<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d11216437\x26blogName\x3dAggro+Me\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLUE\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://aggrome.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://aggrome.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d2813804064508799754', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Server Mergers





Just last week, I drafted a post about the possibility of server mergers. I put off posting it until there was a slow news week. Now it seems I was beat to the punch by reality. You can read Scott's letter about it here. I advise you to read it carefully and also read all of his posts in that thread.

Just for fun, I'll include that now outdated draft post anyway (feel free to skip it) just to show you how off base I was, but the press release I refer to therein is the EQ one:

Haha, did I scare you? Don’t worry, I don’t think any servers are merging anytime soon. I was just curious what you all thought about the whole concept.

It may seem kind of strange to think about server mergers now with all the exciting things happening in EQII: Live Update 19, new 1-20 progression, PvP, and KoS. Also, I get the feeling that the population numbers are better than ever right now, though it’s hard for me to get a good grip on it, even though we’re trying.

I currently play on one of the lowest population servers and it has never bothered me. But I do hear tales that it can be pretty tough to find groups, specifically on the lower to middle levels. I also hear that the economy is a bit screwy for those levels and it is hard to get spells and gear.

But, you never know, it did happen in EQ. Was it a bad thing?

I dug up
this press release for the specifics and I found it pretty interesting.

Positive

Complimentary Character Move
Shortly after each merger is complete, we will allow all customers affected by a merge a one-time, complimentary character move to the server of their choice. For each customer with an account on a newly-merged server who request such a move, all characters associated with that customer’s account will be transferred to the selected server. All characters will bring their items with them in the transfer.


A complimentary character move is a must for customer goodwill. Since you're stuck with a merged server you should have the opportunity to switch to another one you might like. Also, imagine you did something intensely embarassing on Server A, moved to Server B and the Server A merged with Server B. That would be very funny but you should have a free move in this situation.

Negative

Duplicate Character Names
It is possible that characters on servers affected by the merge will have duplicate names. In the event that characters on the new, combined server do share a name, the character with the most played time will be entitled to keep the name. All other characters will have the letter X appended to their name and will be eligible for a name change. Characters can use the in-game /changename command to request a new name. The new name is subject to the conditions set forth in our naming policy which can be found here:
Naming Policy.

The name thing is a huge negative for me. It will kill me to have an x appended to my name or have to change it. I'm sure a lot of other people would feel the same way. But I can't think of any way around it. Also, the merged servers only retained the name of one of the original servers which is kind of a downer.

Shared Banks on Merging Servers
If you have characters on two servers which are being merged together, you will need to clean out the shared bank on one of those servers. After the merge, only one shared bank will be available on each merged server.


I would hate to have to clear out a shared bank. But again, I don't see any way around it.

Unutilized Character Purge
Immediately preceding the merger, all characters below level 10 that have not been logged in for over six months will be deleted from each of the merging servers and will not be available after the server merge. If you have a character on any of the servers being merged that is below level 10 and has not been logged in for more than six months, you will need to log that character in prior to the scheduled merge date for the relevant server.


Bad idea. I understand the rationale but it's just adding insult to injury. And since it doesn't seem absolutely necessary, I would avoid doing it.

Character Limitations
If you have more than eight characters in total on two servers being merged together, only the first eight characters (in alphabetical order) will be displayed after the merge. Characters other than the eight displayed characters will not be available for selection until currently displayed characters are deleted. All characters from both servers will remain on your account provided that the character was not below level 10 and had not been logged in within the last six months.

I think that since they were inconveniencing people they should have worked out a more technically clever way to deal with this.

I'm guessing there won't be any server mergers in EQII for quite some time. But I just felt like pondering the possibility just in case.

What’s your take?


Okay, back to reality. And yes, my server is one of those being merged into another server. So I am directly affected by this change.

Positives

Economy: I think it is clear that the economy will be healthier with more players. Anyone who has tried to look for low to mid level spells or gear on a smaller population server will attest to the fact that it can be difficult and prices vary widely.

LFG: It can be hard to find pick-up groups on smaller population servers. Especially at level ranges which are not currently "popular" ones. I've certainly seen and heard many people complain about this.

Community: More people may lead to a more vibrant and active community. The new servers will likely feel more like real, populated worlds.

Hardware: I'm putting this on the positive side because of the mention in Scott's letter of increased hardware support. I'm not really buying it, if only for the reason that I don't see how it can get much better. I occasionally get lag in QH but that's about it. If you want to see lag, play SWG (I just started doing so, more on that another time). I can only see lag getting worse, not better. I'm hoping it doesn't. But if there were problems on higher population servers and this alleviates them, then I suppose it is a positive.

Negatives

Names: Names are very important to players. I recently had a friend say to me, "I've had this name in every MMO I've ever played." Names are our identity. To have those names changed forcibly is a very painful proposition.

Scott's letter says, "For those characters who do not choose to move early via the Character Transfer Service and are moved automatically on their moving day, some may be automatically renamed (with one or more 'x's appended to their name) in the case that their name is already taken by an older character."

I would take this to mean that "older" means being created first, though I suppose it could also refer to level. I would like some more clarification on this touchy subject.


Whoops, I missed this post by Scott a bit later in the thread.

"At the moment, the person coming over will be the one renamed if the person blocking it doesn't end up cleaned up in the pass of removing placeholders."

I find that absolutely unacceptable. Either of the two metrics I mentioned above (level or playtime) would be better choices. Or more active for that matter. Scott does say they are "looking into more desirable alternatives to this that favor the more recently active, more established characters." Look into them and implement them. Take more time if you have to. But get it right. At the risk of sounding repetitive, this is very important to the players.

Guilds: I think the guild name issue is a little less troublesome, if only because name repetition will occur less. And I think a good guild will retain its identity regardless of name. But the jarring population change may indeed cause some other issues for guilds in terms of recruitment and retention. As the recently anointed co-leader of a large guild I frankly don't need this headache right now.

Server Community: I do think some servers have established themselves as a community which may be affected by the merge. I also include here the fact that I recognize most people I see on my server. It's a nice feeling.


With regards to the name, how is it fair that one server gets to keep its name while the other doesn't? Shouldn't we have a third, completely new name for the new server? I suppose the counter-argument is that at least some people will get to retain their server name in this way. But seeing people of the new server come on to your server boards smugly saying, "Welcome to X Server" is annoying. Come up with some new server names.

Availability of Contested Mobs: No way around it. There's going to be more competition.

Summary

I guess in my perfect world players would be able to choose between living in a big city or a small town, knowing the benefits and drawbacks of both. But sometimes change is tough. I know it is for me. And it's possible that I need it thrust upon me and I may have more fun in the end. But several aspects of the transition will indeed be painful.

Two points which may seem minor but I would like to address because I think they are important.

1. There is going to be a lot of laughter in the general gaming community about this. People are going to use this as an example to point to the "failure" of EQII. I'm not really concerned about that. But I would say, why not just come out and post the numbers? If there is population growth, chart it! Tell us in detail. People who play MMO's use the internet a lot and people who use the internet a lot like to be informed consumers. They respect transparency in business practices. Show us the numbers.

2. Station Exchange Matters: Two points here. One, I wrote a post some time ago stating that the general gaming media was calling SE a "success" way too early. The fact that the SE servers are being merged is just another sign that I was right and they were wrong. Just saying.

Two, Smed promised in
his SE Letter:

"Players who want to play on those servers will have the opportunity to transfer over to the "Exchange enabled" servers for free on a one-time-only basis (but you can't ever move that character off these servers)."

