Category Archives: EverQuest

EverQuest Phinigel Server – A True Box Progression Server

The EverQuest team is prepping another nostalgia run with a new progression server, which will mean that there will be a total of five such servers in play with Fippy Darkpaw, Vulak, Ragefire, and Lockjaw still chugging along.

The nostalgia is strong in Norrath.

Named for Phinigel Autropos, the last known knight of the Kedge, this is going to be a special progression server according to Daybreak.

Phinigel awake...

Phinigel awake…

The Phinigel time locked progression server is aimed at addressing some of the more common complaints about the past round of servers, specifically Ragefire and Lockjaw.

To this end, you will only be able to log into the server with one client from a single computer.  Multi-boxing a pile of characters from a single computer will be blocked.  As the Daybreak team put it, if you want to multi-box you will have to do it the old-fashioned way.

A Computer for every client

A Computer for every client

(Real old-school would have had a half dozen scrounged 15″ CRTs.)

In addition to this, the whole open world raiding log jam will be addressed by having both open world and instanced versions of the big bosses.  From Daybreak:

The big raid targets from each expansion will be instanced. While bosses like Lady Vox, Lord Nagafen, and (/cough) Phinigel Autropos (hey, THAT’S where we got the name!) will still spawn out in the world, groups of players will ALSO be able to have these targets available to them via Raid Instances.

The instanced raids’ targets have an account-wide 6.5 day lockout and will have the same difficulty as the non-instanced version of the raid target. Note that raid bosses on progression servers have had their difficulties increased since the launch of Ragefire.

So the bosses will be out in the open if you want to compete for them and hidden away in an instance on a timer if you just want to raid and not deal with external guild drama. (Internal guild drama is still on you.)

And, finally, voting will be dispensed with and expansions will unlock on a regular, 90 day schedule.  People can just be angry about that schedule being too short/long rather than claiming vote fraud.

So what will EverQuest players find to complain about in the forums this time around?  I have no doubt they will find something.  Recruit a friend is always popular.

All of this kicks off on December 9th.  We’ll see if the tradition holds and Daybreak has to open up a second server, though with all of the multi-zone instancing work they have done, I hope they can keep the population on a single server.

And, as always, in order to play on the Phinigel server you will have to have Daybreak All Access active on your account.  I’ll have to see how I feel when the launch date arrives.  I am currently not playing any fantasy MMORPGs at the moment and it is strange.  Of course, Gaff is now trying to get me back to LOTRO, so we shall see…

EverQuest – The Broken Mirror Lands in Norrath

I thought The Broken Mirror expansion was going to go live today… I seem to recall reading the 19th as the date over at Massively OP at some point… but when I went to go check for this post I found that the the EverQuest Twitter feed had already announced the expansion as live.  Memory is a faulty receptacle at best, and my own is more flawed than most.

So here we have expansion number 22 for EverQuest.

Mirror cracked... also boobs

The mirror cracked… also, is that Firiona Vie in a bikini?

I won’t reprise my full commentary about Daybreak announcing that expansions were out and that adventure packs were in, only to change their mind for what I consider a clear and pressing reason.  You can read Tuesday’s post for that.  I’ll just repeat my suspicion that it is all about the money.

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

The Broken Mirror pricing? Try the broken gaming budget!

Money is important, without it the game goes away, so Daybreak can hardly be faulted for going back to the expansion plan with its $140 option.

Instead I want to go with how SOE/Daybreak, despite their many mistakes… common enough for me to create a “Because SOE” tag for the blog… and the many dev hours they have squandered over the years on dubious projects that never went anywhere… SOEmote and the SOE Launcher spring to mind, while Legends of Norrath remains in some horrible limbo, neither fully exploited nor completely neglected, just lingering in some middle state… has gained, somewhere along the way, the institutional/organizational knowledge of how important expansions are to keeping their player base engaged with their games… at least their EverQuest games.

EverQuest II, which launched less than a month before World of Warcraft, just had its 12th expansion go live.  Not bad for a game that just turned 11.  Meanwhile, as noted above, EverQuest has had twice that many expansions in its 16 years, 14 of which have been launched during the reign of Azeroth over the MMO universe.

World of Warcraft… five expansions in 11 years, with a sixth set to hit just before the game turns 12.

Now, there are more than a few low cards in that 22 expansion hand that EverQuest is holding.  Some expansions arrived broken or had content of dubious quality… especially so during the rush-rush times when SOE felt the world would end if they didn’t have two expansions out every calendar year… but SOE clearly felt a sense of urgency in getting out content.

An urgency you never really get from Blizzard.

An expansion a year though, that seems to have worked out as a decent pace for EverQuest.  I think there can be too many content drops.  I think EVE Online is feeling a bit of a pinch with its every six weeks or so expansion pace, in part because now expansions are not special, so there isn’t the big spike of returning players anymore.

No, once a year seems good for Norrath.  It gives the game new content on a regular basis and has allowed enough time for some major features to be added, things like player housing.  Okay, nobody wants that in WoW, but still…

And you can certainly argue against what I am saying by pointing at the success of WoW.  The population of Azeroth is down… way down… down below half of one time peak of 12 million subscribers, with only 5.5 million hanging around now, and that is still an order of magnitude larger than EverQuest’s subscription peak of approximately 550,000 players back in 2004.  Who brings in a billion dollars a year baby?  Not Norrath!

The flip side of that of course is that Daybreak, with a small fraction of the revenue and player base somehow manages to get out an expansion a year.  You would think that Blizzard would have the resources to move a little quicker.

Anyway, there are many complexities in that comparison, not the least of which is the culture of the organization that makes the games.  But WoW is still the cash cow for Blizzard… to the point that I wonder if their move to stop reporting subscriber numbers was as much to blend WoW revenue in with their other games (like they did when they announced the combined revenues of Destiny, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm) as to stop people declaring the game is dead because it isn’t the biggest subscription MMORPG by a large enough margin… so I still wonder at their sometimes glacial speed.

Thoughts for the day as EverQuest launches expansion 22, The Broken Mirror.


EverQuest Progression Servers – Faster Unlocks! Faster! Faster!

I haven’t mentioned much about the Ragefire and Lockjaw EverQuest time-locked progression servers recently, mostly because I haven’t been playing on them.  But they have also skipped mention because key events, like polls and expansion unlocks, have been spread out.  Not much has happened since the early Ruins of Kunark unlock poll for Ragefire that got pushed by the demands of some players.

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

Still the only fully good MMO expansion ever

Well, the complaints were not done.  While the Ragefire server got Kunark early, Lockjaw was going to be the place that waited the original duration… until people started asking for a sooner unlock.  So Daybreak put up a poll last week that closed out today asking the following of Lockjaw player:

Do you want to open Kunark early on Lockjaw? Future expansion schedules will not be affected.

  • No preference
  • Wait to vote for Kunark on the normal schedule (Voting starts December 1st).
  • Unlock Kunark early (November 2nd), with no vote

The polls closed at midnight PDT last night and the results are out today.  The Ruins of Kunark expansion will open up on Lockjaw on Monday.

Meanwhile, there was a more general poll on the Ragefire server asking if people wanted to speed things up… even more so.  The poll specifically asked:

Do you want the Ragefire server to unlock expansions on a faster schedule permanently?

  • No preference
  • Keep expansion unlocks the way they are.
  • Cut expansion unlock time in half. They will take 3 months to unlock until Gates of Discord, and 6 weeks after that.

The results for that poll asked for unlocks to stay the way they are.  So they got Ruins of Kunark early, but will stay on track for everything else.  The requisite raid content has been cleared and the vote for the next expansion, Scars of Velious, is set for March 11, 2016.

Original Box Art

Just in time for spring… snow!

