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.

Ragefire – A Vote for Kunark is a Vote for… something

The current round of EverQuest time locked progression servers, Ragefire and the spill over Lockjaw, continue to provide a spectacle as they move forward.  To their credit, Daybreak does appear to be paying attention, something that differentiates this round of servers from the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers, where SOE was mostly an absentee landlord, setting a bar for the minimum amount of acceptable communication and then failing to meet it.

Ragefire hanging out..

Note to self: Name future servers after dragons and not freakin’ gnolls

Having worked on the open world, contested raid boss problem last week, this week Daybreak has turned its gaze back to the population problem.  The servers remain popular despite requiring a subscription in order to play on them.  This means they are a money maker at least.  Nostalgia pays.

However, it also means Ragefire got pretty crowded pretty fast.  Daybreak initially used their multiple parallel zone instancing technology on the starter zones and upped the server capacity, but that wasn’t enough.  They put in a login queue, but that didn’t help much.  Finally, they had to relent and open up a second server, Lockjaw, and apply that parallel zone magic to even more zones in the old world.

Don't forget about me!

Lockjaw on the scene

And apparently that still wasn’t enough.  The TLP forum has been running hot with the idea of an early unlock date for the Ruins of Kunark expansion as the one true way to accommodate the population of these servers… or at least on the Ragefire server, as it remains the more popular of the two by a fair margin. (History repeats there, the spill-over server tends to be less popular.)

And Daybreak must see some merit in this idea, as there is now a poll up on Ragefire asking if the Ruins of Kunark expansion should open up earlier than planned.

Vote early, vote often, vote all your accounts

Vote early, vote often, vote all your accounts

Personally, I am sympathetic to an early opening of Kunark.  It would add a variety of additional low-to-mid level zones, zones that would likely get under-utilized once the bulk of the population leveled up past them, as would be likely after six months of classic EverQuest.

Kunark is popular and, in my opinion, perhaps the best MMO expansion ever released.

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

Crowd on the Kunark Dock during Fippy Darkpaw’s reign

Ruins of Kunark is the prototypical MMO expansion, a monument to what every MMOs first expansion ought to be as well as a warning about how hard subsequent expansion will have to work to live up to that first expansion.  It had something for pretty much everybody.  But being the child of classic, it tends to be overlooked and under utilized on the progression servers.

For Fippy Darkpaw we had to wait 90 days in classic EverQuest before Ruins of Kunark could be unlocked.  But Kunark and beyond were all 60 days from final raid boss down, something that took just a couple of days from expansion unlock.  That led to it getting short shrift in my opinion.  So, back during the progression server poll, my votes were hinged on getting the maximum amount of time with Kunark.

However, there are counter arguments.

There is the group I would call “the classicists” who simply do not want the server to progress beyond the original EverQuest content and who have vowed to vote “no” on every unlock.   That doesn’t seem to be a very realistic goal, but they certainly have the right to go that route.

Then there are those who decry the legitimacy of this vote and who worry about what precedent it will set.  The decision was made up front, via a poll of players, to unlock expansions at the current planned rate.  If you allow people to punt on that a month in for Ruins of Kunark, will we get the same thing after that unlocks?  Will players then vote in Scars of Velious early?

I get the sentiment that Daybreak shouldn’t make changes to the plan lightly.  However, I reject the idea that once a decision has been made it can never be revisited or revised, and doubly so as that original poll was taken from the EverQuest population at large.  This poll will be taken from the people actually playing on the server, who have committed to the project, and who are facing the challenges that come up.  I think that gives this poll all the legitimacy it needs, especially since Daybreak, watching things from their end, seems to think that the idea has some merit.

Then, of course, there is the question of what the level increase and better gear that comes with Kunark will actually do to the server.  The whole idea goes to hell is most people just drop classic and run to Kunark and make that the new over-crowded location.

And, finally, there are some people pointing out that all the changes that Daybreak made… the improved server capacity and the parallel zone instance technology applied to more and more zones… is actually working, and working well.  In that case, opening up Kunark early will just disperse the population and reduce the number of zone instances to the point that you won’t be able to pick one that has the camp or spawn available that you are looking for.

Now, admittedly, that isn’t how things worked back in classic EverQuest, but it seems to be working out well enough on the Ragefire server, so you have to question the desire to mess with something that seems to be going okay.

So that is the poll and some of the questions at hand.  Interesting times and I would like to say yet again how much better it is with Daybreak actually engaged with these servers, at least relative to the benign neglect we saw for most of the Fippy Darkpaw era.

Too soon?

Probably the reality for Fippy Darkpaw these days…

I would tell you how I voted on the poll… only you have to be level 10 to vote, and I am such a slacker that I don’t have a level 10 character yet.  The poll runs through the 28th, so maybe I’ll get a character there this weekend.  My bard seems the most likely candidate at this point.

Who Says I am Calm, Spontaneous, and Grounded?

Nick Yee says that about me… sort of.

Nick Yee, famous… for specific, internet definitions of fame… getting a Reddit AMA counts for something… his studies of gamers, and MMO gamers in particular, through such ventures as the The Daedalus Project and PARC PlayOn Group (as well as that WoW guild name generator) has a new research venture going on.  A note in my inbox yesterday included this announcement:

I’ve got some exciting news to share! Our game analytics consulting practice is now officially “Quantic Foundry”. And the gamer research project is now officially “The Quantic Lab”. Apart from running surveys and sharing the findings, we have also created a Gamer Motivation Profile that produces a customized report of your gaming motivations.

Check out the blog posts, take the new surveys, and try the Gamer Motivation Profile at: https://apps.quanticfoundry.com

A new survey!

Gamer Motivation Profile sounds suspiciously like the whole Bartle Test thing I suppose.  However, this new survey is at least functionally a bit different.  Where as the Bartle Test asks the taker to choose between pairs of behaviors to determine if you were an explorer, achiever, socializer, or killer, the Gamer Motivation Profile asks the taker to rank the importance to them of a series of aspects of gaming that range from “Blowing stuff up” to knowing the game’s story.

Different, but not necessarily better.  It is much easier to make choices between two behaviors than it is to rank the importance of a given aspect of gaming… at least it was for me.  You have to be a lot more in touch with what is important to you.

Anyway, once you take it you get your results and, if you sign up for an account, you also get a profile you can share with others.  Mine is here.  My basic summary is the title of this post, and the top level graph shows:

My profile summary graph

My profile summary graph

Nothing really dominates on that graph… not like Tipa’s graph, where immersion was sticking out prominently.  The results are percentiles, where I rank against other gamers.  Basically, 88% of gamers are more action oriented than I.

This probably results from me not pressing on things being at the “extremely important” end of the spectrum.  I picked that answer only once.

So Achievement and Social dominate, Immersion and Strategy are on par, and Action is way down the ladder for me.

Each of the groups is then broken out into sub-categories.  For Action there is Destruction and Excitement.

Action sub-categories

Action sub-categories

See, I do like to blow things up, I’m just not big on excitement.  I think my wife can confirm that.

For Strategy there is Mastery and Planning.

Strategy sub-categories

Strategy sub-categories

About equal on both of those.

For Achievement it is Completion and Power.

Achievement sub-categories

Achievement sub-categories

I could have told you I am far more about “doing all the things” than I am about power.

For Social there is Competition and Community.

Social sub-categories

Social sub-categories

I have been known to go on about community, right?  If somebody asks why, in EVE Online, I am in The Imperium with those horrible Goons, community is the answer.  For all you can say about them, they are pretty much dedicated to community and organizing groups that allow the individual to feel like a contributing part of that community.  My home is in Reavers, a group small enough that showing up really matters but large enough that I can’t really screw things up for the team, and I enjoy my time playing with that group.

And then, finally, there is that most illogical and fractious of terms, a word that has as many meanings as there are people who utter it, Immersion.  That actually breaks out into three, Customization, Fantasy, and Story.

Immersion cub-categories

Immersion cub-categories

Customization and Story… not so important to me I guess.  I actually have a half-finished post in my drafts folder about why story is important in MMORPGs, but how it shouldn’t override your own story.

And while I have shown some interest in customization… I use cosmetic gear slots all the time, I painted up all my cars in Need for Speed World, and I just spent a bunch of ISK on ship skins the other day in EVE Online… I tend to view that as a luxury as opposed to a necessity I suppose.

Fantasy, on the other hand… there things suddenly get important.  I will quote the summary for that sub-category:

Gamers who score high on Fantasy want their gaming experiences to allow them to become someone else, somewhere else. They enjoy the sense of being immersed in an alter ego in a believable alternate world, and enjoy exploring a game world just for the sake of exploring it. These gamers enjoy games like Skyrim, Fallout, and Mass Effect for their fully imagined alternate settings.

