Tag Archives: MMO Expansions

EVE Online and the Return to Expansions

There is a joke about business consultants that says if they go to a company that has a diversified portfolio of products that they will say the company should focus on its core competencies, but if they go to a company that is focused on their core competencies they will say the company should diversify their portfolio.

Distilled down, consultants often get paid to tell you that the grass is measurable greener, complete with supporting data, case studies, and customer interviews, on the other side of the fence.

But some times we don’t need a consultant to make us change course.  Sometimes we run off in pursuit of that greener grass all on our own.

Which brings me, in a round about way, to CCP’s decision to return to the idea of expansions, which was something that CCP announced at Fanfest.  Expansions are back.

Those who have been around for a long time remember that twice annual expansions used to be part of the EVE Online experience, and many of us remember those expansion names with a mixture of fondness and dread. (I have a bunch of those splash screens here if you want a ride down memory lane.)

Incarna – June 2011 – That guy looks more skeptical every time I see him

But back in 2014 CCP decided that expansions were not the thing anymore.  The era of the Jesus feature was over. Instead they attempted to go to a ten release a year cadence.  Incredibly, in hindsight, they tried to give each of those ten update a name… and theme music.

A new musical theme used to be a feature of every expansion or update for a long stretch.  those were the days.  It was a time of many things.

That proved to be too much work… names fell away and music stopped being a thing… but at least we were getting timely updates.  One of the downsides of the expansion era was often large gaps between any fixes as the company preferred the expansion to be the release vehicle.  And once the expansion hit, updates were often focused on fixing things broken in the expansion as opposed to other areas of the game.  And not every expansion was a big splash feature event.  I think we ended up with Revelations II because it was mostly fixing what was shipped with Revelations.

Revelations II – June 2007

CCP eventually opted for the quadrants idea, where each quarter of the year would have a theme and would feature updates based on that theme.  That was a bit more reasonable, better suited a modern development cadence, and still delivered fixes and updates on a regular basis.

And it wasn’t like we didn’t have some expansion-like releases.  I called the Invasion update an expansion, as it introduced the Triglavians to New Eden.  Kind of a big deal.

The Invasion was May 2019

So, in my way, I get why CCP wants to go back to the twice annual big expansion format.  It hearkens back to the peak years of the game, when growth was continuing and it seemed like CCP had the potential to conquer the world.

And believe me, some part of me wants to relive that era.  Amazing things were happening.  Huge wars, new features, crazy new ships, new areas of space, it seemed an endless bounty if you just squint hard enough through those rose tinted lenses.

But there was a lot going wrong, a lot of dropping features and moving on, a lot of broken things left unfixed, and not a lot of focus on quality of life.  The end of the expansion era saw a team show up dedicated to just fixing things, and we liked that a lot too.

Finally, while I haven’t gone and done a study of the time between announcements and launches like I have done with WoW, even years later I am left with the distinct impression that the time frames there were short, that we got 6-8 weeks build up before an expansion.  That is almost nothing compared to a WoW expansion or a new Pokemon game release, which we might be fed tidbits and updates about for a year of more.

Which is pretty similar to the build up for big features we’ve had since the end of the expansion era, so I fail to see much of a difference… unless they plan to announce things much earlier.

Anyway, I don’t have a hard point to drive home here.  It is more of a question as to whether or not CCP can recapture player enthusiasm with expansions again.  If nothing else, an expansion implies the company is bringing something big to the game.  You can get away with tuning and adjustments with quadrants, but for an expansion to land it needs to bring something new.

We shall see.  It was another of the things at Fanfest about the future rather than the present.

The TL;DR

  • The expansion era had its own set of issues.
  • CCP has been able to deliver expansion-like content with full fanfare since that era.
  • So what are we solving for by going back?

EverQuest gets the Terror of Luclin Expansion Today

Daybreak will launch the Terror of Luclin expansion, the 28th for EverQuest, at some point today.  That is the plan, though after EverQuest II went late into the night resolving database issues with its expansion launch last week, I might feel a little tentative on exact times.

The Terror of Luclin

Though, to be fair, the EQII was remapping a bunch of items into something else, so there was some room for error on the database front when some of us had piles of things like infusers sitting around in the bank.

Luclin, one of the moons of Norrath, has been a location in EverQuest since the Shadows of Luclin expansion hit back in December of 2001, so I suppose this expansion also celebrates 20 years on the moon for the franchise.  The story lead for the expansion is:

The shadows cast by the light of Luclin have been whispering of intrigues. The Akheva are on the move, striving to reassert their power and rebuild their moon-wide empire. Amidst the turmoil of their actions, rumors abound. Mayong Mistmoore has been seen on Luclin. The only known truth is that the master vampire has since disappeared into the shadows and even his devoted followers and sycophants have begun to worry.

Clearly something is stirring on the moon of Luclin. What secrets or magical power was the Lord of Mistmoore seeking? Is he trying to usurp another god? Do you have the strength to peer behind the shades and track down the vampire lord to prevent whatever evil he is plotting?

The vampire lord Mayong Mistmoore on the moon? Up to no good I am sure.

The expansion announcement lists out the features coming with it.  This time around there is a boost in the level cap, bringing that to 120 levels.  Otherwise, aside from the teleport item key ring, it is more of all the things that traditionally make up an EverQuest expansion.

  • Level increase to 120.
  • 7 Expansion Zones
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections
  • Teleport Item Key Ring – every character on your account will get a 10-slot Key Ring to store teleportation items! You can add slots with marketplace items as you need them.

As with its younger sibling, the expansion options run from the base package at $35 to the friends and family extravaganza that rings in at a very hefty $250.  I will say that EQII throws in so much more with its expansions that I find it a bit hard to find justification for anything beyond the base price… but I haven’t played a new EverQuest expansion since The Serpent’s Spine back in 2006, so my opinion on the value may be less than well informed.

The downtime plan at Daybreak is to commence the upgrade at 6am Pacific time, with an eye on a noon launch.  But if things are settled and ready to go by the evening so players can get in after dinner it will be counted a success I am sure.  MMOs are complex and getting all the parts updated an in sync isn’t always a sure thing.

EverQuest II Visions of Vetrovia Expansion Available for Pre-Order

This years expansion for EverQuest II, Visions of Vetrovia, is now available for pre-order.  That means we also get some more information about what to expect from the game’s 18th full expansion.  The expansion is expected to be available on December 1st of this year.

What will we see in Vetrovia?

We got a bit of a tease about a month back when the pre-expansion events started and indicated that the new adventures would involve setting sail for new lands across the Shattered Sea on Norrath.  Speculation as to what it meant… I mean, they gave me a nice pirate hat for doing a few quests… was all over the place.  Now we get a few more details.  The new update gives us the following lead:

Inspired by mystical visions, a crew of explorers—sailing the uncharted waters beyond the Shattered Seas—has found an isolated continent plagued by dark curses and discordant energies. Ruins of an ancient civilization are scattered across the landscape, while the imposing silhouette of an opulent castle rises from the highest point of the land for all to see. Whispers can be heard in the native villages found along Vetrovia’s coast of its supernatural master and the horrors it contains. But are any of them true?

So perhaps it won’t be pirates after all… or much of a nautical adventure beyond sailing to a new land.  But it looks like dinosaurs might be on the menu.

The big news is that we’re up for another increase in the level cap, bringing the number up to 125.

There are new quests, new instances, new raids, new trade skills, new collections, and four new zones being added with the expansion.

  • Svarni Expanse
    • Located along the western shore of Vetrovia, lies what is known as the Svarni Expanse. The Svarni Gateway was once known as “Natimbi, The Broken Shores”, by the indigenous population.
  • Karuupa Jungle
    • Encompassing the entire southern half of the continent of Vetrovia is Karuupa Jungle. Much of the floor is covered by dense and twisting vegetation, making travel by foot a challenge, and particularly dangerous.
  • Mahngavi Wastes
    • Mahngavi Wastes encompasses the majority of the north-eastern most section of Vetrovia. This section of Vetrovia was the hardest hit during the Shattering and Rending, sending large sections of the landscape tumbling into the sea.
  • Forlorn Gist
    • The mysterious village that lies at the center of Vetrovia was once the location of a great city known as Qinimi, but nothing of the original structures remain, nor the structures built in their place by the invaders, known as the Muramite. No, what stands here now is a village without mercy, charity, or trust.

As with its EverQuest sibling, there are the usual four packages available if you wish to purchase the expansion.

