Underachieving after one year: EQ2's 1st Birthday
Nov 12, 2005 16:55:00


Happy Birthday EQ2A glance at the market share sidebar on this page begs the question. Exactly where did Sony Online Entertainment, the former MMORPG Heavyweight Champion of the Western World, go wrong with Everquest2?

First, let us all agree that something did in fact go wrong. 3% market share and an inability to match the numbers of the original EQ indicates an enormous failure. The overall profit margin on the original EQ is likely very significant at this point, and I while I suspect that EQ2 has probably covered its considerable development costs, it has clearly fallen on its face when compared with its head-to-head competitor, World of Warcraft, which released nearly simultaneously and has captured market share unlike any other MMORPG released in the west, challenging the worldwide dominance of Lineage 2. There is no doubt that in the next 12 months World of Warcraft will surpass L2, while EQ2 will be lucky to maintain its meager 3% share. Clearly, something went wrong. And so, what can we learn from this?

1. Leverage your investment, and let your players do the same.

Why did EQ2 try to separate itself so distinctly from the very (and still) successful EQ1? It is understandable that SOE has learned an immense amount about MMORPGs from EQ1 and likely they wanted to correct the flaws that are inherent in the EQ1 system. Some of the perceived weaknesses in EQ1 would be:
  • Limited solo play opportunities.
  • Significant focus on grinding and camping.
  • Complex un-user-friendly user interface.
  • Mobs scale poorly post level 50.
  • Player Character animations/models are dated.
  • This list goes on and on and is subject to endless debate, but these are the obvious ones. I'm firmly convinced that the dollars invested in developing EQ2 should have been refocused on continuous and far reaching upgrades to EQ1. A system-wide graphics engine replacement would have probably done the trick for most of us. The fact is, many many players went over to EQ2 based on 1) Their love of EQ1, and 2) Desire for the jazzed up graphics and a modern interface. The class system that worked so well in EQ1 was discarded and replaced with a very thin system that offers far less strategical options and far less differentiation between each player. In short, it was dumbed down significantly compared to EQ1. Many players would have embraced the opportunity to continue with their same characters, guilds, and missions under a fully revamped engine and partially revamped world. Instead, the new system splintered Sony's player-base and frustrations related to EQ2 coupled with a desire to play a system of modern design actually caused many players to be lost to other systems, primarily World of Warcraft.


    2. Don't tax your player's machines.

    Many players never saw a character's face in EQ2 because their hardware wouldn't allow it. They played for months on the least aggressive graphic setting within EQ2 because their machines, which weren't cutting edge, but weren't exactly junk either, simply wouldn't support the requirements EQ2 called for. Don't get me wrong, EQ2's graphics are superb and no corners were cut at all, but only those with significant hardware were able to enjoy this. The emerging competition (Lineage 2, City of Heroes, Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars) all employed engines that run very effectively on machines of average quality. Yes t
    hey cut some corners, and yes, they designed stylized graphics that eased the burden on the machines, but the player base embraced this. The graphics looked better and ran smoother under the trimmed down engines, not to mention the graphic styles added to the brand recognition of these games. SOE blew it by trying to one-up everyone with their high end engine. See for yourself.

    Lineage 2

    Lineage 2 Screenshot 1Lineage 2 Screenshot 2Lineage 2 Screenshot 3Lineage 2 Screenshot 4

    Guild Wars

    GuildWars Screenshot 1GuildWars Screenshot 2GuildWars Screenshot 3GuildWars Screenshot 4

    World of Warcraft

    WoW Screenshot 1WoW Screenshot 2WoW Screenshot 3WoW Screenshot 4

    City of Heroes

    City of Heroes Screenshot 1City of Heroes Screenshot 2City of Heroes Screenshot 3City of Heroes Screenshot 4

    Everquest 2

    Everquest2 Screenshot 1Everquest2 Screenshot 2Everquest2 Screenshot 3Everquest2 Screenshot 4


    3. Release it when it's done...when it is really done.

    Sony was revamping critical systems right up until release and continued to overhaul systems for months after release. This was frustrating to players. Tradeskills were not fully formulated at release. Two months after the release all the mobs were re-tuned to allow more solo play. Class skills and talents were in a constant state of flux. UI bugs that caused equipment loss were numerous. Classes and combat were modified heavily during beta. All things considered it seems like they were not ready for release, but a date had been set and they hit it, for better or worse. Meanwhile, the other games released with little issue. Promised functionality worked as advertised and last minute changes did not plague the releases, nor did revamps of major systems after the release. This did not sit well for those players who started EQ2 on day one. A prime example: I logged off my two-boxed brusier and druid one day because I couldn't beat the mobs I needed to beat and figured I'd try again another day, maybe I'd get some help. Later that week I logged on and found that I could not only easily two-box those foes, I could solo them with the brusier. At the time I was pleased, I was more capabale of attaining my objectives than I had been a few days earlier. The underlying issue is that the game had been either A) broken for the first 3 months I'd been playing, or B) it was now broken. Why did Sony spend so much time building this system only to retool it at the last minute, and can it really be fixed by nerfing all the mobs without impacting the overall balance of the system?


    4. Dependencies are a b!tch.

    Tank and healer. Without this combination no one can play EQ2 past level 25. One would think Sony had learned from EQ1 that class dependencies are disliked. In EQ1 it was the Tank/Healer/Slower. In EQ2 they eased our burden and dropped the slower from the requirement list. Gee, thanks. That helps. Players want to play classes they like, not classes that are required in order to be effective. My EQ1 team was filled with two-boxers and three-boxers because it was the only way to progress without having an enormous amount of patience to find groups, or a huge guild to pull resources from. After 15 days of playing EQ2, we all realized that this new game was no exception. Additional accounts were opened and new complimentary characters were built. By level 25 we realized that if any of us hoped to play our duos alone we must have a tank and a healer. No exceptions. And so, our 6 man party was built of 2 melee classes, 3 healers (one of each class), and a chanter for utility. The playe
    r who owned the enchanter ended up quitting out of frustration with his inability to adventure alone, even when two boxing. Same old story once again. We were forced to fit the model Sony wanted to see. Tank and healers. No level of ingenuity on our part could over come this built-in barrier. Again, the other games mentioned do not suffer from this as dramatically as EQ2. And so, we moved on. The limited class selections in EQ2 actually made this problem more prevalent than in EQ1 where creative partying solutions were numerous, if not particularly effective in the context of end-game content.

    I could write an entire dissertation on this subject, but I'll quit there. In summary, SOE failed to hit the nail at all and put a considerable hurt on its thumb. It is unfortunate that they were unable to see how much was right about EQ1, and failed to translate it to, the underachieving unwanted unnecessary, EverQuest 2. Lucky for us, some of the other development studios did learn from EQ1.

    Submitted by Brent on Nov 12, 2005 16:55:00 CST (comments: 0)


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