The forgotten game in the Sony Online Entertainment portfolio has always been EverQuest Online Adventures. It was one of the first and few MMOGs released for a console, but widespread console connectivity was still a generation away and the game did not ignite a new wave in the way its namesake did for the PC. Despite the lack of mainstream success, the now four and a half year old game continues to operate and we spoke to Senior Producer Clint Worley about where it has been and where it is headed.
“We have a steady player base that’s there, but early on with the Playstation 2, EQOA faced a lot of challenges,” Worley admitted. When it first launched, the Playstation 2 network adapter – something that would become internal in the next generation of consoles – was expensive and difficult to find. “The whole online gaming with the Playstation 2 console was an admirable attempt, but it was still ahead of its time.”
While the hardware odds have been stacked against the game, it still maintains a loyal and vocal playerbase who hope to see more updates to the game. However, an expansion is not part of SOE’s plans at this time. “A lot of the team that would have worked on that has moved on to other products,” Worley said.
“The number of players we have in EQOA seems to be pretty close to what we would have,” he explained, “so we’re not sure if we announced a new expansion there would be a huge influx of players.”
SOE believes it is easier for them and better for their players to concentrate on free content updates and not force them to purchase another retail expansion pack.
“Logistically in terms of the company it is easier for us to provide free content to the players on an ongoing basis,” he noted that they provide free content updates every month or two, something that would have to come to an end if they entered full production on a new expansion pack.
For Worley, the most interesting part of the EQOA is the partnership that has developed between the players and developers.
“The players work pretty closely with the development team,” he told us. “There is this kind of vested feeling.”
This is, he says, made possible by their decision to concentrate on patches. The lead time is not as large and it enables the developers to more rapidly process and develop content that the players have asked for.
Nonetheless, the fact remains, that they are asking for an expansion pack. One reason for this is that SOE is handcuffed by the lack of internal memory on the Playstation 2. All of their patches must be server-side, which means that they’re limited to gameplay elements, like quests. It is near impossible for them to release new art or areas, both of which would require either a new disk or a download.
“[The players] get more free content than we would put out in an expansion by far,” Worley insisted. “If we move toward an expansion, that content would stop and it would probably stop from anywhere from 18 to 24 months.”
EverQuest Online Adventures is a casual MMOG, nowhere near as hardcore as EverQuest. It has a heavy emphasis on quests and quicker, more bite-sized chunks of content.
“What we were trying to do with EQOA is make a game that is much more approachable,” he said. “There’s not as much of a grind as you find in the pc online games.”
In the recent months, the team has conducted a series of events in the game, including a fishing tournament and a Halloween event. They plan to continue these initiatives into the future, although at the time of the interview, he was not ready to delve into long term content plans for the game.
What about the long term health of EQOA? Not even SOE will call it a smashing success, but they nonetheless are quite proud of what the game has achieved and do not believe it is any danger of disappearing anytime soon.
“Out of all the massively multiplayer games we have, EQOA has the least amount of churn,” Worley told us. Churn is an industry term for the rate at which people leave a game and are replaced by new subscribers. This means that out of all the SOE MMOGs, the EQOA playerbase is the most stable. “With EQOA, it’s interesting, we kind of alternate between months where we have positive influx and months where that goes down a bit.”
“The life span of the game is actually kind of amazing,” he added. “Our subscriber base hasn’t changed since the day the game launched.”
EverQuest Online Adventures is fully compatible with the Playstation 3, a fact that they hope keeps that playerbase stable. However, there are no plans to release a version for download on the Playstation Network.
“What we’re trying to do is figure out if there’s really a space for it,” Worley said. The problem they face is that while the game is obviously more suited to the online-ready PS3 with its internal hard drive, the game itself is 8 GB in size, which would be a major download and would practically fill the system that downloaded it.
Despite the obstacles they face, Worley and his team remain committed to continued updates for the game. Some players will undoubtedly be upset they have no plans for a full expansion, but SOE believes they are doing the best they can for their players with their current approach and their stable playerbase indicates they are likely correct.