Category Archives: EverQuest

NantWorks Hands H1Z1 Back to Daybreak After Failing to Revive the Game

The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

A little over six months have passed since it was announced that Daybreak and NantWorks were forming a joint venture, NantG Mobile, in order to create mobile games based on the Daybreak H1Z1 and EverQuest franchises.

Also on the list was taking over the PC version of H1Z1, then rebranded Z1 Battle Royale, with what sounded like an eye towards restoring the title to its former glory.

It was unclear from the outside who really owned what in the matryoshka doll-like structure of the companies, and the details that have leaked… as when it came out that Jace Hall, who quickly became the face of the renamed title, was basically a volunteer when he stepped down… haven’t help much.

This past week word started to leak that something was amiss as a rumor of layoffs started to circulate.  Then Massively OP reported that NantWorks, via NantG Mobile, had posted an announcement on Steam that they were giving up on Z1 Battle Royale.

In the past few months, NantG Mobile has been working feverishly on rebranding Z1 Battle Royale and reverting the game back to its glory days. We’ve since made countless changes to Z1BR in an effort to recapture the moments that once made the game vastly popular and truly unique and special to many of you.

Despite the team’s determination and commitment to revive Z1BR’s player base with our recent Season 3 launch update, we soon realized that the road is still paved with many challenges that preclude us from long-term success, including the confusion it caused by having both NantG Mobile and Daybreak managing the same game under two separate brands.

Based on these events and the current state of the game, NantG Mobile will focus on its core mission of developing mobile games moving forward, and we have refocused our team toward this vision.

We have also decided to hand back the Z1BR torch to Daybreak Games, so that both Z1BR and H1Z1 will be under one publishing umbrella once again. Daybreak Games has agreed to keep the servers up for players and continue live maintenance on the game.

During this time period, we don’t foresee any issues of this affecting your experience with Z1BR, as we work with Daybreak on ensuring that the transition process runs as smoothly as possible without any disruption to the game’s service.

On behalf of NantG Mobile and everyone on the Z1BR team, thank you for all your countless cheers during our entire journey toward “The Return of the King.” We would never have made it this far without your passion, support and invaluable feedback.

The sunny side upshot is that the game is not going away, it is just going back to Daybreak.

Reality, however, isn’t so bright and shiny.  Looking at the Steam charts for the game, Z1 Battle Royale did manage to boost the active player base somewhat last month, hitting a peak around in early March before tapering off again.

2018/2019 Peak Concurrent Players

However, that number is far shy of the game’s overall peak back in 2017, making it look more like a dead cat bounce than a resurgence of any meaning.

H1Z1 whatever at its height on Steam

The slide down from that peak corresponds to the emergence of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds on the scene, which pretty much destroyed the then still-in-early-access H1Z1.  Since then Fortnite and Apex Legends have jumped into the battle royale market, chopping off the Daybreak end run plan to finally launch H1Z1, only as free to play.

So now Z1 Battle Royale goes back to Daybreak, rejoining the PlayStation 4 version of the game that remained with the company, chugging along happily under the original title, leaving plenty of questions.

And not just “Are they going to need a bigger shirt now?”

The obvious one is what happens to Z1 Battle Royale now?  Is Daybreak going to pick it back up and run with it?

It seems unlikely to me that Daybreak would rush resources in another attempt to revive the game given that it has another battle royale title, PlanetSide Arena, in the works and slated to launch on PC and PS4 this summer.  Doing anything for Z1 Battle Royale at this point, even spending time to rebrand it back to H1Z1, might seem like throwing good money after bad and diverting resources from a better opportunity.  That announcement on Steam only promises that Daybreak will keep the servers up.

I think there is little question that the late Just Survive won’t be revived due to this turn of events.

And then there is the question as to what happens now with NantG Mobile, once billed as a joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak.  The announcement says that NantG Mobile will focus on mobile titles.  Does that mean we might still see Z1 Battle Royale Pocket Edition or EverQuest Immortal available on our phones at some future date as previously promised/suggested/threatened?  Again, the statement on Steam is notable for its lack of details.  Refocusing on mobile games could be different from doing so in conjunction with Daybreak.

In the end it seems like the clock is running down on H1Z1.  Reviving it in the face of the current competition and its own legacy seems a unlikely path to success for a small company like Daybreak.  I suspect that it will hang around on life support while the company readies PlanetSide Arena.

If PlanetSide Arena takes off, expect another Friday, 4pm Pacific Time announcement, this time declaring that H1Z1 is being sunsetted.  And if PlanetSide Arena misfires at launch and fails to find an audience… well, there will be more to worry about at Daybreak than the fate of one more title past its prime.

For a brief time H1Z1 made it mark, certainly repaying the effort the company put into it.  But where one finds success like that competition is very likely to follow.

Faster Selo Server, Faster!

