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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Interview Me






When Slide over at Ten Ton Hammer asked me to do an interview I said sure. Because:

A. I had a few drinks with Ethec from TTH at the Community Summit and he was one of the nicest and coolest guys I met there.

B. They do a good job over at TTH of reporting EQII news and usually find a way to inject some humor into the proceedings.

C. I love to talk about myself.

Anyway, I think Slide did a great job on the interview.
So go read it.

Still here? What are you waiting for? Don't you want to hear me reveal my secret reason for starting this blog, brag about my fantasy sports acumen and spout off about EQII? Sure you do.

So go read it already and report back here for comments. Study it carefully - there may be a pop quiz.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Houston, We Have A Problem...







Ah, launch day. Excitement and frustration battle each other as we strive to enjoy new content. The launch of KoS and the PvP servers last week was no exception. I'm really busy playing so this post is purely anecdotal. It is based on my personal experiences with very little forum research.

Digital Download

The only problem as far as I'm concerned was in communication. I pre-ordered the Digital Download of KoS. The evening the expansion went live I checked my account and saw that it was KoS enabled. When I went to log on I found there was literally only ten minutes of patching.

I believe this is because most of the content was downloaded incrementally as I played prior to launch. However it was done, it was a near flawless and painless experience for me. I found it to be a fantastic process and would definitely download the next expansion.

But as I said, the lack of communication was a little confusing. I didn't know if I was supposed to download something from a link or what the procedure was. And it seemed to confuse a lot of other people as well. The process should have been explained clearly in the e-mail you received upon ordering. I'm not saying the information wasn't out there, but it wasn't conveyed directly to the purchasers.

Technical Issues

When I've gotten on SOE's case during the history of this site it has usually been over design issues (the death penalty) or business issues (Station Exchange, advertising in PS). I don't think I've ever complained about technical problems, mainly because I've never had any. I've crashed a handful of times and had trouble logging on maybe two or three times in the year I've been playing. I think it's been near flawless though I'm sure people will disagree.

Now I consider the actual launch day to be kind of a freebie. You know there are going to be some technical issues. The smart thing to do would be to wait until the second day. But if you want to fight the good fight on day one, well, you have to assume the risk of crashes and the like. So I wasn't overly upset when my server went down for several hours post-launch on day one. I got to play for a bit before and after that.

But when the prime time (evening) of day two rolls around, I expect no problems. Unfortunately, my server was down for most of the second night and I find that unacceptable. Not a lot I can add to that except that I didn't enjoy it. I haven't had any server related problems since then. I can empathize a little since I've had technical problems with my forums lately (sorry about that).

Oh, the offline selling has also been a mess. If that has been disabled to fix a dupe or an exploit, it's understandable. But it's been down quite a bit. The server message said it was disabled "due to reasons beyond our control." I don't know what that means but it just sounds stupid. Did aliens take over the offline selling functionality? Did a ghost possess a coder?

I'm also not sure why I didn't start the expansion with 100% vitality.

Population Issues - PvP

I don't really get the way the PvP launch was handled. If you were going to release a roleplay PvP server, why not do it from the start? I just found it bizarre. By the way, I'd love some population numbers from the Exchange enabled PvP server if anyone has that data.

The way things are now on Nagafen, it is simply overcrowded. It is very hard to get a quest mob in any of the newbie zones or even to solo. And pretty much every zone I've been to is just overly full of players.

But okay, the counter argument is that many people are only there for the novelty and will abandon their PvP characters soon enough. So I can live with it. The fact that it is a PvP server helps because more players mean more targets. And the server just has a different atmosphere. This is a case where I'd rather have too many players than too few. So I'm actually okay with it. What I can't deal with is:

Population Issues - KoS

The entire expansion just feels overcrowded because it is overcrowded. Groups are camping every inch of the lower level zones.

Scaleborn may be the greatest dungeon ever created. But when it feels more crowded than a shopping mall the day after Thanksgiving, it is completely unenjoyable. These zones are just not designed to handle the kind of overpopulation going on right now.

When DoF launched I had a great time. My group and I were exploring the desert, slaying mobs and taking in the scenery. Now we are just desperately trying to find a square inch of real estate that is not already occupied by six other people. No one is commenting on the zones, the mobs or the quests. The only discussion is the overcrowding.

Let me be clear. What I have been able to get out KoS in terms of graphics, quests, mobs and achievements has been positive. I have no real issues with the expansion, itself, thus far. But I haven't been able to enjoy it as I should have.

Okay, I take that back. We did one instance which was great because, well, it was an instance and thus not mobbed by hundreds of people. It was a very fun instance too (the Great Nest or whatever it's called). But I don't want to see everything instanced. I just want a little elbow room.

I just don't get it. When I first started playing, I specifically sought out a low-population server because that's what I like. I enjoy a less crowded feel even if it is harder to find groups. But okay, I'm a reasonable person. When the merger idea came up I saw that my server could use a population boost. So I wasn't opposed to it (except for the name policy which was settled in a positive fashion). But now it's gone to the other extreme. My server is highly, highly populated.

I don't know if a lot of people came back for KoS. I don't know if it is just the merger. I'm glad a lot of people appear to be playing EQII. But the current conditions in the expansion are just intolerable.

My static group has resorted to xp'ing in PoF because KoS is so unplayable due to overcrowding. And while I'm enjoying grouping with my friends, that really makes me sick. It's not only a bad thing for players, it's an insult to the designers who created possibly great zones which are now just being trampled by hordes of players.

I'll grant one positive out of this mess. Lag has been surprisingly absent. Even with a hundred people in the newbie zones on the PvP server, I had zero lag. In the mobbed KoS zones, barely any. I'm sure a ton of people will debate me on that, but it's just my honest personal experience. I don't have a supercomputer either, it's a few years old and though I do have 1.5 gig ram I run at pretty high settings. One place I did run into severe lag was in the Commonlands on the PvP server. It was the worst kind too - the spells and combat arts were off by a half second and that small but persistent issue made it near unplayable. But I am still amazed at the lack of lag I've found in other overcrowded zones.

I don't know what can be done about the overcrowding. Perhaps KoS zones need separate instances. Perhaps I was wrong and the merger was a mistake. Perhaps time will solve the problem. Or maybe it's just my server.

Addendum

Well, I've calmed down a little since I wrote this on Friday and so have the KoS zones. I still think it's quite overcrowded but it's not unplayable.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Humor: MMOlympics






The recent Winter Olympic Games gave me an idea. We MMO players are the real athletes. Our posteriors are conditioned for hours of hardcore sitting. Our patience and ability to endure tedium are far beyond the normal ken. Our skill in the fine arts of tanking, healing and aggro management are near supernatural! So don't we deserve a chance at Olympic Gold? I say yes! Here is a list of events I forwarded to the IOC for their considered opinion.

1. Exploit Hunt: 50 quests, but only one has a repeatable exploit that can net you endless amounts of xp! Who will be the first to find the exploit?

2. Forum Flamery: Keep the flame of the Olympic torch alive with this contest for the best forum flames! Flames will be judged on spelling (points deducted for correct spelling), anger level, sincerity of the promise to quit the game forever and play a competitor's, and the number of garbled and enraged responses received.

3. Camping: Ten of the world's best competitors. One room. One mob. The only question is...when will it pop? Want to go get a drink? Absolutely, but if the mob pops while you're gone you're out of luck. Bathroom break? Sure, rookie...enjoy. The MMOlympic Gold will go to the man or woman best able to stare at a screen for days without blinking, moving or sleeping.

4. Uber Loot-Off: Each contestant is given ten days to acquire the most uber loot possible. Steal from your guild bank, craft, ninja-loot, raid, we don't care what you do. Just show us that uber gear. After the ten day period, contestants will pose in a crowded newbie area. The one who impresses the most newbs shall reign victorious!

