Sunday, February 19, 2012

13 Years Later: EverQuest Finally Going Free-to-Play in March

The great-granddaddy of 3D massively multiplayer online roleplaying games won’t cost a thing to play for the first time in its 13-year history come March 2012 — so sayeth the folks at Sony Online Entertainment.

“After listening to your feedback and suggestions over the past few years, I’m happy to announce that in early March 2012, EverQuest will be going free-to-play,” writes EverQuest producer Thom Terrazas. “We’re excited to be expanding the EverQuest experience by making the game more accessible to every type of player so that you can choose to play the game in a way that suits you best.”

But wait, didn’t EverQuest already go free-to-play? You’re thinking of EverQuest II, which did indeed tap the free-to-play model back in 2010 via “EverQuest II Extended” (EverQuest II itself went free-to-play in December 2011). But EverQuest trundled along with its unknown (presumably shrinking) player base, asking players to pay just shy of $15 monthly since the subscription rates last went up in 2005.

I haven’t played EverQuest since 1999, six or seven months after it launched, but at the time it was something to behold, run through a pair of 3dfx Voodoo 2′s in SLI (Scan-Line Interleave) mode. I remember killing giant bees outside a city with trees the size of redwoods (a tree city with elevators you’d ride up to trade loot and skill train, if I’m remembering the leveling system correctly). I also remember doing that ad nauseam for a month until I bounced — the original 3D grind!

If you’ve never tried EverQuest but want to see what the hullabaloo was about (long, long ago, anyway), Terrazas says you’ll be able to download the client in March and calls it “Free to Play, Your Way,” meaning it’ll support several ways to engage, including the old $15 monthly rate, which’ll offer access to…he doesn’t specify, but it probably involves punching through level caps and/or having access to special areas, features or other content. The freebie version will limit character creation options, the number of characters you can have at once and how much money you can plug into the in-game bank. You can throw $5 one-time at the game and bump those restrictions a bit.

EverQuest celebrates its thirteenth anniversary on March 16, so alongside the free-to-play launch, Terrazas says to expect new events and items, a renovated website and upgraded EQPlayers pages, and an updated in-game map that’ll show level content for your character and help you locate zones with less trouble. For the full feature list, check out Terrazas’ EQPlayers note.

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