EQ2 Finally Gives Up And Abandons All Design Consistency Completely
I used to love Everquest 2. I mean really love it. My feelings towards it transcended beyond the way a man feels about a woman, the way he feels about a fine cigar and even the way he would feel about a fellow Spartan (should be be one himself). To me, it was a game that absorbed years of my life, the plucky little kid who fought back against the face of overwhelming odds (World of Warcraft) and worked harder than anyone out there to improve, to evolve, to better itself. Under excellent guidance it streamlined its mechanics, enhanced its gameplay and tempered some excellent lore into a very immersive and well executed MMO. Not long after I stopped playing though, the game designers just seemed to give up.
It’s not that they stopped adding content or expanding the game, it’s more like they just gave up with anything trying to make sense. Instead of a tight, cohesive product that was being guided by strong leadership with a clear direction, EQ2 started to see a hodgepodge of random weirdness seeping into the game, starting roughly around the time after the excellent Rise of Kunark expansion. Playable vampires I could live with, alternative appearance slot I could kinda understand but candy cane weapons? Flying squirrel mounts? And now wings for everyone? Wings? Wings?! It makes no sense!
I just don’t get it and if you do, good on you, to each their own etc. For me though (aside from causing horrific Aion flashbacks), it’s an act that marks a long line of incremental of decisions that betray the original design consistency of the game which I think is an important aspect of MMO immersion. Staying true to the design laws of the world that one creates is what makes LotRO feel like Lord of the Rings, STO feel like Star Trek, SW:TOR feel like Star Wars and RIFT feel all rifty. Heck, even World of Warcraft has managed to maintain a very consistent vision of design, quirky as it may be, right from day one and it’s not like Blizzard are suddenly giving in to public pressure and adding silly playable Pandas or something.
But anyway, you could argue that defeating an epic evil deity whilst wielding a deadly chocolate stick is just as ‘real’ as using a glowing, fiery, magical two-handed sword and you’d be absolutely right. What I’m talking about though is the consistency of the world that is created when the doors to these MMOs open up and then the need for designers to stick closely to the laws of that lore. If your game is based around angels vs demons then sure, wings work, but if it’s your typical high fantasy then it might look a tad out of place. Which is does.
I suppose I’m kinda sad to see EQ2 go this way but I’m not surprised. I don’t know if it was the leaving of talented people like Scott Hartsman, the introduction of the station store or the switch to F2P that triggered this odd decline of design clarity but, whatever it is, it certainly makes the game less appealing to play by presenting a miss-mosh of utterly random ideas. Maybe I’m being a snob but I can’t but feel game designers should care about the quality and consistency of the world they create and the lore behind it more than introducing throwaway eye candy.