Tag Archives: Progression Server

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.

Get Lockjaw Today!

Erm… I mean get on the Lockjaw server today!  Maybe.  Daybreak has targeted today, May 29, at 11am Pacific Time as the launch point for the second Voting Time Locked Progression Server, Lockjaw.

Given all they have gone through over the last week, I would hope that this would be the easy bit.  Just clone the server, wipe the character database, and go!  As if anything in life is ever that simple.

Lockjaw Defeated

He’s going to be ready to go by 11am, right?

As I noted in yesterday’s post, this seems to be the only answer for Daybreak at the moment.  Even with all the updates they have done for the Ragefire server, it remains popular beyond its capacity.  People will have to start fresh however.

How this plays out in the longer term… well, Daybreak could help out by not forgetting about how popular Ragefire has been while they have talked about it.

Don't forget about me!

Don’t forget about me!

Addendum:

 

Days of Ragefire

Maybe not the best post title, but I figured I already had two literary allusions for titles so far this week, so why not run with the trend.

The Ragefire Voting Time Locked Progression Server, or whatever its full title is, carries on and remains more popular than expected.  There were problems from launch, but Daybreak has been working hard to accommodate all of those who want to play.  They have tweaked the zone instancing, they have put in code to log off players who go AFK for extended periods (the big problem last week), they have upped the capacity of the server so that Ragefire can now handle more players at once than the old progression servers, Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak, combined.  They even added a queue to the login page.

And still I couldn’t get on last weekend.

Okay, I admit, I did not try that much.  My daughter wanted to go to FanimeCon, which is just over in San Jose, so we spent most of our waking hours down at the convention center. (80+ street passes on my 3DS XL!)  But during those times when I was home and had some time to log on, I was left looking at the login page and wondering where I was in the queue.

Just keep waiting, just keep waiting...

Just keep waiting, just keep waiting…

It is great that they put in a login queue, but it is primitive enough that I immediately longer for something better… like a queue that told me how big the queue might actually be.  I will sit patiently if there are only a dozen people ahead of me, but if there are 900 I might just choose to go and do something else.  Even the ArcheAge queue, which would just say “more than an hour” beyond a certain point would at least tell you how many people were ahead of you. (Which led to at least one person telling me that the ArcheAge queues were not so bad because they never said anything beyond one hour, so the trick worked.)

Anyway, for all of the work Daybreak has done, the problem remains; the draw of nostalgia has gone far beyond what they expected.  The time has come for them to roll up a second server.

Lockjaw Defeated

Shit, get a priest over here, we need a res

And so at some point soon we will get the Lockjaw server, that being the second place name from the poll.  It will be otherwise the same as the Ragefire server.  If you want to play on Lockjaw you will have to start fresh.  There will be no transfers from Ragefire.

That works for me but, as noted, I haven’t been able to get on much, so I don’t have a lot invested in Ragefire yet.  Others who have more invested may be reluctant to swap.

Level 3 druid is easily replaced

Level 3 druid is easily replaced

And this will likely lead to another issue in the longer term.  Daybreak has been very reluctant to simply roll up another server to deal with the load.  That is because the history of EverQuest progression servers shows that the enthusiasm won’t last.

Some people will get their fill of nostalgia quickly enough.  A few days or a week or a month or two of playing in the original content will sate them and they will leave.  Others will hit the wall somewhere in the 30s when areas for exp groups start to thin out  and finding a free camp or a group that will take you starts to become a chore.  That will change when Ruins of Kunark goes live and opens up the world considerably, but that is six months and a successful vote down the road.

Eventually things will die down and we may end up with two sparsely populated progression servers, with one the poor relation in that regard, and there will be calls for a server merge that will never come. (Although there will inevitably be the person declaring that they like an empty server, because you can find support for any point of view if you look hard enough.)

Of course, Daybreak could help keep this from happening, or happening sooner than it should.  The starting point would be to not forget that they have these servers.  The last time around, with Fippy Darkpaw, SOE was great guns about the whole progression server idea until about two weeks after it launched… and then it never mentioned the whole thing publicly again.

