Sunday, March 18, 2018

Meant To Last - EverQuest Turns Nineteen

This month marks the nineteenth anniversary of the launch of EverQuest. Unlike Wilhelm, I can't claim to have been there on day one. I turned up fashionably late to the party some eight months later, just after the game's first major live event, Bloody Kithicor.

At least, I think that's what happened just before I got there. It's surprisingly hard to find the details nearly two decades on. Even the invaluable patch archive at Allakhazam is, well, patchy when it comes to that first year.

When you come to think of it, maybe a few gaps in the record aren't so surprising after all. I vaguely remember reading an interview with John Smedley that he gave not long after launch, where he estimated something like a three year lifecycle for the new game. Five years if things went even better than they dared to dream.

Certainly no-one back in 1999 was expecting the game would still be around nearly twenty years later, far less that it would still have enough traction in the marketplace to justify the production of annual expansions and the creation of new servers. And yes, Daybreak is celebrating the anniversary with yet another Progression server; Coirnav.

Just how many retro-fitted new beginnings can one game stand? DBG have taken so many bites at this particular cherry they must be gnawing on the stone by now. You'd think there'd come a time when diminishing returns would kick in, especially with the quasi-authorised Project 1999 always available for an even more authentic old-school buzz. If so, it seems that time is not yet.

Getting kinda meta.

I have no plans to play on the new server. I barely play EQ at all at the moment but if I did I'd probably do a bit on my 94 Magician while the bonus anniversary xp is running (until the end of March). I was briefly tempted but it's not even double xp, just 1.5x and that's not going to make a huge difference at the glacial leveling speeds of the mid-90s.

Even Keen, possibly the purest EQ loyalist still blogging, almost had to talk himself into starting over yet again - but there he is, heading back to Crushbone once more. He commented a while back, when he was debating with himself whether or not to return to Norrath for the umpteenth time, that his brother was less than impressed: "...when I told Graev I was going to play again he gave me the sourest look of disgust and said, “Isn’t it time to move on? After 20 years don’t you think it’s time to play something else?”"

Well, maybe. In Keen's case it's not even a case of going back to play through the whole game, just a very, very small subset of EQ's vast and sprawling empire of content. Really, though, as Jeromai said in a comment to yesterday's post, "I like comfortable, thank you. It makes me happy." If you find something that works for you then work it, why not?

Even though I don't want to level another character uphill both ways in the old-school snow or grind more thankless upper-tier tasks for Franklin Teek, I might just pop my head around the door anyway. Looking at the Producer's Letter, there's quite a lot going on besides the new server and the bonus xp. I note, for example, there are four new Anniversary-themed missions, "Depths of Darkhollow and Mayong Mistmoore-themed!".

Just a few of the many items available from various anniversaries. There's some very useful stuff here, from food and drink that would offer major twinkage at low levels to 30 and 34 slot bags that would be welcome at any level. Also, up in the top right corner, a new window with clickable icons that promote a whole raft of Anniversary events.

I have fond memories of the Depths of Darkhollow expansion; it was, I believe, the last one Mrs Bhagpuss and I played together, at level and at time of release. I wouldn't mind poking around in those subterranean caverns again. And anyway, there's so much more to EverQuest than Vanilla/Kunark/Velious. Some of the mid and later content is a match for any of that Golden Age stuff. I mean, you don't keep thousands of players for almost twenty years purely on you?

With expansions in mind, there was some welcome news in the most recent EQ2 Producer's Letter. It may only be March and everyone playing may still be heavily invested in the most recent expansion, Path of Prophecy, but EQ2 Producer Lauren “Mooncast” McLemore confirms Daybreak is already working on the next: "Last, but not least… expansion! It’s already in progress, but you’ll need to wait a bit longer for more details!"

I'm not sure I can remember an EQ2 expansion being confirmed quite this early in the cycle. It makes me wonder, with the crash-and-burn of major DBG moneymaker H1Z1, whether some more resources and attention might not go the way of the two Norrath titles this year. DCUO seems to be humming along very nicely but other than that the EverQuests might be where Daybreak's fortunes rest right now.
He wouldn't give me his quest. None of the 19th Anniversary NPCs would, although they were all quite willing to chat to me. It seems this year's offering requires ownership of the current expansion. Never mind - I still haven't done most of the quests from the last half-dozen!

As well as confirming the expansion, the Producer's Letter contains another surprise: EQ2 is getting two more holidays. As I may have mentioned before, EQ2 already has more holiday events than just about any other MMO I have ever played. Niami Denmother made the point when she observed only a few days ago, as she prepared to test three upcoming Norrathian holidays, Beast'r, Chronoportals and Bristlebane Day, "Lots and lots of event overlap this year!".

