Thursday, January 20, 2022

I Can See Clearly Now: Daybreak's Roadmap To The Future

The evening was wearing away when I finished yesterday's post and I still had dailies to do in Guild Wars 2 but I thought I'd better check my email before I started. Lucky I did. Wilhelm had been in touch, clueing me in to a surprising development at Daybreak Games: a 2022 "Roadmap" for each of the EverQuest titles.

The brief introduction to each of them begins cautiously:

"As an experiment, we're trying something different this year. We're posting our development roadmap for 2022. As far as we know, this is the first time we’ve publicly laid out our major plans like this."

Too right, it is! Getting any information out of DBG ahead of the last possible moment has been a hopeless ask since the transition from Sony Online Entertainement almost exactly seven years ago. Has it really only been that long?

Daybreak aren't at all unusual in playing their cards so closely to their chest. It's actually quite unusual in the mmorpg industry for anyone to go on record earlier than they absolutely have to about pretty much anything. There sometimes seems to be a culture of secrecy about the whole genre that goes far beyond normal, commercial self-protection. And, of course, plans can change.

"Please remember that these are our high-level goals and expected delivery dates and do not list everything we will be doing."

As the occasional caveats woven into the introductions to DBG's plans for the coming year suggest, developers are nervous of being held to account over supposed promises that were really no more than hopes. Mmorpg fans are notoriously unreasonable in their expectations, tenacious as bull terriers once they've buried their teeth in the wrong end of the stick.

Once I'd gotten over the shock of this being something that had happened, I was excited to dig into the detail. I read the EverQuest Roadmap first. It's impressive. It's also concise and compact enough I may as well quote the whole thing and add my comments as we go:

  • January
    • Community Resource Council Application Relaunch - Your chance to help advise on the future of EverQuest. - I had to google what the "Community Resource Council" was. Or is. I thought it might be a player council like EVE's Council of Stellar Management or WoW's Community Council but it's not, or not exactly. According to ex-Community Rep Dreamweaver on the forums "it's basically a group of players that the devs utilize for specific questions or testing from time to time." As to why recruitment had stalled, I have no idea. Good to hear it's back on track, I guess.
  • February:
    • 64-Bit Servers and Clients Release to Live Servers - Not sure what effect this will have on gameplay although I imagine it could help reduce the lag that's plagued both EQ titles for years. I didn't notice much difference when GW2 moved to a 64bit client and EQ always plays very smoothly for me but it seems to be something a lot of people want. Not long to wait before we find out, anyway.
  • March:
    • 23rd Anniversary - New quests, missions, and a new raid. - EQ Anniversary content is generally either way above my level/gear/ability or far too grindy. Not meant for me, though, is it? I wonder what they have planned for the 25th anniversary in a couple of years' time? That's the big one.
    • New Content for Bristlebane's Day
    • New Content for Stomple's Day - Remind me what Stomple's Day is, again?
  • April:
    • New Classic Achievements - Adding achievements for many original quests in EverQuest's starting cities. - EverQuest has Achievents? Okay, I know it does. I just didn't know anyone cared.
  • May:
    • New Progression Servers - Rulesets to be announced at a later date. - Yep. We're about due. Look forward to seeing the ruleset but I think I'm probably done with re-starting in a 22 year old game. Make that 23.
    • Mercenary Rank Simplification - Simplify mercenaries down to the two ranks primarily in use and remove the quest line requirements for obtaining them. I love my mercs to distraction. They completely revolutionized the game and improved it beyond recognition. Even so, I never really understood all the various grades and qualities. This seems like an eminently sensible move.
    • New Tempest Festival Event - Ooh! That sounds exciting! Tell me more!
  • June:
    • Server Merge - Merging the Phinigel and Miragul servers to Vox. - In come the new servers, out go the old. Business as usual. Don't think I have characters on either of them and if even if I do I'll never play them again.
  • July:
    • New Scorched Skies Event - New to EQ, maybe. EQII's had it for several years, now. Interesting to see ideas move between the two Norraths like this.
    • New Overseer Achievements and Reward Improvements - Now we're talking! That will bring me back. Might even encourage me to buy the expansion. I can do the levels without leaving the guild lobby with some new Overseer quests.
  • September:
    • Heroic Characters Update - New Heroic Characters will start at level 100. - About fricken' time! And I don't mean to sound ungrateful, because 100 is for sure a lot better than 85, but the level cap is 120 now. I wonder how good the free level 100 gear will be? Will we get yet another free Heroic? Will unused free 85s auto-update to 100s? Also, a lot of effort was spent making 2010's House of Thule expansion into a de facto starting zone for Heroic 85s. Will there be an equivalent for Heroic 100s? If so, let's hope it's somewhere a bit brighter and a lot less gloomy.
  • October:
    • 2022's Expansion Beta + Preorder - Revolutionary! Confirmation in January that there will be another expansion this year. Now we can't play the "Have we seen the last-ever EQ expansion?" game, like we usually do. So much for tradition!
    • New Content for Nights of the Dead
  • November:
    • Extra Life - Help us raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network. - Always good to see.
    • New Content for Feast of Giving - Okay, now you really have got me. "Feast of Giving"? What the heck is that? I guess I don't know EQ as well as I used to.
  • December:
    • 2022's Expansion Launch - I see we still don't get to find out what it's called until it's nearly here. I guess that would be too radical. Some things will never change.
    • New Content for the New Year's Event
  • Throughout the Year:
    • Raid Zone Performance Improvements - Don't raid, don't care.
    • Class Tuning and Balancing - After 23 years? Really?
    • Anti-Cheat Improvements - See previous comment!
  • Beyond 2022:
    • New UI Engine - I think this is the first I've heard about it. I actually like EQ's UI a lot. It's incredibly flexible and configurable and it's not even that old-fashioned to look at. I hope they don't break it, trying to update it.

