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!

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.

Need vs. Greed

Need vs. Greed

Mind if I roll need?

You’re in a dungeon group camping the epic sash of awesomeness. This sash is one of the best you can get for your melee abilities. You realize you are the only melee DPS in the group, and the only one who can use the sash. It drops! YES! But wait… why is everyone rolling ‘need’ on the epic sash of awesomeness? You ask, “Hey, why are you all rolling need?,” to which they respond, “I need money bro.”

Need vs. Greed is one of those glorious debates that sorta fizzled out over the years. I don’t know whether it’s because loot has become so individualized, or everyone just rolls need on everything because they no longer care. I for one have an opinion.

Only those present who can use the item as an upgrade are entitled to a chance at obtaining the item. I believe that the warrior filling the warrior role should get the warrior drops, and a wizard filling the wizard role should get the wizard drops. No, it doesn’t matter if you have a warrior alt! I don’t group to feed your alts. Greed rolls, or FFA rolls, are for items that no one can use as a direct upgrade.

There’s a school of thought out there which supports the ridiculous idea that any item is up for grabs by anyone if that item can provide any use — whether that use be liquidating it for cash or being used by an alt. These brilliant people seem to completely ignore the ‘greed’ side and lump everything into a need.

Some games have a built-in system to protect players. Warrior items can only be rolled on by warriors, etc. Some systems are more loose where you can roll if you can pass the check of simply being able to equip the item. While better than nothing, you’ll still lose items to the guy who wants to fund his other melee character when that awesome melee gear drops that he already owns.

Advanced Loot Window

EverQuest’s Advanced Loot Window

Some games do not have any of these systems at all. EverQuest is a prime example, and the source for my recent thoughts on the subject. I know that the advanced looting system was added and will be present on the progression server. This introduces a rolling system like WoW has/had where players can roll need and greed, etc. I fear this system may induce idiot loot

How to protect yourself against idiot looters:

  • Start your own groups and use master-looter
  • Decide on the rules upfront when forming a group
  • Know the rules of the group you’re joining before you join

As I alluded to before, this debate over the years has given rise to the clamoring for individualized loot. Such an idea isn’t completely out of the question for me, as I have often championed this very thing be present in all raid environments. However, something about forming a group to go into a dungeon and camp an item makes it more real if that item has a tangible presence for everyone. I think it all boils down to the world feeling connected and shared between everyone, and no part of the game being instanced — even the loot.

I welcome your thoughts.

An MMO Without a Focus on Loot

I was having one of my regular MMO discussions with a friend yesterday when we brought up a subject that started to make a lot of sense. MMOs didn’t used to be about the loot; sort of, but not really. The following are just thoughts we came up with while having this discussion.

We started thinking about a few examples of the older games we played extensively, and tried to identify in as few words as possible why it is we played — what was our drive or our reason for logging in each day.

Ultima Online – We were essentially living life. We made houses, started careers, accumulated wealth, and everything centered around making the act of living life easier.

Asherons Call – The world was constantly changing and we wanted to see it evolve; all about seeing what happens next.

EverQuest – Building relationships and creating dependencies on others was what kept us logging in. EQ (before Velious) wasn’t about raiding or looting as much as it was seeing how far we could advance and what challenges we could overcome.

Dark Age of Camelot – We lived in the world to defend our realm.

Loot can’t be the focus in a MMORPG that is going to recapture our attention. An MMO can and should have loot; we decided to nix the idea that maybe an MMO didn’t need loot at all, but can’t be the center where all roads lead.

When loot isn’t the focus, the other aspects of the game suddenly because exponentially more important and visible. There’s a reason players don’t participate in things like exploration, socializing, housing, or care about things like “realm pride” anymore. Those things do not actively drop epics, nor should they because that doesn’t make sense.

An MMO without a focus on loot is set free to be so much more. Design becomes a slave to gear when too much focus is placed upon it.

DAoC was about PvE

In yesterday’s post about Crowfall I mentioned long-term goals and driving factors for why players should care. What makes someone wake up at 3am to defend a relic? Why should I care if I lose my keep? Many games creating a PvP system these days seem to look to DAoC as an example. WAR, GW2, ESO, and Crowfall all have the keep capturing mechanics and really did/do borrow heavily from the system. While they miss many features like proper character advancement in PvP, map size, and the nitty gritty details of how sieging should work, etc., there’s one bigger picture key ingredient they’re all missing: A focus on PvE.

DAoC was about PvE. The game long-heralded as the best RvR/PvP game of all time was driven by the players caring about PvE and how their characters performed outside of the frontiers (where the realm war/RvR took place).

DAoC had relics which increased your character’s stats and damage. Owning these was paramount and the goal of RvR was typically to try and push hard enough that you controlled the keeps necessarily to make the relic vulnerable. To make players care a bit more about those relics, the realm controlling most keeps had access to the best PvE zone in the game: Darkness Falls. Darkness Falls was the best place to level characters, get gear (that wasn’t player made), and earn money.

I have memories of being in Darkness Falls grouping for Legion and hearing the announcement that Albion was advancing and taking our keeps. We bailed out as fast as possible and rushed to the frontiers to defend or retake our territories in order to keep our coveted Darkness Falls longer.

Player made gear was typically the best back in the day. You weren’t going to earn that gear by PvPing. PvPing gave you realm ranks and points to buy new abilities which made you much stronger, but you still needed that player made gear. Player made gear, like all gear, wore out and broke over time. There was always a need to earn money which meant PvE.

Perhaps I should have started with this, but getting to level 50 was through rigorous PvE. Leveling wasn’t quick (before people macro’d and abused the leveling system like they do in every game). Leveling could take months to reach 50, and you weren’t a ton of use before level 50 out in the frontiers. Leveling through PvP wasn’t an option, and the silly “scaling” systems of today (another way for these games to ignore Pve) did not exist.

Although the “end-game” of DaoC was PvP, and one could PvP the entire time they played (after reaching level 50 and gearing up), the core of the game still maintained a healthy focus on PvE. The key isn’t to ignore PvE or come up with systems to avoid it. The two play-styles needn’t compete against each other. A great game can and perhaps should utilize both in harmony.