So I don't want to see characters transferring on or off of the SE servers during the free transfer period. It's not fair and it's not right. I don't want to play on a server with someone who bought their gear on the Exchange. That would be a major betrayal of trust by SOE in my opinion.

In conclusion, it seems like SOE has made a lot of moves over the past year or so that some might consider bold and others might consider foolish. I try to take each one on an individual basis. This was a quickly written post and I may need some more time to consider every aspect of this decision. But for now, I'm going to have to give a slight nod of approval to this one. I believe the benefits of a healthy population in the long term outweigh the admittedly unpleasant negative aspects. But it does hurt, at least for the moment. And that nod of approval is if, and only if, the name change policy is handled in a more logical fashion.

One final note. This is a difficult thing for players to stomach even if they think it may be for the best interests of the game. So do not screw up the execution of this. Seriously, don't.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Class Is In Session






From the "Gee, I Wish They Had Classes Like That When I was in College Department":

Yes, as seen in
this thread on the official forums, a group of students are studying "The Ethnography of On-line Role Playing Games" by playing EQII. You heard me right, they are playing Everquest II for college credit.

Now, that sounds like fun and everything, but it actually looks like a pretty work-intensive class. You can check out the
course description here, the reading material here, and the assignments list here. Now come on, you're only allowed to miss three classes? How the heck are these students supposed to raid for phat lewt with that kind of distraction?

This is the same class (though not the same students) which wrote
research papers on WoW last semester. And they're going to be doing the same thing for EQII. How awesome is that? Okay, kids, you're going to be getting Aggro Me grades as well as your classroom grades so do a good job.

What's even cooler is that all the students are keeping blogs. You can
check them out here. You have the option to read them all simultaneously as one giant blog but I found it a lot more fun to read each one individually.

Their first blog entry assignment was apparently to comment on the "newbie experience" in EQII. It's a pretty nice reference for SOE to take a look at and see what new players think of starting out in the game. Unfortunately, their comments come a little too late as the newbie revamp is pretty much completed.

They go on to do some "roleplaying" on their blogs and it isn't bad at all. This was my favorite:

"I was thrilled when I proved to the Ambassador that I was more then capable of handling myself and I was quickly allowed to head to Qeynos where I was given a room at the local inn. Talk about insulting. A mage of my caliber and birth deserves better then a dank room with a lone table and picture."

Not bad. A lot of the blog entries have a fresh take I find enjoyable, though I'm sure they will devolve into complaints over failed loot rolls and guild drama soon enough.

Well, here's my advice to these aspiring EQII experts:

1. Read Aggro Me daily.
2. Learn 2 Play, Newbs!
3. Repeat as needed.

In all seriousness, I think this is a great and viable idea for a college course.

Luckily, these students are being hosted by
the Vindicators, the guild run by Scott Adams. From what I know of the Vindicators, they are a very helpful bunch who will provide an excellent playing environment for these students to learn and have fun in.

While I do think certain people tend to "over-intellectualize" MMO's and drift more into social experimentation as opposed to fun gameplay, I certainly feel they are a compelling area for academic study. I've read a few of the texts on that reading list myself.

Now where's my Honorary Doctorate Degree in Aggro Studies?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday Humor: Best Of - User Created





The humor posts are my favorite ones to write but they are also the hardest to come up with. So, as I near the one year anniversary of Friday Humor, I'm going to be doing some "Best Of" posts to look back at some of my favorites and give me a chance to come up with good new stuff. It might also be an opportunity for new readers to check out some of the older material.

The first "Best Of" I'd like to do is a collection of the "User Created" humor posts. These are posts that relied on user contributions.

Limericks

This was my very first user contribution post and one of my favorites. I paired some of my limericks such as:

Bill was a thief who did steal
The Overlord's own royal meal;
Lucan did appear
Bill quivered in fear
"/pizza for today's tasty deal!"

With user contributions such as this one by Flashman:

There once was a froglok named Jim;
To play one we had to find him.
We searched for months,
Checking every hunch,
Now Sony tells us he's not in!

Or this one from Dave on Mistmoore:

There once was a tall skinny elf
Who took his new wand from the shelf.
He didn't intend
To grab the wrong end
And ended up mezzing himself.

Haikus

Sure Haikus can be beautiful and poetic, but they can also be funny. I started with some of my own:

Gentle deer, munching
on sweet Antonican grass;
quest says to stab you.


Or:

Sweet sunshine cat
I feed you tasty pepper,
Patches we still miss you.

And added some reader contributions like this one by Scotticus:

Phat Plat spent on new digs.
Nice neighborhood with low crime.
Damn non binding rule.

And even one submission by Moorgard:

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


Raids & Raid Guilds by Narcissisa

This guest article wasn't actually a Friday Humor piece as it was mainly a look at the perceptions and reality of raid guilds. However, it included a top ten list that was so hilarious I had to include it here. Here's one:

"8. If you die in an instance, it means you’re incompetent. Reviving outside of the zone will announce to your guild how you feel without even having to say it. Quick communication in these things is always key."

Roses are Red...

This one was started off by Karnatos on the forums by posting this little ditty:

That mob cons Red
This one cons Blue
To get next Ding faster
Which mob should I do?

We started posting more such as this one by Warm_Machine:

I sit here in this dungeon,
slowly growing older.
It wouldn't be so bad,
if I knew which one was the place holder.


And I collected them all into a post with some of my own:

This group's going places!
All storms can we weather,
But, um, just in case
Better hand out the feathers.


EQII Definitions Returns

This was a sequel to my
EQII Definitions post which featured definitions such as "Malt: The discovery that you like your alt better than your main character." In the second post I collected some user submissions as well like this one by Twodragons:

Questshun: The act of finding a clickable item which opens a new quest, but declining it due to a full quest log. Then wondering if it was something you needed.

Or this one by Constance:

Barbie: Someone who carries around two bags full of outfits so they can change clothes at will. i.e. "She's such a barbie...her outfit always matches the decor of the zone."

Along with more of my own like:

Cronkite: A player who reports in group chat on every spell he or she casts, their damage numbers, and their mitigation and avoidance. Also breaks in with a special news bulletin every time their weapon procs.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Thanks to all the original contributors. I hope to do some more user contribution features soon.

If you're looking for fresh humor, check out this
list of applying MMO dynamics to real life (via Walkerings) or Coyote's latest on EQ2 Realm.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Carpentry





I promised in this post to take a look at the issues facing carpenters. These are just my personal comments...I don't pretend to speak for the carpenter tradeskill class, of which I am not even a member.

My general idea going into this was simple: I have to think of some way that carpenters can create items that actually help in gameplay (besides boxes). You see, every other tradeskill class can make items that help in combat. Also, none of the items made by carpenters are consumable or attunable, unlike those made by the other tradeskill classes.

But I discovered something that truly took me by surprise when I did my research. The majority of carpenters don't want what I thought they would. They are happy with their role in the tradeskill pantheon and want to stick to making household furnishings. They just want to be treated fairly.

I also realized that certain members of the carpenter forums had done a better job of making their case then I could ever do. So instead of giving my uniformed opinion, I direct you to
this fantastic post by Didi which does a great job of discussing both general and specific issues. I found it truly to be a truly excellent guide.

Also,
TiberiousTrouble does a nice job in this post of compiling suggestions, with pictures of items that carpenters could create.

I'll just add my input. In one of my
earliest posts back in March of last year, I referenced an interview in which Moorgard stated, "We are currently planning a system wherein a comfortably furnished house will provide tangible benefits, such as enhanced regeneration of Vitality. " What happened there? Not that I think this is feasible anymore as Vitality seems rather hard to burn through currently.

But okay, let's put that aside and say that most carpenters are happy just making items most would consider "fluff." I personally consider them fun roleplay items. SOE should be grateful for that and make sure not to completely stiff them by not giving them Tier 6 advanced recipes, which is what they did. These people are doing their best in a difficult field and they should be at least given the same consideration as the other classes. Why they did not get T6 advanced recipes is a complete mystery to me.

I also think they should be given more recipes for some really attractive and amazing household items. A lot of the coolest items are from the holiday events and status merchants and that's just unfair to compete with.

In doing my reading on the carpenter forum, I was really impressed with the way most of the community there conducts itself. I really hope they get the modest improvements they desire. And hey, if you have some extra money, why not buy some household items? You can check out some of the absolutely amazing and imaginative ways people have designed their homes in the
Norrathian Homeshow Forum.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

SOE Takes Seattle





Ah, Seattle. Land of the Space Needle, birthplace of overpriced coffee, hometown of the Super Bowl XL bound Seahawks and also...an SOE outpost?

Yes, take a gander if you will at
this interview with Matt Wilson, head of SOE Seattle.

Both
Abalieno and Cosmik seem to think that SOE Seattle is working on the "free"/new business model MMO that Smed mentioned at the Austin Games Conference in October. You can read my write-up on that here. I agree with their interpretation. The DC Comics MMO SOE is working on is not due out until fourth quarter 2007, so that doesn't fit the timeline of the "mystery game." But Matt's mention of a "different business model" and "an action adventure game that will shake up folks preconceptions about what MMOs can be" would seem to fit the profile.

I originally intended to make fun of this interview the way I did with
the Untold Legends one, but I ended up liking what Matt had to say so I decided not to.

While I like some of his ideas, I'm not blown away by the resume of games he has worked on: Fighter Ace, Ultracorps, Allegiance, Asheron’s Call, and Dungeon Siege. Well, Allegiance was pretty sweet actually. I know some people liked Dungeon Siege, but I personally found it pretty dull.


He also worked on the cancelled MMO Mythica. I dragged up some old previews of Mythica you can check out here and here. It was basically a fantasy MMO but in a Norse setting with a few ideas that sounded somewhat original. You actually would have started the game as a Norse hero who died in battle and was called to Asgard by Odin to wage war on the Fire Giants in the final battle, Ragnorak.

You can read an interview as to why it was cancelled
here. The Microsoft project manager said, "We didn't want to spread ourselves out over multiple MMORPG projects. We analyzed all the projects in the works and decided Mythica was the one to go." I wonder if focusing on Vanguard was a major part of that decision. The community buzz on Mythica was apparently good.

Well, the Mythica team apparently started a company called FireAnt. Their webpage is
still up but only consists of a link to a press release about their acquisition by SOE.

Matt knew Smed "since the Tanarus days," which only goes to show that networking is as important in game development as in other industries. Matt says he plays EQII (along with WoW) so that's a plus.

He seems to be a big fan of the iterative style of game design which I think is a good thing. Without getting too much into a thesis on game design I will give a quick, uninformed definition of what iterative design is:

The main concept of iterative design is to create a playable prototype early on and then refine and test it as much as possible. While the core mechanics may not change much, everything else should be as flexible as possible. The key is playing the game as much as possible as soon as possible to determine what is fun and what isn't. A designer employing iterative design has to embrace change.


Contrast this with earlier methods of game design such as attempting to plan and code the entire game to a near final state and then testing it and fixing bugs. A variation on this is a cascade method in which everyone focuses on part A of the game, tests it, finalizes it and then moves on to part B where the process begins anew.

Iterative design is clearly superior to these methods but I am already rambling far off topic.

Matt mentions using "story and community hooks" without "dumbing things down to Preschool Online." He stresses community as the main factor in the strength of MMO's and brings up being called before a "Guild Tribunal" as his most memorable experience in an online game. I have to agree that it is the social dynamics and drama that are usually the most memorable experiences. Moorgard makes a similar point in
this post.

Matt says, "The coolest part of online gaming is that it’s still very new. It’s the new frontier in game development…and the best is yet to come."

I think he's right about that. I'm not crazy about the business model they are apparently shooting for and I need many more specifics about the actual game, but I will follow it with interest and keep you updated.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Planetside News?





If you thought Planetside was basically comatose and drifting towards the bright light, well, think again.

Check out this
massive list of planned changes to the game.

Probably most interesting to new players is this note:

Subscription Free - "Fodder Program" New Players will be able to create a new account and and play for free for a period of 12 months. The new account will have limitations on the BattleRank (+ or - BR8) and the CommandRank (+ or - CR2). Essentially, new players will be able to have access to any part of the game but they will be limited on the diversity of their arsenal. Time Frame – We are shooting for February 14th for Launch.

That's a pretty generous offer, in-game advertising or not. The double "and" is their mistake, not mine, but the key word is "free." Perhaps someone can correct me, but it's my understanding you can do a lot with a BR8 rank.


And if you're not a new player but an inactive one:

Blast into PlanetSide Promotion - I’m sure you have all noticed the increase of population the past week. The main reason is that we opened over 300,000 closed accounts and granted 30 days of free play if they log into the account before February 28, 2006. So contact your old squad members and find out what is holding them up if they’re dragging their feet.

Also on the table is improved "training" for new players which will hopefully cut down on the formidable learning curve currently in place.

There is a host of other gameplay changes which don't mean a whole lot to me (tank traps, galaxy gunship, supply depots, radiation sniper slugs, etc.) but the player base seems pretty excited. Some of them don't seem too crazy about Air to Air Mosquito Missiles but others do. There is also mention of new artwork and weapons variants.

I found this note interesting:

Katana Special - Ok, that isn’t the real name but we’re creating a new knife that you can be gained through your merits and awards.

That seems like an introduction of the more typical MMO grind-for-a-special-item mechanic.

Anyway, when it comes to Planetside, I know next to nothing. But I figured I'd post this news anyway for those who might be interested in it. Keep in mind that the changes haven't actually been implemented yet.

Monday, January 23, 2006

19B





Well, I covered Test Update 19A in a two-parter last week and now 19B has rolled around.

The main portion of it is really the new character progression which I have
discussed previously. I will comment on how I think it turned out once I spend some more time going through it. But I would like to note one item in the new character progression notes:

Racial Quest Paths
- Upon leaving the island and arriving in your home village or district, you will begin a new series of quests designed specifically for your race.
- These quests will provide a greater understanding of your race's history and how it fits into the fabric of your home city.

I think that's really cool. I always felt that race didn't mean a whole lot in EQII except for your starting stats and visual look. The idea of racially specific content is a great one. It draws you more into the EQII world, let's you enjoy different content if you have an alt of a different race and adds a feeling of diversity. I can't wait to check it out.

If you don't want to wait for my first-hand report, which may be a while, I recommend either the
official testing feedback forum or this two part report on Ten Ton Hammer (while you're there also check out the interview with the person who created an EQII themed beer - how cool is that?). Also, it is briefly reviewed (quite positively) on the latest EQ2-Daily podcast.

- A message is now broadcast to the entire server when a guild reaches level 10, 20, 30, or 40.

Very cool. When my guild hit level 30 back in July,
I said, "a server wide message would have been nice." Gaining guild levels is a nice accomplishment in EQII. It really takes teamwork and is something the whole guild can share in and enjoy. So it's nice to have that accomplishment recognized.

