If You Can’t Go Back, Go Back Even Further

Wilhelm has a good piece up right now detailing the ins and outs of doing a progression server for EQ2, and how that probably would not, generally speaking, really be all that fun for anyone. The salient points, for me, were primarily that EQ2 was a very different animal back then, and the changes to the landscape and to the way characters are built have changed significantly since launch. This poses problems with progression mechanics and just what, exactly, you would be enacting.

However, if going back creates problems and lacks interest, maybe you’re just not going far enough back. Don’t turn back the dial to 2004. Turn it back by one thousand years, to Norrath as it was before even the original. Norrath as it was in Everquest Online Adventures.


EQOA was in some ways the little brother of EQ2. Launching nearly two full years before, some of the flavor of EQOA resides in EQ2, though whether by accident or design I couldn’t tell you, I assume its by design. Both games at one time featured progression through classes as well as levels. Much as EQ2 simplified some of the controls and difficulties of EQ, EQOA was also catered to a more casual crowd, perhaps because of console limitations at the time. Many of the skills also overlap, or perhaps were tested in EQOA and later used fully in EQ2.

But two hurdles are fairly obvious from the outset: would anyone play, and how much work would it really be?

The first is easier to answer, using polls and other metrics, but I think the answer would be “yes” provided the opportunity was branded correctly. Billed as an opportunity to play your ancestor, perhaps with appropriate tie ins to the main game via account unlocks, it would provide some interest from role players and achievers alike. Not to mention explorers get a whole new world to roam, and raiders have a whole new set of boss mobs and locations to trash. And while EQOA’s fanbase was admittedly small, they were loyal enough to keep a dead PS2 game going for 9 years – including years well after anyone even continued to sell PS2, much less make new games for them.


The second question (“how difficult would this be?”) I can’t really answer. SOE was game for the unusual and down to take risks at times. But now that they are not calling the shots, this is probably a pipe dream. Still, if you wanted to do it in an efficient manner, you could. Classes did not really have all that many abilities – taking the same simplification approach that EQ2 has – not giving each level’s identical spell new names, then most classes really had few spells (the toolbar in EQOA was 4 or 5 slots if I remember correctly – a very modern approach). If I remember correctly, my magician had light and heavy versions of cold and fire direct damage spells, a pet, and a couple of utilities available at any given time.

Quests were streamlined and small in nature. After starter quests each level to get you to 5, quests were spread out after that, with several levels passing at a time before a new one would open up. And quests (with few exceptions) were not class or race specific. The world itself had quite a bit of open space, but textures and animations could be reused from EQ2, and some of the locations would probably just need minor editing as opposed to full blown overhauls.


Its a pipe dream, and I know it. But I still think it would be a lot of fun to do. Who among the EQ2 crowd even knows what Fayspire is, much less having ever visited it? To open up even a few zones of recreated, thousand year old Norrath, for current characters would make for great nostalgia of a different sort in the game, and provide opportunities for some interesting quest lines and stories to be told. Its not the first time that an MMO has turned to time travel to explain zone changes, new zones, or expand storylines, am I right?

Well, in any case, I guy can dream. And if Smed drops by, maybe he can look into making it a reality.

#mmos, #everquest, #2015

Quote of the Week

This time of the year really heats up for me, vocationally, so I apologize for the lack of posts.  I still have another post on Project Gorgon to pop out, and some other things floating around, but they will just have to wait.  For now though, I got  a chuckle from bhagpuss‘ comment on TAGN’s latest EQ2 nostalgia offering:


One thing you could never accuse SoE of is consistency, which is almost top of the list of why they’re my favorite MMO developers.


I thoroughly agree with SOE’s inability to handle any sort of consistency, but I’m not sure that is quite what endures me to them.  I suppose its the almost puppy-like sense of enthusiasm and the way in which the entire group seems to consist of “FIRE, AIM, READY” people, which is very much part and parcel to my personality as well.

Nefarious Payment Schemes

There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately.   Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon.  There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome.  And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting.  I don’t disagree with any of that.  I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.

7000 tickets? Yeah, you can get any thing from those first 3 boxes on the top left.

But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that.  Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.

It requires deep investment by the players.  So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.

It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it.  You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results.  That end game prize will continue to elude you.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions.  Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme.  It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.

Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities!  Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.

Well I do.  So lets just get it out in the open:  where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding?  You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better.  The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in.   The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time?   The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?

Where’s the angst over that?  Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.

EQ2 Watch

Well sitting at home sick does allow one some extra play time.   One of the things I’ve been doing is keeping an eye out for the beta release of EQ2 F2P client.  Originally targetted for an August 17th release date, things look like they’ve been held up abit.  Along with that was a delay in the release of GU57.  Now that the GU57 release notes are out, its easy to see why*:

    • More classes are now neutral:
    • Neutral: Troubador, Dirge, Ranger, Assassin, Templar, Inquisitor, Fury, Warden, Coercer, Illusionist, Wizard, Warlock, Bruiser, Monk, Guardian, and Berserker
    • When you start a new character you will have Apprentice spells. This spell tier along with Journeyman will have a beginner level of FX in both size and quantity. Later when you acquire Adept or Expert versions of the spells the level of FX will increase. Finally when you acquire Master and Grandmaster versions of the spells you will experience the full FX force of that spell.
    • All classes have had certain key abilities removed – they will no longer receive them automatically

You and I both know what provoked these changes.  F2P does, will, and will continue to have an effect on the non-F2P version of EQ2.  The move to additional neutral classes is fine I think.  The future of Norrath was a little too…black and white for my tastes anyway.  The past of Norrath (EQOA, my original stomping grounds) was a little more muddied and I think this helps move the lore back in that direction.   The changes in spell FX and graphics is probably fine as well.  As EQ2 gets older and older, its going to need more and more facelifts.  And this will help with that, while also driving a little incentive to pay for upgrades on the free program.

But the last group is where I draw the line.  One of the absolutely great things about EQ2 is the ability to “stay in the field” – not losing people in a group session (or solo for that matter) to have to return to town to buy abilities – and – this is my fear – to remove those abilities from the F2P version unless one is willing to shell out a little more cash.  Those abilities?  Primarily Taunts.  That key mechanic that makes groups function.   And Intercept – another primary group mechanic.

Secondary to that is my own particular beef with the current trend in the evolution of EQ2.  Note the following changes that I imagine many players skipped right over or perhaps even applauded:

    • The Guardian ability “Shield Bash” is now “Bash” and no longer requires a shield.
    • Priests will no longer receive the spell “Summon Food and Water.”
    • Summoners: “Aqueous Stone” is now “Aqueous Soul” and no longer summons an item that grants water breathing. It now simply casts water breathing on the target.
    • “Hunker Down” no longer snares the caster.
    • “Wall of Rage” no longer snares the caster
    • The Berserker ability “Body Check” no longer requires a shield.
    • All versions of Will of the Heavens can now be cast while the monk is feared.
    • “Heroic Dash” no longer requires a shield or symbol to be equipped.
    • “Hateful Slam” no longer requires a shield or symbol to be equipped.
    • Mages will no longer gain “Bind Sight” automatically. It is now a fun spell and can be bought from the class trainers.

Ladies and gentlemen, all of those changes can be filed under one category:  loss of roleplaying opportunities.  Loss of fluff.  Sacrifice for the sake of mechanics and only mechanics.  I will always lament those, and I will always rage against them.  They will cause the death of your game.  Laugh all you want to.  EQ2 is at its heart an MMORPG.  And many of the players come not for the MMO, but for the RPG.

Its hard to put into words but a game needs have a certain amount of…synergy.  Synergy between the crunch and the fluff.  Between the mechanics and the lore.  Dissociate the two and problems begin to crop up.  You game loses its “soul” or it becomes difficult (or boring) to play.

