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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cause Celebre

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What is it about our culture that makes us love celebrities so much? What is it that makes us seek fame ourselves, willing to eat goat dung for a five minute spot on a reality show? Heck, I don't know. Living in Manhattan, I've hung out with b-list celebrities from time to time but I'd rather hang out with my friends any day.

That's not to say I am immune to the celebrity fascination. I've
written about Schilling twice. And I've been known to frequent the celebrity focused Pink is the New Blog.

And, here I am, writing another celebrity post.

Yes, Dave Chappelle is now
a known WoW gamer . But if you want any Rick James catchphrases you're going to have to look elsewhere. Some people are annoyed with Chappelle but I think it's because of the legions of people who run said catchphrases into the ground. That's not his fault. If you actually watch his show you'll find he's very funny and very smart, at least in my opinion. I just hope for his sake he never reveals his character name or he will get several thousand catchphrase tells the moment he logs on. You can check out his parody of GTA here.

Hmm, Schilling misses most of the season because of injury. Chappelle misses his third season because of "creative problems." And they're both MMORPG players....interesting. Eh, just kidding, I hope they both get back on track soon.

Moving on to those who seek celebrity, I
read on EQII Vault today that around 150 people signed up for the silly Quest for Antonia and that a million votes were cast. I've written enough about that already.

In yet more celebrity news, the real
Queen Heather was nominated for her voice work in EQII for the ridiculous G-phoria awards. Having not done the betrayal quest, I've never met her in "person" but I can say that her voice work on the talking statue was pretty good. Upbeat and inspiring.

The whole category is a joke, to be honest. Three of the five contestants (Heather, Carmen Electra and Brooke Burke) are celebrities. You can make that four if you count Linda Hunt who was on the Practice, Carnivale and actually won an Academy Award. So out of all the voice work that was done in games this year was it really four celebrities who turned in the best performances? Or is this an obvious name value bias? I'm sorry but any award show which nominates Carmen Electra for voiceover work for playing herself is not going be taken seriously by me.

As MMO subscriber numbers continue to grow (two million for WoW), it is likely that we're going to be getting more celebrity stories, like it or not.


I also have to hand it to SOE for linking to that
G-Phoria page where their game has a nomination for Best Voice Work while, on the same page, WoW has a nomination for Game of the Year.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Naggy and Friends

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In a recent patch Nagafen was given some "unique abilities." Scott explains why in this thread. Remember, just because Naggy now drops loot, it doesn't mean he's not still a level 100 mob. Unless his new special ability is to bake me a delicious pie and do a funny dance I'm not going be to be attacking him anytime soon.

As for mobs I can take down (with a little help of course),
Rognog is back. This fishing aficionado is a raid mob located in the Cove of Decay. Moorgard gives a funny explanation of Rognog's long disappearance. Ah, but before you know it - he's gone again. Slippery as a fish.

In more recent news, the Splitpaw Saga begins. I will give you a report when I get a chance to try it. According to Moorgard there is a feature for Splitpaw which was never advertised or discussed before. Most of the zones will actually allow you to choose from three levels of difficulty (with commensurate reward). This is in addition to these zones scaling to the average party level. You can read more about it
here. I think this is a terrific idea, if it is balanced correctly in terms of risk-reward. I'm sure some of the more hardcore roleplaying types will say this sort of option breaks immersion and to some degree I understand: I mean did Aragorn get to choose from moderate or high difficulty at the battle of Helm's Deep? Personally, I'm willing to make some sacrifices in "realism" for the sake of improved gameplay.

Along with Splitpaw comes
Live Update 11. It's nothing earth-shattering but there are a bunch of minor changes which will hopefully add up to improve the overall feel of the game. I haven't logged on since the patch so I am only commenting on the notes and not the actual patch itself. Hey, I was raiding late Monday night and I needed some sleep. Okay, that's a lie...who needs sleep when you have robust Antonican coffee? Actually, I would have tested things out but my server was locked (at least in the early evening) so I decided to, gasp, read a book instead.

The changes from the Live Update notes which stand out to me the most are the reduction of the camping time for Grimfeather and the Seraph and the introduction of a mender in TS and Nek. I am kind of a fanatic about having my gear mended. If I drop below 80% I start to get a nervous twitch and have recurring nightmares of showing up for a raid naked.


Another great change is that the font size in the chat windows will now save so you don't have to fiddle with it each time you log on. Well, that's not so much an improvement as a bug fix. Either way it was driving me insane.

Also, how many times have you looked at an item and said, "Hmm...requires 145 staff skill. Let me open the skills window and check my staff skill. Okay, so that's two more levels." Now, you can just examine the item and see what level you can use it at and what classes can use it.

Oh, and Rognog's back again. Again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

More Dear Aggro

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It's Part Two of my Dear Aggro analysis of Scott Hartsman's letter in advice letter form. With out further ado:

Dear Aggro,

EQII suxors becuz there's no pvp. How can I say "pwned" and laugh and stuff when I kill some computerized mob? I want to gank people because I'm uber.

-PvP Pauly

Dear Pauly,

We certainly don't want to lose such a valued member of the EQII community. EQII is introducing limited PvP in the near future. However, as PvE is the core of EQII gameplay, SOE doesn't want to screw it up. The balancing changes necessary to produce good PvP gameplay will be separate from PvE play. Let's say Ice Comet is found to be too powerful in PvP. In PvE it will still do the same damage, but in PvP it will do 50% less. That's just a hypothetical, obviously. For now you are free to do some "ganking" on the Test server as dueling is live there. Dueling will be live on regular servers prior to the expansion. The expansion will feature group PvP in a specific zone, the Arena.

I must say one thing worries me though: SOE still has yet to implement the infamous combat changes, which are still being tuned. Now they also have to balance solo and group PvP. Scott says they are doing this already. I have to think this will be very time consuming work. The combat changes have taken quite a long time. There also has to be a beta for DoF before release. I'm glad to see SOE doing a thorough job, I just hope they have the resources to pull all this off in time for September.


Scott also mentions that after the Expansion is released they will discuss the possibility of PvP servers. I'm betting that PvP servers are indeed going to happen. Oh and Pauly: you're a noob. Pwned.

