Thursday, September 21, 2023

EverQuest 3 - What, This Again?!

I'm just going to put this down as a marker. I kind of feel I have to, for some reason, although God knows why.

MassivelyOP has a concise, if somewhat snarky, run-through of such facts as exist. If you're interested, as I'm unfortunately aware a lot of people will be, I suggest taking the thirty seconds or so it'll take to read it. (TAGN also put up an excellent post about it as I was typing this.)

The gist, for those who can't be bothered - and who could blame them after the EQNext debacle? - is that EG7 qua Daybreak Games has finally confirmed, unequivocally, that there is an intent to create a sequel to EverQuest and EverQuest II.

The project is in what they uncharmingly describe as the "ideation phase", which means they're still thinking about it. They haven't done anything yet. They don't even plan to start spending any money on it until next year, at which point they're in for around $30m, maybe more.

That doesn't sound much to make an AAA MMORPG but it does happen to be the same amount FromSoftware spent developing Elden Ring. At least, that's what CEO Ji Ham says in the presentation, although where he's getting that figure from beats me. Some sources suggest it cost more like $200m. Even the low end estimate is $50-$70m.

In any event, he's big on FromSoftware: "Those guys? Love 'em - in terms of their model." He believes their success proves that hardcore gameplay can be both mainstream and highly profitable. And he wants the proposed EQ3 to be all of those things. Especially the hardcore part.

I haven't watched the whole of the near three-hour presentation but I have skimmed a fair bit of it and it's surprisingly entertaining. Ji Ham is an even more surprisingly engaging presenter and a lot younger than I imagined. He's also very clearly a gamer, something I definitely did not expect. At one point he speaks rather wistfully about the hours he spent trying and failing to beat one of the bosses in Elden Ring.

If nothing else, I recommend listening to a few minutes from 2:18:00 onwards, when Ji Ham buys heavily into the narrative that EverQuest back in the day was a very tough game and that that's nothing to be afraid of, commercially. I don't personally go along with all of it but he's not saying anything out of line with the generally accepted view of either the franchise or the genre.

He even goes as far as to suggest that the time and effort spent trying to make the EverQuest IP (And by implication MMORPGs as a whole.) more accessible was a mistake, even if that interpretation does somewhat fly in the face of the success of World of Warcraft (For which he correctly names EverQuest as an ancestor and prime influence.) much of which can be put down to its design brief, which was in great part to be an easier and more accessible take on the successful EQ formula.

That's all in the past. Now, the future for the IP is uphill in the snow both ways. Again.

And he seems genuinely enthused by it, that's the strange part. It's like listening to a gamer as much as a businessman. Forget the uncomfortable fact that Elden Ring is a finite, single-player experience and the proposed EQ3 an open-ended, massively multiple live service title. Forget that the FromSoftware ethos, far from being any kind of universal gaming paradigm shift, is instead deeply divisive and the subject of endless, often acrimonious debate.

Even leaving Elden Ring out of it, it has to be acknowledged that the mass market credentials of self-styled "hardcore" MMORPGs are seriously tarnished following the failure of high-profile titles like WildStar and the consistent crash-and-burn meta surrounding just about every indie attempt to turn back time to the self-styled Golden Age of MMOs. But hey, props for trying!

A few years ago something like this might have given me heartburn but I just can't summon up the indignation any more. I've seen all this so many times I can barely be bothered to raise a skeptical eyebrow. This proposed game hasn't even begun development yet. Whatever anyone says about it now will be utterly irrelevant by the time it becomes publicly available, if indeed it ever does.

The timescales quoted in the presentation seem radically optimistic. Apparently the plan is to begin development in 2025 for a 2028 release. I'd be interested to know what the last AAA MMORPG to go from concept to launch in three years was. Even more interested to hear about the last one that did it successfully. 

I suppose if you start the clock running from now, you can stretch it to five years, which does sound more reasonable. Maybe the 2025 "Start of Investment" has some financial implication rather than meaning literally what it says. Maybe there are people working on the project already.

Even then, if the putative EQ3 were to hit some kind of Early Access in 2028, by then I'll be seventy years old. I will not be playing a "hardcore" MMORPG in my seventies. Even if you considered me to belong to one of the older cadres of EQ fans, I'd guess by 2028 the majority of EQ vets will be in their 40s and 50s. This game better not rely on the same kind of reaction times as Elden Ring.

It seems to me that, as I've said before, if EG7/DBG really want to publish a third iteration of EverQuest (A count, by the way, that ignores a whole bunch of titles that have used the IP, not least the PlayStation 2 exclusive MMORPG, EverQuest Online Adventures.) they really ought to think about buying Visionary Realms and having Pantheon rebadged as an EverQuest sequel, which it patently is anyway.

And that's about as much as I want to say about EverQuest 3 for now. In fact, I'd as soon forget about the whole thing altogether, at least until there's some kind of alpha or beta or Early Access that I can sign up for or buy into (Because, obviously, no matter how unsuitable it is or how far outside the target demographic I am, I'll have to at least give it a try...)

As Ji Ham rather gleefully suggests and MOP glumly acknowledges, this is a hype train no-one's going to be able to ignore. For reasons I really don't begin to understand, given that the original EverQuest was by absolutely no reasonable measure any kind of global brand, just the biggest fish in a very small pool that most people at the time didn't even know existed, the mere mention of any resurrection of the IP now seems to incite a frenzied response from gamers, most of whom surely can never have played any iteration of the IP at all, far less been there in 1999, when it all began.

At this point, the whole EverQuest phenomenon reminds me of the infamous Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall Sex Pistols gig of 4 June 1976, which was attended by fewer than a hundred people but claimed as a seminal life experience by thousands. I look forward to years of listening to people droning on and on about what they imagine the new EQ will be like and throwing toddler-like tantrums when reality intrudes on their pipe dreams. Just like happened with EQNext and Landmark. Joy!

As for the plans for H1Z1... don't get me started!


  1. I went down the rabbit hole of that video last night. I probably have 3-5 more posts I could come up with out of that, including, or especially, the whole Elden Ring hardcore idea for the next EverQuest plan they are formulating. I set out to just write something quick about a 2028 promise and ended up all over the map.

    1. I fear we're going to be talking about this for months, if not years, even if there's really nothing to talk about. It'll be EQNext/Landmark all over again if and when they actually start promoting the thing...

  2. I never played EQ but spent many years with EQ2 and come back to it every so often. I will be 62 in 2028 and I would love to play a new EQ game without 15 different power systems that effect the game. I'm never going to put in the time into a new MMO that I put into EQ2, SWG and WOW back in the day. But it could still be enjoyable.

    Will it actually happen...I sort of doubt it. But we can certainly hope.

    1. I certainly hope it happens - and that I live long enough to see it! I have no expectation that I'll play it with anything like the dedication I played the first two EQ games, which means the harder "core" it goes, the less time I'll be spending there, but at least it'll be interesting to see. In the event, though, I suspect that - should it ever happen - the hardcoreness will turn out to be a lot softer than any comparison with Elden Ring might suggest.


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