Daily Archives: November 28, 2009

EverQuest II – 5 Good, 5 Bad, 5 So-So

Syp over at Biobreak asked for EverQuest II players to celebrate the EQ2 5th anniversary in something of a confrontational way, by listing out five ways that EQ2 is better than World of Warcraft.  I just resubscribed to EQ2, so I guess I count as an EQ2 player yet again.

Though it isn’t like we haven’t been there before on this topic. (There Hudson, now you don’t have to comment how you posted on this topic two years ago and I don’t have to remind you I did it three years ago, so nobody is claiming originality.)

I have long been an EQ2 partisan and was quite anti-WoW for a while.  However, I have played both games quite a bit in the last five years so I see good and bad aspects of both.

Because of that, and because I simply cannot follow directions, I am making three lists, one where EQ2 rules, one where EQ2 drools, and one where EQ2 has managed to mix both greatness and crap into a mediocre mix.

Five Places EverQuest II Wins

1) Personal Space – Having your own little home in the world, even if it is just an instanced space identical to thousands of others, is a huge differentiator for EQ2.  Even if you never go beyond the basic cheap one room apartment, you have a place of your own that you can decorate and display your trophies then invite your friends over to take a look. In WoW, if you can’t wear it, it has to be stowed away where nobody can see it.

2) Storage – I have never had so much crap in EQ2 that I couldn’t solve my storage problems by saving up to buy some bigger storage boxes for my bank slots… or the storage slots I get with my home!  And believe me, I am a pack rat.  But I have always been able to buy my way out of storage woes in EQ2.

Not so in WoW.  WoW needs the concept of storage boxes that can only be used in your bank bag slots.  I am constantly out of space in WoW.

And don’t get me started on shared storage.  We’d better get shared storage for accounts in Cataclysm.

3) Guilds – I don’t think anybody will argue with the statement that guilds have had more options and more depth in EQ2 since day one.  Guild banks, guild halls, guild levels, WoW is slowly copying these things, but EQ2 has always been way ahead here.

4) Heritage Quests – I have yet to find anything in WoW that has given me the same feeling as a heritage quest in EQ2.  Certainly WoW has enough lore in the Warcraft line of games to come up with some special treats.

Of course, part of the joy of HQs is that you get status points that you can spend, plus status points that help your guild level, plus when you outgrow the quest reward, you can put it on display in your home.  WoW just can’t match that.

5) Fae Glide – Sure, WoW has flying mounts, which are very cool.  But I got used to having a flying mount pretty quickly.

Fae (and Arasai I guess) glide is hugely enjoyable to this day.  I run across the landscape looking for small rises to launch myself, streams to cross in a single bound, and cliffs to jump off of just to see how far I can go.

Special Bonus Praise: Quest Log – A quest log with room for more than 25 quests is pure win.  Showing all your completed quests as well, double win.  Being able to open it with a single key stroke… okay, we’re only talking about WoW and EQ2 here.

Five Places EverQuest II Loses

1) Home Cities – The original pair, Qeynos and Freeport, seemed to be designed to annoy the crap out of people.  How many zones should a home town have?  I have to think that if you’ve hit four zones, you’ve probably gone too far.  I know there was a desire to have two factions and yet give races their own home starter town within the cities, but it ended up being a royal chaotic pain.

Kelethin reversed this trend, but only for a couple of races.  And then Gorowyn came along with the apparent purpose of proving SOE could make a home town more confusing than the Undercity in WoW.

2) Zones & Travel – It is really tough to play in a seamless world like Azeroth and then have to face all the loading screens that come with Norrath.  I suppose it gives us a chance to read all the help tips.

And travel in Norrath keeps one from getting a feel that this is all one world.  Ring the bell and appear in another zone?  Yes, I know the story is that the cataclysm broke the lands apart, but that feels like somebody used lore to justify a zone based architecture.

3) Factions – Players from Freeport and Qeynos can group, be in the same guild, trade in person, sell to each other via the broker… so why are there two factions at all?  In five years I have yet to read a convincing argument for having two factions.

4) Skills – While it is neat that my characters all have literally dozens of skills, many more than any of my characters in WoW, it can be really tough to remember what does what when you’ve been away for a bit… or even when you change to another character.  This is compounded by SOE outsmarting itself and giving all the skills in a chain of upgrades different names.  WoW, with one skill name and different ranks of that skill, rules the roost for understandability.

This skill problem is compounded by the fact that skills in the same path do not always have the same icon, while similar sounding skills that are not in that same skill upgrade path do have the same icon.

And while we’re on skills, I’m still not all that happy about having apprentice I through master versions of skills.  This goes double when I read that everything after Faydwer was tuned to be challenging for those with master skills, because only raiders get into expansion betas, so unless you’ve been investing in masters, there might not be any high level solo content for you.

5) Instanced Content – Or why the instance group has never gotten into EQ2.

