I've played every major massively multiplayer role-playing game released since 1998, yet it feels like I've spent the past 15 years playing the same game over and over again. That's a problem. EverQuest Next is the solution.
The original EverQuest established the basic layout that nearly ever subsequent MMORPG has followed. Players create a character and embark on a journey through increasingly dangerous settings, earning experience points in order to reach some sort of arbitrary level cap.
Once the cap is reached, players can either engage in endgame content — raids, player-versus-player, and other systems specifically designed to keep them from becoming bored between expansion packs — or they can create a new character, experiencing the same basic content all over again.
It's a trap that almost every MMORPG player falls into, a cycle that can only end in boredom. Now and then a developer will revamp the starting experience, as Blizzard did with its Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcaft, but that fresh content quickly became the new old. For all their claims of creating living, breathing worlds, most major MMORPG games have grown accustomed to holding their breath for a long, long time.
It's a problem of content — players devour it faster than it can be produced. Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet recently switched to an ambitious (and likely grueling) two-week new content cycle to address the problem.
Before I got my first look at EverQuest Next in the "Black Room" of SOE's San Diego studios last month, my excitement level for new MMORPG games was at an all-time low. The Elder Scrolls Online is interesting, but that interest stems from the series' rich history, not from the game itself. NCsoft's WildStar shows promise, but nothing I've seen so far indicates that I wouldn't fall into the same cycle of content consumption.
But as franchise director of development David Georgeson explained how EverQuest Next's world worked, my excitement level spiked.
An Ever-Changing World
He called them Rallying Calls — you may have read about them in Stephen's piece on the two EverQuest Next games. A call goes out to players to form a tent city in the woods. That tent city has to be protected from the goblins inhabiting those woods. Players drive them off — no really, the goblins are gone now, it's not just basic kill x number of y quests — and that tent city begins to thrive.