Talking About the EverQuest Camera View on NPR

Video game years are kind of like dog years, and that makes the game EverQuest, which turned 14 this month, positively ancient.

-David Brancaccio, host of Marketplace

The NPR show Marketplace had a spot this morning where they spoke to Dave Georgeson of SOE about EverQuest turning 14 years old.


The interview will annoy some, as the host kicks right off in calling EverQuest being “the first big game to be an MMO,” a phrase which will make those into the genre raise objections almost immediately.  What counts as an MMO, what counts as big, and what

(And I am going from the actual audio in the interview, not the transcription on the linked page, as that differs from what was actually said.  Nice work NPR!  So listen to the audio, it is less than three minutes long.)

Once Dave Georgeson gets on the line there is a lot of talk about free to play and making that work.  And then comes the question about what makes games like EverQuest so compelling to some people, which Dave pins on the camera view.

To me, that seemed like an odd thing to pick, all the more so when he spoke of the whole first/third person camera view being something new at the time.  In 1999 there were plenty of games with first person or over the shoulder points of view, though they were mostly shooters.

I suppose that contemporary role playing games… such as Baldur’s Gate or Diablo II… had a different relationship with the camera.  But did EverQuest change things up all that much?

How important was the camera to you back then?  Did EverQuest really go some place new with that?  Did the game defaulting to first person view (I played in that mode for a long time after launch) impact how you felt about the game?


I had to find a screen shot of the original UI in first person mode to remind me what things looked like 14 years back.

EverQuest in 1999

EverQuest in 1999

And another view:

Out in the dark night

Out in the dark night

Wow, how things have changed.

Image sources: Ten Ton Hammer and Something Awful.

9 thoughts on “Talking About the EverQuest Camera View on NPR

  1. belghast

    I will admit, that honestly the point of view was a big deal. I was used to first person from the shooter genre, but never had there been this huge persistent world that I could experience as though I was actually in it. I can still remember the amazing moment when I first ran out of Kaladim, and turned around and looked up at the massive Dwarven statue up on top of it.

    For the first time ever I felt like I was really in a fantasy world, rather than just navigating and manipulating it. I think in many ways this was what made that game so addicting at the time. So much of my time playing EQ was about exploring the world, and the sheer fear of something wicked just around the corner that might kill me and make me lose a level.

    I can still remember panicked runs through Kithicor late at night, never quite knowing whether or not something was sneaking up behind me. Not being able to see behind you, made everything about that game more tense, and that much more like reality.


  2. bhagpuss

    Belghast has it exactly. First-person camera was huge, frankly, a genuine paradigm change for me. It’s not that I’d never played RPGs with first person perspective before – my favorite computer game of the entire 1980s, “Eye of the Beholder”, was first person – but the EQ first-person camera was more than that – much, much more. It really did feel like I was looking out into another world through my own eyes.

    I used first-person perspective exclusively in EQ right until I moved to EQ2 and I tried to use it in many other MMOs both before then and since. It never worked anywhere they way it worked in Everquest.

    Nowadays even when I play EQ I use third-person, I’m so used to it, but it doesn’t, can’t put you in the world the way that camera-view did back then. There are other things about EQ that Dave Georgeson could have singled out but the camera view is undoubtedly on the shortlist of Reasons Why This Thing Worked.


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I had to grab those screen shots of the UI to remind myself how things were 14 years ago. While first person and over the shoulder were common by then, looking out through that small rectangle in the middle of the UI did make things different.

    I recall the day I figured out how to make the UI transparent, so you could see more stuff.


  4. milliebii

    OK lets go back to basics, “Narrative Mode”:

    “In a first-person narrative the story is relayed by a narrator who is also a character within the story, so that the narrator reveals the plot by referring to this viewpoint character as I”

    “Third-person narration provides the greatest flexibility to the author and thus is the most commonly used narrative mode in literature. In the third-person narrative mode, each and every character is referred to by the narrator as he, she”, it, or they, but never as I”

    So which of these two styles really sounds like the “role playing” mode?