Daybreak continues to explore just what “fast” or “casual” or whatever means in terms of a progression server as they announced a boost in experience gain on the Selo server that launched with the 20th anniversary.

Selo moves even faster

From the forum post by Holly Longdale:

We have been watching and evaluating community concerns by playing on Selo before and after the experience bonus in order to gauge pacing. Given we envisioned this as our fastest progression server, we do want to keep the feel of the 50% bonus players have had as part of the Selo experience for the past three weeks. With the 50% bonus, Selo feels in line with how we presented the intent of the server.

As of noon PDT on Friday (today), the 50% bonus is permanent. After the update on the 17th, the server’s base rates will be updated in code so that future XP bonus days will affect the new, increased XP rates making them truly ridiculous (by EQ standards!).

We’ll continue to evaluate the experience rate – and other rates – as we move forward to make sure it delivers on our vision of Selo without breaking continuity and progression.

I suppose it isn’t so much of a boost as it is a return to what thee experience rate was for the balance of March, when there was a 50% experience boost game-wide.  Players on the Selo server apparently got used to that boosted rate and have been asking for it back in the forums.

I am not sure where that places the experience curve relative to the live servers, since they said it was going to be slower than live initially, but this should allow people to keep up with the speedy unlock schedule detailed in the FAQ for the server.

This does not apply to the other progression servers that Daybreak launched back on March 16.

Covering the EverQuest Anniversary

I was interested to see what sort of coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary would get.

20 Years Ago last month…

At one time EverQuest was a relatively big deal, bordering on being part of the broader culture.  But its cultural peak was brief, small, and a long time ago.  Now it is practically ancient history as a whole generation of kids have been born and grown into adults since it launched.

Where I was surprised was how the level of coverage seemed to be a bit turned on its head relative to the proximity to the topic a publication was.

That wasn’t wholly true.  PC Gamer did a series of great articles about the game, its history, and its state of play these days.

The had an interview with EverQuest Executive Producer Holly Longdale in that first link that unearthed the following gems of information about the game via quotes:

  • “We have more players now than we did in 2015 and our revenue has gone up.”
  • “I’m not allowed tell you exactly how many people have come through the game over the years, but it’s enough to sustain us.”
  • “So we just have an agreement in place that they [Project 1999] don’t launch stuff around the same time we do.”
  • “Our biggest customer service request is people asking what email they used for their EverQuest account 15 years ago, because they want to log back in and play with their old characters again.”
  • “Every three years we do a level increase, and we have changed the way some things work.”
  • A new expansion, The Burning Lands, was released in December last year, and another is on the way.
  • “But fundamentally, we don’t want to change the game. It’s like when we did the New Game Experience for Star Wars Galaxies and everyone quit.”

On the flip side though there was GameSpot, whose cultural relevance peak mirrors that of EverQuest, who just posted the anniversary trailer… early… without much comment and moved on, while Eurogamer, who is often in the forefront of video game reporting, declined to even mention the anniversary.

Then there was Variety, an unexpected source of any information that isn’t strictly a press release, which uncovered perhaps the biggest scoop about EverQuest Next we’d heard in five years, not to mention shining a bit of light on the factional strife that seemed to be going on behind the scenes… a conflict the traditionalists, with Holly Longdale at their head, looks to have won for now.

Adding on that was a post over a Gamasutra, which wasn’t strictly news coverage, by EverQuest team member Luke Sigmund.  But it did lend further insight into the team there while also throwing out a bit of information about why corpse runs stopped being a thing.  Yes, what you believe was part of the equation, but there was also a technical limitation to it as well that made it desirable to do away with this punishing mechanic.  (You do still lose experience on death though, and can still lose levels, something TorilMUD, the template for EverQuest, got rid of a few years ago.)

There was an article up at Rock Paper Shotgun that elaborated on some of the topics already covered, including more detail on the relationship with Project 1999 for example.

Finally, coming in a bit late was an article over at Polygon which started off down the same path as some of the above, about how EverQuest was pretty much set on mining their installed base rather than trying to seek new fans.  But there was a nugget dropped in the statement that one third of the games profits come from “nostalgia” players, which I would read as those interested in the progression server thing that EverQuest has been so good with.

And that was followed by a statement about the current servers they are using, which have four times the capacity of the originals.  This led to some back of the envelope calculation by Bhagpuss in some email notes we exchanged that led to a possibility that peak concurrent players across all servers, given some assumptions such as when server status shows “full” that a given server is at 50% capacity, might be as high as 60K players some days.  That could explain the initial statement on which I based a post a while back trying to compare how many people play EverQuest versus EVE Online.  And since we know concurrent players peak in the low 30K range in New Eden, perhaps that was the basis of the original premise.

All of which made for some interesting reading last month.  Every anniversary brings out some trivia about the game, bits of nostalgia or some form of infographic.  But this year it feels like we learned a few interesting facts about the state of the game and the team that runs it.

