EverQuest Celebrates 12 Years! A Q&A with John Smedley, Alan VanCouvering, and Harvey Burgess

Posted Wed, Mar 16, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

EverQuest is celebrating its twelfth anniversary, and Ten Ton Hammer is dancing in the streets of Freeport along with the other fans of all things EverQuest. Several members of the staff have taken to playing on the progression locked servers to recapture the magic of entering the world of Norrath for the first time once again, and they began to wonder about what lies ahead for the EverQuest franchise and of the journey taken over the last 12 years. To that end, our own Benjamin J. de la Durantaye sat down with other interest players at a roundtable discussion with EverQuest’s John Smedley (President of SOE), Alan VanCouvering (Assistant Lead Designer), and Harvey Burgess (Associate Producer).



Question: How is the Fippy Darkpaw server going with the recent wave of players that have joined it?

SOE: It has been going really well. Basically, what we wanted to do this time around was learn from the past server because we have been the progression server before. Last time, we didn’t enable all the same attributes that people had before as far as the slower experience, the corpse runs, etc. which we decided not to do this time. There’s a poll going on now where the players can actually see other people voting for or against corpse runs. Right now it’s losing.

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Currently, we’ve been focusing on the forums seeing what players have liked and what they haven’t liked. We’ve gone the extra mile this time by incorporating all of these things this time in this progression server.

We’ve made sure this time that this was much closer to the original than the first time we did it. There’s a lot of effort making sure that all the stuff that we put in the old world zones as expansions were added were removed so that they don’t show up until that expansion is launched. Things are going really well.

Question: What’s the hardest thing that gave you issues as you developed the game over all the years?

SOE: From our perspective, the most challenging thing was keeping the players happy on a consistent basis. The players go through the new content pretty quickly so we have to constantly keep the game fresh in-between with live updates. Keeping the players happy and motivated and feeling that there is always something to do is probably the biggest challenge.

Question: When we take a look at the current state of MMOGs, we see a lot of online games coming out. In the original version of EverQuest, you spoke a lot about creating an online world versus an online game. Do you ever see the genre going back to that idea where the goal is to create a world as opposed to a game?

SOE: I would say, without giving away too much, is that EverQuest Next is much truer to that vision. We feel really, really strongly about that and I think players are going to be surprised. They’re not going to see EverQuest 2.5 or make a WoW-clone or something like that. We have an entirely new direction and we believe the concept of building a world is the way to go.

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Question: What are your views on EverQuest and EverQuest II co-existing currently and in the past?

SOE: The politically correct answer to that is they’re doing great! The actual answer is that we probably made a mistake calling it EverQuest II. That was a clear mistake. We didn’t realize the lifespan of the original. We’re sitting here talking about the twelfth anniversary of an online game and that’s amazing in and of itself. Our original plan was that it was going to be like every other retail game where after every few years, it would go away and the next one would come out. That hasn’t happened. If we could redo one thing, it would be to rename EverQuest II.

The games are very different. They’re set in different times and they appeal to different audiences. It’s been an interesting ride trying to convince retailers that it’s a good idea to have both EverQuest and EverQuest II on the shelves at the same time.

Question: What feature has resonated most with the players over the 12 year history of the game?

SOE: Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but I think recently it is the mercenaries. It’s due to the fact that it helps people play by themselves and give them lots of backup. The game is built for groups. You can log in with a friend and fill out a group with mercenaries. For recent memory, that’s what comes to mind.

Throughout the years, we’ve added so many mechanics that really benefit the player base. When we added the leadership experience, players were better able to group with others by being able to select individual targets and seeing targets of targets. We have so many that it is difficult to narrow it down to just one.

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