-Aggro

Dear Aggro,

Dude, I have this idea for an expansion to Everquest II called Unicorn Slayer. Humanity has entered the ultimate war with the Unicorn horde. You can play as a Human or a Unicorn so there's PvP. Plus, it's in like, space or something so the Unicorns are wearing space suits. Man, I'm so high right now. Anyway, I actually don't know anything about designing games. I just want to help gamers! What do I do?

-Spaceman Spliff

Dear Spaceman,

Well, one way to contribute to the EQII community is to sign up for the Test Server. SOE is now offering a 50% boost to all xp to make those levels fly on by. Also, a character created on Test will not count against your maximum character limit. Personally, I advocate free character copies to test or at least the ability to start a level 20 character if you have a level 50 on the regular servers. If you play on Test make sure to sober up and provide useful feedback and bug reports.

-Aggro

Dear Aggro,

I love money and making money and rolling in money and also money. The guys at Blizzard have more money than me and I'm not happy. I thought my Adventure Pack about vampires would make a lot of money. Everyone loves vampires right? I mean, I've seen Blade II like seven times and Lost Boys rulz! How can I make more money on my next Adventure Pack?

-Smedster

Dear Smedster,

Well, it's simple really. Your first Adventure Pack was limited in terms of level range. So why would people who were outside said level range buy it? You seem to be taking the right route by using scalable dungeons (and rewards - that part's important too) for Splitpaw so people of all levels can enjoy. If you do a good job people will buy it. Let's hope there is enough content that people of all levels will get their money's worth.


Also, I hope you have some more original stuff going on there than simply gnolls in a cave. People who did the Freeport to Qeynos betrayal quest already had to kill five hundred gnolls so they are probably tired of killing gnolls, even if they are new "more vicious ones." If the Splitpaw Saga has some interesting zones and quest events to spice things up then I will overlook my complaint. For now I am keeping an open mind. I see the Splitpaw Saga webpage is up with a video available so check it out here.

-Aggro

Monday, June 27, 2005

Dear Aggro

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Well, the Everquest II's Producer Letter written by Scott Hartsman was recently posted on EQ2Players.com. It's notable for it's clarity and relevance. Scott discusses specific gameplay changes rather than engaging in philosophical ramblings.

I really don't get why it's called a "letter" as it just looks like a forum post or news summary to me. But to keep in the mail oriented spirit of things, I am going to be commenting on Scott's letter by pretending to answer the letters of imaginary EQII players. Yeah, I know, sounds bizarre to me too.

Dear Aggro,

I like to collect things. Rubber band balls, stamps, airplane vomit bags (unused of course - I'm not crazy), comics,
Mourning CD's and poisonous reptiles. So when I found out about collection quests in EQII, I went crazy! But then I realized that they count against my 50 quest limit! Arrrgh! What do I do? I have 49 collection quests and 1 quest to help some guy named Vandis and I'm not getting anywhere! Also, my wife says she's going to leave me!

Collection Colin

Dear Colin,

Have no fear! Collection quests no longer count against your active quest limit and they have they very own tab now. So collect all you want! I've played around with the new collection quest tab in the quest window and it's pretty handy. I happen to be a big collection quest fan myself.

Let's hope SOE will soon add a title for those who complete over 20 or 40 collection quests like they do for heritage quests with the "Lore Seeker" type surnames. That would be great. Also, interest in collection quests seems to really drop off right around the time you're of high enough level to finish the Feerott leaves one. How about having raid mobs drop a few random collection items for some new high-end collection quests? This would let higher level players continue their collection fun.

And, Colin, you're going to need those additional slots for quests as there are some quest improvements on the way including tweaks to difficulty and rewards. Quests will soon be labeled group or solo and, I believe, be sortable by the zone the next step of the quest is in, though the specifics on that are a little unclear to me.

As for your wife, I can't imagine why she would want to leave you. The woman must have serious psychological problems. I advise you to start collecting the business cards of good divorce attorneys immediately!

-Aggro

Dear Aggro,

Hey, Aggro, your site sucks. You never once wrote about the ongoing combat changes. What is wrong with you? Why do you suck? Also, you suck!

-Britney Spears

Hi Britney,

Yes, you're absolutely right: I never once mentioned the ongoing combat changes. That's because they are in the proverbial "works." I prefer not to comment on things that may never be implemented or may be implemented in another form entirely. For example, do you remember all the forums craziness when quest rewards were going to be made no-trade? Well, that never happened on live.


I almost wrote about the recent GEB/Robe of the Invoker "nerf" but I'm glad I didn't because the methodology of the tweaking was tweaked itself. All you need to know for now is that the combat changes are still being worked on. Also, you will be able to respec your traits and traditions when it does go live. When it does, I'd suggest you hold off on that respec for a bit until you see how everything works out. Give my love to K-Fed and the people at Starbucks.

-Aggro

Part the Second tomorrow...

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Humor: Old School Edition

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Sometimes people send me humor links that are rather funny but are a bit on the old school side. I've decided to gather a bunch of these together for your amusement with a little bonus at the end. So, travel back to a more innocent age when people thought the release of Duke Nukem Forever was right around the corner and the Everquest webpage looked something like this.

I've linked to
Belan the Looter before but even more old-school are the hilarious adventues of Galad the Looter. I wish I played UO in its heyday.

For more UO fun, check out
Spleen's adventures. Some of them are actually rather recent. For instance, in one of his tales he maroons a player named Jack Sparrow on a desert island. Now that's griefing with a poetic touch.

This Everquest humor page links to Fansy, whom I've, of course, honored already, but also contains a collection of the posts of Skater Gnome. These are some funny satires written in the voice of a young player who plays Everquest when he's grounded and is fascinated by ice cream.

Staying on the original Everquest theme, check out
this musical flash animation entitled, "Anybody Seen My Corpse?" There are some very funny lines.

If you are in the mood for more Everquest flash fun check out
this page for some funny animations.

Edit: Thanks to Anskiere from the Aggro Forums for directing me to the music of Richie Truxillo who has bunch of old school Everquest tunes like Rat Killer, The Server's Down Again and If I Had a Billion Platinum. They're nice acoustic tunes and pretty funny so check them out.

