Tuesday, August 13, 2013

EverQuest Next Blows Targeter's Mind (Part Deux)

In my previous post, we spoke about destructability, enemy AI, and the lack of leveling (*wink wink*).  But those topics do not encompass all my thoughts and feelings about EQNext.  No, fellow agents, I have many, many feels for this game.  Let's lock and load.

Dave Georgeson spoke of the new art direction that EQN is striving for, a heroic 'rough and tumble' look.  Many, many fans have decried this as 'WoW-cartoony graphics!11!!111eleventyone!'

Ready for tumblin' and/or roughin'.

They point to the Kerran Warrior as the 'WoW-ified' Everquest.  Tell ya what folks ... if my WoW Warrior looked as good as THAT, then I'd be a pretty happy camper.  What most folks miss in this is that Rosie Rappaport, Art Director for EQN, specifically chose this art style so that EQN will remain playable for decades (and has stated so on her twitter).  Let's take a look at the original EQ and the newer EQ2 (which launched basically alongside WoW):

EQ1: We are driving cars in the garden of our minds!  (RIP Mr. Rogers)

EQ2: We'll agree to disagree.
They haven't exactly aged as gracefully as we'd like.  Granted, I'll give EQ1 a pass since it's 14+ years old, but EQ2?  C'mon.  Yer not even tryin'.  EQ2 was trying for an edgier, more realistic approach to character models.  It's not aged as well as it could have; now, EQ2ers, don't think I'm bagging on your game!  In the interest of fairness, I downloaded EQ2 from Steam last weekend and made an Ogre Shadowknight.  He looked pretty decent and the armor he was wearing was actually pretty nice.  So, it's not all bad.  Your environments ... those needed some love.  But the character model wasn't as animated as it could be.  My ogre didn't feel connected to the ground and when I strafed sideways, my character's bottom half didn't rotate to face the proper way ... I ran sideways with while my feet steadily pumped forward, gleefully unaware of this new change in direction.  Compare that to WoW's character design where direction changes are mirrored by the avatar.  Also, a more exaggerated WoW look has lent itself well to the game's longevity.

WoW: Ok, so maybe this doesn't make my point all that well.
But you understand where I'm going with it right?!

Fast forward to Everquest Next and their models.  Holy shit.  There's an exaggerated style there that really pops.  The faces are well-animated and easy to read.  The emotes are fantastically rendered.  This could actually prove that SOEmote was a good idea (remember laughing about it back when it was launched for EQ2 ... yeah, no one's laughing now).

I did have a few problems with the characters and animations, though.  Firstly, that vaulting.  Parkour style 'heroic movement' as Georgeson called it was pretty nifty ... except when the characters got to a vaulting move.  They were gracefully running along, fabric and cloth textures flying!  It was glorious!  Oh no!  A low rise ahead!  Without the player having to prompt the character, they automatically went completely 90 degrees into a static sideways motion and then plopped straight back down.  Graceful running, wtf sideways, graceful running again.  They're gonna need to work on that.

The other problem I had was, honestly, with the armor on the Kerran.  It was way too bulky and large, almost too detailed for a piece that size.  His bracers alone looked like shields.  My fear is this ... most of the armor will follow the same path, and as it gets better and better, and the characters get more and more powerful, we run into the World of Warcraft Orc Shoulder problem.  The problem, WoWOSP as it is known (by me only but whatever it's my blog so shut up) basically turns regular shoulderpads on any other race into ridiculously oversized dining platters fit to serve entire armies.  During Burning Crusade and Lich King, orc shoulders grew so expansive that they were absolutely ridiculous.  I fear the same curve for EQN.  In the quest for providing the coolest armor possible, the elements of the armor will become so comically large that we'll dip into that dreaded 'cartoony' look.  I'm sure the good folks at SOE won't let that happen, but I worry nonetheless.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the style that EQN is using; exaggerated but not WoW-ified, Fable-esque yet familiar.  I think it will service the game well for years.

On the next installment of 'Imperial Intelligence: Norrath Division', Targeter downloads Everquest 2 and plays it.  And doesn't hate it!  Oh, quite the opposite in fact.

Stay tuned!

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