EverQuest is a 3D fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) developed and published by Sony Online Entertainment, and released on March 16, 1999.
EverQuest began as a concept by John Smedley in 1996. The original design is credited to Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover, and Bill Trost. It was developed by Sony's 989 Studios and its early-1999 spin-off Verant Interactive, and published by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE). Since its acquisition of Verant in late 1999, EverQuest was developed by Sony Online Entertainment.
The design and concept of EverQuest is heavily indebted to text-based MUDs, in particular DikuMUD, and as such EverQuest is considered a 3D evolution of the text MUD genre like some of the MMOs that preceded it, such as Meridian 59 and The Realm Online. John Smedley, Brad McQuaid, Steve Clover and Bill Trost, who jointly are credited with creating the world of EverQuest, have repeatedly pointed to their shared experiences playing MUDs such as Sojourn and TorilMUD as the inspiration for the game. Famed book cover illustrator Keith Parkinson created the box covers for earlier installments of EverQuest.
Development of EverQuest began in 1996 when Sony Interactive Studios America (SISA) executive John Smedley secured funding for a 3D game like text-based MUDs following the successful launch of Meridian 59 the previous year. To implement the design, Smedley hired programmers Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover, who had come to Smedley's attention through their work on the single player RPG Warwizard. McQuaid soon rose through the ranks to become executive producer for the EverQuest franchise and emerged during development of EverQuest as a popular figure among the fan community through his in-game avatar, Aradune. Other key members of the development team included Bill Trost, who created the history, lore and major characters of Norrath (including EverQuest protagonist Firiona Vie), Geoffrey "GZ" Zatkin, who implemented the spell system, and artist Milo D. Cooper, who did the original character modeling in the game.
The start of beta testing was announced by Brad McQuaid in November 1997.
Release EverQuest launched with modest expectations from Sony on 16 March 1999 under its Verant Interactive brand and quickly became successful. By the end of the year, it had surpassed competitor Ultima Online in number of subscriptions. Numbers continued rising rapidly until mid-2001 when growth slowed. Sony's last reported subscription numbers were given as more than 430,000 players on 14 January 2004.
EverQuest initially launched with volunteer "Guides" who would act as basic customer service/support via 'petitions'. Issues could be forwarded to the Game Master assigned to the server or resolved by the volunteer. Other guides would serve in administrative functions within the program or assisting the Quest Troupe with dynamic and persistent live events throughout the individual servers. Volunteers were compensated with free subscription and expansions to the game. In 2003 the program changed for the volunteer guides taking them away from the customer service focus and placing them into their current roles as roving 'persistent characters' role-playing with the players.
In anticipation of PlayStation's launch, Sony Interactive Studios America made the decision to focus primarily on console titles under the banner 989 Studios, while spinning off its sole computer title, EverQuest, which was ready to launch, to a new computer game division named Redeye (renamed Verant Interactive). Executives initially had very low expectations for EverQuest, but in 2000, following the surprising continued success and unparalleled profits of EverQuest, Sony reorganized Verant Interactive into Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) with Smedley retaining control of the company.
Many of the original EverQuest team, including Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover left SOE by 2002.
Subscription numbers While the exact statistics on EverQuest subscriptions are not public, computer games analyst Bruce Woodcock estimates, based on public sources such as press statements, that the game had 200,000 subscriptions in March 2000, one year after initial release, with an increase to more than 450,000 subscriptions by July 2003. However, the same analysis points at a sharp decline after mid-2005, back to 200,000 in May 2006.
Growth and sequels The first four expansions were released in traditional physical boxes at roughly one-year intervals. These were highly ambitious and offered huge new landmasses, new playable races and new classes. The expansion Shadows of Luclin (2001) gave a significant facelift to player character models, bringing the by-then dated 1999 graphics up to modern standards. However, non-player characters which do not correspond to any playable race-gender-class combination (such as vendors) were not updated, leading to the coexistence of 1999-era and 2001-era graphics in many locations. The expansion Planes of Power (2002) introduced The Plane of Knowledge, a hub zone from which players could quickly teleport to many other destinations. This made the pre-existing roads and ships largely redundant, and long-distance overland travel is now virtually unheard of.
EverQuest made a push to enter the European market in 2002 with the New Dawn promotional campaign, which not only established local servers in Germany, France and Great Britain but also offered localized versions of the game in German and French to accommodate players who prefer those languages to English. In the following year the game also moved beyond the PC market with a Mac OS X version.
In 2003 experiments began with digital distribution of expansions, starting with the Legacy of Ykesha. From this point on expansions would be less ambitious in scope than the original four, but on the other hand the production rate increased to two expansions a year instead of one.
This year the franchise also ventured into the console market with EverQuest Online Adventures, released for Sony's internet-capable PlayStation 2. It was the second MMORPG for this console, after Final Fantasy XI. Story-wise it was a prequel, with the events taking place 500 years before the original EverQuest. Other spin-off projects were the PC strategy game Lords of EverQuest (2003) and the co-op Champions of Norrath (2004) for the PlayStation 2.
After these side projects, the first proper sequel was released in late 2004, titled simply EverQuest II . The game is set 500 years after the original. EverQuest II faced severe competition from Blizzard's World of Warcraft, which was released at virtually the same time and quickly grew to dominate the MMORPG genre.
Decline Since the release of World of Warcraft and other modern MMORPGs, there have been a number of signs that the EverQuest population is shrinking. The national New Dawn servers were discontinued in 2005 and merged into a general (English-language) European server.
The 2006 expansion The Serpent's Spine introduced the "adventure-friendly" city of Crescent Reach in which all races and classes are able (and encouraged) to start. Crescent Reach is supposed to provide a more pedagogic starting environment than the original 1999 cities, where players were given almost no guidance on what to do. The common starting city also concentrates the dwindling number of new players in a single location, making grouping easier. 2008's Seeds of Destruction expansion introduced computer controlled companions called "mercenaries" that can join groups in place of human players; a response to the increasing difficulty of finding other players of appropriate level for group activities. As of Seeds the production rate also returned to one expansion a year instead of two.
In March 2012 EverQuest departed from the traditional monthly subscription business model by introducing three tiers of commitment: a completely free-to-play Bronze Level, a one-time fee Silver Level, and a subscription Gold Level. The same month saw the closure of EverQuest Online Adventures. Just a few months earlier EverQuest II had gone free-to-play and SOE flagship Star Wars Galaxies also closed.
In June of the same year SOE removed the ability to buy game subscription time with Station Cash without any warning to players. SOE apologized for this abrupt change in policy and reinstated the option for an additional week, after which it was removed permanently.
November 2013 saw the closure of the sole Mac OS server Al'Kabor.
In February 2015 Sony sold its online entertainment division to private equity group Columbus Nova, with Sony Online Entertainment subsequently renamed Daybreak Game Company (DBG). An initial period of uncertainty followed, with all projects such as expansions and sequels put on hold and staff laid off. The situation stabilized around the game's 16th anniversary celebrations, and a new expansion was released in November 2015.
As a result of the layoffs, customer service was severely curtailed. The expansions DBG released consisted of about half the content that was released prior while the Everquest franchise was owned by Sony. Each released expansion by DBG had numerous serious bugs, where either the events were not tuned correctly, players were allowed to do what they should not be allowed to do, or so buggy that the game was unplayable.