SOE Live – The Norrathian Front

SOE Live went off this past weekend in Las Vegas and, in my typical hope in the face of reality sort of way, I tuned in to watch several of the live streams with the idea that SOE might have some magic potion that would tempt me back to one of their games… or would tell me something about the one I was looking forward to.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

So the keynotes for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and EverQuest Next were on my list, as well as a couple of the follow up panels and the main keynote.  Norrath is clearly what draws me to SOE.

However, the one thing I did not do was take notes while watching the streams.  Why would I?  Any normal company doing big announcements for various products which they had been working on for weeks, and which obviously had time to get press briefing packs complete with graphics and what not together, surely would have all of that information posted on their web site shortly after the respective keynotes.  Right?  I mean Blizzard had everything from their Thursday morning live stream up for the world to see on their main page by early afternoon the same day.  SOE had all the information together.  It should have been tee’d up so that after each keynote, somebody pressed a button to update the respective site so that all of your user facing media is delivering the same message.

But no, this is SOE.

As of my writing this, there is none of the information from SOE Live on the respective sites or forums as though none of this had happened.  So I had to thrash around looking for what other people wrote to get details that I would have written down had I not forgotten yet again how SOE runs their railroad.

EverQuest – A Return to Pirates

The EverQuest announcement focused on the upcoming expansion, as one would expect.  This time around SOE is returning to the nautical theme last visited with The Buried Sea expansion.  This time it is The Darkened Sea, which will launch on October 26 for All Access Pass members and on November 11 for the unwashed free to play masses.

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

The level cap goes up from 100 to 105 with this expansion.  There are more zones, access to the bazaar from outside of the bazaar, and a few other goodies.  As essentially an outsider to EverQuest content after… well… The Planes of Power really, though I have gone back for a couple of runs since… it is tough to find something to get excited about here.  Even Bhagpuss seems relatively calm in his words, tucked in at the end of a long post about SOE LiveEverQuest is catering to the installed base, we have long known that.  But even then, I don’t recall The Buried Sea being a fan favorite back in the day.  The blog review of it over at the past version of Mobhunter, when Loral was writing it (internet archive for the win, I miss Loral) seemed to be lukewarm at best.

But there it is.

EverQuest II – And Malice Towards None

Is EverQuest II the current standard bearer for Norrath?  I cannot tell if it is more popular than EverQuest or not.

Anyway, there was a small disturbance in the community force a few weeks back as the EQII forum dwellers started getting a bit testy about SOE’s trend towards social media and streaming and what not, to the point that information that would normally be in the forums first was falling all over the place.  I have long complained that SOE has favored their forums and used them as their primary method of information distribution as opposed to the web site they allegedly maintain for that purpose, and which is the first point of contact for any new player.  But at least with their forum bias they were concentrating in one spot, so at a minimum I knew I had to dive into the forums if I wanted current information.  Now I am not sure where to find things.

Or I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Feldon over at EQ2 Wire.  He keeps on top of that game like no other.  So it was a bit disappointing to see that SOE left him off the list of sites to be fed information in advance of Altar of Malice expansion announcement at SOE Live.  The embargo on that news dropped five hours before the EverQuest II keynote, so anybody paying attention knew all the details before the presentation.

So, yes, a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion brings in a new race… the Aerakyn, another one with built-in wings that can fly, though unlike that vampire race from a few years back, you won’t have to pay $80 to unlock all of its abilities… new dungeons, new raids, new overland zones, and a boost to 100 for most flavors of levels. (adventure, trade skill, guild)

The interesting bit for me are the level agnostic dungeons.  These run from level 20 to 89 and are suppose to make the process of leveling up to the more recent content… and the main mass of the player base… more fulfilling or some such.  I think the phrase was “not wasted.”  Currently, with the the state of abilities, both alternate advancement related and otherwise, jumping up through the first 60 or so levels tends to be challenging mostly in the form of figuring out what some of the outdated quest text really means.  So I gather that this is suppose to be more of a challenge so as to make game play fun.

Sounds good to me.  A pity that our past run in with EverQuest II with the instance group ended up with it on the banned list, as that sounds kind of like what we needed back then.

And, on the sea theme from EverQuest, there are also some islands involved, including the long lost Isle of Refuge, where we all used to start back in the day via the shipwrecked survivor video game trope.  There is also an island with dinosaurs.

Then there are all the other details.  Rabbit mounts.  A revamp of the extraneous deity system.  Another rank or two for spell/skill quality.  And a cross-server dungeon finder.  I am curious as to how dungeon finder works for EverQuest II, though not curious enough to actually go ruin somebody elses’ day by logging in a queuing up myself.

This all goes live on November 11, which is going to make for a busy week.  The EverQuest expansion above goes live for everybody that same day and just two days later, Warlords of Draenor launches.  (And then Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire come out less than two weeks after that.  Where will I find the time?)

As noted, all the details, live blog of the keynote, slides from the game mechanics presentation, and more are over at EQ2 Wire.  Check it out.

EverQuest Next – Dark Elf Disco

 EverQuest Next is where my hopes truly lie.  The idea that SOE could miracle their way into something that would tempt me back to the two remaining members of the Norrathian franchise (out of what, a dozen total EverQuest games according to Georgeons?) has always been a forlorn hope.

But EverQuest Next is the future.  The lack of news on that front has banked the flames of passion for that title, they remain aglow, waiting for the day when we get something tangible.  This was the keynote to which I paid the most attention, and which was both the most interesting and the least satisfying at the same time.

We got a look at some architecture, especially some of the dark elf stuff in its moody, pointed glory, some of which came from the fan base via Landmark.  SOE’s crowdsourcing/exploitation pays off.  They also showed some examples of the dark elf character models.  Dark elves are apparently the most popular race in both EverQuest and EverQuest II at this point, so it is important to get them right. (Screen grabs from the stream.)

The art all looked very good and very much made me want to go there… wherever “there” was… and explore.

Then the devs introduced the wizard, warrior, and cleric classes and went through some combat situations with them.  This was by far the most impressive bit.  Each was a quick run through of some combat encounters, followed by a step by step replay where he described what was going on at each point.  The combat looked fluid and dynamic and exciting.  Various moves flashed or blurred or exploded in very satisfying ways and there were no little damage numbers popping up, which helped with the visceral feel of the combat.  The little kid inside of me was shouting, “Oooh! Oooh! Let me try that! I want to do that!”

I recommend watching the replay of the keynote, which is available on YouTube.  The combat segment picks up at about the 29 minute mark and runs for about 20 minutes.

Of course, the downside to all of this was that there is no date in sight for EverQuest Next.  Speculation is that a launch is at least two years away.  Certainly they have to get all of Landmark nailed down first, as it represents the foundation on which EverQuest Next will be built.  So until Landmark is solid and stable and fully featured and live there can be no EverQuest Next.

Bummer.

David Georgeson invited us all to go read the ebooks that are being used to build up the lore for the game to tide us over… which I was honestly tempted to do after the combat stuff… but publicly SOE still seems most focused on Landmark and likely will remain so for some time.

Return to Norrath?

So while I found bits and pieces of all of the presentations interesting, is there anything that would make me focus on EverQuest or EverQuest II as my primary game?

Probably not.

I am in the odd duck position of having been away too long for both titles at this point, so the new stuff being piled on top of the level curve is so far away as to be effectively unreachable given my reserve of patience, but the old stuff I would have to work through… well, it didn’t interested me enough when it was new stuff to work through it.   The 20-89 level agnostic dungeons in EverQuest II are interesting, though I probably wouldn’t bother with them until level 40 or so, as the 1-40 game is the heart of my nostalgia for the game.

But who knows.

With the autumn I always seem to be hit with a bout of video game nostalgia.  Maybe I will heed Norrath’s call yet again?  Though unless Warlords of Draenor slips, it seems unlikely.

How about you?  Is Norrath in your future?

