EverQuest Ragefire Raids & Instancing

Yesterday I wrote about why I like the instancing in EverQuest. I think Daybreak did a nice job of meeting the average player’s needs quite well. After yesterday’s post went up, Daybreak announced some changes to the instancing system as it pertains to raiding and zones which contain popular raid monsters.

Let’s take a look at the patch notes.

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At launch, as now, there is only one Lord Nagafen and only one Lady Vox. If you defeated them, you also had to compete with a server full of people who wanted to defeat them, too. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.

So, in the spirit of making raid content more available while still allowing for competition and accomplishment, here’s what we have planned for an update in July:

  • Nagafen’s Lair, Permafrost Keep, the Hole, and Kedge Keep are now load-balancing zones. This will let more people have access to these zones for XP and non-raid items (WTB GEBs, PST).
  • We now have a way to prevent raid targets from spawning in extra load-balanced zones. We have done this with Lord Nagafen, Lady Vox, Master Yael, and Phinigel Autropos so they will only ever spawn in the base version of their zones.
  • All raid targets (dragons, Phinigel, Yael, and gods) now spawn more often than they used to, but have a much larger variance in their spawn times so they’ll be more difficult to predict.
  • We’ve made the raid bosses more difficult, so that they will require coordination of more adventurers to tackle them successfully. Healing and support should once again be very important in these encounters.
  • Speaking of Hate and Fear, while we didn’t implement load balancing, we did reduce the respawn time of all non-raid targets by two thirds. Any mini-bosses that didn’t have persistent timers (such as the Fear golems) now have them and have additional variance in their respawn times. This means that they won’t necessarily be spawned when the server first comes up.
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Now before I begin, I’m not a raider in EverQuest. I don’t enjoy the toxic community currently dominating that space. I don’t plan to raid. I’d participate in invite, but do not consider raiding necessary to enjoy EQ. So really none of this affects me except the part where I can now get more gear easily from the non-raid encounters.

That said, for the people who DO like to raid in EQ, but aren’t apart of the 1% doesn’t this have much of the opposite effect? I have a few questions that just do not make sense.

  • What stops Raid Guild X from filling all spots in the raid zone, forcing everyone else out of it and never able to enter?
  • Doesn’t increasing raid variance make it more difficult for casual players to have a chance at participating since those players aren’t regularly camping mobs for 12 hours a day?
  • If the targets spawn quicker, doesn’t that mean the rich just get richer?

I’m curious if Daybreak really thought this one through. All this will end up doing is creating a competition for the 1% to sit around in the base instance of the raid zones. But hey, I’ll be in /pick 2!

I like EverQuest’s Instancing

Instancing has so many different connotations these days. I usually hate all of them, but for some reason I’m really enjoying their implementation in EverQuest.

The instancing in EverQuest is done through the “/pick” system. When a zone reaches a certain threshold of players the game generates a new instance. Players can freely move between these instances once every 5 minutes (when out of combat) by typing “/pick” and then choosing which instance (Example: Commonlands 1, Commonlands 2, etc) they would like to enter.

This type of instancing or redundant zoning system exists in several MMOs, but for the first time it feels like it works. I was thinking about why that might be the case, and I came to these conclusions.

No Phasing. Each zone is a full version of that zone. Nothing about the zone is individualized. Contrast this to SWTOR which has a similar instancing system, but then takes it a step further and phases players within each instance of the zone. The result takes a truncated world and further isolates players. I never feel alone even when there are six versions of my zone.

Group-centric. Everything in EverQuest is still about grouping. Yes, you can solo. Yes, you can do things by yourself and still succeed — even more so with the /pick system — but having such a group-centric focus makes the instances work because people are still moving from pick to pick (we call them “picks” not instances in-game) looking for people to group with.

Item Camping. Much of my time in EQ is spent looking for items to better my character or my alts. Since items can be traded freely (most of the time) that means I can camp a level 40 sword and pass it to my level 1 alt. Having multiple versions of zones means I’m not out of luck when the spawn I want is camped… though somehow they always are!

No Quests. There aren’t quests. People aren’t constantly running around leaving zones. In EverQuest, players tend to spend their entire play sessions in one zone. I’ll stay in Lower Guk for hours grouping and may not return to town for days. If I do, it’s to sell and gate right back.

No PvP. EverQuest is a PvE game. There aren’t instances of battlegrounds or people running around fighting each other. I felt this was important to mention as perhaps it alters people’s mindset.

Shared Dungeons. I want to make sure those reading this realize that all dungeons are “open-world” dungeons. You do not ever get your own version of any zone. Players are always sharing the world and even without changing it they are contributing to a social dynamic. We constrain ourselves to rules such as waiting in line for spawns, respecting someone who has a camp (9/10) and lending aid when needed.

The world of Norrath is huge. There are maybe 3,000 to 4,000 players on at a time max. Somehow the world feels packed full of people, and everywhere I go I’m rubbing shoulders with other adventurers looking to advance. Somehow these things have all come together in EverQuest and made instancing of this particular variation work.

There Are Too Many People Playing My MMO!

I’m seeing this sentiment all over EverQuest both in-game and on the forums. People are complaining that there are just too many other people playing the game with them. I never thought I would see the day when people complained about too many people playing EverQuest.

There are A LOT of people playing EverQuest. I’m seeing more people playing on Ragefire than I have seen in any new MMO launch in the past 10 years. I want to emphasize that I am actually seeing them. Let’s look at why.

No Phasing. EverQuest doesn’t artificially hide players behind imaginary phases of existence because they’re on another stage of a quest or version of a linear story. Norrath is a contiguous world we all share.

No Individual/Group instances. There may be multiple copies of zones, but they are not the instances people have grown accustom to in new MMOs. Dungeons and zones are always shared. Dungeon bosses and mobs are on respawn timers. They get camped.

All of Norrath is Useful. Players have to travel places, go to cities to buy spells and sell. Dungeons drop items that can be sold, traded, or used. Players will always be wanting to find rare gear and feed the economy. Crafting and spell reagents that a level 50 will want to use drop from low level mobs. There are no zones in EQ that are worthless.

Norrath is not Linear. You do not grab 20 quests from Greater Faydark then never return. You’ll travel through GFay to get to Mistmoore, Crushbone, Kelethin, etc. You’ll travel through Commonlands on your way to Sol or Freeport. The world is all connected and people have a reason to cross back and forth.

High Level and Low Level Mobs Share Zones. In many games a lowbie zone has only lowbie mobs. In Norrath, level 35 mobs often roam around where there are level 10 mobs. Oh, and they are aggressive.

Quests Require Exploration. A level 50 Necromancer Quest may require the Necromancer to revisit Mistmoore. Spell research requires reagents that may only drop from certain mobs. Epic quests require massive amounts of camping and travel to find rare things. You’re given reasons to move about the world.

I would not give these things up for reduced crowds. I may moan and complain when I can’t find a camp in Unrest, but the alternative leads to what ruined this industry. No thank you.

Great Weekend in EQ + Some Good Grouping Lessons

My weekend was filled with great gaming. I played Assassin’s Creed Unity and Splatoon with my wife, then spent a good deal of time leveling up my characters in EverQuest. I’ll write more on the other two later because I really want to write about a few of my EQ highlights from this weekend.

Keen the Bard progressed a little bit. My bard is the character I most want to play later on in levels, but I’m keeping him part of the guild static group we have going.  For a group around our level(levels 17-21 at the time) it’s sometimes tough to find a spot in Unrest given how crowded it can be. Three of us decided to take our group and head over to Upper Guk to check out the leveling scene. We build a lower sewers team that ended up bringing in about a level and a half before we decided to call it for the night.

My Mage is where I spent the bulk of my time this weekend. I’m having an absolute blast leveling him up! Twice this weekend I found myself in stellar groups pulling constant streams of mobs in Unrest. I was the main DPS in both groups which, in EQ speak, means it was my job to burn something down very quickly if we got a bad pull and also my job to make sure things generally do not stay alive for too long and drain the healer’s mana. That leads me to a couple of important lessons I encountered this weekend: (1) Know your role, and (2) When you get a good group you need to socialize.

Know Your Role

This might be one of the best things about EverQuest. Even in a state where things are generally easier, roles are clearly defined. As I mentioned before, I am a Mage and that makes me the DPS. I’m not the puller. I’m not the tank. I’m the guy who blows things up. The puller’s job is to make sure we have a steady stream of mobs — without him the EXP is slow. The tank is responsible for tagging what the puller brings in and keeping it (generally) off everyone else. The Healer is responsible for managing their mana and ensuring no one dies (notice I didn’t say at full health). I could go on and highlight more specialized roles like CC and other support, but that’ll suffice.

I ran into a few people this weekend who seemed to either forget their role, or never learned what it was to begin with. When roles are played properly everything is amazing and smooth, but the opposite is true. We had an enchanter who never used Mez. I don’t know if he thought we didn’t need it, or simply was lazy, but he was nuking constantly. As a result, our healer’s mana was always low. That meant I had to nuke more to keep the mobs from killing people. The dominos kept falling from there.

Having clear roles makes everything more fun for me. So much more dynamic than everyone being DPS and having a healer and tank loosely filling their role while DPSing as much as possible.

Get to Know Your Group

Last night I was in a group at the Fireplace in Unrest. Awesome spot to EXP in. I went from level 20-22.5 in like an hour and a half. We had a few hiccups getting started, but quickly found our rhythm. We started chatting and having a good conversation as time went on. I learned about their past experiences with EQ. I learned what alts people were playing. Loot was dropping and we would congratulate each other and try to pull named mobs to get the other guy who wanted the tunic a chance at the drop.

The genuine consensus was that everyone was hoping everyone else was going to stick around a good long time, and generally we all did. At the end of the night when it was time for me to log (curse getting up at 5am for work) several people said they added me to their friends list. I used a line I hadn’t used in over a decade: “If you guys are ever looking for another and need a Mage to blow things up, definitely give me a shout!”

I know from experience that I WILL get a /tell from one of these people in the future. They will be in a group or leading a group one day and they’ll see me on the LFG tool and say, “Hey guys invite him, he’s a great Mage!”  Seriously, even if I wasn’t the best Mage ever they’ll still vouch for me because I know my role, I perform it well, and I was personable.

If you can’t beat them…

Join them! EverQuest Ragefire server is the game I’m dedicated to right now, and although it’s enormously fun (I have 80+ hours in it already) it’s not without its faults. One of the biggest issues facing Ragefire is how overpowered casters are compared to melee classes. Whether or not it’s fixable ends up being a moot point, and instead of complaining about it all the time I decided to just join in on the fun.

I made a Gnome Magician last week, and have loved every minute of playing him. Yeah, it’s broken. I think my pet can take on most even con mobs all by itself, and yellow mobs require little more than one nuke from me. I toss in two if I want to down them quickly.  I’m able to go into Unrest and solo 2 yellows at once, or control the ENTIRE yard all by myself (blues and whites) raking in insane amounts of experience and loot.

While the Mage is so much fun, I still love my Bard. I want my Bard to be my main character. My Bard is the class I see myself playing in groups, going on raids with, etc. The Bard is support, and support is where I find I’m most talented and have the most fun.

My Mage will be my farming character. I’ll earn money on the Mage, camp items that can be soloed, and this will allow me to have a character I can play when my friends aren’t on or I can’t find a group on my bard. Sadly, the latter happens often as most people prefer to invite casters since their DPS is worth more than the support of a bard in this version of EQ.

Even playing an OP class in a very different version of Norrath, I still find myself rushing home every day to get in at least an hour or two of EverQuest. You can join us in our casual friends/family style guild by visiting our forums.