And now for my old school bonus. I ran into this cool archive of video game commercials. Of course, the first thing I did was find the Everquest ones. This one for LDoN is actually not bad. But the commercial for Everquest Online is simply hilarious. The cheesy business dude saying, "It's time to slay the dragon," into his cell phone and the woman who apparently likes to style her hair EQ style and play in costume crack me up.

In the non-MMO arena you might like this
bizzare PS2 commercial featuring golfers being attacked by porn stars. There's also this funny and nostalgic commercial for Vanguard (no, not the upcoming MMO, the old Atari game). I don't know who Luther is supposed to be but he kind of scares me. Hey, if I was Sigil Games I would just re-use this commercial for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Carnival Strikes Back

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If you recall, one of my posts was featured in the first Carnival of Gamers, a virtual gathering of gaming bloggers. Well, I slept throught the second round. But when I went to IHOP for breakfast that day and found they were offering carnival food, I knew it was a message from the gaming gods.

I have submitted a link to the third Carnival of Gamers so head on over and check it out.

As for which link I submitted, I would tell you but, dude, the boss is coming in and she's got another game she needs designed! These graphics aren't going to tighten themselves, are they?

Fore!

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There have been many intelligent essays written on increasing the role of player skill in MMORPG's. But, hey, intelligence is not my style. I get my ideas from goofy anime golf games.

I was playing Hot Shots Golf on my friend's PSP and I had three thoughts. One: this is the only good game for the PSP (don't e-mail me about Lumines). Two: I should really sign up to play
Shot Online, the free multiplayer golf game with roleplay elements. And three: I have a wacky idea for adding a little excitement to MMO combat.

If you've ever played a PC golf game, from the old PGA to Tiger Woods, you know about the accuracy/power gauge. It effects how far you hit the ball and whether you slice your shot or not.

I am going to use the example of nukes here, but I think it would also work with heals, taunts and major attacks. Let's say you cast ice comet. The gauge pops up and the bar starts heading upwards. You click the mouse to stop it at a colored line or as close to the top as you can. The colored line is the "safe" power. The line then moves downwards and you need to click again at the colored accuracy bar. If you hit the line perfectly the spell will definitely hit. If you miss by a little bit it will probably hit. The more you miss it by, the greater the chance of a resist or fizzle. Also, if you went for "safe" power, as opposed to overpowering your spell, you get more of a margin of error.

This would be totally optional. If you have the gauge off, your ice comet will hit in the range of 3,000 damage with a chance to hit of 80 percent. Using the gauge you have the chance to hit for up to 4,000 but you may hit for much less if you click the power too early and your chance to hit may be as low as zero if you totally miss the accuracy line. The speed at which the bar moves would have to be somewhat random to prevent macros.

The bar's speed could be slowed by buffs or even items to make it easier to cast a perfect spell.

Well, that's my idea. I think it would be a fun little way to make combat more interesting. I'm not that into adding first person shooter elements to MMORPG's. I also don't like the idea of extremely complex combos which require voice chat to pull off. The current HO system in EQII is fine and workable. In my guild group someone will type "fate" and we can pull the Luminous Fate HO off in a short time. I just don't want to take this to extremes.

Let me make it clear that I do believe there is skill involved in EQII as it is now. If you play in a lot of pick-up groups you will find that out right quick. Tanks that don't taunt, healers that go for dps instead of healing, and mages that, well, overnuke, are just a few of the playstyles that can lead to disaster.

As a brief aside, what is with the people who spam lengthy chat macros in groups or raids? Sure, if an enchanter is mezzing some mob or a tank is pulling then I want to hear about it. But what's with:

"I am casting reactive heal (Adept I) on Bob in seven point five seconds it will heal roughly 250 to 340 points of damage over a period of 40 seconds. Thank you and have a nice day."

I'm not even exaggerating that much and I've seen people post novels like this literally every three seconds. It recently got to the point where I was so fed up I started spamming:

"Casting Westfend's Ice Spear on mob as soon as I take a sip of my delightful beverage...according to my calculations it will do roughly 672.4 damage with a 79.2% chance of landing. I'd also like to give a shout-out to some of my peeps from South Qey. I'll be hear all week ladies and gents!"

There is a discussion of player skill in MMO's over at the
Aggro Forums along with a bunch of other interesting threads so head on over and join in.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tip Me

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It's rare that I read tips that I can actually use in EQII gameplay. So, to run across two in one day was a veritable windfall.

Both were on a site I stumbled upon in my internet travels (I've almost completed the Bootstrutter's Guide to the Internet quest) called
PhatBoyG.com.

The first is a mentoring tip. Sure, mentoring is great. It let's you group with friends who are lower or higher level, help guildmates, or change that named mob from grey to green for a chance at some loot. But there's one problem, and if you have ever mentored you know what is. That's right: It screws up your hotkey bars. All those carefully organized spells and skills are now greyed out and you have to do some serious rearranging or cast straight out of your spell book.

But now there is a solution:

"To save your current hotkeys:/savehotkeys c:\eq2\normal.dat

To load a previously saved set of hotkeys:/loadhotkeys c:\eq2\filename.dat"

And that's a recipe for taking the hassle out of mentoring.

The second tip is more of a strategic one. If you've ever used waypoint (and I do so much less now that you can finally see your group members on the map screen) you know it will often lead you into walls, dead-ends and wrong turns. But waypoint has a cool purpose with this technique:


Want to see how a mob is going to path when you pull it? Simply invis, go stand next to the mob and then waypoint the puller in your group. Voila. You will see that the mob will follow the exact same path as the waypoint trail. This makes sense as obviously SOE uses one pathing system for waypoints and mobs. It's useful once in a while to plan your strategy and a fun little tip.

When you use it in places where mobs are commonly bugged, you will see just why they are. The waypoint will lead into walls, up trees and so on. Use the trick to figure out a way to pull the mob without bugging it.

Well, those are the tips and remember I didn't come up with these so all credit to the writer of
PhatBoyG.com.