    It has always seemed to me that third person view and third person play distance the player from the character. mmoRPg s really need to refocus on this mode of play. This will require that they remove the “third person” required mechanics and situations.

    OK it is nice to have an all round view of the character in the field of play but there are alternatives. Peripheral vision can be emulated by flashing the side of the screen ( look this way stupid!) and/or by taking advantage of modern sound cards to alert the player of something moving to one side or behind the avatar.

    We do not have to always have games where playing in first person mode is hamstringing yourself and being a n00b.


  5. Tyler Murphy

    The first person was great. Even now, I feel like worlds and their set pieces are a lot smaller just because I am never first seeing them from my character’s eyes. Most of the time, I experience the world from a far drawn out vantage looking slightly top-down.

    The statue outside of Kaladim is a great example, or even Fironia Vie’s massive statue. Those shock you because of how massive they appear. I’ve not had a similar feeling in any MMO since, to be honest.


  6. jtnix (@jtnix)

    For me the camera view of EQ was particularly innovative, even as a FPS fan for many years (Quake, Halflife, etc), but not for the First Person perspective, nope.

    The thing with EQ was it wasn’t just about the first person perspective, but what race (or class) you chose to play. For most players it took months even years to realize that players of other races had a different perspectives, and in more than one way.

    Dark elves and Trolls had ultravision, at night everything had a purplish hue and well, we could see, where Half Elves only had improved night vision and could somewhat see. For them, and a few other races, torch-less, in the dark, objects had a faint red hue. Humans and Barbarians couldn’t see squat without a torch, literally pitch dark unless you were innovative enough to crank your display gamma setting and turn off the room lights. This particularly annoyed and confused so called creative players who thought they might create a Human character in Freeport and run them to Kelethin at level 5 to level with their Woodsie friends. One misstep off the rail-less platform at night still gets you dead. Hope you had a local bind, natch! No bind agent in the early days.

    The difference in perspective, both in field of vision and height from a tall race (Barbarian, Iksar, Troll, Ogre) vs a shortie (Gnome, Halfling) was also astonishing, but you had to really experience it in a variety of settings to understand the impact on your fellow players.

    My longest running character had the clue much earlier on than my compatriots. I was a Dark Elf Enchanter intent on getting all my spells ASAP, including illusion spells which not only gave me the form of a target race, but their innate abilities, or disabilities as they may be. Right away I knew why my Halfling buddy always got lost, most horribly lost, in Kithicor when dusk would fall and we were trying to beat feet to zone. When I had the spells, I was asked for the improved vision spells many times, but that didn’t become common until year 2 or 3 of the game.

    Seriously, in early EQ, before the easy play revisions started coming, the character point of view was the best thing of all about EverQuest.

    Not surprising at all that NPR missed the REAL story here…


  7. Whorhay

    I agree with most of the others here. First person view was hugely important to my enjoyment of EQ. When I quit EQ to play SWG it was a big shock to try and play from 3rd person. By the time I started in the WoW Closed Beta I was used to it. And though I tried playing WoW and SWG from first person it didn’t work well because that wasn’t how the game was designed to be played.

    By the way, what games at the time though were using 3rd person over the shoulder views? I don’t recall any of them though I guess there might have been some, saying they were pretty standards seems like an overstatement.


  8. David Hopkins

    I agree with the above statements. First person in a shooter had been done, but it was the first time I experienced it in a fantasy-based RPG. I also agree with how the differences in races made the first-person view more immersive.

    It seemed like only in EQ would I get the “shock factor” out of first-person. I would be sitting there, talking to an NPC, when suddenly I would hear a gleeful cackling and spin around to see an undead zombie attacking me (much hate for Varsoon the Undying). Running as fast as you can to avoid death, with no clue how close or far the enemy is behind you, with only a hope that you can reach a zoneline before death.


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