Archive for the ‘Everquest 2’ Category

The Evolution Of Questing

I played Everquest for approximately 5 years starting just after it was released in 1999. In that time I did exactly 3 quests (OK, fine, if you include the “fetch me 6 fire beetle eyes” and the “hand in 20 bone chips for Kunark faction” quests then it’s probably about 5). The 3 quests I did are listed below:

  • Stein of Moggok
  • Enchanter: Iksar Illusion
  • Rogue Epic

3 quests. 5 years. Everquest. Irony central to the max.

Thing is, Everquest wasn’t about questing. It was about grouping, grinding and struggling all the way to the top. When it first came out it there was no such thing as quest journals, large, yellow exclamation marks hanging over NPC’s heads or quest location indicators on maps. Heck, there wasn’t even any such thing as maps (I used to have to keep a folder full of print outs from the EQAtlas website). Undertaking a quest resulted in having to research it on the Internet, print out 15 pages of information, spend 2 hours travelling and then a further 18 hours camping mobs only to accidentally hand in the components to the NPC in the wrong order and lose everything. Ah, the good ol’ days.

The next few batches of MMOs didn’t really do much to improve questing or change the way we look at it. Even second generation games like SWG and EQ2 initially didn’t bother much with questing. However change was just around the corner in the form a pencil-necked geek called Warcraft, World of Warcraft.

WoW was packed with quests and it revolutionised everything. It made EQ2 look half finished in comparison and practically killed it off even though it had only been released two weeks before WoW and had a large, loyal fan base. Everything had changed and now people wanted soloable quest content.

While other games, like EQ2, fought hard to keep up and add new content, WoW grew like a juicy maggot. It changed the MMO experience from being a time consuming group orientated one to a slick and easy solo one. Now people could log in, spend 30 minutes doing a few quests, and log off a happy camper.

The result of all of this is now that every MMO has to come briming with quests or it’s considered ‘empty’ and lacking depth and content even if the core game is good (Age of Conan is a perfect example of this). 5 years ago these games would have thrived but now people just want to quest grind alone and only group occasionally until they hit the level cap.

Seems like questing is a double edged sword. On one hand it’s introduced a more user-friendly style of gameplay with greater allowances for storytelling and immersion. On the other hand it’s removed a lot of the social experiences we used to take for granted. There’s a fine line between enjoying doing quests and just ‘quest grinding’ mindlessly to level up quickly which I feel is where we’re heading now in a lot of MMOs.

Ultimately, I want the best of both worlds. I want to quest but I don’t want it just being another tool for grinding, a metric that people use to determine if a game has ‘depth’ or not. Questing should mean something and be an intricate part of the game and it’s evolution certainly shouldn’t result in the extinction of grouping or sociability. I eagerly await the same revolutionary focus being applied to the group experience that was applied to the solo quest one four years ago.


Humour In MMOs

I don’t know about Ultima Online but Everquest was one of the original MMOs and it certainly had a fair amount of humour in it, often little nods towards obscure geeky references designed to give us a smirk if we noticed. You can find a full list of them here.

Everquest 2 was a lot more serious and I remember reading an interview with a developer a few years ago who talked about how they they felt humour and Easter eggs removed people from the immersive world and made it feel like too much of a ‘game’. The EQ2 team seemed to have lightened up over the years though and now have a few in-game jokes, none more obvious than a legendary scythe called ‘Dawnfear, the Reaper’ (\aITEM -1115320850 1219695296:Dawnfear, the Reaper\/a ) which drops in the Plane of Fear. It even procs an effect called ‘Bos Bovis Carillon’ – carillon being a musical instrument, bovis sounding similar to bovine and bos… well, I have no idea what that means but it sounds German.

World of Warcraft on the other hand is absolutely ripe with humour so obvious you just can’t miss it. In the Draenei starting lands alone there is the opportunity to meet Laando and do a delivery run in under 30 minutes for a chap called Kessel. And if you have no idea what those are about then please go punch yourself in the face.

Blizzard are even so much into their in-game humour that they can manage to pack two, count ‘em, two geek references into a single quest. Chasing A-Me 01 not only references the film of the same name but also Congo. My favourite comedy quest however has to be the one in Honour Hold in Hellfire Peninsula were you help a priest called Barada perform an exorcism. The power of Christ compels you!

The power of the Light compels you!

The power of the Light compels you!