- You can now access your house vault from any house via a new right click menu option on the interior door and market board. Yes, this means you can open up your vault from a friend's house that you're allowed to sell from!

Damn you SOE. I had already started writing a post about shared housing issues and you beat me to the punch. I really think this is awesome for people who share housing space (and I know there are a lot). I also see it as a substantial step on the road to official guild housing.

- Health, power, and resists have been added to the dropdown in the Broker search window.

I almost missed seeing this note but I am pretty happy about it. Just the other night I was trying to get some additional resist gear for raiding on the broker. But I got frustrated with looking through random items and gave up. Now I will be able to accomplish my goals with ease. Will this work for potions? The potion names are kind of irrelevant and I would like an easier way to grab some heat resist (or whatever kind of resist I'm looking for that night) potions.

I think it's a nice second part to an already great Update.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday Humor: Rejected Expansions





When I first heard rumors that a list of failed expansion concepts was floating around the highly secure fortress that is SOE headquarters, my first thought was to reach out to the Aggro Me Elite Ninja Death Squad. But apparently, they are not a fan of my hardcore musical stylings and said something about how I had dishonored myself and my ancestors with "subpar rhyming skills" and should commit ritual suicide. While I thought that was a quite reasonable idea, I sought out a second opinion.

You see, I had been contacted by a certain shadowy internet figure known only as Mr.Xt3reaM. This personage informed me that he and his fellows were the “l33test haxxor crew” at Jefferson Junior High School. I sent an e-mail inquiring as to whether it was possible that they could somehow hack into the highly encrypted SOE server and get me the list I was so desperately seeking. I heard nothing back. But the next morning, when I went to make toast I realized that my internet-enabled toaster had been hacked. The toast that appeared was emblazoned with the phrase, “lol yes newb.” These guys were pros. Without further dragging out this unreasonably lengthy intro, I present to you the results of this extreme hacking mission: a list of ten rejected expansion ideas for EQII pitched by unnamed SOE employees.

1.The Plane of Planes: People love the Planes thing so much that we should give it to them. Let’s have a Plane full of Planes. There could be airplanes and those planes you use to smooth lumber. All on a plain. I can’t complain.

2. The Show of Reality: Okay, so we all know reality TV is hot, hot, hot! Let’s have an expansion where a strange being from another dimension is putting on a magical reality show that godlike creatures can watch via their crystal balls. In a land where ratings are everything you can actually get loot for guild drama! XP for cybering! The possibilities are endless!

3. The Kingdom of Fry: Futurama crossover here we come! When Dr. Zoidberg mistakenly opens up a portal to Norrath while trying to invent a new form of can-opener, the hijinks begin! Drink beer with Bender, fight aliens with Leela and deliver packages for Planet Express! It will give fed-ex quests a whole new meaning! Let's do something with Fry's dog too - that Jurassic Bark ep made me cry :(

4. The Song of Sony: Antonia and Lucan have put aside their differences to join forces under the banner of a red Welsh dragon led by a new ruler, Sir Howard Stringer! Thrill to hear his regal and fierce battle cry, "
we must fight like the Sony Warriors we are!" Players will seek out and destroy iPods, XBoxes, and Panasonic HDTV's!

5. The Grass of Green: Our GM's are really getting tired of having to change marijuana related player names. We might as well embrace this thing with a journey into the Realm of Ganja where every raid timer is 4 hours and 20 minutes long and happy gnomes give out peace pipes to everyone! Ride the "magic carpet" for a trippy journey through time and space!

6. The World of Mazeroth: There's this World of Mazeroth with um, Night Dwarves and Blood Dwarves and Mauren! Our lawyers say it will fly!

7. The Farm of Plenty: Come on, let's face it. A lot of our customers just want to farm great items and not be bothered by a lot of annoying quests and zones. The Farm of Plenty is solely comprised of an instance with one mob that repops as soon as it is killed. It can drop anything from vendor trash to fabled items! Time to get farming!

8. Rage of the Wookies: A wookie spaceship has crash-landed on Norrath and boy are they angry. You might even say they're enraged!

9. The Dragons of Metrosexuality: It all begins when Lady Vox tells Naggy she is tired of his barbaric ways. This can only mean one thing...time for a Makeover! Yes, it's time for Lord Nagafen to learn about strange concepts like hair "product," stylish clothes and even showering! As the fashion bug sweeps Norrath, players can fight their way through the Orc Gym, the Naga Hair Salon and the Centaur Home Decor Showroom. Tons of great new items are introduced such as the Mousse of Intelligence, the Cologne of Fiery Vengance and the Electrified Eyebrow Tweezers of Ro!


10. The Arena of Arenas: Okay, gang. I think I've finally hit paydirt with this idea. If I know one thing about our player base, it's that they love that Arena! This new expansion will introduce 578 new Arena Pets, 148 new Arena Zones and tons of more Arena fun! Seriously, how can this miss?

P.S. we haxxored ur fridge enjoi the stal milk lol newb!1!1!!

I think that last part was added by my elite hacker team. Oh well.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tradeskill Changes





I actually had another post written for today but I thought I would try to be topical and comment on the tradeskill controversy. Funny, because my original post was actually also about tradeskilling (carpentry issues) but I'll put that off until next week.

Okay, I'm not going to link you to any specific post on the tradeskill stuff because you basically have to read through the dev tracker. Beghn has been posting seemingly every three minutes so there is a lot to read through.

I won't pretend to have enough crafting knowledge to comment on every intricacy of the changes but I will comment on the major point: doing away with subcombines.

October 5, 2005 I stated in
a post about the Community Summit: "Well, the main reason we were there is for feedback and so we gave it to them. I raised the point at the round table that people want to make things like a sword or a spell when they tradeskill and not 500 individual bottles of chloro wash (or whatever it's called) which in turn require subcombines and so on over and over."

So blame me, flame me, I can take it. I absolutely stand behind what I said that day.

While I admit I was thinking more of a combination of batch refines and eliminating a portion of the subcombines, I'm happy with this change and think it is long overdue.

SOE is not at all trying to eliminate crafting, they're attempting to make it more fun and accessible. And while I absolutely respect the right of crafters to protest these changes, there is also another group who is affected by them. That group is all the people who gave up on tradeskilling because it was an incredibly tedious and boring affair. And I am a member of that group. These changes have the capacity to draw people like me back into the tradeskill arena.

Why was a myriad of subcombines terrible? I'll first quote an
interview I did with Gaige:

"I recall you saying at the Summit you were actually a full-time crafter in SWG. Can you explain why you don't craft in EQII?

Sure in one word: subcombines. I hate the "reverse engineering" aspect of crafting, I hate the tedium of subcomponent crafting and therefore I refuse to utilize the system. I loved crafting in SWG for numerous reasons, but mainly because it utilized a factory system which allowed you to mass produce all the subcomponents you needed while you were doing other things. I'd really love to see EQ2 move its crafting to be more focused on harvesting, final combines and playing the market. I somehow doubt I'm alone in this sentiment ;)"

He's absolutely not alone in that sentiment. I agree with him. Blackguard also makes an argument I totally agree with
in this post.

The day I quit crafting was when I looked at one of the absurdly long spell recipes on
EQ2Craft. While that site is a great resource and very well done, I hated having to look at a third party site to plan crafting a spell like I was planning an assault on Mt. Everest. I hated having to make such an insane amount of subcombines to make what I wanted. I was just trying to craft a spell. And what it did to my inventory was just outrageous. I still have all kinds of garbage in my bank vault from my crafting days. I realized then that crafting was way less fun then my actual job and that it was annoying as opposed to challenging. And that's as good a reason to stop doing it as any.

