Tag Archives: Rambling Friday on Monday

Quote of the Day – The Dumbest Thing Ever Said About PvP

Is combat really fair?

Good god no, you could place a 10yr old player and a brand new player in the same ship, same fittings, same ammo, same rigs and say “go go”. The new player would be dead in seconds…

-Evocationz Adhera, Will Eve Online ever really match any other MMO? Honestly, No.

If skill, experience, and knowledge of the game aren’t supposed to lend you advantage, then what is left?  Should the random number generator determine all outcomes?  Seriously, what else is there that should determine the outcome of PvP, all other things being equal?

Evocationz Adhera is, to use the term of art for the genre, salty about EVE Online.

EVE is, of course, dying, a state of affairs that has been ongoing since not too long after launch.  In fact, we’ll be celebrating the 15th annual “EVE is Dying Day!” in just over a month.

First known occurrence of “EVE is Dying”

But if the devs would only listen Evocationz Adhera has all the answers on how to fix the game… not one of which hasn’t been brought up and thrashed out dozens of times in the past.  But the amateur outsider always knows better than the devs who’ve run a game successfully for a decade and a half, right?

Okay, yes, there are days when CCP doesn’t seem to be fully aware of what the hell is going on in their game as the combined intellect of the player base finds the loopholes in the system a few devs and designers missed.  But some random player complaining that EVE will never compare to WoW and RuneScape is making an exceedingly false comparison. (Not to mention failing to note how many MMOs went down the WoW path and never even hit EVE Online levels of subscribers.)

EVE Online is a PvP game.  CCP has been very clear on that.  Compare EVE Online to other PvP MMOs and it has done very well. 15 years online and having hit a peak of over half a million subscribers puts it well ahead of perennial sandbox favorites like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, both of which tried to change course after launch and yet failed to achieve WoW-like numbers either.

CCP has been pretty clear that they are never going to make any area of space completely safe.  CCP isn’t doing this out of caprice, but because their data say that people who wander off and play the mission running game, the primary PvE element, generally don’t stick around for the long term.

New Player Trajectory

The details were explained at Fanfest 2014 (recorded here) where it was noted that somebody who gets ganked in high sec is actually more likely to stick with the game.

Which isn’t to say some things are not broken.  War Decs have been a bleeding sore for the nearly dozen years I have been playing and no change made has ever made it much better.  Even long time veterans start thinking about change… when they lose something I guess.  You can go peruse /r/eve or the forums and find many things people are complaining about.  But CCP isn’t avoiding radical change because they are ignoring they’re player base.  They are avoiding it because one player’s radical improvement is another player’s game ending move.  That is the problem with the sandbox.  There isn’t a limited set of viable paths in the game, but a multitude of ways to play and killing one in the name of another is always a risk.

And, honestly, EVE is dying.  But it isn’t dying because high sec isn’t safe.  It is dying because it is old and suffers from an accumulation of wealth and power in the hands of old vets.  It is dying because, as a PvP MMO, it has a limited audience to begin with.  It is dying because most people ever likely to invest the considerable time and effort needed to get good at it have already come and gone.  It is dying for the same reason every game dwindles as it ages, people have played it enough and moved on.  Even World of Warcraft is in decline.  Nothing lasts forever.

MMOs are Bizarro World oddities in video games, expecting to live on for years and keep people’s attention in a market that favors new titles.

Anyway, Evocationz Adhera’s comments are hardly new or very moving and seem steeped in resentment.  I feel like you get to the real nugget at the end of the post.

Take me for instance, 3 years of Eve Online videos, not once has CCP plugged me. It seem’s CCP cares about money and not it’s player base.

I’m going to guess that is the real salt.  Anyway, Evocationz Adhera is looking to provoke, yet cannot abide disagreement, deleting my comment taking issue with a few items in their post.  That, of course, is the real tell, somebody complaining about others not listening to them yet having no interest in hearing from anybody else.  What goes around comes around I suppose.

Addendum: Since the post to which I linked was addressed to #tweetfleet in the title, it has gotten some additional reactions:

Ten Years of Internet Spaceships

Ten years ago today I signed up for EVE Online, made a character… Wilhelm Arcturus… yes, EVE Who says August 30, but 03:58 UTC was still August 29 here in California… and undocked for the first time in New Eden.

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Wilhelm Avatars Through the Years

Or tried to undock.  The freakin’ tutorial back in 2006 had me sitting in the station, in my pod, but kept telling me to open up the hangar.

Still, I somehow managed to get in a ship, undock, kill the elusive pirates, and advance into the serious business that is internet spaceships.  When I started the game was going strong, passing 100,000 capsuleers according to the old timeline graphic (and this dev blog).  Also, the game broke the 30K PCU mark!  The current expansion was the forgettable Bloodlines which, so far as I could tell, only really added a few character creation options.

Bloodlines - March 2006

Bloodlines – March 2006

Okay, tech II modules came into being as well with Bloodlines, along with a few other details.

But Revelations was on its way soon.

Revelations - November 2006

Revelations – November 2006

And with Revelations would come salvaging, invention, rigs, many bugs, and motherfucking warp to goddam zero, something that changed everybody’s lives.  Seriously, that was the end of the “uphill, both ways, in the snow” era for travel by gates.  (Sugar Kyle has a post up about that era and its events.)

It was a strange and wonderful time.  MMORPGs were a thing, World of Warcraft caused a lot of “if we build it, they will come” moments as its subscription base continued to climb, causing even Richard “Lord British” Garriott to say at GDC that you would be foolish not to be making such games. (As opposed to when he said that about Facebook games.)  Blogs and podcasts about MMOs were all the rage and a flourishing community of people seemed to coalesce around VirginWorlds to discuss and debate the relative merits of various entries in the field.  This blog was still two weeks from going live and I was still debating possible names.  A pity I went with the one that seemed the most amusing at the time.

EVE Online was in the thick of those discussions because back then, as now, there wasn’t really anything else quite like it.  And one item that kept coming up was the fact that you couldn’t get out of your ship.

We had long discussions back in the day about whether or not simply being unable to interact face to face would limit the appeal of the game.  Space is huge and very lonely and, even where ships congregate, a passing ship is just a cold machine that doesn’t even have a dance emote.  That was a hot topic and CCP was on the case even back then.  Of course, after seeing what more than five years of work gave us in the Incarna expansion, a lot of people (myself included) changed our minds on whether or not it was worth the effort.

