Category Archives: EverQuest

The Revolt in Gloomingdeep

Following on from the previous EverQuest post, I arrived in the main area of the tutorial.  It was time for it to teach me a few more things about the game.  There was a list of people to speak to… to hail, in the parlance of the game… who would in turn instruct me in some aspect of world.

A list of people to speak to…

But before I could start on that, I was told about the Find option, which you can invoke with Control-F or via the Find button that is placed on your hot bar by default.  This present you with a list of NPCs in the zone, with a description of each.  You just select the NPC you need to find and a glowing wisp trail appears to guide you to them.

Follow the wisp

For whatever reason I feel that EQ does this better than most games.  That includes EverQuest II, which has pretty much the identical wisp mechanic.  But the wisp in EQII seems to spend a lot more time confused as to which way you should be going.  It also seems more likely to send you towards impassible terrain before changing its mind.  In EQ, at least in the early zones where I have used it, the wisp is solid in its directions.

You end up visiting somebody to upgrade your weapon.  Base EQ weapons have basically two stats, damage and delay.  You want a big damage number and a small delay number, which together you can use to figure out DPS.   The upgrade actually just made my club slightly faster.

My polished club

You also learn some basics about spells from another NPC, which generally includes a spell to add to your spellbook.  The spell system was definitely influenced by TorilMUD, yet ended up as kind of its own thing.  It is still over complicated though, and I still have to go look at Allahkazam or some other site online to figure out what spells I need to buy when I level up as they’re all just at a vendor listed by name.

Another NPC tells you about the map, which is another item that came in after my time in the game.

The map of the tutorial safe area

The map is primitive, but better than nothing.  And it is community driven, as you can add and edit maps.  The game provides some basic maps, but the community does the rest.  You have to go download the collected maps if you want to know where things are.

Also, just to roll up a pair of items, one of the reason the wisp is superior in EQ is that the route it sends you down also shows up on the map.  That is a surprisingly useful aspect of the wisp at times.

I also talked to the NPC about mercenaries.  You can hire a mercenary to heal for you or tank for you.  While I have used the mercenaries in EQII, I have tended to stay away from them in EQ, mostly because my EQII characters have a lot of cash while I tend to be dirt poor in EQ and mercs cost in game money to keep around.  You have to fork over some in-game cash every 15 minutes for your merc.  However, the in-game economy is focused on richer, high level characters.  In the tutorial I was looting stuff that sold to the vendor for some copper or a few silver, yet the vendor is now scaled to display prices in platinum coins.  Hard to get there on loot, though a couple of the quests did give out plat coins.  So I gave that a pass for the time being.

You don’t really need a merc to start with anyway.  You’re just going to go kill some rats.

I am savagely beating this cave rat

The quests start off easy enough.  But eventually you hit some that are flagged as being for a group.  While the tutorial was more populated than I expected… I saw maybe a dozen people running around at any given time… it was a quiet bunch and grouping didn’t seem to be their thing.  So I went back and rented a tank mercenary.

Despite reading the intro, I rented the tier I apprentice tank, who is about as useful as a third nipple.  After having to flee from Spider Tamer Gugan, I went back and got the journeyman tank.  After that, things went much more smoothly.

The demise of the spider queen

From there, supported by my mercenary companion, I continued on through the tutorial, trying to do all of the quest.  The mercenary is free for a while, and then it starts charging you every 15 minutes.  First one gold coin, then two, then three.  I kept him on since he was effective, but when it is 10g to 1p, and I had about a dozen plat all told, that was starting to seem expensive.

On the quest hunt I found one I had missed previously.  But I am also sure I missed a couple.  The meta quest ends when you speak to Arias at one point, even when there are some sub-quests still available.  But you will hit level 10, which overall doesn’t take too long, and you’re all dressed up in the blue armor set that you acquire from the quests along the way.

I’m now a blue meanie

At that point the game sends you off to the Plane of Knowledge, the hub of Norrath.

Off you go then…

Of course, first you have to get there.  My memory of leaving the tutorial is pretty vague.  I think you can hang around until level 15, at which point you’ll get kicked out to the PoK, but if you want to leave earlier, you must take direct action.

Avoid the obvious cave.

Obvious cave is obvious

There is a sign next to it that moves… for reasons I do not recall… but you get a message about the slaves having dug a way out.  You can go through the cave to exit Gloomingdeep, but you end up in Crescent Reach.  That is a whole different experience that came in with The Serprent’s Spine expansion where you can level up to… I forget how far, but pretty far… in a series of purpose built zones with quests and the like.

Wait, this isn’t the Plane of Knowledge

That’s not horrible, but it starts at level one and is an alternative to the tutorial.  If you’re already at level 10 or beyond, and if you want to do the PoK armor quests, going there won’t help you. (Unless you go find the PoK teleport book, which you will probably only be able to do if you’ve downloaded and installed all those maps.  It used to be in dangerous territory, but I think they moved it.)

I got back to the tutorial by camping out and selecting the “Tutorial” button from the character select screen, since I was too lazy to go find the teleport book.

Back in the tutorial you have to go find Arias one last time, select him, and say “I am ready to leave” to get out.  The tutorial tells you that at some point I am sure, but like so much of the information, it is in small text in various windows and easy to miss or forget.

Saying that to Arias will teleport you immediately to the PoK where you can run over and bind your soul… basically set your respawn on death point, just select the NPC and click on the “bind my soul” link in chat… and be ready to work on the armor quests.

I hear you are into bindage

The next set of quests, at least on a live server, will get you well along to level 20 or so.  That is what I seem to recall anyway, the evidence being the other characters I created on the server, which all seem to be level 20-ish.  After that, the game has tended to get a bit less directed in its help.

Of course, the last time I played was a while back.  Since then some new things have come along.  There are a whole series of achievements for going places and slaying particular mobs.  That might even be an interesting way to tour the game.  And then there is the Hero’s Journey, which the game popped up a window to tell me about.

Joseph Campbell would be… something

I’m not sure how deep that is… at level 10 it seems to just point me at an achievement in my level range… but it might be something to look into.

Now to see if I carry on in Norrath.  I’ve warmed up with the tutorial.  The anniversary events are about three weeks away.  I could wait for that or I could go do the armor quests and see where that leads me.

Towards the EverQuest Tutorial

As part of the post last week about the EverQuest progression servers that Daybreak announced for the 20th anniversary, Bhagpuss and I ended up exchanging comments about the tutorial.

There is a tutorial, though it was added at some point well after launch.  Neither I nor Bhagpuss nor Google could say exactly when… so if you know, here is an opportunity for you to leave a comment… and it has been through various iterations, so there is probably somebody out there who longs for the “classic” tutorial.

Anyway, I said that, despite its unknown provenance, I kind of like the tutorial.  I’ve been through it a couple of times, though not recently.  In fact, I think the last time I went through it was when Daybreak opened up the Vox server, which I think coincided with the game going free to play… which would make it 2012.

It has been a while.

Anyway, all this thinking about it made me want to go try it.  At least it would get me warmed up for the game in time for the big day next month.  So I cranked up the EverQuest client, logged in, and looked at the old server list window once again.

Choose a server, choose a race, choose a class…

There I realized that I was still subscribed to Daybreak All Access.  I mean, I knew that in some part of my brain… and I’ve let it slip some since I was playing EQII late last year because I did the three month at a go subscription, but they stop giving you Daybreak Cash if you unsubscribe early and so I let it run, log in to collect, but lose track of the point when I should subscriber… so they’ve clearly got my number on that one… but the fact that I had all the pay to play progression servers on the list kind of pressed that home on me.

Also, I like the little scroll window that first tells you how many of the expansions you own… a useful number I suppose… and then proceeds to list out, by name, in order, all of the ones you do own, followed, again by name and in order, all of the ones you do not.

Given that there are now 25 expansions in the wild, that can take a while, even if most of them are just three word names.  I had to wait a bit for the scroll to come around so I could get a screen shot with my own count.  I own everything through The Darkened Sea, which was more than I could mentally account for… but whatever.  Even watching that list scroll past I kept seeing names that seemed like they only just shipped, but.  Everything from House of Thule forward seems like it was recent.

Once I was done staring at that I decided to go back to the Vox server once more.  I have characters on all of the progression servers… my thing seems to be to at least roll up a character and stand out in front of Qeynos even if I don’t play… but I wasn’t sure where any of them stood these days and I didn’t want any special rules of restrictions.  I wanted the tutorial.  So Vox it was.

I already have four characters on Vox, three in their low 20s and one at level 85 from that time they gave a free boost and then I couldn’t get to where the game was telling me to go.  That was almost five years ago.

Also, I thought surely the launcher was wrong when it was telling me about level 85 boosts.

Level 85 is hardly your best these days

Seriously, that was what the boost was five years ago.  Since then the level cap is 110 now.  Though, I guess looking through that list of expansions, it was 100 back then so it was hardly an invite to battle with anybody’s best back then as well.  The boost for EverQuest II has moved forward, but like so much in EverQuest, the boost there stays locked in the past I guess. (Bhagpuss seemed similarly bemused about this.)

But, again, I wasn’t here to boost, I was here for the tutorial.

So I rolled up a fresh character.  I had already done the usual suspects on Vox already, a paladin, a shaman, a warrior, and a druid, so I went out for something I hadn’t looked at in a while.  I considered a bard.  I do love EverQuest bards.  However, bards have always seemed like more of a group oriented class to me, and I wasn’t planning to group.  Instead I decided to go for a cleric.

EverQuest clerics are good, old school clerics, wearing heavy armor and beating people with blunt objects.  I like a healer that can take a punch and have always been a bit chagrined in WoW with cloth wearing clerics.  I mean, sure, they have mind control.  But wearing cloth like some sort of common mage?  But I guess you have the paladin if you want an armored cleric in WoW these days.

I ended up with a dwarf cleric named Dolenz because I was thinking about Circus Boy the other day or something.  I clicked the tutorial option… it is a bit confusing, because there is a button there on the character page that says “Tutorial” but I wasn’t sure what it did, so I clicked it a couple of times and figured it was just a toggle to indicate whether or not you wanted to go through the tutorial.  But then I couldn’t remember its initial state and, honestly, even if I did remember, it was not clear to me which state got me into the tutorial and which would drop me straight into Norrath.

