EverQuest Next is a complete reimagining of the world of Norrath both physically and in terms of lore. Many characters, locations, items, and lore will feel familiar to players of previous games in the franchise, but there will also be many changes and brand new discoveries.
EverQuest Next's Director of Development, Dave Georgeson, refers to these key features as the four "holy grails" that will bring innovation to the MMO genre that were never possible before.
Changing the Core Game
Rather than rehashing the standard D&D method of picking a class at the start and progressing through a tech tree specific to that class, EQ Next features a Multiclass System. Players can choose from one of eight base classes at the start of the game, then discover many others by simply playing the game. Players can pick and choose elements of new classes they discover to create their own unique hybrid characters and switch between them on the fly.
Blow up anything, anytime, anywhere. The world of Norrath from the mountains to the smallest plants in EQN are constructed entirely of tiny voxels, which allows for anything to be both destructible and constructible. Players are able to strategically destroy bridges, crash through walls, knock down trees, and dig through the earth virtually anywhere in the game. The playable world in EQN is hundreds of feet deep in any given location, so players can dig down and discover hidden caverns, temples, and all sorts of secrets. The depths of Norrath can be procedurally generated, and while player-created tunnels can be permanent, world events such as earthquakes can collapse them and new content will be left waiting to be discovered.
A Life of Consequence (Emergent AI)
All NPCs have their own built-in wants, needs, and fears. For example, rather than having an orc camp that spawns four orcs every fifteen minutes in the same exact same spot for all eternity, when those orcs spawn, they seek out their own desires as a group and are affected by the actions of players both directly and indirectly. If provoked enough, those orcs may uproot their camp and move to a new location they believe will be easier to pick off wandering adventurers. Players might then do a quest that changes the patrol route of guards, which further angers an orc emperor somewhere nearby who starts sending even more orcs to fight back. Dynamic AI like this example is present throughout EQ Next, which means the world is continuously changing based on the actions of individual players as well as collective groups of players.
Permanent Change (Rallying Calls)
Server-wide Public Quests that can take months of real time to complete and have a permanent impact on that server's version of Norrath. These Rallying Calls have various story beat checkpoints, but it is not always clear what exactly will trigger the next piece. For example, a city is being built somewhere in the wilderness. Players can help or impede the progress of the city's construction by building walls, clearing nearby forests of goblins, or protecting miners from the dangers found below the city. Through the progression of the story, new quests will be introduced based on what players have done on that server's version of the Rallying Call. Once complete, a permanent change will have been made in that server's world, which may be completely different from what another server's community did. These Rallying Calls could include events such as constructions of city, multistage wars between factions, invasions of new races, and much more.
EverQuest Next utilizes a multiclass system that allows players to pick and choose aspects of many familiar and not-so-familiar classes to create their own unique characters. The game does not have levels in the traditional sense. Instead, players progress through the class system similar to job systems found in some RPGs. Eight classes are available to choose from during character creation and around thirty-two more (at launch) can be found within the game through quest rewards, loot, raids, etc.
Every class has two weapon types available to them, each with their own unique skills/abilities. For example, the warrior class can either wield a two-handed sword or a hammer and shield. The player's choice of equipped weapon determines which skills are available. Each class also has their own innate class-based abilities such the warriors' "leap" (pounce attack) or the wizards' "flash" (short distance teleport). Players can have a maximum of four weapon skills and four class skills active in their hotbar at any given time.
In EQ Next, players are not limited to their original class choice. They can switch between their available classes at any time except while in combat. While there are no artificial limitations on how many classes one player can discover, there may be faction-based limitations. For example, a guild of assassins may require a player to perform certain tasks in order to earn their trust and join their ranks. These nefarious tasks could potentially make it almost impossible for that same player to simultaneously earn the favor of a paladin guild.
In addition to switching between classes entirely, players can also customize their class by adopting certain skills to create hybrid classes of their own. If a player wants to be a teleporting rogue, they can do that.
While many of the class types are traditional in terms of the MMO genre, the "holy trinity" of Tank/Healer/DPS has been mostly scrapped. The developers have said that each class can and should be responsible for their own survival.
As always, players will be able to pick from a list of races for their character, each with their own pros and cons in terms of stats and abilities. Appearance can vary greatly thanks to the many customizable options during character creation.
