Exciting news could be on the horizon for EverQuest fans, as Darkpaw Games appears to have a major announcement in the works. This information was revealed by Fading, a Darkpaw insider and YouTube content creator behind The EverQuest Show, in his latest video published on Feb. 23, 2023.
I’ve got his video cued to the pertinent part below:
Here’s the exact transcript from the video:
Fading: a little birdy tells me that there’s some other big news that’s arriving soon, but other than knowing that something is looming, I don’t have any info on exactly what it is yet — at least what I can tell you.
While Fading is relating this cryptic news, a video of EverQuest Next is playing in the background. EQ Next — an EverQuest meets Minecraft mashup MMO — was canceled in 2016. Needless to say, many EQ fans who wanted an updated version of EQ with newer technology were extremely disappointed with the premature cancellation and the lame excuse from Russel Shanks.
The fact that Fading included part of a promotional video for EQ Next is a hidden clue as to the nature of the announcement: a possible new version of EverQuest. Why else would he put a video of EQ Next if not to subliminally tease his viewers that something big is coming?
Will it be a Resurrected EverQuest Next or a New EverQuest?
One possibility is that Darkpaw is thinking of reviving EQ Next. I think it would only be feasible if they get back to the unique value proposition of the original EverQuest, dropped the horrible Disney graphics and the voxel nonsense, and instead focused on the dynamic content that was originally planned for the MMO. I have it from a reliable source that EQ Next boss Dave Georgeson, came up with the voxel idea after attending a Minecraft convention called “Minefest” and they told the entire team EQ Next would be voxel-based.
Fading is a creative person that likes to include video segments that bolster his narration. Case in point: when he starts talking about the impending rumor saying “a little birdie told me” he shows an Aviak — a birdlike creature in South Karana from EQ. His inclusion of EQ Next footage right after this was not a coincidence. Therefore I can safely assume this is going to be a new version of EverQuest and not just more EQ or EQ2 expansion news.
Over the past few years, I have been reporting on the future of EverQuest. I penned a number of articles that show that a significant amount of work has already been done by various people to lay the foundation for a new EverQuest.
Here are the Clues
So here we are in 2023 and the EverQuest franchise is in a state of hibernation or even abandoned. While both Everquest and EverQuest 2 manage to release nominal expansions each year, both MMOs are in maintenance mode with the studio doing the bare minimum for the maximum return. These days, most EQ developers are just going through the motions. Who can blame them if they know what they are doing is pointless as a new version of EQ is set to be released?
Let’s do a recap of all of the clues so far:
Clue 1: The Formation of Darkpaw Games
A few years ago Darkpaw was formed as a sub-studio in the Daybreak Games family to manage the EverQuest franchise. At the time, Holly Longdale indicated that there was something entirely new was planned for the EQ franchise.
Why would they bother to great a brand new studio just to manage the decline of two antiquated EverQuest titles?
Clue 2: Pre-Production work on EverQuest Lore by Brian R. James and Rob Chestney
Renowned lore expert Brian R. James was hired by Daybreak to curate and reimagine the existing canon of lore for EverQuest. This was an obvious attempt to lay the groundwork for a new expansion. Brian has made a few cryptic comments about this on his Twitter feed. I reported on this a while back.
Freelancer Bryan worked with Daybreak staffer Rob Chestney on EverQuest’s lore. Here’s what both had to say about each other’s work on the project:
There can be no doubt, they were both working on lore for a new EverQuest MMO.
Clue 3: John Smedley left Amazon Games for Something New
According to an internal email, John Smedley left Amazon Games a few months “…to do something new…”. Smedley is the co-founder of EverQuest. As I pointed out in a previous article, he seems like the logical choice to spearhead a new incarnation of EverQuest. He’s spent enough time away from the stifling SOE/Daybreak culture to gain a fresh new perspective that could really help the EQ franchise and finally create a true successor to his masterpiece EverQuest released in 1999.
