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The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone? November 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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3 comments

The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

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A Decade in Post-Cataclysm Norrath November 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
Tags: , , , ,
4 comments

We are in the midst of a few different EverQuest II moments, and I am going to mash them together into one post as they are all mildly related.

The first is that today EverQuest II is launching a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion is only launching for All Access subscribers.  You can literally buy the expansion but be unable to play it until November 25th while subscribers can play today.  This seems at best a transparent “subscribe dammit!” move and at worst just dumb, another round of SOE being SOE.  But what are you going to do?  I suspect that there is considerable overlap between people invested enough in the game to buy the expansion and subscribers, so this will probably just annoy a few corner cases.

The expansion is either the 10th or the 14th… or maybe the 11th… EverQuest II expansion.  At this point I am not sure how to count the three adventure packs… Bloodline Chronicles felt tiny, the Splitpaw Saga was huge, while Fallen Dynasty was just strange… and then there was the expansion (but not really an expansion) that was the so-called Age of Discovery.

Anyway, over the years SOE has kept EQII alive and expanding, and the Altar of Malice expansion builds on all of that with its feature list (and patch notes), including a boost in the level cap to 100.  It is landing at that number as a level cap just two days before World of Warcraft hits the same number.  Say what you will about SOE and its game, but they have kept it evolving over the years.  Not always in directions in which I have approved, but not everything has to be about me.

So congrats to SOE and the EverQuest II team for keeping it going for however many expansions we’re talking about.

Ignore those smug bastards on the EverQuest team (who also pushed an expansion today) when they start in on however many expansions they have shipped.

The second is the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  That was either November 4th or November 9th, depending on which source I look at.  Did SOE do a head start or something?  Anyway, it has been a decade at this point.

A decade in and launching a new expansion!  That is getting along in gaming years.  There have been a lot of games that have come and gone while things have been cranking along in Norrath, both new and old.

The third item, which rambles on, is after the cut.

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Should Guilds Have Levels? October 21, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Rift, World of Warcraft.
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14 comments

According to Blizzard the answer to that question is no, guilds should not have levels.

We got guild levels as part of the Cataclysm expansion, 25 of them, along with perks to go with those levels.  Those levels were not easy to acquire back then.  During Cataclysm our guild only managed to get to level 2.  Granted, we left not very far into the expansion, but we were there long enough to see that progress was going to be slow.

10% Exp Boost! Just what you need in WoW!

And it was work to get that far!

Earl, who actually kept playing WoW while we were away got us to level 3 pretty much on his own over the course of 18 months.

Blizzard revamped leveling with Mists of Pandaria, turning the dial probably too far in the other direction, as getting a guild to level 25 went from something you needed an active raiding guild to accomplish to something I probably could have done solo between the launch of the Siege of Orgrimmar and the coming of the Iron Horde.

We got the guild back together just after Siege of Orgrimmar went live and popped up from level 3 to level 25 relatively swiftly.

It was enjoyable.  It was nice to see those levels show up and get those perks unlocked.

TCLevel21

It was something to celebrate, something that we could all help out with even if we were just doing quests with an alt.  I thought it was great stuff and some of the perks were quite worthwhile.  As a guild we were especially big on the perk that added some coin to the guild bank every time a quest was completed.  It didn’t raise a ton of money, but it made for a nice guild repair fund.

But, with the coming of the Warlords of Draenor expansion and the 6.0 pre-expansion patch, Blizzard has removed guild levels.  We still have a few of the perks.

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Twilight Cadre 6.0 perks

Some of the missing perks have just been made part of the game.  The speed between flight points perk got generally applied if I recall right and among the stats squished was the amount of experience you need to get to level cap, so the exp boost effectively went there.  Others, like our little guild bank filler perk, disappeared completely.  It seems that people were spam inviting new players to exploit them for this perk.

