The Game Archaeologist: Seven ways EverQuest reshaped MMO history


To many veteran MMO players, the opening horns of EverQuest’s score are enough to trigger vivid memories, violent hallucinations, and an unstoppable desire to leap through the computer screen to return to Norrath. It all depends, of course, on which MMO you first cut your teeth, and while many gamers would claim titles like World of Warcraft as their first, there is a sizable contingent who will confess that EQ was their first MMO lover.

In fact, before WoW came on the scene in 2004, EverQuest was the gold standard of MMOs for a half-decade — it was insanely popular, perfectly addictive, and seemingly revolutionary. It was a giant that roamed the virtual lands of those days, a giant that continues to forge new grounds well over a decade from its inception. Today, we’re going to look at seven ways that EverQuest reshaped MMO history.

Still struggling.

EverQuest proved that MMOs could go beyond niche

The birth of graphical MMOs was a messy and unknown time, with various dev teams in the ’90s forging games out of their own visions and blind faith that it would somehow work out. It came as a boon to all of these other projects when Ultima Online released in 1997 to high acclaim, giving other teams an established point of reference to justify their projects — including EverQuest.

At best, Verant hoped that EverQuest would pull in 70,000 players when it launched. The team was stunned, then, to see the subscription numbers shoot well into the six digits by the third month and climbing to 450,000 subs by 2004. Although EverQuest took a hit with World of Warcraft and is certainly dwindling in population over time, the fact that it’s still running (charting 82,000 monthly users in 2020), still expanding, and still preferred over EverQuest II is a testament to the titan status it once held. I know that many recent MMO releases wish they could crack those numbers and yet fall far short of what EverQuest did a decade and a half ago.

EverQuest became the first true 3-D MMO

OK, I’m not here to step on Meridian 59’s toes, but the truth is that EverQuest’s claim of being the first true 3-D MMO is backed up by its full 3-D models and landscapes, whereas Meridian 59’s landscape is a 2.5-D world filled with sprites. What’s more important than who was first at what is that EverQuest (and Asheron’s Call) showed the world just how immersive and glorious 3-D MMOs could be. It was one thing to look down on the world from an isometric perspective (Ultima Online, Lineage) and quite another thing entirely to be at eye-level with the NPCs and monsters you encountered.

Verant’s commitment to a huge array of 3-D graphics and effects meant that players would be required to purchase graphics cards for their systems (if they hadn’t already), something that wasn’t as commonplace in 1999 as it is today. Even though the developers risked alienating some players because of this, they felt the trade-off was worth it — and they were right.

We're here! We're... that's it, actually.

EverQuest solidified the MMO format we (mostly) enjoy today

Depending on your level of RPG knowledge, you may or may not be aware of the term “DikuMUD,” a type of multi-user dungeon that featured a class-based hack-and-slash MMO that became more popular and widespread than other MUDs. EverQuest and most subsequent MMOs were founded on a DikuMUD-type platform (although Verant swore that it did not use Diku code), taking advantage of that format’s popularity.

It’s vital to realize how much EverQuest owes to this format, how far the DikuMUD influence extended into MMOs because of EverQuest, and why some older players use “DikuMUD” as a swear word as they cry out for originality in the genre.

EverQuest heavily influenced the industry

Here’s a bizarre thought: Without EverQuest, World of Warcraft — at least as we know it — would not have happened.

It’s hard to overstate just how profound of an impact that EverQuest had on the burgeoning MMO industry, but its level-based PvE gameplay caught on like wildfire, particularly with up-and-coming devs working on their own titles. In fact, several World of Warcraft devs cut their teeth working on EverQuest, including Jeff Kaplan, Alex Afrasiabi, and Rob Pardo.

While everything gets labeled a “WoW clone” today, back in 2004 a few folks were calling World of Warcraft an “EQ clone” (or close enough) — something Blizzard doesn’t outright deny. Current Blizzard President J. Allen Brack admitted as much when he said, “Certainly, I think WoW took a lot of great ideas from EverQuest. EverQuest is the big foundation for WoW.”

EverQuest propelled Sony Online Entertainment to empire status

What began as an internal side project for Sony eventually became the cornerstone of an empire. Due to EverQuest’s success, Verant Interactive — which was folded into Sony Online Entertainment — showed its parent company that there was gold in them thar virtual hill, and Sony started to dig.

One MMO became two, and two became several. Before long, SOE encompassed a host of MMOs, including EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Planetside, Free Realms, Clone Wars Adventures, The Matrix Online, DC Universe Online, and more.