March in Review

The Site

As I mentioned at the end of a mid-month entry, I passed the 5,000 post mark.

Where I stand today… still not popular on Tumblr

I hit 1,000 posts more than ten years ago, a little more than two years into the life of the blog.  As I noted in my anniversary post last year, my style has gone from many short posts to fewer, much longer posts over time, so I guess that lines up.

There are about 3.8 million words spread over all of those posts, making a 750 word post the average for the site.  Given how many 200 word posts I’ve done over the years, like when I post a video on the weekend with just a few comments, that means I have some behemoths out there offsetting those.

One Year Ago

Project: Gorgon made it to Steam.

Shroud of the Avatar left early access.

EverQuest turned nineteen and launched a new server.

In EVE Online the player run Burn Jita event was back for 2018.  Many ships were destroyed and I took a bunch of screen shots and tried to count the cost.

Up in Pure Blind we killed some dreads and I got a kill mark on my guardian.

CCP let out more details about the road to CSM13.  There was a pretty short interval in which to register your candidacy.

The March Update for EVE Online dropped the jump fatigue cap to four hours and introduced The Hunt event.

There was an INN editorial about the metaphorical masks we wear in EVE Online.  I asked if we donned the masks on purpose or if our masks were shaped by the game itself.  I was also blog warring with SynCaine over the idea of instanced null sec battles.  It would break the game in my view.

Rift Prime went live and I spend a good chunk of time playing that.  I was in the guild The Fishing Defiants with Liore and some of the cats she used to herd.  The daily gifts and the chat could be overwhelming.

I played through Freemarch pretty quickly and moved to the east end of Stonefield.  Trion was tinkering with the experience curve, but they gave us some informational tidbits about the server.

And a Kickstarter campaign for the World of Warcraft Diary looked doomed from the outset.  But the author vowed to regroup and return.

Five Years Ago

I was thinking about the word “free” and how it really brings up negative connotations.  Basically, “free” is usually a scam, so why should we expect “Free to Play” games to viewed as anything else?

My other blog, EVE Online Pictures, qualified for inclusion as an EVE Online fan site.  Free account!  Or it was.  CCP is killing the fan site program.

Meanwhile CCP lost money through “derecognizing” an asset which would turn out to be the demise of World of Darkness as a project for them.  CCP was also taking a stab at cosmetic options for ships.

I picked my 15 most influential video games, and got some other people to pick theirs as well.

WalMart was going to get into the used video game market.  Did that ever go anywhere?  I don’t shop at Wally World.

Something called MyDream wanted to be a Minecraft killer or some such.

It was the end of the line for Free Realms and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures as SOE chief John Smedley vowed never to make kids games again.  While over in EverQuest the 15 year anniversary included the introduction of instant level 85 characters.  I gave that a try and got lost immediately.

Facebook bought Occulus Rift.  Meanwhile, Sony announced Project Morpheus which later became PlayStation VR.

Brad McQuaid was a month past his unsuccessful Pantheon Kickstarter and I was wondering what the plan was.

In a set of short items, I also noted that EverQuest Next Landmark became simply Landmark, two of the founders of Runic games left the studio to try their luck elsewhere, while King, the makers of Candy Crush Saga, went public and became one of the most shorted stocks on the market!  They were mentioned on the Planet Money podcast about shorting.  Of course, Blizzard ended up buying them, so I wonder how those shorts played out in the end?

The ongoing “Blizzard isn’t giving you…” series continued. while Diablo III: Reaper of Souls went live, an event which included the end of the auction house.  I had gone back to the game to try some of the changes.

Also on the Blizzard front Hearthstone launched. They did manage to find a hook to get me to play Hearthstone… or at least a couple rounds of it.  Five years later I would be surprised to find I have played more than 50 rounds of the game.

I was also musing about WoW and when the expansion would launch and the stat squish and guild levels and pseudo-server merges and my insta-90 choice and Warlords of Draenor being $50… which was at least better than it being $60.  While, actually in the game the instance group took on Zul’Aman.

We formed something I ended up calling the “strategy group,” if only to distinguish it from the “instance group” which started out playing some Age of Empires II.

And I wrote another installment of my ongoing TorilMUD series, this time about the Faerie Forest.

Ten Years Ago

In March 2009 we were excited about Pokemon Platinum around our house, although we weren’t really finished with Pokemon Diamond yet.

I spent a day up at GDC in San Francisco.

In WoW we finished up a short hiatus and started back in at the SteamVault.  My daughter was tearing up Warsong Gulch.  Meanwhile, the Lich King seemed to have laid a curse on my new video card.  Nothing I did ever seemed to change this issue, though it did seem to go away eventually.

In EVE Online, the Apocrypha expansion came out, and with it the classic graphics were swept away.  Adam though, was making his own adventures in New Eden.  Oh, and I bought a freighter.

