jump to navigation

The Next EverQuest II Expansion? December 17, 2007

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: ,
trackback

A little over a year ago I wrote up my vision of the as then unannounced EverQuest II expansion.

My vision then was Kunark.

And, when it turned out I was right, nobody was more surprised than myself.

So I am going to put down my guesses for the next EverQuest II expansion again.

I have two reasons for doing this.

1) Remind everybody I was right last year!

2) Prove that being right was a fluke

So with my goals laid out, and half way accomplished already, let me dig into my prediction.

Nostalgia Again

As Indie Rock Pete will tell you, nostalgia is one of the strongest forces in the universe. The linkage between pre and post cataclysm Norrath has been successful enough that it has actually begun to flow both ways. Meldrath the Mad, who appears in the current EverQuest expansion, Secrets of Faydwer, began his career as a ghost in EverQuest II in Klak’Anon.

When it comes to playing the nostalgia card, I see no turning back now.

So the first aspect of my prediction is that it will be another location from pre-cataclysm EverQuest, brought forward and updated.

Some Deviations

The past two nostalgia infused expansions, Echoes of Faydwer and Rise of Kunark, played similar hands from different directions. Both were islands that introduced new races and new home towns, EoF concentrated on Qeynos aligned content while RoK was Freeport slanted. They both raised the level cap as well.

The second aspect of my prediction is that the EQ2 team will break from that pattern this time around.

No new races, no new home towns, and no raise in the level cap.

The last one is going to be hard for people to swallow. On the other hand, after what seems to been more of a brisk stroll than a race to level 80 in RoK for some who claim not to be hard core, it seems that levels alone are not the way to ensure a deep expansion. Plus, with EQ2 seeming locked into 10 level increments, level cap increases could quickly approach the absurd if used every expansion. I have decried the gap between new content and new players when it comes to EverQuest, I would hate for that to become a big issue in EverQuest II. Starting off and looking at 90 levels might seem daunting indeed.

Plane Geometry

Rather than levels, I think this next expansion will be based on the idea of expanding your character in other directions. There are different ways this can be done, one of which is to offer some serious meat for the raiding community.

And since have the gods back in post-cataclysm Norrath, I think it is time we paid them a visit.

So I think the next EverQuest II expansion will be throw back to The Planes of Power.

Raids. Progression. Equipment.

All of those in enough measure to keep the high end guilds busy for a long time. Perhaps all of these aspects in enough measure for some EverQuest guilds to take a serious second look at EverQuest II.

The Same But Different

While I expect that the basics of the new planes will be the similar to how they exist currently in EverQuest, which is to say instanced versus wide open, there will have to be changes. The gods will no doubt have revised their defenses. Of course, they won’t go overboard, as you can only have 24 people on an EverQuest II raid, unless they chose to change that as well.

And I will also predict that there will be no repeat of the Plane of Knowledge. There is no reason for it in EverQuest II, there already being a game wide sales and broker system available that is superior to that found in EverQuest (if only because you do not have to stay online to sell), so the Bazaar (I know, it was a Luclin zone, but it is attached to the Plane of Knowledge) is not required.

And a travel hub, such as the Plane of Knowledge would only have the same effect in EverQuest II that it had in EverQuest, which would be the almost complete depopulation of the traditional home towns. (Though in EverQuest today, it does help concentrate the remaining population.)

That does not mean that there will not be a plane of that name in the expansion, but it will not serve the same purpose.

Show Some Class

What about the rest of us? Well, there will certainly be non-raid sections of the planes, but we’ll need something else to get us excited, something that will make us start new alts.

I said no new races above, and I stand by that. But a new playable class, now that might be a different story.

And the class I think we will see is a pet class that handles and tames animals, like the beastlord in EverQuest. However, I think this class will be more akin to the hunter in World of Warcraft. Some will moan about this, but since the hunter class is one of the most fun to play in WoW, it will end up being an asset to the game over all.

This will, of course, screw up that whole “Magic of 24” thing, the mystical guiding number for EverQuest II, but I think that is inevitable at some point.

I actually see this pet class being showing up as two classes, ala Fury/Warden or Troubadour/Dirge, with one very, offense oriented, with ranged weapons figuring prominently, and the other very much focused on defensive skills and aggro management. They will show up in the scout category, which will give them tracking, a natural fit for a hunter, but they will not get stealth or evac.

Obtaining pets will be on the model of WoW, where you will actually go out and tame the creature of your choice. However, it will differ from the WoW model otherwise, with creatures having their own “classes” with skills that will be available in the EverQuest II skill model for players, with advanced versions of the skills being available via player crafting, with the appropriate trades picking up the skill production.

This addition to the game will get a lot of people rolling up new characters and exploring the dynamics of the various pet and skill combinations. The main complaint about the class, at least initially, will revolve around the limited number of animal types that can be tamed. Bears, wolves, spiders, and scorpions will all be appreciated, but some people just won’t be satisfied until they can have a pet badger.

Fleshing Out Options

Of course, with no new levels to conquer, there will have to be some place to channel experience for those who choose not to roll up an alt. This will likely take the form of a new tier of alternate advancement, accessible only after a certain level (I would guess 70) and only after you have spent a given number of points in the currently available AA trees.

Also, with the addition of the planes, you can bet there will be more deities and related quests for players to choose from.

And, finally, the planes won’t be solid, level 80 content. The expansion will serve up both the high end raiding content as well as widening the experience path from levels 65 to 80.

Summary

So here is what I claim will/will not be in the next EverQuest II expansion:

  • No level cap increase
  • No new race or home town
  • Content based on the Planes of Power
  • Lots of raid content
  • Expansion of level 65-80 solo and group content
  • New pet based, hunter-like class
  • New, third tier AA tree
  • More deities from EverQuest brought into the game

You Make the Call

My reasoning behind choosing the Planes of Power as the model for the expansion has to main arguments. The first is that SOE has been to the well twice in a row for terrestrial expansion based on EverQuest. A third  run would be a mistake, in my opinion. The second is that, of all of the remaining EverQuest expansions, The Planes of Power I think was the most anticipated by people I knew. That was the expansion that turned people into raiders. For good or ill, it heavily influenced the game going forward. And, as much as I am solo Joe, I think EverQuest II could use some of that influence as well.

There are other expansions in EverQuest that have had influence on the game, but none that I would consider worthy of the next expansion.

Luclin went boom and Velios was good, but no Kunark. And after those and Planes of Power, EverQuest stopped introducing quite such influential zones. The penalty for doing two expansions a year, no doubt.

I can see, for example, something like Lost Dungeons of Norrath making an appearance in EverQuest II. In fact, my guess is this is the sort of thing that they will re-use the raid content areas for, as Scott Hartsman alluded to in an interview a while back. But I would guess that would be put in as “between expansions” content.

Now here is where I invite you to take issue with what I have presented.

Tell me how I am wrong. Tell me what you think the next expansion will be.

Just remember my stated goals at the top of the article!

Comments»

1. Darks - December 17, 2007

EoF Did not raise the lvl cap, the lvl was raised to 70 with the KoS expansion :))

Like

2. Wilhelm2451 - December 17, 2007

You’re right! I stopped playing just before KoS and only came back for EoF, so that stretch is always a bit blurry for me.

Still, it does bear out a pattern of not doing level cap increases with every expansion, so I will stick with my guess that the next expansion will not include an increase in the cap.

Like

3. Tipa - December 17, 2007

I have to disagree. EQ2 needs to expand beyond merely bringing content back from EQ1 forward. I’d predicted Odus, with the Hole, the Warrens, the entire EQ1 Legacy of Ykesha expansion and a possible peak into the Plane of Underfoot; but Kunark came instead.

While the Planes of Power is a decent call, that was the expansion that first started locking off the majority of the zones to raiders, and was widely felt to be a blow against the casual gamer. I don’t think EQ2 wants to go there yet.

My guess: Luclin. Not the old, pre-blowed-up Luclin, but something entirely new, traveling among the shards of Luclin with the swirling core of Chaos at its center a place for only the most daring adventurers.

It’s been sitting there in the sky since launch. It’s time to go see what things are like up there. All that magic and power must be a like a beacon to arcane creatures of every sort.

I agree, though, that it’s time for a new class, and I would not be surprised to find a Hunter/Beastlord class coming.

Like

4. Kendricke - December 17, 2007

I might be surprised to see a new Beastlord class, specifically since the current Lead Designer, Akil Hooper, was the one who posted most stringently against it in his famous “when all current classes are balanced” post.

I’d guess Odus/Ykesha is next (at least part of it as free content). Barring that, we might see Velious as a major expansion before seeing Luclin or Planes of Power. Velious was simply considered by many to be the best expansion, and with the exceptional content controlled over by dragons, I could see it as a logical extension to the current Ring of Scale storyline.

Of course, Odus is still my first choice, particularly since early reports on Rise of Kunark had Prexus pegged as one of the three dieties due to come out. Seeing how important Prexus was to the Erudites (a massive unresolved storyline, mind you), I could see that Prexus is at least still in the minds of developers.

Like

5. Wilhelm2451 - December 17, 2007

@Tipa – I agree, the Planes of Power, as implemented in EQ, would be a mistake. There is a line to walk there, but the content possibilities are such that the planes could be reimagined and redone in such a way to allow the raiding progression and sill not lock out group and solo play.

I just think the return of the gods and peeks into the shards are an indicator of direction for the near future.

Like

6. Zygwen - December 17, 2007

I think the next expansion will be Velious. If they add Odus it will probably be a an Adventure pack. Odus could be added as a prelude to a Luclin expansion.

As for Beastlords, they might get introduced as a way to fix Warden. :P

Like

7. Gdub - December 17, 2007

The beastlord is over powered. A melee class that can heal and has a pet? Come on now. The next logical step for SOE would be to pull out Velious, but I really have no idea what they’ll do next. Maybe something completely original, a-la KOS. Time will tell I suppose.

Like

8. ogrebears - December 17, 2007

No level cap increase… With development of expansions at 1 year per expansion no level cap increase would mean that no one will be leveling for about 2 full years. Which mean a lot of people are going to be fully master and fabled, with adornments before the next expansion comes out. A lot of those people are going to do what they did when EoF came out. Stay for a month maybe 2 then leave. By increasing the level camp you have to make they level, get new armor, new master and adornments and you can retain people longer, which in SoE eyes means money.

No new race or home town — i disagree with this as well. Since eq2 has come out we have added 2 evil races 1 good race, and no new classes. I don’t see a place for the beastlord in eq2. A lot of people will argue that some of eq2 class should be combined because they are extreamly similar to each other with just 1 little change. Adding a new class that is similar to classes already in the game is just a waste of money and design time. A new race and new home town is not. EQ2 is very replayable. Tons of people start new alts all the time and level them cause it is fun. It also gets new players in the game.

Planes of Power is another thing i disagree with. I don’t think we will ever seen an expansion based on the planes. I do think planes will be reintroduces in LU’s but not as an expansion by its self.

More aa’s i agree with

Like

9. Wilhelm2451 - December 17, 2007

You sort of argue against yourself there Ogre. If people start alts all the time and EQ2 is so replayable, then why would you object to no increase in the level cap?

I do not think that going to level 90 only four years into the game is such a great idea. It is just increasing the gulf between potential new players and people already in the game.

As for a beastlord, or the EQ2 version of a beastlord, being similar to classes already in the game, it does not have to be. As with Tipa’s objection to the Planes of Power, I am not saying make them exactly like the EQ version. Not that the EQ beastlord would be that similar in any case. A weapons based pet class would seem to me to be different from current EQ2 classes.

Anyway, if you have a better vision for the next expansion, go write it up. Then we can all compare in a year and see who owes who a beer.

Like

10. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

For players not at the cap, discussions on whether or not the cap should be raised are largely moot. It’s a perceptional reality where players feel they need to be able to “win” the game, but yet those players aren’t putting in the time/effort to actually accomplish that goal.

The idea that 90 levels is too much is purely subjective. A new player might perceive 50 levels to be too much, whereas other players might see 100 levels as basically fine. It’s all a matter of expectations and progression.

For example, if SOE were to continue to create additional mid-range content that is fun, compelling, and which requires little to no time spent finding groups willing to hit such content, they could have 150 levels and they’ll still always find players who enjoy playing the game. The idea is the shift the thinking away from “ZOMG – 90 LEVELS!!!111!” and shift it to “ZOMG – I HAD SO MUCH FUN LAST NIGHT AT LEVEL 32!!!111!!”

However, for players who are actually at the cap (and there are hundreds already at level 80 on Guk server alone), level cap increases can spell the difference between life and death regarding subscription fees.

Especially now that the expansion cycle has been pushed out to a year, any expansion that does not release with level increases automatically means a minimum of 2 years between new levels. It’s not just an arbitrary number we’re talking about here. With those levels comes new spells, new gear, new skills, and new racial traits.

It’s not just an extra 10 levels to grind out. It’s all the additional progression that comes with those 10 levels. With the new kinder, gentler leveling speed that we’re seeing with Rise of Kunark, even slowpokes like myself are amazed at how easy it is to level up – and I’ve barely been on line to play over the past 3-4 weeks.

Once I do level up to cap (and finally stop my guildmates from chiding me regularly on how long it’s taking me), I’ll hopefully have months and months to work on building up achievements, gear sets, and upgrading spells . Add in some occasional free content (Kurn’s Tower? Epic Quests?) and the next thing you know, I’ve got a lot to look forward to from a character progression standpoint well into next year.

Like

11. Wilhelm2451 - December 18, 2007

For players not at the cap, discussions on whether or not the cap should be raised are largely moot. It’s a perceptional reality where players feel they need to be able to “win” the game, but yet those players aren’t putting in the time/effort to actually accomplish that goal.

Well, as somebody not at level cap, I’ll say that for me it is NOT about winning the game, but about having people to play with. As for not putting in the time, well, I had the illusion/delusion that there could be a less hard core pace pursued. Your comment seems to be akin to the classic, “If you don’t vote, you cannot complain about the government.” Are you really telling me that if I have not reached the level cap, then my opinion does not count?

The idea that 90 levels is too much is purely subjective. A new player might perceive 50 levels to be too much, whereas other players might see 100 levels as basically fine. It’s all a matter of expectations and progression.

Yes, but if you want to attract new players, who are likely to look at a level cap of 90 as daunting, you have to keep this in mind. If you are just going to pay lip service to wanting to attract new players and simply cater to your current, loyal customer base, ala EverQuest, then level cap probably is a non-issue. But you cannot expect to new players to be enthusiastic if they log on to find the bulk of the player base is a good 60 levels beyond them.

There is also the “new content” factor to consider. When an expansion comes out, that is what the company is, rightfully, pushing to the press and public. If bump the level cap with the expansion and leave all else the same, you essentially say to the new player, “That new content we’ve been going on about… you can play that in about a year, if you work at it.”

Finally, I object to the constant level cap increase as the message it sends is that the real depth of the game is grinding levels. It says that the company thinks that the only way they can keep you playing is to keep you grinding. Dark Age of Camelot, as an example, has gotten along all this time without a single level cap increase. World of Warcraft has managed to thrive during the same time frame as EQ2 with a single expansion and level cap increase.

Like

12. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

I’m writing an article as a response.

The quick version: Level caps aren’t the problem. The idea that the fun only begins at the level cap is the problem. This is a combination of improper player perceptions (based on improperly set expectations, usually) and bad mid-level game design.

Your examples at the end here are also missing a big point. Both Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft have additional paths of progression that simply do not exist in most of Everquest II: PVP.

Whether it’s full on siege battles in Dark Age or Battlefield combat in World of Warcraft, players have additional venues of solo/group player progression that exist outside of normal end game raiding.

I don’t think we can simply cherry pick “level caps” as the deciding factor on why Game A has X subscribers and Game B has 3X subscribers. We may as well say that had Everquest II never increased levels, it would be pulling in millions of subscribers. Obviously, I don’t think either of us believe that to be a valid argument.

Like

13. Raising Level Caps: Is It Really The Issue? « Clockwork Gamer - December 18, 2007

[...] by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts. trackback Over at the Ancient Gaming Noob, Willhelm raises the question of whether or not level caps should be increased for the next Everquest II expansion.  Needless to [...]

Like

14. Wilhelm2451 - December 18, 2007

Heh, I know I have succeeded if I write something stupid enough to generate posts on other blogs.

My primary objection is the assumption that increases to the level cap in EQ2 are automatically required and a good thing with no downside. There is a price to be paid for pushing the cap out 10 levels a year.

I am certainly not saying that NOT having raises in the level caps is the key to success. My comment was that other games have gotten away without level cap increases and still thrived despite being level based games.

On DAOC, yes, PvP is the primary side track, although their expansions throughout the history of the game have been very PvE oriented and yet never raised the level cap once.

In WoW though, I think PvP is less of a draw than alts, because the fewer classes are more distinct, the fact that horde and alliance are separated so the level path to cap is mostly different, giving some additional replay value, and the oft decried end-game raid content which keeps a lot of people in the game.

Like

15. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

Regarding the earlier “moot” comment, I’d ask you to tell me how it would affect your current playstyle if the level cap in Everquest II were suddenly raised to 90. What about 100? 200? What if the level cap were suddenly raised to 500?

How would that affect you at level 60? Would you run different quests? Would you hit different zones? Would you suddenly stop playing because you’re now 440 levels away from the cap instead of just 20?

I’m not saying you can’t have an opinion. However, unless you’re at the level cap, the idea of raising the cap is simply a perceptional issue for you – because at the end of the day, it’s not profoundly impacting your actual play experience, in my opinion. Whether the level cap is 80 or 800, if you’re only playing at level 60, you’re not limited by the current cap. Players who are at that cap live with restrictions you simply have not experienced.

Does this mean your opinion doesn’t count? No. However, we’re going to approach the issue from differing perspectives. You don’t like the message it provides to see level cap increases. Fair enough. That’s your perspective and I can respect that.

Here’s mine: My arguments are almost always built around how I perceive the issue will affect my guild and the guilds to which we are friendly.

Though not a top end competitive raiding guild by any definition of the word, my guild had 95% of our members (out of ~60 individual accounts) at the level cap within 3 months of the release of Kingdom of Sky. That meant that by May of 2006, 95% of my guild had “capped out”. We did not receive a level increase till just last month. That was nearly 2 years at level 70. By the time Rise of Kunark released, over 80% of my guild was sitting in at least 80% fabled gear, with at nearly all of their spells and arts at Master level.

The average non-raid night attendance for my guild had dropped to around 12-15 members during “prime time”. Since the release of Rise of Kunark, we’re frequently at 30-40 members online each and every night. Members who haven’t played since 2006 have returned to us and asked to rejoin. Groups are forming constantly. My members are excited to log in and play (when we get to group up, at least). Enthusiasm and morale are currently high.

However, if we find out that come next November, there won’t be another level increase, that means we have to wait till November of 2009 at the earliest before we can start advancing again. If there are no levels, there had better be something there to help us while the time…because otherwise, I can guarantee you that I’ll have members asking about forming a new chapter elsewhere where we can progress together again.

So, while you may not like my characterization of your arguments regarding level caps as moot, I can assure you that the vast majority of my guild will not be sympathetic to the reasoning you provide to back your theories on why level cap increases aren’t necessarily a good thing. To players like my members, your opinions on the subject simply aren’t going to carry the same level of weight as players with characters currently live at cap.

P.S. – I was already writing the article (ask Grimwell – I’d mentioned it to him last week), but your post here gave me the opportunity to finally get around to finishing it.

Like

16. Ginsu - December 18, 2007

Well, I had a longish reply on how I finally made 70th just 1 1/2 months before ROK went live and how discouraging it is to have not had that time and chance to gear up and master out but its just not worth it. The reality is that it *is* difficult to get into raids and groups for higher end dungeons if you are not at the cap.

One thing I do not understand is when I hear repeatedly that I should just enjoy the game at the current (lower) level than I am at. This is true and fine, I did enjoy that time and those levels but I was looking forward to experiencing more of the high end content before everyone sprinted away from me again. What I don’t understand then is also hearing people say left and right that they have “nothing” to do once they are at the level cap.

Why not mentor down and revisit some of the content that you may have previously missed on the way to the level cap? Why not visit some of the new lower level content added to the game with the expansions if you don’t want to start an alt? Why not help the lower level characters making the journey up the level ladder the first time so that the game can continue to attract new players?

So here’s an opinion from someone who “made it”. Constant level increases don’t make the game more fun. It just re-enforces the division of the have’s (max level players) and the have-not’s (everyone else).

Like

17. Wilhelm2451 - December 18, 2007

No, it is not only a perceptional issue for me. It does actually affect my game play. It does directly affect the quests I run.

If the level cap was raise to level 100 tomorrow, the bulk of the active players would stay focused on levelling up. Currently at 62, I have a hope of grouping up with somebody, usually the alt of somebody who is already at level cap or close.

You’ve noticed in my posts of late on hitting levels, I mention discarding the group quests, generally because in a given zone there is me, a couple of farmers, a group that is happy with the status quo, and an AFK guy. That is because most of the regular players are playing their mains in the new expansion.

So raises in the level cap do affect me by emptying out, even moreso, the mid-level zones.

So my world is upside down compared to yours, with better play and more fun when things are more stable. You and your guild may not care one whit for that, but please do not tell me it does not affect me. It is just a good thing I am easily amused, so most days I don’t mind the lack of players around if I have people on channel to chat with.

But how it affects me is not why I chose “no level cap increase” in my original post. I was trying to take a bigger view on the future of the game. Endless level cap increases seem to me to be a dead end for expansion of the game. A long term recipe for a dead mid-game and a division between the haves (those who have levels and can play the new content) and the have nots. (I see myself as a “have” in that regard, not being hugely behind the curve, just annoyingly so.)

Yes, the level cap is just a number, and who is to say 50 is better than 100, or 500, or 10,000? But for the outsider, the potential new player, the view that it will take 90 levels to “win” the game may prove a deciding factor.

But if the core of the game, as represented by your guild, needs those level cap increases to stay interested and subscribed, I do not know what the answer is.

Like

18. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

From Damion Shubert’s “Zen of Design” blog entry on “Why Blizzard Keeps Building Raids”:

http://www.zenofdesign.com/?p=1000

“Every now and then, someone asks why World of Warcraft continues to make level 70 content. … The answer is, I’m afraid, frighteningly simple: they do it because those are the customers who are out of content. Face it, if you’re level 31, you still have content to consume: it’s called Stranglethorn Vale, Desolace and Scarlet Monastery.”

The same basic premise could be applied to the argument for higher level caps. For players who don’t level as quickly, this is typically a theoretical argument based around haves and have nots and feelings of accomplishment. For players who have hit the cap, content quickly starts to dry up.

The argument could easily be made that we need to increase levels – not to make the world a harder place for lower level players, but because higher level players need more content – need more paths of progression. Every argument about how many players there are at higher levels (as opposed to lower levels) actually supports that position.

The more players you have milling about at the highest level of a game, the more justification there is to increase the level cap.

Using made up numbers, assume 30% of your playerbase has a character sitting in the top 5 levels of your game. Is it suddenly not ok to increase level caps because the other 70% is spread out throughout the rest of the content (along with the alts of the first 30%)?

More to the point, if 70% of the game’s players are within the rest of the game’s levels (not to mention those alts of the first 30%), then why the trouble finding groups? Does that mean there’s actually fewer than 70%? What if it’s only 50% spread through most of the game’s levels? Doesn’t that mean that the other 50% are in those top 5 levels?

Once we start toying with numbers, the “it’s not fair for me” argument starts to look different. Either there’s not many players in the top levels and thus it shouldn’t be that difficult to find lower level groups, or there’s an abundance of players in the top levels and there’s even more justification for a level cap increase.

…or is my logic just whacky here?

Like

19. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

P.S. – on the “your guild might not care one whit” observation. Realize that most of my members have multiple characters at level 60 or higher. I personally have access to three myself.

Those characters were levelled up through the same content you’re working through now. Most of them had to solo most of the way, or find pick up groups. My members know at least as much about the joys of grinding through the mid-levels as you do. So before you write them off completely, realize that they’ve already walked more than a few miles in your shoes. Can you say the same about theirs?

Like

20. Wilhelm2451 - December 18, 2007

I did not write them off. You were the one who stated their lack of sympathy for my position. You were also the one who said that increases in the level cap do not affect me, which was the real point. You were supposed to mumble something about, “Okay, maybe they do affect you… a little” and move on to your logic exercise.

A logic exercise which, while not whacky, has at least one weak thread. The root source for your argument is a game where they do not raise the level cap as often, but just provides more content for those at the cap.

Imagine SOE, looking at their competition up there in Irvine who get away with that without killing their subscription base. Why not SOE as well?

The argument you put forth from the perspective of your guild, restated here by me in overly simplistic terms is: Raise the level cap yearly or we’ll leave.

SOE fails to listen, decides to do like Blizzard and put in some really deep group and raid content but no level cap increase next time around.

Is that the end for your guild in EQ2? Will that mean low turn-out and requests for chapters in other games?

Seriously, if it were well done, interesting content that lasted at least as long as the content in EoF or RoK and had some really worthwhile rewards, but no level cap increase, would it spell doom for your guild in EQ2?

If so, if you say yes, absolutely, trouble would be a brewin’ in those circumstances, then I will agree that now, and forever more, there has to be a level cap increase every EQ2 expansion, every year.

By your logic above, if it is hard to find a mid-level group, then mid-level groups are not paying the bills, and I would rather have a viable game to go play than one in trouble because it pissed off the bulk of its audience. Screw me and the horse I rode in on, there is no alternative.

But I also worry about the business model, as it seems that there comes a point relatively early on in a level based MMO’s life cycle where attracting new players costs too much relative to keeping the core customer base happy.

Unless you are Blizzard I guess.

Like

21. Kendricke - December 18, 2007

“SOE fails to listen, decides to do like Blizzard and put in some really deep group and raid content but no level cap increase next time around.”

I should also hope I don’t need to point out that Blizzard is increasing the level cap with every single expansion. With Burning Crusade, the cap was raised to 70. With Wrath of the Lich King, we’re seeing the cap increased to 80.

I should also hope I don’t need to point out how much free content SOE has delivered in just the last year alone.

Like

22. Wilhelm2451 - December 18, 2007

I should also hope I don’t need to point out that you did not answer the question.

Like

23. Ginsu - December 19, 2007

Here’s what it really boils down to. Too many people in the game come with the attitude “I won’t do anything unless it directly and immediately benefits ME.” Doesn’t the second “M” in MMO stand for “multi-player”? It isn’t just the number of levels that daunt the lower level player, its the selfish and stand-offish attitude of the established player base. It’s pretty bad when even guild mates won’t help each other on the ROK quest lines because it might interrupt THEIR sprint to 80th.

Relying only on the “hard core” gamer and end game content in the end will only hasten the demise of the game. If you make the entry requirements for new players so high that you exclude or discourage them, you’ve lost that revenue stream. Your higher end players leave the game for various reasons (guild politics, bored with the game, RL issues, a new game came out, etc.) This attrition will happen even if the game continues to be refreshed. If you really want to play the numbers game you have to admit that looking at WoW and the “casual” player numbers, there is a significantly larger base of subscribers than the “hard core” players (who tend to focus on one or two games at the most at a time. Yes, I am aware there are exceptions.) It is human nature to want to be on the “top”. When that “top” moves out from under you too often, it is discouraging and will cause people to quit. In the end, the game really needs to keep focus on improving all the levels of the game.

Regarding alts and “feeling the pain”, I’d also point out that most people playing alts are probably having a much different experience than the first time player leveling their first character. The first time player normally doesn’t have all the plat and guild resources to equip their characters in all mastercrafted or better and afford immediate spell upgrades to adept III. This is how most alt’s that I encounter are geared up. And it does make a large difference in the experience that the player has.

Like

24. rmckee78 - December 19, 2007

Regarding the argument that 70% of the players would remain in non-cap content anyway so it should be easy to find a group even if the cap was raised there is a problem. Let’s assume that as you raise the cap 70% of the player population will always be in non-cap levels, first this assumes that the newbie hose is staying on full blast. As the flow of new players starts to dry up you run into the problem of the population becoming very end game heavy. This makes the leap even more daunting for new players (see current state of EQ1).

But let’s assume you can keep the newbies flowing so you actually maintain the 70% at sub-cap levels, let’s even assume that you manage to keep them in some kind of normal distribution throughout the levels. As you increase the cap there will still be less people at each level to play with unless your player base is expanding to keep up with it. As the level cap increases those players get spread out thinner over that greater range of levels, it gets harder to find people to group with.

Now WoW can probably safely say that their player base expansion rate allows for the mid game to stay full as they increase the cap (I still find plenty of groups for any instance that doesn’t suck anyway). Can EQ2 say this though?

I actually prefer that games do not increase the cap and instead offer alternate forms of advancement. DAoC does not increase the cap and offers PvP instead. FFXI hasn’t increased the cap in a very long time and offers end game progression and a cool pseudo-remort option with its job system that helps to keep areas throughout the game populated. Guild Wars offers a quick ride to cap and then lateral advancement through skill options.

Even with these options most games will eventually face the same problem. Level cap increases, PvP awards, new skills, new jobs all mean that players who are just starting out will have an ever increasing time commitment to put in to catch up to the end game. The ultimate problem is that since time is the real currency in an MMO if the game expands in any way it will put more distance between the new players and the old players.

Like

25. Kendricke - December 19, 2007

So why worry about “catching up”? In a recent interview at Word IV, Willhelm himself stated that one of his initial attractions to games such as Everquest was the idea that you don’t “win” in such games. You just keep playing and growing.

Does that logic still hold if you happen to hit the level cap, however? Where’s the character growth for a character in Everquest II who is level 80 with 140 achievements with an epic item and mostly fabled gear? If you create a new dungeon with a few more pieces of gear…is that really considered “progression” for that character?

For players who dabble in multiple MMO’s, I can see how keeping a lower level cap can be more attractive. For players who have multiple characters they continually work on, I can see how keeping a lower level cap can be more attractive. However, for players who do tend to concentrate only on one character in one game, it’s relatively easy to hit that cap and effectively halt progression. Where is the advocate for these players?

I’m not even talking about elitist, hardcore, stereotyped caricatures of parent’s-basement-dwelling-manchild-jobless types here. I’m talking about typical players who have limited time online who just happen to take the time they do have a bit more seriously (probably because they only have a limited amount). Members in my guild are doctors, truck drivers, active military, police dispatchers, teachers, nurses, radiographers, technicians, bankers, engineers – regular people from all walks of life who just happen to enjoy playing the game hard, even if they only have 8-10 hours a week to spend on it.

40% of these regular folks are already level 80 with 125 or more achievements. By January 1st, I project that 80% of my guild will have capped out and we’ll probably have our first member with 140 achievements. These aren’t even hardcore players. Most of them would be considered casual in the traditional sense of the word, which tends to indicate they only have limited amounts of time to spend in-game.

By March 1, I guarantee you that at least 62 of my guild’s 65 current members will have at least one level 80 character. At least 80% of them will have a minimum of 130 achievements. That STILL leaves them 9 months of gameplay before the next expansion’s release.

If there’s no level cap increase, that gives them at least 21 months before they get to level up again. That’s a long, long time.

However, I’m apparently selfish (per at least one commenter here) to think about that, because I’m not giving enough consideration to the poor new player, who has more options than ever to consider when starting a new character. Some of the best new content in the game right now was created specifically for new players.

Ask a new Sarnak player right now if they’re worried about the level cap increasing in November, and I’d wager that most of them are more interested in playing through Timorous Deep and enjoying the content that’s relevant to their current level.

If the content at other levels isn’t as fun, that’s a design flaw. Blaming that lack of mid-level fun on higher level caps won’t change the fact that some levels are more fun than others. Holding level caps for another year won’t change that – it will only give lower level players more time to “catch up” to higher levels.

…and that’s the perceptional problem I talked about earlier. This idea that the fun only starts at the highest levels is a perceptional problem. New players running those sarnaks around aren’t having that problem. New players in Darklight Woods aren’t having that problem. That’s relatively recent content additions which show off a lot of new design ideas that SOE picked up after years of trial and error on other, older content.

Update some of that older content with these newer ideas and I think you’ll find that a lot of the perception that virtual life begins at 70 will fade a bit.

Like

26. Wilhelm2451 - December 19, 2007

Kendricke, you yourself brought out the quote that Blizzard is creating more level 70 content to keep their level capped players occupied and playing. Blizzard’s subscription numbers, such that we see, seem to indicate that their strategy is sound for the time being.

So I asked you, in a long winded way, if SOE could not do the same thing for EQ2. Is there NO content that SOE could provide that would be sufficient and the ONLY answer is to raise the level cap?

Like

27. Kendricke - December 20, 2007

I brought out the quote to push a different point. Taking the quote out of context to try to say “HA, see you actually agree with me” doesn’t change the point I was making:
“The same basic premise could be applied to the argument for higher level caps.”

Even then, Blizzard is increasing its level cap as often as it brings out new expansions. It’s only the content it’s creating in-between the cap that is for the current capped players. It’s a band-aid to keep those players interested long enough to stick around for that next level cap increase.

SOE already does this. Unrest, Throne of New Tunaria, Swords of Destiny – all of these represent high level content additions released in the last year alone. Even then, it still wasn’t considered enough by many players (note the earlier comparison I made in my own guild’s attendance on non-raiding nights from 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after the expansion’s release).

Soon, we’ll see the Epics released, and all indications are that we’ll also see Kurn’s Tower opened. Within months, I’d wager we’ll see additional higher level content released for free. In fact, we’ll probably see quite a bit of this leading up to the next expansion in November.

Does that mean this type of content will be enough to keep players happy for two full years? Will it be enough to keep my members logging on for 21 months? Based on historical evidence, all signs point to no.

Like

28. Wilhelm2451 - December 20, 2007

Pointing out that the quote supports other theories is hardly taking it “out of context.” And at no point did I say, “Hah, you actually agree with me” or anything that *I* would construe as such a statement.

Rather, I was trying to get YOUR opinion on a serious question. I was not, as you seem to think, laying a trap.

You have a different and strong view on the subject. You are the guild leader of a raiding guild with a majority of the people at or near the level cap. That made your answer to my seeming simple question important to me.

Yes, I wrapped it up in some rather silly prose, but of my many personality faults, a key one is an inability to take most things too seriously. If there is a project schedule meeting at the office, and we’re way behind and have no idea how we’ll catch up, I’m the one in the room laughing at our predicament.

As for Blizzard raising level caps with each expansion, yes, you are correct. It would be nice if you would also admit that they release them at a much, much slower rate than SOE. In the same time that SOE raised the level cap 30 levels, Blizzard raised theirs 10. And by the time Blizzard raises it another 10 it will be a lot closer, in my opinion, to the next EQ2 expansion than to today.

And yet, while people gripe at Blizzard, they seem to have a sustainable model for the moment. Is their game just THAT much better than EQ2? You and I would both disagree.

You have pointed at PvP as a possible reason. Well, maybe, I will grant. But SOE has an arena, a half-hearted effort that remains largely unused. If they expanded that into a battleground series of matches, would that make any difference to you and your guild? Probably not. It wouldn’t interest me that much either. I think that appeals to a different group of players, and they are already playing on the PvP servers that SOE provides.

I still wonder at what point level cap increases become absurd and a disincentive to new players. Blizzard seems to think it is an issue, and their response was to make the original 1-60 content easier to get through. That is certainly one option. Bring everybody to the new content. It also means you can stop any major work on the old.

But I was also serious several comments back when I said (essentially) that I believe you cannot screw your current paying playerbase in hopes of attracting new players. Bird in the hand and all that. And since you have made it reasonably clear that no level cap increase means being screwed, I’ll buy that.

My posterior generated prediction for the next expansion was only to generate discussion and maybe see if I could get other people to post predictions as well. It certainly worked on the discussion point at least! But it was not based on any selfish wish. After all, my prime prediction was raiding content! There is something *I* will never see!

So thank you for answering the question.

I still think there must be an alternative to ever-increasing level caps, but I do not know what it is. You say, based on past history, that SOE does not either. And so it goes.

Like

29. Midus - January 21, 2008

For those expecting Luclin as the next expansion setting, remember Norrath has two moons, the shattered moon of Luclin and the still entact moon of Drinal. I personally believe Luclin would provide a better scene setting, opposed to Drinal, but wanted to remind folks that it is still “up above us”.

Like

30. Feral Lord Shaba Hasheed - February 14, 2008

I think you are right about this on the most part…I have to disagree with the no races prediction though…EQ2 kinda has a thing for keeping the races balanced…and right now there are more evil races than good races.

Also, I feel like your beastlord prediction is more of a “what you want” kinda thing than a prediction. But I guess we won’t know till it happens.

Like


Voice your opinion... but be nice about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: