The current round of EverQuest time locked progression servers, Ragefire and the spill over Lockjaw, continue to provide a spectacle as they move forward. To their credit, Daybreak does appear to be paying attention, something that differentiates this round of servers from the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers, where SOE was mostly an absentee landlord, setting a bar for the minimum amount of acceptable communication and then failing to meet it.
Having worked on the open world, contested raid boss problem last week, this week Daybreak has turned its gaze back to the population problem. The servers remain popular despite requiring a subscription in order to play on them. This means they are a money maker at least. Nostalgia pays.
However, it also means Ragefire got pretty crowded pretty fast. Daybreak initially used their multiple parallel zone instancing technology on the starter zones and upped the server capacity, but that wasn’t enough. They put in a login queue, but that didn’t help much. Finally, they had to relent and open up a second server, Lockjaw, and apply that parallel zone magic to even more zones in the old world.
And apparently that still wasn’t enough. The TLP forum has been running hot with the idea of an early unlock date for the Ruins of Kunark expansion as the one true way to accommodate the population of these servers… or at least on the Ragefire server, as it remains the more popular of the two by a fair margin. (History repeats there, the spill-over server tends to be less popular.)
And Daybreak must see some merit in this idea, as there is now a poll up on Ragefire asking if the Ruins of Kunark expansion should open up earlier than planned.
Personally, I am sympathetic to an early opening of Kunark. It would add a variety of additional low-to-mid level zones, zones that would likely get under-utilized once the bulk of the population leveled up past them, as would be likely after six months of classic EverQuest.
Kunark is popular and, in my opinion, perhaps the best MMO expansion ever released.
Ruins of Kunark is the prototypical MMO expansion, a monument to what every MMOs first expansion ought to be as well as a warning about how hard subsequent expansion will have to work to live up to that first expansion. It had something for pretty much everybody. But being the child of classic, it tends to be overlooked and under utilized on the progression servers.
For Fippy Darkpaw we had to wait 90 days in classic EverQuest before Ruins of Kunark could be unlocked. But Kunark and beyond were all 60 days from final raid boss down, something that took just a couple of days from expansion unlock. That led to it getting short shrift in my opinion. So, back during the progression server poll, my votes were hinged on getting the maximum amount of time with Kunark.
However, there are counter arguments.
There is the group I would call “the classicists” who simply do not want the server to progress beyond the original EverQuest content and who have vowed to vote “no” on every unlock. That doesn’t seem to be a very realistic goal, but they certainly have the right to go that route.
Then there are those who decry the legitimacy of this vote and who worry about what precedent it will set. The decision was made up front, via a poll of players, to unlock expansions at the current planned rate. If you allow people to punt on that a month in for Ruins of Kunark, will we get the same thing after that unlocks? Will players then vote in Scars of Velious early?
I get the sentiment that Daybreak shouldn’t make changes to the plan lightly. However, I reject the idea that once a decision has been made it can never be revisited or revised, and doubly so as that original poll was taken from the EverQuest population at large. This poll will be taken from the people actually playing on the server, who have committed to the project, and who are facing the challenges that come up. I think that gives this poll all the legitimacy it needs, especially since Daybreak, watching things from their end, seems to think that the idea has some merit.
Then, of course, there is the question of what the level increase and better gear that comes with Kunark will actually do to the server. The whole idea goes to hell is most people just drop classic and run to Kunark and make that the new over-crowded location.
And, finally, there are some people pointing out that all the changes that Daybreak made… the improved server capacity and the parallel zone instance technology applied to more and more zones… is actually working, and working well. In that case, opening up Kunark early will just disperse the population and reduce the number of zone instances to the point that you won’t be able to pick one that has the camp or spawn available that you are looking for.
Now, admittedly, that isn’t how things worked back in classic EverQuest, but it seems to be working out well enough on the Ragefire server, so you have to question the desire to mess with something that seems to be going okay.
So that is the poll and some of the questions at hand. Interesting times and I would like to say yet again how much better it is with Daybreak actually engaged with these servers, at least relative to the benign neglect we saw for most of the Fippy Darkpaw era.
I would tell you how I voted on the poll… only you have to be level 10 to vote, and I am such a slacker that I don’t have a level 10 character yet. The poll runs through the 28th, so maybe I’ll get a character there this weekend. My bard seems the most likely candidate at this point.