On the one hand, the news out of Daybreak is a little sad. We now know what the last EverQuest expansion is (a question I was pondering eight years back) because, according to the latest producer’s letter the game is following its younger sibling, EverQuest II, into the realm of adventure packs. I’ll quote from the letter because I don’t know how long that link will last. Daybreak is still running on the Sony domain.
We expect to do two campaigns a year with our first coming this fall. Our primary goal is to keep the world vibrant with content and respond to player needs and issues. We will still provide new lands and character advancement opportunities with our campaigns.
In our two campaign releases each year, we plan to release about the same amount of content as we normally would in one annual expansion. This is important to us because it will allow us to deliver content to you more often as well as respond to an ever-changing player base. For example, the Progression Server is just one thing we are doing in response to recent community feedback. I’ll also say that pricing has not been determined for the first campaign coming in fall, but we’ll share details when we get closer to our release.
So The Darkened Sea will be the end of the line, the twenty-first and final EverQuest expansion.
And yes, there is a discussion to be had as to what going to smaller DLC means and exactly how different that will be from the “expansion every autumn” plan that both EverQuest and EverQuest II have followed for more than half a decade. (Before that it was two expansions a year! Oh heady days of too much content, broken or not, and speculation about SOE abandoning EverQuest!)
The change was not unexpected I suppose, and the idea of smaller, more regular DLC is certainly part and parcel of the whole free to play idea. Of course, so is the whole throwing up an alert in the middle of combat asking you to become an All Access subscriber, where “All” has a curious definition.
I mean at least The Elder Scrolls Online says they are limiting their on screen ads to once per day. Daybreak pops that “Go Gold!” ad (and why is it “Gold” one moment and “All Access” the next?) a couple times an hour if you haven’t subscribed. But I guess at least it goes away when you’ve subscribed.
Anyway, an end of an era, with the last expansion box, virtual though it might have been, having left the building.
On the other hand, the new progression server plan seems to be taking on more life, and getting more thought, than the past couple of runs. Seriously, from the outside at least, the next progression server feels like it is getting more thought that the last two runs (plus the 51/50 server) combined. There is a progression server FAQ, which is getting updated regularly, in the forums (I guess I should be happy it isn’t on Reddit) that goes into a lot of detail as to what is being planned.
High on the list of good ideas is applying their zone splitting tech to the low level zones so they don’t feel a need to roll another server immediately to cover the influx of new players. That, in the past, has always led to a lesser, underpopulated server over the long run and calls for server merges, which are a pain. So the following zones will be able to spawn additional versions to cope with the expected initial load:
- North Qeynos
- Surefall Glade
- Qeynos Hills
- West Freeport
- Misty Thicket
- Steamfont Mountains
- Greater Faydark
- Butcherblock Mountains
- Innothule Swamp
- Toxxulia Forest
- Field of Bone
That doesn’t seem like quite enough for me, though that is likely because I will roll up in Qeynos (screw Freeport and its fancy new graphics!) and West Karana will likely be heavily used as well, if past experience is to be believed.
Also, no Blackburrow? Ah well, we’ll see how this works. And the crowds won’t be there forever.
The FAQ also indicates that they have updated the progression speed options that they are allowing people to vote on. In addition to the ones I listed previously, there is now the Level Cap Bias option, which plays out like this:
- Ruins of Kunark: 8 months
- Scars of Velious: 3 months
- Shadows of Luclin: 3 months
- Planes of Power: 3 months
- Legacy of Ykesha: 2 weeks after PoP
- LDoN: 4 weeks after PoP
- Gates of Discord: 4 months after PoP, then every four months
I am not sure how that really matches the name, but the FAQ says that they would have to work out the unlock schedule. I am torn on this, because 8 months to Ruins of Kunark means we spend the maximum amount of time in classic EQ, which favors my own bias. So, with the poll already up in-game, I voted for that as my first choice, with Maximum Nostalgia as my second.
That does, however, give Ruins of Kunark, the best expansion ever, a pretty short run. It deserves more time. That made another question, the opening day content question, more difficult. I eventually went for classic only, but I was not wholly against day one being classic plus Ruins of Kunark. That makes for some gear mis-matches and the level 50 raid content becomes odd when you are cleared to level 60, but Kunark does have a lot of nice low level zones that tend to get bypassed when everybody is already 50 when the expansion unlocks.
Opening up with classic, Kunark, and Velious though, that seemed like too much. I couldn’t go there.
I also picked expansion unlocks on a schedule versus via a vote. Voting has been so problematic over the life of the Fippy Darkpaw server that I would rather just not have it than have more close votes where people are saying that the poll wouldn’t open for them.
Finally, there was the vote on a name. I had to go with the simplest name to remember.
I am not even sure what “Ragefire” is in the context of EverQuest, but it sound nice.
And the final bit of interesting news, for me at least, was the fact that Daybreak plans to have a beta to test the mechanics of the new progression server. Imagine that! Those who participate will get some sort of non-power goodie, with an extra large bag having been mentioned as a possibility.
So not only does it look like a progression server is going to happen, but it is starting to feel like Daybreak might be serious about the whole thing. Of course, they seemed serious about past incarnations of these servers as well, right up until they launched, at which point then ceased to be mentioned ever again.
Anyway, those of us looking forward to this sort of thing… which seems to be Keen and Bhagpuss, along with myself… will no doubt be in there and voting and covering events as they come up. The age of EverQuest and the nature of its growth (with lots of segregated content added over the years) makes this sort of server viable in a way that something like LOTRO can likely only dream of.