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Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Humor: Team Fashion!

With all the discussion lately of the SOGA and current character models in EQII, I thought I would bring in two of the finest imaginary names in the fashion industry: Hairstylist Hubert Devine and Supermodel Amber Whootain. I asked them to give their comments on the current EQII models. Lest anyone think I played around with the character creator for the sake of finding funnier models, I give you my word that I just booted up the new character screen and grabbed some screenshots.

Erudite

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Hubert: Yikes, girlfriend needs to conjure up some moisturizer!
Amber: ET, phone home!

Halfling

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Hubert: Uh, oh. Someone's been drinking too much JumJum and loading up on Voleen's Sweetbreads. That belly is begging for the South Beach Diet.
Amber: Um, can we get a pedicure SWAT team in here?
Hubert: Speaking of hair, putting a bowl over your head is not a valid haircut method.

High Elf

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Amber: Yikes, is he a unicorn or an elf?
Hubert: Hmm...maybe it's a defense mechanism. He pokes peoples' eyes out with that horn.
Amber: Yeah, and if that doesn't work he stabs them with his ears.


Ogre

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Hubert: This is a modern ogre. She's saying, yeah, I killed four children and drank their blood, but I still have time to pick out a pink shirt that matches my eyes.
Amber: Hmm, yeah. But does that hair make her more aerodynamic?


Wood Elf

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Hubert: We have a technical term for this in the business: "Too much going on." The Batwing tattoos, the buttercups, the hoop hair...I'm just lost.
Amber: Mmm, her hair looks like delicious taffy though. If I ever ate, which I don't, I would eat her hair.
Hubert: You need a snack.

Human

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Hubert: And here we have the Zombie race. Wait a minute...that's a human? Yikes!
Amber: Way to embarrass the human race, girlfriend!

Half Elf

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Hubert: Oh, my! I've heard of frosted tips but this is ridiculous!
Amber: It's like he fell into a sno-cone machine.


Gnome

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Amber: I guess she's going for a Trinity from the Matrix look.
Hubert: Neo, Neo, I love you! You're the chosen one!


Dwarf

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Amber: Umm, someone has a little facial hair problem.
Hubert: Case of Nair, stat!
Amber: Are those tattoos or did she fall into a bucket of ash?


Barbarian

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Hubert: Wow, just wow. Do you think that flower is big enough?
Amber: It has to be. It's balancing out the weight of whatever is going on with her hair on the other side of her head.
Hubert: No wonder she looks like she's going to cry.
If someone pulls out that flower her head will be permanently tilted to one side.

Dark Elf

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Hubert: It's like, okay, dude, we get that you're evil. We don't need the Snidely Whiplash moustache. It's just overkill.
Amber: Yeah, I see him tying some girl to the train tracks and standing there laughing and twirling that 'stache.
Hubert: Another person who thinks weaponry is a good hair accessory choice.


Troll

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Hubert: Finally! Someone who gets it! You're perfect sweetie, wouldn't change a thing!
Amber: Does she have representation? My agent and her need to talk!


Well, thanks to Hubert and Amber for joining us today! If you enjoyed this, perhaps I'll have them take on the Soga Models and the clothing styles of EQII sometime in the future. Till then - stay fashionable EQII!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Don't Be a Dofus

Or actually, be one. You know I like to bring you free MMO games from time to time and I'm doing so again. This one has the goofiest name yet: Dofus.

You can check it out here. Those who know me know I am a big fan of the Strategy RPG genre, exemplified in my mind by such games as Shining Force, Fire Emblem and FF Tactics. Well, Dofus is like a MMO SRPG, except you're only controlling one of the characters. The combat is on a tile grid system and you are limited each turn by action and movement points (and there's a time limit so things down drag on forever).

Dofus was mentioned by Ethic last week on Kill Ten Rats and you can read that post with comments here.

It's a 2D graphical set-up and the design is straight out of the Anime 101 playbook, but it's executed in a decent fashion. The combat can be painfully slow at times but it can also be more fun than traditional MMORPG combat.

Dofus is brought to you by a French company and they are doing an open beta in English so it's free for now (word is about two months). I'll break down some of the classes for you in EQII style:

Feca: Tank (believe it or not I hear int is an important stat for these)
Eniripsa: Healer
Ecaflip: Mage DPS (with a twist - their damage spells also randomly heal mobs)
Iop: Melee DPS
Osamodas: Summoner (by the way they carry a whip and try reading their name backwards)
Xelor: Buffer and Mezzer (apparently good for PvP)
Enutrof: A weird class - they have a better chance to find dropped items
Sram: Rogue (traps are cool)
Sadida: Debuffer (also summons voodoo dolls with a variety of effects)
Sacrier: Puller/Tank (has some other really cool features as well but most say this class was nerfed too much)

I normally play as a mage in any game, but in this case I picked a Cra which seemed the next best thing since the mage classes didn't appeal to me. It is a good solo class because you can kite the slower mobs and it's effective in a group as well, though the line-of-sight requirements can be tricky. I don't see many Xelors but they can be extremely powerful in group. You kind of have to be careful with the stats. You would think agi would be the main stat for archers but my current Cra build is all int because it pumps up the damage for the archery spells I like.

There are guilds in the game (though you need a guildogem to start one - rare drop) and you can buy a house if you have enough money or even get married. You will also find other common MMORPG elements like crafting, quests and banks. The quests are badly implemented in my opinion but the crafting professions are quite popular. The NPC dialogue is poorly translated at times but you will discover some funny pop culture references.

I'm still looking for an MMO that will let you play an entire team of characters in an SRPG style mode.
Tactica Online might be that game so I'll keep an eye on it.

You might find Dofus a bit on the childish side but I think it's a lot of fun. So sign up and join me in my Dofus-ness while it's still free!

I've been playing Dofus in a limited fashion since the first day the beta went live. I am definitely no expert but if you do have specific questions about professions, stats or anything else please post them on the Aggro Fourms and I will try to help. To answer the question I see asked a hundred times, the reason your character turns into a weird blob from time to time on the out-of-combat screens is that they do it to reduce lag when there are a large number of players on one screen.

Oh, and Tofus were nerfed so it's okay to fight them now.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Locked Encounters

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Lately, the EQII devs have begun to drop hints about rethinking the mechanism of locked encounters (or modifying it). I notice they first did this on certain unofficial message boards rather than on the official EQII Forums. Let me be clear: I am not in any way against the devs posting on various forums. In fact, it is one of the things I really like about this group and I strongly encourage them to keep doing so.

In any case, Sassee asked Moorgard about it in one of her great Ask SOE features which you can read here.

I happen to be in favor of leaving the locked encounter system the way it is, so I thought I would briefly mention why.


I do not want to see people power leveling or otherwise taking advantage of an open encounter system. I do not want to see difficult mobs conquered by the proverbial "zerg rush" of a hundred players rather than by skill and strategy. To be fair, Moorgard does state that raids will definitely still have a 24 player limit.

And let me be honest. Kill stealing would not really bother me. I am a pretty patient person. Sure, I might get frustrated if I camped a mob for a long time and then lost it to someone who swooped in but that's about it. But I do not want this game inundated with ceaseless whining in groups, on the forums and in /ooc about so-and-so killstealed me. I just don't. And that's what I am afraid will happen if locked encounters are changed. The kill stealing accusations are bad enough as is. And, yes, I am aware the locked encounter system was not intended as a block to kill stealing.

I am not going to pretend there are no negatives to locked encounters. They clearly break immersion. They are a completely artificial system in place solely for gameplay reasons. But, well, so are levels and world-wide chat channels and those exclamation marks over quest givers in WoW that people seem to like so much. There's always a tradeoff of gameplay and convenience for immersion.

People also miss the drive-by buffs and heals which shows that at least part of the community is friendly and willing to help other players. I agree with the sentiment. The problem is, you know people will just get their high level friends to heal them as they fight difficult mobs, creating a power leveling opportunity.

And some might say that power leveling should be part of the game to some degree. In my personal opinion, zero power leveling should be a part of any MMORPG. That is just my personal taste. If the majority of people feel it should be, well, then I can't fight it.

I just think the system works very well as it is. If you really need another player's help, try pressing the Yell for Help button.

Keep in mind that there are no definite plans for SOE to change the locked encounter system nor do I have any idea of just how they would do so.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Thoughts on Player Created Content in MMOs

by Dean Michaud
Karnatos and Mylene on EQII, Crushbone server

I recently had a discussion with an old friend of mine about EQII and the MMOs of today. The conversation meandered its way to us talking about player created content in games. Back in our University days the two of us used to play text-based MUDs a little more than we'd like to admit. The whole conversation started with us talking about how games like EQII are similar to the MUDs of yesteryear, and how they differ.

The discussion started with comparing the similarities. In the MUDs we played waaay back in the late 80s and early 90s, the majority of the main features we find in the MMOs of today were already implemented back then. Features such as detailed character creation, huge multiplayer worlds, several chat channels, quests of all types, shops, banks, guilds, food and drink, even player and guild housing.

We soon stopped talking about the things the two game types shared and focused on the differences; especially the ones that made the MUDs we played all the more interesting and memorable to us.

We agreed that the biggest difference revolved around the changes that player created content brought to the game. For the most part modern MMOs lacks player created content*; I am not talking about crafted items, but completely new content that did not exist until a player decided to create it.

* - I am aware that there are a few MMOs that currently allow forms of player created content, but so far as I am aware there are no triple-A titles, such as Everquest II, World of Warcraft, and City of Heroes, that have the depth of content creation I am speaking of.

For those who are unaware, the "End Game" of most MUDs is/was to reach the max character level (the default was level 20). Once you'd reached that point in the game you had a choice, you could remain a player and partake in the high-level content, or you could become a Wizard.

A Wizard was what a player could choose to be AFTER they completed all the requirements for reaching the max level... Wizards were immortal, but they no longer played the game; they either just socialized with the people on the MUD, or they could choose to create new content for the game. It was this player created content that made each MUD unique, and in turn made them so memorable. Each MUD out there would be built on top of the basic game server that would be downloaded and installed. The owners of a MUD would generate their own content to make their MUD less generic, but the real meat of a MUD was developed by people who would reach Wizard status in the game.

A Wizard was usually given a "zone" to play with. They could create as small or as large a zone as they wanted. They could make their own quests, monsters, weapons, lore, NPCs, towns... you name it. Anything a Wizard created was approved by the game's administrators, and once everything in a Wizard's zone was approved their content could go live.

Now, creating new content was not for everyone... there was a catch. You had to learn how to program. Wizards created this new content by writing computer code for everything. Each area in the zone had to be written in code, all quest items, NPCs, monsters, descriptions, traps, weapons, dialog... they all required the Wizard to write and test the code. This was quite a limiting factor, writing code was rather difficult if you got into doing anything that was fancier than making copies of existing content and rearranging it for you zone (e.g. for a new pub, you copied someone else's pub code, changed the pub's name, gave it a new location, and *poof*: new pub).

I am surprised that modern MMOs don't allow the players to do the same. You could have the players that have reached the End Game create new content for you... for free. So long as the content got approval, you could have a legion of dedicated players working in tandem to create new areas for your game, adding new quests, fresh ideas, new art, new armour types/model, new everything.

With the use of graphical interfaces you could even remove the restrictive code-writing aspects and replace that with content-creating toolkits that let you generate content. When content is created, let's says it is a new spell, the server-side can have rules that decide whether the spell's effects are 'valid' based on pre-determined rules for creating spells. These would be the same rules that the gaming company would apply to their own content for deciding how to balance things in-game.

You could easily imagine something like a character generator, but instead it would be, say, a 'spell' generator. If I decided to create a new fire-type spell, in my toolkit I would set the damage type to be 'fire', and then I make it a spell for people of minimum level 25. I then choose that it is to be a Damage over Time spell. The pre-determined DoT rules allow me to slap 35hp of damage every 2sec for 10sec (max dam = 10/2 * 35 = 175hp), or I can made it DoT of 45hp every 2sec for 6sec (max dam = 6/2 * 45 = 135 .. hits harder for a shorter period of time but less damage overall), or 20hp every 2s for 20sec (max dam = 200, hits for more damage overall). You could then apply a combination of predetermined particle effects that are fire-related, and choose colors for them to get a customized look to the casting and damage effect.

This is a very simplistic example purely to get the idea across, but with enough options, you could create a spell-creation toolkit that would follow pre-determined in-game rules, allowing people to create custom spells, but not allowing them to create something that unbalances the game.

Similarly, you could create generator toolkits like these for all in-game type content that people create when they are game-affecting items (weapons, armour, mounts, etc.). If you are allowing people to create in game content that does not affect game play, but more on the aesthetics in-game, then you can be a little more lax on the rule-based tools.

You could provide a simple 3D modeling kit (or support existing ones out there - there *are* plenty already) to enable the 3D artists out there to create new object models. They could create their own candelabras, or chairs, or trophies for house decorations. They could use them to create new armour and weapon types, even new monsters, trees, and buildings.

You could allow digital artists to create new paintings for your homes. The musically gifted could create music boxes that play their music, or allow dirges to play them on their lute as part of a new spell. The would-be bards out there could write their own stories down in books or scrolls to build upon the in-game lore and bring the art of story-telling to life. The possibilities are endless so long as you provide the community with the ability to create it.

As you can see, there are ways to approach player generated content and maintain balance in-game with the new content. If a game is designed from the ground up with this goal in mind you could create a game where the dedicated players who love the game could create content in the worlds they love, benefiting both them and the player-base, and even the gaming company that chose to support a player-content driven game. I, for one, hope that the trend of adopting features from the days of MUDs continues to one day bring back player-created content for us all.

Monday, July 25, 2005

EQ TV

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Now, as much as I love drift racing I have not had much time to watch G4TV lately. I'm kidding, I don't know what drift racing is and I'm not sure what all those drift racing shows have to do with technology or gaming. If you remember this Tightening Up the Graphics on Level Three post you will know I do admit to watching X-Play.

Adam and Morgan do a pretty good job, although they need to review more games and cut back on the monkey throwing feces jokes just a tad. One show I rarely watch is Attack of the Show formerly ScreenSavers, if you remember the old Leo Laporte days. Since Kevin Rose (aka Sarah Lane's hacker boy toy) left to do his oh-so-dark-and-elite
basement internet show about installing Linux in Teddy Ruxpin dolls it's gotten even worse. But occasionally, I turn in, hoping for a funny Brendan Moran segment. Okay, I just re-read that paragraph and I obviously watch way too much G4TV to know all that.

The point is, I did watch Thursday's episode of Attack of the Show, which taught people how to make animated gifs. Because if there's one thing the internet needs it's more people making animated gifs. I was fast-forwarding through the commercials when I saw a bunch of Everquest screens. Hmm. It turns out the show Icons is featuring Everquest. Of course I watch it.

Icons is a show about the "icons" of the gaming industry. To give you an idea of the target demographic, the poll they are currently running with the question "Who do you think is the most important figure in video game history?" has Miyamoto garnering 44% of the vote while Nolan Bushnell has 6%.

Now every other episode of Icons I have watched completely fawns over the subject matter. But, with SOE's luck, on this episode they decide to mix in a little "hard-hitting journalism" about Everquest addiction. That portion is very minor, though, and, on the whole, the show still had a quite positive spin. The theme of friendship is stressed throughout the show by the narrator and the SOE people and I think that is a valid theme. Smed comes off as a bit of a games nerd which is a good thing.

The show is only a half hour long, so they have to cram a lot in. They show the early history and discuss Ultima Online. One thing I found quite interesting is that Smed notes CyberStrike by Simutronics as something that inspired him to get interested in online games. I found that interesting because Simu was kind of left out of the MMORPG market for many years, although they did have much success with their text based MUD's. But now, they are going to be going directly up against EQ and EQII with Hero's Journey, which I previewed a while back. By the way, my first introduction to online gaming was on a BBS, but that's a story for another day.

I also had no idea that SOE released a tank combat MMO before EQ named Tanarus. They implied that it was intended to be kind of a tech demo to show the suits that they could do an online game but it turned out to be a pretty good game. What really shocked me is that I searched the SOE site and found that Tanarus is still going to this day. As you can see here, the forums are still hopping. I thought that was pretty neat.

The rest of the show covers the rise of EQ and shows a FanFaire. They don't really get into the expansions and they don't mention the secondary market.

The video segments of Everquest are pretty cool. If you played (or still play) I'm sure a lot of it will spark some nostalgia. And they do show a bit of Everquest II towards the end (focusing on the better graphics and the large amount of npc voiceovers) although they drop some negativity about the low subscriber numbers.

If you're looking to catch a repeat, here's a link to the
official G4 Icons page for the show, rife as it is with banner ads and more EBGames links than actual content. On second thought, just look here for the times as Krones was kind enough to list them.

If any of you caught the Everquest Icons show, I'm curious to hear your reaction. And make sure to tune in to the Aggro Me show tomorrow as we're featuring our first ever post by a guest writer.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Humor: EQII Can Help You in Real Life!

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Does your spouse, significant other or friend complain about all the time you spend finishing those last few lore and legend quests, raiding peacefully fishing giants or earning the trust of a bunch of gnolls? Well, maybe they don't realize how much playing EQII can help you in real life! Here are some examples of how playing EQII helps my imaginary friend Bob in his daily life:

During the Holidays

Child: Wow, a new graphics card for my computer! Thanks, Grandma!

Bob: Hmm...I'm going to have to take that graphics card. Need before greed, kid.

Child: Waaa! No!

Bob: Fine, we'll bid on it. I have 72 DKP points. How many do you have? Yeah, that's what I thought.

At Work

Boss: Bob, where the heck is that TPS report? I need that on my desk immediately!

Bob: The player you are trying to contact is AFK or away from the keyboard.

Meeting Women

Bob: Okay, guys, here's the strat. I'm going to pull the blonde. Jim, off-tank the friends and the rest of you assist Jim.

Jim: Uh, can't we just go up and say hello?

Bob: No. And stop the chatter in raid channel. Sean is going to mez any male adds before they mess up our plan.

Sean: Er, no I'm not.

Bob: Bah. I hate these non-Guild raids! Fine then...zerg rush!

Education

Student: So, I think I'm going to take a bunch of well-rounded liberal arts classes.

Bob: I don't think so. Min-maxing, my friend, min-maxing. Do you want to be uber or not?

Commuting

Sanitation Employee: Er, what are you doing down here in the sewer, sir?

Bob: It's a shortcut, noob. I only have to zone twice if I go this way.

Sports

Teammate: Hey, what are those pills you're taking?

Bob: Just twinking this toon.

At the Oscars

Bob: My queen, I completed all those writs for you!

Heather Graham: Who the heck are you? Security!

Bob: Uh-oh. Adds. Running. Train to zone!

Getting A Part-Time Job

Exterminator: So, this person is complaining of a rat problem. See if you can kill ten, okay?

Bob: Haha. You've got the right guy here.


This post was loosely inspired by this thread on the Aggro Forums.

If you want more humor I have a link for you. This story by Jeff Freeman has been linked around quite a bit in the last week, but if you haven't read it yet it's definitely worth checking out.

You also might enjoy
this feature on Something Awful entitled "The Worst MMORPG Ever," which tells the tale of everything that stinks about MMORPG's with stick figure type drawings (Krones beat me to this link by the way - he must have stairs in his house). I don't know about you but I sure hope I get into the beta for Mystical Fantasy Land: Online 2!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

It Lives

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Why, just the other day little Update #12 was only playing in the Test Server sandbox, and now it's, sniff, all grown up! I should have treasured these years, spent more time...

Yep,
Live Update #12 is, well, live.

Let's get it out of the way first: my prediction on Monday regarding the patron changes turned out to be, at best, barely accurate.
"This change will not go live, at least without a number of additional restrictions," I stated boldly. Well, there was an additional restriction placed on removing patrons, but it's a mild one and it's only one restriction. So you could say I was wrong. Under the new system, you will not lose status for losing, booting or demoting a patron unless that person has been a patron for less than a week.

Well, that does attempt to address the main issue I feared: endless swapping of patrons in and out to maximize guild status before each raid, heritage quest and writ. But a week is such a short time period that it really doesn't have teeth as a penalty. You can still come up with a bunch of strategies to use the new system to your advantage. For instance, let's say a bunch of people are about to finish heritage quests. Make them patrons for a week and let the writ-runners take a week off. The week is over and the new patrons are back to being non-patrons again. I guess that's a legitimate strategy under the new system.

There are a lot of positives to the new system. You will no longer be awakened by the pangs of guilt customary to those who leave a guild and knock it down a few guild levels simply by leaving. It also lessens the elitist feel of the patron system and will probably reduce guild drama a bit. On the flip side, it takes away from the seriousness and responsibility of the position. But, hey, maybe that's not a bad thing.

Unfortunately, the drama will be replaced by more management pressures on guild leaders and officers as they try to figure out complex rotations and plans to maximize the new system. They will find themselves creating and demoting patrons quite a bit more than before. And honestly, guild leaders have enough of a headache as it is. A lot of them just ironed out their patron rules for the previous system. And hey, what good is my crazy spreadsheet now?

So, how do I feel in the end about the whole thing? I'm for it. But I feel the time limit is just too short. Would a month be so terrible? Do we have such a short attention span as a culture that we think a week is a long amount of time? Wait, what was I talking about again?

Oh, and remember the no double writs thing? Well, you might want to take a gander at
this thread. While I have by no means verified the information therein, if it is accurate then it is a pretty silly mistake by SOE. But, I'll give them a pass. It's a minor mistake (if it even is one) and I love a lot of the minor changes in this update. Edit: My bad, these writs are not stackable. Still repetitive though.

Let's move on to a somewhat controversial item: the removal of level restrictions on many zones. First let's look at the positive. As Moorgard
states here, Scott Hartsman explains it well. "It should be the content that prevents you from getting to dangerous parts of the world, not artificial barriers."

This is an argument which speaks to immersion in this world we call Norrath. Let it be fear of the terrifying sharks of Everfrost that keep you in Zek rather than some arbitrary level requirement. If you think you are a bad enough dude to rescue the President in Lavastorm at Level 5, then go for it tough guy. (Anyone get that reference?)

This is a powerful argument. Let me just give you the other side of the coin.

There are three nights I remember most from my extensive time in Norrath. One was the night I first stepped onto the Zek docks, triumphant. This night was memorable for many reasons. I, alone, had slacked off on the access quest and the fact that five friends would take hours of their time to get me through it meant a lot to me. The quest itself was a long and arduous one, even before I set foot on the high seas. The boat battle was a difficult and long struggle. When we set foot on the docks of Zek we danced and cheered and ran around like lunatics. It's probably the night I went from casual to hardcore player.

For me it was akin to Joseph Campbell's crossing of the first threshold on the path of the hero - the proverbial rite of passage. Okay, let me relax for a minute. It was just an access quest (and an optional one at that). I know the access quests will still exist and even give an additional reward. But still - the fact that these quests gave you access to a whole new zone gave them a special significance.

Anyway, the fact that I enjoyed an access quest does not negate the valid concept behind the changes. I look forward to seeing some level 4 people rushing madly through Lavastorm.

They went ahead with the decision to make reverse status items tradable. I will have to monitor the cost, quantity and effect of these items on guild status before I complain about this any further. If some of the posters in
this thread are accurate with their numbers, the status gained from these items may not be a huge deal.

As I discussed when it was still on Test, there are a ton of great little changes in this update, not the least of which is the addition of a changeable bind point. It seems that SOE has truly been listening to the players complaints because many of those complaints are addressed here. To give you a very small example of just how much they listen, the command /raid was changed to /whoraid between test and live. This change is straight from forum feedback.

So, enjoy, and keep your eyes open for the live event connected with this live update.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So You Think You Can Do Better?

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Come on, we all dream about creating our own MMORPG. For me that dream involves someone handing me ten million dollars and the Shadowrun license. Okay, I'll even just take the ten million dollars. But maybe your dream game is one that will really happen.

Well, perhaps you would be interested in some free tools to create a MMORPG. A company called
Kaneva is apparently providing you with the software tools you need to create a multiplayer online FPS or RPG. You can get the scoop in this article from MMORPG.com.

To be honest, I have not had much time to try messing around with the actual game creation toolset. From my limited look, it does appear you also need to have access to and some ability with a 3D graphics program.

I did try their "demo" game, Gorilla Paintball. It's basically an online FPS with some RPG elements.

If you are going to play I advise you to print out the
list of commands first as there's really no interface. I'm somewhat confused as to why my character is not a gorilla. But don't worry there are gorillas in the game. The graphics are not terrible and the whole paintball gun idea is pretty neat. However, the game loads quite a bit while you're moving around and I never saw more than one or two people online. Really, I can't recommend it unless you're desperate for a free game. Personally, I'd rather play Gunz or another free game I will be telling you about next week.

Still, I'm curious to see if any player-made games come out of the Kaneva toolset. I highly doubt anyone will ever make a big splash or real money with a Kaneva game, but, hey, if it's creative and original enough it might get you noticed. They also apparently host films and TV shows if that's more your style.


Edit: Just a quick note to let you know that the registration for the Desert of Flames Beta is now open. But you probably knew that already.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Neat Little Things in EQII

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Sometimes, we're so focused on combat and leveling that we might miss out on a cool little feature of EQII. I happened across one the other day.

Now, I don't know how many times I've run through Qeynos Harbour. Let's just say if I had a gold piece for each time, I'd be riding a magic carpet right about now. But I never really noticed the giant clock before. It's just south of the entrance to Castleview Hamlet.

Then, last night, I was running by it and the thing started chiming. I did a /time and sure enough - it was just past the hour (in game time). Game time moves pretty fast, so I actually sat there for an in-game hour watching the gears move and waiting for it to chime again. Very cool. It even has an inscription saying it was a gift from the people of Ak'Anon.

Obviously this has nothing to do with gameplay, but I just want to acknowledge that someone who cares about immersion took the time to code this and put it into the game.

On a similar topic, I'm pretty sure the moon and stars in EQII are on a sophisticated calendar but that's just a guess. If anyone knows for sure, let me know.

Some of the NPC dialogue is also kind of neat if you take the time to read it. A new writer on
EQII Vault named Catharsis covers some of it in this article, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I recommend her second article as well.

Does anyone else have a cool little EQII feature they would like to share?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Test Update #12: Good, Bad, Controversial

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Alright, I am not going to go too crazy about anything in this update because it can always change dramatically before it goes live. But, I thought I would give you a little rundown.

The Good

Okay, most of it is good, to be honest. There are a host of minor changes that I believe will improve overall gameplay. Would I have liked these changes to be included at launch? Sure. Do I feel the urge to tell new players, "You don't know how good you have it now you young whipper snappers...why back in my day the map interface was the worst ever,etc."? Sure. But am I happy these changes are being made? Definitely. SOE is steadily taking all the minor annoyances out of Everquest II.

Basically, they hit two of my complaints from this rant: a changeable bind point for the Call spells and better quest sorting. These are much needed changes.

The cross-zone invite will be useful. Right now, when we're setting up raids it's annoying to wait until guild mates are in the same zone. This was also a big problem when we were doing writs as a group - one person would finish their writs and gate to get more. While he or she was in Qeynos another guildie would log on looking for an invite to our writ group. Oops, the person in Qeynos is the leader. Now this is no longer a problem. As to seeing the health and power of other group members in different zones, well, I suppose it's a nice touch but, frankly, I don't care that much. Call me lazy, but if your health is low and you're in another zone don't expect me to come and bail you out. My loyalty extends to one zone only.

Artisan quests will be a nice addition. Anything to make tradeskilling more interesting is fine by me. While we're on tradeskilling, let me throw one great suggestion at you (from Warm_Machine on the
Aggro Forums). Tradeskill vaults. How nice would it be to have all your tradeskill materials in a vault in your tradeskill instance? Very nice, I'd say. Also, I may as well take this chance to bid a farewell to tradeskill dev Frizznik, who has announced his departure. It is unclear to me whether that means he is leaving the tradeskill area or SOE entirely. As you probably know, I, for the most part, avoid the tradeskill tedium as if it were a Norrathian plague. Still, to my un-expert eye, it seemed like Frizznik was working hard to implement changes brought up by the community. Hopefully, tradeskilling will be fun enough to get me interested again someday.

A few other things that are quite minor but often drive me crazy are fixed in this update. Namely, losing food and drink when you revive in another zone and the raid window not showing when people have died. And, yes, I know you can see if someone is dead by mousing over their name in the raid window but I want to be able to see it a glance.

I got a laugh out of this change, "If you are typing a line of text and hit a movement key to run away from something (causing "wwwwwwwwwww" to appear in your chat line, for example), your character will soon begin running forward and the repeated character will be removed from the chat line," because I do that all the time. All the time.

A new live event and dungeon instance is always a positive. Hopefully it is better executed than some of the previous instanced dungeons added in earlier updates.

The Bad

It sounds like the end of vendor trash. Call me crazy, but I like vendor trash. Okay, maybe I am crazy. I had nothing else to write in the bad section, okay? I really do like to turn all that junk in at the end of a long day of adventuring.

