First In, Last Out: EverQuest 1 Goes F2P

By Alec Meer on January 31st, 2012 at 11:01 am.

Imagine if real boats were free to ride. You pay more for lifejackets and sick bags.

I can’t help but wonder how many of today’s crop of MMOs will manage to last 13 years. Running expenses are surely so much higher than they were in dear old EverQuest’s day. The major precursor to the dark age of grinding and number keys that we know so well has indeed managed a baker’s dozen-sized lifespan, and while its days as a subscription game are not yet numbered, it now also wears a free to play coat on its aged frame.

There are three broad options, should you wish to check out granddad:

free-to-play, which offers some basic, low-level stuff and the option to buy additional chunks of game, character slots and whatnot.
Silver, which costs a $5 one-off fee and gets you access to more stuff as well as retaining the option to buy yet more.
Gold, which costs $15 per month and lets you do whatever, whenever.

There’s a faintly bewildering and evasive breakdown of what it all means here. The small print is probably the most illuminating stuff there, though:

The FREE access requires payment if you wish to upgrade your membership or make purchases in the in-game Marketplace. The Silver Membership can be purchased via a onetime Station Cash transaction (Silver Pack Item) available for $5.00 USD or 500SC in-game. Gold membership is available for $14.99 USD per month.
All membership levels are granted full access to game world through the EverQuest House of Thule expansion. The Veil of Alaris™ expansion must be purchased separately.
The four free races included with FREE and Silver Memberships are: Human, Erudite, Barbarian and Gnome.
The four free classes included with FREE and Silver Memberships are: Warrior, Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue.
Levels are limited by the expansions owned. The House of Thule expansion will allow for a maximum level of 90. Level 91 to 95 requires the purchase of the Veil of Alaris expansion.

OK? OK. Also, existing subscribers are being granted 500 of SOE’s cross-game currency Station Cash per month as a thank you/sorry gesture.

The transition will happen in early March (which is when the 13th birthday is due), and there’s some enthusiastic words from EQ’s smiley producer here, of which the below is a sample:

“We’re excited to be expanding the EverQuest experience by making the game more accessible to every type of player so that you can choose to play the game in a way that suits you best. Anyone who wishes to start, return or continue to play one of the “Best Games of All-Time” can simply download and play EverQuest on their terms – think of it as Free to Play, Your Way. Recurring subscriptions, non-recurring subscriptions, Silver or Free memberships, item unlockers, and more. The game will now be setup to be flexible so that *you* can decide how much to pay, based on how much fun you’re having.”

What if I’m having more than $15/month of fun? Did they think of that in their fun quantifications, huh?

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42 Comments »

  1. Neurotic says:

    It’s a fairly standard tiered system they’re using, and identical to what EQ2 has. The levelling being limited to expansion pack ownership is the same as it was when it is on a normal sub, and in fact given that House of Thule is the last-but-one xpack, they’re certainly not being stingy by any measure!

    I predict that the greatest barrier to enjoyment most new players will face is the UI. Those with age and/or patience will be fine, but younger gamers weened on bold, colourful WoW-like UIs will be turned-off instantly. There are loads of replacement UIs, but they’re all fundamentally the same as far as fiddly, ‘too hi-res’ awkwardness goes.

    As a Day One EQer, I welcome this announcement with open le- arms. The only downside is, that between it and EQ2 and EQ Next when it comes out, I may never leave Norrath again. *sigh* Wake me for TES X and I might come out… :D

  2. 2late2die says:

    I can’t believe this game is still going. I can’t believe people are still paying for it. o_O

    • Cerzi says:

      Me neither, considering http://www.project1999.org has been running for free for several years now, and captures the essence of what really makes the original early EQ stand out from the MMOs of today.

      Modern EQ is just a shoddy version of the games that were inspired by it. Tellingly, the subscriber numbers are at their highest when SOE set up a new “progression server”, one that starts out with the original, vanilla EQ.

    • history_denier says:

      May want to change that URL to the correct .org address. The .com address takes you to an ad redirect.

    • Cerzi says:

      Oops, thanks. Fixed!

    • undead dolphin hacker says:

      >>Tellingly, the subscriber numbers are at their highest when SOE set up a new “progression server”, one that starts out with the original, vanilla EQ.

      And, tellingly, you are prohibited from playing on the progression servers at all unless you pay the full $15/month.

  3. Kent says:

    Does Everquest really have anything unique left, that pretty much every other MMO haven’t ripped off and ‘perfected’ already?

    Bah, I hate MMOs… except for Guild Wars, the only really unique MMO.

    • Phantoon says:

      EVE isn’t unique?

    • Zarunil says:

      What about SW:TOR?

      Right? Right??

    • UnravThreads says:

      a) Guild Wars isn’t an MMO. Guild Wars 2 will be, though.
      b) Yes. EverQuest 2, at least, is one of the few MMOs I’ve seen with two art selectable art styles and very few games, MMO or not, have such a wide range of classes and races.

  4. Maxheadroom says:

    Fook me I’ve been waiting for this for years! Not to actually play it, but for nostalgia

    I still remember where I logged out my little Dark Elf Shadowknight for the last time some 8 years or so ago after spending all afternoon killing the same badly animated centipede over and over for the exp, only to die and lose the lot and then some (dying really was a set back in MMO’s of yore)

    • Howl says:

      I do miss consequence for failure in MMOs. It’s not possible to appeal to the mass market with these kind of gameplay dynamics though, which means less revenue and a slim chance we will ever see that again.

      Heart rates would soar and hands would literally shake with fear during a tense encounter in Lower Guk at the thought of perilous corpse recovery attempts. Also, with Darwin’s law being in full effect it produced closer communities because cooperation was mandatory.

  5. Dana says:

    Still waiting for Warhammer.

    • caddyB says:

      I tried to resub for a few months last year when we were playing Warhammer Fantasy rpg, but it kept giving me errors when I tried to sub. Then I tried to contact support, but that also gave me a 404 as well, I gave up at that point.

  6. kommissarnicko says:

    “…Think of it as Free to Play, Your Way”

    Finally, a Free to Play that I can My Way.

    • westyfield says:

      For what is a man? What has he got?
      If free to play, then he has naught.
      To play the game he truly finds
      to be good fun, and not a grind.
      See, I coughed up
      and paid the sub
      and played it myyyyyy wayyyyyyyyy!

  7. deadly.by.design says:

    More amazing than this, Asheron’s Call is still subscription-based. That’s what I played for a few years instead of EQ. (learning that full MMOs are a waste of life is something you have to learn for yourself… it’s like the matrix or something)

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      I was going to mention Asheron’s Call myself. That was my MMO of choice back in the day and nothing’s quite matched it for me since. Would love it to go free to play.

    • PostieDoc says:

      What about Ultima Online? Is that still going and is it anything like its original form?
      Loved that game, no quests just an open world to live in.
      Then the advent of Care-Bearland ruined it.
      >:(

    • Cerzi says:

      search for In Por Ylem, a popular emulator that has tried to create the game that UO would’ve been if it didn’t go down the trammel route.

    • terry says:

      IPY is great, and has a very active community. It’s somewhat reminisent of Siege Perilous with less grinding, gameplaywise.

    • Premium User Badge

      Chaz says:

      Yeah it’s amazing how many MMOs are still going that you would have expected to die out ages ago. I think Dark Age of Camelot is still subscription based, and thats got to be over 10 years old now. Also a few others that have gone free to play that are still hanging on, such as Horizons or Istaria as it’s now called, and Ryzom, I can’t believe that still lives. Then you have some of the more recent crop of MMOs that struggled to make it out of the gates but are still hanging on tooth and nail such as Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which again much to my surprise is also still subscription based.

      Old MMOs never die: they simply fade away.

  8. Arglebargle says:

    Good. they have less and less excuse for keeping Vanguard in subscription mode.

    Watching friends play EQ and UO back in the days of yore kept me MMO free for years.

  9. Montavious says:

    I’ve always loved this game compared to the crap out now. Hopefully this will bring in a lot of new players so we can stop using these dang mercenaries. I’ve played this on and off since it came out. All these years and this is the only MMO I have comeback to repeatedly. They dumbed it down ans made it easy mode, but I still manage to love it.

  10. Red_Avatar says:

    How DARE you call Everquest first <.<

    Related note: UO has been "F2P" for ages if you count the free shards. The official servers are horrible anyway because everything is built full of houses and all the additions just made the game an unfocussed mess. The pre-Trammel shards are brilliant and still beat most MMOs out there in scope, size, atmosphere – not to mention depth and replayability.

    • Hydian says:

      If you want to stretch the genre to include UO, then, yes, EQ was not first. But then, neither was UO which came out long after Neverwinter Nights.

    • Beelzebud says:

      “If you want to stretch the genre to include UO, then, yes, EQ was not first. But then, neither was UO which came out long after Neverwinter Nights. ”

      Please tell me this is a lame troll attempt.

      UO is definitely an MMO. Meridian 59 was the first. Neverwinter Nights isn’t an MMO at all, and it came out around 5 years AFTER UO did…

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      AOL’s Neverwinter was closed down. /EDIT: @Beelzebud Bioware’s NWN wasn’t the only game with that name.

      I think Meridian 59 is the oldest one with graphics still that is still running. I think Ultima Online is the second oldest (w/graphics) still around, and I’m pretty sure the first one that was actually labeled “MMORPG”.

  11. adonf says:

    “Running expenses are surely so much higher than they were in dear old EverQuest’s day”

    I don’t think so. Bandwidth costs have come down a lot, and hardware too (I don’t think that a modern MMO needs a much more powerful database server than an old one, especially now that everything is instanced, but I may be wrong.)

    Anyone else remembers when EQ’s subscription went from US$10 to 15 because of “We have too many players and it’s costing us too much in servers and data” ? I’m still not over it…

  12. Premium User Badge

    Black Dow says:

    Such a great game back in the day. The next gen MMO could learn a thing or two from EQ. Make it hard as nails , unforgiving and very very rewarding. Too much was given away in later expansions , fast travel , corpse summoning, & bazaars. The best days were begging druids for ports , bards to find lost corpses & high level characters to drag your battered corpse out of some god forsaken hole. Sitting in a corner of a city with hundreds of others hawking and haggling over your hard earned loot.

    Each server had its own curious differences and etiquette. Damm happy days, i hope it will be good to go back, but i fear it’s been changed into WoW with dated graphics and a clunky interface.

    I’ll give it a shot though, any RPS guilds in the offing ???

    • MiniMatt says:

      I have a lot of good memories of EQ1, the original EverCrack, such that I’m not sure returning would be wise lest I shatter my rose tinted banded iron helm/spectacle combo.

      A lot of things I *wish* were in modern MMOs but probably no longer even in EQ, like a GM turning up, in avatar form and having an actual conversation about your proposed guild, it’s goals, it’s aims and it’s vibe before daining to allow such a creation to be formed; like enough GMs to ensure that the very limited number of Lego1as characters were renamed sharply (and even then you knew it was because Lego1as had actually read a book, of several hundred papery pages). Like levelling taking *months* (if not years) such that the journey really was just as important as the destination, like it taking a good hour to run across the continent, like fights taking several minutes rather than one or two shotting, and death having very real consequences.

      Auction houses not even being conceived of and so players organising into the East Commons tunnel every weekend for trade; feeling godlike when my Ranger finally got SoW and randomly granted this tremendous boon to passing adventurers; getting stomped by suprisingly sneaky giants in the Oasis, boat trips feeling like an actual adventure rather than just a loading screen.

    • deke913 says:

      Been thinking of giving this a shot myself. I wanted so so badly back in the day to be able to play this but with work and the wife and lack of a decent internet connection, it just wasn’t meant to be.Got into WoW in 2005 and been playing ever since…always been curious though to try this out.

      And on a side note ..Ninefingers would like a word with you

    • Adekan says:

      I went back with a gaming friend of mine who I’d actually met in EQ way back in the early 2000s. We managed to get up to 70 before getting bored. Sadly, that took less than the free month we got with all the expansions for $3.99. Far too easy to level now, and the new zones have nowhere near the charm or nostalgia of the old ones.

    • Premium User Badge

      Black Dow says:

      Thats a shame… Still, will be good to dust off the old ranger for a poke about and no doubt p!ss taking..
      oh , and ninefingers is a lightweight :D

    • Howl says:

      @MiniMatt I agree with every word. We’ve seen the consequence of too much hand holding now. You end up with players blitzing through all available “content” in a matter of days and having nothing to do. Instead of time-sinks being a natural part of the journey -and in fact the point of the game being about the journey- they have had to introduce contrived time-sinks at the destination.

    • Arglebargle says:

      While I approve of you MMO self flagellators having games that you like and enjoy playing, the available options are a testament to their popularity. These are games/shards were the players are measured in 3 and 4 digit numbers.

  13. Ezhar says:

    How little MMORPGs have really changed in 13 years.

    • Howl says:

      They have changed dramatically. There is nothing ‘massive’ about any of them now. You interact with more people on a Battlefield 3 server than you do in a modern MMO.

  14. Sergius64 says:

    Tsk. The 1000 AA limit on Silver is not nearly good enough for a lvl 90 char. Yet another worthless F2P scheme.

  15. modulus says:

    EverQuest suits want
    A pool of cash called, simply:
    the Stack Overflow

  16. shimeril says:

    I had a go at the Progression servers a while back when an expansion wasn’t released until players had met certain goals, plus a minimum time had expired. Then a vote would occur for players above level 30 I think. When SOE got hacked I stopped playing – may be tempted to have another look now – I still have a character I started 12 years ago on one server. Amazed they kept her there for me.

  17. FKD says:

    Back when games first started going “F2P” I checked on EQ thinking perhaps it had done so too and I had just missed it. But no, it was still charging $15/mo (which personally, I thought was a bit much for an older game. I would have gladly paid a bit less than that). Then everytime another game would go free, or “expanded trial” or what not I would dutifully go back to check on EQ only to find that the trial amounted to a 7 (maybe 14) day trial. I gave those a shot a few times but often had trouble with the game launching so I finally gave up. Despite that, and despite the fact that according to some here it is no longer as good as it was in the beginning, I really want to experience the game I always heard so much about, so I am quite excited at this news!