My tip? Well, if you're a wizard and you're afraid a tank or healer is falling asleep on a long dungeon crawl try overnuking! It's sure to get their attention. Remember, the more aggro the better, I always say...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tightening Up the Graphics on Level Three

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If you read this website you might think I only play EQII but I do enjoy playing non-MMO games as well. I occasionally even watch G4 Tech TV (or whatever it's called these days, I can't keep up). X-Play is really the only show I can stand. But lately, I can't even watch that because for the past month the most absolutely annoying commercial in history is being shown during literally every commercial break. Trust me, if you have ever watched G4TV more than ten minutes you've seen it already.

It's a commercial for Westwood Online, some kind of technical school. I've been meaning to write about this for a while but I just got around to uploading the video for your viewing "pleasure." It is available
here.

The commercial opens with two "cool" dudes in some bizarre 80's gear playing a video game. Of course, you get the Space Invaders sound effects every movie and TV show uses for video games. One of the dudes is furiously moving the analog stick on what looks like a PS1 controller while the other is just kind of shaking his.

The set-up is that you think they are two people with "regular jobs" goofing off. "Dude, the boss is coming?" Oh no! What will we do?!? "Dude, I almost got it!"

But wait, it turns out that these guys are really in the gaming business! Wow!

"Finish testing that game yet? I've got another one I need designed."

Ah, they just finished up level three and need to tighten up the graphics a little bit. Wait, are they testers? Game designers? Graphics artists? Are they really tightening up the graphics by shaking some controllers around?

Now, whenever someone asks me at work how a project is going I simply respond, "I just finished up level three and need to tighten up the graphics a little bit." It works well.

Boy, they have to design another whole game already, cut these guys a break. Maybe they're working on the sequel to Mourning.

When one of the dudes says, "I can't believe we got jobs doing this!" I'm not sure if he is referring to the game design job or the fact that someone hired these two as actual actors.

The absolute worst is when one screeches, "And my mother said I would never get anywhere with these games!" You really have to hear the murderous rage he delivers this line with as if he was going to beat his mother to death with an Xbox controller. I don't know what issues he has with his mother but I would guess they require years of intensive therapy.

The punchline to the whole thing is that when they show the number for the school there is a line underneath which reads, "Not intended for residents of Texas or Massachusetts." I couldn't make this stuff up. You know you're going to a prestigious school when it's banned in certain states.

The scary thing is, aside from being annoying these guys may be ripping off unsophisticated people. I have a friend who once said, "I like Halo 2 a lot. Can I get a job with that?" Sigh. I don't think it works that way but this commercial really targets that mentality. Work in the gaming industry and play games all day for lots of money! Yeah, right.

Of course, if I'm totally off-base and any successful Westwood Online alumni would like to write in and set me straight I'd be happy to post your comments.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Director's Cut

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I linked to the Desert of Flames trailer movie back in May. But, SOE recently posted a new version of the trailer with narration by EQII's own Scott Hartsman. It's a nice video with a dash of humor so it's not unpleasant to see it again.

There is
a thread on the forums criticizing Scott's work narrating the video but I think he did a good job. I was more disappointed that it sounds like he was reading a prepared statement rather than commenting off the cuff as the action unfolds. But, I'm starting to get excited about the expansion so let me analyze some of the features he mentions which I haven't discussed before.

The fact that quests come looking for you seems exciting. I would love to log on and have a letter in my mailbox from Queen Heather telling me I need to complete a certain quest. I'd like to be walking through Maj'Dul and have an NPC approach me with a quest. Would I like to have a mob ambush me while I am doing some casual shopping? Well, I suppose so, if it was related to a storyline. If you've ever done a taskforce mission in City of Heroes you will know that the ambushes are some of the most fun parts.

Scott mentions that there will be combat within Maj'Dul. I'm not sure whether this includes PvP combat as well. Perhaps you can PvP in Maj'Dul until the guards show up, whereupon you will be ported to the arena.

There is a line in the narration which states, "You can join in the story by taking over key buildings. The quests and adventures available will depend on your actions." I take it this will be related to the new faction system. I will have to wait to see if this is implemented effectively. If the factions' physical control of the city varies according to how many players support each faction it would be pretty neat. If it ends up being like the tradeskill society levels (i.e. completely meaningless), well, then it won't be something I pay attention to.

Scott speaks about the variety of games in the arena. It will be fun to play Capture the Flag and other games but it is a bit removed from the fantasy genre. Is this a Counterstrike server or Everquest? This comic by
Penny Arcade captures what I am talking about. I personally am willing to overlook this since the games sound like they will be fun. There is lore to support the arena combat: it is the way the residents of Maj'Dul settle legal disputes.

If you are curious about the monk hat in the video (it reminds me of Raiden from Mortal Combat) you can check out the speculation
in this thread.

I found
this thread on the forums rather interesting. Apparently Maj'Dul will be one large zone which I was somewhat surprised to see. If this works out well, it should be a nice seemless feeling with no load screens. If there is lag, well, then it will be a disaster. To be fair, Lotus says they will break it into zones if lag or memory becomes an issue. A lot of upcoming MMO's are moving in the large or no zones direction. This is probably a good thing but I guess it will be the end of the quick stealth afk's I take while the loading screens are up.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday Humor: Knock, Knock, Knocking on Lucan's Door

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Yes, I have finally gone off the deep end. Late nights working on the (very fun) Deception portion of the prismatic trilogy have pushed me over the edge. So, it's knock-knock jokes time. Err, these may vary a bit from the usual format. Okay, here goes:

Knock, Knock. Who's there? It's Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and the Olsen Twins! Peers out. Hmm, yeah looks like them. (Opens door). Arggh...you lied it's the Everling girls!

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Danks. Danks who? Danks.


Knock, Knock. Who's there? Blizzard. Oh, good, I'm glad you're here I found this bug- Two million subscribers. Great, now about this bug- Twooooo Million. Right, but the bug- Two. You see when I- Million. You should really fix- Listen, what part of two million don't you understand. Just picture one million subscribers. Now double that. Now multiply by the fees they pay each month. Sigh. You win.

Knock, Knock. Who's there? It's your pizza delivery. Wow, it works.


Knock, Knock. Who's there? Billy. Billy who? Billy Moppet! I hate you.

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Bannish. Bannish who? Thunderblade.

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Arhadkf. Arhadkf who? Arhadkf fizertyh aseresth! (You need a Halasian language primer to get that one).

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Leroy. Leroy who?
Leroy Anderson, renowned composer of light classical music! (Haha, gotcha.)

