Tag Archives: MMO Nostalgia

What Sort of Special Server for EverQuest II Then?

Apparently it has somehow not escaped the notice of the EverQuest II team at Daybreak that the Ragefire and Lockjaw time locked progression servers have been a pretty big deal over on the EverQuest side of the house.

The third round of nostalgia based servers… maybe the fourth if we count the somewhat short-lived 50/51 server from back in 2009… that have gone live and have been so popular that the company has had to open up a second server each time seems to have finally seemed to trigger some sort of, “Aha!” moment in the EverQuest II team.

It probably helps that the same person now runs both the EverQuest and EverQuest II teams, Holly “Windstalker” Longdale.

So yeah, an EverQuest-like progression server idea seems to be something of a possibility for EverQuest II.  However, that brings us right back to the question of, “What in the hell does “progression server” even mean in the context of EverQuest II?”

It certainly doesn’t mean a “classic” server, that is for sure.  I went over that a couple months back, how the infrastructure restrictions imposed by having to run such a server in parallel with the live servers, using the same client, means that there is almost zero possibility of returning to the chaos of the 2004 launch.

And, Daybreak has pretty much confirmed my suspicions with this tasty and relevant quote picked up by Feldon over at EQ2 Wire from this week’s live stream:

Just to clarify, the code of the EverQuest II game as it existed at launch no longer exists as it has been patched over, however there are a lot of possibilities and challenges we could do to make an attractive server.

Where we’re going, we’d better not need old code.  Nostalgia is dead, lost or patched over, when it comes to mechanics.  2004 is gone, never to be seen again.  No crazy crafting mechanics or whatever will be making an appearance.

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 - Nov. 14, 2004

2004 was full of muddy textures and spelling errors anyway

But still, the EverQuest II team is now publicly stating that they are looking into some sort of progression/nostalgia/special server.  Or at least they did on the live stream, if not in the likely much more widely read Producer’s Letter.

But in the absence of the world of 2004, what would we want to see?

We know that just rolling a new server and blocking it off from transfers and character boost will bring some people out.  Remember the EverQuest II Extended experiment?  The chance to join a fresh community while it is all low level.  That will get a bit of buzz which will last at least for a little while.  But I don’t think that is a spicy enough meatball to get a large, long term commitment to a new server.

So what else would they need?

Limit the content to the original and dole out the expansions over time.  That seems like an obvious starting place, the whole progression thing.

Lock out classes and races added after launch and only allow them when the content that added them is introduced.  Again, obvious, though perhaps not as big a deal as with EverQuest.  SOE added what… four races and two classes since launch?  And Froglocks came in as delayed part of the launch content.

Turn off flying, leaping, gliding, bouncing, or whatever mounts.  Maybe that is just me again.  Also, I might consider turning off griffon towers… maybe.  Or turn them off in zones where they were not available at launch, and  at least make people discover them in a zone before they can use them.  We good there?

Crank up the leveling curve.  Right now you level up so quickly in EverQuest II that you have to dump at least half of your exp into the Alternate Advancement bucket… and I admit that is a nice feature, SOE gets a cookie for that and other companies should copy the ability to route base exp into something else… so if they are going to ration out content over time, they have to make it last longer.

Also, they have to turn off AA points until Kingdom of the Sky in any case, so there should be no bucket to siphon of exp for a while in any case.

Dial up the difficulty.  I hope there is a dial for this.  Give mobs more hit points or make them hit harder or at least toughen them up a bit so if you’re in a group the mob doesn’t die before everybody gets a hit in.  Toughen up dungeons especially.

Make it for subscribers only.  That will limit things to people actually invested in the server and will keep new players from wandering in and asking what the hell is wrong.  Also, doing that will offset the next item.

I already mentioned locking the server off from transfers and insta-90s, but clamp down on the cash shop as well.  I know, cash shop is money, but everybody here is a subscriber.  Shut down as much of the cash shop as you possibly can, even cosmetics.  There is already a great cosmetic armor system in the game, let people discover and use items from the original content and go about sporting that.

