Unintended Night

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What I was supposed to be playing last night is World of Warcraft as Wednesday is our normal mythical nonsense night.  Unfortunately we were down two people already and I myself wasn’t really in the mood to do it either.  I’ve been dealing with some stuff and yesterday was a bit of a bad mental health day.  When those situations happen I tend to turtle up somewhere quiet and hang out by myself until whatever it is has passed.  World of Warcraft is such an inherently social game that even the act of logging in ends up prompting a bunch of people to poke me and say hello…  and it feels bad to ignore them when I need to ignore them.

Sure there is now “Appear Offline” mode but even then that is not a perfect scenario.  For me at least there are a handful of people that I am generally okay with interacting with, because they know the drill.  They understand deeply because they go through their own periods of turtle time, and as a result there is no need to attempt to keep up appearances as it were.  However if you are in Offline mode and you reach out to one of those people who are on the closest rings of your monkeysphere…  they cannot respond.  You will be able to send them messages all day long but they will always get the offline message when attempting to respond back to you.  As a result when I am feeling like this I just avoid WoW like the plague because it isn’t worth the hassle.

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What I wanted to be doing was to sit on the couch and play some Everquest while watching some more Mighty Boosh streamed through the television.  Unfortunately they seem to have had a rather traumatic maintenance yesterday.  The servers went down at 5:00 am EDT on the 18th and did not come back apparently until 2:30 am EDT on the 19th.  I have no clue at all what was going on…  but I kept trying to fire up the launcher and getting the maintenance message.  I have been enjoying myself a shocking amount in Everquest, but I realize that I am riding the drug that is nostalgia.  I am not sure how long that drug will last but for the moment I am riding its high.

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What I did instead was play a lot of MTG Arena as I got it set up on my laptop.  Yesterday Scopique wrote an interesting response to my post about Arena…  or at least one that mentioned it because it wasn’t exactly a direct response.  The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily call myself much of a competitive gamer.  I traditionally shy away from player versus player situations, but games like MTG Arena or the Crucible in Destiny don’t seem to bother me that much and I am not entirely certain why.  I stumbled across a post from Tobold who very much did not enjoy his time with Arena, but for the moment I don’t mind at all that it is largely just a stripped down 1v1 client.  I think ultimately if you are going into Arena expecting Duels of the Planeswalkers or MTG Duels either one… you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Arena is simply a Magic the Gathering Online that isn’t horrible.  Sure MTGO is serviceable but nothing about it is really intuitive and it feels like you are jumping through a lot of hoops to make anything work.  MTGO was absolutely less cludgy than the days of trying to arrange a game on IRC and then getting both parties to fire up and connect to each other through the Apprentice application.  However card gaming on a PC has changed drastically since then and Hearthstone more or less has led that charge.  Arena is that Hearthstone-esc interface for the far more seasons and complicated game of Magic the Gathering, and the thing is… it works amazingly well.

There have been a few times I have been bit by the game trying to move forward without me…  but in the grand scheme of things it seems to do 99.9% of the right things at the right time.  The other moments don’t bother me too much because I am not placing a lot of my personal ego into whether or not I am winning.  I am simply enjoying playing cards and occasionally I do really well.  I do feel like Tobold’s comment of not feeling like he could be competitive with the decks presented was a bit nonsense given that I have been entirely playing the stock Golgari Exploration deck.  I felt like I was able to pick it up and start winning matches almost immediately…  and sure as my rank has risen I am winning less matches but even that doesn’t bother me much.  I am still winning more than enough to complete daily quests getting me packs and gold…  to buy more packs.  All in all I feel like Arena is going to shape up to be a very solid version of Magic the Gathering Online…  but we need to stop the comparisons there for our own sanity.

Everquest For Reasons

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Last night I did some nonsense “for science” or mostly to refresh my mind so that I was no longer talking completely out of my arse about Everquest.  Prior to last night the last time I had played was apparently in 2013 if my screenshot archive was to be believed.  So not exactly the most up to date information about the game considering it is still receiving updates and tweaks.  Prior to starting up… or more correctly as the game downloaded I watched a video from Cohh to sort of re-familiarize myself with the game.  This video included a link to Brewall’s Everquest Maps pack… which I then installed to have slightly better guidance than the default options.

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The game presented a series of servers… some of which were flagged as preferred…  something I am not completely certain what it actually means.  However it did get me to end up rolling on Vox instead of one of the classic servers that slowly got joined over the years.  This is technically a newer account than the one that I had while playing the original Everquest, but it is the one that I have the vast majority of my EQ2 characters on…  so if I am going to sub somewhere it would be here.  On my older account however my characters are spread between Veeshan and Xegony…  neither of which sounded like an amazing option for starting fresh so I just went with Vox the new standard ruleset server that was being presented in the preferred list.

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Originally I created a Gnome Shadowknight…  but the fact that I could not change the color of the eyebrows from grey to something else caused me to ultimately delete that character and roll something completely different.  This time around I went with a Troll which  was a more min-maxery choice given that the latent regeneration has always been a little broken.  Essentially there are three races that are large enough to be able to Slam…  or essentially shield bash without the requirement of having a shield.  So you if you play a Troll, Ogre or Barbarian you can interrupt casting while using a two handed weapon…  which always seemed to fit the feel of a Shadowknight better than sword and shield.  Yes these are things that I was somehow able to dredge up from the past and summon forth to advise my judgement.

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The user interface still makes me deeply frustrated because it is sort of a much worse version of Everquest 2…  and I have never thought the EQ2 interface was that brilliant.  After about thirty minutes of tweaking I managed to get things moved in a way that didn’t make me quite so frustrated…  though still not entirely happy.  The hardest part was the mouse but after tweaking both the X and Y sensitivity I managed to get mouse look feeling a bit more normal.  The next step was trying to figure out how to get tab targeting to work properly which lead me out onto the forums to sort out which of the keybinds would actually do what I wanted it to do.  It turned out that basically I wanted to bind two things to tab…  nearest npc and cycle extended targets…  which combined sorta give me the style of tab targeting I am used to which is target the nearest thing or cycle through the things I am currently engaged with.

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Over the course of the evening things started feeling significantly better as I got adjusted to this window on time.  The combat is still largely non-interactive at low levels for a melee character and it was not long before I set up my old “Taunt and Slam” macro so that I could have a single button to train both abilities up with.  Originally I had lumped Sense Heading in there but it seems that you maybe no longer need to train that like you did before.  Most combat involved me pulling with my single spell Spike of Disease then starting up the auto attack and hitting my single ability button anytime taunt or bash/slam were up.  It was not glamorous…  but also pretty chill to hang out downstairs while watching television.

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Unfortunately as of writing this…  I am finding out that they apparently moved the spells so you start to get something new every level instead of not giving Shadowknights much of anything until around level 10.  So I just bought Sense the Dead, Locate Corpse, Invisibility vs Undead, Disease Cloud and Siphon Strength which should serve to make combat significantly more interesting.  The other thing that makes this entire experience more reasonable is the introduction of mercenaries… so I am running around with I believe a Human Cleric allowing me to do my tanky nonsense almost indefinitely receiving the occasional heal to keep me alive and functional.

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All in all it is not a bad experience so I do need to back pedal a bit regarding some of my comments the other day when talking about Project Gorgon.  That said I do think the interface for Gorgon is leaps and bounds ahead of this one, and it is probably the single most frustrating part of the experience for me.  I feel like I will spend some time soon trying to clean the interface up a bit or seeing if I can hide some of the interface elements to reduce the size of everything.  I am linking in a picture from Project Gorgon for reference…  as there is just way less stuff on the screen but providing most of the same information that the Everquest screen does.  Regardless it was interesting enough for me to get to level 8 and it is highly likely that I will keep leveling for a bit just to see how the experience expands once I leave the newbie cave.

 

 

Wandering Aimlessly

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Right now I find myself struggling a bit to gain purchase in most of my MMO options right now.  World of Warcraft I am back and active in because of the Wednesday night Mythical Nonsense thing we are doing.  I was logging in every night to try and eek out the last bits of experience needed to unlock the Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei but even then…  I have faltered considerably.  I really do not enjoy Argus, so logging in every night and grinding every single quest available just seems grossly unpalatable.  Final Fantasy XIV failed to catch my attention with Eureka, and I lost momentum catching up on the main story quest patched in with the latest expansion.  Destiny 2 is sitting there largely untouched because when I log in…  there is really nothing that I want to be doing which is ultimately where that game falls short of the original..  there are no long running breadcrumbs for me to follow when I spin out and lose purpose.  Monster Hunter World is always easy to get back into…  but there are nights that I just don’t want to spend my evening upstairs and the fact that my PS4 is there limits my play time.

In the end I keep coming back to Project Gorgon and its weirdly charming neostalgic experience.  On the podcast Tam talked about the game feeling like the way we remember playing Everquest.  While this might sound confusing at first… this is exactly what this game feels like.  We have incorrect rose tinted feelings about how Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot for that matter felt to play.  If you go back today you end up with a cludgy mess of a game that feels ancient and quite honestly not that enjoyable.  However our in our memories the Everquest experience is still vibrant because we have edited out the rough spots and filled in the way those actions made us feel in place of the hard facts of just how limited that game actually was.  Project Gorgon remembers those things that were lacking in Everquest and has supplied the spackle and paint needed to make those memories feel true and vibrant.

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Sure I am doing the same kill ten rats quests I have been doing my entire MMO gaming career, but the fact that I seem to have a relatively limitless quest log…  and the fact that I can complete the quests by killing ANY ten rats…  not just the ones five feet away from the quest giver makes the experience feel more open ended.  If I have a quest to kill wolves…  Sickly Wolves, Mangy Wolves, Supporting Wolves, just plain wolves…  specific named character wolves…  all count towards a quest that says “kill wolves”.  This means you can do the quests while roaming around the world and exploring… rather than feeling tethered to a specific location to be able to clear out your log.  There are quests I picked up on my first day that I just managed to finish two weeks later because I had not actually encountered the thing I was needing to find yet.  I dig the long tail that this cycle has and the fact that it feels like you are “questing” for something more than just completing a task list.

I am sure some of this is just my inherent lack of familiarity with the world or the fact that the maps don’t really have locations marked on them, or my habit of running the opposite direction I need to go.  Whatever the case the specific combination of broad objectives and happy accidents along the way lead to a very immersive experience in spite of the fact that you spend a good deal of time running along and encountering nothing at all.  The only real complaint I have so far is the fact that most of the gear that I use looks like complete nonsense…  like right now it feels like I am wearing thermal long-johns…  but they were unfortunately the best item I had and finally got rid of that horrible yellow bandage appearance.

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At this point I have managed to hook two more people on this game, in part because I knew it would be down their alley.  For the most part I am limiting myself to just Sword and Psychology…  but I am contemplating trying out a few other secondary skills.  I spent the 2000 councils aka gold to learn beast taming so it might be interesting to try a pet secondary for awhile.  Similarly I now have the ability to learn fire magic, so that might also be interesting to shim in over top of Psychology.  The one thing that I am finding weird… and cannot quite reconcile is that our hotbars have six abilities on them…  but right now I have seven in both psychology and swords.  I cannot however seem to be able to replace the spells from my bar…  so how exactly do we use that last one?  I might try dragging it to the optional bar and see if it becomes usable that way.  Among all of the other games that I have access to at this very moment…  this one feels the most comfortable and suited to whatever I am needing at this very moment.  I’ve not really streamed much because nothing I am doing right now seems interesting enough for someone to watch.  Grinding factions in WoW is boring as hell… and I am afraid me wandering around aimlessly in Gorgon will also be boring to watch.

Project Gorgon

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I am not entirely sure why, but this weekend I decided to buy into Project Gorgon on Steam.  Now in theory I could have been playing it for free all of this time given that based on the titles I have…  I played both in Pre-Alpha and Alpha.  I remember picking up the game in the past and finding it undeniably charming… but also very raw and unpolished…  which was not something I was looking for at that time.  However with several games either out or on the horizon that seem to be vying for the “Everquest Nostalgia” demographic…  I thought I should probably give it another shot.  Knowing how shoestring of a budget the game has been lead me to just go ahead and purchase it on Steam even though in theory I could have still logged in via my original account that I linked to while setting the game up.

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Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.  This can be a bit maddening if you are not in the right mindset, but in doing so the “newbie island” helps to set your focus on how this game works.  There are clues and directions out there…  but you need to spend time pouring over quest text and scribbling down notes as you go.  Which is handy because they do in fact give you an in game notepad to do so with.  One of the sequences on the island involves going around and scribbling down coordinates that you will ultimately need later on, and not writing down the correct coordinates could have dire consequences.

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I am extremely late to the game, because I know that some of my friends have been playing for ages.  However I still felt like I needed to talk a bit about it this morning to try and explain why it is so damned charming.  Compared to modern MMORPGs this is going to feel extremely spartan but I believe that is in large part the point.  This is a game where everything has an equivalent skill that can be raised, including death…  and a game where you have no classes or true levels to speak of.  You go out into the world and do things, and those things ultimately give you skills…  which you then blend together into something resembling your own personal “class”.