Mythic was trying to tempt me back into Warhammer Online with 10 days free.

Somebody tried to put together a list of the Ten Most Important MMORPGs.  Like all such list, this one started the comments rolling.

It was launch day and I was already complaining about Runes of Magic… well, about the patcher in any case.

finished up what was then the last book of the Wheel of Time series.  The last Robert Jordan authored one.

The EverQuest 10th anniversary just wasn’t evoking the level of nostalgia in me that I thought it would.

And we had to say goodbye to an old friend and family member.  The picture my daughter drew is still up on the wall.  A decade later it still draws the occasional sad word later in the evenings when people are tired and a bit more emotionally fragile.

Fifteen Years Ago

Battlefield Vietnam, the follow up title to Battlefield 1942 and its expansions, hit the shelves.  This was probably the last shooter I played online regularly.  It never got a stellar mod like the Desert Combat, though it did have the Sweden vs. Norway mod that was… unique.  I also recall one of the maps had an issue that killed your frame rate if you entered a particular area.

Twenty Years Ago

Some game called EverQuest launched.  Heard of it?

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  2. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. Celebrating Katia Sae
  7. The Myrmidon Experiment
  8. Quote of the Day – No Porn
  9. What is a Niche MMORPG?
  10. Burn Jita back for 2019
  11. The EVE Online March Update Brings Restrictions for Alpha Clones
  12. Steam Policy Plays Out as Expected

Search Terms of the Month

sum baer iz durid
[Tehm whos bare durids, can B 4 tank?]

next eq2 expansion
[November]

is eqii dying?
[We’re all dying]

meaning of nazgun
[It should have the u-circumflex and be pronounced ‘Naz-Goon’]

feral bear porn
[There is something wrong with you]

Game Time from ManicTime

Month three of tracking game time is showing a trend of making these month in review posts even longer.  Just what everybody wanted.  Knowing exactly what I played means comments on more titles every month, and this month was especially confused with conflicting bouts of nostalgia competing with one another.  So the March list is the longest so far.

  • EverQuest 31.25%
  • World of Warcraft 15.87%
  • Lord of the Rings Online 12.94%
  • Path of Exile 10.60%
  • EVE Online 9.06%
  • Minecraft 5.73%
  • Diablo 5.72%
  • MS Solitaire 4.09%
  • RimWorld 2.45%
  • EverQuest II 2.27%

Diablo

Released on GoG.com as something of a surprise… was there any indication it was coming or did it just arrive one day… classic Diablo was something I had to buy.  I wasn’t sure I was going to play much of it, and certainly opening up this 1996 title reminded me how far we have come in gaming.  But there is a certain uncomplicated charm to it, and I ended up playing much more than I thought I might.  I have made it down to level 13 and am clearing that, though I had to take a break as the consta-clicking nature of it was making my hand hurt.  Click and hold for repeat attacks on a mob was clearly a feature we needed.

EVE Online

Operations in the east of null sec continue.  There was a bit of a swap or partners as Black Legion joined up with Fraternity.  Meanwhile, Pandemic Horde got a bit more serious about pushing back on our ops and we had some fights come to us in our staging.  Nothing huge or dramatic, though the month did end on a nice kill.  There were a couple of fights I might have written about had I not been swamped by topics already this past month.

EverQuest

Nostalgia fever.  I knew I would jump in for a bit for the 20th anniversary, but I wouldn’t have bet that EverQuest would top my play time chart.  All that travel time to the Scarlet Desert certainly added up.

EverQuest II

I did not spend much time at all in new Norrath.  I basically logged in to get the special gift they were giving out for the EverQuest 20th anniversary.  It was a painting for your home. which I hung up in mine.  Then I noticed how crowded with stuff my basic Halas apartment had become, so I started looking into upgrades.  I actually bought a larger Halas house, and now I need to get all my stuff setup there.  Moving is always hard.

Lord of the Rings Online

The Mines of Moria expansion opened up on the Legendary server and I started in on that.  That meant fiddling around in Eregion for a while before heading underground.  Once you’re in Moria there is no swift travel horse route back to Rivendell or Bree.  Probably a good thing.  I have consulted enough with Elrond.  Plus it is embarrassing to go back there and see Aragon standing around when he allegedly got into Moria ahead of you.

Microsoft Solitaire

I clicked on this during a fleet op where we were waiting on a black ops waiting to hot drop on a target.  It is something to fiddle with while waiting on things in fleets.  Basically, this time would have been counted towards EVE Online if I had just stayed in that window.  But who does that?

Minecraft

I wanted to listen to an audio book, but I cannot just sit and listen.  I have to be doing something while I listen.  That’s just me.  Usually I am driving.  But sitting at home and wanting to knock out the last couple hours of an audio book usually means playing a game, one that doesn’t have a lot of text to process, since that is single threaded in my brain.  Minecraft is about perfect for that.  I didn’t have a grand plan.  I just explored a bit and upgraded a couple of bases, digging mines and building infrastructure.

