25 Questions I would have Asked the Daybreak Developers at the FoH EverQuest AMA

Last month the admins of the Fires of Heaven discussion forums organized a long overdue EverQuest AMA (ask me anything) question and answer session for a handful of Daybreak Games developers.

For almost 20 years, the FOH forums have been a no holds barred haven of not so polite rants and raves about the MMORPG industry from EverQuest players. Back in the heyday of EverQuest, Fires of Heaven was the name of an EverQuest guild run by Alex “Furor Planedefiler” Afrasiabi. Now a creative director for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Alex was known for his merciless but on-point rants against the management and developers of Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) who ran EverQuest.

Afrasiabi, along with another prolific EQ guild leader turned WoW dev Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan, bloggers Scott “Lum the Mad” Jennings and Steve “Moorgard” Danuser launched the first wave of video game consumer rights activism as they regularly exposed the shenanigans and incompetence that was rife at SOE as they stumbled and bumbled along their journey producing additional expansions for EverQuest.

Today, the FOH forums are one of the last outposts where people can share their frank opinions about the state of the MMO industry. The venerable FOH forums have existed in various incarnations over the years with a solid crew of foul-mouthed regulars who relive the good old days of EverQuest circa 1999-2004.

One of the highlights of the forums over the years has been the infamous Hall of Shame known as the “Retard Rickshaw” where the most preposterous and insane forum threads live on in eternal shame.

I need to give kudos to the FOH admins for organizing the AMA because the tenured Daybreak Games devs hidden away in their non-descript industrial park bunker in metro San Diego don’t do many interviews. These days EQ is largely forgotten in the video game zeitgeist, like that creepy old man who lives at the end of your street in a house with overgrown grass and cars sinking into the ground.

As an aside, while on vacation in California, this loyal EQ fan for 20 years visited their headquarters unannounced hoping to buy some souvenirs and was told by a stern security guard at the lobby that unless I had an appointment I was not welcome. Fair enough. So much for completing my life-long quest of finally seeing the headquarters where my beloved EverQuest was made. Back when I was a volunteer Senior guide, SOE would give tours of their facility to guides who were in San Diego.

Despite a handful of silly questions posted during the AMA, there were a few excellent questions put to the Daybreak Game devs. The best one being the following:

45. Why has the EverQuest IP been left to fade away into oblivion?

Now that Blizzard is showing cracks in the armor, and the MMO space is super-dry, how about you announce right here that EQ3 is in production?

Why isn’t the EQ franchise being capitalized on, like Blizzard has done with their IPs. So much potential, memorable characters, themes, lands, etc. I loved the EQ world up until the aliens showed up(GOD/OOW). Sad to see a world I spent a good portion of my young adult life in go to waste.

But what struck me the most is that the AMA was largely a wasted opportunity to delve deeper into the mindset and philosophy of the existing devs.

25 Supplemental Questions for the EverQuest Devs

Here are 25 questions I would have asked the EQ devs:

  1. How many Daybreak Games developers are actively playing on EverQuest live servers?
  2. How many hours a week do they play on average?
  3. How many hours a week do they spend raiding?
  4. What classes do they play?
  5. How many Daybreak Games developers are actively playing on EverQuest TLP servers?
  6. When is the last time an EQ dev completed an epic quest on a play character?
  7. When is the last time an EQ dev completed the Veeshan’s Peak 1.0 key quest on a play character?
  8. Why haven’t the EQ devs implemented a first to engage mechanic that is currently being used by other MMORPGs like World of Warcraft?
  9. How many Krono are sold by Daybreak Games every month?
  10. How many Krono does the average TLP player purchase each month?
  11. How much Daybreak cash does the average TLP player purchase each month?
  12. How much revenue does the DGB Cash Shop bring in every month?
  13. Do you believe that players should be able to pay to win in a MMORPG?
  14. How is selling Krono to players not a pay to win scheme?
  15. Describe an average workday for an EQ developer.
  16. How much time do EQ developers spend each day reading the forums and getting feedback from the EQ community?
  17. How many full-time developers are working on EverQuest?
  18. How many developers are actively assigned to EverQuest live servers?
  19. How many developers are actively assigned to EverQuest TLP servers?
  20. Live quests and dynamic events such as invasions were part of the classic EverQuest experience from 1999-2004. Why isn’t Daybreak running these events anymore on live and TLP servers?
  21. What EQ feature, mechanic or content that you designed are you the proudest of?
  22. What are some of the biggest design mistakes made by the EQ dev team over the years?
  23. Why was the EverQuest Play Nice Policy abandoned?
  24. What are the design pillars of EverQuest?
  25. Describe your ultimate fantasy MMORPG.

Bonus question: Given the meteoric success of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, what lessons did that teach you about MMO production and design if any?

One of the general themes in many of my questions is questioning whether the DGB devs actually play their own game. I suspect that most do not and that is the root of the many problems that are plaguing EQ. If most of the devs were to walk a mile in the shoes of a typical player, you can bet things would be fixed quickly.

If you care about EQ then you should be playing EQ.

I have it on very good authority that one of the visionaries of the MMORPG genre doesn’t even play MMORPGs anymore. So it would be no shock for me to learn that most of the EQ dev team doesn’t even play either.

Would you eat at a restaurant where the chef doesn’t eat his own food?

Conclusion

Rarely do players ever get a chance to question the devs with the reasonable expectation of an answer. So the Fires of Heaven AMA was a rare and wonderful opportunity to lift the veil of secrecy of how the MMO sausage machine works.

For those of us who are die-hard EQ devotees, we’ve always held a special kind of reverence for MMO devs. MMO devs are not like video game devs; whether we like it or not, MMO devs are more like gods as they control every aspect of life and death in a virtual world. But in reality, devs are just people like you and me with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes.

MMO players are not like regular video game players. Being a part of a virtual world is a lifestyle. Since we pay a monthly subscription fee, we are financially and emotionally invested in the virtual world experience. Many players spend hundreds of dollars a year on MMOs like EverQuest. It is only natural that we expect our concerns to be seriously evaluated.

Are the EQ devs the very best MMO devs in the world? Probably not. They are not the worst either. Over the years Sony Online Entertainment promoted from within and rarely hired from without. This is a common practice among Japanese companies that SOE and now DGB seems to have inherited. In the long run, I believe this has hurt EverQuest and it was often mentioned as a problem in Glassdoor reviews of SOE.

For better or worse, we are stuck with the current team of devs. The EQ devs are people too but with thicker skins (AC +10) and I believe they are trying to do their best given the limitations imposed on them by their corporate overlords at Daybreak Games. I hope these devs will continue to keep EQ alive and glean some insight into their own community by way of the Fires of Heaven AMA.

–Wolfshead

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