This past Saturday I wrote about the EverQuest Agnarr server, one of Daybreak’s progression servers, and passed over at one point one of the expansions slated for it, Lost Dungeons of Norrath.
The main focus of that expansion was instanced content, a brand new concept for EverQuest at the time. They were dungeons that came in a few basic flavors that had some variations between them, allowed the players running them to choose a difficulty level, and ended up rewarding players with “augmentations” that they could use to upgrade their current gear.
It was a moment of change for EverQuest and MMORPGs in general.
Saturday evening I decided to log onto the EVE Online test server, Sisi, where early cuts at the upcoming abyssal deadspace content had been made available for people to try.
The “How to” aspect of this new feature wasn’t obvious to me, but I found the thread about trying it out in the forums, which at least got me pointed in the right direction.
I wasn’t sure what ship or fitting I ought to try, so I just used my ratting Ishtar fit and figured I would adjust from there. Everything on Sisi is 100 ISK and the market is stocked with all the non-faction non-officer hulls and modules, so you can grab what you want. When grabbing some ammo I accidentally bought 2,000 Ishtar hulls, but what the hell right? It is all 100 ISK.
I then grabbed a “calm” filament, the level 1 flavor and headed out to give it a try.
The tiers run like this:
And each comes in variations, the difference between which I have yet to see.
I spent most of the first run fiddling with my drones to figure out what would work and what I ought to skip. All the NPCs had placeholder names, but they were either ships or drones. I seemed to be running into just Sleepers, but that might be related to which filaments I picked.
It seemed that 5x Acolyte IIs would eat up anything small and be able to dodge incoming fire. Mediums and heavies were too easy to hit and I had to pull them right away. So I plowed through a room, went through the gate, which opens up once you’ve cleared, then did another room, and then another, and then was back in normal space again wondering when I would get my prize.
I knew that ships did not drop loot, so skipped past them, but I didn’t notice the part about blowing up the structure in each room. That is the loot pinata. So I grabbed another calm filament and gave it another try. This time I broke all the pinatas and came out the other side unscathed.
That run dumped a bunch of loot on me, though the loot payout is cranked up at the moment, well beyond what it will be when it goes live, to let people experiment with drops. I got a mutaplasmid for a large shield extender so bought one off the market to mutate it. The result was okay.
CPU usage went down but power grid went up. Sig radius got a little bit worse, but the shield hit points were boosted quite a bit. Not a bad mutation I guess. And the newly created module shows you what was initially mutated and what got better or worse.
It also has a button to find that sort of thing in contracts, since these items won’t be on the normal market. I am going to guess that contract usage will jump sharply when these are introduced and that we might get a pass on the contract UI after a lot of people are suddenly using them more than ever before.
I also had a mutaplasmid for a medium shield booster, so I grabbed a tech II version and ran it through the process… and ended up wrecked.
I also got a tier 4 filament drop so decided to give that a try. That went less well. I managed to blow up small stuff in the usual way… a pack of cruisers in this case… with acolyte IIs, leaving me with a Sleep battleship once they were out of the way.
And even that seemed to be going well. I pulled in the acolytes and sent heavy drones after the battleship. Not problems at all…. right up until my ship suddenly exploded and I was dead.
I am not sure what did me in really. I may have flown into a pocket of toxic space. The timer may have run out. Nothing in the feedback (or in the logs) indicated what happened. Something just turned my ship into mush, ripping through armor and hull in a flash before I could react and do anything. Surprise!
That threw me to where my death clone was set. From there I had to move to a station that had stuff up on the market then set about fitting another ship. I decided to go with an Eagle this time. It could hold the five acolyte IIs I’d need and I thought the guns might speed things up.
As it turned out, nothing I could do would make medium rails track the small drones once they closed range, but my own drones took care of them as expected. Being able to reach out and shoot larger targets seemed to work okay. And I could pop the structure right away.
I ran some tier 1 and 2 versions just to get a feel for it. It sure looks pretty.
My tour ended when I had another insta-pop event. This time I didn’t even see things change, I was flying one moment and dead the next. The logs don’t show anything, just my drones popping away at the small stuff… and it was all small stuff. Maybe I hit a mine. I don’t think the timer ran down… but there is no visible timer, so I am not sure.
Anyway, that was enough for me to get at least some flavor of what is in store. I might try it again as we get closer to the Into the Abyss expansion release and things have settled down some.
But as I tinkered around with all of this my brain kept making the link with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath expansion for EverQuest. Here we have players being given instanced content, able to choose the style and challenge up front while the actual layout comes from a set group of possibilities, and offering up items that augment current equipment as a possible reward.
Nothing new in the world I guess.
Unfortunately my impression so far is that abyssal deadspace has all the drawbacks of of PvE in EVE Online; It is fun and interesting the first couple of times, but it becomes tiresome on repetition. And there is the insta-death timer thing. I don’t know enough to know if that is avoidable or if we’re going to get a visible timer, but it will rile people up when it happens on the live server. People do not like to get their shit blown up.
In the end some people will optimize and do abyssal deadspace for the rewards, and then complain about having to grind and the lack of predictability in getting what they wanted.
And that leaves aside the whole RNG module upgrade element, which already has people annoyed, as well as the strange new contract marketplace that will spring up where you’ll have to be very careful to inspect whatever you buy because every mutated module could be different.
That it doesn’t appeal to me doesn’t mean much in the larger scheme of things. Somebody will love it. There is a niche fan base out there for every feature. But will it be a draw for enough people to have been worth the effort? Will it change the game in a good way?