As I saw it there were three main skills to crafting:

1. Countering those events that pop up and using your tradeskill abilities.
2. Using social skills to build a great reputation and connections with other crafters.
3. The capacity and patience to endure endless amounts of total tedium.

And it seemed like number 3 was the biggest factor. And that's not a good thing. While I fully admit that every MMO requires the patience to endure tedium to some extent, the amount required to endure tradeskilling seemed to me to be rather extreme.

When I asked for comments on the
Aggro Forums, Anskiere put forth the argument that, "As a weaponsmith, I got some kind of weird joy out of making the edge, the hilt, and the crossguard of a weapon, then putting them all together for the final weapon." (read his whole post because I'm kind of taking that one point out of context to use as an example - he is impartial overall). I find that one of the more compelling arguments I have seen.

But as a sage I got absolutely no joy in making Thylakoid Wash or Hexanoid Reagent. I don't mind a subcombine or two. I could deal with making a hilt or a crossguard to make a sword. But it's the sheer number of the subcombines that got to me, as well as the fact that many of them were not as easy or fun to understand as a hilt. What the heck is a Hexanoid Reagent?

I fully admit that there might be economic issues that result from these changes. And I hope SOE thought that through. But frankly, the economy is not perfect right now. While I am very pleased with the relative stability of the plat, at least on my server, what I'm not pleased with is how hard it is to get spells and other crafted items at the low to mid levels.

With regards to XP, they obviously have the capacity to tweak things so you level at pretty much the same speed so I'm not overly concerned about that.

A lot of the crafters seem to be making the argument that they don't want competition. And that's not a valid argument, with all due respect. I don't think high level crafters have anything to worry about. They have their levels, their skills and their relationship with the community. I think the overall goal is to make leveling from 1 to 60 just as hard as it is now. Just different.

To address the argument that this dumbs down the game or makes it easier, let me say that I have consistently argued against changes like that. But who is to say that the finished version of tradeskilling will be easier than it is now? Yes, removing subcombines makes things easier, but perhaps making items will now require more skill or have increased difficulty due to other factors that are as yet unannounced. The nature of crafting has to be made more interactive for this to be a success. If you want to make tradeskilling more difficult in terms of skill and attention, I'm all for it. I want tradeskilling to be a challenge. But forcing people to make a plethora of subcombines is not the way to accomplish that goal.

There is still much to be done to make tradeskilling enjoyable. This is a step in the right direction, but it is a long path. The actual process has to be more fun and more skill-based as opposed to patience-based. There has to be more content involved with tradeskilling.

But I think this is a quite positive move and I hope people give it a chance. I'm finally somewhat excited to start crafting again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Test Update 19A: Part II






Alright, here's my final look at Test Update 19A.

You can now jump off a flying carpet or griffon at any point along your path by hitting your jump key. Beware, as you may take considerable falling damage.

Haha, how cool is that? It's something I've daydreamed about from time to time while on a long griffon ride but I never thought it would actually be implemented. Talk about freedom. I'm already thinking of "paratrooper" PvP raids in which a group of players use the griffon towers to ambush players from the sky.

By popular request from those unfortunate souls who are prone to meeting an untimely demise, potion, poison, and totem effects will now persist through death.

From LU18: "Poisons and potions will no longer drop when you die." Okay, for real this time. We mean it! Scouts are my dps arch-enemies but I'm willing to give them a break on this one. I don't think they should have to re-apply poison after every death.

Going more than 50 meters away from an encounter will cause the active Heroic Opportunity for that encounter to disappear for you, freeing you to perform other Heroic Opportunities on other encounters. Returning within range will cause the Heroic Opportunity to reappear as long as you aren't participating in any other Heroic Opportunities.

A minor annoyance but a noticeable one. You'll be traveling to meet some groupmates and the HO wheel pops up even though you're halfway across the zone. Nice job in fixing it.

Small obstacles and minor changes in elevation should now be less likely to prevent attacks from landing on a target. As long as your character has line of sight to most of a target's body, attacks should be likely to hit it. Please note that having the camera in first-person mode provides the best way to judge whether your character has clear line-of-sight to a target.

Again, it seems minor, but if it fixes an annoyance, I'm happy. The other day, my line of sight was broken by a table that went up to my knees. Silly. I hope this fix is addressing that issue.

The amount of status awarded by writs is now based on your level in relation to the writ's level rather than your guild's level.

This seems to make sense but I'm actually not sure about this one. You see, I view guild writs as something you do after you reach max level and you want to help level the guild. With this change will leveling the guild when you're at max level be much harder? Or does this only refer to personal status?

Have friends on other servers or in other games? Great! You can now add friends from other games or other servers in much the same way you would send them a tell (For example, you can /friend unrest.blackguard to add Blackguard from the server Unrest to your friends list).

I'd like a little more specificity on this one. Other games are mentioned. Does that mean I can add an SWG player to my friends list? That would be very cool.

You can now quickly change to a different character on your account by using the following command: /camp character_name

Sometimes little things can make a big difference. Switching from an alt two minutes before the raid is set to start without the hassle of going to the character select screen is one of them.

There is now an option to pop up a confirmation box when making expensive purchases from the Broker window. The default price is 10 gold, and the slider for the minimum price can be set from 1 gold to 5 plat. This is to prevent the accidental purchase of an expensive item. The option is available in Options -> User Interface -> Game Features -> Broker Window.

I'm not ashamed to admit I've done this once. It happens. Every week or so you see an angry exclamation in guild chat from someone who mistakenly bought an item they didn't want. What's worse, the people who get the profit are usually players who price their items intentionally high counting on mistakes like this. So I like this option. However, I will set it to a minimum of 1 plat so it doesn't annoy me too much and I suggest you do something similar.

You can now Buy Stacks or Buy Quantities of items on the Broker window.

The broker window is really getting to be a more pleasant experience and this will improve things even further.

Anonymous characters will not show up for any specific searches made by players.
Roleplaying characters will not show up in class, level, or race searches, but will still show up in LFG and LFW searches. They will also appear in guild and name type /who searches.

Okay, I definitely understand the anonymous portion of this change. In fact, it is long overdue. However, do players with the roleplay tag on really want to be filtered out of artisan class searches? I've sought out artisans in the past using this search and they have always seemed happy to get work. And, yes, I know you can still do a LFW search but I think keeping the LFW tag on all the time is annoying and I know others do to. If the majority of RP'ers like this change, I accept it. I'm just not sure this is what they want.

NPCs just got smarter. They will now use abilities only from their subclasses and have a larger selection of abilities and spells to choose from as they level.

Hmm. This seems like a rather major change that I haven't heard much forum commentary on. I really like the idea but I'm curious to see how it affects combat. Hard for me to comment without seeing it in action but it sounds like it could be fun.

You can now search for a particular recipe by name from the recipe window.
The maximum stack size of all tradeskill-used fuels is now 100 instead of 20.


I'm preparing to take another run at tradeskilling in the near future. Changes like this encouraging greatly. Making recipes easier to find is a big plus. And what really drove me nuts during tradeskill sessions was running out of ingredients. I hated having to go back to the vendor to get more coal or whatever. In our
LU19 discussion, Nazeroth did mention that this might make the life of a botter a bit easier, and I think that's a valid point. I still like the convenience though. Now add a special tradeskill vault so I can keep all my tradeskill junk in one place and have access to it without zoning.

Also, don't forget that the revamped newbie zones are in testing. If you're interested, you can check out the
In Testing forum.