Blizzard took a while to make guilds something more than a name floating over your head and a chat channel.  We didn’t get guild banks until… was it with Wrath of the Lich King?  And then with Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor Blizzard fleshed guilds out more with levels, turned it to easy mode, then threw it all away.  Bascially, over the course of four year, we went from no levels, to level 25 being a sign that a group worked hard, to level 25 being a sign that you had people playing, to no levels again.  Boom, gone, we’re done with that idea.

Which is odd, because guilds having levels isn’t exactly a rare thing.

EverQuest II, for example, went live (before WoW) with guild levels in place.

Our day one guild on Crushbone

Our day two guild on Crushbone

Yes, the whole thing was convoluted in that way that only SOE can manage on a first try.  You earned guild experience by acquiring status, but only designated “patrons” in your guild could earn experience for the guild, and the more people (or patrons) you had in your guild, the less of their status went towards guild experience. (Alts were thus not allowed in the guild, but when we made an alts guild, our guild leader got mad at us.)  And if one of the partons left the guild, they took their applied guild experience with them.  I remember our guild leader Wooflin being incensed when Oteb the Traitor, who we had vouched for because he was in our TorilMUD guild, left the Knights of the Cataclysm just after we had hit level 15, which at the time was the level where we got a status mount.  Whoops, no mounts for us until we earned back that guild exp.

Eventually SOE fixed some of the crazier bits and the whole thing settled down.  Earning guild exp got easier, but the fact that they kept piling on levels so that the guild level cap was always somewhere around the character level cap, meant that only the larger, more active guilds could expect to be at level cap and indulge themselves in all of the perks.  Gaff and I managed to ramrod the guild we created on the Freeport server as part of our ill-fated EQII instance group adventure to level 30 mostly on our own so we could have a guild hall, but after that the level curve continued to ramp up and we capped out at 42.

But even at lower levels guilds got identifying marks, like guild cloaks.  Small guilds can still have some nice things.

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

Shades of Twilight guild cloak

And as much of a pain as the guild levels were during the early days, I also remember them fondly (now).  They represented a point where the guild was working together to accomplish a goal.

While I would readily agree that a guild should be more than just what the game mechanics dictate… a guild is a social organization and if you feel yourself constrained by just having a chat channel then maybe you aren’t doing it right… having game mechanics like guild levels that a guild can work on together and which reward the guild can help build the social bonds without which you are just a bunch of avatars with the same guild tag floating above your head.

And it isn’t just EverQuest II.  While EverQuest never went the guild level route, other games have guild levels.  Some of them are similar, as with Rift, where you get perks and guild tasks you can work on together.

Tell me of these perks!

Our perks page early on

Others are of… more dubious value.  In Lord of the Rings Online kinships (guilds) have levels, but they are based on the age of the guild rather than anything anybody has done.  So at this point, having not really played LOTRO in over a year, all of the kinshipss I am in on various servers are at max level, more due to neglect than activity. (See my guild review for details.)

And then there is EVE Online, which turns the whole thing on its head.  In Soviet New Eden, guild levels you!  Sort of.  There are skills around running a corp, the EVE version of a guild, as there are skills for everything.  So while corps do not have levels, as your corp grows the CEO must level up the appropriate leadership skills in order to accommodate the change.  So The Mittani, CEO of Goonwaffe, which has 2,500+ members, might have had to train into Sovereignty, one of the Corporation Management skills, which takes more than 50 days to train to level I.

And I don’t even begin to know how alliances… groupings of corporations… work in New Eden.  But that is straying off the point.

Guilds having levels and such is a reasonably established thing in the MMO market.  And, in my experience, having levels that people can contribute to helps bring a guild closer together.  So I am somewhat disapp0inted that Blizzard has decided to dispense with the guild level thing.  Yes, we still have guild achievements, and those do actually unlock things.  But those are also somewhat focused.  You have to go do a specific thing in a limited group.  There aren’t a lot of them you can help out with by leveling an alt… a couple, but not a lot.  Killing a damn tauren rogue in a battleground, for example, would get us another achievement.  Do people even roll tauren rogues?

