EQN Landmark hasn't announced an official launch date but it goes into closed beta next Wednesday. One would imagine that open beta, which will to all intents and purposes be the launch, should come no more than two or three months after that.
No-one seems to have made a firm booking for midsummer yet but there are couple of heavyweights eyeing the sand and flapping their towels meaningfully. There's UbiSoft's The Crew, originally scheduled for the Spring but put back until "Summer 2014" with no exact date, while Funcom's Lego Minifigures Online is flagged "coming Summer 2014".
As the nights start to draw in Bungie have early Autumn covered with a September 9th launch pegged for their is-it-or-isn't-it MMOlike Destiny. Blizzard haven't nailed down an exact date (and Warlords of Draenor is "only" an expansion not a brand-new MMO) but they're taking pre-orders for "Fall 2014".
Finally, at least in this shortlist of MMOs I'm vaguely paying attention to, Trion promise that by the end of 2014 we'll get our hands on the year-before-last's Next Big Thing - ArcheAge. And that's just takes us up to Christmas. Let's not even think about Star Citizen and EQNext waiting in the wings.
So, with all this multiplicity of choice and glistening newness to slaver over, which MMO have I found myself most excited by these last few days? Everquest, of course. A fifteen-year old MMO that doesn't even have a new expansion out right now. Turns out all they needed to do was dangle the carrot of a free high-level character (not even max level you notice) and there I am, pushing my head back through the harness and taking up the strain.
Most of yesterday was spent getting to grips with my newly-85 Magician. Getting the hang of the spells (Not difficult. Mostly "Burn it! Blast it! Burn them! Burn them some more!") and the AAs (going to need a free afternoon and a manual for those). Re-learning old skills (Pulling. Crowd-control. Handling adds. Finding my corpse).
To get back into the swing of things first we went somewhere familiar. I say we: three of us - Magician, Mercenary and Pet. Dragonscale Hills didn't require the Merc but she came in handy when I stopped to read the map after a long run and the half-dozen clockwork beetles that had been chasing us caught up. Paying attention to your surroundings as you travel - there's another rusty skill I need to buff...
...something I hadn't managed to do by the time we moved up a notch to Loping Plains. The four zombies I tagged while taking an ill-advised short-cut to the bottom of the long ramp down gave us a good work-out but standing on the grizzly bear conveyor belt outside Bloodmoon Keep proved to be too much. Talk about Bears! Bears! Bears!
That's another skill to be re-learned, right there - choose your ground for a fight carefully, don't just stand somewhere random and start killing. That kind of slack behavior might cut it in Tyria or Azeroth but this is Norrath.
So, the pet died valiantly while the other two bravely ran away and the mage gated and back we all were (well, two of us and a new Kabobn) in the Guild Lobby, ready to go again. Boy, was the Guild Lobby busy, too. And Plane of Knowledge. And Hills of Shade, where we went to try and finish Franklin Teek's Hot Zone task. Everquest is heaving right now.
At last we all felt confident and practiced enough to try somewhere our own level, so off we toddled to try Feerrott: The Dream. Over the past few years SOE have saved themselves a lot of trouble and kept a lot of long-time players reasonably happy by re-skinning existing zones as new, high-level content. They leave the old zones as they were and add timeslipped or dreamtouched versions alongside. It works really well and presumably saves a ton of design time. Oh look - isn't that Blizzard over there, taking notes?
I haven't been keeping up with Everquest lore (when did I ever) so I don't know whose Dream we're in but Kaozz mentioned a quest just for Heroic 85s there so off we went. It was fun. It was profitable. It was quite hard. We all died. Twice.
The first time I just paid the 500 plat to the NPC
Well, I couldn't find my corpse. Being a tiny gnome dressed entirely in green in an all-green swamp that maunders in perpetual twilight might have had something to do with it. That and forgetting you should always take a /loc when you die. I went and bought a Chipped Bone Rod in Plane of Knowledge but three charges of Find Corpse weren't sufficient to triangulate, at least not once I'd finished running from the Lizardman shaman who'd though to buff himself with See Invisible.
I've always enjoyed a good corpse run but after about an hour the novelty was beginning to wear off. Luckily I had a bright idea. For the only other Heroic 85 I'd managed to make (just one of our several Silver accounts turned out to be valid, for reasons still unclear) I'd chosen Necromancer, a class I've always wanted to have at high level but somehow never did.
Necros have always been able to track corpses and summon them and in this modern Norrath they no longer even need to go to the right zone or buy a coffin. Logged him in, grouped them up, summoned the corpse, Merc rezzed and the money-grubbing Priest and her creepy little disciple got nothing! Soooo satisfying.
Back we went to The Dream. I considered towing the Necro but in the end I couldn't be doing with all the zoning and re-applying /follow so we left him standing in the Guild Lobby in case he was needed. He wasn't. Lessons had at last been learned. With more thoughtful pulling, standing and traveling the Mage and her little crew finished off the quest and received the flag for the Journeyman 5 Mercenary that I'll probably be too penny-pinching to pay for but at least we have the option now.
The quest itself was pretty good. Simple to follow, sharply and amusingly written with good characterization in the expected tradition of Norrathian stereotypes (devious magic users, dimwitted-but-loveable ogres, tightfisted dwarves with dodgy Scot-ish accents...). The tasks required snapped along nicely, travel between points required your attention not your time, the final fight was big, loud and scary - and we won. What more could you ask for an afternoon's entertainment?
So, it seems I'm back in Norrath, at least for part of the time. I never really leave, I just take extended holidays. It even turns out that the guild my mage joined way back in the dim, forgotten past (about 2007 I'd guess) is still up and running all these years later and although there's no-one left I recognize they seem a very friendly bunch. God forbid I might even end up doing some group content...
Either way, I'm guessing that I won't be spending Spring or Summer in Tamriel or Nexus. It'll be anything up to three flavors of Norrath. And Tyria, too. The Living Story may be on hiatus but there's The Tourney to come at the end of March and that crazy Feature Patch in April (of which more here in due course as more is revealed. I just can't wait to find out what "Friendly Play" is and why it takes three separate announcements to explain it...). GW2 is a mere snapper compared to Everquest or even EQ2 but it's coming along, coming along.
One thing's for sure. We're none of us going to have an excuse for being bored this year. If there's really nothing to take your fancy among that lot it might just be time to start thinking about a new hobby altogether.