Are we witnessing the death throes of EverQuest II? Of the whole EverQuest franchise? These questions have been at the forefront of my mind lately. Today’s EverQuesting started as a guide to EQII’s expansion prelude event, but I kept coming back to these questions. (The guide will come next week!)
Yes, I know that there are folks who have cried that EQ and EQII have been dying or all-but dead for years — and Next and Online Adventures are already deceased and buried. Yet during those years we’ve still seen some life in the first two games. They have persevered!
But now, I feel like I am witnessing the franchise’s final breaths. Me, the eternal optimist; me, who subsists on hope. And I started losing that hope because Daybreak’s actions lately appear to indicate that there’s no love left for one of my all-time favorite games, EQII. Between less dev interaction, less content, less communication, and just less enthusiasm for these two titles — yet a preponderance of attention on others — it’s hard to hold onto hope. At no other time has it felt as if Daybreak was turning its back on and all but abandoning the IP that gave it life more than it does right now. The IP that still has many fervent fans. My final two straws? The lack of any exposure at PAX West and the lack of enthusiasm for this year’s expansions.
Do the devs care?
This question may obvious to some and unfair to others. For a long while I could say I was in that first camp: It was obvious that they did! While you couldn’t just know what was in the minds of others, the devs shared with us so we could have an idea. I knew they cared because I could experience it in person at SOE Live, hear it in their voices during interviews, and see it in their interaction with community. Sadly, it’s been a long time since we’ve had any of these demonstrations. Is the question unfair now? Is it obvious? Some could say they obviously don’t care, while others could say it’s unfair to ask because we can’t know. But we could know better if there were still lines of communication.
Could the devs have had that passion for the franchise slowly sucked out of them? They could have. I wouldn’t know. My concern is that there’s nothing indicating otherwise; there’s such a lack of interaction with the fans now that there is no counter to that argument. I worried about this exact thing when Emily “Domino” Taylor left Daybreak to move back to her home country, Canada. She was the last public face of the EverQuests (Brasse, head of public relations, already departed after Daybreak’s initial layoffs), one whose enthusiasm for the game was apparent and infectious. When she left, I was concerned that there would no longer be someone to interact as she did. And I was right.
Taylor was also completely right when she told me in an interview that devs’ needn’t be that prevalent on social media, that it was the community team’s job, but I think the studio made a huge mistake not keeping someone front and center, interacting with the community. We lost the human element that we’d had for years previously. We lost a very visible reminder that the devs themselves did still care. Seeing that enthusiasm for the game went a long way to helping us remain enthused and hopeful.
When I say communication has waned, I am not just talking on a macro community level – I mean on a personal level too. I used to personally have conversations with many devs. I could easily attest to their passion and drive for the game because I was experiencing it first hand. I shared this with everyone to help assuage fears to the contrary. But then a thing happened — we reported something true, a direct quote Daybreak didn’t like that sent the community into uproar — and my communication lines for EQ and EQII were effectively cut. I admit to a some frustration and a lot of sadness at this. The Daybreak folks were people I cared about, personally and professionally, working on a game I also cared about. And I wasn’t the only one to experience this, as the creator of EQ2Wire expressed similar sentiments when announcing the closing of his long-running EQII news and information site just last week.
Maybe the devs are still as passionate as ever. In all fairness, they really could be! But when no one can see that, it’s harder to envision. When there is less and less communication with press and playerbase, less and less meaningful content, and less and less acknowledgement of the games from the studio, it’s much more likely to feel that the loving feeling is gone, gone, gone. We can more easily succumb to believing that all the stresses of the Columbus Nova takeover, the layoffs, and the various shutdowns (and possible looming threat of the closing of the franchise) have taken a toll on enthusiasm in the workplace. With nothing to indicate otherwise, this is what we are left to believe.
Does Daybreak care?
Separate from wondering if individual devs care about the continued existence of EQ and EQII, (I’m much more inclined to believe they do as individuals), we wonder if the studio cares any about the franchise — or if Columbus Nova ever did. After the last few months, I don’t feel like it does. I’ve already been saddened by the lack of attention that the franchise gets. It feels like it has minimal resources at its disposal, a conclusion I come to by looking at the lack of content and lack of communication. Even though they’ve been neat, I can’t argue against the fact that the most recent expansions have had less meat to them, and there are fewer big patches throughout the year with substance. And we aren’t hearing much about them when there are.
The big “Daybreak doesn’t care” slap in the face for me was at PAX West. Here was a huge layout for H1Z1, and not a peep was present for EverQuest or EverQuest II. Not. A. Peep. I was honestly surprised (yeah, I probably shouldn’t have been) and very disheartened because I thought this would have been a great opportunity to drum up/share excitement about the upcoming Norrath expansions. Even if it was a little side booth in the corner of their piece of the show floor. I mean, it is well-knownn that EQ and EQII get their expansions in November, so how in Hades was there no information on these by Labor Day? This really felt like the studio was yelling loud and clear that its attention was for one offspring, and one offspring only. And it wasn’t for my beloved EQII or its older sibling.
And that brings me to the second slap of realization that’s driving my hope out of me: lack of expansion enthusiasm. Yes, we finally got announcements about the expansions this week, but those were really sparse, wedged into low-key producer letters. And there was a distinct lack of excitement about them. I get that there is no Daybreak Live to share the announcements in grandiose fashion (maybe there darn well should be), but waiting so long to put out info — and then having so little info to boot — makes the whole expansion feel like an afterthought. Like, “Oh yeah, we gotta do this thing, yada yada.” We don’t even see press releases anymore regarding Norrath, and we haven’t for a long, long time. It breaks my heart.
Even other announcements about recent content have been so lacking in information. Look at the summer reward event, a multi-week special event that had the barest of announcements; the most information for this came from community. Or what about the EQII expansion prelude event? It just started with so little notification and fanfare. And there is information within that announcement that looks like it is not quite right or misleading (we’ll be covering that in next week’s guide!).
Can things turn around?
I’d love to be totally wrong about all of this. I’d love to see a major resurgence of attention and love showered on EQ and EQII. I’d welcome a chance to talk with any devs who want to express how much passion they still have for Norrath. While we see official announcements on Twitter and Facebook, we don’t see much personal interaction, much love for the games. The EverQuest fanbase misses that. The current silence is deafening; after a company had spent so much of its lifespan (talking the SOE years here) being open and communicative with fans, silence only comes across as bad news. It’s like the silence of a funeral.
I want these worlds to persist because they are special. I do not think there is anything that can take their place. If I lost EQII, I’d feel a pretty big Norrath-shaped hole in my heart and I would mourn. And sadly that feels so much more imminent now. I want so much to be wrong. But my hope has waned. And I know many others have already lost theirs. This feels like the end of an era. I hear the clock ticking ever so loudly now.
Make it not so.
The EverQuest franchise is a vast realm, and sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores all the nooks and crannies from Antonica to Zek. Running biweekly on Thursdays, EverQuesting is your resource for all things EverQuest, EverQuest II, and Daybreak. And keep an eye out for MJ’s OPTV adventures!