Rest In Pieces, Everquest Next

EverQuest_Next_Wallpaper_-_Kerra

Today is a sad day. Just a couple of weeks ago, myself and Wilhelm had a long discussion about the state of Daybreak games on the podcast. A large chunk of that conversation saw us fanboying over Norrath, and how the company has done a good job of not letting the classic versions of Norrath die, including creating new progression servers and releasing new expansions. The big question on our minds though, was what is happening with EQ Next?

That question has been answered at this point, with the president of Daybreak Games announcing today that the game has been cancelled for simply being “not fun.”

I sort of wish they would have let us be the judge of that, but that’s more than likely developer speak for “we don’t have the money to finish it” or something to that effect. It’s unfortunate for people like me, Wilhelm, and others I’m sure, because some of us had our first MMO experiences in Norrath, and we would love to go back to the world in which we first fell in love. As I said on the podcast, I would be happy with a visual and client overhaul of the original or the sequel with today’s technology, but it’s not likely that’s going to happen. Here’s the snippet from the President:

To Our Daybreak Community,

I’m writing today to let you know that, after much review and consideration, Daybreak is discontinuing development of EverQuest Next.

For the past 20 years EverQuest has been a labor of love. What started as a deep passion of ours, as game creators, grew into a much larger passion shared by you, millions of players and Daybreakers alike. Watching EverQuest’s ability to entertain and bring people together has inspired and humbled us. It’s shaped our culture and has emboldened us to take aggressive risks with our game ideas and products. When we decided to create the next chapter in the EverQuest journey, we didn’t aim low. We set out to make something revolutionary.

For those familiar with the internals of game development, you know that cancellations are a reality we must face from time to time. Inherent to the creative process are dreaming big, pushing hard and being brutally honest with where you land. In the case of EverQuest Next, we accomplished incredible feats that astonished industry insiders. Unfortunately, as we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun. We know you have high standards when it comes to Norrath and we do too. In final review, we had to face the fact that EverQuest Nextwould not meet the expectations we – and all of you – have for the worlds of Norrath.

The future of the EverQuest franchise as a whole is important to us here at Daybreak. EverQuest in all its forms is near and dear to our hearts. EverQuest and EverQuest II are going strong. Rest assured that our passion to grow the world of EverQuest remains undiminished.

Yours truly,

Russell Shanks
President, Daybreak Games

Reading through the press release, it seems like they just threw their hands up and are either just going to focus on H1Z1 and the classic EQ games, or perhaps they do have plans to do something more with the franchise, but we won’t know for a while from the sound of it. I for one will play a new version of an Everquest game, just based on nostalgia and love for the franchise, but I’m not holding my breath for that title to ever surface.

Like I mentioned in my post about H1Z1 splitting up, I have been losing faith in the company as a whole. This announcement that there isn’t a new Everquest game on the horizon and the fact that I have basically found myself done with the classic titles in the franchise makes me lose it altogether. I still own H1Z1 so I’m likely to play it sometime after it releases, but unless they come up with some new title that is worth my time and enthusiasm, I may no longer be a fan of the company that was once Verant.

King + Blizzard: A Perfect Match

The news is pretty fresh, so you may not have heard: Activision just bought King, the company responsible for that whole Candy Crush thing. Admittedly I haven’t played any of King’s offerings, much like I ignored Zynga before them. Facebook/browser games are mostly throwaway experiences. From the variety of games I’ve experienced on mobile devices, the same can be said. Timewasters, and nothing more aside from a few rare gems.

I have however, spent plenty of time with Blizzard (and Activision) games. Call of Duty aside though, this is a post focusing on Blizzard and King, and how they are a perfect match for each other.

Unable to claim the title of “the first person to say that,” it’s pretty clear that Blizzard titles are basically accessible and polished experiences you’ve already had elsewhere. Their newest games released in the past few years are easily comparable to other titles in the genre who already had a foothold in the market. As a matter of fact, all of their titles are accessible and polished versions of established genres, but let’s start from the newest offerings:

Overwatch – FPS Arena Shooter, similar to Team Fortress 2.
Heroes of the Storm – MOBA, similar to League of Legends/DOTA2
Hearthstone – CCG, similar to Magic: The Gathering

Those titles alone are painting a picture that goes back to Blizzard’s humble beginnings. I’m sure you can see the correlation between Dune II and Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Even The Lost Vikings is similar to other platformers of the era. The big gorilla in the room though, World of Warcraft, is similar enough in its approach to prior MMOs, but added that blizzard level of polish and accessibility.

That isn’t to say that Blizzard doesn’t make good games. I absolutely adored Diablo and still do. It still does it better than most Action-RPGs out there, and it established the “formula” despite taking elements from various action and adventure games that preceded it. We also can’t say that it isn’t innovative to build on what came before, because that’s been the formula for our entire existence. But in this era of all-you-can-eat gaming, standing apart from the pack means doing something different, and copying what is already successful and getting the perfect storm effect once doesn’t mean it will happen regularly or ever again. I think Blizzard needs to start thinking outside of the box, and this purchase could be part of that.

As I said earlier, I haven’t touched any of King’s titles, but I’ve played enough Bejeweled to know what Candy Crush Saga is all about. In doing some reading and formulating this post, I came across this article that sparked my train of thought in the first place. Go ahead and read it. If nothing else, scroll down and look at the pictures. I’ll wait.

Back? So you’ll have seen how King has been taking the Blizzard method of polishing an existing idea to a whole other level. They don’t make a genre more accessible, they straight copy games, change a few assets and call it their own. Then they monetize the shit out of it and call it a day. Their existing catalog of games are all copies of another game, or sequels to that copy. How they haven’t been sued more I don’t know. It’s as bad as the rest of the mobile games market though, in that anything that becomes popular sees a billion straight copies on the market within days. But I digress.

Does anyone else see the correlation I’m getting at thought? It seems these two companies made their fortunes off of copying others’ ideas and putting their own spin on it. It’s only fitting that they are basically the same company now.

I’m just curious to see if this makes the mobile marketplace better, or if the Kingly influence makes Blizzard a worse company in the long run.

Some further commentary from round the blogosphere:

Keen and Graev
The Ancient Gaming Noob
Syncaine

Nostalgia Strikes Norrath (Again)

Shortly after the feeding frenzy that was the new Everquest progression server’s launch, another was added, as Daybreak was probably shocked and overwhelmed by the flood of new and returning players. Ragefire and Lockjaw are currently up and running, and I’ve seen plenty of tales around the blogosphere from newbies and veterans alike. People are enjoying the old-school grind that they had distanced themselves from for years. The more recent glut of samey themepark MMOs seems to be getting old for these folks, and I don’t blame them for having a taste for nostalgia. Everquest was my first MMO experience after all, and I too felt the urge to go back and play the game.

Rumors began spreading that the same treatment might be applied to Everquest II, and I was struck with that nostalgic twinge again. More so this time, because despite having played Everquest first, my first true MMO love was the second iteration of Norrath. You can go back through my archives here if you like, but rest assured I blogged plenty about the game, and would gladly do so again given a similar feeling. The trouble is, as I’ve discussed before, that nostalgia is a backhanded mistress that will lure you in with false security, but soon enough you realize why you stopped playing a game in the first place. In the case of a game like the Final Fantasy VII remake, nostalgia for the game makes me want it, but I also know I couldn’t possibly sit through the original again. Recent news has revealed that the game won’t be just a visual update, but rather a re-imagining and that makes it far more tolerable. But I digress.

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Wilhelm has a fantastic review of what is being presented in-game right now, via an inbox poll, so we can glean a bit about what may become of this new idea. It sounds very real, and as if it will be happening very soon. One new feature that will be available during this launch that wasn’t present back in 2004 is a separate PvP server. They didn’t actually put PvP into the game until 2006, which coincided with my first foray into this version of Norrath. Another post covering the “time-locked expansion servers” was over on Inventory Full, and I had this to say in the comments:

I’m in agreement that the PvP server will probably be the more successful of the two. I was actually just talking with my Dad about it, us both being long time EQ2 players. I remember when Nagafen first launched during the Kingdom of Sky days and the huge amount of players flooding Antonica and the Commonlands was amazing. It was a fun time for everyone. However, seeing as how PvP wasn’t a launch-time option, it will also be a different experience than the one I had when Nagafen launched.

Is it worth paying the sub price though? Will the populations stay and play through the content or will they just pop in to check things out and then head back to whatever else they have been doing? Time will tell. I just feel like if I was to subscribe again I should probably level my two mains up through the last couple expansions that I haven’t played, despite nostalgia tugging at my heart strings.

Also, I’d prefer keeping the game locked at EoF or Kunark, and not really going beyond that. Even SF was a decent expansion but I was pretty burnt out on the game by then. Knowing that it will indeed move past those points in time, and possibly at a very fast rate, I feel like participating wouldn’t be worth it unless you got in on the ground floor and played nothing else til you had your fill again.

The PvP side of things actually interests me far more, but that’s probably more due to the fact that I actually participated in a server launch, rather than PvP being the make-or-break factor. However, I do remember the PvP system in EQ2 being rather fun. You’d be locked to one faction or the other, and couldn’t group up with or even communicate with the opposing faction. You couldn’t attack anyone +-10 levels of yourself, unless you went into higher level zones where there weren’t restrictions. I have told the stories time and time again but I can’t express how much fun I had with MMO PvP in this game and it alone. Nothing has compared since. Still, as I said in the above comment, I don’t know that the populations will stay solid and I don’t know if it will really be worth the sub time, considering my nomadic nature with gaming these days.

In a related note, though the post isn’t pertaining to this subject, Murf wrote a piece on culling one’s backlog, and I commented:

I’m kind of the opposite in that I used to beat all of the games I owned as a kid. I didn’t always have new ones at my disposal either, so any that were too difficult sat unfinished until later when I had nothing else to do or my skills had improved. It wasn’t until I discovered RPGs that I realized some games take a very long time to beat, if you even get that far. Of course I did beat many of those early RPGs, but not all. Now days it’s hard to keep up with the pricing and the ability to spend a couple bucks on a bundle of games. Those seem to be the easiest to dismiss though, as I really only paid for the game(s) I wanted, and the others were just a bonus (or not).

I try to keep a stable of games that aren’t necessarily beatable. MMOs, MOBAs, lobby shooters, amongst others tend to be something you can let sit for a while and then go back to. Where I feel the most guilt is the games that I purchased years ago, that I know are great games, that I loved playing but dropped for the next “new shiny” and haven’t gone back to. That, and the sheer amount of money wasted on MMOs and expansions or the sub time itself. This is why I don’t really subscribe to MMOs anymore, because F2P/B2P absolves that guilt of letting the game collect dust.

What I don’t understand about myself is that ten years ago I could literally play only one game, and be satisfied. I can’t do that anymore and I don’t know why.

It seems I have come full circle in my gaming career. I started as a nomad, became committed to a single MMO (Everquest II) and then became nomadic again. Still, I have had issues with committing to one MMO, or playing religiously even when I do have a sub running. I’m not sure why this happened exactly, but I know that it’s what will probably keep me from partaking in these progression server experiences. I just know that despite subscribing to the game, I would likely not play it enough to warrant the money spent, unless perhaps I had a dedicated group to play with that could coincide with my fucked up schedule. Not only that, if I was to pay for a subscription to this game, I should probably just stick to leveling my two characters who aren’t max level but were capped out a couple of expansions back. Theoretically I could do this on my own time as the game is F2P and has dropped most of its restrictions anyway. I’d at least be able to do solo content, and then if I needed help or wanted to delve more deeply into the end game, there would be players there who are still dedicated to the game.

My pattern with the game was strange after I took an extended break when Kunark was in its prime. I have gone back for expansions, seen chunks of content and then have left again. I took 3 whole years off and missed a bunch of stuff. A year ago I made an excursion back into Norrath and saw much of the dungeons and group content I had missed through the years, but when the (then) newest expansion sat unfinished in front of me, I had no further desire to play. There has been one expansion since then, so I am even further behind. I just find it hard to justify going back to the “good old days” of EQ2 when I have so much left to do in the current game. But damn it if I don’t really want to play some EQ2 PvP again.

If nothing else, my blog’s title should make more sense now.

#everquest2 #mmos #progressionservers #nostalgia

The Influential 15

Wilhelm, The Ancient Gaming Noob, along with some others in the community have posted their top 15 games of all time. He took things a step further by picking games that he felt influenced his love for various genres/styles of games, and then towards the end of his post invited others to treat this as a meme. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a meme around the blogosphere, the last time I participated in one was years ago and it was Everquest II themed. So anyway, here’s the picks for my 15 most influential games of all time, listed in chronological order (release dates, not necessarily saying one is better than the other):

Tetris (1984):

Tetris-Fail

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE has played Tetris. If you haven’t played Tetris, not only are you living under a rock, but you’ve at least see in, heard about it, you know what it is. Tetris isn’t an amazing game. It’s about the simplest concept ever. There isn’t anything graphically astounding here, the sound was what you would expect out of a puzzle game, and the game play is repetitive, there is nothing dynamic about increasing the speed of the pieces. But this simple concept has captivated millions around the world, and for good reason — it’s about the most addictive game ever. And, without a game like this you wouldn’t have games like Angry Birds or other puzzlers that have added depth over the years. I’m not sure if I originally played the game on the NES, Gameboy or my Dad’s Atari, but I’ve owned a copy on nearly every platform since, and nearly every cell phone I’ve ever owned. A timeless classic, and one that introduced me to the puzzle genre, without Tetris I’d have never played games like Dr. Mario, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Columns, and many others. Bejeweled anyone? You can thank Tetris for that too.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins (1985):

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Yeah, I played Super Mario Bros. (and even the regular old Mario Bros) before I played Ghosts ‘n Goblins. My true love of this series was Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on the Genesis, but have to credit the roots here, because Ghosts ‘n Goblins gave me a love for platformers that would continue for years to come. Hundreds of these types of games spawned during the late 80’s into the 90’s, all trying to tap into Mario’s success. I think this is probably where my relationship with Capcom began as well, though we didn’t become super close friends until Resident Evil and Street Fighter later on. I actually played this one in the arcade, and the “port” to the NES was a bit different, but still good. Console wars of the 90’s split the franchise into Super Ghosts ‘n Goblins and the Genesis title I mentioned earlier, but I was fully invested in Sega by that point (still would be if they didn’t go belly-up outside of software). Still, this was my kind of platformer, and I preferred Nintendo back in these days when they had games with darker content, rather that all of the family oriented stuff they do now.

Angband (1990):

Angband

I’m not sure when I initially played Angband, but my Dad introduced me to it, and I remember putting copies on 3 1/2′ floppies to get my friends in on the action. Some of us had started playing games like Magic The Gathering and AD&D, so this was a graphical representation of our imagined adventures. This was also my introduction into Rogue-likes (which wasn’t really a genre at the time), which were games that were based on the original game called Rogue, a game that featured procedurally generated content and permadeath. This meant ever trip into the dungeon would be different, and if you died you had to start all over. There were tricks to getting around this, but that sort of destroys the purpose. I have gone back and played this game several times on several machines, and I’d play it again, given the time.

Street Fighter II (1991):

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Fighting games are a strange beast. It makes sense that they were instant hits in the arcade, because people could gather around and challenge the guy who kicks everyone’s ass, and he earns that arcade tons of quarters. Sometimes it felt like someone was paying that shorter-than-average adult to dress and act like a kid, just to take all our money. He secretly worked for the arcade. Or Capcom. Or something. I never heard of Street Fighter in the 80’s when the original was out. I don’t think many people did, but when the sequel released, everyone ate it up. It changed the way fighting games were marketed (read: it was everywhere), the way they were played, and came during a time when consoles were still trying to define their futures. Since then, more titles and new series have launched it’s not even funny, and in most cases these types of games are garbage. There was always something about Street Fighter though, and I’ve played them all in some form or another. My true favorite was the Marvel vs. Capcom series, followed by SF Alpha, but we owe it all to this classic. Though I don’t play them all that much anymore, I still own SFIV and spent some time with MvC3.

Shining Force (1993):

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To this day, Shining Force is one of my favorite RPGs of all time. More specifically, the series is known for it’s turn-based grid-style tactical play. Games like Final Fantasy Tactics took this formula and added some more depth and polish, but this is the true progenitor. If I recall correctly, I rented the first game in the series, but didn’t own it until after I had acquired a copy of the sequel. I spent hours playing both games, trying different teams, beating them over an over again. I re-purchased them via the virtual console on the Wii when I had one of those. I just realized they are on Steam, and I am seriously considering buying them both again. I cannot express enough how much these games changed my life, and truly turned me into a RPGamer. The story wasn’t half-bad, but the battles was where the true fun was at. If you are one of those PC master race types, you need to do yourself a favor and play these games. You will not be disappointed.

Doom (1993):

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Yeah, Wolfenstein 3D came out before it. And yeah, many games have improved upon the formula. But you cannot be a fan of the FPS genre and not mention Doom. Doom took blood and gore and senseless violence to a new level, and at the time it shocked people. This was around the time Mortal Kombat came out and people were freaking out that their kids would turn into serial killers because of a video game. Everyone was susceptible, even my parents wouldn’t allow me a copy of Mortal Kombat (silly parents, and silly media!). The ESRB formed around the same period. I played through the originals back in the day, and played through them again when I got a copy of the Doom 3 BFG edition a couple of years ago, and they were still enjoyable (but harder than current gen shooters!) Say what you will about it, but Doom deserves a place on everyone’s list.

Resident Evil (1996):

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Resident Evil was the first game that actually scared me. Well, that’s not true, there were some spooky games that my Dad used to play on his computer when I was really young that he will attest freaked me out, but I mean the first game I was playing on my own that actually got an emotional reaction out of me. That’s not something that’s easy to do, and the memories of when I bought the Director’s Cut of the original game on my PSOne, and spent the night at my friend Jason’s house playing into the wee hours of the morning will always stick with me. Every door opened was another tense experience, everytime you could hear the zombies or dogs nearby but couldn’t see them would cause the hairs on the back of our necks to stand up. Later, we grew more accustomed to the genre (although Silent Hill 2 had some moments that got me) and the newer iterations of the series are less scary and more action packed, but the first game will always resonate well with me. I wouldn’t be such a fan of Horror movies and games if it wasn’t for this title.

Final Fantasy VII (1997):

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Final Fantasy VII was the reason to buy a Playstation. Xbox didn’t exist yet, the Sega Saturn got assed out, as did the Nintendo 64. These days you can get it just about anywhere, as its success catapulted it onto other platforms. I actually bought a Playstation just to get this game, but also because it was apparent that the Saturn was losing the console war, and did anyone actually buy a Dreamcast? Anyway, this game turned me on to JRPGs, which have a style all their own and I never really played before. Later I would go back and experience earlier Final Fantasy games, but it wasn’t until after I “broke the clock” (maxed out the hours played counter in the game) and played it through more than once besides that. I did EVERYTHING there was to do in this game. I bred chocobos. I beat Emerald and Ruby weapon. I maxed my characters out at level 99. Despite all of that, I haven’t ever gone back to play this one. I could have sworn I had a copy on my PS3, but upon inspection I don’t. I might have to rectify that eventually.

Starcraft (1998):

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Starcraft came at a time when I actually had my own computer, which meant that I could play it to my heart’s content. This I did, and this was the ONLY RTS game that I ever devoted much time to. Sure I played Command and Conquer, Total Annihilation and many many others (there was a huge market for these types of games in the late 90s), but none of them grabbed me the way Starcraft did. I spent hours playing the campaigns, playing multiplayer with friends via modem (that was an ordeal in itself) and even made my own custom maps and game modes. I was heavy into this game for a long time, and I haven’t played any RTS games since, until Starcraft II that is.

Baldur’s Gate (1998):

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Baldur’s Gate was the first time I got to know Bioware. It was the first true cRPG I ever played. Sure there were others, but this was one that I owned, loved, and played through. I recall buying the expansion as well, but never finishing it. I also picked up the sequel when it first released, and spent even more time with that game. If you enjoyed games like Dragon Age today, this is what we were playing almost 15 years ago, and in some ways these original games were better than their predecessors. This game blended so many good aspects from other games, it had the D&D setting which is almost always awesome, a party system, interactivity in the group, dialogue choices that affected gameplay, and tactical battles with an active pause. Every bit of this game can be seen in modern games, and that’s a testament to how good this game really is.

Gran Turismo (1998):

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Although I did play the original Gran Turismo, I didn’t really get into the series until the sequel. I spent countless hours with friends trying to complete that game, and doing so was quite an undertaking. The endurance races still give me nightmares, hours-long races that would require you to be your best the entire time, or play catch up for many laps. A simulator, the game has the best controls in a racing game that I’ve experienced, and had some of the best graphics possible at the time. The series continues to push the envelop on that front. I have played all of them except for the fourth, and the newly released sixth game. A true masterpiece if you’re into that sort of thing.

Half-Life (1998):

Half-life

I already had a FPS on this list, and yes, that still gets the credit for getting FPS games off of the ground and running. But what about the competitive aspect of these games? Half-Life had its own multiplayer deathmatch, but no one played that. What people did play, were the mods created by the community, and some of those actually went on to be sanctioned by Valve. Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat were my favorites, and I was pwning noobs long before Call of Duty was even in development. Not only that, but this was the first FPS game that had some physics involved, and a hair brained story that actually worked. Now if we could just get Half-Life 3 for fuck’s sake.

Everquest (1999):

Everquest

Yes, there were technically MMOs before this game, but this was the first MMO I ever played, albeit not as seriously as most. I only tried it out when it first released, played it more seriously in the early to mid 2000s. I never reached cap, I probably only saw a third of the game world, but it was still fun for a time. I really got into MMOs later with Everquest II, and I plan to give Everquest Next a whirl once it releases. But we must give credit where credit is due, and this is the game that opened up the possibilities long before World of Warcraft.

Diablo II (2000):

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Wait what, you’ve been paying homage to the originals through this whole list, and now you’re skipping an OG for a sequel? What gives? Yeah, I know, it’s not congruous but it is what it is. The original Diablo was a game I enjoyed, but never owned and never beat. Diablo II was the game that hooked me into a loot hungry frenzy. Diablo II did everything its predecessor did only better. It sucked you in and didn’t let go. I played it through multiple times with multiple characters, and to this day it’s still better than most Action-RPGs that have come since. I’m rather fond of Diablo III as well, but I’m not sure it’s got the same level of “just a few more minutes, mom” to it.

League of Legends (2009):

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Finally, the last game on my list is League of Legends, because well, just because. Seriously, it’s the first MOBA I invested time and money in. I know it’s based on DOTA and DOTA was a Warcraft III mod, and DOTA 2 is out and there’s all kinds of competition, but League does it for me. There are others I have tried and a few that I have liked, but this was my first, and Shen makes me feel safe 😛

So there you have it. My top 15. Feel free to make your own list and/or mention mine.

Seen Elsewhere

It’s been a while since I saw a cool infographic worth sharing, but I saw this one around the web today. Happy Anniversary Everquest! (though I believe the anniversary was yesterday)

Seems like yesterday...
Seems like yesterday…

Also, Happy St. Patties everyone. I’ll be having a proper drink later on.