5. Uber Loot-Off (Exchange Enabled): Who can purchase the most uber gear with real money? This contest lasts ten minutes.

6. Pick-up Group Survival: One contestant at a time groups with five randomly chosen group members. How long can each contestant survive the horror?

7. Roleplay Mastery: Sure, anyone can roleplay. But can you keep it up when surrounded with a barrage of challenges? Ridiculously inappropriate names and group-mates who insist on discussing movies and the latest episode of American Idol are just a few of the obstacles the competitors will have to overcome as they strive to stay in character at all times!

8. Lag Slalom: Each athlete must maneuver through a curving path with sheer drops on both sides. Sound easy? Sure for Round One. But as we slowly increase the lag factor by adding more and more spectators, things get a bit more tricky. Dial-up only.

9. The Fansy Memorial Train Contest: In honor of the great Fansy the Famous Bard, this contest rates contestants on who can put together the largest train of mobs and use that train to kill the most players.

10. Fanboy Fandango: Each contestant chooses an MMO that has not yet been released yet and has one week to build the most hype through fansites, forum posts and even live conventions. Bonus difficulty points for choosing Mourning.

Hey, if curling is an Olympic sport, why not MMO grinding? Whoops, I may have offended some curling fans there. Well, if you are an offended curling fan to make it up to you here is a
cow curling game and here is a puppy curling game (the cow one has more sophisticated gamplay but the puppy one is cuter). Reminds me of the Animalympics.

Keep training people! Our day will come...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Newbie Revamp





I finally got around to checking out the revamped newbie zones.

First off, I liked the new class system where you pick your final class from the start so much that I played a few classes through the first levels. It just feels and plays so much better (including the equipment you start with). I believe this one succeeds in its goal. As a Dirge, I felt like a Dirge and not a generic scout. Combat also felt way more fun than I recall during the early levels.

Onto the actual tutorial. I'm only commenting on the Freeport side.

I miss the boat ride. I loved that opening.


Luckily, the island quests are pretty good. The one where you lure birds in with a mouse as bait is excellent. I tried dropping the bait in random places just to mess with the quest, but it appears you actually have to drop it under the bird, which is a good thing. The quest where you have to piece together parts of the parchment was a good story (though the reward was lame - who needs a ring with resists at that point in the game?). Oh, and the tent burning was deliciously evil. Very well done. The fact that it killed nearby good mobs was icing on the evil cake.

They did retain the quest in the main series which encourages grouping. I know some soloers might not like this but you don't really have to complete it. You can head to Freeport at any time. I think it's a nice introduction to grouping because basically all you have to do is stand outside the cave for a bit and you will be invited to a group soon enough. The fight is good and the event that takes place is fun. And, if you're a decent player and a high enough level you can probably solo it. I duoed it with a Coercer and it was smooth sailing.

My sole issue with the new zone is the tradeskill stuff. You could easily miss the tradeskill npc and there's no compelling reason to find him. The npc says something like, "Well, you can learn to tradeskill here or do it in Freeport." Thanks for nothing.

Now, I actually like the tradeskill quests you can do once you get to Freeport. Those are okay and help you get something of a handle on the different tradeskill professions. But if you're going to do that in Freeport, why even introduce it on the Isle? That giant three-story tradeskill cavern is kind of intimidating.

On an unrelated note, are the brokers in all the Freeport tradeskill zones so hard to find? In Qeynos the broker is right there in plain view and can be accessed quickly upon zone-in. The Freeport one is like three stories down. Very annoying.

I like the fact that the pop-up tips, which are helpful, continue in Freeport. I got one there when I targeted a guard which told me about asking guards for directions to NPC's. I thought that was excellent.

The housing quest is much simplified and far more pleasant then the old version which required a lot of boring lectures and re-zoning. The new version is straightforward and to the point.


All in all, I'm pleased with the way the revamp went. You can check out Bandit's review as well.

I'll have a few posts on more current stuff (i.e. the PvP/KoS launch) when I get a chance to write them this weekend.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

All Access Pack: Worth It?






SOE recently announced their All Access Pack which you can read about here.

Now, this isn't really anything that new (though people seem to think it is), because they previously offered the Station Access subscription which provided access to all the games in the Pack for one subscription price. But before, you did have to get each game individually.

The Pack costs $39.99. Is it worth it? Let's take a look.

SWG: I downloaded this whole game for free and am still playing it. Now, remember I have the Station Access subscription, but you would have to have that anyway to play the games in the Pack for one price. Just download the trial and you're in (though I reiterate - you have to have the Station Access subscription).

Value: $0.00

Planetside: They do offer a free trial so maybe you can get this one too for free. However, I'm not sure on that one, because I own Planetside and I can't test that. Nor could I find any information on the matter. It's $19.95 on Direct2Drive with Aftershock.

Value: $19.95

Everquest: I can't imagine anyone doesn't have Everquest laying around somewhere already. But okay, the Platinum Pack does have the first five expansions. It's on Direct2Drive for $9.95.

Value: $9.95

Everquest II: You can get it free with a FilePlanet subscription or with KoS. Let's say you go the FilePlanet route, subscribe for one month and get EQII. That would set you back $6.95. But you are getting a subscription to FilePlanet which is worth, well, okay not a whole lot. Let's say $1.00.

Value: $5.95

Matrix Online: I didn't see a free trial, though I find that hard to believe. It's on Direct2Drive for $19.99 which seems high to me but I haven't tried it yet (I will soon and review it - promise). But okay...

Value: $19.99

That's a sum total of $55.84. Great value? Not really. I think a $15.85 savings is not great considering you're getting older games. I have to think you could get Matrix Online in a bargain bin somewhere. Or let's say you can do without that one. If you subtract that game, you're left with $35.85, which is a loss. If you have one of the games already, it's also not a great deal.

Now, I have to reiterate that I don't know how long the SWG thing will work for. I only know it worked for me a few weeks ago and I'm still playing it.

Let's be realistic. What they're really trying to sell you here is Station Access subscription, which is $21.99 a month. That also includes extra character slots in EQII and access to the above games as well as Tanarus, Cosmic Rift Online, and Infantry Online.

So, in my opinion, they would be better served by selling the Pack for something in the neighborhood of $19.99 and counting themselves lucky to get additional subscription fees from the Station Access subscription. Or even make games like Planetside or Matrix Online available to Station Access subscribers for free or for a low price like $5.99. I would also reconsider if they threw in an additional expansion to SWG in the Pack. And what about throwing in Toontown? Blast you SOE - how am I supposed to kill Cogs and acquire mass quantities of Jellybeans if I have to pay for it?

Really, the bigger question is whether the Station Access subscription is worth it. And that depends on the person. Most people get very involved with one MMO and do not have the time to take on more than one. Some like a little variety. I have one friend who loves splitting his time between EQII and SWG quite evenly and another who still likes raiding with her old friends in EQ when not playing EQII. And I suppose Planetside is a nice diversion being more of a FPS type game. That's really up to you. I think it's nice to have the option even though it's definitely not for everybody. Hopefully they will add an additional title to the roster someday.

To give you a better idea I'll try to review Matrix Online and the three older Station Games (Tanarus, Cosmic Rift and Infantry Online) in the future.


By the way having a blast in KoS and the PvP server but no time to write about it now!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SWG Update (With Bonus Spires Event Ramblings)






If you're an EQII player and all went well with the launch you're probably up in the Kingdom of Sky or engaging in some PvP action.

And you're probably not going to be reading Aggro Me today. Well, I post these things the night before so maybe you are.

