, most games limit their multi-class systems substantially. In EQN, players can choose from a large amount of cross-class skills and can progress in any class of their choosing simply by playing as that class and completing accomplishments. The keywords system will make learning how various skills interact with one another more simple than in other games, and may allow for easier balancing strategies.
The huge number of possible classes and multi-class combinations is quite staggering. While this large amount of options will be undoubtedly complex to balance, by focusing on ability and keyword interaction, the development team should be able to plan ahead and focus on how different abilities impact one another directly.
This immense number of multi-class possibilities is unheard of in the MMO genre, and if handled well, we should begin to see much more freedom in how most MMORPGs play and how class/ability systems are refined. The developers have also stated that there will be no “holy trinity” system in EverQuest Next. There will be no dedicated healing/tanking builds or classes. Players can choose to incorporate tank-ish abilities or healing abilities into their builds, but they don’t have to. This will let players play however they wish, without feeling like they need X or Y class to get through a difficult area or dungeon.
The loss of a holy trinity system isn’t something entirely new in today’s MMORPG market, but games that experiment with dropping the system often don’t follow up well when it comes to class/ability balance. For gamers who dislike having to sit around and wait for a tank and/or healer all of the time, an MMO without a trinity system is a step in the right direction and may lead to a completely new alternative to the trinity system.
It is interesting to know that holy trinity system is instead becoming popular in MOBA. Heroes of the Storm, a MOBA developed by Blizzard Entertainment, use the same kind of concept to categorize hero into 4 roles including warrior, support, specialist, and assassin. The classing system could be seen from both KillerGuides and http://www.heroesofthestormsource.com, Maybe in the future we might see a new game genre from the combination of MMORPG and MOBA.
EQN is being developed with an advanced AI system that will cause NPCs to act similar to players. This type of AI is often known as an “emergent” AI. This goes hand-in-hand with EQN’s proposed Storybricks system which will let the game world seem like a living entity where camps of mobs move locations, quests change, and storylines shift as time passes. If a player quits the game for six months and returns later, they’ll see that everything around them has shifted entirely.
Such an AI system will ideally create an environment where enemy mobs and bosses are smarter, less scripted, and a little more unpredictable perhaps. If Devs succeeds, this will make combat and questing inherently more interesting and feel less like a boring chore. If the remaining mobs inside an enemy camp seek aid from a nearby camp instead of dying after their fellow villagers have been killed, for example, players will need to react accordingly and chase after them or proceed elsewhere. Killing monsters suddenly becomes more interesting, more risky, and less repetitive.
This is one of the reasons PvP combat is sometimes more interesting to some players than PvE combat. Players are unpredictable, learn from their opponents, and change tactics based on what goes on around them. If the developers can replicate a fraction of human nature and cause their NPCs to react accordingly to the actions of players, this could be a serious game changer in the MMORPG market and gaming as a whole.
Changes of this nature may impact raiding to a huge degree one day. These changes may not be seen in EQN, but they might be seen in the games of the future. Instead of raid fights based around bosses having mechanics that require perfection from its players, raid bosses may be less scripted, and may require players to think on their feet and plan ahead for disaster. This may make some classes such as support-oriented classes much more vital. This may also encourage players to think about flexibility and self-sustainability instead of pure DPS min-maxing.
Unique Combat Mechanics
Aside from the myriad of abilities and classes that players have to choose from in EQN, players will also be able to enjoy a combat system that’s more unique than those found in most other games. The ability and keyword systems in EverQuest Next were designed around the various elemental/spiritual forces in the game (each “keyword” is essentially its own element or spiritual force). This makes it so each and every ability acts differently when combined with other abilities and buffs, etc. This lets players fully customize their character and build.
Additionally, each type of keyword also has a certain visible and audible effect. When ability animations are created, these effects are inserted into every ability and also affect cross-class abilities. Players can not only enjoy an ability lineup that’s unique from the next player, but they can also experience combat that looks, sounds, and feels a certain way based on a given keyword or based on a certain element/force.
Uniqueness is the draw here. Every player’s combat experience will differ from the next player’s experience. That promise alone breaks serious ground in the MMORPG scene where we’re accustomed to seeing a whole pack of “flavor of the month” spells and/or abilities firing off everywhere we go.
EQN is also utilizing a combat statistic system that’s much different than seen in most games. Instead of large chunks of stats being easily available on gear, stats (called attributes), will be extremely difficult to acquire. Attributes will have numerous effects on a player’s gameplay experience and won’t just modify a character’s DPS by a small amount. Attributes will affect everything from running and jumping to the way a warrior swings a weapon or the speed at which a wizard casts spells. All attributes are useful for all classes.
These changes are quite unique in the MMORPG market. Players have spent years collecting purple-colored gear with higher and higher stats on them, but not every game has to be created that way. There are multitudes of ways to progress characters in an MMORPG, and by creating difficult-to-obtain attributes that modify the game experience significantly, players can strive to better their characters without feeling like they have to min-max X or Y attribute. This changes how players plan ahead for progression, and it also changes how players will look at all games that come after EQN.
Thanks to combat in Landmark, we have a glimpse of how the game world environment will work in EQN. We know that the environment will be destructible in part. Certain areas of the game can be destroyed in search of raw crafting materials and open land. This will cause the world to shift and change as players make their way through it. When a large battle happens, the evidence will be apparent. This type of environmental impact in a game is largely unheard of—at least in MMORPGs that aren’t entirely voxel-based.
Think about the possibilities. Players can escape a group of mobs by digging into the ground and creating a trench that the mobs will have to walk around. Players can take shortcuts through large sections of rocks by digging through them. Players searching for ore and wood will have to make their way through a landscape that doesn’t always remain the same. This creates an environment that is inherently dynamic. Dynamism makes an online world such as an MMORPG feel 100% more alive.
This type of system raises a few concerns, however, and the developers have addressed these concerns solidly. Environments will build themselves up again over time. Certain environments—such as those located around major cities most likely—will also only suffer minimal damage from players. Both points should prevent players from griefing other players and areas intentionally.
If handled well, EverQuest Next’s environmental destruction system will add a great deal of dynamism to the genre which was previously only available in voxel-based games like Minecraft and Trove. When players can truly customize and change their digital world around them, they’re much more likely to stay inside that world and make it a digital home.
With innovation such as the points listed above, it’s easy to see that even non-MMORPG fans may become a fan of EverQuest Next. EQN is taking the genre and challenging many of the features and systems that are seen as “necessary” but in fact really aren’t. The MMORPG genre is one that’s inherently open and free for innovation of all types. The world’s the limit. Finally, it seems we have a team of developers who may understand that. EverQuest Next may be the start of the MMORPG revolution as we know it.