Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good News, Bad News (Again) : EQ, EQLandmark, EQNext

Yesterday brought a couple of snippets of news from Norrath, one unexpected and welcome, the other unhappy but inevitable. As tradition demands, first the bad news: EQMac will close down in November.

For years I'd had it in mind to go time-traveling, back to Everquest's golden age, a world  locked forever changeless behind the impenetrable gates of the Empire of the Apple. Once I even, naively, looked into the possibility of buying a Mac purely for the purposes of playing it but it seems an old Macintosh really will never let you down because no-one ever sells one on the cheap.

Later rumors began to circulate about the possibility of slipping in around the back somehow by way of a PC workaround. I looked into that, too, but like another even more grey-market option on the past, to get in requires a copy of the long-gone Everquest:Titanium , currently retailing for $80 and upwards plus international postage. Cheaper than a used Mac, for sure, but still expensive for a whim.

And a whim is all it would be. Unlike some, I'm very happy with where Everquest is now. I still play on and off and I when I do I enjoy the 2013 version as much as I enjoyed the 1999. Except for one thing: Freeport. I do hanker to walk the streets of the old city one more time. The revamped version is an atrocity.

The loss of that notional possibility is, of course, the faintest ghost of a disappointment compared to the anguish regular players must be feeling. Almost two years ago, when the closure was first mooted, a strong popular campaign brought about a reprieve but with the recent round of belt-tightening at SOE I'm sure most EQMac players have been only too aware they were living on borrowed time.

That time has finally run out and I'm afraid there will be no second happy ending. In the wise words of Bryan Ferry, nothing lasts forever, of that I'm sure. It's more surprising that MMOs go on so long as they do than that eventually they must stop, although when you consider a game like Istaria (nee Horizons), a complete failure at launch, now about to celebrate its tenth anniversary with a big content update and a bullish wish for ten more years, then almost anything seems possible. Still, with every closure we all feel the chill a little more keenly.

And so to the Good News. EQLandmark will not be included in the PSS1 deal and SOE will handle all the accounts directly worldwide. Ditto for beta applications.

As long-time readers of this blog may remember, the general feeling when SOE decided to throw its European players over to PSS1 was that there was no spoon long enough to sup with the German wolves. Over time and with an enormous amount of public protest and campaigning the roughest edges got smoothed off the deal and something approaching an acceptable compromise was reached.

He's a big monkey but he's out of shape.

I can't speak from personal experience about what it's like playing under PSS1, although indications on the forums are that it hasn't gone much better than anyone expected. I still play my SOE MMOs on US servers using the original SOE accounts and I pay my All Access subscription directly to SOE (well actually to some third-party mediator according to my credit card statement, but anyway not to PSS1).

It's an uncomfortable and precarious position. The fundamental reason we're still paying for two All Access accounts we barely use and almost certainly don't need is because of the uncertainty about what might happen if we gave them up. We've known all along that EQNext would not be included in the grandfather rights because it was made clear that any new MMOs launched after the compromise agreement was hammered out would be excluded.

Once we learned of the existence of EQLandmark there was no reason to believe the same rules wouldn't apply. But, almost miraculously, they don't. My entirely uninformed assumption (see Wilhelm's excellent discursion on MMO bloggers assumptions) is that trying to sort out the legal issues involved in EQLandmark's player-made sales has already made several lawyers' heads explode even without factoring in reciprocal arrangements through a third-party license operating under an entirely different legal system so someone finally said "Stuff this for a game of soldiers, we'll do it ourselves".

Ya just gotta believe.

Whatever the reason, I see it as both unalloyed good news and a crack in the dam. If nothing else it says that SOE is still interested in markets outside the US (they could simply have chosen to make EQLandmark unavailable outside the USA, after all). It also means that if worst ever does come to worst there should still be at least one Everquest franchise title left for us to play.

What we'll actually be doing in EQLandmark remains, as Keen points out, mostly mysterious but my beta app is now in so fingers-crossed. The beta is without NDA, too, so if I get in all will be revealed.

Don't hold your breath, though. Smokejumper also clarified that the screenshots he's been releasing are from the pe-alpha version. Beta could be a while, let alone live. Then again, it was always going to be a "Winter" launch and technically Winter runs December through March. We're not late yet!


  1. You can visit Al'Kabor on the PC without EQ Titanium. On a lark, I followed the instructions for setting it up, but just used a regular, fully patched EQ client as the base. It worked; I could even use the classic UI.

    1. Holy Hannah! I never even thought to try that. Off to give it a go now - thanks for the tip!

    2. It almost worked...according to the comments thread following the instructions the error I'm getting means my graphics card isn't recognized and there's no fix for that. All is not lost, however. I have a bunch of old PCs and a laptop and a box of graphics cards. One month to get it running and take video before old Freeport is gone for good.


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