Tag Archives: Lockjaw

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?

EverQuest Progression Servers – Faster Unlocks! Faster! Faster!

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

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

Still the only fully good MMO expansion ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Box Art

Just in time for spring… snow!

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

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

Enforced Raid Rotation Ends on Ragefire and Lockjaw

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

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

No Casuals!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enforced Raid Rotations on Ragefire and Lockjaw

What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale, ‎Speaking on EverQuest progression server raiding

I love this point in the life cycle of every EverQuest progression server, when the nostalgic visions and hardcore ideals have to get overruled and open world, contested raiding proves itself, once again, to not be a viable, sustainable idea.  It was a problem back in the day, it was a problem in 2007, it was a problem in 2011, and it is a problem again today.  Seriously, we should start tracking a “time to raid rotation” number to see if it is a constant.

No Casuals!!!

You want the open world Nagafen? You can’t handle the open world Nagafen!

Unlike the sentiment at the top of this post, instancing raids wasn’t done to cater to casuals, it was done to keep the hardcore from behaving badly, a simple fact that gets illustrated every time they launch another EverQuest nostalgia server.

So last week the announcement finally went out, after the usual round of forum drama, that the raiding guilds had best come up with a rotation schedule themselves or Daybreak would step in and make one for them.  And either way, Daybreak was committed to enforcing that rotation.

So there is the reality of things coming home to roost yet again.  Meanwhile, feel free to continue telling me that open world, contested raids are how things should be.

Addendum: And when one member of your guild steps over the line, the whole guild gets a three day ban… even if you repudiate his actions and kick him from the guild.

Ragefire – Counting Votes, Fighting Boxers, and Keeping Casuals at Bay

The results of the Ruins of Kunark vote are in for the Ragefire and Lockjaw servers.  As a reminder, here is what the ballot looked like:

Vote early, vote often, vote all your accounts

All votes in

The vote ended on Monday and the results have been posted in the EverQuest forums.

The key for a lot of people is this quote:

On both servers, the 6 month option got the most votes by far, meaning a very large percentage of you like things as they are and want to continue on that path.

That means the status quo won, right?  The “stay the course” option got the most votes.

Well, no.  That option did not win a majority… 50% + 1… of the votes in the polls on either server.  The majority of players voting voted votes cast were for either the ASAP option or the three month option on both servers.

So shortening the unlock date won, right?

Well, no.  If this had been some sort of parliamentary democracy there would have been a run-off vote of some sort on each server between the two options that received the most votes, which on Ragefire was 6 months and 3 months and on Lockjaw 6 months and ASAP, to decide the course of action.

But this is not a parliamentary democracy, it is a business and a dictatorship.  Daybreak sets the rules of the game.  And so they have come up with a compromise worthy of their SOE heritage.

On the Ragefire server, the unlock vote for Ruins of Kunark will be reduced from 6 months to 3 months.  On the Lockjaw server, the unlock vote for Ruins of Kunark will remain at 6 months.  The possibility of free transfers between the servers has been mentioned, but is not a sure thing.  And given how allegedly important server communities are in EverQuest, it shouldn’t be popular even if they implement it.

So there we have a decision pretty much guaranteed to provoke the more vocal members of the community, as well as pulling the two servers out of sync before the first expansion, something that will muddy all future decisions on this front.

We will have to see how that plays out.  Keen has his own views on this, stronger than my own, likely because I haven’t really invested in the whole progression server thing this time around.

Meanwhile, in an interview over at Massively OP, EverQuest team chief Holly “Windstalker” Longdale spoke about some other issues facing the EverQuest progression servers.  One of them was the alleged plague of multi-boxing groups on the server.

If you read the forums you might be convinced that every worthwhile spawn on Ragefire is being camped by some guy running six mages who never logs off or takes a break, but simply farms that spawn everybody else wants all the live long day.

I couldn’t tell you how prevalent that actually is, but it is generating a lot of forum rage and so, Daybreak being the child of SOE, where forum rage is how players have long been trained to get what they want, the EverQuest team is looking into this.  Holly mentioned the possibility of limiting EverQuest logins to one per computer.  You can still multi-box, but you’ll need multiple computers to do it.  However, given the long tradition of multi-boxing in EverQuest… SOE at one point fixed the client so that it was officially a supported thing… I am not sure how you then make this change to the client… the same client the rest of the servers use.

