You cannot discuss the history of MMORPGs without focusing in on Everquest. While Everquest was not the first MMO it was arguably the first 3D MMO and possibly one of the most important MMOs of all time. Thirteen years after its initial release and eighteen expansions later Everquest is proving to be as innovative as ever. This past week on Wayback Wednesday I sat down with Thom Terrazas of Sony Online Entertainment, who is the producer for Everquest, and what was only scheduled to be a thirty minute interview evolved into over a two hour game session that served as the back drop for a conversation on the state of the game.
To coincide with Everquest’s thirteenth anniversary the game converted to free to play in the middle of March. You can now download the client, create a new character, or reactivate an old one, and level all the way to cap without ever paying a dime. There are, however, limitations to the free accounts. These limitations manifest themselves as class restrictions, limited access to high end gear, and limited access to end game augments. If you are a returning player and have a character of a restricted class, fear not, for you will be able to play your long lost avatar. You will have to upgrade to a premium account if you decide to make a second character of the restricted class. Also if you have characters on servers that have been retired or possibly even gone through multiple server merges those characters still exist and all you have to do is log back into your account to claim them.
The payment model is not the only thing new to this game. Recently Thom and his team added in the “Hero’s Journey.” One of the more daunting challenges to gamers starting off in an older game is figuring out where you fit in the world and what it is exactly that you should be doing. The scope of content that accumulates in a game over the course of a decade can become extremely confusing. The Hero’s Journey offers a road map to new and returning players alike to eliminate this confusion. Hero’s Journey is built upon the robust achievement system that Everquest added a few years ago. While an achievement system is nothing new to MMOs, the way Everquest uses theirs to guide players is innovative. You can be a fresh level 1 warrior or a returning level 67 paladin that stopped playing five years ago. If you open up your achievement system and look at your Hero’s Journey it will show you what it is that you should be doing at this point in your adventure.
Everquest is far from done. While Thom could not get into specifics he did allude to the fact that there would either be a large content update or possibly a future expansion that would continue some of the story lines being developed in House of Thule, and The Veil of Alaris. Depending on the capabilities of the game’s engine players could also possibly see new character models.
Most importantly, Everquest is still fun. I played a character on the Vox server during our show and the zone was always at max capacity. Thom could not provide an exact number other than the number of concurrent users is at their highest in the past three years. Vox is a new server launched with the free to play conversion and if you are looking to get back into the game I would suggest you make this your home.
Not only full of useful information Thom was quick with a joke. Want to know why Thom thinks my computer should slap me in the head? Do you want to know about the time Thom was asked to, “Put on his Robe and Wizard Hat?” There was also the time that Thom tried to give out my credit card information… twice. The answers to those questions and more can be found on last week’s episode of Wayback Wednesday. Feel free to watch the full thing above.