While SOE certainly dwindled in its library and clout as it transitioned into the Daybreak years, EverQuest continues to lend the studio clout and finances. After all, an EverQuest sequel is still one of the most-requested products, a signal of the importance of this franchise.

EverQuest is the most-expanded MMO in history

Twenty-seven expansions.

Wrap your head around that, particularly if your MMO experience is outside of SOE’s sphere of influence. We think that games with three or four expansions under their belts are seasoned and huge, but EverQuest’s been expanding once or twice a year like clockwork ever since 2000’s Ruins of Kunark.

Each expansion added to the game in one or more of the following ways: additional zones (over 375 so far), new features (like Shadows of Luclin’s Alternative Advancement or Underfoot’s Achievement System), a higher level cap, and new classes. As far as I know, EverQuest still reigns as the undisputed king of MMO expansions.

EverQuest defined many genre terms

Have you ever heard “Ding!” from a guildmate? Does your raid use “DKP,” or “dragon kill points,” for loot distribution? What about the words “rez,” “mezz,” or “nerf?” Are you hoping your weapon will “proc” while you’re “farming” mobs hoping for a sweet drop? If so, then you probably have EverQuest to thank for it.

While all MMOs have their own jargon and abbreviations, EQ’s popularity meant that the unique vocabulary players used in the game was then passed on to future titles as those gamers migrated.

Believe it or not, MMOs did exist prior to World of Warcraft! Every two weeks, The Game Archaeologist looks back at classic online games and their history to learn a thing or two about where the industry came from… and where it might be heading.

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I dont think EQ reshape mmo history, Everquest actualy created it, made mmo industry into what it is today! So, “Everquest shapped mmo history” would be the apropriate title!

James Eze

The progression I had was Meridian 59 & Dark Sun Online -> UO -> Everquest … UO was popular … but, yeah, Everquest is when MMORPGs really took off. I remember there was a lot of talk back then about this rather small finite number of people that were interested in MMORPGs, but EQ’s numbers kept growing (albeit at a much slower rate than when WoW rolled around), despite the introduction of other games (dark age of camelot, anarchy online, etc).


You forgot: EQ attracted the Doom Crowd and “STFU and Kill stuff” caused most of the RPG fans to leave.

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Sometimes I wonder what’s it like in the alternative universe where EQ2 and WoW swapped places and EQ2 blew up. I tried WoW a few times, but never stuck. But if they had housing, I may have played it instead.


The main difference between then and now is the community. Back then the internet was new, so interacting with strangers online from around the world was quite novel, not like today where it’s standard; old news.

Back then the community was almost exclusively well-to-do RPG/Computer enthusiasts, while today everyone and their mother is playing. Not saying its bad or good, but it will never be the same, imo.


Those kind of players were those that defined the mmorpg genre, and then came WoW and brought in and a new kind of player, in huge numbers, and subsequent mmos has kept expanding on that. The original kind of players still exist (as new generations), but now they are a minority of the player base and therefore not the primary target for mmos (obviously the mmo design changed to target the largest number of players).
You could say that the new players hi-jacked the genre but it doesn’t really matter cause it doesn’t change anything.
It has long been said that the mmo genre is dividing again, finding their niche of players. There will be much experimentation, many will fail and in the end some will stand.

Oleg Chebeneev

My first acquaintance with EQ happened before I started playing MMOs. Was like 2002 and russian mag was publishing a series of articles about online adventures in Norrath. Was awesome read. There were also series of such articles about UO, those were awesome too.

This must felt special to play EQ at its prime


The original Everquest was so much fun. I would love to see a sequel that captures much of the original playstyle and updates it with the technology available today.

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UO was my first graphical mmo, but EQ was my first mmo love for sure. I find it hard to go back to now, but I still regularly hit EQII.


Sorry to tell you but Ding, Rez, and nerf were around before EQ. Also don’t you mean how World of Warcraft reshaped MMO history making other MMO’s antiquated and scrambling to try to copy it’s success?

Tee Parsley

It’s a little weird being an outlier here: My early experiance with EQ kept me away from MMOs for years. Did not care for it. A bunch of bad design got enshrined by EQ as well, and was carried on in later MMOs.

There was no magic in it for me.


As a pretty hardcore eq player I never saw WoW as an eq clone. WoW is a different game on many fundamental levels.

I transitioned from Eq1 to Eq2 at its launch in 2004 and then to WoW which I played on and off up until Cataclysm where I quit; and then to return to Eq1 progression servers and emulators since..
To me WoW was/is just a nice little toy game compared to Eq1, never reaching the boot of Eq1 on any level even to this day. WoW was slick and relaxing to play which at the time was a nice change to the “gaming as a 2nd job” that Eq1 had become for me.

