So I’ve been stubbornly ignoring mentioning the big reveal of the past couple of months in the massive multiplayer online genre. EQ Next and EQ Landmark have been revealed as Sony Online Entertainments future MMO release. EQ Landmark is due for release sometime toward the end of 2013 and will essentially be a building, exploring and social sandbox, similar to minecraft, only with more advanced tools and mechanics.

EQ Next, will come sometime in 2014 and will share the same world (perhaps not the exact same server though) as EQ Landmark. However EQ Next will feature more combat and quest orientated gameplay, similar to how a traditional mmo works. Having said that, EQ Next promises some truly ground breaking changes to those mechanics.

Sadly the reason I have been so stubborn about talking about this is the rather sad state of European customer satisfaction. As is often the case with mmo makers, SOE have decided to shovel off all of their SOE Europe customers onto a third party partner, named Prosiebensat 1. A German tv company which by and large, has not done a particularly good job (what a surprise!).

The fact I now can’t register for the SOE US beta for EQ Next because I am a dirty European, is a kick in the teeth, especially when I have been an SOE US account holder for almost a decade. I can register for the beta with the German third party…but why would I want to? they seem rubbish and untrustworthy and SOE has basically slammed the door in my face.

Regardless of where you are, you can sign up for the beta here. Be warned though, if you are European, you aren’t registering with Sony. It just sticks you in an endless loop without accepting your interest. Or…you may be able to use some IP changing software, to fool the website into not knowing you are from Europe….just a thought.

Firstly, the world of EQ Next/Landmark will be fully destructible, using a voxel engine you will be able to smash through buildings and terrain, revealing layer upon layer of caverns and dungeons beneath the surface. Then they plan to have emergent AI, this means they don’t have spawn points locked in place, the AI is programmed to find good places to settle and then react to players accordingly. Think releasing animals into the wild, then letting them figure out where they want to go, this will alter over time as they succeed or fail depending on who kills who and where in the world is most profitable for them.

The next big thing is a no level, multiclass mechanic, which allows you to swap between classes and mix and match skills from each class as you unlock them. Armor and weapons will dictate some of your abilities and your class will dictate the others. Don’t like something? just change your class design or equipment choice. These mechanics alone are pretty exciting, it reveals just how truly stuck in a rut the genre has been for such a long time, for SOE to reveal this and inspire everybody into slack jawed awe.

Of course there is one huge caveat…..If, If they can pull it off, if they can deliver on their promises. I’ve been around for every big game reveal over the past twenty years, I can tell you two things, games are never quite as good as they promise, but if EQ Next/Landmark is 75% as good as it wants to be, that will be a heck of a lot of good in such a tired genre. The sheer volume of promise and scope EQ Next/Landmark may deliver, leaves even a jaded cynic like me hopeful, and that is a tough thing to achieve.