Well, we can add two more to the calendar. This summer sees the addition of The Oceansfull Festival and the Scorched Sky Celebration. Which is wonderful. I'm always up for another holiday. Just so they don't clash with Tinkerfest, that's all I ask!

EQ2 turns fifteen this year, which is one heck of a milestone for an online game but next year is the big two-zero for EverQuest. The media absolutely dote on round-number anniversaries so it could offer a major P.R. opportunity. It might even earn the game some coverage outside the gaming press if DBG play it smart.

And wouldn't the twentieth anniversary be the perfect time to announce a new EverQuest title? Something a little more realistic and pragmatic than the wish-fulfilment fantasy that was EQNext. Something that might actually get made. And played.

Well, we can dream, can't we?


  1. Planetside 2 seems to be humming along nicely too. (Which strangely, no one ever seems to mention when talking about DBG in the MMORPG blogosphere).

    Just after DBG took over, it seemed like they were cutting corners, specifically on new weapons that were introduced (which counts as "content" in PS2). But recently, the newest weapons aren't just filler, but on a par with originals and show a clear direction and design.

    The playerbase is engaged too, not just the hardcore of loyalists who hang around in the late stages of a game. There are players of all levels, and new Outfits (guilds) being formed all the time. The game's "Generals" (like GW2's Commanders) play the map at a very high level too.

    All in all, the future for PS2 looks optimistic.

    - Simon

    1. No one mentions it because the situation probably isn't as rosy as you seem to think. A while back Daybreak was talking about the trouble with the game because they can't get people to pay for it.

      Anyway, nobody talking about a game isn't generally considered a good sign in and of itself.

    2. I thought about Planetside 2 but I didn't mention it because I just don't know enough about it. As Wilhelm says, it never gets a mention anywhere and I had heard that DBG were having trouble monetizing the players they had there...

      But DBG seem to be improving hand over fist where monetization is concerned. They've stopped giving money away and started selling things people want at a price that seems reasonable. It's entirely possible that both of you are right - PS2 may have been unprofitable before but beginning to give a better return now.

      Anyway, it's good to hear that the game itself is improving and engaging the playerbase. That fits with my own impression that DBG is currently more focused on getting gameplay right than it has been for a long time - and certainly than SOE was for many years.

    3. Here are some stats from Steam Charts:

      PS2 24-hour high of players: 3,514
      LOTRO 24-hour high of players: 1,618
      RIFT: 24-hour high of players: 1,462

      These stats show that the fact no one talks about PS2 in the MMORPG blogosphere is not down to PS2 lacking an engaged player base, or even being in trouble with attracting an audience. I made this point from my in-game experience. And actual data bears it out. (As does the PS2 Reddit, which is extremely active, again making it strange no one blogs about it:

      Monetization is a different issue, and more opaque. One way to gauge its condition is through what is offered as content, that is what is being offered for sale (whether directly, or indirectly through encouragement of subs/boosts to obtain content in-game). Recent improvements to what is being offered (better guns) show that they are least trying, which must indicate some degree of optimism in PS2's future.

      Beyond that, who knows?

      - Simon

    4. All of those games are playable without Steam. I play them all and have none of them connected to Steam. So the Steam charts aren't really an indicator I would bet heavily on.

      And, as I said, Daybreak came out and said they were having problems with PS2 on the money side of things. That isn't just some opaque crystal ball read, but quoting them.

      But if you want to know why people are talking about LOTRO, well they had the Mordor expansion. And people are talking about Rift because of Rift Prime. PS2 though... they had some sort of base construction thing I think. The problem is that it is more shooter than MMO so doesn't get talked about that much in MMO circles.

  2. "EQ2 turns fifteen this year"

    Next year. November 2004 was the launch. So we'll get EQ2 turning 15 and then, at the far end of the same month, WoW turning 15, with Blizz probably launching WoW Classic on the anniversary date and once again overshadowing whatever Daybreak has planned.

    1. True, but they should be able to make hay with the EQ 20th. Not much else generally goes on in March and WoW Classic will probably have disappointed almost everyone by then.

    2. I mean, they can try. EQ turns 20 the same year EQ2 turns 15, so they can have a cross promotional Norrathian event. They have done it before. What was that one they did back in 2007 or so? But aside from the odd multi-MMO people like you and I, outliers in the mix, it seems like this is more a way to share a marketing budget than attract one group with another's event.


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