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Friday, December 30, 2005

Friday Humor: New Year's Resolutions





Ah, yes, what's better on New Year's Eve than champagne, overcrowded clubs and public vomiting? Why, resolutions of course. That's why I sent psychic messages out to some Aggro Me favorites to find out what their New Year's resolutions for the upcoming year are! Here are the brainwave missives I received in return:

Antonia & Lucan: We resolve to actually spend some time with our subjects when they are not trying to kill us.

Vandis: I resolve to ask for help more often.

Brad McQuaid: Resolutions? Perhaps, you haven't heard about my hardcore new resolution system for truly hardcore players. Sure, it might be easy to just make a resolution. But first you will have to travel to the New Year's Resolution area in Qualia. You can only travel on foot so it will take you roughly 4 to 6 days real time. Then you have to camp the Resolution Master who pops once a week. Upon making your resolution you will be presented with 17 possible counter resolutions, each of which will start a resolution chain that can be broken with the patented resolution chain breaker icon and (78 page document follows).

Smed: My resolution? Three words: Additional Revenue Streams.

Blizzard: Our subscription numbers are so low that we resolve to work harder and try to get a few people playing our game! Also, we'll be at work on our first expansion due out sometime around 2010.

Turbine: Just give us 5 or 6 more great licenses and we resolve not to screw them up! Promise!

Maj'Dul Society for the Public Good: Our resolution this year is to do something about those beggars who pester the brave adventurers and tourists who are the key to our economic growth. And we have found affordable housing for them all! Yes, there's a large space in our very city that's always empty: the Arena!

SWG Team: We resolve not to be so afraid of change! We have been dying to make a few minor tweaks to this game since launch but have been too afraid of the reaction.

Random Tradeskill Botter: ...This player is AFK...

Ceciliantas: I resolve to always carefully check the inn room for visitors before, er, "putting on my wizard robe and hat."

Random Uber Player Standing on the Docks in QH: I resolve to get that one fabled piece I need to complete my total uber look.

Norrathian Pet Care Society: We resolve not to feed our house pets too much pepper.

Aggro Me: I feel like I haven't been getting enough aggro lately. Time for a little overnuking in '06.

Bonus Humor:

Coyote takes on Freeport politics.

Kotaku links to a WoW parody of the Apple Switch commercials.

Former Mourning Dev Interview Quote of the Week:

"And it's really funny that he was making fun of Blizzard 2 years ago, "look, they have the game in development for three years and it's still not ready, our game will be ready in 2 years and it will be much better". Isn't life ironic?"

It sure is. Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve. I'll be back on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My EQII Year





Yes, it's that time of year when everyone trots out the old "Year in Review" thing. And I'm no different. This little review is going to cover 2005 for EQII and for SOE. I'll do a similar review for Aggro Me when it gets closer to the site's one year anniversary on March 3, 2006. But for now enjoy this somewhat disjointed and rambling look at my EQII year.

I'm splitting this up into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

Has it only been a year since EQII launched? Well, a year and a few months, I suppose. This game has changed and grown so much that I feel like I have been playing it for years.

From the very beginning, SOE has continually pumped out updates with both major and minor changes. Here are just a few that stand out to me:

Can you imagine a world without offline selling? Thankfully, that feature was introduced in March.

How about the mentor system? It gives you the freedom to play with friends of a different level and experience content you may have missed.

Out of group invites and rezzing are certainly a plus.

We got through the trauma of the Combat Revamp together and I truly believe combat is more fun and exciting than before.

Call of X bind points are now changeable, a real boon for those who invested in real estate.

Interface systems like the map, faction, skills and inventory screens are much more pleasant and useful then they were at the start of the year.

While I would not trade my personal experiences with the Patron system for anything, I am going to go ahead and say that removing it was a good decision.

The SOGA models were introduced, giving players more options in terms of their characters' appearances.

Much content was added in the form of new dungeons and quests. For example, did you know the GEB heritage quest wasn't introduced until February, 2005? In terms of new instances, I especially liked Return to Nek but the Frosty Dig was also pretty cool (and oh so very hard).

I know I am missing a bunch of great changes and updates, but that's the beauty of it. There have been so many that it is hard to mention them all. And that's a good thing.

We have had some great live events. Although I did not participate in the Griffon Tower event that one stands out to me because it let people take part in changing the world of Norrath. I did get to be a part of a live event during the Plague and I thoroughly
enjoyed it.

The holiday events were fantastic. Frostfell is tremendous, as I discussed Tuesday. Halloween was very fun as well. And don't forget the short but sweet Erollisi's Day quest (Valentine's day).

Splitpaw was a huge step forward for EQII. Players were treated to cool zones, innovative quests and just tons of fun with this fantastic Adventure Pack.

The Desert of Flames was very good for a first expansion. It brought the faction system to the fore, was graphically beautiful and had plenty of interesting content for solo, group and raids. I'm going to stop short of calling it great but I am still exploring it and enjoying it. Just last night I was still marveling at the beauty of a carpet ride in PoF and still finding cool new spots to explore. I have been soloing a lot more than usual due to time constraints from work so I can tell you there is plenty of fun solo content. But as I move back into grouping, I am loving the great instances I am seeing for the first time. I have been getting more involved with the raid content as well so I'll report on that soon.

In my estimation the uptime for the game has been terrific. Yes, there have been a few minor incidents but for the vast majority of the time I log on whenever I want to without the slightest problem. On the whole I have had very few technical issues.

I believe the team has done a great job communicating with the player base (with one or two notable exceptions) and I think we have seen how much the devs care about this game. They have done a terrific job of both adding new content and smoothing out issues in the game.

The number one greatest thing about EQII is the community. The number of smart, mature and friendly people I've met in game far, far outweighs the number of idiots and that is truly remarkable. And everyone I've come into contact with out of game, either in person at the community summit, or on the forums here or through e-mails and comments has been a pleasure to speak with.

The Bad

While there are plenty of additions I want to see and things I would like changed and improved, I'll save that for a separate post.


The death penalty went from what I thought was perfect on day one to a laughable respawn. The elimination of group xp debt was a regrettable decision and things only went downhill from there. Death is currently very close to meaningless in EQII, at least in my estimation.

While I was in favor of removing many of the annoyances from gameplay, I feel the line was pushed a little to far to the easy side of the challenge meter and the feeling of depth and immersion has taken a small hit.

I think the armor models have been a disappointment for most, especially in terms of lack of variety. While I have seen some improvement lately, it is not enough.

The services of EQII Players were never well implemented. The problems on the guild sites drove many players back to third-party or independent solutions. The optional services never seemed up to date or helpful.

There have been other gameplay changes which are open to debate but I don't feel I can include them in the "bad" section.

The Ugly

I believe the following business decisions equaled a decrease in the reputation of SOE in general.

/Pizza

Station Exchange

In game advertisements in Planetside and Matrix Online (including Deuce Bigalow: European Gigalo and Beavis and Butthead posters)

The utter mishandling of the whole Frogloks are "in the game" thing.

Pimping that Walk of Fame thing both on the launch window and with server-wide in-game announcements.

The Quest for Antonia.

The NGE in SWG (While I make no comment on whether or not this was a good move from a game design perspective, the negative press was pretty tremendous).

Even if you disagree with me and think Station Exchange is a good idea and /pizza is convenient (and, hey, I fully admit that I kind of ended up enjoying the Quest for Antonia) the point is that this year was a disastrous one for the SOE brand image.