Anyway, I wish Blizzard would revisit the guild levels idea again in a future release.  And, Blizzard being Blizzard, if they do I am sure they will model it on an implementation that is already out there and working.  So the question is, who does guild levels best?  Who is totally winning on the guild levels front out there in the world?

EverQuest II Lore in a Minute September 28, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, YouTube.
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6 comments

Because… I actually knew all of this at one point.  And then there were expansions and flying carpets and such.

(Direct Link)

When Does an MMO Become a Foreign Country? September 22, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft.
15 comments

One of the tenets of the MMORPG industry these days is that players will come and go.  After a certain point in the life cycle of an MMO the installed base, those who have played the game at one time but who are not currently playing, is the most fertile ground for marketing.  Somebody who has enjoyed your game once may come back to try it again.

And a lot of us do come and go from various MMOs.  There are many posts on this blog about my poking my nose back into this game or that for a summer vacation or autumnal nostalgia tour.

Unfortunately, this sort of revolving door view of MMOs does tend to be at odds with another constant of MMOs: Change.

Change, big and small, is part and parcel of the genre it seems.  Think of how many blog posts and comments have included something akin to, “I liked this game back when…”

Changes can be small, confined to a single class or a single ability, or huge, changing how every class works or even how we look as classes in a game.  Blizzard likes to revamp classes, stats, and combat with every expansion, something we can look forward to yet again with the 6.0 patch before Warlords of Draenor.  And Turbine did a giant turn on Lord of the Rings Online classes shortly after my last time playing the game, remaking classes in the image of the talent tree god.

specs and talents

specs and talents

Change is meant to be good.  These revamps are meant to improve the game, to make it more playable, to balance out the classes, and to make sure there isn’t just a single “I win” skill for a given class.

And if you are playing a game actively and such change occurs, you pick up and work your way through the change with everybody else.  There is a lot of sharing when it comes to adapting.

But if you were away when the change hit, if you were taking a break, on hiatus, or just getting the hell away from a game that was starting to feel more like work than fun for a bit, coming back can be a very different experience.

It can be like a foreign country.

Sure, things look about the same as home at first glance.  But as you look closer, differences start to become apparent.  They call french fries something else on the menu and when they serve them up they have a side of mayonnaise or are bathed in gravy.  The money is all different, so you can’t tell what is expensive and what is a bargain without a bit of math.  And the customs are all different, so people are rolling their eyes or giving you angry glances as you wander about trying to figure out what is going on.

Now, in a foreign country, you have to grow up there in order to really fit in.  MMOs are not so complex.  If you have friends or a regular guild or group, they can help you assimilate to the new state of affairs.  And, when all else fails, you can go back, roll up a new character and, in essence, “grow up” again in the game.

I have used the new character method quite a bit, especially with LOTRO, which seems to change quite a bit between my visits.  But even that has its flaws.  In LOTRO, for example, I have now played through the 1 to 40 content with so many characters that, even though I enjoy it, I do want to see something else.  And in EverQuest there is so much content and so much has changed over the years (and there are so many out of date guides and such on the web), that somewhere between the tutorial zone and some level… somewhere between 20 and 50… I inevitably fall off the rails.  I have not played the game seriously in so long that the game is almost completely foreign to me, to the point that even “growing up” through it again isn’t possible.

It seems like I have simply been away too long to ever really return to EverQuest.  It isn’t what it once was, I do not understand what it has become, and I have no base of friends or other support group to help out.  And I feel that way when I wander into EverQuest II these days as well.  The old guilds are all deserted and the skills on my hot bar are like a foreign language.

This is why the various insta-level schemes haven’t really thrilled me.  If I am lost where I left off in the midst of the game, boosting me further along, and thus removing even the bits of context I remember, isn’t going to help me much.