And while we’re shutting things down, how about Chrono mages, holiday events, any of the PvP battle ground distractions… any PvP at all, frankly, as PvP is not the core audience so spending time trying to cater to a small group who won’t even show up for this seems pointless, the dungeon maker thing, and some of the insta-travel options.  I know, there were never boats to take people to places in the old content, but we used to have to at least go to Thundering Steppes in order to travel to the Enchanted Lands, Zek, Feerrott, and Frostwhatever.  Do that again, if you can.

I am tempted to say cut mentoring as well, but that still has its uses.  I can’t quite part with that.

And would it be too much to ask for the Isle of Refuge as the starter zone again?  We have to have some starter are, why not that again?  I am not asking for old Qeynos of the racial ghetto home towns or any of that.  But dude, Isle of Refuge would go a long way towards nostalgia.

Also, maybe, just maybe, some special server only achievements that can only be earned by doing things in the content when it is the latest available on that server.  I’d dig a “Nostalgia Warrior – The Journey is Half the Fun” achievement, or something like that.  It would make me actually look at the “added way too late, half-assed, uninspired, cribbed straight from WoW yet looks about a tenth as good” achievement system that got tacked on to EverQuest II a couple years back.  Seriously, Rift copies the WoW achievement system wholesale and made it work, why couldn’t you guys?

Or, if not achievements, titles maybe?

Anyway, it sounds like the old Norrath team at Daybreak… as opposed to the new Norrath team, which is doing Landmark and, we assume, EverQuest Next… is semi-seriously considering the possibility of exploring the idea of maybe doing something akin to the “overwhelmingly popular three times running” EverQuest progression server idea for post-Cataclysm Norrath.

What other ideas… realistic ideas, because they are clearly going to have to do this on the cheap… should they be considering for such a server?  What would get you to come play?

How Much Warhammer Online Nostalgia is There?

So the news of the moment is that the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning emulation project (WAR-emu)  has a publicly available server.

Called Return of Reckoning, it is up and running and in alpha.

Return of Reckoning

Return of Reckoning

The project has an eye to eventually giving people the whole Warhammer Online experience, as the original game was shut down about 18 months back.

Of course, Return of Reckoning faces the usual emulation project issues.  They are trying to bring back a game where the code is owned by one unfriendly company, Electronic Arts, and the IP is owned by another company, Games Workshop, which has a litigious reputation.  These two are unlikely to be happy about such things, much less give a Daybreak-like blessing for the project.

So the project needs to tread carefully, lest they give either an easy reason to shut them down.  Looking at the site, there is a minimum of things that might be construed as trademark violations.  Everything is in the style of Warhammer Online, but there are no big Warhammer logos or anything.

Then, of course, there is the game client, the storehouse of art assets and interface that every such project requires.  They cannot make that from scratch, so they have to use the real one from the game, modified to connect to their server.  But handing out the client is a non-starter, as that is clearly covered by license and copyright issues.   So, like most such projects, they have to be a bit coy about the client, pointing you to some torrent or other dubious download site with instructions on how to download, assemble, and configure the client on your own.

That is often the stopping point for many people.  The idea of playing is great, the reality of getting there, not so much.

All of that is before we get into how the emulation actually functions.  When I see one of the admins saying, “seems people don’t understand what Alpha means” on the front page of the site, I both feel his pain and want to groan.  Nobody knows what “alpha” means, because it gets thrown around so much that it effectively has no agreed upon meaning.  It is a term straight from the Humpty Dumpty lexicon, meaning exactly what the speaker means at that moment, no more or no less.

None of which means I am necessarily against such projects.  I did dabble with the WoW vanilla emulation server Emerald Dream for a while myself, and enjoyed the nostalgia rush for a bit before the dubious nature of things… and the reality of being a solo paladin in vanilla WoW… dampened my ardor for things.  But there are obstacles to overcome.

And then, finally, there is the question I posed in the title of this post; how much nostalgia is there for such a project.  WoW emulation has a potential audience of many millions.  EverQuest and Project 1999 covers a base of a few million players who were in Norrath at one point.  Even Star Wars Galaxies has a hardcore following of a couple hundred thousand.  But Warhammer Online… it sold a lot of boxes initially, but its moment of popularity was particularly brief.

In July and August of 2008 a lot of blogs could speak of little else.

In September at launch, the blogesphere seemed to be ALL trying to log in and play together.  Well, everybody besides Tipa.

