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Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Humor: Nathan Ironforge's Livejournal





When I heard one of EQII's most notorious NPC's had a Live Journal, I had to get my hands on a link. However, this proved incredibly difficult. I first contacted the Aggro Me l33t Junior High Haxxor team, but they were all busy working on a multi-month project to hack Lindsay Lohan's dishwasher.

With trepidation, I reached out to the Aggro Me Elite Ninja Death Squad. They immediately challenged me to ritual combat but through the use of kiting and modern firearms I prevailed. The surviving members of the Squad sullenly agreed to break into the headquarters of Live Journal and extract the necessary information. I don't know how they did it but apparently katanas were involved. While there was no longer an active link they did find me a hardcopy. And so I present to you Nathan Ironforge's Live Journal:

March 15th

Gah, I'm so sick of Qeynos Harbor. People are always running around and ignoring me like I don't even exist :(

I try to be friendly to them but they all seem to hate me. I asked one if he'd ever seen a gnoll before and he just glared at me and went on to the docks. Why can't people stop and chat about gnolls for a minute? I wish I had some friends to talk to about gnolls. No one understands me.

Mood: Lonely.

March 19th

I was wondering about my mother today. I don't know who she is but I have a feeling she's really special. She is probably a great hero and that's why she isn't around. Maybe my mother is really Queen Antonia! She's probably too busy to visit me but someday she'll come and take me to live with her in the castle!

Mood: Excited.

March 2oth

Today, I decided to tell my Dad I figured out who Mom was. My Dad's name is Larry Ironforge and he repairs armors and weapons. He makes a lot of money. He says that sometimes he jacks up the price because the people who come in don't even take the time to look at each individual price and just shout at him to repair everything. He gets angry a lot, I think because he works in the forge all day and it's real hot.

I told him I figured out my Mom was Queen Antonia. He laughed really hard and said, "One things for sure, she was a Royal pain in the blank. That blanking blank." Only he didn't say "blank" he said bad words. But I'm not allowed to write them or Dad said he'll put me on the forge and make me into pristine vanadium greaves :(

Mood: Scared.

March 24th

Today I made some new friends! I'm not allowed to go to school because Dad says it's a waste of good copper and I can learn all I need to by hanging around the docks all day.

But today I found out where the other kids go to school in South Qeynos and I played with them when they were at recess. Some of them said they see gnolls all the time! I was happy.

There was also this real nice girl named Stacy and when I saw her I got all these weird feelings. I mean girls are gross but she was real pretty. I haven't gotten weird feelings like that since Tacklemaster Moyna looked for bait in my pants. Her and Dad got into a big fight after that :(

I tried talking to her but then this big kid named Johnny came up and said I looked like a miniature man and not a little boy. He said it was really weird and all the other kids laughed at me. But I'll make friends with them all real soon! I can feel it!

Mood: Hopeful.

March 30th

OMG journal, I have big news! Stacy wants to meet me in Oakmyst Forest after school tomorrow! All the kids call Oakmyst Forest "Makeout Forest" because that's where guys and girls go to kiss and stuff.

I asked my Dad about what boys and girls do when they're in love. His face got all red from the heat of the forge and he started talking about Griffons and Bats and Maj'Dul Courtesans and I didn't understand.

Oh well, I guess I'll figure it out tomorrow!

Mood: Happy!

April 1st

Not good, Journal. Not good. I went to Oakmyst Forest and Stacy was on this real nice hill overlooking the fairies and everything was so pretty. Then she said to close my eyes so I could kiss her and I did and stuck my lips out. Then I heard laughing :(

Johnny was there too and they were both laughing at me. Stacy was pointing at me and saying, "As if! April Fools, weirdo!" Then they kissed each other and pushed me over the edge of the hill. I fell down and then I got mauled by an Oakmyst Great Bear and then everything went dark and I woke up by the guard tents.

I don't think she likes me after all :(

Mood: Crying.

April 3rd

Today I decided I would prove myself to everyone and become a great adventurer. That would show that idiot Johnny! So I went down into the sewers and saw this Wizard casting spells on a bat. I decided to help him and I shouted "For Queen Antonia!" and I beat the bat with a stick. I was scared inside but I kept a brave face. Anyway the bat died and I figured the Wizard would thank me. But he just yelled at me for "KS'ing" him. I went home to write in my Journal. And cry.

Mood: Confused.

April 7th

I had a new plan today: join the Qeynos Guard! That would make everyone respect me. I talked to a Guardsman and told him I was brave and strong. He went inside to talk to his friends in the Tavern and then they all came out. They smelled like Dad does when he celebrates Brew Day. He celebrates Brew Day every night. He must really like that holiday. Anyway, they said I could be an Honorary Guard Deputy! My first mission was to investigate the Forgotten Ruins.

Now, Dad told me before I had to stay out of there because of the Forgotten Guardians, so I was real scared. But the Guards gave me a special cloth badge that they said was magic! They told me it would ward off any monsters. So then I wasn't scared anymore.

I went to the Forest Ruins and snuck through the Ruins Gate. That's when a group of three Forgotten Guardians started beating me. I kept holding up the badge and shouting, "Halt! Qeynos Guard!" But they kept beating me.

Then everything went black and I woke up near the guard tents and all the Guards were standing around laughing at me. I just went home. But I kept the badge.

I think I'm going to kill myself.

Mood: Suicidal.

April 8th

I can't even kill myself. I left a note telling my Dad how much I hate him and went to drown myself in Qeynos Harbour. I jumped off a bridge and swam down till I couldn't breathe or see. But then suddenly I found myself in a little underground room.

There was a man from Freeport there! And people from Qeynos were buying stuff from him! I told him I was an Honorary Deputy with the Qeynos Guard and he laughed and said, "War is good business, son, and I'm putting coin in everyone's pocket."

I told him it was okay because I was sick of Qeynos anyway and the way they treated me. His eyes lit up and he asked me if I wanted to help Freeport. He said Freeport was really the good place and the Qeynos people were all frauds, especially that, "blanking no good blank Queen Antonia." I told him I would come back to visit him. He gave me a portrait of a gnoll and said I was a good boy who reminded him of a young Overlord. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.

Mood: Happy.

April 10th

I went back to visit the man from Freeport today. He was really happy to see me. No one is ever happy to see me. He said he talked to the Overlord about me and the Overlord said I had a lot of potential. He gave me a vial and told me it was medicine. He said the Overlord just wanted to help the people of Qeynos but they were too stuck-up to let him. He told me that if I put this medicine in the drinking water of Qeynos then I could really help everyone and be a hero! I always wanted to be a hero.

Mood: Excited.

April 11th

I gave some of the medicine to my cat and my cat died. Everyone is a liar.

Mood: Angry.

April 12th

It's time for people to pay. I went to the school in South Qeynos and when Johnny and Stacy were at recess I put some "medicine" in their lunches. Payback feels good...so good and so sweet. I can almost taste their delicious dying breaths. Dad is next.

April 13th

It's done and I'm free. But I have to be careful for now. Everyone might be looking for me. I'll have to keep a low profile. Instead of asking everyone if they've seen a gnoll before I'll just keep my mouth shut. And if someone hails me I'll just say, "Well met," in a deep voice. But it's not over. Oh no, it's not over.

