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Eight Years of EverQuest II November 13, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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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?

Comments»

1. NoAstronomer - November 13, 2012

“…high system requirements, and a disconnected zone-based game…”

Those two specifically are what made the game un-fun for me. I jumped in late last year when EQ2 went F2P, so I’m not at all a veteran. My system plays Rift, GW2 and Eve (not simultaneously) well but EQ2 was just awful and I could spend at most 5 minutes in Freeport before the game locked up.

And zoning in and out just kills any sense of immersion for me. Of the games I’ve played LOTRO has the most open world and WOW is pretty good too. EQ2 just didn’t cut it.

What did I like? The wide selection of races for one. The quest storylines were pretty good as well. The housing options were very impressive but that’s not really something I’m interested in. I do recall that crafting was interesting.

Mike.

2. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 13, 2012

@NoAstro – And that was in 2010-2011, right? Imagine that with a 2004 system, 128MB AGP video card, Pentium IV processor, and maybe 2GB of RAM. Oh my. There was a segment on a Virgin Worlds podcast where Brent mentioned a friend who had to crank his video settings so far down in the game that character faces were just a blur.

And while they have done better with zones… Halas feels really organic, a city with surrounding areas all in one zone… the world as a whole still ends up feeling like a mess of zones in search of a world.

3. Gripper - November 13, 2012

I actually came back about a few months ago, as the grinding of quests in the wow expac were irritating me and I just couldnt get in the groove in Eve where I was missing all the fleets and when I did get in them – inevitably someone would need me and then I would have to bail.

So I settled in for EQ2 and am enjoying myself a lot, a started over with a new character, then when I leveled him up brought over my old characters also.

So excited for the new expansion and will see what I can do – the one thing I love about EQ2 is the MASSIVE amount of content, I am still running instances that I had never seen. With the new mercenary xpac it was great for me as I could log in roll with a reasonable chance of running something when no one else wanted to do the old instances!

So I am enjoying things and believe everything that they are doing is good – I am subbed so it doesnt matter what f2p stuff is there, doesnt matter to me.

Also the Krono is interesting- but frankly I dont need more plat, I dont really do anything with the plat I have.

4. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 13, 2012

@Gripper – But then Krono is totally for you, as you can pay for your sub with all that excess plat… unless you have the All Access Pass I suppose. Not sure how things work with that.

5. Telwyn - November 13, 2012

Rift is my game at the moment, but EQ2 is the “could have been” game. I love the ‘crunchy’ feeling of the game system, the languages and such. I wish in a sense that my WoW group had discovered EQ2 first as we’d have had a guild house, plus a ton more non-combat activities to keep us occupied and playing together where WoW failed.

Myself I was really into it after the Freeport launch but then Sony had to go and drop the PSS deal on the Euro players. I’m tentatively back now but do I really trust that company not to horribly screw over their customers another way in a few months time..?

6. Wilhelm Arcturus - November 13, 2012

@Telwyn – Yeah, “Let’s not think this through” sometimes seems to be the unofficial SOE motto. They tend to get to the right answer eventually, but not before getting their community into an uproar first.

I like that term you used, the “crunchy” feel. EQII does have a special feel to it that it has carried on since launch. It isn’t always a good thing, but it is always its own thing.

7. Kevin Brill (@kevinbrill) - November 13, 2012

There are lots of things that I *should* like about EQ2 and which should make it my only game of choice. I love the idea of distinct crafting leveling and content. I love the idea of having a virtual home to decorate and live in. I love, love, love the concept of mentoring and feeling that you can never “out level” content, or never play with your friends, or never help out lowbie random strangers.

But at the end of it, I can only play EQ2 for about a month, before I get that same old “meh” feeling and drop it. This used to be much more painful before the F2P transition, but now I do it guilt free.

I’ve thought about what ultimately gets me and it consists of lots of your same issues:

* Lousy performance
* (IMO) Sub-par running and jumping animations
* Skill overload!
* Arcane interface. What would it take to make the health and mana bars a little thicker, or something I could at least skin?

Every expansion that gets released pushes me further and further from level cap (where I’m guessing most of the action happens), and thus less and less likely for me to play.

8. pkudude99 - November 13, 2012

I played EQ2 for 6 years, but then drifted away from it. I subbed for a month a year ago figuring I’d grab the AoD expansion and go on for a while, but it didn’t pull me back in at all, so I only logged in 2 or 3 times in that month and let the sub lapse again.