It all makes me wonder if there is a quantifiable gap in time after which returning to an MMO becomes difficult, a point after which the inevitable divergence between what you remember and the state of the game starts to turn the game into a foreign place.

Or maybe it is just me.  I swap classes in a game and it takes me a while to come up to speed.

Rift Joins the Insta-Level Club with Nighmare Tide Expansion September 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in EverQuest, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, entertainment, Rift.
Tags: ,
11 comments

While I haven’t been in Rift for ages, that doesn’t mean Trion Worlds isn’t still out there plugging away.  During that very busy stretch in August… I thought people went on vacation in August… they announced a new expansion, the Nightmare Tide.

RiftNighmareTide

This will bring the level cap up to 65, adds new content in the Plane of Water, gives you a new bag slot (woot!), and a host of new and improved features you can read about over on their site.  I just hope it isn’t an all under water expansion.  Too much disorientation for me.

The expansion, set to come out on October 8th of this year, is available for pre-order in three flavors.

Nighmare Tide Editions

Nightmare Tide Editions

Selling new content, expansions, is one of the business models I can really get behind. But, as always, we get into the discussion about what is worth the money.  You can go compare the three editions on their site to see if you would drop an additional $100 to get the Ultimate Nightmare Edition.  I am not sure it would be for me, but I am also not playing Rift currently, so the $25 option isn’t for me either.

The interesting thing for me in all of this is the item available only with the $50 and $150 editions which will boost a character to level 60, currently the level cap in the game.  From the site:

Boost one character to Level 60 with a swig of this powerful draught! It comes complete with gear to begin your quests in the Plane of Water and is even tradable to other characters – but be careful, it only works once!

Where have I heard about something like that before?  Oh yeah, back at BlizzCon last November, when Blizzard announced the Warlords of Draenor expansion, which included a boost to level 90 for a single character.

Not that I am trying to scold them for copying an idea that is starting to spread.  Rift has made its mark by working hard to be a better WoW than WoW,  putting themselves directly up against the big gorilla in the room… or something.

No, not Azeroth!

Remember this?

So if Trion is copying a feature from elsewhere for Rift, it generally means it is a feature worth having.  But I wonder how much of the Blizzard playbook they are going to copy?

As of right now, the insta-60 option… which would let me skip past the Storm Legion content I got mired in, and eventually gave up on… is only available by purchasing the top two versions of the expansion package.  It is not available as its own item in the in-game store.

But will it stay that way?

As Silverangel notes in her look at the whole thing, that the idea of insta-levels staying locked to an expansion purchase seems naive.  And Blizzard itself started with insta-90s being tied to the Warlords of Draenor expansion, but eventually moved to make them a cash shop item.  An expensive cash shop item, for sure, ringing in at $60 a pop.  But if you want more than the one you got with the expansion and three double sawbucks burning a hole in your pocket, Blizzard has the deal for you.

The alleged price of level 90

Yours, if the price is right…

So I suppose that just leaves us with two questions.

The first is, “When Trion will offer insta-levels as a cash shop item?”

My gut says that they will be available after the expansion goes live, but before the end of the year, so you’ll be able to buy yourself or a friend a character boost for the holidays.

And the second is, “How much will a Rift insta-60 cost?”

Blizzard wants $60, but even down to almost half of their peak user base, they are still sitting on such a huge revenue stream that they can afford to stick to their notions of the world, like the idea that people should be encouraged to play through the content.  I think insta-levels are more a utility than revenue stream for them.

Back in the real world, where it isn’t raining cash, SOE priced their level 85 boosts in EverQuest and EverQuest II at about $35.  However, that is taking the strict, default valuation of Station Cash and translating it to coin of the realm.  Theoretically it could be much cheaper if you bought your Station Cash during a sale, got one of those Walmart bonus Station Cash cards, or found some other loophole in the SOE accounting system.

