EQ Next: Three Games, One IP

Well, looks like I was wrong to assume that another MMO based on Everquest wasn’t going to emerge (in the light of SOEs recent redundancies). SOE announced that very thing this weekend at Fanfest, their user convention.

Non-fans now have every reason to be confused. Between EQLive (aka EQ1), EQ Extended/ EQ2 and now EQ Next/ EQ3, there will eventually be three MMOs based on the same lore and background.

We don’t know a great deal yet about the new game, such as at what type of user it is aimed. Just a couple of pretty screenshots, and some comments (picked from the liveblog):

  • Harkening back to EQ1 but more stylized.
  • More interesting combat. More engaging.
  • designed from ground up with pvp in mind.
  • fewer classes (than EQ2)
  • the world should change around you
  • We haven’t announced the game because it’s still early in development. We haven’t even decided on raid and group sizes.

Notably, the original Everquest is cited as a greater influence here than EQ2. Perhaps EQ2 is now seen as an evolutionary dead end by SOE, leaving the new F2P servers to pick up any current gen gamers looking for a new world to explore, but with no intentions of following Blizzard in trying to evolve their game into anything too different.

Everquest is the marmite of MMOs. People either love it, hate it, or don’t understand the fuss at all. Me, I fall into the “don’t really get the fuss” category. I loved my first MMO (DaoC) and if Mythic announced an updated version then I’d be all over it, but EQ?  Meh. I played EQ2 for a few months and liked it, but there was nothing special or engaging about any of the lore I saw in game. I don’t think those old communities can be replicated any more with a modern audience.

However hearing that SOE wants to go back to their roots could be great news if you fall into the love faction. At least, depending on which parts of EQ they decide to focus on updating.

But for everyone else, they’ll have to come up with something more convincing because the farrow of “let’s make something inspired by EQ but more accessible” has already been quite thoroughly ploughed. Hopefully not involving semi naked elvish paladins.

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11 thoughts on “EQ Next: Three Games, One IP

  1. EverQuest was a masterpiece for its time. EverQuest is the gold standard by which all MMOs will be judged now and in the future. It’s place in video game/virtual world history is secure.

    Let me say this, EverQuest is still far more advanced and daring — in many ways — far more than what is currently available in WoW. I could list feature after feature that existed in EQ that has either been removed or dumbed-down from the current crop of sophomoric, casual friendly kiddie MMOs. EQ was the real deal.

    The designers of EQ actually had mettle and integrity not to give in to spoiled and lazy gamers in order to boost profits. And it actually took skill to survive and progress. Nothing was handed to you unlike the crap we see in today’s MMOs.

    I have to say that I’m shocked that you didn’t like EverQuest. However, if you didn’t get involved with EQ during the first 4 expansions then I can understand why it would appear to be dated compared to DAOC and WoW; both MMOs shameless ripoffs of EQ.

    But EQ was never about the graphics or the polish. It was about the rigorous gameplay and the sense community — not the false community of a bunch of teenage clowns mouthing off in the Trade channel. Somehow it all came together in a cohesive manner and it was brilliant and magical.

    • I don’t doubt that it was ground breaking at the time. But I really do think they will have to sell this to people who never played EQ, or have mostly bad associations because it has come to represent a form of play they are happy to be moving away from — I mean, as I say, I loved DaoC but I don’t want to spend all evening sitting around and chatting while waiting for something to happen at the Albion Milegate any more.

      As far as the design goes, I think back then the ethos was more ‘lets throw lots of cool stuff into the game and see what players do with it.’ Now MMO makers are going for a more sculpted player experience. There were some great great things about emergent play in EQ and I wish more devs would take those chances but truth is that today’s game guarantee a certain level of fun for every player and I’m not sure how many people are ready to give that up, if they really think about what it would mean. (Poor balance, grouping classes that are really rubbish soloers, etc.)

      • I agree that eventually SOE got carried away with EQ in that it ended up appealing almost exclusively to the hardcore raiders. I lamented this in my 2004 Open Letter to SOE which was widely read back then. In fact, in that letter I advocated for more of a casual friendly MMO and called SOE on the carpet for many silly and stupid design decisions that alienated gamers. EQ ended up being a runaway train that really got away from SOE.

        However, SOE really got it right with the original EQ. They created a compelling,addictive and cohesive experience that was the result of many years of this formula being perfected in MUDS. Also, what SOE accomplished as far as creating a community based on group interdependence has never been equaled by WoW or any other MMO. It’s commonly agreed by most MMO veterans that the quality of the community in WoW is atrocious.

        If the quality of the community no longer matters because accessibility is more important then what is the point of being part of a massively multii-player online world?

        My issue with MMOs like WoW is that they have gone too far in the other direction. They have created a heavily scripted and designer directed on-the-rails amusement park experience where there is almost no opportunity for player freedom and expression that allows for players to define their own experiences and memories. The players are essentially the puppets of the game designers. WoW and MMOs like it offer almost no chance for emergent behavior due to the heavily controlled and scripted game elements.

        Stop and think for a moment: Why is it that everyone who raids in Wrath of the Lich King is obsessed with killing Arthas?

        The answer is that players are told that they have to. There is no possibility for players to think for themselves and leave the rails. Sadly companies like Blizzard have let the inadequacies and shortcomings of the general population dictate their game design.

        Arthas must die and that’s all there’s to it. It’s like players have become children that must do as their told. But once Arthas dies, then what? Somehow players accept the in-congruence and absurdity of it all.

        MMOs like WoW will always be here for players that want their hands held and their fragile egos massaged with false heroism. But for some of us, that’s not enough. We want worlds with more freedom and challenge and worlds where community really matters.

        Obviously SOE can’t go back to the original EQ formula for EQ3. As you indicated, players *expect* a certain injection of “fun” and instant gratification (heroism) in their MMOs these days. They also expect a highly polished world. Still SOE can do all these things and inject their own EQ magic into the formula — if they are smart.

      • I wish them luck with it. But you are demonstrating why they have a lot of work to do if they want to sell this idea to people who are not already sold on EQ as the best thing ever.

        I remember hearing about EQ raid guilds which had guild leaders who made Pol Pot look tame. People were proud of the trivial things for which applicants would be rejected (like not doing exactly what you were told at all times). There were downsides to that community which players brush over. And I say this as an alumni of a game of the same era which also encouraged grouping and may have had an even better community because the whole realm was encouraged to band together. Also, for all we talk about players not having their hands held, I do seem to remember that levellers tended to congregate on the same spots (otherwise you couldn’t have grouped).

        I’m sure there is room for a niche game that caters to hardcore raiders. EQ birthed that playstyle so this could be that game — but does SOE want a niche game? That’s what I’m not yet sure. And I think you may need a fair amount of hardcore bias in the game to get people to spend enough time together that they form these great communities in the first place.

        I do however miss the more sandbox type of game, it was great for roleplayers (another game style that modern MMOs don’t really support, and I think they could do better.)

        (Having said that, can I just say that my WoW guild/ alliance are actually a great bunch :P )

    • That you don’t have the drive, or indeed perhaps creativity to see past the on-rails design isn’t something to blame the game for ;)

  2. Let me replace EQ with UO (Ultima Online) and say how far more advanced it is than anything new on the market. ;) I am actually not kidding, comparing housing in LOTRO and ship interiors in STO to housing in UO and the nonexistant housing in WoW makes me cringe. Plus a lot more item-player-world-interaction.

    But it is true, EQ became the basis for almost every new MMO.

    -> I claim it was not the mechanics that made EQ great, like the trinity, the level based advancement and combat mechanics.

    Yet this was what a ton of new MMOs copied, and what Wolfshead loves, the rigorous gameplay and sense of community somewhat got lost in the process. Basically a copy of the exterior, not of the interior and true redeeming qualities of EQ.

    As Euro and German it was hard to play and pay EQ, I know a few Germans but far more British players who did it. We rather played Ultima Online and later on many switched to Dark Age of Camelot.

    DAOC had a strong lore background, Arthurian and Norse legends. Guess what, I never really played a Hibbie because I did not care much for their myths! :) And the PvP system is probably still the best compromise. Nowadays it is all instanced mass brawl, take a look at WoW, GW, LOTRO – I still claim most of these MMOs would do better without PvP, together, not against each other, but that’s me.

    In terms of PvP DAOC offered something meaningful that was connected to the world, and you could chose if you participate or not. Not that instanced arenas or battlegrounds that are ideally played with pvp only skills and builds and gear.

    “EQ Next” will be an re-imagining. I think EQ oldies will love their old gods return, but I bet they will change for a new audience that does not know the old EQ. EQ’s Pantheon does not have the background and appeal of LOTR or Arthurian Legends or whatever, and neither does Ultima Online anymore. Who still knows Lord British and is younger than 20?

    “Story” is named by Bioware as a pillar of their upcoming SWTOR. SWTOR has a huge and popular well known IP behind it, the whole Star Wars Universe. But they don’t need to tell so much their story, the SW Universe already is a huge and fascinating background story.

    GW2 will have some novels about the universe, but this cannot compare. ArenaNet has to create their own universe, and Guild Wars did that nicely, though it is probably not known outside of gamer circles. 38 Studios does the same with their games Amalur and Copernicus, even if most players nowadays are RPG averse, they do love a cool background of their game.

    Anyways, seems SWTOR seems to become something like the Star Wars version of WoW, good for many, not what I personally am looking for.
    EverQuestNext (EQN) … too early to speculate much about it. I think it will not be as much based on Free Realms as I immediately thought after seeing the first screenshots.

    I personally hope to convince all MMO interested gamers of the world to play Guild Wars 1 and 2! And if I don’t manage to make you fall madly in love with 1, I will at least hype you up enough to drag you all into GW2! :)

  3. I agree about DAoC. If the visuals were not dated, and after having felt some of this Realm vs Realm style of PvP in WAR…I would kill for an update there (DAoC 2 would have my cash).
    EQ Next does not excite me because most of it is disjointed. From EQ to EQ2,…there just does not feel like there is a connection between them…and that finally turned me off to it.

    This line though really turns me off to anything EQ Next
    “We haven’t even decided on raid and group sizes.”…WTF. With Guild Wars 2 taking the current genre and trying to turn it on it’s heels…this just seems dated just like EQ. Endgame is back to the same old grind for SOE.

  4. (Fairly unrelated question, but if you people love your original MMOs so much, why do’t you go play them and stop trying to change the current playerbase and games to suit your playstyle and preferences?)

    Part One: Attacking Wolfshead’s point

    I steadfastly refuse to believe the hype Wolfshead and people like him build up about the original EQ, although at least he makes his points with a degree of intelligence rather than genuinely just insulting people who come from a different era and way of thinking (well, actually, his earlier comment, on reflection, gets rid of that plus point but hey ho.)

    Is it really the gold standard? Really? Apart from people who harp on about their rose-tinted, age-old memories of their glorious first few months/years in EQ1, I have yet to see a genuine, thought-provoking piece where someone systematically goes through EQ1s features (as they are in the real world, not as they are in your head) and explains why it’s the best, what made it so great and why it’s the benchmark for years to come.

    Also, as per usual your systematic failure to understand accessibility and easy to learn, hard to master make your points basically a worthless bashing of WoW, its developers and playerbase, so kudos to you for saying nothing at all in a fair few words.

    The shameless ripoff is a pretty arbitrary statement, considering that everyone has to draw their inspiration from somewhere. Where better than the market leader, to refine and polish upon what they started? If the original developers can’t do that with their own sequel, then you can be sure as hell someone will.

    Finally, the “somehow.” Can’t explain it, eh? That leads me to…

    Part Two: @Spinks and First MMO Syndrome (I have no idea if syndrome is even a usable word in the context, but hey, it sounds like a grand theory!)

    You pointed out the key cornerstone of my argument in the op, where you said that a) DaoC was your first MMO and b) you’d go to a second (but faithfully recreated) version in a heartbeat. In fact, the key point is this:

    —>First MMO<—

    Any time you experience something for the first time, you bet that experience is either going to be something magical, or something that drives you away for good. For a lot of people, it seems EQ1 did the former. But you know what? It's not only EQ1. Anyone's first MMO is going to do that. Be it DaoC, UO, EQ2 or (shudder) WoW. Everyone will have that same magical feeling, those magical memories of the first time they were truly engrossed into a world without stats, without the knowledge of grind or raiding, but with the simple joy of discovering something totally new to them.

    Needless to say, anyone who's played an MMO has changed since those first days/weeks/months. Stats and the like have all become common knowledge, something to look at and work towards etc etc. The point of all this? The only way people are going to recapture their memories of EQ1 are not by playing a "re-imagining," but by playing something totally different, something that deviates so profoundly from the MMO norm that there's no one to document it, no one to tell you how to do X and Y, you simply learn as you go along.

    Truly, anyone who blames a developer for bringing the downfall of MMOs is the embodiment of hypocrisy: the players have only themselves to blame.

    • I said I’d go back to DaoC 2, not that I’d stay there :) But honestly, the setting was superb (Arthurian myth trumps just about any fantasy IP ever created), the PvP was fun and engaging, and if they could keep the good bits and update the old fashioned game mechanics then I think it would rock.

      Mythic missed a trick by only having two factions in WAR, really. And I liked WAR, I did see design elements that I liked and remembered fondly.

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