The solution?  Those second set of changes should not have just been “removed” or had the fluff removed.   Instead they needed to be retooled to make them effective in (all the) way(s) they were originally intended to be.  If the beneficial effects granted by a spell or skill were not balanced well enough against the disadvantage of a self root – then fix the balance.  Don’t throw the the baby out with the bathwater.

That being said, there is something to balance out my disappointment.  Its a salve that doesn’t fix the problem but that does ease the pain a bit.

    • Weapon appearance slots are no longer restricted to being the same wield style of your equipped weapons.
    • Appearance slots are no longer restricted to levels 20 and higher.

As always, since we are simple consumers, and in the word of MMO’s, just a small group among thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, we take the good with bad.  At least, if we can’t get a synergistic EQ2, we can have the next best thing:  one we can mold a bit in our image, and that’s free to boot.

* I got my personalized invitation to the launch of EQ2X at 9:20pm CST this evening after posting this in the morning.  Dang I’m good.

Christmas in July

Yeah all that snow in Halas made the people at Sony want to give us Christmas early.  Because Everquest II is going F2P.   The tl;dr version is that they are basically relaunching EQ2 as a free game.  Initially you will have access only to four races and eight classes (and two character slots), and will have access to content only up to the expansion before the current one.  However, as with any F2P game, all of that is upgradeable for a few bucks here and there.  The MMO watchword of customizing your character has truly advanced into one of customizing your game.

Found via the Green Tree Gazette (.com of course)

For me, it fits the bill.  I just about got down on my knees and wept for joy.  The restrictions imposed will keep hardcore players running on their servers, but for fun past time, casual players like me, I can play with little or no shell out.  Pardon me again while I go jump for joy and count my blessings.

Also, to be fair, this news came to me as a gift from the ever watchful gaze of the Stylish Corpse.

So Where Have You Been Lately?

Me?  I’ve been away from MMO land, that virtual universe that we all know and love so much.  Not to worry, it was a temporary reprieve.  My trip out of town, my brother, both of these things took my time, and on top of that I’ve been battling illness.  I had a headache that lasted for 48 hours and wouldn’t let up no matter what dosage of Advil/Aleve/Tylenol I used.   I journeyed to the doc.  They ruled out all the big stuff (enclosed MRI’s suck btw)  but saw that I did have “a severe infection” in the sinus cavities that are hard to get to (the ones in the middle of your head).  Severe enough that if I get to the end of the antibiotics and there is no improvement  they will repeat the antibiotics, only this time through an IV drip as I relax in the unquestionable luxury of a hospital room.  I’m hoping to avoid that.  It has cut my playing time though as I get exhausted pretty easily and have had to take a few days off of work to literally do nothing.   I went to bed at 6 last night even – missed NBA finals, World Cup soccer, and MMO’s all three!

With the step back from online time, I let my EVE account lapse.   I would have done the same with the EQ2 one as well, just to save the money, but I didn’t get to it in time.  So at this point I’m not playing anything.   I did collect an APB key, but to be honest, shooters usually aren’t my thing so I don’t expect that to go very far.   I’ll probably diddle around with EQ2 a little more this week.  A big shout out to the lovely people over at The Halasian Empire, who have made my last couple of weeks in the game much more entertaining and welcoming.

I’ll probably also attempt to finish out my run through Tortage and the Age of Conan unlimited trial.  I really have enjoyed the game this time around, and found all the leveling bumps and annoyances from before to have been worked out a great deal.

EVE remains something of a dilemma for me.  I enjoy reading the blogs on the game, I enjoy playing with the fitter, but to be honest, its been nearly three months since I’ve taken a ship out of a hanger to do anything other than transfer some modules or scout war targets.  I’m just kinda waiting for some inspiration and motivation I guess.  I hate it that my character is not training, but in truth, part of letting my account lapse was to force me to deal with that.  I get nervous if something seems to have too great a hold on me, yaknow?

But with all that piddling, I don’t have a main game right now, and I am not really angling for one either.  I just seem to be content to float for an hour here or there as I have time and energy.   Speaking of, I’m about out right now as well.   So I’m going to go turn in.  May grand adventure and heroic stories await you in whatever realm you are journeying in as you read this.

Welcome to Halas

So I’ve been waiting for Halas to drop (ok I’ve been waiting for Tyrannis to drop too, but not much I can do on planets when I’m dodging t2 war fleets), and I even saved one class to play around with in that time.  I stumbled across the Mystic’s AAs and the ability to dual spec their spells to also function (apparently on a shared timeer) as melee strikes as well.  Genius.  Why haven’t they done that with the defiler as well?  It would make the Shaman overclass much more viable as a whole I think.

Anyway, so I fired up my Woof Elf Mystic, and the name I’ve been squatting on since I resubbed for her – Ghosthawk (an homage to the last Shaman I played – on a WoW RP server).

Not as cold as it looks.

So here’s my rundown of the new starting area thus far:

The Good

The new area is easy to navigate, making questing easy.  And the quests are interesting and have the proper RP fluff nod to good characters, with some nice conversation choices for those who aren’t quite feeling the love.  The starting armor sets are fantastic, themed to look great, and that is a great draw for even older characters.  I saw plenty of high levels mentored down to try out the new areas and collect a great new set of appearence armor (and that excellent 36 slot bank box).  The starter crafting quest is great and useful as well – a nice speed boost and good introduction to see if crafting is something you may want to do.  The story unfolds nicely and the quests move you along at a decent clip.   Overall, there are some nice  things going on here.

The Bad

The nice things going on though, are accompanied by a number of great frustrations.  Some of these will be fixed over time – the spawn rate for fish harvesting is atrocious, to the point of having to stand around waiting for several minutes to wait on one to spawn so you can gather the 3 sunfish needed for the harvesting tutorial quest (speaking of – again with the forcing you to do things you may not want to do – collect 3 of everything, seriously?).   I have a feeling they will also look long and hard at the mob levels, though part of that could be the anemic dps of the Mystic – not helped by the fact that you still have a very weak weapon ten levels in.  My quest reward mace to match the armor has pretty much the same dps as the starter spear.  I thumbed through the old Trial Isle drops and rewards I had stashed in my bank and actually put some of it to use – that should tell you somthing.

The Tilt

One thing I don’t like, but that I acknowledge is merely a matter of taste – I don’t like that you won’t get to New Halas until level 20.  I just don’t, sorry.  The big cities are part of the wonder and draw of these games, and having my way to one blocked until I run a gauntlet of starter quests is just two stepts backwards in my opinion.  At least put in the option to skip over there, as there was in the Trial Isles, or put in an option to slide that way at level 10, as the Timorous Deep area does.

Overall – not bad.  There’s alot there to like.  But I would stop short of calling it the best starter area, and I will snicker at the next dev who says they put everything they learned from earlier starter area failures to use.  You missed a spot or two.  Sorry.

The Gorowyn Myth Revisited

So I went back to Timorous Deep last night from Butcherblock to snoop around and see if I had missed anything.  Turns out I had.  I found a quest from a guy overlooking the backside of the beach and a quest on the docks to take me to Butcherblock.  Both were level 20 quests though.  So I kept digging.

I did find a little.  I hadn’t done any of the city bounty kill quests, and so I was able to earn some status for my guild finally.  And in doing so I stumbled across a well/underwater system that will, I think, yield additional pylons.  But first I’m gonna have to level my crafting and put together a few Totem’s of the Otter.  Useful item to have that thing is.  And while doing gorilla kills I got some panther skin thing that unlocked another quest line. 