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Hi, is this the place where they hold auditions for Quest for Antonia? (Singing)
Welcome to the jungle!

Knock, Knock. Who's there? (Incredibly grating child's voice) Have you. Have you who? Have you ever seen a gnoll before? Kid, next time I see you in Qeynos Harbour you are freaking dead.

Knock, Knock. Who's there? Hasten. Hasten who? Why, it's your husband, Hasten Bootstrutter home from his travels. Well, you've been gone a long time. Sigh, you and your damn traveling...well, I've met someone who wants to actually spend time with me and the kids. Someone else? Sorry, Hasten. (Closes door) Sobbing: So tired, so cold, so tired...

Knock, Knock.
/ignore

I'd like to thank everyone who posted on the Aggro Forums this week. There are some informative and funny discussions going on there so if you haven't had a chance yet, head on over and check it out.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dodge This

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Just a quick note to let you know that there is a pretty substantial rumor floating around that SOE has purchased Matrix Online.

I'm not going to do anything much here except
link to Pitfalls, which is where I read it first.

If it turns out to be true and they add it to the Station Access lineup, I will probably take a spin down the rabbit hole.


Edit: True. Also, it will be be a part of Station Access.

FanFaire Fandango

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Yep, that's right, it's part the third of my second-hand (or second-rate) FanFaire coverage.

Here are some
pictures from a thread on the official forums.

And if you want more forum fun check out the devs' comments in
this thread, this one , this one or this one. Not much to comment on there other than that everyone seems to have had a great time so nice job SOE for putting together a fun event. That kind of event planning is tougher than it sounds. Well, I just read a little further and found this thread complaining about lack of organization. Not being there myself you'll have to decide on your own.

Okay, on to
EQ2Realm for some reports by Arthais. Notable:

The guild system (i.e. Patrons, status) will not be changed significantly. I know the patron issue is a touchy and difficult subject for many guilds so I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. I think I'm okay with it but it is a drama magnet.

The scalable instancing in Splitpaw is supposedly even more flexible than LDoN. I'm kind of looking forward to trying this one.

Well, lets crack open the
EQ2Vault and check out Sassee's Fan Fair Coverage. Of note:

There was discussion of making some of the mobs for heritage quests triggerable as opposed to timed camps. I'm sure this will be a popular idea as standing around waiting for a mob to spawn is not my idea of gameplay. I'd probably prefer to slay a hundred mobs to spawn the one I want than just hang out blindly hoping. My misadventures in camping Captain T'Sanne can be found somewhere in
this post.

There is a mention of attempting to raise the Test Server's population. Sassee states that SOE "might" allow free character transfers to test. Wait, they don't now? To me, they should absolutely allow free transfers to encourage population growth on test. I mean, aren't you really performing a service for SOE by playing on Test? I still don't understand why you can't copy a character onto Test, which was discussed but is not in the cards. Am I missing something here? I don't grasp the rationale of not having as many people on Test as possible. But if you do, please post a comment...I've been wrong before.


Sassee's got much more there, including
this nice piece which captures the FanFaire flavor, so head on over and check it out.

Some much needed excitement may be on the way in the tradeskill area. If you ever tradeskill you definitely need to check out
this thread by Frizznik where he lists a ton of notes from Fan Faire.

Artisans will apparently be able to complete quests which will then enable them to finish full stacks of refined items at once. A second quest will allow you to complete recipes with only half the progress needed and a third will grant you special attire which will boost your tradeskill prowess. Can't wait to get my pants of Alchemy +2.

Let me tell you, it will take something like that to lure me back into those underground sweatshops of tedium. But wait, they are intending to move some of the crafting to the open air environments. I guess that explains the strange tradeskill island, known to players as "Santa's Workshop" which mysteriously appeared in Everfrost some time ago. It's a fun place to get a little tradeskilling in while you're waiting for guildmates for a writ run or just feel like chilling in Everfrost.


Frizznik has a lot of other notes up so check it out. He has also already made some changes to culinary drinks and has answered a bunch of additional questions. Nice to see.

Also, if you want more tradeskill info from Fan Faire you can check out this report from EQ2 Traders Corner. There are plenty of non-tradeskill notes there as well.

If I see any more Fan Faire info I will be sure to bring it to you. And perhaps I will see you there next year...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

FanFaire Fiesta

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Okay, I'm back with more commentary on the FanFaire reports.

Let's head back to
eq2stratics.com. There are some notes from their Friday, June 10 coverage that were not in the report I referenced yesterday:

Class diversity and specialization is being looked at. That will be nice for those of us who are just considered "DPS" like all mages and scouts.

The SOGA models, which I've discussed
here and here are still being tested and will be a choice each individual user makes.

A fantastic idea: allowing raid leaders to switch members from group to group and disband the raid. How many times have you been on a raid and heard: "Aggro invite Bob to group 2." "Aggro is AFK." "Gnome switch from group 1 to group 3." And so on...If this can all be done with a few clicks it will make for more enjoyable raiding.

We're now going to saunter over to
eq2ogaming's hefty FanFaire coverage page. There's some really lengthy reports there so check them out. I'm going to touch on some of the things that stood out to me from Berek's reports.

More unique armor, weapons and items. This is no big surprise but I hope they are serious about it. I'm tired of inspecting everyone and seeing the same gear over and over. Inspect any high level mage and you will find: Robe of the Invoker, Symbol of Treedin (I probably misspelled this), maybe a glowing Shard Bracelet, Necklace of Flowing Orbs, J-boots or Golden Efreeti Boots, Stein of Moggok, etc. I want to feel unique. Luckily I found a rare robe (Robe of the Beguiler) way back in my Runnyeye days and it really made me feel more connected to my character (as silly as that may sound).


Reverse Writs - Finding a certain item while adventuring would set off the writ process which would end with speaking to the writ NPC. I'm all for a little writ variety. I'll do you one better: You are in a certain zone, let's say, for example, some caverns below Maj'Dul. As you are fighting you receive an urgent missive from Qeynos requiring you slay a certain type of mob within a time limit. I can dream, right? By the way, when do we get to meet with Antonia or Lucan?

It sounds like attendees were complaining about mobs being too easy so don't complain to SOE when they make things a bit harder.

Being able to see who is casting a certain buff on you would be a nice touch.

An excellent idea: being able to resurrect someone you aren't grouped with. No more disbanding, joining, disbanding and joining again just to help someone out.

Check out the coverage for more details and scope these
pictures for some FanFaire flavor. Some cool costumes were in the house and it looks like the Quest for Antonia is heating up.

I'm just warming up on the FanFaire info so stop by tomorrow for another dose.

Oh yeah, and if anyone can explain to me just what is going on in
this picture, I would be grateful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

FanFaire Fanfare

I'm afraid my FanFaire updates are going to be based on second hand sources as work got in the way of me attending (that link is to my April preview complete with fake events). Still, there is a lot of interesting news emanating from the fabled den of iniquity in the desert. I know what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas but my thanks to those who sent back reports anyway.

Let's set things off with
eq2stratics.com. Tovin posted this report from FanFaire. I'm just going to touch on the points which interest me:

Heritate quests will be moving away from EQ lore to start creating some new lore for EQ2. I think this is a long overdue undertaking as it's important to create some new history and lore for EQ2. You can only delve into that EQ well so many times.


Quests will be more event based in nature. I think this a fantastic idea. Two of the best times I've had doing quests have been events in Sol which created a ton of excitement and laughter in group. I would love to relate my experiences there but I don't want to spoil these events for you.

You may be able to have the pets you use in the Arena to fight also double as house pets. This would be a nice touch if they can do it. I hope the reverse isn't true as my poor duck, Duckly, is not going to get very far in the arena.

As you know the level cap will be raised to level 60 (and that includes the artisan cap). This will mean new spells and arts obviously. What you may not have known is that the level cap for guilds will also be rising, so get those writ runs going. The addition of guild vaults will be a much welcomed addition. Right now many guilds use unofficial guild banks and keep paper records which is unnecessarily complicated. While we're on the topic of guilds can we get a list of guilds by guild level per server and worldwide on EQ2Players.com? Isn't that an obvious list to have available?

More book quests! Everybody loves book quests! Oh wait...

As usual there is a lot of focus on the factions in the city of Maj'Dul. I am still skeptical about this due to the lack of influence factions have had on gameplay thus far.

There will be preorder items that will be fun but not unbalancing. I'm sure many will preorder the expansion regardless. My problem is that when I preordered EQII, it was out in stores for days before Amazon finally delivered it. Anyone else have this issue? The best solution for me would be if you could preorder and then just download it.

They can add teleportation but are not going to do so at this time. I would love some teleportation action myself. When I saw WoW's mage class offered teleportation spells I knew there was no way I was going to pick any other class. Here's hoping mages get similar love in EQII.

There is a bit more there so check out Tovin's report for yourself.

If you are interested in Station Exchange you can check out this quite in-depth report here. Those who have read this site for a while know my feelings on that already so I'm not going to comment.

There is also plenty more info I will be continuing with tomorrow so stay tuned.

And if you really want to get into the FanFaire atmosphere then you need to check out
EQ2Ogaming's videos of Blackguard and Smed rocking out on stage. Blackguard is not bad at all. The Smed video starts off slow with him standing there during the overly long song intro and the DJ asking "Where are the Smed fans you guys? Show him love!" But, as rumored, Smed can rock. Serious.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Announcing The Aggro Forums

I was happy to see that my WoW post garnered a good number of comments. A dialogue is much more fun than a monologue.

It gave me an idea...why not provide a forum for my readers? I did just that by creating the
Aggro Me Forums. Of course, like this website it is completely free with no advertisements. You do have to register to post but feel free to put a fake email address into the registration form if you wish. You do not have to validate your registration via e-mail but rather can begin posting immediately.

I've started the ball rolling with a brief post in each of the subfourms. The main section of the forums will be gaming, with a focus on EQII and other MMO's. Be a dev for a day in the Armchair Dev subforum. There is also a forum to discuss blogging, some general forums and even a place for you to put the word out about your own blog, guild or website. You can see in the rules section that it will be a largely uncensored place for you to express your views.

Even if it doesn't take off I had a fun time setting things up and learning a little bit about phpBB.


I will be breaking with my normal update schedule by not adding a new update until Tuesday morning so this can get some exposure.

And please, the proper place to comment on blog posts is still here on Aggro Me through the comments feature. I hope you all continue to do so because it's what keeps me writing. But the forums might be a nice place to continue a discussion from the comments section in a more free flowing environment. Enjoy!


Edit: Now featuring a color scheme that won't require intensive eye surgery to recover from.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Friday Humor: WoW Me

Well, this week's quasi-WoW theme continues into the Friday Humor section as I bring you links to a couple of WoW videos and a humorous thread from the WoW forums. Next week back to Norrath, promise...

The first video revolves around ninja looting. Be warned there is profanity. You'll see it also alludes to what has become a WoW humor staple. It's the reactions that make this one funny.

The second video is especially funny if you're a Horde player as Mr. Kazzak pays a friendly visit to Stormwind. This one is somewhat reminiscent of the great Fansy, though definitely not as funny.

The humorous thread is located here. It starts off quite slow and you really have to read to the end of the page for the punchline. I find it somewhat similar to the Danks saga (link towards the end of that post). If you don't want to read through or missed the joke my recap is below:

Forum members are saying that the player Bannish is actually an unpopular player named Thunderstrike who changed his name. Bannish posts to vehemently protest his innocence yet forgets one detail, changing his sig. It reads...Thunderstrike.

And, in personal humorous news, I had to use an escape spell last evening to find my way out of a certain halfling tavern in order to locate an NPC for a timed portion of a heritage quest. The NPC was in said tavern, mind you, but I was lost in some kind of basement halfling meeting hall. I'm bad with directions. Newbies mock me as I circle the Down Under repeatedly looking for the exit to North Qeynos. Anyway, as I ran back into the tavern I somehow got stuck in crouch mode as my friends looked on in laughter. I desperately tried a bunch of keys, sitting and standing over and over as the JumJum swilling halflings looked on in jolly glee. Eventually, I half crouched, half jumped my way to the NPC, hailing with five seconds left.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Best Things in Life are Free (Especially If They Involve Swords and Uzis)

Okay, I know I have been a little light on the EQ II front lately, but do you seriously want me to write about font changes? I was working on a lengthy post for today entitled "Lorem Ipsum" on the history of typography and how it relates to the new EQ II fonts. Then I decided to play Gunz instead. So be grateful...

