EverQuest 3 (Next): A Beacon of Capitalism

EverQuest Online Adventures MapSOE takes a lot of crap from the MMO community.  They’ve made some huge, epic, mistakes in the past.  I’m not entirely convinced their emphasis on “F2P” is altogether sane, and I’m already fearing for EverQuest 3 / EverQuest Next.  More on that in a second, though.  That said, they’ve done a ton of great things for us as well.

John Smedley has been shouting to just about anyone who will listen how SOE helped create this rut when they introduced EQ.  Although he sounds a bit odd doing it, he’s totally right.  SOE did change things forever with the original EverQuest and the state of games today has been largely influenced by them.

I’ve been brainstorming with my friends to find a game we can all play together.  We want something that isn’t a themepark, something older with a lot of content, and perhaps something that won’t cost us a lot of money.   Interestingly enough, 4/6 games we identified were SOE games.  Chances are, we’ll be playing one.

I’m worried about Smedley’s ideas that F2P games are the end-all be-all.

“Free-to-play is just too good of an idea,” […] “The idea is just so simple. It democratizes and capitalizes, makes true capitalism out of the MMO gaming space.” -Smedley

I’m just not seeing your vision, John.  That sounds like the type of business talk that’s killing MMORPG’s.  I’m worried that EQ3 will have a ridiculous cash shop and be some F2P model.  Actually, I -know- that EverQuest 3 will be F2P.  I’m praying that SOE can pull through for me and once again innovate or revolutionize the MMO space.  They did it once, they still have many properties actively engaging players like myself, and all I can do is pray for the future to be worth the wait.  I can’t fall into a negative tailspin and think how there hasn’t been a single quality-driven F2P game.  They all compete on price, and once they all hit zero there’s no where else to go.

  • I like John Smedley, I think he’s an interesting guy for the position that he’s in. He seems to genuinely possess the inexplicably rare ability to see and acknowledge the obvious reality of our hobby. Or perhaps it just seems that way to me, because he’s looking at things from my point of view. Either way, I feel encouraged and that’s a good place to start.

    I also like that he’s willing and excited to make games for audiences outside of the one, theoretical, all-encompassing mass. I understand that that is a fundamental necessity for me, personally, to get a game that’s more up my alley. So I really appreciate that, too.

    His insistence on free to play business models is… I’ll give it an interesting. I’ve not been a fan in the past. I’ve even been principally opposed. I’ve also gotten a lot of enjoyment out of dota2 and planetside2. That’s a far from perfect comparison, though – we all know how complex a good mmorpg can be. I do think he’s coming at free to play from a good direction though. The article that (I’m guessing) you read did seem a little awkward, but I caught a similar one the other day at PCGamer that actually helped me appreciate where he’s coming from. (it was on december 14th if you’ve interest, not sure what your policy is on direct links)

    so all in all I’m feeling optimistic. like you said, SOE has done a lot for our hobby. EQ was a chance that Smed took and it changed many of our lives. planetside 2 says he still has the balls to see an unfulfilled demand and take a chance on it with a quality game. so yeah, I’ll take the optimism. it’s a nice place to be.

  • As long as games keep the paid content to purely aesthetic and pure sidegrades, I’m ok with it. This is the case with LoL and somewhat with Planetside 2. Hopefully the trend will continue with EQ3.

  • I am kind of scare how a cash shop with a sandbox game. Sandbox games require a very artful mix of gaming systems working together> Ripping some of those systems out and turning them into motentization machines seems like it will hurt a sandbox a lot more than a themepark.

  • Everquest Next most definitely warrants discussion, however the sandbox environment in games aiming for a larger audience is devolving steadily – the barriers to entry (in terms of aquiring a capable character) are lowered and the roughness of what one would sometimes expect to be a very hostile environment is ameliorated.

    I earlier struck a blow for Mortal Online and would like to do so again, the game now has a generous f2p model and the community is surprisingly helpful and warm, while the harsh gameworld and rogue section of the playerbase make the world feel like a truly unreliable place. This game is going the way of EVE in the small initial playerbase and steadily evolving world with increasing complexity, the development taking place in a two-way conversation between the developer (StarVault) and the tight-knit veteran community along with an enthusiastic new playerbase.

    I’m sure I am not the only one to be curious, what six titles did you and your friends agree upon?

  • SOE: Breaking the MMO genre since 1999!

    Also how is buying weapons/gear in PS2 not P2W, or at least pay for more power sooner? The different guns are better, and the upgrades you can buy are huge. Sure, you can grind to all of that eventually, but you do so playing gimped around those who have paid.

  • Smed may be a gamer, but he’s also a suit that is interested in nothing but making the most money possible. If you need any evidence of this, just look at what has been done to all their MMO titles over the last 5 years, and their newest baby, PS2.