And then there is Lord of the Rings Online and their goofy option, which only boosts you to level 50… 45 levels shy of Helm’s Deep content… and which they are trying to promote through scarcity by only offering it on special occasions.  That has run for 5,000 Turbine points which, due to how Turbine’s valuation of their in-game currency vary depending on how and when you purchase it, could put the real world price somewhere between $38 and $70.  Or less, since you can earn Turbine points in the game, one of the outstanding features of LOTRO, so you could subsidize your purchase with that.

Given all of that, I would guess that Trion would price insta-levels in Rift closer to the SOE price range than the Blizzard.

Then again, Trion isn’t shy about asking for money.  They have a $150 option for their expansion and they were looking for $100 if you wanted to be in the ArcheAge beta.

What do you think?

SOE Live – The Norrathian Front August 19, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
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11 comments

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?

SOE Live 2014 – What Are You Wishing For? August 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
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8 comments

Currently I am not very invested in any SOE games.  I pay some attention to changes in EverQuest, with occasional glaces towards EverQuest II, based mostly on nostalgia for the “good old days,” but otherwise there isn’t much in their current lineup that thrills me.  Landmark has some potential once it gets closer to being feature complete.  EverQuest Next has raised some enthusiasm, but exists only as a blur on the horizon at this point.  And the other remaining titles aren’t really my thing.

But here it is, the week of SOE Live, the time for announcements big and small.  Yes, whatever Smed says during the Thursday night keynote will likely be overwhelmed in the news cycle by Blizzard’s big Warlords of Draenor announcement planned for earlier in the day… I think the timing was more to head off the subscription numbers news than to stick it to SOE, but they seem to have gotten a threefer on that one if you include the SWTOR hit as well… plus there is Gamescom this week as well… but some of us will still be paying attention to SOE.

SOELiveLogo

And because it is that time, I am asking myself what I would like to see and what I expect come out of the event.  SOE Live can bring with it some very big news.  Last year had a lot of people talking about EverQuest Next.  What will we get year?

What I Expect

  • Some firming up of the Landmark timeline, with some more details about specific features, but no real “go live” information
  • Expansion announcements around EverQuest and EverQuest II, though as the F2P years roll along I am not sure expansions have all that much impact any more unless they raise the level cap or add new AA features
  • An open/paid beta plan for H1Z1 with an estimated date for access that will be off by at least a month
  • Something about fixing whatever woes are currently afflicting PlanetSide 2
  • Some more screenshots and in-game video from EverQuest Next, but nothing playable and no concrete details

Things I Would Like to See

  • A date for Landmark to be feature complete and generally available for those who didn’t pony up for a pay-to-test package. (Even if it is off by 3-6 months.)
  • Something solid, tangible, and new about EverQuest Next
  • Or just something that ignites some hope that EverQuest Next will be a game I want to play

Things I Fear Might Be Communicated

  • Closing down PlanetSide… well, that might not be a fear for me, but I do wonder how it is still running
  • Little or nothing about EverQuest Next
  • A draw down of content for EverQuest, no more expansions, limited content updates on a vaguely expressed timeline
  • That some new game is dedicated to the dispossessed players of another SOE title that has been shut down (e.g. The planned science fiction biome in Landmark is really dedicated to former players of Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures)
  • Some new technological dead end like SOEmote or SOE Launcher to eat up dev cycles for no real benefit or follow through (cue Sony Olfactory Enhancements or some such)

Dreams Likely to be Unfulfilled

  • Something about the next EverQuest nostalgia focused server, progression, classic, or otherwise
  • An announcement that an EverQuest II nostalgia focused server… original content, steeper leveling curve, more difficult mobs, or whatever… is in the offing
  • Something that might otherwise revive my interest in either EverQuest or EverQuest II… but I don’t know what… what is the “fix these games for Wilhelm” plan?
  • An open/paid beta plan for EverQuest Next with an estimated date for access… this I might pay for… maybe
  • Something about hats… no… wait…

From Left Field on Bizarro World Unlikely

  • The Agency being revived on the PlanetSide 2 platform ala H1Z1
  • The return of any dead SOE game
  • A new game announcement
  • The EverQuest Next plan being completely revised from last year’s announcement
  • EverQuest Next being cancelled
  • A ship date for EverQuest Next

So those are my various lists.  What do you want to see, expect to see, or fear might come from this year’s SOE Live?