Path of Exile

I started off pretty strong on this when the Synthesis season dropped.  I made it into Act II and into the mid-20s level-wise.  Then Mines of Moria opened up in LOTRO and the EverQuest anniversary hit and Wintergrasp was back in World of Warcraft and that was about that.  It was just superseded by events.

Pokemon Go

The change to Team Instinct has made playing with my wife better/easier/more fun now that we’re on the same side.  We go battle over a gym in a part near us with another couple we know who is on Team Valor.  Neither side is above throwing berries remotely just to make those fights annoying.  We’re horrible people.

Also, made it to level 36.  Now to do the 2 million point climb to 37.  I need more friends.

Level: 36 (+1)
Pokedex status: 301 (+13) caught, 431 (+16) seen
Pokemon I want: Meltan, but I still have a several tasks to go in order to get there
Current buddy: Togetic

RimWorld

I started out the month playing this.  I thought it might dominate the month, being another game that you can sit and look at and tinker with pretty easily while you listen to a podcast or audio book.  However I fell out with it fairly quickly as other games showed up.

World of Warcraft

I binged on renewed and revamped Wintergrasp when it was the pick of the week for battlegrounds.  Most of my play time was probably during that week.  But I still long in every other day or so to pick up some world quests and do a few pet battles.

Coming Up

Tomorrow is April Fools.  Let’s see if we can get through it without being either a complete fool or a total wet blanket.

Google Plus will be  gone from public use come April 2.  Farewell to my three followers there.

I saw a mention that we might hear something soon about CSM elections for EVE Online, but nothing concrete.  I would have thought we would have heard something by now, as traditionally CCP starts talking about that around February.  But with the world tour schedule and CCP Guard having left, the CCP team might be a bit busy at the moment.

In game, the Imperium is not going to join in on the war in the east… unless you count SIGs and squads.  Then we are totally in on whatever happens.

In LOTRO I’ll likely carry on into Moria.  I’m over the threshold and hidden from sunlight already.

We’ll have to see if I carry on with EverQuest after the 20th anniversary month wraps up today.

Maybe 50 for the First Time in EverQuest

I did it.  I made my low key EverQuest 20th anniversary goal, I got a character to level 50.  On a live server, naturally, and during the anniversary experience boost for the most part.  But I still did it.

Dolenz at 50… should have rolled a druid

After my first round of adventures getting to the Scarlet Desert things settled down a bit.  I found the poison vendor in the Plane of Knowledge and bought a stack of cloudy potions so I could slip through Grieg’s End by going invisible.

This guy, he has the cloudy potions

There in the Scarlet Desert I did the quest again, got the piece of gear, and then hung around to fight some more until I was closing in on level 48.

The next day I opted for the level 50 hot zone quest, leaving the Scarlet Desert behind.  For that I was pointed towards the Ruins of Sebilis, which is Kunark.  Kunark I sort of remember.

The place with the lizard people… and ruins…

The route was simple enough this time.

  • Fields of Bone
  • Swamp of No Hope
  • Trakanon’s Teeth
  • Ruins of Sebilis

Kunark has such charming place names.

The travel wasn’t up to the previous challenge.  The main points of friction were that the route pathing on the map was a bit wonky and I had to remember that you can swim up waterfalls.  Oh, and once I got to Trakanon’s Teeth I had to work with the welcome wagon waiting there to greet me.

Everybody came by to say hello

I will say, while there are some minor graphical improvements over launch day EverQuest in Kunark… for example the trees actually move a bit like there is wind… some of the textures are just bad.  I mean, I get that this is supposed to be a swampy area, but that ground texture just looks bad.

Once in the Ruins of Sebilis I was tasked to slay 5 “bok.”  I have to admit, I had no idea what that meant when set out.  But it turns out the frogloks in the area all have an association that is part of their NPC name.

In the Sebilis Ruins fighting a “dar” knight… need a “bok” for the quest

Unlike the Scarlet Desert, where I am pretty sure I was the only player in the zone, Sebilis seemed to have some traffic.  There were people coming and going, some my level, some higher level.  I was just interested in tracking down my five “bok,” but I worked through enough frogloks that I made it into level 48 on the first run.

On the second run I got my five “bok” and then hung around pulling mobs until I hit level 50.

The output, in an odd order

That was that.  I was level 50 with three full days to spare.  I am not sure I will carry on much further.  I still have Moria to attend to.  But it was nice to get there.

Then I started thinking about when I may have hit 50 previously in EverQuest and I couldn’t really come up with an answer.  In the early days, with my first… and now lost… account, I had at least one character in the 40s.  But I was very much into alts, so I had a pile of characters on the E’ci server that were in their 20s and early 30s.