Except that I don’t enjoy those titles all that much… well, I only own Skyrim, but I would put Mass Effect in as a placehold for “BioWare games”  in general… because they lack the social and community aspect.  Online games have ruined me forever on a lot of solo games.

So there I am, a completionist and community (or at least group) focused player that wants to get lost in the games I play.

And while I suspect that my results might vary if I took the survey again in a few months… or next week… or tomorrow… or right now… I think that the same key points would likely shine through still.

Anyway, if you want to take the survey you can find the starting link over the Quandric Foundry Lab page.

Addendum: There is also a blog post on the site about how they created the survey.

Father’s Day Minecraft

For me, yesterday was just about the perfect Father’s Day.  My wife made French toast and bacon for breakfast, there were burgers off the grill and milkshakes and a movie for dinner (we pulled The Increadibles off the shelf… hard to believe that it came out in 2004…), and in between there was plenty of time for video games.

For that part of the day I did the usual garrison patrol in WoW, a few missions in War Thunder, and a little more time in EVE Online for Burn Amarr.  But my daughter said she wanted to spend time during the day playing a video game with me, and none of those games are really on her list these days.

So I asked her what we should play.  There were a number of options.  But she went straight for her current passion of the moment, Minecraft.

That gave me a moment of pause.  I’m not anti-Minecraft so much as the difference between my daughter and I in Minecraft ability and knowledge is such that I wasn’t sure we could actually play together in a way that wasn’t frustrating to both of us.  She wanted to run off to one or another special server that had various mods or offered PvP or whatever, while I was pretty much at the most basic, vanilla level of ability.  I could move around, dig stuff up, but hadn’t really done enough to have much in the way of Minecraft knowledge.

So my suggestion was that we start our own server with survival mode set so that she and I could play together and she could help me along without having other server residents coming along or confusing the issue.

I went to the Minecraft site and logged in (I’ve actually owned a copy of Minecraft for a couple years at this point and, surprisingly, remembered my account name and password) and grabbed the Windows version of the server.  That was simple enough to get going… at least once I figured out that I needed to open up the EULA.txt file and edit change the entry “eula=false” to “eula=true” in order for it to run.

We then both logged in and started our journey.  My daughter, well versed in the mechanics of the game, immediately dug us out a shelter and built a furnace and crafting station as well as some torches.  Then we harvested resources while the day lasted, then hid in our shelter as night came.  Impatient with that, she built us each a bed which allowed us to “sleep” through the night cycle.  Still, the monsters sometimes linger and I managed to wreck a part of our shelter when a creeper jumped me in the light of day.  I managed to hit him and run away, avoiding the explosion.  However, it happened right next a farming plot my daughter was preparing, digging a big hole where it was setup.

So she decided we needed to move.  We were in a hilly area where monsters could sneak up on us easily.  She ran off to a flatter area to setup shop and I promptly got lost trying to follow her.  Her statement that she was on “the big plain over here,” yelled across the house, wasn’t all that helpful.  She eventually found me and brought me back to our new shelter just as darkness fell.

The next morning I sat around reading a site about crafting in Minecraft and harvesting materials that she needed while she assembled a farm on the roof of our shelter… and built a tall spire with torches all over the top to guide us home as darkness fell if we wandered too far and got lost.  That happened to both of us, which made me feel a bit better.

Our farm

Our farm

We ended up with a mass of chickens and more eggs than we could ever use.  However we needed the eggs, along with the pumpkins (big orange row at the far end) and the sugar cane (green bamboo-like plants in the near distance) in order to make pumpkin pie for food.

I spent a lot of time underground as I mined out huge areas under our shelter in search or iron ore for improved tools.  I wore out a lot of stone tools along the way.  I also chopped down a lot of trees and planted a lot of saplings that dropped in order to maintain a series of replenishing groves.

Eventually my daughter got tired of our venture.  She went off to try and build us a “proper” house, for which I harvested materials.  However it wasn’t shaping up the way she wanted and she was losing interest in our simple world, so she opted to leave and ran off to some of the more exciting worlds online.  We never quite got the house set.

I kept pottering away for a while.  There is a relaxing aspect to just mining away or tending the woods.  Crafting still seems a bit clunky, though I figured out some of the shortcuts.  And, of course, inventory management, always a problem.  What to do with excess eggs, beside throwing them at things.

