Category Archives: EverQuest II

Kunark Ascending Goes Live in Norrath

Norrath remains in danger from Lanys T’Vyl and her pursuit of power! It is up to you to keep Lanys T’Vyl from acquiring the third and final Chaos Stone. Return to Kunark to stop Lanys from ushering in a new age of power. Will you stand against the Tenets of Hate? Adventures await you in Kunark Ascending, EverQuest II’s 13th expansion!

-Kunark Ascending promo text

Next on this week’s list of new arrivals (and the second to derive a title from the root word “ascend”) is Kunark Ascending, the 13th expansion for EverQuest II (plus 4 adventure packs along the way as well), which landed yesterday, close to the game’s 12th birthday.

Launched November 15, 2016

Launched November 15, 2016

As the name indicates, the expansion returns to one of the “classic” locations in Norrath, the island of Kunark, which was the setting for the first EverQuest expansion, Ruins of Kunark, more than 16 years ago.

The expansion gets you the following:

  • 1 New Overland Zone
  • 12 New Heroic zones
  • 1 Challenge Heroic Zone
  • 8 New Solo Zones
  • 4 New Advanced Solo Zones
  • 6 New Raid Zones
  • More than 50 New Solo and Heroic Quests
  • More than 65 New Collection Quests
  • 4 New Archetypal Epic 2.0 Quest Lines
  • 4 New Ascension Classes
  • New Wardrobe Function
  • New Mercenary Gear Feature
  • Level 100 Character Boost
  • Access to All Previous Expansions

I borrowed most of that list from the top of the EQ2 Wire Kunark Ascending FAQ which goes into the features of the expansion in great detail. (Feldon also has the expansion deployment patch notes available as well.)  You should at least browse that if the expansion interests you.

I was actually considering purchasing the expansion due to the level 100 character boost and my current disinterest in the WoW Legion expansion.  The character boost would vault me into the current content at least, though there is no doubt some complexity in that.  Plus I would have to figure out which character to boost, since I used the free level 95 character boost they were handing out a while ago on what I would consider my “main” character already.  Would be a bit silly to use the new boost to jump him just five levels.  And then there is the question as to whether my disinterest in WoW at the moment is just WoW or would it apply to any fantasy MMORPG.  Some days you just don’t want to don your tabard and go swing a sword in any fantasy world.

Still, it is there and waiting, level 100 boost included, should I want to join in.  The expansion comes in the usual three levels of excess, with a 10% discount if you are an all access subscriber… and if you’re serious enough about the game to buy the expansion I have to figure you’re down for all access as well.

Premium packages available for premium prices

Premium packages available for premium prices

The standard edition will be enough for me when the time comes.

There is also a launch trailer, if you need that to tempt you.

Meanwhile, a couple of bloggers have already dipped their toes into Kunark Ascending.

Kunark is Coming November 15 and 16

The classic Norrath team and Daybreak seems to be up for the one-two punch.  This week we got announcements about the new expansions for EverQuest and EverQuest II on consecutive days.  More surprising though was the news that the expansions would launch on consecutive days as well.  Usually there is a week between the now traditional November expansion launches for the two titles, no doubt to give the combined classic Norrath team a chance to focus on one thing at a time.

Not this November.

First up, on Tuesday, November 15th, is the launch of the EverQuest II expansion Kunark Ascending.

Back to Kunark

Back to Kunark

The expansion promo reads:

Norrath remains in danger from Lanys T’Vyl and her pursuit of power! It is up to you to keep Lanys T’Vyl from acquiring the third and final Chaos Stone. Return to Kunark to stop Lanys from ushering in a new age of power. Will you stand against the Tenets of Hate? Adventures await you in Kunark Ascending, EverQuest II’s 13th expansion!

Features of the expansion are listed as:

  • All new dungeons for Solo, Heroic, and Raid parties alike.
  • 4 new Ascension classes available to all max level characters!
  • Upgrade your epic weapon with all new Epic 2.0 Quests.
  • Gear Up Your Mercenaries – With the new mercenary equipment feature you can now equip your favorite Mercenaries with gear to increase their power.
  • New Wardrobe Tab – Free up space with the new Wardrobe tab. Any relevant items placed into the Wardrobe will be converted into appearances and won’t take up any inventory slots!