WoW did not replace or upgrade Eq1 for me, instead it was Eq1 that made me quit Eq1 with the dreaded Gates of Discord expansion that at the time was supposed to fill a long content drought but instead alienated 90% of the player base.
After some years away from Eq1 it was just not the same game anymore, both because it started to change direction and also because most of my guildies were gone and how far I was behind.. so I never recovered to play live eq1.

Eq2 was pretty awesome at launch, but it was still more similar to WoW than to Eq1 especially as eq2 evolved, and tbh WoW sort of won that race with its ease and slickness.

But well anyways, Eq1 (as a snapshot of say 2005) is still the far superior and advanced mmorpg combat wise, gameplay wise, content wise, innovation wise than any other mmorpg to date. However, Eq1 has major issues, such is extreme time zinks and forced grouping, and I kind of workaround those by boxing (not automated) so those are a lesser problem for me.
The unfortunate truth is that I can not not play a single box in Eq1 without getting bored; this is not to say that the gameplay is not advanced, challenging and highly player skill based, just that the pace of it is too slow.

So there we are, been hoping for 15 years for a mmorpg with that depth of advanced and challenging gameplay as Eq1, but with some fixes to the issues of Eq1. The next generation of mmorpg, and yet for every new mmorpg, this hope has just moved further and further away.
A bunch of mmorpgs have had nice stuff on a detail level and that elusive “potential”, but it always seem wither away into mediocrity before realizing much of that potential. Kill every mob in 3 seconds and the boss in 20, no depth of player skill required, no tactics possible because of the high pace.
I totally understand why that next gen mmorpg is not being made because it would be for actual mmorpg players which are a small niche of the current “mmo” market. So on order to get one we need a developer who is kinda naive, without too many industry professionals to tell them how to make the most money – And yet lucky and skilled enough to not go bankrupt in the attempt (any oil sheiks with no financial sense around?).
Whattherant, ok stopping now :D

Oleg Chebeneev

Nice read. Although I chuckled at all the things you listed where EQ superior at. I understand you love the game, but c’mon. Its like saying Ford Focus is better at speed, maneurity, comfort and safetey than any car ever produced


I know it is a opinion that always gets the counter argument “things can only improve over time, so new has to be the better”.
Well I kinda feel pretty competent in comparing Eq1 and WoW at least, because those two games I have played to their full extent (up to a certain era); with ridiculous amount of days played and with curiousity to observe and try “all” playstyles, tactics, builds, raids, instances, dramas, systems and mechanics… Played the shit out of it.

I consider myself able to view these without rose tinted glasses, and as such I can not come to any other conclusion than WoW is nowhere near Eq1 in complexity of combat, on rewarding player skill (which includes knowledge, timing, tactical decision making), in content, in innovation, in depth.
Not everything, and Eq1 certainly fails on a lot of un-fun stuff that WoW doesn’t… It is just on the stuff that matters most (to me) Eq1 is superior and that brings the overall up so much that I can forgive the flaws. Also One of the fundamental ways I find Eq1 better is freedom (intentionally or not) where in WoW I feel herded and commanded; having played so many overdesigned mmos like WoW I have come to (maybe overly) appreciate that freedom some call Virtual World feeling (unfortunately pvp is not that kind of freedom).

Oleg Chebeneev

You have to play at highest levels of PvP to know about complexity of WoW combat. Fact is its much more responsive, dynamic and fun. EQ combat is basically standing still and clicking buttons. In WoW movement plays huge role.

As for content. Modern mythic raids in WoW are so much more complex and challenging than anything in EQ, its not even funny.

If we compare depth, imo WoW and EQ are somewhere comparable. But if we compare EQ to EVE for example. Well, EQ gonna be childs play in comparison.

Cant comment about freedom since for me both EQ and WoW are similar in design. You level. You do quests. You get gear through raids and whatever. Not much going on outside of that (well WoW also has PvP which is non existant in EQ).

Well, maybe EQ wins in virtual world feeling thing. Since WoW lost this feel long ago and pretty much theme park on rails now


You have to play at highest levels of PvP to know about complexity of WoW combat.

Hardly. But WoW is the only mmorpg where I have enjoyed pvp.

EQ combat is basically standing still and clicking buttons. In WoW movement plays huge role

You clearly don’t know what you are talking about. Sound like you played Eq1 on a basic level or only in early expansions (pre luclin).

As for content. Modern mythic raids in WoW are so much more complex and challenging than anything in EQ, its not even funny.

