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September 4, 2007
GenCon 07 - EverQuest's 14th Expansion, "Secrets of Faydwer"

By Linda "Brasse" Carlson

I first played EverQuest on the day of release. Logged in the instant that servers were up. Then they went down. Then they were up. Whups - down! What was happening is that the modest little game made by Verant had attracted some ten times the initially expected players. They simply didn't have enough servers to hold us all.

Over the next few weeks, new servers were brought online, I settled in on Tunare, and there I stayed for some five years. FIVE years. EverQuest underwent many changes, became a part of the new Sony Online Entertainment empire, and eventually spawned EverQuest II, my favorite MMOG today.

I have very fond memories of EverQuest (or "old EQ" as many of us call it), but I am still mildly surprised to see that it is still going, and still releasing regular expansions. In fact, "Secrets of Faydwer" is the 14th such expansion.

I went to pester Alan "Absor" Vancouvering at the SoE booth. He was having some technical difficulties with the server, but this did not prevent me from asking him questions in the interim.

So what DOES keep EQ going? One word: community. There are a great many die-hard players in EverQuest, they belong to a long-term, close-knit gaming community, and they will stay as long as there are interesting things to do. They have no interest, no need to go messing about with other games when this one looks after them so well.

As Alan explained, the Devs put a lot of effort into the graphics and content of the game for precisely this reason. So what is on offer with the Secrets of Faydwer?

From the beginning of the game, there have been large blank areas on the Faydwer map. Areas only hinted at in lore, such as the Loping Plains, Hills of Shadow and the Dragonscale Hills. These are the secrets that await adventurers.

Remember Meldrath the Malignant, that pesky Gnome necromancer in the Steamfont caves that probably killed you three or four times in your youth? Turns out that he was just an impersonator, trying to take on the fame and dread reserved for the REAL Meldrath.

Ohhh, and the genuine Meldrath is not quite such a pushover. In fact, he has been busy for years, perfecting his own insane blend of mechanomagica, with plenty of necromantic angle thrown in. He has an enormous floating platform, a mobile island in the sky, if you will, powered by mechanical means and steered with propellers.

His ultimate goal? To destroy Ak'Anon, the city that spurned him so long ago.

Adding to the deepening menace of these hidden lands is the news that the Sleeper himself has taken up residence in the Dragonscale Hills.

To be able to take on the many dangers lurking in Faydwer, the player level cap will be raised to 80. Progress will not be easy, as progression will be marked in three tiers, each of increasing difficulty. High end encounters will be largely gear-based (remember, EQ players are HARD CORE).

The Dev team for EQ is certainly sensitive to the needs of people who are not in raiding guilds. They will be able to progress as well, but naturally, they will gain more slowly. If the game allowed everyone to take on end-game content in gear that could be obtained solo or in single groups, it would be sorely trivialized.

I came back a short while later to find the server up and Absor busily taking people through some of the expansion lands. I had not actually seen EQ for some 3 or 4 years, and I was VERY impressed with the improvements to the graphics. It really caught me off guard to see how smooth and detailed everything was. Ok, it's an old game, but it has had some major facelifts. Their newest race, the Drakkin, are the first in re-tuned player models. They are more elegant and refined than the others, but changes are in progress for all.

If the EverQuest team keeps this up, we'll be checking in on them for a great many years to come. It doesn't look like they are anywhere NEAR done!


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