EverQuest Next: The Power of Different Starting Zones

Having multiple starting zones is critical if you want players to stick around for the long haul.
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Next information continues to come in, but
there’s one piece of information I want more than most others
and that’s this –
are there going to be multiple starting areas for new characters? This
may seem
like a no-brainer for the team that created EverQuest, but keep in mind
EverQuest II launched with just two starting points. They’re
also not the only
ones to have made this mistake. 

may state it’s not a mistake at all, but I have to
disagree. While I’m sure there are players out there that
make one character
and never make another, that number is extremely low in comparison to
that create multiple alts during their time with Game X. If they only
one alt character, having a limited number of starting zones
isn’t really a big
deal. For those players that create multiple characters, this can be a
game’s death

are a number of games that have tried to go with
only one or two starting areas, and for each of them, I think this was
predestined nail in their proverbial coffins. This doesn’t
mean that some
haven’t succeeded, but I would argue that it made their climb
to profitability much
harder than it needed to be. 

first offender I always think of is Age of Conan. No
matter what class or faction you chose to play, you started out in
exactly the
same area. You were also forced to play through the same areas for the
first 20
levels of your character’s existence. This was partially
broken up by having different
story quests for each class, but it made little difference in the end.

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& Dragons Online may have done an even worse
job in this regard. Every class and race started in exactly the same
place and
went through the same content throughout a significant portion of the
game. To
make matters worse, there were multiple progression blocks that forced
to go through dungeons with groups that couldn’t always be
found. In order to
be a high enough level for those group dungeons, players were also
forced to complete adventures they’d already gone through
multiple times.
Things have since improved, but at the time, it was a horrible way to

II initially made a similar mistake as Age of
Conan and Dungeons & Dragons Online, but compounded the issue
by making you
play through 20 levels before you were able to choose your final class.
then, you still needed to play through another 5-10 levels to really
get a feel
for it. On the plus side, EverQuest II at least had two different
areas (after you got off Newbie Island, anyway) so it wasn’t
completely the

went in a similar direction by having two different
starting areas that were dependent on which faction you chose to play
though it
did make an effort to mitigate the pain of alt characters. For
starters, the
experience of playing on the Defiant side was much different than that
of their
Guardian counterparts. Each faction started in completely different
parts of
the world, had completely different quests/goals, and it would be quite
time into a character’s career before you’d start
seeing the same zones. On top
of this, there was so much content on both sides that after the initial
levels, it was pretty easy to find new areas to hunt in so your
experience wasn’t completely identical. 

feel for development teams when it comes to the need
for multiple starting areas though. As Vanguard showed shortly after
launch, if you have a ton of races and each of them have their very own
starting zone, you desperately need player populations to stay high in
for them to avoid becoming ghost towns. Another thing you need that the
(and later SOE) teams failed to do was give players any reason to come
back to
those starting areas. Even if you have a few large cities on a
continent to act
as player hubs, those areas are going to eventually stagnate if
they’re extreme
distances from where new players start.

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which game originally had the best example of
meaningful starting areas? Personally, style=""> I
think EverQuest did. While I’m certainly not a fan of
everyone starting in
Crescent Reach now, no other game has gotten the combination of new
zones and
racial cities quite right since EverQuest launched. 

be fair to developers of today, the market was a very,
very different place back then. Even so, there are a few lessons that
can still
be learned and applied to the MMOs of today. Starting cities actually
as it took a long time before players were high enough in level to
really start
travelling far distances. Also, due to not all merchants having the
same spells
and abilities for sale, there were reasons to come back as a specific
spell may
not have been sold anywhere else in the world. Finally, right from the
beginning, the quests that were offered by your class’s guild
master made you
feel connected to the city you started in. The citizens of the city
needed you
and you were rewarded for your dedication to it. 

was also one more reason the starting cities in
EverQuest were so important and enriching to the creation of alternate
characters. It all goes back to href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/opinions/the-need-for-kos-factions">my
discussion about kill-on-sight factions.
Making your way into a city that
was considered enemy territory was not easy. For example, finding a
high elf in
the Third Gate of Neriak was virtually unheard of. Finding style="">any
race other than an Iksar in the heart of Cabilis is something I
never saw in all my years of playing. Unless, of course, that character
under the guise of an illusion spell, but the lack of such flavor
spells in the
games of today is a discussion for another time. 

do you think? Should developers take the
time to create different starting areas or is there another way to keep
from having to play through the same content each time they create a
character? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to href="https://twitter.com/Dalmarus">hit me up on


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