No, a far bigger problem with EVE Online to my mind, the one that persists through to today, is the fact that in order to play the game effectively a capsuleer must avail themselves of the many external utilities that players have created to support the game.  If you want another variation on “EVE is Dying!” take a look at how things are going in that arena.  Battle Clinic has gone away, EVE Mon support seems to be tottering, EVE Fitting Tool was last updated back in May, Pyfa is likewise behind, and over on Reddit, /r/eve has sucked all the joy out of any discussion of the game by becoming the primary focus for several key groups and where a mass of howling morons are more interested in adding their voice to the comments than considering whether or not their comments adds any value.  It is Sturgeon’s Law run amok.  It makes me miss the Kugutsumen forums badly.

And in a world where if Wollari decides he’s taking down DOTLAN EVE Maps we’re all doomed, what has CCP been up to?  Back in 2006 I was pissing and moaning about the in-game map, which was pretty but useless for actually getting information you needed in any expedient way.  CCP has worked on that map for years and made it somewhat useful.  At least I can see where my fleet members are.  And after that, they rolled out a new map, which is even prettier but, in terms of usefulness, brought us back to 2006 or earlier.  I think even CCP realizes they fucked up there and I won’t be surprised to see a release note about how the new map has been removed from the game at some future date.  Wasted opportunities while the game remains as dependent as ever on the charity of players.

But my purpose wasn’t to rant about CCP’s stewardship of the game, though it is hard not to slip into that now and again, hindsight giving one such clear vision.  It was to meander a bit through what was going on a decade back in and around New Eden.

There was the great Intergalactic Bank scam, a ponzi scheme wherein somebody set up a bank, took deposits, promised to pay interest, paid some out of the ongoing deposits, and then folded up shop and ran off with more than 700 billion ISK.  Brent had a good summary on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 27, with a follow up in episode 29), where he brought up one of the key post scam issues: How do you get back at somebody who doesn’t have a space empire, just a pile of ISK?  And this was before ISK casinos allowed a few people push their agendas through payouts while remaining immune to any response.  CCP was more interested at the time, as they are now, in any illicit RMT transactions involving that stolen ISK.  They were even hinting about a plan they had to make ISK selling obsolete, though it would be another 3 years before PLEX would land in the game.

It has also been almost ten years since CCP partnered with Vivox to bring voice coms directly into the EVE Online client, thus removing our need to use external voice software like TeamSpeak or Mumble.  Hah, hah, hah!  Seriously though, does anybody use the built-in voice?  Or does turning on sound still cause a big performance hit to the game?  I haven’t had sound on for years.  This was another topic covered by Brent on the VirginWorlds podcast (episode 29).  That podcast is a gold mine for anybody who wants to get a glimpse of the MMO scene a decade back.

My own history in New Eden has had its ups and downs.  I ended up cancelling my account after my first three months in game, then came back to it a few months later.  I created a second account 11 months after my first, when I started the great trek to master mining.  Two years in I created another blog just to post pictures of the game.

During that second period I ran missions, did manufacturing, invention, played the market, did some hauling, dipped a toe into factional warfare, learned to scan well enough to get in and out of wormholes (which I have since forgotten how to do), and generally stuck in high sec for about four years, after which I took a break.  I came back for Incarna and unsubscribed almost immediately upon seeing what was being offered, then came back again for Crucible, when CCP promised to actually start working on the broken stuff in the game.  About then Gaff offered me a chance to run off to sov null sec, and I have been there for almost five years now and have seen many of the most publicized moments from that time.

I have 1,080 posts up on the blog that focus on EVE Online in some way or another that cover topics from the big fight at B-R5RB to simply moving my ships from one location to another.

According to Zkillboard, up to this point I have been on 2,038 kill mails, a large portion of which are structures.  One of the things I did upon arriving in null sec was train up to fly logi, which I offer up as an excuse for my low total.  Also, I remain bad at EVE.

Still, there are some memorable kills on the list.  While my trophy page on Zkillboard shows I have never been on a kill mail in wormhole space, that I have never managed a solo kill (so close that one time), and that I have never killed any mining ships, I am on ten titan kill mails.  Those are always fun.  Oddly, I am also on ten super carrier kill mails.  One would think those would be easier to get.

And after all this time, EVE Online remains a strange game.

It remains a pain to get into.  It seems to dare you to like it.  You really have to make up your own story in order to stick with the game.  I think that one of the reasons null sec remains popular with outside observers… though not I would guess not as popular as we might think… is that it represents a long running space soap opera, a story of conflict and powers rising and falling.  It is an accessible story in a game that generally refuses to give you a story.  I know that being within the framework of that story has helped keep me interested in the game for the last five years.

Wilhelm - current avatar

Wilhelm – current avatar

Still, sometimes I undock just to look around in space and get a sense of its vastness and beauty, something I have done since I started in New Eden.

Cormorant Docking - Trails On

Cormorant Docking – Circa 2007

That isn’t enough to keep most people playing long term, but it is a hook that can get you on your way.

So here I am, ten years in and still playing regularly and planning to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Jacketpals unite

Me, being my avatar – EVE Vegas 2015

A pile of other MMOs have come and gone in the time EVE Online has been hanging about and being different.  Not bad for a game that has been dying for almost as long as it has been live.

Can Better PvE Save New Eden?

The search for the reason behind the declining PCU in EVE Online continues.

So far it has been blamed on the New Player Experience, summer, the age of the game, Goons (specifically for not behaving as demanded during the war, as opposed to the perennial “Goons are bad for the game” complaints) , and CCP investing in VR.  Now we have the latest champion in the PCU blame game, PvE, which you can see filtering out through the various EVE Online sites.

And, certainly, PvE in New Eden is pretty bad.

I do want to say up front that when I am speaking about PvE, I am referring to players shooting NPCs.  I do not mean mining, hauling, industry, or the market place, which I have seen people trying to lump under the PvE banner.  Those are all crafting, to use the standard MMORPG term.  Doing something to change them won’t make shooting NPCs any more fun.  PvE is, to my mind, undocking in your spaceship in order to shoot NPCs controlled by the game.

I have shot a lot of game controlled NPCs over the last decade.  I have run many a mission, shot up many an anomaly, and delivered many a package at the behest of NPC agents.  Go look at my NPC standings.  Those are not numbers you get from running a couple of missions or shooting a few NPCs.  That represents an investment of many hours playing PvE in New Eden.

Guns Blazing!

Me shooting NPCs circa 2007

So when somebody says that PvE in New Eden is “teh suck,” I can only agree.  Earlier this year, during the brief time frame of the 10,000 skill point daily, I started playing a new alt just to see how things were at the far end of the EVE Online experience.  I was not impressed.  The opportunities system struck me as much less engaging that past starter tutorials… it not being really much of a tutorial at all.  And after a couple of events you’re pushed off towards an agent where I managed to draw the mission To Avenge a Fallen Comrade, which I have surely run more than a hundred times over my career in New Eden.  I was not happy.