Eventually I shut things down as the time for dinner approached.  I enjoyed it enough that I took a peek at some Raspberry Pi 2 server options that I could just stick on the network and leave running so that either of us could drop in and continue taming the world whenever.  I’m not sure we’re into it enough to buy a dedicated piece of hardware for it, no matter how cheap.  It might be a better idea just to move the server to my wife’s computer and have it launch as a service.  She leaves her machine on all day, while mine is powered down when I am not home.

We will see if we even end up returning to our little world.

Steam, What Have You Wrought?

Things that are not supposed to happen over the course of a Steam Summer Sale; have your Steam Left number go down.

Before the Steam Summer Sale 2015, my count was:

74 days would get me through the summer...

74 days would get me through the summer…

Here, at the tail end of the sale, with the counter running down, my tally is:

I played some video games

I played some video games

Somewhere in between the start of the search for the summer game and now, I played 12 hours and didn’t buy anything.  And I am not even sure how I played that much, as the only game on Steam I played much of was War Thunder.  Well, time adds up.

Meanwhile, things like Steam Left and the long list of games in my Steam library has trained me over the years to not buy games unless I am going to play them right then and there.  And so I ended up buying nothing from the Steam Summer Sale.

Not that there were not things on sale, often at very attractive prices.

Steam Summer Sale 2015

Steam Summer Sale 2015

There were a number of items on my wishlist that I had my eye on.  Earlier in the year Cities: Skylines seemed to be the rightful heir to Sim City, given the praise it got.   Likewise, Project CARS seemed to be the driving sim of the year, getting high praise from those who purport to know best, with both local and online play available.  Something to replace the soon to depart Need for Speed World maybe?

But I wasn’t on the edge of my seat ready to play either title and the discounts, while good for somewhat recent releases, were not too good to pass up.

Not that discounts levels sold me on anything either.  I had one game on my wishlist that was marked down to $1.24 for the sale… and I didn’t buy it.  I guess that means I ought to take it off my wishlist, since I don’t think it will ever get any cheaper than that.  To be fair, it did have mixed reviews and I put it on the list more to remind me to look into it again than because I was going to buy… but still, at $1.24 you think I’d just buy it.

Apparently not.

Then, of course, there was the sea of titles that interest me a bit, but which are not really my thing.  I am tempted to get Alien: Isolation because I have heard such good things about its atmosphere… and it was 75% off at various times… but in the end it seemed likely to just sit in my library unplayed.

And I always get excited when the Traveller’s Tales LEGO games are on sale… until I remember that they really play like crap on the PC unless you have a game pad… and even when you have a game pad it still feels like an awkward port.  The definitive experience for those games is on a console, in your living room, with a controller.

So I ended up here, at the end of the sale, having purchased nothing.  Which is fine… I hardly needed any more unplayed games in my library.  But it is amusing to consider how things have changed, how the Steam Summer Sale used to be such a big deal and how I would buy things just because they were priced so damn attractively.  Steam has trained me over the years to hold off and only buy things that I am sure I will play.

Travel Advisory – Conflict in Amarr

No Burn Jita this year.  Instead the Party is in Amarr.  We will overthrow the irredeemably tainted Empress Jamyl Sarum by interdicting her capital and all that.  Hail the True Emperor of Amarr, Maximilian Singularity VI!  (Blame The Nosy Gamer.)

The Legend Returns

The Legend Returns

After a short duration joke claiming that it had been cancelled, things picked up at the end of downtime this morning.

This year I decided to sit in and see how it was done.  I managed to get on and into the fleet just in time to be part of a 6 billion ISK jump freighter gank.

Concord popping Catalysts after the kill

Concord popping Catalysts after the kill

Pretty amazing to see a mass of Catalysts undocking and warping off for a kill.

The only downside so far, which I gather from coms, is that Amarr just doesn’t have as much traffic as Jita, so targets are harder to come by.

Ragefire – Solving Those Open World Raiding Blues

Seeing the coming of open world raid issues on an EverQuest progression server is ike predicting the sun rising in the east in the morning; anybody surprised by the occurrence probably hasn’t been paying much attention.

Ragefire hanging out..

This picture means I’m writing about the Ragefire server!

And so it is on the Ragefire and Lockjaw time locked progression servers.  The raiding guilds have leveled up and have started warring over the raid bosses while taking over the zones where the raids occur.

Last time around, on the Fippy Darkpaw server this became a big problem, at least relative to the percentage of the population involved.  Bad behavior at raid bosses became a thing, leading people to complain and open support tickets and generally cause a lot of smoke.  Eventually GMs had to step in, first with their own creative solutions on the spot and then later by imposing a rotating schedule for raiding guilds so that everybody would have their own crack at the loot pinata.