For example everyone can have a primary and a secondary combat skill.  I’ve chosen sword for my primary and bow for my secondary allowing me to play a EQ ranger sort of flavored character starting combat off with ranged attacks and finishing it up close and person with sword slashes.  I could have gone with other options which would have had their own leveling system and their own sets of attacks.  I’ve not actually encountered anything that would come across as traditional magic in the game, but I am certain it is in there…  just has to be discovered and unlocked like everything else seems to be.

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I am currently in a mode where I am just not sure what is useful and what is not.  It seems like everything that drops can in theory have a use…  but I may not be able to discover it yet because I lack the skill to do anything with it.  I spent a large amount of time yesterday learning how to cook and garden so that I could ultimately create some hashbrowns…   to gain favor with an NPC to be able to do something else.  Similarly there are half a dozen combat quests that I am slowly chipping away at as I go out into the world and take down mobs.  There is a significant amount of learning the lay of the land going on…  which of course has its own skill associated with it called Cartography… that increases as you clear the fog from various areas of the map.

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Like I said literally everything seems to have a skill associated with it that can be raised and that will ultimately unlock abilities if you get them high enough.  Combat right now can be extremely challenging because there is no formal “con” system like Everquest or DAoC had to guide you.  In theory you need to fight something… before you can really determine if you are strong enough to be able to hunt them regularly.  Since Death is its own skill…  dying over and over to something eventually makes you heartier and raises your maximum health and in theory doesn’t seem to have much in the way of negative effects.  There is some sort of a hardcore mode that acts more like Everquest or a similar game…  but that is not a thing I will ever be enabling.  What makes it even more entertaining is that you gain “Bonus Death Experience” for dying in new and interesting ways…  turning it into a bit of a mini-game to see if you can figure out new ways that you can shed the mortal coil.

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Anyone who played Everquest during the Shadows of Luclin expansion will recognize this scene…  with lots of vendors lined up in an area that looks very reminiscent of The Nexus.  The positive here is that each of these stalls is an NPC that can be rented by the players allowing for a much better shopping experience than players having to AFK all day to sell their wares.  One of the things you are going to need to get used to in playing Project Gorgon… is that it is a much slower paced game hearkening back to an era where there was plenty of time to throw out chat messages in between attacks in combat.  As a result from what I hear there is an amazing community that has grown up in the game and based on the forums at least… I would say they are more than willing to help new players get started.

There are certain aspects of the game that really lend to this…  for example it uses an EQ item drop system allowing players to just throw something on the ground that anyone else can pick up.  As a result there are often tons of viable items just laying around in town that high progressed players have discarded because they are not actually worth trying to sell.  One of the concepts that is hard to get used to is the fact that vendors have a limited amount of gold on them, and each of them will only buy certain items.  There is one vendor in town that will buy pretty much anything…  but you are going to run her out of gold very quickly and have to wait seven days real world time for her funds to regenerate.  This means that you need to get to know which vendors are the best options for buying which items…  either that or just drop it on the ground for someone else to use.

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Another really interesting system in the game is that you can “Hang out” with certain NPCs while offline, allowing you to do some measure of progression while not logged into the game.  You can only have one of these activities selected at a time and as far as I can tell you don’t need to be anywhere near the actual NPC when you log out to make it happen.  For example in the first image of this post there is a little note at the bottom the screen saying that I finished hunting Myconids with Mushroom Jack, which was a 4 hour long Hangout I chose before logging out for the evening.  Generally speaking you need to get to a certain faction level before these start opening up with NPCs, but doing so gives you an interesting way to push up their favor and also potentially gain items.

It took me awhile to figure this out, and in my sluggishness at arriving at this conclusion…  it lead me to miss out in a very important item on the newbie island that I am deeply wishing I had.  In fact I am starting a second character just to try and get said item…  and in theory will swap it over via the extremely expensive shared account storage.  The only problem I see with the game right now is that since I seem to be able to eventually learn how to do everything…  I question the need for alts.  At some point during my play through I decided to drop unarmed combat as my secondary attack and pick up a bow…  and even though it was grossly behind in skill I seemed to be able to catch it up quickly.  If you have the time and money… you seem to be able to do every possible tradeskill…  so I question what the hook is for running up additional characters?

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Over the course of the weekend I played eight hours of the game, and in doing so have become hooked.  While doing this Tam was apparently playing Shroud of the Avatar, which I myself booted up last night to see how the two compared.  They are both vying for that 90s era early MMO nostalgia… and quite honestly Project Gorgon scratches the right itches for me personally.  Shroud was extremely well funded and had a relatively large development crew to create…  but comes off as this extremely janky product.  Project Gorgon however has at its core a husband and wife development team, and a composer…  and a relatively low funded kickstarter…. and comes off as this completely charming and competent version of that Everquest era game that ultimately FEELS better to play.

Sure it needs more work, for example the game consumes a ton of system resources… far more than it should for the level of graphical fidelity.  However client optimization will come in time, and based on the little note you see before logging in the team realizes that is a problem.  However what is there is extremely sticky, and extremely impressive for such a small development team.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the game because each time I play I figure out something new.  Hell there are entire areas of the first major zone that I have not explored…  and with it likely NPCs that I have not talked to or encountered.  Ultimately this game is not going to be for everyone…  but if you ever wanted to see what playing Everquest felt like back during the early days Project Gorgon is a great starting place.

Fixing Everquest 2

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Tale of Two Games

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Last week we had the somewhat bittersweet news that Everquest Next was officially being cancelled.  For those who were utterly confused about what Landmark,  Next and the rest of the EQ games actually are… here is a quick rundown.  Everquest of course is the granddaddy of the big hit MMOs.  Then mere days before the launch of World of Warcraft…. Everquest II came out as an attempt at rebooting the world.  Everything in that setting happened after a huge calamity that saw Luclin the moon shattering and sending shards to earth.  The world was changed, the land fractured, and in many ways it allowed for a much larger scale game world than the original.  Everquest Next was the concept for what was ultimately going to be the third Everquest MMO… so in truth you can just think of it as Everquest III.  Landmark on the other hand is ultimately the tool that they were using to build the world of Everquest Next.  After playing around with it the folks decided that this was actually a really fun thing to play with in itself, in the Minecraft style.  Landmark was really never a fully fleshed out game, but more of a sandbox toy that players could fiddle with.  Since its launch they have made it more “game-like” but it still is missing a lot of the core features folks expect in an MMO.

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Now in the above paragraph I mentioned a key fact… that Everquest II launched on November 8th of 2004… and then was completely overshadowed by the launch of World of Warcraft on November 24th of that same year.  The two games took significantly different paths, and produced really different results.  Everquest II was this rich tapestry of cultures and game systems that provided a really deep game play experience that worked on so many levels.  World of Warcraft was a much more streamlined experience that asked less of the player, but ultimately became easier to pick up and play without an excessive amount of research.  We all know how the tales goes… that WoW becomes the juggernaut of MMO gaming and EQ2 becomes this sheltered garden with an excellent community and lots of great content…  but always treated as a second tier experience.  Right now Everquest II feels extremely dated, like an artifact of a different era whereas World of Warcraft feels somewhat evergreen.  The major difference there is that each time WoW releases an expansion they do significant systems overhauls that cause some sweeping changes to not only the fidelity of the game client itself, but also the back end systems.  Everquest II on the other hand has been this “Weasley House” of MMOs with content constantly being tacked on top of the older foundation.  The new content feels like modern content, but you experience a sort of whiplash as you shift between the different layers of the content and see just how drastic and inequitable the improvements have been.

Renovation Is Due

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The above image has been floating around for a few weeks now and represents some work that the Everquest II team is doing to update the orc model.  It seems that the newest expansion content that they are working on heavily focus on orcs, and as a result they are just updating the base model to bring them up to modern standards.  Seeing this however made me realize just how bad the old models look.  I mean it has always been one of those things in the back of my mind, but when you see what the team is capable of producing today… placed against something that has existed since 2004 it is staggering.  Now that Everquest Next is no longer a thing… I would love to see them pour some of those resources into producing a graphical upgrade to Everquest II.  The big problem with the game are just how dated the models and the animations look, and going back there is always an adjustment period and largely just hand waving off a bunch of details that get under my skin because the content itself is so amazingly rich.  I realize this is a massive undertaking, and it is the sort of thing that could be rolled in over time.  If you remember the original Everquest went through the same problems and with the release of Luclin they released new and updated character models.  Unfortunately in the case of EQ2… we need a lot more than just characters.  I would love to see this great game get a second life, because for so many of my friends that I have tried to get to play this game…  the ugliness of the assets was a barrier they simply could not get past.

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Now fixing the graphics isn’t going to fix the game entirely… but it would go a long way into making it feel more playable.  Next up however we really need to talk about the user interface, that has always felt a bit cludgy.  I’ve not played the game in the last decade without first installing some sort of third party addon user interface.  For years I played with Fetish Nightfall, and within the last six years or so I switched over to being a Drums UI guy.  With these UI extensions the game becomes rather good, but the whole process of acquiring a UI and keeping it updated… feels needlessly arcane in a manner I have not experience in any other game save for maybe Dark Age of Camelot where they had no official support for addons.  So the entire User Interface could use a bit of a facelift.  Finally we have to talk about the way combat works in this game.  I feel like this is the step that would actually cause rioting in the streets by diehard Everquest II fans…  but I also feel like it is the point that is the most needed.  The game really really needs to simplify combat in a way that does not require me to use 30+ abilities in a combat rotation.  The above picture is of my Shadowknight, and at least 30 of this abilities are ones that I pretty much used in every single round of combat.  It was even worse on my Dirge and I had these super complex patterns memorized… that even today I can sit down at the keyboard and automatically cycle through them.

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The problem is…  it doesn’t really feel fun.  I feel like I am playing some sort of a musical instrument instead of actually experience reactive combat in a video game.  Now I am not saying water it down to the level that single hotbar games have done… or simplify it to the point of an action MMO.  I just would love to be able to have one primary hotbar of abilities that get used every round… and then a bunch of optional abilities that throw in for flavor or when special conditions are met.  The cooldown of EQ2 abilities is so long that you need something… anything… to fill in the gaps so you quite often are simply mashing the next button that is off cool down.  Please understand that I am a huge fan of Everquest II… but every time I leave it is the cludgy combat system that eventually drives me away.  For several months I can overlook it and just blend back into the rich and vast game world… but I always reach this point where I need to play combat that simply “works better”.  I think maybe this is a ship that has already sailed, and after doing several combat passes early in the game…  I am not sure if they have the intestinal fortitude to attempt another.  All of this aid… simply making the game look better would go a long way into making this a more attractive experience to new players, but in doing this post I am talking about all of the things that I wish were different.  Combat will always be a huge part of that.

MMOs Worth Playing – Everquest II

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Perforated Week

mmosworthplayingThis week was a strange one, because it essentially consisted of two Mondays and two Fridays since I was off Wednesday due to Veterans day.  This week also pretty much was completely lost to Fallout 4.  So I contemplated just doing another post about that and skipping the MWP feature for a week.  That said I decided to fall back on an “oldie but goodie” that I could write about without much prep work.  Once again the MMOs Worth Playing section by intent is to highlight some of the awesome games out there, that maybe don’t get as much love as I feel they should.  This has been the pattern other than last week when I did a special BlizzCon edition, and this week we are continuing that pattern with some talk about Everquest 2.

Launching Against a Juggernaut

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When it comes to underdog games… it would be near impossible to find one that more fits that title than Everquest II.  Back in 2004 there were two games vying for everyone’s attention… the sequel of sorts to the wildly popular Everquest and the newcomer with a strong pedigree World of Warcraft.  By the time we got to November of that year… there was quite literally one game on everyone’s minds…  and it wasn’t the return to a calamity stricken Norrath.  EQ2 had the misfortunate of launching sixteen days before the game that would for the most part change the landscape of MMOs.  I was pretty torn as to which game I would end up playing, and I even pre-ordered Everquest II and spent a good deal of time in the alpha and beta processes.  However when it came time to launch…  there were a few people from my EQ1 days that were going to be playing… but the vast majority of my friends were simply waiting for World of Warcraft.  So since money was very much a thing back then… I simply didn’t pick up my EQ2 pre-order and waited for the coming of Azeroth.

Roughly six months into that experience however I got a patch of wanderlust like I always do and drug a group of friends over into Norrath and found that I really liked the game.  Just as I know eventually I will be playing World of Warcraft again, I will also be doing the same for Everquest II.  The sort of experience it provides is just different than you would find in most games.  For me at least the magic is the setting.  Norrath is world I am deeply nostalgic of, and with it comes little references to the good times I had in Everquest.  I realize for many at launch this was a huge problem… because instead of continuing where Everquest left off they chose to reboot the world of sorts and bringing the players in after the moon Luclin had exploded raining down shards around the world.  This event sundered the world causing it to break apart into small islands, and much of the theme of Everquest 2 has been one of exploration and rediscovery.

Unearthing Greatness

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The players are helping to recover the lost grandeur of the past, and with that we are uncovering locations that I remember extremely well in the original Everquest.  The big thing that spoke to me about the game however was the epic scale.  These zones are huge… so huge that often times they are made up of several distinct sub zones that all exist together in one seamless area.  What makes them work so well is the fact that they are really content dense, with all sorts of hidden treasures and events stowed in between what would normally be something you simply rode past.  One of the things that made EQ interesting was their construct called a “Ring Event”, which involved fighting certain mobs… which would spawn other mobs… which would ultimately culminate in a boss.  So as you wander the world, you never quite know what thing you are killing might lead to something far more interesting spawning.  I remember one of these particular in Nektulos Forest, that ultimately lead to a rare named boss that was used for a quest.

Another aspect of the game that I have always loved that follows this exploration and recovery feeling, is the Heritage quest.  These are truly epic quest chains that tend to require twenty or so discreet steps to complete and often involve you spending a considerably about of time crawling through dungeons and catacombs to find bits.  Each of them represents the attempt to uncover an item of fabled power from the old world, and as a former Everquest player…  I know almost every single item referenced by heart.  What makes them even cooler is that they function dual fold when you complete one.  For starters you get a really nice piece of gear that at the level you can get it serves to be some of quite literally the best gear you can get.  However when you out level it, you can turn it into a trophy item that you can then put in your player housing to remember your journey.  So it feels really cool to walk into your house and see all of these past accomplishments displayed in physical form.  Each item you hang on your wall or stash on a shelf is a memory of an event that you did in game, which makes the whole thing feel more important than simply earning points or titles.

Rich Systems

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Everquest II is this impossible game, because quite literally I don’t think it could have ever been created in today’s climate.  So much time was spent on systems that feel casual and exploratory gameplay, that enrich the player…  but don’t really make up much of an “endgame” in the traditional sense.  I just mentioned housing and that is absolutely a crucial one.  Dark Age of Camelot was the first time I had experienced player housing, and I knew that I was absolutely hooked.  The problem there is it took up large tracts of physical real estate in the world.  That meant a limited number of players could ever have housing, because there were a limited number of deeds available.  EQ2 went in a completely different direction, and at first I was not terribly certain of it…  and later I have come to realize it was a stroke of genius.  Instead of making housing exclusive… they simply made it part of the base gameplay experience by giving you an Inn Room that serves as your first house while going through the early levels.  From there the player gets used to the notion of checking into their room periodically and quests giving them items that they might want to display there.

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As you progress you can keep getting cooler homes with significantly more expensive weekly upkeep costs.  While player housing is awesome… where the game really shines is the introduction of Guild Housing.  In each guild I have been in, the house became a hub of activity for its members.  Due to the ability to place crafting machines, bankers and brokers all in the hall… it means that there will be a constant flow of players coming in and out as they do their business around the game world.  While it might seem silly… because we already have an always on guild chat… but seeing players in their physical avatar form just feels different and almost magical.  There are tons of people in the game world that I might talk to on a nightly basis… but it could be weeks before I actually cross paths with their characters in game.  Having this nexus meant that the guilds were actually more communicative that they might have been were it just left to text only conversation.  There was also always the added benefit of having some shared goal that the guild as a whole could work towards.  I remember doing all sorts of things that could grant “status” in the guild, which then could be spent as a currency to help pay the expenses of owning the guild hall.  Contributing status made it feel like I was helping… even though what I was actually earning was just a drip in the bucket comparatively.

Overwhelming Content

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I could literally write one of these posts a week, for the next few months and not have scratched the surface of talking about everything in this game.  The game is nearing the launch of expansion number Twelve Terrors of Thalumbra.   In the same time World of Warcraft has had six expansions, and this is not counting the mini adventure packs, which I believe there have been four or five of at this point.  The amount of content of all types that is available is just completely mind boggling, and at any given level you usually have multiple paths that you can take to get to your goal.  My favorite part about the game is that they still have public dungeons.  This is the aspect that made the original Everquest feel so vibrant to me, was that you could go into these super dangerous areas with your friends… that were huge NPC warrens that felt like working areas.  If you went into the kitchen, then you found a chef… if you went into the dungeon… then you found a jailer or a warden.  It felt like we were actually raiding bases, rather than taking a theme park ride where at the end we got loot for our trouble.

These big public dungeons were places you could just go and hang out with your friends… where the difficulty level was enough to make bringing friends along for the fun worth while.  All of which made it all the more enjoyable when you finally reached a level of gear where you could actually go into these places and survive by yourself.  I remember the amazement the first time I saw a friend soloing Sebilis for example in Everquest… and then was shocked when I reached the point where I could solo tough mobs like the Sand Giants in the Oasis of Marr.  Everquest even in its more modern version is really good at setting up these goals that you want to go back and achieve later.  If you can’t take on this monster now… then you will likely go back later and get revenge on it when you can.  I’ve talked before about how fear is missing from games… and wandering these public dungeons brought it back.  That if you were able to keep up with the spawn rate, you could stay in there in a tentative state of safety… however if one thing went wrong…  you were running back in after a death.  That era in games seems to be all but extinct at this point.

Dated But Good

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At this point Everquest 2 is feeling its age, and with recent Daybreak mess… it is unlikely that this is going to change at any point in the near future.  The engine is old, and has not had the benefit of having frequent face lifts in the same fashion that World of Warcraft has.  As a result the model detail is a little off, and the world building itself can feel a little cludgy in the early zones.  There however is an amazing artistry as each time they release an expansion they push this old engine beyond its limits and find new ways to keep this game interesting.  This is absolutely a game that I would suggest everyone play at least once, but in doing so you have to go into it knowing that you are essentially playing an artifact of a bygone era.  They simply do not make games like this one any more, and to some extent I am regretful of this fact.  The amount of detail that can be found between its cracks is enough to drive you completely mad if you try and assimilate it all.  If you do start an new character I highly suggest you either roll in the Neriak/Darklight Woods starting zone or Kelethin/Greater Faydark… because as the game went on they got significantly better at doing the starter experience.  If you do end up trying the game, I would love to hear your own impressions.

 

Better Faction Systems

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Loss of Nuance

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I had this topic that I wanted to talk about this morning, and jotted it down so that I would not forget.  Then last night I suffered from a bout of insomnia.  So my hope is that even without much sleep I can still make this topic work, and devote the amount of attention it deserves.  For years I have talked about my dislike of the faction wall system that was first popularized by Dark Age of Camelot, and then carried forth into the modern genre of MMOs thanks to World of Warcraft adopting it.  For many players they know nothing different than picking a red versus blue faction and living their entire gaming life’s within the confines of it.  I think I struggle against this concept because I remember a time when this wasn’t necessarily the case.  Lately I have been spending a lot of time playing my smuggler in Star Wars the Old Republic, and yes I realize that game is a very faction locked experience.  However if you think of the Smuggler itself in the Star Wars mythos, it has always been a character that skirted the lines trying to exist in Republic, Imperial and Hutt space at the same time, carving their own path balancing between them all.

The problem is, other than the original Everquest no game really supports this notion.  You cannot live between the faction lines making your own choices, instead you are asked to choose an allegiance that is about the most impersonal experience imaginable.  The problem is that I feel no personal responsibility for choosing Horde or Alliance or in many cases Red or Blue.  They don’t represent me as a person, and as such I have no real loyalty tied to them.  However in Everquest you were assigned essentially a default template of allegiances based on your racial choice… but from that point on you could blur the lines at will.  I remember spending copious amounts of time hunting Kobolds in the Warrens off of Toxxulia Forest, for the purpose of gaining faction in the otherwise aggressive city of Paineel.  Why did I do this? Honestly for no real reason other than I could, and that I thought the city of Paineel was extremely cool in its layout.  Sure I could have simply banked and quested at the far end of Toxxulia Forest in the already friendly city of Erudin, but instead I made the conscious choice to hang out with the Necromancers.

Sapping Creative Expression

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The problem with the faction wall system is that it forces all of the players to essentially be the same person.  Later games started throwing in optional faction grinds, but those grinds are always connected to “things”.  Gain this much reputation with this faction and you will get a nifty sword, or a pretty mount…  but otherwise once the current expansion is over they will be utterly meaningless from that point on.  The problem here is that these tertiary faction choices don’t actually effect the players game experience.  They don’t unlock new areas of the world, or more so close off other areas that the player did have access to.  Granted in the early days of World of Warcraft they did manage to create a few of these Factions that did actually do interesting things.  Namely I am talking about the back and forth seesaw of the Bloodsail Buccaneers and the assorted Goblin factions.  If you were truly insane you could skirt a thin line between gaining faction with the Bloodsails but also doing faction repair work with the Goblins to make sure you were not ever hitting “Kill On Sight” status.

The problem here is… this was an isolated example that granted players access to a handful of boats in the ass end of the world.  This area was made immediately irrelevant as soon as the Burning Crusade and subsequent expansions released.  Instead as an Alliance player I always wanted to figure out a way to gain factions with the Tauren.  They were the only Horde race that seemed to cling to any ideals I could get behind, and I thought it would have been so interesting to be able to gain faction in a way that would allow you to enter the town and do commerce there.  Things are never completely black and white, and even in the lore there are characters that skirt the lines managing to be friendly to two different groups at the same time.  The entire World of Warcraft experience would have been so much richer if it allowed players through sheer will to grind out their own niche that lay somewhere between the predetermined choices.  I think it would have been interesting to allow players to create the ultimate “diplomat” that was friendly to essentially ALL of the races.

Fear for the Future

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The problem with games being iterative is that once a feature set becomes common, it essentially stays there forever.  This past weekend when we talked about Tron 2.0 in our AggroChat Game Club show, one of the lines of discussion was how the cultural norms for shooters have changed over the years.  What used to be representative of most of the shooters that were out in 2003, is no longer recognizable through the lens of the basic feature set that we now have come to expect.  World of Warcraft borrowed heavily from the games that came before it, and since it chose to go with a walled off faction system, games that have borrowed from it have essentially followed that mold.  Red and Blue factions with their own walled off areas of play have become the template for how to build a game, and right now the only real evolution has been a return to three factions instead of just two.  Sure games like Rift have torn down the wall and made faction into “fiction” but they have not really gone anywhere in the struggle of making faction a personal choice.

Now going back to the original thing that spurred this topic, Star Wars the Old Republic.  How much more rich would the smuggler have been if you quite literally could have been a freelancer in action and not just name.  The game does a decent job of making you feel like you live somewhere between the red and blue lines, and then when the second chapter happens it essentially rips all of that forcing you to align to the Republic faction.  Sure you can still play a dark side Smuggler, but these aren’t “real” decisions with any sense of “real” lasting consequences.  You can’t decide to say screw the republic and opt to live entirely in Hutt space or Imperial space.  You can’t decide to say on Alderaan or Balmorra and improve your faction with one of the leaders, opening up new questing opportunities that are unavailable to the average player.  Everquest is a game that I could never really play again, because I just can’t handle the essentially “primative” game client.  There however are still things that the game got right, that no other game that I have played have really tried to copy.  The problem is… right now I cannot see a game adopting a more real world faction system, without somehow turning it into a marketing focus and losing sight of all of the other things that have to be in place to make a game enjoyable.  Essentially I want real factions… but still be able to keep all of the things that I have come to expect from an MMO to this point.  Unfortunately I fear that the era of MMO experimental-ism is over… and at this point our feature set is locked in place just like the feature set of shooter is locked as well.  In the meantime however… I will still carry a rose colored torch for this features that I wish I could have in modern games.

 

Fear of the Unknown

MMO Nostalgia

pathfinderonline One of the interesting subtexts this week that we will likely talk about on tonight’s AggroChat is Kodra and Pathfinder Online.  He has begun the descent into this game and been trying to drum up a certain measure of interest from the rest of us to join him.  The problem is that as I listen to him talk about the game I realize that I have already played this.  In fact I gave three years of my life to Everquest, and everything about Pathfinder Online feels like a nostalgic throwback to that era.  I am sure it is a perfectly awesome game, but while I miss the sense of community we had back then there are many things I don’t miss about it.  This is all the more relevant since right now the Ragefire server is open in Everquest and folks are flocking there for their own hit from the nostalgia pipe.

The thing that I don’t miss about that era is the way I felt chained to the computer.  Every time I set foot in the world I had a tangible fear of losing everything that I had worked so hard to attain to that point.  There was always the fear that you might take a death in a place where you could not recover your body.  Over time the items on your body started to decay and disappear, and eventually there was a point where things were simply no longer recoverable.  The problem is when you took a death your entire mission in life became about getting that body back.  I’ve known people that skipped major events in their life all because they were in the middle of trying to get back their virtual items.  I’ve personally gotten calls on the middle of a Sunday afternoon begging me to go home and log in and go find them so that I could resurrect their body and give them back some of the lost experience.

Fear of the Unknown

kithicor-thecrew So while I don’t miss any of that bullshit, I do the constant and tangible sense of fear.  The problem being that the modern games seem to have missed the boat in what exactly caused this fear.  Right now so many of these sandbox games take the cheap route and make every player afraid of every other player.  The problem with this is that it is counter productive to building a community.  You want your players to band together, rather than avoid each other like the plague.  What caused the fear was that the world was this scary and unknown place.  There were no in game maps, there were no mob statistics…  and it was the lack of information that made the world frightening.  We didn’t know what we didn’t know… and often times our imaginations invented a far scarier scenario than the game servers were possible of creating at the time.  We imagined complex plans within plans… and that the server was quite literally out to get us.

There were situations like Kithicor Forest in Everquest, where during the day it was a friendly low level hunting zone, but at night all manner of maximum level undead spawned and started roaming.  The truth of Kithicor is that there were far fewer undead spawning than we realized and that we were never in as much danger as we actually thought we were.  In all the times I ran through the zone at night, I never once died to the undead…  but I was constantly in fear of it.  I “knew” death waited around every corner and because of it I tiptoed my way out into the world constantly aware of my surroundings and constantly afraid that at any moment the server would reach out and smite me for my impudence.  The fact that it never actually happened, didn’t really matter…  because I lacked the data mined information to tell me exactly what the spawn rates were and where the roaming paths were located at.

Players Together, Not Against

watching_sat We are quite literally overloaded with information about the games we play.  Knowing the amount of hit points a given mob has is just expected now, along with knowing every other intimate piece of information about the game.  We know the attacks a creature is capable of making, and how exactly to counter them…  before we even see said creature take a swing.  Where this modern incarnation of Everquest nostalgia falls short is understanding that it was our lack of knowledge that made us afraid to venture into the world.  It was not necessarily the harsh death penalties, and it most definitely was not that we were afraid of other players…  it was that the world was cruel and unknown.  The focus on PVP as a way of providing cheap content always seems to miss the point of why the original games worked.  Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot worked more than anything because it caused players to be willing to look for help from anyone who would offer it.

When you expect the world to strike you down at any moment, you are willing to accept assistance from anyone willing to lend it.  Especially in Everquest it felt like every player in the game was on the same team, that it was us versus the world.  Sure there were territorial squabbles over spawn camps and the like, but more often than not each server had its own hard and fast rules for dealing with this sort of thing.  We the players made order out of the chaos, and there was protection in numbers.  There were many zones that you didn’t go to because you knew there were not likely to be other players to help you out if something went wrong.  By the same token these untouched zones became the perfect place for a group of friends to go off exploring on their own.  This is what we need in the current crop of nostalgic games, a sense of why exactly the first games worked and a certain measure of ignorance to make us all fear the darkness.

The Guide Program

There are many stories that at the time were frustrating but become more humorous through the lens of nostalgia.  I think we as gamers all have thousands of such tales in us, and with this new feature my goal is to try and devote some time to committing these to paper.  Nostalgia is a powerful force, but one that is fun to wallow in every now and then.

Exeteroth Iceforge

EQpic_LOIOPosingAgain I’ve been sitting here for a bit staring at a blank screen, not quite sure what to write for my Storytime Saturday post.  Which lead m to start thinking about the things I miss in games.  One of the casualties of the whole Daybreak Games debacle was the majority of the in game GM department.  From what I have heard they currently have only a single GM per game, which makes me wonder why there is not talk about bringing back the Guide program.  For those who are not familiar with the concept, the Guide program was a series of player volunteers that gave up some of their in game time to serve as junior GMs on a server other than their own.  These guides took care of a lot of the day to day requests like players stuck in geometry, and minor behavior infractions.  The guide system always felt really cool because you knew more than likely you were getting another seasoned player helping you out, and in part you felt more connected to them because of it.

This freed up the GM staff to do some interesting things like live events.  It was always extremely awesome when something was going on, and it was amazing how fast word trickled through the community.  Players would drop what they were doing to flock to whatever zone something cool was happening in.  The unfortunately thing is it has been literally years since I last participated in something like that.  Modern games seem to have a GM staff that simply does not come out to play anymore.  There was a time when on Xegony in Everquest we knew all of the GMs and guides assigned to our server.  There were so many times they would be hanging out in zone with us as we took down a raid boss, cheering us on.  The problem is there were tales of GMs doing questionable things to help out some of the top tier guilds.   I really hope they were just rumors, because while we might have had GMs in zone with us they never did anything to assist us other than to lend moral support.

Spawn Rights

magiptasa One of the rights of passage in Everquest was the obtaining of the epic weapon.  This was an extremely long process that involved the camping of many rare spawns.  I’ve talked in the past about playing a cleric which was actually one of the less annoying epic weapons to obtain.  The worst ones relied upon steps in raid instances that were extremely rare spawns.  I remember getting home from work, logging in and seeing messages in guild chat that “Pasta” was up, and everyone immediately knew that it meant we were going to the Plane of Hate that night.  Magi P’Tasa was a super rare spawn on what I vaguely remember being a two week long spawn cycle buried deep within the Plane of Hate.  When it was up… it became a race among all the various raid guilds on the server to see who could field a raid first and clear to it and defeat it.  So many times there was a fever pitch battle to try and log people in fast enough, and get us all into Hate in order to grab the spawn rights first.

That was one of the awesome things about Xegony is that for the most part the raid guilds respected each others “spawn rights”.  Meaning that if someone was in a zone, it was more or less off limits to any other guild trying to come up and muscle them out of it.  So whoever gained a foothold in Hate for example, owned Hate until they were doing farming it.  These farm sessions could last days at times, especially on the weekends.  This however was not the case on every server.  Originally I started on Veeshan, the home of the fabled Fires of Heaven raid guild.  They respected no ones “spawn rights” in any form, and there were constantly tales of them steamrolling their way through a zone that someone else was currently farming to muscle through to the spawn they needed.  Often times training mobs on the rival guild to keep them busy while they got what they were after.  I feel like in part the reason why we have instanced dungeons in World of Warcraft, is in part because of these sort of shenanigans.

Murky Depths

Npc_lord_bergurgle The cool thing is that while all of this was going on, it was not unusual for guides and GMs to be hanging out watching the race for the spawn.  I have to say the coolest instance of GM intervention I ever experienced was while I was working on my own epic weapon quest.  At the bottom of Lake Rathetear was a particularly annoying step that involved farming a set of Aqua Goblins until a rare named goblin called Lord Bergurgle spawned.  Like so many of the spawns in Everquest this on was based on a random chance anytime you killed the placeholder.  This often meant spending hour after hour on the bottom of Lake Rathetear which was a slog of a camp because the bottom of the lake was pitch black…. with nothing other than some crumbling ruins to stare at.  During one of my sessions down on the bottom of the lake a random GM popped by and spend several hours just keeping me company as we waited on the spawn.  It was awesome that she was more than happy to chat away keeping a lonely cleric company while waiting on an annoying spawn.

Basically I miss this sort of interaction between the customer support staff and the player base.  During these early days there was so much more cooperation between players and customer service, because it felt like we were in this together.  That we were working together to make this game we both loved all the more awesome.  I am not saying that CS is not doing an amazing job currently, but I miss this era of manual and personal intervention with the players.  The GMs and Guides were physically in the game with you, not connected into it through a chat server in a call center somewhere.  In part it was also cool that “guide robes” were something that was instantly recognizable as a person of authority.  It was like a uniform that every player immediately recognized and respected.  They were the in game security guards and forces of right and good.  I keep hoping now that we have these smaller niche games that they will bring back something like the guide program.  I think it is good for the community as a whole to have representatives in direct contact with the player base on a regular basis.  If nothing else it is fun to fondly remember this era in MMOs, even if I doubt it will ever fully return.  I feel like this is probably something that gets harder to support the larger the game gets.

Doubling Down

Still Frustrated

EQ2_000006 Yesterday I broke my self appointed rules and made two posts because I felt the news warranted it.  I said my peace but the problem is… I am still frustrated this morning.  At the time of posting yesterdays blog piece I really only knew about a few of the people who were let go.  As last night wound its way onwards, more names trickled out and at this point I am absolutely shocked by the scope.  While I am not sure about the numbers, it feels like roughly half of the folks I was aware of over there were let go.  Granted the actual numbers could be anywhere, but I am basing it simply on the faces that have shown up on twitter saying they were no longer Daybreak employees, versus the ones that have said they still are.  In any case this will be a massive blow to Everquest, Everquest II, Everquest Landmark and whether or not we will ever actually get Everquest Next.  For awhile on Aggrochat we have joked about Next being vaporware, and that we would only ever get Landmark…  but now I am starting to really wonder if that is closer to the truth.

Everquest will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first footsteps into the MMO world.  Similarly I am drawn to Everquest II in ways that I cannot quite understand, and while I go for large swaths of time without playing, I often return to it was the gaming equivalent of “comfort food”.  It is this strange mix of a world that I am absolutely in love with, and a combat system that I hate beyond words.  If I had to create a list of “favorite games that I am not playing” I would put Everquest II at the top of that list…  so I guess I ultimately am part of the problem.  I love this world but I am not inhabiting it on a nightly basis, and as such not giving it money to grow.  I’ve bought into Landmark and H1Z1 but I am not really playing those either.  I remember feeling the same way when City of Heroes closed its doors, that I had so many fond memories… but that I had also ultimately moved past that game as well.  I guess we want the things we once loved and enjoyed to stay protected in a bubble forever, never to change…  but when we move on are we not also ultimately to blame?

Doubling Down

Gw2 2015-02-05 19-08-06-25 Before the events of yesterday I had a topic kicking around in my head about the worlds that we play.  I am not sure how the events of yesterday feed into the narrative, but I am going with it in any case.  I feel as though the era of the “new mmorpg” is all but over.  There will of course be new games that identify with the “mmo” ideals, but they won’t be quite the same as the worlds we have had had in the past.  I feel like we are going to see a lot more games like Destiny, that is “mmo-lite” or another genre with mmo features.  I feel like the worlds that were crafted during the golden age of massively multiplayer online role-playing game launches, are the worlds we will have to live with for better or worse.  When Blizzard cancelled Project Titan, we can look at that in so many different ways.  We could say that it was a sign that MMOs were dying, and that they no longer believed in the genre.  We could however take that as a sign that they believed that the worlds we had already were worth saving.

So many of the games that we love are not broken toys, at least not yet.  Each of them if given the devotion and the development resources could be transformed into a truly magical place.  I am looking at the transformation of Final Fantasy XIV from 1.0 awkwardness to 2.0 and beyond splendor as proof that a game can change for the better.  I’ve played each of the major MMOs for some length of time, and have experienced that each have exactly the same problem.  How do they keep the player engaged on a daily basis, rather than in bursts of activity each time new content is released?  I feel the problem is that games right now are mired in the construct of expansion releases, pooling up major features until they can sell another box of the game.  This means the best features tend to either get bottled up for years time, or never actually make it into the game at all.

The episodic construct is a bit better, but you have to be careful that you are not adding “expiring” content into your game, making players feel rushed to somehow grind through it all before the next patch hits.  The problem I had with the Living Story in Guild Wars 2 was that when I fell behind, I didn’t feel like there was a point to actually try and catch up… since I had missed so much already.  The fact that the content was expiring made it feel less “real” to me… that they weren’t permanently improving the game, but instead running a series of limited time events.  I feel like the shift needs to be moved away from both of these constructs and instead the focus placed on fleshing out the world.  Do you know how frustrating it is to me in World of Warcraft that there are five portals below Wyrmrest Temple but only two of them go anywhere?  Each world we play is littered with these forgotten expansion ideas, and all I really want is for a game world to quit teasing us and start living up to its full potential.  Now is the time for these companies to double down on the content they have, fix the issues with their game systems… and try and make their games worth our copious time and devotion.

A Simple Night

ffxiv 2015-02-11 19-54-39-33 Because of the news yesterday, and because of other events leading me to question myself and my connection to other people… I was not in the best of places emotionally last night when I got home.  I have to say my mood was improved by hanging out with my extremely awesome free company in Final Fantasy XIV.  For a few nights I had promised to help my friend Solaria work on knocking out some stuff, since she was fairly new to 50 and in doing so also spent a good deal of time running dungeons with Thalen and Asha.  I have not had a night where we tore through multiple dungeons in a night, and I have to say it was good for the soul.  Granted I felt a bit wobbly, since I have not really tanked much of anything other than our raids, and dungeon tanking ends up so drastically different.  That said we managed to unlock a few dungeons for both Thalen and Solaria, and in the process get some Tomestones of Soldiery and Poetics.

I’ve missed logging in, getting pulled into a group and then spending the rest of the night tromping through dungeons.  It is like connecting with my most basic instincts of trying to make sure everything in the dungeon hates me equally.  I really enjoy the pace of Final Fantasy XIV, and its particular brand of tanking.  The Warrior just “feels” right, and I am hoping I will be equally at home with the Dark Knight.  If nothing else I will always have the Warrior to fall back on if the Dark Knight ends up not being the class I have wanted all along.  I know Thalen has several more dungeons yet to unlock to qualify for high level roulette, so I am going to try and force myself to build groups more often.  I get stuck in my own little world, and spend most of my time soloing… but I know when I do group content I feel so much better at the end of the night.  While last night did not cure me completely… it did make me feel significantly better.