Mood: Laughing.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Character Transfers to PvP Servers





No, there isn't any news on this front. And to the best of my knowledge it's not anything SOE is actively considering. Gallenite's statement on the subject from back in February:

"The short answer is that we want to make sure the server gets a chance to establish itself with all of its residents "growing up" under the same kind of hazards, which means: on the PvP server.

If at some point in the future it wouldn't be detrimental to do transfers, we'll see then. For now, though, there are zero plans for opening transfers of established chars to PvP at any point. "

So this is just my preemptive strike against the idea of character transfers to the PvP servers. It's a reasonable time to think about it now because the population of the PvP servers has calmed a bit as some people have grown bored with the novelty or discovered the atmosphere was not for them. And there have been some requests on the forums for transfers.

But I don't like the idea. Everything is harder on the PvP servers. I did a simple fed-ex quest the other night which, on a PvE server, would have been a fairly mindless run. Instead I had to fight twice, evac once and stealth my way around the zone. You can't just grind xp where and whenever you wish. You first have to see if it's safe and then you have to be aware and ready for a fight at all times.

These challenges are a lot of fun. But I feel like I earn every level with effort. And I'd hate to see someone level up a character with comparative ease (I say comparative because it's certainly not easy) on a PvE server and then just transfer over to Nagafen or Venekor. It would make me feel a little cheated. I like knowing that all the people I group with and all the people I battle against have gone through the same trials I have gone through.

And the economy is much tougher, for me at least. Simple things like harvesting take on a new difficulty level in PvP. I'm constantly broke and carefully debating each purchase to a level I never was on PvE. And to me, that's a near perfect economy. I'd hate to see someone transfer over with a bunch of plat, or even great gear and all Adept III spells.

You could, of course, only allow people to transfer with no coin, gear or items. But I'd still have an issue with it. I like Nagafen and Venekor the way they are. And if there are any population issues (which I don't really think there are), I hope new PvP content such as PvP quests and the Exile faction will help draw in new people. If SOE wanted to open another PvP server which allowed transfers, that would be fine with me, though I don't know if the population would support it. None of this addresses the Qeynos/Freeport population imbalance, but that's a subject for another day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mad Skillz




On my wizzie, I used to grab every +disruption item I could get my greedy overnuking hands on. Then I would brag about my massive disruption skillage and talk about how it would improve my spell damage and make me an even more awesome wizard than I already was.

Yeah, turns out that made me an even bigger noob than I already was. Disruption skill does not represent what I thought it did. Perhaps everyone who reads this blog might realize that already, but just in case a few don't I thought I would try to explain it (and the other similar skills). This is the best explanation I can come up with from some extensive forums research:

Disruption - A higher disruption skill increases the chance that you will land a disruption spell on a mob. Looked at from another angle, a higher disruption skill means less chance of a resist for a disruption spell.

Ministration - A higher ministration skill decreases the chance of a fizzle for a ministration spell.

Things to note:

A higher disruption skill has no effect on the damage a spell does. It might, however, increase your overall DPS because you land more spells over a certain period. Ministration does not increase the heal amounts on your heal spells, though it might make you a more successful healer by preventing the dreaded fizzles.

There are other factors that figure into spell resists, notably a mob's level in relation to yours and it's own resist numbers.

Negative spells (i.e. damage, debuffs) never fizzle but can be resisted. Beneficial spells (heals or buffs) are never resisted but can fizzle. So the other skills (focus, ordination, subjugation, etc.) fit into one of these two categories. For the skills dealing with negative spells a higher skill will equal a greater chance to land the spell (less resists). For the skills dealing with beneficial spells, a higher skill will equal a greater chance to cast successfully (less fizzles).

Of course, this is just my interpretation of what I read on the official forums and may be inaccurate. Here's
one thread but there's a bunch more out there with similar questions.

Who cares? Well, knowing what the skill increases on an item do can help you be a better "consumer." Now, obviously it's never a bad thing to have less fizzles or resists. But if you find yourself never fizzling or being resisted, you might want to go with items that have different beneficial properties. For example, you might give up some disruption skill for more power.

This also serves as an introduction to a post I'm working on about the relative triviality of gear improvement for int-capped max-level mages as opposed to other classes. But I have to think about that one some more so watch for it at a later date.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Test Update #23






The Test Update #23 notes are available. There's nothing tremendously newsworthy there.

I am always glad to see SOE do a revamp of a lower level zone. And I have to say Blackburrow will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first real dungeon zone in EQII and I thought the music was excellent. I also enjoyed the multiple entrances, underwater passages and Bucky's keg. I can't wait to run through it again with an alt and see how the revamp is.

One other thing may seem really minor but it always drove me insane:

"Gamma settings will now remain consistent between windowed mode and full screen."

I never mentioned my issue with that anywhere because I honestly thought it was something to do with my computer and not the game. I switch between windowed and full-screen quite a bit (though I advise you to always do your actual playing in full-screen). So this comes as a really welcome fix for me. Speaking of gamma correction, if you find the whole game to be too dark, up your gamma. It works better for me than messing with brightness or anything else. And in a more general sense, don't be afraid to tweak your graphics settings until you find the perfect combination. It can make a big difference.

I don't really know what to think about this statement (which I initially missed):

- A spell's chance to trigger a proc is now adjusted based on its cast time.

It's a bit vague so I'll have to see how it actually works.

More comments
here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Things Annoy Me





This post is not EQII related so if you only read this blog for EQII commentary, skip today's post.

Annoyance 1: According to
this survey, the average game player is 30 years old. So why does the media still treat us like children? G4TV, for example, thinks that providing actual information and reviews about games and technology is not compelling viewing. Rather, they feel they need to "spice things up" with beautiful women who plainly read off cue cards, bad comedy sketches about monkey feces and tired internet memes.

Here's what I think of G4TV's lineup:

Cheat: Worst concept for a show ever. Let's say you're having trouble killing a boss in Shadow of the Colossus. Do you:

A. Hop on the internet and find a detailed walkthrough of exactly what you're trying to do in under five seconds or

B. Wait for Cheat to come on, hope that episode covers the game you're playing and then hope when they cover it they mention the portion you're stuck on.

Idiocy. The vast majority of the time you've either already played the games they're covering, making the cheats useless, or else you haven't played the games they're covering, making everything a spoiler. Kill it.

Braniac: Complete knock-off of MythBusters that's not one-tenth as good. Kill.

Fastlane: Was horrible when it was new - why would it be good it repeats? Kill.

Electric Playground: Send Tommy Tallarico off to go make music and sound effects for games and leave the on-screen work to people who aren't insanely annoying. Otherwise passable.

Cinematech: Fine.

Icons: The best show on G4TV. So what do they do?
Retool it to appeal to "younger men." G4TV, I hate you so much it hurts.

Training Camp: Watching people who like to play video games try to play sports! What a great concept! Kill it.

Arena: Cheesily produced in a WWF style. Could do without it but willing to listen if people like it.

Action Blast: Never watched it.

X-Play: Game reviews are a great idea. But can we see one single review without a skit involving monkeys or zombies? Can we get game commentary without unfunny, heavy-handed shtick?

Banzai: I like this show.

Attack of the Show: This show has degenerated from marginally watchable to a complete tragedy. It's just not funny and it needs to go.

Anime Unleashed: Fine, I guess.

Star Trek & Star Trek TNG: Filler.

I'd really like to see a half-hour serious news segment on technology and gaming. I would like to see a show about independent game finds and cool websites (actually useful websites - not cats wearing Viking helmets or whatever). I'd like to see Icons retain a serious format and maybe even expand to another documentary show about scientists or technology pioneers. I'd like to see actual game reviews and previews.

I might sound like I don't have a sense of humor but I love comedy. However, when I want to watch comedy I'll go to an improv show or watch TV shows that are actually humorous. When I want to see game reviews and news I just want to see game reviews and news. I have to think that there's some market for a more mature presentation of gaming and technology.

Annoyance 2: People stating that their game is going to conquer WoW. Stop. There are no games on the horizon that are going to come to close to WoW's subscription numbers. It will happen someday, but not someday soon.

The latest are
these statements by Codemaster's VP about Lord of the Rings Online. Let's be serious for a second. This is a Turbine game. And I'm sorry to beat up on Turbine because they didn't make the statements, but let's take a look at their track record:

Asheron's Call: Whether you want to call it a failure or not is up to you, but you sure can't call it a success. It was a game marred by major problems.

Asheron's Call 2: Again, whatever you may think of the game itself, it's cancelled. And let's face it, that's not a good thing.

DDO: I didn't like DDO at all, but I understand why some people do. I did like a few elements of the gameplay. I think if you don't mind forced grouping, if you have a decent group to play with, if you don't mind repeating content and if you can deal with nothing to do at max level, it might be okay. But it's not going to set the world on fire. And it's not what you hoped for from such an amazing IP. It's not really relevant but they did
cut people who left the company out of the credits, which is a cheese move.

You might not agree with some of my characterizations, but I don't think anyone can argue that those games represent a stellar track record. LOTRO might be an awesome game and I truly hope it is because I plan to check it out. But in this case you have to produce before you start talking WoW. And that goes for all game companies.

Hmm...I have more things that annoy me but I'll have to continue them another time.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Humor: LFG






This post was originally going to be entitled "You know you play too much EQII when..." But I got as far as, "You know you play too much EQII when you go to a museum and marvel at all the cool 'concept art,'" when I realized the whole thing had to have been done before. Sure enough I found this link for EQ and this link for EQII. There are some great ones there so check them out and enjoy. While I'm linking humor I'll also send you to the hilarious Bannable Offenses blog (as recommended by Quylein in this thread). It's basically the ongoing tale of a GM with a bad attitude and I found it very funny.

So, since my original idea was taken, I figured I'd make fun of some of the stuff I recently suggested. What if a new LFG or LFM feature was implemented that allowed comments in the LFG window? But what if all the comments were 100% completely truthful? I think it would look something like this (note that I've done most of these things myself to some degree at one time or another):

Defiler LFG: I will force you all to do my grayed out armor quests and pitch a fit when you kill any mob I don't need.

Cleric LFG: I'll cast a few reactives and then leave (without saying anything) to go talk on the phone and cook dinner. Keep the xp coming!

Wizard LFG: I'll not only get aggro, I'll keep nuking when I do get it! And when I do I'll run around in chaotic patterns just to keep things fun.

Templar LFG: All my nukes are Adept III or better! Wait till you see my dps...

Guardian LFG: Ten minute wait between pulls. I want everyone to be really really ready. But I never let you know when the mobs actually incoming.

Bruiser LFG: Let's go deep into a dungeon zone together - I'll tank! Warning: I tend to go linkdead whenever there are more than 2 mobs in the area.

Fury LFG: Feathers? We won't need 'em.

Conjuror LFG: I roll on everything. And I mean everything. Need before greed? Is that the name of a new hip-hop group? Never heard of it. Hey, I have 7 alts so pretty much anything that drops I need anyway.

Coercer LFG: Why should scouts get all the fun of opening chests? I can open them too - in the middle of combat.

Assassin LFG: /assist is for noobs.

Bezerker LFG: When I pull a mob I'm not moving. You all can come to me. What are you lazy or something?

Monk LFG: Healers OOP? Healers don't need mana with me tanking...

Paladin LFG: I like to go off and "explore" on my own and often meet some "friends" along the way. It's an adventure right?

Dirge LFG: As soon as you invite me to group I'll ask everyone for T7 food and drink which I happened to forget. Once I get it I'll go LD.

Brigand LFG: I'm down to group for as long as you want. Until I ding that is. P.S. I'm 99% to level.

Warlock LFG: I will be extremely rude to everyone in the group. But when I'm called out on it I'll just say I'm "roleplaying."

Group LFM: We brake for shinies. Even when we're in group stealth.

Group LFM: We're all in Teamspeak so we'll never say anything in chat. We won't invite you to our TS server but the surprise of everything we do will be fun for you!

Group LFM: Hot wood elves only.

Group LFM: PVP group. We will out of group AOE anytime a carnage flagged high level enemy is around. All carnage cooties all the time! Join us!

Group LFM: We all played together on the same EQ server and will fill chat with constant in-jokes and allusions to players you never heard of.

Group LFM: Once we get over twenty percent XP debt we know it's time to start taking on harder stuff!

Group LFM: We all play like we have the Brew Day alcohol effect on. Forever.

Group LFM: Raid group. The rest of us are all on a DKP system so you're not allowed to roll for anything. But you can participate in the constant wipes!

Wizard LFG: I'm going to blog about this tomorrow.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

LFG





I've read the requests for a more robust LFG system many times on the official forums. And recently, Abalieno posted a piece on the importance of LFG systems in MMO's. While I don't agree with all of his points (I believe allowing cross-server groups would detract from the feeling of community on a server) I do agree with his general argument.

So, could EQII use a better LFG system? Sure. To me, MMO's should encourage grouping. Now, before the soloers out there get crazy let me clarify that by saying that I don't believe MMO's should force grouping. There's a difference. I used to be purely a solo player and I love having that option.

But if a game can encourage grouping without being too heavy-handed about it, it will have a beneficial effect on subscriber retention. Those social connections are strong and often more powerful than any specific content or mechanic when it comes to sticking with a certain game.

So, what is a way to encourage grouping without detracting from the solo experience in the slightest? Simple: make grouping easier. And one way to do that is with the LFG system.

Probably the biggest change one could want from the EQII system is the desire for more specificity. Are you LFG for an armor quest? A raid? XP? PvP? If you don't want to go the comments route, you should at the very least have a selection of choices from a pull-down menu to add to the LFG window.

Secondly, you want to have some way of identifying groups that are looking for more to fill out the group. I would enjoy a system which lets you know how many people are in a certain group which is looking for more and what the makeup of the group is.

Now, there are some pitfalls. If you allow comments you allow obscenity and the like, but that's true of all text. By adding more filters you also increase "pickiness" where people will be less apt to join a group if they don't like the make-up or what said group is working on.


But I think the pros outweigh the cons. I also understand the desire of some to have groups form "naturally" without an artificial system but I haven't seen any effective implementation of that to date.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mini-Games





I'm not the first person to suggest adding some fun mini-games to EQII and I won't be the last.

Sometimes it's the little touches that really endear a game to people. I can't remember the plot of those Final Fantasy console games but I do remember that card game and the Chocobo mini-games. I think some nice mini-games could work well in EQII.

For one, it would be a welcome diversion from adventuring and tradeskilling. Everyone likes to do something different for a while and it helps break up the main action and improve the overall pacing. People who play MMO's are competitive and this would be another form of competition. That's especially true since mini-games are usually skill-based, be they twitch type skills or strategic thinking skills. I also feel like they could increase the overall depth of the world by making it seem like there is a ton of different stuff to do.

Now, probably the best kind of mini-games are those that are so interwoven with the game that you don't even notice they are mini-games. EQII has some of those. Jumping became a sort of mini-game in KoS when trying to get to the Profession Hat quest NPC. So did controlled freefall when heading to the Hidden Refuge. Dropping from the cloud transport is also a timing game of sorts when you are trying to reach a certain NPC in the Bonemire.

I think it's great that these little diversions were added seamlessly into the gameplay of KoS. And I know people who create their own little challenges and games within EQII that were unintended by the designers. But there's nothing wrong with more obvious mini-games such as card games, tavern games or races of some kind.


The counter-arguments are that too many options spreads out the population too much and that resources are better spent on creating the main content of EQII, which is what you really play the game for.

But I think it would be worth the time and resources to add a mini-game or two to EQII. I'm sure at least a portion of the population would get hooked pretty easily if the mini-game was a good one. What mini-game would you like to see in EQII, if any?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Choose Your Own Adventure






Sometimes, I like to see what quests I remember from when I first started playing EQII and then think about why they stand out in my mind. One such quest was from my early days in the Qeynos suburbs.

I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the quest, although I remember the structure of it quite well. You hail a somewhat shady NPC who asks you to pick up a package from his associate down by the mariner's bell. You are given hints throughout the quest that the item you are picking up is likely stolen or otherwise illegal. You obtain the item from the second NPC and then you are presented with a choice. However, it's not a choice between two options on a dialogue tree.

It's a real choice based in morality. You can bring the item back to the original NPC for a reward or you can talk to a member of the Qeynos guard and reveal the unscrupulous activities. I don't remember all of the details, but I do remember getting a nice bag as a reward. I'm not even sure this quest is still around.


Why does this glorified fed-ex quest stick out in my mind amongst all the quests I did at that level range? Simple. It's the only one I can recall with multiple solutions. It's the only one I remember where you, as a player, choose the outcome of the quest. I think that is a powerful thing. I would love to see more quests like this which don't follow a simple path but instead branch off based on your actions.

It's easy to say, "Make more quests with differing outcomes. Come on SOE. Do it." But to be fair, rather than just throw out an idea, I like to think of possible pitfalls. If the reward for one "solution" to the quest is markedly better than the reward for the other "solution" you will have these problems:

1. People will complain and feel cheated if they took they wrong path because it's an irrevocable thing.

2. People will use spoiler sites to choose the "correct" path.

3. The solution with the better reward will become a requirement rather than an option, defeating the purpose of the whole exercise.

One way around that is to make the rewards the same for both divergent quest paths. Another, better way is to make the rewards harder to compare (i.e. one path grants a better immediate reward while the other opens up an entirely new quest).

Does anyone else remember the quest I'm talking about? And would you like to see more quests like this?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Brew Day







I'm not going to do an extended Brew Day write-up because Quylein already did a nice one. But I will tell you I thoroughly enjoyed it and I advise you to do the quest if you haven't already. Even if you're usually only into raiding, PvP or whatever else, take an hour or so to enjoy this great quest. It's hilarious and well worth your time.

I haven't had time yet to check out the Wailing Caves, but I will tell you that people I trust were absolutely raving about it. The whole trap stuff apparently works quite well and results in some hilarity. So give that a go as well if you're in the level range.

Blackguard has a
FanFaire recap up, and while it's not as good as mine (obviously) he does link to some other recaps I missed when I did my links last Monday. They're all worth checking out but I especially recommend Naimi's for a great tradeskill recap and Raijin's for a nice overview. Also, I mentioned EQ2-Daily's audio coverage before but they now have some great interviews up with Blackguard, Moorgard, Raijin and Lotus.

Friday, April 14, 2006

FanFaire Report Part 5 - Events, The Future, And Other Things





Events

I happened to get into a conversation with three guides early on in FanFaire. They really liked being guides but they just wanted more to do. They wanted to be able to run more contests and events. They didn't mean anything on the scale of the Plague or the Griffon Towers (although they liked being a part of things like that). They were referring to more personal, small-scale events.

Well, I'm happy to report to them that it was stated that design is working with the guide program to implement two or three more quests that guides can do with players. These will likely be on the smaller scale side. I think this is excellent because:

1. I love the concept of the Guide program and I want to see it be utilized.

2. While these types of events may not reach as many players as some of the larger scale events or regular game content, I think they have a profound effect on those they do reach.

I was also going to mention the Brew Day Festival here but if you read
the LU #22 notes you know as much about it as me. It sounds like a fun time and I'm ready to get my "brew" on.

Futurama

Okay, there were no official announcements on the next expansion. But we did receive a somewhat startling piece of news related to expansions. The famed "every six month" expansion push is now finally dead and buried. This announcement was meant with joy from the general public (and it seemed from the EQII team).

Expansions will now be released more in line with when they are ready and polished rather than by an arbitrary deadline. SOE plans to use about half of the additional time for development and half for a longer beta testing period.

I think this will result in a better product for the consumer and a more enjoyable experience overall. A word I heard thrown around a lot at the panels was "polished." For example, it was stated that SOE preferred to release KoS with fewer quests then they would like to ensure that the quests in KoS were polished. I have to agree with that decision. Although I do think the number of quests is a bit low, they are probably some of the best quests in the game. And I do expect the number of quests in KoS to increase over time as SOE stated they "have more stories to tell there."

Ah, but back to my point on the word "polished." With the expansions being given more development and testing time and SOE apparently preferring to go a bit slower in order to release polished content, it seems like a little bit of a paradigm shift away from "release as much content as quickly as possible" to "release content quickly but only when it is polished." I found this interesting.

"Polished" is a word often associated with WoW. And no, I'm not saying "OMG EQII copies WOW lol." But maybe recent times in the MMO world have shown that the general market prefers polished content even at the cost of lack of new content on a timely basis. Now, I'm not saying SOE is going to mirror Blizzard, who I'm sure is going to be releasing an expansion sometime this decade. But they do seem to be moving a bit more to the "polished" model which is something I think both the game designers and players will appreciate. However, I think you will still see SOE continue to push new content on a rapid basis, as today's Live Update shows. That pace may just be slowed from a sprint to a run.

At one point players were asked for expansion ideas and the overwhelming response was a maritime/underwater type theme. I emphasize that this was only the players ideas and not SOE's. Personally, I don't care too much about the theme as long as the expansion itself is really really good.

Adventure Packs were an issue raised often by players, probably because Splitpaw was so enjoyable and a great value for the money. Nothing specific was stated but I was happy to hear that the whole concept of Adventure Packs is still alive because I was concerned that maybe they did not make economic sense for SOE. Can we expect one before the next expansion? I'm not sure but I would guess that we can.

Several people asked about the possibility of new classes and SOE stated pretty clearly that for now 24 was quite enough. I have to agree that 24 classes is a rather large amount. But I noticed they didn't say the same thing about new races (maybe because the question wasn't asked), so who knows?

Questions were asked about the future of soloing in EQII. In terms of the overland zones, I'm not buying the "there's not enough to solo" argument. I believe it was stated that 80 percent of the mobs in the overland zones are solo, or at least that is the goal. That's pretty much in line with my experience.

However, I am quite glad that someone raised the issue of more solo instances in EQII because that's something I enjoy tremendously. While I am mainly a group player, there are times when you just feel like soloing and I love to do a fun instance with quests and events. Of course, I loved the solo instances in Splitpaw. And I've spoken before about my enjoyment of the Tear Grifters quests in DoF. This is one area where I felt KoS was lacking. Though there are a good amount of solo quests I enjoyed tremendously in KoS, I missed that cool solo instance.

Of course, there are downsides to the solo instances. We've seen people re-doing Harclave for 20 levels or more and not really experiencing the game. And I admit that for about 3-4 levels in DoF I fell into an Aquim/Tear Grifters cycle because it was the path of least resistance. But I do think this can be overcome, perhaps with lockout timers, so I was happy to hear SOE state that they do enjoy creating these solo instances because they are a unique opportunity for storytelling. So I think we can expect more.

A common question at FanFaire was: What's in the future for the low level gamers? I completely empathize with being a casual player in, say, the mid-30's and hearing about all this cool stuff going on in DoF and KoS and not being able to experience it. I would probably feel the same way. But the reality is a bit tricky.

The statement by SOE was that while they plan to keep things fresh and exciting for low level players they do have to be careful because it can lead to population issues. Let's take an example (my example, not SOE's and the numbers are probably insanely incorrect - it's just an example):

There are 20,000 active players on a certain server.
There are 2,000 people between twenty and thirty (you have to consider there are more clumped at the very high or very low levels so I'm being generous).
Let's say half are on at a given time so now we're down to 1,000.
Now let's say almost a half are soloing so we're down to around 600.
And how about tradeskilling, messing with their inn room or other miscellaneous stuff? We're down to 400.

But some are in Splitpaw, let's say 50, so we're down to 350.
Now let's say there are 2 overland zones and 3 dungeons within that range. So we have it down to 70 each.
Great, you can find a group!
But what if SOE adds 5 new zones at that level range? Now all of a sudden everything seems empty and it's very hard to get into a group.

Like I said the numbers are way, way off, but I hope it illustrated the point: You just can't add too many different zones to a level range without spreading the population of that level range too thin in a game that already has a ton of options.

Does that mean people in the lower level ranges have nothing to look forward too? Absolutely not. Just take a look at today's Live Update and you'll find that three dungeons have had serious revamps. Let me pause for a second here to say that the traps in the Wailing Cave sound very fun. One of the few things I liked about DDO was the trap system, so if EQII can add even a portion of that feel to their game it would be quite cool. And come on, those spikes in the WC which just sat there were absolutely idiotic.

Back to my point: lower level players can always look forward to fresh content because SOE continually reworks the older zones and keeps them feeling interesting. They've clearly done that with the newbie isle and they're working their way back through. So I think you can eventually expect better zones and quests at all level ranges. Another type of new content lower level players can look forward to is events, such as the Brew Day Festival.

So try to understand when SOE adds high level content. I know for myself, the one thing that would make me leave the game is being stuck at max level and bored. Sure, I could roll an alt (or, now, I can PvP which I am absolutely loving). But I also might want to check out another game.

Players in the DoF range may say, hey, what about us? Well I'm happy to tell you that the monks of the Ashen Order and the Ashen Disciples will be part of a storyline that will evolve over time. That sounded really interesting so I want to check it out.

Miscellaneous

I wrote about the issue of EQII shutting operations down in China
here and I saw Krones also discussed it. Well, I will admit I missed the main reason in my discussion, or at least the reason SOE gave. We all know SOE changes a lot of the content in EQII. Just look at the newbie isles. All of those quests were completely re-written. And they always add other content which is text-intensive.

The problem? Every line of text in EQII has to be translated into, I believe, three Chinese dialects. And the expense of that translation was just too much based on the pace at which new dialogue and text is added. I'm sure there were other subsidiary factors as well but I have no reason to doubt that the translation issue was not a major part of the problem. We were informed that the problem was not Gamania, EQII's partner in Asia. It was stated that they are a great company which handles such major games as Lineage and Maple Story.

The last item I wanted to discuss was botters. Scott Hartsman was very passionate about this issue and you could tell it was something he was very interested in. You might think that the way SOE stops botters is getting a complaint from a player, checking the complaint out and then making a determination. While that may serve as a starting point, they work on a much larger scale.

Fighting botting sounds much more like statistical analysis than traditional "crime fighting." Some members of SOE get very detailed economic reports every hour. And tools are used to analyze those reports and give clues as to who is botting and exploiting. And when they act, they wipe out a whole ring of "botters" from the farmer or exploiter to the mule or transfer agent to the seller.

They can also track individual plat and remove it from the system even after it has changed hands several times. Does this mean if you innocently receive duped plat you can lose it? No, because the key is they can tell if something of value was received in return. SOE is also moving from a program where they did a major bot sweep once a month or every few weeks to a tighter schedule where they attempt to knock out large numbers of botters on a daily basis.

The fact that they want to eliminate botters is only logical, because it makes for a better game. You might say, "Oh, they don't want to ban botters because they pay SOE subscription fees." But all "ethical" considerations aside, the cold economic truth is that SOE will make more money if new and current gamers do not have their play marred by botters, farmers and issues with the game economy. Even still, I was impressed by how passionate they were on this subject.

When asked my least favorite thing about the game at a panel, I flatly said, "Station Exchange." But beyond that I wasn't going to waste everyone's time by rehashing a debate which has been clearly stated on both sides already.

Conclusion

I left FanFaire feeling good about the future of EQII, not so much because of any one specific thing I heard but more because of the general direction and the intensity of the EQII team. I can't rate peoples' game design skills just by talking to them, but I did like what I heard. And I'm pretty sure the passion for the game every member of the team I talked too exhibited was too real to be faked. I also think that the more time the current team has to work with the tools and systems for creating content, the better that content will be. So I expect any new content (in whatever form) to be not just better, but exponentially better. Time will tell if I am right or wrong. And I'm sure along the way there will be plenty of things I disagree with. But that's part of the fun.

Well, that's the entirety of my FanFaire coverage. Apologies to those expecting some Friday Humor today but I had to finish this writeup before my memory slipped any further, especially because some of my notes look like: "Mentoring? Eadklj!!! SIJF?" Yeah. But if you want some humor check
Quylein's Humor piece if you haven't already or Coyote or these EQII Lethal Weapon parodies (via EQ2Daily).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

FanFaire Report Part 4 - Stuff





Items and Art

Alright, I left off with items and art so let's get back into that. I've complained about the lack of armor diversity since the earliest days of this blog. I've lightened up a little because I've enjoyed a lot of the recent armor pieces. For instance, if you read
Arthais' writeup of FanFaire, you'll know one of my three current favorite things about the game is "that dope new wizzie hat I just got."

But I still think there's a long way to go. I want to see robes that have completely different geometry instead of just new patterns and colors. I want to see more non-robe type gear for mages. All that good stuff does appear to be on the way but it may take a while.

The SOE team is currently proceeding with a multi-month project which will make designing new armor models much easier. The current system requires intensive work on each race and gender, not to mention SOGA. The new system will simplify all this, if I understand it correctly, and give the art team a chance to be more creative and cut down on the repetitive labor. I'm confident that they can amaze us if they have this chance.

So, it's a postive and negative. You can't expect too much for a while, but if you're willing to wait, things might get exponentially better. I'm not saying there won't be anything new until then. There will. For instance, I believe most of the class helms are near completion and will be implemented sooner rather than later. I personally think the whole thing sounds like a great idea.

Many attendees were surprised to hear that the whole Rujarkian Orc storyline had to do with increased graphics performance. Those who don't read Aggro Me that is.
April 3:

"I'm guessing changing the Orcs to Rujarkians is a graphics thing for improved performance."

Just saying. Anyway, whoever the genius is who designed the Orc models in Deathfist, for example, had them equipped with player-type armor (my sarcasm, not SOE's). So when you go into Deathfist, it's like being around two full raids of players. All of the time.

I'm really glad to see this change coming because Deathfist has been a disaster. Now, a lot of people like the storyline there and the quests and the zone itself. But let's face it - it's the ultimate lagfest. And the majority of players avoid it until everything is grayed out and they can complete their Heritages in under twenty minutes. So, I'm hoping this change will give the zone new life. Members of the SOE team said that the whole storyline of the Rujarkian Orcs making an alliance with other Orcs just happened to coincide with this graphical change, but I'm not buying that one. Nor do I care, honestly. I would have created a storyline for it too. It can't hurt.

An item feature requested more than once is the ability to see what an item is classified as. Certain Achievements require a certain item, say a Staff or a Hammer. But sometimes by looking at an item you have, you're not sure what class of item it falls under. These complaints were heard and I expect them to be addressed.

The vendor faux pas issue was discussed. What I term the vendor faux pas issue is when you accidentally sell something valuable to a vendor. I've never done this personally (great - now I jinxed myself and I'll do it tonight) but I do get very very careful when I am selling stuff to a vendor. I live in fear of the day I accidentally double-click on that Icy Nova Adept III I've been saving for 70. Well, SOE did state that they are working on a system which would allow for vendor buy-backs.

But before you get the wrong idea, let me tell you such a system would not allow for "mistake buying." By "mistake buying" I mean travelling from vendor to vendor to see what great stuff other people accidentally sold to vendors. No, you will be able to buy back stuff you sold to the vendors. But if, and only if, you do it while the transaction is still open. Once you close out of the vendor window, the item will be gone forever.

The unequip macro's much needed death was discussed a few times, but I've made my arguments in favor of that already
in this post. I was happy to hear that the intention is that only the most expensive item from each slot will take damage because I made a suggestion similar to that in the post I linked.

Spells

I don't have a ton of spell stuff to talk about because I'm not going to get into specific subclass issues that were discussed.

I was happy to hear that the boring and predictable 14 level spell cycle is likely a thing of a past. I hated knowing what spell I was going to get and knowing it was only going to be an upgrade of an older spell. I complained about that
here. I got the impression that if they ever did raise the level cap again (and I'm not saying they will in the near future) they wouldn't stick to that pattern.

Frequent readers will know that a common theme of mine over the past few months has been the fact that no work has really gone into the HO system since launch and that it now feels a bit outdated and dull. So, I personally raised that issue at one of the panels. The response was that there are definitely things SOE would like changed about that system and an overhaul to make it more interesting (perhaps with symbols for each subclass) is not out of the question.

Raids

I do usually raid around three to four times a week currently but I am not by any means on the top tier level of raiders so some of the raid stuff discussed was over my head.

A common theme was Deathtoll access. Some were upset about the camping/contested issue. SOE clearly stated that this is not a philosophy shift back to camping. Rather, the lore of the quest just happened to involve a contested mob. They are considering adding a special instanced version of a zone for those who are trying to complete this quest.

On a similar topic there was some discussion concerning access flagging. As it is now I believe only one person needs to be flagged for access to Deathtoll. But what if that person leaves the guild? Should access be guild-based? Should access require a percentage of guildmembers to be flagged for access? I don't know that there was any resolution to this issue, but ideas were thrown around.

I was happy to hear that the upcoming Lyceum raid zone is not the only new raid coming to KoS. Another is planned - I believe the name given was "Halls of Seeing" but I could be wrong. I do know that both zones are instanced and do not require access quests. I don't know if my guild will be able to tackle these zones, but I do like the option being there.

Guilds

Hmm, I already discussed guild housing and the changes to tradeskill writs yesterday. But adventuring writs were also discussed. There is a desire to make the writs for each faction more interesting and also to make them be more in tune with each faction's goals and "personality." But, it is difficult considering the sheer number of writs in each level range, for each faction, for each city.

And now we get to the only thing that somewhat annoyed me out of all the great things I heard at FanFaire. Issues with guild rewards at the major levels has been a common theme of mine. It was stated at FanFaire that the current guild level 50 rewards are pretty much it (though of course nothing is written in stone). There are no mounts planned for that guild level. I can deal with that, but I would like to see something more special than a few titles and items which did not sound that great.

Let me be fair - we're not at guild level 50 yet (though we will be soon). But I did ask a few players who knew the rewards and they didn't sound terribly excited about the items available. To me, guild levels are such a great thing because it's something any guild can participate in. You can gain guild levels by tradeskilling, by doing writs solo, by doing writs as a group, by raiding, or by selling status items. There's something there for everyone. And I feel that people really enjoy doing things as a team. It's the one aspect of gameplay that everyone in the guild can be a part of. But they expect to not be let down when they reach a certain goal.

I didn't get a chance to ask a question about guild rewards, but I'm guessing the reasons for the lackluster rewards are one of two things:

1. SOE is misreading how much the player base cares about guild rewards (or I am) and making guild rewards a low priority in terms of development time.

2. Because of the well known "exploits" to raise guild levels quickly, SOE doesn't want to put anything unbalancing or super desirable as guild rewards.

Those are just my guesses - I have no actual idea. In any case, I'd like to see a greater focus on guild rewards.

Okay, tomorrow should be the final day of my FanFaire reports and will cover events, the future of EQII and some miscellaneous stuff that didn't fit in anywhere else. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

FanFaire Report Part 3 - Tradeskills





Okay, tradeskills are not exactly my area of expertise, but I will report on what I heard in general terms.

The number one massive project Beghn is working on right now is changing all the tradeskill recipes to match the 1-20 (and KoS) no subcombine recipes. I was glad to hear that people enjoyed the new no subcombine system because it's something I
supported in the past. If you're interested in my arguments in favor of that system, go ahead and read that post. I'm sure there are people out there who don't like it but I expected to hear more negativity and I didn't. In fact, many people (myself included) were anxious for the tradeskill revamp to be completed so we could take another crack at tradeskilling. But there are a lot of recipes to be changed, over 10,000 I believe, so it will take a little while longer. I believe the estimated game date was LU #25.

One of the coolest tradeskill related things I heard was related to a revamp of the tradeskill writ system. I know many people don't enjoy the tradeskill writs at the moment. I also know that many tradeskillers sell stuff they can't sell on the open market back to vendors for a loss. For example, I know an Armorer who, when grinding from 60-70 was not really able to sell the stuff he made for a profit until he neared max level. Again, I have not experienced this personally but I have heard about it from more than one person.

The solution to both these problems? What's on the way in the future is the ability to take items you crafted as a tradeskiller and sell them to a special NPC for Guild Status. In that way, instead of merely selling your items to vendors for a loss you could really help level your guild and gain status for yourself. This would replace the current writ system. This idea was honestly met with applause.

Carpentry was a hot topic and more than one player pounded home the lack of T6 advanced recipes. I've been supportive of this fight as you can
read here. Another point raised was that too many of the collection item rewards were equivalent to what carpenters could produce. The response was that this will be avoided in the future.

For carpenters hoping for cool new items to make, Beghn did say that he went through
this thread (which I also linked in that Carpentry post) and got some great ideas from it which will likely be implemented. The interesting part about that is not only that there may be some cool new furniture on the way but that if you take the time to write a civil, organized and intelligent forum thread, your voice may very well be heard.

While I'm on the carpentry topic, I will briefly discuss housing. Someone asked whether there could be any benefit to owning a larger house other than the added space. The answer was that housing is intended to be the reward of gaining money and status and not something that would grant further rewards. However, there was some discussion by the SOE panel of making it easier to visit housing so players would be more likely to stop by and check out your home. I think this is sorely needed as the current system is not inviting.

Probably the number one requested feature I heard over the entirety of my time in Atlanta was Guild Housing. I know I've been harping on that topic for as long as I can remember. The SOE response is that it is definitely coming but it may take some time to implement correctly. They don't want to just take the existing large homes and say that those are now guild houses. They want to create some special art and other features so that it is really impressive. There is no ETA on this but I can tell you it will definitely be a "free" feature that is part of the live game and will not require purchasing an expansion.

Moving back into tradeskills, there was some discussion by SOE of having woodworkers make items which reduce harvest times (i.e. shorten the time the harvest progress bar takes to complete). Hey, I know I would purchase one. There was also some discussion of the possibility of having nodes give multiple resources. Xegonberries were mentioned a lot in the open panel but that kind of went over my head, to be honest. I think the point was that there aren't enough of them.

There are no plans to grant Achievement points from tradeskilling other than those you receive when you choose your class and subclass. I know a few people asked about a tradeskill Achievement line but there was no definitive answer. I personally think it would be a neat idea.

There were quite a few comments on the requirement of tradeskilling in the two KoS heritage quests, which I've
also discussed. I got the impression that neither adventurers nor tradeskillers were too keen on the way those quests were implemented. The SOE response was that these quests would not be changed (in part because that would mean lessening the value of the rewards) but that, in the future, if a heritage quest had a tradeskill component an adventurer could use the services of another player who is a tradeskiller to complete it.

There were several questions on the desirability of crafted armor and weapons versus looted armor and weapons. The somewhat harsh reality is that tradeskill items are not meant to compete with the items looted in difficult dungeons, let alone raids. That's not to say they are useless either. They are intended to be helpful when you are starting out in a new level range. Along these lines, someone raised the idea of items which drop on raids which could then be used by tradeskillers to make something really nice. While there was no definitive answer on this it sounded like it was under consideration. I think it would be a great idea to keep tradeskillers feeling needed while still preserving the "adventuring first" idea of the game.

Quite a few people expressed a desire for more casual clothing. Well, some is on the way. Tradeskillers will be able to create different versions of what I believe is the tradeskill clothing. And they will be able to choose from a number of colors. Now, that does not mean that you will be able to make some neon green clothing. It means you will be able to choose from a palette of red, blue or black, for example (those are just example colors - I don't know what the official colors are).

I wouldn't hold your breath for the free ranging EQ style "dye something whatever color you want" system. I think it's less a coding issue than the fact that the game designers don't want people running around in bright pink pants and similar items which would change the look of the game. Also, part of the concept of EQII armor is that by looking at a piece of armor, a player should be able to tell where it is from. For example, if you see someone wearing a dark blue chest piece with certain markings you should be able to tell that person got it from the Sanctum of the Scaleborn (just an example not based in reality). So if you were able to die any piece of armor it would take away from that concept.

I've kind of segued from tradeskills into items and art so I'll pick up on those topics (and more) with tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FanFaire Report Part 2 - PvP





Okay, I have a bunch more to write about so I'm going to try to take things one subsection of play at a time.

Let's start with PvP. I didn't expect so many of the players I spoke with to be so excited about PvP. I guess I didn't see the overlap of PvP'ers and FanFaire attendees to be so large. But I was wrong and I found it was one of the most common discussions between players of EQII.

So, what can we expect? One major addition to the PvP game we can expect is the coming of a third player faction, the Exiles. But to explain that I have to step back a bit and discuss the betrayal revamp which will be on all PvE servers as well as PvP.

The new betrayal quest will be faction based. I'll try to use an example, but this is my example and not SOE's. Let's say you have 5,000 faction points with Qeynos, being a good, upstanding citizen. Of course, as such, you would be welcomed into Qeynos and free to make use of all the facilities. But then let's say you start to do things which are, well, not so nice.

Perhaps you start killing Qeynos guards, sabotaging Qeynos supplies and generally making yourself a nuisance (remember I just made up these examples - SOE only talked in the general). So now your faction with Qeynos is zero, zilch, nada. As a result of that, you are no longer welcome in the city.

So there you are, out in the wilderness with no Qeynos faction. You're not welcomed in Qeynos. But you're also not welcomed in Freeport, who still distrusts you as a Qeynosian. But you do see that some of your actions against Qeynos have made Freeport hate you just a little bit less. You decide to work with that and continue to take actions which endear you to the Overlord. Eventually, your faction with Freeport is so high you are welcomed into the city with the same rights as any other citizen.

I see this system as a way more realistic and immersive way to betray than simply doing a quest series. It can take place at any level. Now, if you change subclasses due to your betrayal, you will have all of your spells reduced to App I. Because, hey, you did betray after all and there should be some penalties.

Now, can you change your mind after being booted from Qeynos and build your faction back up with them before entering Freeport? Can you betray Qeynos, join Freeport, realize the error of your ways, betray Freeport, and then rejoin Qeynos? I don't know. I don't think this was addressed. But it sounds like a cool idea and I don't see why it couldn't work under the system as described.

But okay, back to PvP. Let's go back to the point where you have just killed your faction with Qeynos and are booted from the city. But you have also not yet decided to build up your faction with Freeport. What exactly are you in terms of PvP?

Well, you are an Exile. You can kill people from Freeport. You can kill people from Qeynos. But the fun doesn't stop there. You can kill other Exiles. Yes, that means your target availability consists of every single player on the server. Of course, on the flip side, everyone can kill you.

Exiles will be their own faction, with their own language. And yes, it will be possible to form Exile guilds. And yes, Exiles will have access to things like banks, menders and tradeskill equipment. And sure, Exiles can have housing in neutral cities like Maj and possibly also in their own "city" of sorts. I envision it more as dangerous "Wild West" town then an actual city but there were no details on that.

Of course, being an Exile sounds almost too cool. But there will definitely be systems in place (besides every player being able to kill you) to ensure that life as an Exile is hard. As it should be. I don't think there were any details on that but it may be that Exiles just don't have access to the full range of benefits that Qeynosians or Freeporters do.

Okay, what else? Well, one oft requested feature is definitely on the way. Fences. Yes, you may actually now be able to do something with that Paladin Master spell you've been hoarding on Freeport besides selling it to a vendor.

But, keep in mind that there will be elements in place to make fences suited to the PvP climate. For example, you will not be able to find them at convenient locations in your own city. No, they will be out there in the world in a dangerous contested zone. So, yes, you can use the fence. But you may have to get past a gank squad to do so. Or, perhaps, you would like to have your group defend the fence so that other members of your faction can use it. I think it's things like that which make PvP interesting.

