By 2002, EverQuest’s popularity had peaked and gamers were starting to demand a bit more from their subscription fees. Bandwidth and computer power had risen sharply, so the capabilities were much higher than in 1998, when the original game had been designed.
The answer: EverQuest II. Sporting breathtaking graphics and greatly-expanded social and communication options (including voice chat!), there was no doubt this was a huge improvement over the still-popular original. A slightly darker edge mirror a subtle larger trend in player tastes over the previous few years, and many minor but frustrating bugs and exploits were addressed.
As we all know now, EverQuest II is not the ruler of the MMORPG world. So what happened?
Obviously, World of Warcraft happened. Opinions and evaluations vary wildly; many cite WoW’s comparative user-friendliness and simplicity, very attractive traits for the many casual and social gamers who may feel overwhelmed by the more complex rules of a ‘true’ RPG. Whatever the case, for SOME reason, huge numbers of players quickly and consistently chose WoW over EQ2 during the years after both were released.
Additionally, the rise of free-to-play MMORPGs siphoned many interested players away from the subscription-based online games, including the EverQuest series.
Sadly, EQ2 will probably go down in history as merely the sequel to one iconic game, or perhaps as the main competitor to another. Yet, at this date, EQ2 still has a healthy player base, and is currently enjoying a fresh batch of content; Sony Online Entertainment has averaged at least one major expansion per year since the game was released. I hear that more and more players still joining. I started playing, and unfortunately now I cannot stop.