Ten years ago today, Sony Online Entertainment released the follow-up to the game that put massively-multiplayer online role-playing games on the map. Two week's later Blizzard came along and set the map on fire, but some of us will never forget EverQuest II.
November 2004 was a magical month for MMO fans. Up until that month, EverQuest was synonymous with the genre, held up as an example of the appeal of playing online together as well as the possible negative side effects of immersing one's self in online fantasy worlds.
EverQuest II took the series' setting of Norrath five hundred years into the future, a cool time-jump that gave players of the first game a chance to rediscover the locations they'd spent five years inhabiting. Each new expansion pack uncovered a little more of the old world, often transformed in amazing ways.
I haven't got to spend a lot of time in EverQuest II, sadly. A relatively hardcore player of the first game, I was disappointed by the sequel's answer to the Bard, my class of choice. They took away my speed and my ability to twist songs. Between that and the odd, plastic-looking character designs, the game failed to capture my imagination for more than a couple of months at a time.
I'd say EverQuest II arrived a bit too soon -- only five years after the release of the first game, which people are still playing today. It was early in the life of the MMORPG genre, and Sony Online Entertainment was still getting a feel for the extended life cycle of such games.
And it certainly didn't help that Blizzard released World of Warcraft two weeks later. I've been prepping for that game's ten year anniversary for months, and EverQuest II's caught me by surprise, which is certainly a reflection of how well differently the two games were received.
Still, EverQuest II did manage to build a dedicated fan base, and current players are right now celebrating the milestone with special in-game events.
Ten years later, Sony Online Entertainment is gearing up for EverQuest Next, the third instalment (fourth counting EverQuest Online Adventures for the PS3) of the franchise. It's completely re-imagined Norrath and expansive player crafting elements have already captured the imaginations of hundreds of thousands of fans. If all goes well, it could wind up the most popular game in series history.
But EverQuest Next wouldn't exist without EverQuest II, the ten-year-old awkward middle child of the franchise.