Let me clarify. In terms of brand recognition, SOE is doing great. Most people have heard of SOE and Everquest. But in terms of brand image, there is a problem. The SOE brand image was not a positive one before this year and it has only gone downhill. While the amount of updates the EQII team has put forth this year has done some good for the whole brand, it is hardly enough to stem the tide.

I am not at all blaming the EQII PR or Marketing teams. I think they do a great job. But what seems to be missing is a liaison of sorts at the company who can step in and say, "Sure, in-game advertising might make us some money now, but what about the future revenue we're going to lose when people associate our brand with money-hungry types who care nothing about the actual games."

I surf both large and small gaming forums and literally countless times I've heard people ask, "Should I try Planetside?" or "Should I play WoW or EQII?" only to be answered with a barrage of "SOE is greedy and does not care about games" type responses. And they don't just say that, they go ahead and use some of the above list as concrete examples.

To clarify again: It does not matter for the sake of brand image if SOE is actually "evil" or not. I'm talking about perception. I truly believe that the EQII team cares deeply about the game. And I'm sure the vast majority of SOE loves gaming and cares about gaming. But if SOE is perceived to be evil, whether it is true or not, you have a problem. And you can't just say, "Well, we're not evil." You should set about fixing that problem with a solid record of doing the right thing instead of digging yourself a deeper hole.

And for those who say, "This is a business and business is about making money," the point is that I am approaching this from the business standpoint. You will end up making much more money in the long run if you build up a stellar reputation than you could ever earn from a deal with Pizza Hut.

Conclusion

I think the EQII team has done a terrific job and should be congratulated. I just wish SOE didn't make it quite so hard on themselves in the gaming community.

Playing EQII has provided me with a ton of fun and enjoyment this year and I look forward to even more next year. I would like to personally say thank you to the entire EQII team for providing me with what I feel is an incredible value for the money. While I did play some other games: a lot of Civ IV, a little bit of WoW and Eve and lately some
SAIS II and Mount & Blade (thanks Flashman for suggesting M&B), EQII was by far my main game in 2005.

Next week I will discuss what we have to look forward to in the upcoming year and also what my 2006 wish list is. Feel free to add some of your bests and worsts for EQII 2005 in the comments. I would love to hear them and I'm sure I missed a ton of stuff.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Station Exchange: A Year End Look






Yeah, I know, I've ranted about the Station Exchange a lot this year. I felt it was hypocritical for SOE to go on about how bad the secondary market was for the game until the money was headed into their pocket. I felt it was a blow to the already wounded image of the SOE brand amongst gamers. I felt that it weakened the legal standing of all MMO companies to fight secondary market sales in the future. I felt it raised tax issues. And, of course, I am against real money transfer in general for many other reasons, whether it is SOE or a third party facilitating the transfer.

But frankly, I don't want to be the person who is always going on about the Exchange. You can kind of forget it is even there.

But, since more mainstream sites seem to think the Station Exchange is such a smashing success, I feel like I have to be the one to speak up, since no one else is.

Okay, so I was rolling up an alt the other day, just to see how a mez class plays. When I got to the list of available servers, what was at the top?


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Yep, both Exchange servers. Two points to make here:

1. The Station Exchange servers should never, ever be the default server choice for new players. You can't expect some new player who just picked up the game on a whim to even know what the letters EXC next to the server name signify. They are going to roll on that server because it is first on the list and end up on a real money transfer server without ever wanting to be on one. I clicked next and did not receive any kind of additional warning.

I am not saying SOE is intentionally doing this. The server list puts the least populated servers on top. But they still can't let this practice continue without a clearer warning about what type of servers these are. I am willing to dismiss it as negligence but other less generous people might say it is a way to push new players onto SE servers. I don't believe that but it still has to stop.

2. Why are those names at the top of the list? Because they are the least populated servers in the game.

Why does this matter? Shouldn't I be happy? Well, I am. But it goes against what other places have been saying about the success of the concept.

Gamespot

Joystiq and Joystiq again

Warcry

CNet

"Sony scores"; "proven a success"? Give me a break. Is that responsible journalism based on numbers for the first 30 days of operation?

Everyone is proclaiming this thing a success based on some early data and the gaming community has pretty much accepted that success as a fact. I am dubious.

My guess, and I stress this is only a guess, is this: Most of the players that transferred to SE servers did so in the hopes of making money, even if it was just enough to cover subscription fees. In the beginning, there were quite a few transactions because "you have to spend money to make money." In other words, those players wanted great gear or tradeskill supplies so they could rise through the ranks and farm the top mobs or tradeskill as efficiently as possible. People bought tons of boxes to hold their loot. So of course the first month or so featured a hopping economy.

But what happens over time? The population becomes top heavy as everyone reaches the top levels. Also, while these players are farming and tradeskilling great items, there is no one left to sell them to. And competition becomes fierce. Supply does not equal demand.

Now some might say, what about the players who simply want to play normally and just transferred to SE servers so that they could buy the occasional mount or fabled item? Well, I'm thinking those players are a minority. And even if they are not, they will reach high levels themselves soon enough if they haven't already and have all the gear they want. With the changes in itemization, you don't really need to buy much gear through the Exchange, even if you are a casual player.

Important Note: The fact that SOE has pumped up things like the items available in mid-level dungeons means they are not making decisions based on the SE server. If players can get great items through normal play, they do not have to buy them. Also, the reduction in prices for mounts and the increase in movement speed overall means that mounts are less of a gold sink. Thus, my negatives from other posts about the game being made easier work as a positive here in showing the ethics of the SOE dev team. It
clearly demonstrates that they are making their gameplay tweaks without regard for SE. If you read my old posts, you will see I never doubted this, but I am still glad to see it.

In short, the only way the demand side of the servers will grow is with new players. And while some say all will be fixed as soon as the non-US players are allowed onto the SE servers, this is a temporary solution to a lasting problem. It is my opinion that the influx of new players will not be enough in the long run to combat the top-heavy supply side of the pyramid.


And certainly, adding a PvP Exchange server does not seem like a good move. It will detract from the already hurting populations of the regular Exchange servers. Of course, the concept of paying for advantages is to me even more despicable on a directly competitive server. I would say adding a PvP Exchange server is just unnecessary and will not be popular.

As I said, I could be totally wrong. There is a lot of complaining on the SE forum about the faltering economy and population but it wouldn't be fair for me to point to individual forum posts as proof of anything. You can poke around there yourself and see if things sound like a grand success. To me, they don't.


But the fact that these servers are the lowest population servers in the game is just that, a fact. So I don't see how the SE servers can be proclaimed a smashing success based on early numbers. To shut me up, let SOE release new numbers on the Exchange for this month or next month. But don't do it immediately after you open the servers to non-US players because that wouldn't be a fair sample. And remember that not every dime SOE makes on Exchange servers are pure profit. There are additional costs involved.

Give me the numbers and prove me wrong.


While I will now shut up about the SE servers for a while, I will likely be posting some more general articles about real money transfer next year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Frostfell Review: A-








Frostfell was really impressive. Let's get right into it:

Music: A

I wasn't expecting the music when I zoned back to Qeynos so it came as a very nice surprise. I thought it was great, managing to have that "holiday" feel but still somehow staying true to the Everquest theme. Would have been an A+ but the Runnyeye music in the Goblin den slightly annoyed me.