Whichever I ended up choosing, it turned out to be the right one, because it sent me into the tutorial as I had wanted.

The tutorial, unlike a lot of what I remember about EverQuest, has a story of sorts.  It isn’t a very original story.  You’ve been captured by kobols and are in kobold jail and have to escape… because by industry convention all RPG starting stories must be a jail break or a ship wrekck scenario… and after a bit of an intro you end up in a room with a shirtless barbarian named Arias who has come to help.

Look at that oiled chest, 100% in my book

Arias takes you under his wing and introduces you to the basic concepts over EverQuest, like movement, the quest log, looting, and beating the tar out of kobolds.

Arias and I have done him in

I recognized the quest log, was hazy about being able to click on the keywords in dialog rather than having to say them, and was surprised a bit by the looting mechanism, which was a new one on me.

Well, new-ish.  It seemed to be very similar to what I saw had ended up in LOTRO when I came back for the legendary server there.

The loot just waits for you

It looks a little better in LOTRO, but it seems to act about the same.  And it was comforting.  One of the things I forgot to mention in my ramble about returning to World of Warcraft was how, after three months in Middle-earth, I kept forgetting to loot.  You get used to the loot just showing up in a window for you to pick and choose among.

After looting that key and learning again how to hand it to an NPC, Arias led us out of the initial story and into thee stronghold of the revolt.

The revolution begins here

From there I was set to learn a whole range of game mechanics.  But I will pick that up in the next post.

No Good Expansions*

*Some expansions excepted

A post somewhat sparked by what Kaylriene wrote, though I have been harboring bits and pieces of this for ages now.  Ready for a Friday ramble?  Here we go.

I suppose that EverQuest needs to take some of the heat on this.  Coming up to its 20th anniversary it already has 25 expansions past the base game that launched back in 1999.  While expansions and updates and sequels and such were clearly a thing long before EverQuest came along, the success of EverQuest in the then burgeoning MMORPG space made it a standard bearer and template for games that came later, including World of Warcraft.

EverQuest went more than a year before launching the first expansion for the game, Ruins of Kunark, which I sometimes refer to as “the only good expansion,” and then embarked on a quest to launch two expansions a year in order to keep the community engaged and happy with new content.

Maybe the only fully good MMO expansion ever

That kept that money machine printing, but brought with it a series of problems like keeping people up to date, rolling past expansions up into consolidated, all-in-one packages like EverQuest Platinum, and what often felt like an exchange of quality in the name of getting another expansion out.  And some expansions barely felt like expansions at all.

SOE eased up on that plan in 2007, opting to dial back to just one expansion a year for both EverQuest and EverQuest II, which also launched with similar expansion plans.

So, if nothing else, EverQuest solidified the norm that expansions are a requirement, something the players expect.  That we complain about Blizzard only being able to crank out a WoW expansion every other year is directly related to the pace set by SOE.  Sort of.

But the one thing we know about expansions, that we complain about yet never think all that deeply about, is how they undue what has come before.

An expansion to a live MMORPG, by its very nature, changes the overall game.  And change always alienates somebody.  As I have often said, every feature, every aspect, no matter how trivial or generally despised, is somebody’s favorite part of that game.

MMORPG players also represent a dichotomy.  If they’ve played through the current content, it is likely because they have enjoyed it as it was laid out.  They’ve reached the end, they’re happy, and they want more of the same.  Mostly.  Some played through and were unhappy about some things, but happy overall.  Ideally an expansion will give players more of what made them happy, plus adjusting the things that made people unhappy.

Adjusting, of course, will make other player unhappy, as you’re pretty much guaranteed to be changing somebody’s favorite thing.  And every expansion brings change to the world, on top of the usual restart of the gear and level grind which, as people often point out, replaces their top end raid gear with better quest drop greens almost immediately.

Just handing out more of the same when it comes to content can feel repetitive and uninspired, but changing things makes people angry, because change makes people angry.  But leaving everything as it is means people finish the content and eventually stop giving you money via their monthly subscription.  The theoretical best path forward is the one that engages the most people while angering the fewest.

I refer to Ruins of Kunark as the one good expansion because it seemed to thread the needle almost exactly right.  I delivered more of what people were into, more content, more levels, more races, more dragons, more gear, all without having a huge impact on the game as it already stood.

Ruins of Kunark isn’t really the “one good expansion,” if only because “good” is very subjective.  And there are other expansions I have enjoyed.  It is more that it represents an expansion that did more to expand the game than annoy the installed base.  But first expansions can be like that.  Or they used to be like that.  Desert of Flames was like that for EverQuest II in many ways, and certainly The Burning Crusade had that first expansion magic for WoW.  I’d even argue that WoW, ever more fortunate than one would expect, got a double dip at that well, as Wrath of the Lich King continued on and did very well without disrupting the apple cart.

Eventually though, expansions begin to work against the game.  There is always a core group that keeps up, both others fall behind.  For EverQuest, the every six month pace meant a lot of people falling behind.  Expansions also put a gap between new players and the bulk of the player base.  That’s not so bad after one expansion, but each new expansion makes it worse.  And then there are the changes that anger the core fan base.

