Sony Online Entertainment today officially announced the next entry in their long-running EverQuest franchise, EverQuest Next. While the name suggests a continuation of the EverQuest lore, SOE was quick to point out that EverQuest Next is not “the continuation of a familiar story.”

Instead, EverQuest Next will be the…next evolution of the popular MMO, where content is created not just by the developers but by the players as well. No longer will players have to wait for the next expansion to enjoy new content, as new content will presumably always be available.

At the same time, Director of Development Dave Georgeson wanted to stress that EverQuest Next will still be a familiar experience for fans. It’s reportedly a game that preserves the spirit of its predecessors, while trying to enter the MMO space as something new.

“Make no mistake; while great care has been taken to respect the extraordinary influence that EverQuest has had in this industry and with our player community over the years, this is a boldly different game unlike anything that has come before.”

Part of that something new includes new features for EverQuest Next like destructible environments, permanent changes to the landscape facilitated by story arcs, and an emergent AI where decisions are made based on core values not spawn points. As SOE explains, it sounds like the world in EverQuest Next will always be changing, both on a structural level and in the NPCs that players encounter.

On a more character-specific level, players will be able to choose from 40 distinct classes at launch, each with multi-tiered abilities and specialized weapon skills. Yes, levels are a thing of the past in EverQuest Next, as classes will now help differentiate one character from the next.

To that point, each story in EverQuest Next will be unique, and will not follow a predetermined path. Every choice that a player makes will inform the opportunities that are available to them. So if, for example, you’re the type of player that loves “purging goblins from forests,” those types of missions might be more frequent than others.

Starting this winter, SOE will roll out EverQuest Next Landmark (commonly referred to as Landmark), which will allow players to create content for EverQuest Next. In essence, Landmark will be a type of world-building experience where players work alongside developers to create what will eventually become EverQuest Next. SOE will provide guidance on what they want help building, and they will increase players’ access to tools as they go along. And the best part is that Landmark will be available as a free-to-play offering.

SOE is clearly trying something unique with EverQuest Next, and like many of the single player offerings out there (Dragon Age Inquisition, for example), the developer is turning to the fans for help. Since an MMO like EverQuest Next is likely a massive undertaking, SOE wants to make sure they get it right, and what better way to do that than to construct the world right alongside the fans.

everObviously there are some decisions (lack of levels, custom story arcs) that will be controlled solely by SOE, but EverQuest Next has the potential to change the way new content is delivered to MMO players.

What do you think of EverQuest Next? What do you like about SOE’s new direction for this game? What do you not like?

EverQuest Next Landmark will be available this winter.