Heritage quests will now count against the fifty quest limit. Wait a minute, they didn't before? I guess I really am bad at math. Either way, I don't like the quest limit (although I realize there are performance issues) and I certainly don't like anything that makes it easier to reach. I absolutely hate deleting quests. Arggh, after I initially wrote this post
Blackguard announced that the quest limit is being tentatively raised to 75. These guys just won't let me write anything negative these days.

The Controversial

The patron changes (not losing guild status when you lose a patron) are very controversial. There are great arguments on both sides on the forums so I am not going to make any here. I just don't see the point because I am making the following prediction: This change will not go live, at least without a number of additional restrictions.

And finally, we have the reverse writs. I will admit, I thought these were a good idea at first. I felt they added variety to the writ process. But after discussion on this topic with others in-game, I have come to the conclusion that if you can buy these items on the broker it will be a negative. Guild status should come from hard work, not from clicking an item on the broker screen. And let's face it, money in EQII isn't always earned. What's to stop me from buying some plat on the secondary market (or, heck, on Station Exchange) and then buying every reverse status item in Norrath? Make these items no-trade (and I know this will be annoying for the unguilded) and I will reconsider my criticism.

I have to give credit to SOE for really listening to the players' complaints on these minor annoyances. Let's hope they make the right decisions on the more controversial items and handle the larger-scale issues (i.e. the fabled combat changes) in a similarly positive fashion. To be honest, the longer the combat/spell change saga drags on the more nervous it makes me in terms of the time and manpower SOE has to focus on balancing PvP and getting the expansion up to speed.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Humor: EQII Shakespeare

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Q: How many Hamlets does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two, three...or not two, three.

Okay, I didn't write that one. But what if Shakespeare played Everquest II? Well, I imagine he would play the bard class. But how would his time in Norrath influence his plays? My deranged imaginings follow:

Macbeth

Lady Macbeth: It wasn't wrong to kill steal that mob. We needed it for a quest. I don't feel guilty at all. There is no kill stealing in EQII. I had to level. I'm fine. I just need to repair my gear. Repair all. Repair all. Repair all. Why isn't it repaired? Out, out damned spot!

Hamlet

King Claudius: Hail, Hamlet, how are you today?

Hamlet: OMG LOL ROFLCOPTER!

King Claudius: Wow, you sure are crazy, Hamlet.

Hamlet: (in the wrong chat channel) /guildsay Hey guys, I'm pretending to be crazy to mess with my Mom's new husband! It's hilarious!

Hamlet: Oh snap, that was the worse mistell in history.

King Claudius: Pwned.

King Lear

Lear: I'm leaving EQII because of all these nerfs and here's fifty more reasons why (lists reasons). I'm going to give all my phat gear away. Guildmates, which of you should I give it to?

Goneril: You are so uber, Lear. Don't leave, I love you.

Regan: Lear, you are the greatest player in history. You are my everything.

Cordelia: Sorry, I was afk, did I miss something?

Lear: That's it, I'm giving all my gear to Goneril and Regan. Cordelia gets nothing. Trades gear.

Lear has been removed from Guild by Regan.

Lear has been put on ignore list by Goneril.

Lear: OMG I was wrong about those two! Now I have nothing!

Cordelia: Do you want some Tier 3 food and drink?

As You Like It

Jaques: All the world's a game, and all the men and women merely players. They have their log-ons and their log-offs. And one man in his time plays many alts.


Henry IV

Prince Henry: And all the budding honours on thy crest, I'll crop, to make a garland for my head. Er, as soon as there's PvP.

Hotspur: I can no longer brook thy vanities! But I guess I'll have to until the expansion.

The Tempest

Gonzalo: I would fain die a dry death.

Sebastian: I wouldn't try the Zek boatride then.

A Winter's Tale

Exit. Pursued by an Owlbear.

King Richard III

Richard: A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!

Merchant: Sir, I told you already. Unless you have the status points it's five plat.

Julius Caesar

Caesar: Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.

Brutus: Yeah, Caesar, I know, but we died eight times on this raid already and I have almost a full level of xp debt now. Uh, hey, my computer's acting weird...

Brutus fakes link-death.

Caesar: Et tu, Brute?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A New Journey?

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The way things have been going lately, it looks like I'm going to be playing EQII for a long while. But that doesn't mean I don't keep my eyes on upcoming MMORPG's.

If you had asked me to guess three months ago which MMO I would be playing after Everquest II, I probably would have said Vanguard. Meanwhile, Hero's Journey was so far off my radar it didn't even make my
three post long round-up of upcoming MMO's.

Well, here I am now, dreading that my friends will be sucked into the Vanguard hype machine and seriously considering Hero's Journey as my next game. But let me first step back in time a bit. Why did I never consider Hero's Journey a contender? Simple, I just doubted the creators of a text based MUD, no matter how popular, would have the wherewithal and experience to make an MMORPG that can stand up to the fierce graphical competition. But, everything I've seen since then has made me reconsider my opinion.

Hero's Journey is a fantasy MMO with an emphasis on instanced zones, character creation and event-filled, crafted quests. The
company behind it is responsible for the very popular MUD's Gemstone IV and DragonRealms.

Pros: It won
Best of E3 at MMORPG.Com. While I don't put a lot of credence in awards like this, they do state that the "graphics were on par" with the heavy hitters and that it has "hands down the best character creation ever put into an MMORPG." I am a big fan of character creation because it really unlocks the creativity of players and gives them the ability to feel unique and connected to their character.

It was also
Editor's Choice at Gamerinfo.net. They have a preview up which marvels at the character creation and touches on some of the points I am about to get to.

CorpNews called it a "sleeper hit." WarCry says this game will "turn the world upside down" with "good, compelling, interactive storytelling." Well, you get the idea. Early opinions are quite positive.

But see for yourself. Check out
this video which shows a good amount of gameplay (thanks to Slaxer from the Aggro Forums for posting the link).

Can you guess my favorite part of the video? Sure, the graphics look great. Yes, the quest is very cinematic and event-filled. I like that. The combo attacks sure sound neat. But the moment that hooked me for good: When the player draws an actual line on the screen to cast an AoE spell. Wow, that really got me.

It appears you can do this for more than just AoE spells. In
this Q&A is this quote: "As one example, we demonstrated how a Wall of Burninate could be cast by drawing a line on the ground exactly where you want that wall to be. Equally important, creatures react to what is going on: the Ukar would not blindly run through that wall anymore than you would. But you can take advantage of this in many ways: divide and conquer, deny escape, route the enemy, etc." That just sounds like a ton of tactical fun to me.

If you read more of the interviews with the devs (you can find more from the Hero's Journey home page) you will find they really seem to have fun ideas. I like the way they keep bringing things back to the concept of the Hero. I'm sure their experience with MUD's will really pay off in creating the lore of the game and designing interesting quests. They are focusing on using their team of GM's to provide interactive, tailored fun.

Cons: What made PlayNet's MUD's so successful is the building of community and social connections. While I understand towns and some zones will not be instanced it appears that most of the game will be. I wonder if this will be detrimental to building a sense of community. I also feel it may make the world feel "shallow." This recent write-up of Imperator on Nerfbat gives a better explanation of what I am trying to get across. Imperator is another game that will apparently rely a lot on instances.