That seems to have been a recurring theme.  I get close to 40 and I make an alt rather than carrying on.

So no level 50s then.

During the early days of EverQuest II, when the Station Access plan came out, some of us went and played EverQuest as well.  I might have gotten there then.

I am pretty sure I didn’t get there when The Serpent’s Spine came out and I went to play.  And Potshot and I didn’t get out of our 20s when we had our run on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server.  Our momentum having been undercut by the great Sony/SOE hacking outage.

There were a couple of other times when I have gone back to play, but in sifting through the various servers I could remember, I wasn’t able to come up with a single character at level 50 or beyond, save for the paladin on whom I used the free level 85 boost about five years back. (They don’t hand those out as often as they do for EQII, where I have a had a few such free boosts.)  And I never really played him, having gotten hung up finding my way via the zone guide back then as well.

So Dolenz might be it.  My youngest character, who started out in the tutorial less than a month and a half ago, made it.  He might be, after 20 years of on and off tinkering with the game, the first character I have that has made it to the original level cap.

Quote of the Day – EverQuest Next Reality

There was a real nugget of an idea there, but a technical hurdle the team just couldn’t get over. All the other stuff that EverQuest is kind of got lost because it was focused on voxels and a dynamically-generated changing world. There was not enough computational power. If people are digging holes, you have to update pathing for the entire world.

-Holly Longdale on EverQuest Next, Variety interview

With the 20th anniversary of the game Holly Longdale, the executive producer of the EverQuest franchise, has been available for interviews, several of which I referenced in a previous post.  The post a Variety showed up last week and I dismissed it at first because of the source.  Variety sticks its nose into gaming rather sporadically, so it isn’t any sort of a focus for them.  Given that they can be quite superficial when it comes to things on which they do focus… I was reading the film section regularly when into Fantasy Movie League… I wasn’t expecting much.

The only reason I even saw the article is that Variety uses the WordPress platform and I watch the “everquest” tag in the WordPress Reader.

But yesterday, on a whim, I read the whole thing.  Not much new appears under that tag these days, so it hadn’t fallen down more than a couple of entries.  And, in reading it, I was a bit surprised at the details that were revealed.  Sure, some of it was the “reacquisition” plan we had heard before. But then Holly started spilling some tea about EverQuest Next.

A Firiona Vie that we’ll never know

Just a bit over three years ago Daybreak announced that they were cancelling EverQuest Next.  In the big statement from then-president Russell Shanks, which is available at that link, the key take away that people saw was:

Unfortunately, as we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun

And that was that.  People were angry, disappointed, dismissive, and there was much throwing of metaphorical stones at Daybreak.

But other than that we didn’t get a lot of details.  I mean, we had heard rumors that things were not coming along, that the SOE Live demos were all live people rather than any of the AI dreams they had been peddling.

Now she is saying that it wasn’t going to work as envisioned in any case.  Emergent AI and being able to change the world weren’t in the cards with the current level of tech.

She calls the cancellation a “deep burn,” but then goes on to deliver something of a burn herself.

Of the team that exists now, we spent two and a half years defining what the franchise really is, going to our archives and retconning some stuff to prepare it for a really strong future.  EverQuest Next is not a game I would have made. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but we’ve been evaluating what makes EverQuest EverQuest. In my opinion, that wasn’t where the game was going with EverQuest Next.

It sounds as though there was a struggle over what EverQuest really meant as a franchise and that the fundamentalist wing won out in the end, which probably also meant the end of Landmark, which fell under the EverQuest franchise umbrella.

And Holly Longdale is of that fundamentalist breed.  Early on in the article she plays up the social interdependence of the game, even going for the reputation card, how being bad would make you an outcast server-wide.  Anybody familiar with Dunbar’s number can spot the hole in that idea… Fansy the famous bard was the outlier exception, not the rule… but certainly in smaller circles you had to get along or find new friends.

And in the past she has made her own questionable statements when it comes to the purity of the EverQuest game experience.

What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.

The EverQuest team did walk that back eventually.  Raids got instanced on the progression servers after all, if only because the company couldn’t afford the resources necessary to mediate all the disputes that open world contested raiding brought about every single time it was a feature of the game.  Even the hardcore raiders want to be able to just go and do the raid when they’re all together rather than having to cancel because somebody got there first.

But that is where you end up when you take a hard look at what made a game what it was.  You start back down the path of the original features and have to examine things like corpse runs and instancing and the like.

There is nothing concrete in the article about any future games, such as an EverQuest 3, but neither is that sort of thing ruled out.  But she does say that the two key elements of EverQuest are “classic high fantasy and community dependency.”

