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A quick look back at EverQuest that launched 25 years ago today


There are only a very few PC games that have been released that you might consider to be a huge influence on the entire industry. 25 years ago today, on March 16, 1999, one of those games officially launched. It's the fantasy massively multiplayer game EverQuest.

The game was certainly not the first MMO that launched, as the genre could trace its roots back to text-based MUD games in the 1980s. Other internet-based commercial MMO games like Meridian 59 from 3DO in 1996, and of course Ultima Online from Richard Garriott's Origin Systems in 1997, came before EverQuest

PC Gamer has an extensive look back at the creation of EverQuest, and it's well worth reading. In summary, John Smedley, who was at what was then called Sony Interactive Studios of America, came up with the idea of creating a MUD-style online game with thousands of players and with 3D graphics, which back then was just starting to become more prevalent in PC gaming. Smedley recruited programmers Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover to come up with the design of the game.

That design was heavily influenced by MUDs, and also of course from the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG. When it launched, EverQuest had 12 different races and 14 character classes to choose from. Players could pick their race and class to make their character, and then they could enter the game's fantasy world of Norrath, fighting NPC monsters and, more importantly, getting together with other online players to form guilds and even battle each other in PvP servers.

The PC Gamer article stated that the EverQuest team was very quietly working on the game, but that their big bosses at Sony didn't really know that it was being developed at this studio. Later, Sony Interactive Studios of America was renamed 989 Studios, and the decision was made that it would make just PlayStation games.

That could have left the EverQuest team out in the cold, but an offer was made to Smedley by Sony. The team could continue to make the game at a new spin-off studio that was partly owned by Sony, but they had to find the funding to keep making the game on their own.

Here's the really interesting bit of EverQuest's early development history. PC Gamer says that the team got an offer to fund the remaining part of the game's creation from none other than Microsoft. Indeed, it states that the offer was ready to be signed. There's no word on the terms of the deal, but it's interesting to think about the idea that in an alternate universe, EverQuest might have become a Microsoft game.

In the end, the team decided to take an offer from another subsidiary of Sony, called Sony Online Entertainment. The EverQuest studio itself was renamed Verant Interactive and they got to finish making the MMO, with the majority of their original design documentation intact.

When it launched 25 years ago today, no one on the EverQuest team expected the huge response from PC games. 10,000 players bought and signed into the game on the first day. Of course, the servers quickly crashed. In fact, the amount of broadband traffic that was being used by the game in its San Diego-based studio was higher than the entire Internet infrastructure for that city was able to support at that time. Thankfully it wasn't long before more broadband traffic was freed up.

The final result was that by the end of 1999, EverQuest outsold Ultima Online's numbers and became a massive hit. Sony officially bought Verant Interactive and merged it with Sony Online Entertainment. The game continued to gain more and more players over the next several years, and the team released paid expansions every year (sometimes twice a year) that increased the content of the game with new races, classes, monsters, and more features.

Today, the original game is still live at its current owner Daybreak Entertainment (Sony sold off the game in 2015). While it doesn't have the player numbers that it once had, Daybreak mentioned today that 84 characters that were created in the game on March 16, 1999 are still active.

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