Yes, Gunz. What a clever name. But remember this: it's free (open beta). I first read about this third person shooter MMO on an internet forum and I also saw it recently on
Come to Gaze. And, since I had such a blast playing it, I thought I had better share it. You participate in deathmatches or similar fare with online opponents but as you do your character gains levels and bounty, which you can use to upgrade your clothing, equipment and weaponry.

The website compares the game to a John Woo movie or the Matrix and it is also reminiscent of a more violent version of the anime series Trigun.

Here is the
official website where you can download the game (for free). And no, I have no idea what the heck is going on in this screenshot.

I am going to give you some tips because the documentation is nonexistent:


Most important - once you download the client and run it you will see the logon button is grayed out. That is because you have not registered. Go back to the
webpage and look for the link in the top right hand corner that says join free. That's how you register. And don't worry; it's the smoothest, most hassle-free registration form you will ever fill out. You just need to pick an ID and a password.

You will most likely not be able to log in. Keep trying. There is a note on the launcher which says if you can not log in you should reinstall. This is incorrect. If you can not log in it is most likely because the servers are down or full.

The only difference I see between the classes is the equipment you start off with. The easiest weapons seem to be the dual smg's. You can get pretty far with those. I'm pretty terrible at shooters so this helped me.

Swords seem kind of useless but by all means engage in swordfights so I can mow you down with my smg's. For melee I find the knife works better. Instead of trying to kill people focus on using your knife to cause knockdowns with the right click special attack. Then, when your opponent is down, switch to guns and blaze away.

On the other hand, if you find yourself getting knocked down repeatedly by knife-wielders, hit the space bar as you are stumbling backwards and you will recover.

Double tap a direction key with either the gun or melee weapon to dodge or dash respectively.

You can cancel a move by using your melee weapon. For example, after hitting a wall jump press the left mouse button to cancel and then execute a mid-air dash.

The healing kit of the Gun Priest seems underpowered to me.

Prepare for lots of lag, serious server problems and balancing issues. But again, it's a free game. For now, you will probably be unable to log on more often then you will be able to. I expect they will add more servers soon due to the popularity.

As I said, I'm not at all big on first person shooters but even I had fun with Gunz. When it's working.

And if you really want some Everquest II news, well, my wizard hit 50 last evening on completion of the Fire and Ice quest. Now that's the kind of news I can get excited about.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

World of Aggro

It was a rainy Friday night. I was tired from a long week and was set on a relaxing evening at home. The conscience in my head told me, "Log on to EQII...you have guild writs to do and those heritage quests have been hanging around for eons. I mean seriously, you haven't finished the Dwarven Workboots yet!"

But I had other ideas. My hands trembled as I pulled the box out of the nondescript paper bag. As I put the cd into the drive and began the installation process I felt that somewhere a tear was rolling down Smed's noble visage.

Yes, I was jonesing for the delightful fix of a new mmo and I couldn't resist another day. I wanted to taste a new world...

A World of Warcraft.

I'm just going to give you some general, uniformed impressions. The installation was a bit of a headache and the character creator was a little disapointing in its lack of customization. But then I felt the same way about EQII's character creator when I first came over from City of Heroes which has a great one.

I kind of planned on writing about how the level of maturity and courtesy was better in EQII but reality had other ideas. The majority of people I ran into were smart and helpful. I met a Paladin who basically gave me a complete and much needed tutorial through level ten (the levels come quickly). WoW drops you right into the action unlike EQII which does a fantastic job of getting you up to speed on most aspects of gameplay with the Isle of Refuge.

Don't get me wrong, there are some immature players as well. One was trying the age old phony mistell prank : "So if you kill a hundred chickens you really jump to level 60? Oops mistell." There was much less clever idiocy in the general channel as well. But, it was a tolerable level and was balanced by the helpful people. You really can kill chickens by the way.

The quests seemed lacking in quantity as opposed to EQII but had a bit of an edge in quality I thought. By that I mean they had a touch more of an engaging story wrapped around the similar kill ten mobs/fedex stuff. The combat seemed a tad more fast paced and is definitely fun.

Probably my favorite thing about the game was how absolutely cool the mage class is. You just feel so much more wizardly when you're doing things like turning mobs into sheep, teleporting all over the place and conjuring (useful) food and water along with the traditional dps stuff. I didn't play the other classes enough to comment but seemingly the rogue is popular since I saw roughly seven million rogues skulking about.

One cool moment came when I was wandering Stormwind, the big human city. I found myself in an impressive throne room where the young looking King was surrounded by advisors and a circle of elite guards. It was interesting to me because I've yet to see Queen Heather in EQII. As I was checking it out some uber level 60 guy came in and knelt down in front of the King, presumably getting some high level quest. It was a neat scene.

I didn't really PvP much but I did get involved in a duel. I was wandering in a village and I guess I was near a duel flag, whatever that is. A player challenged me to a duel and I declined. Said player than laughed at me. The same player then challenged me again and I accepted. I then got a royal beatdown and the player saluted me. It was kind of fun and I don't think I lost any xp or gear durability.

But fear not, I'm not going to be leaving Norrath and this blog will retain its EQII focus. It turns out I like Everquest II better for mainly subjective reasons like the art style. As I've said before I'm lucky enough to be in a guild with smart, funny people so that helps too. I'm probably not going to have any time to play WoW so I expect to cancel before the month's end.

It's impossible to review an MMO fairly without really putting extensive time into it so I'm not trying to do that. For now, I'll say it seems like a great game but not so much better than EQII that it deserves such a disproportionately larger number of subscribers. It's just a different flavor of ice cream. I kind of wish a few more WoW players would at least try the EQII Trial of the Isle to see if they like it but that doesn't seem to happening. Here's an ingame conversation:

Paladin: This your first time playing WoW?

Aggro: Yeah, first night, I usually play EQII.


Paladin: What's EQII?

Aggro: Everquest II

Paladin: Oh.

