Tag Archives: EverQuest III

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.

The Burning Lands Expansion Launched Just After Layoffs at Daybreak

We learned a little over a month ago that The Burning Lands, the 25th EverQuest expansion, was slated to go live today.  And so it has.  We knew it was coming, but we were finally getting some detailed information.  Also, pre-orders were open.  You could start giving Daybreak your money.

Does this feel a little “Disney” to you?

The high level points of the expansion seemed to be about on par with what we have come to expect annually from the Norrath team.  Some new zones around a hub, new raids, new quests, new abilities, and a new mechanic.

  • Luck Stat – A brand new stat that influences just how lucky you are! This stat will randomly increase the amount of gold in your split, the amount of critical damage you do, your chance to succeed at a trade-skill combine, and much more!
  • 6 Expansion Zones – You’ll adventure throughout the grand and fantastic environments and architecture of the Planes of Fire, Air, and Smoke!
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections

There is nothing on that list that is going to drag anybody new into the game, but that was to be expected.  MMORPGs beyond a certain age become more about tending to the installed base than trying to grab new players.  Anybody proposing otherwise is fighting history and wasting money.  Once you’ve launched and gone free to play there isn’t anything left to attract new players in anything like the quantity needed to support any radical change.

So a normal autumnal expansion release for EverQuest.  Maybe a couple weeks later than we might have expected… November is more the norm… but close enough.  All seems normal in Norrath.

Or would seem normal if Daybreak hadn’t just laid off a big chunk of their staff on Friday.

Daybreak, not being a public company, doesn’t have to tell us about layoffs.  But in the age of social media, word of layoffs get out quickly and this round was no exception, with John Smedley echoing what he had heard on Twitter Friday morning.

Once the press had been alerted Daybreak issued an anodyne statement about optimization while refusing to mention any details.

We are optimizing our structure to ensure we best position ourselves for continued success in the years to come. This effort has required us to make some changes within the organization and we are doing everything we can to support those impacted in this difficult time. As we look to improve efficiencies and realign resources, we remain focused on supporting our existing games and development of our future titles.

That statement is an example of one trying to have ones cake and eat it too.  Reports say that between 60 and 70 people, or roughly one third of Daybreak’s staff, was given their notice on Friday.  When you are down by a third it will be difficult to both support existing games and develop new titles.

Of course, what even are the existing Daybreak titles at this point?  EverQuest and EverQuest II,  holding up the fantasy end of the catalog, were merged into a single shared group some time back.  DC Universe Online is the superhero game and reportedly the most consistent revenue generator, the PlayStation 4 version being the breadwinner there.  And then there is PlanetSide 2, which has been problematic in the past, though it is still getting updates.

H1Z1 Battle Royale went to NantG Mobile as part of the joint venture between NantWorks and Daybreak announced back in September.  NantWorks had the money and Daybreak had the IP I guess, though Daybreak apparently held on to the PlayStation 4 version of H1Z1.  So if there was anybody left working on H1Z1 or the esports league, they were probably seen as expendable.

Word is that the layoffs were concentrated in the Daybreak Austin office and were related to a new project being developed there around a “top IP.”  Daybreak said that the Austin office was not being closed, but I guess that they are no longer working on that “top IP” if they’ve been mostly let go.

People working on the new thing are gone and people working on the old stuff were already spread a bit thin.  Where does that leave Daybreak.

Back in May there was a post on Reddit alleged to be by a former Daybreak employee about plans for the company.  I summed that up in a post here, and a good thing too as it was removed from Reddit by the author not too long later.

The removal led to it being declared a fake, but some key details certainly ended up coming to pass.

Sure, Just Survive sunsetting was hardly a reach.  Even I predicted that back in January.  But the whole Z1 Battle Royale was alluded to, something we didn’t end up hearing about until September.  And the trajectory for PlanetSide 2 seems to line up.

So, in looking at the rest of that post, you have to ask if we are looking at the end game for EverQuest and EverQuest II, if Daybreak is holding out for one last anniversary update for each of them (they turn 20 and 15 respectively next year) before moving on to the alleged EverQuest 3 and its plan for PvP focus anchored on a fantasy battle royale feature.

