Happy 12th anniversary, EverQuest! To mark the occasion, we were invited to participate in a roundtable interview with SOE President John Smedley and members of the game's team.
In celebration of EverQuest's 12th anniversary, members of the press had the opportunity to attend a roundtable interview with Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley, Assistant Lead Designer Alan VanCouvering and Associate Producer Harvey Burgess. Editor-in-Chief Darryl Gangloff participated on behalf of ZAM, and it certainly turned out to be an interesting discussion.
We talked about a wide variety of topics, ranging from the history of EverQuest to the game's community. The team also fielded a series of questions on the progression servers, and Smedley gave us some hints on what we can expect to see in EverQuest Next.
You'll find a transcript of all of the team's answers sorted by topic after the jump. Happy anniversary, EverQuest!
What events do you have planned for EverQuest's 12th anniversary?
Burgess: As far as our anniversary events go, of course we're re-enabling everything from the past years, all of the quests and raids that we've had before. This year we're actually including some new quests, as well as a raid that will be kind of like a throwback to the old style open area raids. This time around we've learned from mistakes about having open area raids. Multiple raid groups should now be able to participate in it easily.
What is the hardest challenge you had with the development of the game throughout all of these years?
Smedley: From our perspective, probably the most challenging thing is keeping the players happy on a consistent basis. The players typically go through the new content pretty quickly, so we have to constantly keep the game fresh in-between with live updates. I think keeping the player base happy and motivated and feeling like there's always something new to do is probably the biggest challenge.
Which feature do you feel has resonated with players the most over the lifespan of EverQuest?
VanCouvering: Recently it's the mercenaries, in part due to that fact that it helps people play by themselves. You can log in with a friend and play with a mercenary and have a full group. In recent memory, that's the one that triggers for me the most.
Burgess: That was the one I was planning to say as well. Throughout the years we've added so many different mechanics to EQ that have seemed to really greatly benefit the player base. When we added the leadership AA experience, players were able to better group with other people by selecting individual targets and seeing targets of targets. We've got so many, it's really difficult to narrow it down to just one.
Will you ever view the original EverQuest as complete?
Smedley: That's a very good question. I can't honestly say I have an answer for it. We just did a 3-year plan. We do that ever year. We assume that EverQuest is going to continue on for three more years without any problem. We also assume that we're going to be making expansions during that time as well.
Have you considered implementing a free-to-play model for the original EverQuest?
Smedley: We've looked at free-to-play for EverQuest I and decided that we don't think it's something we're going to do. It's not a guarantee that we'll never do it, but it doesn't appear that we're going to do that at this time.
When EverQuest first came out, the term EverCrack was tossed around. Looking back at those types of addiction-based stories, what's your take on it now?
Smedley: As time goes on, you'll see different stories for different games. I think what's happened is that we've evolved to become more mainstream. I don't want to say we're mainstream yet, but we're a much more mainstream phenomenon in the form of entertainment. What that means is any form of entertainment can be overplayed. We always tell people to go out into your real life, don't just sit online all of the time. What's happened is people have realized this is just like watching too much TV or obsessing about football nonstop. Everything in moderation. We've seen that the inflammatory stories have kind of died down.
Do you think the negative stories brought more attention and players to the game?
Smedley: I don't believe it brought new players to the game. I can't necessarily say I was thrilled about the stories, and certainly around some of the tragic events that happened. It was hard. I talked to Shawn Woolley's mom and that was a difficult thing. It's very hard to hear that somebody has lost someone. But over time we've seen that this form of entertainment is no different than any other. People need to realize that moderation is important. Look at what's happening now with Facebook. I check my Facebook five times a day. It's sort of the world we live in and learning to deal with that takes work.
How concerned are you about system requirements for EverQuest? Are you planning to implement any graphical updates?
Burgess: Every couple of years we definitely go through, and we actually did talk about that this year. We do go out and see how the other games look compared to EQ, and one thing we definitely keep in mind is that we do have lots of players that have been with us since the beginning and we want to make sure they don't have to go out and buy new systems to play our game to contiue playing what they enjoy. It has been very difficult trying to keep up technology-wise, but our team has done a great job of visually keeping EQ what it's supposed to be as well as making it good enough for the masses to still want to play.
VanCouvering: I would literally put our zone art up against any game right now. I'm pleased with the results.
There's been a big push for browser-based MMOs. If you're trying to keep EverQuest playable on most machines, has there been any discussion of making it browser-based?
Smedley: There hasn't been anything specific about EverQuest. At a technical level, it's trivial for us to do now. We've actually done some experimentation and have done it with a bunch of our games and looked at them running in the browser. The reality is unless it's been architected from day one with that in mind, it's not a great experience. There's all kinds of things you need to deal with. But it is an area we're heavily exploring. It's an area that we find extremely interesting. There's been a stigma placed on browser games, and the stigma is kind of that they're subclass citizens or something. The browser is just a place to play it. Nothing more than that. It's an interesting vehicle for us to explore and we are going to continue exploring it.
Where does EverQuest go from here? Where do you see the game in the next few years?
VanCouvering: I'd almost like to say more of the same. We're going to continue to put out awesome content with innovative new ideas in them. I expect us to be bigger and better!
Burgess: We are not at a loss of ideas. We constantly reevaluate the direction we're going and what we want to see in the game for years to come. We're definitely still going strong. Until we find something that we don't agree with, we'll still be providing content that players seem to like.
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