Tag Archives: Because SOE

EverQuest 20th Anniversary Progression Servers Announced

More build up to the EverQuest 20th anniversary next month.

As promised in the previous Producer’s Letter there will be two progression servers set to open on Saturday, March 16 as part of the anniversary celebration.

Let’s take a look at what we’re getting.

Ultra Casual

The first of the pair will be called Selo, a name no doubt derived from the bard class song Selo’s Accelerando, which let your group move more quickly.

Selo moves you faster

This is appropriate because the Selo server will be the fast/casual progression server, with an experience curve that will  likely let you get to level cap much faster than you ever did back in 1999.  It will still be slower than live servers, but not as slow as any past progression server.

It will also advance much more quickly, starting in the Shadows of Luclin era and opening up a new expansion on the first Wednesday of every month thereafter, starting with the Planes of Power unlock on May 1, 2019.  That will give people a little extra time to get ramped up on those initial levels.

After it catches up to the current expansion level, something that will still take close to two years (so many expansions, and probably a new one at the end of the year), it will become a normal live server.  There is a FAQ for the Selo server available.

Hardcore

The second server will be named Mangler, named for the black guard dog that hangs around in one of the back rooms of the Fool’s Gold in Rivervale.  It is of the more traditional progression server style.

Yes, my dog bites

The experience rate for Mangler will be somewhat slower than the usual, already slowed progression server norm, and is aimed at the more hardcore raider faction.  For this server, expansions will unlock every 12 weeks until Gates of Discord opens, after which expansions that include level cap increases will last for 12 weeks while those without will last for 8 weeks.

That still puts the life of this server out in the five year range.

There is also a FAQ up for the Mangler server.

True Box

Both of these servers will be in the “True Box” model that Daybreak has adopted, which means that you will not be able to multibox.  Multiboxing was deemed the literal worst thing ever by a loud faction of the progression server community.  And I get that it can be annoying to see one obvious group all being controlled by a single person owning your favorite spawn.  Further, I agree that on a server like Mangler, it is probably in the zone.

My Reaction

I want to say right up front that the idea of starting a progression server on the 20th anniversary of the launch of EverQuest that kicks off anywhere but classic is complete bullshit.

Seriously, who at Daybreak thought, “Let’s celebrate classic by bypassing classic!” was a good plan?  That was enough to make my playing on it go from “sure thing” to “maybe.”

That aside, I am also confused as to what “ultra casual” means to the team at Daybreak.  On hearing them use the term “casual” I thought they might relax the whole “true box” thing so people could dual box a tank and a healer or something, like I did back with Fippy Darkpaw.

Or, even better, maybe allow mercenaries onto the server from day one… in classic… so that you could hire your own in-game healer to follow you as you explored.  But neither will be the case.

I guess I am okay with the faster XP curve.  I can see the argument for not wanting to wear the hair shirt if you’re in for a casual tour.  But the whole faster expansion unlock thing?  That seems to be the opposite of what casuals have been asking for out of a progression server.  It is the hardcore raiders that always want the next unlock once they’ve finished up the current expansion.  Casual players have traditionally been the holdouts looking for longer stretches with each expansion since they tend to play at a casual pace.

Giving substance to that unlock history, it seems as though the hardcore raiding guilds are planning to avoid Mangle altogether and hit Selo instead, since it pretty much gives them what they have been asking for; the ability to level up more quickly in order to raid and faster unlock times for expansions so they can have new content for their guilds more often.

The casuals… well, if you trust the Progression Server section of the the EverQuest forums… are feeling left out.  I don’t seem to be the only one who thinks that starting anywhere besides classic is simply wrong, but there is the usual amount of arguing back and forth as to what the server ought to be, interrupted only by the person who opened a thread asking for a PvP progression server.  That seemed to unify a lot of people… against PvP.

But the key factor here seems to be badly set expectations.

