Tag Archives: Stormhold

The First EverQuest II Progression Server is Coming to an End

Just a little over three years ago I was writing about the launch of the Stormhold and Deathtoll servers, Daybreak’s first run at the time locked progression server idea with EverQuest II.

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

The idea has been an ongoing success for EverQuest, but there was still an outstanding question as to whether or not the original was uniquely qualified for that sort of thing of if Daybreak could make the magic happen with the never-quite-a-successor.

There had been polls and a bunch of details about what to expect when it launched.

Missing from my lauch day post was the last minute surprise about Daybreak bringing back the Isle of Refuge as the starting zone for the new servers.

Subscribers Only

I was excited to see how this played out and signed up to give it a try.  However, like the game at launch, going back to something akin to its origins wasn’t a very satisfying solo affair.  Like a lot of my EverQuest memories, my good times in EverQuest II were as part of a guild that played together.  Wandering solo at a slow pace meant not keeping up with expansion unlocks and the mass of players, so I did not stick with it for too long.

I kept an eye on the news as things progressed through the first few expansions, but even that tapered off after a while.

I was still watching when Deathtoll, the PvP server, was shut down due to low population, ending the history of PvP servers for the game save for the Russian server.  It was gone before the Echoes of Faydwer expansion was up for a vote.

After that I didn’t hear much about it and didn’t pay it much mind.  Daybreak did other special servers, the Race to Trakanon event server, the Free Trade server, and the second round time locked server, which opened a little over a year ago, Fallen Gate.

Today, however, I saw some news about the Stormhold server.  It has apparently run its course.  Unlike the many expansions of EverQuest, which has kept the Fippy Darkpaw server, which launched in February 2011 (last time line here), up and running with things to unlock to this very day, the plan for Stormhold only had a dozen transitions planned.  Even at a leisurely four unlocks a year, possible with the short voting windows, Stormhold could have easily run its course by now.

And so, come September 4th of this year, the Stormhold server will be merged into the Antonia Bayle server.

I am curious as to why they chose that server.  It used to be the popular server, the cool kids server, where events and such happened.  It was the server that was passed over when server merges hit the other live servers back in November of 2015.  But now it seems to be in need of a bit of a population boost.

Of course, this is just my sort of luck.  When the server merges happened before no two servers that I had characters on were merged together.  The server count went from ten to four and I still had characters on three different live servers.  Well, now it will be four.  I have a couple of characters on Stormhold and soon they will be on Antonia Bayle.  Just what I needed.

Stormhold Dodges Third Strike, Votes to Unlock Kunark

The results are in! The community has voted and it looks like everyone is ready to assail Chardok and conquer Karnor’s Castle! The Rise of Kunark expansion will launch at noon PT on August 16th.

The final results for those of you interested were 66% of participants voted to unlock the next expansion.

RadarX, EQII Forums

As I noted earlier in the week, the Stormhold time locked expansion server was on the horns of a dilemma, stay put for a long stretch or move ahead to the next expansion.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for their retro server(s)

The vote to unlock the Rise of Kunark expansion was up for the third time.  If it failed to unlock yet again, the votes would be extended out to an every 90 day cycle, an idea that was causing much fuss on the forums.

However, it looks like the “yes” crowd got its act together.  As RadarX, the CCP Falcon of Daybreak, announced, 66% of the votes cast were to unlock, up from 46% last time around.

For me, Rise of Kunark represents the last expansion where I really know anything about the story or content.  It was, as with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion, a nod to the original EverQuest in design/content/lore.

The next expansion up for a vote is The Shadow Odyssey which, like every expansion after that, I couldn’t really tell you squat about.  Even over at Wikipedia expansions after Rise of Kunark get the briefest of summaries on the page listing out EverQuest II expansions.

Stormhold Server Faces a Third Strike Vote

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a fan of the whole nostalgia retro server thing when it comes to MMOs.  I have found them to be a fun, if imperfect, way to take a visit back to what things were like.  Not the actual launch experience, but an incredible simulation.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Norrathmania!

It is also very much an accelerated experience, as the people who show up are generally looking to relive the early days, and know where they want to go and what they want to do.  On the various generations of EverQuest progression servers people knew what zones to visit, what mobs to camp, which spawns to farm, and what groups were needed for any given boss.

It is something like compressed nostalgia.  All the stuff you took months to do now accomplished in a few weeks.

But it isn’t just the nostalgia that is compressed.  A very swift path opens to all the usual MMO problems as well.  Again, as we have seen on multiple iterations, people have problems with groups and spawns and multi-boxing and contested open world bosses and raids and even being able to log into an overloaded server.

