Is EverQuest and those who worked on the franchise cursed? I’m starting to think so. It seems no matter how hard those in charge of EverQuest try, they just can’t seem to do anything worthwhile with the franchise. Where are all those amazing virtual worlds created by those that have worked on EverQuest over the years? Nowhere to be found.
The notion that the success of EverQuest was a fluke crosses my mind more and more these days.
In 2016 Daybreak Games announced that they had cancelled EverQuest Next. And now the final act in the EverQuest Next long and tortured comedy of errors is about to transpire as Daybreak Games announced last week that Landmark will be closing.
Feldon at EQ2Wire has penned an an exceptionally detailed and well-researched article about the downfall of EQ Next and Landmark that sheds a lot of light into the chronic dysfunction and rampant stupidity that plagued SOE.
While reading his article, it quickly becomes evident that Dave Georgeson was a central figure in the downfall of EQ Next and Landmark — a Minecraft like spin off from EQ Next.
Feldon’s piece is a treasure trove of expert analysis. It reveals many things about what happened behind the scenes at SOE during the pre-production and development of EQ Next. Much of the insight is provided courtesy of ex-SOE employees who posted on the Fires of Heaven forums and the author himself. After reading the article, one cannot deny that SOE was continually plagued by poor leadership and mismanagement.
At the center of SOE and the EverQuest franchise is John Smedley. John Smedley will always earn my respect for having the drive and will to assemble the team at Verant Interactive that created the original EverQuest. However, you can only survive on past glory for so long. In John’s case, his past glory bank account has been overdrawn for far too many years.
Throughout it all Smedley was in charge and the buck stops with him. He is the one that drove the franchise into the ground. It was he that hired the talent and signed off on the direction of EverQuest Next. It was he that mismanaged and bungled EQ Next and the entire EQ franchise. It was Smedley who hired Georgeson and allowed him to destroy EQNext and turn it into Landmark. As I have noted in a previous article, the EQ franchise could have been as big as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft franchise if it was managed properly but it wasn’t.
One particular nugget of info in the article is that apparently SOE refused to listen to their own employees and instead deferred to outsiders and recent 38 Studios hires. One egregious example of this is the Disneyesque character animations that were hated by most fans:
Feedback from the existing EverQuest and EverQuest II teams was largely ignored. Instead, credence was primarily given to outside feedback from recently laid off 38 Studios staff and other outsiders in the industry. 38 Studios staffers in particular encouraged the exaggerated Disney character style.
Reading this made my blood boil. The people responsible for this outrage should NEVER have anything do with EverQuest ever again or any other MMO for that matter. The 38 Studios debacle is a gift that keeps on giving — more like a deadly plague to be honest. Leave it to ex-38 Studios employees to be partially responsible for another MMO failure.
In 1999, a small video game studio managed to cobble together an amazing MMORPG called EverQuest that inspired Blizzard to create World of Warcraft which revolutionized the MMO genre. But since the solitary success of EQ, SOE has been unable to produce anything else that rivals that success. SOE were so utterly inept and incompetent that they were unable to learn anything from WoW. Subsequent offerings of the EQ IP such as EverQuest 2 never managed to reach the same levels of success as WoW.
The real tragedy about the mismanagement of the EverQuest franchise is how the fans have been let down and had their passion squandered by a reckless, second-rate video game studio that is out of touch with their own fan base. The only thing SOE and now Daybreak are good at are finding new ways break the hearts of their loyal players.
From the beginning all EQ fans really wanted an updated version of the original EQ with updated graphics, animations and environments. The original EverQuest — not the joke it has become now — had all the elements of a deep, challenging and cooperative fantasy virtual world that could have been polished and expanded on for EQ Next but SOE knew better and instead opted for gimmickry over substance.
Work on a new version of EverQuest started as far back as 2009 and in the process SOE wasted at least $62 million in the process on various incarnations of a new EverQuest. That is a disgrace. Give me half of that and I could re-create Norrath in EverQuest 3 and staff a company with talented and passionate people that would do justice to the legacy of EQ and the fans. The growing popularity of MMO legacy servers proves that fans are far more passionate and capable than the companies that control the franchises.
The intellectual property of EverQuest and Norrath is undisputably rich, vast and full of untapped possibilities. One would hope that Daybreak has come to their senses and is working on EverQuest 3 right now but I confess, this is probably just wishful thinking on my part.
If they are not working on EQ 3 then they should have the decency to sell the rights to a new EverQuest to a studio that has the passion and the talent to pull it off. I believe this is the only way to break the curse of EverQuest and offer a pathway of hope for the future reimagined existence of this beloved franchise. Over the years, millions of people have visited Norrath on various platforms and in various incarnations and I think Daybreak Games owes it to their long-suffering fans to pass the torch on to a new studio that will do the franchise the authenticity and respect it deserves.
Thank you for the insight! I really appreciate your many detailed analyses of EverQuest. It was a unique game I thoroughly enjoyed back in the day.
I got fed up with the penalties and massive time requirements after a while and started searching for something more casual. World of Warcraft seemed so promising, but already during the beta I realised that this was simply no fun. Pleasant, yes, but all the danger and excitement was gone. I tried a few other games, but eventually abandoned the genre.
Recently I’ve become quite fascinated by Elite Dangerous. It is not a MMORPG but it does have an online component and players can team up in wings with ships of different roles. The game is quite old-school and “hardcore”, with severe penalties, a real feeling of danger and a massive time investment required to achieve anything significant. Skill and experience is needed to get anywhere. No handholding. No pay to win. These days, that is quite refreshing and nostalgic. In the spirit of EverQuest. I have come to understand how essential these traits are, and how much I missed them.
The history of EverQuest also reminds me of the history of the Amiga computer. A wonderful creation, way ahead of its time, that was severely misunderstood and mismanaged by Commodore. The success and achievement of the first computer was never followed up and the resources were wasted on flawed concepts. Time and again the community was let down, though some are still active. The rights to the Amiga and Commodore brands should have been released to the community a long time ago. Unfortunately this story seems to repeat itself over and over in the world of technology.
Except the EQ2Wire article has a few inaccuracies. It says the other devs didn’t like Storybricks, but we heard nothing. Smed was the one who initially reached out to us, too, so he bought into Storybricks. And, frankly, they were getting a sweet deal from us for our engineering time, to the point where Storybricks folded up once they lost the contract.
I think it’s a bit convenient to blame Dave Georgeson. There were a lot of people working on that project, and it’s not like he was in charge of every detail. There were a lot of people who made a lot of decisions that affected the game. But, we like to have one person to blame to keep everyone else clean.
As for Landmark, it was a necessary thing to make money on the product while developing it. They had already tried and discarded 3 iterations of EQ3, and it’s obvious that money wasn’t exactly plentiful at that time. Landmark looked like a good way to make more money to finance the larger game. Sadly, it was a harder sell to people than anticipated.
I think it’s precisely that weight of the success of EQ that weighed down EQN. EQ2 was a defeat that they were still stinging from. It’s like Titan and WoW, they had to do something amazing to live up to the potential. But, sometimes that sort of pressure turns things to dust rather than into diamonds.