But by November things were starting to become pretty quiet on the Warhammer Online front.  The teeming masses of players had drained down significantly.  The open RvR zones were generally owned by whichever side could muster a half dozen players.  And the public quests were nigh-on undoable as nobody was likely around to help out.  Does something that fizzles that fast have much traction when it comes to nostalgia?

And by January they were sending out offers to former players trying to get them to come back to the game.  The bloom was clearly off the rose in just a couple months.

Not that an emulation project like this needs thousands of players.  You do not start down this path with an eye towards a large population unless you want to be severely disappointed.  A couple hundred regulars would be enough to make a project like this feel active.  And the site itself purports to have passed the 10,000 registered user mark.

So how much nostalgia do you think there is for Warhammer Online?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing.  We are about to see a frenzy of EverQuest nostalgia this week when the Ragefire progression server goes live at some point tomorrow.

I was tempted to go back to Warhammer Online and take a look when they were planning to shut the servers down.  The Mythic team even said they would let people play for free, though I couldn’t get my account reactivated, no doubt thanks to overlapping email addresses and the bane that was account consolidation when EA inflicted Origin on the world.

But I am not sure I am enthusiastic enough to play on a private server.  Warhammer Online memories my be all I really need.  How about you?

Avoiding Guild Wars for a Decade

Guild Wars occupies a strange spot in my gaming history.

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words...

To start with, I am never sure if there is a space between the two words…

It came along ten years ago this week… something I only noticed when another bloggers mentioned the anniversary… at a point in time when the future of MMOs seemed golden.

EverQuest had brought a lot of players into the genre in a way that no MMO or proto-MMO before it had.  It confirmed that there was a bigger audience out there than was suspected, and that audience would pay to play.  Other games came on the scene like Dark Age of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies that were clearly differentiated for EQ.  It seemed like we would have all sorts of unique choices when it came to MMOs going forward.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II and World of Warcraft had both launched the previous November (we hit my 10 year anniversary with WoW last month and I totally forgot) but, while WoW was clearly taking off, we were not yet at a point where “must make a WoW clone!!!” was the dominating developer thoughts.

The market was also small, at least when it came to the number of titles.  It felt like you could realistically know something about all the major titles on the market as well as those under development.  The whole VirginWorlds podcast era was predicated on the idea that you could talk about the MMO market segment in detail in a weekly one hour or less session and pretty much cover all they key players.

At the time I was just back into the MMO thing, having quit EQ and the genre back before Planes of Power launched.  As noted in the relevant anniversary post, Gaff got me to play EverQuest II at launch.

By the time Guild Wars launched in 2005 I had given WoW a try and wasn’t really thrilled, something I mentioned to a co-worker who had played EverQuest over lunch.  A surprising (to me) number of my co-workers ended up playing EverQuest.  This particular one had also burned out on EQ and was somewhat reluctant to get in on the subscription MMO level grind again.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t enjoyed some, or even most of his time in Norrath.  It was just that feeling you get when you’re too busy to use something you’re paying for.

He told me the game he had his eye on was Guild Wars.

He was keen on the MMO, or MMO-like, multi-player experience without the whole monthly fee.  Buy the box and you’re done, like a REAL video game.  That is what made it stand out among the so-called third generation MMOs. (And this ignores the whole Guild Wars isn’t an MMO thing, which I can’t even begin to address.  As with H1Z1, the company simply saying it isn’t an MMO doesn’t make it so.  The definition is both complex and situational in my mind, but there is also a certain amount of “quacks like a duck” in there as well.)

He was kind of our scout into this game.  He picked it up at launch and I would go by and ask him about it now and again.  He talked about the character models and the way cities were shared but that zones or content was all instanced and the skill system where you were limited to the number of active skills you had.

And the graphics.  He was effusive about the environment.  Most people with whom I have spoken to about the game over the years have praised that aspect.

At the time though I was fully committed to EQII, a game that had been changing and evolving… and breaking now and again… since launch.  Too much to keep up with there to start a new MMO-like game.