11 thoughts on “SOE Live – The Norrathian Front

  1. bhagpuss

    It’s been a long time since I was this interested in EQ2. When we moved to GW2 two years ago I was still enjoying EQ2 but I can’t say I didn’t appreciate the break. Although I’ve been back a few times since (and gotten one character to 95, which is hard work, I can tell you, and not something I am much looking forward to do doing again) at no point in the last two years have I really felt like making it my primary MMO.

    Well now I do. GW2’s relative stasis has something to do with that but mostly it’s the information that came out of SOELive, not just about what looks like an excellent expansion, but also the rest of the out-of-expansion updates they have planned going well into next year. There’s just a whole lot of stuff there that sounds really enjoyable.

    And then I read EQ2Wire tonight and saw the almost throwaway line in the patch notes “With Kerafyrm’s defeat, Freeport and Qeynos have finally broken the Awakened siege, and Luclin – now whole – shines brightly in the skies.”

    Luclln now whole?! If an interrobang was ever mandated this is the time. Just seeing that sentence in cold print had more emotional impact on me than the entire destruction of Lion’s Arch. I’m logged in right now waiting for Luclin to rise so I can get screenshots.

    Unfortunately I have yet to persuade Mrs Bhagpuss of the attractions of a return to Norrath so my own time there may end up being split between that and GW2. I am sure as heck buying the expansion for both my accounts though and annoyingly I may have to bump the old Silver one up to All Access for a while because that’s where my level 95 is. Unless I can get the Beastlord on the AA account to 95 by then, which isn’t likely.

    As for Everquest, I’m playing it and enjoying it a lot but I definitely don’t need more top-end content yet.

    Haven’t watched the EQNext combat footage yet. I’ll do that at work tomorrow. I just hope it’s not that annoying center-screen, fixed-cursor style like DCUO/Neverwinter. I bet it is though.

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  2. C. T. Murphy

    I had the complete opposite reaction to the new EverQuest Next footage. I thought the combat was too much – I don’t need flash bangs going off at every swing of my mace. The ‘freeze the ground and break through it’ bit looked cool, but still makes zero sense to me as a game mechanic. And I hate the Landmark look even more than I can see yet another dodgy interpretation of Dark Elves that likely won’t age very well.

    It all made me sad enough, but the lack of follow up from SOE as a presence made it feel even worse. Barely any of the bigger sites picked up on anything they showed, at least not initially, and I felt for a while there like I had dreamed up the date for SOE Live.

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  3. eldaeriel

    EQ2 keeps pulling me back (I think their housing system is mostly responsible, well that and nostalgia) but never enough to want to make it my ‘main’ MMO. I think I probably know/knew the game too well to even think about getting a character group or raid ready now – too much to catch up on. It’s still got so many good features though. I probably will get the new expansion, though I may wait and see if my char ever manages to get to 95 (93…) before I buy it.

    Landmark will always be an in the mood game, even when further features are added in and I don’t know yet how Everquest Next will fit in for me (still dislike the title). It looks promising though so I will be keeping an eye on it, definitely.

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  4. Scree (@TheScree)

    As a long time “watcher” of EQ and EQ2, EQ Next was already on my radar. I was super hyped for it, especially since they made it seem as if the title would be out in a few short months. Much to my surprise, this isn’t remotely the case.

    They failed to showcase the “AI” upon which this entire games hopes and dreams rest. Without this component functioning in the glorious manner they described during the first reveal, EQNext will die a horrible subpar themepark death. This was the biggest disappointment out of this recent SOE Live event.

    Combat in Landmark being in such an early first draft, makes me wonder at the actual release date. Speculating two years out is likely to be painfully true.

    In the end, SOE games haven’t pulled me in since the launch of EQ2. Based on their progress in EQ Next/Landmark, they aren’t likely to pull me back in anytime soon.

    Chalk this SOE Live event up as a big dud.

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  5. anon

    “(…) jumping up through the first 60 or so levels tends to be challenging mostly in the form of figuring out what some of the outdated quest text really means. So I gather that this is suppose to be more of a challenge so as to make game play fun.”

    Jeesh, man, and that was followed by “Sounds good to me.”. I love myself an impromptu irony.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Yeah, what the combat will actually be like from the control aspect side of things… we shall see.

