There hasn’t been a MMO like EverQuest since EverQuest. Let’s not get lost in the semantics by saying that WoW is like EQ because they’re all “diku” or whatever. EQ2 comes close, mind you, but even the developers acknowledged that they are two quite different games.
The discussions here over the past few days have been aimed at the new EverQuest Next project. We already know that the developers want to rekindle the familiar EQ feel (which itself encompasses art direction, world, lore, etc) but as a relaunch.
SoE devs have also stated quite clearly that they know players talk at great length about what made EQ so great. Everything from how wonderful the world was to the death penalty — but then a statement was made about EQ Next. They want the memories of EQ Next to be about positives, not negatives.
My understanding of that statement leads me to believe that they want to do away with the harshness of the original EQ. The death penalty where you lose experience and must recover your body is probably out. The harsh leveling curve is also probably out. I’m not sure if they’re planning to change the group-centric nature, but EQ was also very solo friendly for certain classes… so I’m torn on that.
Let’s not even bother with the negatives or a discussion about how they may or may not have been good for the game. I want to focus solely on the positives of EQ and how they alone have still not been duplicated.
These positives are truly just the beginning. There are a lot more specific mechanics that we could talk about, but why bother going any deeper when developers aren’t even paying attention to the basics?
The World – “You’re in our world now.”
Hands down the most important feature of EverQuest. The world was big, open, and more powerful as an entity than the individual player. You just felt the natural need to group with people, even if you found a place that you could solo. It was also dangerous, unrelenting in some areas (that you didn’t have to go to if you didn’t want), and begging you to adventure off the beaten path.
It would be wonderful to play in a big world again. Vanguard did quite well with this, but it simply wasn’t finished (the zones were empty or useless). A dangerous world and a diverse world (not just in looks but in feel and purpose) would also be welcome.
Factions – A subset of the world
I’ve chosen to include this as a subset of the world. The faction system in EQ created geographic domains for certain races. The humans of one city, the elves of another, etc. allowed players to create sub-communities that they could interact with. This gave players the opportunity to explore beyond them and created diversity and choice. Dark Elves may have been evil and KoS in the human city, but they could work on being eventually liked and tolerated enough to enter.
Fewer classes are better. For a long time I, along with many others, would look at a game with more classes and drool because “woah, they have 16 classes!” It didn’t take long to realize that this brought more trouble than it was worth. Less is more. Fewer classes means that each class has a defined role. The classes have identities and you’re not struggling to figure out which classes you need and don’t need, or what classes are supposed to fill what roles. A mage is a mage, a bard is a bard, etc.
Fewer classes also makes balancing easier for PvP and allows each class a much broader array of abilities so that the individual feels like there is more available to customize, strive for, specialize, etc.
This concept is gone completely now’days. EQ, DAOC, and Vanguard had them and they were wonderful. Open-world dungeons create a sense of community and local player interaction. The problem with instances is that it encourages your community to shrink and stop interacting beyond the group level.
By having all groups and all players within a dungeon have to coordinate, share, work together, and simply exist at the same time in the world is so beneficial. Why doesn’t this happen anymore? Throw in a few cinematic instanced experiences in the game if necessary and I don’t think that it would hurt anything either.
Grouping is beneficial
I’m not saying that one should be forced to group. I was never forced to group in EQ. I chose to group because it benefited me. Just like you’re forced to group in WoW to do an instance, you were forced to group in EQ to go into dungeons. No difference.
Imagine what a game would be like though if grouping for other things became beneficial. Since the world could offer more dangerous perils and adventures if it were like an EQ world, so too could it offer the opportunity to take advantage of them with others. Group exp bonuses and fun content is really all people need as incentive. Groups create community, and groups were everywhere in EQ.
Here’s world outside dungeon-like regions work really well. Imagine you’re on the path and see a really dark forest. It’s dense and you really can’t see what’s on the other side. You start to venture forth and you see monsters too tough to solo. You grab some friends and kill your way in deeper. Soon the forest opens up and reveals a vast chasm or tear in the world. Gnolls have infested the area and you can see their platforms and ladders leading down into the depths. Do you dare work your way in?
You don’t get that kind of experience solo or without the OPPORTUNITY to benefit from grouping.
Focus on the Journey, not just the Destination
In EverQuest it was all about your character and his/her progression through the world as you undertake one adventure after another. You were working on improving your character and becoming higher level, but there was (at least for the first few years) little emphasis on reading the max level.
With so many places to go, so many neat dungeons or zones to see, and so much to discover that could benefit your character, it never felt to me like I was racing to the end-game for anything. Games are not designed anymore where they treat level 20 with just as much importance as level 50.
Why should the low level content be any less important to the development and impact on the player as the highest level raid? That’s just it, they shouldn’t.
Do you know why I have so many fond memories of EQ? It’s because real memories were created every day, in every zone, with every new group of people I met. If you ask me today what my memories of WoW are it’s probably raiding that first comes to my mind.
It’s not all about the Quest
Questing is great. I’d love if it were more about big epic quests than kill ten rats but let’s not lose sight of keeping it positive. In addition to questing, why not allow for the outside dungeon experiences, open-world dungeons, and simply killing mobs in groups to be just as beneficial? No reason it can’t be. No reason to make the entire questing experience forgettable by just having it be WoW’s style of questing. Also no reason to get rid of the WoW type quests if people want them.
That’s plenty for now.
Can anyone tell me what it is about the above features or mechanics that would be classified as old-school or unwanted by today’s generation of players? What would make the above so terrible that one would dismiss them as “niche” and not something that developers could pitch to their investors who want big subscription numbers?
I think they could be mainstream selling points and features. Nothing that I’ve just shared is a negative feature. These are all features or mechanics from the EQ generation (many in DAOC too) that have not been adopted by today’s MMO developers.
Modernize these roots and add to them, but don’t sacrifice them. I can’t think of a single good reason to leave these out and I’m beginning to think it’s a lack of vision, talent, or a case of laziness that is steering developers towards the McMMO.
These would be the roots and foundation of my ideal EverQuest Next. This fundamental foundation creates a strong community, a world that feels huge but connects the players to each other and the geography, and a diverse game that can attract and satisfy the needs of a much larger demographic.