Today I want to welcome Rick "Stoney" Stonebrook to our neck of the Massively woods. I remember finding Stoney's EQOA blog over a year ago and being so impressed that there was someone out there regularly updating a blog about this low-profile MMO. Stoney agreed to an interview about the game from a player's and blogger's perspective, so here goes!
The Game Archaeologist: Please introduce yourself and your blog! Why did you start blogging about EQOA?
Stoney: Well, I'm 24 and have lived in a lot of places in the past few years. I adopted the name Stoney when I started the blog, eqoa.wordpress.com, in October 2010. The purpose for the blog was simple: compile as much information about the game as I could find using various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and YouTube. I hadn't played since 2005 and wasn't familiar with any new content. I had always wanted to return to the game. Thus the blog's goal evolved from a collection of memories to an effort to get people to return.
A friend of mine had bought the game in 2003, just after its release. I wasn't familiar with the title but had been playing SOCOM: US Navy Seals on the PS2 for several months. After my friend stayed up for a week straight playing a Paladin, I cracked and bought the game.
For those who are unfamiliar with the product but know EverQuest, how is EQOA different? How is it similar?
The story lines and basic game play are almost identical. From a user interface standpoint, EQOA is much simpler to play. In fact, I'd argue that its simplicity is the reason a lot of people fell in love with it. Though your button options were limited to what the controller could offer, SOE did a fantastic job making a game that matched up well with the controls. Anyone who has played the game will agree that the ability to "target" a monster in EQOA is unmatched by any other MMO yet to be created. Hardware wise, I'm not sure any other MMO at the time could offer what EQOA did. It didn't take a pricey computer or even a fast internet connection. In the days of dial-up, EQOA would play just as smoothly as it does on the fastest connections today.
What are some of the challenges that you've seen for an MMO to be on a console?
The most obvious is hardware limitations. In any given zone, at any given time, EQOA was limited to about 20 other characters or monsters. Back in its prime, it wasn't uncommon to be standing in a busy city and only be able to see about four other people around you, even if in reality there were 200. The game was simply unable to process the first M in MMO.
Has SOE abandoned EQOA over the years?
Without a doubt. Frontiers, the first and only expansion, was released the same year the original was released. A combination of Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft helped put the final daggers in any further major expansions. There's always been rumors of a second expansion called Underfoot. Yet SOE has never commented on this.
What do you think the company should do with the game moving forward into this decade?
The game is still profitable for SOE. Yet, finding an actual EQOA disc is nearly impossible. Your best best is Amazon; be prepared to drop $75 or more. Thus, SOE should reprint a few thousand discs and reopen the marketplace option online. Furthermore, PS2 is obsolete and only a few PS3s support PS2 games. All of those PS3s are no longer in production. This is a nightmare situation for a game like EQOA, and the best idea would be to release a PS3-compatible edition of the game.
What's your favorite class and race in EQOA?
This changes daily, yet a Human Alchemist is what I had the most fun playing. They're overpowered, and in a game where it's tough finding friends to group up with, being overpowered is quite all right.
Getting caught training (running a herd of mobs into an unsuspecting group of other players with the intention of killing them) some people by a GM. In a game with a couple hundred active accounts, it's pretty easy to get caught doing something stupid. I was in high school at the time, and being a jerk to people came naturally. With that said, I never laughed harder at a video game than when a bunch of friends got together at 3:00 a.m. and ran 50 wild boars and lionweres into Forkwatch.
For the record, my account was suspended one week.
When's the last time you were in the game, and what was the community like?
I returned from January 2011 until late June. The community was great, just as I had hoped for when I returned. I switched to a more active server, and it made all the difference. A lot of people try to return to the game as if it never aged. They are sadly disappointed. It's 2011, not 2004. I think any old time player just needs to tweak their expectations and he'll find that the game and community are still great.
What would you change about EQOA if you could?
I would add a map and location system. WoW spoiled me with the map function to the point that navigating around EQOA became a nightmare.
Should EQOA go free-to-play or offer a PC version?
I don't believe it should be free to play. Yet what I do believe is that the game's profits shouldn't be going toward the development of other MMOs. When you're buying into a game, especially an MMO, you're not only paying for the maintenance -- you hope to be paying into the development.
As for offering the game on the PC. Hell yeah!
What do you think is EQOA's legacy for the MMO genre?
It was a lot of people's first MMO, and they will never forget it. As for overall legacy, it'll be a drop in the bucket. It was the first console MMO, which is groundbreaking. But so were MiniDiscs and Betamaxs.
Thanks for sharing with us!
When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.