That leads us to Cataclysm.  The team at SOE, in their attempt to crank out new content, often neglected the old.  If I go back to Qeynos today it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1999.  There are a few new items, some new vendors scattered about, and the new mechanics added in to the game over the years.  But I can still stand out in front of the gates and fight beetles, skeletons, kicking snakes, and the occasional Fippy Darkpaw.  Yes, they redid Freeport, much to the chagrin of many, and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, but they have mostly left the old world looking like it did back in the day.  Enough has changed over the years that can’t go back and relive the game as it was at launch, which brought out the Project 1999 effort, but at least  I can still go bask in the eerie green glow of the chessboard in Butcherblock if I want.

Cataclysm though… well, it had a number of strikes against it from the get go, not the least of which was following on after two successful and popular expansions, which together played out the Warcraft lore as we knew it.  So Cataclysm had to break new ground on the lore front.

Cataclysm also only offered us five additional levels, a break with the pattern so far.  We also didn’t get a new world or continent, with the five new leveling zones being integrated into the old world.  We also got flying in old Azeroth right away, a feature that can start an argument faster than most.  I suspect flying is something Blizzard regrets in hindsight, but once they gave it to us they had to keep on  finding ways to make us unlock it all over again.

But most of all, Cataclysm redid the old world.  Zones were redone, new quest lines were created, and the 1-60 leveling experience became a completely different beast.

Arguably, it is a better experience.  I have run all of the redone zones.  I have the achievements to prove it. (Another divisive feature.)  And the zones all now have a story through which you can progress rather than the, at times, haphazard quest hubs which had you killing and collecting and killing some more over and over, often without rhyme or reason.

To give J. Allen Brack his due, for a specific set of circumstances, you don’t want the old game.

The rework, which was also necessitated by the need to give us flying throughout Azeroth, save for in the Blood Elf and Draenei starter zones, was spoiled by a couple of things.  First, the level curve had been cut back, so that the pacing of the new zones was off.  You would easily end up with quests so low level that they went gray if you chased down every quest in a zone.  And second, the rework of the 1-60 instances made them all short and easy and the optimum path for leveling using the dungeon finder.  You could run three an hour easy, even queuing as DPS, so you could, and probably did, bypass all that reworked content.

But, bigger than that, at least over the long haul, the removal of the old content led to something we might now call the WoW Classic movement.  There was already a nascent force in action on that, since the first two expansions reworked classes and talents, so you couldn’t really play the old content the way you did in 2005.  Vanilla servers were already a thing.  But they became a much bigger deal when Blizzard changed the old world.

Overall though, Cataclysm wasn’t a bad expansion.  It took me a while to get to that conclusion, because I did not like it at first, to the point of walking away from the game for a year.

The new races were fine.  The 80-85 zones were good.  Val’shir might be the prettiest zone in the game.  It is like playing in the most beautiful aquarium ever.  (A pity about the motion sickness thing.)  I ran and enjoyed all of the instances, with the reworked Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub raids being particularly good.  Being at level and doing the content was a decent experience.  I still use my camel mount regularly in no-fly areas.  Regardless though, the changes burned.  They were divisive. Blizz pissed off a lot of the core player base, even if the whole thing ended up getting us WoW Classic.

I think, even if Blizz hadn’t done all of those changes… which I guess would have meant calling it something other than Cataclysm… that it would have been a let down of an expansion.  Having to follow on after TBC and WotLK was a big ask.  How do you follow up Ice Crown Citadel?

Mists of Pandaria revived things a bit, though I think that was as much by being a really solid expansion as it was that expectations were low after Cataclysm.  But Warlords of Draenor?  Doomed.  The expectations set by reviving the themes from TBC meant eventual disappointment.  Garrisons were not great.  They were not the housing people wanted.  They took people out of the world, just like Blizz said housing would, without being a place people cared about and could make their own.  But I think the fact that it wasn’t the return of Outland and the excitement of 2007 was what led to the eventual drop in subscriptions.  People realized there was no going back to their memories of the old game.

As every feature is somebody’s favorite feature, the thing that keeps them in the game, every expansion is somebody’s breaking point, the thing that gets them to walk away.  The more expansions that come along, the more people end up dropping out.  Or, if they don’t drop out, they return to play casually, as much out of habit as anything.  The investment in the game isn’t as deep.  You play for a bit, see the sights, do the tourist thing, get the achievements, then unsubscribe until the next expansion.

Eventually there is an equilibrium it seems.  EverQuest and EverQuest II seemed to have found it.  They still do an expansion every year that plays to the installed base, that gives them just enough of what they want… be they invested or tourist… to buy-in and spend some time with the game.

Basically, expansions are change, and change has a habit of breaking the bonds players have with your game.  However, if you sit still and have no expansions then people will leave over time anyway, so you cannot simply avoid expansions and change either.  It is probably better to move forward in the end, make the changes, earn a bit of extra money, and carry on.

Just don’t expect everybody to thank you for it.

EverQuest 20th Anniversary Progression Servers Announced

More build up to the EverQuest 20th anniversary next month.

As promised in the previous Producer’s Letter there will be two progression servers set to open on Saturday, March 16 as part of the anniversary celebration.

