Archive for the ‘EverQuest 2’ Category

Is EQ2 Worth Exploring?

As I’ve stated in the past, I’ve tried playing EQ2 several times and for whatever reason, I just can’t really get into it. I have a 25, a 24, and an 18, but I am really not enjoying myself when playing recently with the Living Legacy promotion. The last time I came back to play, I actually enjoyed myself for a few weeks, but this time it wasn’t the case. I jumped back in with my 25 wizard, got used to the skills again, and was once again feeling stuck because I don’t enjoy the zones I’m currently playing in (Thundering Steppes and Butcherblock Mountains) and the quests are too difficult or quite simply don’t sound fun. So there I am with my level 25 wizard at the Thundering Steppes dock wondering whether I should keep playing. Granted, I don’t have a guild and there isn’t a real sense of community for me, but this was never a problem with WoW. If I was guildless or just starting out on a new server, this didn’t prevent me from having fun or having a clear idea of where to go or what to do.

So with that in mind, is the world of EQ2 worth exploring? Right now, this seems to be the only real reason to play EQ2. I could find a guild and hopefully this would make my experience more enjoyable, but I think the problem goes much deeper than that. I don’t really like the graphical style of EQ2 (It tries to be too photorealistic and without the right computer, fails miserably,) I don’t enjoy the zones I’ve been in so far, and I’m not particularly drawn to any of the classes I’ve played. So where does this leave me? As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe you should have to force yourself through a few levels or zones in an MMO to get to content that you WILL enjoy, however, I don’t even know that once I get to a new zone or a new level that I will start to really enjoy myself anyway. Maybe you all have some comments/suggestions/feedback to offer for this, but as of now, I’m beginning to think that Tobold was more correct than I originally gave him credit for: If players have some problem with a game and that doesn’t get changed in some way, the promotion will be meaningless because it won’t get used. I know this might not be true for other players, but for me, this is looking to be very much the case.

As for EQ1, I’m still playing it and I want to give this more of a chance, so we’ll see whether I can get SOME value out of this promotion.

~Kanthalos

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Living Legacy: Act of Desperation?

Tobold just wrote up a post regarding Living Legacy being an act of desperation to get players to come back. He states that if there haven’t been significant changes to the game, players aren’t going to have any reason to come back and stick around if the problem that caused them to leave in the first place wasn’t fixed. He also thinks that two months is too long to be effective. While the second statement has merit, I can’t agree with the first or the last. I don’t think that this has anything to do with desperation or that it is too long. Two months is really a perfect amount of time to give players to check out the game without making it too long. Honestly, if what he said about people leaving for a reason was true (which 99% of the time it is) then having two months to give it a try could possibly help with that. With all the players coming back in to give it a try, it could really increase the population for a couple months and liven up the community a bit.

MMO’s are constantly looking for more players and the competition is getting steeper, but I don’t think that EQ2 NEEDS players. I think they have enough to be profitable and to keep running, but they would definitely like more. I think the people that are playing now are happy, and the developers enjoy their jobs and want to keep EQ2 going while continuing to improve and expand upon it with an unparalleled expansion cycle. EQ and EQ2 are almost surely the two biggest and most content-heavy MMO’s out there (with the possible exception to vanguard in terms of sheer size, I don’t know) but if players are generally stopping at 20 or 25, or not playing EQ at all, they won’t ever get to see that anyways, so this is a big problem. As for EQ2, is it the leveling people don’t like? Is it the lack of guidance? Is it the community (or seeming lack thereof in the lower levels?) For me it’s the community, but I think it’s different things for different people.

To wrap things up, I think this is an excellent marketing maneuver, not an act of desperation. I think that if this doesn’t work wonders to bring in more players, then it will be pretty clear that they won’t ever see a big jump in players again (without massive changes as you said) and that they should be satisfied with the player base they have now, but until it’s over, I think this was worth a shot. Players likely weren’t going to come back on their own, but this gives them that opportunity if they choose to use it. While they want to build their numbers before the competition gets any stiffer, I think EQ2 (and possible EQ) will still be around for a long time to come.

~Kanthalos

What Should I Do?

Now that I’m back in EQ2, I’m really left with a dilemma on several things. Basically, it’s two fold in that I don’t know whether I should keep playing one of the characters that I’ve already gotten to 18/24 (I have a 25 wizard too but on a server I have no interest in playing on) or whether I should start over. My 18 is on Befallen where Tipa is (as far as I know) with her guild Nostalgia the Guild, and my 24 is on Antonia Bayle. This is a popular server, but I don’t really know anyone playing on there right now. I’ve also started a character on Guk in case I want to hook up with Revelry and Honor which sounds like a lot of fun, too.

In terms of where I should start over or keep going, I really don’t want to start over unless it is with the toon on Guk that I just created. He’s a level 5 warlock and I don’t know whether I’ll like him or not, but I’d already played a wizard to 24 and 25, and an illusionist to 18. I like both of those classes a lot (as you can see, I prefer the caster classes in EQ2 for some reason) but I don’t want to start one over again for some reason. It’s sort of tough restarting with a mid-level toon, though, especially if you aren’t very familiar with the game. In WoW, it wouldn’t be a problem at all, but when your highest level character is the one you want to jump back in with, it’s tough to know what to do or where to go, especially if you quit because you didn’t like any of the zones you were currently playing in or were feeling stuck.

As for where to play, this is tough, too. One of my biggest problems with EQ2 the past two times that I’ve played it is that I really felt no sense of community. I didn’t have a good guild or group of friends to play around with. It felt more like a single player game with a really big world. I’m afraid that if this happens again, I’ll be done with EQ2 for good, so I really need to find a good group of players who would like to have me. I don’t want to be babied or have my hand held really, I just want to have a group of players to socialize with and help me out with advice or a quest from time to time, nothing more than a good guild SHOULD be.

I’m also not asking anyone to fight over me because, well, I’m not worth it 🙂 This is especially true in a game that I’m not familiar with and am struggling to enjoy. I’m just writing because I would like some advice from you all about what I should do or ways to make starting up again easier. That’s all for now, but let me know if you have anything to help make EQ2 home.

~Kanthalos

P.S. Tipa, I’ve never played EQ for more than 30 minutes, so I really have no idea how it works. If you’re interested in working with me to get up to speed and help me understand what’s going on (if you think that’s necessary) then I’d be willing to give it a shot. Send me an e-mail or just comment if you want.

Heading Back Into Norrath

Well, I was pleased to read about this offer to re-up all former EQ and EQ2 players accounts through July 31st, as well as include EVERY expansion. This is excellent news, and an amazing marketing strategy for SOE by my thinking. For me, this means a $70 value for free if I only play EQ2 since I’ll be getting the RoK expansion for free as well as two months of free play. If I do decide to give EQ a shot (which I’m considering) then the value is probably in the $100+ range.

The only thing I am concerned about is that players who have already bought the most recent expansion might feel upset that they paid for the expansion when all of these returnees might not have. I personally don’t think I would care because they have been playing it since November (I believe) and have experienced all of this content already, and they will also potentially have an incredible amount of new players to meet and join up with.

I really can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Yes, I have played EQ2 twice and given up both times because something didn’t feel quite right, but the fact that I have two months to play without feeling pressured by a subscription fee to do so is wonderful. My goal is to get a character to 35 (or 50 or so if I start with one of my characters at 24 and 25.) I’m not sure that I’ll get there, but who knows, I could end up much further along than that even. The only online game that I’m seriously playing right now is Mythos, so this gives me another game to add to the mix, which is always nice.

Regardless of what I get out of this personally, I am really impressed that SOE went ahead with this. It must be incredibly hard “throwing away” all the money you would get from customers for the expansion(s) as well as two months of play, but on the other hand, if players were never going to come back in the first place, what have you really lost? Nothing. Hats off to you, SOE. I really hope this works out well for you for using such a bold strategy. Now if only I could patch in less than 16 hours… 😉

~Kanthalos

Is World of Warcraft Reaching Its Potential?

I suppose some context is in order, seeing as World of Warcraft has entirely dwarfed any other MMO (especially in the non-asian markets) with around 10 million subscribers. Yes, Blizzard is incredibly sucessful and WoW has already turned massive profits after 3 1/2 years on the market. However, I am quite sure of one thing: If they had released as many expansions as EverQuest 2 has and in the same fashion (not just end-game content) they would likely have 2-3 million MORE people playing than they do now. Even with Wrath of the Lich King, there is STILL no fresh mid level content. Sure they added a couple new 1-20 areas with Burning Crusade, but what about the part of the game that many players by now dread, the 20-60 areas? Heck, after level 30 or so, even the Alliance and Horde players are funnelled through the same content. I for one have made six characters that I have gotten to level 25 or higher, but only three of those have reached and will ever reach level 70 or higher unless content is added for level 20-60 characters. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to spend more time with these characters, but I can’t keep running through the same zones over and over again.

This is something that EverQuest2 has continuously added to their game, along with many other improvements and additions. They have released four expansions already with a fifth on the way. Holy cow. Granted, a much smaller percentage of their population is max level so they need to focus on the lower and mid-level content, but the sheer volume of content that they release is staggering. Granted, it’s not all going to be as picture perfect as what Blizzard releases, but seriously, four full-blown expansions to one. That’s tough to justify in my book. In any case, I can understand Blizzard wanting to focus more on higher level characters because that’s where a lot of their players are, but not all of them max-level, either.

Seriously Blizzard, how long do you expect people to keep running through the same content before they get tired of the game? A rather small percentage of your customers are raiders, which means that the leveling process is all the rest of the players really have, and after a while (if it hasn’t already happened) they are going to get sick of re-rolling characters that have to run through the same content every single time. The raiders might do it because that’s how badly they want another level 70, but it’s probably not going to be because they enjoy the leveling process, and if the non-raiders have nothing else to look forward to, then they probably won’t do it at all. WAR is supposedly going to have six entirely different paths to max level. SIX. Whether they are going to pull this off, or whether you actually need six at release is uncertain, but it’s much better than having unique content for all races up to about level 25 or 30 and then having them all go through the same set of zones and more or less the same set of quests from that point on.

How many hours of non-raiding content will Wrath of the Lich King offer? It’s tough to say exactly, but you can be sure that it’s not 18-20 months which appears to by WoW’s expansion time-frame. It’s likely half that, so come next September-December, when there are 6-8 new quality MMO’s out, as well as WAR and AoC which have both had time to dust themselves off after a few months, where is that going to leave WoW? Seemingly with more raiding, more upper-level content, and no (significant) improvements or addition to their mid-to low level content. After three or four re-rolls with no new content along the way, there is only one place they are going to find what they are looking for, which is at the end, and that content can only hold their interest for so long, especially with all the new competition on the horizon.

~Kanthalos

Hand-Holding in MMO’s: Do We Want It?

After not having internet access for the past three days because our provider has some serious issues, it’s finally back up and running (for now.)  Having said that, I didn’t get the chance to write up a post that I had been brewing over for a couple days; In fact, I’d left a draft open with the title to this post so that I wouldn’t forget about it.  After doing some surfing around the blogosphere to catch up on a weekend’s worth of posts, I saw that Tobold had already touched on the topic briefly.  Now that he’s gotten the ball rolling, I’ll delve a little deeper.

We all have different needs, and MMO’s are no different.  Some of us prefer lots of guidance with someone or something constantly leading the way, providing clues and answers to all of our questions.  Others prefer to have a general path to follow before being sent on their way to discover things for themselves.  Still others would rather be dropped in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no sense of direction to go where they please and do what they please.  These are all valid points of view, and all provide different levels of satisfaction and comfort.  Knowing this means understanding that it can pose a difficult problem to solve for MMO developers, though.  Players from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of preferences and expectations are bound to try certain games, and the developers want to keep all of them happy and entertained, but how can they cater to such a wide assortment of potential customers, and yet keep them all satisfied… or can they? This is a question that has never been more prevalent than now, with an ever-increasing number of MMO’s headed our way.  I’ll take a look at three games that help show the two extremes as well as the mid-point.

EvE Online:
On one end of the spectrum there is EvE Online, which is known well for its “throw you to the dogs” approach.  They have made changes recently to try to break or at least shift this stereotype to help bring in more casual players, but it’s still by far the toughest MMO to break into.  Some people thrive in these situations, and they wouldn’t want it any other way.  Others simply can’t do it.  They get too overwhelmed and confused, and quit.  To be perfectly honest, this is the way I felt when I tried EvE about a year ago. I understand that this is the way many players prefer for things to work, and greatly enjoy it, however that’s not the way I prefer things to be, so I didn’t pursue this game.  Can a game with this style work?  Of course, or EvE wouldn’t be the success that it is.  Does that mean that it would hurt to make their game a bit more casual-friendly?  I’ll get to this later.

EverQuest2:
This is a good middle-of-the-road MMO in terms of guidance from the game itself.  You are provided with a somewhat brief tutorial for many aspects of the game, but the average gamer (or non-gamer) whose first MMO is EverQuest 2 is likely going to struggle quite a bit trying to learn everything as they go. Even MMO veterans have had problems understanding everything within this game as they get started with it.  SOE has made progress in leaps and bounds towards improving this, but has it been enough?  Without the assistance of other players or websites to help guide the way, players can easily be turned off before they have even had the chance to truly judge the game.  With that in mind, there are players who get much more satisfaction out of figuring out the nuances of the game on their own than if they had been provided everything they needed.  There are a great deal of these people, and they deserve to have a playstyle that fits them, but can you make a game successfully that caters solely to this audience?  Well, yes, but it’s not going to be as successful as if you catered to others as well.

World of Warcraft:
World of Warcraft is known for being the most casual-friendly MMO around (which seems evident based on its subscription numbers alone.)  it does an excellent job of leading players along while not making them feel dumb in the process.  They let players know what they are supposed to do without suffocating them or making them feel like a puppet.   If you’re on your third or fourth character and don’t care to read all the tips they provide or complete the starter areas, you can skip ahead if you like and jump into the heart of the game right way.  Even yet, there are still plenty of times when, as Tobold pointed out, players will find themselves using third-party resources to determine what to do or where to go next.  Does Blizzard provide players with enough information to get along, or do they need to include more at the risk of bombarding players with a great deal of unnecessary information?  It’s definitely a tough balance to find.

WoW certainly appears to be the game that got the most things right.  They provide the players with enough guidance (leading you around with quests, providing information through NPC’s, etc.) that players generally understand what they should be doing, but it doesn’t seem to be forced.  The guidance is there for the taking, but no one is making you use it.

No game has found the perfect solution, which is of course to cater equally to all sets of players.  Can this really be done, though?  Can you really make a game that provides for the most hard-core players who’ve spent ten years playing MMO’s who just want to dive right in, yet also provides everything necessary for an MMO virgin?  More importantly, can it be done without sacrificing the integrity and the vision of the game?  With an MMO like EvE, if the player base feels like they’ve been betrayed and their game has gone to the casual carebears, then they could lose a good chunk of their valued customers in the process. If they can maintain the feel it currently posesses while providing more casual players with a way in, however, they could dramatically increase their subscriptions.  It’s all a matter of what the players want and what the developers are trying to (and are able to) deliver.

I suppose a big portion of this question falls to the use of third party websites.  Pretty much anything can be found out on these sites, and can make gaming a great deal easier.  Does this mean that developers have the right to depend on these sites for players to find all of their information they need, or is it their responsibility to put this information into the game to reduce the number of times players need to use them?  How do you know what the right amount of information is enough and how much is too much?  I think it depends on the game that’s being built and what the players expect along with that.  It’s certainly not a “one size fits all” situation, which means that finding the right balance is always going to be difficult.

So where do you fit?  How much guidance do you prefer to have along with your MMO’s?  Are you an explorer who wants to run around freely and still progress, or do you prefer a very linear path that gets you  (literally or figuratively) from point a to point b?  Do you prefer to get all answers on “thottbot,” or would you like to have them right in the game?  Let me know 🙂

~Kanthalos

Back In EQ2

While I didn’t get a whole lot of gaming done this weekend, I did get back into EQ2 for a while. Basically I decided that everything along the way in Mythos was going to be the same (until they add some more variety to the game) and it would just be better drops, that made it a bit easier for me to step away and give EQ2 some playing time. I did a bit more crafting (I’m a sage) and whipped out a few more quests, and I must say it’s nice to be back. I am really looking forward to getting into some original content aka beyong Thundering Steppes. That’s all I’ve got for now, but I’ll be back when… I’m back 🙂

~Kanthalos

The SOE Patcher Is Complete Garbage…

I don’t even feel like explaining all the details for why the above statement is true but here is a brief rundown.

  1. On my connection at my family’s house, the patcher would literally stop after every third file (of decent size)  It would get stuck and I would have to stop it and restart it (thankfully not from the beginning,) which means that on really big patches (as well as when I digitally downloaded EoF) I had to spend the entire time in front of my computer, or it wouldn’t do anything.
  2. When we used two accounts on the same computer, it would patch everything twice.  My brother actually took a screenshot (that’s not on this computer) of one patcher running that was playable, while the other had a 45 minute patch to get through.
  3. Several times I’ve been able to get into the game after patching previously in the day, before logging off and having to patch yet again later that day! Yes there was a hotfix last night, and yes I spent 45 minutes patching it, so why the heck do do I have two more f’ing hours of patching NOW?

Don’t get me wrong, I still love EQ2 and I don’t want to burn SOE to the ground, but seriously, get some competent coders or whatever it is you need to figure out how to get a decent freakin’ patcher running.

~Kanthalos

Uncanny Valley and MMO’s — Part 2 of 2

I described the Uncanny Valley hypothesis and how I related it to MMO’s in my last post, choosing to look at the technical aspects of whether or not players will one day be able to feel as though their avatars are an extension of themselves or whether in fact, they even desire this. For the second part of this, I’m going to focus on the emotional aspect of this idea. Social interaction with other players and NPC’s would play the greatest part of course, as well as character freedom. I will warn you I do get a bit side-tracked at times, but I think everything ultimately relates to the topic.

I’ll start with social interactions. It’s clear that currently in MMO’s there is very little true social interaction, at least that actual involves your avatar. Sure you can click on an NPC to obtain a quest and type a message to another player on the keyboard, but your character simply sits there while you perform these actions. I think the first step in changing this involves voice communication, which we have recently seen an influx in with the use of software like Ventrilo and TeamSpeak. In fact, some games have already included systems built into the game that allow voice chat, either through a third party program or one they’ve created themselves. Dungeons and Dragons Online has a built in system, Lineage 2 uses MSN messenger, and EVE Online is currently implementing a system as well. Again, though, this is simply for players to communicate what they want or need from other players. Rarely is it used to role play, speaking as the character would. This is part of the problem that many players currently have in using voice chat. They feel that it breaks the illusion when a 13 year old middle-of-puberty boy starts talking in Ventrilo while playing a 300-pound dwarf. While I agree that this breaks the atmospheric feel of the game, I would argue that so does reading the text that people type into a box. You don’t see people walking around with a whiteboard and a dry erase marker writing everything they want to express (I hope,) so why is this any more realistic than a 54 year old man with emphysema talking for a night elf woman? Also, companies have started creating voice chat programs that will altar your voice such as MorphVOX Pro (Vivox is also working on a program as well) to whatever you want yourself to sound like. While they are far from perfect it’s a sign that things are changing and heading in this direction.

More than just talking to other players though, I think a large step towards realism in MMO’s is NPC’s actual talking to you. I know EverQuest 2 has started with this and some of the quests you obtain will actually have the NPC say it out loud to you. The biggest problem you run into with this is getting voice actors that are actually good. If they are poorly done, it’s worse than just reading it so you have to be careful when implementing something like this. Also, I think if you get good voice actors, people might be more interested in actually reading the quests more than they do now, usually just clicking the accept button and reading the objective later, but quests are another subject I’m going to tackle after this. Also bodily movements (expressions) and mouth movement are essential in this. No matter how good the voice actors are, if the NPC is a rock then it will just be awkward and simply won’t work.

True character freedom is also very important in creating a sense of realism in order to feel a part of your character. Characters will need to actually be able to have control of the way they move. While this might not be possible in combat yet, there needs to be some way of doing so when not in combat. Asheron’s Call uses a combat/peace mode system. Perhaps this would work for the proposed situation. This may not be possible with the current mouse and keyboard configuration, but is just one more step towards realism. The ability to push someone, pick up a rusty axe off the ground, hold someone’s hand, or even scratch our characters head (your imagination can come up with all sorts of other possibilities I’m sure) would be incredible addition to a game. While we do have e-motes, they just aren’t the same.

Well there you have it. These are the most essential things that I’ve come up with when it comes to having a more realistic take on our characters we play for hours on end. There are many more things involved in believability in MMO’s, but they involve gameplay which is a completely different subject in my opinion. So is truly connecting with your character something you even desire within a game? Clearly we desire our games to be based on our reality, but how much is too much? These are questions I would love to hear your responses to, so let me know what you think. I hope you enjoyed this, and I’ll be back soon to talk about questing and possible improvements that could be made.

~Kanthalos

Building an MMO for the Future — Suicide or What?

I just can’t help but wonder what Sigil was trying to do with Vanguard building it for specifications that won’t even be possible for another 12-18 months. It’s true that technology doubles very quickly, I believe it’s 18 months, but still… is that any kind of way to advertise your game?

“OK everybody, we are going to have an awesome game for you to play 18 months after we release it! I know this doesn’t make any sense, but we actually need that 18 months to fix all the bugs that we failed to take out in the longer-than-usual production time we had to build this game. So even though there will be more than a dozen new MMO’s for you guys to play, we feel confident that you will be ready to try our game once you can buy a computer than can run it at more than 20 FPS”

I don’t know about everyone else, but that to me seems like exactly the message they should have slapped on the box of this game before it shipped. My only question is this; How many gamers are actually going to stick around for a year and a half waiting for this game to become playable, when there will be new games coming out left and right (LotRO, WAR, AoC, Spellborn, Huxley, Tabula Rasa just to name a few) that surely won’t have such high expectations of its players bank account to buy a top-of-the-line PC? It seems like this is the problem with EverQuest 2. I have a pretty decent computer… 2GB RAM, 2.8 Ghz Pentium 4 processor and a Radeon X600 256MB graphics card. It’s a decent computer and I can’t even play EQ2 on high settings or else my graphics card shuts down every 5 minutes or so. I’m not going to play a game that I know could look good with a great PC if everything looks blurry and faded on my PC, especially when the game came out over 2 years ago. Just use common sense Sigil. Sure, you will get a few new players when tech rises, but it won’t be anywhere near the 1-300k you probably lost by a) releasing too soon and b) asking far too much of your customers. Get it together, and hopefully other companies will realize that they need to build their game for today, not for three years from now so they can retain customers better.

-Kanthalos