Religion and the gods themselves are important in many aspects of the world. The gods themselves are said to have a tangible influence on things that affect individual characters as well as on world altering events that occur in Norrath. At the time in history where EverQuest Next begins, no one living has ever seen any of the gods, but many are still devout followers based on tradition passed down through the generations.
The Seraphs, a relatively new religion, are a group of eight gods and goddesses worshipped primarily by members of the Combine. The Seraphs include:
- Anashti - Known as "The Reaper."
- Brell - Known as "The Builder," he is worshipped by crafters.
- Erollisi - Goddess of love, nature, and growth.
- Karana - Known as "The Traveler," he is the god of weather.
- Luclin/Drinal - Goddess of history and prophecy.
- Mithaniel - God of war, honor, and duty.
- Solusek - God of fire as well as learning.
- Talen - Known as "The Trickster," she is worshipped by many rogues and bards.
The Four is an ancient religion founded by the Keldarain in the first era. The gods and goddesses of The Four are elemental gods that govern water, earth, fire, and air.
Veeshan is the mother of all dragons. There are some non-dragons who worship her, but it is quite rare.
The Nor'I is the belief is the spirit of the planet Norrath itself, which is primarily a religion of the Kerrans.
The stories within the world of Norrath consist of thousands of years of detailed history, which is utilized in many aspects of the game. While similar in many ways to the fiction found in the previous games of the franchise, the lore in EverQuest Next has been completely reimagined. The history is divided up into four main eras, which are each divided into various ages.
- Age of Awakening
- Age of Balance
- Age of Exploration
- Age of Decline
"Dal" is the elvish word for elf. The Dal Era encompasses a period of 2000 years of dominance of the elven races of Norrath.
Age of Ascension
Elves, who had previously lived in small villages in the forests, begin to build large cities and become the most advanced race in the world.
Age of Allies
Elves discover the use of teleportation through the massive spires found throughout the world. As a result of this, the elves begin forming alliances with other races including the dragons. The age is considered a "golden age" to historians as it was time of peace and sharing of cultures. The Shissar, a race of snake-like people, betrayed the elves and other races by starting a war in an attempt to claim all of Norrath for themselves. The shissar were eventually defeated by a coalition of other races and the teleportation spires to shissar empire were sealed.
The elves become paranoid that other races will turn on them as the shissar did. The strength of the alliances begin to decay and a sect of elves begin to separate themselves from the rest of their own race. Calling themselves The Koada'Dal ("high elves" in the common tongue), these elves considered themselves the best their society had to offer. Their discovery of High Magic, a magic that rivaled that of even the dragons, allowed them to hold power over the other races, which led to the creation of Takish Empire and the capital city, Takish'Hiz. The dragons then left these lands and went back into isolation on the continent of Velious.
The Takish Empire ruled for a few hundred years, but that all changed with The Sundering. The spire closest to Takish'Hiz exploded in an eruption of fire and stone, which buried the capital under a towering mountain of rubble, now known as Ashfang. The capital of the empire was gone and the secrets of High Magic were lost as well. In the aftermath, the various kingdoms of elves began warring with each other for control. Peace was eventually established but the elven empire would never come close to the power they had before.
The dragons saw the fall of Takish'Hiz and the loss of High Magic as their opportunity to once again become the dominant race in the world. The Dragon War began with the utter destruction of elvish colonies on Faydwer. While the Koada'Dal were elvish purists, another faction of elves, known as the Feir'Dal ("wood elves" in the common tongue), were more open about collaborating with other races. The wood elves joined forces with many of the other races in the Norrath (humans, ogres, kerrans, dwarves, etc.) to combat the rising force of the dragons. The dragons were too strong though, and soon this new combined force of races realized they could no longer survive in their homelands, so they decided to flee to Kunark. In order to buy time for this, an elite force of soldiers known as the Teir'Dal ("dark elves" in the common tongue) held a last line of defense at a fortress known as Bastion while the rest successfully escaped through the spires.
Driven from the lands they had known for thousands of years, the races of Norrath must start from scratch in the unexplored wilds of Kunark and work together to survive.
Age of Exile
Although the losses were extremely high, the plan at Bastion was a success and many made it Kunark alive. The Combine quickly began establishing camps and exploring the mysterious continent. It was not long before they discovered that Kunark was now controlled by the shissar that had betrayed them so many years ago. With revenge on their minds, the shissar had spent the last few hundred years building an enslaved army of Iksar, and now their enemies were coming to them on a silver platter. The Combine, weakened by the war with the dragons, were quickly defeated and spent 500 years enslaved by the shissar.
Eventually, the iksar begin an uprising against their masters, and the Combine join these efforts. The shissar defeated and driven out of Kunark to unknown whereabouts. In the aftermath, the Combine and the iksar begin establishing their own empires separately on the continent. The iksar slowly begin adopting the practices of their former masters while the Combine seek to build forces strong enough to take back their homelands.
Age of Heroes
The Combine Empire finally decides the time is right to attempt to leave Kunark and reclaim their forefather's lands. After many centuries away, the Combine established a foothold on the west coast and founded the city of Qeynos.
This is where players enter the timeline of Norrath in EverQuest Next.
EverQuest Next has been in development for several years. During its development, the game was completely scrapped twice and started over. The information that follows briefly chronicles the game's history, so some of the information here does not reflect what will now end up in the game.
In 2009, Sony Online Entertainment published a hard-cover book to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the franchise. The book features many behind the scenes details, interviews, lore, concept art, and player stories from all of the games and expansions in the series. The final chapter of the book, entitled "EverQuest Next," was written by the series' creative director, Rich Waters. In this chapter, he confirms the existence of a new game.
"There's a lot to wrestle with as we begin laying the foundation for EverQuest 'Next.' As I write this, we have concept artists and game designers working hard in our studio-taking the lessons of the past, the best parts of the present and the most promising ideas for the future-to bring the world of Norrath to a new generation of players, as well as the dedicated legions of fans who made the EverQuest franchise timeless. I hope we'll see you there."
Fan Faire 2010 Announcement
During the 2010 SOE Fan Faire, a Q&A session was held for fans to ask John Smedley questions about the newly announced third installment of the EverQuest franchise. Several bits of information were revealed.
- EQ Next would feature less classes than EverQuest II, similar to EverQuest.
- SOE intends to continue to support all three games (EverQuest and EverQuest II).
- The game will be scalable in terms of hardware requirements in order to be played on laptops and lower-end PC's.
- The possibility of a "hardcore" server similar to original EverQuest's difficulty (i.e. corpse runs).
- While EQ2 was a direct timeline follow-up to EQ, EQ Next is a reimagining of the world.
- Designed from the beginning with PvP in mind.
Fan Faire 2011
During the 2011 SOE Fan Faire, it was announced that EQ Next would utilize the company's new, in-house development engine known as Forge Light, which has been built in partnership with NVIDIA and utilizes PhysX. The new engine is said to finally do away with the concepts of zones and loading screens, meaning that the world of Norrath will be completely seemless. Also worth noting is the focus on being able to convey emotion in character's faces with much more detail. Other than the announcement of Forge Light and a singular screenshot from the game, there was no new information or details about the next iteration of EverQuest.
SOE Live 2012
At SOE Live 2012 on October 18th, John Smedley announced that the original design for EQ Next had since been "blown up" and the design team had scrapped everything in order to start over in the last year and a half. Due to this new direction, nothing of the game was shown at SOE Live 2012. The new focus is on making it the "largest sandbox style MMO" ever made. Smedley stated that they are dedicated to creating a revolutionary experience in the MMO genre instead of simply an evolutionary one that they had originally planned. He guaranteed that by SOE Live 2013, attendees would not only get to see it, but they would get to play it.
EverQuest Next was shown to a select few attendees at E3 2013. SOE held a live stream on their TwitchTV channel from the show floor featuring several of the game's lead developers. They discussed how important the project was to them and the overall vision for the game, but divulged no actual details or surprise announcements. While no information, screenshots, or video was released to the public, the game still won "Best of Show" awards from MMORPG.com and Ten Ton Hammer. There were also rumors of a PlayStation 4 version of the game being in development.
SOE Live 2013
The unveiling of EverQuest Next was held on Friday, August 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada and live streamed on TwitchTV.