If that is the case, my prediction would be to prepare for disaster and a belated attempt to return to catering to the installed base once EverQuest 3 flops, because PvP has never been much beyond a distraction in Norrath.

But, the word has come out that we might be hearing about something new from Daybreak on Thursday.  Bets on what it will be?  PlanetSide 3?  EverQuest 3 PvP?  PlanetSide Mobile?  EverQuest Mobile?  What else have they got to work with?

Sources:

Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest

Because we just can’t stop staring at Daybreak now that they’ve drawn our attention.

The eye seems more angry today

Over at Massively OP they reported on a Reddit post by an alleged former Daybreak staffer who was part of the big layoff and who decided to spilled the beans on what the company has under wraps.  I am going to quote the substance of the post just to have it here for reference now and in the future.

The list re-ordered for narrative flow and importance to me:

Everquest will have one last expansion. The 20th anniversary will introduce a series of nostalgic raids that tie into complex quests. These quests can be done in order to grant alternate characters powerful scaling weapons.

Well, I have long asked how many expansions could EverQuest sustain.  20 years is a pretty good run, and I imagine that they’ll keep playing the progression server card.  But it will be a sad day when the final expansion hits and Norrath reaches its final size.

Everquest 2 will also have one last expansion and eventually a similar series of send-off weapon quests and raids.

It seems like 2019 (or 2018) will be a final kiss-off for the slowly dwindling and increasingly bitter base of Norrath fans.  EQII will have made it to 15 years but won’t end up with nearly the immense scope of places that EQ has.  Another sad day for the MMO with my favorite housing scheme ever.

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.

I guess we should be happy about this, but after the first EverQuest Next announcement, then the restart, then the voxel word promises and Landmark and the faked AI in all the demos and the final cancellation I cannot find any enthusiasm for this at the moment.

There was a rumor going about last year that there was a Norrath based multiplayer RPG in the works that would not be an MMORPG, but I guess once you are on the stage with the other MMOs it is hard not to keep going that direction.

The idea of competing with Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen AND injecting the flavor of the month feature of battle royale PvP seems silly.  Would picking a focus be too much to ask?  And what would team battle royal PvP be anyway, and how would it be different from World of Warcraft battlegrounds?

I realize this isn’t an official announcement, but they have a lot to sell on this one if it is anywhere close to true.

Just Survive is on its last legs. Several ideas for increasing profits have been floated around but at this point it looks like a sunset is most likely.

Not unexpected.  Certainly the most credible item on the list.  The name seemed too on the nose when it was given, like naming a mayfly “dead by Friday.”

Planetside 2 was supposed to be getting new character models and animations in May. A new map and an aircraft carrier are planned for the end of the year.

Sounds okay I guess, unless you’re planning to replace the game.

Planetside 3 is in early development. Other teams will be siphoned into this project next year. This will be a team based battle royal game that combines the building aspect of Fortnite with territory acquisition.

Oh, you’re planning to replace the game.  The ghost of Smed continues to wander the halls of Daybreak I guess, which is odd because he isn’t actually dead.  And, of course, battle royale figures into it because of course it does.  Doesn’t Daybreak already have a battle royale game in H1Z1?

H1Z1 will get a smaller map as well as a remake of “Z1”. The PS4 port is looking good. After that new skins will continue to be released but most of the team will be moved over to Planetside 3.

Drop work on the current battle royale game save for cash shop items so you can work on the new battle royale game, which will probably launch when the market has gone well past saturation and will have to be altered to fit whatever the flavor of the month is at that time.

Well, down 70 people and with a handful of games to maintain I guess they have to make some tough choices if they ever want to launch anything new.

Of course, this could all be nonsense or misdirection too.  You can’t really know from the outside.  But I figured I would mark the moment so we can return to it later and see if any of it plays out.

I doubt there will be any official response to any of this, but we’ll all keep an eye out for announcements in the distant future from the house that Jason Epstein built.

Others on these rumors: