This is a reprint of an article that first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Game Developer Magazine.  It has since also reappeared on Gamasutra at this link.

Ultima Online and EverQuest represent two very different game philosophies. Ultima Online‘s creators tried very hard to create a virtual world with physics and interactions that mimicked the real world, so players could interact with each other in ways meant to model reality: You can chop down trees, dye clothes, build houses, attack almost anyone anywhere, and steal anything that isn’t nailed down.

By comparison, EverQuest is a simple game, not much more than a combat simulator designed to mimic the basics of combat found in tabletop board games and old online Multiuser Dungeons (MUDs). Combat in EverQuest is very deep and intricate compared to that in Ultima Online, with far more ways for players to attack and manipulate their enemies. However, combat aside, EverQuest was perceived to not be a very feature-rich game. Most of the world interactions in Ultima Online aren’t in EverQuest, and when they are, they aren’t particularly deep or fleshed out—to the extent that many observers felt thatEverQuest would be too simple for the newly invented massively multiplayer genre. As it turned out,EverQuest easily beat Ultima Online‘s numbers, and a few years later, a rematch of the two MMO design philosophies paired Star Wars Galaxies against World of Warcraft — with a repeat of the same end result.

As it turned out, Ultima Online has a lot of features, but many of those features don’t have a lot of depth to them; it is broad, rather than deep. EverQuest has fewer features, but a combat model that is very deep (and became deeper as new boss mechanics were added to respond to an increasingly savvy audience).EverQuest is a game about depth. Continue reading