I know a lot of people are big fans of the open world dungeon thing.  In general I am not against the idea and like the option to be available.  But when you’re with a group that has a very specific play budget, you do tend to want to know what you’re going to be able to do on a given night.  In EQ2, you might be able to go delve into that open world dungeon and accomplish something.  Then again you might have to with another group for the same objective. Or, more likely you’ll end up competing with farmers camping the named mobs hoping for master chest drops to sell on the broker.

So while EQ2 does have some instanced content, it is pretty rare unless you’re raiding.  I haven’t been paying attention, has anybody been clamoring for open world raiding?

Anyway, if you want to do the dungeon crawl thing with just your group, EQ2 is not for you.

Special Bonus Gripe: Character Slots – Who at SOE hates people who make alts?

Four slots total at launch?  In a game with 24 classes?

Seriously, I am still mad about that five years later.

Now the character total has been raised to seven slots over all servers, unless you want to more than double your subscription fee.

Sorry, WoW, which pretty much followed the EverQuest model… you know, the game for which EQ2 is supposed to be the sequel… owns EQ2 completely in this regard.  10 characters per server, 50 characters total and I have never felt constrained.

Five Place Where EverQuest II Has Compromised Potential Greatness

1) UI Mods – On the one hand, relative to WoW, the UI in EQ2 is extremely customizable.  You can move and resize most any window and can find a huge number of mods to change the look and feel of just about everything.

On the other hand, it is possible to screw things up and lose essential windows without knowing how to get them back. Plus, the number of parameters associated with each aspect of the interface can be confusing.  Then there is the whole process by which you can apply mods, which is about as clear as mud five years into the game.  Seriously, it is easier to apply mods in EQ still.  How does that happen?

And, finally, while I gripe about my WoW addons being declared obsolete by Blizz with every major patch, UI changes actually break about as often in EQ2, but you don’t find out until you try to open that particular part of the UI and get told it is no longer supported.  Then you have to figure out which XML file to remove from the UI folder you had to create and point to by editing a .ini file.

2) Trade Skills – The “Whack-a-mole” implementation of trade skills made you feel like you were doing more than pressing a button and having an item dispensed, but it becomes a grind pretty quickly.  And where we find a repetitive grind, we find rampant botting.  I am convinced that SOE turns a blind eye to trade skill botting (because it isn’t hard to spot the bots in the trade skill instances) the way they turn a blind eye towards buying platinum.  To enforce either rigorously would ban too many paying customers and kill the already precarious in-game market.

Still, SOE has revised trade skills over time so they are not as onerous as they were on day one.  You no longer have to “Whack-a-mole” for half an hour to get an actual end product item, you now mercifully cut straight to the chase, putting raws in and getting finished goods out without couple of semi-finished states.  I do not miss making chemicals to refine other raws, to make parts, to then make final goods.

Meanwhile, harvesting has been something of a joke at times.  I’ve already ranted about fishing, but the other harvest nodes, spread at seeming random throughout the original zones in the game were just crazy.  There are places in Thundering Steppes where it looks like the resource factory exploded and the contents rained down across the fields.

In WoW, harvestables are always in areas you expect to find them.  Herbs are especially specific, with peacebloom always in open sun, silverleaf always in the shade of a tree, earthroot always in some extruding ground, and so on.  EQ2 got better at that with later expansions, which is why this isn’t in the “bad” category, but the old world still looks like resource chaos.

3) Equipment – This goes with trade skills.  I like that the trade skills allow you to make useful equipment.  However, that equipment is so good that I generally never replace anything with drops or quest rewards.

This means that every 10 levels I have to replace every single piece of equipment I am wearing.  But, I suppose, at least it all matches.  Of course, with appearance slots, that isn’t important any more.

So while WoW’s system is chaotic and I sometimes forget to keep equipment up to date, I often get drops that are upgrades so my equipment is usually being upgraded slowly over time rather than in a once-every-10-levels spending and crafting spree.

4) Lore – This rose up from “bad” to “so-so” after the Echoes of Faydwer expansion, but it will never achieve the level of “good” as long as I still see flying carpets from the Desert of Flames flying around.  How the SOE plan for an sequel to EQ could include avoiding so much of the EQ lore boggles the mind.  I’m glad they changed their minds on the subject.

5) Collection Quests – I have always liked these and I have always been especially satisfied to finish a collection quest without resorting to the broker.  But I think SOE has gone a bit overboard on them, thinking that if some is good, more is better.

And so, like my harvesting gripe above, you can go to zones and it looks like somebody’s loose leaf binder broke open and the papers were blown everywhere.  You see those and sparklies to excess.

Special Bonus Blah: The Broker – The broker, the EQ2 version of the WoW auction house, has never thrilled me.  It doesn’t have the simplicity of WoWs auction house, but does not seem to gain much by being more complex.  I suppose it is good that you have one auction house for all factions, something I have wished for in WoW, but then it goes back to why have factions in any case.