So, I'm an amateur game historian who likes to go around and do write-ups about video-games I enjoyed. I also like informing people about the history of a game or development studio they may not have known about. Between EverQuest & StarCraft, you basically have both games that molded my childhood experience and made me the gamer I am today - it wasn't until I would reach adulthood that I'd start looking behind how these games were created, by who, and what inspired them.
Released on March 16th, 1999—nobody expected EverQuest to make history—but it did, thanks in part to the passion and enormous efforts of the team responsible for its creation; John Smedley, Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover & Bill Trost.
In 1993, two virtually unknown developers, Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover, released their first game; WarWizard.
WarWizard was a fantasy based roleplaying game created in their spare time—and although it never found mainstream appeal, their experience creating the game would be a vital stepping stone towards future projects.
2 years after the release of WarWizard, they previewed a demo for a sequel to their game, WarWizard 2, and caught the attention of John Smedley, now in charge of Sony Interactive Studios America.
John Smedley had been tasked with the creation of an online roleplaying game, John—a huge fan of table-top RPGs, like Dungeons & Dragons—wanted this new game to have the same feel as Dungeons & Dragons, but didn’t exactly know where he wanted to go with it. He recognized the creative talents of Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover and formally invited them to join the team. John hired Bill Trost shortly after, and around this time they formed Verant Interactive.
Over the next few years the team of Verant Interactive refined the concepts John Smedley began with and started to create the robust world of what would later be called EverQuest. Bill Trost and his friend, Tony Garcia, would frame the world's history based on their Dungeons & Dragons campaigns--altering them to form the foundation for the world that would eventually be named Norrath.
In 1997 Ultima Online took the MMO world by storm. Emboldened by Ultima Online’s success, Verant Interactive pushed forward with their project, attempting to create a 3D version of text based MUDs, which they were all very fond of playing. The project proved to be enormous; Bill Trost is largely created for developing the history and lore of the world. Programmers Steve Clover and Brad McQuaid continued development, eventually hiring on Geoffrey Zatkin, who made the spell system of the game & artist Milo Cooper, who made the original character models. Brad McQuaid moved from lead developer to producer and then to lead designer over the entire project.
EverQuest released on March 16th, 1999—by the end of that same year, subscription numbers soared past Ultima Online and it became the most popular MMO in the world. EverQuest gained quite a bit of main-steam attention after that, most of it incredibly negative about how addictive video-games could be, but none could deny how great a game it was.
PC Gamer named Brad McQuaid one of the “Next Game Gods” in its November 2000 issue, boasting that he would become one of the biggest giants in the video-game industry. Sony Online Entertainment acquired Verant Interactive shortly after that and Brad McQuaid was promoted to Vice President of Premium Games and Chief Creative Officer. In 2001, he left Sony to create Sigil Games, taking many of the EverQuest developers with him in the process.
On April 24th, 2000 - the Ruins of Kunark expansion released, quickly followed by the Scars of Velious that same year—which added an impressive depth of content to an already, enormous game. EverQuest faced a lot of competitors after release, but subscriber numbers stayed strong up until around 2004—when Blizzard’s popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, came onto the market. Subscriber numbers for EverQuest tanked, quickly. In an effort to keep remaining players connected with one another Sony Online Entertainment made two big changes: the first, they encouraged players to start in the new HUB city of Crescent Reach. Previously, all the races would start in their home cities and then have to meet up for dungeons, but they didn’t have the subscriber numbers to effectively allow existing players to group. Second, they introduced the NPC controlled “mercenaries,” to make leveling easier for existing players. The NPC mercenary would allow you to group up and effectively duo enemies, making sure you had someone close to your level range to form a party with.
In 2012 EverQuest went free-to-play, under enormous pressure from the MMORPG market, including long-time-competitor World of Warcraft. EverQuest 2, created as a direct-sequel to EverQuest in 2004, also went free to play.
In 2010, they attempted to reboot the EverQuest franchise in the title for EverQuest: Next, and EverQuest Next: Landmark. EverQuest: Next was going to follow along the same lines of EverQuest, set in Norrath, but in an alternate timeline. EverQuest Next: Landmark, was the game’s world-building tool, which would also be accessible to players! The top maps and builds would be implemented into the game. Unfortunately, despite fan excitement for both projects, they were scrapped in 2016. Music composer of Elder Scrolls fame, was slated to be the game’s composer. EverQuest Next was also supposed to be released for the PS4. The official release for the statement came directly from Daybreak Games president, Russell Shanks, “As we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun.”
In 2015 Sony Online Entertainment sold the license for EverQuest to private equity group, Columbus Nova, who would later become Daybreak Games. Daybreak Games still runs the server to this day and development on new expansions is always ongoing—although the game hasn’t seen a true graphics update since Shadows of Luclin in 2001.
When will EverQuest finally close the doors of Norrath for good? That’s hard to say at this point—I can’t imagine a world without EverQuest, same for a lot of other players. I was 10 years old when I first began my journey in Norrath and I’ve loved this game ever since.
Though I stopped playing in 2004, EverQuest was the game that I compared every other MMO to. It had so many incredibly, unique features and memorable worlds that I was sure I’d be playing the EverQuest franchise for years to come
Though Daybreak Games owns the license for the official EverQuest game, a small, fan community has arisen around the game, titled: Project 1999. Project 1999 is a classic EverQuest emulation server that evokes a time when the game was still at the height of its popularity--it's worth checking out if you've not read up on it or played it before.
Thank you for indulging me!
Nickadimoose Reddit Nov 2018