Category Archives: EverQuest II

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime MMO Ennui Blues

Theoretically, this should be an exciting time for MMOs for me.

Blizzard finally gave us the WoW 6.2 patch, bringing us a new zone and opening up flying in Draenor.  Daybreak has the EverQuest time locked progression server thing running, and it is more popular than ever.  They are also warming up an EverQuest II version of the same, which could be interesting.  There is a new update dropping for EVE Online next week and then the final round of Fozzie Sov changes the following week, which should liven things up.

And yet, I am not really feeling it right now.

The 6.2 patch in WoW, far from bringing me back into the game, seemed to tip the balance the other way.  I had been in something of a garrison and pet battle holding pattern for ages, and then 6.2 hit and I stopped logging in altogether.

There was the momentary shock of the Master Plan addon breaking.  Really, doing garrison missions without that makes the whole thing such a chore that I didn’t bother trying.  And even when the addon was fixed a day later I didn’t bother.  Garrisons kept me going for a bit, but they are also my undoing in the end.  (The death of the easy-money gray trash from the salvage yard didn’t help either.)

I think, perhaps, that the two year straight run with WoW might mean it is time for a break.  Blizz has said that 6.2 is it for the expansion, so the whole game will be in something of a holding pattern until BlizzCon, at which point they will likely announce the next expansion.  We’ll see if Blizz can wait that long.  I suspect that the Q2 2015 results, which ought to be announced in August, will show another sharp decline in subscribers.

On the EverQuest side of things, I am just not feeling it.  For all the nostalgia I feel for the game, I might not be in the right state of mind for another round of bandit camping in West Karana, undead in Unrest, and whatever else.  I am glad it is going on, I am enjoying watching from the sidelines, but I just don’t log in.

I fear the same might be true for the EverQuest II nostalgia servers.  I am not entirely happy with the name choices.

Deathtoll seems just a bit too cute for the PvP server.  And, while Stormhold would have been my first choice for the PvE server had Isle of Refuge not been on the list, I am somewhat shocked that Isle of Refuge didn’t win.  It was the runaway favorite in the nominations.  I don’t want to go all Daybreak vote rigging conspiracy theory on this, but I seriously thought Isle of Refuge winning was pretty much a given.  But, Stormhold it is I guess.

Stormhold, in Antonica

Stormhold, in Antonica

There is the promise of more polls to come for the EverQuest II time locked expansion server, along with a beta promised for next week, though I have to wonder how Daybreak is feeling about polls now given the seeming “ain’t nobody happy” compromise around the Ruins of Kunark unlock vote.

And then there is EVE Online.  I suppose that EVE doesn’t really count, as boredom and finding it difficult to log in is the normal state of affairs for me with the game.  Then something will happen… a war, a deployment, a new fleet doctrine… that will lead to the moments of excitement that make the hours or boredom worthwhile.

All of which has added up to me mostly playing Minecraft every evening when I have some time.  So you can probably expect more “letters from those late to the party” posts about the game going forward.

June in Review

The Site

Well, WordPress.com finally decided to impose their new stats page on us.  I am not a fan, to say the least.  While they did fix the problem where the first three years of my stats were missing, which I complained about previously, the format leaves me cold.  They have added a few more informational tidbits to the mix:

That is 18:00 UTC, probably when Bhagpuss gets home from work

That is 18:00 UTC, probably about when Bhagpuss gets home from work

But they have removed all the summary charts that I really, really like.  Fortunately, for the time being, you can still access the previous version of the stats page at the URL:

https://wordpress.com/my-stats/

You can also find the even older version of the stats page for your WordPress.com blog if you modify this URL to add in your blog’s domain:

https:// <blog name e.g. tagn> .wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats

You do have to log in and have permissions for any given blog, so you cannot modify that URL to see the stats of others.

Meanwhile, WordPress.com and Automattic, its parent company, are coming up on their 10th anniversary in August of letting people in to blog for free.  It seems odd that I have been around and blogging on WordPress.com for almost 9 of those 10 years.

One Year Ago

I toasted the Newbie Blogger Initiative class of 2014.  Long may they post.

WildStar launched… and started its journey to F2P.  Still alive though.

SOE finally broke its ties with the ill-fated and ill-conceived ProSiebenSat.1 deal.

Derek Smart was telling us why to charge for beta.  Lord British was getting serious with virtual real estate.

It was summer and the short lived strategy group was looking to the Steam Summer Sale for a new game.  Meanwhile we were still playing our epic game of Civilization V.

We heard about how CCP handled/mishandled World of Darkness.

CCP launched the last of its expansions with a six month lead-time.  Kronos was the end of the line for twice yearly expansions.  I set off on the training plan to be a wing/fleet booster in EVE Online.

In Azereoth, my attempt at the Loremaster achievement had me in Darkshore and then on to Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains .

Meanwhile the Warlords of Draenor alpha was starting, so I had to avert my eyes.  So I started pondering things like how Blizzard should change the starter edition of WoW.

The instance group, heading towards its regular summer hiatus, was hitting the Mogu-shan Palace.

I took a look at a long history of gear obsession.

And I was wondering if authenticators were still a thing.

Five Years Ago

Warhammer Online, whose game tips I previously mocked, was out soliciting user written game tips with the most boring video game related video ever.  Really, I was embarrassed for them.

Meanwhile, there were comical tips to be found in another game.

CCP was telling people that the steep learning curve in EVE Online was just part of the game, and Hulkageddon III was on the way.

FrontierVille came along, evoking the whole Oregon Trail thing… for which they recently were sued.  And a good thing to, as they are a bunch of lying bastards there at Zynga.  They never sent me my FarmVille magnet.

There was the big news from Turbine with Lord of the Rings Online going Free to Play.  I wondered is Lifetime Subscribers like myself would get the shaft in this transition.  But Turbine made me a perm VIP instead and put out one of those charts that seems to accompany these multi-level subscription scams structures.  But I was winning LOTRO lotteries, so I was happy for the moment.

In Pokemon SoulSilver I had beat all the gym leaders, but we were having Pokewalker problems.

Then there was Blizzard.  Where to start?  They were to the Summer of 2010 what CCP is becoming to the Summer of 2011.

They were selling WoW Gold straight from the main page.  Really.  It just isn’t what you think.

They screwed up the parental controls interface… in my opinion… along with compromising the security of it.

The whole RealID thing was just getting warmed up.

One of the accounts in our guild was compromised and the guild bank was looted.  That has happened a couple times since and is barely news any more.

And during all this, the instance group was working its way through The Burning Crusade content with our Horde alts, but we weren’t really feeling it.

Ennui had set in and our only hope was Cataclysm.  And there were plenty of offers to get us into the beta.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in June

  1. Fine, You Can Fly in Draenor, But Only AFTER You Hit an Arbitrary Content Threshold!
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Search for the Summer Game
  4. Introducing Carnyx the Magnificent
  5. Entosis Link Modules in Action in Querious
  6. Travel Advisory – Conflict in Amarr
  7. Quote of the Day – F2P Insight
  8. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  9. What Future for Turbine after Infinite Crisis?
  10. The Revenant Kill in JU-0WQ
  11. A Bit of Ancient History that Still Sticks With Me…
  12. On to 64-Bit Gaming

Search Terms of the Month

civ iii on win 7 64 bi compuer
[That isn’t the hardware info I need to help you]

aggronauts myspace
[I’m pretty sure Belghast gave up on MySpace]

is turbine developing a new mmo?
[If they are, they haven’t shared it with me]

totally free and legit courses online
[Good luck with that]

why does server emulation take so long to do
[It probably takes less time than the original]

Spam Comment of the Month

So, sum up the advantages of belonging to the pre-war, animal husbandry, which is the top 30% inhibition, can play a little more aggressive, make good use of the hammer then fear storm control, and no brain start to play shield + disperse oppressive force play. Danelaw went to the former and Wessex to the latter with each side taking half of Mercia.
* Fast Poison.

EVE Online

After the Reavers left Querious things slowed down a bit for me in New Eden.  We ran a couple of ops to Fountain to assist Brave Newbies, making us the rare exception to the “let’s go to Fountain and farm!” trend.  And there was Burn Amarr.  But the last week or so has been more about settling in and finding a home in Tribute.

EverQuest

I have probably been playing this for some definitions of “playing,” but even so I have not made much progress.  I made a few characters to claim the storage box that was given to those who joined the beta, which gave me a pile of alts to work on.  So now I have a pile of low level alts.  None of them are even level 10 yet.  It is just like 1999 again.

EverQuest II

I have been keeping an eye on EverQuest II because of the plans for their own nostalgia server.  I am interested to see how this will turn out.  I suspect it will be successful for reasons different than the EverQuest side of the house.

Minecraft

Since Father’s Day I have put in quite a few hours in the low-res world of Minecraft.  It certainly has a charm of its own, even if I am a few years late to the party.  But then, that just means that they have fixed all the bugs by now, right?

War Thunder

I have been putting in a bit of time with War Thunder over the last month.  I am still horrendously bad at it.  If I was better I might spend some money on it.  But I have a whole post on that and how the usual trend in F2P is manifesting itself in the game.

World of Warcraft

This has been in something like maintenance mode for most of the month.  I log in to tend my garrison.  I totally fail to show up for group nights.  I don’t do much else.  Then came the 6.2 patch last week.  Well, I am sure I will have a post about that.  I am just not sure what to say at this point.

Coming Up

July is the start of the summer silly season, when news dries up and we all start fixating on things like prognosticating octopi and the like.  Then we’ll head into August, the barren wasteland of new content and game launches, where memes and questionnaires will be all to sustain us as we entertain bizarro world ideas, like turning Pong into an MMO or imagining Star Citizen delivering on all its promises or taking crazy ravings on the internet seriously.  I will no doubt be digging deep into my drafts folder looking for something to write about then.

It is enough to make a body want to just take the summer off.

Still, there are a couple of things on the horizon.  Daybreak will be doing whatever it is they plan to do with EverQuest II and their nostalgia server.  There is supposed to be a beta starting as soon as the week of July 7th.

CCP has another expansion coming up on July 7th, to be followed a week later with the final transition to Fozzie Sov, at which point we’ll get to see first hand just how many loopholes and exploits there are in the plan.  I expect at least two sov holding alliances to fail cascade in simple frustration at dealing with the mechanics.  Could be interesting times, and doubly so since SniggWaffe (Pandemic Legion Junior) and some pals look like they came along and kicked J4LP out of half of Cloud Ring, so we’ll have them on our doorstep.  That should make for some excitement.

What else is coming up in July?

EverQuest II Time Locked Expansion Server Names Poll Unlocks the Irony

Meanwhile Daybreak is going forward with their EverQuest II nostalgia plan, involving those PvE and PvP Time Locked Expansion servers, and holding an in-game poll to decide what they should be named.

As noted over at the EQ2 Wire, Daybreak first went to the forums and asked for name suggestions and then… I think… drew from those suggestions.  My suggestion didn’t make the cut.  I figured that since the last great server experiment, EverQuest II Extended, got the name Freeport that it was time for Qeynos to be recognized.

That was a faint hope I am sure.  The anti-Qeynos sentiment on the team, present since before the 1999 launch of EQ, remains strong and we’re probably more likely to get a server named Qekaerbyad than Qeynos these days.  Anyway, it didn’t make the cut.  Instead, these are the names you get to choose from in the currently-running in-game poll.

EQ2TLEServerPoll

My choices indicated

For the PvP server there didn’t seem to be any obvious stand out choice, but I have always felt that Bonemore was a particularly grim sounding name, so I went with that.  Deathtoll seemed too unsubtle while the rest didn’t really resonate with me, but any of the names would probably work.

On the PvE side I could say something for Stormhold, that dungeon in Antonica in which we spent so much time back in the early days.  In fact, that would have been my go-to choice had the obvious winner not been glaring at me.

Yes, I think the only appropriate way to vote is to go with the “we’re going to keep bringing it up until you bring it back” name, Isle of Refuge.

This is almost a text book example of what SynCaine refers to as “SOE being SOE.” I cannot imagine how that name made the cut for the vote.

First, the name implies that this subscriber-only server will be a place to escape from whatever sins you care to count on the live servers.  Screw you, freeps!

Second, they will be naming a server after a zone they took out of the game which represents a good chunk of the nostalgia they are attempting to milk pander to recreate.  How is that a good idea, reminding everybody every single time they log on that the Isle of Refuge server does not include the actual Isle of Refuge that those likely to play on this server want?

So clearly, I feel you should log on immediately and vote for Isle of Refuge.

Make Isle of Refuge happen.

The First EverQuest II Progression Server Polls and Some Details

That company, Daybreak, which claims to have once been SOE, continues moving forward and doing things in a very un-SOE-like way.  In this case, Daybreak seems to be moving quickly ahead with the Time Locked Expansion server idea (which I am going to just call a Progression server, since I am not sure we need a new term for the same damn thing) for EverQuest II.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

Beta versions of such servers promised for early July, with July 7 being the target date… though we know how that works out sometimes.  I’ll go with “soon” until we get there.

The question remains though, what does this sort of server look like in an EverQuest II context?  We’ve seen three iterations of such servers on the EverQuest side of the house, in 2007, 2011, and most recently this past May with the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers, and each time such servers have been more popular than SOE anticipated.

I threw out a pile of ideas on how to differentiate such a server for EverQuest II about two weeks back, when the whole thing suddenly went from “unlikely” to “let’s do it!” over at Daybreak.

And that, to my mind, seems to be the key item; how will these servers be different that the live servers?  While just starting a fresh server seems like fun, given that they are also talking about server merges once they get this progression server thing going, that doesn’t seem like the best plan.  So what will they do to make these servers different?

Well, they put out an in-game poll which is live and in your mail box in post-cataclysm Norrath even as we speak.  Actually, two polls, one for the PvE server and one for the PvP.

So, naturally I got on last night both to take the poll and to see what they were even considering for these servers.  I started with the PvE poll, since that is where my interest really sits.  I remain convinced that PvP has been nothing but a waste of resources and a distraction for SOE/Daybreak when it comes to EverQuest II.  I provide as evidence a list of all of the current EverQuest II PvP servers on the server status page:

  1. <empty slot>

Yeah, that many.  And yet they carry on.  All the gear in the game has two sets of stats, one for PvE and one for PvP.  With that in place, and Smed’s PvP focus, I am sure the sunk cost fallacy kicked in.  We’ll see how that works out.

Anyway, my personal bias aside, the poll is 12 questions long and opens with an easy question.

PSPollPvE01

Question #1

Yes, I am in!  On to question #2.

PSPollUnlock02

Question #2

This one I found interesting, as at least it gave some indication as to the plan; they plan to gate the whole thing based on expansions.  I supposed we could have guessed that.

That said, I find this question somewhat unsatisfying as a plan indicator as well.  Like EverQuest, the EverQuest II base game starts off with a content set that ranges from level 1-50.  Even considering dumping the first expansion, Desert of Flames, and a 10 level increase in the cap in just 30 days seems silly.  They just got done launching the progression servers for EverQuest, where there will be six months between expansions for a while, but here 60 days appears to be the long straw.  With only 30 days between expansions, and only 10 actual expansions to work with (was Age of Discovery really an expansion?), I could easily be writing a post about how this server is completely unlocked and done a year from today.

But at least that question gave me something to think about and perhaps the most tangible indication of what the server might be so far.  From question 3 onward though, the cash shop takes over.  This is what I said the other day, when the cash shop pays the bills, you think a lot about the cash shop.

Question #3

Question #3

How big should the buff on experience potions be?  This strikes me as a question akin to the long standing joke, “Have you stopped beating… your meat?” as it presumes a state of affairs not necessarily in evidence.  What if I don’t want any experience potions on this server?

That does not seem to be an option.

Anyway, one answer seemed to be in favor of at least limiting their effect, so I went with that.  And given that they appear to want to throttle back the rate of level advancement on the server, I suppose experience potions might not be horrible.

From there we get into more yes/no questions on various cash shop items.

Question #4

Question #4

Vitality is what a WoW player would call “blue bar.”  It wasn’t in the game at launch, so I am against it.

Question #5

Question #5

Experience debt was in the game at launch, and at a pretty harsh rate.  I said yes to that just to give people a “get out of debt” option should things go really bad, since the plan seems to be to go back to the harsh old days according to the bullet point list at the bottom of this post.

Question #6

Question #6

Screw that!  Walk you lazy bums!  Or take the insta-travel bells that have been in-game since day one.  Travel is barely a thing in the game as it is these days.

Question #7

Question #7

I suppose there is no harm in that.  I’d hate to be the guild stuck with a typo in its name, especially since the Daybreak policy on guild problems is “Deal with it yourself!”  Seriously, if your guild leader drops off the face of the earth, the Daybreak suggested course of action, the last time I looked, was to make a new guild.

Question #8

Question #8

Sure, why not. [Caitlyn Jenner reference goes here.]

Question #9

Question #9

This one though… I guess I am a racist because I say no.

Question #10

Question #10

I actually came out on this very issue in my previously mentioned post.  There are lots of cool items in the base game and in each expansion to go with the cosmetic appearance system.  Use that not crap from the cash shop.

Question #11

Question #11

Oh lord no, and doubly so because SOE makes ugly, crap companion pets.  I’d rather have that 12 polygon gopher from WoW running around than be forced to see any of the current cash shop pets on this server.

Question #12

Question #12

I had to ponder this one.  My gut says that bags are an essential part of the player economy and that people ought to just go there for their storage space needs.  Hell, if this server will be the same as live and disregard the effects of weight, bags won’t even be a thing because we’ll all be walking around carrying  half a dozen giant bank boxes in our inventory.  (Can I get an artists representation of that please?)

On the flip side, storage is always an issue for a pack rat like me.  I have been lapsing a bit on my WoW garrison work lately, but I log in every day with my tailor to create more hexweave cloth to so he can make a 30-slot bag about once a week.

So more storage is a weak spot for me, so I voted for the maximum bag size.  I’d hate to be penniless in-game (since coin will be restricted), full up on crap in inventory, and sitting on all my Station Cash… or Daybreak Cash… and have no options.  Though, as I still predict that carpenters will be churning out bank boxes in huge quantities, so we’ll all have a ton of storage soon enough.

And that was it for the PvE server poll.  One question about interest, one question about how the server should work, and ten questions about the cash shop.

But there was also the PvP server poll to take!

PvP Question #1

PvP Question #1

I had to be honest on that one.  It is unlikely in the extreme that I would bother creating a character on a PvP server in EverQuest II.

But the PvP poll went on to actually ask some interesting and even substantial questions about how things should work, like the mechanics of betrayal and should there be a third faction and that sort of thing.  However, the formatting of most of the questions was screwed up, to the point of being unable to answer the questions.

They are going to fix the poll, but for the moment there is a work-around.

I am mildly disappointed that the PvP poll got at least a couple more questions of substance than the PvE poll did.

Anyway, the polls are up and good through next Tuesday, though you have to have been a subscriber for the last 30 days in order to access it. (Good thing I signed up when the Ragefire beta started.)

About when the polls went up we also got some more details in the forums on what the progression server plan will be.

The bullet point list:

  • PvP server: no battlegrounds EVER!
  • PvP server: no prestige housing!
  • PvP server: no flying, leaping or gliding EVER!
  • PvP server: No more pvp stats on gear. Procs return to items that have them.
  • PvP server: Travel bells will be restricted, more information to be determined.
  • There will only be ground mounts and they will have reduced ground speed. Most likely 45%/50% run speed.
  • Only All Access Members will be able to create characters and log into the TLE-Servers.
  • A new queue system for logging into the servers
  • Content will be locked to classic EverQuest 2, starting areas will be Frostfang Sea and Darklight Wood. More on this later.
  • Expansions will be voted to be unlocked at certain times by the population of the server. Majority vote 2/3 of the population.
  • No Veteran Rewards or Veteran experience bonus.
  • No Recruit a Friend
  • No /claims. Anything you could claim on your normal accounts will not be available on the new TLE-Servers
  • Loyalty System and daily quests will be locked to Chains of Eternity expansion.
  • Legendary, Fabled and Mythical crits will be locked to Altar of Malice Expansion.
  • No dungeon finder
  • Level agnostic dungeons will be locked to an undetermined expansion feature.
  • No races or classes will be restricted from character create if you own them. They will all be playable at launch.
  • Re-forging, Mercenaries, and Tradeskill apprentices will be locked to Age of Discovery.
  • Mercenaries may or may not return to PvP, this will most likely become a poll in the future.
  • Guidhalls and their amenities will be locked to a undetermined expansion. We are still considering this.
  • No prestige home portal or home UI will be available.
  • Marketplace will be highly restricted and polls will be done to determine what will be available.
  • Experience penalty will be returned to launch levels of experience gain
  • Coin will also be returned to launch levels of coin gain.
  • Adventure packs will be linked to specific expansions, still being determined.

That looks to be very much in line with what I imagined it might be.  Subscribers only (though the beta will be public, so you can try before you buy), steeper experience curve, slower ground mounts, no giant pile of veteran’s rewards to fall back on, a restricted cash shop, and expansion related features mostly constrained to until the associated expansion shows up.  There is an additional bullet point list about AA points, level caps, and that sort of thing:

  • Exp01: Desert of Flames, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 60, Guild Level Cap Increased to 60
  • Exp02: Kingdom of Sky, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 70, Alternate Advancement Subclass Window unlocked with a 50 AA cap, Guild Level Cap Increased to 70
  • Exp03: Echoes of Faydwer, AA Class Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 100, Tinkering, Transmuting, and Adorning Unlocked
  • Exp04: Rise of Kunark, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 80, AA Cap is Raised to 140, Guild Level Cap Increased to 80, Guild Halls
  • Exp05: The Shadow Odyssey, AA Shadows Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 200
  • Exp06: Sentinel’s Fate, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 90, AA Cap is Raised to 250, Guild Level Cap Increased to 90
  • Exp07: Destiny of Velious, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 92, AA Heroic Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 300, Flying, Leaping and Gliding Mounts
  • Exp08: Age of Discovery, AA Cap is Raised to 320, Mercenaries, Apprentices, Reforging
  • Exp09: Chains of Eternity, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 95, Prestige Window Unlocked, Guild Level Cap Increased to 95
  • Exp10: Tears of Veeshan, AA Dragon Tree Unlocked, AA Cap is Raised to 350
  • Exp11: Altar of Malice, Adventure, Tradeskill and Guild Level raised to 100, Prestige Class Tree is Unlocked, Guild Level Cap Increased to 100, Legendary, Fabled and Mythical crits

There is one disappointment though:

Content will be locked to classic EverQuest 2, starting areas will be Frostfang Sea and Darklight Wood. More on this later.

No return to the Isle of Refuge, which was the hallmark of the original game new player experience.  It isn’t that I do not like the Frostfang Sea… it is a good newbie solo starter zone (I don’t like Darklight Wood though)… but it isn’t the path from Qeynos or Freeport.  It is new content that bypasses the original content out to level 20 or so and is pretty much anti-group focused, as we learned back when we tried to run through it as a five person group.

But such servers tend to attract old hands and the nostalgia focused.  I suspect that a lot of people will start in the game, get a couple of levels, and then head to Freeport or Qeynos to go through the sewers, Antonica, and the Commonlands.

And how things are going to work out still seems to be in flux for the time being.

No word on locked encounters, though I hope those, and five minute buffs, are not making a return.

A Bit of Ancient History that Still Sticks With Me…

There has been this problem in MMORPGs of having to have sufficient content… in the form of whatever bad guys or monsters… or mobs if you want to go Diku MUD old school in your terminology… available for players while not looking like you are packing them in like a vending machine.

This was not really a problem back in the days of MUDs simply because the populations were tiny.  A MUD that kept 100+ player population online around the clock was a booming success in 1995.  But when it came to Ultima Online or EverQuest there was a mass of players eager to play and advance, and advancement comes through the slaying of foes.  At least in old Norrath that ended up meaning a pile of mobs outside of home towns to start with, most non-aggro, and then a sort of series of concentric circles of higher level, more difficult mobs in bands as you moved further from the starting zone.

Yeah, this looks familiar

Out in front of Qeynos during the low level bubble

It wasn’t quite so cut and dried in the early days.  EverQuest was pretty well known for mixing high and low level mobs together in a zone.  West Karana was mostly a low level hunting ground, but had that cyclops and a werewolf and a few other surprises lurking about.

Froon!

Froon in West Karana

But by 2004 and the introduction of EverQuest II and World of Warcraft the idea of how mobs had to be stratified seemed to be pretty settled.  Outside every town or quest hub would be several layers of mobs of increasing levels of difficulty.  My mind immediately goes to the vast array of gnoll camps in the low hills of Antonica, outside of Qeynos, back in EQII.

When it comes to WoW, Westfall springs to mind with its rings of Defias around the main alliance outpost.

In both cases, there were lots of mobs present, spread out to accommodate parallel sets of adventurers, and just sitting there, milling about, waiting for somebody to show up.  You could avoid them… in both zones the general logic was that such groups would be clear of the roads… but they certainly looked like they had the place surrounded, if in a somewhat desultory way.  They were off far enough to not aggro anybody accidentally, spread out, oblivious to their fellows being slain while clearing in line of sight (but outside of their aggro radius), and looking pretty static.

And they remained there long after you were done with them, but still had to be avoided unless you just wanted to kill a few extra gnolls or Defias.

Blizzard set out to solve this and, with Wrath of the Lich King introduced two things.

The first was phasing, where the environment changes after you complete a specific quest or task.  While problematic, it did allow the game to remove mobs that no longer made sense in the context of the story.

Then there was a slightly more subtle bit of work that took all those mobs idling around the quest hub and gave them something to do.  They were put onto the field with a like number of your allies and set in a pitched battle, NPC on NPC, so everybody looked busy.  That also kept the field from being a nightmare to pass through, as the hostiles otherwise engaged would not aggro on you unless you attacked them.  But the NPCs were otherwise barely chipping away at each other, so you could step in and attack a hostile and end up battling them directly, as aggro was easily pulled from the NPC it was fighting.

And, as it happened, that worked out and has become a staple of Azeroth ever since, an easy way… well, I don’t know if it is easy, so maybe just a reliable way… to put that first belt of mobs out there that you need to kill without having them look idle or bored and without them becoming an annoying wall of conflict when you need to move through them to the next location.

Old news.  That was back in 2008, which is further from today than from the launch of the game.  But I was reminded of how that played out when I ran across an old screen shot from EverQuest II, a screen shot that raises my hackles to this day.

spriteandrunesmith.png

I needed that runesmith!

SOE was on to a similar idea to what Blizzard eventually adopted, that mobs ought not to be static but should interact with their environment and trade blows with their natural enemies should they run across them.  And they put a bit of that in from the start of the game.

So we have the Deathfist runesmith in the screen shot battling with the local faeries.  They are natural enemies and they should not get along.  Dynamic environment!

The problem here was implementation.  Unlike the Blizzard solution, SOE left the locked encounter code in place, so when the the runesmith began fighing with the faeries, you could no longer attack him and get credit for killing him.  And you needed to kill him, as you were likely there in the Valley of Sacrifice to slay him and seven more like him.  Only he was something of a rare spawn.  And when he did spawn, he spawned near the faeries, who would immediately engage him.

So you had to clear all the faeries, clear all the place holders, and keep clearing them across a stretch of land, because if you missed a faerie your runesmith might spawn and get tagged before you got to him.

And that all assumed you were the only one out there looking to get him.  Solo, and in optimum conditions, I have spent well over an hour trying to get those eight kills.  If somebody else was there hunting Deathfist runesmiths as well, then the competition became fierce because… if I recall right… back in the day you didn’t just have to kill them, but you also needed a drop, a drop that wasn’t 100%.

And you couldn’t just dump the quest, as it was step 8 in a 23 quest long chain that ran all over the isle of Zek and which would eventually send you off to Feerrott.

SOE had the right idea.  The implementation was just such that it seemed to maximize frustration.  If it had been some common mob, it would have been interesting.

Then again, they did create a situation that I still think of years after I last ran through the Valley of Sacrifice on the isle of Zek.  And I bet it hasn’t changed after all these years.

What Sort of Special Server for EverQuest II Then?

Apparently it has somehow not escaped the notice of the EverQuest II team at Daybreak that the Ragefire and Lockjaw time locked progression servers have been a pretty big deal over on the EverQuest side of the house.

The third round of nostalgia based servers… maybe the fourth if we count the somewhat short-lived 50/51 server from back in 2009… that have gone live and have been so popular that the company has had to open up a second server each time seems to have finally seemed to trigger some sort of, “Aha!” moment in the EverQuest II team.

It probably helps that the same person now runs both the EverQuest and EverQuest II teams, Holly “Windstalker” Longdale.

So yeah, an EverQuest-like progression server idea seems to be something of a possibility for EverQuest II.  However, that brings us right back to the question of, “What in the hell does “progression server” even mean in the context of EverQuest II?”

It certainly doesn’t mean a “classic” server, that is for sure.  I went over that a couple months back, how the infrastructure restrictions imposed by having to run such a server in parallel with the live servers, using the same client, means that there is almost zero possibility of returning to the chaos of the 2004 launch.

And, Daybreak has pretty much confirmed my suspicions with this tasty and relevant quote picked up by Feldon over at EQ2 Wire from this week’s live stream:

Just to clarify, the code of the EverQuest II game as it existed at launch no longer exists as it has been patched over, however there are a lot of possibilities and challenges we could do to make an attractive server.

Where we’re going, we’d better not need old code.  Nostalgia is dead, lost or patched over, when it comes to mechanics.  2004 is gone, never to be seen again.  No crazy crafting mechanics or whatever will be making an appearance.

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 - Nov. 14, 2004

2004 was full of muddy textures and spelling errors anyway

But still, the EverQuest II team is now publicly stating that they are looking into some sort of progression/nostalgia/special server.  Or at least they did on the live stream, if not in the likely much more widely read Producer’s Letter.

But in the absence of the world of 2004, what would we want to see?

We know that just rolling a new server and blocking it off from transfers and character boost will bring some people out.  Remember the EverQuest II Extended experiment?  The chance to join a fresh community while it is all low level.  That will get a bit of buzz which will last at least for a little while.  But I don’t think that is a spicy enough meatball to get a large, long term commitment to a new server.

So what else would they need?

Limit the content to the original and dole out the expansions over time.  That seems like an obvious starting place, the whole progression thing.

Lock out classes and races added after launch and only allow them when the content that added them is introduced.  Again, obvious, though perhaps not as big a deal as with EverQuest.  SOE added what… four races and two classes since launch?  And Froglocks came in as delayed part of the launch content.

Turn off flying, leaping, gliding, bouncing, or whatever mounts.  Maybe that is just me again.  Also, I might consider turning off griffon towers… maybe.  Or turn them off in zones where they were not available at launch, and  at least make people discover them in a zone before they can use them.  We good there?

Crank up the leveling curve.  Right now you level up so quickly in EverQuest II that you have to dump at least half of your exp into the Alternate Advancement bucket… and I admit that is a nice feature, SOE gets a cookie for that and other companies should copy the ability to route base exp into something else… so if they are going to ration out content over time, they have to make it last longer.

Also, they have to turn off AA points until Kingdom of the Sky in any case, so there should be no bucket to siphon of exp for a while in any case.

Dial up the difficulty.  I hope there is a dial for this.  Give mobs more hit points or make them hit harder or at least toughen them up a bit so if you’re in a group the mob doesn’t die before everybody gets a hit in.  Toughen up dungeons especially.

Make it for subscribers only.  That will limit things to people actually invested in the server and will keep new players from wandering in and asking what the hell is wrong.  Also, doing that will offset the next item.

I already mentioned locking the server off from transfers and insta-90s, but clamp down on the cash shop as well.  I know, cash shop is money, but everybody here is a subscriber.  Shut down as much of the cash shop as you possibly can, even cosmetics.  There is already a great cosmetic armor system in the game, let people discover and use items from the original content and go about sporting that.

And while we’re shutting things down, how about Chrono mages, holiday events, any of the PvP battle ground distractions… any PvP at all, frankly, as PvP is not the core audience so spending time trying to cater to a small group who won’t even show up for this seems pointless, the dungeon maker thing, and some of the insta-travel options.  I know, there were never boats to take people to places in the old content, but we used to have to at least go to Thundering Steppes in order to travel to the Enchanted Lands, Zek, Feerrott, and Frostwhatever.  Do that again, if you can.

I am tempted to say cut mentoring as well, but that still has its uses.  I can’t quite part with that.

And would it be too much to ask for the Isle of Refuge as the starter zone again?  We have to have some starter are, why not that again?  I am not asking for old Qeynos of the racial ghetto home towns or any of that.  But dude, Isle of Refuge would go a long way towards nostalgia.

Also, maybe, just maybe, some special server only achievements that can only be earned by doing things in the content when it is the latest available on that server.  I’d dig a “Nostalgia Warrior – The Journey is Half the Fun” achievement, or something like that.  It would make me actually look at the “added way too late, half-assed, uninspired, cribbed straight from WoW yet looks about a tenth as good” achievement system that got tacked on to EverQuest II a couple years back.  Seriously, Rift copies the WoW achievement system wholesale and made it work, why couldn’t you guys?

Or, if not achievements, titles maybe?

Anyway, it sounds like the old Norrath team at Daybreak… as opposed to the new Norrath team, which is doing Landmark and, we assume, EverQuest Next… is semi-seriously considering the possibility of exploring the idea of maybe doing something akin to the “overwhelmingly popular three times running” EverQuest progression server idea for post-Cataclysm Norrath.

What other ideas… realistic ideas, because they are clearly going to have to do this on the cheap… should they be considering for such a server?  What would get you to come play?

Daybreak and Forums and Reddit

I have always been of the opinion that online games ought to have official forums.  There a costs, both financial and in political games, but those seem to me to be balanced out by having an area under the company’s control that services the percentage of the game population that wants a forum.

As we have seen, if you depend on a forum out of your control to support your game, it can quickly go toxic.  Your biggest fans, who are the type of people who would set up such a thing, can become your bitterest foes if they feel wronged.  Even Mark Jacobs, who was dead set against having official forums for Warhammer Online eventually relented.  And there was certainly no similar question when it came to Camelot Unchained, the forums were a given.

Of course, once a company has forums and a segment of their user base invested in them, there seems to be a strong temptation to simply use the forums for everything.  There is a receptive audience that will comment on anything you post.  I gather that it can start to feel like you’re talking to the whole community, rather than what can often be a very small subset of the community, in the official forums, so why not use them for announcements and such.

I sometimes feel like CCP is veering in that direction, though they will then put out a huge and detail Dev Blog or something else on their main site, away from the forums, so that people outside of the forums are at least aware that a discussion is going on.

SOE/Daybreak, on the other hand, has often felt over dependent on its forums over the years.  They have favored their forum followers with special insights, dev access, and used them as a primary form of feedback on many occasions.  To follow EverQuest II, for example, without spending time in the forums every day, you need a site like The EQ2 Wire.  You won’t seem a tenth of what you probably know if you depend on the news feed on the main web page.

SOE has, at various times, attempted to remedy this.  They have had dalliances with Facebook and Twitter and every so often they form some sort of partnership with Zam or Wikia or somebody to be an official news source.  These ventures have never really played out well, serving as more of a distraction and, of course, pissing off the long time official forum followers.  In the end, it has always been “back to the forums.”

Until H1Z1.

If you go to the main Daybreak site (which is still there under the SOE domain two months down the road) and look for forums, you will find links for every game… except H1Z1.

No H1Z1 forums for you!

No H1Z1 forums listed

There is actually a forum listed off of the actual H1Z1 site, but the emphasis since the game was announced has been on Reddit.

Smed started doing Reddit during PlanetSide 2, and when it came time for H1Z1 he and the company went full bore on Reddit, leaving the forums behind.  The General Discussion part of the H1Z1 forums points to Reddit and Twitch.  The forums are for news and support issues only.  If you want to talk about the game, the official place is Reddit.

Which isn’t the end of the world.

Well, until SOE starts pushing other game discussions towards Reddit, and then there is some wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It seems like the EverQuest II devs are now headed towards Reddit,  The EQ2 subreddit may soon be an official thing.

Never having been a part of the EQII forum community, I must admit to a wee bit of schadenfreude at their privileged position being assailed.  And, certainly, anybody who has complained about SOE’s moderation tactics, where the community team loads up the dread SOE MOD 4 to locks threads and delete posts according to some sort of Brownian motions as oppose to a clear pattern, ought to at least see some positive aspect in escaping that aspect of the SOE forums.

Not to mention being banned, as happened to Feldon of The EQ2 Wire

Not to mention being banned, as happened to Feldon of The EQ2 Wire

The thing is, here we are again at something I mentioned at the top of the post.  Here is a game company that has essentially outsourced their forums to a third party that they cannot control.

Yes, Daybreak can depend on the fanboy veto, the Reddit down vote, to hide the cranks and complainers and those who offend the true believers with their impertinence.  They were always there in the forums, fawning over every official statement, but now they have some power.  They can smite Daybreak’s foes by clicking that down arrow.

If they show up and if they click that down arrow.  Otherwise the leading topics might not end up being very Daybreak friendly.

Not all happy, supportive topics

Not all happy, supportive topics

When RadarX said, “What I can tell you is downvoting works most of the time.” I am not sure that is what he meant.  That is the site of a company letting go of control and finding out it might not be all that great.

While Daybreak has been trimming back their official forums, I am not sure they are destined for the scrap heap yet.  I certainly hope they are not.  There are long stretches of game history recorded only in those forums… because of that long SOE dependence on them that I mentioned previously.

What do you think?  Official forums?  Reddit?  Both?  Neither?

Addendum: Some of this lead to an open dialog on forum moderation and bans and such.