Clue 4: EverQuest Evolutions is Still Live and Registered by the U.S. Trademark Office
In 2003, a compendium of EverQuest expansions was released under the title of EverQuest Evolution.
For some strange reason, that registered trademark is still live on the U.S. Patent Office registry:
Why keep alive a trademark that was used for a compilation release? Unless, it will be resurrected by Enad Global 7, Daybreak Games, and Darkpaw for a new version of EverQuest. Why is almost every other EverQuest trademark not been renewed?
When you think about it, the title EverQuest Evolution makes sense. It captures the some of hope and promise that EverQuest Next possessed.
For the 20th anniversary of EverQuest, then studio head at Darkpaw gave an interview to Variety to celebrate the milestone. Here are the final two paragraphs of the interview:
To that end, whatever is next for “EverQuest” will require players team up throughout the experience. Many contemporary MMOs support solo play, catering to a broader audience.
“That will never be us,” Longdale commits. “Whatever we do in the future, we’re going to embrace what we are. There’s 20 years of magic in there that’s sustaining. And we’ll mix something we think is the next evolution for EverQuest.”
The next evolution for EverQuest? What better title than EverQuest Evolution?
Clue 5: Fading’s Hint that a Big Announcement is in the Works
Fadings’s hint in his recent video is covered in this article. Fading is closely connected to Darkpaw Games. If anyone knows about what is coming it would most certainly be him.
Clue 6: Fading Just Started Producing Episodes of the EverQuest Show after a Long Hiatus
After taking a break for two years, Fading recently started creating more episodes of the EverQuest Show. Real news from Darkpaw, other than new expansions for both EQ and EQ2, has been underwhelming and predictable. But, if a new version of EverQuest is coming down the pike and Fading has some advanced knowledge about this, it makes sense for him to capitalize on this by resuming making videos for his YouTube channel.
Fading is the unofficial video publicist for the EQ franchise. He’s an EQ enthusiast who is never critical of Darkpaw and as a reward, he has been granted exclusive access to the studio and the developers who have been interviewed in his videos. I would not put it past Darkpaw to hire him in some promotional role for the new EQ. I think he’d be a great ambassador or even a product evangelist for the franchise.
I’ve written more about EverQuest and the design philosophy behind it than any other MMORPG. For me, it’s the gold standard by which all others — including Blizzard’s World of Warcraft — are measured.
If the EverQuest franchise is to survive and thrive, it needs a new Norrath where both old and new players can experience the magic all over again. It must be made into an experience that modern players will find palatable while not forgetting the design philosophy that made EQ uniquely compelling and socially cohesive. In order to succeed it will require state-of-the-art quality-of-life enhancements, modern code technology, design tools, art tools, and server technology.
Darkpaw Games has to change as well. The business-as-usual approach will not work. They need to modernize their archaic studio culture, expunge the bad habits that they inherited from Sony Online Entertainment, and start adopting industry-wide best practices that involve cutting-edge outreach to players via social media and streamers. The days of insular and irritable developers who have thinly veiled contempt for players that pay their salary is over. Darkpaw needs to embrace a gamers-first collaborative approach and gamer-centric philosophy and start reciprocating the passion and loyalty of their fans.
A new version of EverQuest must also learn an important lesson from WoW: for a virtual fantasy world to be financially viable, it needs to be accessible. This can be achieved by offering a truly inclusive world where all play styles and skill levels are valued, promoted, and treated with the utmost respect. Everyone should be welcome in a new Norrath.
As players, we all experience different life situations that decrease and increase the demands on our leisure time. A new EverQuest needs to respect that. Players should be able to change lanes on their journey through Norrath. The slow lane for soloing, the middle lane for grouping, and the fast lane for raiding. Every player in a new Norrath should matter, not just the high-end raiders.
I hope 2023 is the year that we finally get an official announcement of a new EverQuest.
Here are some of my previous articles that some may find useful in solving this mystery: