Catch Up is Over – Storm Legion is Here

The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly…

-Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner

Catch up is over.  Because that is what the last couple of weeks in Meridian have been as far as I can tell, a catch up period.

Trion has brought the fight right to our doorstep and has been handing out fist full helpings of prizes like that one great house you run into every Halloween.  There have been bosses right there in the city.

How he got in the gate I’ll never know

There have been video card slagging invasions.

This is where AOE comes in handy

And then when you think you’ve seen it all, they throw a really big boss at you.

Literally out of the blue

Granted, some of it is a little silly… like the Storm Legion camp.

It was the only empty spot…

If the Storm Legion can set down a foothold right in the middle of Meridia, how come they cannot overrun the place?  And if we’re strong enough to prevent that, how come we cannot toss them out?  They let us set up cannons to bombard them from 20 feet away.

I bet the Autumn Harvest Festival was holding up their invasion.  You have to book that spot well in advance.

And while I could do without putting up another barricade, clicking on another pole, and rescuing another keg of beer (I never get to drink the damn things), the whole event has been a giant pile of exp and planarite and planar attunement points and inscribed sourcestones.  If you wanted to get to fifty (congrats Potshot!) or wanted to lay in those last few planar attunment points (I made it to 107) you were given a big boost these last couple of weeks.

But now Storm Legion is upon us.

Rift 2.0.  The first expansion.

And the first expansion is always the good one, right?

Ruins of Kunark!

Burning Crusade!

Uh… Desert of Flames?

But the first expansion is always the most hungered for, as it comes before levels and alternate advancement and mid-tier zones have become a thing of drudgery, before they stand like unassailable mountains before the new player.

Anyway, it is time for Rift, bigger, better, and deeper.

We have a launch trailer.

We have patch notes.

And our group seems good for it.

We were actually discussing the game this past weekend as we did our own bit of group leveling, trying to get everybody into the zone for the final three instances in what will soon be the “old” world.  While I spoke a bit about my time on the beta tour, we spent most of the time on the current features and how much things have changed since we showed up, which was a good 8 months after launch.

General consensus was that Rift really has no unique features, having freely borrowed from the rest of the industry.  Almost everything we could come up with had precedent in previous games.  But the way Trion has put things together has worked well for us.  We will be here for a while longer.

The other observation was about how willing Trion has been to tinker with the game.  They jump right in and alter things they feel are not working, they iterate on things that are working but not as well as they would like, and they have gone along fixing, changing, and adding features at an almost fevered pace since launch.

It is hard to tell how much work is really going on behind the scenes in any game… just because the devs are quiet doesn’t mean they aren’t in crunch mode… but it sure feels like the Rift team is the hardest working set of devs in the MMORPG genre these days.  And they have not made any critical mistakes that I have noticed.

But can they keep up this pace?   Will this willingness to change things up quickly be their undoing in the long term?  How will they juggle the needs of those still in the old world with those deep into the expansion without trivializing one or the other? For that seems to always be the long term issue in games with levels and level cap raising expansions.

Does the light that burns twice as bright last half as long?

Eight Years of EverQuest II

Last week was the official 8th anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  It went live on November 8th, 2004.

Today sees the launch of the 9th expansion of the game, the interestingly named Chains of Eternity.

Firiona Vie coming to take over EQII now

I find that name amusing because it sounds a lot like the subscription model business plan.  They want you chained to the game and paying for all time. (Patch notes for the CoE update here.)

But today also marks another event.  It was on this day, eight years ago, I started playing EverQuest II.

I wasn’t there right at the start because… I wasn’t really planning to play at all.  But Gaff, who had passed on the whole EverQuest thing five years previously was keen on this second chance.  I and a number of TorilMUD veterans, joined him.

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

And so began my love/hate relationship with the game.

For everything I enjoyed about the game… from simple things like just being in Norrath re-imagined to a player housing system that has really gone unmatched for eight years (we’ll see how Storm Legion housing stacks up when live) to zones that felt dangerous (like Thundering Steppes) to zones that were downright deadly (oh those flaming bats in Nektulos Forest), to the need to group for a good chunk of the overland content and all of the dungeon content while still allowing solo progress… there seemed to be a few things designed to just piss me off.

The litany of disappointments varies from person to person, but my own included bad home towns, racial ghettos, too many races, too many classes, too many skills, a meaningless division between Freeport and Qeynos, not enough character slots, high system requirements, and a disconnected zone-based game that seemed to toss all the worldly feeling that EverQuest had right into the trash.  I could go on and on.  Clearly SOE took away a very different set of lessons learned from EverQuest than other people did.

Add in a desire to try and steer clear of EverQuest lore for the first two expansions (Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky) and it really wasn’t the heir to EverQuest.

I played through from launch until just before Kingdom of Sky was released… at which time the game was suffering from horrible lag related issues that could render it unplayable at peak hours… before packing up for Azeroth, which is where nearly everybody in our original guild ended up.  Even the hardcore who derided WoW ended up in Blizzard’s cartoon world.

Almost everybody in this raid went off to WoW

I did come back for Echoes of Faydwer… released six years ago today… which promised to actually get back to some of the EverQuest lore and ended up being a reasonably successful expansion for those returning to the game.  But for me the game always seems to spend half its time trying to drive me away, a trend that continued up through last year when the instance group tried to come together to experience the game.  The game, however, had other ideas. The world, so changed from 2004, made trying to do the first 20 levels as a group so painful that free was too high a price to pay to play it.

Still, I feel a pull towards the game.  I have watched it change and evolve and move so far in interesting… the Krono currency will be something to watch… and sometimes very odd or silly directions… did nobody think through the Station Cash for expansions things… over the last eight years.  It seems to hold on to that ability to attract me and repel me in equal measures.  But I might say that about SOE as a whole some days.

As I said about World of Warcraft a while back, I think I am at a point where EverQuest II won’t ever be my main focus again.  I think my interest in it is now more that of nostalgia.

The relationship, however, is much more complicated.

How is your relationship with EverQuest II?

What is great about the game and what just really grates on you?