Zaewen

Feminist gaming blog with a heaping dash of science and politics

Everquest Next: My biggest nerd moment at PAX Prime 2013

Just look at all that nerd excitement.  Best swag ever!

Just look at all that nerd excitement. Best swag ever!

Everquest Next, ya’ll. Ever-effin-quest Next was at PAX.

This was the gaming highlight of my PAX weekend. I am a huge fangirl for EQ. That’s where I got my PC gaming start. It was my first MMO. It’s where I met my husband. EQ2 kept me company through college and let my husband and I play together even when he was deployed halfway around the world. The Everquest games are the games I compare all other games to, for gameplay, for lore, for social experience. Not for graphics though, EQ and EQ2 definitely shows their age. I’ve been waiting for EQNext since the day it was announced. And when I found it in a small booth in a tucked away corner of the expo hall, I shit you not I had a frickin squee fest right then and there.

And then to find out that the booth was not only going to be a presentation, instead of just a looping trailer video, but a presentation with Terry Michaels (Sr Producer of EQNext), Omeed Dariani (SOE’s Global Brand Manager), and Linda Carleson (Director of Global Community Relations and General Awesome Dwarf Cosplayer). I knew I was in for some good shit.

Granted most of that good shit has already made its way out onto the interwebs, but it was pretty awesome getting to see brand new images and learn more about the game straight from the head dev himself.

So! Onto the things that were new in the presentation (most of it was similar and a rehash of the announcement presentation):

Female Dwarf Concept Art

The mutton chops! The horns! The braids! The attitude! Love it!

Dwarf female concept art: I’m really digging a lot about this concept art. The personality that’s shining through, the massive and amazing hair, and the beards. They asked the fanbase about female dwarf beards and they genuinely listened to our feedback. Beards will be optional for dwarves (pretty sure both men and women) and, as cute as the couple shown here are, Linda said that there would be some stouter beard options as well for female dwarfs. Now, while I’m not a super fan of the armor they’re wearing (I’ll talk about that more in a minute) or that they all seem to have the same round face and button nose, I just can’t get over THAT HAIR. God I love those hair styles. One of my biggest complaints about most dwarf races is that the men have these gigantic beards with massive braids and metal doodads all woven in, but the women get no beards and small little buns or bobs for hair. I say nay. Dwarf women would totally have massive, long, intricately braided hairstyles to match their male counterpart’s beard-do’s. And it seems like EQNext gets that. Love it. And I have a feeling Linda was a big part of that, so good job Linda!

We also got to see a fresh off the press rendering of a male dark elf face. It was just a face, so there’s not much to tell from it, but he looked pretty great. Very handsome and I’m kinda digging the horns. I like the render more than I do the concept art I’ve seen floating around that shows a male dark elf with a much harsher face. I’m really tired of having beautiful willowy elven women and rugged ripped elven men (yea, I’m looking at you WoW).

This looks promising. I'm really starting to like the look of the rendered art style.

This looks promising. I’m really starting to like the look of the rendered art style.

The rest of the presentation was pretty much the same, except that they showed a newer video of the parkour running which looks pretty nifty. I’m going to have to reserve judgement about this till I get a chance to play it in game because parkour type running can be tricky to pull off. It just has to feel right and fluid or it just becomes clumsy and makes it more difficult to get around.

Now for the best part. I got to talk directly with both Omeed and Terry and ask them my biggest burning question about the game, and you can probably already guess what that is. To their credit they didn’t seem at all surprised by my lede into the questions, “I write a feminist gaming blog…” I say that because it seems a positive thing that a) feminist gaming critique has become a thing that is no longer surprising and b) they seemed pretty confident in how EQNext would hold up to said feminist gaming critique.

Everquest Next Concept Art

Terry used this as an example of different looks within a certain family of armor (I’m guess Paladin-ish is the family type or something).

So let’s talk about armor and Everquest Next. During one of the round table responses they answered the question about ‘how much control should a player have over their armor appearance’. They didn’t focus much on the gender aspect of that debate in the video, instead going for the “but how will I know who I can gank in PvP” aspect, which is something that frankly doesn’t interest me at all.

I got them to elaborate for me about how their armor system would work towards addressing concerns about chainmail bikinis. Their answer, as best I understand it, is that armor is going to be divided into families, separate from types like plate, chain, leather, and cloth, and that each of those families will have a wide variety of looks but still all have the same visual style. And once you gain a piece from a family you unlock the ability to swap out for other looks from that family. So it’s kinda like the Elder Scrolls Online approach, with racial and faction styles of armor, but in this case if you get the Dark Elf Chestguard of Cleavage you can swap out the looks of it for the Dark Elf Hauberk of Hold Up Aint Nothing Getting Through This. Which does seem like a pretty good system, but one that can be limited by just how many items are revealing versus how many or not. If you have 100 looks and 90 of them show more skin than you want to see on your female character, the remaining 10 aren’t going to really be enough in the long term (yea, I’m looking at you Rift).

And even if it were 50/50 for female characters, if of the 100 looks 90 of them show absolutely no skin on male characters, it’s still going to be a sexist, gendered armor system. I asked both Terry and Omeed about male characters getting revealing armor, too, and neither were able to say how much of the male armor would be equally as revealing as the female counterpart, but they did say that there was some. So on this I guess we’ll have to wait and see. As of right now, the several pieces of artwork they’ve released for the game seem to show plenty of scantily clad women but very few similarly dressed men.

Four men fully covered with maybe one showing some leg. Four women (hey at least the numbers are equal) with only one covering more than half of her skin. Is it weird that I'm really surprised the most covered woman here is Firiona Vie?

Four men fully covered with maybe one showing some leg. Four women (hey at least the numbers are equal) with only one covering more than half of her skin. Is it weird that I’m really surprised the most covered woman here is Firiona Vie? **No kobolds or dragons were counted in the making of this snark**

As for other details about the game I could not really get anything else out of them. They couldn’t really pin down what female Kerra would look like (though they did say there were multiple skin types available such as panther, jaguar, etc) but no confirmation that they’re not going to be tiny compared to the hulking male Kerra we’ve seen so far. I couldn’t even get them to say if Iksar or Frogloks would be in the game. The only confirmed races so far are Humans, Dark Elves, High Elves, Dwarves, and Kerra. Maybe barbarians based on some of the art released. About the only thing I could get out of them is that when Landmark comes out, the races available in it will not be the final slate of races for the launch of the game. We’re definitely just going to have to wait and stay tuned for more info.

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