Shooting things in my wee frigate

Orbit and shoot, same as it ever was

So put me on the list of people who agree that we need better PvE.  I endorse that fully.

But will better PvE solve the PCU crisis?  I have trouble with that one.

To start with, in order to sell me on that, somebody has to account for the fact that EVE Online’s greatest period of growth, the time of the highest PCU counts, occurred when PvE was even worse than it is today.  Because that is an absolute fact; the game had growth and higher PCU counts with much worse PvE.

Seriously, I look at all of the improvements to PvE over my time in the game.  When I started you had belt ratting and level 1 through 4 missions.  Now the list includes:

  • Level 5 missions
  • Mining Missions
  • Incursions
  • Hacking
  • Anomalies
  • Escalations
  • Epic Story Arcs
  • Burner Missions
  • Sleepers
  • PvE Events (e.g. Operation Frostline)
  • Whatever people do in wormholes, including the new shattered versions

I’ve probably missed a few, or grouped some up.  But suffice to say, PvE has expanded over the years.

Smashing a Brutix during Operation Frostline

Smashing a Brutix during Operation Frostline

Plus, along the way, a some of these options got easier to find.  For several years, one of the most popular posts on the site was How to Find An Agent in EVE Online, because actually finding an agent was a non-obvious process.  That finally got fixed with Incarna, so at least I have something good to say about that expansion.

So you can argue “better PvE game would be better,” and I will agree.  But if you want to claim, “better PvE game will raise PCU” then you have to explain how subjectively worse, and objectively less rich, PvE coincided with growth and higher PCU counts.

And maybe somebody has a sound argument for that, but I have yet to see it.  Claims that it would attract new players seem unsupported, especially with the state of the NPE, which drives away more new players than anything else.

The second hurdle for me is what does “better” PvE look like?

Do not think, even for a moment, that this problem is somehow unique to EVE Online.

The assertion that PvE sucks, that quests/missions are boring, that killing ten rats over and over is horrible, and so on… that discussion is going on in every MMORPG that has PvE as a feature.  It has been for the life of the genre and I see no end in sight.

So I have seen people over the years ask for more engaging events, more challenging NPCs, smarter AI, better risk/reward balance, increased integration into a story line, and so on.

But I also know that the moment anything gets a little more difficult, people lose their heads and come out of the woodwork to complain.  One of the oft repeated responses from devs is that they could make NPCs much more intelligent, but nobody wants a boss mob that goes straight for the healer and ignores the tank.

So any improvement has to make things better, for the manifold definitions of “better,” while not making anything more difficult or less convenient.  And, as far as I can tell, this is to be achieved by people throwing words like “engaging” at CCP and demanding they make things better.

There was a panel in the web comic Concerned (which you should totally read) that sort of sums this state of affairs which, as I have noted, is not at all unique to EVE Online.

Every video game forum ever

Every video game forum ever

Yet the group making those demands are people already invested in the current system.  And catering to them would likely make them happier.  It would make me happier.  At least in the short term.  But PvE content also has something of an expiration date.  Things that players might find fun and challenging on the first pass are quickly optimized for, as efficiency rules the day.  We like the journey once, we want the reward every day.

Which, again, isn’t to say that CCP shouldn’t improve PvE in New Eden.  I am totally for that.  I even have a suggestion for them:  Do something about the complete randomization of missions when you speak to an agent.  I am tired of that.  I don’t want to have to fiddle with rejecting missions because I yet again drew Avenge a Fallen Comrade.  On the other hand, I am not sure that letting players pick the mission would be the right solution, as we’d all likely end up just picking the best ISK per hour mission after a bit of experimentation.

So, to sum up, I am very much for making PvE better in New Eden.  But is the current state of PvE the big problem with the PCU?  Will “fixing” PvE, for whatever value of you choose to assign to the term, going to revive growth?  You’ll have to try harder to convince me.

We go on about how different EVE Online is from competing MMORPGs, but it has many of the same issues as its MMORPG brethren.

And What of Another Middle-earth?

Turbine hasn’t been much of a standard bearer for the hopes of the future in MMOs over the last few years, or even for the hopes of their own long term success.  Their next game is a MOBA, being launched into a market where there is already a very dominate leader in League of Legends, and which doesn’t even seem likely to beat Blizzard’s MOBA to release.

Can’t even beat Blizzard?  Asheron wept!

In what looked like a sign of something happening, they brought back Asheron’s Call 2 back at the end of 2012, only to have both it and the original Asheron’s Call dropped into the MMO hospice care that is the free zone.  How many other free, can’t pay money even if you wanted to, MMOs are there out in the world?  There is Planet Side.  There WAS EverQuest: Macintosh Edition, but then the plug got pulled on that.  And what else is there?  And how long can we expect that situation to last?

I mean, Asheron’s Call had several competitors from back during its launch, and some of those are still around and making some money.  Ultima Online is being supported by Broadsword (along with Dark Age of Camelot), so it must be a producing asset for EA, since they shut stuff down as soon as the money dries up.  EverQuest is still getting new expansions and being milked by SOE.  And did you see where Lineage was on NCsoft’s revenue chart?

But AC and AC2… they are free and unsupported and, call me a pessimist, I think they will probably go away as soon as something breaks the client or somebody finds a vulnerability in their server code that requires an expensive update.

Which leaves the two money makers, Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon’s & Dragons Online.

I would have called LOTRO the company flagship product up until the 2015 producer’s letters went out.  The DDO letter was full of exciting, new, and somewhat specific things, while the LOTRO version was much more vague and included bullet points about fixing bugs and closing servers.

Paralyzed with dread

How I felt about the Producer’s Letter at first read

Yes, those are things that need to be done.  But bugs are something they should be working on in any case.  And, while closing servers will doubtless benefit the remaining population of the game, it is a pretty clear reminder that the remaining population is running well below the peak they hit at the free to play conversion, when they put some new servers online.  I will be interested to see if the soon-to-be closed servers are made up mostly of those “new” servers or not.

Then there is Turbine itself, which generally opts to say nothing until it absolutely has to, and then comes out with something vague or ambiguous that only gets people riled up.  I mean, how many clarifications have there been to the LOTRO producer’s letter at this point?  And, in all of that, it took them more than a week to come out and say that transfers off of closed servers would be free.