The expansion is now available for pre-order at the usual three price tiers:

Premium packages available for premium prices

Like Daybreak, I was able to re-use last year’s pricing graphic

Purchasing early will get you access to the expansion beta as well as the ability to use the level 100 character boost that comes each package.  And if you are an All Access subscriber… and who buys the expansions but doesn’t subscribe… you get 10% off of your purchase.

Then, planned for the very next day, Wednesday, November 16, 2016, is the EverQuest expansion Empires of Kunark.

Everybody loves Kunark

Everybody loves Kunark

For the EverQuest return to Kunark the copy reads:

After decades if slumber, Imperator Tsaph Katta awakens and vows to reform the Combine Empire – the progenitors of much of the human race – by any means necessary. He will lead them into a renewed age of prosperity. Tsaph Katta focuses on rebuilding the coalition between the races of Norrath in order to cement his place in the annals of history as The Great Unifier. But not all are ready to bend to the will of Katta and his allies, least of all the current inhabitants of Kunark. Will a unified Norrath prevail, or will the Combine’s arrival in Kunark lead to a war of catastrophic proportions. Find out in Empires of Kunark, EverQuest’s 23rd expansion!

Features of the expansion are listed as:

  • 7 Expansion Zones – Explore familiar and unfamiliar areas and learn what has changed since your last adventures in Kunark.
  • Familiar Key Ring – Access to your familiars in one easy location! Store up to 10 familiars per character, with the ability to buy additional slots to handle all of your familiar storage.
  • New Quests, Missions, and 8 Additional Raids
  • New Collections – For those who love to find and seek, there will be 24 new Collections to complete.

As with its EverQuest II cousin, the expansion is available in three tiers, with various extra fluff for additional dollars, and is available for pre-order now:

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

Trying selling DLC for $140 and see how people react…

Unlike EverQuest II however, there is no beta access listed and the expansion does not come with a character boost.  You do, however, still get a 10% discount as an All Access subscriber and all previous expansions are included in the deal.

So that is Daybreak’s big Kunark plan for the classic Norrath part of the company.

Both titles are running pre-expansion in-game events to help you level up and gear up and otherwise get ready for the new content coming in November.

A Brief History of Station Cash Complete with Tirade

(Warning: Tirade contains less than 20% new content)

Whenever the topic of currency for “microtransactions” comes up, I think back to the origins of the term, more than 20 years past at this point.  The idea, back in the day, was to let people use their credit card to buy another currency so that they could make purchases that were smaller than would be practical for a credit card transaction.

Basically, at about the $5.00 mark, it stops making sense to take credit cards due to transaction fees, and these currencies were supposed to let people make payments down below a dollar if they wanted.  That was the goal.  It never really panned out despite some serious attempts over the years.

The idea was picked up in other places though.  Almost eight years ago SOE grabbed the idea and stumbled off with it, introducing Station Cash and a lackluster store with a meager list of depressingly priced items for sale.  Even four years after it launched, I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in the Station Cash store.

The pricing there, and in other in-game cash shops since, strongly indicate that the transaction cost had ceased to be the prime motivator.  In fact, the tragicomic tale of SOE and their virtual currency points straight to what companies want.  They want to separate their customers from some cash up front and worry about the cash shop later.  SOE went so far trying to boost their bottom line with Station Cash sales that they devalued the currency like a Latin American dictator.

TripleSC01

Stock up now? Don’t mind if I do!

For a stretch they had to stop letting players pay for their subscription or buy expansions with Station Cash because, if you worked things just right, you could have ended up paying as little as $1.25 a month for your Gold Access subscription.

Where were those people who love to study virtual economies when this was happening?

Anyway, SOE had to have a Station Cash austerity program (did the Virtual World Bank step in?) for a while, going so far as to suggest they might stop giving out the monthly 500SC stipend for subscribers at one point, as they worked out how to get people to spend their giant piles of cheap Station Cash.  I think they actually got a few useful items in the various stores after that, plus some mounts in EverQuest II that were not hideously ugly.

Still, SOE carried on.  They were committed to Free to Play.  The term was part of their marketing slogan for a while.

My way includes constant pop-ups asking me to subscribe...

My way includes constant pop-ups asking me to subscribe…

They were invested in the cash shop and getting people into their game for free, so that they might become paying customers later. (Via an unsubtle combination of inconveniences and incentives, but that is another tale.)  They were at least trying to be a stand-up player in the market. (For all its mistakes and missteps, SOE always tried to do the right thing in the end.)   Station Cash was pegged to the real world at a penny a point (except when on sale of course) so players could figure out how much something really cost without getting out a calculator.