 

World of Warcraft – 10 Years 10 Questions August 11, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, World of Warcraft.
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11 comments

Over at ALT:ernative chat there is a survey request centered around the impending World of Warcraft ten year anniversary.  Since bloggers do it for an audience, I will answer the questions in the form of a blog post (as bloggers were encouraged to do.)  You are encouraged to respond as well.  Please go to the site linked for recommended response methods.

Victory over VanCleef

Victory over VanCleef 2006

1.Why did you start playing Warcraft?

Back in the day a number of people I knew from EverQuest started cajoling me to come over and take a look at WoW.  They had left EverQuest, spent a month or so in EverQuest II, then hopped to WoW, never to return to either SOE title in any serious way.  Meanwhile, Gaff and I and a pack of TorilMUD players stuck with EQII.  In March of 2005 I gave in to the calls to come try WoW, as EQII was having problems and Vanguard wasn’t ready yet.

I did not like WoW all that much on my first venture, leaving after two months.  A few months after that our EQII guild pretty much abandoned the game and came to WoW.  That was fun, but we were a bit of a group without a rudder.  It wasn’t until late 2006, just after I started this blog, that the regular instance group got together and began its journey through Azeroth (and a few other games).

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

I rolled up a dwarven paladin on the Hyjal server, and that character was part of the reason that WoW did not stick with me initially.  I didn’t like the dwarven character models (I’ve since grown used to them), I didn’t like the dwarven starter area (snowy zones are all just bland white), and I didn’t like the Paladin (this was the age of no ranged pull for paladins, so a lot of running to mobs only to have some mage zap it before you got there).  That character has long since been deleted.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Faction choice was entirely dictated by what my friends were playing.  I have since played characters on both factions, but everybody I knew was playing alliance when I started.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

When our standing five person group killed Archaedas in Uldaman for the first time back in 2007.  It was our third run, it was after midnight, we had wiped already, and we won just by the skin of our teeth.

The Moment of Victory

The Moment of Victory

I found that I was shouting loud enough after the fight that I woke up my wife in the other room.

There have been lots of other memorable times, but for some reason that particular fight stands out even seven years later.

5. What is your favorite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

The five person group content, the single group dungeon crawl.  We have a standing group that has been doing that content off and on since 2006.  That is the structure around which the game revolves for me.  I do lots of other things in game, but that is the baseline.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Not really.  I used to have a very same-ish leveling path for characters back in the day, but Cataclysm and other changes to WoW have killed that off.  Now I am all over the place.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I have been playing off and on since March 2005, but over too many characters on half a dozen servers such that I am not going to go add them all up.  (Plus that might be a very scary number.)  In that time there have been about 20 months where I have not been subscribed, most of that coming after Cataclysm.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

About 60% of the time I only look the objectives, which sometimes gets me in trouble.  I always seem to not pick up the magic dingus next to the quest giver that you need to finish the quest at the far end.  You fail to read, you pay the price.  If a quest is clearly related to the story being told in the zone, I usually stop and read it.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Nothing significant.  There are always plenty of, “I wish I knew this before I set out…” sorts of moments, but that goes for anything and they sometimes lead to the more memorable situations.  Failure is often more interesting that success.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

WoW itself?  Not a lot in general, as I was playing online games for nearly 20 years before it came along.  I do play with my daughter and my mother, so there is something of an out-of-game bonding that comes along with the shared experience of the game, which is great.  My daughter and I can go on for hours in the car talking about WoW, though that does drive my wife mad at times.  And there are lots of fine memories.  I even did a video at one point about the first year of our regular instance group.