That seemed like a key bit of information, and its absence from the producer’s letter felt like a huge oversight, while failing to respond to the immediate questions on that front was almost baffling, given how many other things got clarifications before Vyvyanne finally got around to that.  And yet, to judge by the reactions of those close to the game, this is better communication than they are used to.

I could go on.  There are plenty of other missteps I could catalog.  We haven’t even gotten into the game itself!

But I am sure the fans of the game are already starting to steam and consider me a hater.

Take a deep breath.

This is more of a Jeremy Clarkson piece.  If you watch Top Gear regularly, you may have noticed his style when he wants to praise a vehicle.  First he has to tear it down, listing out all the things going against it before getting to the “but,” where he tosses that aside and talks about the good things, the bits that ignite his passion.  Let’s head for that.

With all of those negatives, you might be wondering what the end game, so to speak, for LOTRO really is?  We are two years away from the expiration of the contract with Tolkien Enterprises that was announced back in 2008.  The original was good through 2014 with a pre-set extension to 2017.  Turbine announced in 2014, at the very last minute and only after many questions on the topic, that things were good until 2017.

But as we sit here today, you might reasonably ask if 2017 will be it, the end of the road for the game.  Doubly so as we have seen what happens to MMOs based around licensed IPs in the past.  That additional overhead, along with the plans and pretenses of the license holders, shut down The Matrix Online, Warhammer Online, and Star Wars Galaxies.

However, I think Lord of the Rings Online is going to make it past 2017 and be around for a while longer.  I don’t know if we will ever make it to Mordor, or if the game mechanics will become more of a mess, or if the cash shop will grow to consume all within its shadow, but there are two reason I think it won’t be done in 2017.  Well, three actually.

The first is that Turbine doesn’t have a lot of options, so they pretty much have to stick with LOTRO, which means that they will want to renew the contract.  Not much of an endorsement of the game itself, but that looks like the reality of the situation.  Turbine will be motivated to keep things going.

The second isn’t much of an endorsement either.

We are in something of a “post MMO” age.  MMOs were once a thing that, when you used that term, you knew what somebody meant.  The term has evolved in usage to the point that MMO means any online multiplayer game that can group together a few players.  Look at what gets lumped into the term these days.

SuperData 2014 YTD Numbers

SuperData names some MMOs…

I see World of Warcraft there.  That is what I would call an MMO.  But League of Legends?  World of Tanks?  Counter-Strike?  Freakin’ Hearthstone?

Anyway, in this post MMO age, where even the term has lost meaning, where the market is saturated, where there has been a couple of big winners and a host of followers scrambling for crumbs, the idea that Tolkien Enterprises is going to have a better offer from somebody who wants to make a Middle-earth MMO seems unlikely.

Yahoo Headlines

Back when MMOs were a thing…

Sure, there are people out there who would want to do it, developers and designers who would love to sink their teeth into Tolkien’s world and “do it right” or at least “do it better” than Turbine has managed.  And I am sure you could find a small crowd of fans who would cheer for such a game being announced.

But is anybody going to invest in such a venture?  Who is going to lay down the cash to fund a new MMO version of Middle-earth for 2018 or beyond?  And what would such a game even be like?  Sprawling, open world MMOs are not on an uptick currently.

Somebody will suggest that at least a new version of Middle-earth would “do free to play right.”

The problem is that LOTRO is doing free to play right.  There is no version of free to play that succeeds without a cash shop stocked with things players will actually buy and in your face reminders to buy those things.

It is like Ikea!

It is like Ikea!

So I do not think anybody is going to show up on the doorstep of Tolkien Enterprises with a wheelbarrow of cash and a desire to make the next Middle-earth MMO any time soon.  Certainly not in 2017.  The investment in such a project is too high, the returns too uncertain.  So Turbine, with the WB lawyers at the table, has a pretty strong case in the “Hey, at least we’re giving you some money on a regular basis!”  That is something.

Estimated Top Subscription MMO Revenue 2013

Estimated Top Subscription MMO Revenue 2013… see, money!

Also, Turbine has been pretty good to the lore… though with Tolkien Enterprises licensing LEGO Lord of the Rings, you have to ask where lore ranks in the grand scheme of things… so I do not think there is any strong desire on the part of the heirs of Dr. Tolkien to get the license out of Turbine’s hands.

Basically, LOTRO wins by default.  Not a huge endorsement, but it is something.

And LOTRO does have something else going for it.

For all of its foibles and missteps and questionable game mechanics and awkward character models and cash shop transgressions, Turbine has created a beautiful and unlikely to be duplicated any time soon vision of Middle-earth in the late third age.

This is Turbine’s ace when it comes to the Middle-earth license.  This is the big win, the payoff for playing the game, being able to travel through the places that made the story, being able to see The Shire, climb Weathertop, explore Moria, see Rivendell, cross the Midgewater Marsh, travel across the Lone Lands and the Trollshaws.

In fact, once of my many annoyances with the game is that their insta-level option only boosts you to level 50 and into Moria (2008 content), rather than putting you closer to the latest content and the bulk of the dedicate player base.  If I were going to buy a boost, I’d do it to see parts of the world I haven’t been to yet.  But I’ve already been to, and through, Moria.  It is great, but why would I pay to get yet another character there?

Anybody who comes after Turbine will have to compete with the world that was created for LOTRO.  Who is going to invest in such a landscape with so many off-the-beaten-track locations to explore in the age of the lobby MMO?  That we got such a world was an artifact at the time, when MMOs were seen as never-miss money machines that had to have virtual world aspects to them.  Who is going to want to have that hanging over their heads as they try to launch a new Middle-earth based MMO?

The Annuminas waterfront

The Annuminas waterfront

You cannot launch a new game without a constant stream of comparisons to World of Warcraft, how are people going to react to anything less than the vision of Middle-earth that Turbine has provided?

Then again, somebody tried to remake The Manchurian Candidate, so who knows what goes through people’s minds at times.

But I do not think, the way the industry stands right now, that anybody can get together both financing and a desire to remake (and be compared to) Turbine’s vision of Middle-earth.

Barring Turbine making some colossal blunder that wrecks the game and drives away its loyal following, I think it will find a way past the contract talks around 2017 and into at least a few more years online.  Or such was my view over the weekend.

You adventure in the Middle-earth you have, not the Middle-earth you may want.

Wandering the Palace of the Awakened

The thing about doing a set of content a second time is that it can feel very different, especially if you do it not to long after the first run.  The difficulties, the confusion, the wondering where you should go… a lot of that gets smoothed out.  Going into the cloud mount quest chain with a second character so recently after having done it the first time highlighted this.