Then we all defected to WoW and the focus was on Azeroth.  Then I started EVE Online for a bit, then the blog started, then there was the instance group and so forth.  Somewhere in there I entered the VirginWorlds sphere of influence and would listen to Brent and sometimes co-host Brenden talk about other MMOs, which got me both more interested and more aware of the wider genre which, as noted above, seemed like a thing a single person could know about.

And Guild Wars was a common topic.  Brent and Brendan would talk about it, Van Hemlock was big on it, there were other former bloggers keen on the game, so it was always part of the mix.  Eventually I bought a copy.  I know this because the box is still sitting in my bookshelf.

MMO Boxes on my shelf

MMO Boxes on my shelf

At some point in the past I dumped a bunch of boxes but, for whatever reasons, I chose to keep these particular ones.  The EverQuest and the EverQuest: Ruins of Kunark CD jewel cases are on the far left, while the original EverQuest manual is next to A Theory of Fun on the right.

And you can see there isn’t just one, there are TWO Guild Wars boxes.

Yet I cannot recall ever really playing the game.

I remember taking a couple of runs at it.  I found exactly FOUR screen shots from Guild Wars after sifting though my hard drives that indicated that I made at least two characters, one male and one female, at some point.  I think that might have been after a podcast discussion where somebody was effusive about the female character models in the game.

Sexy or Sexualized?

Sexy or Sexualized?

I also recall at one point trying to get a group together in Guild Wars with Potshot and Ula during one of the hiatus periods of the WoW group.  I have a distinct memory of us in a small town with very pretty and detailed flowers… and being unable to jump over an ankle-high obstacle… but little else.  Something didn’t click because we clearly did not stick with it.  I did not even make a blog post about it.  I have literally written more about games I never played myself, like LEGO Universe, or games that never launched in the US, like KartRider, or games that never even existed, like Planet Michael, than about Guild Wars.  I have certainly written more about games the instance group has tried and dropped.  Runes of Magic has gotten many more words than Guild Wars, for example.

This might be my first Guild Wars post in more than eight and a half years.  And despite having been aware of the game since before launch, I have very little to say about it.

Meanwhile the landscape of the MMO market has changed.  The golden age ended, for me at least, with the crash of Warhammer Online, which killed the idea of being both popular and different from WoW. After that the tomb was sealed when the idea of another mass market subscription MMO, the now cringe-inducing idea of a WoW-beater, was laid to rest when Star Wars: The Old Republic went free to play.  Now we talk about niche games and funding and variations on business models and funding and fanciful ideas about developer independence and funding and cash shops and what went wrong back in the day and how it is all Blizzard’s fault.

And yet Guild Wars is still there, which is kind of amazing given the propensity NCsoft has for shutting down games that simply are not making enough money.  It has been overshadowed by Guild Wars 2 (which I can actually remember playing still!) and is never going to see any further expansions or content updates, yet it still abides.

Anyway, it has been ten years.  Happy anniversary!

Other places writing about Guild Wars at age ten:

 

Progression Servers and Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We came up short as a group in Azeroth this past weekend.  Life will get in the way and the whole group has gotten older over the last eight years we have played.  But three of us, Potshot, Ula, and myself were online.  We got on Skype together as we went about doing some garrison things and quests and what not.  Blizzard has made “soloing in a group” work a bit better over the years, but sometimes it still feels like the optimum open world group size is one.

Potshot and Ula were off on a quest chain to unlock a garrison upgrade while I was running around Azeroth visiting elders for the Lunar Festival.  I was sparked into late action on that when I read that 40 tokens from elders will buy you a 60 to 90 heirloom armor upgrade as part of the whole new heirloom system that came in with patch 6.1.

Blizzard has found a way to get me to do holiday events again, gotta give them that.

Anyway, as we were off on our tasks, we started talking about the possibilities of the EverQuest progression server that may (or may not) be showing up at some future date.

Potshot and I are pretty much on board for it… same as it ever was.  We will be there for the dawn of whatever new server they put together.  We also sold Ula on the idea for the moment of going back in time to a world of simple graphics, bad linoleum textures, and limited skills and spells.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

Depending on when (and if) Daybreak gets this going, a progression server excursion might make a nice break from Azeroth for a bit.  I would call it a hiatus, but I think we would need to play more to qualify for the term.