But, instead of an EQII post I'll just mention that a SWG dev outlined a
lengthy plan for future Publishes (the SWG word for Live Updates I assume). Now, as I said in my last SWG post, I've criticized the NGE (as a business practice) a bit twice before. But that's not going to keep me from playing this game for free as long as I have a Station Access subscription and as long as I'm not bored with it.

I don't know enough about this game to make any editorial comments on the actual changes. Pretty much all I know about SWG is that the swoop bike is cool, the lag (on Bria) is bad and the Rebel quest series on Tatooine is pretty fun so far. I have continued to play since my last SWG post, though infrequently. Oh, the test heavy weapon they gave everyone for free recently seems cool enough but it very nearly got me killed by a mob of angry Tusken Raiders. I guess it's more for demonstration purposes than for actual combat and I haven't mastered the art of switching weapons in under three minutes.

Some people in game seem to be pretty excited about the changes from what I heard on the general chat in Bria (especially about the Smuggler stuff). However, my in-game friends told me that Entertainers and Crafters are not happy with the changes at all. But again, I don't know much about SWG and I can't bring myself to read their forums outside of the dev tracker.

So make of it what you will. It does appear that SOE appears to be sticking with SWG contrary to rumors I read on various forums. And at least they seem to have a plan for the future. Whether you like that plan or not is up to you.


Okay, I lied and I can't shut up about EQII even for a day. The Spires event was the kind of event I like because it had a dynamic world-building aspect. I thought the pacing was a bit slower (which is better) than the Griffon Towers event but it was still exciting.

However, the friction the dragons caused on the forums and in-game between casual players and raid guilds and between various raid guilds was a bit much. Do you want to say that was SOE's fault? Do you want to say that was the players' fault? I'm torn on this one because I liked the dragons but I hated the name-calling and anger in ooc chat. While I wasn't personally offended by the dragon thing the controversy was so wide spread on my server that it did kill my mood. Things are usually relatively civil. Relatively.

Part of me liked the competitive action but part of me wants to suggest that SOE try to prevent similar ill-feelings in future events. I'll have to think about this one some more.

In this one respect, it was not that different from the long server-wide quests in WoW to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj. In that case, some casual players balked at participating because they felt the zones that would be opened upon completion of the quest were geared toward raiding guilds. In the Spires event in EQII, casual players felt slighted when they spent time doing the grunt work on the quest and then a raid guild swooped in to get the dragon which popped at the end and the resultant loot.

And yes, I'm aware that every turn-in in WoW was rewarded with an item and faction. I'm aware that everyone who participated in the Spires quest gets a reward.

I don't know the solution to the casual vs. raid guild debate. Frankly, I doubt one exists. I want to say that game companies should try not to exacerbate the problem, but on the other hand I don't want to see them restrict their creativity or water down content.

The Spire event was probably the hardest time I've ever had trying to formulate a definitive opinion, as you can probably tell. It was pretty much exactly what I asked for in the past, yet the recriminations and accusations left a bad taste in my mouth. I can take that sort of of thing on the forums but when it happens in game I have a problem.

But hey, the spires are open now so let's move on with our lives and have fun in the Kingdom of Sky. Or at least take out our anger on the PvP server.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Aggro Arcade

You've probably already seen the EQII bashing comic and "review" on Penny Arcade.

I started a
thread earlier today on the forums here asking whether it was worthy of a response. I got a lot of intelligent comments and the general feeling was that the mature and thoughtful thing to do would be to just ignore it.

But hey, no one ever accused me of being mature and thoughtful. So let the rebuttal begin.

Let's start off with my biggest problem, the obvious bias.

If you look at their
PA Presents page, you see they are hawking the WoW Strategy Guide, to which they have apparently contributed some comics.

What's more, on the front page of Blizzard's World of Warcraft
main site, you get the following "news" story:

Featured Penny Arcade Comic! - Nebu on 2/15/06

Check out our latest featured
Penny Arcade comic from the Official Strategy Guide!

Now, note that when you click on the Penny Arcade comic link it takes you to the EQII "review" and not the comic. How convenient. But, hey that's Blizzard's issue, not Penny Arcade's.

What is their issue is doing work for Blizzard on the Official Strategy Guide. They also promote WoW heavily and even had a booth at Blizzcon. That's a problem when you're attempting to review games made by their direct competitor. You could at least say, "Hey, we do work for the Official WoW Strategy Guide, so take this commentary with a grain of salt."

If Moorgard or Brenlo posted a scathing review of WoW on their blogs, I would find it in bad taste. Now they have the right to do so. And it would probably be much better written and thought-out than Penny Arcade's. But I would still have an issue with it for obvious reasons.

From the Wikipedia entry on Ethics in Journalism:

"Reporter must avoid conflicts of interest — incentives to report a story with a given slant. This includes not taking bribes and not reporting on stories which affect the reporter's personal, economic, or political interests."

Now, Gabe and Tycho are not journalists, any more than I am. But maybe we should start acting like journalists, at least a little. Like it or not, PA's opinion has great sway over the gaming masses. And with great power...well, you know the rest.

If you want to say I have a slant, sure, go ahead. I at least acknowledge that I do, to some degree. But remember I
called WoW a "great game." Not to mention that I rip SOE all the time, and believe me some of my posts have definitely annoyed them.

You just can't be in business with one company, like Penny Arcade is, and then bash their competitor and expect people to take it seriously. The ironic thing is that they've even
railed against paid shills in the past.

Okay, enough with the bias, on to the substantive issue.

I have a deal with my friends and anyone whom I date. It goes like this: "If what I said makes you laugh, you can't get mad it." That can be a dangerous game, but that's a story for another day. If Penny Arcade's comic had even made me chuckle or gave me a slight grin, I give you my honest word that I would not be writing this post right now. Remember, I make jokes at SOE's expense constantly. But at least some of them are funny.

I don't get the comic. If you want to say I don't have a sense of humor, fine. But who is the EQII person they are portraying supposed to be? At least a good Smed caricature would have made me laugh. For years, the joke about SOE is that all they care about is your money. So now I'm supposed to laugh at a joke that says they don't want your money?

SOE is not giving away the game for free. It costs $6.95 to subscribe for one month to FilePlanet. They give you a break and charge $3.33 a month if you subscribe for one year (that's $39.95). Now that's no joke. And even forgetting that, you still have to pay the hefty EQII subscription fees to play the game beyond the 30 day time limit.

Listen, if you buy KoS at retail you get EQII for free anyway. So it's not like this is some major change in marketing strategy. It's really not. Prior to the newbie revamp, SOE had the Trial of the Isle going for as long as I can remember. And I asked them at the Community Summit why they didn't have a demo program that gave a more adequate feel for the game then one that restricted you to the Isle. The answer was that they would absolutely love to but the download time involved would scare people off. (That's not a verbatim answer just what I recall - I could be totally wrong).

So now, through FilePlanet, they have a means to offer a better demo program. And they're going for it. What's more, SOE already had a program where they handed out cards at the Community Summit with codes on them that allowed a friend to try EQII free for 30 days and subscribe without actually purchasing the game. They were handing them out freely. So this is something they have always wanted to do.

It is certainly not because the game is failing or losing it's population. Scott stated in public on the forums:

"Taken as a whole, when you sum up all worlds, EQ2 is growing and has been for quite some time. Where "growth" for any MMO is defined as: (the number of people who sign up) - (the number of people who leave). "

I honestly doubt Scott Hartsman would flat out lie in a public venue. I have to take his word on this.

So, the concept of the "joke" in the comic that EQII is so horrible and under populated that SOE has to give it away is just totally inaccurate. In fact, I've seen more pro-EQII hype on various gaming forums recently than I have ever seen before. The "joke" just doesn't make sense.