Standard Edition – $34.99

  • Character Level 120 Boost

Collector’s Edition – $69.99

  • Everything from the Standard Edition
  • Legendary Mount: Artox, the Phantom Steed (for every character)
  • Legendary Mercenary: Villax Sneed (for every character)
  • Legendary Familiar: Svarni Painted Stork (for every character)
  • Prestige Home: Vacrul Castle (for every character)
  • Furniture Recipe: Vacrul (for every character)
  • Svarni Expanse Teleporter (for every character)
  • Visions of Vetrovia Painting (for every character)
  • Akashic Familiar Training Potion
  • Visions of Vetovia Weekly Overseer Adventure

Premium Edition – $139.99

  • Everything from the Collector’s Edition
  • Celestial Mount: Abzhu, the Evader (for every character)
  • Celestial Mercenary: Dakshesh, the Displaced (for every character)
  • Celestial Familiar: Floraform Gorilla (for every character)
  • Akashic Familiar Training Potion
  • Akashic Scroll Case

Family & Friends Edition – $249.99

  • Everything from the Premium Edition
  • Tradeable Standard Expansion
  • Tradeable Character Level 120 Boost
  • Tradeable Character Slot
  • Tradeable EXP/Vitality Potion
  • Tradeable Legendary Mount: Artox, the Phantom Steed
  • Tradeable Legendary Mercenary: Villax Sneed
  • Tradeable Legendary Familiar: Svarni Painted Stork
  • Tradeable Tradeskill Level 120 Boost
  • Akashic Familiar Training Potion x 2
  • Akashic Scroll Case x 2

In addition, for pre-ordering you get a feathered stalker pet and access to beta.

The base edition seems like a reasonable deal for more content, and if you’re behind there is even a level 120 boost to get you into the new stuff.  EverQuest II is the most scrupulous game I have seen when it comes to making sure you’re ready for the current expansion.  There is usually a chest of gear first thing upon arriving in the new content, just to make sure you’re geared up and ready to go.

The other editions… well, you have to decide what is worth the money to you.  I always love the painting of the expansion box art that you can hang in your house, but perhaps not for double the price of the base expansion.

I will say though, that all the tradable items in the Friends & Family edition makes it more attractive than its EverQuest counterpart.

The expansion is on its way.  Expect more warm up events to come along.

Related:

The Terror of Luclin is Coming to EverQuest

The next EverQuest expansion, the 28th in the series, will be Terror of Luclin as the elder Norrath title takes its turn getting back to the moon.

The Terror of Luclin approaches

The lead in for the expansion says:

The shadows cast by the light of Luclin have been whispering of intrigues. The Akheva are on the move, striving to reassert their power and rebuild their moon-wide empire. Amidst the turmoil of their actions, rumors abound. Mayong Mistmoore has been seen on Luclin. The only known truth is that the master vampire has since disappeared into the shadows and even his devoted followers and sycophants have begun to worry.

Clearly something is stirring on the moon of Luclin. What secrets or magical power was the Lord of Mistmoore seeking? Is he trying to usurp another god? Do you have the strength to peer behind the shades and track down the vampire lord to prevent whatever evil he is plotting?

The Mistmoores on the moon I guess.

The expansion announcement lists out the features coming with it.  This time around there is a boost in the level cap, bringing that to 120 levels.

  • Level increase to 120.
  • 7 Expansion Zones
  • New Raids, Quests, and Missions
  • New Spells, Combat Abilities, and AAs
  • New Collections
  • Teleport Item Key Ring – every character on your account will get a 10-slot Key Ring to store teleportation items! You can add slots with marketplace items as you need them.

A lot of that is what one might consider the standard boilerplate of an EverQuest expansion.  They have been sparing with the level cap increases, doling them out every couple expansions, but the rest is par for the course.  More stuff to do, more places to see.  And when you’re on expansion 28, who is to argue with success?

The expansion is also now available for pre-order and available in the four packages that have become the standard.

Standard Edition – $34.99

You get the stuff listed above and a shadow weapon cosmetic item if you pre-order.

Collector’s Edition – $69.99

  • Standard Edition items plus:
  • Contract of the Stonegrabber (for every character)
  • Umbral Plains Mushroom (for every character)
  • Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Terror of Luclin Painting
  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Zelniak Saddle
  • Metamorph Wand – Lightcrawler
  • Teleport Item Key Ring Slots (5 Slot Packs) x 9

Premium Edition – $139.99

Collector’s Edition items plus:

  • Umbral Plains Scrying Bowl (for every character)
  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Ten Perfected Augmentation Distillers x 2
  • Shared Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Owlbear Saddle
  • Metamorph Wand – Rockhopper
  • Visage of the Akheva

Friends & Family Edition- $249.99

Premium Edition plus:

  • Bloodbound Satchel
  • Shared Goblet of Adventure III x 2
  • Tradable: Terror of Luclin
  • Tradable: Heroic Character
  • Tradable: Zelniak Saddle
  • Tradable: Owlbear Saddle
  • Tradable: Teleport Item Key Ring Slots (5 Slot Packs) x 9
  • Overseer Pack x 30
  • Halfling Heritage Crate x 5

Now, if you ask me, I am going to say that $250 is a tall price to pay for an EverQuest expansion.  I don’t know that there is $215 worth of fluff in that package over what you get with the base expansion.