And there it is. All laid out in a nice, clear list that I've royally roughed up with my bag of fonts and snarky comments. I didn't play much EverQuest in 2021 but I played a lot in 2020 and there's still a lot I find in the old game to enjoy. 

All of this is very encouraging. Plenty of "Steady as she goes" and "More of the same" plus some solid ideas for improvements and nothing much to frighten the horses. I play other mmorpgs whose devs could learn a lot from this roadmap. It's also very encouraging to see the trend towards greater clarity at Daybreak Towers continuing, although god knows it's been a long road to the light at times.

I was going to do EverQuest II's Roadmap as well but I think I'll save it for a separate post. I play a lot more EQII and I'll most likely have more to say about where it's headed. I've had a look at what's coming and there are plenty of talking points.

Whatever I do have to say about it, I promise I'll say it in a less fontastic format. Probably tomorrow. If not, soon.


  1. It is a fairly nice list. Not concise, per se, but straightforward.

    And now I've got The Holly Cole Trio's version of I Can See Clearly Now in my head.

    1. I hadn't heard that version - in fact I hadn't even heard of the Holly Cole Trio - so I went to YouTube and listened to it. Some of it, anyway. The comment thread is hyperbolic but I don't share the enthusiasm. Can't really beat the Johnny Nash original but the Screeching Weasel punk version works surprisingly well, I think.

    2. That Johnny Nash track was fine, but then I found the punk cover of "I Shot the Sheriff" and laughed out loud at it. It isn't like it is bad, I am just not sure driving the tempo that hard is all it takes to make something punk.

  2. EverQuest has achievements. Somewhere in my drafts folder I have a post about achievements and how some games make them work and others seem to drop the ball.

    I do wonder how the heroic character thing will play. I had a character I leveled up from 1 to 50 back at the 20th anniversary, then absolutely wrecked it by applying a freebie heroic upgrade. There are just too many spells and abilities... he was a cleric... and my spell book went from being awkward but manageable because I had leveled into the spells to being completely disorienting. If we get another freebie I'll give it a try when it is level 100.

    1. I seem to recall there are some Achievements in both EQs that have seriously good rewards attached. I have a vague idea I was working towards some of them at one time although I can't remember if I ever got there. The huge majority, though, just have points and if tose points can be traded in for anything I never found out what it was. I probably should look into that...

      I really don't need any new high(ish) level characters in EQ but if they retrospectively upgrade the previously issued 85 freebies to be 100s I will definitely apply them to some of my 85s. 100 may not be endgame but it's a lot more useful than 85. As for the free armor, weapons, bags, potions etc (let alone the spells) I find it best not to even open the boxes at least until I'm sure I'm going to play the character. Otherwise it's just more clutter.

  3. Eh...I logged in to EQ a year or two ago but I think Project1999 has a far better experience. The new content just isn't magical and the world felt exceptionally empty. Feel like the game needs a reboot / remake that perfects what was flawed on release in '99 rather than bloating the level cap and spreading the player base thin over an empty world.

    1. Having played EQ continually, if sporadically, since 1999, if I had to choose between the older version, as recreated in P99 or even on the official Progression servers and the current, Live version I'd take the Live every time. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play EQ when it was new and original and thrilling but I wouldn't go back.


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