P99 Officially Endorsed by Daybreak

Ding! EverQuest Project 1999 is now officially endorsed by Daybreak Games. Nothing changes for us P99 players. Technically it has always been “legal” for us to play. P99 players actually lose out in this deal at face value because we are having Velious pushed back until August. Maybe there’s more to all of this.

I’m worried about this line from the announcement:

The agreement establishes the guidelines that we as a project must follow, but it will allow to us continue to update the game without risk of legal repercussions.

What are those guidelines? Neither side is disclosing anything.  I’m waiting until the penny drops. What’s the catch, friends? It’s more than a PR move. It’s more than P99’s Velious release conflicting with a progression server launch. Why does Daybreak decide that now is the time to set precedent, endorse and allow P99, and actually RAISE awareness for P99? P99 has never before had this much press, and now that people won’t be banned on the official forums for talking about it, P99 may actually grow.

Damage, a member of our community, brought up a very good point: There are a number of servers on the emulator that can be played, but only one (2 if you count Red) are classified as “Project 1999.” What of the other servers? He also reminded me that P99 is really the only EverQuest being streamed on Twitch. That counts for something.

Daybreak is a business and exists to make money. Where is the money in this deal? It’s certainly not the 3 month window. It’s certainly not in making P99 more popular than it has ever been. Will it be paid expansions to P99? Access to the code of P99 to incorporate some of this into their own progression servers? Bringing P99 officially under the Daybreak flag? Here’s what I’m certain of: Both sides are making money or getting something out of this deal.

I’m super skeptical, but for now I’ll just smile and keep playing EverQuest.

Official P99 Post / Official DBG Post

Oh Darkfall…

Darkfall holds this bizarre place in my heart. On one hand the game itself is mostly terrible. The company that made it is also mostly terrible. The people who play it are — you guessed it — terrible. Yet at the same time, Darkfall is the game where I met some of my best friends. Darkfall is where our gaming community had the most fun playing together.

The reason for our enjoyment rests solely on one of the only things Aventurine got right: They created a game where players had to rely on each other. That’s the magic right there.

So why am I writing about Darkfall of all games? I saw a post on Reddit from a Darkfall dev asking (unofficially) if people are interested in bringing back Darkfall 1.0.  No, I’m not interested. The only way I would be interested in playing Darkfall ever again, 1.0 or otherwise, would be to cut Aventurine out of the equation, turn development over to a team of people who know what they’re doing, and give me (or someone sane) full power and authority to ban just about everyone who currently or previous played, and retain that power to protect the community.

I would try a player-run server of Darkfall if operated in a similar fashion to P99 or SWGEmu. A team of people who are passionate about the game, remove what sucks, bring back what works, and continue to develop more things the game needs.  Otherwise, nah.

Pathfinder Online CEO Schooled by Players

pathfinder-online-settlements

This was emailed to me over the weekend asking for my commentary. The Pathfinder CEO took to the very public Pathfinder Online (PFO) forums last week to make what he felt was a heartfelt and genuine push for his players to help grow what is currently a rather stagnant player population. You can read the entire post if you wish, but I’ll quote a summarize.

“In my opinion, Settlement recruiting activities in the wider MMO community continue to be almost zero. […]

We need recruiting activity in the EVE community. I don’t know what the best vehicle is for that, so any and all suggestions are welcome.

Settlements that are committed to growing should have someone delegated to be visible in these places making regular posts and talking about the cool stuff their Settlement is doing. When the wider community sees activity and fun, that is a powerful attractant.” – Ryan Dancey

Within his post he points out a few places like MMORPG.com and TTH for players in settlements to go and essentially advertise the game, their settlement, how much fun they’re having, etc. Should players do these things? Yes, I talk about this all the time when I instruct MMO devs to have their players champion their game. Should the CEO make a public post telling people to do this? No, that’s suicide. This translates to the following: Our game isn’t popular, people think it isn’t fun, and our population is shrinking so we need you to go out and spam advertise – HALP! [Read more…]

Broken Systems Were The Funnest

Over the past week I’ve done a lot of thinking back to older games I’ve played like DAoC, SWG, EQ, etc. Raph Koster’s posts have been particularly enlightening since they discussed the hows and whys of their decisions, and even revealed what they were actually trying to create when they delivered something entirely different.

I started to think about the fun I’ve had in older games, and then realized a lot of that fun came from systems that were completely broken or so stupid they should be considered broken. Despite that fact, I still enjoyed them. In fact, I think the games might have been less fun without them!

Here are just a couple examples.

SWG’s HAM

The health, action, and mind bar system of SWG was both brilliant and horribly designed at the same time. Using different abilities depleted these bars. Being hit by certain abilities wounded those bars. Let’s say my pistol used my mind bar, and someone shot my mind to wound it and thus reduce my total available mind resources. I could then use fewer mind abilities. The result was that you were killing yourself every time you used abilities.

I’m laughing right now thinking about how stupid this system was, and how much I wish it was like what Raph describes as “bouncy” where your resources regenerated and the entire thing was a rock paper scissors game of undermining your opponents weapon choice and tactics.

All that said, it worked even by not working. Yes, I enjoyed being able to see someone who clearly didn’t work on their mind pool enough. I would one shot them with my pistol.

EverQuest’s Mob Camping

I remember standing in a single spot for 15 hours just waiting on the right monster to spawn. When it finally spawned, it didn’t drop what I wanted. The wait began again. People would stand in line for these monsters to spawn. It could take weeks for it to be your turn. Yeah, it sucked.

At the same time, forming lines and relying on the honesty of others meant you were communicating and building a community of players who cooperated. If you broke the rules, stole a spawn, etc., you were ostracized; your life was over on that character and you would probably never get a group again.

Screwing Up Character Stats in DAoC (or any game)

Who didn’t screw up a character in a game at some point in time? It was a right of passage! It was also completely stupid. To be able to ruin a character and start over without some form of fixing it? I remember in DAoC back in the early days when you messed up your character’s stats or skills or whatever it meant you … screwed up. They eventually added respec stones so that you could undo a mistake and reallocate those skill points.

Screwing up a character and committing to a path that ends up being terrible is… terrible. At the same time, actually having to commit to something and put up with consequences or having to care about how your character progressed gave us substance and meat to character progression. No decision was made lightly.

Strafing in EverQuest

Mob pathing in EverQuest was terrible, and pretty much broken. Characters could strafe (run at an angle) and that meant that mobs had to make an additional path to move into your path… something like that. I won’t pretend to understand it all (it’s probably geometry or something and I don’t do math) but it meant that mobs struggled to actually hit you. Exploit? Maybe. Broken? Yep.

While broken, strafing allowed us to circle kite, and avoid enemies (who always seemed to run just a little faster then us) from killing us when we flee. It became just something you did.

Okay, now that I think about it this post was sorta stupid and broken itself. But do you get what I’m trying to say here? These dumb features/mechanics, when combined with other mechanics (which were often dumb) made that game what it was and if removed would take away a huge part of the magic that made it all work.

New games can come out that refine those broken mechanics, but I think when we fix too much we lose a little bit of the heart and soul of these MMOs. Rather than remove them, I think they can simply be modernized. Modernizing =\= removing.

EQ Progression Server is… Progressing

The EverQuest Progression Server FAQ was updated back on the 15th. If you follow our forums at all you’ll see that we keep the EverQuest news updated regularly; if not you’ll just have to wait until times like now when I catch up and get it on the blog. Pretty big changes worth mentioning this time around. Let’s discuss a couple of them.

Zone Versions
This is pretty much to be expected, and one of the biggest reasons why P99 is likely allowed to remain open. Many of the zones are not going to be in their proper era-specific state and will have to be altered to a version that Daybreak apparently still has in a database. Freeport, for example, will be in its “revamped” (read: sad) state. Other zones like Splitpaw, CT, some Planes, etc., will be in a loot revamp state but will transition to their newer state over the progression.

None of these changes truly bother me.

Game Function
Here’s a tough one. Several of the newer game functions will be in at the launch of the progression server. The map (booo hiss), AA’s (hrmm) and even [rumored] starter gear quests (bleh). There’s no winning here, and nothing will change what we’re getting. This is another reason why P99 is allowed to stay afloat because they offer something Daybreak can’t or won’t.  Regardless, nothing here is TRULY going to ruin my fun, but it’ll dampen it a bit… namely maps. Why? Part of the fun is people getting lost, not knowing where to go, asking the zone for directions, etc. These things contribute to the social structures of EverQuest.

Instancing the first few level 1-15 zones for Population Control
Here’s the one I’m struggling with the most. I don’t like instancing newbie zones. I don’t like the lobby system. I don’t like when players populations are truncated. I think the true experience is to see 50 newbies in a zone and have there be no mobs. This forces people to spread out quicker. It’s the way the game was meant to be played. Is it annoying? Yes. Is it even impossible to level sometimes? Yes.

I know I’m in the minority here. Wilhelm over at Ancient Gaming Noob thinks even more zones should be instanced. I know that most people think they should have a monster in front of them ready to be killed the minute they want one, but that’s not EverQuest — that’s not a true MMORPG.

Not Instancing Raid Encounters
They deserve a pat on the back for this one.

[Technical mumbo jumbo]… “Besides all of that, creating instanced versions of raid encounters wouldn’t be true to the original experience of EverQuest. This playerbase formed raid rotations or other rules on its own before, and we would like to believe that it is capable of doing so again.”

Developers believing in the players? Thinking we can implement social structure and a community?! It feels almost like 1999.

Anyway, check out the polls. Vote on them. I’m fine with Maximum Nostalgia or whatever keeps us in the Kunark era the longest. Whatever it takes to prolong the time until Luclin or PoP which is actually several of them. Very few ways to lose in these polls.