I’m not sure if I missed the boat (heh heh heh, some of you will get it) on this one or if it’s entirely new. Has there been any more discussion after February about the possibility of EQ3? I know SoE was/is hiring a lead designer for their “flagship” title but I haven’t heard anything else. Anyway, Tipa from WK has a blog entry today urging people to start talking about EQ3 now that SoE’s latest pop culture sensation is about to hit the www. She made a statement that I found myself nodding in agreement with: “I came into this genre playing EverQuest, and I’ll leave it playing EverQuest”. I feel the same way — whether it be in spirit or from a ‘tomorrow never comes’ perspective — and that causes me to stop and think about what direction I would take the next EQ. I’m not really going to turn this into an entry detailing the exact game I want, but more of a rough outline and approach.
I tend to raise this question whenever people get nostalgic: What made it (in this case EQ) so special? Was it the timing, the newness, the gameplay, or what? I think the simplest way to put it is that EQ was the sum of its parts. Whatever EverQuest 3 does, it can not alter the sum of its parts too drastically or it will fail to be EverQuest. Tipa isn’t alone in thinking that what hurt EQ2 so badly was that it had too much EQ. I believe quite the opposite though. I believe it was a combination of diverging too far from the original EQ, making changes that were not thought out or feasible at the time for the sake of change, as well as making a game that could not compete with its competitors at the time who were striking out to steer the industry in a new direction. If we think of “EQ” not as the game itself but as an essence of what the original EQ was to the genre when it launched, that is what EQ2 lacked when I say it didn’t have enough EQ.
What does EverQuest 3 need to succeed? I’m in the camp that could have been happy with the Vanguard that was promised as the new EQ3. I say could have because I think we need to bring some of the concepts into the present, and add on a layer of “next-gen’y” goodness, but I think overall the same sort of idea can make a good EQ3. The ‘Vanguard that was promised’ was going to deliver something that we still do not have today. I’m not advocating that we live in the past or anything, but I think keeping an eye to the future while bringing along good ideas is still acceptable. Obviously EQ3 should not be a PvP oriented game, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring back the pvp ruleset servers of old. Boats, vast cities, open world (not necessarily sandbox), group oriented, a rethought out death penalty, player cities, biiiiig monsters and raids, lots of gear (but not a treadmill), alternate forms of character progression instead of or on top of a level system, prestige classes and features of this ilk could be looked at.
I’ll oppose the idea of stepping too far out of the boundaries of traditional MMO design. I think tying all the EQ games together, or adding mini-games, or streamlining it for console/multi-platforming, and other alterations are wrong. Going sci-fi, action oriented, or in another new direction aren’t right either. I guess I’m a MMORPG purist when it comes to certain things. Let’s look at the definition of purist: A purist is one who desires that a particular item remain true to its essence and free from adulterating or diluting influences. Every game trying to be better than something else, or to be like something else that it’s not, or one that tries to take too big a leap forward ends up being awkward.
EQ3 needs to shake the foundation not by being outright revolutionary, but by being alarmingly evolutionary. It needs to remain pure enough not to disturb the equilibrium of tradition, but at the same time be new. It needs to feel like EverQuest, but not feel like its a remake. I know that I’m asking for perfection. Honestly, it’s going to take a near perfect attempt to replicate the success. It’s inevitable that so long as the servers for EQ and EQ2 remain open that an EQ3 would be splitting the playerbase and competing with the others, but there isn’t any other way around it.
EverQuest is what it is because it is EverQuest. We can’t forget that.