Maybe this just proves my long standing theory about Ruins of Kunark being the best MMO expansion ever.  People wanted that early.  But the rest of the plan is on track as originally laid out.

Unless somebody gets impatient again.  But Daybreak would never go along with that…

The Perils of PlanetSide and Payment Models

The game is really struggling, and it isn’t just on PS4 to be honest, and we are actively looking at things that can try and help change that in the short term. I hope everyone will be open minded that in order for the game to have a bright future and be supported it needs to not only retain people but find ways to generate revenue to support the team’s efforts.

-Jens Andersen, Daybreak Executive Creative Director, Reddit AMA

The big news item that came out of the Reddit AMA with Jens Andersen was that PlanetSide 2 is “really struggling.”  That is MMO press headline material and fodder for blog posts. and not great news for a game that is just turning three and purportedly had plans for other platforms.

Mental image of my expectations...

Mental image of my PS2 expectations way back when…

That wasn’t really shocking news.  PlanetSide 2 has always had its share of problems, not least the one it shared with its predecessor, the proliferation or aim bots and other hacks in the game, some exacerbated by the F2P business model.  Banned for hacks?  Download an update to the aim bot and make a new account!

Add in the fact that it is a mediocre shooter at best… is anybody throwing over Call of Duty to go play PlanetSide 2… that smacks of pay to win, that also doesn’t really scratch the persistent world MMORPG itch for people either, and so sort of sits between genres, neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat.  All the dubious records in the world won’t fix that.

Clearly I am not a big fan, but my FPS days tapered off back with the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942 more than a decade back, so you’ll have to allow for my bias.

Still, not really news at this point.  H1Z1 seems to be the money maker in the FPS MMORPG, selling early access boxes with a cash shop already selling power and lock boxes, and, more importantly, giving people a decent, co-op survival experience.

The interesting bit for me was another quote, which Bhagpuss pulled out and used in his post, which had to do with getting people to subscribe:

You know what is funny? No matter how many things we heap into membership on all of our games, it makes no difference in the appeal of membership to non members. This is something we saw on DCUO for sure. The amount of benefits to DCUO membership is staggering, but people don’t take advantage of it. It’s just not a really good strategy for us to keep trying to lead horses to water that do not want to drink. And the fact is, current members already get huge benefits from the monthly fee they already pay.

Basically, there are some people who will simply never opt-in for your subscription model, no matter how cheap you make it nor how many benefits you heap on.  And, likewise, there are some people who will subscribe so long as some minimum threshold of benefits are given… just “let me just play and not worry about having to buy or unlock anything” in my case… after which diminishing returns kick in pretty quickly.

I recently… on Tuesday if I recall right… cancelled my Daybreak All Access subscription.  As part of that they sent me an exit survey which I filled out.  One of the questions asked me to stack rank the importance of five subscriber benefits.

My top choice was the rather open ended “Game Specific Benefits,” which to me is the whole “just let me play” aspect I mentioned above.  That is why I subscribe.

I did choose “Monthly 500 Daybreak Cash Reward” as the second in the stack, because I am at least aware of that.  I still barely buy anything from the cash shop… I think I bought a character rename potion this last time around… so the Daybreak Cash tends to accumulate.  But I know it is there and my approximate balance (12K).

The remaining three I ranked as follows:

  • 10% off Marketplace Items
  • Special Member Only Promotions
  • Membership Forum Badge

I vaguely recall that you get a discount as a subscriber, but since I so rarely ever buy anything from the cash shop, that doesn’t really play into anything.  Member only promotions… I cannot recall one off hand.   Maybe some special discount on The Rum Cellar at some point?  And the forum badge… well, I don’t post to the forums, and when I go read them, the special snowflake badges kind of annoy me.

And I suspect that my stack ranking of things is not totally out of line when it comes to how most subscribers feel.  Maybe I lack the insight, but I cannot imagine anything ranking ahead of the “Game Specific Benefits,” at least when it comes to the core games like EverQuest and EverQuest II.