Daybreak told us there would be an “ultra casual” progression server back with the Producer’s Letter, but did not bother to explain what that might really mean.  So for a couple of weeks people got to make up their own idea “ultra casual” server in the head, setting the expectations themselves in the big blank that Daybreak left open.  I certainly did so with my thoughts about mercs or true box.

And then Daybreak told us what they had in mind and it failed to match almost everybody’s self-constructed view.  No surprise there I suppose.  Remember when they told us H1Z1 was going to be for Star Wars Galaxies players?

We shall see if the heat in the forums leads to any changes.  Unlike EverQuest II, where the company often seems to blow with the loudest wind in the forums, the Progression Server section of the EverQuest forums has a long standing tradition of being ignored by Daybreak.  An actual post by a Daybreak employee there is generally looked upon as something akin to a miracle.

But starting a progression server anywhere except at classic… no… just no.  That has got to be fixed.  On a server where the unlocks will be once a month, I can’t even imagine an argument for skipping straight to Shadows of Luclin.  It will be unlocked soon enough already.  Seriously, what the hell?

Daybreak and All Their Sins Remembered

What a week it has been for Daybreak.

That eye should be crying after this week…

First they get caught in a pretty big lie.  And it was a lie nobody expected so when they said it people immediately questioned it.

There is absolutely no question they were lying, it is just a matter of what they were lying about.

Either Columbus Nova was part of the purchase of Daybreak back in 2015, or the company has been misrepresenting that material fact repeatedly for the last three years.  Either there was some financial benefit for them lying over and over for three years or they have chosen to start lying now as a measure of expediency due to sanctions against Russian oligarchs.

And honestly I can’t decide which is correct, mostly because I can’t figure out who they might have tricked by lying for three years.  (As a side note, somehow the same “mistake” was made with Harmonix back in 2010 when press releases announced Columbus Nova was purchasing them, but now they also say it was Jason Epstein all along.)

And Daybreak can’t manage to fully close the door even with its own definitive, we’ve said all were going to say statement posted to all of the forums.  Quoting for truth, since they’ve gone in to edit this statement already like it was on Wikipedia:

Dear Daybreak Community,

There has been some confusion concerning Daybreak’s ownership and rumors about the state of the company that have circulated from a few online game websites, and we want to set the record straight. We assure you that these rumors are entirely false and that there’s no impact on our business or games in any way whatsoever.

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein, a longtime investor who also has investments in a variety of media properties. Jason acquired Daybreak (formerly SOE) in February 2015 and has been the executive chairman and majority owner of the company since that time.

We’re well aware of prior statements from Daybreak indicating our company was acquired by Columbus Nova. We have since clarified that the company was acquired by Jason Epstein when he was a partner at Columbus Nova, which he left in 2017. We’ve also taken steps to clarify those facts on our website and on third-party internet sites to ensure that all of the information currently made available is consistent and accurate.

We apologize for the previous miscommunication and hope that this clears up any confusion. As always, we greatly appreciate your continued support for our games, and we’ll continue to work hard to bring the best experiences to you.

So that settles it, right?  Maybe.  I just trip over the first sentence of the second paragraph:

From the get-go, Daybreak has been primarily owned by Jason Epstein…

When you feel the need to throw in the word “primarily” it does suggest that there were other owners.  Maybe it was Columbus Nova!  Maybe that was the bit Sony held onto.  Maybe it was a couple old ladies from Sheboygan.  We don’t know and Daybreak doesn’t seem in a mood to offer anything beyond a lame understatement of their actions over the last three years.

By the way, after Daybreak edited their Wikipedia article to take out any mention of Columbus Nova, somebody went back and added this:

Evidently wanting to distance itself from Columbus Nova, Daybreak started claiming in April of 2018 that the original press release was in error and that Jason Epstein purchased the company personally. It is not clear when exactly Columbus Nova, Daybreak, and Jason Epstein severed ties.

So yeah, their efforts haven’t exactly born the fruit for which they were likely hoping.

And the kicker is that it probably doesn’t matter.  Lying to us is futile and, as you can see, even counter-productive.  A wasted effort.  If the FBI wants to know who bought them they’ll find out.  I am sure they can subpoena Sony to see who signed the check and where the funds came from.  So the lesson here is, if somebody asks you if you’re going to be affected by sanctions on Russia, just say, “No.”  Don’t use that moment to bring up a tale about how you’ve never been owned by the company you’ve been telling everybody was the owner for the last three years.  It clearly will not turn out well.

That was enough silliness on Tuesday and I figured once Daybreak got their story straight and stopped trying to gaslight the internet we’d all wander off to fret about lockboxes or whatever the next story of the moment turned out to be.

But then yesterday another blow landed as we found out that Daybreak had a significant layoff, with a reported 70 or more people being let go.  Sure, that probably had more to do with how the company has been doing rather than anything related to Russian sanctions, but could the timing be any worse?  We’ve never been owned by that Russian company, Russian sanctions won’t have any effect on us, but we’re laying off a huge chunk of our staff.

And MMORPG.com threw a bit more fuel on that fire with a rumor about Daybreak possibly being acquired by another company… at which point Jason Epstein would drop out of the picture… maybe… he might be there as well.  That story felt really thin, and given that the author also said that Daybreak acquired Standing Stone Games, I wouldn’t give it much credence.  After all, we know that it was Jason Epstein who acquired Standing Stone… erm… no… Daybreak got into a deal to be Standing Stone’s publisher, a deal that seemed to bring almost no benefit to Lord of the Rings Online or Dungeons & Dragons Online so far as I could tell.  But Daybreak didn’t buy them.  I don’t know who actually owns Standing Stone Games though.  It could be Jason Epstein though.  I wouldn’t cross him off the list.  He is a busy guy.

Anyway, it was enough to make a long time fan of the Norrath feel more than a bit defeated.

I mean, I am used to having the weight of SOE and then Daybreak’s foibles drag me down.  To be a fan of theirs is to suffer.  So instead of posting a piece I already had written about the EverQuest Agnarr server launching the Planes of Power expansion and how that is the centerpiece of their locked-in-time plans for this retro server, I am spewing out text about yet another bad turn in the life of this company and its games.

What is going to happen?  What does the future hold?

My gut says that there is value in the EverQuest franchise and that, run properly, EQ and EQII could be a nice little niche money spinners wherever they end up.  I had been feeling that Norrath was doing better than anybody had a right to expect under Daybreak, with yearly expansions and content updates in between.  But with layoffs is that at an end?

I guess DC Universe Online is safe, being that it is said to bring in a reliable revenue stream.  But PlanetSide 2 has been troublesome in the past and H1Z1… or whatever name it has now… was looking pretty good, right up until the point that it got trampled in the fight between PUBG and Fortnite over the battle royale space.  Now it is going onto the PS4, but will they bother bringing it to China?  And it feels like Just Survive just won’t.

And this one-two punch of lies and layoffs has brought up all the old resentments and recriminations in the rather close knit world of MMORPG gamers.  So it seems to be the time for some to replay every grievance from the past, from the NGE and the fall of SWG to the false hopes of The Agency to the replay of false hopes and the faked demos of EverQuest Next to the early death of Landmark and every foible big and small in between.

There is a lot of resentment and feelings of betrayal when you look back down the road the company has traveled.  Every game shut down, every bad decision they had to reverse on after announcing, every upbeat demo or announcement followed by months of silence, every update that didn’t meet expectations, every bug that lingers for year after year, every nutty side project that ate up dev time only to be abandoned… it all adds up.  Also, that ProSieben thing.  How could I forget that?

Games don’t last forever.  Mistakes happen.  Bad decisions get made.  Every feature, no matter how bad, is somebody’s favorite.  You’re always going to piss somebody off no matter what you do.  But Daybreak over the years feels like it has done more than its share of all of that, and it isn’t a big company like EA or Blizzard where they can piss people off and get past it by launching another Battlefront title or WoW expansion that will sell millions of copies.

