No, I don’t (to answer people on Twitter) actually know anything about EverQuest III. I don’t even know if it exists. And in this NDA-loving age, if I knew anything, I couldn’t write about it. Isn’t it grand that the only time someone can write about something these days is if they know nothing about it?
Some people think SOE should just abandon EverQuest, as if there was a taint on the brand. Wrong. Both the PC EverQuests are still going strong, and EverQuest’s ongoing influence over modern MMOs can’t be overstated. The next EverQuest may not be (probably won’t be) called EverQuest III. Maybe it will be called something like EverQuest: The Tunarian Age. EverQuest: Through the Sands of Time. EverQuest: The Higher Planes vs The Undershore. Whatever. You get the point.
But back to the point. Free Realms is under development for three years or so, it launches, does great, fantastic reaction, two million players already — and then Clint Worely, EverQuest producer, vanishes into a secret internal project. Two weeks later, Bruce Ferguson, EverQuest II producer, follows him.
It isn’t tough to connect the dots here. SOE launches a new MMO, and ramps up production on another. A MMO that requires the producers of EQ and EQII.
That doesn’t mean that this new game has anything more to do with Free Realms other than being the MMO they are doing after Free Realms. I think the connection is a little closer.
How many MMO engines does SOE own or license? There’s the original EQ engine, which is kinda old and by all accounts difficult to change. EQII had another original engine, but though it’s come a long way in four years, is still system intensive. Vanguard uses Unreal Engine 3.0. There are lots of other engines they could license, but when it came to Free Realms, they wrote yet another.
How could they justify writing a whole new engine instead of using or licensing one that already existed?
They wanted an engine with low system requirements, with a large, seamless world, able to support vast numbers of players without lag, could stream content in the background as players explored, integrated with the web (and potentially other targets we haven’t seen, like hand helds and smart phones), scalable, comes with a cash shop, is portable to the PlayStation 3 and perhaps the PSP… all this cool back-end stuff.
They wouldn’t have made this engine just for one game. They wrote the Free Realms engine to be the platform for any number of games that would be able to have all the good stuff above available from Day Zero.
That doesn’t mean EQIII would have to look or work at all like Free Realms — I doubt the art style is tied to the engine, except perhaps the lack of sophisticated shaders, but maybe not even that. Plus, an EQIII would have to have things like guilds, raids, crafting and so on to be called EverQuest.
This may seem a little like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, but I believe EQ3 is out there, and now I am pretty sure it will be based on the FR engine. This is probably all really secret stuff, and if I ever suddenly go silent and the site goes dark and I’m never heard from again, it means I was right, and they got to me.