Decorations: B-

I'm referring to the decorations around Norrath here. I thought they were fine but a little lackluster. The tree was nice. My main problem is that none of the decorations felt "Norrathian" (is that the proper adjectival form of Norrath?) at all. Rather, they looked like they were ripped wholesale from the line at Macy's as you're waiting to see Santa. Which is okay, but I would have liked decorations that had more of an Everquest edge to them. And I would have liked to have seen Maj' decked out a bit.

Quest: A

I can't say enough about how fantastic this quest was. The story was good from start to finish. The dialogue was hilarious at points and very well done. The zone populations were interesting. Everything was over the top, in a good way. But most of all anyone who reads this blog knows I love innovation in quest design. And this quest had a lot of interesting moments. I don't really want to spoil it but suffice it to say you're doing a variety of things to advance the quest that don't even involve combat but yet are still fun. And when you get to the combat part, even that is unusual because you have a very cool temporary secret weapon. Truly an enjoyable time with an ending that fit the holiday mood.

Bugs: C

Some of you might be saying, Aggro how can you give that quest an A when it was bugged so badly? I figured I would consider the bugs separately.

I said
two weeks ago of Frostfell, "Let's just hope it is a little less buggy." Well, it was pretty buggy on night one. But I am going to give SOE a passing grade here. Why? I want to encourage trying different things in quests. Something like the pots is something I have never seen before in EQII. I am willing to give them a little more wiggle room when they try something new. I'm sure they could churn out a kill 20 of x mob holiday quest with no bugs. But is that what you want?

What's more, they fixed the bugs quickly and cleverly so it was fine by night two, for me at least. That has to count.

But, even though I am being understanding, SOE should be aware that other players might not be and all the hard work that went into such a great quest is translated to "Buggy quest again thanks SOE!" I really hate to see that. I'm not sure anything can be done to prevent situations like this. But whenever they trot out the old chestnut, "Things on the Live Servers are different than the Test Server," I always ask myself, "How can we fix that situation so they aren't to provide better testing for bugs?"

But in my mind, one night of bugs should not take away from such a terrific event and should not discourage SOE from being aggressively innovative in the future.

House Items, Gifts, Snowballs: A

The housing stuff has always been great and the new additions are no exception. So kudos to whomever the unsung hero or heroes who design those items are. The gifts so far have been interesting and fun. I am really enjoying the wonderful music boxes. The snowballs are simply a good time. Mobs dropping gift boxes is a nice touch.

Bonus Stuff: A

The
lore story was a touch saccharine for my tastes but it is the holiday season and it was well written. I'm sure it is really hard to write that expository type stuff ("Go sum up the lore of Frostfell in one page and make it interesting!") and this story had heart.

Players really seemed to love the
surprise Blackguard appearance and I enjoyed just reading about it. That extra effort can reap great rewards amongst the players. Also, this explanation in the thread for why Blackguard was not fighting the actual Lord Nagafen was brilliantly convoluted and hilarious.

It would have been nice if the restrictions on mailing items from Qeynos to Freeport and vice versa had been lifted during Frostfell. I wanted to send my evil friends a few gifts and was not able to.

And finally, the unexpected new hate reduction spell for Wizzies was a nice holiday present. I think that if it is tweaked slightly it will really add a new strategic element to group combat and that's great.

All in all, Frostfell was a tremendous event that really set a very high standard for holiday events in MMO's.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday Humor: Smed Says





I always knew Smed had the l33t business skillz but I never knew he had amazing predictive powers. But then I read a piece on Slashdot which links to this interview in which Smed intimates that SWG has the potential to beat WoW.

"People within the company feel so much pride in this game that they want it to beat the crap out of World of Warcraft. That's something we feel very passionate about. We know we are capable of making the best stuff out there, and I'm proud to say that with the changes we're making in Galaxies, I think we're headed in the right direction. "

Utterly convinced, I realized that Smed was a real prognosticator, a veritable modern day Nostradamus. Smed just might have the keys to understanding what will happen in the future!

There was only one thing do. Yes, the elite Aggro Me Ninja Death Squad (trademark pending) had to be called in. When I called, they had recently been fired from their side-jobs working in the pizza delivery industry for reasons that are best left unspoken. Trust me. In any event, they jumped at the chance to infiltrate the highly secure facility that serves as Smed's office in exchange for 14 silver and a copy of the exciting puzzle game Frantix!

Well, barely escaping with their lives, my Ninja team managed to bring me this fascinating memo from Smed's notepad entitled "Predictions for 2006."

Here are the amazing contents:

* Legions of FPS fans will stop playing Battlefield 2...to join the massively popular game Planetside!

* The Matrix Online will surpass the amount of Lineage II users worldwide sometime around March 12, 2006.

* Toon Town will become so popular that subscriptions will be impossible to get and accounts will sell for thousands on EBay.

* I will be knighted by the Queen of England for my general greatness and asked to serve as the Secretary of Gaming by the President of the United States. I will respectfully decline due to a conflict with my position as the CEO of the entire Sony corporation.

* Three words: Mic-Ro-Payments.

* The top Everquest players will be visited by a wizard from a fantastic dimension. He will be recruiting heroes and brave leaders to save his kingdom from evil. They will join him and have many adventures, eventually defeating the source of the evil while finding laughter and love along the way.

* The DoF monkey will be the "hot item" during the holiday season next year and shortages will rival those of the XBox 360.

* A new renaissance of literate debate will come to the SWG forums bringing to mind the droll wit and brilliance of both a French salon at the time of Voltaire and the Algonquin Round Table on its best night.

* Jessica Chobot will lick a copy of the next EQII expansion.

* The new MMO from SOE which I will reveal to be based around running a muffin bakery in a post-apocalyptic future will be the first MMO ever to top 100 million players.

* Aliens will land at the next FanFaire and threaten to destroy the planet unless someone can defeat their top singer in a karaoke contest. My rousing rendition of "Welcome to the Jungle" will save Earth from total annihilation.

* The readership of a blog named "Aggro Me" will be higher than that of the New York Times and the National Enquirer. Combined.

* The sequel to the Quest for Antonia, known as the Quest for Lucan, will be televised nationally and will surpass the ratings of American Idol.

* Nick and Jessica will get back together!!! The following doodle was found next to this statement:
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Wow, this is going to be one heck of a year! I can hardly wait.

Bonus humor:

Some funny
Frostfell humor from Coyote.

The Former Mourning
Dev Interview Quote of the Week:

"Q: That's interesting. So how was Adonys hired?

A: There was this.. contest.

Q: A contest? To hire a lead designer?

A: Well, at that time it was a contest to hire the only game designer."

Have a nice weekend and happy Frostfell! I'll be back on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fantastic Frostfell Contest!





Ah, Frostfell, my favorite of all the Norrathian holidays. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I think it has something to do with giving gifts and punting gnomes! Excellent!

In honor of the Frostfell tradition, I am giving away some seriously amazing and incredible prizes to two lucky Aggro Me readers! This could be your greatest Frostfell ever! What prizes, you ask? Well, how about:

The EQII Expansion: Desert of Flames!

- Hang in Maj'Dul with your favorite faction!
- Have tea with Terrorantula!
- Climb to the top of scenic Prophet Peak in the Pillars of Flame!
- Ride the Sand Devils in the Sinking Sands!
- Kill different stuff!
- And much much more!

But wait, there's more! Aggro, have you gone insane? More?

Well, yes, I have gone insane but that's not the issue here. Second prize is:

Gripshift for the PSP!