Failure to do this is generally a bad sign.  Customers do not like it.  Microsoft fiddled with that in the XBox store for a while before going to a penny a point.  Nintendo dumped points altogether, assigning straight up dollar values in their shop.

I think companies suffer in the long term by trying to obscure the value of their in-game currency… which leads me to Turbine and Lord of the Rings Online, which has one of the more arcane RMT currency systems around.  Turbine Points can have a wide range of values depending on how you purchase them, and once in the game Turbine has added in subsidiary currencies, like Mithril Coins, that you have to buy with the main currency, in order to purchase certain unlocks.  Trying to fool the customer is only ever a short term strategy and I am sure LOTRO has suffered over the years for going all in on that.

Anyway, at least SOE didn’t go down that path.

And SOE stuck to having a single currency wallet across all of their games. (Well, on the PC at least.  There were complications in the land of PlayStation.)  If you played EverQuest II and wanted to move over to PlanetSide 2, your station cash went with you. (Again, looking at you Turbine, and how Turbine Points in LOTRO and Turbine Points in DDO are two separate and distinct things.)

Then came bad times at Sony and SOE was sold off to the investment bankers at Columbus Nova Prime, a group with a reputation for milking their acquisitions.  SOE became Daybreak, Station Cash became Daybreak Cash, and so on down the branding line.  No longer covered by Sony’s checkbook, reality set in quickly with layoffs and changes to the business model.

EverQuest and EverQuest II, perennial foundations of the company, managed to get back on their old track of an expansion a year after dabbling with the idea of more frequent, but less fulsome DLC.  I think the fact that loyal followers of the game have a habit of buying collector’s editions probably helped there.  How much DLC do you have to ship to equal on CE?

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

$140 offsets a lot of DLC

Also, the expansion thing keeps the player base from getting totally fragmented and unable to play together because somebody doesn’t have the right DLC for the night’s content.  Add in some special servers for subscribers only and the classic Norrath part of the company seems secure for the moment.  They did have to kill off PvP for the most part, but that is what happens when you have to focus on your core.

Over in another part of the company, quiet yet solid DC Universe Online got ported over to the XBox One.  Not bad for a five year old title.  But then, access to XBox and other platforms was supposed to be one of the big upsides of the acquisition.

Other titles were less secure.  Somebody found where Smed hid the last PlanetSide server and turned it off finally.  Dragon’s Prophet was sent packingPlanetSide 2 was having problemsEverQuest Next became EverQuest Never, heralding the end of the classic mainstream fantasy MMORPG. That is a niche genre now, but it probably always anyway.  Legends of Norrath was finally taken off life support, then its loot card organs were harvested for the cash shop.  And my question about how Daybreak would get off the sweet, sweet Early Access money drug was answered when they ditched free to play for Landmark and H1Z1, charging $20 a pop to get into either.

Ars Technica Reports...

Still have to replace that founder’s pack revenue stream though…

Well, $40 a pop for all of H1Z1 unless you already had a copy, since they split that into two games, each with its own $20 price tag. There is now H1Z1: King of the Kill, the money making one that turned out to be mildly popular on Twitch, and H1Z1: Just Survive, the mostly neglected worldly survival game for oddball old school MMO players.  King of the Kill got a “Summer 2016” ship date, which it has since pushed off (though there was already a press release saying it had launched quite a while back), while Just Survive seems to be living up to its name.

All of which brings us up to yesterdays fun new announcement that King of the Kill will not be using Daybreak Cash, ditching that for its own currency.  From the King of the Kill site:

INTRODUCING: CROWNS

Daybreak Cash will no longer be used in H1Z1: King of the Kill after the game update on September 20. Instead, the new currency will be called Crowns. Crowns are a unique currency, available and usable only in H1Z1: King of the Kill. With Crowns, you will be able to purchase crates and bundles as you did previously with Daybreak Cash

Beginning on September 20, you will have the option to convert all or some of your existing Daybreak Cash into Crowns. This is a one-to-one conversion: 1 Daybreak Cash = 1 Crown. This conversion is only one way; once you convert your DBC into Crowns, you cannot convert Crowns back to DBC. This conversion opportunity will only be available for a limited time. You will be able to convert your Daybreak Cash into Crowns from September 20 through December 31, 2016.

Daybreak Cash is still usable in other Daybreak games, including H1Z1: Just Survive. Crowns can only be used in H1Z1: King of the Kill.