Let’s take a look at what we’re getting.

Ultra Casual

The first of the pair will be called Selo, a name no doubt derived from the bard class song Selo’s Accelerando, which let your group move more quickly.

Selo moves you faster

This is appropriate because the Selo server will be the fast/casual progression server, with an experience curve that will  likely let you get to level cap much faster than you ever did back in 1999.  It will still be slower than live servers, but not as slow as any past progression server.

It will also advance much more quickly, starting in the Shadows of Luclin era and opening up a new expansion on the first Wednesday of every month thereafter, starting with the Planes of Power unlock on May 1, 2019.  That will give people a little extra time to get ramped up on those initial levels.

After it catches up to the current expansion level, something that will still take close to two years (so many expansions, and probably a new one at the end of the year), it will become a normal live server.  There is a FAQ for the Selo server available.

Hardcore

The second server will be named Mangler, named for the black guard dog that hangs around in one of the back rooms of the Fool’s Gold in Rivervale.  It is of the more traditional progression server style.

Yes, my dog bites

The experience rate for Mangler will be somewhat slower than the usual, already slowed progression server norm, and is aimed at the more hardcore raider faction.  For this server, expansions will unlock every 12 weeks until Gates of Discord opens, after which expansions that include level cap increases will last for 12 weeks while those without will last for 8 weeks.

That still puts the life of this server out in the five year range.

There is also a FAQ up for the Mangler server.

True Box

Both of these servers will be in the “True Box” model that Daybreak has adopted, which means that you will not be able to multibox.  Multiboxing was deemed the literal worst thing ever by a loud faction of the progression server community.  And I get that it can be annoying to see one obvious group all being controlled by a single person owning your favorite spawn.  Further, I agree that on a server like Mangler, it is probably in the zone.

My Reaction

I want to say right up front that the idea of starting a progression server on the 20th anniversary of the launch of EverQuest that kicks off anywhere but classic is complete bullshit.

Seriously, who at Daybreak thought, “Let’s celebrate classic by bypassing classic!” was a good plan?  That was enough to make my playing on it go from “sure thing” to “maybe.”

That aside, I am also confused as to what “ultra casual” means to the team at Daybreak.  On hearing them use the term “casual” I thought they might relax the whole “true box” thing so people could dual box a tank and a healer or something, like I did back with Fippy Darkpaw.

Or, even better, maybe allow mercenaries onto the server from day one… in classic… so that you could hire your own in-game healer to follow you as you explored.  But neither will be the case.

I guess I am okay with the faster XP curve.  I can see the argument for not wanting to wear the hair shirt if you’re in for a casual tour.  But the whole faster expansion unlock thing?  That seems to be the opposite of what casuals have been asking for out of a progression server.  It is the hardcore raiders that always want the next unlock once they’ve finished up the current expansion.  Casual players have traditionally been the holdouts looking for longer stretches with each expansion since they tend to play at a casual pace.

Giving substance to that unlock history, it seems as though the hardcore raiding guilds are planning to avoid Mangle altogether and hit Selo instead, since it pretty much gives them what they have been asking for; the ability to level up more quickly in order to raid and faster unlock times for expansions so they can have new content for their guilds more often.

The casuals… well, if you trust the Progression Server section of the the EverQuest forums… are feeling left out.  I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks that starting anywhere besides classic is simply wrong, but there is the usual amount of arguing back and forth as to what the server ought to be, interrupted only by the person who opened a thread asking for a PvP progression server.  That seemed to unify a lot of people… against PvP.

But the key factor here seems to be badly set expectations.

Daybreak told us there would be an “ultra casual” progression server back with the Producer’s Letter, but did not bother to explain what that might really mean.  So for a couple of weeks people got to make up their own idea “ultra casual” server in the head, setting the expectations themselves in the big blank that Daybreak left open.  I certainly did so with my thoughts about mercs or true box.

And then Daybreak told us what they had in mind and it failed to match almost everybody’s self-constructed view.  No surprise there I suppose.  Remember when they told us H1Z1 was going to be for Star Wars Galaxies players?

We shall see if the heat in the forums leads to any changes.  Unlike EverQuest II, where the company often seems to blow with the loudest wind in the forums, the Progression Server section of the EverQuest forums has a long standing tradition of being ignored by Daybreak.  An actual post by a Daybreak employee there is generally looked upon as something akin to a miracle.

But starting a progression server anywhere except at classic… no… just no.  That has got to be fixed.  On a server where the unlocks will be once a month, I can’t even imagine an argument for skipping straight to Shadows of Luclin.  It will be unlocked soon enough already.  Seriously, what the hell?

What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?

The future of the EverQuest franchise as a whole is important to us here at Daybreak. EverQuest in all its forms is near and dear to our hearts. EverQuest and EverQuest II are going strong. Rest assured that our passion to grow the world of EverQuest remains undiminished.

-Russell Shanks, March 11, 2016

We’re coming up to the 20th anniversary of the EverQuest franchise next month.  That is a long time for a game to hang around.

EverQuest is still alive and kicking, still getting updates, and still making money so far as I can tell.  It is long past its population peak, which hit way back in 2003.  There have been multiple rounds of server merges in order to keep server populations viable.  But there remains a sizable active player base… a player base that is, in all likelihood, still larger than the initial target Sony had for the game back before it launched.

