EverQuest Next: Groundbreaking, Dynamic Storytelling Through Dynamic AI

Read along as we analyze the potential of emergent story mechanics in EverQuest Next.

We knew that Namaste's work with Sony Online Entertainment would be a corner stone feature of the way that content was delivered in EverQuest Next and we now have a look at how truly significant this method of artificial intelligence can be in a game.

Let's Talk Precedence

The difficulty developers face in delivering a narrative worthy of the player's attention is often times paramount. Where developers push the limits on camera effects, capturing player perspectives, and writing dialogue that can knock the socks off of the player's feet, Sony Online Entertainment is working on creating situations where they can create high quality interactions as games with heavily scripted interactions but do so in a way where the content is unique, dynamic, and from what we saw at the demo, revolutionary.

What we saw elevated EverQuest Next from the MMORPG niche

For years now, as David Georgeson exclaimed during the keynote, we have been playing an iteration of Dungeons and Dragons in the MMO world for far too long.

"Enough is enough, enough of the same game already it is time to get some new ideas into the genre and if someone was to do it, it should be EverQuest... again" -Dave Georgeson SOE Live 2013

A thing we have heard a lot of lately is emergent gameplay. The ability for players to create unique experiences for themselves that couldn't possibly be recreated. In EverQuest Next the game keeps track of all of your interactions. NPC's remember what you say to them, how you help them out and the best part is, they remember the consequences of your actions. This means, your choice to save a town versus a single NPC may have drastic consequences on how NPC's view you in the future.

EverQuest Next promises the ability to experience unique narratives throughout the entire game. They do so in two ways: intrinsic artificial intelligence within mobs and npcs and through public event like quests called Rallying Calls.

Creating a Meaningful Relationship With Scripted NPCs

As we witnessed back in the Storybrick's preview pre-SOE partnership, NPC's are relegated a set of behaviours which give them a unique personality. This not only affects the way they address players but other NPC's as well. This isn't your typical "factions" where you are either Kill on Sight or scorned for being another race, these characteristics are based on multiple levels of interactions.

From what we can gather from the reveal today is that NPC's will remember what you do in the game and how it affects them. The example Dave Georgeson gave during the debut was the idea of a goblin infestation in the woods. Sounds like a normal MMO you say? Here is the kicker.

Mobs are not placed in dedicated spawn camps. An Orc was used during the debut as an example. An orc hates cities due to guards but likes to cause chaos and steal money. The orc then may venture out of crushbone, group up with other orcs, and set up camp on a low traffic road. If no players come the mob will simply move to a new area as their profits are rather low from their ganking.

A player may come across this developing story and decide to do something about the vile orcs. Here is where it gets interesting, the player can defeat the orcs themself, or with friends, alert guards at the nearby city to create a presence in the area (warding off the orcs) or simply do nothing and let other NPC's fall victim to the meandering thiefs. 

That's right. Mobs can interact with each other.

Now, we haven't had too much revealed to us about the level of inter-npc interaction or the level of interaction players will encounter with NPCs but if the past discussion are indicative of the future, we may have a grand formula for success. Moral implications are often non-apparent in MMORPGs but in EverQuest Next if you choose to let those rats take over the town, the town is surely going to die.

Rallying Calls- The Future of Content Delivery?

EverQuest II has always been known for its world events and in recent memory events found in the Destiny Of Velious expansion set the stage for players working together to create new content and new buildings in the world.

EverQuest Next takes this formula to a whole new level. Rallying calls will be 2-3 month quests where players will essentially create new parts of the world, or save it from utter destruction.

The example given during the keynote was a Rallying Call to branch out and found the town of Halas. When settlers get there they can keep the camp safe, build the city, or perhaps work on some form of diplomacy. Every action the players choose to take open up a new possibility for the storyline and the content to be delivered. 

These events are hardly scripted and do not guide the player in what to do. Players must explore, create, destroy, and fight to live in this world and keep it safe from enemies who approach. 

In Conclusion

In a very large nutshell, the possibilities of Namaste's work with Sony Online Entertainment is simply mind blowing. For the first time in a game, artificial intelligence works to create unique non-player characters that interact in the world very similarly to player characters. It is when conflicts of interests arise between the NPCs and the players that will forge new emergent storylines and deliver content like no other game has before.

We aren't nearly done with our coverage here at SOE Live. In fact, there are still many panels ahead for EverQuest Next info. Be sure to follow Max and I on Twitter @Chad_Albritton @Maxplosions and be sure to keep that browser locked right here at GameSkinny


Communications and Media Studies graduate from Stetson University with a fascination towards virtual escapism.

Published Aug. 2nd 2013
  • Ecobahn
    Will be interesting to see the result of AI reacting like actual players, and the new way of creating dynamic contest is also intriguing. Definitely keeping my eye open on Everquest. Could they do it better than Guild Wars 2...?

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