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March 19, 2012
EverQuest Turns 13 and Goes Free-To-Play

By Jason Van Horn

Recently we here at MPOGD took part in a roundtable interview with EverQuest Producer Thom Terrazas to talk about the game's 13th anniversary and the news that the game was going free-to-play starting today (March 16th). What can players - both old and new - expect as the game becomes a teenager in the world of MMOs?

Thirteen years ago EverQuest launched and the world of MMORPGs has never been the same. Not only was it the first 3D MMORPG on the market, but it introduced many ideas that are simply commonplace, core features of MMOs today like putting guilds and raiding dungeons online. The team even just recently introduced a new, sixth continent into the game fairly recently and that storyline should be finishing up within the next year.

To celebrate the game's 13th anniversary, EverQuest is not only turning back on the previous anniversary content they've made available in the past, but they've taken past content and tied it in to some storytellers and NPCs in the Plane of Knowledge that you can visit in order to experience both the old and new content. You'll know that something big is going on in the Plane of Knowledge and that there's a celebration happening too, as there will be banners and all the bells and whistles to help you find out what's happening and help you go and experience that content. EverQuest isn't just recycling old content for the anniversary, as they're adding a new quest chain (13 main quests essentially) that has you helping a new character investigate the idea of old wives tales, stories and myths to see if they're all fake or if there is some truth to them; the superstition storyline will have you exploring things such as if anything happens when you step on a crack, break a mirror, and much more.

The anniversary content will be available to everyone, though there is on asterisk - time lock progression servers might not have the Plane of Knowledge unlocked yet given the fact that on those servers content is based on group contribution; so if you're on a time lock progression server you might not get to see it, but otherwise everyone is good to go and have fun.

The other big news is that EverQuest is changing to the free-to-play model of its sibling sequel EverQuest II, as well as other Sony properties such as DC Universe Online. One of the reasons behind the decision to go free-to-play is actual because of the success of those two games in particular, as the uptake has been incredible, as there has been a high increase in new players checking the games out and past customers coming back to play them. Customers aren't just logging in, playing once, and then leaving either, as they're constantly logging into the games each month. Thom referenced the idea that many games feature subscribers that feel like they own a gym membership, meaning they're subscribed though they rarely use what's available to them, while EverQuest has maintained a continuous following and that it's players are always around.

With EverQuest going to the free-to-play model, they're looking at making the game as accessible as possible to returning and new players and that a big draw is that you're allowed to play the game and customize and expand your experience and characters as you see fit. There are some limiting unlocks on characters and accounts, but there's nothing that will stop players from being able to experience 100% of the game. In fact, the ability to allow players to customize their experience was one of the top reasons the game was made free-to-play.

There are three different membership levels - Free, Silver and Gold - but besides unlocking certain aspects or giving extra bonuses to paying members, there is no separation between the three, so all Free, Silver and Gold members will be able to inhabit the same server and work and play together through the hours upon hours of content.

When you login to the game for the first time, you'll automatically be entered into the game's achievement system, which helps keep track of events, quests that you can do from levels 1-85, and overall help guide players so they know what to do and where to go next as they progress through the game; it's like a vast golden path with rewards that are often tied into gear you can earn. You'll also be able to find NPC characters and locations easier, thanks to a wisp system. You'll be able to look onto your map to find where you need to go, but a wisp will also appear on your screen and help draw a line and lead you to the person or destination you're trying to find. Players can also expect zone lines to appear, which will help you move from one area to the next by what's deemed as the easiest route possible.

By allowing other games go free-to-play first, EverQuest also learned how to handle some different mechanics, such as grandfathering in some players and characters given certain situations. When EverQuest II went free-to-play it took about 24-hours before everyone was properly grandfathered in, but with EverQuest's F2P launch everyone will be good to go right from the beginning. One of the things the developers definitely didn't want to happen is to have a previous player login to the game, only to find they could do nothing more than sit there as their character was unavailable given how they fit into the new membership system.

It can be hard to jump into a game that's 13-years-old as most people have probably hit level cap - or even several times for that matter - and thus there's nobody around to do any of the lower content together. Besides transitioning the game to free-to-play, EverQuest will also be opening a brand-new server, so players will have the chance to reach a milestone or earn an item before anyone else, plus it helps bring players together at lower levels and have the world feel that much more enriched and alive.

One of the questions a lot of people are probably asking, however, is "Why should I want to play a game that's 13-years-old?" Thom referenced the fact that with the introduction of competition people are naturally inclined to want to go out and try the latest and greatest thing to see how it features up, but after that's done a lot of fans still keep sticking with EverQuest and returning time-after-time. Thom still thinks EverQuest is the latest and greatest game out there, as there's a solid core group of players that play the game, there is no "easy button," the depth of gameplay and content is there, but maybe beyond all other things the game features rich storylines that really try to tell a story, broaden the lore of the game, and that that's what's really going to set them apart. When you meet certain characters or go up against major bosses, the lore and story behind those fights is going to carryover and remain with you as an experience you won't forget.

Whether you've played the game before or not, with EverQuest's 13th anniversary upon us and its transition to a free-to-play model, now is the perfect time to give this game a look and see why it's had the staying power to last all these years.


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