    @CTM – Well, I think part of my positive reaction is based on a desire to want EQN to be good. Plus I was so relieved that Dave Georgeson didn’t say, “Oh, and EQN now works with SOEmote, watch this!” as he made faces, that I no doubt came away more well disposed to the models than I might have. I still think they look good. And they have toes.

    @anon – You only say that because you probably haven’t wasted a bunch of time running to the wrong end of Nek forest because somebody moved the quest giver during some update or another.

    And, as I noted later, I actually enjoy the 1-40 game. It just starts to bog down after that.

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  7. Izlain

    Having played EQ2 fairly recently, I can see some of the new features (like dungeon finder) being something that should have been added in a while ago… I knew people in game so I had pre-made groups, but if I didn’t I would have been doing a lot of soloing, and all I can think of is the EOF days when there were still groups throughout all of the content.

    I haven’t played EQ in so long I have no desire to go back. Landmark might be more interesting when it is full-featured but as of now I could care less. With EQN being so far away, I am not looking to Norrath anytime soon.

    H1Z1 does interest me, and will likely be out before EQN, so that’s the only SOE product I’m looking forward to at the moment.

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  8. Isey

    I enjoy class reunions on EQ and being a tourist. I only got to level 18 in EQ2, but I am thinking of picking it up to change that. I can use some F2P MMO levelling love.

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  9. Wlad

    I loved EQ2, though it’s showing its age now. I’m still of the opinion that it is the best MMO out there. I think if they kept the content and mechanics, and just upgraded the graphics and rereleased it, they’d have a phenomenon.

    Wlad

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  10. bugaboo

    Yeah, the post-40’s aren’t much fun, but it picks up again (for me anyway) at level 70 (Kunark, Cinderella lizard girl, the 70s and 80s dungeons are boss, unlocking Kurn’s Tower, werewolves, those are fun). Of course there always WERE dinosaurs if you went to the right place… I could spend my life finding lost areas of that game, or trying to convince people to unlock obscure dungeons just because we can and have never seen it. But in the end, people will just want the endgame content, and they don’t actually follow any of the story. Even at endgame they click through dialog, and the dialogs close sometimes even before you can read them. The devs don’t even expect that anyone is reading them. After years of play, it finally got to me after the idiotic Dragon level that couldn’t be accomplished by an overlevelled group even a year later. And of course, you HAD to finish that because it was STORY and it flagged you for goodies. I’m not one to rush to be first to kill every beastie, but if I still can’t kill it when I’m in a group where everyone is on level with the creature, it’s no fun. And forget about it if you also want to do something that requires people to wait a sec while you go swim out and get an obscure quest (even if you share it, no patience people). I’ve met my share of jerks in that game and I’m not going back. Too much depends on cooperation and people don’t cooperate. I’ve had more cooperation from total strangers in Rift and other games, than I’ve had from guildies in EQ2. I’ve had them say things like “no I won’t duo that with you, nothing in it for me” and then turn around and solo it later. This is despite SOE carefully making it worthwhile for people to cooperate in that expansion. Maybe I should’ve moved to another server. I’ve heard that my server was the worst (Freeport), but that’s another shellout of real $$$ and there was already plenty of that happening. And don’t get me started on the power difference between Wizard and Warlock. That tired old horse is completely dead. Forget it if you have a backstory for your toon, forget it if you care about where your toon came from, forget it if you did all the quests for your city to really flesh out your toon. If Wizard is better… betray! Yeah that was part of the final insult.

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  11. bugaboo

    How many people have actually played any of the Plane of War content? Raise your hands… That should rest my case right there. You can play that game for years, even raid, and never even touch it, and wonder all the time where those “other raiders” are getting their gear from. This is bad design. It also gates a lot of the storyline. People don’t know what’s happening in that game because it is only revealed in the nastiest dungeons anymore. Then the endgame moves forward and nobody ever goes there anymore, or the PoW area… it’s too hard for anyone who doesn’t already have maxed gear. So the only people who know the stories are the raiders who have done is so much they’ve finally learned the story from osmosis because they sure didn’t take time to read anything, most of them.

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