Tag Archives: Agnarr

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: