This is something of a tangential thought from Monday’s post… it is actually where my thinking started, but I wrote one of the other thoughts first… related to EverQuest.
We know how things worked out, how EverQuest relied on its own IP, borrowing heavily from how TorilMUD did things, and was successful beyond all expectations, and remains to this day one of the key revenue streams in the Daybreak stable of games. (DC Universe Online has more players and greater revenue, but EverQuest catches up when we start talking about net profit because DCUO has to split with the console platforms and pay royalties for the IP.)
The thing is, EverQuest could have borrowed more from TorilMUD.
TorilMUD, at the time EverQuest was being developed, was based on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition, best remembered today for introducing the concept of “To hit armor class 0” or THAC0, and set in Forgotten Realms IP, featuring monsters, locations, and tales from the campaign setting.
From the city of Waterdeep (which I wrote about) you could go south and visit Baldur’s Gate and Calimport, or north to the spine of the world and the home of the dwarves, east to Zhentil Keep, Thay, and the Sea of Fallen Stars, or out onto the Trackless Sea to the Moonshaes, or even as far as Evermeet, home of the elves, about which I wrote a series of posts.
And while EverQuest borrowed many of the ideas from TorilMUD, I do sometimes wonder what would have happened it the team that eventually became Sony Online Entertainment had gone all the way and created a Forgotten Realms MMORPG.
There were obvious roadblocks, not the least of which was a company called BioWare having licensed the IP for their successful Baldur’s Gate title. But it is not entirely inconceivable (and I do know what that word means) that the wily John Smedley might have somehow somehow negotiated a deal with the then new owners of the franchise, Wizards of the Coast, to be able to create a persistent online multiplayer game with the same IP by finding enough hairs to split to distinguish it from the other deals licensing it.
And, had that come to pass, what would the game look like?
Some of it likely wouldn’t change all that much. Freeport was already modeled on the version of Waterdeep in TorilMUD. The individual home towns of the different races were already a thing. Faydwer would likely have become Evermeet, home to just elves and the half-elven. Kaladim would have to become Mithril Hall and move somewhere north, adjacent to the barbarian space of snowy terrain likely. The halflings were probably fine where they were, while the dark elves become the drow and likely need a better location.
I’m not sure what you do with the Erudites. Do you make them illithid and get a psionic class in the bargain? And do you then need to create the Underdark as a setting?
Or maybe you don’t do as much at launch with an eye to expansions. Maybe rather than going to the moon you go to the Underdark and have a new race there.
Clearly it isn’t a one to one substitution. The game would have been built differently with the setting in mind. But it feels like it could have been done.
Then one wonders at the outcome. Does having the Dungeons & Dragon franchise and Diku MUD style open world 3D MMORPG mean it becomes an even bigger success?
And, if so, is the additional success worth it? I mean, looking at Dungeons & Dragons Online, the bar is pretty low for who could get a license from Wizards of the Coast. (Also, Neverwinter.) But the fees for the license are not insubstantial and success often leads to greed. Also, they might require some sort of adherence to the D&D mechanics, a level of editorial control of items and content and whatnot.
And they might not be happy with the graphical fidelity more than 20 years down the line. Does everything get a Freeport style revamp? Or does EverQuest II become the revamp and the original goes away?
Would we have a huge world with 20+ expansions today?
Things could have gone very differently. But there were no doubt many choices along the way that could have diverted both Norrath games from the trajectory they eventually followed.
Just things I think about when I am in the shower.