So there it is, another turn in the long tale of Station Cash/Daybreak Cash.  You can, until the end of the year, change your Daybreak Cash into the new currency, Crowns.  But from then on Crowns are Crowns and Cash is Cash, and never the twain shall meet.

The question is, what does it mean?  Why separate the one game from the rest of the of the Daybreak family in this way? (On the PC at least, consoles are a different story.)

One of these things is not like the others... also, why a pig?

One of these things is not like the others… also, why a pig?

Does this mean that there are special plans for King of the Kill?  Does Daybreak see the game as especially promising when compared to the rest of its stable?  Is this a one-time event in special circumstances or a chilling portrait of things to come where Daybreak Cash gets stranded on specific games?

Not much of a tirade in there, unless you read it aloud in the right tone of voice ( I recommend whiny/sarcastic for the best effect) or you’re somebody who conflates criticism with hate.  I’m often critical of the games I play, but the ones I hate get no mention at all.  When it comes to H1Z1, at least in the King of the Kill flavor, I am largely indifferent, except where it intersects with Norrath.  This is really just another marker on the long journey of the company that made EverQuest back in the day.

Though when I go back to EverQuest II now and again, I still can’t find anything worthwhile in the cash shop.

Related topic: SOE and its MMORPGs, a post from a while back.

EverQuest II Returning to Kunark

Some companies announce an expansion a year or more in advance and spend the intervening time rolling out news and tidbits trying to build up fervor for the launch.

Not so Daybreak, nor SOE in its day.

Of course, Daybreak and SOE also crank out an expansion every single year for EverQuest II (and EverQuest as well!) with a couple of major game updates along the way.  And that is down from the two expansions a year plan they started out with.

So maybe they just don’t have the time for all of that.

Anyway, the time has finally come, and the name of the next expansion, expected in November, has been announcedEverQuest II is returning to island of Kunark with the Kunark Ascending expansion.

Kunark and the current zones

Kunark and the current zones

Kunark is, of course, a location of significance in the lore of Norrath, and the sight of the first EverQuest expansion as well as a past EverQuest II expansion.

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

So we have been to Kunark before.

One can hardly point an accusing finger at Daybreak for revisiting a previous location in an expansion.  Not only have they have done it before, but the last two World of Warcraft expansions, Warlords of Draenor and Legion, have both essentially been “what if…” scenario revisits to the story of the first expansion, The Burning Crusade.

So Kunark it is!

In what might be something of a reaction to a controversial aspect of the WoW Legion pre-invasion events… were they there to gear people up, level people up, or just pass the time until the expansion launched… Daybreak is offering double experience to all EverQuest II players this weekend, and there is a promise of more to come in October.  From the announcement:

To help you get your characters prepared for our next expansion, we are going to run another weeks-long “Gear Up, Level Up” event this year. There will be bonuses each week in October through to expansion launch, like adventure, AA, tradeskill XP bonuses, status boosts, and more!

So there it is, right out in the open, a chance to level yourself up and get ready for the new content.  Further details about the Kunark Ascending expansion are promised for October.

On the EverQuest side of the house, they are having a similar bonus experience event, though they have not yet announced their expansion plans.

Also, as a final reminder, the free level 95 character boost in EverQuest II expires in a few days.

Offer expires September 6, 2016

Offer expires September 6, 2016

Use it now or lose it forever!  I used mine.

Quote of the Day – The End of Legends

Within the Daybreak family, LoN seemed to be that uncle that, while still part of the family, no one ever talked about. He was always just hanging around creepily, standing in the corner sipping on a bottle of who-knows-what out of a brown paper bag.

Dellmon, Guest Post at EQ2 Wire

Legends of Norrath went dark last week and, despite a previous post about its imminent demise, I totally missed the date.  I suppose next year, when I do the month in review post, being off by ten days won’t matter much.  And frankly, to me the game itself didn’t matter much.  It was a convoluted game in a genre I don’t care for in any case.

Dellmon puts the game’s “players” into three categories in the post linked at the top, and I clearly fell into the third of the three.  I tried the game for a bit early on, then just collected the free card packs that being a Station Access subscriber got me, opening them up in hope of finding a loot card or two.

I will admit that I did get a few nice housing items out of those packs.  But it wasn’t enough for me to bend my mind to the task of opening up those card packs on a regular basis.  I think I had 80 or so sitting around unopened as the game went away.