It feels like we’re getting to the end of the story of SOE and Daybreak.  Maybe not today, or even this year, but things are headed in that direction.  They’re maintaining the old titles, but the only hope from the new was H1Z1 and it seems to have fallen by the wayside in the genre it helped spark.  There might be a new title in the works, but having to lay off so many people is going to impact something.

What do you do?  Do you cut back on supporting the old base?  No more expansions for EQ and EQII?  That brings in money and keeps the old base there.  But if you don’t work on something new then the future is set as an ever dwindling player base will lead to an every smaller staff and an eventual shut down.

Not a good week to be a fan of any of Daybreak’s remaining products.

Maybe I’ll feel better about all of this tomorrow and put up that Agnarr post.

Other coverage:

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 First Night Follies – Half-Elf Bards, Level 50s, and the Big Wipe

On the bright side, I suppose it says something that a game past its 16th birthday can open a new server… a new server that requires you to be a subscriber in an age when free to play is the norm… and find it overloaded.

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

Is this where we catch the boat to the Ragefire server?

Seriously, when the Ragefire server went live yesterday at a little after 2pm PDT (at least half an hour before the plan) people were saying that the rush to get on was such that it was slagging the login servers and causing a problem across the game.

Still, people were getting in after a bit and there was a huge amount of goodwill right up until somebody noticed there were level 50 characters wandering the server.

The server was then locked and pretty much remained in that state going forward.

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population...

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population…

At one point the finger was being pointed at the Half-elf bards in particular as being problematic.  If this were really SOE, it would have been rangers… and nobody would have noticed the problem because who rolls rangers in EQ after all the years of abuse?

The initial plan appeared to be to get in, delete the level 50s, clean up any items they might have handed off, patch whatever caused this to crop up, and just open up the server again.

This caused a good deal of outrage.  With the server just up and fresh, it seemed better to the teeming masses that Daybreak just wipe the whole thing and start fresh, lest there forever be a taint on Ragefire.  Why wouldn’t Daybreak just take the obvious path out of this situation?

Well, it appeared that, once again, we were getting hosed by the cash shop.  According to the official post in the forums, the only downside listed to doing a wipe was that they would have to refund cash shop purchases, thus violating the eternal code of the con man, “Never give the mark his money back.”

We’re exploring the option of wiping the server. The benefit is it gives everyone a clean slate. The disadvantage of a wipe is it also clears all Marketplace purchases on the server.

-Roshen, Daybreak Forums

That there is a cash shop on the progression server rankles many, even if it is only supposed to be selling XP potions.  And if they were fretting about cash shop purchases, I guess some people logged in, rolled up a character, and immediately bought some.  So it was off on a search for a fix.

However, the fix wasn’t immediately forthcoming and people getting home from work or deciding to log in to see how things were going with the Ragefire server were continuing to have an impact.

At various points they were letting players on to the server again to check fixes, but for the most part it remained locked.  Along the way the overall plan changed and a full player wipe became the officially stated goal once they had the problem addressed.

However, as the hours dragged on the team needed to call it a night.  The server was up and down a few more times, but the official line eventually pointed to trying to start again fresh today as new issues cropped up, so we can hopefully look forward to another launch attempt this afternoon.

I was joking at one point about getting the fully authentic day one EverQuest experience with all of this, but for all the problems and crashes and disconnects and what not more than 16 years back, I was still able to actually play for a couple hours on that very first day.  I was never amongst those who were able to get on Ragefire yesterday, so I went and tended my garrisons in World of Warcraft.

Still, this does seem to answer the musical question, “Who is this company that claims it used to be SOE?”  Clearly there was some SOE showing through with them getting to the right answer only after having annoyed their audience with the wrong answer first.  The Daybreak aspect seems to be an attempt to be SOE, just faster.