However, the fact hat Daybreak keeps selling the Friends & Family Edition likely means somebody is buying it… a couple years back it was reported that half of expansion buyers splurge for something above the bask pack… and you don’t have to sell that many to make it worthwhile.

Anyway, that is the expected EverQuest expansion for 2021.  It is already in beta and will no doubt ship some time between now and mid-December.

The LOTRO Fate of Gundabad Expansion Targets November 10th Launch

SSG has announced the date for the next Lord of the Rings Online expansion, Fate of Gundabad, which is set to go on November 10th, 2021.

The fate is per-determined by the quest chain I’m sure

The expansion boasts of the following features:

  • New Brawler class
  • Level cap raised from 130 to 140
  • New mobs to face, new zones to explore
  • New instances and raids
  • A new run at the Legendary Item system

The expansion is available for pre-purchase now and comes in three different flavors:

Standard Edition – $40

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Standard Expedition Supplies

Collector’s Edition – $80

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Improved Expedition Supplies
  • Brawler Gauntlet Box
  • Level boost to 130
  • Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Gundabad Mount & War-steed
  • And more bonus items!

Ultimate Fan Bundle – $130

  • Fate of Gundabad Content
  • Brawler Class
  • Extra Character Slot
  • Ultimate Expedition Supplies
  • Brawler Gauntlet Box
  • Level boost to 130
  • Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Gundabad Mount & War-steed
  • Fateful Gundabad Cosmetics
  • Thunder Boar & War-steed Appearance
  • Dye Carry-all
  • 10,000 Virtue XP
  • And more bonus items!

I do find it a bit amusing that the Expedition Supplies include various accelerators, because nothing says your game is grindy like handing out XP boosters with the expansion pack.

All of which seems to be standard fare for an MMO expansion; level cap increase, more stuff to do, a new class to play, and some changes to a key system here and there.  As pointed out elsewhere, not exactly earth shattering stuff.

More interesting to me is where the game is heading.

Lord of the Rings Online is in an odd position in that it cannot just make up new content.  It cannot follow in the footsteps of its Norrathian siblings and just go to the moon for a couple of expansions or decide to go on a sea voyage to discover some new content.

SSG is stuck with the books of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  As I recall they cannot even stray into The Hobbit, which seems like it would be a nice time travel expansion, much less the lore dense Silmarillion.

And when it comes to the main story line of the trilogy, we’re kind of done.  The ring has been destroyed, Sauron has been thrown down, we’ve tidied up Mordor a bit, had a wedding, scourged the Shire, and have generally wrapped up all of the great moments of the Third Age. [edit: or at least I thought we had done all those things… I’m still back in Mirkwood]

So the team at SSG has been working on what I call “plundering the appendix” of the trilogy.  Dr. Tolkien, bless his soul, crammed in more than 150 pages of appendices with all sorts of bits of history, family trees, pronunciation guides and language primers, and other items of tangential interest to the main tale including a timeline of events of the world.

In that condensed history of Middle-earth you will find the tale of Gundabad in the Misty Mountains, where the dwarves first awoke when the world was young and their struggles with the orcs over it.  This has been picked up for the latest expansion.

And that makes me wonder what else is buried in the appendix that they can farm for more expansions.  Where else might they go?  I mean, technically, there is a lot of stuff mentioned in the appendix of the trilogy.  Is something being there an opening to include it in the game, because they do retell a tale of one Thorin Oakenshield and an expedition to the Lonely Mountain… I’m just saying.

EverQuest II Announces the Visions of Vetrovia Expansion

We’re in that last gasp of summer, with autumn on just a week or so away on the calendar, which is when the Norrath team at Daybreak generally starts talking about their next expansions.  EverQuest II is the first out of the gate with the announcement of the Visions of Vetrovia expansion, the 18th for the title.

The 2021 Expansion

So at least we can assume for now that the Enad Global 7 purchase of Daybreak hasn’t broken the expansion stride for the Norrath crew.

While details are sparse so far, the Visions of Vetrovia will take us away from the lunar adventures on Luclin and send us on a seafaring adventure.

I find it a bit amusing that EverQuest has had two nautical themed expansions already while I’m pretty sure this is the first for the younger game, but EQ has an advantage in years. (Though you could argue that the original starter zone was something of a nautical adventure.)

