SOE’s EverQuest2 is an MMO that takes its name seriously. Very seriously. In fact, InfiniteQuest might be a better name for this game.

The original EverQuest is one of the few MMOs that I have not yet played. When it launched in 1999, the memory of my unpleasant experience with Meridian 59 was still fresh. As friends began to exhort the game’s virtues (it surprised me how fast the term “EverCrack” sprang up), my immediate reaction was, “Oh, hell no!” I imagined battles with my modem that would exceed any in-game combat. I was content to continue enjoying my single player games, where I could be blissfully ignorant of concepts like ‘ping’ and ‘latency’.

Fast-forward 10 years where I’ve played almost every popular MMO in existence except EverQuest and it’s younger sister, EverQuest2. A free trial offer and a download later found me rolling up a Human Swashbuckler and venturing forth into Qeynos.

I was initially beguiled. The extensive use of voice actors lends a unique sense of charm to the game. I found the player community to be mature and friendly, as I was quickly adopted by a helpful guild that was willing to show me the ropes. I completed all the missions in the beginner area and eagerly headed to the mainland.

Here’s where I should mention that there are two different types of people in the world: Those who like lots of options and those who don’t. I fall squarely into the second category. I’ve been known to walk out of restaurants that had too many items on their menu. Give me too many choices and my brain will seize up like an old engine with a bad oil pump.

The EQ2 designers seem to subscribe to the philosophy that more is always better. By the time my character reached level 20 she had a quest journal that resembled the classified ads, four rows of quick bars containing skills I had no idea how to use, and an inventory full of items with dubious levels of importance. In a word, I was OVERWHELMED.

At this year’s Game Developers Conference, I had the opportunity to talk at length with one of the game’s original quest writers. Apparently EQ2’s ‘kitchen sink” approach stemmed, in part, from their lack of understanding of player behavior. They created the content with the expectation that players would pick and choose which quests they wanted to do. They never anticipated that we would attempt to pick up every quest in a given area until our journals were overflowing.

It’s unfortunate that EQ2 lost me in its sea of options and endless possibilities. The game had a lot to offer. But that, in itself, was the problem.

* Desert Bus is a game that involves nothing but driving a bus from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV – in real time. It is very, VERY boring.


8 Responses to “NeverQuest”

  1. Ben says:

    “They created the content with the expectation that players would pick and choose which quests they wanted to do.”

    I would love to know if anyone does this as a rule, or at least generally. I can understand rolling up a new character and skipping certain quests that you know won’t reward you with anything useful, but I bet you did them the first time, at least.

  2. I am completely with you.

    People extol the virtues of Sandbox games, and I get the shivers. I like a game with a number of options, but a clearly defined path. I angsted over WoW because you had multiple quest zones. I couldn’t go to Ashenvale, because then I missed Thousand Needles…. People complained about Dragon Age being “too limited” but I found it perfect.

    I like Bioware’s idea – at any time, you should have no more than 4 primary goals. Each goal can have several parts, and even 1-2 separate parts, but you should be working on no more than 4 things at once. They even limit that to areas – KOTOR had 4 planets, Dragon Age has 4 factions, etc. I find that 4 is a good number for me.

    This is the main reason I haven’t gotten a character over level 45 or so in WoW – at that point, I have tons of choices, and none of them really stand out as “do this now.” So I do nothing, except play another game. 😉

  3. henebry says:

    The second panel shows great cartooning instincts. I love the way she’s halfway out of the panel as she speaks her line—and the suggestion that it’s the character that’s so bored she’s ready to tackle desert bus.

    But I don’t like the use of an asterisk in a dialogue balloon. You can’t footnote something you say, and dialogue balloons should read as spoken words. To treat them as written words is to undercut one of the basic tropes of cartooning.

  4. Leslee says:

    Ha ha! Ok. No more asterisks in dialogue balloons.

    I just assumed that many people would not be familiar with the game “Desert Bus” and wanted to ensure that it was adequately explained.

  5. Mr. Son says:

    As you say, there are some people who like lots of options. When it comes to games, I’m in that camp. This post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to try Everquest, and I went and downloaded the trial. I’m up to level 15, and having a lot of fun with it so far!

  6. Lomax says:

    That’s a strange problem but I can sort of see where you are coming from, I’m actually a bit of a completionist in real life and I have the same problems in game, its a hard job for me to actually prune away my quest log of useless quests I never intend to complete, and also hard to throw away items I think may one day have a use.

    I’ve enjoyed both types of games, the totally linear ones (like Guildwars) and the more open ones like EQ2. For me the big downside of linear ones is if the story you are being offered doesn’t suit you then the game doesn’t, whereas with EQ2 I roleplay to myself even if I solo so my Froglok Guardian is involved with the quests, I even refuse to do certain ones if I believe they are wrong but will go to the ends of the earth for a quest I believe in.

    One last thought though, the need to follow a set path or for someone else to guide us, I’ve had thoughts on this after allowing other people to organise things and followed them around on it (actually at the cinema). Is it our education that makes us so able to accept this? I have a feeling that its a flaw in ourselves that we often are more prepared to follow then to forge our own path, I have a suspicion that society makes us this way, another good reason to push ourselves to step off the beaten path and fight the impulse just to follow someone else’s lead, at least that’s how I view it.

  7. Eljacko says:

    Personally, I enjoy the massive amounts of quests in Everquest 2. I often become bored with linear stories, so I like how this game allows me to sort of write my own story by cherry-picking quests that suit my character.

    I also like how there are a large number of zones for each level group, any one of which you could head to once you hit their recommended level range.

  8. Dudu says:

    I wish WoW had the distinction beeewtn quests and “errands”. Quests are those long storylines, rich with lore, sometimes awesome, sometimes just annoying because they require a lot of travel, interweave group quests etc. But they’re worth reading, and following. Errands are just glorified grinds, fluff you do purely to level up. Kill ten rats. Bring me ten rat tails. And bring me ten cheese from their nests. At the moment for someone who doesn’t already know which of the quests are true “quests” and which are just errands it’s hard to tell beforehand. There are so many “errands” because creativity had its limits and so does developer time spent per unit of “gaming experience”, and simply cutting out all the “errands” in older MMOs caused people to scream in panic “Halp! I’ve run out of quests!”

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