- Drive around!
- Solve crazy puzzles on crazy tracks!
- Race stuff and play bizarre mini-games!
- Go penguin bowling! (seriously)

Both are completely new and unopened as seen here:

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Aggro, how do I win these fabulous Frostfell prizes? I'm glad you asked.

Simply post in this forum thread and guess a number between 1 and 1000! That's all you have to do. January 5, 12:01 P.M EST. is the deadline for entry. Sometime soon after that I will announce the "magic number" and the people who came the closest will reign victorious. The closest person will win DoF and the next closest will win Gripshift. Draws will be decided by a /rand I run in EQII.

The number I pick will be drawn from EQII somehow, not just some number I made up in my mind. The method will be revealed at that time.

Please guess your number in the forum thread. If you don't want to use your real e-mail when registering, that's perfectly fine. Just get in touch with me if you are a winner. I will give you ten days to do so from the date the winners are announced.

Trust me, this will be the best odds you will probably ever have of winning an expansion or a PSP game, so get into the Frostfell spirit and enter!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Come to the Dark Side...





Haha, victory is mine!

"So, with all this said, am I finally willing to admit that this is a blog? Well, damn it, I suppose so."

Yes, yes, I am not above gloating and cackling with glee as I rub my fiendish hands together and drink a bottle of victory champagne with the Aggro Me Ninja Death Squad. Wondering what the heck I'm talking about? Moorgard's new, ahem, blog,
Moorgard.com. Well, it's only new in the sense that it is no longer part of the official EQII forums but rather an independent site.

Why am I gloating? Back when I was first starting this blog in March, Moorgard took a potshot at blogs in his first Moorhunter post. And even though I knew where he was coming from - I get annoyed by ridiculous terms like "blogosphere" and "bloggerati" as much as the next person, I took umbrage and was maybe a wee bit defensive about this medium. Anyway, I posted this
little rant.

So, now that Moorgard is officially blogging, score one for Aggro!

Well, the truth is that I said I was a Moorgard fan even in that first post. And as I read more and more of his posts on the forums, my respect grew. When I read the dev posts, aside from considering the game design arguments they make, I always look at the writing quality. That's just the way I am. And Moorgard is a heck of a writer (he even writes haikus as seen in
this Aggro Me Friday Humor post). I wrote this little salute to him here when he moved to full time game design.

Luckily, Blackguard is an excellent writer as well and is doing a great job at the other aspects of the Community Manager job.

But I'm glad to see Moorgard keeping up his Moorhunter tradition. I think it was a good move to separate it from the official forums. It just reads a lot easier on the new site. The site design is a nice clean look. I also like the new look of the official forums, by the way. Great decision there and good execution.

Moorgard.com now appears on my link list to the right (which also happens to be my daily reading list). Welcome to the family. Now update more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Class





Alright, today is the conclusion of my discussion of Scott's Producer's Letter. I am going to focus on the proposed changes to the Archetype system.

The original Archetype system was a good idea in concept. A player comes to an island as a mage. As she learns about her power, she decides she is more in tune with the elements and likes dealing damage so she naturally follows the path of the sorcerer. Upon learning the arts of the sorcerer, she finds she enjoys blasting many enemies at once, leading her to grow into a warlock.

Again, a great idea, in concept. And I certainly don't blame the people who came up with it. I likely would have suggested something similar.

But in a practical sense, it just doesn't work. When I was leveling up my Mage I had not the slightest clue of what playing a Necromancer would be like. On my fighter alt, I don't have the foggiest idea of how it feels to play a Paladin or a Bruiser. And doing that quick quest in which you "feel out" each class certainly didn't shed any real light on it.

You don't know what it's like to be an Illusionist until you're actually out there mezzing a bunch of mobs. And some five minute quest is not going to change that.

What's more, when I rolled up an alt, I really wanted to play a Coercer. But I said to myself, "Do I really want to go through the same levels I just went through again?" No way. I ended up going with a Scout just because I wanted variety.

Most players know what they want their final class to be when they start their character. I'd say it is the vast majority. And you want to play that character, not a generic fighter or mage. It's so much more fun. I know there must be a few who don't know what final class they want to play and I'm not saying that's a bad thing. But even for them the new system works because they can get a much clearer feel of how each class plays under the new system. If you're going to get bored with mezzing, better find out at level 5 then level 25.

I fully support the new system because I feel it will not only greatly improve the replayability of EQII but be a better introduction for new players.

But even better, there's a bonus. It sounds like the changes will also include a ton of new content with different islands for good and evil along with "all new population, rewards, quests, and goals." Scott also mentions a "lot more involvement with your racial background through quests and lore," something I feel is extremely lacking in the current game. There is absolutely nothing in the game to make me feel like a High Elf or a Troll other than the visual look and a few NPC's in the starter towns. Anything rectifying this would be fantastic. A quick comment: Don't stop there. Why not add racially specific quests at the higher levels?

I can't wait to roll an alt under this new system. Heck, I'll roll a bunch and actually get a feel for every class without having to go through hundreds of levels.

The betrayal quest will remain in existence as outlined here.

As you can tell from yesterday's post and today's, I'm quite excited about what we have to look forward to in EQII (but don't worry, I haven't lost my critical edge - I have a few negative posts waiting in the wings).

One final note. For both the PvP and the new Class system, I strongly urge that SOE not roll these out at the same time as the expansion. For one, I hated the way the combat changes and DoF were lumped together. Also, I feel these new changes will give players a lot of new stuff to do which is perfect for the lulls between expansions. At the risk of repeating myself, I would also prefer to wait for the PvP until it is very well balanced, rather than have it sooner.

But on the other hand, I can't wait to see this stuff. And I haven't felt that way about EQII in a while.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Player vs. Player





I've been somewhat critical of SOE in recent weeks, but I'm happy to heap the praise on when I see something I like. Believe me, I want this game to be great, because I play it so much. Scott Hartsman's Producer's Letter is packed with exciting information and I'm pretty much in favor of every point he makes. Scary. I'll tackle the PvP aspect of the letter today and the rest tomorrow.

Let me get this out of the way first: There are going to be some players that have zero interest in PvP and I completely understand that. But some of those players are going to be critical of PvP in EQII no matter how it is implemented. The common argument is, "Fix my level 30 fluff spell before you waste time on PvP! P.S. I hate you SOE or should I say Blizzard rofl!"

You have to understand that an EQII type MMO is going to have gameplay elements that are not going to be of interest to you. Some people might not like raids, some might not like grouping, some might not like soloing, some might not like collection quests, and so on. Look, I think tradeskilling is less fun then my actual job and believe me that is not loads of fun. But I don't get mad every time there is a tradeskill update. I realize that some people enjoy tradeskilling and I'm happy to see SOE work on it. Please try to have the same understanding for those who enjoy PvP. Yes, I know there are things that need fixing, and I'll point that out every time I see it. But you can't stop creating new content and options.

Then you have those who think their class is going to get nerfed somehow due to PvP balancing. I don't know how Scott can be clearer but that is just not the case. "We have separate controls for what goes on in PvP. Since this is a piece that we knew we'd need no matter which direction we went, this is something we've already implemented." Read it. Believe it.
Blackguard explains, "our coders were able to build in a method for us to have completely separate PvE and PvP effects for every spell." That just makes sense and this is the absolute right way to go about things.

Okay, that out of the way, let's look at Scott's points.

1. Separate PvP ruleset servers. Bravo. Why do I say that? That's the only way you can have real open PvP. "PvP will not be restricted to specific zones. It will take place all across the world of EverQuest II. Fight in dungeons, fight out in the wilds, defend your town, or attack the opposing side." If you like PvP at all, that has to excite you. If PvP was introduced on PvE servers, it would have to be limited to specific zones or areas. Open PvP makes for wild, risky and fun gameplay.

2. "This is strict good vs. evil. You're only grouping with others of your alignment, and opposing aligned PCs highlight to you the same way that NPC encounters would." Excellent. In the current game, Qeynos vs. Freeport has literally no meaning, except for the betrayal quests and the underwhelming sabotage quests. Which is fine, my Guild is both evil and good and I would never want to see that change. In fact, the restrictions on mailing items to opposing players should be dropped on PvE servers because it's meaningless the way things currently are. You can group with someone every night but then not mail them a flask of water? Ridiculous.

But, the whole setup is perfect for PvP - two opposing cities with very different moral codes waging war. There is a real opportunity for exciting and dynamic play here. I can't wait to slaughter any evil folks I see stray into my neighborhood and I hope to see battles with real consequences for the game world. That's just the way it should be in a PvP game.

3. "EQ2 will be introducing the concept of Honorable, Neutral, and Dishonorable victories. Honorable victories are where the rewards lie." This is obviously necessary. A system of this type is crucial to deal with griefing and make PvP fair, as well as making usual gameplay enjoyable. Sure, you can still kill a low level player, but you gain nothing from it and might even be penalized.


4. A variety of rewards will be implemented. What's more, in addition to fluff and titles some will be "real, desirable equipment" and even adventure xp. I am very relieved to see this. I argued strongly that rewards of this type are crucial to making PvP work and I am glad SOE and I are on the same wavelength on this subject. While PvP with no rewards can be fun, EQII and games like it are achievement based games in which people seek to improve their characters and gear. These rewards give it so much more meaning.

"It's time to heat up the cold war." Nicely put.

In summary, this vision of PvP is exactly how I would have implemented it, so you are not going to see any complaints here. Kudos to Scott and the SOE team.
Wait a minute, this is Aggro Me. I have to find some nitpicks. Here goes:

1. While I fully agree with PvP servers, I still hope some improvement comes to the Arena on PvE servers.
A web-based or in-game ranking system would be a good start. So would "combining" the Arenas from every server, if that is technically possible.

2. This one is not a criticism at all. I just hope the population is there to support it. This is really a game for PvE players. There's nothing SOE can do about it if they implement this and no one comes. If they do it right and it's still not popular, that's not their fault. The abject desolation of the Arena scares me a little.

3. Can the EQII classes be successfully balanced for PvP? I don't see why not. But, I would highly prefer they take the time to balance as much as possible rather than push the system out sooner.


4. Will the good and evil populations be unbalanced (i.e. too many players on the good side)? I know WoW is struggling with this dilemma and I don't have any easy solution to it. SOE did come up with a solution to this for Planetside, so maybe they have something up their collective sleeves here.

5. Having a Station Exchange PvP server does not sit well with me. I don't like the Exchange, as I've said many times in the past and I think this is a bad idea. I'll have more to say on this point in the future.

6. Will non-American players be able to participate, as Anachronist asks in this thread?

I think it is good that SOE is adding the PvP option. I think it is great that they appear to be going about it in the right way. I will certainly be rolling a character on the PvP server and I truly look forward to it.

As always, I'd like to hear what you think about this upcoming addition. Arthais over at EQII Realm also commented
on this issue and gets a bit more into detail on the Good vs. Evil and Station Exchange points then I did. It's a good article and I recommend it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Humor: Bar Jokes

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I followed a link from AFK Gamer to this great thread on the WoW forums (great thread on the WoW forums...sounds crazy I know) where people were writing bar jokes based on different class specs in WoW. I've played WoW enough to get most but not all of them. And I thought most people in that thread did a great job. WoW threads tend to disappear into the ether quickly but this one was still up at the time of this writing.

But I can't let a bunch of WoW forum posters top me! I tried to do some EQII bar jokes. But, I'll be honest, it was much harder than I thought so I ended up resorting to general MMO jokes and twisting old jokes I've heard. Ah well, I'll get you next time WoW forums. Here are the admittedly not that funny results:

***

Four patrons are sitting at a bar. One says to the other three, "I don't know who you three are, but let's have a drinking contest." The other three agree to this plan.

The first patron is a Wizard and he uses his single-target abilities to finish drinks quickly, one after the other.

The second patron is a Warlock and she drinks five drinks all at the same time.

The third patron is a Conjurer and he slips half of each drink to his pet. They all stop and look at the fourth patron, who had originally suggested the contest.

"You're losing, pal," says one. "You haven't even had one drink yet!"

"Ah," says the fourth patron. "But I'm the Provisioner."

***

A woman walks up to three guys at a bar. "Tell me why I should take you home and I'll pick the one who is most convincing."

The first man leaps up and says, "I am a brave Guardian! I will protect you from any harm and I have great endurance!"

The second man scoffs. "I am a mighty Wizard," he proclaims. "I will use my arcane arts to give you pleasures beyond belief!"

Everyone looks at the third man, but he just sits there looking in his beer. The woman gets annoyed and storms off.

"Dude," says the Guardian. "Why didn't you say something?"

"I couldn't," says the third man. "I'm a Brigand."

***

Four tanks walk into a bar, a Guardian, a Berserker, a Paladin and a Monk.

"Let's see what you guys have," says the bartender. He proceeds to throw a beer at the Monk. The Monk ably dodges the beer.

Next he throws a beer at the Paladin. The Paladin allows the beer to hit her but then heals herself.

Then, the bartender flings a beer at the Berserker. The 'zerker smashes the beer in midair with his sword before it reaches him.

"Okay, time for the raid," says a patron, who has been watching these events. "Would you care to lead us?" he asks the Guardian.

"What!" says the Monk. "Haven't you been watching?"

"Um, yeah," says the patron. "But this is a raid. Let's be serious."


***

Smed and McQuaid walk into a bar. They are arguing about the best way to pick up women. They decide to see who can get a woman's phone number first. Smed sees a woman standing alone and heads over. McQuaid looks around and finds another one. Unfortunately, she falls asleep after part 7 of his 25 part discussion on instancing. He looks up to see Smed coming back, soaking wet and smelling like alcohol. “What happened?” Brad asks. “I don’t know,” says Smed, “All I did was offer her money – she never heard of Station Exchange?”

***

Three forum posters walk into a bar: One bashes his head and blames SOE, the second smacks his head and leaves to play WoW, the third dodges and says "L2PLAY NOOBS!1!!"

***

An EQII player is sitting in the bar. He’s drinking beer after beer and looks depressed. The bartender asks him, “Hey, buddy…what’s wrong?”

”Well, three months ago, my guildmate left to go play WoW and left me her gear.”

“Oh, that sucks,” said the bartender.

“Then two months ago, another guildmate left to go play WoW and left me his plat.”

“Wow, two friends gone in two months.”

“Then one month ago, my guildmate left to go play WoW and left me his items.”


“Oh man, three friends gone in three months – no wonder you’re depressed.”

“That’s not it,” the man replies sadly. “This month, no one left and I got nothing!”


***


Three bloggers walk into a bar. The first one writes a snarky commentary, the second reblogs the first blogger's post and the third is too busy deleting comment spam.

***

A guy is enjoying a beer in a tavern and listening to some delightful tunes played on the piano. He feels some hot air from behind him and sees a fiery creature hovering in the air.

"What the heck is that?" he asks the bartender.

"That’s the pianist’s pet - an Igneous Magi. The pianist is a Summoner."

Well, the patron gets up to use the restroom and when he comes back his beer is gone. He sees the Igneous Magi drinking it. Angrily, he storms over to the pianist.


"Hey, do you know your Igneous Magi drank my beer?" he asks.

"Nah," said the pianist, "but if you hum a few bars I can play it."


***

Sorry gang. A bit painful. Here's some bonus humor:

Have King Kong fever? Check out
this humorous story over on EQII Realm.

As seen on
Game Memes: There is an interview up with a former dev from Mourning, the drama-ridden MMO failure (which is supposedly soon going back into closed beta for the second time). Flashman already posted some great selections on Game Memes, but it's so spectacularly funny, to me at least, that I'm just going to post an additional quote each week until I get tired of doing so. These will be verbatim quotes from the actual interview. And so...

The Former Mourning Dev Interview Quote of the Week:

"Q: Sounds about right. What previous experience did Dave have prior to starting the RoT project?

A: In what area? Adult or entertainment industry?"

And three more YTMND links (you need the sound on for these):

World of Warcraft meets the iPod

Age of Conan meets Conan

SOE Devs Strategy Meeting

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ho Ho Ho!






No, I'm not Santa. I just want to talk about HO's, or Heroic Opportunities, for a bit. Thanks to Beylanu for giving me the inspiration for this post towards the end of this thread.

When I first started playing EQII, I really enjoyed HO's. Even when soloing, they add some much needed spice to combat. There is an element of chance and it at least makes you feel as if you are doing something strategic.

In groups, it's even better. For one, it's really fun to do something as a team. Sure, we all play our team roles in group, but we kind of do it independently. HO's are something that really requires working together. It is a great feeling when you pull off a Heroic Opp and even better if it is one of the more difficult ones.

What's more, it rewards static groups, something I really enjoy. In my old static group, someone would just say "Fate" and we would immediately pull off the Luminary Fate HO like clockwork. It made me feel like we were a great team and the game was rewarding us for that.

But, like certain other gameplay elements (hello empty Arena how are you today?) I've mentioned in the past, I feel like HO's have suffered a bit from neglect. I have two issues here.

First, I don't feel enough care has ever gone into balancing and rebalancing HO's. I also don't feel as if they scale enough with level. It would be nice to see the super-rare ones just a bit more frequently as well.

Second, and more importantly, a little innovation with the HO's would go a long way. I would love to see HO's change as you level up, not necessarily every level but maybe every ten or twenty levels. When my group is at a higher level, we should be able to pull off different and new HO's. I really think this would keep it fresh and exciting. At the very least there should be new HO's with every new expansion.

As it stands now, I do not see people getting that excited about HO's anymore, though I still use then while soloing and they are still useful in group. To summarize, it's a good mechanic which has the potential to be great with a little work.
But I think this point is open to debate so I'd love to hear what you have to say on this subject.

A quick note in response to some e-mails I received on my "storyline" post. I realize there is a ton of detailed and excellent lore surrounding Norrath. But even though I personally might like reading it, I don't think the casual player should have to read special forums, lengthy .pdf files or play EQ for years to understand the lore of EQII. It should be integrated into the game naturally. And my point was not to disrespect the lore, which I think is great. But "storyline" and "lore" are not the same thing. I was talking about adding some sort of purpose to day to day doings in EQII - a general storyline that advanced over time which players could feel they had a role in.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Slightly Off-Topic: SOE's Untold Legends II

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Okay, this is a little off-topic, but it does involve SOE. I wanted to talk a bit about their upcoming PSP game Untold Legends: The Warrior's Code. I actually liked their first Untold Legends game quite a bit. It sold very well but reviews were pretty mixed. You can read my mini-review in this old post. It may be of interest to Everquest fans that some of the people who worked on EQ are working on this game. For example, Bill Trost, who my Everquest Companion book says was a major part of the Everquest team, is the Lead Designer for Untold Legends.

The game is sounding like it's shaping up well. But I did want to poke some fun at an interview done by RPG Vault with some of the people working on the game. All the things that say Actual before them are, um, the actual quotes from the articles. The stuff in italics is just my made up nonsense.

Actual Question: "To what extent are the game and world in which it takes place structured so as to permit open-ended exploration and play?"

Correct Answer: "Well, we know gamers love open-ended games. With the success of games like Grand Theft Auto and even Everquest, it's clear that linear play style is not the way to go. Between storyline quests, players can do fun little side-quests, fight monsters, rescue citizens or just explore!"

Actual Answer: "Unlike Brotherhood of the Blade, the structure of the world in The Warrior's Code is not open-ended...The quests and objectives in each chapter have been designed to be completed in a linear fashion."

Fake Question: "Oh. Please describe the setting of the game using the most tired fantasy cliche imaginable."

Actual Answer: "The players' adventures lead them to uncover the existence of the last surviving heir of the rightful dynasty, an 18 year-old boy who has been safeguarded by an ancient order of monks since the dawn of the invasion. This revelation gives the players hope that they may save their people and the kingdom from the tyranny of the false Emperor."

Fake Question: "That will do nicely. People like challenges. Will combat be challenging?"

Actual Answer: "I think our focus on fun over challenge suits our portable platform well. People play handheld games out in the world, with tons of external distractions as a fun time killer. The last thing we want to do is frustrate them."

Fake Question: "Could you tell me something the character selection and also misuse a word?"

Actual Answer: "Player characters are chosen at the start of any new game. The menu offers a brief descriptive write-up regarding the character's combative styles, weaponry and personality flares."

Fake Question: "Thank you! That use of the word 'flare' will do nicely. Have you done anything to appeal to the furry market with this game?"

Actual Answer: "In addition to the weapon-specific player classes, we have also added a new feature, the alternate beast form...Every class has its own unique beast form that has been designed from both the art and design standpoint to maintain the same unique and distinct flare between each of the player characters."

Fake Question: "Wow, you like the word flare - have you been watching Office Space? Could you tell us how you've preserved the unique look of the first Untold Legends to give a sense of continuity?"

Actual Answer: "Every zone in The Warrior's Code is distinct and unique to the sequel, meaning that there will be no crossover zones or looks between the two Untold Legends games. The reason for this was to support the intricate story arch that we've developed for this installment of the Untold Legends franchise."

Fake Question: "Most people would say story arc but arch is acceptable so I'm going to let you slide."

Alright, I was just having some fun. The game honestly sounds great and I'm definitely going to be picking it up when it comes out. If you have a PSP be sure to read more about this one and see if it is your thing.

On a quick EQII note, LU 18 will apparently fix my biggest broker complaint, food and drink filtering. Very nice.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What's the Story?






This isn't really a criticism of EQII per se, just more of a comment on the ideal game I would like play.

I realize an MMO is not a single player RPG. It's different in many aspects. And you can't have a Final Fantasy type story where you work towards defeating one villainous enemy and then the credits roll. But I feel that MMO's should definitely still have a story line. And it should be a story that advances somehow as the game goes on.

Now, I know there are some players who are steeped in EQ lore (and I'm sure the devs are too). So they might like the obscure and cryptic hints to some overarching story in EQII. But what about the rest of us? Most players I've informally interviewed (and myself) think the story is something like this:

1. Qeynos and Freeport are "kind of" at war.
2. There are factions in the DoF struggling for control of the city.
3. There's something going on with Drakotas/Dragons.
4. The world was shattered and there is some rebuilding going on.

That is by no means a valid or compelling story. Well, it could be if it was more clearly defined and if it actually advanced. I read a lot more of the NPC dialogue then I used to, so it's not like I'm completely oblivious.

How has the story advanced since launch? Well, new lands have been discovered and some griffon towers have been built. That speaks to number 4 on my story list. Also, if you do the prismatic and certain other quests, you get some filler on issue 3.

So what would I like? I want a more clearly defined story arc that advances somehow with each Live Update or two. How could it be more clearly defined? Every single quest you do should refer somehow to the "main story." Even if some are side-stories, they should all tie back in to the main event somehow. Drive that story into your players as much as you can and dialogue with NPC's is the only way to do really do it. You can't rely on players to read every book from every book quest or pick up on obscure hints. Another option is to add in
some of ideas I had for "pushing" lore a very long time ago.

I've complained about EQII being made too easy but this is one area where I feel it's way too difficult for new or casual players: understanding of the lore and story of the game. The genre is fantasy, not mystery.

Then, that story line should be consistently advanced with events like the Griffon Towers event. For example, sure the Plague event was cool, or at least interesting. But can any normal player tie that event into the main story of EQII, if it even had anything to do with it?

I am singling out EQII here, but this is a problem endemic to many MMO's. I really feel that a compelling and dynamic storyline could have a huge impact on player retention and subscription.

I started a thread on this topic a few days ago so feel free to
check that out. Or please comment here if you have any ideas on this issue.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Testing Test Update 18





First, you can check out the notes here if you haven't seen them already.

Let's get the big one out of the way first. The visual marking of quest NPC's is something I'm not crazy about. They are even letting you see quest rewards before you take a quest which is another thing I never liked in WoW but I realize I'm probably in the minority about.


The argument for: This cuts down on the mindless clicking of NPC's in search of quests. It will let me get to the fun part faster. As for rewards, I can easily look it up on a spoiler site so why not make it easier.

The argument against: It's another example of making the game less of a challenging "game for grown-ups" and cuts down on the immersion factor. But I've said enough about that whole ease of play vs. challenge/immersion already in my lengthy discussion of the last Update.

Speaking of my discussion of the last Update, while I got a lot of comments about the whole spirit shard thing (thanks for that - as I've said there were some great arguments both ways), no one really commented on my dislike of NPC Purpose Tags. Any comments on that? This is really along the same lines.

Back to the quest NPC markers: It seems they have at least put a good amount of thought into this. It's a bit more complex than just !'s over NPC's heads. So that's a good thing. If you're going to do something I don't like I still want you to do it right. You can also turn it off but it would take a lot a willpower to intentionally strip yourself of a convenience other people have.

Onwards. There's finally some Guild Level 40 rewards:

New horses have been trained for Level 40 guilds--Mistrunners and Nightmares!

Long overdue, I'd say, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth. I'm curious to see what these look like.

'Tis the season for Frostfell time!

The Frostfell holiday stuff will be great I'm sure, if the Halloween event was any indication. Let's just hope it is a little less buggy. Still, that was an awesome event and I have really high hopes for this one.

Subclass armor has a new look and class-tailored stats!

That's good. Not only is it some much needed visual differentiation (something I've long harped on) but the stats to match which will hopefully help set classes apart a bit more.

Summoned pets get more distinct looks!

I'm sure the summoner classes will be happy about this one and I'm looking forward to seeing what the new pets look like. If you recall my
interview with Xalmat on Summoner classes, he said that certain pets were long overdue for a graphical change. So, I hope this addresses that.

Get ready to explore the new Fallen Gate!

It seems like a lot of the dungeons have been getting an overhaul. And if this helps get players to use a zone that was previously underutilized it's a good thing. I just hope the loot is within reason.

Player characters can now choose from four new Enemy Mastery options at level 52: Cyclops, Djinn, Harpy, or Naga.

I enjoy anything that differentiates me from the other wizards out there. And this is one of those things. It let's you customize your character and even roleplay it a little. Is your character the type who has always hated harpies? Now you can act that out through gameplay.

Accounts with Desert of Flames activated now receive 90 days of bonus Veteran Reward time as our way of saying "thank you" to our players.

What exactly does that mean? I'm pretty sure it's this: You will have 90 days added to your EQII playtime for the purposes of vet rewards. For example, if you've only played for 9 months but you own the expansion you would eligibile for a one year reward (or pretty close). I'd rather see more frequent veteran rewards (i.e. a little something every two months after a year) then something that rewards a purchase but, eh, I can't say it's a horrible thing.

Poisons (as well as other applied effects that have a chance to proc on a successful attack) now only trigger upon successful attacks made with the weapon in the primary hand.

Is this going to be an issue for scouts? I really don't know. It should save some money at the loss of some DPS, right? It's hard for me, as a wizard to be objective about scouts (our DPS competitors) so I'm not going to try.

Players will be able to advance through Nektropos Castle after completing the Everling Lockets quest and killing Lord Everling without having to complete the event again. Those who have previously completed it before this change will have to complete it one last time.

Wow, this is a much needed change. Would I have liked to have seen this change when it still would have benefited me? Sure. But I don't want to see new players go through the Nek tedium I went through and I'm very happy this change finally went through.

NPC movement speeds have been increased proportionate to Live Update #17's player run speed increase.

I'm not crazy about the whole run speed increase but I suppose it's only fair that mobs get the same benefit. I just don't like the way it looks when everything is moving super-fast but maybe that's just a personal thing.

Like I said, some positive stuff there, though the quest NPC markers are open to debate. What are your opinions?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friday Humor: Google Fighting

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Yes, Google Fight has been around for a while. But I decided to see if I could have some fun with it. Google Fight does a little fight animation and declares a winner based on the Google results for two different search words (or two different sets of words). So here are some Google Fights I came up with:

Station Exchange vs. IGE (No contest - IGE is still supreme.)

The Smedster takes down McQuaid. (What does this mean for Vanguard?)

EQ macros defeats EQ strategies. (AFK while tradeskilling?)

I defeat SOE. (Of course.)

Fippy Darkpaw reigns supreme over Queen Antonia! (Fippy for President!)

World of Warcraft obliterates Everquest. (How the times have changed.)

Wizards blast Warlocks (Obviously overpowered!)

Wardens take down Templars (Nerf! Nerf!)

Everquest is apparently better than "having a life!" (Hooray!)

And World of Warcraft is preferable to "going outside." (No argument here.)

Are the stereotypes true? Gaming defeats bathing! (Yikes!)

But dating is still better than gaming. (There is hope!)

Here's some bonus humor:

Still like the old All Your Base fad? Hmm, probably not. But someone took the time to make a long EQ2 related AYB video so
check it out here.

Speaking of fads, here are some YTMND's I've enjoyed lately (you really need the sound for these so maybe not best for work):

A parody of the new SWG character select screen.

Another SWG parody featuring Smed (the music makes it work for me).

Dancing WoW Murloc pet from Blizzcon.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Too Many Heroes?

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With the recent announcement that Sigil is making an MMO based on the Marvel comics franchise (something that was long rumored) that makes for three major MMO's, current or planned, based on the superhero genre. Holy market share mayhem, Batman!

The three contenders:

NCSoft with CoH/CoV: This is the one that's out already and the one without an official license. I loved CoH and I still think it's the best looking MMO I've ever played. The combat just feels
fun and the travel powers are superb. I have to admit I did get burned out after a while and the game lacked the complexity of an EQII. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, just different and perhaps more suited to the subject matter. From what I have read they have done a good job of continuing to add content. CoV, the expansion, has added new features and has received nice reviews but I have not played it yet.