    IMO those two persona reasonably can’t co-exist in the same person, at least not with the gamer portion retaining much credability when ‘passion’ is brought up. It’s basically the same way Mike Morhaime has fallen a few notches as the head of blizzard since they’ve been turned into money-whore mode by Activision.

  • I base my opinion on SOE, and by implication Smed, on my own experience, not what I read. The plain facts are that when I first decided to buy, play and subscribe to an MMO back in 1999 I chose Everquest and it’s a decision I have never regretted. Moreover, of all the MMOs I’ve ever played, which is a lot, SoE made two of my top five and published (and saved) a third – EQ, EQ2 and Vanguard.

    Payment models are just not interesting. We all talk about them all the time because talking about them *is* interesting, to a degree, but when it comes to playing the game it’s either good or it’s not. EQ/EQ2/Vanguard were great MMOs when I had to pay a sub and they stayed great when they went F2P.

    Exactly the same will apply to EQNext – either it will be a good game and I’ll play it for years or it won’t and I won’t. I realize that my personal playstyle means the “play to win” issues that exercise some people are of little or no concern to me. So be it. That’s my good fortune. All MMOs are stuffed with things I don’t like – I just avoid them. So long as there enough things I *do* like, why would I care about the bits I don’t?

    My main concerns over EQNext is whether SoE will still exist as a business by the time it’s ready to launch and whether there will still be a suitable platform (the PC) left to play it on.

  • @SynCaine: As someone who has already put in over 130 hours into Planetside 2, I have to disagree. You don’t pay for more power sooner. You can pay to establish a different role sooner. For example, I can pay a few bucks to get the second Burster for my MAX, which lets me be a more lethal anti-air soldier. On the other hand, outfitting myself with two anti-air cannons makes me exceptionally weak against both infantry and ground armor. Yes, I can play that role sooner than someone who unlocks it via certifications, but that doesn’t make me more “powerful.”

    The same can be said for a lot of the different guns. You might purchase a gun that has better range or stopping power, but terrible fire rate and reload time. Does that make you more powerful? Maybe it does at range, against someone of the exact same class using a close range weapon, but that’s the way any FPS works.

    The biggest downside to the F2P model in PS2 isn’t that purchased weapons make you powerful. It’s that they are constantly doing weapon balance changes, so you might purchase a gun because it’s supposed to be great at long range and then they swoop in and mess with its stats. The end result is that you paid for something you wanted and then it was altered without offering a refund.

  • I’ll echo Alex’s sentiment from a different perspective. Planetside 2’s cash shop has yet to get in my way. I haven’t put a lot of time in PS2 yet. It launched during my busiest time of year where I do the least gaming. However, I’ve put in enough time to know that I am not at a disadvantage to anyone. What little time I put in has been enough for me to unlock “the best” weapons in a role. Paying would just save time unlocking a different role.

    If EverQuest 3’s cash shop is like Planetside 2’s cash shop currently is at 8:40am PST on December 19, 2012 then I won’t have a problem.

    @Bhagpuss: Like I said, SOE has more games that I want to play than anyone else. I think they’ll do fine. PS2 has also been a great success for them and introduced a ton of people to the company, starting them out on a good path. SOE will be fine.

    @Darkstryke: There’s a difference between good business, and doing business to get as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. A good business person can be a passionate gamer, but someone who is bad at business (money hungry, sacrifices everything to cash grab)can’t co-exist.

    @Lumos: I like to remind people that Darkfall, Mortal Online, and EVE aren’t the only sandboxes out there. They don’t have to have huge barriers to entry or have a terrible, toxic, or aggressive community.

    We were thinking about EQ1, EQ2, Vanguard, SWG, UO, and AC2. We also considered DCUO. We’re at the point where we’re willing to go back and play an older game.

  • I really hope EQ3 turns out well but I’m old and jaded enough to not get my hopes up anymore. I’ve been disappointed too many times and played too many 3-monthers (or often 1-monthers). These days I’m quite happy to take the 30-day approach and see if people are subscribing after their “free” 30 days are up. Many of my friends who used to enjoy MMOs have all but given up on the genre completely.

    I understand why the business model is changing but I don’t like it. One of the appealing things about an MMO for me is that everyone starts on equal footing, and everyone has to put the same effort in to acquire things. When you introduce real money into it then the game world just becomes a reflection of the real world. The wealthy have it easy and those who can’t afford to spend money have to work harder. Again, I understand the reasons why the industry has shifted this direction, I just don’t like it. I’ve watched my co-workers dump thousands (literally) on Allods. They have more money than time and for them this kind of model works great.

