Daily Archives: November 26, 2007

EverQuest And Accessibility

The magic of EverQuest is how much content it has.

Clint Worley, Official SOE Podcast #25

In Official SOE Podcast #25, Alan “Brenlo” Crosby interviewed EverQuest producer Clint Worley.  While he does not get quite the press that Scott Hartsman, the EverQuest II producer may gate, he oversees a product that has a community as sizable and important to SOE as the EQII community.

He was on primarily to talk about the new expansion for EverQuest, Secrets of Faydwer. While the subject was certainly of interest to me, my ears really perked up when he mentioned accessibility.

After all, that is something I have been on about for some time now.  As Mr. Worley pointed out, content is EverQuest’s high card.  After 14 expansions, the terrain of pre-cataclysm Norrath is huge and interesting. 

Getting Boxed In

Accessibility has many meanings and nuances however, and Mr. Worley’s prime point for accessibility was being able to get the software.  With Secrets of Faydwer the EverQuest team has taken a page from the EverQuest II play book and packaged up the current expansion with all of its predecessors back to the original game (EverQuest Classic, as they call it).

Certainly, that does improve accessibility.  If I go over to Fry’s and look at the assortment of EverQuest boxes on the shelf, it is immediately apparent that something needs to be done on that score.  Even the mid-term EverQuest roll-up packs (Platinum, Titanium, and Anniversary Edition) sit there, side-by-side on the shelf with single expansion boxes, causing no end of confusion I am sure.

At least having one ultimate, all-in-one box is a move in the right direction.  Getting the retailers to pull some of those out dated boxes would be another.  Not advertising the Platinum Edition (which pre-dates the Titanium and Anniversary editions) on the EQPlayers web site would be a third.

Seriously, what is SOE thinking with that last item?  They have the Anniversary Edition, which is only missing the latest expansion, out for the same price, yet they are pimping the way-out-of-date Platinum Edition on the EQ Players side bar like this:

eqplatad.png

At least with Secrets of Faydwer they go the whole package on two DVDs, down from 8 CDs in the Anniversary Edition (and the same for the Platinum Edition if I recall right), so that was an accessibility plus.

Are You Experienced?

But that really wasn’t the sort of accessibility I wanted to hear about.  Anybody sufficiently determined could get into the game with even the dated Platinum Edition.

No, what I wanted to hear about was bridging the gap between new players entering the game and the vast majority of the content… the newest and presumably the best content… which requires a player to at least get to within spitting distance at least of level 50.

Yes, they have their whole “Hot Zone” strategy going on in EverQuest, but I see that as somewhat lacking.  When I looked at the current hot zones two weeks back, the lowest level zone was for player level 20 and up.  This isn’t World of Warcraft, the grind doesn’t start after level 20.  You’ve already been grinding if you’ve made it that far.

And even if I was level 20 or above, I did not know how to get to any of the zones on the hot zone list.  So the hot zone deal is good, but only if you already know what you’re doing.  It does not help accessibility for new players.

Still, there is some good news.  Over at Mobhunter, where Loral is helping to keep the EverQuest flame alive, there is a Q&A post with EverQuest Lead Designer Travis “Rashere” McGeathy that includes the following:

Is there any intent to change the rate at which characters earn experience or AA experience?

There are two areas concerning experience where we are looking at making changes.

First, we’re going to smooth out the bonus experience you get for killing a creature close to your level. Currently, when you kill a creature that is dark blue to you, you get double the creature?s base experience. If you kill a creature that is even one level below dark blue, you just get the base experience. We?re going to change it so that you continue to get double experience at dark blue, but the bonus will slowly fall away as the NPC gets further below dark blue instead of going away immediately. This will be happening in the near future.

Second, I’m looking at smoothing out the experience requirements from level 51 to 60 so it’s a more gradual transition from the easier experience levels prior to level 51.

Well, that is something.  The level grind makes any improvement worth noting.  Still, I would borrow from the excellent  Fixing EverQuest post over on Random Battle and advocate for simply making every zone under level 40 a hot zone.

(Of course, the second part, easing the climb from 51 to 60 gives one pause.  You mean the grind gets worse?  Intellectually, I know it must, but enough that the EQ team is more worried about that than getting people within range of those levels?)

You’ll Go Blind

Unfortunately, while that piece on accessibility was a bit upbeat, it was followed by a real downer, at least for me.

Does Secrets of Faydwer include any improved solo hunting areas or solo quests?

EverQuest is a group-based game, so we don’t specifically design content for soloing. Instead, the ability to solo happens naturally due to player abilities and power progression. That being said, there are several areas in the new expansion that beta players have had a lot of success soloing. Also, the majority of quests in the expansion are available as a solo player, though you may require help to finish them if you?re taking on content that is difficult for you.

Basically, if you can solo it, it is solo content, but we didn’t plan it that way.

So the great lesson of WoW, that if you give people something to do when they can’t find a group or their regular group isn’t on, they will keep playing your game, doesn’t seem to have found any fertile ground in the world of EQ.

Too Much QQ?

So there is another round of carping about EverQuest out of my system.  Cloudy skies, cold weather, and a new expansion bring this on every autumn.  I want to play the game, but the price, in time, effort, and commitment is too high.

Still, I live in hope.  Hope that EQ team will stray from their true faith in grouping and recognize that solo content might bring some more vitality back to the game.  Hope that they might recognize that the true value of the game may very well be the content, but that the steep price to get within grasp of a majority of it is holding the game back.  Hope that the success of the progression servers might bring about something like an EverQuest Lite(tm) server.  Hope that the game might change enough to let me get back into it.

Or hope, at least, that they’ll call up Tipa and let her run with her idea.