Category Archives: EverQuest

Agnarr Server Success and the Nostalrius Question

It looks like Daybreak did manage to get their new EverQuest nostalgia server, named Agnarr for a raid boss of old, up and running and open to the public around their 2pm Pacific time target.

While I was at work, I make this assumption after the fact because there was already a thread up in the EverQuest forums by 2:01pm complaining about overcrowding.

Agnarr the Stormlord approves… I think…

Reading the forums there was apparently over a 4 hour queue to log into the server, problems with user creation, problems with disconnects, problems with zones crashing under load, and a problem with some starter zones being denuded of MOBs by the rush of new characters.  And, just to pile on, Massively OP reports there is even a duping situation on the server, something that can destroy a server economy.

Just another day at Daybreak where “dey break games” in the grand SOE tradition, right?

And there is certainly an element of that in the situation as the crew down in San Diego carries on the SOE habit of being unprepared as events carry the day.  Laugh at them, they’re used to it by now.

But the element that pervades every nostalgia server opening is overwhelming popularity.  Before the Agnarr server launcher, the most popular EverQuest server was Phinigel, also a progression server, followed a ways back by Firiona Vie, the RP preferred live server.

After Agnarr launched, looking in last night and this morning, Angnarr and Phinigel both have full server status indicators and Firiona Vie is out in third place.

Nostalgia sells, these servers are popular, they offer something people want and, more importantly, something people are willing to pay for.  You have to have a Daybreak All Access subscription to play on these servers, so everybody sitting in the queue trying to get on is a paying customer.

This is all the more interesting when you recall that just over two years back SOE blessed Project 1999, the EverQuest classic server emulation project, which you can totally play on for free.

Conclusions one might draw:

  • Nostalgia is popular
  • People are willing to pay for it
  • People want an official server

All of which brings my mind back to another MMO that stopped talking about subscription numbers because they were tanking so bad a while back, World of Warcraft.

Things are better now, or were better with the WoW Legion expansion at least until the end of Q1.

And yet Blizzard wants nothing to do with this nostalgia stuff.  A development team that probably has a larger head count than all of Daybreak combined won’t even glance in the direction of a special server.  Last year Blizzard were keen to shut down Nostalrius, the rogue WoW classic server emulation project, but had not plan to offer anything of the sort on their own, claiming to be unable to even manage what a small group of outside amateurs did.

Initially unmoved by the ensuing drama, Blizzard did eventually agree to meet with the Nostlrius team, listened to them politely, took their user data and code, said a few bland words, mumbled something about maybe a special server of some sort at some future date, then threw the whole thing in the trash bin and went back to working on their master plan to make unlocking flying in the Broken Isles a horrible grind.

In a situation where the burning question for the WoW team ought to be, “Do we have a wheel barrow big enough to hold all the money classic servers would bring in?” the team has stuck to their trifecta of responses, claiming that it would be too hard, nobody wants it, and that the current game is better in any case.

The first is offset by money.  Doing that difficult task would earn money that would make it worthwhile.  And I know it won’t be easy, something you assign to the summer intern, even if that was pretty much the Nostalrius level of effort.  Blizzard has quality standards that they would not want to compromise.   But this isn’t the impossible task that some are making it out to be.  We are not living in some dystopian fantasy future where mankind has lost the ability to make a pre-2007 World of Warcraft server.  While I hate to that guy, since I have been on the recieving end of this quip several times in my career, but it is only software.  When you have coded something once, doing it again is much easier because you solved all the real problems the first time around.

Again, The WoW team is huge, beyond 300 members last I heard, and yet they cannot do what the tiny EverQuest team does and put up a nostalgia server… and get an expansion out every year?  Yes, the two courses are not parallel.  The Daybreak team is a lot more keen to take risks, that they fall on their face before us as often as they do is evidence of that.  And, of course, the EQ team didn’t destroy their original content when pressed for an expansion idea, a fact that does make WoW’s path to nostalgia more difficult.  But a game that is still bringing in more than half a billion dollars a year has the budget to get past that.

The second is just bullshit.  The popularity of the Nostalrius server, the popularity of the EverQuest nostalgia servers, and the willingness of EverQuest fans to pay to play when a free alternative exists argues heavily in favor of any official WoW server offering being off the hook popular.  WoW and EQ share a common bond in that they were, in their times, the first and formative MMO experience for a lot of players.  The key difference is that while EQ peaked at 550K players, WoW peaked beyond 12 million.  That means there is a huge patch of fertile ground on which Blizzard could farm nostalgia.