    I recently returned to EQ a couple weeks ago. I hadn’t played since shortly after Luclin released. Once I was able to look past the dated graphics and antiquated UI (with help from Sparxx UI on eqinterface.com) I’m finding that many of the aspects that I loved about EQ back then are still present today. The game has changed a lot but it’s still EQ and I’m enjoying my time in Norrath again.

  • I just fired up DCUO again the other day for the first time in a few months and have been having a ton of fun. It is by no means the most complex MMO but I love the combat and my love of comics only adds to my enjoyment. I find it is a very fair F2P system for the most part. The only issue I have with the F2P restrictions are the currency cap. On more then one occasion I have wanted to purchase an auction item but been unable to due to my cap limit. Even after buying a bit of DLC a player still has a 2000 limit on currency which shuts them out of higher level auctions.

  • The B2P model a la GW2 and F2P model a la PS2 I have been fine with so far. If developers can come up with payment models that do not affect the game in terms of designing content that forces players to buy from the cash shop, then I do not have a problem with it. The problem of course is the slippery slope with cash shops/payment models able to be changed in the blink of an eye.

    Overall, this is one reason why I still prefer the subscription model despite my good experiences with GW2 and PS2. There is something reassuring (for lack of a better word) about knowing I can just pay my $15 a month and get access to the full game, all of the content, etc., and not have to worry about this currency or that currency and whether it is worth $5 to me for another bag for a game might not play for more than a few months, etc.

    Where the F2P model really helps out sometimes though is when I have friends who want to play with me or even family members. People are reluctant to try games if they have to shell out for a box and subscription. Plus, it kinda sucks shelling out $45 a month for one game so my wife and son can play with me. Especially, when we might not be playing all that much during that particular month for example. This in addition to the fact that we are almost never unsubscribed from WoW since that seems to be our fallback MMO.

    So, I guess I am still a bit torn on the whole F2P/B2P vs. subscription thing.

    Regarding EQ Next, I am trying not to get too excited about it, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing what they can put together. I still go back to EQ1/Project 1999 from time to time and if they can create a game with a similar atmosphere, but improved graphics, UI, slicker combat, etc., then I think it could keep me interested for a long time.

  • I wonder what other payment models could be implemented…

    1. Specialty server costing $30-40 a month…

    2. A “designer” type of game where it generally costs $30-50 a month. Might only need a third of the subscribers to be competitve with a traditional subscriber model ($10-15 a month).

    3. F2P or B2P option combined with a Kickstarter type project where people pledge money for new features (upfront covering development costs for features, racking interest of features, people feel like they are part of the game and helped create it and may feel more involved with it) – could lead to faster development times?

  • Other than the F2P talk, he’s saying all the right things. EQ is still my favorite MMO ever, and I’m loving PS2. I didn’t really care for anything from SOE in between, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here and I’m following EQN with great interest.

    F2P, well, it can completely ruin immersion. My only hope is that there are no cosmetic items, only things like stat boosts that will not ruin the rpg experience for others.

  • Point of reference: The original EQ was made by Verant Interactive, headed by Brad McQuaid, which was subsequently bought by SoE after it’s initial success.

  • @Faine

    come on man, whether or not you like the guy or his company, you gotta give credit where it’s due. John Smedley pitched the concept for EQ. He got the funding to make it, and he hired Brad McQuaid and the rest of the team to create it. It’s all pretty well documented, there’s even a video documentary out there on it. It’s not fair to write Smedley or SOE out of it.

    the company name did change a few times, though. That does make it harder to follow.

  • @Alex and Keen: A fresh player jumps into the one-man tank; you are telling me his tank is just as powerful as someone who paid to get all the upgrades? And all those upgrades only amount to options, not power? Sorry, not from what I’ve seen. The ground transport vehicle has an upgrade to allow spawning; how is that an ‘option’? It’s pure power.

    The guns thing is the same. When you can dictate the combat scenario (close or ranged), having access to the best weapon for said scenario is power, not an option. A scope on a gun lets you aim better. Aiming better is not an ‘option’.

    This does not directly make PS2 a poor game, but suggesting that a game with a cash shop that sells items/upgrades that directly influence the outcome of play is not (at best) pay-to-advance is just dishonest.

  • @Syncaine: Powerful enough that he can stil kill the other player if he isn’t bad, yes. And just as powerful if he spends 3-5 hours of solid, efficient, time and spends his points to buy the upgrades on his tanks.

    The ground transport feature allowing transport takes literally (no exaggeration) 30 minutes to earn.

