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EverQuest II Interviews: On F2P Success and EQNext

By William Murphy on January 25, 2012

MMORPG: The report you guys recently released says that the player increase has seen a 300% rise.  Were you all expecting this influx?  How has it affected the game’s day-to-day?

Dave Georgeson: Well…it’s been positive, of course. More players are always a good thing for a MMO. Especially new players. There’s nothing that veterans like more than showing somebody else the ropes and showing off how much they know.

Yes, we were definitely expecting the influx. However, we had advance knowledge after launching the EQ2X service in 2010 and running and observing it until the complete conversion last month. We pretty much knew exactly how the new players would affect the regular servers after watching Freeport for over a year. It’s all positive.

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MMORPG: How many of these 300% are returning players, and how many have been new registrants?  Is the game seeing a lot of people who have never tried EQ2 before, and if so, how are they responding to the market?

Dave Georgeson: It’s really about 50/50. Lots of people come back to the game because they enjoyed it a lot for the first couple of years it was out, but then they had started spending their gaming time on other subscriptions elsewhere. Now that EQII is F2P, they’re coming back to the game they used to love and can love again.

We’re also getting a lot of new players coming to the game to try it because they’ve always heard that EQII is one of the biggest and best, but they weren’t willing to try an “old” game when newer ones were available. (This is where I trot out my annoyance at the fallacy that MMOs get “old”. They are continuously developed. They never get old. They get better.)

MMORPG: There are obviously more and more people playing with the full F2P launch, but where do you go from here with the game? EQ1 is still kicking; EQ Next is around the corner… where does that leave EQ2?

Dave Georgeson: I’m the Exec Producer for all of the EQ titles. I can tell you this…they are non-competing products. EQ1 is what it always has been. It’s the first, it’s definitely the biggest MMO world in existence, it’s getting constantly better, and the players that love that game are some of the same players that started with it over 13 years ago. This is their world and they have no desire to ever try another.

EQII is simply one of the best high-fantasy MMOs that’s ever been made. It’s feature-rich, content laden, constantly evolving, and has a community that’s perpetually growing and changing. As an example of that particular flavor of MMO, there is no comparison. Other games have larger audiences, but no one can claim to be better than EQII, and no new game can possibly ever catch up in feature depth and content. It’s just not physically possible.

The next installment of the EQ franchise is very much still in a black box. We’re not talking about it publicly. But I can say this…it’s not your standard MMO. We’re not adhering to any of the ordinary conventions. We are making a game that needs to be made, that definitely is “massive” and truly “multiplayer” (not trumped up single-player content), but we’re not making a game that you expect. As such, it should stand alone nicely and not be a direct competitor to EQII. Of course, if it’s as good as we intend it to be, it might be a competitor anyway, but not because it’s specifically targeting EQII’s type of gameplay.

MMORPG: What has the response been to the way item sales are handled in the market? Do players find the things on sale to be fair and worth the price?

Dave Georgeson: Everyone likes a sale. It’s human nature.

We’re pretty fair about our prices. We discount things very heavily from time to time as a reward for those players that watch the marketplace closely, but we also run Double SC promotions, periodic item sales, and bonus programs to make things easier to afford for players with different budgets.

No one believes me when I say this (because it sounds like such a line), but we’re running this game more like a casino than a retail store. Our job (as a casino) is to entertain the heck out of our players….and give them opportunities to leave money behind if they are being entertained.

If we’re not entertaining you, then it’s our fault that we’re not making any money. But if you’re happy, then so are we.

This is the new way of gaming. The days of “Pay and Hope” where you pay up-front and hope the game is worth a darn, are going the way of the dodo. And good riddance.

MMORPG: How have the longtime Veterans of EQ2 responded to the changes?  Have you had any exodus, or do you instead see more former players coming back now that the price barrier is gone?

Dave Georgeson: Absolutely zero exodus. There was a lot of concern from vets before the changes occurred that they wouldn’t like the end-results.

However, after watching EQ2X do so well for over a year, and after realizing that the only tangible change to players when we go F2P is to a) make subscriptions optional, and b) remove any up-front costs, well…there’s not much to be afraid of after that, is there?

MMORPG: The recent redesign of Freeport was long overdue, in this humble player’s mind.  When will we see similar revamping for Qeynos?

Dave Georgeson: Working on it now! The big Qeynos revamp will debut this coming summer. Big Evil came back with Freeport. This summer is the return of the Greater Good!

MMORPG: The Dungeon Maker is a brilliant addition to the game.  Can we expect more functionality now that it seems like the community loves the feature so much?

Dave Georgeson: Thanks! We like it too and even I’m stunned by how cool the dungeons being made are in the DM system. Yes, you’ll definitely be seeing more and more DM functionality in the future. We think we have a tiger by the tail here.

MMORPG: How has reception been for the Beastlord?  It’s been a long time since EQ2 saw new classes, will this be a trend we see continue in future content updates?

Dave Georgeson: Our players absolutely love the Beastlord. So the tendency, of course, is to say “omg… if they liked this, should we do another?” But that’s not the plan at the moment. We put a lot of experimentation and thinking into the Beastlords. There’s tons of new collectability potential as you try to tame all the animals in the world to be your Warders, and there’s also great new active gameplay as you watch your Warder probe for weaknesses exploiting those opportunities with powerful abilities you earn over time. Plus new quests, equipment, increased affinity with Warders you use over time, and more. It’s a really great package of stuff.

But if we were to add another class, we’d want to make sure that a) it wasn’t a carbon copy of what we did for Beastlords, and that b) it has the same fun level of involvement in regards to game play. That’s not easy to achieve, so we’re going to wait until we have the right ideas before delving in that direction again.

MMORPG: Can we talk a little bit to end the interview about the direction of EQ Next? A lot of EQ fans are wondering how this title will differentiate itself from the other EQ incarnations, and even more are worried that it will pull the life out of the other two.  Can you give us some specifics on what EQ Next is trying to do for the franchise?

Dave Georgeson: Well, like I said earlier, the plan is to create a very different kind of game. So if we end up “pulling life” out of the other games, it will only be because the next installment of the EQ franchise is just so dang fun that people are quitting whatever game they’re playing to come check it out. (And if that ends up being the case, I’m sorry, but I refuse to feel bad about it.)

On the other hand, despite the fact that we think the ideas we’re putting into this upcoming game are very clever, original, and compelling, and some of what we’re doing is quite technically challenging, the fact is that we have some pretty fierce competition out there in the world. Great ideas only really shine if you’re first to market with them. So we’re giving ourselves lead time against our competitors by being as close-mouthed about the game as we can until we feel like we’ve got a bit of a lead for launch. And then we’ll talk about it. You can’t imagine how much we want to talk about it. We’re bursting.

But for now, all I can say are the things I’ve said before: a) It’s a reimagining of the Norrathian universe of characters and places; b) It’s utilizing the same Forgelight MMO engine that “Planetside 2” is using (and that engine is looking incredible right now), and c) this is not the MMO you’re used to playing. We aim to make something extremely different this time around. High-fantasy? You betcha.  Norrath? You bet, but expect some twists. Magic? Swords? Sorcery? Yup, yup, and yup. But beyond that…imagine all you want. Our aim is to make something cooler than what’s in your head.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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