Vikund and his merc in the Kingdom of Sky

Vikund and his merc in the Kingdom of Sky

The whole dynamic of the quest chain felt very different.  Places where I spent long gaps of time trying to figure out how to get to a particular mob or location, I had the answers for those now.  I moved quickly and efficiently during those stages on the second pass.

Which meant that areas that required patience versus knowledge stood out as they ended up occupying a much greater segment in the overall duration of the quest chain.  And one segment stood out more than the rest; the Palace of the Awakened.

Before the Palace of the Awakened

Before the Palace of the Awakened

A lot of the cloud mount quest chain uses the standard mechanics of quests that we have grown used to over the years.  Find a mob, find and kill a mob, find and kill a dozen of a mob, find and kill a type of mob for a dozen drops, and so on.

The Palace of the Awakened segment uses one of those special to EverQuest II mechanics, the collection. (Along with climbable walls, which SOE devs were in love with during that era.  Climbable walls seriously out number stairs, elevators, ramps, and whatever for moving vertically in the expansion.)

Collection quests were one of those special and popular features of EQII at launch, and one that has stood the test of time.  On the ground in the various zones of the world you may run across a little question mark highlighted with a sparkle effect or a little exclamation point over a document on the ground.  You can pick these up and will be rewarded with a random item exclusive to that area.

A collection sparklie in Kelethin

A collection sparklie in Kelethin

Each collection needs anywhere from 3 to a couple dozen items to be completed and they reward experience, AA points, and special items on occasion.  The EQII player base took to collections very well… at least once they got their own special section of the question log… and new collection quests are part of every expansion.  They used to be a great way to get a few quick levels on an alt and the trade in collection items is a big part of the market in Norrath.

The only game I have seen copy the collection quest directly from EQII is Rift, and given the Scott Hartsman connection, that isn’t very surprising.

Of course, a big reason that the trade in collection items is popular in the market is that to finish a collection you either have to be very persistent in hunting for items or you have to buy the items you are missing from somebody else.

Vikund, who I spent a lot of time persistently hunting for collections with back in the day has discovered over 150 such collection quests, but has only completed 60.  That percentage puts him way ahead of most of my other characters.

Anyway, the Palace of the Awakened segment of the cloud mount quest series is a collection quest.  You are given the binding for a book, which is the first item in the collection and establishes it in your collection log.  Then you have to go to the palace and find nine missing pages to complete the collection.

The spawn points for collection items are scattered all over the palace.  The density it fairly sparse… rarely are there such points within sight of each other and almost never in the same room… and the respawn time feels longer than average, so if you want to get this done you have to roam the palace.

And for Vikund, going into this at level 61, roaming the palace was a bit of a challenge.  The mobs range from level 65 to 70… and maybe beyond 70, as I couldn’t get past the level 70s… and are heroic encounters, which means they are designed for groups.  Or were designed for groups from 2005.  Vikund and his healing mercenary could handle things if I took everything slowly and carefully.

So he went roaming the Palace of the Awakened over the course of two days and a couple of hours.

The thing with this sort of collection quest is that the first item you find is always a winner.  The spawns are random, but if you do not have any of them yet, it doesn’t matter what turns up, it will advance the collection.  The second one is almost always a winner as well.  And the third is likely to be too.  But there is a tipping point where you start picking up duplicates.  As your collection grows, your odds go down.  I spent probably three quarters of my time in the palace trying to get the last two items and at least half the time trying to get the final piece.

So for most of my time, the collection looked like this

So for most of my time, the collection looked like this

None of which is necessarily a bad thing.  The palace is heroic but manageable, so the experience was good… and all the more so since the past weekend was a bonus experience event to celebrate the new year.  Vikund went in at level 61 and came out at 64.  But in how the quest chain felt, I spent less than five hours working on the whole thing, but at least two hours of it were hunting for scraps of paper in the Palace of the Awakened and more than an hour of that time was spent looking for one specific piece of paper.  So while my first run felt like I did a whole series of activities, the second run felt like I did the Palace of the Awakened and little else sticks out.  There was less than two hours invested getting there, and it only took that long because I did some side quests, and after the palace I was done with the whole Bonemire segment of the quest chain in under an hour and back and starting at that huge pile of loot again.

This treasure... you cannot have it

This treasure… you cannot have it

Then again, the whole quest chain ends up with you finding the treasure parked pretty much right below where the whole thing started, so maybe the feeling of having spent a bunch of time elsewhere plays right into the theme of the quest.

Anyway, Vikund got his cloud mount.

Riding the cloud mount back to the quest starter

Riding the cloud mount back to the quest starter

I quickly put my horse back as the visible mount once that was complete, so now he has a magically gliding horse when he jumps off of high places.

Horsie slow fall

Horsie slow fall

And he has a the seven pieces of the Angelic Soul paladin armor that comes from the quest chain and which will keep him going well into Kunark, should I bring him out there.

Paladin in gold

Paladin in gold

I mentioned that the Frostfell armor made me feel like I was running around in my pajamas.  I am not sure that the golden look of the Angelic Soul armor is an improvement.  I might have to go put my ebon armor set in the appearance slots. (Because, of course, I didn’t vendor that set, I just put it in the bank next to the Frostfell armor set.  See what huge amounts of bank space does to me.)

And, one side benefit of the whole Palace of the Awakened trip was that I was able to make some platinum by selling the repeat drops to people who just wanted to get past that part of the quest chain.

They all sold for over a plat each

They all sold for over a plat each

I remain ever impressed when I sell anything for a plat coin or more, still being stuck mentally in the old days when it was a moment of celebration to earn a whole platinum piece.  So a sales day like that seems amazing to me.  And those sales financed the upgraded sword and kite shield Vikund needed.  So he is level 65 and stands ready to enter Kunark when the time is ripe.

That also makes him my second highest level character in EQII, behind Sigwerd, who is about 10 levels ahead.  And I feel better about not opting to boost one of them to level 85.  I had fun enough with the cloud mount quests and SOE just announced they are changing the insta-level option to boost people to level 90.  Five more levels should I ever want that option.

And, standing at what for me is the pinnacle of my advancement through the game, it seems like my vacation in Norrath might be nearing and end.  I am back to focusing more on Azeroth and there is a deployment coming up in EVE Online.  But at least I can say I have finally made it into the 2007 content. (Though, technically, I did get one level in Kunark way back when it launched.)

My characters can go back into a quiet state where I just log in every so often up update their skill upgrade queue so they will be upgraded the next time nostalgia strikes.

Looking Back at 2014 – Highs and Lows

As the month of December bleeds out before our very eyes and the new year looms, it becomes time for certain standard posts to appear.  Looking back at the year gone by, revision 5.

Past entries, should you be bored and looking for something else to read, are here:

Payment Model Wars

Not much new to add since last year, so you can go back and read that.  I still don’t like where free to play inevitably leads games, but in a market where free is now the norm, you have to be extra special to warrant a subscription.

Turbine

Highs

  • They still seem to be a going concern.
  • They have had updates out for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
  • Lord of the Rings Online is still a great way to get a feel for Middle-earth.  I like to go back and just visit places.
  • They aren’t actually killing off Asheron’s Call or Asheron’s Call 2. There is a promise to keep the servers up and running and some effort to allow players to run their own servers.  And, hey, it’s free.
  • They have a new game waiting in the wings… somewhere.
  • WB Games management exhales carbon dioxide, which helps plants grow.

Lows

  • More layoffs.
  • No expansion for LOTRO.
  • All I do is visit and look.  The last big change to classes pretty much made me give up on going back to play.
  • How is that “PvP and Raiders make up less than 10%…” stance working out?
  • Asheron’s Call series is in some state that is probably less than maintenance mode.  No income generally means no attention unless something is literally on fire.
  • The “run your own server” option sounds like a hollow promise at best.  How much effort do you think they will expend on this while struggling with other projects and laying people off?
  • Is Infinite Crisis a thing yet or not?  It isn’t going to save the company sitting in closed beta or whatever.
  • Management’s main function at this point might merely be contributing to global warming.

Sony Online Entertainment

Highs

  • Leaner, more focused organization
  • A new game, H1Z1 in the pipe
  • Fixed a bit of confusion by splitting out Landmark as its own title without the EverQuest name attached.
  • Ongoing support and new expansions for both EverQuest and EverQuest II
  • EverQuest II ten year anniversary!  Isle of Refuge prestige house!
  • Closed the exp loophole in Dungeon Maker in EQII.
  • Station Cash is strong enough again that they could actually sell a bit at a discount for a holiday sale.  People actually complained because they couldn’t buy Station Cash up to the set limit of 30K per day during the sale.
  • Didn’t get brought down by the latest Sony hacking incidents… well, except for the PlayStation titles.
  • I think people have finally stopped accosting Smed in the street about the NGE.

Lows

  • The organization got leaner and more focused by killing off four titles, Clone Wars Adventures, Free Realms, Vanguard, and Wizardry Online.  As many as three of those will be missed, and all four will get Smed accosted where ever he goes.  Okay, maybe not Wizardry Online.
  • Apparent revolving door, flavor of the whatever, Asian import MMO plan.  Out with Wizardry Online, in with Dragon’s Prophet.
  • Landmark is still a work in progress with no real end in sight.  Worked for Notch and Minecraft because he got some good, tangible stuff in early.  Not so much with Landmark even with the latest code drop.
  • EverQuest Next is still a blur on the horizon.  Is it getting closer or not?  My gut is starting to feel like another EverQuest title might be too much to hang on that lore in any case.
  • SOE now has two titles, EverQuest and EverQuest II, with level caps that started at 50 and now are into triple digits.  Not sure if that is bad, but it makes you go “whoa!”
  • SOE’s History of EverQuest II – 10th Anniversary Documentary was completely lacking in substance.
  • So what is the Dungeon Maker good for now?  Can I go in there and play with SOEmote?
  • Never got my promo code for Station Cash, despite signing up well in advance of the date, a problem a lot of people had.
  • With people buying up gobs of Station Cash with up to a 3x bonus, will that flood the market again?
  • Still no idea what people could possibly spend 30K of Station Cash on, much less the 90K somebody must have tried to buy over the three days of the sale.  Seriously, is there some special tab that is not visible in my version of the Station Cash store?

CCP

Highs

  • The change in development strategy for EVE Online has really invigorated the game for the installed base.  Fixing shit and making the game better is a win.
  • Some good PR moments have brought a lot of new players to the game.
  • CCP is focusing more on their core competencies.
  • EVE Valkyrie gets people excited whenever they see it.
  • DUST 514 is still a thing… right?

Lows

  • A lot of the cool things CCP is doing for EVE Online are good, short term wins, but are they the kind of things that keep people invested and subscribed?
  • What happens when the low hanging fruit is consumed?
  • CCP admits that bringing new players to the game isn’t even the battle, as 90% of those who subscribe cancel before their subscription period runs out, and that doesn’t even get to the number of people who don’t subscribe.  The conversion rate for the trial accounts was what then? 1%?  Less?
  • Better not mess up on any of these changes to EVE Online, because it is all that is paying the bills right now.  One slip up and SOE will buy them and… do I even want to think about that?  I mean sure, Smed was in the CFC… but in SMA.
  • For all the changes to the game this past year, we just need AAA to take some sov again and all the usual suspects will be back on the map again.
  • Not enough hats in New Eden.  We need some decent hats.
  • Yeah, EVE Valkyrie sounds cool, and looks cool, but will VR headsets make us vomit after 30 minutes or go insane after extended use?  There are some doubts on that front.
  • I barely know if DUST 514 is still a thing.  I have yet to bomb anybody from orbit, and I feel poorer for it.

Blizzard

Highs

  • As usual, laughing all the way to the bank pushing wheel barrows full of cash.
  • WoW subscriptions way up with Warlords of Draenor and a solid change of focus.  Orcs make the best bad guys.
  • New plan for global domination means having one winning product in each important gaming genre.
  • Glad they fixed Diablo III by removing the auction house and fixing itemization.  The “real money” aspect was a side issue, the auction house itself and the original itemization, which felt like it was designed to push you to the auction house, were the problems with the game.  I went back and played through the game again.
  • Some rumbling that Heroes of the Storm is actually good and might do to MOBAs what Hearthstone did for collectible card games.
  • Overwatch looks like money in the bank at this point.
  • StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void might actually see the light of day in 2015.