You can find a full listing of WoW Easter eggs here… all 12 pages of them.

So it seems some people dislike the idea of humour and Easter eggs in their MMOs but I’m not one of them. I love the jokes in WoW and personally I think it makes the game seem more personal and vibrant. I can’t see the argument for it breaking immersion and role play because, lets face it, no one bothers to RP in it anway. Now, I’m just waiting to bump into an NPC with a huge chin who goes by the name Druce Dampbell (you can have that one for free, Blizzard, but the next one will cost ya). BOOM.


Game Life Balance

It’s 10:30pm and I just got home from work. I don’t have some super crazy lawyer job in the city (shucks, y’all) but I have been working harder than a Japanese beaver lately. It’s not the norm for me (oh God I hope it’s not the norm for me. Save me Baby Jesus, please!) so it’s fine but I find that even my normal working life, combined with my slightly-retarded social life, apply a lot of pressure to my gaming live. How the heck do other people manage to put in all of those crazy hours into MMOs and still hold down jobs?!

When I was a student on summer holidays I used to play a fair bit (y’know, 4-6 hours a day, nothing too… extreme…) but that was purely because I had absolutely nothing better to do. Eventually my hedonistic life of bliss came to an end and I had to go out and get a job. Since then, my gaming life has suffered.

My EQ2 guild was a ‘casual’ guild but even then I struggled to keep up with everyone else. They would all log on at 7pm and log off at 10pm during the week and then played a lot during the weekends. Now, compared to most MMO gamers, that’s very casual but it was still difficult for me to do – sometimes I had to work late, sometimes I wanted to go out and/or see friends and sometimes I just didn’t feel like sitting in front of a computer.

Keeping up with my casual guildies was hard enough so I have no idea how true hardcore players manage to hold down a job and put in their abundant hours of gaming. Sure, I can understand students (cause I certainly indulged myself when I was one) but that can’t account for all hardcore players. I saw a guild recruitment message in EQ2 once that stated that applicants needed to be able to raid every day of the week from 6-11pm. Huh?! How does anyone manage that? It boggles my mind.

I guess, thinking about it, I’m quite competitve in my MMOs and it annoys me that someone else can be ‘better’ than me just because they’ve got more time (I hate the way MMOs reward time and not skill). But then, thinking about it, I realise that they must be unemployed and live at home with their mum. It’s only thing that explains it. Either that or they must be exeedingly rich, lucky or run time management courses.


MMO Communities

Games like Oblivion and GTA IV may be great but I always feel kinda sad when I play them because I’m off exploring some vast world all on my lonesome. Probably one of the main reasons I love MMOs so much is because they are all communities, sometimes small or, in the case of WoW, sometimes the size of a real world country. This sense of community is everywhere and it creates a deep immersion. I get fed up wandering the world of Oblivion and never bumping into another living soul whereas, if I play a MMO, I’m constantly meeting people and that’s part of the excitement for me. I might bump into someone, form a group with them, and become great friends with them for years to come or I might bump into someone who’s a complete cock. You see, MMO communities are like a box of chocolates – sometimes you get a great buddy, sometimes you get a cock.

Everquest has an amazing community because there was no other way to play it. You just simply couldn’t play through the game without meeting and working with other people. Certainly in the early days, everything from gaining experience to travelling to selling items required a lot of social interaction and a significant investment of time. The latter point was no doubt the Achilles Heel of the EQ community – people didn’t want to spend 8 hours trying to sell their loot or wait 30mins to find someone who could port them home. The game evolved over the years and new concepts, like the auction house and Plane of Knowledge, were introduced to make people’s lives easier. Regardless of this ‘ease’ though, the game continued to have a strong community because it was still so intrinsic to EQ’s gameplay.

Everquest - People Selling In The Commonlands Tunnel

Everquest - People Selling In The Commonlands Tunnel

New MMORPGs continued down this trend of becoming more accessible but still maintaining the need for social interaction in order to accomplish things. It’s a massively difficult thing to balance and get right though – some games succeeded very well but others (*cough* Vanguard *cough*) failed miserably.

Everquest 2 is an example, to me, of a perfect balance between accessibility and community. Players can solo if they want but the carrot of grouping is always there. The sense of community is strong because people can easily communicate with others via global level chat channels – an example of accessibility aiding community. EQ2 also has a great mix of single group instanced dungeons and open world dungeons. There’s nothing more fun that taking a group for a dungeon run and spending a couple of hours there, bonding, celebrating each other’s strengths and bumping into and competing with other groups.

World of Warcraft, on the other hand, has a weaker community in my opinion. Everyone solos because it’s the easiest and quickest way to level up and it’s exacerbated by a talent system that forces people to chose between soloing or grouping. There are no open dungeons – everything is instanced to groups – and there are no global level range chat channels. Everyone just seems to solo from level 1 to 80 and then find a comfortable guild in which they never venture out of… I’ve never experienced a community so derogatory towards PUGs.

It might sound like I’m being pretty damning towards WoW and, I suppose, I am. It’s not out of hatred however, it’s out of frustration. I’m really enjoying playing World of Warcraft but my main experience has been that of a solo world with the occasional sense of community. That frustrates me because I see a great game that could be so much more with only a few tweaks such as the forthcoming dual-talent system and some more global chat channels. Feel free to correct me about anything I’ve said on it because I’m by no means a WoW guru.


Impressive MMOs

One of the many reasons that I enjoy MMOs so much is that they occasionally give me some stunning moments when I see, or do, something so incredible it just makes me think ‘wow’. I’ve played a lot of MMOs and some have been very lackluster (*cough* Warhammer *cough*) and unimpressive whilst others have really immersed me and drawn me in, giving me some incredible sights and moments that I’ll never forget. Here, in the chronological order that I played them, are some of those games that impressed me.

Everquest

Out of every MMORPG I’ve played, EQ will always be the one that really blew me away the most. I was 17 when I first played it and, although I had tried a couple of small MUDs and read about Ultima Online, I’d never experienced anything like it. From the first moment I saw other players talking, sitting, and interacting I just knew that I could never go back to ‘boring’ single player games. EQ was a vast online world that just stunned me in every sense of the word. I remember the first time I saw an Ogre in Blackburrow, the first time I saw a level 50 character run past, the first time I ran the gauntlet of death to get my Enchanter spells in High Keep, and the first time I trekked the oceans to visit the far away lands of Kunark. I know a lot of this is nostalgia but EQ was honestly unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

Everquest One Screenshot

How Did We Actually See Anything?

Anarchy Online

The next MMO I played that really impressed me was Anarchy Online. Sure, it wasn’t as groundbreaking as EQ but it was the first sci-fi MMO and it really tried to do new things. One of my favourite memories is going into a ‘nightclub’ for the first time and just seeing people… dancing.

Everquest 2

Having played EQ on and off for 5 years, EQ2 was a game I was immensely looking forward to and excited about. Although it was pretty rocky to start with (eventually evolving into one of the best MMOs available however) it was still impressive to see and stunning to play. Sure, it initially wasn’t very well polished compared to WoW but it had atmosphere, immersion and a ton of gall. EQ2 really pushed the boat out and coined the phrase ’second generation MMO’. The graphics were beautiful, it had almost full voice work for the NPCs and it took an entire new approach to crafting. In the early days it may not have been perfect but I was blown away by it’s scope and ambition.

Vanguard

Yep, Vanguard. I tried VG when it first came out and although it certainly wasn’t perfect, it did have one big wow moment for me and that was the first time I saw the port city of Khal. I remember being quite stunned by it and really admiring the beauty of the cityscape and all of the effort that had gone into making it. If VG gave me nothing else, at least it gave me Khal.

Port City of Khal in Vanguard

Port City of Khal in Vanguard

Age of Conan

Although Age of Conan was ultimately disappointing, I still found it initially very impressive. I think for me the incredible thing was purely the visuals and the atmosphere. I’m a big fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and the game managed to capture the look and feel of the world perfectly. The first time I played it, I was stunned by the graphics and the sense of immersion – Tortage is still a great experience, just a shame that the rest of the game lacks depth.

World of Warcraft

I started playing WoW seriously about four months ago and never really experienced any ‘wow moment’s (pardon the pun) until last weekend. I was playing my level 65 Warrior and entered Terokaar Forest in Outland for the first time and saw… Shattrath City. It completely blew me away, a feeling enhanced by the fact that I just wasn’t expecting to see anything so cool. It’s not the most graphically impressive thing I’ve ever seen but the combination of effects, immersion, atmosphere and my interest the surrounding lore really did it for me. Kudos to Blizzard – I’m looking forward to see Northrend now.

Shattrath City

Shattrath City

Draenei Priest NPC in Shattrath City

Draenei Priest NPC in Shattrath City


Everquest 2 – Inquisitor

Today, kids, I’m going to write about the Everquest 2 Inquisitor class. I recently started one on Runnyeye but this isn’t the first time I’ve felt the call of priesthood and the drive of the inquisition. No sir, I have a level 28 Inquisitor alt on Nagafen (a US PvP server) and spent many hours judging the worthiness of folk (hint: everyone is unworthy). Low level PvP in EQ2 is absolutely fantastic and great fun but it unfortunately takes a nose dive in T8 once you start going up against opponents with mythical epic items and the like.

I miss my PvP Inquisitor. Although it’s still a fun class to play on a PvE server, it just isn’t the same because I can’t smack people in the face with a big stick. And I don’t care who you are (I’m looking at you, the Pope), that’s always fun.

The cool thing about the EQ2 Inquisitor is that you can spec your Alternate Advancement points to become a Battle Cleric. Awesome. This is the big thing I miss in WoW – there is no equivalent of a melee cleric (Shamans don’t count, dammit!). I really like the way the AAs work in EQ2. I turned off my normal experience so I leveled very slowly and I completely focused on gaining AA points. By the time I hit level 28, I had achieved the Battle Cleric AA in the Inquisitor tree and was working on the STR line in the Cleric tree.

The Battle Cleric line works by replacing the normal Inquisitor damage spells with better melee attacks, essentially turning your character from a spellcaster to a melee warrior. The final ability in the line also increases your melee ability and armour effectiveness. I selected an Ogre (what else?) as my race which meant I was already hardy and had access to some innate abilities like a melee slam and stun immunity. Now throw in the standard healing abilities of the Cleric archetype and you have a very tough PvP competitor.

Battle Clerics were quite uncommon on Nagafen because people generally preferred to play Scouts or Druids who have useful abilities like snare and/or track. My Inquisitor didn’t have any of those so I was pretty limited in my ability to hunt or chase after people but that wasn’t the point. I was a hidden juggernaut, a lurking behemoth if you will, waiting to unleash my badass-ness on anyone foolish enough to attack me… and that happened a lot. Satisifaction maximum.

So there you have it. The Battle Cleric Inquisitor. Acknowledge your inclination to judge someone today.


2009 Predictions

Here are my predictions for MMOs in 2009:

Star Wars: The Old Republic, Star Trek Online & DC Universe Online

Won’t be released this year. They will all be delayed until 2010.

World of Warcraft

Will continue to power on as usual but, as before, it will eventually lose subscribers to other games after a few months. This won’t really have any impact on the overall WoW subscriber figures though and players will return in droves in 2010 when Blizzard releases the next expansion. The dual-spec talent system will be delayed until late Spring but it will be much appreciated when it arrives.

Everquest 2

SoE release another new expansion in November, increasing the level cap by 10 and adding a new continent, the moon of Luclin. Unfortunately, the expansion doesn’t include any new low level content.

Everquest

SoE open a new server in March, similar to the Stromm server back in 2003. Lots of people go back and try it out for nostalgia’s sake.

Lord of the Rings Online

Continues to power along steadily but absolutely nothing exciting happens with it…

Age of Conan

Funcom release an expansion in the Spring with a new race, new content areas for all levels, a deity system, a handful more fatalities, some raiding zones and increase the level cap to 90. They make the Tortage starting area optional for all players who have a level 80 character or above.

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning

Mythic work hard to fix all of the technical issues in the game has and focuses on improving the RvR experience. They increase the leveling speed again, making it quicker to get to T4 and reduce the all of the ‘requirements’ for PvP and RvR in Tiers 1-3 (i.e. reducing the number of people required to siege a keep). They add some new T4 PvE dungeons and, in the Spring, release the Choppa and Hammerer classes in a world event. They make scenarios cross server. During the summer they announce that they will release an expansion in 2010.

Vanguard

Vanguard eventually gets an expansion and proves that it just… won’t… die. The expansion focuses primarily on new areas for high levels and raiding.

Tabula Rasa

The games closes in February, only 15 months after having started. Real shame cause I actually liked the game – if only it had more depth and content.

Darkfall

Eventually releases this year and, despite a lot of fanboi hoo-ya, never really amounts to anything as all of the hardcore players return to WoW after trying it out for 1 month.