Seriously, Daybreak should make a big deal out of the servers beyond launch.  If nothing else, the opening of expansions should be noteworthy, especially Ruins of Kunark with its new starter zones, new race, and all that.  Played right, each expansion could be a rallying point to get people to come to these servers, or return to them, as they progress.

But that is another one of those corporate culture things I bring up now and again.  An ingrained corporate culture can keep a company from doing what seems easy and obvious from the outside.  Blizzard will never roll up a WoW nostalgia server because their culture cannot fathom why people would want such a thing.  SOE’s corporate culture included a recurring habit of hyping something up, then totally failing to follow up and letting things go silent for ages.  Progression servers, The Agency, EverQuest Next, whatever, they make a big splash, then let things sit until the last ripple has faded.

So I suppose we will see if Daybreak is really a new company or just the old same old SOE with the same old habits we’ve come to know so well.

Addendum:

Daybreak has announced that they will be instancing some additional zones to accommodate the blob of players moving through the leveling curve.  The list right now is:

  • High Keep
  • The Liberated Citadel of Runnyeye
  • The Western Plains of Karana
  • The Northern Plains of Karana
  • The Southern Plains of Karana
  • Eastern Plains of Karana
  • The Gorge of King Xorbb
  • Blackburrow
  • The Lair of the Splitpaw
  • Kithicor Forest
  • The Lavastorm Mountains
  • Solusek’s Eye
  • Befallen
  • Najena
  • The Qeynos Aqueduct System
  • The Feerrott
  • Temple of Cazic-Thule
  • The Rathe Mountains
  • Lake Rathetear
  • The Lesser Faydark
  • Crushbone
  • The Castle of Mistmoore
  • The Estate of Unrest
  • The City of Guk
  • The Ruins of Old Guk
  • Dagnor’s Cauldron
  • Erud’s Crossing
  • Freeport Sewers
  • North Desert of Ro
  • South Desert of Ro
  • Highpass Hold
  • The Ocean of Tears

That is quite a list.  You can get pretty far into the original content on that list.  We’ll see how it plays out.

The Four Stages of Ragefire Login Grief

The official launch announcement is up in the forums, the Ragefire time locked progression server is live.  Now the reality strikes home…

1 – Cannot log in

You could at least not toss my user name with each try...

You could at least not toss my user name with each try…

2 – Cannot connect to server list

Oh, come now, this part should be easy

Oh come now, this part should be easy

3 – Time out at the server list

And yeah, that login screen doesn't like me either

And yeah, that login screen doesn’t like me either

4 – The server is just full

Wasn't instancing the starter zones going to cover us on this front?

Wasn’t instancing the starter zones going to cover us on this front?

And about every fourth time I click on “PLAY EVERQUEST” there is just long enough of a delay before the error comes up that I think I might just get through.

Oh well, I guess I’ll watch the promo movie a few more times.

Hey, I had ISDN when EverQuest came out, no modem connecting chatter for me back in 1999!  Also, I was totally able to log in the first night.

Hrmm, how about that EverQuest Lore video then, that will keep me busy for another minute.

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

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

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

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

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

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

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

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population...

Fippy Darkpaw was up and low population…

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

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

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

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

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

-Roshen, Daybreak Forums

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shall see what happens today.

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

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

EverQuest Ragefire Progression Server is Coming May 20th

I have to ask again, who are these people who claim to have once been Sony Online Entertainment?  They seem to be moving at a speed unlike anything I ever saw out of SOE.

Last week the EverQuest Ragefire progression server beta opened up, then yesterday they announced in the forums that the Ragefire Progression Server would go live next Wednesday, May 20th.

Ragefire awakens!

Ragefire gets real!