Lows

  • The balance sheet might as well read “WoW and the five dwarves,” because Azeroth is the big breadwinner.  Blizzard without WoW is just a very successful studio, not an obscenely successful one.  They have to keep WoW going or change their lifestyle.
  • Some moon-eyed dreamers out there are going to hang on to the idea of the now-cancelled Titan project and moan about how it could have changed things despite it never having been a thing.
  • Rough start going into Warlords of Draenor.  Everybody says being too popular is the problem to have, but it is still a problem.
  • WoW subscriptions still below the 12 million peak going into Cataclysm.  No new class or race means no real drive to create new alts while insta-90 means those alts that get made are quickly at the level cap.
  • The low water mark for WoW subscribers was this summer, during the great content drought of 2014, and it isn’t clear that Blizz learned a lesson from that.  They say they did, but will they live up to that.
  • Five expansions in, occasionally hit by the realization that this is two years of busy work that will be washed away by the next $50 box.
  • And after playing through Diablo III again I didn’t buy the expansion and pretty much put it away.  It is still there if we get a group together, but soloing through a couple times was enough.
  • Is Heroes of the Storm live-ish yet?  I’m not sure you can change the world in closed beta.
  • Really not sure what Hearthstone did for collectible cards games, now that I think about it.
  • Anybody who thinks Blizz has learned any lessons about timeliness is kidding themselves.  They ship when they are good and ready… which is a luxury they enjoy… but if you think another WoW expansion is coming in less than two years, think again.  I think the best we can hope for is that they won’t dole out the add-on content for the game as quickly.

Other MMO Devs

Highs

  • Trion rolls out an expansion for Rift and brought out ArcheAge which boasts a feature set that gets a lot of people very excited.
  • Two big titles came out in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online and WildStar.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic got an expansion and a level cap increase.
  • ArenaNet plays its living story hand to the fullest in GuildWars 2.
  • Jagex is trying hard to not be just the RuneScape studio.
  • Funcom gets a property that looks like a potential gold mine, LEGO Minifigures Online.  They surely learned from the failure of LEGO Universe.
  • Chris Roberts continued to bring in the cash for Star Citizen.  They are past the $66 million dollar mark at this point.  Op success!
  • Some other Kickstarters I backed made some progress.  Camelot Unchained’s promise date is still a year out, and while Shroud of the Avatar is behind their original schedule, you can get in the game and do things.
  • Project: Gorgon, despite a name that really isn’t helping things, and despite failing the second Kickstarter, is still progressing and could very well be one of the prime examples of what a niche MMO title can be.

Lows

  • Trion botches the ArcheAge launch to the point of alienating some of their most ardent fans.  The game went from being worth a four hour queue to not being worth logging on at all for a lot of people I follow.
  • The Elder Scrolls Online has spent months working on bugs and will likely be at least a year late in shipping the console version, while WildStar is facing an uncertain future after subs dropped off a cliff, since they were published by NCsoft, whose motto is “kill the weak.”
  • Despite claims that SW:TOR is a cash cow, EA is officially saying it isn’t meeting expectations.  Not sure that bodes well for the future.
  • GuildWars 2 may have lots of fans, but the revenue chart seems to indicate that they will need another box to sell to keep NCsoft happy.
  • Jagex stumbles again with Transformers Universe shutting down before leaving open beta.  So they’re still just the RuneScape company, at least when it comes to revenue.
  • LEGO Minifigures Online is not meeting revenue expectations according to Funcom.  But then, I barely knew that it launched and I thought I was paying attention.
  • The original Star Citizen promised launch date has come and gone and we have a hangar module and a mini space sim module.  Meanwhile, the new go date for the real game is out in 2016.  More space bonsai needed to raise money.
  • Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.  Awkward name, asked for too much money, the follow-on plan was just “give me money, no strings attached!” all while having too many goals.  I have doubts we’ll ever see a finished project.  It is sort of the anti-Project: Gorgon.

Non-MMO Gaming Things

Highs

  • Nintendo scores a big win with Maro Kart 8, a game that actually moved some Wii U units.
  • The 3DS line continues to be a bright spot on the Nintendo balance sheet.  It is still selling well, updated units are coming, and it is getting some decent titles.  I am very happy with my 3DS XL, it is a quality unit and worthy of the high standard set by the DS Lite.
  • Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire keep the Pokemon tradition going.
  • Sony still releasing PlayStation 3 titles.
  • Steam is still a good platform, and Steam sales keep me looking for things to add to my wishlist.
  • I finally hit level 8 on Steam.
  • My iPad 2 is still rolling along, I still use it daily.  The iOS 8 update didn’t kill it completely.
  • Really looking forward my copy of A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online next year.  Andrew Groen has been making regular updates and things seem to be on track.

Lows

  • Nintendo still hasn’t sold enough Wii U units to make the whole thing worth the effort.  It remains their worst selling mainstream console, a bitter pill to swallow after the Wii.
  • While Nintendo’s handheld rules the portable roost, it’s success is mainly reliant on remakes and the same small cast of characters.  How much longer can Mario and Pikachu carry this show?
  • Part of the Pokemon tradition includes cool features that only appear in one game, then are gone for the next release.
  • Have to suppress the realization that, despite all the updates and tweaks, Pokemon has not changed in any fundamental way since it was on the original GameBoy.
  • I only bought one PlayStation 3 title in 2014… and it was Assassin’s Creed III, which came out in 2012.  And I had to wait to buy it (for my daughter) because the PlayStation Network was down due to hackers… again.  All we use the PS3 for is streaming video most days.  It is great at that, but frankly a $100 Roku box would give us more options.
  • I literally won’t buy anything that isn’t at least 50% off on Steam at this point.  And even then I let my wishlist pass.
  • Steam competitors?  How many software sales platforms do you think I am going to invest in?  So far, the answer is one.
  • Steam blocked me one point shy of level 8, where you get a serious boost in cards and stuff, until I bought something.  I bought the original Wasteland for $1.49.  I’ll have to see if it plays like it did back on my Apple //e way back when.
  • I really just use my iPad 2 to browse the web, read news, and text my wife.  The only games I play regularly at this point are Ticket to Ride, DragonVale, and Candy Crush Saga.  The same three titles I was playing 2 years ago.  And I am only to level 301 in Candy Crush Saga, because I won’t give King a dime.
  • Where the hell is my copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls?  The Kickstarter date was a “pessimistic” August 2013, back in February of that year.  2014 is about done and there is no ship date in sight.

The Blog and the Internet in General

Highs

  • Hey, I kept blogging for another year.  Gotta love the force of habit!  375 posts so far in 2014.
  • Still feel like I am connected in some minor way to a lot of the other bloggers out there in our little corner of the net.  You all write great stuff and I don’t link out to you all nearly enough.
  • The blog continues to live up to its name, as the games I played the most this year are all pretty old in internet terms.  World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both just turned 10, EVE Online is 11, and the Pokemon franchise is 18 years old at this point.
  • Turns out what I said last year about it being nice having a blog because so many of my screen shots are there came to pass when my power supply blew out and fried my motherboard, video card, and both drives… which actually sounds like a low, but I got a replacement board for one of the drives and it spun up and I was able to recover data.