“Anything we talk about in the future, those are the two nuggets.  I would never say that there isn’t a world where I wouldn’t love to do another co-op or even a single-player experience that tells some of these amazing stories that we’ve fleshed out over 20 years, but the social dependency is who we are. It’s questing with other people. It is having a role on a team. I don’t think we’ll ever move away from that, even if it were a single-player game like ‘Dragon Age,’ that’s our special sauce and what our players would expect. You don’t think ‘EverQuest’ and think ‘single player game.’

And on the topic of MMOs allowing a single player experience she responded, “That will never be us.”  Maybe this is why the team had such an odd view of what “super casual” meant on the first round of the Selo progression server.

Of course, my post from yesterday might indicate that the game is not so pure on that front as one might assume, given her statements.  When you give players mercenaries to tank, heal, or DPS, you’re pretty much catering to solo.

Still, you can see why rumors of an EverQuest 3 put it as something that would compete with Pantheon.  I’m still not seeing the battle royale aspect of it, though maybe with that part of the business falling flat at Daybreak, it will be allowed to die in the context of any new EverQuest title.

Overall though, Daybreak continues to cater to the core EverQuest audience with annual expansions and updates for the audience on the live servers and new progression servers on a regular basis for the nostalgia audience.  It seems to be working.  As I quoted last week, the franchise has more players now than it did back in 2015.

Traveling to The Scarlet Desert

It has been a low key goal of mine to hit level 50, the original level cap, in EverQuest during this, its 20th anniversary month.

Of course, I don’t want to do that on one of their retro servers.  A live server will do me just fine.  And that there is an experience boost active on live servers through the end of the month is all the better.  I want to be a tourist.  I want to see the sights, not get in there and grind away.

This goal was prompted by the fact that I seemed on a pace to get there, so why not keep on track to make it happen.  All I seemed to have to do was go visit the daily hot zone quest giver on the Plane of Knowledge every day and run the quest he gave me.

The loading screen tip told me about him

Bonus hot zone experience on top of anniversary bonus experience was popping me up a few levels every day.  There was also a nice piece of equipment as a reward and it got me out into the world to see zones I had not visited in years, or may have never visited.

Hunting tigers on Kunark

And then I took the level 45 quest that sent me off to the Scarlet Desert and things began to go awry.

Norrath is a big place.  As we saw from the infographic they put out for the 20th anniversary, there is a lot of space and a lot of places in EverQuest.

That is a lot of walking

This is not helped by the fact that I haven’t really played EverQuest actively at level in the current content since some point in 2001.  That was 18 years ago.  Maybe my playing into some of The Serpent’s Spine content when it launched might count, but even that was back in 2006, at the start of the life of this blog, now nearly 13 years in the rear view mirror.

Even the Plane of Knowledge, the PoK, which came in with the Planes of Power expansion back in 2002, is in my mental list of “that new stuff.”

Basically, the game has grown far beyond my ability to comprehend, and I have forgotten a lot of even the bits I used to know.

Still, I was managing okay.  The daily hot zone quests for levels 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 were all pretty much in Antonica or Kunark, which meant I could find them by just looking at the in-game atlas and tracking back to a nearby zone that had a teleport from the PoK.

But the quest for level 45 was set in the Scarlet Desert, and I had no idea how to get there.  That was Shadows of Luclin content so, for me, it might as well have been on the moon. *cough*

Yes, it is on the moon

Actually, I went to the Paludal Caverns for one of the earlier quests, but that wasn’t too difficult.  I generally go to Zam, look up the zone, then look up the connecting zones to see if I know how to get to any of those, then the zones that connect to those, by which point I have usually found a landmark or a place with a portal on the PoK.

No so with the Scarlet Desert, the path to which you can see nestled in on the right side of the map, as well as on the south east side below the Twilight Sea. Easy points of reference, like Shar Vahl, the city of the Vah Shir cat people, were multiple hops away, leaving it looking like a long way to walk.

While fiddling around I discovered… or rediscovered, since I am sure I saw it at some time in the past… I guess that was about five years ago at another anniversary… the zone guide interface.  This lists out the many zones in the game and will attempt to chart a path to your destination.

A great idea!  I got it set to direct me to the Scarlet Desert and set off to follow the wisp.

Destination Set

The route seemed to be okay.  It did not include the need to go through an NPC, which I discovered five years back, breaks the pathing… and possibly your ability to follow the path if the NPC is no longer there.  The wisp can be comical at times, following a strict angled path along roads at times, while at other times lighting off and heading straight up almost vertical slopes at others.

One of the things I forget about EverQuest is that you can run up cliffs that would be impassible in other games.  But the wisp knows where you can go up.  Going down, at least without taking damage, can be another matter.  I didn’t have any life threatening falls, but I took some hits going down steep slopes.

Everything was going find until I zoned into Grieg’s End.  The first room in the zone had three aggro level 54 mobs.

