Early in EverQuest’s development, its creators went back and forth over how much of an emphasis to put on PVP, and how much to focus on cooperative play. In Better Together: Stories of EverQuest, the newest Shacknews Long Read, developers John Smedley, Brad McQuaid, and others reveal that their addiction to Ultima Online played a big part in shaping EQ’s co-op-centric design.
EverQuest started as the brainchild of John Smedley, one of two co-managers at a Sony studio dedicated to making sports titles for the PlayStation console. He hired Brad McQuaid and Steve Clover, co-creators of a niche RPG called WarWizard, to lead development of his online-only RPG for PC—then known only as “the online RPG.”
McQuaid and Smedley had different ideas for how the game that became known as EverQuest’s design should shake out. “Brad's and my only real point of contention was, I wanted player-versus-player in EverQuest. I pushed that hard,” explained Smedley. “A lot of that was a reaction to Ultima Online, but that desire was there quite a bit before that. The idea of having different races, some of which are antagonistic to each other—it felt natural to me that there should be some sort of PVP.”
Although McQuaid saw the appeal of PVP, he’d grown up playing MUDs—multi-user dungeons—text-only RPGs where working together with other players was one of the best ways to progress. “As soon as I found out that Ultima Online offered pretty much unrestricted PVP, I started writing on our website, and saying in interviews, ‘This is one of the perfect differentiators between us and them. If you would prefer a player-versus-environment game, you want to play EverQuest.’”
Co-op became vital to progressing in EQ as well thanks to its notoriously high level of difficulty. “EverQuest was by no means solo-friendly, at any point,” said Bill Coyle, a designer on the game. “If you tried to solo that game, you were in for a bad time. We had an experience system where, if you died, you lost XP. And when you died, you dropped all your stuff, and you'd have to do a corpse run all the way back there. That kind of hardship forged a community.”
“Brad, to his credit, saw the importance of co-op, and that's really what made EverQuest,” said Smedley.
To learn more about the making of EQ, check out Better Together: Stories of EverQuest, the latest Shacknews Long Read.