Qeynos Reskinned – And The Beat Goes On

In which I complain about slights both real and imaginary.

Qeynos? There is no “there” there!  Let’s talk about me.

Firiona Vie, EverQuest Spokesmodel

Long have the residents of Qeynos suffered neglect as the second city of Norrath.  Ever have we been in the shadow of our rival city, Freeport, and have been discriminated against because of our unjustly diminished stature.

In old Norrath, in the original EverQuest, a vast right coast conspiracy placed Freeport at the center of the world’s activity, with many smaller racial home towns feeding naturally into it via the Commonlands or the Ocean of Tears.  It acted as a crossroads and became the destination for those looking to trade, and it flourished.

Classic Norrath

And even as the bounds of Norrath grew, even as the bazaar took over from the Commonlands tunnel, Freeport remained an important destination.  Ever is there activity in Freeport.  It was important enough to get a complete revamp a couple of years back, along with the Commonlands.

The updated Freeport docks

None of the original cities of Norrath have had such attention lavished upon it.

Certainly not Qeynos.

(Conspiracy theories and a few pictures of the new Qeynos after the cut.)

You’re just going to scroll down and look at the pictures, aren’t you?

Qeynos, the rival city on the east coast of Antonica, remains in its original state to this day.

Actually, that isn’t true.  Somehow SOE broke the fog effect in Qeynos and its surrounding zones, an act which manages to make Qeynos feel even more outdated and empty.  Fog still works east of Highpass though, on the Freeport side of the world.

Qeynos was a good place to be from in the opinions of many, but not a place you would want to live.  A waypoint for the Erudin seeking fortune to the east, avoided by the barbarians out of Halas, it was a sad place, badly itemized and bereft of key trade goods.  I remember wanting to do blacksmithing and finding out that I had to go to Highhold Keep for raw materials.

Even the half elves… the freakin’ half elves… built a little camp out in the Surefall Glade to avoid the stigma of Qeynos.  They didn’t go far enough though.  What do you think of your fog shrouded trees now, you ingrate half-breeds?

Wait, those aren’t trees! They are just giant pillars!

And, in post-cataclysmic Norrath, in EverQuest II, the emphasis from SOE remained the same.  Freeport über Alles!

Freeport was created as the grand master work of Norrath reborn.  The phoenix or Norrath (by which I mean the mythical creature, not the city in Arizona which, frankly, ranks behind Qeynos), rising from the ashes left by the rain of destruction to become a beacon around which the faithful would rally.

And to this purpose, Freeport became a grotesque monstrosity of a home town, an overwrought gothic nightmare of detail and design.  This maze-like metropolis stood as the grand statement of the favor with which the gods and devs blessed it.

Meanwhile, Qeynos looked to be built up out of the leftovers deemed “no epic enough” to appear in the masterwork of Freeport.  While Freeport looked like an evil genius was given free reign, Qeynos felt more like a planning commission was asked to build a new version of the city and decided that the old one was pretty good.  So they updated a lot of that and then went back to see if they could get on the Freeport team where all the fun was happening.

All of which ended up seeming a bit ironic in the end, as this time around Qeynos seemed the place to be.  At least on my server, Qeynos was a busy place while Freeport was something of a ghost town.

But that never fazed SOE.  They carried on as though Freeport was the center of the universe, with high drama, destruction, and an eventual revamp of the city last year.  Freeport Reborn!

But I didn’t like it the last time around

I was not really happy about that.  It did not seem like a wise use of resources.  But this is Freeport!

A year has passed since and now, at last, Qeynos has gotten its turn.  Granted, it is not getting quite the same billing.

Not quite reborn…

Qeynos Rises sounds like the place finally sobered up enough to stand upright.  But being a Qeynos partisan for more than 13 years now, I felt it my duty to see “The New Qeynos.”

So I launched EQII for the first time in months and let it patch.  I was 6GB behind.  But I wanted to get all the assets downloaded, lest I diminish the experience.  So I let that run over night.

The next evening though, I was able to see what had changed.  I am afraid my initial reaction was that most of that 6GB must have been art assets for cash shop mounts, because the place did not look all that different.  I stood there in Qeynos Harbor and saw the same sights.

I’m pretty sure that was there before

It looked like maybe there were new textures.  The Qeynos Claymore looked a bit different.  And Gary the Magnificent had been moved.  But it was hard to tell.  My memory isn’t good enough to carry forward textures for very long, and it has been a long time since I stared hard at anything in Qeynos.

Yup, that’s the castle. Did you guys hose it off?

I had to go dig out some old screen shots just to compare.  As it turns out, I did not spend a lot of time taking screen shots of Qeynos.  But I found a few.  I had some of the Irontoes East Inn, which used to look like this back in 2007.

