Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Preview of an "Upcoming" Game

I was attempting to dog-proof my old room at my parents' house, when something on the cover of an old issue of PC Gamer caught my eye. And now, straight from June 2002, here are details from the "world premiere of the sequel to the hottest online RPG ever" - none other than EQ2!

Fun Facts
  • EQ1, with its 420,000 subscriptions and $12.95 monthly fee, was the king of the genre.
  • The game was slated for an October 2003 launch (it eventually shipped in November 2004, just before WoW).
  • Initial character creation was to be purely cosmetic (race and appearance). You'd get your archetype role at level 6 and your sub-class (the game's modern classes) at level 30. The game actually launched with a version of this system, and has since scrapped it.
  • "Tradesman" was to be a separate archetype, rather than a parallel path for all characters.
  • The game was slated to launch with 100 levels, and Sony claimed to be considering support for up to level 200 via expansions. (The current cap, five expansions post launch, is 80, with an increase to 90 in February's expansion.)
  • The very next page after the EQ2 preview is an ad from EB Games to pre-order the collector's edition of Warcraft III. Blizzard itself also has an ad later in the issue. I guess Blizzard was stealing the spotlight from other MMORPG's even back then.

A very different accessibility experience
I'm also struck by how hardcore the game sounds. A few more fun facts:
  • "One early quest scores you a compass, ending the Sense Heading tedium, but there's still no map."
  • All gear was to be "transient", with an unavoidable chance of permanently breaking. The rationale was to allow more impressive quest rewards, provide a constant market for crafters, and even defeat twinking - you'd be allowed to twink gear to lowbies, but the characters' lack of skill would cause the gear to break sooner.
  • On camping while waiting for respawns: "Sitting on that cold, stony dungeon floor may be tedious at times, but it's also understood to be critical to the socializing experience for groups."
    The people who made this plan look on WoW's automated instanced group finder and weep.
  • Banks would not be global. You'd need to buy a personal cart or boat to haul stuff from city to city, and hire other players to guard you en route.
  • Player housing would be non-instanced, with the potential to slowly build into a city as more of your friends move in. Of course, there'd also be limited numbers of plots, so late-comers would probably be out of luck.

There's no mention of soloing, because the thought that someone could solo to the level cap in the sequel to Everquest was completely unthinkable. Overall, it sounds like a game that I would have approximately zero chance of wanting to play. Which, one supposes, is why the game didn't actually turn out that way.


hound said...

That is an interesting comparison. So much optimism in the old way.

"Sitting on the cold, stone floor may be tedious..." you don't say!

I love seeing irrefutable references from the past. Far too many people have short memories these days.

Yeebo said...

Wow, great find. Even launch EQ II was nowhere near that hardcore. The game was difficult solo due to the abundance of linked mobs, and they did have that stupid "play for X levels before you try your class out" system in place. But apart from that, none of those features sound familiar.

I wonder at what point the direction of development changed and what caused that to happen . . .could it have been a certain beta?

GuyOnInternet said...

I would guess the change came when they saw what WoW was doing in beta, hence the extra year of development. I would also like to add that, personally, the game I want to play is much more like the EQ2 that is described there than any other on the market today. I realize this is niche at this point, but I am not alone (In fact, I was just having a conversation of everything "missing" from MMOs today, that included the type of things on that list)