Edit: Just noticed this post by Beghn that there are some pretty big tradeskill changes incoming as well.

I have to say that this Update really impressed me. What it tells me about the EQII team is that they play the game a lot and take notes about things that annoy them when they do. Either that or they really listen to feedback, even on minor issues. I hope they continue to keep up the good work.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Test Update 19A: Part 1 of a 12 Part Writeup





Kidding, kidding. I know some people thought my four part series on the press release last week was a little extreme so don't worry, I'll contain this to two posts. There is a lot of great stuff going on here. SOE continues to make my job harder by improving stuff I planned to write about before I even get the chance. They also addressed some of my previous issues.

- Raid leaders can now move a raid member to an empty slot in another existing group by dragging the character name to the desired group.
- Raid leaders can now swap raid members between groups by dragging one member's name on top of the other raid member's name.

From my
wishlist post: "Can you imagine a drag and drop interface which allowed the raid leader (before combat) to pull players from one group to another or switch players in two groups?"

Well, we won't have to just imagine it for much longer because it is on the way. I'm very happy to see this. I would suggest this be made one of the "headlines" when it goes live rather than just buried at the end of the UI notes because I think it is a significant change.

- Your high level spells are now useable (at a reduced effectiveness) when you mentor a lower level player. No more messing with your hotbar when you want to help out a friend!- Most spells will no longer drop or suspend when you start mentoring a lower-level player. Instead, they now adjust themselves accordingly.

Covered this one previously: "As a comment to my
wishlist post, Scott Adams made the excellent suggestion:

'I would like to see the mentoring system automatically scale spells/abilities down to whatever you have scribed in your book. No more have to shift hot bars around etc. Those spells with no precursors (like scout escape at 25) would then simply become red.'

And thankfully, it looks like this might happen in LU 19, according to
this post from Moorgard. Excellent. Mentoring should not be a hassle for the person doing the mentoring."

- Citizens of Qeynos and Freeport can now mail each other items and coin.

Again, I will cite a previous comment of mine:

"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."

The Alpha test for the new character progression changes is now on the Test server in order to ensure existing below-20 characters will function properly.

I am in favor of this system as I
outlined in this post and I am glad to see it is coming along.

You can now select from a list of all writs you are eligible to embark upon when speaking to a writ giver.

From an immersion standpoint, it was more "realistic" the original way. However, I still support this change. Why? Because in reality, you want to do the same writs as your guildmates or go after a specific mob. So you click, delete, click, delete and it's just annoying. Back in the days when we used to do extended writ runs in EF this really drove us crazy. So I'm glad to see it changed.

I wonder, would it be good to extend this idea to other repeatable quests that have a "choice" of mobs? Last week, I was farming a few Aquim quests in Maj during some downtime and I fully admit I deleted and hailed until I got ghouls as the quest mob. Should this be changed too or is that going too far?

You should now be able to attack NPCs that are touching or partially inside a wall.

Yes, it would be nice if mobs were never inside the walls. But if this makes things easier until that problem is fully solved, I'm all for it. I'll have to see how effective it is in practice.

Alright, I'll cover the rest tomorrow. A lot of stuff in this update and this is only part A.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Dungeons & Dragons Online (Beta) Review: C-




The grade should actually be a bit lower but giving it a "D" like I wanted to would have been too corny. D&D gets a D! No thanks. Here's the review:

Disclaimer

I think I approached this game with an open mind. I was cautiously optimistic but not in fanboi mode. After fiddling with the character creator for hours, I even sent e-mails to some friends telling them they had to check this game out. But after a few days, I was telling them not to bother.

I only played the beta, and, though I did put some time into it, I honestly couldn't stand playing it extensively. So, take this review with a grain of salt. Perhaps the game has improved incredibly in the last few weeks. So, I make this offer:

If anyone plays the game after release for a decent amount of time and likes it, feel free to write up a review and e-mail it to me. As long as it is decently written and readable, I promise to post it (or the best one I receive) in the interests of fairness.

Also, Ethic has some
impressions and links up over at Kill Ten Rats so be sure to check that out.

Graphics

The graphics are not terrible. They're average. That's about it though. I think they're worse than WoW or EQII. But graphics are somewhat subjective and may depend on the particular person's tastes or even the system being used to run the game. Do not expect anything inspiring. I did like the climbing and jumping animations, which I thought were the best I had seen in a fantasy MMO.

Character Creator

It's fun to have so many choices. Creating a character is a large part of the fun of the PnP game and I think that system (carried over pretty much wholesale here) is an excellent one. I enjoyed considering different spells, feats and skills. I was excited to try all of the various races, classes and to multi-class (which is possible). The system has a lot of potential and it is fun to tinker around with it.

Graphically, the character creator is maybe marginally better than WoW or EQII in terms of physical customization. That's not saying it's great, by any means. It reminded me a bit of Eve.

Setting

I admit I was hoping for a more classic setting from the PnP game for DDO. But okay, I like the Eberron setting too and I read up on it before playing. Unfortunately, I shouldn't have bothered. DDO has nothing more than a very generic fantasy setting with a few Eberron elements just tacked on with little thought.

Depth

This game is very heavily instanced. All of the actual gameplay takes place in instances. You will never feel that you are part of an actual world. There is no real exploration. It's more reminiscent of Guild Wars than WoW or EQII in this respect.

The outdoor zones are good for this:

Looking for group (and if you don't have other friends playing this can be a real nightmare).
Selling and buying items.
Running around and getting every quest in the zone.
Sitting in a tavern with a large number of other people waiting for your health and magic to regen (you can buy food or drink to speed this).

I also found the location of the tavern on the map to be extremely annoying (not the newbie tavern, the second one).

The non-instanced outdoor zones are just a chore to get through as quickly as possible. There's nothing fun or interesting about them. Grab your quests, your groupmates, your items and go. I don't think they have a good grasp on the economy either and I see future problems there.

Quests

This is the heart of the game and part of it is good. The DM flavor text that you get during quests is great. I think some of the individual backstories and twists are better than or at least equal to EQII and WoW. I like that you only get xp from completing quests. I like some of the traps that you have to physically avoid by using actual player skill to dodge or time them.

But then things go downhill fast. What does it matter if you only get quest xp for completing quests when you end up having to kill every monster in the zone by engaging in poorly implemented combat (see below)? Yes, there are a few alternative solutions to quests, but the vast majority of gameplay seems to involve breaking 82 barrels to find some item. If you think I'm kidding about the barrels, try it for yourself and see.

Combat

I admit that I think D&D is more suited to strategic, tactical combat. I love the PnP combat where it feels like every decision is important. But okay, I accept that DDO decided to go for a semi-twitch combat system.

I am not against twitch combat in fantasy games. I play
Mount & Blade for hours every week and if that combat was ever implemented in an MMO, I would never leave my apartment.

But this twitch combat is badly implemented. It's a click-fest that gets boring very quickly. Many of the spells and skills I mentioned in the character creator feel pretty meaningless. It's just right-click, left-click and maybe cast a damage spell or a heal. A lot of people compare it to Diablo, but I think that's being generous. The combat in Diablo is fun. The best way to describe DDO combat is annoying. They slowed it down at some point during the beta but now it is just annoying over a longer period of time.

Another failing is that there's really no group dynamic in combat. If you are grouped with five people it is more like five individuals each doing their own thing (besides a few heals or buffs) in the same area. It lacks the feeling of fighting in a cohesive group that I've come to expect from an MMORPG.

To me the combat is the weakest point of the game. And since combat is really the core mechanic of any MMORPG, that's not a good thing.

Soloability

Do not buy this game if you like to solo. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that it is very frustrating (after the initial quests) and that the game clearly was not designed for soloing. Now, let me say something loud and clear. I do not mind a game company putting out a game that focuses only on grouping. But don't buy this game and then complain when you can't solo. I am not holding this against them...just a warning.

PvP

Nope. I'm not holding this against them either, just informing you.

Content

The content appears to be quite limited. There is absolutely nothing to do besides the quests and there are not even close to enough of them. Players that have to run the same quest repeatedly in order to level will soon become annoyed. And from what I can tell, Turbine is completely underestimating the speed at which MMO players burn through content. I would not be surprised if some experienced players work through all the available content in a month or less.

Summary

To me D&D was always an amazing game that sparked imagination, creativity, social bonding and a sense of adventure. I'll never forget the feeling of wonder I felt when I first played. DDO is the antithesis of this. To see the license turn into a bland mix of Guild Wars and Diablo is just sad. And even putting any preconceptions about the license to the side, it's just not a fun game.

Watching people try to roleplay while they're smashing barrel after barrel and madly clicking on mobs is painful.

I truly don't understand why anyone would subscribe to this game. Since I may be accused of EQII favoritism, I'll compare it to WoW instead. WoW is such a better game it's like it's not even in the same class. WoW is not twice the game DDO is, it's ten times the game. Heck, Guild Wars is clearly superior.

I suppose some people who are bored with WoW may try this for a while, and I guess it can pass the time for a month or two. I suppose PnP players might go for the license and enjoy playing an MMO for the first time. But I don't see how this game can last. Charging a subscription for it seems almost absurd unless they are going to add a tremendous amount of content on a monthly basis.

It's still better than
the movie though. But not the cartoon. That rocked.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday Humor: Bum Rap





A few weeks ago I came across this WoW rap song entitled "For the Horde" via AFK Gamer. I was actually pretty impressed. It was rather smooth and enjoyable for a rap song about an online roleplaying game.

Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone. Always competitive with the WoW crowd, I decided to try for an EQII version. It probably wasn't a good idea. This is one post I probably would have scrapped, but I was busy this week with raiding and work (in that order) so you're stuck with it. I think it picks up a little in the second half. I honestly don't own a microphone, though I doubt I would have attempted to rap it anyway. If anyone wants to try, I'll host the sound file. I apologize to the entire genre of hip-hop, which I respect, for this fiasco.

The Wrath of Norrath: B-Nice's Ballad

Yeah, I’m B-Nice the one they’re talking about,
Mobs try to step up and they get served out.
Root a toot toot I got all the rootage
Drop in the Sunstrike and it’s time for the lootage.
Protoflame, ha, that thing is a joke
I lay on the Comet and wait for the smoke
To clear – when it does nothing’s left,
Time to head for the Roost up high on the Cleft.
Cruising on my carpet, bought not quested,
If you group with me you’re gonna get tested.
Think you’re better then me, ha better yield,
Better keep training cause Training is a Shield.
Can you hold aggro? Really I doubt it.
I run a DPS parser and I make sure to shout it
Loud and clear ‘cause I’m always number one
B-Nice brings the nukage like Cruise in Top Gun.
See a beggar in Maj and I toss ‘em a Plat,
It’s nothing to me, my coin pouch is fat.
Ring of Fate? Ha, please I got seven.
And I have more levels than the stairway to heaven.
I told ya already, are ya hard of hearing?
I relax underwater with my fishbone earring.
I'm down with the gnolls 'cause I earned their trust.
You need some new gear - that stuff is starting to rust.
Compare gear with mine, that discussion is tabled,
Even my socks are labeled as fabled.
I look at your stats and have to start laughin’
My resists are higher than old Lord Nagafen.
Think you can slay me, please, stop it.
I have more lives than my man Billy Moppet.
By Hook or by Crook, I quest with the best
Fake AFK’s and ignores for the rest.
If I LFG you best pull me in,
Cause inviting B-Nice is like pressing “I Win.”
I roll up to the raid ten minutes late -
Can’t start without me so you all better wait.
Buffing my crew like I buff my Caddy
Can I get a buff? Who’s your daddy?
My /rands are 1000 so no loot for you,
Unless you’re down with my Brigand mob crew.
Got double your DKP so just settle;
When I’m around the chests are all metal.
Cruise through QH and say Hi to the sweeties,
They check me out cause my boots are Effreeti’s.
I kick things off with a drink at Fool’s Gold,
Drink T6 from my Stein cause it keeps it real cold.
If you see me coming it might be time to run,
Just tell yourself the Journey’s Half of the Fun.
Those Boots Were Made for Walking so keep on going
Back to the Isle of Refuge and then start rowing.
Tear Grifters see me rolling and they start crying
Reach into their packs and pretend to be scrying.
Darathar, Nagalik, and the Maj Dragons
Some of the many I sent home on their wagons
I ruined Varsoon, put Drayek on ice,
There is a reason why they call me B-Nice.

Bonus Humor:

While I happened to think the
Aggro Awards were pretty great, Cosmik over at N3rfed totally blew me away with his MMO Awards video using Molyneux's "game" The Movies. It's probably the best thing to come out of this latest Molyneux farce and I laughed from start to finish.

Have a nice weekend. I'll be discussing my DDO beta impressions next week as well as taking a look at the exciting Test Update 19A.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Kingdom of Sky Press Release: Part 4





Alright, a few final notes on the KoS press release today.

"25 new enemies to fight."

Hmm...25 mobs. Probably they fly. Okay here goes with 25 flying monsters (some new versions of the ones that you've seen already): Dragons, Aviaks, Griffons, Hippogriffs, Gargoyles, Killer Bee Swarms, Sentient Thunder Clouds, Faeries, Giant Mosquitoes, Pegasi, Wyvern, Levitating Demons, Dragonets, Giant Moths, Djinn, Vampires, Flying Monkeys, Rocs, Pterosaurs, Hawks, Winged Snakes, Harpies, Eagles, Cockatrice, and, um, Evil Gnomes Wearing Jetpacks.

I'm just having some fun...I have no idea what the mobs will be and I'm sure some will be land based.

"All new Heritage Quests allow players to gain amazingly powerful items, personal status, adventure experience and even a reward made famous in the original EverQuest."

I thought this was a really weak area for DoF. I hope there are some good ones in KoS.

"All new player titles."

Unnecessary press release padding that should have been cut.

Okay, that wraps it up for the press release, but I'm also going to take a look at
Gamespot's coverage of KoS from CES 2006.

"Aside from the requisite new lands, quests, monsters, and so on, the biggest news for the thriving online RPG is the addition of player-versus-player combat. But then, all players will have access to the same feature through a downloadable patch released around the same time as the expansion."

Translation: Apart from the confusing sentence structure ("But then?") this tells us that SOE has succeeded in linking PvP with the expansion in the eyes of the public. I still think this is a bad play but there might be a marketing/pr concept I'm missing.


"Players will begin to see in-game clues, such as NPC dialogue, indicating that those reaching a high enough level will be able to erect "teleportation spires" that they can then use to travel to the Overrealm..."

Translation: The expansion will be released with a live event. Or at least I hope that's what it means.

We got to see one particularly fearsome bone dragon dungeon boss that ought to provide some nice loot for fearless adventurers.

Translation: Bone Dragon raid mob?

The islands and architecture of the Overrealm have a classical, Middle Eastern-influenced look to them, as well.

Translation: Sounds like some graphical continuity between DoF and KoS.