In the video, there was a part of the quest where the player decided to bring down an avalanche to defeat the monsters rather than fighting them. That might be cool the first time you play it, but what about when there is a walkthrough on the forums? Chances are someone in your group will have read the "correct" thing to do in a quest. I'm not saying it's not a cool break from fighting, I'm just saying don't count on it having a huge effect on gameplay.

I wonder what the end-game will be like or even if there will be one. Put another way: So much of this game appears reliant on crafted content - so what happens when you run out of it?

These are minor nitpicks. As always, I will keep my expectations low and my ears open for negative news but I must say I am excited about Hero's Journey. It would be nice to see a company with a limited production budget really come through with a great game.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Listen Up

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I received a few e-mails last week informing me that Aggro Me was mentioned in a "podcast." Curious, I decided to check it out and discovered this site.

Now, I suppose you can listen to these podcasts on your pod, as it were, but I just downloaded them and listened to them on my computer. I found that listening to MMO news (the podcasts center on EQII and SWG) is a nice break from reading about it.

The "podcaster" has two things going for him: One, he has a good radio voice and can ably fill the space without pauses. Two, he obviously has a deep history with and affection for online gaming. It's a winning combination.


Even though he mentions Aggro Me, I'm giving an honest review. If it sucked, believe me I would tell you, or not mention it at all. I will say that he hits his stride a little better in the second show and maybe goes on a bit too long with the thankyous in the first. But, I can truly say I enjoyed both shows and look forward to listening to more.


There are a few "ads" on the shows but they are for in-game merchants which really doesn't count. When I hear a commercial for Morb's weapon store in SWG I am amused rather than annoyed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Turning 30

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Well, even though I did all those guild status calculations yesterday, it turns out I don't have to worry about writs for a long time.

Yes, my guild reached Level 30 this past weekend. First on server, I might add. It was a great feeling of accomplishment and we had an impromptu party in Qeynos Harbour with everyone displaying their Level 30 finery and titles. The formal wear you can buy is a really nice look, if a little racy on the female side. One of our lucky members (a gnome, no less) even managed to scrape together enough funds to come whizzing by on his brand new magic carpet. That thing moves very fast and looks quite cool.

It also unlocked a new raid, which I haven't done yet.

In the midst of the happy feelings, the critical commentator in me was a little disappointed in a few things. One, a server wide message would have been nice.


Two, the title you can buy is exorbitantly expensive, at least in my book. I think it was 1.52 plat plus a boatload of status points. Couldn't that have been a freebie, at least for patrons? You don't have to buy the titles you receive for other accomplishments and this was really quite a bit of work. And okay, this is kind of a silly complaint, but what's up with the title Ritsar for my Freeport friends? I think it's a Russian word for knight but, seriously, it sounds like a brand of potato chips or snack crackers. "Try a Ritsar with cheese for a delicious treat!"

Three, like I've said before, if level 30 unlocked a series of quests with a nice reward that would be a great touch. It would be even better if you got the quest directly from Antonia or Lucan. I mean, if you can't get to meet them after gaining the highest guild level possible, when can you?

Still, I'm happy we accomplished so much as a team and will have more free time now that we're not writ-running. Uh, wait a minute. Now that I have more free time, does that mean I have to start tradeskilling again? Err...writs anyone? Let's, uh, unlock the faction rewards. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Math Makes my Head Hurt



A lot of people seem to be under some confusion about how exactly the guild patron system works so I did a spreadsheet for it. The first 9 rows are just a calculation of the guild status gained per writ, depending on how many patrons you have. I just plugged in 4,000 status per writ as an example.

If you want you can sign up for this site and then copy my spreadsheet and plug in your own numbers. It's free and I didn't see any ads. But, if you have a spreadsheet program, it might be simpler to just make your own. Just do the following:

For less than 12 patrons divide column B (status points) by 12.

For more than 12 divide column B by column A (number of patrons).

The result will be the status points added to your guild level for each writ (or heritage) you complete. Of course, you have to input the correct number of status points per writ. That way you can see, for example, how many writs you need to run each week to gain a certain amount of guild status points.

Now, let's get a little more complicated. Here's a common problem: Let's say you have a patron named Bob who quit EQII. Bob went to play Guild Wars, to go find himself in Bora Bora or whatever. But his status points are still there. On the other hand, you are carrying the weight of an extra patron, which reduces the status gained for each writ you complete.

So, what do you do? Cut Bob loose and lose the status or keep plugging away with less status per writ? Well, one solution would be to see how many status points you are away from Guild Level 30. Then you can do a calculation similar to the one I did in rows 11 to 16.

In my example, the absent patron was the 13th patron and had 50,000 status points. So, what I did was divide the remaining status points by the status received per writ with 13 patrons. That will give you the number of writs needed to get to 30. But what if you want to cut him? Well, then you first need to add the absent patron's status to the total status needed and divide by the status per writ with 12 patrons. You can see in my example that if you are 300,000 status points away it makes sense to keep him. If you are 700,000 status points away then cut him loose.

If I'm incorrect in my calculations please let me know - I'm really not that good at math.

I think the patron system does the job adequately but I also find it can be a fuse for a guild drama bomb. There are at least three possibilities for trouble: One, other patrons who get annoyed at an underperforming patron; Two, a patron who is sick of doing writs and gets frustrated; Three, people who feel left out because they are not patrons and want to contribute to the guild. It's a delicate situation for any guild leader.

On another topic, even if you read my Haiku humor post on Friday, there are now some reader contributions up so scroll on down!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday Humor: Haiku

Okay, before I get going on the main topic of this Friday Humor post, I'd like to link you to a pretty funny commercial. It's a joint production of WoW China and Coca-Cola and it's worth a look. You can find it here.

Well, let's move from China to Japan. At the suggestion of Tavalia in the comments section a few weeks back, I humbly present to you: EQII Haikus.

Gentle deer, munching
on sweet Antonican grass;
quest says to stab you.
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Water drips slowly,
Eternity stands so still,
when will this mob pop?
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Magical carpet
shall float me to nirvana
just need sixty plat.
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My sweetest flower
Your face is fairest beauty;
thanks to SOGA model.

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Friendly pick-up group,
ah, new comrades in arms-
Hello XP debt.
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Your bodice comes off
revealing dark elf cleavage-
whoops, was a mistell.
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I lost my sweet love,
how ever will I find you?
Try using waypoint.
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Searching through long night
to find true heart's desire:
Palladium cluster.

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I trust you, my love,
And AF with all my heart-
Crash! Zek mineshaft!
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Sweet sunshine cat
I feed you tasty pepper,
Patches we still miss you.
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My nerves atwitter,
I confess my love for you-
player is AFK.
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Sweet embrace of sleep
creeps softly over me-
now my raid group wiped.


Reader Contributions

A haiku duo from Scotticus:

Phat Plat spent on new digs.
Nice neighborhood with low crime.
Damn non binding rule.
************************
I see dead people
A good samaritan am I
Can'
t rez out of group.

Thanks Scotticus!

Here's a timely one from Vetil:

Delicious gnoll loot
Splitpaw hoards will make me rich-
Oops, just read patch notes!

Thanks for contributing Vetil!

And, wow - a contribution from Moorgard, posted on the Aggro Forums:

Players wished me well.
I moved to design, nerfed them...
Now they hate my guts.

I told you he had a sense of humor. Thanks Moorgard.

