Stormhold and the Pacing of Nostalgia

At some point today… 9am or noon or maybe 3pm, I’ve seen all three mentioned, though EQ2 Wire says the actual downtime will be at 7am Pacific Time… Daybreak will unlock the Desert of Flames expansion on the Stormhold and Deathtoll Time-Locked Expansion servers.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

A bit more than a month back, the first vote to unlock that expansion failed on both servers.  That made a bunch of people angry, to the point that there were even some claims that Daybreak rigged the vote.  How could it go against unlock so heavily that Holly announced the results early?

More recently, the second vote to unlock the expansion passed on both servers.  This also made a bunch of people angry, again to the point of a few people claiming Daybreak cooked the results.  How could the voting swing from more than two-thirds against unlock to more than two-thirds in favor of unlock in just 30 days?

Clearly there is a split in the nostalgia demographic.

Those who want to unlock the next expansion say they are bored, need new content, that anybody who is “really” playing is at level cap and done with the content already, that if they made it to 50 already on their busy schedule then anybody can, that the expansion doesn’t affect the older content, and, in the words of one genius, that it is called a “PROGRESSION” server for a reason, even though it isn’t actually called a progression server. (See official name/logo above.)

Those who want to slow the pace want to know why people are in a rush, they are still enjoying the content, they are working on alts and trade skills, that they don’t want this server to simple become a live server in the shortest possible time, and that opening the expansion will most certainly affect the older content, bringing in new gear and allowing a large chunk of the player base, currently at level 50 and so available to do classic end-game content at level, to move up to level 60, at which point they will be demanding the unlock of the next expansion, along with the usual hangers-on who simply want to keep the server at the classic state forever.

What should Daybreak do?

This is actually a somewhat important question because, if you go to the EverQuest II site and look at the server loads, most hours of the day the Stormhold server is far and away the busiest one on the list, and every user who is playing is paying.  It requires a Daybreak All Access subscription to play on Stormhold and Deathtoll.  no Freeps allowed.  So anybody who gets pissed off enough to walk away… maybe they’ll go back to live, or maybe not… is potentially dollars lost.

My own sense is that having the first vote on new content after only 30 days with the current expansion is too quick of a pace.  That was my reaction when the unlock voting schedule was first proposed and I remain convinced of that.  If nothing else,  EverQuest II is not EverQuest, where the progression servers do become pretty much focused on raid unlocks and moving forward for the next expansion.

And once votes start tilting towards unlock, they tend to stay that way, so I will be surprised if the Kingdom of Sky expansion doesn’t get unlocked on its first vote 30 days down the road.  If hard chargers had already consumed all 50 levels of classic content in 30 days, the next 10 levels will be done for sure.  With only a dozen expansions to speak of, Stormhold will catch up with the live servers by this time next year if the votes go that way.  Will it remain as popular then?  Will people pay to play on just another live server?

Which isn’t to say that I think Stormhold should remain forever locked in classic or some early expansion either.  Moving forward and exploring each new expansion in turn is an express part of the experience, and the server should catch up to live some day.  The question is just when.

How should Daybreak balance this sort of thing?

One of the suggestions often put forward is to make more such servers, each tailored to a specific progression (or lack of progression) desire.  The problem there is that one of the great things about Stormhold right now… and one of the great things about the Freeport server back in the EverQuest II Extended experiment back in the day… is its huge popularity.  It is fun to play on a server with lots of people.  It is how the game should be played.  Slicing that up into a few more focused servers risks losing that aspect of things.

As usual, I don’t have any real answer.  I just felt the need to ask the question.

3 thoughts on “Stormhold and the Pacing of Nostalgia

  1. p0tsh0t

    Wondering why they just don’t do the obvious and rather than unlock by vote simply have servers dedicated to each expansion and allow one way transfers from older to newer. Those who want to live in release-world can stay there as long as they want.

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  2. bhagpuss

    Potshot’s suggestion is how I’ve always thought MMOs that use the linear expansion model should be structured in the first place.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to Stormhold with the two upcoming major changes to the rest of the EQ2 world – server mergers and a new expansion. Will it still be the cool place to play when the other servers all have larger populations and/or a lot of new, end-game content? Given the claims that most of the people playing on Stormhold were leeched from the Live servers that could go a number of ways…

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Potshot – That idea has been floated a number of times, in great detail, including one post that I recalled had a chart linked to it, in the EverQuest forums. The problem with EverQuest is that we’re more than 20 expansions down the road and there is no way to achieve the critical mass to make a server “feel” alive if you chopped it up it 20+ entities. It just doesn’t have the population numbers to support it, plus there is the whole problem of downgrade transfers, something the limited Daybreak team is unlikely to want to solve.

    Likewise, with EQ2, there are probably too many expansions at this point to lay out a complete smorgasbord of server options, especially when they are in the process of consolidating down from 13 to 5 US servers, to be able to get to critical mass on more than a couple servers.

    I am sure there is some optimum set of server configurations, but I am not sure I have the data to point at it even if somebody offered it up.

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