That’s the story of open world, contested raid content right there.

Now in the post-Sony as Uncle Moneybags era, the new Daybreak Game Company isn’t running so many GMs and has limited what issues they will deal with, so it seems unlikely that they will devote resources to a GM enforced raiding schedule.

As with so many aspects of these new servers, Daybreak is moving very fast (compared to the SOE days) to find a new solution.  And so we have an announcement:

As Holly mentioned, we’ve been doing some work on raid targets and high end zones on Progression Servers. There are more active players on Ragefire and Lockjaw than there ever were on our launch servers, and right now there’s too much competition for some very limited resources. We know some of you have suggested moving the raid targets into private instances, but we firmly believe that competition is a definitive component of the original EverQuest experience.

At launch, as now, there is only one Lord Nagafen and only one Lady Vox. If you defeated them, you also had to compete with a server full of people who wanted to defeat them, too. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

So, in the spirit of making raid content more available while still allowing for competition and accomplishment, here’s what we have planned for an update in July:

  • Nagafen’s Lair, Permafrost Keep, the Hole, and Kedge Keep are now load-balancing zones. This will let more people have access to these zones for XP and non-raid items (WTB GEBs, PST).
  • We now have a way to prevent raid targets from spawning in extra load-balanced zones. We have done this with Lord Nagafen, Lady Vox, Master Yael, and Phinigel Autropos so they will only ever spawn in the base version of their zones.
  • All raid targets (dragons, Phinigel, Yael, and gods) now spawn more often than they used to, but have a much larger variance in their spawn times so they’ll be more difficult to predict.
  • We’ve made the raid bosses more difficult, so that they will require coordination of more adventurers to tackle them successfully. Healing and support should once again be very important in these encounters.
  • Speaking of Hate and Fear, while we didn’t implement load balancing, we did reduce the respawn time of all non-raid targets by two thirds. Any mini-bosses that didn’t have persistent timers (such as the Fear golems) now have them and have additional variance in their respawn times. This means that they won’t necessarily be spawned when the server first comes up.

In summary, we’re increasing availability so that there are more chances at the content, increasing difficulty for both a greater challenge and to require coordination of larger groups of people, and increasing variance in spawn timers so that knowledge of the last kill time is less of an advantage.

We’re hoping that the combination of these changes will both relieve some of the competition for experience and item content at the top end of the server but keep the integrity and uniqueness of the race for raid targets. Thanks for playing!

The first thing that struck me was how they went right to their “multiple instances of a single zone” solution.  When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.  That said, as a non-raider, being able to access those zones without having to be part of the raiding drama is about all I could ask for.  Raiders can have the base version of the zone with the raid boss and everybody else can be in a different instance.  Like Keen, I am pretty happy with the zone instancing plan so far.

The rest is… interesting.  They seem to be committed to the old-school, open world raiding experience that was EverQuest in 1999.  Of course, putting those bosses in real instances with lockout timers and all that stuff we’ve come to accept as the way things should be might be too much work as well.

Taking raid bosses off the static timer sounds good, but as we have seen in the past, that sometimes will just make people camp the site non-stop.  But at least they made the timer shorter.  The net result should be more raids possible.

Making the raid bosses more difficult though?  My gut reaction:

Down in San Diego...

Also, the remaining GM team in San Diego…

Schadenfreude aside, making the bosses tougher is probably a really good thing.  This isn’t 1999 any more.  The game has changed, the classes have been revised, and the tactics of these fights have long since been mapped out in great detail.  And it will keep us from seeing another multi-boxer down a boss mob with a group of Shadow Knights using vampiric touch in rotation.

Of course, there is the question as to what “more difficult” really means.  More hit points?  Hitting harder?  More resists?  All of the above?

Anyway, the whole thing seems pretty reasonable to me given what Daybreak has to work with at the moment.  Of course, that is easy for me to say, since I will never actually be in one of these raids.    But it is certainly more effort put into the game itself than they did with Fippy Darkpaw.  Of course, back with Fippy Darkpaw the expansions were unlocking a lot quicker, so I am sure there was a bit of “We just have to get to Gates of Discord and this problem goes away” on the team.

Reactions to this on  forum are mixed… which would pretty much describe the reaction to almost anything Daybreak posts on its forums.  There are concerns about implementation and what the new timers will mean for line members in the raiding guilds… which seem to be the same raiding guilds that were on Fippy Darkpaw.  We shall see how this works out.