There was a momentary glimmer of hope for the game when Smed, seeing Blizzard make a quick success out of its card game, Hearthstone, figured SOE (soon to be Daybreak) could do something like that too with Legends of Norrath.

Of course, nothing came of that.  The studio had just announced the closure of four titles in what looks like, in hindsight, pre-acquisistion house cleaning.

And so it is gone, like so many online titles before it.  I still think the high point of the game for me was when Brent from VirginWorlds was used for a card in one of the expansions.

Brent from VirginWorlds got a card

Brent on his card

That is likely to be the only card I will remember.

 

Subscription Deals and Free Level Boosts and Bad Timing

Oh EverQuest II, you are forever off in your timing.

Daybreak is doing a big push this week to get players invested in the game.

The latest game update introduces a Fabled version of the Fallen Dynasty adventure pack from mid-2006.  There are some special, limited time public quests running.  Several zones have been added to the level agnostic list.  And the content of 2014’s Altar of Malice expansion has been been made available to all players, subscribed or not, leaving only last year’s Terrors of Thalumbra as content you must purchase. (I am not sure what happened to the Hunter S. Thompson inspired Rum Diary adventure pack that came out a while back, when they weren’t going to do expansions any more.)

More would be the Altar of Malice expansion I guess...

More would be the Altar of Malice expansion I guess…

In addition to that, the insta-level program has been bumped up a notch, so when you buy a Heroic Character upgrade, it now boosts your character up to level 95.  To celebrate this, they are giving players a free Heroic Character upgrade, which you must collect before noon Pacific Time on Tuesday, September 6th. (Details at the link.)

Heroic dude is heroic... and sort of looks like Thor from the movie

Heroic dude is heroic… and sort of looks like Thor from the movie

And, just to top all that off like a sweet, glistening, unnaturally red maraschino cherry on top of a too large ice cream sundae, Daybreak is also offering a special deal on All Access subscriptions.

Good through August 29

Good through August 29

$71.99 for a 12 month subscription is a decent deal.  That works out to, as the Daybreak copy reads, less than $6.00 a month, though only if you live in a world that allows transactions at 1/12th of a penny.  Still, minor quibble aside, that is less than half price over the month-by-month $15 rate, and $4.00 a month less that the usual discount for subscribing for 12 months at a stretch.

All of which would be awesome news… if it had come in August of 2015 when I was disaffected by World of Warcraft and garrisons in Draenor and there wasn’t even a war going on in New Eden and all that.

But now?  Daybreak is laying this offer down with just a few days left until the WoW Legion expansion hits?  I mean, I love you guys down in San Diego, but I’ve already sent a card to Gul’dan letting him know to expect us in the Broken Isles come August 30th.

You can't always find hearts in fel green on cards

You can’t always find hearts in fel green on cards

It does seem to be the fate of EverQuest II to forever be in the shadow of World of Warcraft.  They launched less than a month apart, leading to five years of “What if…” articles and posts wondering how Norrath would have fared had it not launched straight into the teeth of the Azerothian juggernaut.

So, while I don’t have a lot of WoW specific activities penciled in on my calendar for the weekend… my Tauren warrior is already level 58, so my goal to get him to 60 is nearly done… from Tuesday forward I look to be pretty well booked in Azeroth and the Broken Isles.

And by the time I want a little break from that content, Pokemon Sun & Moon will be out and I will be able to flop on the couch with my 3DS and play that as a break from Azeroth.

So Daybreak… maybe you could run this offer by me again in maybe 9-12 months?

My Secret EverQuest II Shame

I mentioned the expansion unlock poll on the Stormhold server last week. (It passed.)  But there was another poll available as well.  It was aimed at classifying what aspects of the game the people taking the poll enjoyed most.

But there was one question that struck right at the heart of a problem of mine in Norrath.

The pointed question

The pointed question

How many EverQuest II characters do I have at max level?  I have no EverQuest II characters at max level.  in the near dozen years the game has been out… and I played it pretty actively at various points in that time frame… I have, at no time, ever had a character at max level.

At least not for adventure levels.  I may have hit the tradeskill level cap before Desert of Flames came out, and again during that time frame.  But for adventure level, which is what really counts in my book, I have never been there.

And relative to the current level cap, I am still back in Rise of Kunark as far as levels go.

Too many alts, too much tradeskilling, and too much just screwing around in game I guess.  Not that I didn’t enjoy myself, but there have been times when I wish I had focused a bit more.