And the third… the third just seems like ego… ego or fear.  If the current WoW team did roll out some sort of nostalgia flavored server and it turned out to be as hugely popular as I suspect it would, it would be, in the parlance of the genre, a slap in the face.  Nothing hurts like being the new guy and people loudly and exuberantly extolling the virtues of the old guy.  There has to be a strong desire to avoid that sort of public comparison on the team.  It would be bad for them if WoW fans voted with their wallets heavily in favor of the old stuff.  Better to claim it can’t be done.

However, while I argue in favor of some sort of special WoW server, I doubt we shall ever see such a thing.  Even as Blizzard is exploring the idea of farming nostalgia… there was the unsatisfying attempt to recreated Diablo in Diablo III along with the coming remastered versions of StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III… the WoW team doesn’t seem at all enamored with any such move towards the past.

Still, the ongoing popularity of EverQuest nostalgia does seem to be getting around.  Over at Trion, a team with some old SOE members, there is some talk about special servers for Rift.  I am not at all keen on the challenge server idea, but Trion rolling up an original content server with some special achievements and such might get me to install their launcher again.  Original Rift… vanilla Rift… had some of the tightest, well put together zones I have ever played through.

Anyway, if you’re keen for nostalgia in Norrath, you’re in luck yet again.  If you’re seeking other worlds, your mileage may vary.

The Agnarr Server to Open Another Door to Norrath Nostalgia

Over on the EverQuest front a new progression server is slated to open up this evening.  The Agnarr server, named for the raid boss Agnarr the Stormlord will add a new facet to Daybreak’s nostalgia farming techniques.

Agnarr the Stormlord is judging you…

As I mentioned in my post about progression servers last week, Agnarr is perhaps not really covered by that name.  It will, in fact, progress, though it won’t go through any of that voting or content unlocking in order to do so.  The Agnarr server already has a fixed schedule:

  • May 24, 2017 – Agnarr server opens with original EverQuest content
  • August 16, 2017 – Ruins of Kunark expansion unlocked
  • November 8, 2017 – Scars of Velious expansion unlocked
  • January 31, 2018 – Shadows of Luclin expansion unlocked
  • April 25, 2018 – Planes of Power expansion unlocked
  • July 18, 2018 – Legacy of Ykesha expansion unlocked
  • October 10, 2018 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked

And once there, progression will stop, as laid out in the server FAQ.

This will give a very vocal segment of the EverQuest forum community something they have been asking for since progression servers started; a server locked in the past, that will sit at content released in September of 2003.  It is the classic server that has been demanded for so long.

While Daybreak is calling it a “PoP-locked” server, PoP being the Planes of Power expansion, one of the most ambitious (and bug plagued at the time) raiding expansions in the game, a watershed in the game’s history, and the last hurrah for open world contested raiding, two more expansions will follow on, Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath.

There is a certain irony here, or a certain symmetry if you want to look at it from a different angle, in stopping at LDoN.  That is where SOE introduced instanced group content to the game, a full year ahead of the launch of World of Warcraft.  Who copied whom here?

But the Agnarr server will include all of the features and details of the past servers.  It will be a “true box” server, so no multi-boxing will be allowed.  The server will be able to spawn multiple instances of zones to deal with any crowding issues.  And raids will be instanced.

from the FAQ:

Q: How Does Raid Instancing Work on Agnarr?

The system will allow a full raid (72 players) into an instance. You will need at least 6 players in your raid to request a raid instance, and the players in your raid need to be level 46 or higher.

When you request a raid instance, the player that requested it, and his or her entire raid, will be given an account-wide request lockout for that specific raid for 2.5 days.

Each “boss” in the zone will grant a 6.5 day account-wide lockout. For the most part, this is just the big boss (Lord Nagafen, for example) and the stuff in his/her/its immediate vicinity.

For launch, Plane of Sky is an exception to the above instancing rule. Each island will have a lockout. Kill any NPC on that island and everyone in your raid will receive a 6.5 day account-wide lockout for that island.

You will be able to raid in peace with your guild, fighting the boss when you can get your group together rather than having to worry about vying with other guilds.  Raid PvP won’t be a thing.  Even the nostalgia experience has to bend to the reality of player behavior.

The server is set to go today at 5pm 2pm Pacific time, which is UTC minus 7 currently.  Given past launches, I expect there to be some delays.  But maybe they have this progression server thing locked down by this point.  We shall see.

I am sure some people are excited.  I see Keen is hyped up for this server.

I am a bit indifferent.  I like the idea, but even with casual grouping generally a thing, going in alone without friends of a regular group doesn’t appeal to me.  Also, the initial time frame before the first expansion feels a bit short to me.  But the server won’t have moved too far along if I join later.

Anyway, the classic server idea, locked in time, that some have been clamoring for will soon be a thing.  Again, you can find the server FAQ here for the details.

The Life of Progression Servers

I was looking at the front page of the EverQuest site to see if there was any news worth knowing and I was struck/amused that the two most recent items involve progression servers, with the vote to unlock the Planes of Power expansion hitting the Ragefire server and the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion opening up on the Phinigel server.

Playing the nostalgia card has worked out pretty well for EverQuest and I am glad to see they are taking it more seriously than they did in the past, where such servers were launched with fanfare, only to be mostly ignored thereafter.

On the other hand, I do wonder when we might hit the “too much of a good thing” margin when it comes to nostalgia.  Yes, the latest progression server, Phinigel, remains the most popular server for the game most hours of the day.  On the flip side, such servers now represent almost 25% of the total EverQuest server base and, according to the recent Producer’s Letter, Daybreak plans to launch a new one this summer called Agnarr with its own special twist.

EverQuest Server List – May 2017

What should become of progression servers that are past their prime?  The original pair, The Combine and The Sleeper, which launched a decade back… can you have nostalgia for nostalgia… were eventually rolled into standard servers when they had caught up.  That was back in 2009, so they didn’t linger on for long on their own.

But Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak’Aerr launched back in February of 2011 and, last I saw of them, the vote for the Underfoot expansion was going on… that was in 2014… and I haven’t heard much about it since.

The next round came in May 2015, with Ragefire, then Lockjaw following up in the traditional spillover server role a bit later.

That was followed up six months later by the current reigning champion nostalgia server, Phinigel, which took all the zone instancing and server queue lessons Daybreak learned and rolled in some features to keep people from multi-boxing.

Now, about a year and a half down the road from the Phinigel launch, Agnarr looms.  While Agnarr has a different formula than Phinigel, it will still likely steal some of the players from the older server, just the way Phingel denuded the populations of Ragefire and Lockjaw.

Meanwhile, Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak’Aerr linger on… are they effectively live servers at this point?  You need All Access to log in, but if they’re done progressing on their own maybe that shouldn’t be the case.  And is there too much capacity in the EverQuest nostalgia department at this point?  Should some of these servers get merged in or have they spawned resilient (and paying) communities worth keeping the servers up?

The EverQuest Agnarr Progression Server to Remain Locked in Time

Daybreak is no stranger to special servers.  On the EverQuest side of the house they have had quite a few over the years.  The nostalgia progression server idea itself is a decade old, having first come to pass with The Sleeper and The Combine way back when.

Those were followed by Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak about six years ago, then Ragefire and Lockjaw a couple of years back, and then Phinigel which went live about a year and a half back.

Each has been a refinement on the attempt to capture “the good old days” of early EverQuest, when graphics were raw, groups were required, and spawns were camped.

Back in March, the Producer’s Letter at the game’s 18th anniversary mentioned a new progression server would be on its way this year, and Daybreak has now announced the timing and some details.

The server name will be Angarr, as previously mentioned, named for Angarr the Stormlord, a raid boss from back in the day.

Agnarr the Stormlord approves… I think…

This fifth generation progression server will carry on with the improvements from the past, including being a “true box” server, which is Daybreak’s way of saying that the are going to try to keep you from multi-boxing your way through the game, an innovation brought in with the Phinigel server.

But the key new feature for Agnarr is how it will progress… or, rather, how it will NOT progress.

The Agnarr server will, as always, kick off in the original March 1999 EverQuest content, such that it is.  Then every 12 weeks Daybreak will unlock an expansion, following the usual path forward with Ruins of Kunark then Scars of Velious and so on.  However, the unlocks will stop with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion and no further expansions will come to the server, leaving the server to run on with content introduced in late 2003.

The Agnarr server is set to launch on May 24th, and given the “every 12 weeks” plan, the server cycle should look something like this.

  • May 24, 2017 – Agnarr server opens with original EverQuest content
  • August 16, 2017 – Ruins of Kunark expansion unlocked
  • November 8, 2017 – Scars of Velious expansion unlocked
  • January 31, 2018 – Shadows of Luclin expansion unlocked
  • April 25, 2018 – Planes of Power expansion unlocked
  • July 18, 2018 – Legacy of Ykesha expansion unlocked
  • October 10, 2018 – Lost Dungeons of Norrath unlocked

Unlike past progression servers the last two expansions, Legacy of Ykesha and Lost Dungeons of Norrath, will not unlock semi-concurrently with the Planes of Power expansion.  There will be full 12 week gaps between each.

And then the server will stay like that, at least as long as there is sufficient population to warrant keeping it around.

This will/should/may satisfy the long standing calls that come with the launch of every progression server that Daybreak create a permanent “classic” server which sits still in time and never advances.  These calls have grown all the more common since the closure of EverQuest Macintosh Edition back in late 2013.

I am mildly skeptical about the prospects for the server.  EverQuest Mac was a magical place locked in time, but it was also made up of a community that evolved naturally over a decade, forged by a shared feeling of isolation and neglect, and started at a point when it was running current content.  Can Daybreak recreate that by just rolling a new server?  While they can restrain the march of expansions the servers will, by necessity, be tainted by changes made over the years like revamped zone graphics and updated user interface.

Meanwhile, progression servers themselves have been shown in the past to be very content unlock oriented, with populations rising with each new expansion and the dwindling off as time with that content ages.

And then there is the “what is classic EverQuest?” question.  The expansion after Lost Dungeons of Norrath, the aptly named Gates of Discord, is pretty much accepted as being “post-classic,” if you will.  So no point in going there.  But is Lost Dungeons of Norrath, where the game becomes focused on instanced content, really classic?

Of course, like anybody from the old school, I have my own view.  For me, everything after Ruins of Kunark is “that new shit,” but I might be more conservative than most and I have said in the past that I think Kunark is the only truly good expansion ever released for an MMORPG.

And where does Project 1999 stand in all of this?  It was blessed by Daybreak as a legitimate place to go explore your retro EverQuest nostalgia, and it is an attempt to create a real “classic” experience, untainted by many of the updates that have gone into the game over the years.  The problem is that Project 1999 requires you to have a specific, out-of-date, no longer available at retail version of EverQuest and can’t tell you how to find it otherwise.

Anyway, the launch is coming on May 24th.  As always, access to the Agnarr server will require a Daybreak All Access subscription.  We shall see how it progresses.

EverQuest Turns Eighteen

The date has come again where I tell you I still have that receipt from Fry’s for a copy of EverQuest dated March 16, 1999 and reminisce for a bit about the good old days and what a revelation an open, 3D world was back in 1999 and how far the game has come and how amazing that here, eighteen years later the game is still live and viable and getting updates and expansions.  I think you will find similar posts just about every March 16th (or 17th if I was lazy) over the life of the blog.  Ten years ago today there was a post here on the blog about EverQuest turning 8.

And there is nothing wrong with that.  Why shouldn’t I celebrate something that clearly left a mark on my life?  The EverQuest team is celebrating as well.

They can now buy cigarettes and vote

There are all sorts of things going on in old Norrath, with new events, bonus experience, and the return of old anniversary favorites.

You can even get a free level 85 boosted character between now and March 31.

Being level 85 makes you heroic by default

The offer is good for any account that has ever played EverQuest or any new account that is an All Access subscriber.

There is also a new Producer’s letter up that, among other things, promises a new Progression server called Agnarr that will stop unlocking content at Lost Dungeons of Norrath and simply stay there.  There is also an explicit statement that there will be an EQ expansion this year, as though we would doubt that at this point.

All good stuff for a game that continues to defy expectations and carry on despite its age.

1999 EverQuest Trivia from 2011… the level cap is 100 now

But the anniversary also brings up some questions as well.  A lot of MMORPGs have come and gone during the game’s run, and it is purported to still be one of the most popular/highly populated games at Daybreak.  This leads me to wonder how long can EverQuest last?  How long will it keep getting updates?  What combo of critical mass and notoriety does an MMO need to hit to achieve this sort of longevity?

I have failed to answer those questions before, though not for a lack of trying from time to time, starting with a post back in 2007 when I wondered how many more expansions the game would get.  This was at the time when the EQ team moved from two expansions a year to just one.  I guessed two or three.  So very wrong.  Currently Daybreak summarizes the game’s features as:

  • Experience 18 years of continuous development including 21 expansions of amazing content
  • Build your character through 100 levels of power
  • More than 500 zones to explore
  • Choose from 16 unique races and 16 distinct classes
  • Thousands of Alternate Abilities available to further customize your character
  • More than 50,000 items to earn and collect
  • Hire and control unique mercenaries to aid you in your heroic adventures
  • A robust in-game marketplace containing potions, weapons, armor, and mounts
  • Solo, Group and Raid across continents filled with perilous dungeons, eerie crypts, floating landscapes, and underwater adventures
  • Participate in several seasonal and holiday events throughout the year

Anyway, another year passes and Norrath still seems to be going strong.  Same time next year?

My past anniversary posts, just to keep track:

February in Review

The Site

I think WordPress.com is calling me a freeloader.

A bit back WP.com changed their revenue scheme.  Previously they had an array of ala carte and package deals to get various features.  The list was a bit confusing, mostly because it was a chore to get things you wanted while avoiding things you did not want.  And, of course, it changed every year, which means that after more than a decade writing on their platform, I can never remember what I signed up for the previous year because the option is often renamed, gone, or rolled into some other package.

WP.com decided to simplify all this by wiping away all previous options and going with three plans.  Well, four plans, since “free” is a plan.  It is the plan they tell me I am on despite the fact that I gave them $30 for features last year.  The non-free plans are Personal, Premium, and Business:

WordPress.com plans - February 2016

WordPress.com plans – February 2016

The problem for me now is how to get what I want.  I current have a comb-item that gives me access to modify the CSS, which allowed me to remove that annoying floating “follow” button that WP.com puts on your site by default, and removes ads.  If you visit my other blog you will see ads under the pictures.  I don’t get any revenue from that.  Here you see none.  I pay to keep them away.

The new plans cost, in actual amounts you have to pay:

  • Personal: $35.88  $15.84 / yr
  • Premium:  $99    $78.96 / yr
  • Business: $299   $279 / yr

You can see all of the features of the plans here.

To get No Ads as an option, I can go with the personal plan, which would actually save me some money at the current discount. (They have been discounted since announced. We’ll see if they ever go up.)  It also gets me more storage space for the copious screen shots I upload, though they seem to have forgotten the space taken up by the first 10 years, so only currently show me using less than 4% of my allocation. (They said I was at 78% back in September.)

But I do not get access to CSS.  To get that I have to go to the Premium plan.  That boosts the price per year considerably and doesn’t get my anything else I want.  I have no illusion that the ability to put ads on the site from which I would get revenue would make up the difference in price.

And then there is the custom domain that comes with both plans.  I don’t want one.  The dumbest thing a site can do is change its domain, and I have had tagn.wordpress.com for more than a decade.  Yes, I know that will map to the new domain.  But I still don’t want it, as some day I will stop blogging, or at least stop paying, and I will lose the domain and, at least theoretically, break any links to my blog using that domain.  People do still link here once in a while, I swear.

I have a couple months until my current package expires, but I wanted to get a start on deciding what is really important.  I think No Ads is important, but I am not so sure about the annoying floating Follow button.

What is important to you, the reader?

One Year Ago

We were in Hawaii for a few days for my wife’s birthday.

I was wondering about MMOs and their middle age problems.

I was on episode 80 of the Couchpodtatoes podcast, where we reviewed Daybreak’s first year.

LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens was announced, and it was even going to be available on the PlayStation 3.  Lucky me.

Pokemon turned 20.  To celebrate there was a re-launch of the classic Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow on Virtual Console, special legendary downloads every month, and the announcement that we would be getting the next installment in the series, Pokemon Sun & Moon, for the holidays.

Daybreak announced the splitting of H1Z1 into two games; H1Z1 – Makes Some Money and H1Z1 – Gets Ignored.

I was making the case that Blizzard should continue to talk about WoW subscription numbers, even if they were down, as they were at least more concrete than MAUs, which have no correlation with revenue.  Of course, times have changed.  I was able to pre-order WoW Legion with a 20% discount thanks to Amazon Prime.

The shut down date for CCP’s DUST 514 was announced.  The end was nigh.  They also announced they were shutting down EVElopedia, thus creating dozens of new dead links on my blog in one fell swoop.  Some days I just hate the internet.  But at least the company’s financials seemed okay.  Not bankrupt yet.

In EVE Online we had the Madi Gras release that introduce skill injectors/extractors and the skill point economic boom. Of course, it became about penis size right away and somebody had to inject enough to train up all the skills in game.  You can buy your way to the top now, a pity it doesn’t actually make you any smarter in real life.

The EVE Online Blog Banter was about road maps for the game.

The CSM 11 election season was warming up, with CCP Falcon spreading bullshit in an attempt to cover the “no Sions” rule.  Sion Kumitomo was boycotting the CSM 10 Winter summit as it was the only agency he felt he had.  But at least CCP Falcon and CCP Leelo were off the CSM detail, with CCP Guard and CCP Logibro taking their places.

In space there was the last flight of the Reaver Ravens and a final fight down in Querious before returning to the north.  Then it was Yacht Fleet and the war between SpaceMonkeys Alliance and the RMT tainted I Want ISK in what was already being called “The Casino War.”

And then there was a call to go play PlanetSide 2, which seemed ill timed considering the war.

In Minecraft I reviewed the state of our automated farms… which were mostly Aaron’s.

And in Diablo III I was giving season 5 a run, running first through story mode and then going after some of the seasonal objectives in adventure mode.

Five Years Ago

I made a video celebrating the first year of the instance group, which formed up back in 2006.  It was focused on what was essentially vanilla WoW and had a serious nostalgia vibe to it.  It got some views.

Then I made a video about Sunken Temple in the same vein that pretty much nobody watched.  That instance always got mixed reviews.  (And my video of the EVE battle at EWN-2U was more popular than both combined.)

Somebody stole our guild on Lightninghoof.

And Blizzard was making money, optimizing clients, and selling new mounts.

In EVE Online, the war in the north had gone kind of quiet.  There were some big battles over tower (e.g. EWN-2U, which was my first epic fleet battle, and 92D-OI), but the sov grind had not begun.  There was some fun around VFK.  I also noted that a “green” kill board seemed to be the norm for individuals.  Meanwhile, CCP was making money and giving us the occasional fun statistics about the game.

Trion gave us actual loot pinatas as well as a check box to turn off exp in Rift.

And, probably most importantly, we got standardized build templates for common rolesRift’s soul system is still deep and complex for those who want to theory craft, but for mere mortals it became possible to just get a workable build and go play.

As a group in Rift we made it to the Darkening Deeps.

I also figured that, due to the way Rift was progressing, it wouldn’t go free to play unless WoW did.  Wrong on that in the long term I guess, it went free to play ages ago now.

On Fippy Darkpaw, the Planes of Power expansion opened up.  For many the PoP expansion marks the dividing line between what counts as “classic” EverQuest and what is considered “the new crap.”

And EverQuest Mac was saved from the chopping block, going free for… as long as it stays up I guess.

Ten Years Ago

I wrote a lot of posts.  Not the 59 posts of the month before, but 41 is still a lot of posts.  Half of them seem to relate to stages of heritage quests in EverQuest II.

Back then Kendricke (remember him?) dropped by with the news that Sony Online Entertainment applied for a trademark for “EVERQUEST II RISE OF KUNARK,” thus confirming my guess from December that Kunark would be location of the EverQuest II expansion due near the end of 2007.

A quick check of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site shows nothing on my guess for this years expansion. (Return to the Planes of Power FTW!) The USPTO does show that SOE at one time had the trademark for, “EVERQUEST: THE DEMISE OF ARADUNE,” which is mildly ironic from a Vanguard point of view. I wonder what they had planned for that title? (Aradune = Brad McQuaid, for those not completely immersed in EQ history and lore.)

Of course, SOE also announced a price increase for Station Access shortly thereafter, always a buzz killer. This was immediately blamed on Vanguard and calls for the demise of Aradune were literal.

I also started off in the Lord of the Rings Online open beta which eventually lead to the instance group spending the spring and summer in Middle-earth before returning to Azeroth.

And speaking of Azeroth, a year ago we were just starting to get into the fun that is Uldaman. And somewhere along the line I swapped out my rogue Blintz for my paladin Vikund, who has remained with the instance group ever since.

I also compared how long it took me to level a swashbuckler up to level 40 in EverQuest II versus how long it took me to get a hunter to the same level in WoW. 

Also, Gaff got flight form in WoW and was really happy with it.  There is flying in WoW, and then there is druid flight form, which is in a league of its own.

I listed out five insane MMO things I wanted, which were not all that insane.  Includes the first time mentioning that I wanted EverQuest redone using WoW’s engine.  I was also on about people picking famous names for their characters, how WASD was messing with my typing, and something else about modelling stealth.

I was looking into the distance to see what Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising might offer.

Peggle launched.  Do you remember Peggle?  It was from PopCap.  Do you remember PopCap?  The game was all the rage on the GFW Radio podcast.  Do you remember the GFW Radio podcast?  Do you remember GFW?  How about Jeff Green?  You know I met him once, way back when he covered modems for MacWeek.  Anyway, it all ended up at EA, including Jeff.

And, finally, my wife got me a Wii for Valentine’s day that I couldn’t use until Easter!

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Burn Jita Returns for 2017
  2. EVE Online Multiple Character Training Deal
  3. Time to Log into LOTRO
  4. Pokemon Go Account Hacked and Recovered
  5. Pondering That Legion Level 100 Boost
  6. At Loose Ends on the Fantasy Front
  7. Top 25 EVE Online Corporations Graph – The End Number
  8. High Noon for Asheron’s Call
  9. Landmark Shut Down
  10. I Passed the Half Way Mark on the Road South in Minecraft
  11. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  12. Moving Day Again

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[Ummm… I have no idea]

eve online terms brick tank
[Look up “alpha” next]

ship colors caldari navy
[Pretty much gray and olive drab]

money talk porno
[Sounds like a winner to me]

EverQuest II

My interest in Norrath waned late in January, so I don’t think I have logged in more than twice over the past month, leading me to cancel my All Access subscription.  Everything will just have to wait for the next burst of nostalgia.

EVE Online

There was something of a quiet gap in February where I didn’t mention New Eden very much, something even Asher Elias mentioned to me on a fleet op, and then things started to happen, with fleets getting called up and Burn Jita.  If nothing else, I got some nice screen shots and all the fleet participation credit I needed.

Minecraft

I continue to plug away at the long road south, having passed the half way mark.  Still, it took me from late November to now to get that far, so I have a lot more time left on that project.  The distance left looks so small on the map render.

Pokemon

I went on a Pokemon Sun binge during the big storms out here in California.  The storms caused a series of mudslides that blocked the road to work, so I worked from home for more than two weeks.  That meant I was sitting at my desk all day working, so by the time I had time to play a game, I wanted to go somewhere else. (This may have helped feed my fantasy MMO malaise.)  The Nintendo 3DS does have the benefit of being portable, so took it out to the couch and finished the main story line, then started working on completing the Alola Pokedex.

Pokemon Go

This month finally saw the arrival of second generation Pokemon to the game.  A few had been available from eggs since last month, but they are finally out and about in the wild now, which boosted my interest in catching for a bit.  Then, of course, it became clear that around our neighborhood at least Spinaraks and Natus have become the new Pidgeys and Rattatas, while 3K CP Blisseys seem to own every gym.  Still, new Pokemon are lurking out there if you can find them.

  • Level: 26 (+1)
  • Pokedex status: 128 (+16) caught, 153 (+16) seen
  • Pokemon I want: Final evolution of any of the starter Pokemon
  • Current buddy: Wartortle

Coming Up

In EVE Online the CSM 12 elections will commence with all the brouhaha and complaining that entails.  I’ll dive into that with a Blog Banter post tomorrow.  The promised March patch has some proposed changes that are causing eye rolls and/or gnashing of teeth, such as further Rorqual nerfs.  Also, something with d-scan.  I’ll cross that bridge once I get to it.

On the Daybreak front, EverQuest will be turning 18.  An adult game at last, I suppose.  There will no doubt be an event for that.  They also have a big event planned for King of the Kill.  The question is, will Just Survive survive?

In Pokemon Sun & Moon a new global event launched yesterday, though I couldn’t register due to server issues.  Having reaped the bounty of festival coins that were showered on participants in the last event, I am going to sign up and make some effort to do it.

There is a non-zero chance that I will log into LOTRO.

Oh, and Nintendo is releasing the Switch on Friday.  Will there be another chronic supply issue like past console launches?  Well, past launches save for the Wii U I suppose.

What else will March bring?

Anyway, laissez les bons temps rouler, as today is Mardi Gras!

Where the Hell is that EverQuest Successor Already?

A staple of MMO blogging is going on about the good old days, and no days were gooder and older at the same time than classic EverQuest.

EverQuest

I will stop for a second and define “classic” EverQuest as a time somewhere between late beta and the final days of the Planes of Power expansion.  Legacy of Ykesha changed the world too much in my opinion.  But if you’re down with Frogloks, the era was certainly dead with Lost Dungeons of Norrath, which made instanced dungeons a thing.

And in that time frame, the classic era, EverQuest was at its most popular, as millions of players passed through the game and as many as 550,000 were subscribed at once.  Most popular has to mean best product, right?  That number is how we know that we aren’t just suffering from selective memory that is editing out the bad bits.

So there have been calls to return to or recreate that era… probably since that era… to bring back all sorts of things like the harsh death penalty, simple classes, spells every five levels, mandatory grouping, open world dungeons, steep level curves, travel time, contested raiding, mobs that chase you right to the zone line, and probably dozens more that I cannot think of at the moment.

And yet, despite that, SOE quite deliberately moved away from that list.  It was as though some old school fans made a list of things that made the game great… that list I just started on myself… and the company said, “You like that?  Well, it has to go then!”  So we got instancing, easier levels, solo quests, a light death penalty, mercenaries, the Plane of Knowledge, player vendors, and some of the most awkward looking mounts ever to grace a video game.

The time seemed ripe for a successor, somebody to get back the essential hardships that molded a generation of MMO gamers.  But who would take on this task?

Mark Jacobs had EverQuest in mind when he said he wanted to take the “suck” out of MMOs.  But his game, Dark Age of Camelot, was really about realm vs. realm combat and not the Diku raiding and level grind on which EverQuest was built.  So I don’t think we can count that.

SOE themselves offered up EverQuest II, dreaming of it being the successor.  But EQII was build on a base of ideas that seemed to largely revolve reducing customer calls and quieting a few persistent complainers on the forums.  Having played EQ and EQII at launch, I gave my impression of what SOE’s “lessons learned” must have included.  EQII was many things, but it was not a successor to EQ.

Blizzard, of course, brought out World of Warcraft shortly after EQII, and it has dominated ever since.  Openly based on EQ, it sought to make a kinder, gentler, and more colorful version of the game.  It embraced a solo, no-fail, low penalty path through the game, the sort of attributes we now derisively ascribe to millennials.  That couldn’t have possibly been the real successor, and even if it was, they have screwed it all up since then.

Then there was Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, the Brad McQuaid attempt to get back to all that was good and right about MMOs, the REAL sequel to EverQuest.  While people blame poor execution on its failure to stick with anything beyond a tiny audience… and, at the time, making MMOs was hard and you had to do all the grunt work yourself… but I still feel he strayed from the true path.  I mean, how many of the fans of the game would go on about how “pretty” the game was to look at?  When was “pretty” ever an aspect of EverQuest, unless the word was paired up with things like, “ugly,” “awkward,” “dated,” or “strange?”

A few spiders were left for us

Oh, the textures!  Classic EverQuest!

And he couldn’t leave well enough alone when it came to the 1999 formula and had to add new things like diplomacy.  So, in the end, not really a successor, as it never attracted enough of those it was alleged to be for.

Meanwhile, in 2006 SOE itself decided to try to farm this obsession for classic servers and rolled up what they called a “progression” server.  It was popular, so popular that the had to roll up a second one.  The two servers, The Combine and The Sleeper launched in June of 2006 and opened up later expansions as the raid bosses for the current expansion were defeated.  A flawed interpretation of 1999, and driven at the pace of raiders who would defeat bosses in short order, it became a staple of the game after free to play, when a subscription was required to wallow in the nostalgia provided.  To this day the servers remain popular, with the latest one, Phinigel, showing high loads on the server status page at even odd hours of the day.

Who is playing at 5am?

Who is playing at 5am PST?

While Daybreak has finally realized the potential of such servers… the first couple of attempts were launched with fanfare and then largely ignored by the community team… and while they do hint at an untapped desire for such an old school experience… they are not really successors in any sense of the word.  Also, the experience they offer is tainted by things that did not exists back in 1999, like crude maps and a quest log.

But for a long time… over a decade really… that was pretty much the only option available for somebody seeking the old school experience.  By 2006 WoW had fully dominated the market, and who wanted to knock-off an MMO that peaked at 550K subs when there was one driving to 10 million subscribers world wide they could blatantly copy.

It took the death of the big budget MMO (Star Wars: The Old Republic implosion), the death of the subscription-only MMO (The Elder Scrolls Online or WildStar, take your pick), and the cancellation of any future plans for Norrath (EverQuest Next gets cancelled) to really get to a point where the industry could even consider not copying WoW and reflect on the origins of the genre and where it first really succeeded.  Even Blizzard is having to acknowledge that their “good old days” are not today, but at some point in the past with the whole Nostalrius thing.

So we have entered the era of the niche revival MMO.  We have Camelot Unchained seeking to relive Dark Age of Camelot in some way, Shroud of the Avatar as some sort of 3D vision of the Ultima series, Crowfall… um… doing whatever it is doing, and Project: Gorgon just getting weird, because why not!

And in this time, it seems like somebody could go back and copy the 1996 Sojourn MUD/TorilMUD flavor of the classic DikuMUD mechanics and make another grouping and level focused MMO in Unity pretty easily.

Yes, I know we already have Project 1999, but having to be able to find a copy of EverQuest Titanium seems like a pretty high bar for entry in 2017.  And then there is Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen, Brad McQuaid’s next run at an EverQuest successor.  But I fear that he will be tempted to stray off the true path yet again.

Isn’t there somebody else out there that could rebuild a vision 1999 for us?

I mean, unless this whole nostalgia thing is just bullshit and the last 18 years of the MMO market has actually reflected what most players really want.  In which case, never mind.