Archive for the ‘Everquest 2’ Category

How Important Are Guilds?

One of the reasons that I utterly adored Everquest 2 was because of my guild. Even though I was an experienced MMO gamer by the time I hit EQ2, I had never been in what I would call a truly amazing guild and it wasn’t until about a year into playing EQ2 that I found my first one. Maybe it was the fact that I was playing on PvP servers (original Darathar and then Nagafen) but something just clicked and my guild experiences went from strength to strength.

My first great guild, on Darathar, introduced me to the delights of reliable and consistent grouping and also helped me overcome my voice chat shyness. Then my second great guild (and certainly the best I’ve ever had the privilege to be in), on Nagafen, showed me how it was possible to build long term, real friendships with other players. It was an amazing experience, not just because I had a lot of fun playing with everyone but also because I felt a genuine connection with them as people. I still keep in contact with several of the members now via Facebook and email and I’ve even had some drunken phone calls form one particular horny Austrian (you know who you are!).

I haven’t played the same MMO with many of my old guildies since Warhamer Online last year and I’m now thrilled at the prospect of reuniting with some of them in Aion when it releases in September. This really got me thinking about the importance of guilds in MMORPGs.

Although I’ve played WoW for several months now, I’ve never been able to recapture my guild experience there. Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky or perhaps the game doesn’t lend itself to strong social guilds as much as other games but I for one found that it certainly diminished my gaming experience. Not having any players to group with, quest with, or even just shoot the breeze with has been my major gripe with the game from day one.

The Cataclysm expansion has received a lot of attention for it’s content revamp and new classes but it also introduces some rather big changes to the social structure of WoW. For instance, Blizzard intend to give an experience bonus for just being in a guild. Now that’s a huge draw to giving up your nomad lifestyle and it obviously shows the intention of Blizzard to encourage social guild and group play.

I’m probably a pretty social player and I enjoy MMORPGs due to the feeling of existing in a virtual world and being able to interact with other players. Of course, plenty of people don’t see it that way though. I’ve enjoyed the friendships I’ve made in my guilds but in the case of WoW for instance, I found that being in or out of a guild had very little impact on my actually gameplay – I just always ended up soloing anyway.

So what do you think – are guilds an important integral part of the MMORPG experience or are the just social fluff to make the games less lonely?


Pet The Dog, Feed The Dog (Terrible Quest Design)

Any Everquest 2 player who’s ever betrayed from Qeynos to Freeport will know exactly what I’m referring to with this post’s title. For those of you who don’t, let me explain.

Players in EQ2 can choose to betray their resident city and join the opposing faction and, in order to do so, they must complete a series of laborious quests that in total take several hours. Yep, it harks back to the days of the original Everquest and that thing called faction (which Vanguard tried to resurrect and failed miserably in). So, once you’ve completed a series of quests to leave your city, you then have to farm faction quests in order to become ‘amiable’ with your new city and then finally complete another series of quests to gain your new citizenship.

Although repetitive and massively unnecessary this entire process isn’t actually too bad (even though it will consume at least 2 hours of your life which you will never get back) because at least you’re actively doing something the entire time. That is, however, until you encounter one of the final quests called ‘Learning Your Place In Freeport‘.

This quest sees your EVIL character challenged with petting and feeding a stray dog. Yep, you really are that EVIL. Not only does it really make no sense whatsoever in the context of game world, it’s probably the worst designed quest I ever encountered in any MMORPG ever. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Summon the dog
  • Right click on the dog and select either ‘feed’ or ‘pet’
  • Pause
  • Right click on the dog and select either ‘feed’ or ‘pet’
  • Repeat for 10 minutes
  • Right click on the dog and select either ’sit’ or ‘play dead’
  • Pause
  • Right click on the dog and select either ’sit’ or ‘play dead’
  • Repeat for 10 minutes

I shit you not.

The entire process takes about 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes of right clicking on a fricking dog and either feeding or petting it or commanding it to play dead or sit.

Here’s what your screen will look like:

This is only a fraction of the actual clicks I had to do

This is only a fraction of the actual clicks I had to do

And just when you think it has to finish sometime soon (oh God please let it finish), it just keeps going.

Screaming out of frustration

Screaming out of frustration is an often occurance during this quest

Eventually, after smashing your face against the monitor, you get a small sense of satisfaction.

Die dog, die! Muahahahah!

Buddy, my now loyal and obedient pet dog, gets introduced to Mr Stomp, my right boot

Even though I’ve done this quest several times before, it never, ever gets any less frustrating or repetitive. It’s terrible quest design and whoever designed it should be strapped to a chair and forced to do it once a day for the rest of their lives…. heck, I’d settle for forcing them to do it once because they clearly never have.

Anyone else got any tails of misery at the hands of poor quest design? I’m pretty sure this one takes the biscuit.


I Have An Ogre Fetish

I recently resubscribed to Everquest 2 and decided to start a new character, an Ogre called Scarscream (that’s ‘Scar-scream’ not ‘Scars-cream‘… although either way works). He’s a Shadowknight although I intend to betray him to a Paladin but stay over at Freeport (any class can play on any faction on Nagafen) thus meaning I can bum around with old friends whilst feeling slightly ’special’. However, I was looking through my character selection screen when I noticed something…odd…

Vanilla Gorilla

Vanilla Gorilla

My first Ogre, the Vanilla Gorilla, Shadowknight of Darathar, now residing on Venekor until the upcoming server merge.

Clubosaurus - Bruiser

Clubosaurus

Clubosaurus. How he’d get his name? Hint: he likes to club people. Member of the Fat Asian Four guild on Nagafen.

Blane - Inquisitor

Blane

Blane. Battle Cleric. Holy as hell and popular with the ladies.

Mantooth - Legendary Berserker

Mantooth

Mantooth, the Legendary Berserker/Guardian of Nagafen, soon to come out of retirement. I’ve betrayed him between about 6 times already so by my reckoning I should get a in-game reward for doing it a 7th time.

Scarscream - Shadowknight

Scarscream

My new Shadowknight/Paladin, Scarscream.

Yes, that’s right. My name is Gordon and I have an Ogre fetish. And you know what the really creepy thing is? They all look identical…

So what exactly is it that I love about these majestic creatures? Honestly, I’m not quite sure but maybe it has something to do with towering over my enemies and smashing into the ground and then grinding them under my feet or looming over my comrades and blocking their entire view of the battleground when we fight in compact dungeons. Either way, it’s bloody good fun.

Anyone a psychiatrist?


Kurn’s Tower Coming To EQ2

Strange how the interweb works sometimes. I was reading West Karana and then followed a link to MMOQuests were I found some info about the arrival of Kurn’s Tower to Everquest 2 in GU #52. Naturally, being a huge fan of the zone in Everquest, I was pumped right away. You can find the offical info page from SOE here.

I resubscribed to EQ2 a few days ago but haven’t really gotten back into the game yet. It’s been ages since I’ve played it seriously and it’s always strange returning to an old game after a long period away. Also, all of my buddies (the ones who are still playing) have betrayed the light side and switched over to Freeport. Being on a PvP server (Nagafen) this means I either have two choices: betray over and join them, getting all my combat arts reset to Apprentice I in the process OR let them relentlessly destroy me every time I log on. Yeah, they really are that classy.

I was considering just getting Mantooth to level 80 (he’s about 40% exp away) and then starting a new character on the FP side. However, my discovery of Kurn’s Tower coming along changes all of that ’cause now I really want to do the zone as the preview of it looks pretty sweet. My only disappointment is that it’s not an open zone but an instance (there’s also a x2 raid instance). Guess I’ll have to save up my pennies, bite the bullet and betray anyway.

Anyway, I found some screenshots of the original Kurn’s Tower through Google. Enjoy the nostalgia fest.

Kurn's Tower Enterance

Kurn's Tower Enterance

Kurn's Tower Outside

Kurn's Tower Outside


Thinking Of Returning To Everquest 2

Coincidentally just as Tobold posted an article about taking a break from WoW, I’ve been considering returning to Everquest 2. I think WoW is a great game but I’m really missing the social aspect that other MMOs have to offer. For a game with so many players, the game feels surprisingly lonely and people just don’t seem to bond in groups or guilds. Maybe it’s just my bad experiences and the fact that I haven’t hit level 80 with any of my characters yet.

A few weeks ago, one of my work colleagues joined the game with his girlfriend and they seem to be really enjoying it which is fantastic. I’ve also definitely appreciated having someone online to chat with but as WoW lacks any sort of mentoring system, there isn’t a lot we can do to group together until he catches up on me. Even then, WoW is still very much a single player focused game, at least at the lower levels. It’s a lot easier to level up questing than it is by grouping and most of the groups I’ve been in have been pretty negative experiences. I know it’s a cliché, but the player base in WoW does seem to be a lot younger than other games I’ve tried.

I’ve also been mulling over trying LotRO again. I keep hearing how great it is although I never managed to get sucked it into it on the few occasions I played it. I always found the starting areas to be particularly boring and unimaginative but I hear that the community and grouping elements are fantastic. I’ve dismissed WAR and AoC for the time being as WAR is just plain dull and AoC needs a big expansion before I return to it.

I haven’t made a decision yet and I’ll still probably be playing WoW for a while longer. I’m enjoying the PvP battlegrounds and I want to check out Northrend. Maybe I’ll resubscribe to EQ2 and try them both together for a bit. Wouldn’t be nice if MMOs offered you a free 48 hour ‘come back trial period’… just so I can scratch that itch and see if it really is the game I’m looking for or if it’s just nostalgia playing tricks on me.


Travel In MMOs

Travel in MMOs is a tricky thing to get right. It’s more than just a way to get a player from A to B, it’s a way to immerse them in the online world and let them experience the natural flow of it. It’s also a very hard thing to balance. If it’s too easy for a player to travel from one place to another then there is no opportunity for them to experience the world or feel a part of it. Too difficult, on the other hand, and the player is left frustrated, bored or, at the worst, unable to easily join his companions.

World of Warcraft has a pretty good travel system though I do wish the griffins would fly a little quicker (I always sigh when I see my flight countdown clock read 9 minutes after I’ve picked my destination). I’d like the flying speed to be about double what it is now because spending 9 minutes doing nothing as my character is flown to a new destination is pretty tedious. Quite frankly, I can think of better things to do with that time. Saying all of that though, WoW certainly does grant a powerful feeling of immersion and being part of a vibrant world as you fly seamlessly through the differing areas and zones. The mount system is also good with a huge variety on offer and, at higher levels, the ability to get a flying mount. Finally, the ability to summon group members to dungeon entrances is also fantastic as it helps get people together quickly.

Everquest 2 also has a good travel system, although if WoW’s is a too long and tedious at times, this one is probably too easy in comparison. Sure, it’s nice to be able to use the travel bells on the docks to move to zones quickly but it does destroy the sense of immersion a bit. I think SoE have realised this though as there later expansions have included large, interlinked zones which you can’t easily teleport too but have to ride or fly through instead. I like this approach at it really helps make you feel like you’re existing in a living online world. I also like the fact that Druids and Sorcerers can open up travel portals to Druid Rings and teleport group members respectively – it really adds to their lore and power within the game world. Much like WoW, EQ2 also offers a fantastic selection of mounts to ride around on.

Warhammer Online, on the other hand, has one of the worst travel systems I’ve ever used and it’s certainly one of the contributing factors as to why I didn’t play the game long. The whole game has no sense of immersion and it’s only enhanced by the fact that you can’t fly overland inbetween zones but instead ‘teleport’ (you climb the flying mount, see a small animation and then appear in the new zone) between them. Combine this with an obious zone tiering system and it totally ruins any sense of immersion. Final, riding anywhere is also an utter pain in the arse as even the smallest bite from a mob will dismount you! Ultimately the travel system is neither immersive nor convinient and it really irks me.

I could write about the travel systems in other games but most have some sort of combination of what I’ve mentioned above. To me, the method and style of travel in MMOs is very important as it can be a massive influence on how engaged I am with the virtual world or how annoying it is to move around and actually do anything. I certain don’t envy game developers trying to come up with the ‘correct’ approach.


The Adaptability of EQ2

Everquest 2 is a great game. In fact, I think it’s one of the best MMOs currently available. I played it pretty much solid for 3.5 years, from the day it was released to about May this year. I took a few small breaks to try out other games but I always came back to EQ2 because it had everything I was looking for. Even now I don’t really play it but I still have an active subscription and a couple of low level alts to mess around with.

The reason I stopped playing was just because I’d literally ran out of new things to do – 3.5 years is a loooong time to play a game. I was also pretty disappointed at the latest expansion as it didn’t introduce a whole lot of new stuff. EoF and RoK in comparison were fantastic and added lots of content, high and low level, to keep existing players happy but also encourage new players to join the game.

Anyway, I digress. What I want to talk about is how Everquest 2 has adapted and evolved over the years, turning it from a pretty ropey and incomplete game to a fantastically balanced and polished one.

When EQ2 was first released, it didn’t get a whole lot of praise. Most critics gave it about 7/10 which, while not terrible, isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. And they were pretty justified in the review. The game lacked content and polish and it was absolutely full of bugs. Not only that but WoW came out just 2 weeks after it and it completely overshadowed EQ2 and compounded it’s problems by being so well polished in comparison. I think the EQ2 development team realised this and spent the next few years working their asses off to refine and redevelop EQ2 into something amazing. I honestly believe that WoW was crippling towards EQ2 and if it hadn’t been for the strong Everquest lore and fan base, EQ2 wouldn’t have survived.

Let’s look at some of the more sweeping changes and larger additions to hit EQ2 over the past few years.

2005 – 2006

  • A lot of bug fixes and tweaks to try and make the game more playable and balanced.
  • New epic raid zones added.
  • Mentor system added (amazing feature – WoW seriously needs this).
  • Bloodline Chronicles booster added.
  • New level 50 zone, Nektropos, added.
  • Trade-skill and crafting improvements.
  • Guild management and writ improvements.
  • New instances added.
  • Frogloks released!
  • Splitpaw Saga booster released.
  • Travel made easier.
  • Desert of Flames expansion!
  • Halloween event.
  • Veteran rewards added.

2006 – 2007

  • Complete new character progression system added. One of the biggest and most successful changes.
  • Kingdom of Sky expansion.
  • PvP servers added.
  • City barbers added.
  • Fallen Dynasty booster.
  • Guild level and management changes.
  • Huge amount of PvP tweaks.
  • Echoes of Faydwer expansion.

2007 – 2008

  • Estate of Unrest opens.
  • Sword of Destiny quest line created.
  • New mounts added.
  • City of Neriak added!
  • Arasai added!
  • New Gods added.
  • Shard of Fear released.
  • Rise of Kunark expansion released.

2008 – 2009

  • Epic weapon quests added.
  • New loot methods added.
  • Shard of Hate released.
  • Station Voice added.
  • Guild system changes.
  • Guild Halls added.
  • Shadow Odyssey released.

Yep, that’s a lot of stuff and a lot of changes. I’ve got to take my hat off to the EQ2 team for not only adding a lot of new content, a lot of it free at the time and now all of it free when you buy the latest expansion, but also for continually adapting the gameplay system to make it more refined, user-friendly and balanced.

One of the biggest changes to Everquest 2 was the character progression change. In EQ2, everyone used to have to start with a generic class like a Fighter or Scout and then, after level 10, pick a sub-class like Warrior or Predator. Eventually after level 20 you would then be able to pick your final class like Guardian or Brigand. I absolutely hated this system and I was extremely happy when it was removed. It was like the developers breathed a breath of fresh air into the game and made it far more streamlined and enjoyable, removing unnecessary bulk.

EQ2 isn’t perfect but then no MMO is. However, it’s always been a very innovate and original game and I think SoE  learnt a lot from Everquest and Star Wars: Galaxies and used their experience to subtly adapt and enhance the game without changing the fundamentals that attracted people to it in the first place.

So what’s in stock for the future of EQ2? Well, they’ve just released news about some changes to the aggro system which will revamp the fighter classes. You can read about it here. Just another example of EQ2 adapting to make the game better – I have absolute faith in the developers.

Anyway, if you’re feeling burnt out with WoW I’d recommend giving EQ2 a shot. You won’t regret it.