On conversation meandered about on the idea of EverQuest nostalgia and then I started to compare old EverQuest to EverQuest II, which in many ways seems to be almost the antithesis of EverQuest, at least when comparing the early versions of both.

Vinkund's hot bars

At what point in EQ did you need 3 full hotbars?

Of course that made its way around in my mind to what an EverQuest II progression server would be like.  How do you take what there is out there today, the game having just hit the 10 year mark back in November, and recreate the 2004 experience?

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 - Nov. 14, 2004

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

Even the EverQuest II team, during their recent “Don’t go, we’re still alive!” live stream the other day spoke of a desire to do something like a progression server for EverQuest II, if they could figure out how.

And therein lies the rub.

I must assume that the EverQuest II team is stuck with the same restrictions that the EverQuest team faces when doing progression servers, which means working with the current client and server and zones and just playing with some of the flags and settings in the background.

In this EverQuest has a clear advantage in that SOE hasn’t spent a ton of time going back and revamping old zones.  Yes, they redid Freeport and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, for which they will spend time in purgatory I am sure, but a lot of the old zones are still the same ugly ass stuff we thought was the bees knees back in 1999.  This is why I always roll on the Qeynos side of Norrath.

Qeynos... at night!

Qeynos… at night!

SOE added a lot of stuff to EverQuest, including a starting tutorial and some new starter zones, but they left a lot of the old stuff intact.  Camping bandits in West Karana in 2011 was very much like camping them in 1999.

We're hunting bandits

We’re hunting bandits

EverQuest was ever looking forward to the next expansion, the next round of content, then next increase in the level cap, the next pack of AA skills.  It isn’t like it launched perfectly.  There were many problems, some of which took years to fix.  But the team seemed to have their eyes constantly on the horizon as they chased a crazy two expansions a year dream, which ran unbroken for a five year stretch of time, from Legacy of Ykesha to Secrets of Faydwer.  Success allowed that.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II has spent a lot of its first decade trying to fix, change, or simply forget about what the game was like at launch.   There have been a lot of revamps of game mechanics, as there have been with EverQuest.

But the EverQuest II team has also spent a lot of time going back to the original content to change and update things.  Qeynos and Freeport have been changed and revamped and updated to the point that it is difficult to compare the 2004 versions with the what is there now.  There is no Isle of Refuge on which to start anymore… unless you want to run around your own version… and I am not even sure you can still get to the swamp where that first screen shot above was taken.

And zones that made a huge impact on me back in the day, like the Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest, have been changed so much over the years that they hardly feel like the same places.

Taunting centaurs

Remember when centaurs were all group encounters?

Given all of the changes that have rolled back over the original game over the years, I am not sure that much of 2004 can be really recreated given the limitations that the EverQuest II team will face.  They are not going to be allowed to roll a special client or a special version of the server software, which leaves us with what?

I suppose there would be some interest, some value, some fun to be had in simply rolling up a fresh EverQuest II server that required Station Access or SOE All Access or Daybreak to Dusk Access or whatever the all-in-one only subscription option will be called some day, starting with just the original zones, and then not allowing transfers or level 90 character boosts.  Maybe they could tinker with the experience table or toughen up the mobs a bit.  It could be a hardcore or challenge server maybe.  But I bet it would be tough to justify keeping the cash shop limited, especially if it turned out that the people who jumped on that server were subscribers already.  Siphoning your most dedicated players off to their own isolated server can’t be viewed as a win in accounting.

So where does that leave us?  Back with the status quo?

Of course, it is also reasonable to ask about how much nostalgia there is for the early days of EverQuest II.  In many ways 2004 in Norrath feels like a survivors tale of horrible ideas we’re all pretty much glad we no longer have to deal with.  Is any significant population of players really longing to go back to early days of the game?

There is an EverQuest II emulator project out there, but it doesn’t seem to generate anywhere close to the amount of interest that classic EverQuest or World of Warcraft or even Star Wars Galaxies server emulation does.

The cliche response is always that you can’t go home again, but in this case, do we even want to?

Progression Server Progress in EverQuest

Color me surprised.  I mentioned EverQuest and progression servers at the top of the week, then left that behind, expecting to hear no more about it for many months, thinking on the Galactic Student Council and the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign and the WoW 6.1 patch and other more current items.  Plenty of time for these things before EverQuest news shows up again.  There isn’t even a community team left to put our EverQuest news, is there?

And then I saw this tweet from Holly “Windstalking” Longdale, now executive producer of both EverQuest and EverQuest II, last night.

Wait, what?

Sure enough, the link to the EverQuest forums resolves to an actual post talking about proposed progression server models.  That is like moving at light speed for the organization formerly known as SOE.

The forum post explores four potential progression server models they might pursue, and I am going to copy the text for each wholesale here because you just KNOW that this company change is going to end up with another revamp of the forums and the inevitable loss of old posts.

The proposed models are:

1. Existing rules – A restart of what we have on Fippy Darkpaw

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

2. Slower progression – Fippy taking it easy

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a three-plus month countdown timer starts.
  • When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • This progression can continue until the server is no longer able to defeat raid targets or until it catches up with live servers.

3. Locked progression – Fippy that won’t progress to live, possible classic server

  • Server starts with only the original EverQuest zones active. Players start at level 1.
  • When players kill a set of predefined targets, a two-month countdown timer starts. There is a three-month timer before Kunark and Velious can unlock.
  • OPTION: When the timer is complete, a two-week vote starts that will enable the next expansion. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Dev determines the unlocked progression based on the player completion rates.
  • At a specific point, determined by Dev, votes are no longer available and progression is complete.

4. Seasonal Challenge Server – Constantly refreshing Fippy

  • The server starts with only original EverQuest zones active, or with content enabled through a later expansion. Players start at level 1.
  • OPTION: When players kill a set of predefined targets, a vote begins within a week. Each vote lasts two weeks. If the majority chooses ‘yes,’ the expansion unlocks at the end of the voting period. If the majority chooses ‘no,’ a new vote begins immediately.
  • OPTION: Alternatively, Dev may choose to unlock content when progression targets are complete.
  • Players have a set period of time (one season) to complete as much content as they can. The player(s) who get the farthest will receive recognition and a prize (to be determined later).
  • Once the season is complete, the server is reset and the challenge begins anew!

Of those four, I would be happy enough to see any of the first three, as they contain what I consider the key element of fun/interest for me, which is everybody starting together at level one in the old content.  Honestly, once the game gets past Ruins of Kunark, my interest starts to fade, so slowing things down a bit or not holding out until the bitter end of the last expansion before syncing up with the live servers makes sense to me.

Not that the fourth option doesn’t sound interesting.  That might be the old school raider progression vehicle of choice, with a constant stream of raiding goals and prizes and what not.  I just wonder how that will play out given how raiders behave every single time there are contested open world raids.  Because once the GMs have to get involved and make a schedule (or start their own fight club) somebody else is controlling the flow.  Don’t try to tell me it will be different THIS time, because it won’t.

Not that I would even be able to get into the raiding bit.  And I must admit that a server that basically pwipes at intervals and starts everybody back at level 1 again has a certain appeal.  Some of my best times on TorilMUD were at pwipes.  That would essentially replay what I consider the best part of the whole thing over and over, like some demented shared Norrathian version of the movie Groundhog Day.

The problem is that I do get attached to my characters.  I like to see them progress.  And even when they don’t get very far, I like that they at least made SOME progress and got to KEEP that progress in anticipation of my return.  For me it starts to get into the “death or rebirth?” discussion, and having that happen at regular, and presumably short, might end up wearing me down.  Or it might let me jump on the ride when it starts up again.  I am not sure.

Anyway, as mentioned in the forum post, there is a poll up in EverQuest currently that allows you to vote on which of the formats you might prefer.  I actually got out the EverQuest client and pushed the button for one of the options.

Progression Server Polling...

Progression Server Polling…

The poll itself had some trouble recording my vote because… well… EverQuest polling is like that.  See the forum thread related to any Fippy Darkpaw expansion unlock vote, there is always a few people who are not able to vote because the client is just not feeling it at that moment.

Of course this might all be for naught, at least if the discussion in the general channel on the Vox server is any sort of barometer of player sentiment.  After I voted I watched a stream of vitriol about the whole progression server idea flow past in text form.  I would politely sum up the general sentiment I saw as, “Progression servers just steal players and developer resources from the real game and nobody wants to go play the 1999 version anyway because it was horrible.”

Meanwhile, all is not peaches and cream in the progression server sub forum either, where vocal members of the various factions that haunt that section are calling for any number of impractical or unlikely suggestions that have piled up over the years.

We shall see how this plays out.  This could mean that DGC might roll out some new form of progression server in time to take up the slack of the summer hiatus.  Or the whole thing might just fall down a well, never to be heard from again.

What kind of progression server would you like to see?  Or is that even your thing?

Also, if you want to see the progression of the Fippy Darkpaw server up through July of last year, when the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, you can find it all summed up here.

Addendum: Keen, who is also interested in the whole EverQuest progression server thing, has his own post up on the same topic.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Norrath

A memory of the Great December Downtime in EverQuest II

It was just about ten years ago.

EverQuest II had be live for a little over a month.  There were troubles.  After having a couple weeks to itself in the market, World of Warcraft launched and the harsh comparisons began.  It wasn’t that EQII didn’t have some better features than WoW… for example, I have always felt that EQII’s version of in-game maps was superior… but in a market that, up until that moment, had been dominated by EverQuest, it was something of a fight to see which of the two would become EQ’s true successor.  After all, EQ was more than five years old at that point, and who plays a five year old game?  It was practically on death’s door, waiting to hand off to a new generation.

And in that fight, EverQuest II was not faring well.  Some people I knew who came from EverQuest had either gone back or moved on to WoW at that point.  EQII was down, but not out.  The game was still growing, this still being the age of the slow ramp rather than the sudden spike.

SOE was trying to fix things that were becoming a hindrance to players.  We were destined to get floating quest markers over NPCs and changes to the woefully inadequate quest log and the first of many revamps to the crafting system.  SOE knew they had to adapt.  They could see WoW.

In our guild, a mash-up of players from the EverQuest guild Knights of Force, the TorilMUD guild Shades of Twilight, and a few fellow travelers from the Old Gaming Veterans clan, things were holding on.  A few players had dropped out of the game, though they were mostly the non-MMO players from OGV who went back to playing Desert Combat.  But for the most part we were holding in there, grouping up to run through zones or crafting away.

On voice coms we mocked those who ran off to Blizzard’s cartoon MMO, though there was a feeling that maybe EQII wasn’t the true successor to EQ.  The early buzz around Brad McQuaid and Vanguard had started.  That was going to be the real deal.  But for now, EQII was the best we had, so we put up with locked encounters and experience debt and system requirements that burnt out more than a couple nVidia 6800 GT cards in our guild. (I was running with a 6600 GT card, which meant I had to keep the graphic settings modest, but I also didn’t need to replace the damn thing… or my power supply… over and over like some.  There is probably a post in “video cards I have run” some day.)

We were coming up to a good stretch of game play.  The holiday’s were coming.  Like many people in our guild, I had a stretch of time off and was looking forward to some good, solid chunks of game play time.

Then, as we were headed to that first weekend, SOE applied some updates and restarted the servers.

And they did not come back up.

Here is where the details get a bit vague.  I recall the game, or at least our server, being down pretty much Friday night through Sunday, a huge patch of premium gaming time washed away.

But concrete details are not easy to come by.

The SOE forum posts, all the status updates and such, have long since been washed away by changes to the forum software.  The conspiracy nut in me suspects that they change the forums every few years just to dump bad memories and excess baggage.

I mentioned that Massive Magazine did an article about the incident in their first issue.  That was just about two years after the event, when memories of the whole thing were sharper.  I think I still have a copy stuffed away in a box.  But we packed up and moved houses since then, so if it is in a box somewhere, it appears well hidden.

Digging around the web, I found some references to what happened.  Terra Nova mentions the event, but links the SOE forum thread, long since gone, and a site called MMORPGDOT, also a distant memory. (And looking at the internet archive only shows them making a very brief mention of the event.)

Likewise, there is a mention of the even happening at Slashdot, written by Michael Zenke, which links to a few sources, including the SOE forums, all of which are long gone save the Terra Nova post mentioned above.

Other news sites that cover MMO don’t go back that far (Massively) or went through changes or otherwise appear to have purged their archives beyond a certain point.

This is one of those points when I wish I had started blogging sooner.  Two years earlier and I would have written something about this, as I wrote about the great Sony hacking of 2011 which brought down both the PlayStation Network and SOE. (Not to be confused with the great Sony hacking of 2014.)

PSNDownSo I started nosing around at various blogs just to see what people were writing about when the downtime occurred.  A lot of the self-hosted blogs from that era have disappeared, or have had database problems, but a few still linger. (My Great Survey of Linking Blogs post helped out.  I will have to do another of those at some point.)

However, it did not seem to garner much attention.  The event coincided with Raph Koster’s book, A Theory of Fun, hitting the shelves.  There was a discussion of niche games in the MMO market, which still seems relevant today, and something about what WoW would mean to Dark Age of Camelot. (Or something of a contrary view.)

The only real mention I could find amongst the few blogs remaining from the time was by Tobold, for whom the server down time meant moving to WoW ahead of his initial plan. (Poking around also got me to this then-so-current WoW vs. EQ2 post at GameSpy.)

So here I sit, vague memories swirling, wondering how big of a deal the whole thing really was at the time.  Certainly evidence of the event has faded from the internet and worse things have happened.  Didn’t Arche Age just have a similar incident.

I think our own guild was emotionally entrenched in EQII at the time, so we just carried on once things were up again.

Do you remember the Great December Downtime of ten years ago?

Can you find anything else about it on the net?  If you find something I’ll add a link to the end of the post.

The Isle of Refuge – What Do You Do With Your Own Zone?

The EverQuest II 10 year anniversary just passed, and I posted about hitting the 10 year mark myself with the game last week.

This past weekend, while taking a break from Warlords of Draenor so as not to burn myself out on it right away (a hazard as I spent the two weeks running up to the expansion binging on the game), I decided to log into EverQuest II in order to see if I was eligible for the 11 year veterans reward.

Yes, I can do simple math.  How can I get the 11 year award just days after the 10 year anniversary?

SOE, as part of the enticement to get people to buy expansions, threw in a 90 day boost to your veteran’s status with the first four expansion.  Having purchased The Desert of Flames, Kingdom of Sky, Echoes of Faydwer, and Rise of Kunark (and The Shadow Odyssey, which was the last EQII expansion I purchased, in part because I haven’t even made it into Rise of Kunark yet), I had, like many long time players of the game, an extra year on my record.  And so SOE has to be a year ahead of the game when it comes to these things.

There was also a point in time when SOE was only counting the time you were actually subscribed to the game.  I think that went in at some point after Rise of Kunark.  Up to that point the calculation was based on when you created your EQII account (or the launch date, if you were in the beta).  So, despite taking time off, I was always eligible for the latest award.  Then they got picky, people were complaining in the forums that it was not “fair” for non-subscribed time to count (I seem to recall Scott Hartsman backing that idea, but I could be wrong), and I wasn’t playing very much, so I fell behind.

With the advent of EverQuest II Extended and free to play, SOE eventually changed their minds, no doubt wanting to avoid complications, and set veteran rewards simply based on your account start date again, and suddenly I was overloaded with such items to claim.

The rewards vary in quality.  They started out as anniversary loyalty markers… you usually got a title, a house item, and a couple experience potions… then somebody at SOE thought that such awards might help with player retention and we ended up with a batch of rewards for the first two years.  There is a one day award.  Yay, you didn’t uninstall and walk away after a day with the game, have a 12 slot bag rather optimistically called “The Bag of Endless Adventure!”  I think of it more as the bag of about 15 minutes of resource harvesting, but you go with your experiences.  You can see the semi-complete reward list at the wiki.

Anyway, enough of that back story, though this post is going to be pretty much all back story and nostalgia.

I logged in with Sigwerd, a berserker and the last character I played as a “main” or sorts, and I didn’t even have to type in the /claim command to check.  There in the system messages in chat was a reminder that I was eligible for the 11 year reward.  So I typed in /claim and brought up the list.

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 Year Reward

The 11 year reward is a prestige home in the form of the Isle of Refuge.

More after the cut.  Warning, back story and nostalgia ahead.  Also, screen shots.

Continue reading