March is definitely roaring in like a lion for EverQuest. It's launching its new free-to-play program, and it's also celebrating its 13th anniversary with a big bash in game. With all of the changes, players are sure to have more than a few questions about the free-to-play transition and the state of the game today. We recently sat down with SOE Producer Thom Terrazas at a roundtable to answer those questions, so read on for details on the new free-to-play plan as well as the Hero's Journey, revamped maps, birthday celebrations, and the announcement of a brand-new server!
Thom Terrazas has been in charge of EverQuest team for the past three years but has been involved with the game going back to when it was in beta. He told us it's been quite an adventure to go from playing the game to now running it.
As he explained, over the last three years, EverQuest has seen quite a bit of content overhaul. The team introduced a sixth continent into the game as well as a new race relating the the continent. In the upcoming year, the devs will be wrapping up the storyline for that area. Given the success of EverQuest II's and DC Universe Online's transitions to free-to-play, SOE felt it was a good time for EverQuest to follow suit. The game has a dedicated and longtime community of players, but going free to play will give new players a chance to see the content and bring back old fans of the game. As in the EverQuest II free-to-play plan, players will have the choice to play for free or upgrade to silver and gold plans, which unlock more features and options.
The devs have posted a handy matrix that helps answer more specific questions about the new free-to-play plan, but we wanted to know whether gear will be affected as EQII's F2P gear tiers are limited. Terrazas explained that there are prestige items in EQ, and while free players could loot and bank them, they cannot not equip them unless they upgrade. But as in EQII's plan, players can purchase individual unlockers for things like bag slots and character slots, so you have some flexibility on what you want to pay for if you don't want to upgrade. Also, Terrazas assured returning players that they will be able to access all of the characters they've rolled in the past, even if those characters are linked to a race or class that's locked to free players. He said that one of the benefits of following EQII's footsteps is that the team saw how important such grandfathered characters were to returning EQII players. EQ's devs aimed to have that in place from the start when EQ transitions to free-to-play.
In addition to converting to a free-to-play model, EverQuest is celebrating its 13th anniversary with a series of special quests found in the Plane of Knowledge. To kick things off, seek out Sam Nats, a Halfling who has knowledge of all of the superstitions of Norrath. He'll be talking about all the fables in the game, and he's asking players to prove that the old wives' tales aren't true. Players will be able to run through 13 main quests that involve superstitions like stepping on a crack or broken mirrors. The anniversary events are available to both free players and subscribers, but Terrazas added that time-locked progression servers are currently up to only the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion (so those servers haven't unlocked the Plane of Knowledge yet).
Some players might be coming back to the game after a long hiatus, and Terrazas said the team understands how difficult it will be to pick up on all of the changes that have occurred. To address that, the devs are putting in new feature called the Hero's Journey, which is similar to EQII's Golden Path. It helps guide players on where to hunt at certain levels, and it's full of achievements for players to snack on. Terrazas explained that when players log in, they'll have a log of achievements, quests, and events that will help direct them on where to go and what to do. The book also relates a storyline about the lore behind the Hero's Journey and how it will take you from from level 1 to level 85. No matter what level you are, though, you'll still be able to accomplish those achievements. For those players just starting out, there will be some nice rewards and gear tied to the quests, which should make it easier to work through the process of leveling.
On top of that, SOE has added lots of helpful information to the in-game maps. Players will be able to see important locations, NPCs, and waypoints marked on the map, in addition to the wisp that's already visible in game. Also, if a player needs directions to a particular zone, she can enter her current zone and her destination to cause the map to give her the fastest route to get there.
Along with the free-to-play launch and the anniversary events, EverQuest will also have a new server available; it will be called the Vox server and will give players a chance to start fresh on a brand-new server and be the first to accomplish new things there.
We asked about players who might use the free-to-play system to create bots and whether that hurts opportunities for players to group. Terrazas explained that the team believes in "playing your way" and that the game has always had a certain percentage of players who have multiple accounts and enjoy multiboxing extra characters. He feels it's up to the players to choose what playstyle brings them enjoyment; while he doesn't consider himself someone with enough of an attention span to play six characters at once, it's OK if someone else does.
Lastly, Terrazas was asked whether EQ will be the last SOE MMO to transition to free-to-play. He said there are still a couple of titles that haven't, but he did tell us to "stay tuned." No doubt, many fans of SOE games will indeed stay tuned, but in the meantime, you can head to the official EverQuestsite to download the client and check out the game. Now, if only someone could point me to the Burned Woods...
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