Some people (it seems to be mostly people who have never made a good horror game) think that horror games will become truly terrifying when the technology reaches x point in the uncanny valley. One needs only to point them to a game like SCP containment breach to prove them wrong, but today I realized the partial truth of the statement: incredible technology in the hands of a competent artist can be employed to stunning effect. What changed my mind? Everquest Next.

If you’re unfamiliar with the news that just broke, watch the video below (don’t bother with part 1; I’ve got the whole thing covered for you with this image).

Seriously, watch it. This can wait. Finished? What, you wanted to read on just because I told you not to? Come on, what else where you going to do with your weekend?

Fine, if you’re not going to co-operate, at least read this Rock Paper Shotgun write-up. Even better, do both!

Jazzed yet? NO? You have no soul. Even one of these major “grails” are a massive change in how MMOs work; as Adam Smith said in aforementioned write-up, these guys are “finding solutions to problems that most MMO designers don’t even seem to recognise as problems”.

Whether any of this amazing stuff will work at all remains to be seen, but just the fact that a major game is doing them means somebody else will learn from what they did and do it better.

The feature that excited me the most, however, isn’t technically in the game at all. Remember a while back when Wasteland 2 started crowdsourcing assets out to the fans? Well, these guys are farming out future updates to the fans as well, by creating a whole other game called Everquest Next Landmark (quite the mouthful.) This is an entirely different game with procedurally generated worlds to explore and complete building freedom, ala Minecraft, but so much more. Voxels in the engine for both Next and Landmark aren’t limited to a particular size; meaning natural-looking chasms, crumbled ruins, and even Indiana Jones-style boulders are now a totally awesome reality.

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And then, AND THEN, after you make your awesome stuff in Landmark, WAIT FOR IT, they will take the very best stuff and PAUSE FOR EFFECT turn it into updates for Everquest Next! That’s amazing! And the reason that’s amazing is because players are SO MUCH BETTER at making awesome content then people who do it for a living because they don’t have to worry about dumb stuff like deadlines or seeing their families! In other words, SOE has figured out how to get people to pay THEM to work for their MMO, and people are going to be thrilled!

I would bet anything that this innovation is going to be how every MMO is made for the next 15 years. The developers get to focus on what they’re best at, making awesome mechanics and AI and dialogue trees and rendering engines, and the players get to make AND consume the world! The people who actually know exactly what they want get to make that and then other people who also want that get to play it!

I call this model the Massively Multiplayer Crowd-Sourced Game, or the MMOCSG. And it’s going to be huge. Forget free-to-play; in 5 years the tireless 10% of the internet that always must have something to complain about will finally leave F2P alone, because they’ll be screaming “UGH, ANOTHER frickin MMO that’s mooching off the players for all their frickin content, CODBLOPS 5 yo” at the top of their tiny, keyboard-shaped lungs. I’m calling it right now; this is the MMO model of the future, and probably a lot of other genres on top of that.

And I’m so psyched to see where it’ll lead.