What a dump!

But now we can see the impact Qeynos Rises!  Now we can visit the New Qeynos!

Behold the mailbox!

Well, that new post box sure made a big difference.

Meanwhile, inside Irontoes, we can see what has changed in the shabby old hallway outside of my old room.

Crooked, threadbare rug

And, in the New Qeynos?

Nobody has straightened that rug in five years

I think the primary difference is that in the old one I was carrying a light source that cast a yellow-ish glow.  Do they even still use light sources in EQII anymore, or have they gone the way coin weight and mount sanity?

Okay, maybe Irontoes East wasn’t the best point of comparison.  But I didn’t have many pictures with which to compare.

I did see a few points out there, like the castle, which did appear to have new textures.  And there are some other new things in town, like horses with their legs on fire.

Soon to be available in the Station Cash store!

That may be either the best or worst take on leg warmers I have ever seen, and I speak as somebody who lived through the leg warmer craze of the early 1980s.

They did consolidate zones, so rather than Qeynos being made up of four main zones and a bunch of ghettos, it is now two main zones and a bunch of quest zones.  This actually was a bit of an issue as my oldest character, Nomu, still had an apartment loaded with stuff in Graystone Yard.  And they were not letting people into the place without a racially appropriate quest.

Fortunately, among the dozens of tabs and windows the game has for your character, there is one that tells you where you house is.

The Lion’s Mane Inn is one of those “here are a couple dozen unmarked doors, just try to find the one you are looking for” housing locations that seemed like a good idea back in the day.  Still, I managed to find my room, which was still there, scare crow and all.

Boo! Hah! Did I get you that time?

The damn thing popped up five times in three minutes.  I think that is part of the “upgrade to gold” campaign.

But the New Qeynos?  Well, it is nice that they merged four of the zones into just two I suppose.  And the only problem I have with turning the racial ghettos into adventure zones is that it did not happen nearly soon enough.

The gnolls can burn down Willow Wood for all I care

And I suppose that some new quests will bring people to the city now and again.

But was it worth it?

Since EQII launched, SOE has added a few new cities, finally focusing on New Halas as the new center for new players and veterans alike.  And it is a good city, with fine housing and well located amenities, all contained within a single zone that lacks some of the quirks than make some of the other cities nice places to visit but annoying to live and work in.

So I wonder why they bothered with Qeynos.  I can see the reasoning behind turning some of it into adventure zones.  Few people were going to those locations any more.  But the rest of the city, the joining of zones and the minor changes in textures, why bother?

Or, to look at it from another angle, while I am a bitter Qeynos vet and have long resented the favor that has been bestowed on Freeport, sometimes neglect is a good thing.  When it comes to nostalgia time (is it autumn yet?), I am actually glad that I can go back to Qeynos in EverQuest and find it pretty much the way it was some 13 years ago.  Better that it be a monument to the past.

I just wish they would fix the damn fog.

How about you?  Do you like the update?  Should MMOs dramatically revamp old zones or just leave them be?

6 thoughts on “Qeynos Reskinned – And The Beat Goes On

  1. bhagpuss

    Ooookay….there was a first comment there, I swear! Let me start again.

    As I said in my comment to your original “We Want Our Fog” post, removing the fog was the second best change to EQ ever, after Mercs. I do like to see what I’m looking at, I’m funny that way.

    Thanks for reviewing the Qeynos makeover. Since I posted about the Freeport one I felt duty bound to get something up about this too but by the time I’d logged on on Tuesday, found one of my rare Qeynosian characters and wandered listlessly around Qeynos taking a handful of lackluster screenshots of the few “changes” I could find I’d pretty much lost what little interest I started out with.

    I was sort of planning to take another look and get something up about it tomorrow but now I can just mention it in passing and link to you!

    And to answer your question I think graphical updates of old zones are a total waste of resources and time. Yes, the revamped Freeport was well done but there was nothing wrong with the old one and we could have had a whole new zone for the same effort.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – You caught me while I was eating lunch and checking the blog. You are down to one comment again.

    You’ll never convince me that fog which gently obscured the harsh edges of the world a couple of hundred meters out was a bad thing. Especially when some aspects of zones were created with that in mind. (Surefall Glade picture again.)

    And, as I noted, SOE didn’t remove the fog. It is all over the rest of the game. It is in Kithicor (you want that de-fogged and well lit so you can see things?) Kunark, Faydwer, and so on. They just broke it in the oldest zones that would looks the worst with it missing. It is like SOE is deliberately pissing on Qeynos.


  3. bhagpuss

    I have a fascination with how memory works (basically it doesn’t) but with that caveat I am convinced I remember a specific point in the development of EQ at which we were told that

    a) the fog only ever existed because of shortcomings in graphics cards (which isn’t to say that artists didn’t take advantage of the fact by not bothering to put branches on trees etc).

    b) that at the point that even low-end PCs could handle EQ without fog the fog was being removed.

    I do also remember a subsequent discussion, probably post-complaints along the lines of “fog was good enough for us – why are you nerfing fog?”) in which the whole “we’ll give you better fog” thing

    The SOE post that Snick links now comes up as “post no longer exists” but I believe it was from the post-fog-removal discussion. I don’t have the energy to do the web-traawling to try and prove it, though.

    The bit that matters is that from the screenshots you used in the original post, I much prefer the ones with no fog. I love those clean, clear views to the horizon in the Karanas. I understand the aesthetic value of the fog as it was but I can remember my elation on logging in after the fog went and being able to see what I was doing for the first time ever. Firiona Vie was a revelation.

    I am not a fan at all of any mechanic that reduces visibility – darkness, fog, weird color shading – I find all of them irritating in very short order. The Secret World has a very effective, immersive and effective device where you have to equip a miner’s hat or use a flare gun to see anything at all in pitch-black mines, tunnels, crypts and so on. It is incredibly convincing and brilliantly done and I loved it the first couple of times I encountered it. As a novelty I’m all in favor, but the novelty wears off fast. When I see it now I just sigh with resignation and wish there was a “switch on a light” button.


  4. Pancakes

    It’s not only Qeynos in EQ1, its everything west of High Pass Hold that feels like a barren forgotten area. I mean take a look at it today, east of HighPass, every zone has been revamped except for Kithicor with expansion pack zones splitting off from High Pass, Nektulos, Lavastorm, Freeport, and North Ro. Everything from Feerott to Everfrost Peaks is vast with very little to gain, even in a classic perspective. A couple of rare names and some quest update npc’s here and there, but literally no meat in between. It’s always been like that.

    tldr: East Antonica Uber Allies ftw and West Antonica barren third world dog crap.


  5. wizardling

    I’m not a fan of fog everywhere, but it looked good in the right zone, and there should be _some_ blurring of the very distant. I also like darkness, again – in the right situation. Being able to see everything at any distance removes the added sense of danger I used to experience in foggy and/or poorly lit zones. Now I charge forwards, running everywhere, with no fear I’ll ever blunder into a dangerous mob.

    As for Qeynos – it has always been my favourite city. Yes it is lacking in some tradeskills, but I’m perhaps weird/old school in that I enjoy being forced to travel a little to get stuff done, so I run into random situations more. Anyway – Qeynos, more than any other zone, is the one I hope they never change the layout or intrinsic look of in EQ1. A minor graphical polish, maybe. But don’t change the layout and atmosphere, _please_ SOE.

    Speaking of EQ cities in general, what I find most lacking other cities in comparison to Qeynos, are the scarcity of quests and NPC interactions. Yeah, it’s not real sophisticated and too mant old quests are broken, but you can’t go ten feet in Qeynos without tripping over someone you can talk to and do something for.
    I love my Troll Warrior for example, but Grobb has a pathetically small number of quests and ways to build faction, if any (still working) at all for some Troll factions.
    That is one reason I liked the Serpent’s Spine expansion (though I could have done without yet another nail in the old world city’s coffin, as if they hadn’t been neglected and marginalised enough) – it’s new city and surrounds were positively bustling with ways to interaction with and quest for NPCs.

    Getting back to Qeynos though – it is odd IMO that SOE seemed to build such a lot of NPC related content for Qeynos, and then spend over a decade neglecting the hell out of it. I never have got the love affair with Freeport – not a single one of my Fippy Darkpaw toons started out or relocated there.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I am always on about the fog because it was a very important part of the whole atmosphere of the game when I started playing.

    On launch day (mistake) I rolled a half-elf (mistake) ranger (big mistake) in Surefall Glade (unavoidable mistake give the other choices), which lead out to Qeynos Hills (mistake in that it really wasn’t a start zone at all).

    So in Surefall Glade, the first thing you see are the big trees disappearing up into the fog. A wonderful and impressive effect.

    Then I was out in Qeynos Hills, which was the place you were supposed to go AFTER you got a few levels out in front of Qeynos. A couple friends and I struggled and ran and died and eventually got a level or two out there in the fog shrouded hills. And then it would start to rain and the fog would move in even closer.

    And as we stumbled forward in the zone, we hit that flat plain that looked to lead into a dense bank of fog. We avoided that in fear, before finally moving forward to explore.

    Eventually we hit the zone line and carefully moved into what was really the started zone out in front of Qeynos. We found the city.

    I think we played the game for a day and a half before we got there, thanks in large part to the fog.


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