The FilePlanet thing is a marketing concept and a great one at that. SOE stands to make more money from subscriber fees then from EQII retail boxes. Which, if you remember, you get free anyway with KoS. And we all know most game stores don't even carry copies of the original EQII box. So what does SOE have to lose with this tactic? Nothing. A good marketing idea is not a sign of weakness or failure.

Let's take on the sorry commentary now. Tycho makes some glib, uninformed remarks that I will ignore. Then Gabe gives his take on the game.

Gabe's only comments are on the visual look of the game. He makes no effort to talk about the gameplay, combat, depth, well anything except the visuals. If he had just said, "I hate the visuals. The game may be okay for all I know, but I don't know because I couldn't get past the visuals," I would be totally okay with it. But he never gives that disclaimer about the rest of the game.

He apparently only looked at the very early level stuff. I guarantee no one would look at DoF or KoS and say the graphics are sterile. But okay, he found a bland early level screen shot and he hates the character models. That hardly constitutes a "take" on the entire game. MMORPG's are deep and complex games. I made sure to state in my WoW review that, "It's impossible to review an MMO fairly without really putting extensive time into it so I'm not trying to do that." And though I didn't like the cartoony style I still managed to give impressions on other aspects of the game.

But what really bothers me is the totally unnecessary potshots he takes at the EQII artists. Check it:

"It is completely without life. There is no love or care given to any piece of it. The entire thing was made by robots in a vacuum.

I know there must be artists working at SOE. The only thing I can think of is that they are simply cogs in some corporate machine. They must be given no freedom at all. In fact after looking at the game I wouldn’t be surprised if they are beaten daily. Their spirits have been broken. The troll models specifically may even be some kind of internal attempt to destroy the game and strike a blow against their corporate masters."

Can't you just say, "I really hate the art in EQII. I know that's a subjective thing but I don't like it." Do you have to bash the actual artists? I've complained about the armor graphics and character models plenty of times without attacking the artists on a personal level.

I have met some of the artists who work on EQII and let me tell you they are not robots. Far from it. They pour as much blood, sweat and love into their work as anyone I have met. Their eyes light up when you talk about a zone they designed. They are passionate about what they do.

So even if you don't like the final product, I see no need for that form of comment.

Penny Arcade is the real cog in the corporate machine, not the EQII artists. They are the ones simply serving as Blizzard attack dogs.

If you can't even discuss the most elementary parts of a game, then don't discuss it all.

So, guess what. I'm going to review them with the same level of civility and thought that they used to review EQII:

Take a good look at Tycho's avatar on
their comments page. Take a good look at Gabe's avatar. Ah, they are the guys from the comic! They must look like that in real life. Um, no.
















That's what Gabe and Tycho look like in real life. Don't believe me? Do a google search. Now I can't get past those visuals. Why don't they draw their comics as accurate representations of themselves, as they imply? I can't get past that. Penny Arcade sucks.

An unfair take? Absolutely. But so was their take on EQII. Did I sink to their level? Absolutely. But the tagline of this blog is "overnuking" not "cupcake making" or "playing nice."

It was a worthless hatchet job from a pair with a proven bias and it annoyed me. I also find it childish that Blizzard provides a direct link on their main page to what they had to know was a smear job without any real merit. Very unprofessional on their part.

On the plus side, they did help spread the word about the trial so who knows? Maybe people will try it out and come to their own opinion. I hope the whole thing backfires on them.

In other EQII review news, Abalieno from
Cesspit appears to like the game or at least parts of it. While he finds plenty of negatives he also finds some big positives. Only Abalieno could call EQII a "parasite" and "shaping up to be a really nice and fun game" in the same paragraph. Of course, I'm taking that out of context - you have to read the whole bit to understand where he is coming from. I enjoyed his take, though I don't agree with all of it.

Long post today so I'll probably take Monday off. Have a great weekend.

Friday Humor: Best Of - Parodies






Yes, it's time for another "Best Of" addition of Friday Humor. I just wanted to spotlight some of my favorite Friday Humor posts of the past year. Today's selections are what I like to call parodies.

Everqust II as a sitcom? Sure, why not in
this EQII Sitcoms Post.

Kraymir: Hey Jerai, some wacko’s sending me a tell! Something about Vandelay Raiding? Do you have anymore owlbear steaks?

Gorge (shouting): Say Vandelay Raiding Guild! Vandelay Raiding Guild!

What's going on there? Well, you'll have to read the post to find out.

Even the mighty Bard is not beyond parody in my all-time favorite post,
EQII Shakespeare.

Julius Caesar

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

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

Brutus fakes link-death.

Caesar: Et tu, Brute?

Read the whole post for more Shakespearean follies.

But Shakespeare is not the only literary great that was parodied, as you can find out in this
EQII Literary Humor post.

Animal Farm, George Orwell

All tanks are equal. But some tanks are more equal than others.

The full post contains many more literary parodies, including some nice additions in the comments by Cyanbane, so head on over and take a gander.

And finally, forget the mighty Bard, what about the mighty Brad? No, not even Brad McQuaid is beyond parody as you can see in
this Vanguard edition of Friday Humor.

"Just for clarity, I don't want a simple log off screen in Vanguard. Because I want a myriad of variations in log offs. Sure, you might like a nifty little interface where you just click a button and log off. Yeah, be lazy and let that do all the work for you. Logging off is part of the gameplay. Is you race a good sleeper or not? Have you killed a lot of mobs that day? You may be over-excited. Where is the best locale to sleep? Have you switched your gear into your bedtime configuration? Have you countered anxiety with warm milk or the count sheep ability? All these will have an effect on the patented log off progress bar, which can range anywhere from seconds to hours. It may not be for everyone, but you're welcome to just turn your computer off and take the two level penalty."

I also take on eating, shopping and combat in that post so feel free to give it a read.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of "Best Of" Friday Humor.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Resist Me






Okay, another raid-oriented suggestion today. I don't like this one as much as the DKP idea from yesterday, but I'll throw it out there anyway.

If you raid with any frequency your packs probably look like mine. They are likely filled with different resist gear for each armor slot and fill up at least two or three bags.

Then you get the call, "This mob is AOE cold." You quickly look for your cold resist gear, checking stats if you don't remember. You switch out your normal gear for the resist stuff. Next mob, start the process over again, this time for poison resists.

In some ways it is kind of fun and I don't know if I want to see it change.

But then sometimes I think the actual switching of gear is a bit tedious. On a lot of the DoF raid mobs I can hang at max range anyway and never get touched so I sometimes just leave on my usual stuff on.

But I was wondering...would it be cool to create armor "templates" for your character? You could have a template for cold, for heat, for magic, for poison, etc. They would look just like the regular paper doll inventory interfaces, just on a separate tab. Then when you wanted heat resist, you could just switch to that template and your gear would switch automatically.

You would still have to obtain all the resist gear in the first place. You would also still have to hold it all in your inventory and put together each armor template yourself. But this might make raiding a bit more fun. You could switch between templates with ease as the raid went on.

While you would still have the fun of setting up and tweaking each template, I guess some might view this as a further "dumbing down" of the game. I'm not sure if I would like it myself, but I figured I would mention it anyway.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

DKP Me





Today I just have a guild-related idea to throw out there at you. This one concerns DKP.

Now, I know not everyone uses DKP (originally called Dragon Kill Points I believe, though the origin is murky). If you aren't aware of what DKP is, it's basically an incentive system. Bob raids all the time to gain DKP. For each raid Bob is awarded DKP (1, 8, .3, whatever, usually based on the length, success or difficulty of the raid). Then when he wants to bid on an item that drops on a raid, Bob bids DKP. If Bob wins the bid on that specific item he receives it, and the DKP he bid is deducted from his DKP total.