Speaking of loot, SOE is adding a number of unique, high-level armor pieces to the game that should give players who seek them out a more distinctive appearance than the masses of less-ambitious quest-takers.

Translation: Diversity in armor models.

These items won't be incredibly rare or difficult to track down--you'll just need to increase your strength to a high enough level to obtain them.

Translation: I guess that means there will be cool non-Master drop armor and weapons that you can get from normal group play, questing or even solo play. I think that's a good thing.

Since, I originally wrote this, I came across another
preview of KoS at IGN. Be sure to check it out, but here's a few key points:

"...the Overrealm uses a much brighter and richer color palette than the base game or its first expansion." I think this is a much needed change.

The bone dragon is named Aviax.

And most importantly, "you'll see pirate-esque hats for swashbucklers and pointy caps for sorcerers, for example." Nice. Very nice.

I am personally looking forward to this expansion but I'll be sure to let you know if it doesn't live up to my expectations. As more information on KoS arises, I will do my best to bring it to you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kingdom of Sky Press Release: Part 3




It's day 3 of my coverage of the KoS press release. Let's get started.

"Brand new pieces of armor, such as Profession Hats, Helmets and Pauldrons, will make your character look more distinct."

This addresses my usual complaint of armor model diversity, though I don't know why only headgear and shoulder pieces were mentioned. If SOE is making cool hats and helmets, I really hope they make some for mage classes as well.

"Over 30 new items to put in your player house."

As I said during my glowing Frostfell review, I always love the house items. I don't go out of my way to buy them but I always think they are very well done when I do. My inn room is getting really cluttered though. I'm thinking about a bigger place, but the prices seem a bit high, especially since there is no real motivation other than increased space.

Oh, since we're on the house items thing, I've gotten some e-mails asking me to address the "carpenter issues." Let me research it and I'll get to it eventually.

"Challenging new zones, from floating islands to menacing dungeons. "
"Ten new adventure zones, from lush jungles to temples of unimaginable splendor."

As much as I like the whole look of the floating islands, I'm glad to hear that there will be some dungeons as well, because I enjoy an occasional dungeon crawl. And it sounds like there will be a real variety of zones. I'm looking forward to exploring them.

"Guild advancement expanded to level 50 "

I don't see why anyone would have a problem with this. But I tell you now, there seriously better be some actual rewards for attaining that level this time. At launch. And I would like a server wide message as well. And a special raid. Hey, you shouldn't have slacked the last time.

"Player versus Player combat will "go live" in EverQuest II near the time of the launch of Kingdom of Sky, a highly anticipated addition to the game that will allow players to fight each other."

Ugh. Terrible. Now, you might be saying, "Hold on Aggro - weren't you excited about PvP?" Well, yes, I certainly am. I happen to be very excited about it. It is the timing I have an issue with. I'll quote
myself:

"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."

I saw first hand the ill effects of lumping the Combat Revamp together with DoF. Why not let PvP be something to look forward to in the relative "slow periods" between expansions? Why choose to simultaneously launch two exciting things which can't be enjoyed at the same time? Now I have to decide between jumping into PvP or exploring KoS. I just don't see the benefit. It shouldn't increase expansion sales because it is totally unrelated. Also, the artificially imposed deadline bothers me because I want the PvP to be launched right and perhaps it needs more time in development and testing.

Don't get me wrong, I am very excited about both PvP and KoS. I will approach both with an open mind. But the timing is a nuisance, albeit a minor one.


Stay tuned for my final report on the KoS press release tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kingdom of Sky Press Release: Part 2





Okay, time to delve back into my analysis of the KoS press release.

"Higher level advancement -- now reach level 70 as an adventurer or artisan."

This is the one that has apparently stirred up the most controversy. I have a position on this and it is probably going to annoy some people.


I like it. I have seen a ton of angst on the forums on this issue and I just don't get it. If I told you that you could have 10 to 15 new spells or skills, wouldn't you want them?

What is the game you fell in love with? For me, it was doing quests, soloing a bit and fighting through zones in a group. And as I did that, I enjoyed the carrot of better items, wealth and also the new spells which came with new levels. Sure, raiding is fun as well, but that's just a part of EQII. I like raiding, but if the only fun aspect of the game was raiding, I wouldn't play it. (Hmm...idea for game though: an MMO version of Shadows of the Colossus with all boss mobs?)

Enjoy the game. Do the quests, explore the zones and experience the content. The levels will come naturally. Do not worry if you are not at max level. I'm only at 58 right now and it doesn't bother me. You do not have to rush through to some "end game."

Okay, I'll make the case my in-game friend makes. He really likes raiding. So for him this is just a meaningless grind that has to be endured before the next round of raiding begins. And sometimes DoF can be a bit of a grind. But I think that if the group content is great and the quests are exciting, even he will end up having fun. I do think quest xp needs to be looked at more carefully on a quest by quest basis.

Moorgard addresses the
gear concerns here. I'll just add that as I progressed from level 1 to level 58, I was constantly upgrading my gear. To me, that was and is part of the fun of the game. I don't want the same gear for an eternity. I look forward to purchasing, questing and raiding for new, cool stuff.

In summary, I like options. I like a higher level cap. It makes me nervous that SOE (who does listen to the players) might listen to all the complaints and not raise it for the next expansion. A year at the same level does not excite me.

The players need to get past their emotional reaction and enjoy the game. SOE has to do their part by making the grind in KoS seem less "grindy."

Of course, if anyone wants to make a case for the other side I would be happy to listen.

"Four new arena champions and two new arenas."

Okay, yeah, here come the nitpicks. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. But this is where letting a player read your press releases before you send them out might be a good idea. While this point may sound good in a marketing meeting, anyone who actually plays the game is going to immediately laugh at this one.

Who the heck cares about new arena champions when no one currently cares about the arena? And who cares about two new arenas when the vast majority of the players have probably never seen all the original ones? This is not only pointless, it just reminds players of how empty the arena currently is. And it is empty. I check it all the time. The mention of new arena champions as some great thing may even serve to further annoy players who received an arena champion as an award on completion of a difficult quest.

It is just a waste of your players' time to read this kind of stuff and makes it seem like you are trying too hard to fluff up the press release. This was pretty much Wargut's first reaction to the press release in
this thread, and I'm sure that is indicative of how many players felt. Let some players "beta test" these releases to avoid killing them with stuff like this.

"High above the mightiest peaks of Norrath, a secret world exists. This Overrealm, made up of enormous islands of land suspended in the air, is home to aviaks and creatures never-before seen, but it is the splintered and warring dragons who rule it. Driven by their lust for power, religious zealotry, and all-consuming rage, the most ancient of the world's creatures now find common cause in a plot to destroy all of Norrath!"

I thought I'd comment briefly on the setting. I think it has some narrative force to it. Unlike DoF which just seemed like a cool place to explore, the denizens of the Overrealm apparently wants to invade Norrath which gives a sense of urgency and drama to the proceedings. It also sounds like an interesting place to visit.

It lends to the kind of high fantasy visual look I like. There are some screenshots up on
EQ2Stratics and I like what I see. The graphics look like they can spark the imagination.

"Signature Quests which reward large experience bonuses, personal status, new items, and advance the lore of EverQuest II."

According to Illucide
in this thread, they already exist, they just weren't labeled correctly. The Ring of Fate quest is an example of one. I suppose the concept of these quests is that they are Heritage Quests which deal with lore new to EQII as opposed to EQ. I think they are a nice addition.

You thought it was over? Nah, part III tomorrow.