Like my EQII Limericks post, I am making this a reader contribution affair. Either e-mail me (click /who on the right hand side of the page for my e-mail) or post your haiku on the Aggro Fourms and I will edit this post with it. For general guidelines on the format you can check here but I am not counting syllables. No profanity for the contributions please but feel free to be as profane as you like on the Aggro Forums.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Salute to Moorgard

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Well, I hate to follow up an angry rant with a praise filled salute but, unfortunately, the situation calls for it. Moorgard has announced that he is moving from his Community Manager position to that of full-time game designer.

When I think about praising Moorgard, I have to chuckle. You see, one of my earliest rants occurred when Moorgard innocently cracked a joke on the official forums about blogs and blogging. Of course, I decided to launch into a temper-fuelled screed which you can
read here.

Still, even in that post, I said I was a fan. And my esteem for Moorgard's work has grown since then. If you don't appreciate Moorgard, perhaps you haven't read some of the posts of people in similar positions who work for other games. I'm not alone in this - I bet even the more cynical MMO commentators would agree that Moorgard is an asset to EQII.

But let me give you some proof. First, he has a sense of humor. In
this post, I pointed out his hilarious rendition of a forums poster: "I begged Higby and Rizzo to do it so I didn't have to see 50 threads popping up tomorrow saying "I want to play all evil characters EXCEPT the one slot I saved for a froglok. But because the quest is only in Qeynos, I can't do that. WHY DO YOU HATE ME SOE?!?!?!?!"

Second, he is intelligent and well-rounded. In
this post he utilizes the literary device of the unreliable narrator (he explains it better than I can, but a good example from literature would be Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier). This strikes a particular chord with me. In many a college English seminar or a book club meeting I would lean forward and say sagely, "Perhaps we are dealing with an unreliable narrator here." Then people would usually ooh and ahh as I would sit back and think, "Pwned."

Third, he knows online gaming. Just check out
this thread. It is an eloquent and brilliant explanation that makes you angry after you read it because you should have thought of it yourself.

Finally, he is a good and readable writer and you can find that proof in any of his posts. I haven't always agreed with all that he has said, but I like the way he has said it.

I certainly wish him the best in his new position. I also am happy that we have Blackguard to step in as Community Manager, a position I think he can fill ably.

Let's hope Moorgard's work behind the scenes is as good as his work in front of them.

I still think Moorhunter is a blog though.

Take out the Trash

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Well, after a pro-EQII post on Monday and a positive review of Splitpaw yesterday it's time to rip into SOE a little. They have a chance at a good thing so why mess it up?

First, stop this
garbage now. It's a complete embarrassment and makes SOE look like an absolute joke. Just because I don't talk about it every day doesn't mean it doesn't make my blood pressure rise to dangerously unsafe levels every time I see it. You can read my rants here, here and here. I've ranted enough in those posts about the integrity of the game and SOE's hypocrisy. But let me make one more little argument.

A tenet of all MMO companies should be to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. With Station Exchange, people will and already have accused SOE of making gameplay decisions for the sake of increasing profits on the Exchange servers. SOE has said clearly and strongly that they will not do this. They will say it again and again. To be honest, I kind of believe them. But that is not enough. An MMO company should avoid even the appearance of impropriety. By running Exchange servers, SOE is creating a system where gameplay changes could increase their Exchange profits. And just that possibility is enough to raise an ethical cloud over the whole situation. In an industry where customer trust is so important, it would seem to me a betrayal of that trust and a bad business decision to create such a system.

Okay, Station Exchange is a subject which is at least open to debate. Let's move on to some more concrete rantings.

EQ2Players is an absolute cesspool of web design. It's amazing how bad it is. I'm referring to the stats, rankings, and guild sites. I have never had a more unpleasant experience with a website outside of Geocities. I would still be complaining about this even if it was free but somehow this cornucopia of trash code is actually supported by players who optionally sign up for "extra" services.

Now, you might be saying, Aggro, why does EQ2Players suck so bad? Hmm...the problem is - where to start? Okay, guild sites. Half my guild can't log onto the bug-ridden forums. Ever. This is because of the endless log-in loop which has been known about since day one. I also lose roughly half of the news stories I try to post due to errors.

Let's take a look at the rankings. You have access to all this glorious data...tons of it. There are so many ways you can organize it in various fun rankings which would get people more involved in the game. The current rankings are very limited and unimaginative. The most glaring omission is a lack of guild rankings by level or status points. Uh, hello, wouldn't that be the absolute first ranking you set up?

Attempting to examine items is an exercise in frustration. The item search (a paid feature) is rudimentary at best. Rudimentary is too nice...it's worthless. I find it consistently bugged and quite incomplete.

I'm sorry to the people who set this up. I'm sure you tried hard but you probably had other projects. But damn, you either need some more help or just need to scrap the whole thing and try over. Small positive: the addition of web guild chat. When it works.

Okay, enough with EQ2Players. Back to the game. I've said it before, but some of the character models are just bad, specifically the humans. I'm not going to harp on this too much as the Soga models will be an option soon, according to
Blackguard. Thankfully, you will be able to choose Soga or regular for each race on the client-side, which will be a nice feature. We also desperately need more armor models. The ones in-game now are mediocre at best and the variety is very slim. This may seem shallow but it does make a difference.

Guild housing. It's rumored to be coming but I haven't heard any info for a long time. We need this. On the guild topic, the rewards for reaching guild level 30 seem a bit dissappointing (especially if you are not wealthy enough to afford a flying carpet). Reaching Guild Level 30 is a lot of work and should definitely open up a really special quest, or series of quests. If it does, and I just don't know about it, I apologize. I'll let you know soon enough as we're currently level 29 and moving fast.

From Karnatos on the Aggro Forums (and agreed upon immediately by a bunch of others): Okay, let's say you decide to lay out some serious cash and upgrade your pad to a South Qeynos abode. Wow, nice. All is well until you use CoQ. Then you end up having to zone twice to get home. Paying more money for less convenience is bad. Bind it to your home. SOE did mention they would look into this.

The quest sorting is awkward but a fix for this is already in the works. The mail system is too slow and a tab for Sent mail would be nice (credit to Gnume from the AF).

I would also like to note a few ideas that are suggestions from members of the
AF rather than complaints:

Warm_Machine: Ability to rez non-party members. This is being considered I believe.

Gnume: Ability to save different graphical settings for raids and normal play. Also, a "Fast Pass" system similar to amusement parks where you could "take your "Pass Item" to the location where the named mob you need is supposed to spawn, get it registered you were there ... and after an allotted time period has passed, the next time you return and register your "card", your mob will spawn."

Anskiere: The ability to add comments to the LFG window. That way you could see "Oh, Aggro is lfg for AQ6 - cool" or "Aggro wants to hang in CT, forget him." This would cut down on extraneous tells and OOC spam by a large amount.

Karnatos: Mini-games, i.e. a timed multiplayer footrace or something like Gems in EQ. Just some light fun to pass the time.

Okay, that wasn't too bad was it? Some of it was philosophical differences (Station Exchange) and a lot of the in-game stuff was merely suggestions or stuff that is already in the works. Well, except for EQ2Players.com. That's just awful. Rant endeth.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Splitpaw Serenade

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Yeah, it's good. Real good. Maybe part of the reason is because I had low expectations, but the Splitpaw Saga is a definite winner. I am trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum but I advise you to read no further if you want to remain completely unspoiled.

First off, let me admit: A while back, I said I was not looking forward to more "gnolls in a cave." Yeah, it's about gnolls. But hey, they look a bit cooler and have some of the best animations I've seen so far.

And, yes, it's in caves, but the underground "den" is just awesome (it feels like a real living, breathing town) and the terraporters are a fun change of pace.

I enjoyed the mini-gladiatorial games going on in the arena and the final mob is a true test of your solo skill. The items you can receive are very cool without being unbalancing.

SOE has even come up with a variation on the way you receive a quest (Sarchel the Storyteller, I'm talking about you). I love that kind of innovation. The Harclave quest is also notable for having a cool event within it which is really exciting. When you get numerous tells from guild mates saying, "OMG you won't believe this," then you know SOE has come up with a great quest.

While I have not completed the raid zone yet,
reviews are positive. If you want, you can check out some of the pictures and loot here on the Ascendance guild site. Speaking of loot, I love the idea of class specific gear. That is the kind of stuff that this game needs.

The NPC dialogue is well-written and the voiceover work is some of the best in the game thus far.

It's a little hard to describe how fun this pack is for soloers and groups (and likely raids as well) without spoiling it. I'll just say that the zones, quests, and loot are all very well implemented. And there is an almost total absence of bugs from my experience.

I am personally not real big on the crate moving and exploding barrels but it was bearable.

A few negatives: the difficulty selector does not work for level 50 characters and the zone was quite laggy at first. The zone entrance is in an inconvenient location and I would like the ability to teleport to the Splitpaw Den after the first time I enter it. Also, there have been reports that the loot and xp is a little too good, but at level 50 I can't comment on the veracity of these claims.

Even the official forums (usually quite a negative place) seem pretty upbeat about this Adventure Pack and reports from the Aggro Forums were positive as well.

I would like to personally thank everyone who worked on this project. With content like this, EQII has a real chance to be a great game for years to come.

Because I've been way too positive this week I will be ranting tomorrow about my least favorite things in EQII.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Clearing Out Old News: Part II

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Well, I know that it's not nice to be a reblogger, but in this case I have no choice. I've made fun of Mourning so often on this site that I would be remiss if I didn't inform you that it has gone from live "game" with paying customers into "closed development status." Wait, isn't it supposed to work the other way around?

I read this first on the excellent blog
Game Memes, and Krones covered it with his usual hilarious flair as well. I don't have much to add to their commentary except for the following two points:

One, I'd like to applaud my prescience in stating, in a section of my May 16th rant, "what we're seeing here is the perma-death of the game itself." Eh, who am I kidding, anyone could have seen this coming.

Two, I think it's funny that said May 16th rant is quoted in its entirety on the first page of that
crazily long MMORPG.COM thread. I'm proud to be a part of this historic moment.

Sigh, I'm going to miss the wacky quotes and antics of the Mourning dev team. I'm going to miss reading the latest report of Mourning disaster. What am I going to do without them? Must...be...strong...

The lesson here? Don't mess with
Leonard J. Crabs.

Clearing Out Old News: Part I

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Okay, I will be following up this holiday weekend by posting two slightly dated updates I never finished in a timely fashion. Here's the first:

Probably my favorite feature of any of the more established EQII community sites is EQII Vault's Ask SOE feature. I just wanted to point out that the last Ask SOE was pretty good in case you missed it.

Moorgard actually goes ahead and gives a specific ranking of intended DPS for each class, even going so far as to rank Conjurors and Necros twice depending on the type of pet they are using. However, remember that some Scout DPS comes from situational attacks and poisons (which cost money) so I'm not sure if that is taken into account in the list. And, as he says, differences in playstyle and equipment mean that this is only a general guide.

Moorgard mentions that mobs will begin to drop coin, but only "creatures that make sense to do so (most humanoid-type NPCs)." I think it's pretty funny that SOE is worried about loot realism when you have mobs like sea turtles or ice wolves dropping giant chests which contain armor. Still, restricting coin drops to humanoid mobs is a reasonable idea.


It seems like the "reverse writ" concept I mentioned before will work as follows: A mob drops an item. Upon examining the item you will see that you have to turn it in to a writ NPC for faction status. Moorgard mentions that the items will be tradable so unguilded players can sell them. I wonder if this will allow the wealthier guilds to use their platinum to gain guild levels quickly. If so, it may not be a good idea.

I have one more old news post coming today so stay tuned.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Prismatic Patriotic

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Mild spoilers herein:
Well, I'm going to light off some fireworks today, with my prismatic wand, that is. Yes, my friends and I completed the Fire and Ice quest trilogy a few nights ago and are now proud owners of some prismatic hardware. And, I'm feeling patriotic - about my guild and EQII.

Let me tell you, raiding Darathar was no easy matter. He wiped us on a previous occasion like a teacher wipes a blackboard. This time, we lost our only enchanter and a healer to time constraints and had to face him for the last two rounds with only 22 players. Morale was a little low but hope prevailed and we decided to go for one more try, even though we were down two players. Well, someone once said that those who know they are going to die can be a very dangerous enemy. And we were dangerous. My ice comets were landing like raindrops on a spring morning, the healers were keeping our tank's health gauge practically overflowing and we all worked together to drop the dragon. Victory was sweet.

This whole long quest was a great way to make raids interesting for high level players by packaging them within a story and other events. Plus, there is the reward factor, so you really feel like you're striving for something. Sure, it required quite a few runs through Sol Eye. But guess what - Sol Eye is gorgeous. Even when I'm invisible and have no chance of getting aggro, that zone is still exciting because the footing is so treacherous in many points.

I will continue, in my patriotic spirit, to praise Everquest II. It is a very good game and I have had a blast playing it. And yes, I
have tried WoW. It's also very good.

So why does WoW have over two million subscribers while EQII has probably less than half a million? To me it's a brand issue. Blizzard has a great reputation with their lineup of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo. Plus, they were the new players in town with the MMO all the hip kids were talking about. Meanwhile, SOE has a brand reputation similar to Philip Morris (now Altria) or Enron. It's just considered cool to hate SOE and talk about how they ruined Everquest, etc. Not to mention, their game was a sequel, while Blizzard's was a fresh start. Which would appeal to new players more?

And what has happened since the launch of both games? Blizzard has done very little patching and has had serious problems with what they have added, while SOE has improved their game by churning out patches and additional content the way a plat-farmer churns loot. In essence, SOE has done what people say SOE never does, while Blizzard has done what people accused SOE of doing in the past.

My point? Just that some of those two million WoW players should at least give EQII a chance. Not if you want PvP though...yet.

I will be reviewing Splitpaw on Wednesday but I'll give you a hint now: thumbs way up.

Heck, I am definitely getting soft. Prepare for a venomous anti-SOE rant on Thursday! I'm serious.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Humor: Soldier of Fortune

At the suggestion of Krones in the comments section a few weeks back, this week's Friday Humor will be fortune cookies - Everquest II style. You can check out an interesting article on a real life fortune cookie writer here and get a recipe for making your own fortune cookies here.

So, please imagine you have just eaten a delicious meal and reach for a tasty fortune cookie. And what do you find inside?

Hmm...
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I get a commission...
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Ah, a paradox...
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This fortune is making me hungry.
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Looks like Lucan is at it again...
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Hey, you have to blame someone, right?
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The answer is right in front of you!
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What a great idea!
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Sigh, I knew it...
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So that's what it is...
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A fair warning...
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Well, thanks for ordering from Aggro Me takeout! Come again soon!