Recently, WarCry had the chance to speak to EverQuest Producer Clint Worely about this most venerable of MMORPGs. At eight years old, they're on a hard march towards a November expansion and have changed the way they approach things a bit. Find out what they're up to, how they're tackling it and what awaits in Secrets of Faydwer in this new look forward.
Based on interview/demo with Clint Worely (Producer, SOE)
Article by Dana Massey
While hype often slows and dies out online, history has shown that the MMOs themselves often carry on for many years as profitable, engaging products. EverQuest is the ultimate example of that. It's eight-years old and sometimes teased for the sheer number of expansions Sony has released, but it continues to turn a solid profit and expand into new areas.
Right now, their focus is squarely on those players who've stuck with them and continue to pay the bills. In contrast to EverQuest II, which clearly seeks new fans, EverQuest is all about the hardcore. New people come, but in a game this established, they are just as likely to be returning players.
"EverQuest has always been a hardcore game," Producer Clint Worely told WarCry. It has a steep curve and while they have made efforts to correct this, the new player experience is not really their current focus. Specifically, he characterized the churn of players out of the game as extremely low, a major reason for them to focus on keeping those long lasting subscribers happy.
They've also began slowing the rate at which they put out expansions. In contrast to something most every game developer says, Worely told us that they found that players simply could not keep up with a full expansion every six months. They'd still be working through content in one when the next hit. Now, with one year in between releases, he thinks players will get a chance to fully experience all the work the team puts into the product.
So instead, live events have become increasingly important for the developers. These events build up to and introduce new expansions and are totally free to the player. He doesn't believe these should just be throw onto the pile. Instead, he wants to introduce them to the players, give them a taste of what it offers, and then ask them to plunk down their money and make a purchase.
While they are taking a year between expansions, they do not anticipate a larger scale when they do come. Players can expect a similar scope to previous expansions and they hope to bring them out each year on the same day, November 15th. They are also concentrating more closely on digital distribution and less on retail.
With 40 developers working full time on EverQuest, this is not a project in its final stages. They have plans for years to come, the first being Secrets of Faydwer, not to be confused with Echoes of Faydwer, an EQII expansion.
This expansion offers players mid to high level raid content and employs a clockwork theme. Players should expect lots of gears and gadgets in their enemies this time around. They even have a raid inside a giant Zeppelin and a robot that players can not just enter, but quest inside.
To introduce it, they plan an epic live event. Worely kept his secrets as best he could, but he did reveal that they would literally move a mountain to set things up. As it flies in the air above, mechanical creatures will rain down on the players. There is more, but what he told us was just enough to illustrate his philosophy of showing players what they can expect in an expansion pack through live events.
There are some problems game developers never expect to face, but when you're a game as venerable as EverQuest, you do. When it launched in 1999, the world was just getting used to Windows 98. Windows XP was still two years away. Now, in 2007, they're looking at moving to their third generation of operating systems. With Windows Vista, Worely told us they would be extremely careful. The last thing they can afford to do is alienate the legacy subscribers on older machines, but making the game compatible with Windows Vista is on the list.
Now what do you think? Let us know!