Which doesn’t mean Daybreak could take anything away easily.  They tried to take away those 500 store credits at one point and people blew up because that was actually a tangible item and because they now felt entitled to it, having gotten it for several years up to that point.  So the compromise was that you have to log in and claim those credits every month.  People grumbled about that as well, though at least that had some precedent.  Turbine only gives you your VIP stipend if your account has been active recently.

So where does that leave Daybreak?

Here is where I chuckle a bit at people who were so happy that they were going to be an “indie” studio now, able to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, they are owned by an investment firm that wants their cut every month, so they have to keep Columbus Nova Prime happy in ways that they probably never had to under the semi-benign neglect of Sony’s bureaucracy.

So the emphasis, starting in the latter half of 2015 and likely to continue in that direction for some time to come, will be to make more money.  And it looks like everything can’t be about the cash shop.

As we saw with EverQuest and EverQuest II, expansions are back.  This is most likely because you can get away with charging $140 for a “Premuim” edition loaded up with virtual items, the production of which is probably covered after the first five copies are sold.


Premium prices for virtual goods

That will likely continue, though I suspect that they will still try to slip in a spring DLC pack as well, bringing us back to the old “one good expansion, one half-assed rush job” that some will remember from the good old days of EverQuest.  This time the rush job will be appropriately priced though.

I imagine that nobody thinks selling early access is going to go away.  Landmark did okay on that front, and by all accounts H1Z1 has been a rousing success selling those on Steam.  Expect more of the same when it comes to any new titles.

The change I do expect is an end to “Free to Play, Your Way” for future games and a return to selling boxes.  Virtual boxes, to be sure, but boxes all the same.  If a million people will pay $20 for a half-finished version of H1Z1, why would you start giving it away for free?  You don’t have to make it $60 at launch.  $20 is fine.  You can work with that price and what a value it is, and that gives account bans some bite… but not so much bite that some people won’t just buy another copy.

Expect the same for EverQuest Next, whenever that should be, and whatever the secret new title is.

Meanwhile, on the classic Norrath front, it feels like reality has set in and the team has finally admitted that the cost of attracting new customers far outweighs the economic benefit they bring.  They won’t say “no” to new players, but  we have seen a renewed focus on the installed base with new nostalgia servers and bringing back old favorites like the Isle of Refuge as both a prestige home and the starting zone on the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers.  I expect that to continue to be the theme going forward.

Despite an unfounded rumor earlier this month, I do not expect Daybreak will attempt to revive any old games.  No Vanguard revival, no reskinned SWG, and no adults only FreeRealms.   What is dead cannot die… it just remains dead.  I also expect that once Dragon’s Prophet is finally shut down, that there will be no more half-assed Asian imports.  You can find an audience for any game, but finding a big enough audience to make these ventures profitable has clearly eluded SOE/Daybreak.

Finally, with Smed gone, I suspect that the original PlanetSide will be shut down and, barring any new revenue stream discovery, support for PlanetSide 2 will dwindle over time.  It is tough to go back and sell access when you’ve been giving it away for free.  And it certainly does not seem like a candidate for conversion to XBox if it isn’t a money spinner on the current platforms.

With no Daybreak equivalent of SOE Live in the offing, I don’t know when we’ll see announcement about the various project going on at Daybreak.  The nice thing about a regular convention is that it does put some pressure on the company to come up with some actual news and details about things.  But that is where my gut says things may be headed.  Subscriptions are good, cash shop sales are okay, but boxes are back.  Get some money up front.

EverQuest Announces The Broken Mirror Expansion

Part two of yesterday’s Norrathian live stream announcements was the big reveal of the upcoming EverQuest expansions, The Broken Mirror.

