Thursday, October 17, 2019

Don't Start Me Talking... : EverQuest, EverQuest II

Yesterday, as Wilhelm pointed out in the comments, I magnificently managed to miss the post-hook I'd been waiting on for weeks. Instead I chose to witter on about how I had nothing to write about. Comedy gold.

The news I'd missed was that The EverQuest Show had put up their interview with Holly "Windstalker" Longdale, Executive Producer of the EverQuest franchise. They were also good enough to provide a full transcript, which I've read. I haven't watched the video so anything that's given away by facial expression or body language is going to have to wait until I do.

As Wilhelm says, there aren't any major revelations but there are several tasty morsels of detail and a whacking great hint of something big to come. The whole thing doesn't take long to read but I'll pull out a few of the more interesting quotes anyway:

EQ Show :
How are the games doing?

Holly :     
...since 2015 , since I came on board, breaking all the rules both games have grown. So where we had a trend of the audience trickling off, we’ve now grown and we’ve grown revenue at the same time, so we’ve actually hired some people to fill out the teams...
Well, that's reassuring. And surprising.

It's been my consistent impression as a player and customer that, despite the surrounding intrigue, chaos and conspiracy theories, and notwithstanding the sequential layoffs and downsizings, my playable experience has undergone continual improvement throughout Daybreak Games' curation of the franchise. Even so, I would have guessed that both the audience and revenue for EverQuest II in particular would have decreased over that period. EverQuest, I would have imagined, would have done well to hold steady.

That both games have grown both numbers playing and money taken is fantastic news for those of us who want to see Norrath prosper. As Holly says, after fifteen and twenty years,

"It is staggering that both these games are still profitable ventures..."

Part of the reason for this turnaround is, as we more than suspected, some smart and effective managing of players' nostalgic affection for the franchise and the life experiences it has given them over two decades:


...obviously nostalgia is really important to our players. Being able to revisit places we visited 15 years ago. 16, 20 years ago. 

That accounts for the popularity of the Progression servers but there's more to it than that:
...we’re trying to be smart about the content we do do... We don’t want to go too far out... I know we’ve been to the moon and back but you know, we don’t want to go too much farther and too much crazier than that. So we want to go back to those themes and develop those stories.
That's why almost every expansion is some kind of return to versions of the past:  areas, regions, continents or (coming up, we all believe) moons that players know and remember from the core game and from earlier expansions. It's not just a clever re-use of assets, although I believe there's some of that too; it's a key turned in the lock that opens the heart.

It's a policy that means Live players are as entangled in past glories as are those engaged in Progression. They are different audiences and the same all at once:

EQ Show:
How do you balance the TLP players, with the LIVE players, because they seem to be two vastly different groups playing the same game.

They are. But they’re also almost equal to each other now, in numbers.
That's another surprise. Although we all knew the Progression servers were doing well it's only natural to assume the bulk of the game is on the Live side. I imagine an expansion year with level cap increases for both games will unbalance (or balance, if you prefer) the ship a little but clearly the future of the franchise lies in the past.

Or does it?

EQ Show:
...a lot of people have asked, what are you guys going to do with the intellectual property... is there another game in development? 
I can’t talk about what’s in development. But I promise you there is a future for EverQuest. I promise you. There’s a lot of work has gone into evaluating our past. We’re in a really unique position where we have more than 20 years worth of data on players and what they like in MMOs and MMOs we’ve made. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of that when we craft something new for EverQuest?
Which is about as broad a hint as the PR person, who was confirmed to be in the room making sure nothing got said that shouldn't get said, would allow. I read that as confirmation that DBG are working on another title in the franchise and that, unlike the ill-fated and ill-advised EQNext, it will be squarely aimed at the faithful.

As one of them I can't but be happy to hear it.

There's a lot more in the interview that's worth reading or watching or listening to for any dyed-in-the-wool EverQuest Franchise fan. There's stuff about the dedication of the team and their insistence on doing work on the EverQuest games in their own time; there's confirmation that they've had to learn how to do more with less, something I personally feel has contributed to the improvement in the games that I mentioned at the top; there's aknowledgment of the lag and database issues currently dogging the games and there's even a little squib about the upcoming re-organization of the whole Daybreak portfolio.

I'll leave you with Holly's reply to Fading from the EQ Show's "final" question:

EQ Show:

Final question I’ll ask you. How long is this game going to be around?


At least another 10 years.

EQ Show: 

You think so?



Works for me!


  1. I watched the video too, even though I've never played an Everquest game, and found it really charming. Holly and the other staff seemed so passionate and devoted to the franchise; who wouldn't want someone like that to manage their favourite MMO?

    1. When you have developers who started out as players more than a decade ago, managed to get on board and start working on the game they loved and then carried on doing it for ten years or longer, I guess you have some pretty dedicated people working on your game. The downside might be institutional blindness as they get tunnel vision from working on the one game but that doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Sooner that, anyway, than trying to jump on all the latests fads and trends just to be hip and cool!

  2. I'd say some of the people who spew such hateful comments about the team in the forums (often over very trivial issues) ought to watch that, but then they would probably say it was all lies and PR and Daybreak is just greedy greedy greedy.

    I swear, "greedy" is my least favorite word when it comes to discussing video games.

    I was surprised by the statement that the live/progression server balance was so close. Nostalgia pays.

    1. Oh, seriously, don't get me started on the EverQuest "Community". Geez...

      I always think back to the time SOE had to close down the entire Forums for a couple of months because the vitriol and negativity there was deemed to be so bad it was damaging the commercial prospects of the game. And that was at the peak of EQ's success sometime in the early noughties! And what about EQFlames, the once highly successful alternative player-run organization that set up specifically to allow the kind of aggressive and destructive criticism of the franchise that the re-branded and extremely highly moderated official forums were designed to avoid?

      These days the EQ forums seem a bit less knee-jerk negative than they once were, although I can't say I visit them all that often. The EQ2 forums are like visiting Eeyore's on a particularly wet and windy day when his house has blown away and no-one's remembered it's his birthday. And occasionally the local Hundred Acre Wood sociopath pops in to threaten everyone, swear a lot and smash up anything the wind hasn't blown away.

      To be fair, of late the EQ2 forums have calmed down somewhat and there occasionally the odd, stray beam of sunshine can be dimly made out in the distance, cutting through the dark clouds. This is one of the markers I've observed that makes me feel the current team is, finally, starting to get through to at least a minority. No doubt the pricing and
      perks of the expansion, when we get to hear about them for EQ2, will put a stop to that. No-one is ever satisfied with those and I expect to read plenty of posts from people about to cancel all ten of their accounts.

  3. Thanks for the great write up. You pretty much nailed most of what I thought were the interesting bits.

    There were a few things I wish I could have revealed, and while I still can't betray the trust that Holt and the team have put in me, I can tell you this :

    I left the building the most optimistic I've been in years about the franchise.

    In November there *will* be some big announcements. And some smaller more unique things that I think will go a long way in promoting the brand.

    Holly already mentioned in the latest PL that the attempt to sell t shirts was being toyed with. Look to the EverQuestShow Twitter account for more hints.

    I would have loved to *break* the news of everything I saw, but I'm assured that Holly's plan is well thought out and a good one. Besides, my goal with the "show" isn't to be a news site, but rather a news magazine format. Showcasing stories.



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