Monday, August 5, 2013

EverQuest Next: I Better Be Careful

NOTE:  I originally planned on writing up a summary of the EQNext reveal.  But with so many other places writing up summaries I decided to look at elements of the game instead.

I think I've played in EVE Online's low sec way too long.  The idea of carebearing in territory others consider dangerous is now rather attractive.  After watching the reveal of EverQuest Next a couple of times and listening to Dave Georgeson (aka Smokejumper), the Director of Development for the EverQuest Next franchise, I figured I could change up the way I normally approach a game and play the bad guy.  After all, SOE is going around stating that EverQuest Next is a sandbox and that players' choices matter.  The example that Georgeson gave in the reveal concerned orcs.  A player could help the locals fight orcs, or the player could help the orcs slaughter the locals.  The choice is yours, and the choices have consequences.

The EQNext website implies I can play a "bad" character.
He made it sound like a player could make friends with the local orc faction.  So could I wander out far away from settled lands, make friends with the local orcs (or whatever the dominant NPC type is in the local area) and then set up shop gathering rare crafting materials?  Think the mountain men interacting with local native Americans back in the 18th century.  I could even get a jump on learning gathering and crafting by signing up for EverQuest Next Landmark.  I'm sure some of what is in that game will transfer to EverQuest Next.

Of course siding with NPC's who are on the wrong side of authority is nothing new.  During the live events leading up to Incursion in EVE, we witnessed many players role play as Sansha Nation sympathizers and actively aid the live event actors against the efforts of other players.  I thought that was pretty cool, although the players losing ships probably didn't think so.

One of the problems that the Sansha Nation sympathizers had is that the NPC AI would shoot the sympathizers.  Many players wanted a way to, if not actively work with the NPCs, to at least not get fired upon.  Listening to Georgeson talk it sounds like the AI governing EQNext's NPCs is more advanced than CCP's and players can actually aid orcs without having their heads ripped off if they act properly.

Of course, just because SOE makes an action or play style technically feasible doesn't mean that players are allowed to perform those actions.  At a question and answer session this exchange took place:
Q.  So last night during one of the panels, the question came up about disrupting a Rally Call if you wanted to be the bad guy. Team gave a definitive yes, that you would be able to do that. I would really like for you to elaborate on what kind of system you'll use to do that.

Darrin McPherson, Lead Designer:  Destruction probably comes in the form of not doing it. You can choose to not participate, but generally RC are not going to go in reverse. If the RC is to build up the city of Qeynos, it's not going to happen in reverse.

Terry Michaels, Senior Producer:  There are many ways in which RC's can be progressed and there are ways in which players can disrupt aspects of that progression. For instance, if there was part of a RC that required you to collect wood in the area, you could disrupt it by going in and cutting down every tree that you see and making sure that there is no wood that anybody else can get. But that doesn't mean that not getting wood is going to stop other avenues of progression.

Dave Georgeson:  We're not actually building a game that's set up so that you can grief.
Uh, oh!  Sounds like if the NPCs I've cultivated good relations with become the target of a Rally Call, I better not help them or I could get banned for griefing.  Which is too bad, because helping my pixelated friends could get me good standings not only them but a wider group of NPCs I might want to cultivate standings with.  Standing aside to avoid an account ban could possibly hurt my standings and undo a lot of work, or at least make future actions much harder.

Of course, I don't think the game is even in alpha yet, so many things can change.  But I'll need to remember that not all sandboxes are run alike.  Assuming, of course, that EQNext is actually a sandbox after all the development is complete.

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