Planet Hollywood transformed into Planet Sony last week, when thousands of gamers flooded the Las Vegas hotel’s hallways and conference rooms to nerd out over all things Sony Online Entertainment. In a dizzying series of keynotes, panels, tournaments and interviews, developers revealed tons of updates about the new and ever-evolving MMOs in Sony’s stable. Here’s a look at the money and time-suckers on PC, PS3 and PS4 that will try to become your obsessions over the next several months.
DC Universe Online
In order to keep its PS3s, PS4 and PC players engaged more regularly, SOE will pump out DLC bit by bit, and whenever it’s ready. That’s a stark change of pace from the former pattern, which was to save up all the new costumes, maps, attacks and such for giant, themed updates that hit only a few times a year. Developers also announced three new super powers to the superhero sim: Munitions, which are Lex Luthor-style mega weapons; Atomic, which lets you become radioactive and manipulate objects and enemies at the atomic level; and Experimnetal Serums, which pump your avatar full of Bane-style ‘roid rage drugs.
Coming up on its first anniversary, the free-to-play swords-and-sorcery epic, which echoes the likes of Skyrim and Dragon Age, is joining Sony’s value plan for MMO gamers who like to play massive amounts of games. The game is joining All Access, SOE’s all-you-can-eat plan that lets you access premium content in several of its games for plans starting at $15 a month. There’s also a Tamagotchi-style side game that lets you hatch your own dragons and raise them, granting them skills and attributes in order to turn them into trusty mounts. Finally, you too can be mother of dragons like Daenerys from Game of Thrones.
EverQuest, EverQuest II and EverQuest Next
You’ve got to hand it to SOE for pleasing its legacy fan bases by keeping its older titles alive and relevant. EverQuest, which came out way back in 1999 and did more than any other game to bring MMOs to the mainstream, is getting a bump with the expansion The Darkened Sea, which bumps the level cap to 105, adds eight new zones and brings back classic characters Firiona Vie and Lanys T’Val. EverQuest II, released 10 years ago, gets an expansion of its own with Altar of Malice, which tacks on two new zones, a new playable race, several dungeons and a level cap bump. EverQuest Next, meanwhile, still has no release date, but developers introduced a new race in the Dark Elf offshoot Teir’DAal, as well as three new classes: the Tempest, who can damage terrain with a whirlwind; the hand-to-hand combat-heavy Cleric and Elementalist, who can turn the ground into ice.
Rumored for a fall release, this zombie-slaying travelogue was pretty much the most universally praised game of the show. Taking the desolation and characterization of The Walking Dead and running with it, the MMO is determined to be far more than your usual undead slasher fest. Players are encouraged to group together and form survival communities, ideally with members pitching in on resource acquisition and crafting. Of course, you have to be able to trust who you buddy up with, because players can screw each other over just as easily as they can hep them. Going lone-wolf is ill-advised, because it’s so harsh and brutal out there, with the threat of permadeath lurking to undo all your hard work with a single mistake.
Originally conceived as an app creative players could use to design assets, characters, structures and weapons for EverQuest Next, Landmark has exploded into a beast of its own. Designed by the same team that handles the three EverQuests, the game is getting much to distinguish itself, with varied races, accessible, DC Universe Online-style combat and — as you’d expect — infinite customization options. In a sit-down with developers, we got them to reveal that characters created in Landmark would be usable in EverQuest Next, although EverQuest Next characters wouldn’t be playable in Landmark. Innovation, it seems, is oozing out of the game’s ears. Different servers will each contain parallel universes, potentially with factions setting up rivalries on one and working together peacefully in another. Also, everything in the game will be fully destructable, meaning players will have to fight to stop their hard-earned creations from being torn apart by trolls.
SOE’s answer to Halo and Destiny tends to draw the frat boy, LAN-party crowd rather than the LARPers most of the studio’s other creations summon. Developers are refinining the combat, controls and graphics for its upcoming PS4 release, which is looking even more stunning than the version geared for high-end PCs. Updates will come out on both systems simultaneously, but cross-platform play won’t be available because the architecture of the games will be too different. The goal is to get it running at 60 frames pers second on Sony’s latest console, and is currently hanging between 40 and 50 fps. A new airship and battle islands are headed to the PC version later this year.