Aggro Me: My EQII Year
My EQII Year
Yes, it's that time of year when everyone trots out the old "Year in Review" thing. And I'm no different. This little review is going to cover 2005 for EQII and for SOE. I'll do a similar review for Aggro Me when it gets closer to the site's one year anniversary on March 3, 2006. But for now enjoy this somewhat disjointed and rambling look at my EQII year.
I'm splitting this up into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Has it only been a year since EQII launched? Well, a year and a few months, I suppose. This game has changed and grown so much that I feel like I have been playing it for years.
From the very beginning, SOE has continually pumped out updates with both major and minor changes. Here are just a few that stand out to me:
Can you imagine a world without offline selling? Thankfully, that feature was introduced in March.
How about the mentor system? It gives you the freedom to play with friends of a different level and experience content you may have missed.
Out of group invites and rezzing are certainly a plus.
We got through the trauma of the Combat Revamp together and I truly believe combat is more fun and exciting than before.
Call of X bind points are now changeable, a real boon for those who invested in real estate.
Interface systems like the map, faction, skills and inventory screens are much more pleasant and useful then they were at the start of the year.
While I would not trade my personal experiences with the Patron system for anything, I am going to go ahead and say that removing it was a good decision.
The SOGA models were introduced, giving players more options in terms of their characters' appearances.
Much content was added in the form of new dungeons and quests. For example, did you know the GEB heritage quest wasn't introduced until February, 2005? In terms of new instances, I especially liked Return to Nek but the Frosty Dig was also pretty cool (and oh so very hard).
I know I am missing a bunch of great changes and updates, but that's the beauty of it. There have been so many that it is hard to mention them all. And that's a good thing.
We have had some great live events. Although I did not participate in the Griffon Tower event that one stands out to me because it let people take part in changing the world of Norrath. I did get to be a part of a live event during the Plague and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The holiday events were fantastic. Frostfell is tremendous, as I discussed Tuesday. Halloween was very fun as well. And don't forget the short but sweet Erollisi's Day quest (Valentine's day).
Splitpaw was a huge step forward for EQII. Players were treated to cool zones, innovative quests and just tons of fun with this fantastic Adventure Pack.
The Desert of Flames was very good for a first expansion. It brought the faction system to the fore, was graphically beautiful and had plenty of interesting content for solo, group and raids. I'm going to stop short of calling it great but I am still exploring it and enjoying it. Just last night I was still marveling at the beauty of a carpet ride in PoF and still finding cool new spots to explore. I have been soloing a lot more than usual due to time constraints from work so I can tell you there is plenty of fun solo content. But as I move back into grouping, I am loving the great instances I am seeing for the first time. I have been getting more involved with the raid content as well so I'll report on that soon.
In my estimation the uptime for the game has been terrific. Yes, there have been a few minor incidents but for the vast majority of the time I log on whenever I want to without the slightest problem. On the whole I have had very few technical issues.
I believe the team has done a great job communicating with the player base (with one or two notable exceptions) and I think we have seen how much the devs care about this game. They have done a terrific job of both adding new content and smoothing out issues in the game.
The number one greatest thing about EQII is the community. The number of smart, mature and friendly people I've met in game far, far outweighs the number of idiots and that is truly remarkable. And everyone I've come into contact with out of game, either in person at the community summit, or on the forums here or through e-mails and comments has been a pleasure to speak with.
While there are plenty of additions I want to see and things I would like changed and improved, I'll save that for a separate post. The death penalty went from what I thought was perfect on day one to a laughable respawn. The elimination of group xp debt was a regrettable decision and things only went downhill from there. Death is currently very close to meaningless in EQII, at least in my estimation.
While I was in favor of removing many of the annoyances from gameplay, I feel the line was pushed a little to far to the easy side of the challenge meter and the feeling of depth and immersion has taken a small hit.
I think the armor models have been a disappointment for most, especially in terms of lack of variety. While I have seen some improvement lately, it is not enough.
The services of EQII Players were never well implemented. The problems on the guild sites drove many players back to third-party or independent solutions. The optional services never seemed up to date or helpful.
There have been other gameplay changes which are open to debate but I don't feel I can include them in the "bad" section.
I believe the following business decisions equaled a decrease in the reputation of SOE in general.
In game advertisements in Planetside and Matrix Online (including Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo and Beavis and Butthead posters)
The utter mishandling of the whole Frogloks are "in the game" thing.
Pimping that Walk of Fame thing both on the launch window and with server-wide in-game announcements.
The Quest for Antonia.
The NGE in SWG (While I make no comment on whether or not this was a good move from a game design perspective, the negative press was pretty tremendous).
Even if you disagree with me and think Station Exchange is a good idea and /pizza is convenient (and, hey, I fully admit that I kind of ended up enjoying the Quest for Antonia) the point is that this year was a disastrous one for the SOE brand image.
Let me clarify. In terms of brand recognition, SOE is doing great. Most people have heard of SOE and Everquest. But in terms of brand image, there is a problem. The SOE brand image was not a positive one before this year and it has only gone downhill. While the amount of updates the EQII team has put forth this year has done some good for the whole brand, it is hardly enough to stem the tide.
I am not at all blaming the EQII PR or Marketing teams. I think they do a great job. But what seems to be missing is a liaison of sorts at the company who can step in and say, "Sure, in-game advertising might make us some money now, but what about the future revenue we're going to lose when people associate our brand with money-hungry types who care nothing about the actual games."
I surf both large and small gaming forums and literally countless times I've heard people ask, "Should I try Planetside?" or "Should I play WoW or EQII?" only to be answered with a barrage of "SOE is greedy and does not care about games" type responses. And they don't just say that, they go ahead and use some of the above list as concrete examples.
To clarify again: It does not matter for the sake of brand image if SOE is actually "evil" or not. I'm talking about perception. I truly believe that the EQII team cares deeply about the game. And I'm sure the vast majority of SOE loves gaming and cares about gaming. But if SOE is perceived to be evil, whether it is true or not, you have a problem. And you can't just say, "Well, we're not evil." You should set about fixing that problem with a solid record of doing the right thing instead of digging yourself a deeper hole.
And for those who say, "This is a business and business is about making money," the point is that I am approaching this from the business standpoint. You will end up making much more money in the long run if you build up a stellar reputation than you could ever earn from a deal with Pizza Hut.
I think the EQII team has done a terrific job and should be congratulated. I just wish SOE didn't make it quite so hard on themselves in the gaming community.
Playing EQII has provided me with a ton of fun and enjoyment this year and I look forward to even more next year. I would like to personally say thank you to the entire EQII team for providing me with what I feel is an incredible value for the money. While I did play some other games: a lot of Civ IV, a little bit of WoW and Eve and lately some SAIS II and Mount & Blade (thanks Flashman for suggesting M&B), EQII was by far my main game in 2005.
Next week I will discuss what we have to look forward to in the upcoming year and also what my 2006 wish list is. Feel free to add some of your bests and worsts for EQII 2005 in the comments. I would love to hear them and I'm sure I missed a ton of stuff.