Lows

  • WordPress.com seems determined to force horrible design choices on their users.  Most of their 2014 updates have offered less functionality, worse layout, and slower performance.  Seriously, WTF WordPress?
  • The randomness of Google and the internet means my most read post this year is the one I wrote about considering which class on which to use my WoW insta-90.
  • I remain at a loss as to what gamer social networking ought to be.  I keep getting invites to sites, and spent some time with Anook, but I dropped off after a while.  I already have a blog and too many ways to interact with people, why do I need a site that appears to be primarily looking to me to provide free content?
  • When did Yahoo’s motto become, “Well, we’re not the best, so let’s just be complete shit?”  Their site, their mail interface, their mobile app for mail, all have gone to utter shit.  I am pretty sure if I install Ad Block, Yahoo would simply disappear.
  • Also, Apple, WTF is it with iTunes?  Why must it get worse and worse?
  • GamerGate: Failed to learn the lesson of Occupy Wall Street (no leadership or unified platform or goals), so now any reasonable message under that hash tag is forever tainted by death threats, doxing, and revenge porn.  You cannot disavow something if nobody/everybody speaks for you movement.  You just managed to reinforce all the negative gamer stereotypes.

That is what came to mind for 2014 when I sat down to write this.  I am sure somebody will point out some big things I missed… which is the purpose of the comments section, so have at it.

And other people in the blogesphere have been looking at 2014 for good or ill, so you can see what they had to say as well.

Progression, Nostalgia, and Special Servers

One of the questions that comes up all the time in the EverQuest forums is when will SOE launch the next progression server?  It may be the most popular question on the Progression Server sub-forum.

Second place goes to people asking for a Classic server, though those questions are somewhat undermined by both the fact that they are off-topic in that sub-forum and that there is nothing like an agreed upon definition of what a Classic server would actually include.  It ranges from just launch content out to the Planes of Power expansion, though there are a couple of voices that would stretch thing to just shy of Gates of Discord.

So the two most popular topics seem to be about getting a new special EverQuest server from SOE.

And why not?  SOE has something of a history with special servers for EverQuest, going all the way back to the initial PvP server to the first progression servers, The Combine and The Sleeper, which rolled out in June of 2006, to the Mayong 51/50 server back in 2009, to the current Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak’Aerr servers, with their time locked rule sets, which went live in February 2011.

Foggy, foggy Fippy

Foggy, foggy Fippy

So the assumption is that of course SOE is going to roll another one, it is just a question of when.  When will SOE roll out the next progression server?

My gut response to that is “never.”

There are lots of arguments for such a server.  It brings people back to the game.  It rewards long term fans.  It is popular, illustrated by the fact that both times they have done a progression server they have had to roll a second server to accommodate demand.  And in a time when the game is free to play, a luxury item like a special nostalgia server seems like a reasonable way to boost revenue.

On the flip side of all of that there is the problem with nostalgia.  That driving sense of nostalgia often doesn’t last long beyond the point when you return to the time/place/song you were nostalgic for.  I have read a couple of articles about how the internet is going to kill nostalgia as a sensation before too long.  When you have access to what amounts to a historically unprecedented amount of information in the comfort of your own home, the moment you feel nostalgic for something, you can track it down on the internet and watch/listen/read all there is available about, to the point that the sensation is sated.  Having access to the thing for which you are nostalgic replaces nostalgia with reality.  And, often times, the reality includes the downside, the reason the world moved on or the series got cancelled or that you never bought that band’s second or third album.

After "Vacation" there wasn't much point...

After “Vacation” there wasn’t much point…

So while the progression servers… or any special servers… tend to start off strong.  Things taper off over time.  Fippy Darkpaw was packed when it opened and remained popular for the first few expansions.

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

Crowd on the Kunark Dock

After a while though, the feeling begins fade.  Potshot and I joined in on the fun and were quite invested for a while, visiting many old locations in the game.  And while the great PSN/SOE hacking episode of April 2011 knocked us off the path, that episode might have done us a favor.  We ran around a little bit more after that, but for me at least, content after Kunark is still flagged as “that new stuff” in my brain, so our progress was arrested before we made ourselves sick on nostalgia.

But nostalgia does wear off.  And so it is that the question “When will Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak’Aerr be merged?” might be the third most common question on the progression server sub-forum.  In hindsight, SOE probably should have just bit the bullet and stuck with a single server, especially based on the history they had with The Combine and The Sleeper, which had to be merged less than a year into their lives, because now things are very quiet on both servers.

Unless you are in one of the raiding guilds.  They still play, racing to unlock each expansion and then hanging around, farming gear, until the next expansion.  But they are playing their own game and the rest of the server could be empty and it would not bother them.

So nostalgia wears out or the server advances to the point where the current expansion is no longer nostalgia and you end up with something more akin to a special raiding preserve as opposed to a home for old school players.

Thus I think that, given the cost of maintaining such a server and the limited pool of personnel that SOE has to devote to such tasks (as opposed to working on EverQuest Next) I think we may have seen the last special EverQuest server out of SOE.  Smed isn’t going to overtly point you to Project 1999, but SOE hasn’t shown much interest in stamping out such private servers of late either.

And what other game would be prime for such a nostalgia server?  EverQuest is somewhat unique in that not only were there a lot of expansions, but that expansions tended to leave old zones alone.  Blackburrow today looks pretty much like it did back in 1999.

Certainly World of Warcraft would spring to mind for many, but Blizzard effectively shut down that idea when Cataclysm reworked the original game.  There are parts of the old world that were no doubt better for the change, but you cannot go home again.  There is nostalgia for original vanilla WoW in part because you can’t go there any more, and Blizzard isn’t going to support two clients just so you can go back in time.

And what other games would be prime for nostalgia.  RuneScape has an old school server up now, and Dark Age of Camelot did one in the past.  But most other MMOs are too young or have changed so much that the work to create anything like a nostalgia server would make the whole thing a non-starter.  Lord of the Rings Online still delivers about the same experience for the first 40 levels, so who needs a different sort of server.  A few people pine for the early days of EverQuest II, but how would you even roll back to that?

Then there are games like EVE Online, where there is only the one server.

I asked in a post just about two years back if SOE was going to be the sole vendor of a nostalgic MMO experience.  Now I wonder if even they will keep that up.

But then there will be nostalgia.

Maybe, at some point, way down the road, nostalgia will become a viable business decision for some MMOs.

What sort of special server would you want to see?  What game should have a nostalgia server some day?