The prelude event for the expansion kicked off yesterday after downtime.  Players can get warmed up for the new expansion by checking their in-game mail for a invite from Douglan Wakerunner, captain of The Swimming Oak.

Invite to adveture

Then it is off to The Village of Shin on the Isle of Mara for the preliminary quests.

The Village of Shin is there

You’ll find The Swimming Oak docked there, but it isn’t ready to set sail yet.

The ship is off limits for now

If you do the daily quests you should visit Aariena Glitterflitter near the docks to trade your bobbing acorn rewards in for some nice items, including a Striped Pteradon mount. (45 acorns, so start saving up.)

Of course, with the announcement that a new expansion is coming, the old one goes on sale.  The Reign of Shadows expansion is 25% off from now until the 18th of October, which I would bet is the date that pre-orders will open up for the Visions of Vetrovia.  Anyway, this is the last chance to get the extras that come with Reign of Shadows, as the Norrath team has moved to a model of having only a single expansion available for purchase at any one time.  (Though you might, at a later date, be able to buy get some of those items in a crate from the cash shop, but you never know when that is going to happen.)

Now is the time when I start wondering if this is an expansion worth coming back to play.  I run hot and cold on EverQuest II, but enjoy it well enough at times.  I’ll have until at least October 18th to think about it.  By the time they have the pre-order available we should have more details and be able to tell if this is a real nautical adventure… pirates maybe, though the foolish would assume them from what we know so far… or just a ship to another continent and the traditional overland adventure.

We shall see.  There are often a series of “gear up, level up” events in this time frame before an expansion, and usually the team gets a late start on the season with the annual Days of Summer event.  Did we get one of those already this year?  I didn’t see it on the news page.

Related:

Comparing Four MMO Expansions

I originally sat down to write about pre-orders being available for the next EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin.  However, aside from the addition of the Friends & Family option, it isn’t all that different from the last few times I’ve written about EQII pre-orders.  And even the new F&F bit is similar enough to the EverQuest version that I was feeling little dull.  Also, I am sick right now and going through that chart in detail was making my headache worse.  You can check out the details here, but I won’t be going through them with a fine tooth comb.  I’ll probably regret that in a year, but I’ll live.

You can buy it today

Instead I started listing out different aspects of some expansions.

We have a few expansions that have been at least announced.  Minas Morgul just went live for LOTRO, EverQuest and EverQuest II both have expansions in the offing, and at BlizzCon we heard about Shadowlands, the next WoW expansion.  In laying out some details for comparison I don’t have any real key points to highlight, but sometimes just the comparison is enough to make you think about what is going on.

How far in advance did they announce an expansion?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance
  • LOTRO – About two months
  • EQ – About three month
  • EQII – About three month

WoW has a tradition of getting a lot of details announced at BlizzCon about nine months ahead of when an expansion will ship.  Way more details than we got for the other three just months before their planned launch.  However, EQ and EQII do yearly expansion, so a year in advance they’d still be patching the current expansion rather than the next.

LOTRO though… I guess SSG just doesn’t like to spill the beans too far ahead.

When were pre-orders available?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance… like now for Shadowlands
  • LOTRO – About two months ahead of launch
  • EQ – About a month ahead launch
  • EQII – About a month ahead launch

With SSG and Daybreak, pre-orders seem to be offered pretty close to the official expansion announcement.  With Blizz there used to be a fair gap between the expansion being announced and pre-orders being available, but at this past BlizzCon we saw pre-orders go live coincident with the expansion announcement.

Expansion tiers and pricing

  • WoW – Base $40, Heroic $60, Epic $80
  • LOTRO – Standard $40, Collectors $80, Ultimate $130
  • EQ – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250
  • EQII – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250

The new “Friends &  Family” packages are outliers.  But even if we leave those out it does strike me as a bit odd that WoW is not the most expensive in any category save for the base expansion, and there it is tied with LOTRO.

Should the base expansion include a level booster?

  • WoW – No
  • LOTRO – No
  • EQ – No
  • EQII – Yes

I am a bit surprised that EQII is the outlier here with its level 110 boost.  LOTRO offers a level 120 booster with the two higher tier packages, as does WoWEQ though… as I noted previously, it is in a strange place.  It offers a booster with its more expansive packages, but it is still the now more than five years old level 85 boost.  This, for an expansion where the level cap is going from 110 to 115.  My “WTF Daybreak?” opinion of that remains.