All in all, a fine game.  Four and a half stars, would play again.

You can find a listing of other blog, video, and podcast responses to these questions here.

PLEX and its new Daughter, GRACE July 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, WildStar.
Tags: , , ,
5 comments

I do not pay much attention to Anarchy Online.  Well, I don’t pay it any mind at all, really aside from the occasional industry lore aspects around things like rocky starts (“nearly unplayable” -GameSpy) and longevity. (It turned 13 just about a month back.)

AnarchyOnlineLogo

But some people do still pay attention to it.  There was a post up over at Massively announcing that the game had announced a new aspect to their subscription plan.

Called GRACE, for Grid Access Credit Extension, it is an in-game item that can be traded or sold between players that, once redeemed, turns into 30 days of game subscription time.  There is a FAQ.

Basically, this the AO version of EVE Online PLEX.

This is PLEX

No longer this cheap in Jita

PLEX itself has been live in EVE Online for just about five years at this point, where it has been a success thanks in large part to the in-game economy which is all pervasive in New Eden.  There are a lot of aspects of the game you can avoid, but if you want to play you are going to be part of the economy.

The economy is such a big deal in EVE that I was curious if MMOs with much more optional or fragmented economies could really make something like PLEX work.  World of Warcraft, with its large player base and need for gold sinks, seemed like it might be able to, even with the economy sliced up into three markets on hundreds of different servers.  And Blizzard dipped their toe in the water… sort of… with the kitten economy idea.  But they haven’t done much since.

It was left to Sony Online Entertainment to give the PLEX idea a try in the fantasy realm, introducing Krono to EverQuest II about two years back and then expanding it to their other games.

All About Krono

All About Krono

I really have no idea how Krono has worked out.  They still have Krono as an option, even after the big consolidation of game subscriptions into the new All Access plan back in April, but I have never seen more than a couple on the market when I have bothered to check, and the prices seemed wildly different on different servers, so I cannot tell if they just don’t get used or if they are so popular that they sell out quickly to the platinum barons of Norrath.  And the fact that the game is free to play complicates things.

Moving on, earlier this year we had two new MMOs announcing that they were all-in on monthly subscriptions.  First, The Elder Scrolls Online made its position clear, and then WildStar joined the subscription only parade as well.  But their business model also included something called CREDD, which is how they spell PLEX on Nexus I gather.  Because it was that PLEX model again, an in-game item worth game time, which Carbine seemed to be using as a loophole to claim some sort of free to play status since, technically, after you bought the game, you could find a way to play for free if you earned enough in-game money to buy CREDD.

In Carbine’s world, you can play for free so long as they get paid.  But to their credit, I don’t think they have overplayed their definition of free to play… yet.

My first thought when they announced their business model, including the CREDD bit, was whether or not it had worked for SOE by that point.  That seemed like a reasonable question.  Yes, a shiny new game sporting a subscription-only model with a brand new, out of the box in-game economy might not be the best parallel, what else was I going to compare it too?

The question is still unanswered at this point as far as I am concerned.  The idea works in EVE, but I couldn’t tell you if it was worthwhile elsewhere.

And now Funcom is throwing its hat in the ring with Anarchy Online, which doesn’t help my understanding at all, because I am not even sure what their business model is.  I think it is mostly subscriptions, but they have had this short-term “Free Play” option that shows you ads in game since… what… 2004?  So does that make it free to play?  And how many people even play?  The late Game Data site tracked them as peaking at 60K subscriptions just after launch, dropping down to 10K by 2006, but nothing after that.

So who is out there playing Anarchy Online?  What do you think GRACE going to do for the game, if anything?

Or, for that matter, how about CREDD in WildStar or Krono in SOE games?