As I said, it's an incentive system. It encourages Bob to attend raids, even when those raids might never drop any item Bob can use. He realizes that he will still get DKP to use later for an item he really wants. It rewards the best gear to frequent raiders, when it is working correctly.

Obviously, there are many variations and additions to the basic system. For instance, some guilds allow players to earn DKP by donating certain items to the guild bank (say a T6 rare) and then allow other players to bid on them. Some guilds may allow DKP for alts and some might not. As I said, there are many different systems.

Of course, some guilds, even some of the top raid guilds, do not even use DKP at all. But I'm not debating the merits, or lack thereof, of the system. The reality is that many guilds do use it. I think I can confidently say that a majority of raid guilds do.

We record it on an Excel spreadsheet, available for guild members to check on the web. Others might use a pay guild site service which provides a DKP system as one of the features.

But I was wondering. Would it be a cool feature to allow for DKP record-keeping in game? I think it might. Leaders or officers could manually enter DKP totals in the Guild Window. Then it would very easy for everyone to check their DKP in game.

Even better, allow leaders or officers to right-click on the raid window and select the option "Award all current raiders DKP." By selecting this, each of the totals in the Guild Window would automatically increase by one. Click again if it is a two DKP raid, and so on. You would still have to allow for manual changes, obviously. It could also be a lot more complex and customizable, which would be even better.

Now I know there are some negatives to this system, but, wow, it would also be a great boon in the record-keeping department and make checking your DKP in the middle of a raid so much easier.

As an alternative, EQII Players could offer an out of game DKP tracker of some kind. But I really like the in game idea.

I would love to see EQII jump on this idea and be on the forefront of guild support, something I see becoming more and more important the future.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Erollisi Day







I know a few people have been complaining about the Erollisi Day (Valentine's Day) quest, but I have to respectfully disagree.

Is it comparable to Frostfell or the Halloween events? Of course not. But not every holiday has to be a major extravaganza. I don't want to see the entire EQII team totally devoted to huge holiday events. And I honestly like the fact that this event was a simple one.

And yes, I realize there were issues on the first day with the NPC on some servers. But give it just a little bit of time. I did the quest on the first night and had no bugs. And this quest comes in the midst of server mergers and everything else that is going on in EQII, so I am willing to cut SOE a little slack.

I thought the quest itself was great. I loved how you could just ride or walk over the nodes to collect them. I don't recall doing that in any other quest I've done and it was quite fun. The rewards were excellent - suitably cheesy and enjoyable. You can also read the humorous lore
here and check out the corny forum fun here.

I enjoyed last year's Erollisi Day quest and I think this year's quest kept the Erollisi tradition going nicely.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Kingdom of Sky Impressions






Okay, I didn't play the beta too much due to my schedule. I even showed up late to Blackguard's beta tour because I got stuck at work. So take what I say with a grain of salt. And be aware that things may change before release. I'm also not going to spoil too many actual details for you.

One thing I can positively say is that the graphics will blow you away. The zones I visited myself or on Blackguard's tour are truly amazing. They are far beyond anything I have seen thus far and real eye-candy. The mode of travel you use (i.e. this expansion's griffon or carpet) is also a visual treat.

The graphics for the mobs are the best I have seen. They just seem more detailed, larger and more imaginative. A fantastic job.

There appears to be plenty of zones and the zones feel very large. Even more important, the physical nature of the zones is way more interesting than the original ones. Rather than being flat zones, in KoS you are jumping, falling, climbing and so on. I'm not sure exactly how to explain this but movement just seems a lot more exciting in KoS and the zones just feel a lot more like real places, even though they maintain a highly fantastical look. DoF had some of this but KoS takes it further.

I love the Achievement tree. You can't have every Achievement and I like that. You may have to sink points into an Achievement you aren't really crazy about to get to one you are. The whole thing is very fun and I honestly see different people taking many different Achievement paths. I still haven't decided which way I am going to spend my points and I think that means it is a success. I was surprised to see that certain Achievements require you to wield a certain weapon (i.e. one-hand, dagger, two-handed) but I also found it interesting. I like the way you get Achievement points from other means then pure xp.

Are there going to be Achievements you think are stupid? Sure. But that's part of the fun. Other people might enjoy taking their character in a totally different direction than you. I honestly think it will add a lot to the game. Now, I would prefer to see Achievement points added retroactively but since I'm already at 60 I'm pretty biased and I'm not going to get crazy about it.

One thing I have really not seen mentioned too much in other beta impressions is criticals. Wow, was I happy to see criticals. They work for spells, attacks and also for heals and I just think they are really fun.


I've only seen two of the famous profession hats in game but they are, indeed, quite cool. There is discussion and screenshots in
this thread. I do wish the profession hats for every class were finished but Moorgard does say they will be added soon after.

I have asked people about the itemization in KoS and the people I have spoken to seem rather pleased. I like what I have seen so far.

One negative: The spell line for Wizards is mainly an upgrade over the existing line. I was hoping for something more interesting but I guess they follow a cycle of spell upgrades. I checked a few other classes and it looks to be similar for all. However, there does appear to be at least one really special new spell for each class so don't despair. Plus, you do have the Achievements.

I'm hoping the quests are as exciting as the rest of the expansion and they look good so far. I really believe the Kingdom of Sky will be a tremendous boost for EQII and I think a lot of work went into it. It seems to be an amazing, entertaining product and the beta players I talked to seemed quite pleased with it.


Oh, one more slight negative. The carnivorous houseplant reward you get if you buy the box at retail seems rather awesome. Okay, that's not a fair negative. I think SOE did a great job coming up with a cool reward. And I understand the need to make the retail box attractive. I just personally hate buying games retail and prefer downloading them. I'm not saying it is the greatest thing ever and you should rush out and buy the retail copy instead of downloading. I just think it beats down the DoF monkey in terms of fun factor.

I really like the way SOE seems to be headed on the teleportation live event that will introduce KoS. It's exactly the kind of thing
I get excited about.

If you have any specific questions about the expansion ask them on
the forums and I'll try to answer. But trust me, I think you are in for a treat. I may update with more impressions as I find out more or remember some stuff I missed.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Humor: Norrathian Idol

Ryan: Seacrest out! Oh, we just started. My bad. Seacrest out! Damn, why do I keep doing that? Hello, folks, I'm Ryan Seacrest, an infernal simulacrum of homogenized-pseudo-hipness that was created by marketing gnomes. And I'm here in Norrath to host Norrathian Idol, where we seek out the greatest untapped singing talent in all of Norrath!

Today we travel to the fabled city of Qeynos, on the hunt for a buried treasure trove of talent! Let's listen in as our first contestant meets the judges...




















Randy: 'Sup dog.
Paula: Okay, sweetie, what are you going to sing for us today?
Dawson: The Magnificent Song!
Simon: Okay, go ahead.

They call me Magnificent,
My songs are beneficent
And also verbificent-

Simon: Stop. Just stop.
Paula: Honey, how do you think you did?
Dawson: Magnificent! Er, magnificently!
Simon: Not to be rude, but everything about that audition was the exact opposite of magnificent. Your hair is an abomination, your pants are absurd and your singing is an insult to the ear. I'm not sure how you became a "renowned street performer" and frankly I don't want to know. That's a no for me. Randy?
Randy: That's a no, dog.
Paula: Sorry, honey.


















Randy: 'Sup dog.
Simon: And why do you think you are the next Norrathian Idol?
Falin: If I don't have what you want, ya don't need it!
Paula: Wow, I love your confidence! Go ahead and sing for us.

If I don't have what you want ya don't need it!
If ya think ya need then I sure have it!
Have it, need it, need it, have it....
Let's call the whole thing off!

Simon: Indeed.
Paula: I thought it was...interesting.
Randy: That's a no for me dog. Your pitch was terrible.
Simon: I don't mean to be rude, but you smell as if you stand around in a sewer all day long. And frankly, you look like you do as well. Please take that awful singing voice back below ground and find another career. Thank you.
Falin: If I don't have what you want, ya don't need it!
Simon: Goodbye.


















Randy: 'Sup dog.
Paula: Oh, how cute. A child.
Simon: Excuse me a minute. I don't mean to be rude, but that isn't a child. It appears to be a tiny man. And I find it rather upsetting.
Paula: Don't mind him, honey. Go ahead and sing.

Have you ever seen?
Oh, have you ever seen?
A gnoll before? A gnome before?
Oh, have you ever seen?
An erudite whore-

Paula: Okay, that's enough honey.
Simon: My god. I'm speechless. Truly terrible. And you're extremely creepy, bordering on terrifying.
Randy: No for me, dog.

















Randy: 'Sup frog.
Paula: What are you going to sing for us today?
Bupipa: The croaking melody!
Paula: Great, go ahead.

Croak-aloak-croak,
Croak adoak moak,
Croak, croak croak.

Simon: Stop, please stop.
Paula: You're just not right for this contest, sweetie. Simon?
Simon: Sing for Queen Antonia Bayle? Not very likely. That may be acceptable in some dank bog but that kind of pathetic croaking is never going to cut it for the Norrathian Idol.
Randy: That's a no for me, frog.



















Randy: Um, 'sup dog.
Paula: Er, go ahead and sing please.

Roaaaarrrrr!

Simon: Finally, the whole package. The look, the voice. Something about you is so current and right! Where have you been hiding?
Paula: Terrific!
Randy: That's a yes for me dog.
Paula: Welcome to the next round in the Kingdom of Sky!

Ryan: And there you have it...four sad contestants and one happy one! We'll see you soon for more Norrathian Idol! Seacrest out!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

PvP Update




Wow, on Monday I was cautiously optimistic about the PvP rules and now that has changed to unabashed excitement.

I said in Monday's post that "I feel things may change before the servers are actually implemented" and they have indeed.

Check out
the changes here.

It seems like the EQII team is trying to remain true to the goals of the original ruleset, making things fun while restricting griefing, while adding back in as much freedom as they possibly can.

I asked for "a little loot action" on Monday and I sure got it:

In the event of an honorable death, players will drop a percentage of their coin into a chest that can be looted by anyone who gained rewards for the kill (or the player who died if they make it back to the chest in time).

Additionally, there is a chance that players will drop a single item from their non-equipped inventory upon death. These items are of Treasured quality and lower, and cannot be Attuned or No-Trade.

Yeah, I know it can sting to lose an item or coin but that just makes it so much more fun. What can I say? I'm just loving it.

I didn't care too much about the level restrictions but I am happy to see they have been relaxed in certain zones. It just makes sense. If you want to step into dangerous territory, prepare to pay the price.

I realize this I isn't a terrific blog entry, but I just don't really have a lot to critique at the moment on this front. For more comments you can check out
n3rfed, the official thread or our thread.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Defending SOE?






Sure, why not. Anyone who reads this site knows I do not hesitate to be negative when the situation calls for it. If I feel SOE is screwing up or doing something unfair to their customers, believe me, I will tell you. And I have plenty of times in the past. I think my record speaks for itself.

But that goes both ways. If I see SOE being treated unfairly, I will tell you that as well. And that is the case here.

I was surfing over to Digg last night, specifically
Digg Gaming. Now, Digg Gaming is a great and popular site. People (anyone) can submit stories and if you like them, you vote on them, or Digg them. As they get more Diggs they rise to the front page and more people see them and link to them. It's a cool system and I like it. I find a lot of interesting reads on gaming there. But it does have its flaws.

Nothing is there to stop people from submitting Diggs with a heavy spin or an incorrect title.

That's why I'm defending SOE in this post.

On the very front page (it's on page two now),
one Digg had risen near the top with over 1,000 Diggs, or votes. The title? "Sony Online Entertainment's Dirty Business Practices Exposed."

Okay. The description: "The article here describes some of the dirty busienss [sic] practices exercised by Sony Online Entertainment in order to get your money."

The link takes you to
this page.

And here's my major issue. This is not article. It is not even close to an article. It is a "mailbag letter" submitted by a reader. I could have written it. Anyone could have written it. Brad McQuaid could have written it (joking, joking).

But I know who didn't write it. CBS News, the site where it is hosted.

To link to it as "an article" is highly irresponsible and just wrong. A lot of people read the first page of Digg Gaming and link to stories they find there. And to spread the word about a mailbag letter as if it were an article is just ridiculous. That letter has no more validity than a typical forum rant. But people clicking that link and not noticing it is a letter will assume it has validity and that it was written by a respectable news outlet, CBS News.

It claims to have been written by a guide, but who knows? Now, as for the letter itself, does it make a few valid points? Okay, sure. Yes the Froglok thing was a mess (though not quite as bad as the letter writer would have you believe) and I told you that at the time. Yes, some of the EQ expansions were a bit on the unfinished side. But 60% complete at release? Be serious. How do you pull a number like that out of thin air? And to say SOE introduced "artificial bugs" strikes me as absurd and worthy of tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.

Now, I don't know what percent of the expansions were finished. I have no idea. But I doubt the letter writer does either.

And the important thing is that this was not researched or fact-checked as an article should be. Because it is not an article.

I don't have the slightest problem with this person writing their letter, though I may not agree with it. That is absolutely their right. There is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, I voice mine all the time. And CBS has the right to print letters in response to their articles. They are just presenting it as a letter they received. They are not saying it is an article or that they have verified the contents. I don't have a problem with that either.

But the Digg link says it is an article, and I have a major problem with that.

It's a letter from a mailbag and a December 21, 2005 mailbag at that. But a lot of people in the comments section, and I'm sure many more that did not comment, are assuming it is, in fact, an actual article from CBS News. I don't blame them. If you just read the Digg and clicked over it would be easy to assume it was a legitimate article.

If someone wants to write a proper, fact-checked, researched article about SOE, that's great. But this isn't it.

It's just a shame that people have the wrong idea about this link so I'm doing my very small part to try to set the record straight. It's just a letter and a poorly written one at that.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

SWG Me (for Free)





Alright, before I start this post I want to clarify:

1. While I didn't rip SOE (or Lucas)
too hard for the whole NGE thing, I did get my digs in. But not being a SWG player, I didn't feel knowledgeable enough to go totally overboard about it. I will say that I definitely would have handled the whole thing much differently and leave it at that. But this post is not a discussion of that issue. It's also not getting into the old vs. new game debate. From what I understand, regardless of what you thought of the old SWG it was pretty original in many ways. But this post is just taking a look at the new game as a first-timer.

2. I'm not one hundred percent sure on this but I think I was able to download the entire game (with the Jump to Lightspeed expansion) for free. I also think I will be able to play free forever. No, it's not my special Aggro powers. It's because I'm an All Access Pass subscriber, or whatever they're calling it these days.

The All Access thing is kind of funny because it shows how quickly business models change with the trends. A year or two ago it seemed like SOE was going all out on the All Access concept of playing several games for one price. Now they seem to be trying different concepts such as the free game (pay for extras) idea or the Station Exchange stuff. So I don't know if the All Access thing will fall by the wayside.

But for that probably very small number of All Access subscribers who do not currently play SWG, you may as well take advantage of it.

And for a free game, it's not bad.

The profession choice wheel is a bit corny but the character creator is more flexible than EQII or WoW.

The NGE combat is actually quite fun. I prefer the Commando class so far to the Jedi or Bounty Hunter and the ranged combat seems more fun than the melee. The grenades are a blast. It does move quickly. You fire or attack with the left mouse and a lot of the "strategy" comes from using different specials with the right mouse button.

The "tutorial" part is pretty nice. You get to hang with Han Solo and Chewie and within minutes of playing you're engaging in ranged blaster combat and even gunning down ships from the Falcon's gun turret. It pulls you into the world nicely.

Then you arrive on a space station and you do quests which are basically "kill ten x" and "deliver x to y" only in space. They're not badly done. The whole starter zone is accessible and pretty easy to understand. The waypoints are much easier to follow than EQII though they can be a bit much graphically. You also get involved with space combat and flight pretty soon which is enjoyable.

I thought the overall quest path was a little unclear at points and the rebel/imperial faction quests should have been made more apparent. But on the whole I would say it's not bad. The cut scene with the Falcon that pops up every single time you fly back to the initial station has to go (you can skip it by pressing esc but it's still pointless and repetitive).

The biggest negative (and it is a pretty big one) is how bad the lag is. And I mean it's bad even in areas you wouldn't expect it. I very rarely get any lag in EQII so it was a surprise and a disappointment.

When you choose to leave the initial station for good you get plunked down on Tatooine (Mos Eisley I think). And boy, it really is a shock. While the station prepares you well for most aspects of gameplay, nothing can prepare you for the social elements. There are tons of people running around spamming merchandise and other stuff and the whole thing is a bit daunting.

The game does set you on a continuing quest path, giving you a free speeder. The name is really a misnomer because it "speeds" along at the pace of a Segway going at one-quarter velocity. The quests continue though and you become embroiled in trying to pay off a debt of sorts to Jabba.

That's about all I played through so far so I don't know how the actual main gameplay is. But it was fun enough so far for me to take two characters through to that point. I wouldn't buy it, but for free I don't regret the time I've spent in the SWG universe.

Okay, since I first wrote this I've played a bit more. A friend bought me a swoop bike and wow, that makes a huge difference. I've been working the legacy quest series around Mos Eisley and I don't think I would have done it with that slow, cumbersome speeder. But with a cool swoop bike with nice animations, even fed-ex quests seem fun.

The early quests seem completely solo-oriented though it helps a great deal to have an experienced player around who you can ask questions to.

Oh, I also received some kind of Wookie Life Day Holiday Gift or something like that and it had me laughing for twenty minutes. I don't want to ruin the surprise for you but that was one of the neatest, most surprising things I've seen upon opening an item.

Monday, February 06, 2006

PvP Details







As you may know I am pretty excited about the prospect of rolling an alt on the PvP server, so I was happy to see some details made public. I know I'm really late on this one, but there has been so much going on.

If you haven't checked it out yet,
here is the info.

Now, I'm not going to comment much on what I've seen so far, because I feel things may change before the servers are actually implemented. And I am willing to give them a chance on this one and see how things play out.

If I have issues with the way PvP is going, I'll say so after I've actually experienced it.

The complaints on the official forums have been a bit much. I think that some people will not be happy unless they get Sullon Zek the Sequel. And hey, I was a Fansy fan too as you can see in
my second Friday Humor ever. But times change and things evolve. I'm willing to try something new.

I find it somewhat amusing that much of the forums firestorm relates to the level range restrictions while it is the health percentage rules that seem more questionable to me. But I don't even think the health percentage restriction is much of an issue. I happen to agree with the ban on cross-faction chat.

There has been a lot of hand wringing about the negatives people think they have found in the ruleset but really no mention of a pretty big positive, that players can actually get xp from PvP kills. That's a pretty big deal to me and pretty hard to pull off. I'm sure they could do a total free for all with no restrictions but also no real rewards. Is that really what you want? Some of the combat mechanics (i.e. taunt) also sound really well done.

On the whole I am even more excited about joining the battle for Norrath.

I will say to SOE that most of the people who roll on this server know what they are getting into, so don't be afraid to make things a little rougher. I'm hoping for at least a little loot action specifically.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Name Game





Important Edit: Scott has since made a clarifying post on the whole name issue which I highly recommend you read. There is, in fact, a logical system being implemented for the name change procedure. So, I hereby withdraw my objections to the merger and you don't really have to read the following lengthy discourse. I'm really glad to see my faith in the EQII team was justified. Well done.

GamerGod did an interview with SOE's Director of Corporate Communications, Chris Kramer, which you can read here.

This post is not about that interview, though it was originally intended to be. I started writing about it when a quote about the NGE in SWG struck me:

"The main thing that we learned was that we need to begin talking to our communities much earlier whenever there are huge updates coming to a game."

Is that true?


And now we have the Server Mergers in EQII: a test of post-NGE SOE communication regarding a major game change. And I think that test was failed.

Now, I happen to be a Hartsman fan. I like his Producer's Letters and posts and I think the game has been headed in a terrific direction. I could have gone on in a somewhat boring post about the Kramer interview as originally intended. I had already made some strong points in my
Server Merger post. And honestly, I am not even opposed to the merger idea on principle. I am supportive of it, if done right.

Frankly, I thought about taking a pass on this one. But that's just not my way.

I have to take issue with the communication that has taken place with the community on the merger issue. As I stated, I think merging servers, regardless of whether it is a good idea, is a traumatic event for players. With such a large and emotionally volatile issue, communication is all the more important.

And the communication on this matter has been sub par. Scott's original letter stated that:

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.”

Note the word “older.”

Then in a later post, Scott stated that:

"
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.

We're looking into more desirable alternatives to this that favor the more recently active, more established characters, but I don't want to get into specifics until we've tested them. Once we have something that verifies out, I'll make sure everyone hears about it
."

First of all, the two statements are contradictory. So where is the clear communication?

Second of all, when embarking on such a difficult and emotional project, it is important to have clear systems in place for the players to understand when they hear about the project. All the details should have absolutely been worked out prior to the initial announcement.

The miasma of uncertainty on the name issue has resulted in hundreds of angry message board posts. And it has spilled over into the game too. People are arguing in chat about what the name policy is (and they're usually both wrong because it doesn't seem to have been finally decided yet). Then you have people being very upset over losing their names (and believe me people are very upset).

And the amazing thing is that some of these people who are upset may not lose their names in the end. People are being put through an emotional wringer for possibly no reason. And I don't need that negativity, in-game and out.


A clear FAQ would have been nice, but actual finalized procedures would be the proper way to start.

If SOE couldn't have accurately communicated with the community at the time the mergers were announced, they clearly should have held off on that announcement and pushed the date of the mergers back. It is unfair to make such an announcement without clear and final information in place.

You had to have known the name issue would be the first subject players wanted information on. And that information was just absent. That is not successful communication.


Putting aside the whole communication issue, we all know that simply changing the names of the people based purely on their server and not on any logical method such as date of creation, playtime, level, amount of activity in recent months or some combination thereof is unfair and wrong. I know it, SOE knows it and the players know it. We all know it. There's no point in me crafting careful arguments about it because it is simply common sense.

Player A: Player A bought EQII the first day it was released. She started a character on a random server, using the same name she had used in 7 previous MMO's. She is now max-level and logs in at least once a day.

Player B: Player B bought EQII two months ago and started a character on a random server. Player B has logged into his level 8 character, an alt, a total of 3 times over the last two months.

Should Player B get to keep the name simply because he had the good fortune to roll on Befallen instead of Faydark?

I understand the desire to get things done prior to the expansion. I understand that there may be huge technical hurdles. But I have to say on an issue of this magnitude I can't be understanding. It should have been done correctly.

Listen, server mergers are never an easy thing to sell to your players. I'm not saying all would have gone over easily in a happy festival of ice cream and confetti if the correct systems were in place and were clearly communicated to the customers. Some people would have still been upset. But the list would have been a great deal shorter and this period of uncertainty would not have occurred.

You've had the lessons. Learn from them. You can do better than this.

This is a rare weekend post I'm leaving up until Tuesday. As of now I still hope and believe SOE will come forth with a suitable name policy. Moorgard did post that they were working on it.


I've checked the dev tracker frequently hoping for an update. But the clock is ticking rapidly towards merge day. If they go through with the merge with the current absurd policy in place it will be a huge hit to player morale which might even outweigh all the good things which are happening. I truly think SOE is underestimating the massive negative impact this will have on their players. As I've said before, people invest a lot of meaning and emotion into their characters' names.

It bears repeating that I'm not even against the mergers. But I am certainly against the mergers taking place without a suitable name policy in place.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Humor: Achievement Suggestions





I planned to coast by with another "Best Of" Friday Humor post today, but the notorious Junior High hacker squad I utilized in this post had different ideas. They hacked my checking account, leaving me with a balance of $13.37 as a symbol of their elite skills. Luckily, this was far more than I actually had in the first place, but who knew what they would do next? The ATM receipt warned:

"Learn2Rite Humor, aggggro-nub or w3 haxxorize the Sooper Bowl1@!!"

Since I couldn't allow these hacker renegades to mess with the world's enjoyment of the NFL, I felt I had a patriotic duty to write some fresh humor for today. And so I present to you my top ten suggestions for possible Achievements for the new Achievement System in KoS. While we don't know exactly what this new system will entail, the devs have hinted at choices. So what will some of those achievements we have to choose from be?

1. Server Merger Insurance: By putting points into this achievement, you can secure your name in the event of any server merger! Of course, if the person on the other server has more points invested in this achievement, well, welcome to the "X"- Games.

2. Feign Link Death: Only available for scouts and monks, this achievement is perfect for those who get caught on a sub par raid or in a disastrous pick-up group. Sure you could just go LD by killing the power on your computer but that's quite suspicious. By hitting the "Feign Link Death" key, your character will flicker and flash madly before disappearing. If you put enough points in, you may even get the power to cause a zone-wide crash, thus totally absolving you from any accusations! A somewhat related achievement is:

3. Call of the Phony: This allows you to recall people who "mistakenly" revived in the wrong zone right back into the raid! Nice try, rookies.

4. Clippy the Helpful Familiar: Yes, some pets offer offensive abilities. But do they ever give you advice in a cheerful fashion? This magical paperclip will appear in the middle of combat and present you with helpful tips like:

"You look like you're about to about to cast a damage spell on a mezzed target. Would you like information about using /assist, newb?"

or

"You look like you purchased this level 60 healer on EBay. Would you like assistance in learning what the basic healing spells are?"

Note: Clippy can not be dismissed.

5. Last Name Lordship: Sick of the plague of offensive or just plain idiotic last names that currently infest Norrath worse than the Great Plague of '05? Choose this achievement for the power to correct the stupid last names of other players. Of course, this power will instantly be abused by players changing last names to even more offensive ones. But then the person with the most levels in Last Name Lordship can then change them back! Everyone's a winner in this escalating name war!

6. Push Power: Tired of that gnome who is sending you vulgar tells? Just plain bored on a long raid? Choose the "Push Power" achievement, which gives you the ability to target other players and enter /push to give them a gentle nudge in the right direction. Laugh with glee as they plummet over a steep cliff to their death...it's fun for the whole family! Some uber buffoon AFK chilling on the QH docks? A simple /push will get their breath meter headed in the right direction!


Note: Not responsible for players who may have safe fall or Fishbone Earrings.

7. The Ironforge Directive: Choose this fun achievement to gain the ability to slaughter the NPC of your choice! Repeatedly!

8. Dragonball X: If this achievement is selected you gain a new skill called "Power UP!" When activated, your character's hair will stand on end, your whole body will glow dramatically and your facial expressions will contort beyond reason. You will also levitate while shouting fierce sounding nonsense! This has no real effect but, wow, does it look cool!

Note: Only available on SOGA models. Not responsible for lag.

9. Gigglegiggler Goblish Giga-Power: You know what stinks about the lottery? Not winning it. With this achievement you get 25 additional tickets for each one you buy! Get giggle-gambling! We'll even throw in 78 new arena champions!

10. WoW Simulator: This achievement is a technical masterpiece that changes your actual log-on screen. Instead of simply logging on to your character as usual, players with this achievement will have to wait in a queue of random length! Sometimes for up to an hour!


If you're looking for actual information on the new achievement system, check out the audio interview with everyone's favorite pirate on OGaming (thanks Scott). Blackguard gives a lot of forthright answers and a ton of great information in the interview.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Turning 60





Yes, I finally dinged 60 last night. And I know what you're thinking: "Aggro, you slacker! What took you so long? Grind more newb." After all, I reached level 50 way back on June 9, 2005.

Well, for one thing, I wasn't in a big rush this time. Although I must say seeing 23 level 60's on raids and then one level 59 Aggro was a bit discomfiting. But I took it kind of easy knowing there was no ice comet at the end of the rainbow.

A second reason is schedule. I get home from work, write for a while and then log on right before that night's raid is scheduled. And by the time the raid is over I usually only have time for maybe one Grifter's quest before savoring a chapter or two of "A Feast For Crows" and drifting off to sleep.

The third (and biggest) reason is that I fell behind my friends and the majority of my guild early on when I took basically a one month break. And it is kind of hard to call for an xp group when everyone else is at level 60. It was especially tough to find a group in that 57-59 range, apart from the occasional Poet's run. I'm hoping the new Achievement system will do something to allay this problem in KoS. I'm assuming that it will be much easier to find groups when there is something more to strive for, even at 70.

Of course, I'll be the first on my server to hit 70 when KoS is released. Or at least that's what I like to tell myself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

19C






Yes, Update 19 sure is a big update. I believe it is scheduled to hit the Live Servers before the end of this week, but obviously that is subject to change.

The
notes for part C of the Update are now available and I thought I'd mention some points of interest.

Wisps will now update more frequently.

- You do not have to get as far away from a waypoint wisp for it to re-path to your destination.
- In cases in which the wisp could not find its way to the destination and would go through walls or the ground, there is now chat text that provides a compass direction to navigate with.

I am actually pretty excited about this. I tend to get lost quite frequently. I have often been known to say that I still get lost in the Down Under. I like to use waypoints to target group members but it is usually an ineffective method.

Now, I know many people use third party map add-ons so this is not an issue for them. But for those of us who don't this is a positive change.

The Antonia Bayle and Lucan D'Lere statues on the islands will now speak.

That's great and everything but it just reminds me that in over a year of playing EQII my personal communication with Antonia and Lucan has been nearly non-existent. When do we get to actually see these two when we're not betraying?

Tensions between the Ashen Order and the Ashen Disciples seem to be growing. The two orders have become more distinct in their appearance, philosophy, and combat techniques.

Wait a minute...there's two different types of Ashen monks? I must have been there a dozen or more times and I never noticed. This change is definitely a good one if people are expected to see a difference.

Most creatures are no longer immune to certain damage types. Many will have retained high resistance to particular forms of damage but should no longer be completely immune.

Interesting. Does this apply to epic mobs? It's slightly unrelated, by why is it that almost every wizard damage spell is heat based? Remember, it's supposed to be master of the elements, not master of heat.


Hunger and thirst messages will no longer repeat every time you zone or log in. They will only display once every 30 minutes.

Thank you. I don't need to be reminded of how cheap I am every ten seconds.

I know some people have been complaining that this update has been taking too long. But be fair. It contains major changes to much of the early game and there are a ton of other tweaks in there. The raid interface change is the one I'm most looking forward to checking out.