Mirror cracked... also boobs

Mirror cracked… also boobs

As with EverQuest II, classic EverQuest is moving away from the whole DLC idea that Daybreak put out earlier this year and is back in the long familiar territory of old fashioned content expansions to keep people busy for another year or so.

The copy for the expansion reads:

A goddess wakes and gazes into a looking glass. The reflection of her true nature fractures and breaks. Even as the looking glass shatters and the world around her dissolves, Anashti Sul only looks deeper still into the fragments as they drift away. When her fractured mind glimpses her surroundings, she discovers that she is adrift in an unknown time and place where gods and goddesses maintain direct influence over Norrath. A hunger for power wells within her, having passed many an age with no power at all and an upstart sitting in her place. With a whole new realm before her, she resolves to rule again!

Anashti Sul’s passage through a rift into this reality caused her to split into the two most dominant aspects of herself – life and decay. Fully aware of each aspect, she knows that both must command a plane of power lest she weaken entirely and crumble into the nothingness of The Void. And so she crafts a plot to infect the planes of Norrath with a war that threatens to collapse the balance of all life! Are you brave enough to face the might of a goddess who is ravenous to rule? Will you prevent the chaos she would unleash in all of Norrath?

The Broken Mirror is the 22nd EverQuest expansion. This expansion features new zones and dungeons, and must-have in-game items.

I think 22 expansions in, the team at Daybreak probably has their system down pretty well, so the content looks pretty standard:

  • Level Scaling Raids – Instanced versions of Plane of Hate and Plane of Fear that scale for level 75-105 raids.
  • 7 Expansion Zones – 4 completely new zones and 3 revamped zones.
  • Illusion Key Ring – Access your illusions in one easy location!
  • New Quests, Heroic Adventures, Missions, and Additional Raids
  • New Spells and AAs

Again, no new races, classes, or levels, but I am going to guess those are more labor intensive.  You do what you can with the resources you have.

The pre-order page is up, so you can give Daybreak your money today if you so desire.  And, as with the EverQuest II expansion, there are three options ranging from reasonable to outrageous.

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

The Broken Mirror? Try the broken gaming budget!

$35 is at the fairly reasonable end of the spectrum for an solid MMORPG expansion, while $140 wanders well within the bounds of greed as far as I am concerned.  But, as with the the EverQuest II expansion, I am no longer invested in the game, and that Premium Edition is clearly not targeted at idly nostalgic players like myself.

They also have a Time Locked Server Adventure Pack offer as well, and like the EverQuest II version, I assume it includes the expansion, since the bag and potions clearly are not worth the $35 they are asking.

I have not seen a launch date listed anywhere, but I would predict it will be go live on a Tuesday in November that isn’t the 17th.  If I had to pick a date, I would go with November 10th.  We shall see.

Enforced Raid Rotation Ends on Ragefire and Lockjaw

It was no surprise a couple months back when enforced raid rotation reared its head on the Ragefire and Lockjaw time locked progressions servers.  It is one of the rules of EverQuest that this must happen because one of the unsolvable problems of limited, contested open world content is that it will turn people into assholes, or at least strongly encourage those who are already assholes to remove all restraint on that aspect of their personality.

I would go so far as to contend that such an act on the part of SOE is fully in line with the whole EverQuest nostalgia experience.

No Casuals!!!

To be here, first you must defeat other players in a griefing contest

Anyway, nobody would care except that it is bad for business.  There is a whole code of conduct (where, among other items, you’re still specifically disallowed from impersonating an employee of Verant Interactive) and players complain about other groups behaving badly and it becomes a matter where the company generally has to intervene or suffer through the torture of a thousand tickets.  Better just to nip the whole thing in the bud than to let things fester.

The surprise came this week when Daybreak announced that they were no longer going to enforce the raid rotation schedule.

They didn’t say raid rotation was bad.  In fact, they praised the cooperation of the guilds in sticking to the raid rotation and encouraged them to continue and to play nice in the spirit of the community and that whole code of conduct thing.  Daybreak just won’t be bringing down the hammer by suspending whole guilds for the actions of one member if there are problems with the rotation.

I have to wonder what caused the change of heart at Daybreak.  I know it wasn’t any sort of “open world content is the best content” feeling since, as I have pointed out, they’ve been down this road enough times to know the folly of that idea.

It is possible that, a few months into the lives of the servers, that the raiding community has settled down and Daybreak feels that the point of crisis has passed.  Or perhaps the opening of Ruins of Kunark on Ragefire has spread people out enough that the problem has been reduced.  Or it could be that the customer service team, no doubt whittled down during the post acquisition layoffs, doesn’t want to have to spend time dealing with this particular issue.  Certainly having players resolve their own disputes was a theme in the announcement.  Maybe we will see them demanding an EverQuest version of the Drunder server so they can just banish their annoyances without having to actually ban their Daybreak account.

And, of course, people both cheered and complained when rotation enforcement was announced and they are both cheering and complaining now that it has been suspended.  I suppose we shall just have to see how it all turns out.

EverQuest and EverQuest II Plan New Expansions

Holly “The Hero” Windstalker was out with a new EverQuest II Producer’s Letter which announced that this fall EverQuest II would not be getting some DLC, or an adventure pack, or a campaign, or a campansion (whatever that entails), but an actual, old fashioned expansion.

The Adventure Packs

Remember Adventure Packs?

Though the decision seemed to be one of degrees rather than a hard barrier.

Our next expansion release is right around the corner! Yes, you heard me right – expansion! The team has been churning away and when we looked at the amount of content we created, we decided to call our next release an expansion rather than a campaign…

Enough content to call it an expansion isn’t perhaps the most solid endorsement ever, but it is something.

Color me pleased.  I am one of those people who thinks that DLC or content packs or live updates or what not are just fine, but an expansion is an event, a point in time that changes things, where there is only a before and after.  Or some such.  Syp had the bullet points for that.

Back in April I was declaring the circle complete.  SOE started off back in the day with adventure packs then dropped that to go back to the tried and true EverQuest style expansions.  Then, back in April, during the Daybreak post-acquisition hangover phase, it was announced that there would be no more expansions, that something akin to adventure packs, starting with the Rum Cellar, would be the new way of things, with a promise that the overall content over the course of the year would be about equal to an expansion.

Now though the circle is… um… re-complete?  We’re chasing our tails or running in circles on indulging in non-Euclidean geometric progression?

Also, is this expansion Cthulhu themed?

Also, is this expansion Cthulhu themed?

Further details on the expansion are promised for October 1st, which I assume will include a launch date and, perhaps more interesting to me, a price.  Expansions are worth more, so they will charge more no doubt.  But will there be a digital collector’s edition to skim off money from the faithful?  The last report I recall was that half of those who purchased the current Altar of Malice expansion went for the deluxe package.

And, as these things have gone in the past, buying the new, as yet unnamed expansion will also get you all previous expansions, including the Rum Cellar.  I told you that was a thing.  It is also something of a discouraging factor for the 50% off sale for Altar of Malice and Rum Cellar that they are running through the end of the month.  I can get all that for free with the next expansion… but for how much?  At least there is the option to buy it with Station Daybreak Cash as well.

Meanwhile, there was also an EverQuest Producer’s Letter and hey, guess what, it has the same news!  An expansion will be coming our way this fall.

We are excited to announce we have an expansion on the way – that’s right, expansion – not “campaign.”  As we’ve been toiling away this year, the content we’ve been working on evolved and grew more than we expected.

And, as with EQII, details to come on October 1st.

This sounds less like a coincidence or “whoops, we made too much content!” and more like a plan to keep Norrath viable and making money with the expansion cycle we have come to expect over the years.  What does this say for DLC, campaigns, or campansions?  And what about the other games in the Daybreak portfolio?

Anyway, Norrath keeps on rolling.  Expansions for everybody!