Key items from upgraded packages

  • WoW – Mount, pet, cosmetics
  • LOTRO – Mount, pet, cosmetics, titles, various booster potions
  • EQ – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, house item, bag, various booster potions
  • EQII – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, cosmetic house item, teleporter to new expansion house item, various booster potions, and an trade skill insta-level boost to 110

I left out the level boost obviously, as it was covered above, and ignore the F&F packs, as they are strange new beasts.

EQII is really the standout in piling things on here, including even a level booster for trade skills, though EQII trade skills have the same level cap as adventure levels, and are earned more like adventure levels than the skill point upgrades in the other crafting systems.

WoW effectively gives you a boost into trade skills since they split trade skills up per expansion with BFA.  But you get that no matter what.

As I have said before, if I were a dedicated EQII player, I could see being very tempted by one of the more expensive packages… relative to EQ especially, which has the same price points… despite the high prices.

Anyway, I thought that comparison was mildly informative.  You can find all the order pages below.  I’d be curious as to how these four games compare to other MMORPG expansion, though I don’t keep a close enough eye on anything else to even know who still sells expansions like this anymore.

The Invasion Expansion Arrives in EVE Online

Today is the day, the Invasion expansion for EVE Online is here.

The Invasion is now

The Triglavian theme is right up front as the expansion features three new Triglavian ships.  They are:

  • Nergal – Assault Frigate
  • Ikitursa – Heavy Assault Cruiser
  • Draugur – Command Destroyer

These are tech II ships, which means that there must also be the related skills, Triglavian Encryption Methods and ,Triglavian Encryption Methods as well as Triglavian Quantum Engineering datacores and Triglavian tech II components, so that players can go through the invention process to build these new ships.

There will also now be Mutaplasmids for modifying Damage Control and Assault Damage Controls modules.

In addition, there is this item in the patch notes:

The Triglavian Collective have begun to exert influence on systems within of the Hi-Security regions of New Eden. Escalating System-wide effects have been observed and Triglavian forces are roaming these systems in varied fleet sizes and compositions. Rumors spreading from capsuleer expeditions into abyssal deadspace indicate that these first waves of Triglavian vessels may be the vanguard of a larger invasion force yet to reveal itself.

This is no doubt the “invasion” to which the expansion refers, but as to what it means and how intrusive it will be in high sec space is left to be seen.  The trailer for the expansion is clearly focused on something happening as well.

However, we don’t know what it all really means, whether these will be like incursions or pirate faction FOBs or something completely new, though I am sure the whole thing will make somebody angry.

The expansion also brings round four of the War Declaration revamp.  With the expansion any aggressive war will now require the attacker to declare an Upwell structure as their HQ.  Destruction or removal of the HQ will end the war and the attacking party will not be able to declare war on the same target until a two week cool-down has passed.

The cost of wars has now been simplified.  They are a straight up 100 million ISK per week.

Mutual wars have also been simplified and do not have a weekly charge to maintain.

There is also a big revamp of The Agency as part of the expansion.

The New Agency?

The old user interface of The Agency represented the conflict between good intentions and poor execution, so we will see if CCP has been able to act on the many complaints about their all-in-one PvE content finder.

Other highlights from the expansion:

  • Faction, storyline, and office weapons can now use tech II ammunition
  • There is now a button to get a rookie ship, a corvette, rather than just handing you one automatically when you dock up in an NPC station in a pod and have no ship in your hangar
  • A new pointer tool has been added to help you explain the arcane EVE Online interface to friends you rope into playing
  • You can opt-in for the 64-bit client beta

There are lots of other details in the Patch Notes and on the Updates Page for the expansion.  Word is that the expansion has been deployed successfully.  Now we’ll just have to see what those Triglavians are up to.

No Good Expansions*

*Some expansions excepted

A post somewhat sparked by what Kaylriene wrote, though I have been harboring bits and pieces of this for ages now.  Ready for a Friday ramble?  Here we go.

I suppose that EverQuest needs to take some of the heat on this.  Coming up to its 20th anniversary it already has 25 expansions past the base game that launched back in 1999.  While expansions and updates and sequels and such were clearly a thing long before EverQuest came along, the success of EverQuest in the then burgeoning MMORPG space made it a standard bearer and template for games that came later, including World of Warcraft.

EverQuest went more than a year before launching the first expansion for the game, Ruins of Kunark, which I sometimes refer to as “the only good expansion,” and then embarked on a quest to launch two expansions a year in order to keep the community engaged and happy with new content.

Maybe the only fully good MMO expansion ever

That kept that money machine printing, but brought with it a series of problems like keeping people up to date, rolling past expansions up into consolidated, all-in-one packages like EverQuest Platinum, and what often felt like an exchange of quality in the name of getting another expansion out.  And some expansions barely felt like expansions at all.

SOE eased up on that plan in 2007, opting to dial back to just one expansion a year for both EverQuest and EverQuest II, which also launched with similar expansion plans.

So, if nothing else, EverQuest solidified the norm that expansions are a requirement, something the players expect.  That we complain about Blizzard only being able to crank out a WoW expansion every other year is directly related to the pace set by SOE.  Sort of.

But the one thing we know about expansions, that we complain about yet never think all that deeply about, is how they undue what has come before.

An expansion to a live MMORPG, by its very nature, changes the overall game.  And change always alienates somebody.  As I have often said, every feature, every aspect, no matter how trivial or generally despised, is somebody’s favorite part of that game.

MMORPG players also represent a dichotomy.  If they’ve played through the current content, it is likely because they have enjoyed it as it was laid out.  They’ve reached the end, they’re happy, and they want more of the same.  Mostly.  Some played through and were unhappy about some things, but happy overall.  Ideally an expansion will give players more of what made them happy, plus adjusting the things that made people unhappy.

Adjusting, of course, will make other player unhappy, as you’re pretty much guaranteed to be changing somebody’s favorite thing.  And every expansion brings change to the world, on top of the usual restart of the gear and level grind which, as people often point out, replaces their top end raid gear with better quest drop greens almost immediately.

Just handing out more of the same when it comes to content can feel repetitive and uninspired, but changing things makes people angry, because change makes people angry.  But leaving everything as it is means people finish the content and eventually stop giving you money via their monthly subscription.  The theoretical best path forward is the one that engages the most people while angering the fewest.

I refer to Ruins of Kunark as the one good expansion because it seemed to thread the needle almost exactly right.  It delivered more of what people were into, more content, more levels, more races, more dragons, more gear, all without having a huge impact on the game as it already stood.

Ruins of Kunark isn’t really the “one good expansion,” if only because “good” is very subjective.  And there are other expansions I have enjoyed.  It is more that it represents an expansion that did more to expand the game than annoy the installed base.  But first expansions can be like that.  Or they used to be like that.  Desert of Flames was like that for EverQuest II in many ways, and certainly The Burning Crusade had that first expansion magic for WoW.  I’d even argue that WoW, ever more fortunate than one would expect, got a double dip at that well, as Wrath of the Lich King continued on and did very well without disrupting the apple cart.

Eventually though, expansions begin to work against the game.  There is always a core group that keeps up, but others fall behind.  For EverQuest, the every six month pace meant a lot of people falling behind.  Expansions also put a gap between new players and the bulk of the player base.  That iss not so bad after one expansion, but each new expansion makes it worse.  And then there are the changes that anger the core fan base.

That leads us to Cataclysm.  The team at SOE, in their attempt to crank out new content, often neglected the old.  If I go back to Qeynos today it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1999.  There are a few new items, some new vendors scattered about, and the new mechanics added in to the game over the years.  But I can still stand out in front of the gates and fight beetles, skeletons, kicking snakes, and the occasional Fippy Darkpaw.  Yes, they redid Freeport, much to the chagrin of many, and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, but they have mostly left the old world looking like it did back in the day.  Enough has changed over the years that people can’t go back and relive the game as it was at launch, which brought out the Project 1999 effort, but at least I can still go bask in the eerie green glow of the chessboard in Butcherblock if I want.

Cataclysm though… well, it had a number of strikes against it from the get go, not the least of which was following on after two successful and popular expansions, which together played out the Warcraft lore as we knew it.  So Cataclysm had to break new ground on the lore front.

Cataclysm also only offered us five additional levels, a break with the pattern so far.  We also didn’t get a new world or continent, with the five new leveling zones being integrated into the old world.  We also got flying in old Azeroth right away, a feature that can start an argument faster than most.  I suspect flying is something Blizzard regrets in hindsight, but once they gave it to us they had to keep on  finding ways to make us unlock it all over again.

But most of all, Cataclysm redid the old world.  Zones were redone, new quest lines were created, and the 1-60 leveling experience became a completely different beast.

Arguably, it is a better experience.  I have run all of the redone zones.  I have the achievements to prove it. (Another divisive feature.)  And the zones all now have a story through which you can progress rather than the, at times, haphazard quest hubs which had you killing and collecting and killing some more over and over, often without rhyme or reason.

To give J. Allen Brack his due, for a specific set of circumstances, you don’t want the old game.