So there probably is enough there to get you to level twenty, you just have to be a bit creative.  And that is another of my problems with Timorous Deep.  You have to get super creative with some of the quests.  Take the final Haoaera kill quest.  Just how exactly does one get up there to take him down?  He’s too far back on the cliff to get an angle for ranged weapons or spells.  There is no back route (I know, I wasted 15 minutes climbing mountains all of the island trying to find one).  You *can* get up there, but its takes a bit of platforming ability and good guesswork for find the clipping spots on the hills to duck, dodge, crawl, and jump from crevice to crevice to get up there.   And for me all that was happening after I’d told the supreme enchilada that I wouldn’t kill any more of them.  Honest.  (Okay, well, who are we kidding, I’m playing a Brigand and they paid me, so, whatever).

I need a Totem of the Super Jump

And so I’m sticking with my original assessment.  The bottom line is that I don’t find Timorous Deep to be any easier, smoother, or more rewarding than the original starter areas.  It is better than Kelethin, but anything is better than hearing that little girl and all those faeries whining.

I realize this may start a small blog war with Ysharros.  But its a risk I’m willing to take.  It’ll be like the nervousness of the July Crisis.  (-:  Besides, if the MMO gods didn’t want us all to have differing opinions, they wouldn’t have given us all our own blogs.

The Gorowyn Myth

Brenlo: Well when I said that, I had been drinking . . . Seriously though, we plan to only allow new characters to start in the newer player areas. Timorous, Greater Fay, Darklight and Soon Halas. The new player experience in Qeynos and Freeport are just not up to snuff anymore and do not provide as solid an experience when you enter the game for the first time.

I think the entirety of the Dev team had been drinking (emphasis mine btw).  Clearly they enjoy their dev chats, if nothing else.  But they are also drinking their own koolaid, which is never a good sign for people in leadership positions.

As someone who just went through the Gorowyn experience for the first time, I can tell you – its not any better than the Colony starting areas for Qeynos and Freeport.  In fact, it may just be worse.  And early reports of how New Halas works are terribly confidence lifting either.   Here’s a few of the common reasons I’ve heard that Gorowyn is superior to The Colony as a starting area:

Better equipment.

Okay, well, this one is true, particularly along the lines of DPS.  Whatever revamp of lower level items they did awhile back didn’t really do a whole lot for the Colonies, where they can’t even bother to give you a full matching suit of armor.

Gorowyn has class specific rewards.

No actually, it doesn’t.  It does often gives gear based on archetypes, which may or may not help you.  Along the way, it also double dips rewards and more often that not gives rewards *below* the level of the quest done.  Level 15 quests offer level 12 gear for instance.  At one point, I turned in two quests from the same geographical area and my rewards on both were a choice between a helmet and a wrist slot item.  Both the helmets boosted agility, and both the bracelets boosted wisdom.  One quests bracelet and helmet were better than the other, despite the gear being the same level.  And my Brigand didn’t need a whole lot of wisdom gear, if you know what I’m saying.  There were more rewards alright, but they weren’t there for my class and were redundent as hell.

Gorowyn has an overarching storyline.

Sure it does.  If you complete the quests in the right order.  To do that means that in Mok Rent, at level 11-12, you have to fight your way past level 17 mobs to complete a level 12 quest.  If you’re thinking you might do the other quest line first and come back to that one, as I did, you will find yourself in the odd position of having to kill off bird-men after the supreme commander has told you to lay off of them.  It also means that as one quest giver is getting increasingly bloodthirsty, another is backing off.  I also had to fight a duel with a Sarnak mad that we had stopped attacking the birdmen – before we had stopped attacking the birdmen. 

One line of quests on the beach has you run up and down the same hill 3-4 times.  The story reason is because the supreme commander has not given permission for the sub commander to kill a pirate captain.  Which is odd since two levels before that, a lone Sarnak scout had me kill a pirate captain on the other side of the beach.  Without any orders from any commander at all.

Is there a storyline?  Yes, there is.  Is it better than the Colony/Neighborhood quest lines?  No, not really.

Gorowyn takes you to level 20.

Actually, it only takes you to level 19, which is hella frustrating.  I had to fly to Butcherblock to ding 20.  And that was with my finding the obscure quests hidden in the Timorous Deep zone – the extra intact artifact, the acting as a peace negotiator on the beach, the killing of the Sarnak in the duel, etc.  If you aren’t into reading the fluff, or don’t have someone guiding you through the zone, you could easily fall short of even the 19 mark.

The crafting tutorial is better.

I don’t even know what to say to this.  I skipped it with my second character.  It saves you about 12 silver in books, and gets you to tradeskill 9.  But it makes you create a wide variety of items that will be of absolutely no use to you, that you can only sell for the cost of the fuels you bought to make them.  Suck it up, pay the silver (which you will get back in one quest over in Butcherblock) and spend the levels crafting equipment that you will use.  Or stuff for your room, like I did.  Since crafting works the same no matter what your crafting, having a player craft one of everything is rather daft don’t you think?

Gorowyn gives you a smoother transition into regular content.

This one makes me hopping mad.  It does no such thing.  You know what happens when you finish the starter quests in Gorowyn?  Absolutely nothing.  Not a damn thing.  No quest giver suggesting which zone you shoud head too, no travel funnel to get you to the next rung in the leveling timeline.  Do I use the carpet?  Go to Butcherblock?  Freeport?  I’ve played the game before, and *I* had a moment of panic when I finished the area, because I had literally been cut free in the big world with zero direction.

Say what you will about the colony, but that never happens in those quest lines.  You may get sidetracked in the big city or lost in the catacombs, but there is always an NPC to tell you where to head to next in the chain of quests.

Devs, you may think you are doing yourselves a favor by giving players less choices…but history says thats never a good thing.  You wanna revamp the Colonies, or even offer new ones?  Go for it.  You want to remake Qeynos/Freeport as end game content?  Good luck with that.

And for what its worth – I’ll put up with a tutorial that has no story, crappy rewards, and choppy progression, if that’s the price I have to pay to not hear a little girls crying and  ultra-violet-hued fairies squeeking at me.

Go With What You Know

That has been my theme in MMO land this week.

I know, not too long ago I was wanting to try something new.  And truth be told, I did.  It’s like when you mom says you can’t say you don’t like a new food until you try it.  Well I tried the beets and I don’t like them, thank you very much.

We'll have none of that here Mr. Cleese. Move along...

In EQ2, I had started out thinking I would head a different path.  I started out splitting time the two RP servers where I had new guild homes at.  On one, the gravitation was to a good character, and a Wood Elf Guardian has been my main there.  I enjoyed it right up until I got into some real – ie, non starter content, at which point I found out two things – 1) it doesn’t actually tank very well, and 2) it has anemic DPS.  I haven’t deleted him, but still…

One the other RP server, I decided to play evil characters to get the whole – Gorowyn experience, which I hadn’t tried before.  Turns out the “its a better starting experience/area” line is mostly myth, but I’ll get to that in another post.  I tried it first time through with a Fury.  It solos and it can heal for groups – what’s not to like right?  And I do like it, but…I dunno.  Maybe its just because I feel like as a healer, I should be healing someone.  Otherwise I feel, incomplete somehow.  (-:

So, basically, I’m playing a Brigand on one server and I’m waiting for New Halas on the other so I can start a new character there.  Because, even though my highest level character overall is a Necromancer, my Brigand alt was the one I always had the most fun with.  And if you aren’t having fun playing, why are you paying the money, right?

Awesome shot via eve-wiki.net

In EVE Online, I realized the unstable null sec situation would eventually catch up with me, and lo, if you have been keeping up with the posts over at the Ninveah, then you know this is true.  Added to that was me plotting the path to jump-capable ships, in particular my original goal of being a carrier pilot.  But truth be told, the idea of having to have someone else playing with me, or getting a second account, to be able to move my ship anywhere, is just a bit too much for me.   With that in mind, I decided that it was time to enter the frontier of business and industry.  My skill queue is currently pointed to Mining Barge V, with an eye towards that juicy Orca, which can double as an all-in-one carry all should I decide to leave and strike out for an alternate destination elsewhere in space.

Now, if I could just find some time to actually play…