Four years after development on EverQuest Next began, Sony Online Entertainment finally showed it off today at its SOE Live fan fest event in Las Vegas. With an emphasis on player-created content and an open-ended gameplay experience, SOE president John Smedley sees the game as the launching point for a new "Emergent Era" in MMO games.
"We're not just making the next MMO," Smedley told GamesIndustry International. "We're really inventing an entirely new genre within online gaming and we're moving our entire company toward the concept of emergent content. Everquest Next is sort of the culmination of this concept of emergent gameplay where players are basically playing a large simulation, a large sandbox, and they're making content themselves. And they're part of this content ecosystem where players can sell or buy from one another, or from us. We're basically taking the game and we're stretching it in completely new ways with this emergent gameplay idea."
On the content creation front, SOE will launch the free-to-play EverQuest Next Landmark this winter. A building tool with an MMO's social functionality, Landmark will let players work together to create their own structures (and sometime post-launch, other types of content as well) using resources collected from persistent worlds. Those creations will then be considered for inclusion in the full version of EverQuest Next, and SOE developers will give users guidance on what structures they most need during development. Ultimately, Landmark is expected to help address the problem of MMO game users consuming content faster than developers can actually create it.
"You're not going to Disneyland. The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun."
Smedley acknowledged the idea for user-created content originally came from Valve, but SOE is looking to build on the idea by being the first company to bring it to MMOs in a smooth-working manner, making it easy for players to be a part of the creation community. SOE has already dabbled in user-made content with its Player Studio program, which lets gamers create in-game items for titles like EverQuest, and receive a share of 40 percent of revenues it brings in if it's included in the SOE Marketplace.
"We've learned that great content really does sell, and our players can actually make better stuff than us," Smedley said of the Player Studio program. "So our goal here is to set it up so our players can make money just like we can with this ecosystem we want to build. What we've learned is that it really does work."
Beyond involving players in building the EverQuest Next world, SOE's sandbox approach to the game experience should also sidestep the common MMO pitfall of players racing through scripted content too quickly. Smedley said the established MMO formula amounts to a guided theme park experience, but SOE is aiming at something very different with EverQuest Next.
"You're not going to Disneyland," Smedley said. "The equivalent is we drove you to Africa in the middle of the biggest wild animal preserve there is and handed you a jeep and a gun, and said have fun. That's the difference, Disneyland versus that. We're making that."
SOE has no announced release window for EverQuest Next.