Good News about the Future of the EverQuest Franchise

EverQuest fans rejoice! For the first time in years, there is finally a glimmer of hope for a worthy sequel to EverQuest and EverQuest 2. Ever since the cancellation of the star-crossed EverQuest Next in 2016, EQ fans like myself have been anxious and despondent about the future of the beloved franchise that started the MMORPG revolution.

There has not been a new EverQuest product since the release of the poorly received EverQuest 2 back in 2004. SOE and Daybreak Games have tried for many years to continue to develop the EQ franchise and has failed every single time in various attempts.

What has changed?

Two articles by Daybreak Games developers were recently published in the space of two weeks have given me back my hope that the continuation of the EverQuest legacy is upon us.

EverQuest Producer EverQuest Franchise Holly Longdale

On March 21st of 2019, via Google alerts I came across a Variety article entitled To Survive, ‘EverQuest’ Must Honor Past, Embrace Future that contains snippets of an interview with EQ’s Franchise Producer Holly Longdale.

While there is no outright announcement of EverQuest 3 in the article, there are some interesting nuggets that strongly suggest an EverQuest sequel is in the pre-production phase. Holly Longdale reveals the following:

“Of the team that exists now, we spent two and a half years defining what the franchise really is, going to our archives and retconning some stuff to prepare it for a really strong future,” she says. “EverQuest Next is not a game I would have made. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but we’ve been evaluating what makes EverQuest EverQuest. In my opinion, that wasn’t where the game was going with EverQuest Next.”

Finally, there is some official admission and closure about the realization the every serious EQ fan knew all along that the proposed EQ Next was not a MMO that was in the true spirit of EQ. The quote about “preparing for a strong future” suggests a sequel is in the works.

It gets better. Holly goes on to highlight some of the fundamental pillars of EverQuest: high fantasy and community and player/class interdependency. My jaw dropped.

The author of the article prefaces Holly’s remarks:

Daybreak isn’t talking specifics about where the franchise is heading. However, Longdale knows what the game must be in order to be true to fans and the legacy: classic high fantasy and community dependency.

“Anything we talk about in the future, those are the two nuggets,” she says. “I would never say that there isn’t a world where I wouldn’t love to do another co-op or even a single-player experience that tells some of these amazing stories that we’ve fleshed out over 20 years, but the social dependency is who we are. It’s questing with other people. It is having a role on a team. I don’t think we’ll ever move away from that, even if it were a single-player game like ‘Dragon Age,’ that’s our special sauce and what our players would expect. You don’t think ‘EverQuest’ and think ‘single player game.’”

This is music to my ears. There is finally someone in charge at Daybreak Games who understands the ingredients that made the magic of EverQuest. Finally it seems there is someone at DBG who is not going to try to make another WoW clone or a Minecraft/EQ mashup.

Holly goes on to reassure fans that DBG will not be making a solo video game. Hopefully this also means that they will also not fall in the trap of embracing the current fad of battle royale games or mobiles games. It’s okay for EverQuest to be EverQuest. EverQuest can only be EverQuest on a PC. Period.

EverQuest Creative Director Luke Sigmund

The second article that has given me hope about the future of EverQuest is by EverQuest Creative Director Luke Sigmund entitled EverQuest: 20 Years of Retention. I’ll be honest, until I read that article I had no idea who Luke Sigmund was and that DBG even had a creative director for EverQuest.

Luke does a masterful appraisal of the retention techniques built into EverQuest. It is very clear that he has spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the appeal of EQ. In a video game milieu ruled by metrics and spreadsheets, the fact that a game developer mentions Bartle and Maslow in the same sentence is cause for celebration.

One line in the article stands out:

“Find your novel vision that delights players by filling a need that isn’t be met. “

In the world of MMORPGs, there is no current AAA offering that fills the role that EverQuest once had which focuses on challenge, cooperation, and community. Visionary PayPal founder and billionaire Peter Thiel continually talks about how important it is to create products and services that have no competition.

At last, someone at DBG gets it. No more competing with WoW clones, no more pandering and creating dumbed down gameplay to appeal to a broader demographic.

Let EverQuest be EverQuest in all its hardcore and addictive glory. DBG own your niche and be proud of it!

Then there is another part of the article that also stands out:

“More than that, it’s a comfortable home for thousands of people who don’t NEED to be in combat every moment. They relish the human/avatar connections as they “live” and evolve in the structure of EverQuest’s fantasy world.”

This man gets it! EverQuest is a living breathing world of not only achievers and adventurers but crafters, buyers, sellers, role-players, socializers and explorers.

Just yesterday while playing on the new Manger TLP EverQuest server, I heard someone remark that he has spent the entire day in the Commonlands tunnel because the player generated commerce was so compelling and addictive. There is no MMO on earth where this kind of unique in-game marketplace is available!

There are many other nuggets of wisdom in Luke’s article that are too numerous to mention here. I urge everyone to give it a read.

Conclusion

A week ago, I befriended a halfling rogue in while playing on the new Mangler TLP server. We got to talking about many things while battling goblins in Misty Thicket and running back and forth to Rivervale to sell, bank and upgrade our abilities. In the few days that I knew him he had told me that he was completely new to EverQuest. One day while in conversation he just blurted out this:

“I’ve only been playing EverQuest for 5 days, but I can’t believe how addicted I am to a 20 year old game!”

This put a smile on my face because it validates something that I’ve always believed that applies to real life and virtual life: when faced with adversity people band together and form social bonds. EverQuest is a virtual world that creates a high level of social cohesion and stickiness. This is the magic EverQuest formula that is available nowhere else but in an EverQuest MMORPG.

Yes, there still is a place for a hardcore high fantasy virtual world. Original video games like Dark Souls and the Darkest Dungeon prove that new players are desperate and hungry for experiences that provide deep and unforgiving challenges. Combine this with the social and cooperative cohesion of class interdependency and AAA polish and you could have a virtual world masterpiece on your hands!

For years SOE and Daybreak Games could never fully capitalize on the success of EverQuest. In The Pixar Story documentary, Steve Jobs shares insights into the second product syndrome:

“There’s a classic thing in business which is the second product syndrome. Companies have a really successful first product, but they don’t quite understand why that product was so successful and their ambitions grow and they get much more grandiose and their second product fails. Believe or not Apple was one of those companies. The Apple II — Apple’s first real product in the marketplace — was incredibly successful and the Apple III was a dud. So, I’ve lived through that and I’ve seen a lot of companies not make it through that.”

Unlike their predecessors who kept failing, it’s reassuring to know that current stewards of the EverQuest franchise seem to understand what made the original EverQuest great.

EverQuest means more to me than anyone can imagine. I’ve spent much of my life playing it, volunteering as a Senior Guide, thinking about it and writing about it in various articles. If it wasn’t for EverQuest I wouldnt have become a game designer. Trying to decipher what make the original EverQuest great has been in many ways a major part of my life and I never stopped believing in the possibility of an EverQuest 3.

I am ecstatic about the possibility of a new EverQuest in the works. I will do all I can do promote it and raise awareness of it because now more than ever the world needs a magical place where we can call home. A place called Norrath.

-Wolfshead

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