Sigil with Marvel : I find it a bit troubling that Sigil is taking on another major project before Vanguard is released. For one, they have not proven themselves yet. But more importantly, I would like to see them really focus on Vanguard even after it is released. MMO's are not games that you just launch and then move on to the next one. The content and tuning should continue with the same intensity as the initial creation. I also didn't think they had a large staff at Sigil but I could be mistaken and I'm sure they are growing. I don't see how the McQuaid vision of hardcore, strategic gameplay could apply to a superhero MMO but I have to say I am intrigued to find out how it does. Since the game will apparently be playable on the 360, I would guess it will have to be accessible to the console crowd.

SOE with DC: SOE has the rights to make a DC Comics MMO. In fact, that's why they bought Matrix Online - those rights
were part of the deal. From the direction they have gone with SWG, I am guessing this will be something of a twitch-based game, probably with collision detection. I would also guess that it will be playable on the PS3. I have no idea if any of those guesses are accurate - they could go in a totally different direction. Not that there's anything wrong with any of those ideas. It could be fun and they do have a lot of experience running MMO's. Knowing SOE, there may be in-game advertising (since the setting allows it) and perhaps some kind of Station Exchange feature. But again, I don't know for sure.

Can the market support three super hero MMO's? Will one or more of these games fail? CoH/CoV will have been out for a while before these games come out (4th Quarter 2007 for SOE, unclear for Sigil) so it is possible gamers might leave it for the new shiny. But in the end, I'm sure it's gameplay that will decide the victor in this war of the comic book worlds.

I always identified more with Marvel characters, but DC does have some truly big hitters. I don't think the licensing of DC or Marvel gives that much of an advantage. It gives you some recognizable locales and villains to fight, I suppose. We may just see the famous heroes as NPC's that give you your "quests" or missions. To me, that wouldn't be exciting at all.

What would be cool is if you could "hire" a hero to fill out a group, similar to what Guild Wars allows. Need a tank? Grab the Hulk. Perhaps they could scale according to the level of the mission, i.e. take Daredevil with you to fight street crime and the Silver Surfer when you are taking on intergalactic foes. It would be cool to fight alongside your favorite comic book heroes.

Bonus points to the game that somehow makes fun use out of secret identities.

To add to the entertainment value, Marvel
previously sued NCsoft (in what I thought was a rather foolish lawsuit). Is it possible that NCSoft will now sue Marvel if their game is a CoH clone? I have no idea, but the whole thing will be fun to watch.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Newsflash: SOE Doesn't Want Your Money

Whaaa? SOE not want money? Bzzz, beep - does not compute. Does not compute! System overload!

But, according to a post on the Planetside forums, that's allegedly the way it was for those lucky enough to be playing Planetside in year one with a Game Card. AmbientXYZ (who has well over 2,000 posts on the PS forums) posted that when the prepaid Game Cards for Planetside expired during the first year of the game, the accounts were never actually closed, allowing players to play for free. SOE apparently never responded publicly to this exploit. Here's the
link to the post. In case it gets deleted, I'll quote it as well (formatting and fonts different from the original post because I just copy/pasted):

"...but when your biggest supporter and Proxy Chief Marketing Officer Marcopolo comes back and burns SOE...
Maybe its time to reveal one of your biggest mistakes in the history of this game? The one that nobody seemed to take notice of, mainly because nobody from Sony would reveal it. For the first 12 months of the game, people were playing for -free-.


You botched the subscription system.

Game Cards didn't expire. You let an incalculable (except to you) amount of people play the game for free, for a year PLUS, and you did NOTHING about it. You wanna know where the funding for this game has gone? You wanna know why we need advertisements? You want to know why SOE wont give ANY support to Planetside? You REALLY want to know why developers / support staff are leaving left and right?

Because you let people play for free for over a year, this game is deeply, DEEPLY, in the red.

Yes, thats right. The cards never ran out. I know, because I had one. I know, because for the first year + of the game, I had the option to play for the low cost of my initial $30... along with countless other people. Yeah, I reported it... no response... And guess what? With that never-ending card, I LEFT the game back then. Heh, and no, I wish I could have been altruistic and subscribed with a credit card... but since the billing cycle of the gamecard never ran out, I COULDNT.

I could play the game, but I didn't want to... I think I go into FFXI or something at the time. You were losing money even THEN. In addition to people leaving, you were letting people play without paying their dues.

Testimonials (simple forum search (anytime) for "free + gamecard"):


"I talked to some guy that had free PS for nearly a year after his gamecard ran out"

CTMOJO wrote:

Snarf11 wrote: I would have to say the old gamecard glitch even though I never got to benefit from it.

The glitch that let you continuosly play for free with one gamecard purchase. Ahem er I didn't benefit either.

I did. Got something like 5 months free.

Wow. Wasn't that a blow to our funds? Wouldn't it be logical that we now have advertisements mainly to get Planetside OUT of the negative?
The Planetside budget is slashed folks. We are paying for their mistake, with a considerably smaller team, and consequently, slower development.

Please, tell me I'm wrong about Planetside being in the hole because of this. But hey, I think the people who paid for their game that first year deserve to know they paid for the other guy to play... and not for development. I know some people are still out there who know about this. Even if you did freeload, please step up. It wasn't your mistake, it was Sony's... and now we are paying for the subscriptions of people who no-longer play... but played for free.
So sorry. I'm sure this will be deleted.

Ohh, and, yeah I brought this up before:
GamerGuru wrote:
AmbientXYZ wrote:
GamerGuru wrote:

Face it... we pay this game for the thrill of combat. nobody comes on these forums and brags about hacking ten bases in one day. Not a soul. Even global domination is fleeting and by the next day, its almost totally forgotten.
Can I tell you a secret? I got the first year of my sub for free because my gamecard never ran out

They fixed that and I was sad
omg fo realz?
Yeah, makes you wonder how much money they lost on that."


Now, I hate to post an unsubstantiated forum post as if it's truth so it's disclaimer time: I have no idea if the allegations this poster is making are true. And even if they are, I doubt it was quite as widespread or damaging as claimed. But, I was able to track down some nebulous back-up from other forums (which I will not be linking but you can search around for yourself) as well as some anonymous confirmation (thanks for that). So make of it what you will. If true, that's absurdly bad on SOE's part and quite embarrassing for them.

Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that Queen Anna appeared on G4TV's Attack of the Show today and no one told me about it! They usually promote that on the EQII page well in advance so I'm assuming it was a last minute type of thing. By some Norrathian magic, I happened to tune in just as they were starting the segment. Very nice, a repeat performance by Anna. If you recall, last time she was
part of the Broadband Battle. But this time, she was an actual guest with an interview and everything.

Of course, they had to make the segment "funny" by having a fake "Everquest Fan" in a wizard's robe sit there and do nerdy stuff throughout. Haha, EQ players are nerds. How original. Anna talked a bit about playing EQII (she liked the fact that she could talk to people from all over the country),
Stuff Magazine and the Digital Life convention. Although she plays with a personal (non-Antonia) character she mentioned that they're trying to "figure out" if she could play as Antonia because that would be "really cool." I have to agree - that would be really cool. It would be fun and nice for people to actually see Antonia and I hope they do it. I believe they rerun Attack of the Show in the afternoon the day after so check your local listings.

Bonus Anna picture from the show:

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