Welcoming committee

I had also learned, as I leveled up, that while my mercenary was practically Superman when I was in my 20s, by now he was starting to show some weakness.  At level 41 he couldn’t simply take on three mobs at that level.  He wasn’t going to be able to chip away at them successfully even with heals from me. (Which drew aggro and led to more fun.)

With Grieg’s End seeming impassible for now, I gated us back to the PoK to look into another route.  The guide had actually offered up three and I had just taken the first one.  I excluded Grieg’s End from the list and took the next one offered.

The Fungus Grove route

This one routed me through several routes to the Twilight Sea and, from there, to the Scarlet Desert.  As before, the trip started smoothly enough, until I arrived in the Fungus Grove.  The mobs there were not as high level as Grieg’s End, but still a bit higher than my merc and I.  We dealt with a few solos, but accidentally got embroiled in a mass of attacking mushrooms that was clearly going to overwhelm us over time.  I decided to leave the my merc to his fate and just run for the zone line following the wisp.  But the wisp led me to a dead end… which was soon my dead end.  I was down and back in the PoK again.

Thinking there had to be an easier way, I went to Google to search for routes.  Somebody wrote that the easy way to get there was via the Guild Lobby off of the PoK.  There was a portal there that would drop me just two connections from the Scarlet Desert.

Unfortunately, one of the zones was a level 90+ area and I was one-shotted before I knew it and back in the PoK again, this time down a level.  I forgot that you could lose levels.

Time for another route.  If longer is safer I’d be okay.

Going via The Grey

The route updates as you go along, so that was a few zones into the trip.

This route, again, started out swimmingly.  The main problem along the way, was that the Chelsith Reborn zone was about on level with me and full of aggro mobs.  It also has that classic EverQuest feature/flaw where the mobs are all on the same pathing, so my merc and I ended up being stuck in one spot for over 30 minutes fighting off a seemingly endless series of adds that would wander up and join the fight.

On the bright side, Chelsith Reborn was also flagged as a hot zone, which meant bonus experience.  I recovered level 41, made it to level 42, and got a hair into level 43 just standing around slaughtering elementals and raptors during that time.

As lucrative as that was exp-wise, I did want to move along.  So I made it to the cave that zoned me into The Grey and started carefully looking around there.  It seemed safe.  I threaded my way around the dangers marked on the map when I suddenly noticed that the little breath meter was up, the one that you get when you’re under water.  The zone was airless.

I died.  And lost level 43.

I called it a night, but returned the next day to give The Grey another try.  I got my level back and padded it a bit in Chelsith Reborn, then got to the zone line determined to make a straight run through The Grey to the Scarlet Desert.

At about the halfway point, some mobs chasing me, and my air almost gone, I figured I was not going to make it.  You need to be going faster than I could manage to cross the zone in time.  Fortunately I had my Gate spell on my spell bar and I was able to land safely back in the PoK.  Again.

Having used the three recommended paths to the Scarlet Desert, I decided to pull back and see if maybe it would recommend something different if I specified the Twilight Sea instead.  And, as it turns out, yes, it does.

Headed for the Twilight Sea

That was a long path.  The run through the Katta Castellum was especially long, though it was probably worth the trip just to see it.  It is an example of the EverQuest dev team not being afraid to build on the epic scale.  And the swim across the Twilight Sea leveled up my swimming skill nicely.  But best of all, I arrived safely in the Scarlet Desert.

The Scarlet Desert welcoming committee

Now I just had to find five of the mobs I needed to slay in order to complete the task.  That can be a chore, and I wasn’t having much luck.  On the big mesa in the zone I spotted one of the mobs named however, and decided to give it a shot.

These guys, up on the mesa

There things went south.  I didn’t get just the one mob I wanted, he was linked with two others.  Still, a triple pull seemed within the bounds of our capabilities.  They were all +/- 1 level to us.

However, for no particular reason I could see, I had a moment of merc berserk as he suddenly ran off and collected up every other mob in sight, leaving me high and dry with the three original mobs who proceeded to beat me into the sand.  And there I was, back in the PoK again.

So I ran back.  Visited the castle.  Improved my swimming some more.  Then started in again on my mob search.

I tried the same mob again, thinking it might have been a glitch.  It wasn’t.  My merc just goes crazy up there.  Fortunately I stood a ways back this time and was able to zone out before my merc died.

Time to hunt elsewhere for mobs.

Around the mesa I did find similar mobs and eventually some of the ones I wanted started to spawn.

A sun reaver at last

I found my five, got my nice bit of gear, and ended up just shy of level 45.  Not bad.  It would have been better if I had been able to do it all right the first time.  But this way I did see more of Norrath… my zone achievement count went up quite a bit… even if it took me three evenings to get it done.

And then I had to gate back to the PoK because to get the quest for the next day I had to go back and speak to the hot zone guy again.  So I will be traveling some more.

But the real irony in all of that… the damn quest is called “A Simple Task.”