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Friday Ramblings

Today I’m going to catch up on a lot of random things I haven’t commented on throughout the week.

EverQuest Next Landmark

SOE is having their huge Year of EverQuest kickoff event in San Diego.  Smedley just tweeted that Trailblazers should stay tuned for the next five hours.  Whether that’s more cryptic hype or legit I really have no clue.  I’m going to pretend it means that when I get home from work today I’ll have an awesome game to play.  By the way, if you are a Trailblazer and want to join the best gaming community out there you needn’t look further than right here!

A bunch of us have huuuuuuge (read: gigantinormous) plans for Landmark.  I’m excited to jump in and blow up their feedback system with all of my opinions.  When the NDA drops, I’ll give you all the unfiltered details.

EQ2

I played briefly last night because a bunch of people in the KG Community are playing.  I logged in to my 52 Sarnak SK and 32 Ratonga Brigand and immediately remembered why EQ2 is still one of the best MMOs out there.  The world is awesome, the races are awesome, the classes are diverse, and there’s so much substance (always has been) to everything.   I was totally lost by the 4 hotbars full of abilities, though.  I don’t think I’ll devote much time to EQ2, but it’s nice to see it still thriving — lots of people were online running around and chatting.

ESO & WildStar

Random thought for the day about these titles: I think they are being overshadowed by indie games and other companies giving the players more of a voice.  My excitement is dwindling.  I have more to say on both but I’ll save it for full posts.

Cross-Promotion between Pantheon and Shroud of the Avatar

I thought it was interesting to read in a press release that McQuaid and Garriott are giving cloaks in each other’s games for people who back both games.  I think both the relationship between the two devs and the idea of linking two unrelated MMOs was something worth mulling over.

Mythic makes mobile games…

The studio once responsible for Dark Age of Camelot now makes F2P time-waster games.  Dungeon Keeper sounds good on paper.  A F2P game about carving a dungeon out of rock, building traps, and defending it against other players is pretty cool sounding.  Look deeper and it’s full of pay-to-win and screams money-grab.  I guess that’s Mythic: 2, Beloved IPs: 0.

I’ll add more in the comments as I try and make it through the day.

Letting Players Set Up Servers When MMOs Close

We’re entering an era of MMO closures as the industry transitions and finds its footing once again.  With those closures comes a lot of heartache.  SOE’s recent announcement that Vanguard, Free Realms, and more, would be closing likely sent thousands of people into disarray.  Despite the fact that the games didn’t make financial sense for the company, I’m sure plenty of people still loved them and would play them today.

EverQuest Online Adventure

EverQuest Online Adventures

Several MMO closures over the years have hurt more than others.  SWG closing, despite being ruined years and years ago, was hard to watch.  Vanguard still holds a place in my memory.  EverQuest Online Adventures, though I didn’t play, meant a ton to Graev — he still considers it his favorite MMO (I think?).

I wish developers would release server code, source files, whatever — I’m not technical enough to use the right words — when they plan to close a game.  I know there are legal issues with certain IPs, etc., etc., but in a perfect situation where it made sense, I think it would be an awesome gesture for a company like SOE to say, “We know you loved EQOA so much that we want to make these files available for someone to recreate the adventure.” People would do it!

SWG Wookie

My Wookie

I look at all the current options like SWG Emu (thousands on nightly) and Project 1999 (peaking at almost 1300 nightly) and I know there’s still a demand small enough for people to do something about it.  Again I don’t know the legality surrounding such a thing, but what if the company handed it out with the agreement that you can’t make money on it, etc?  I’m the type of person who believes strongly in companies making nice gestures like this.  You’ll get the people who say things like, “They want those players to move on and buy their new products.”  Let’s be real. The people who would play EQOA, SWG, and Vanguard aren’t the type of people who are going to buy your new products anyway — OR — they are the type who will buy everything and it’s a moot point.

The idea of playing on a player-run server isn’t perfect.  I lamented early last year about this very subject.  Given the wrong administration, a player-run server is trash.  Cheating, favoritism, etc., can ruin them but if the files were available I think people could easily find more options than jus the one person who managed to get it working.

Thoughts?  Am I alone in my desire to see EQOA or Vanguard surface with player-driven servers at least operating under the blessing of SOE?

Should Everyone Craft Everything?

EverQuest Next Landmark’s recent Round Table question is one I am passionate about.  Before we get to it though, let’s watch this video.

Should one character be able to learn all types of crafting?

The real answer to this question is a firm “NO.”  I strongly believe in specialization for just about everything in MMORPGs.  People should have to choose a path and commit, and each path should be very unique.  People should have to seek out others in order to benefit from the skills and abilities they do not possess.

When everyone can craft everything, there is no need for a strong economy and there is no need to interact with others.  You can sit by yourself in isolation and do everything.  I know there’s at least one of you out there (you know who you are) who will say, “I like not having to rely on anyone.  I don’t like talking to or having to interact with anyone in a MMORPG.”  This may sound harsh, but have you considered a single player game?  I’m tired of massively multiplayer games having their design dictated by the needs of the entitled xenophobes.

The modern-era of MMOs, however, dictates the answer must be a “yes.”  

I’m not naive.  I know that now’days developers will dumb everything down to the least common denominator.  I know that somehow everyone can be every class, craft everything, solo everything, and never even have to see another person because they get their own little instance.  I think there’s at least a small way to address the crafting portion of this unfortunate reality.

A realistic solution!

Let everyone take every craft and make the most basic items, but have specialties.  I may have every craft, but I can choose to specialize in carpentry.  As a carpentry specialist I can make the same furniture you can, but since you didn’t specialize in carpentry you can’t make the awesome roofing, armor racks, or awesome looking doodads.  But you went weaponsmith specialization which means you can take the basic swords and make them glow, light on fire, etc.

Let people feel like they can ‘get by’ without having to specialize, but make them really think about and consider the benefits of choosing one particular path to improve.

Only In EverQuest

In order to pass the time before Landmark comes out, a couple of friends and I decided to once again return to playing the classic/original EverQuest. It happens every year, and we always have fun.  While playing these past three days I had the impression that I should take notes on all of the things I was experiencing that I can or have only experienced in EverQuest.  Obviously you can find some of these things in other games, but all of them help paint the picture of the entire experience you can find only in EverQuest.

Missing the boat three times in a row.  One of my friends was trying to get from Odus to Qeynos and ended up missing the boat three times.  Once because he didn’t reliaze the raft was the boat, another because he alt tabbed and got stuck floating above him, and the third time because he thought the island the raft docked at was Qeynos and didn’t realize he had to get on a second boat.  All we  could hear was this, “GWAAAAAAAAARGH!” on vent and we all chuckled.

Pulling out a map to figure out how to get out of a city.  Yep, we were lost in Qeynos for 15 minutes before I alt tabbed and brought up EQ Atlas.  Even then I had to figure out where I was and how to get out of that blasted city.

Binding.  Here’s a long-lost mechanic.  When you die you return to the last spot you ‘bound’.  Only casters can bind, and if you can’t bind yourself you ahve to get someone else to bind you.  If someone else binds you, it can only be done in a city.  If you bind yourself it can be done just about anywhere.

Corpse Runs.  Now that you understand binding, you can see why a corpse run can be a very, very, harsh experience.  Toss in missing the boat three times and needing maps, and you have the experience.  Death isn’t just about losing 10% or more of your level.  You leave your body with all your gear.  You do not want to die in EverQuest.

Doing nothing yet feeling like your’e doing something.  I had this feeling many times this week.  While waiting 45 minutes in Qeynos for my friend, buffing them while they leveled up to catch up to me, exploring Qeynos, practicing my charm-and-release technique, and figuring out which spells I should use.  Doing these things I made no actual progression on my character — in fact I died once and lost 10% of my level.

Trains.  CHOO CHOO!  I think we shouted this four times last night and laughed ourselves to tears as we felt awful knowing the guy sitting AFK at the zone line was doomed.  To be fair, none of the trains were our fault (they were trained on us) but it was still an absolutely blood-chilling experience every time.  Mobs in EQ do not stop following you until you kill them or zone, and if a mob passes you while chasing someone else it will probably come back and kill you.  Love ‘em and hate ‘em, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Needing to sit for a while and regain mana.  I forgot what it meant to actually be good at managing one’s mana pool.  This really is a skill that separates the good from the great.  I realized casting one or two spells at most per fight was enough.  I forgot how used to spamming abilities I was, and realized in EQ it’s more about utilizing the few actions you take to their fullest.

Trading mana regen (breeze) for a heal.  I was in Unrest last night duoing with my Monk friend and ended up being at 30% HP after a huge pull where we mez’d 5 mobs and cleaned them up one at a time.  I shouted to the zone that I would give mana regen for a heal.  Within 30 seconds this big ogre comes lumbering over and heals me to full.  My friend and I laughed and laughed at how awesome it was to see such an exchange.

Ogres sliding around on their bellies to get through doors.  The ogre I just mentioned above could barely fit in the house!  I was beside myself watching him crouch and squeeze around just to cast.  He had to actually exit the house, open the door, and heal me through it because he couldn’t cast while crouched.  Such a classic and unique feature to have characters be so big.

Only in EverQuest.

Bringing players back to older MMOs

Today I want to pose a question to our readers: What would it take to get you to go back and play a MMO?

I was thinking about this when I read a statement from the GW2 devs saying something like, “Don’t count us out yet.”  My personality tends to feel sympathy for others and I put myself in their position.  A year and a half ago they were at the top of the world.  Their beta was going strong and all the hype was focused squarely on their game as the next big thing.  Their team was probably larger, their spirits high, and their future bright.  Now you won’t find GW2 being talked about because it’s last year’s news, it’s no longer the game everyone plays.  The general consensus may even be that GW2 is a good game, but the fact remains it has slipped.

What about games that are even older?  EverQuest 2 and Vanguard are still being updated with content, still making the news (maybe even more than GW2) yet I know their populations are smaller.  They are 6… 7 + years old?  Yet I personally believe they are both good games; arguably some of the best.

What would it take for a game like that to bring people back — to bring YOU back?  I’m genuinely interested in your opinions.  Is it even possible for an older MMO to get people to play?  I think about solutions like the Station Pass where you pay one subscription and get access to every game a company makes.  That works when a company like SOE has a large portfolio.   Veteran rewards are often used to keep people playing but rarely to bring them back.  Going F2P works short term (SWTOR) but doesn’t really work long-term.  Maybe an active game constantly developing new content and truly showing progress?  Even then, why would I go back and play something like GW2 when I can just wait for EQN, WildStar, or ESO?

If you’re someone who goes back to older games I am interested in hearing why.  I think there’s a door here waiting to be unlocked that will really help a lot of companies keep people interested in their games. I’d love to see the industry stop transitioning together to every new title.

I really do want every game and studio to see success.  The more real options we all have the better off the entire industry becomes as competition increases quality and the entire industry flourishes.