Daily Archives: November 9, 2022

Thoughts on Housing as EverQuest II Turns 18

EverQuest II launched 18 years ago today, back on November 9, 2004.  It was an event and the game was very much expected to carry on before it the way EverQuest had, becoming a dominant player, if not the dominant player in the fantasy MMORPG market.

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

Yeah, that didn’t happen.  And I’ll be frank, as I was there at the time, even if World of Warcraft had launched six months or a year later, rather than just three weeks, EverQuest II was destined to be, shall we say, more of a niche title.

An ad for EQII from the August 2004 issue of Computer Gaming World

I mean, in the scope of the success of WoW at least.  If there had been no WoW, it would have been a modest success, if somewhat disappointing success.  A lot of people went from EQII to WoW, but as many if not more went from EQ to EQII and back to EQ.  Maybe they went to WoW later because, if anything WoW was the real successor to EQ, but people left EQII in droves.

EverQuest II on the cover of CGW – December 2004 Issue

Mistakes were made.  There were a lot of problems.  So many problems.  Technical issues, high system requirements, a chaotic market, crafting interdependence gone mad, no gear atonement so people would just resell their old gear, quest log problems, and just a host of core ideas that drove the design of the game.

About a dozen years back, when SOE was talking about lessons learned for EverQuest Next, I took that and laid out what appeared, in hindsight, to be the lessons learned that drove the EQII design.

It was a difficult game to play and I remember hearing about people with old machines playing the game on such low settings that basically nobody had a face in the game.

But one thing they got right, straight away on day one, was housing.

Once you got through the isle of refuge and made it to your home city… only two home cities with a bunch of oddly segregated ghettos… how did barbarians and dwarves get grouped together… you got a quest to set up your first home.

Yes, it was a crappy, shoe box sized one room apartment, but it was YOUR crappy, shoe box sized apartment.  And there was stuff to do with it.  There were quests and items in the world, trophies and such, that you could bring back to display there.

Wall of Weapons and some of my other stuff

There was also a whole profession dedicated to furniture and such.

And if you wanted to sell on the market you HAD to have a house.  That was also your store front.  And there wasn’t offline selling at first, so you had to leave your character logged on, in your house, so people could buy your stuff while you were away.  I used to log myself in, then go to work all day, come home in the evening, and find myself still logged in.

Whatever you say about the initial design of the game, they were committed to housing.

I’ve written about what makes housing feel worthwhile in MMORPGs.  There are a lot of aspects that can go into it, and some of them are subjective and also drive a lot of emotion.  Some people absolutely have to have a real physical house that occupies space that unambiguously belongs to it.  Nothing but such a literal simulacrum attempt will do, no matter the issues inherent in that. (Which exist in both the real in virtual worlds because, as any real estate agent will tell you, it is all about “location, location, location.)

EQII opted for instanced housing, which has its own problems.  But you can at least always get a place that is convenient to where you want to be or what you want to do.

And that is one of the strengths of the game, one of pillars that holds the game together in my opinion.  I have played a lot of games with indifferent housing, forgettable cosmetic ventures that add little or no value to your experience.  But whenever I go back to play EQII, and I was doing that as recently as a year ago, I always check in on my house, add new items, move stuff around.

Then I go to the guild hall, which is something else they did very well, though that took a little more time to gel into another cornerstone of the game.

So here we are, 18 years down the road.  Given that Ultima Online is celebrating 25 years and EverQuest is well into its 23rd year, 18 doesn’t seem quite so long.

Of course, on the flip side, a commercially viable online game run by a public company that is 18 years old… well, in a world where EA is a thing, that does seem a bit strange at times.  Plus I was there, playing the damn game on November 13th, 2004.  A lot has changed since then.

So congrats on another year of EverQuest II.  It at least gets to celebrate its birthday before World of Warcraft every year… sort of.  WoW is even now loudly making plans and trying to scoop up all the possible guests for its birthday on the 23rd.

At least it has more expansions than WoW I suppose.

Another year goes by and I add another anniversary post to my list.

Past posts if you are in a nostalgic mood: