Your Next: Story Time

Storybricks unveiled; what does it mean for EverQuest Next?

Another week in the development of EverQuest Next and Landmark goes by. Some nice new additions to Landmark keep the slavering horde at bay until SOE Live, the culmination of the Dark Elf Workshop and the Kerran winning the vote – leaving the Dwarves sidelined once again. Progress is being made, even in this lull before the information overload we can expect from SOE Live.

Just when you thought it was safe to coast along with the weekly updates, a partner of SOE has been making waves elsewhere.

If you've been following the development of EverQuest Next and Landmark, then you've probably heard of Storybricks. They're the other company working on EverQuest Next and Landmark, infusing them with a new kind of emergent storytelling.

Storybricks have kept very quiet about the exact nature of their work. We won't hear details about exactly how it fits in with EverQuest Next and Landmark until SOE Live but, at the Game/AI Conference held this week in Vienna, we had our first real look at the Storybricks system.

Storybricks Lead Designer Stéphane Bura gave us our first real taste of what their technology is all about. The presentation was meant to be about how the system could be used as a universal tool for creating emergent narrative, but it was easy to read between the lines and see how it could apply to EverQuest Next. Not only that, but the tools themselves are designed to be used by anyone, and the opportunity for Landmark players to create emergent stories of their own is an incredibly compelling thought. MMO players have lamented the static NPCs and lifeless worlds we inhabit for years; now we're one step closer to being able to create our own dynamic experiences. 

Yes, many of them will be terrible, but only a few have to be good to make it all worthwhile. Once the standard has been set, the tendency is to push it as far as it will go.

One thing that really struck me about the system was just how complex these interactions could become, with very specific outcomes that aren't programmed into the system but emerge as a product of its starting conditions.

The best part is that even with these delicate, layered stories being possible to construct, in EverQuest Next these potential narratives do not exist in a closed system. Every cause and effect exists along with all the others being played out across the world of Norrath, and we as players are part of that system.

In the end, the whole system comes down to making our choices matter. Who we choose to ally with, where we choose to explore, how we conduct ourselves in every possible manner contributes to shaping the game world in a very real and direct way.

There are many who are still unsure about the promises of a game world that lives up to the marketing buzz words – we've been burnt before. Ultimately, the intention is there and it's looking like the execution could finally be possible.

Personally, I'm optimistic. Storybricks has offered a new starting point for EverQuest Next. If nothing else, it's a step in the right direction and part of a whole that will feel fresh and exciting again.


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