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EverQuest Next Aims to Evolve the MMO Genre

Sony Online Entertainment revealed on Friday the next chapter in the EverQuest saga which began in 1999: EverQuest Next. Like the original game introduced 14 years ago, this new installment will supposedly change the way gamers play together online. It's been in development since 2009, and promises a different experience than other MMOs using elements like permanent change, multi-classing and more.

"With EverQuest Next, we’re going back to our roots – a space we defined with the EverQuest legacy – and ushering in a new era of MMOs: The Emergent Era," said John Smedley, President, Sony Online Entertainment. "Today, many MMOs fail because players consume content faster than developers can create it. With EverQuest Next, we’re creating a living world that players are part of and empowering them to produce new content alongside the development team."

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Emergent AI is one of the key features in SOE's third-generation EverQuest MMO. Decisions made by NPCs will be based on "core values" instead of static spawn points, meaning a group of Orcs will attack a player because they want his/her gold, not because the gamer wanders into a pre-defined attack radius. NPCs will have specific motivations and preferences that direct behavior in nuanced and unpredictable ways, the company explained.

Destructible environments is also another key feature. SOE claims that no modern MMO has successfully implemented this element across an entire seamless world. Every piece of the virtual realm is destructible, and players will have the ability to manipulate almost all of it. As an example, adventurers will be able to explore the deep bedrock underneath the surface by blasting a hole in the ground.

"Players will also have the ability to cause the world to change around them, permanently, in dramatic ways," the company said. "Through the concerted effort of the world’s inhabitants, including players, creatures, and non-player characters (NPCs), city walls will be built and destroyed, large-scale wars will be fought and won, and epic stories will unfold over months and years."

Thus, EverQuest Next will be a constantly changing sandbox world. This allows SOE to free up the player from predetermined paths, allowing them to develop their character based on actions and consequences. The game will remember every choice and action that players make and will organically deliver increasing opportunities, the company said.

In an interesting twist, SOE has ripped out the typical character leveling. Instead players will have more than 40 classes (or professions) to explore at launch along with multi-tiered abilities and specialized weapon skills to collect and master. Characters will be truly customized thanks to the way players can mix and match abilities from each class. Guess that means no more DING!

In addition to the MMO, SOE is also introducing Everquest Next Landmark building tools. This will allow players to build structures and other content to be considered for inclusion in Everquest Next. Gamers are essentially building the virtual world along with SOE using many of the same tools used by the developer.

Landmark is slated to launch this winter as a "Free To Play Your Way" offering, and as the first step in a multi-phase release strategy. Currently no formal date has been set for the actual EverQuest Next MMO, so stay tuned.

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