While EverQuest Next was actually announced as far back as August of 2009, the reveal garnered very little media attention. This time around Sony is showing a little bit more of the game, hoping that a glean of their art direction will draw fans' eyes and build excitement for the next iteration of EverQuest.
It seems like the development team is really interested in recapturing the love fans had for classic EverQuest. Rosie Rappaport, Art Director of the original EverQuest, had this to say during a panel at Fan Faire 2010:
"What we're trying to get with EverQuest Next is definitely a distinctive art style. We're looking back to original EverQuest for some of the flavor and some of the charm that it had back then."
Certainly this is a decision many MMO fans are glad to hear, because one of the main criticisms of EverQuest 2 is its plainness. Don't take me wrong, EverQuest 2 was graphically impressive at its release, and has some very beautiful environments and characters/enemies. Still, it stood in stark contrast to its main competition at the the time, World of Warcraft. I remember college arguments about whether cartoony artistic design was more enjoyable than highly detailed realism. World of Warcraft won that argument.
EverQuest Next, judging from the screen captures and concept pieces that were shown, is much more pleasing to view. The world, as Rosie further describes, embodies more "personality" than I would have expected after playing EverQuest 2.
"You can see that we're trying to have it be more colorful and color-balanced."
Indeed, the impressive use of color is already quite evident. That first screenshot is an in-game capture, while the second is a concept piece. I'd love to see that town from a character's perspective though, it looks huge!
Even though EverQuest Next looks promising from these early images, they have quite a steep hill to face. Much like EverQuest 2 was doomed to mediocrity after launching parallel with World of WarCraft, Next has some daunting competition of its own. Just over the next year we're likely to see the release of juggernauts Final Fantasy XIV, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2. Not to mention potential threats Heroes of Telara, Rift, and free-to-play Vindictus. And Blizzard is still king, with upcoming expansion Cataclysm, and don't forget about the secret Blizzard MMO in the works.
With years likely left in development, EverQuest Next is going to have to be damn impressive to compete in such a saturated market. Perhaps though, Sony Online Entertainment realizes this and may aim for a Free-to-Play design (though their past says this is unlikely). Honestly, as of right now I believe that's the only way I'd be willing to pen it in to my MMOs-to-watch-out-for book.
What do you think about EverQuest Next, Ranters? Do you like the art or the attitude you're hearing from SOE? Is a new EverQuest something you'd be excited for, especially in the face of such an intimidating MMO market? Leave a comment, and look forward to more news on EverQuest Next as we hear about it.