Last played: 2014
Experience: Very Extensive
If I had any one reason to be optimistic about EverQuest Next, it’s because of PlanetSide 2. People say Landmark is the “beta test” for Next, but I think the real test case for what many people are saying could be the “Next Big Thing” is PlanetSide 2.
That’s got nothing to do with the actual mechanics of the game, of the shooter fundamentals, the base-capturing, the graphics – well, it does have a bit to do with the graphics, even though EQN is going to look much different. PlanetSide 2 was SOE’s first game using their ForgeLight engine, and, if you recall, it performed very badly at launch and throughout the game’s first year. They spent much of that time optimizing things and probably learned a lot about how to make the game run smoother. That experience should help loads when it comes time to make EverQuest Next.
Even more so than the software, I consider PlanetSide 2 to be SOE’s first “true” free-to-play game. Yes, Free Realms came out earlier, but that was when F2P was still a new thing in the West, still in its infancy, and Free Realms suffered for it. Other SOE games also went F2P earlier, but they were sub games to start.
With PlanetSide 2, SOE got the formula largely right. Granted, that’s easier to do with a PvP game than with a PvE game, but by making the game accessible and entertaining to players of varying skill levels and wallet sizes – you can still be effective in a group even with starter weapons – they created a game that rewards players for their experience but doesn’t punish them for lack of it.
That’s another, more subtle point, that’s not talked about much when discussing PS2. As Matt Higby explained to me when I first talked to him about the game, the top end of vertical player progression makes you only 20-25% better than a starting character. This is the optimal solution – not auto-adjusting levels so that a level 10 can compete with a level 50, and definitely not a free-for-all, where level 50s can carve through a dozen level 10s with ease – but doing away with the vast gaps that vertical progression and typical leveling systems inherently create. People will still want to get that tiny bit better, but they don’t have to be light-years more powerful than less-experienced players.
Character levels are an artifact of older games and just don’t translate well to multiplayer online games, where you need a semi-level playing field or at least the ability to more easily play with your friends. PlanetSide 2 does that better than just about any game out there. EverQuest Next also won’t have levels, and I’m hopeful that it’ll do experience and progression much like PlanetSide 2 does.