I'm not making that up. And another tear rolls down Smed's cheek...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Around the Horn

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If you haven't seen it already, I suggest you take a swing on over to EQII Warcry to read Curt Schilling stepping up to the plate with an EQII interview. I did a post in April on Schilling which also has a nice comment from Krones who played with him in EQ. Schilling is currently working hard on rehabbing his injured ankle and I certainly wish him well.

In the interview he makes some pretty intelligent comments on loot tables and class specialization. He also mentions Doug Glanville plays, which was common knowledge already, along with Todd Pratt, which I didn't know and as a Mets fan am happy to hear. Yeah, I know he's on the Phillies now, but still. Schill also pimps
his guild so you can check that out if you want. They sound a little serious to me but they have a nice website.

Moving to a different base, I'd also recommend reading the latest
Ask SOE over at EQII Vault. Of note, dueling will be live before the expansion. They are still balancing the PvP system (and no it will not change anything in the PvE game). There will be a death penalty for dueling (an idea I am not crazy about) but said penalty will not be in effect for Arena combat. Scott also alludes to LDoN when discussing the scalable dungeons in the Splitpaw Saga. If they work that out right they might have something because a lot of people I talk to loved LDoN.

Monday, June 06, 2005

And on the 100th Post...

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Well, today marks the 100th post I've written for Aggro Me. Okay, actually the 100th post was last Wednesday but, hey, I just noticed today.

100 posts is hardly a drop in the blogosphere bucket but some of them were pretty lengthy so I'm going to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back and take a blogging day off. Well, if you don't count this post.

I would like to thank everyone who has read, commented on or linked to this site. It has gotten a much better response then I ever expected when I first started tackling such weighty topics as
/pizza, SAT words and MMO dating lo these many months ago (okay like three months).

I still enjoy writing this site and I still enjoy Everquest II (largely due to the people I play with).

Keep reading and I'll keep writing. Next day off at 1000...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Friday Humor: Pick Me Up

Okay, I recently came across a hilarious feature at McSweeney's: Pickup Lines Used by Mario. As much as I enjoyed it, it had an unfortunate effect, inspiring me to attempt to write some EQII pickup lines. Forgive me in advance for the corniness which follows:

Do you raid here often?

I lost my shard...can I check in your robe?

Forget Queen Antonia! You're the only one for me!

Guards! Guards! My heart has been stolen!

Hey, have you completed the heritage quest for the Bone Bladed Claymore? I can show you where it starts.

Can you cast a healing spell on me? I skinned my knee when I fell for you.

I've got an Elddarian Charger parked outside.


Wow, nice chest! The one the mob dropped is nice too.

Hey, did you know wizards have the biggest staffs?

I may look like a Gnome but I'm in Ogre in bed.

Hi, I'm Ceciliantas.


Was your father a tradeskiller? You're so well crafted!

Consider me a griffon, baby, and hop on.

My mitigation versus your looks is %0.00.

Excuse me but you're so hot I had to cast Ice Comet on myself just to cool off!

Hi, I'm John Smedley. Have you thought of entering the Quest for Antonia?

You can bot me anytime!

You're so charming you make Lucan look like a nerd.

Hey, do you read Aggro Me?

And of course:

Is that a Polished Granite Tomahawk in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Return of the Bling

Way back in the youthful, optimistic days of March, I dared to dream of an MMO that would let me play as a hustler, a lawyer (hmm...maybe those two classes overlap), a pilot, an interior designer or even perchance, a hobo. The company making that promised MMO was 404Gaming and the title was Hip-Hop Legends. And yes, they said in an interview that the aforementioned professions would be playable.

Now, I gave 404Gaming a bit of a hard time
in my initial post so I figured I would check back in the interests of fairness and write a long, apologetic piece as I marveled at the masterwork of online gaming they had constructed in the interim. Well, that day has not yet come.

The website is unchanged from my initial look. There are still no screenshots and the trailer sections still reads "E3...E3...E3" even though E3 is, well, over and no trailer was shown.

But, ah, there are some updates on the forums.

First off, they have made an important official announcement. That announcement? "404Gaming still exists." Apparently there was some controversy over this fact but, hey, since they're
saying so, I'm going to take their word for it. In related news, I also exist.

But, on to more substantive matters. A
preliminary faq has been released. Ambitious? I'd say so.

You were thinking of playing Dark & Light because there will be no shards or zones? Hey, Hip-Hop Legends has that feature too. Thinking of playing Mourning because you like permadeath? Why not play Hip-Hop Legends with optional permadeath! Randomly created or player created quests? Come on down! Bikes, cars, airplanes, boats? You know it! Graphics near "the top end of the MMORPG market?" Certainly. Mini-games? Sure, why not!

All this by "late 2005 or early 2006" even though there's nary a screenshot in sight.

But, I have faith. Yes, all joking aside, I'm pretty sure this game will be released. Why?

"We officially endorse IGE and the purchase/sale of in-game items for real world currency."

Bling. Bling.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Face It

Back on March 23, I mentioned that there was a possibility that the character models being developed for the Asian version of Everquest II would be optionally available to all other EQ II players as well. Well, Moorgard recently confirmed that. So, it's time to take a peek at our options for virtual plastic surgery.

The poster of
this thread on this official forums tracked down some new shots of the EQII East character models so head on over take a look. I've also poked around on the site the poster links to and this is what I've found:

Character Creation Screens

Group Shots

Human

Elves

Trolls

Ratonga

Iksar

Kerra

Edit: You can try this link for some side by side comparisons.

I should be clear, SOE has stated that these models are still works in progress. The final versions could look quite different. That said, what do you think?

It would be easy to say that these models are more "anime" in style and to some degree that's true (pink hair?). However, a poster on page four of the above thread makes a valid argument (with graphical evidence) that the new human models are actually more realistic rather than more "anime."

Matters of art are always subjective but I'll give my subjective comments. The ogres are pretty wild and fierce looking which I think is cool. I think there's no question the human models are better (at least in terms of the faces). I'm not too big on the new elves. As for the rest, well, I don't notice that big a difference. I will probably not opt for the new models only because I've grown used to the way my characters look after so much play time.


While we're on the topic of character models, Moorgard posted here that Iksar scale patterns are on the agenda but I have not heard anything on that issue since then.