No idea why either. It still was fun to play for me when I did log in, but I felt more of a nostalgia than a desire to explore content I hadn’t seen.

I love the any race/any class capability. I like that you can betray and swap classes (that why my SK is a high elf — was one of the VERY few in the 1st couple of years. . . .). I loved the instances, and the Burning Sands buildings and decorations still look really good to me to this day.

I’ve got a nice rig now, perhaps I’ll load it up one of these days to give it another look-see now that they’re dropping the coin limit on free accounts. But with me playing TSW and loving it and also doing the 1-yr deal for Rift, it’ll be interesting to see how my play-time shakes out.

9. Yeebo - November 13, 2012

I love the depth of the game. However, I never seem to enjoy it for more than a month or two at a stretch. My issues are mostly issues you raised:

1. Poor performance. My rig is a alien supercomputer compared to anything that was around when the game first came out, why doesn’t it run better than prettier games like Rift and LoTRO?

2. Too many freaking skills. Every time I quit and come back, I find my the wall of ability hotbars utterly baffling. Not a unique problem to EQ II, but it seems to suffer from it more than most MMOs.

3. Bad animations. Few of the animations feel natural or fluid. Notable exception: centipedes.

4. Inconsistent art direction. Some parts of the game are quite pretty, other parts of the game are jarringly tacky. Zones, race models, and mob models are all of very inconsistent quality. It’s almost as if art assets from three random fantasy MMOs were all jumbled together to make a world. Really hurts my sense of immersion.

Even with all that, I’d still say it’s one of the best MMOs out. It has amazing depth without forcing players to deal with a steep learning curve ala EVE or Fallen Earth. Most of the depth is found in optional systems. If all you want to do is run quests, get loot, and level the game is quite easy to get going in. However, if you want to really dig in there are a lot of systems in place that can be quite rewarding. For example, if you care to you could easily spend most of your play time building furniture and decorating your house..

10. bhagpuss - November 13, 2012

I replied to this at work on my iPod Touch and after that tedious and arduous process WP authentication failed. I really don’t want to type it all again so long story short, I love a lot more about EQ2 than I hate and I will play it more on than off for as long as it’s there to play.

That said, it’s the only MMO I’ve left in moderately high dudgeon not once, not twice but three times so far. Once after the first six months when the utter grinding tedium of the original gameplay drove off every single person I knew in the game (and there many), once when the combat changes made my characters literally unplayable and once when Kunark loot dropping like leaves made me feel I had wasted all my previous time.

It also has my second favorite fantasy rpg race ever, Ratongas, for which I can forgive it just about anything.

11. Toldain - November 13, 2012

I played EQ2 solidly for maybe 6 years. I agree with all the horrors you describe, particularly “SOE seemed to have a different set of lessons learned from Everquest than everyone else.”

You didn’t mention how, nine months in, they completely redesigned all the classes and gameplay. They tried a whole slew of things that seemed like they might be a good idea, but were dead wrong.

12. Vatec - November 14, 2012

Well, I -was- one of the ones there at launch, and I enjoyed the game quite a bit, off and on, until about a year or so ago when they dumbed down the stat system without adjusting any of the crafted equipment to match the new stat priorities. Instead of different classes requiring different stat mixes, they simply gave up and said “Warriors need Strength and Endurance, Rogues need Dexterity and Endurance, etc.” Fine, go ahead and dumb it down if you must: but why leave entire sets of crafted armor in-game with stat mixes that were no longer useful? That’s just sloppy design.

Shortly thereafter several good devs “moved on” to other projects/companies. At that point I decided to move on as well.

EQ2 had some really fantastic features, and I enjoyed my time there. I loved being able to level a character entirely through crafting. Heck, they even had entire crafting-related plotlines, the items you could make were actually relevant, etc.

But yes, there were too many abilities, too many revamps, and too much of a learning curve whenever I tried getting back into the game. Hence why my highest-level crafter ended up max-level while my highest-level adventurer stagnated at level 56 or so….

13. Vatec - November 14, 2012

@Toldain,

Incidentally, I really don’t mind major revamps during the first year. In the case of EQ2, it was understandable: they launched at almost the same time as WoW and lost the contest by a landslide; they decided to “fix” a lot of things they considered to be competitive weaknesses. Unfortunately, even nine months after launch was still way too late to catch up to the Blizzard juggernaut.


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