EQ2 Finally Gives Up And Abandons All Design Consistency Completely

Bat Wings

Hey SOE, Aion called and wants its IP back

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.

Wait.

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.

-Gordon

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21 Comments

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Couldn’t disagree more.

    I’ve been with EQ2 since mid-beta in Autumn 2004. When it launched it had a high degree of internal consistency and was utterly, miserably dull. After five months the last person I knew gave up and left. It had been a constant drip drip drip of people leaving pretty much from day one. Many left for WoW as that game took hold. Others went back to whatever they’d been playing before. Some just left MMOs entirely.

    Mrs Bhagpuss and i went back to EQ1. We cam back to EQ2 about a year after launch, then we slipped again and went to Vanguard. Since then we’ve been in and out of EQ2 like the proverbial fiddler’s elbow. Until EQ2X

    That was the turning point. The change of direction and focus that Smokejumper brought has had us playing with renewed enthusiasm for 18 months now. We did decamp to Rift, which we very much enjoyed, but we’ve been back in EQ2 since about last September and it is better than it’s ever been. Much, much better.

    There has never been the slightest consistency of lore in either EQ1 or EQ2. It’s possible to impose consistency upon them by a sheer effort of will, but I’ve been playing since 1999 and i noticed the glaring incongruities from the second week. If I had the energy i could sit here and give you literally hundreds of examples from both games of utterly ludicrous, lore-breaking, immersion-breaking items, skills, NPCs, quests, you name it. None of it has ever made the tiniest bit of sense and that’s a huge part of its charm.

    Why the wings are being taken as any kind of “jump the shark” moment mystifies me. You weren’t bothered by being able to summon an ice-cream cart five years ago? Gnomish spacecraft didn’t bother you? Hats with bunny ears?

    Sod the wings. EQ2 is the best MMO around and it’s getting better patch by patch and after more than seven years it feels like the game might finally take off. I’ve certainly never seen it busier and our guild has happy, excited players now who never even considered EQ2 until a few months ago.

    • “It doesn’t bother me” is not a refutation of an opinion, nor is “How can you object to X if you did not object to Y?”

      I have a long love/hate relationship with EQ2. It does so many things well, but then turns around and does a pile of things badly. It is a constant balance, does the good outweigh the bad or is the bad gaining? Bad as chased me from the game on a number of occasions.

      Free to play seemed to heighten this good/bad competition. The servers are bustling, there is a lot of great content that is available, the market is lively. But this fights with SOE’s need to constantly top what is in the Station Cash store. They went with ugly mounts, then flying mounts, then hop, skip, and jumping mounts, and now wings for everybody flying mounts.

      It is setting a tone of “we’ll just throw anything in the store if we think it will make a buck.” I think the wings are dumb. Not a deal breaker, but they annoy me on par with a lot of other dumb mounts in the game. I used to think that flying carpets were bad, but after gnomish propeller driven hover disks, they seem okay.

      But the message from SOE is clear. The next thing will have to top wings and will probably get on my nerves even more so. And frankly, when a game gets on my nerves too much, I just stop wanting to play.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, maybe I am being a little hard on the ol’ dog. EQ2 is a good game and one that I always remember fondly. Unfortunately SOE just hasn’t done anything with it in the past few years to really excite me aside from the Beastlord. I’ve thought about resubbing just to try that class out.

  2. Azuriel says:

    Sometimes I honestly wonder whether people consider the alternatives in these sort of discussions. I am a huge fan of narrative integrity and internal consistency, don’t get me wrong, but… would you choose those over stagnation and death? The possibility of False Dilemma aside, would you want your MMO of choice to remain principled to the very end?

    As Raph Koster notes, seemingly important things go out of style.

    P.S. Gnomes are worse than pandas.

  3. Xintia says:

    Well as my father and grandfather would both put it, “What ‘hill’ are you willing to die on?” Being principled and remaining true to ones ideals is a very admirable quality and one we look for in those we look up to. But sometimes the price for adhering to those ideals is high. Would it be better for an MMO developer to say, “No, we are going to maintain the integrity of our product even though our customers demand zebra-chimpanze submarine mounts with eye-beam lasers,” when adding them to the game would increase its lifespan and profitability? I suppose there is something to be said for being among the “happy few,” but unfortunately the gaming industry is a bit too unforgiving to allow for many of those kind of success stories.

    As I’ve noted many times in conversations with other MMO enthusiasts, World of Warcraft changed the expectations of every gaming company in the MMO genre. What was once considered “successful” is now considered a failure in the face of the WoW juggernaut. Being a “happy few” game with a handful of dedicated players does not satisfy the investors. So companies take fewer risks and instead cater to the perceived desires of their customers, no matter how silly they might sound to others. I wouldn’t call this a good or a bad thing necessarily, as both good and bad can come from it. I would simply call it a reality of doing business in the MMO genre.

    • Gordon says:

      “No, we are going to maintain the integrity of our product even though our customers demand zebra-chimpanze submarine mounts with eye-beam lasers,”

      Personally, I do think it’s important to stick to your guiding philosophies and design integrity as a company and it often works wonders for those that do. Do you think Apple would have been nearly as successful as it is now if it given in to every customer demand along the way and shoved their products full of random features just because a small percentage of the user base asked for it?

  4. Telwyn says:

    As a relative newcomer to EQ2 I would say it’s a very “high fantasy” setting, quite a mish-mash of different themes. Also, perhaps even more so than WoW, you can expect to see people mounted on weird and wonderful things (not always living creatures!) trailing bizarre vanity pets.

    I don’t really find it jarring however, I’ve really enjoyed the larger seasonal quest instances as well (the Halloween and Christmas ones) which are full of real-world cultural references yet somehow they don’t feel out of place.

    I suppose the possible negative of these wings, is if they indicate a trend towards the developers concentrating more on creating cash-shop content (vanity stuff and sparkleponies) instead of producing more playable content (dungeons, zones, quests).

  5. Valtray says:

    Gordon The True Poet. Well done, sir. Well done.

  6. Professer says:

    I wish I could play EQ2 back when the first expansion came out. World PvP has been dead for a long time, and the game isn’t what it used to be.

  7. [...] And over at We Fly Spitfires, apparently EQ2 has turned into Aion. [...]

  8. Ferrel says:

    Sad but true. Once Dave took over things took an odd turn. My entire guild left for Rift because we just couldn’t handle where EQ2 was going.

    These days it almost seems comical to me when I read patch notes.

  9. Wolfshead says:

    I’ve tried to like EQ2 on many occasions, but each time I seem to last a couple of weeks. I don’t even think SOE is capable of making a competent MMO any longer.

    This is the first I’ve heard of “wings” but it does seem like it’s true. I think it’s appalling decision and reeks of desperation.

    It seems that anything goes these days in any MMO with more gimmicks instead of solid design i.e. Kung Fu pandas and Pokemon pets.

    The entire MMO genre seems to have jumped the shark in a big way as gutless developer continue down this path of lobotomizing their virtual worlds. It’s truly sad to see MMOs degenerate to the level they have with greedy investors cracking the money bullwhip on servile game designers. I really don’t think this farce can continue much longer.

    I’m glad you are taking a principled stand on this issue Gordon. Well done sir!

    • vortal says:

      The pokemon pets I can agree with you, (think that it’s absolute rubbish) but the pandas? Pandarens have been in Lore since the RTS games, so they are an established part of the Warcraft universe believe it or not. Long ago the very notion of implementing the Draenei the way they are now was totally ludicrous Draenei were these tribal hut dwelling guys on Outland, suddenly some holy blue bearded and hooved octopus head was in charge strange…. Even Warcraft 3’s insertion of the Tauren was shocking to me at first, but you learn to grow with it, Suspension of Disbelief my friend, but it only works so far, and by the looks of EQ2 I guess they are falling off the wrong end of the Uncanny Valley.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m still holding out that EQ Next will go back to the roots of Everquest and enhance everything that was good about it whilst ignoring the bad. Fingers crossed.

  10. Vel says:

    Yes, exactly! These were my exact thoughs when I saw the update about wings. The Fae having wings and flight I could understand, but for everyone? Aion was the first thing that popped into my head. The game has gone so downhill I don’t even play anymore, and tbh, I don’t think I’d give EQ Next a glance either.

  11. [...] it went lost direction and went all kind of gimicky, for some reason becoming more obsessed with silly, superfluous features than proper content or games mechanics. I also don’t think this it’s a coincidence that [...]

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