However, the most contentious issue of all is content pacing.  There is always a conflict between those who burn through the content quickly and want the next expansion unlocked at the soonest possible moment, and those who move at a more leisurely pace or who showed up late (along with that persistent, classic server sub-group that wants no expansions unlocked ever), who want to hold off on the new stuff.

And so it has come to pass on the remaining EverQuest II time locked expansion server, Stormhold (the other server, the PvP focused Deathtoll, was shut down earlier this year due to lack of interest) that the content pacing wars have begun to burn bright.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

That is Daybreak’s graphic for the idea

Unlocks have not been automatic on Stormhold up to this point.  The pace of votes, which come every 30 days, is such that they must seem too quick to some segment of the population, and so first unlock votes seem to fail regularly.  But the second vote has generally gone in favor of releasing fresh content.  The current vote revolves around the Rise of Kunark expansion.

What was it with SOE and dark elves?

What was it with SOE and dark elves?

However, the Rise of Kunark expansion, which raises the level cap to 80, has already failed its on two unlock votes, and the third one is in progress, being set to end this Friday.

It is a simple yes/no question

Trolling with a simple yes/no question

The thing is, as Feldon at EQ2 Wire dug up, there is a “gotcha” clause if the unlock vote fails for the third time running.  The voting quote from the forums:

Players will have the option to vote to unlock content on Stormhold (PvE) and Deathtoll (PvP) servers every 30-days. The voting period will last a week, and if the server votes not to unlock the next expansion, the vote will start again after 30-days.

If the server chooses not to unlock content three times in a row, the votes for the next expansion will change to 90-days in-between votes. This will reset back to 30-days in-between votes after an expansion is successfully unlocked on your server.

Players must be within 20 levels of current content cap to be eligible to vote.

If the unlock vote fails this Friday, the voting will move to an every 90 day cycle, and won’t go back to every 30 days until an unlock vote succeeds. (Also, my “no” vote in the screen shot apparently doesn’t count because I am only level 30 and you need to be level 50 for your vote to count according to that quote.)

This naturally has the quick content consumption faction seeing red.  In the post over at EQ2 Wire, Feldon has points out three threads up on the forums where players are issuing dire predictions should the vote fail, one of which includes a pro-unlock video.

Of course, there is no telling what Daybreak will actually do should the unlock vote fail.  The company seems to have a history of bowing to the will of the loudest voices in the forums.  Just about a year back they overrode the rules set down for the EverQuest Ragefire progression server and let players vote in an early unlock… a situation that also happened to revolve around the continent of Kunark.

The only fully good MMO expansion ever

Can’t get enough Kunark!

I will give even odds, should the unlock vote fail, that Daybreak will disavow the 90 day vote cycle clause and keep with the every 30 day pace.  Anyway, we shall see what happens come Friday.  Maybe the vote will pass and everybody will just move on.

The Race to Trakanon and Quarm Event Servers

Daybreak is carrying on with its special server bonanza for EverQuest and EverQuest II.

Earlier this week the Race to Trakanon, the first “event server” for the company, went up for EverQuest II, and if you’re just reading about it here… well… you’re late!

Event servers are limited time servers that are setup for a special purpose, and the purpose of the Race to Trakanon server is just that, a race.  Focused in the Rise of Kunark expansion time frame, it is a race to level up, get achievements, and otherwise be the server first for whatever.

It is a race

It is a race

By creating a new character on the server and competing, you can earn rewards that can be claimed by characters on other, more permanent servers.  There are more details here, while Feldon of EQ2 Wire has set up an Event Leaderboard over at his EQ2 U site. (Addendum: There is also a FAQ with more info in the forums.)

Even if you are not keen to race to level 80 or other such achievements, if you create a character on the server and get to level 10 before July 26, 2016, you will get a special mount that you can claim on every character on your account.

Not a bad mount compared to many in EQII

Not a bad mount compared to many in EQII

So there is that.  Telwyn seems to be on board.  For a mount on all my characters, I might just bang out a level 10 character while my account All Access remains active.  There is the catch, of course.  As with all Daybreak special servers, you must be an All Access member in order to play.  No Freeps allowed.

The server will shut down, and characters created will be migrated off to live servers, once the event is completed, with the run time being set at a minimum of three months.

Over on the EverQuest side of the house, there is a new event server as well, the Quarm server, which went up this week as well.  On the Quarm server you will start a new character at level 51 and pursue achievements and help defeat Overlord Mata Muram.  Details, such that there are, available here. (The FAQ in the forums has further info.)

Will they get a Quarm

Will they get a Quarm

As with the Race to Trakanon server, the Quarm server will be temporary and characters will be migrated off when the event closes.  There is also a prize if you roll a character on the server before July 27, 2016.

Another potion...

Another potion… I wanted a mount

You do not even have to level up a character… since you start at level 51 in any case.

and, of course, it is open to All Access customers only.

This is not the first event server on the EverQuest side of things.  In addition the the various generations of progression servers, there was the Mayong 51/50 server back in 2009 after the first pair of progression servers.  That was shut down by the end of 2010, along with the two bleed over servers it spawned.

Given that EverQuest progression servers tend to become races for raiding guilds in any case, I wonder how well this one will work out.

Meanwhile, since I am on the topic of Daybreak special servers, I want to note in passing that back on the Stormhold Time Locked Expansion Server, the vote to unlock the Rise of Kunark expansion has failed for the second time, with only 46% of those voting casting ballots in favor of the expansion.  There is probably a Brexit joke to be made about that, but I am not going to make the attempt.

Rise of Kunark Vote on Stormhold

Over on the EverQuest II nostalgia server, Stormhold, the march of expansion unlocks continues.  The unlock vote for the Rise of Kunark expansion… I keep typing Ruins of Kunark, because the original EverQuest expansion is much more meaningful to me… and the names are so similar… has been sent out to players.

Yes or No on Kunark

Yes or No on Kunark

Of course, this brings us to one of those nostalgia server issues which I alluded to last week in that, even if a company decides to go down that path, it is tough to please all of those interested or to find a pace that doesn’t alienate some chunk of your audience.

In this case the Rise of Kunark expansion… the subject of perhaps the only spot-on prediction I have ever made on the blog… which, among its other features, raises the level cap to 80, doesn’t do a lot for me as I am still pottering about in the low 20s.

And I haven't hit 23 yet

And I haven’t hit 23 yet

Now, this is mostly my problem.  Since the Stormhold server launched I haven’t played very much, and even when I have been playing the game has been in third place behind EVE Online and Minecraft. Which isn’t to say I haven’t played at all.  If I had rolled up a fresh character in WoW and put the same amount of time into him, he’d be into Mists of Pandaria by now.

I am not sure on which game that reflects the most poorly.

And the fact that I have been playing solo hasn’t helped.  Unlike the live servers, unnamed heroic mobs are not soloable on Stormhold, but a lot of the quests I have been running drive you straight into their arms.

So close to me goal...

So close to my goal…

Stormhold would have been an excellent opportunity to play with a small group.  Even a healer and a tank together would have owned.  But solo and playing a Shadow Knight, a brand new class for me, has made things a challenge and kept progress down.  I run into quests I cannot finish at level solo often enough, then I have to go find another path to level up on, so I can return later when I can overpower my way through the original.

On the other hand, putting expansion unlocks to a vote every 60 days seems like a fairly brisk pace.  Well, to me in any case.  And so far, only one expansion unlock has been voted down, a vote that led to the usual amount of acrimony in the forums.  No matter which way the vote goes, somebody is unhappy and wants to share.  The forever war between those who want a classic environment that sits static and unmoving and those who want to race to the top and unlock the next bit of content goes on.

Of course, I was happy enough to seen Echoes of Faydwer show up after the last vote.  That added some more 1-70 content, the emphasis for being on the late teens and early twenties, didn’t raise the level cap, and represented an important change in the history of the game.

Now though, with Rise of Kunark, we’re getting into content I didn’t even finish the first time around… even though it went live back in late 2007.

I may not be enthusiastic for the expansion to unlock, but it won’t change my play style at this point.  I am way too far behind the pack to catch up so I will continue to meander along at my own pace, dying to heroic mobs until I am at least a few levels above them.

Echoes of Faydwer comes to the Stormhold Server

I meant to mention this last week, but the war in EVE Online has gotten in the way with posts about the game taking up 10 of the last 14 posts.  My efforts to note events as they happened there led to me missing things elsewhere, such as the unlock of the Echoes of Faydwer expansion on Stormhold, the nostalgia focused EverQuest II time locked expansion server.

That is Daybreak's graphic for the idea

We are down to just one server now however

Why am I so keen to bring this up?  While I have been noodling around on the Stormhold server some over the last month or so, as a game it has been a distant third behind EVE Online and Minecraft. (I have about five Minecraft posts I want to do. Aaron won’t stop building cool new stuff.)

Part of it is that, with Echoes of Faydwer, we are now straying into the realm of things that occurred during the life of the blog.  EoF came out on November 14, 2006 and I can look back and find posts about that, including one announcing the day another about me trying to find a copy of it (back when CompUSA was still a thing), and then one about the patch process.

Nostalgia within written memory, something I do not have for the launch of EverQuest back in 1999 or even the launch of EverQuest II in 2004.  So I am happy in that regard for a start. (Though I was still figuring out how to deal with images on the blog and was hosting them on ImageShack for a bit. Those images are all gone now, since they don’t host for free any more. But I probably have them squirreled away in a directory somewhere.  Also, in a sign of who SOE used to report to, the install for the expansion put a Sony Pictures trailer on your desktop.)

Beyond that however, in the EverQuest II community the Echoes of Faydwer expansion represented a considerable change in how SOE viewed the game.

Echoes of Faydwer

Echoes of Faydwer

It is no secret that EverQuest II got off to a rocky start for many and varied reasons.  SOE seemed to have come away from the king-before-WoW that was EverQuest with a series of notions, some rather odd, as to what they had to do to make its successor better, a few of which I summed up in the back half of another post from a while back.

But of those notions, the most Bizarro world seemed to be the idea that they should avoid the EverQuest lore as much as possible.  We were still on the world of Norrath.  The cities of Qeynos and Freeport still existed.  Orcs and gnolls abounded.  Broken wizard spires lay in a few key spots.  And we had the heritage quests.  But all of that was treated as more trivia or coincidence than important parts of the world.  After the shattering everything was different.  And the first two expansions, Desert of Flames and Kingdom of Sky, sought to blaze new lore trails away from even the bits and pieces of EverQuest we could find.

Yes, there were many other problems, like simply being able to walk through Qeynos harbor without lagging to death.  But the neglect and abandonment of the lore worked against EverQuest II.  Not only was never as popular as its predecessor at its peak, there was speculation that, with people abandoning the game after launch, it wasn’t just behind WoW in subscription numbers, but EverQuest as well.  You couldn’t find a lot of EverQuest in EverQuest II.

The Echoes of Faydwer expansion came along to change all of that.  The expansion would return to the continent of Faydwer.  The zones would have the same names we knew of old.  Locations like the chessboard would be featured.  Even the geography would feel similar, with the valleys and winding paths.

Greater Faydark scout map

Greater Faydark scout map from in-game

And there would be a new home town, Kelethin that, like the town of old, would be in the trees.  And it wouldn’t be chopped up into half a dozen instance, but actually exist in an active zone, the way that old Kelethin did back in EverQuest.  Old names would resurface, like Crushbone Keep, re-imagined but still with the same character.  Other places, like the old starting towns of Kaladim and Ak-Anon would be there, but taken over by creatures and turned into places of dread.

And you would have to take a boat to get there, eschewing the travel bells and other teleportation schemes that EverQuest II had embraced for its first two years.

Carpet on the Ship

On the boat… with one of those goddam Desert of Flames flying carpets

At the time it was seen as something of a rebirth for the game.  The expansion also gave players a new route from character creation to level cap.  We also got cloaks, the return of deities, adornments, and… the Fae.

Well, Fae glide was pretty cool, right?

The expansion also represented a change to an every November expansion pace, something SOE and Daybreak have managed to keep to, and the inclusion of past expansions as a roll-up included with the purchase of Echoes of Faydwer.  This is how I ended up with Kingdom of Sky, having never purchased it stand alone.

So kind of a big deal, in an SOE-centric way, given the changes the expansion ushered it.  A lot of people came back to see this new vision of places from the original EverQuest.  Granted, the place feels pretty dated today.  Butcherblock is still very good, and I don’t mind the Steamfont Mountains, but any charm Greater and Lesser Faydark had for me back then has worn off completely.

Thus I felt I had to mark the transition, the time when the nostalgia focused Stormhold server hit the point when the game itself first decided to grasp the nostalgia theme for itself.

Of course, some forms of nostalgia work better than others.  We also saw the merger of the Deathtoll TLE server into Stormhold, ending the PvP version of the nostalgia fair.  That, and the merger of the Russian Harla Dar PvP server into the the EU Splitpaw server spells the end of open world PvP in EverQuest II.

As for the Stormhold server, in light of this nostalgia bloom I am building up here, I will see if I can’t find some time to go explore there this weekend.  My Stormhold character is in the zone for Butcherblock, so he can get on the boat and set sail.

Looking for Nostalgia in The Commonlands

In a turn of events which should surprise nobody who reads this blog regularly, having spent a chunk of the past week or so writing posts about the demise of EverQuest Next, the seventeenth anniversary of EverQuest, a new feature in EverQuest II, and related… or somewhat related… Daybreak topics, I had the urge to spend some time in Norrath over the weekend.

I am, if nothing else, predictable.  Even I could see this coming part way into those posts.

Encapsulated Norrathian Nostalgia Trigger Warning

Encapsulated Norrathian Nostalgia Trigger Warning

The question was where to go.

I am setup with Daybreak Access at the moment, so all servers are available to me.

EverQuest, the ancestral home of Norrathian nostalgia for me would seem to be the natural choice.  But EverQuest is also difficult for me to get into on a whim.  Basically, the live servers are out as everything past Luclin is “that new crap,” which doesn’t hold much interest for me.  An insta-85 character holds no fascination for me.  I could start from scratch again and visit old haunts with a mercenary in tow, but all of that is off the main path of the game and I would end up with yet another barely equipped and impoverished character.

I have a few characters on Fippy Darkpaw, but that server has probably run its course at this point.  And there aren’t even any mercenaries so I would have to wander about solo.

The Phinigel server, Daybreak’s “true box” attempt to fix one of the loudest complaints about past progression servers, was a possibility.  It has only been around since early December and is still in Kunark.  I might actually be able to find a group, though that was far from a sure thing.

Still, I wasn’t really feeling it for classic Norrath, which meant looking at EverQuest II.

I have a lot more investing in post-cataclysm Norrath, with characters between level 20-75 spread over three of the live servers (even after the server merges) as a start, plus a few characters on the Stormhold progression server.

I decided to go with Stormhold.  While it is down the path and into the Kingdom of Sky expansion, with the unlock vote in progress for Echoes of Faydwer expansion, EQII is also solo friendly enough that not being with the pack of current players won’t automatically make the whole thing a bust as it would in EQ.

And I made a few characters on the server back when it went live.  They are all past the Isle of Refuge, the initial nostalgia point for the server.

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Nostalgia on Wayne!

Past that and into the game though… well… with an eye to trying something different AND experiencing nostalgia, I decided to roll on the Freeport side of Norrath, and I am not sure how well that is working out, and whether or not that speaks to nostalgia or just the way the server was configured on that first pass.

The thing is that the quest path after the Isle of Refuge, through the Freeport sub-zones, into The Commonlands, and so forth feels a bit rough.  The pacing of quest chains often seems to assume you have gained a level with each quest turn-in, and unlikely scenario with the reduced experience gain on the nostalgia server.  And then I have the occasional quest giver suddenly present you with a quest five levels or so above the last one they gave you.  Meanwhile, the quests lines themselves also are not very good at sending you on to the next quest or the next zone or whatever.  This is not helped by the fact that my knowledge of Freeport was largely formed by a single character I rolled there about eight years back.

Of course, I am sure that the old quest chains on the Qeynos side of things feel equally awkward at this late date.  However, on that side of the world you still have the ability to opt into New Halas and vicinity, which is a very good and well structured solo-to-20 experience, form which you can pick up and head to Nek Forest or the Thundering Steppes.  Not authentic nostalgia, but then what is?

On the Freeport side your alternate option is Darklight Woods and the starter quest chain there which, upon trying it, sent me scurrying back to Freeport and The Commonlands.  I can deal with the patently ludicrous “we’re the evil faction so we have to be total butts to everybody, even those on our own team” that pervades Neriak, the rightly named “City of Hate.”  Horrible role playing, but whatever.  However, the layout of Neriak seems more likely to make it “the City You Hate.”  I have complained in the past about finding Freeport overly complicated in layout, but it is the model of sanity compared to Neriak.

So I spent a good chunk of my weekend in The Commonlands, chasing down cooking ingredients for Mooshga just outside the Freeport gates and picking up what quests I managed to find along the way while trying to gauge just how “heroic” heroic encounters really are.  I’ve forgotten how to read the finery around a mob’s name plate that indicates just how tough of a fight they are… beyond “more and thicker and having an actual probably makes them a tougher fight.”  My Shadow Knight managed a few levels during that time, and sits at 17.  Not quite enough to head into Nektulos Forest yet, which is where Mooshga has me going next, so I need to find some more quests before I decide to leave The Commonlands behind.