EverQuest Next: Return Of The Sandbox
Word on the street is that Everquest Next is going to be a sandbox MMO, a huge one by all accounts. Colour me surprised. Just as I thought SOE were out of tricks, they go and play a blinder on us. I was honestly prepared for the next installment of my beloved EQ franchise to be yet another attempt at a themepark WoW clone. Good for SOE.
Of course, I’m sure some will say that there’s no room for sandbox MMOs in the market any more, citing the failure of any previous one to make a huge impact in the same way WoW did. This may be true and perhaps the themepark model will always reign supreme but I’m glad that at least one developer is willing to give the sandbox model another decent shot. After all, it’s not like we’ve actually had a huge number of them to pick from anyway, at least ones that weren’t missing half their features, riddled with bugs or akin to watching the Sopranos via a spreadsheet. I was referring to EVE online there.
I still remain convinced that a sandbox style MMO is worth pursuing and that it’s not succeeded before due to any fundamental flaw in the concept but rather issues with its execution. As time has proved over and over again (one only needs to look at SW:TOR), there is no magic formula for creating insanely popular MMOs and copying WoW piece-by-piece doesn’t seem to matter one iota either. Honestly, I think success is an impossible factor to predict, a result of a combination of critical mass and some unquantifiable extra ingredient, a special factor that we can’t measure, capture or duplicate, a certain I don’t know what as the French would say.
So I remain optimistic and tentatively excited about EverQuest Next. I’m glad to see SOE pushing the boat out and going back to their roots of not being afraid to try new things, pushing the boundaries of the industry forward a little. As much as I like WoW, it’s success has damaged in the genre in a way by making everyone obsessed with the idea that the only way to make something else as popular is to recreate it exactly. With any luck, a modest victory in the sandbox department would go a long way to encouraging developers to be a little more creative in their MMO ventures.
Now let’s just pray that SOE doesn’t screw it all up and release a a half-finished game 12 months too early. *cough* SWG *cough*