Therein lies the problem, the dilemma of these sorts of game.  Titles like EverQuest, which I will call MMORPGs, are not like single player games or even most multiplayer games.  They are more like their MUD antecedents in that they have a social aspect that attracts and holds players and keeps them playing long after they might have walked away from a game that only featured a single player campaign.  MMORPGs, if they grab a big enough audience early on, can stay viable for years and years.

Just about five and a half years after EverQuest hit the shelves SOE launched EverQuest II.  It was supposed to ship before then… at least a year before then according to Computer Gaming World back in 2003… but when do these things ever ship on time?

It was meant to replace the original, but was too different and initially too… broken isn’t the right word because a lot of regrettable aspects of the game were working as designed, so maybe just not well thought through… to lure many away from the first game and not good enough on its own to surpass the original.  And, as I mentioned, people invested in EverQuest ended up declining to  jump to a new game to start anew.  The old game was still there and they were settled in the world they already knew and loved.

So Everquest II didn’t exactly break records on the subscriptions front.

In the scale of the time, where EverQuest was the top dog, it still did pretty well.  We’ve seen the subscription chart before that shows it peaking around 350K subscribers.

Subscriptions – 150K to 1 million

That was well shy of EverQuest‘s 550K peak, but nothing to be ashamed of in the mix of games at the time.  Or it wouldn’t have been had not World of Warcraft launched a month later.

I think the the fact that you couldn’t find a copy of WoW very easily until early in 2005 kept people in EQII longer than they might have stayed.  But many of the 350K fled, either back to EQ or on to WoW.    The lesson learned, according to Smed at the time, was no more MMO sequels.  But if they had kept to that this post would stop right here.

Meanwhile WoW‘s subscription numbers distorted all previous measures.  550K looked great, until WoW was rocketing past ten times that number and continuing to climb.  WoW changed the genre and the expectations of both players and studios.  The era of insanity began, where the potential of the genre seemed unlimited.  Charlatans declared that if you weren’t making an MMORPG.  WoW became the benchmark for success and money chased those who claimed they could reproduce the success of WoW.  However, the plan usually involved copying WoW, sometimes subtly, sometimes brazenly, but WoW was the target.

EQ and EQII chugged along all the same.  They clearly had enough of an audience to remain viable.  They both got updates and expansions on a regular basis.  There was the inevitable change over to a cash shop F2P model since the audience willing to part with $15 a month for a game was limited and, it seemed, concentrated on Azeroth.

Along the way the idea of a sequel began to stir anew.  A SOE Fanfest in August 2010 SOE announced that they were working on a new EverQuest sequel, which had been given the placeholder name EverQuest Next.

The Freeport Next we never saw

I don’t have a post about the announcement itself.  That was back in my naive blogging days when I thought linking out to other coverage was enough.  Link rot has proven that idea wrong.

But I did take a closer look at what SOE considered their lessons learned from the Norrath experience so far.  They sounded reasonable enough in summary:

  • Single world without the need to load zones
  • Instanced dungeons
  • Low system requirements
  • Stylized character models
  • Fewer classes, relative to EQII
  • PvP from day one and “done right”

Basically, it sounded like WoW, except for the PvP “done right” part.  But SOE has never done PvP right in Norrath, so WoW PvP would probably have been a step up.

We heard nothing much else for a long stretch (the usual SOE method) until June of 2012, when it was announced that everything we saw or heard in 2010 was obsolete and should be disregarded.

Come SOE Live, the new name for SOE Fanfest, of August 2013 we were treated to a new vision of an EverQuest sequel.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

There was definitely a new plan with a new set of parameters:

  • No Levels
  • Limited Skills Available
  • Skills Specific to Weapons
  • 40 Classes and Multi-classing
  • Six Races
  • Destructible Terrain
  • Parkour-like Movement
  • Combat Roles beyond the WoW Trinity
  • Emergent NPC AI
  • Sandbox nature
  • World Changing Quests

They also adopted EverQuest Next as the official name.  I wrote a long post about each aspect that was covered and linked out to what other people were writing about it as well.  And a lot of people were writing about it, excited by the prospect.

That went on in fits and starts, with long periods of silence, until early March 2016, when the whole thing was finally cancelled.  I declared that the end of the classic open world MMORPG.  Nobody seemed likely to make anything like the original EverQuest again, despite that quote at the top of the post, which came straight from the copy of the EQN cancellation announcement.

But we were into the Daybreak era by then, and closing games had become the rule rather than the exception for the team in San Diego, so a cancellation seemed par for the course.  The development tool-become-game Landmark was all that survived of EverQuest Next, and even its time was limited.

Which brings us to today.  It has been nearly three years since EverQuest Next was cancelled, and I suspect that we will hear no more about it or the goals it had.  Yet still, the rumor of sequels persist.

I had a tip sent to me about two years back that suggested that Daybreak was working on a small scale game based in Norrath, something more like a co-op RPG rather than an MMORPG.  But that was when H1Z1 still included what became Just Survive, which was also supposed to be small scale, with many servers and a co-op or PvP mechanic.  But I haven’t heard anything like that since.  Perhaps the decline and eventual demise of Just Survive kept that from becoming a thing.

Then there was the post-layoff rumor post from last May which had this gem in it:

Everquest 3 has been back in development for a year and is being rebuilt from the ground up. It aims to compete with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and to be the first fantasy MMORPG to put an emphasis on team battle royal PvP.

Battle royale EverQuest, because when you have a hammer that worked really well for a bit, every problem looks like a nail?  As PlanetSide Arena suggests, Daybreak is still trying to recapture that battle royale magic that they so briefly held with H1Z1.  And I am not sure that really competes with Pantheon.  But Pantheon is still a vision and some demos five years down the road, so who knows what it might end up being.

And then, back in September of last year, there was the NantWorks joint venture announcement which, among other things, seemed to promise some version of EverQuest on your phone.  But the press release also suggested that H1Z1 and some version of EverQuest were running on the Daybreak’s “well tested game engine,” which might have been a mistake, might have been marketing being unclear on the concept, or might have been a slip that indicated that something in the EverQuest domain was up and running on that engine.

So, with all of that context, where does an actual EverQuest 3 fit into the world?

Wait, I’m not done with context.  Did I mention that it isn’t 1999 anymore?

I realize that the fact that time has moved forward ought to be self-evident, but I don’t think that always sinks in as deeply as it should.  There will be somebody out there who wants the original EverQuest, death penalty and corpse runs included, on an updated platform.

And, I have to admit I have pined for that sort of thing myself at times.  Wouldn’t original EverQuest on the WoW engine be something?

But part of what made EverQuest great and popular and a legend is that it came out in 1999, which I am sad to say is now twenty years gone in the rear view mirror.  At that point in time it was a perfect storm of features and design.  Now though?

So what should an EverQuest 3 look like?

Suggesting going back to 1999 feels like trying to get lightning to strike the same spot a second time, only the storm clouds have long moved on.

Building something more WoW-like with the Norrath lore might have some draw, if done right.  But is the lore enough of a draw if the game is otherwise just another free to play, cash shop, and loot box clone in the genre?

And then there are those lessons learned.  There are some tasty tidbits there.  But Daybreak has already folded on that hand once.  Why would I possibly believe they could revive it again?  It may very well be that the “no sequels” lesson was the one they ought to stick with.

During the coming 20th anniversary of the original I suspect/hope/dread that Daybreak will tell us about plans they have for the future of the franchise.  It seems like the optimum point in time, when nostalgia for the franchise will swell and attention will be drawn to the game as it reaches that milestone.  But I am conflicted as to how I will greet the news of any such successor.

Daybreak Prepares for the Coming EverQuest 20 Year Anniversary

The often quiet Daybreak has surfaced to address the coming EverQuest 20th anniversary.  That’s right, EverQuest turns 20 this coming March 16th.

In a producer’s letter from Executive Producer Holly “Windstalker” Longdale… I hadn’t seen anything from her is so long that I wasn’t sure she was still with Daybreak… laid out some general expectations about what the company has planned.

Original Box Art

In game the letter says that there will be “brand new land, raids, and rares with a story about preserving our past, and it’s free.”  That is something for the regulars, the people who still congregate to play on the live servers.

For the extended fan base, which includes those of us lapsed Norrathians, who like to watch from a distance but who haven’t played the live game with any serious intent for years, there are a couple of new progression servers planned.

Progression servers are the SOE/Daybreak specialty and have proven quite popular when given the attention they deserve.  But Daybreak knows they cannot just roll out the same old thing every time, so these two new servers will be variations on the usual theme.

While the rules have not been revealed yet, one will be targeted as “hardcore” and the other “ultra-casual.”  Sign me up for the latter I guess.  I’ll be interested to see the rule set for both.  And both servers will launch on March 16th to coincide with the 20 year anniversary.

Starting then will keep them far enough from the impending launch of WoW Classic, slated for this summer, which I suspect will own the retro server market for some time.

And maybe with two servers launching on the same day there won’t be a huge queue.  Or maybe there will be.  I’d take it as a good sign for the franchise if there was one.

In addition to that, the producer’s letter says that a real life fan event is possibly in the works.

We’re working on pulling together an EQ fan event so we can hang out with you, our honored guests.

There are no details, and the tentative nature of that statement means it might not pan out.  But if it does, it will likely happen over the summer.  More details are promised come March.

In addition, Daybreak is asking for player submissions of short videos, 20 seconds or less, about how EverQuest changed your life or 15 second videos of your main character in game, to be included as part of an a 20th anniversary album that Daybreak will put out on Facebook this year.  If that interests you, you can submit your video via this page.

It has been a long time since EverQuest launched.  It was a very different world back in 1999.

There is no sign or word about the predicted end of content for the game, something that came about as a rumor back around the beginning of May last year. (After one of those layoffs.)  That some of what was stated has come to pass lends those rumors credence.  But things can change.  And  I wouldn’t expect to hear anything about that before the anniversary, lest it mar the event.  So we’ll hear more about what Daybreak has in store soon I hope.

Meanwhile, Bhagpuss has his own look at the producer’s letter and the coming 20th anniversary events.

