EverQuest and the Fall

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.

Seriously.

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.

6 thoughts on “EverQuest and the Fall

  1. CrazyKinux

    Fall is also when I get this sudden urge to pick-up Lord of the Ring, since I’m currently reading Deadhouse Gate (Steven Erikson), the urge isn’t as strong this year!

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  2. Gaff

    Big problems with SOE–I tried to find an anniversary edition for EQ1 at Best Buy this weekend–no luck. In fact, they did not have a single box for any Everquest (one or two) on their shelves or in their computer, and I think the computer search was for Best Buy stores nationwide. I was looking for something to play instead of EQ2 and was even going to upgrade one of my three accounts to station access. No luck.

    By the way, did I mention I reactivated my WoW accounts this weekend? Of course, this comes at a cost; I had to cancel some EQ2 accounts. I refuse to digitally download anything if I can help it.

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  3. Heartless_

    Old games like EQ and UO just can’t hope to bring in a new revival to the game after so long. Expansions should focus more on the core players and keep them coming back for more.

    Everything they learn can go into a new game, because they have plenty of them lined up.

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  4. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    But even the core players may want to level up an alt now and again without the hard core slog that is the EQ experience table. The value of those first fifty levels no longer warrant the effort they require, even when twinked and buffed by your friends.

    And then there are people like me who gave away their accounts after leaving EQ some years back. Returning was a bit of a shock. Twinked on one server I made it to 20. Going without wore me down evern quicker.

    I know that EQ will never draw in new people in any big numbers, but I still see a market there that would still help keep EQ funded if they could get through the door and to a decent level.

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  5. Pingback: "Fixing" EverQuest Classic | Random Battle

  6. Austin

    I am of the same mind. I find myself wanting to return to Everquest almost annually and almost always in the Fall. I am bored with World of Warcraft and it does not hold the same depth that I felt EQ ever did. I am strongly considering returning to Everquest but fear the typical overwhelming feeling of doing so once a game has gone through so many expansions. When I last seriously raided and played it was during the Planes of Power expansion and then shortly into the Luclin release. Does anyone who has started a fresh (untwinked, PLd, etc.) character with this expansion feel that it would be worth the investment and attempt to get back into the game? Will I be able to feasibly level without relying on groups? From what I remember it was almost required to 2+ box the game to level a new character due to lack of player population. I would hate to spend the time and money to create yet another account only to be disappointed. Thanks in advance.

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