What is it with the coming of the rain? Why do the clouds in the sky and the wind in the trees make this happen?
Why is it that every year, when the weather starts to cool off and get a bit gloomy, I get the urge to run off and play EverQuest?
Well, maybe it isn’t just the weather.
Fall is also, traditionally, when an expansion comes out for EverQuest.
Last fall it was “The Serpent’s Spine,” an expansion that lured me back into the game yet again.
There was a promise of a better new user experience, a quest path that could be followed to the level cap, and even some very much needed improvements to things that affect every user, like the out of combat health and mana regeneration rates. All of these things were clearly designed to help bring new players into the game.
I took their offer, created a new account, and started playing. I wrote about my experiences here. I still get hits on those posts every now and again from search terms like “Drakkin” and “Crescent Reach.”
And, I must say, that SOE did make the experience better.
I was able to follow quests. I picked up equipment. I was able to solo.
Compared to April of 1999, standing in front of the gates of Qeynos, with little more direction than a sword and a view of a field of rats and snakes, it was a huge leap.
It was even a decent addition to the tutorial that was put in a few years back.
Still though, in the end, I gave up after 14 levels.
I did not give up because of the clunky interface, the dated graphics, the strange key-word based NPC interaction system, or the crude map interface.
I gave up because the game is still too damn hard.
The information about what a new player should be doing in game is too sparse.
The quests are still too few and far between.
But, underlying any other issue and undermining any other attempts to improve the game, there is the experience curve that is simply too steep.
So now it is fall again, and a new expansion is coming out, this time called “Secrets of Faydwer.”
It sounds cool. I always look at EverQuest expansions. My post last Friday wasn’t just another goof, I am actually interested. There is even some lore involved that crosses over between EverQuest and EverQuest II with Meldrath the Malignant.
They’ve even learned some lessons from the EQ2 team, like putting a box on the shelf that rolls up all the past expansions so a new player does not feel lost in a sea of buying options. In the package, on the shelf, and you have the whole game. It was smart when the EQ2 did it and with 13 past expansions to worry about, it is a past-due requirement for EQ.
So I am keeping my eye on “Secrets of Faydwer.”
It is just too bad I will never see any of it.
I have friends who will be playing it. But if getting to level 14 wears me out, then there is little hope I will get into the level range required to play with them.
Meanwhile, a little north of SOE HQ, a competitor is having its own thoughts on a similar subject.
Blizzard is apparently worried that people who come into their game will be put off trying to get to level 80. They are taking action now to ensure that a raise in level cap will not be a disincentive to joining the game.
They want to be sure that somebody who has never played World of Warcraft won’t say, “Level 80? I’ll never be able to catch up.”
Blizzard has announced said that, among the features of their next major update, they will be speeding up levelling from level 20 to 60.
They want to put new people into their new content. And in a level based game, the new content is primarily at the top of the level curve. So Blizzard wants to accelerate people into the new content.
Let us recap.
Blizzard is worried that World of Warcraft’s levelling curve, decried by some of the hard core as too easy already, is actually too steep for new players entering the game. They want to push their new content, which will presumably also be their best, and they want that content to be attainable.
SOE on the other hand, a year ago, put out an expansion that was clearly designed to bring new players into the game. They made mistakes with that expansion. One that jumps to mind is making it available for digital download only. Sorry, boxes on the shelf matter, especially when trying to attract new players. Digital download is only for players who ALREADY KNOW ABOUT a game.
But it seems, following Blizzard’s logic, that SOE’s supreme folly was thinking that the experience curve in EverQuest was fine as it stood. The prime mistake was thinking that it was okay to let new players bang their heads against the wall that is the levelling experience in EverQuest.
And given the relative successes of the two companies, I am going to have to back Blizzard’s thinking.
If content is king, then the ability to access that content is key.
And what EverQuest says to any new player looking at that “Secrets of Faydwer” box on the shelf is, “Looks nice, doesn’t it? Too bad it will never be yours.”
So my title actually has two meanings. At the top I wrote of the season. But really, I mean the fall of EverQuest. All of its new content is for naught if one cannot hope to access it.
SOE, look what Blizzard is doing. Learn from it. Leverage that content that you have.