    Not all upgrades are created equal. I can take the first gun the engineer gets and slaughter someone with the best gun. Who shot first and didn’t miss is all that really matters. Take the Mosquito fighter jet though, put the rockets and flares on it, and it is REMARKABLY better. Those weapons can be earned in a few days, the flares can’t be bought with real money, and you can easily have those things in a decent amount of time.

  • ps2 does definitely have upgrades. scopes, grips, grenades, better armor, faster stealth recharge, laser sights, the ability to deploy your transport as a spawn location – they’re all upgrades, but you can’t buy any of those things with real money, you can only buy them with certification points. I think the most you can do to use your real money to get those upgrades is to buy an experience boost type consumable, which will allow you to earn certs faster. so it’s still there, but not nearly as directly as you’ve suggested.

    you can directly buy guns, though. (and cosmetics, like camo patterns or helmet variants) for that, it’s pretty much how Keen described – sidegrades that situationally excel at different roles. I guess it would be more powerful on a “meta” level to have a larger arsenal to choose from, but even then you’d have to earn all the certs to gear out each one and, of course, you can still only use one at a time.

    I’ve bought a couple of them. I like the game and I expect (and want) to pay them somehow for their product, personally. believe me, though, I get wrecked all the time by people using the “free” guns, heh

  • @Filch, you have your facts way mixed up:

    Smed joined Verant after Brad recruited him to work on EQ. THAT is very well documented. I have nothing against Smed at all, was just providing clarification.

  • really? that’s interesting and contradicts what I’ve read, but it’s not like I’m a historian on the matter. You have anything I could read on it? A quick perusal of wikipedia seems to back me up, but it’s not the most reliable source in the world.

  • @Keen: “Powerful enough that he can stil kill the other player if he isn’t bad, yes.”

    That actually confirms it’s power. If the players are equal in skill, the guy with the cash wins.

    I also think people downplay the cert grind (or grind them in a more efficient way, did not care enough for PS2 to min/max that aspect); they have paid boosters for a reason.

    Again, it does not make PS2 a bad game, but it does make it a game with a cash shop that sells (some level) of power. If we are going to rail against Allods and such for it, keep it fair here.

  • @Syncaine: What really makes the weapons more powerful are the scopes and things that cost certs and can’t be bought with real life money. The weapons really are role-changers, and not “upgrades” in the sense that they make you “better”.

    Bottom line, there’s no arguing that the cash shop sells a degree of ‘power’. That degree is so small, though, that it’s almost unnoticeable.

    The cert grind is hit or miss. If done “right” you can earn in 30 minutes what it could take 10 hours to earn. It’s all about being in a group that actively moves to defend or attack key points. There’s a learning curve to figure out how to go about being in the right place at the right time.

    @Faine: 989 Studios was originally working on EverQuest. 989 Studios was and is owned by Sony. The part of 989 making EQ broke off to form EverQuest. Later it was reacquired by Sony after Verant began working on SWG. That’s my understanding.

  • For those who have had the chance to play EVERQUEST back when the first Expansion KUNARK was released; you, along with myself, had the opportunity to play one of the most intricate, detailed and ‘Class Dependent’ MMO’s to ever EXIST.

    I think of my Classic EverQuest and it takes me back to place where you actually had to WORK and work HARD on your character to advance…. it was a game that actually gave back the time you put in.. not like some of the Click and Slash ARPGs that are out now where you hit a cap and the only thing to do was to farm for better upgrades…

    With EverQuest you would join an epic Guild… go on a 4-10 Hour Raid and Whichever guild got there first it was their Raid… none of this ‘lets make EVERYONE happy and make Instances …. yaaaaa instances… so EVERYONE can get EVERYTHING they ever wanted’ news flash thats not how life is so why preach it in a game…

    Okay okay I’m ranting so Let me finish and make direction come through with this post..

    Classic EverQuest WAS and always will BE the best PLAYER vs ENVIRONMENT game to ever exist…
    EQ was like riding a classic CAR back in the 60’s – 70’s … They Started it all and everything else is just an imitation…

    So to sum this up…
    I would LOVE a NEW EQ … but I am afraid that Classic EQ is like High School to most of us…. it was AWESOME ..we wish we could ALL GO BACK…but you CANT…

    The only way Sony / Whoever developes this game can break a Mold and compete the big cliche MMO’nowadays is to HUNT for that ‘FEELING’ and ‘GRIND’ and ‘STRUGGLE’ that EQ gave us…. there were no flying Griffons..there were Druids who ported, or you RAN YOUR ASS for 2 hours and hoped to god you didnt die…. bring back the FEAR, the Thrill of 1 single item and the class dependancy and I believe they might have something..

    I’ll always wait for the next EQ but it may never come.

    I hope it does though… someday 😉

    Nimundo Nel`Cray
    Enchanter (Retired)