My MMO Outlook for 2019

I’m going to try this again.  It isn’t quite the famous quip about insanity being repeating an action and expecting different results, but the results have not always been spectacular.  Though, in my defense, that has on occasion not been my fault.

For those seeking a history of this particular post, I have a list:

This time around I am going to make this less of a goal setting session, where I declare I am going to run off and play some new games… or some old games… or some games in between that I have not played before.  Instead, this is going to attempt to be more predictive.

Didn’t I just do predictions yesterday?

Well, I didn’t attempt to predict what I was actually going to play in 2019, so this is a different avenue.  I’ll open up with the usual suspects.

Easy Picks

  • EVE Online

Pretty much a lock since I played it 12 out of 12 months in 2018.  If I log in today and play, I’m covered, and it seems likely that I will do so and continue to do so over the course of the year.  As long as Reavers deploy a couple of times I’m probably good.

  • Pokemon Go

The other game I played pretty much daily throughout 2018.  It helps that this is the one video game that my wife and I play together.  Also happens to be the only active Pokemon title on a platform I own, since Nintendo is abandoning the handheld model and throwing everything onto the Switch.  Not that I am bitter or anything.

  • WoW Classic

I think this one is a no-brainer.  I will certainly subscribe and log in for the spectacle that will be the launch of WoW Classic.  The real question is how bad will it be?  I don’t mean to suggest there will be any glaring lack of fidelity.  I feel Blizz will be about as true to the idea as they can be.  The question will be how slammed will the servers be and how fragmented will the community end up as Blizz opens up more and more servers?

  • WoW Not-So-Classic

This one is likely a gimme as well.  While Battle for Azeroth just didn’t capture me, the fact that the same subscription will get you into both WoW and WoW Classic makes it very likely that I will log into the former to play.  There will probably be a boost in people on regular WoW servers corresponding to the length of the server queues on WoW Classic.

  • Lord of the Rings Online

Lifetime subscription and the Legendary server… and the fact that I am still playing it right now, if not as actively as I was when the server kicked off… makes this another shoe-in for the list.  I may not last once it gets past Moria, but up until then I am probably in.

Somewhat Likely

After those titles we get into a more gray area.  Still, there are some candidates that don’t seem to be complete long shots.

  • EverQuest II

If things go badly for Daybreak, or if they have a good plan for the 15th anniversary of the game, it seems reasonable that I will be in for either a last look or another visit.

  • Project: Gorgon

The game I keep meaning to play seriously but somehow never quite get to.  I own it already, always a plus, and it gets good marks for its quirky nature.

  • Minecraft

Our server has been pretty quiet for the last year, but the panda update is coming.  That might at least get me back on long enough to scout out a bamboo grove to find them.  Technically not an MMO, but close enough.

Wildcards

Titles that might happen, if certain conditions come to pass… being something other than early access garbage being a key item.  I’m trying not to encourage the developer line about, “I’ll gladly ship on Tuesday if you’ll just buy my game today” by paying into that sort of thing any more.

  • EverQuest

Hey, it will be the 20 year anniversary of the game shipping come March 16th.  There is a distinct possibility that Daybreak will have something lined up that will make me want to log in, at least for a bit.

  • Atlas

Whether you see this as re-skinned Ark or not, a some people I know are getting into this… when it is running and you can log in… so there is the glimmer of a possibility that I might give it a try.  The whole early access aspect of it will be the factor keeping me away if I don’t play it.

  • Torchlight Frontiers

I don’t think it will ship in 2019, and I am not going to beta test it, which is what makes it a wildcard.  I’m interested to try it even if I am not amongst those publicly wetting themselves in anticipation of it.

  • Camelot Unchained

Didn’t I pay for this almost five years ago now?  It would be cool if there was something there both playable and worth playing.

  • Destiny 2

We got the base game for free back in October and I downloaded it.  So it is installed and ready to go if I decide I want to try it.

  • Diablo III

Also technically not an MMO, at least by my own measure, but if maybe Blizzard were to add something fresh to the game I could find myself playing again.  I enjoy it, but can only play through the story and seasons so many times.

  • War Thunder and/or World of Tanks

I have a bunch of time invested in both over the years.  They tend to be good games for quick action, but neither hole my attention for very long either.  Battles often become the same situation repeated ad infinitum.

  • Something Else New

I mean, somebody is going to ship something new this year, aren’t they?

Non-MMOs

Again, I don’t like to set goals, but I look at my Steam library and it there are games I know I will play and games I want to find time for.

In the former category are:

  • Civilization V
  • RimWorld
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

In the latter:

  • Pillars of Eternity
  • Grim Dawn
  • Afghanistan ’11
  • Space Engineers
  • Valkyria Chronicles

And then there are games on my wish list that maybe I might yet buy.  The Steam Winter Sale still has two full days left to run.

  • GTA V (mostly for the mod where you can play as the police)
  • O.G.R.E. (played the original board game)
  • Darkest Dungeon (The Wizardy-esque vibe keeps in on my list)
  • Frostpunk (Overlaps a bit with RimWorld though)

So there are some options.  We’ll see at the end of the year what I ended up playing and what fell by the wayside.  As like as not something else will come up mid-year and I’ll divert into that.