So I guess we shall see how that plays out.  I would like to hear from Daybreak some numbers on how many people they think are out there running the dread six mage multi-box group (and paying almost $90 a month for the pleasure) on your average night before I make up my own mind on that.  I distrust forum rage.

And then there are the raid issues and zone instancing and all that.  Way back before the progression server beta Daybreak already had an official stance on whether or not they would instance raid bosses in the expansions before Gates of Discord:

Uninstanced content on this level was a unique experience for EverQuest, and there are people out there who have never experienced it. We want to believe that you can work it out on your own. We have plans for what to do if you can’t work out something equitable, though, and we might have to contract Alan Rickman to read them.

Basically, no instancing because that wasn’t the way things were, with at least a tacit admission that the whole contested raid thing was going to be a problem because it has literally always been a problem every time it has been a thing.

Apparently unsatisfied with this stance, Holly “Windstalker” Longdale decided to clarify this with a quote that is likely going to haunt her for a while:

What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.

You cannot get tone from a quote in text, but it is really hard for the voice in my head not to read the start of that second sentence as “Filthy casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen!” in a voice filled with derision and mockery at the very idea of such a thing.

Now, that is just the voice in my head playing games.  I know this.  But I also know that voice is working from notes based on years of war over who should get access to raids, raider elitism, causal entitlement, and the general muddle of conflicting views that is MMO community.  And Holly, given her time having to deal with this sometimes toxic community, ought to understand that.  She isn’t some junior dev dropping a casual quote, she is the Executive Producer responsible for EverQuest and EverQuest II.  Her views set the tone for the game, and that was the tone we got.

No Casuals!!!

Nagafen says, “No Casuals!!!”

Meanwhile, just after the ellipses, we have a confirmation from her that allowing casuals to do things that elite players do hurts the elite by diminishing their achievements.  This goes back to there being an intangible equity system in play where things like LFR hurt the game and should be banned.  What you are allowed to do affects my game, even if we do not interact.

Ah, such fun!  Burn, baby, burn!  At least she didn’t tell casuals that, if they want to fight Naggy, they should just buy a level 90 on a standard server and go solo him.  Wait, no, that would diminish the achievement of others… or would it?  Crap, how does this even work?

This is an issue where I can wander either way depending on my mood, the direction of the wind, and whether or not I went with the hot salsa on my Chipotle burrito. (Always barbacoa!)

I absolutely think there should be aspirational content in games like this, things that take some work and skill and that not everybody gets to do.  There should be things that take a lot of effort and which few attain.

On the other hand, I quite enjoyed my time doing LFRs in WoW.  The raid tourism thing was interesting, I got to see the content, and I was perfectly happy not getting the same drops that people doing the raids at the highest levels got.  But I wasn’t there for the loot, I was there for the show.  Anything else I got was a bonus.

So I, personally, have no answer.

And, on this front I do not expect anything to change.  This is the third time through the whole progression server thing, making it the fourth time through the exact same set of problems.  Daybreak will most likely follow in the grand SOE tradition and try to muddle through until raids are all instanced, when they can forget the whole thing.

Anyway, here in the summer doldrums, when not much generally happens, Daybreak is doing their best to give us something to talk about.  And we haven’t even gotten to the EverQuest II time locked expansion servers yet.

Addendum: Meanwhile, Massively OP apparently couldn’t resist going the click bait rage route with the Ruins of Kunark vote, gratuitously tossing the casuals quote in there for good measure. (And somebody at Daybreak agrees with my assessment.)

Addendum:  In response to accusations on the forums that the whole poll thing was just a smoke screen to allow Daybreak to do what they wanted to do in the first place came this dev response:

This is not what we wanted.

It would be much easier for our team if both servers remained on the 6 month timeline. We wouldn’t need to support character transfers, prep Kunark while waist-deep in the Campaign effort, or maintain two servers with staggered unlock schedules. This is not the ideal outcome for us, and we’re putting in extra work to attempt to give those interested in max nostalgia or early unlock a place to play the way they’d like.

Also, if we did what we wanted, the TLP servers would be on a seasonal ruleset. :p

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.

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.