There were no mythic raids during the era I played WoW, but I would agree that some WoW raids were more complex than some Eq1 raids; they were also complex in different ways, so hard to really compare 1 to 1.

If we compare depth, imo WoW and EQ are somewhere comparable.


WoW lost this feel long ago and pretty much theme park on rails now

It kinda always were, it just weren’t as developed in vanilla. And this is where WoW and Eq1 is fundamentally different, in fact WoW started the themepark on-rails formula that all mmos follow now (even your pvp mmos for the levelling part) – And this is why I keep saying they are different games even though there are mechanical similarities.

Oleg Chebeneev

You got me curious about EQ combat. What exactly makes it oh so much better and more complex than what i see at lower levels. Other then more skills to click. I watched videos of EQ raids and people there barely ever move. And for some melee classes there is almost nothing but autoattacks.


Hmm first, this is also a matter of perspective which we probably don’t share. Sound like you focus on raids and pvp as defining combat, and also movement as an individual as counting as more tactical that I would put it as.

In general Eq1 raids are slower paced, so all action and phases of the fight happens over a longer time. Some fights don’t require a lot of movement, others require stepping in and out of AOE coverage, others require spreading out and others again require staying close, a lot require various forms of dealing with adds sometimes in phases sometimes select players need to CC, kite, Offtank adds during the entire fight, and so on and on, lots of variation. Some classes have very simple roles in some raid fights while having more advanced roles in others. Some classes are just very simple such as a rogue or a wizard, others have key roles as for example CC or cleansers or debufers of various effects.

But I really didn’t want to talk about raids because in Eq1 (luclin and forward), the “endgame” (hate that word) is not only about raiding as it is in WoW. This is somewhat because of the AA system introduced with luclin (which if you don’t know is a way to extend character progression through exp past max level, by earning AA points which can be used to improve the character; at their era the amount of AA points to earn through exp meant maybe 1000 hours extra game each expansion, and those really mattered a lot – The point is the endgame in Eq1 was much about grouping for exp, as well as raiding, as well as questing for gear and other activities, it was just more diverse in activities and how to do them.

So in short, I want to focus on the group mechanics of combat, and this is where Eq1 is superior to anything else.
First the usual thing that Eq players mention, WoW is trinity but eq is much more than trinity in roles. WoW is tank-heal-dps and a very shallow cc system. In Eq1 we have a lot of extra roles, such as debuffing&slowing, many more options for cc, pulling as a tactic, pacify to minimize pack size of pulls, kiting, rooting, charming, directional & position of mobs and also where to fight them to avoid extra aggro during the fight, knowing your aggro by knowledge&experience because it is not served to you on a bar, and I probably forgot a bunch. And then you take all these tactics and roles and make them more free choice – You could do without some of these, depending on the situation .. no tank, you could single/multi-kite or root, you could let a charmed mob tank, you could utilize a “dps” class as tank with various abilities and tactics.. you could do other group content better suited for what you had. Of course the optimal group would be a tank-heal-slower with various utility that mostly double as dps, but the tactics are much more diverse and advanced than for example a WoW group instance.

Just to mention a very few things:
Some mobs would be casters (gating for example is really bad), and one tactic would be to interrupt their casts with timed counter measures (stun usually).
Some mobs would enrage at 10% health and riposte anyone attacking it from the front, if you didn’t turn off attacks you would likely die.
Speaking of riposte, turning mobs so they only face the tank (so pets and melee don’t die to riposte) is an important tactics.
Attacking from the back even increased the melee damage and chance to proc, could make the mob stagger more and in turn reduce its damage output.
Getting into all the CC options is a 10 pager, but controlling the pull is very important in Eq1 to stay alive, either with CC or with various pulling tactics such as feign death or pacify.
You don’t want to wipe as a group in Eq1 as the penalty is much higher than WoW, in time to recover, maybe losing the camp or a named mob (remember this is open world).
The risk vs reward in WoW is almost non existent, but much more relevant in Eq1; in the old days (and this is not something I think was good) you could ultimately need another group to get your corpse(and gear) back because you were naked and unable to get to it, but even the recover penalty works well as a risk vs reward mechanic.
Some mobs had Immuties to various effects such as CC, snare, slow.
Resistances on both players and mobs played a much bigger role than in WoW, including debuffing mobs and buffing players.
Some mobs would have a nasty debuff effects that could be bad news for important buffs such as haste, mana regen, hp buffs because those actually mean a lot – And of course counter measures to this by ordering buffs, interrupting its casting, mana draining the mob, distance to its effect area, etc.
You could use tactics such as sitting to get mobs attention (for example to drag aggro away from your healer who was getting pounded to the ground.
Proximity to a mob used to have an effect on aggro (further away = less aggro), which could be used tactical. Also it could backfire for example the tank would not be happy about chasing mobs a long way, so a good player would test-sit for a very short time to see if they had aggro (unfortunately proximity aggro has been removed in modern Eq including progression servers).
A rooted mob would chance proximity aggro to always attack the nearest enemy, this could also be used tactically.
A good CC player would be very fast at re-cc when a mob escaped cc, maybe distance themselves to buy more time before they get pounded on. Also removing memory from a cc mob could be a good tactics so squishies would not be the priority of a mob when it escaped CC.
A good puller would monitor their group, their mana, hp, afk etc to maximize efficiency and also not pull while key members were away. Communication was important so everyone would know the groups status and ability to fight, fail at this and you would probably also wipe a lot more.
And much much more… this could go on for many pages, as the saying goes you can play Eq1 for years and still learn new things every day.

So anyway, all of this tactical and player skill combat has one mandatory concept (which is also its problem), it has to be slow paced to have an effect. The pace of combat in modern mmos is just too high for any of these tactics to matter. This is why the more action-combat a mmorpg gets the less tactical depth, and tbh I am not even going to pretend this is an opinion, it is a fact.
Is there is a nice middle ground when it comes to pace ? there probably is. I fully accept that Eq1 is too slow for many (actually including myself which is why I box more than 1 character except in situations where it is too hard to do more than 1 .. some raids for example).
Modern mmorps including WoW are just too fast paced for any kind of advanced tactical depth (for me), and I don’t consider twitch combat with fast reactions and decision making very tactical, challenging yes, fun yes sometimes and in smaller doses, but tactical it is not.

Oleg Chebeneev

First I’ll say that Ive read everything you wrote, even tho it was long :D
Second I dont think any of what you described has to do with combat. You wrote about pace and tactics. Quality of combat consists of other things – responsiveness, depth, animations, visual effects, dynamics, “the feel” and most importantly fun. In my opinion WoW has always been one of the best MMOs for combat. Even in vanilla. It is actually one of the main reasons why Ive played it for years.
I played EQ and know about its combat. It definetly has tactical elements, but too outdated in many things I listed to compete with modern MMOs (especially those like Lost Ark).

As for CC, buffs, tactics and strategy that you focused on in your description. Imaging where every boss has several completely different stages that require all that and more. And much quicker thinking, since everything is on steroids. In each stage a single little mistake from ANY member results into a wipe. That is mythic raids in WoW. There is a reason why top guilds with over decade of raiding experience and playing together have to go through 500+ wipes to beat some bosses.

Yeah, wiping in EQ is more risky and you have to run from miles away for corpse. But does it really make the game better? Would you rather prefer trying again to beat challenging encounter or running for hours again and again and again?

James Eze

What makes WoW combat more complex, other than more skills to click?

Positioning? That was in EQ too. What is there in WoW that isn’t in EQ?

You watched videos of EQ raids . . OK.

I played both games. I quit EQ after the Planes of Power expansion & I quit WoW very early, because w/ the instances it just drove home the whole reality of what ‘farming’ was. At least with EQ, it was competitive farming … which a ton of people didn’t like, but made things a bit spicier when you would have people training all sorts of junk on you and attempting to disrupt your raid whenever possible. This on a non-PVP server. It is true that the EQ PVP servers were not very populated. It was mainly designed for PVE.

If you like all your stuff scheduled at a set time such as farming expeditions, etc… and also wanted what was apparently a “fairly” good PVP system, then go for WoW, I suppose. My guess is a lot of people like to crow about how WoW is superior, but never really gave EQ a chance … the graphics thing, most likely.

I never played MMORPGs for PVP. That’s what those FPS & RTS games were for. My personal take, anyway.

I suspect a lot of the WoW PVP came down to who had the best gear from the PVE portion of the game, no? I could be wrong. I quit only months after the arena system was implemented.

Another reply of yours, that I’d agree with:

“My first acquaintance with EQ happened before I started playing MMOs. Was like 2002 and russian mag was publishing a series of articles about online adventures in Norrath. Was awesome read. There were also series of such articles about UO, those were awesome too.

This must felt special to play EQ at its prime”

Yes … and playing it in 2002 or 2003 or 2004, it probably felt quite dated already.

I won’t say that was back in the day of, say, the Ultimas, where you’ve have to buy a new graphics card every time a new Ultima came out, but improvements in graphics & computer hardware was much swifter back then.