If you’ve played EverQuest long enough, you start to look back at different periods of development and expansions and notice ebbs and flows.
Due to both internal changes within the team, and external business and industry shifts, the history of EQ also can be divided into various eras, periods of time that are separated by game-changing shifts in development.
After pondering these eras and what would define them, I settled on dividing EverQuest into “Ages” grouped by expansions.
Expansions are a natural way to divide up the game, as they often provide distinct art styles, gameplay, features, developer staffing, project management and more.
Those distinctions have a real impact on the “feel” of EverQuest at those times.
So, here’s my look at EverQuest “Through the Ages.” The list here only considers defining the ages for EverQuest Live, not the EverQuest franchise as a whole (Perhaps a topic for a future feature).
- “Classic” EverQuest – March 16, 1999
- Ruins of Kunark – April 24, 2000
- Scars of Velious – December 5, 2000
- Shadows of Luclin – December 4, 2001
The birth of the game and its rise to power. The classical age includes the original launch in March of 1999 through the 3rd expansion.
Rose-colored glasses often tint the view of the early days of EverQuest. Indeed, it was a good time for EverQuest. The player-base and lands of Norrath were growing quickly and vastly.
In just a couple of short-years, the game had expanded to 2 additional continents and the moon, and already thoughts of a sequel were well underway.
It is often this era of EQ that the most nostalgic players look back to. Fond memories of a different time, not only in EverQuest, but in the industry in general.
MMORPGs were a relatively young genre, and competition within the genre and entertainment industry was a fraction of what it is today.
The game was harder and less forgiving then. Corpse runs, fewer features and comforts of the modern game that made it more endearing to some.
- Planes of Power – October 29, 2002
- Legacy of Ykesha – February 25, 2003
- Lost Dungeons of Norrath – September 9, 2003
The “Golden Age” of EverQuest marks the pinnacle of EQs popularity and development.
The beginning of the Age is not well defined, and really is an extension of the Classical Age. It is mostly defined as the peak of EverQuest : A maturity in the game’s development, refining the differentiation between casual players and raiders.
Planes of Power is the behemoth here, as the subsequent expansions, Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath were along for the ride as PoP powered on strongly.
The cataclysmic shift in the game and the defining end to the Golden Age of EverQuest was the arrival of Gates of Discord and the events that followed in the industry.
- Gates of Discord – February 10, 2004
- Omens of War – September 14, 2004
This Age was perhaps the most defined shift in the game, industry and development, due to a variety of reasons.
This age could also be known as the Dark Age of EverQuest, though I didn’t want to give it a negative connotation. However, it is well documented that it was a difficult time for the game.
Discord not only aptly describes this age of EQ, but also refers to the lore within the game that took a turn to focus on the armies of Discord that dominated these expansions.
Gates of Discord launched in February of 2004 and was fraught with problems. Bugs and tuning errors in the launch turned many players away. Omens of War remedied some of these issues, but the damage had been done.
Combine that with the arrival of EverQuest II in late 2004, and the launch of World of Warcraft just before the end of 2004, and things became more difficult for EverQuest quickly.
EverQuest finally had significant competition which drastically reduced the playerbase.
- Dragons of Norrath – February 15, 2005
- Depths of Darkhollow – September 13, 2005
- Prophecy of Ro – February 21, 2006
“Stuck in neutral” is a great way to describe this age. The level cap was stuck at 70 for 4 full expansions (Since Omens of War).
“Lost” is a reference to the direction of the game. Still struggling from the Discord Age, the direction of the lore and the game seemed haphazard.
No major content change (no new continents, level cap increases, etc…just feature additions and a few bells and whistles).
Thankfully, this “Age” did not last long before needed changes were made.
- The Serpent’s Spine – September 19, 2006
- The Buried Sea – February 13, 2007
- Secrets of Faydwer – November 13, 2007
- Seeds of Destruction – October 21, 2008
- Underfoot – December 15, 2009
With the release of The Serpent’s Spine, EverQuest seemed to find itself again.
TSS offered a new race, and the expansion was touted to be essentially a new game. You could level from 1 to 75 all within the new expansion. A new starting city, new zones for all levels, and progression every step of the way.
This breathed new life into the game. The expansion seemed large and the world was vast again (especially when compared to the expansions of the Lost Age).
While The Buried Sea was somewhat of an outlier within this age, Secrets of Faydwer and Seeds of Destruction brought EQ back to its roots.
SoF brought us back to Faydwer with a good-sized expansion on the continent that is dear to so many. Good content, progression and lore helped to solidify EverQuest getting back on the right foot.
Seeds of Destruction continued with many of the same well-liked themes, revisiting some of the story staples in the lore of Norrath to “fix” the timeline.
Though the introduction of mercenaries may have had some side effects, it was a necessary evil in the state of the game.
This Age of EverQuest also is mostly well-defined by its end : the release of The Underfoot.
The Underfoot’s difficulty was a source of great controversy among players, and had a similar effect to Gates of Discord at the end of the Golden Age.
- House of Thule – October 12, 2010
- Veil of Alaris – November 15, 2011
- Rain of Fear – November 28, 2012
- Call of the Forsaken – October 8, 2013
- The Darkened Sea – October 28, 2014
- The Broken Mirror – November 18, 2015
Several strong expansions released in consecutive years, each with level caps increases (HoT through RoF) helped to usher in a new age of EverQuest.
This is the maturing modern EQ, though some would argue the expansions were slightly “cookie cutter.”
Level cap increase expansions had found their stride and developers knew what players expected. Even non-cap-increase expansions of COTF and TBM provided at least enough content to keep players busy, without just ramping up difficulty (see GoD and UF).
“Heroic” is a reference to Heroic characters, which start at 85, and use the House of Thule expansion for a “starting” area, as it is such a defining new era in the game.
- Empires of Kunark – November 16, 2016
- Ring of Scale – December 12, 2017
- The Burning Lands – December 11, 2018
- Torment of Velious – December 18, 2019
- “Torment of Velious Part II” (Likely 27th expansion) – TBA, 2020?
As EverQuest approached its 20 years in development, the caretakers of the game were wise to tap into nostalgia.
Players look back on the “Classical Era” of EverQuest fondly. Gaining new players in such a large, mature game with such a steep learning curve is less likely, and the target was placed on getting previous players to return.
TLP servers rose in popularity and EverQuest actually began to flourish again.
Meanwhile, the new content focuses on revisiting places from the early days.
Empires of Kunark and Ring of Scale go back to Kunark in two expansions, while The Burning Lands revisits Planes of Power content from the Golden Era.
Playing to that success, Torment of Velious returns to the frozen continent and is likely to be the focus of the 27th, as-of-yet unannounced expansion.