We shall see what happens today.

Addendum: Keen has his own look at the day, including a screenshot of the bards errant.

Also, it would be cool if Ragefire was added to the server status page.  They managed to add the Beta server after all.

Is Paid Early Access a Good Thing for MMOs?

We just had the launch of early access for H1Z1 this past Thursday and it was not an unqualified success.

H1Z1DisasterIt started with delays as bringing servers up and getting out last minute patches ran through the 11 am PST kick off target and well into the afternoon.  Then when things were finally up there were G29 errors and G99 errors and “you do not own this game” errors and “no servers visible” problems and the overwhelming of the login servers, which actually affected other SOE games.  And, of course, this being based on PlanetSide 2, the hacking seems likely to commence.

That was all exacerbated by the fact that SOE was clearly trying to make this a big deal, an event, and was hyping the whole thing up, making sure people who wanted to stream the game had access, and that there were hundreds of servers online, so the whole thing was rather a public spectacle.  I tried watching LazTel stream the game over at the TMC feed and every time I checked in there was an error on his screen.

And that leaves aside Smed riling up the carebears earlier in the week and the whole controversy over “pay to win” air drops that was brewing as well where, despite early statements on how H1Z1 would be financed through cosmetic items, things changed. Smed was taking a tough line in defending the air drop scheme.  (Plus air drops seemed to be having their own issues.)

anyone that wants to “complain” about H1Z1 being P2W shouldn’t buy it. In fact I encourage you not to. Let’s not let facts get in the way.

John Smedley, Twitter

Scathing quotation marks around the word “complain” there from Smed.  Feel the burn.

(Also, in looking at some older posts this past weekend, I see that I need to quote Smed rather than simply embedding his tweets.  He appears to go back and clean up his feed, deleting quotable items later on.)

Cooler heads were apologizing about the change in views on buying things like guns and ammo in the game on the H1Z1 Reddit, SOE’s favorite forum of the moment.

And then, I gather, at some point over the weekend, the game started working more reliably… or people gave up on it.   Either way, I pretty much stopped hearing about it, except for Smed on Twitter assuring people that things would be fixed and posting links to posts on Reddit detailing what the latest patch would include.  Maybe the Massively post More Boredom than Terror rings true?

Either way, I was happy I was only reading about it.  The whole thing seemed not ready for prime time.

Of course, it was “early access,” so that much is to be expected I suppose.  Certainly that is the line that Smed, and SOE, and their more ardent defenders will stick to.  SOE had to offer up refunds again, as they did with Landmark, for people who were expecting a bit more.

So SOE has themselves covered by that “early access” label.  But it does feel like SOE was trying to be on both sides of the fence.  The whole thing was built up like a game launch.  But is it reasonable to set those sorts of expectations, with that many people piling in and all those servers being put online, along with charging money for the box and running your cash shop from day one, for something a company is running under “early access?”

My own view is that if you are charging money and have worked to get a cash shop in the game, your ability to hide behind words like “early access” and “beta” is somewhat diminished, an opinion I have held since the FarmVille days, when Zynga products seemed to be in eternal beta even as they earned buckets of money.

Anyway, while what SOE does with H1Z1 is of some interest to me, I had no interest in being part of their “pay to test while we develop the game” agenda.  That is pretty much the same song I have sung about Landmark, which has been in early access for nearly a year now.

My cynicism on display

My cynicism on display

At the end of the day though, I have to ask myself how these sorts of early access routines affect my desire to play a given game.  And the answer isn’t exactly favorable.  I am happy enough to have passed on an early investment in both games, but the drawn out nature of even watching from the sidelines has diminished Landmark for me, while H1Z1 running through what looks like PlanetSide 2 problems… which PlanetSide 2 is still having two years after launch… makes me willing to wait for a long, long time before I will bother trying.  Add in the fact that pwipes will be unlikely after a very early point in order to keep the hardcore fans invested and sweet in both games, where it certainly seems like location will matter, and it feels like SOE is selling advantage on top of charging people to test their incomplete visions over the long haul.  Both make me less likely to buy in.

