Alts and Twinking

When MMOs were still in their infancy — actually, before they were even called MMOs — I used to have a serious problem making multiple characters and struggling to choose which one to play. People called this being an ‘altaholic’ or having ‘altitis’.

Being an altaholic, I was constantly swapping characters without being able to choose which was my favorite. I would play levels 1-10 or 1-20 multiple a dozen times. Eventually, I would settle on a character I enjoyed enough to take to max level or close to it. Every class was so unique and set apart from the others.

I have memories of spending countless hours trading items I accrued on one character to swap them over for items for another. In other words, I was a decked out warrior and I would swap my gear with other players to be a decked out wizard. Often I would make equal or better trades for the same gear. In fact, I think my worst case of altitis was one weekend in EQ where I ended up swapping Druid gear for Monk gear, then to Warrior gear.

I LOVE twinking. What is twinking? I forget the term is practically lost to this generation. Twinking is when you give really good items to a character that would never have been able to obtain those items naturally. In EverQuest it’s like giving a Smoldering Brand, a Short Sword of the Ykesha, Flowing Black Silk Sash, etc., to a level 1. If twinking were really a thing in WoW, it would be equivalent of giving top tier raiding gear to a level 1.

Just this weekend I spent two whole days twinking my Bard. I farmed plat on my Magician, sat in Commonlands tunnel, and auctioned to buy gear. “WTB Mistmoore Battle Drums and Lambent Armor!” I’d have a few trade macros to advertise my interest. I’m almost to the point where I just need a few more pieces for my Bard and he’ll have the best stuff he can wear outside of raiding. The result? He’s WAY more fun to play.

Let’s analyze this for a second:

  • I enjoyed so many different characters that I couldn’t decide which to play
  • My gear was shared across my alts
  • Time spent on some characters was spent to enhance or advance other characters’ gear
  • Playing through the content multiple times wasn’t a deterrent
  • I could trade almost everything

That sounds nothing like the MMOs of today. MMOs today are the antithesis of such features. Often only one class is interesting since they’re all the same, gear is bind on pickup, content is so linear and exact that playing twice is mundane, twinking is unnecessary since everything is ridiculously easy, and economies are almost non-existent.

While not something I can simply point to an say, “Do this and your MMO will be great,” it’s definitely something worth noting. Isolating what we like(d) about the past games and trying to see how those features or systems intermingled with the rest of the game’ design can really shed some light on how we’ve lost a lot of depth and meaningful gameplay in today’s MMO designs.

 

Daybreak’s Horrible Kunark Poll Decisions

ragefire-kunark-vote

I’m having a blast on Ragefire. I still play every day, and I am leveling my Magician with plans for multiple alts in the works. I’m stocking up gear for those alts and preparing a plan that could easily last me another 5+ months without Kunark.

Well, the results of the Kunark poll are in and I am not too happy with how Daybreak is handling things. You can find the entire post here, but I’ll break it down for you.

On both servers, the 6 month option got the most votes by far, meaning a very large percentage of you like things as they are and want to continue on that path. Ragefire’s second choice was to unlock Kunark ASAP, but Lockjaw’s second choice was to unlock Kunark after 3 months.

Awesome! This is how I voted. I want to extend classic as long as possible. Glad to see the 6 month option won by far.

Here’s where it gets really good.

With such a significant portion of the active players on these servers voting to keep progression slow, we will not be changing both servers. We plan to keep Lockjaw on the six month schedule that was originally voted for by the populace at large.

For the other half of players, however, we are going to decrease the wait for Ragefire to vote to unlock Kunark from 6 months to 3 months. The voting period for Kunark will thus become available on August 23rd and end on September 6th.

What the …. ? You literally, verbatim, just said that on BOTH servers the 6 month option got the most votes BY FAR. Your words! To top it off, they “investigating” server transfers… does that mean there’s a chance they won’t be possible? Even so, why would I leave the server community I chose to join and stay on since day 1.

Why are we voting? Seriously. That’s TWO polls where the players spoke and Daybreak chose to ignore it and go there own way. You combine all of the other options in a poll to say, “Oh it looks like the winning vote doesn’t win after all.” You throw out the results of your own poll while Holly Longdale puts her foot in her mouth by showing what the executive producer of EQ really thinks about the vast majority of players.

“What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.”

I’m sorry, are you then insinuating that a dozen people boxing multiple Mage accounts have more strategy? Is sitting at a spawn 17 hours a day to kill the mob in seconds a challenge? Have my 161 hours (some of that spent afk) in the first month been too casual and undeserving?  Casuals should absolutely be allowed to fight Nagafen. If instead of playing my own way I had decided to go the route of raiding, I STILL would not have been able to kill Nagafen due to how the server handles the kill, yet I would be more “hardcore” than several people who have participated — several of the mere handful of people.  Where do they find some of these people who say crap like that?

EverQuest, specifically my experience on Ragefire, is amazing. The devs, however, have proven they are disconnected from the players and are running a very amateur show. If Daybreak continues down this road I probably won’t last long. I enlisted to play on the 6 month per expansion server. I’m not interested in playing live EQ, and that’s where this server is quickly going.

Whew… that EXP loss

eq-hill-giant

MMOs can bore me. In fact, they can bore me quite easily. I get bored of MMOs all the time. What MMOs typically can not do is frustrate me or give me that moment of pure grief where I’m literally sliding to the edge of my seat clinging to my mouse for dear life.

I had such moments recently while playing EverQuest. I dinged level 37 and decided to try farming Hill Giants for some spending money. The giants conned anywhere from yellow (above my level but not more than a few levels) all the way down to blue (a few levels below me). Giants being a little stronger than most mobs are typically harder than their con. I stuck to the blues. I pulled a giant and suddenly had another giant on me. I died and de-leveled back to 36.

I decided to try my hand at this again after spending a little bit getting back to 37. I tried again and succeeded for several pulls, but died again when for whatever reason a blue giant completely wrecked my pet and outran me to the zone line. I died literally one step, less than one second, from safety. I died and de-leveled back to 36 — again.

Screw that. I’m going to Guk to get my level back and get some more exp! Sure enough I made it to level 37 again and even 12% in. I’m in the clear! Or so I thought. The cleric went AFK and we all died. Yep, I de–leveled back to 36.

While infuriating, and eliciting squeals of angst, I did not lose my desire to play EverQuest. Overcoming this two day ordeal of fluctuating levels has strengthened my resolve to keep pushing on. I’ll tell you what I’m not doing: Going back to giants. I’ll wait until level 39 when I get my next pet and I’m strong enough. I’m also going to be more careful about joining groups with certain people.

Some people may look at a scenario like I have described above and think that such an ordeal is horrible and not fun. Some may even call the game ‘bad’ because of such mechanics. When I died and lost exp that was absolutely not fun. But being able to lose exp makes the rest of the game more fun. That danger makes surviving more rewarding. There’s a level of thrill associated with success that I absolutely can not find when there is no opposition to my success. Does that make the game bad? I haven’t had this much fun in a while. If this is torture, chain me to the wall.

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.

[expand title=”View the Patch Notes” swaptitle=”Hide the Patch Notes”]

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.
[/expand]

 

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.