Everquest Next

It’s been about nine months since The Most Disappointing Keynote Speech ever, where John Smedley confirmed that, yes, EQNext WAS a Thing, but also that he couldn’t say anything about it because they had decided – at the last minute, it sounded like – to scrap much of what they’d done so far and retool.

To his credit, there have been more than a few incidents in the history of the EQ franchise where “ship what we’ve got and fix it when we can” has been the policy, or at least the perceived policy.  On the other hand, it’s been a frustrating time.  I still have an active EQ2 account, and I suppose I could always log into EQ1 now that it’s F2P, but what I’m really looking forward to is a fresh start, where there’s still lots of community excitement and where large swathes of the game haven’t yet been obsoleted by mudflation and level cap increases.

Now it’s about five days out from the Big Reveal at SOE Live.  I don’t expect we’re going to get huge amounts of information, but it’s going to be nice getting something – anything, really – official.

This gives me a few days still to speculate and hope that they will make The Perfect Game For My Precise Tastes.  Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

Races:  From the wallpaper we’ve seen, we know we’re getting a couple different varieties of elves, some of the humanish races, ogres, ratonga and Kerrans/Vah Shir.  I hope we wind up getting most of the eq2 races, though I expect they’ll hold out on at least some of them for future expansions.  I’m betting I won’t be able to indulge my Arasai addiction on day one.  My pie-in-the-sky hope is that each race gets its own home area, or at least that there are a mix of starting areas.  One of the neat things about EQ1 was that if you started, say, a halfling, it was days of playing – or some very clever dodging around high level aggressive nasties – before you saw any other city.  I still remember my Qeynos-to-Freeport run at level 9, then hopping on a boat and roaming around Faydwer, finding Ak’Anon and Felwithe, poking my nose into Dagnor’s Cauldron…

I’m also hoping that city factions are as meaningful and as nuanced as in EQ1.  EQ2 was a little too much black-and-white – if you were welcome in Qeynos, you were pretty much welcome anywhere in Qeynos and Freeport was completely off limits, or the other way around.

Classes: I’d rather this is closer to EQ1 than EQ2.  EQ2 had 25 classes, mostly stemming from the need to have a “Good” and “Evil” version of each class.  I still can’t tell you what the difference between a “Coercer” and an “Illusionist” is, or why you’d rather play a “Bruiser” than a “Monk”.  EQ1’s class system was complex enough with 14.  I’d also like to see more racial restrictions on classes – maybe not as brutal as EQ1’s “Barbarians are Rogues, Shaman or Warriors, full stop” system, but stuff like Troll Wizards never quite sat right with me.

My crazy hope for the classes in EQNext is that every class will have at least One Cool Thing that makes them group (or raid)-desirable even if their primary job is already being handled.  Something to avoid the scenario where you’re setting up for a raid and have a main tank and an off tank and all another warrior is going to do for you is add some sub-par DPS.

Zones: Antonica is a given.  I’d LIKE to get Odus and Faydwer at release, but they saved those for expansions in EQ2.  One of the only pieces of concept art we’ve seen was a shot from (what appeared to be) one of the Faydarks, so that’s promising anyway.  We’ll probably see a mix of contested and instanced dungeons, which leads me to my next wish-list item: a working group finder for dungeons.  There were some attempts at this in EQ2, but the groups it put together were so far removed from the demands of the actual content that it was quickly abandoned.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but nothing outside of the toughest raids should demand The Perfect Group.  EQ1 was bad enough with “Tank, Cleric, Enchanter, 3 DPS”, but the “Tank, two healers,  Enchanter, Bard, 1 DPS” model that the EQ2 community settled on was absurd, particularly when it scaled up to “Two tanks, eight healers, four Enchanters, four bards, six DPS” for raids.

If I am going full-on-crazy-talk time, I’d like the game to be reasonably solo-friendly, just because that’s the reality of the MMORPG market, but to also allow small groups of two or three people to be MORE effective than going it alone.  Many of my best EQ1 groups started with me and another player, tackling what we could, getting more ambitious as we picked up additional players, and scaling back what we were doing as people left the group.

Contested dungeons are perfect for the more organic groups, so I hope we see lots of them.  Soloable stuff near the entrance, stuff that takes a couple of people as you get further in, all the way down to the Big Bads that take at least four people and a fifth and sixth wouldn’t be unwelcome.   Instanced versions of all contested dungeons, with the ability to grind in contested and swap to an instance if you had a full group would be amazing, and instances should be tuned to be doable without requiring any of the gear that drops IN the instance, much less tuned around gear from higher-end instances or raids.   Drunder instances, I’m looking at YOU.

Basically I’d like to get away from the “level entirely through solo questing, and group up only for six-man instances” model if at all possible.

Finally, EQ2’s 12-and-24-man raid sizes were just about perfect.  I have memories of leading 72-man Planes of Power raids.  Note that I specifically did not say “I have fond memories of…”

Class abilities: The spell and combat ability system in EQ1 was hopelessly restrictive, allowing you a maximum of 10 abilities to choose from at any given time.  EQ2’s went overboard in the other direction – most of my characters had at least six ability bars full of things to use in combat.  There needs to be a balance somewhere between “I cast my big nuke, then cast two of my little nuke, then my big nuke has refreshed” and “Well, I use this ability which persists for 20 seconds and is on a 15 second cooldown, so I don’t hit it again as soon as it refreshes, but THIS one must be cast every time it comes up, and THIS one is something that I should only hit if everything else is down, and THIS AE only affects groups of linked monsters while this OTHER one affects all monsters in an area but I shouldn’t use it if there are less than four because it’s less mana efficient than…”

Let’s see, other random wishes…

No instanced guild halls, at least not at the beginning, and – if there must be instanced housing – restrict the amenities that can be put in houses and give people a reason to come out into the cities.

Encumbrance should be A Thing again.  Sorry, monks.

All attributes should be useful.  No “I stack as much AGI and STA as I can and don’t need to worry about anything else”, and also no “Well, I have STR AGI DEX CON INT WIS CHA all at cap, and so does every other player in this group”

Oh, and transparency in what stats do for you would be pretty spectacular.  It’d be nice to look at a prospective item and get a pop-up of “this adds 10 strength, so your melee attacks will hit for x percent more, but you lose 20 agility so you will be hit y percent more often”. This transparency standard should go double for “Gating stats” like the much-reviled Critical Mitigation.

Tons of random NPCs and monsters with no quests attached.  If you run around, say, EQ1’s Karanas or the North Ro – Oasis – Southern Ro strip, you run into all kinds of little settlements and houses and stuff with no purpose to be there other than “hey, this is a good place for a fishing village”, and the original EQ2 zones were like this as well.  It’s OK if stuff is Just There For Flavor.

I guess most of what I’m looking for is “The stuff that was cool from EQ1 and the stuff that was cool from EQ2, but not so much of the stuff I didn’t like from either”, and I could have – and probably should have – said that in WAY less than 1500 words. 🙂


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