And at some point in the middle-to-distant future, we will be getting EverQuest Next and the current pattern from SOE indicates that it will go through the whole early access routine as well, which gets something of an eye rolling frowny face from me.  Certainly the way Landmark has gone and the way H1Z1 has started has not endeared me to the early access idea.

I am not convinced that early access is a good thing, even when it is done better.  Over in the realm of Lord British, Shroud of the Avatar is also up on Steam for early access.  It is still in a rough state, too rough at least for me to want to devote much time to it.  I log in once in a while to see what it looks like, but am otherwise biding my time.

However, I feel differently about Shroud of the Avatar.  I bid on the Kickstarter to get a copy of the game, which was expected to cost money at some future date anyway.  And, despite the real estate focus of the game, I feel less like I will be missing out by not getting in early, there being a whole campaign to follow.

So maybe it is just the type of games that SOE has been launching of late, where there is contention over location.  Or maybe it is just the way they have gone about things in the traditional SOE way, where there are intense moments of hype and energy followed by long periods of quiet.

I think early access has worked well enough for other games.  At least I can point and some good examples, like Minecraft or Kerbal Space Program, where early access delivered something worthwhile, made people happy, and kept on evolving.  But for MMOs I feel less certain.  Is there a good early access story for an MMO? Should we avoid judging based on SOE?  How about ArcheAge or Trove?

What do you think about early access for MMOs?

 

Anyway, at some point H1Z1 will actually launch, at which point maybe I will give it a peek.  Until then the eager supports are welcome to it.

A Decade in Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We are in the midst of a few different EverQuest II moments, and I am going to mash them together into one post as they are all mildly related.

The first is that today EverQuest II is launching a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion is only launching for All Access subscribers.  You can literally buy the expansion but be unable to play it until November 25th while subscribers can play today.  This seems at best a transparent “subscribe dammit!” move and at worst just dumb, another round of SOE being SOE.  But what are you going to do?  I suspect that there is considerable overlap between people invested enough in the game to buy the expansion and subscribers, so this will probably just annoy a few corner cases.

The expansion is either the 10th or the 14th… or maybe the 11th… EverQuest II expansion.  At this point I am not sure how to count the three adventure packs… Bloodline Chronicles felt tiny, the Splitpaw Saga was huge, while Fallen Dynasty was just strange… and then there was the expansion (but not really an expansion) that was the so-called Age of Discovery.

Anyway, over the years SOE has kept EQII alive and expanding, and the Altar of Malice expansion builds on all of that with its feature list (and patch notes), including a boost in the level cap to 100.  It is landing at that number as a level cap just two days before World of Warcraft hits the same number.  Say what you will about SOE and its game, but they have kept it evolving over the years.  Not always in directions in which I have approved, but not everything has to be about me.

So congrats to SOE and the EverQuest II team for keeping it going for however many expansions we’re talking about.

Ignore those smug bastards on the EverQuest team (who also pushed an expansion today) when they start in on however many expansions they have shipped.

The second is the 10 year anniversary of the launch of EverQuest II.  That was either November 4th or November 9th, depending on which source I look at.  Did SOE do a head start or something?  Anyway, it has been a decade at this point.

A decade in and launching a new expansion!  That is getting along in gaming years.  There have been a lot of games that have come and gone while things have been cranking along in Norrath, both new and old.

The third item, which rambles on, is after the cut.

Continue reading

SOE Live – The Norrathian Front

SOE Live went off this past weekend in Las Vegas and, in my typical hope in the face of reality sort of way, I tuned in to watch several of the live streams with the idea that SOE might have some magic potion that would tempt me back to one of their games… or would tell me something about the one I was looking forward to.