Okay, yes, the EverQuest team, which now runs both EverQuest and EverQuest II and which has also been plundered to provide bodies for other projects, if I read things right, isn’t exactly making a new game like their brethren on the EverQuest Next team, nor are they trying to fix long standing problems and expand to new platforms like the PlanetSide 2 team.  They aren’t even trying to bootstrap a new game on top of the PlanetSide 2 code, as with H1Z1.

No, the EverQuest team is just trying to put together another progression server, which they have done a couple of times before, so this ought to be somewhat straightforward.  They have actual progression servers still running, right?

But even with the rather focused task, the EverQuest team does seem to be moving at a brisk pace.  The last time around there were a couple of months between the results of the server name poll, which yielded Fippy Darkpaw, and the server actually going live.  I think it must be all the attention the idea of another progression server is getting from Daybreak, and how much it contrasts with the lack of attention that the Fippy Darkpaw server got after it launched.

Anyway, the poll results were last Wednesday, the server goes live next Wednesday.

That is almost too soon for me.  I was guessing a June date in part out of wishful thinking and the onset of the usual instance group summer hiatus.  But there it is.

Like Bhagpuss, I have spent a little time on the beta server, following my usual pattern.  I rolled up a half-elf druid and started in Surefall Glade.  That was my plan back in 1999, the half-elf druid thing having been my main back in TorilMUD.  But I had two friends who also wanted to roll half-elf druids as well, so I relented and rolled a ranger instead, thinking that they couldn’t possibly be as bad as rangers were in TorilMUD.

They were.  My friends went on to greatness with their druids, one of the first really OP classes in EverQuest, while I struggled until I rolled up a bard.

So I rolled up and then rolled out of Surefall Glades and off to the front yard of Qeynos proper, the traditional spot for the first few levels for those of us starting west of Highpass.

Yeah, this looks familiar

Yeah, this looks familiar

It had been a while since I actually got out and slayed a gopher snake or two in Norrath, so there were a few changes I wasn’t aware of, like the updated looting method.

A menu of looting options

A menu of looting options

That actually helps, since one of the traditional EverQuest problems has been clicking on yourself while trying to click on a corpse to loot it, your own target area being huge relative to your actual avatar.

Of course, the prime item to loot was the Stone of Beta.

The Stone of Beta

The Stone of Beta

You collect the stones from corpses.  Not all kills yield them, but if you just keep killing they will start piling up.  Then you click on them, which puts up a firework and clicks a counter somewhere indicating your ongoing participation.  I hope the threshold for reward isn’t too high.  There is talk of a bag or some such, which would be nice.  But if you need more than 100 stones I probably won’t get there.  With the /betabuff command and content seemingly wide open on the server (I was on the Plane of Knowledge for a bit) the population feels diffused, so there aren’t the traditional groups forming up to camp bandits and such.

I did try the /betabuff command myself, boosting my first character to a level 20 druid.  However, it also turned me into a female halfling along the way.  That wasn’t going to stand, so I re-rolled another half-elf druid and went back to level 1 again.

One outstanding question is what happens with the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak servers once Ragefire goes live?

Too soon?

Too soon?

Fippy Darkpaw is around the House of Thule expansion now… I think.  SOE never bothered to announce these things so, as I have noted in the past, the only way you could tell when an expansion hit from the forums is when SOE screwed something up… which was regularly for most of the unlocks.

But now, with Ragefire opening up soon, what will happen to the other two active progression servers.  They are long past the expansions for which most people are nostalgic.  By House of Thule SOE was in full on backport mode, trying to bring every feature from EverQuest II back in time to old Norrath.  I expect that the population, not huge on Fippy Darkpaw and small enough on Vulak that calls for a merge between the two come up regularly, will drop off with a rush back to the excitement of day one in the classic content.

We shall see I suppose.  About time to get signed up for Daybreak All Access I suppose.  The beta is free, but the live server will require a subscription to play.

And the next order of business is to see who might actually be playing on Ragefire when it opens.  EverQuest is no fun solo.

Addendum: Make that May 21st.  Much ado about happenings on May 20th.