The rework, which was also necessitated by the need to give us flying throughout Azeroth, save for in the Blood Elf and Draenei starter zones, was spoiled by a couple of things.  First, the level curve had been cut back, so that the pacing of the new zones was off.  You would easily end up with quests so low level that they went gray if you chased down every quest in a zone.  And second, the rework of the 1-60 instances made them all short and easy and the optimum path for leveling using the dungeon finder.  You could run three an hour easy, even queuing as DPS, so you could, and probably did, bypass all that reworked content.

But, bigger than that, at least over the long haul, the removal of the old content led to something we might now call the WoW Classic movement.  There was already a nascent force in action on that, since the first two expansions reworked classes and talents, so you couldn’t really play the old content the way you did in 2005.  Vanilla servers were already a thing.  But they became a much bigger deal when Blizzard changed the old world.

Overall though, Cataclysm wasn’t a bad expansion.  It took me a while to get to that conclusion, because I did not like it at first, to the point of walking away from the game for a year.

The new races were fine.  The 80-85 zones were good.  Val’shir might be the prettiest zone in the game.  It is like playing in the most beautiful aquarium ever.  (A pity about the motion sickness thing.)  I ran and enjoyed all of the instances, with the reworked Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub raids being particularly good.  Being at level and doing the content was a decent experience.  I still use my camel mount regularly in no-fly areas.  Regardless though, the changes burned.  They were divisive. Blizz pissed off a lot of the core player base, even if the whole thing ended up getting us WoW Classic.

I think, even if Blizz hadn’t done all of those changes… which I guess would have meant calling it something other than Cataclysm… that it would have been a let down of an expansion.  Having to follow on after TBC and WotLK was a big ask.  How do you follow up Ice Crown Citadel?

Mists of Pandaria revived things a bit, though I think that was as much by being a really solid expansion as it was that expectations were low after Cataclysm.  But Warlords of Draenor?  Doomed.  The expectations set by reviving the themes from TBC meant eventual disappointment.  Garrisons were not great.  They were not the housing people wanted.  They took people out of the world, just like Blizz said housing would, without being a place people cared about and could make their own.  But I think the fact that it wasn’t the return of Outland and the excitement of 2007 was what led to the eventual drop in subscriptions.  People realized there was no going back to their memories of the old game.

As every feature is somebody’s favorite feature, the thing that keeps them in the game, every expansion is somebody’s breaking point, the thing that gets them to walk away.  The more expansions that come along, the more people end up dropping out.  Or, if they don’t drop out, they return to play casually, as much out of habit as anything.  The investment in the game isn’t as deep.  You play for a bit, see the sights, do the tourist thing, get the achievements, then unsubscribe until the next expansion.

Eventually there is an equilibrium it seems.  EverQuest and EverQuest II seemed to have found it.  They still do an expansion every year that plays to the installed base, that gives them just enough of what they want… be they invested or tourist… to buy-in and spend some time with the game.

Basically, expansions are change, and change has a habit of breaking the bonds players have with your game.  However, if you sit still and have no expansions then people will leave over time anyway, so you cannot simply avoid expansions and change either.  It is probably better to move forward in the end, make the changes, earn a bit of extra money, and carry on.

Just don’t expect everybody to thank you for it.

An EverQuest II Expansion Coming in 2019

We saw a Producer’s Letter for EverQuest already this week, which was focused on the 20 year anniversary celebration.

Following that up is a Producer’s Letter for EverQuest II which indicates that both sides of the House of Norrath will be doing some celebrating in March.

The celebration will start with a new server, which will be up as a beta next week.  Called Nagafen, it will seek to bring back the PvP style that was once part of the game.  We’ll see if PvP nostalgia fares better than it did originally, as PvP servers and PvP outside of battlegrounds was shut down due to lack of interest in the past.  Of course, this quote seems to be hedging a bit on the whole plan:

If it gets a good following in Beta, we’ll look to launching it live!

Maybe if they add a battle royale mode…

There will also be celebration and events on the Plane of Mischief in EQII as well as a new progression server, both to coincide with the 20 year anniversary in March.  As with the two planned EQ progression servers, the details for the EQII progression server are not out yet.

EQII is also having its own anniversary event this year, as it is turning 15 come November.  Included with that will be another expansion to the game that will “take you to a whole new unexplored location of lore and legend” according to the Producer’s Letter.

There isn’t much in the way of details, so we’ll have to wait for that to show up.

Addendum:

Bhagpuss has his own post up about the Producer’s Letter at last.