SOE Live 2014

SOE Live 2014

So the keynotes for EverQuest, EverQuest II, and EverQuest Next were on my list, as well as a couple of the follow up panels and the main keynote.  Norrath is clearly what draws me to SOE.

However, the one thing I did not do was take notes while watching the streams.  Why would I?  Any normal company doing big announcements for various products which they had been working on for weeks, and which obviously had time to get press briefing packs complete with graphics and what not together, surely would have all of that information posted on their web site shortly after the respective keynotes.  Right?  I mean Blizzard had everything from their Thursday morning live stream up for the world to see on their main page by early afternoon the same day.  SOE had all the information together.  It should have been tee’d up so that after each keynote, somebody pressed a button to update the respective site so that all of your user facing media is delivering the same message.

But no, this is SOE.

As of my writing this, there is none of the information from SOE Live on the respective sites or forums as though none of this had happened.  So I had to thrash around looking for what other people wrote to get details that I would have written down had I not forgotten yet again how SOE runs their railroad.

EverQuest – A Return to Pirates

The EverQuest announcement focused on the upcoming expansion, as one would expect.  This time around SOE is returning to the nautical theme last visited with The Buried Sea expansion.  This time it is The Darkened Sea, which will launch on October 26 for All Access Pass members and on November 11 for the unwashed free to play masses.

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

Firiona Vie wet armor contest!

The level cap goes up from 100 to 105 with this expansion.  There are more zones, access to the bazaar from outside of the bazaar, and a few other goodies.  As essentially an outsider to EverQuest content after… well… The Planes of Power really, though I have gone back for a couple of runs since… it is tough to find something to get excited about here.  Even Bhagpuss seems relatively calm in his words, tucked in at the end of a long post about SOE LiveEverQuest is catering to the installed base, we have long known that.  But even then, I don’t recall The Buried Sea being a fan favorite back in the day.  The blog review of it over at the past version of Mobhunter, when Loral was writing it (internet archive for the win, I miss Loral) seemed to be lukewarm at best.

But there it is.

EverQuest II – And Malice Towards None

Is EverQuest II the current standard bearer for Norrath?  I cannot tell if it is more popular than EverQuest or not.

Anyway, there was a small disturbance in the community force a few weeks back as the EQII forum dwellers started getting a bit testy about SOE’s trend towards social media and streaming and what not, to the point that information that would normally be in the forums first was falling all over the place.  I have long complained that SOE has favored their forums and used them as their primary method of information distribution as opposed to the web site they allegedly maintain for that purpose, and which is the first point of contact for any new player.  But at least with their forum bias they were concentrating in one spot, so at a minimum I knew I had to dive into the forums if I wanted current information.  Now I am not sure where to find things.

Or I wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Feldon over at EQ2 Wire.  He keeps on top of that game like no other.  So it was a bit disappointing to see that SOE left him off the list of sites to be fed information in advance of Altar of Malice expansion announcement at SOE Live.  The embargo on that news dropped five hours before the EverQuest II keynote, so anybody paying attention knew all the details before the presentation.

So, yes, a new expansion, the Altar of Malice.

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

A surprisingly well clad dark elf female

The expansion brings in a new race… the Aerakyn, another one with built-in wings that can fly, though unlike that vampire race from a few years back, you won’t have to pay $80 to unlock all of its abilities… new dungeons, new raids, new overland zones, and a boost to 100 for most flavors of levels. (adventure, trade skill, guild)

The interesting bit for me are the level agnostic dungeons.  These run from level 20 to 89 and are suppose to make the process of leveling up to the more recent content… and the main mass of the player base… more fulfilling or some such.  I think the phrase was “not wasted.”  Currently, with the the state of abilities, both alternate advancement related and otherwise, jumping up through the first 60 or so levels tends to be challenging mostly in the form of figuring out what some of the outdated quest text really means.  So I gather that this is suppose to be more of a challenge so as to make game play fun.

Sounds good to me.  A pity that our past run in with EverQuest II with the instance group ended up with it on the banned list, as that sounds kind of like what we needed back then.

And, on the sea theme from EverQuest, there are also some islands involved, including the long lost Isle of Refuge, where we all used to start back in the day via the shipwrecked survivor video game trope.  There is also an island with dinosaurs.

Then there are all the other details.  Rabbit mounts.  A revamp of the extraneous deity system.  Another rank or two for spell/skill quality.  And a cross-server dungeon finder.  I am curious as to how dungeon finder works for EverQuest II, though not curious enough to actually go ruin somebody elses’ day by logging in a queuing up myself.

This all goes live on November 11, which is going to make for a busy week.  The EverQuest expansion above goes live for everybody that same day and just two days later, Warlords of Draenor launches.  (And then Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire come out less than two weeks after that.  Where will I find the time?)

As noted, all the details, live blog of the keynote, slides from the game mechanics presentation, and more are over at EQ2 Wire.  Check it out.

EverQuest Next – Dark Elf Disco

 EverQuest Next is where my hopes truly lie.  The idea that SOE could miracle their way into something that would tempt me back to the two remaining members of the Norrathian franchise (out of what, a dozen total EverQuest games according to Georgeons?) has always been a forlorn hope.

But EverQuest Next is the future.  The lack of news on that front has banked the flames of passion for that title, they remain aglow, waiting for the day when we get something tangible.  This was the keynote to which I paid the most attention, and which was both the most interesting and the least satisfying at the same time.

We got a look at some architecture, especially some of the dark elf stuff in its moody, pointed glory, some of which came from the fan base via Landmark.  SOE’s crowdsourcing/exploitation pays off.  They also showed some examples of the dark elf character models.  Dark elves are apparently the most popular race in both EverQuest and EverQuest II at this point, so it is important to get them right. (Screen grabs from the stream.)

The art all looked very good and very much made me want to go there… wherever “there” was… and explore.

Then the devs introduced the wizard, warrior, and cleric classes and went through some combat situations with them.  This was by far the most impressive bit.  Each was a quick run through of some combat encounters, followed by a step by step replay where he described what was going on at each point.  The combat looked fluid and dynamic and exciting.  Various moves flashed or blurred or exploded in very satisfying ways and there were no little damage numbers popping up, which helped with the visceral feel of the combat.  The little kid inside of me was shouting, “Oooh! Oooh! Let me try that! I want to do that!”

I recommend watching the replay of the keynote, which is available on YouTube.  The combat segment picks up at about the 29 minute mark and runs for about 20 minutes.

Of course, the downside to all of this was that there is no date in sight for EverQuest Next.  Speculation is that a launch is at least two years away.  Certainly they have to get all of Landmark nailed down first, as it represents the foundation on which EverQuest Next will be built.  So until Landmark is solid and stable and fully featured and live there can be no EverQuest Next.

Bummer.

David Georgeson invited us all to go read the ebooks that are being used to build up the lore for the game to tide us over… which I was honestly tempted to do after the combat stuff… but publicly SOE still seems most focused on Landmark and likely will remain so for some time.

Return to Norrath?

So while I found bits and pieces of all of the presentations interesting, is there anything that would make me focus on EverQuest or EverQuest II as my primary game?

Probably not.

I am in the odd duck position of having been away too long for both titles at this point, so the new stuff being piled on top of the level curve is so far away as to be effectively unreachable given my reserve of patience, but the old stuff I would have to work through… well, it didn’t interested me enough when it was new stuff to work through it.   The 20-89 level agnostic dungeons in EverQuest II are interesting, though I probably wouldn’t bother with them until level 40 or so, as the 1-40 game is the heart of my nostalgia for the game.

But who knows.

With the autumn I always seem to be hit with a bout of video game nostalgia.  Maybe I will heed Norrath’s call yet again?  Though unless Warlords of Draenor slips, it seems unlikely.

How about you?  Is Norrath in your future?