Sunday, January 27, 2019

Life In The Old Dog Yet : EQII

In the comments to the previous post, Topauz said it was interesting to see a Producer's Letter for EverQuest but nothing for EverQuest II. For a moment there it looked like fair grounds for speculation. But only for a moment.

Yesterday, when I took a quick trawl of Feedly, between finishing my breakfast (muesli and a cinnamon and raisin bagel, thanks for asking)  and getting ready to go to work, the first thing I saw was this welcome headline from The Ancient Gaming Noob. I clicked through the link to the full text of the letter on the official EQII website, dashed off a quick comment at TAGN and then I had to go.

It was a pity I had to work. I was burning to post my thoughts on this very welcome, somewhat unexpected development. The official confirmation that there will be an expansion for EQII this year puts paid to a prediction in last summer's leak, which claimed both EverQuest games would go into what you might describe as "active maintenance" in 2019, continuing to receive new live events but no more actual expansions. I note we haven't had confirmation that EverQuest will get one, though.

That doesn't necessarily invalidate the information underlying the original prophecy. A lot can change in nine months. Ask any mother. Or Trion, or Jagex, or CCP. We have to work with what we have, though, or we're all just scooping soup through a strainer.

Holly "Windstalker" Longdale's Producer's Letter for EQII is immensely intriguing for longtime Daybreak-watchers. There's so much subtext. Some of it's so foregrounded you might as well just call it "text".

The penultimate couple of paragraphs are tantamount to an acknowledgment that speculation on the future of the Everquest franchise has reached a dangerous pitch. There's something close to a tacit admission that focus at DBG may have drifted away from what many paying customers still hold to be the heart and soul of the company - Norrath.

"I promise you that our dedication to you and this game is unwavering. Every moment we share here is focused on bringing this Norrathian fantasy to life every day, year after year. And we aren’t stopping – not by a long bowshot. The world of EverQuest has a bright future".
That's a Mission Statement. Yes, they're easy to make and hard to keep but companies tend not to make them with the explicit intention of breaking them. That comes down to circumstances or, as Harold MacMillan didn't put it, "Events, dear boy. Events".

At least we know that, barring hidden rocks or sudden squalls, EverQuest's current captain intends to keep the ship sailing in the same general direction for the foreseeable future. That's about as much security as you could expect, in this genre, in these times.

The line I found, paradoxically, both most re-assuring and most worrying comes in the following paragraph:

"This game, and our livelihoods, have lasted these many years because of our players and fans."

Coupled with some very personal comments in the EverQuest Producer's Letter (Windstalker being, apparently, producer of both EQ titles) it's abundantly clear that Holly Longdale recognizes that her own livelihood and that of her colleagues is intimately bound up with the health of the EverQuest franchise.

All these protestations of love for the games may read like typical PR puff to some but they represent a significant change of tone. Yes, EQ Producers have always pulled hard on the community chain to get a response but both late-period SOE and Daybreak have often seemed at best to take the older EverQuest games for granted and occasionally to view them as something of an embarrassment. No more of that.

Moving on from subtext to substance, EQII players have plenty to look forward to in 2019. There's "unique in-game content in the Plane of Mischief " coming in March as a tie-in with the twentieth anniversary of the elder game. "Unique" is an interesting choice of descriptor and as far as I'm aware there is currently no Plane of Mischief in EQII, nor ever has been, so that's going to be fun.

We're also getting another progression server, ruleset to be announced. I'm dubious about that. I'm not sure Prog servers have been quite the hit in EQII they have been in EverQuest and I wonder whether there's really the stomach for another so soon after the last one died. It will all depend on the ruleset. I hope it's something short and sharp with a definite endpoint.

Then there's the confirmation of a sixteenth expansion, set in "a whole new unexplored location of lore and legend", a description that has me stumped even though apparently it's "a terrible hint" and some as-yet unspecified "15th anniversary plans for November". Best leave those until we have some solid detail.

The other big news is the return of PvP. PvP in Norrath has, at best, a checkered history. I'm by no means as negative about it as Wilhelm - I remember the Zek servers in original EverQuest as being pretty lively and popular for quite a few years before interest faded - but it's certainly true that PvP in EverQuest has always been a minority interest.

The main concern from PvE players, who make up the overwhelming majority of the population, has always been twofold: diversion of limited resources and compromise over game mechanics. PvP players also tend to be very vocal and hard to ignore, both by other players and by developers, so there's sometimes the sense of a rowdy gang of hooligans crashing a sedate, suburban party. No wonder people get nervous.

If nothing else, a new PvP server will bring some ex-players back, although how long they'll stay is another matter entirely. It's not at all unusual to hear a returning player in-game asking where to go for PvP and being outraged when they get told there is none, so at least it should put a stop to that.

Or it will if it gets the green light. Evidently Daybreak share the general concerns about PvP's long-term viabilty in EQII because all they're actually promising is that they'll "look to launching" a Live PvP server "if it gets a good following" in the beta that's due to start very soon. That's a nuanced promise if ever I saw one.

Beyond that, only time will tell whether Holly's bold assertion that "The world of EverQuest has a bright future" is true or not. I hope she's right and I believe she hopes so, too. Can't ask for much more than that, although, naturally, many will.


  1. It is certainly not out of character for SOE/Daybreak to change its mind. Not too many years ago they were saying no more expansions, opting for the adventure pack model again, only to turn that around toot suite.

    And it is natural in any company to alter plans as the situation changes. I've yet to see a long term roadmap come to fruition as originally conceived.

    I do wonder if the 20th anniversary of EQ might be the time to speak more directly to the future or the franchise. Maybe not an EverQuest 3, but something a bit more concrete than how much these two games anchor the company.

    1. I don't think it's either imagination or wishful thinking to sense a change in tone in DBG's public statements over recent weeks. There seems to be a definite recalibration, a re-focusing on the established games and an intent to build from there. Even Planetside Arena fits that agenda.

      I wonder if it's a direct result of the increasingly bemusing Nantworks deal? Given that Nantworks reportedly took over H1Z1 completely and is wholly responsible for the proposed Mobile versions of H1Z1 and EQ, that would pretty much clear the decks for Daybreak itself to concentrate on the four titles that come under All Access and that does seem to be what they are now doing.

      Provided they can stay solvent doing that it's obviously good news for those of us who play those games. I do agree, thugh,that if they did have some actual medium-to-long term plans for the franchise, maybe even including a new PC and/or console title under the EQ banner, EQ's 20th Anniversary would be a very good time to announce them.

  2. Good news that there's to be an expansion for EQ2. As a seasonal player, I'm happy to pop back into the game from time to time and to purchase the expansion as my way of supporting this game - it's a unique and rather charming game.

  3. I did laugh when I saw the producer's letter come out right after I posted here. It was good to see and pleased to hear that there is at least one more expansion. As for PVP, I had fun in battlegrounds but I have little interest in a PVP server.

    I would be shocked if we get any solid information this Spring on either game or upcoming games. I think the devs have put a wall up since every thing they say tends to be held against them at some later date if there are any changes or it doesn't come to fruition. While I do not agree with the lack of info, I do understand that reasoning.


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