Someone at the open panel asked whether PvP-centric quests will be added, which I thought was an excellent question. The answer is that these are on the way. So you may soon be able to get that "kill ten high elves" quest you've been dreaming of, or possibly even get to do some stealthy sabotage missions. Those are, again, my specific examples and not SOE's. But I was happy to hear PvP quest content was in the proverbial "works" because I think there are a ton of possibilities for fun.

My question was whether we could expect both an evolving storyline and the ability to change the game world through PvP. The example I gave was whether the side which got the most kills in a two day period could be "rewarded" by having a Griffon Tower on the opposing side's zone be destroyed. I believe the answer was that they are considering "negative content" like that.

More generally, I had two points:

1. It's not enough to kill the other faction repeatedly. I want to make their lives miserable in some other way.

2. I want to have things in the game world change based on my PvP actions.

The second point is applicable to PvE as well, but I think it is easier to implement on a PvP server because the sides and actions are more clearly defined. There was no real SOE comment to this but I got the general impression that it is something they would like and are at least considering.

As for the "Carnage Cooties," a term coined by Seelie (who also has a great FanFaire writeup
in this thread) to describe the Carnage PvP tag which is pretty much now the official term for it, they are continuing to look at the mechanic. Some of the spread of Carnage Cooties has been reduced due to changes in the way the timer runs. And they are continuing to look at loopholes in the system. But the Carnage Cootie system was intended to be somewhat "viral" in nature, so don't expect it to ever go away entirely.

In general, it's worth noting that SOE is quite pleased with the population of the PvP servers and they do have a promotion in the works which will highlight PvP.

Alright, I have plenty more to write about but I'm still recovering my full health and power so that's it for today. I'll tackle tradeskills tomorrow.

Monday, April 10, 2006

FanFaire Report - Part I

Well, I survived my first FanFaire, barely. I truly had an amazing time. If I wasn't passionate about EQII and online gaming in general, I wouldn't write about it every day. So the opportunity to talk with both players and SOE employees who are just as passionate as I am (if not more so) was absolutely a great experience. From arguing about conceptual ideas to laughing about PvP antics, I enjoyed every minute.

Besides the great conversations, my favorite parts were both the small scale and larger panel discussions. I did not miss a single one (even though I made it to last call at one bar or another every single night). But the fact that I went to every panel also meant that I focused a little less on stuff like watching the tournaments or doing the live quests. So I don't really have a lot to say about those things except that the live questers were really into it and seemed to be having a great time. I do know that the party and banquet were excellent.

I also know just enough about event planning to realize that the work which goes on behind the scenes to keep such a large scale event with so many activities running smoothly must be tremendous. So I was really impressed with how professional and well organized everything was. I was also impressed with how tireless the SOE people were. Beyond all the panels and other events, they were very accessible to any player who wanted to speak with them and they went out of their way to make everyone feel at home.

In terms of news, I don't have anything absolutely major to report which is going to blow your mind. There were no official announcements about the expansion. I assume that's more of an E3 thing than a FanFaire thing. Actually, the panel which shocked me the most (in a good way) was the EQ2Players.com panel. That's truly bizarre because I really didn't expect anything at all out of EQ2Players, considering that I feel it's been a major disaster thus far. But I walked out of that room quite excited (though I remain a quite wary based on past experience). Unfortunately, that's the one panel I didn't bring a notebook to so I'd like to e-mail Greg Short (Baelish) to make sure I have the details right before I start spouting off about it.

I do have tons of other stuff to write about, probably in a disjointed fashion. I'll also just be writing about the things I found interesting and not rehashing every question and answer. But other people may find other things interesting so I will also direct you to:

EQ2OGaming: They have a bunch of pictures and video interviews up. I haven't watched all the videos yet, but the ones I checked out were great.

EQ2-Daily: The EQ2-Daily crew already has two podcasts available for your listening pleasure and I know they have plenty more great stuff on the way because I listened to them record some of it.

Everquest 2 Realm: Arthais has a nice writeup posted and I'm sure there's more incoming.

TenTonHammer: Coyote has some stuff up I'm definitely looking forward to reading and a report from Radar is also promised.

MMORPG.com: Three entries about FanFaire are available already (in blog format no less).

I'm sure there will also be reports on the forums as well as at some other places I'm probably forgetting at the moment. Also, please realize that there may be stuff I misheard or misunderstood.

Okay, I'll start off with something I think many people will be interested in - the offline consignment issues. I thought it was pretty funny that the person who raised the issue at one of the open panels also questioned the "for reasons beyond our control" language in the server message. I definitely thought that sounded silly as I stated in
this post.

But getting back to the actual problem, the reason for the frequent disabling of offline selling has been to prevent duping. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone as it was fairly obvious. Now, SOE has been able to deal with the duping and patch up exploit after exploit. But instead of continuing to do that, they decided to completely revamp the backbone of the entire offline selling system.

In some areas you may not even notice this. For example, the broker will look and work the same way on the surface. You will also continue to be able to sell offline, of course. But the way you sell will be very different.

House vaults will now just be house vaults. By that I mean they will just be extra storage. So how do you sell? Well, you will have special containers which you place in your house or inn room. For example, one such container might be an armor rack. That armor rack would have a ton of slots but those slots would only accept armor. And you would be able to sell that armor offline (or online) from that container. If you prefer, you may also place a more generic container which will have less slots but accept all forms of items (and again sell from that container). But there's yet another option. You can also transfer items to special NPC's which will then list those items for sale for you (by acting as a container themselves). Those will have even less slots I believe.

What are the advantages?

1. From a roleplaying aspect it is quite cool to have, say, weapon racks in your room that people can actually purchase weapons from if your character concept is being a weaponsmith.

2. More storage options are always good (you don't have to actually list the stuff in the containers for sale).

3. I believe tradeskillers will make the containers (though I could be wrong on that and I'm not sure which subclass would make them) so it gives tradeskillers another revenue stream.

4. It balances things in terms of storage between tradeskill classes. With a house vault, tradeskill classes which produce stackable items (say Provisioners) have more storage room than those classes whose items don't stack (an Armorer for example). Under the new system, each tradeskill class will basically have as much room as they want to sell their product.

5. Players can come into your inn room or home when you are offline and interact with the containers, thus bypassing the broker's commission. This is nice for the buyers who don't want to pay a commission. And it's also nice for those sellers who like the idea of having a "store" because it encourages people to visit.

6. For new players, making an initial sale is a whole lot less complicated. They no longer have to mess around with a market board. In fact, they no longer even have to ever enter an inn room. They can just take some stuff they want to sell to the "sales" NPC and be done with it. By just doing that they list those items for sale both on and offline. I think it's nice to have something simple like that for players who are new to the game or just don't want to spend a lot of time on selling items.

The money obtained from sales will be deposited into a sort of "escrow" account which you can then collect. I definitely prefer that to the way things are now where (on PvE) the money is deposited directly to your character. I don't like being in the middle of some dungeon and then hearing coin being magically deposited to my coin pouch from the sale of a Xegonberry. I'm not a big role-player but to me that really breaks immersion.

Anyway, as for the system on a whole - is it something I personally would have requested or made a priority? Probably not, but remember that SOE didn't just decide to do this to improve selling functionality (although it has that result). They are trying to end the exploits which keep forcing them to take offline selling down. And the fact that they went about doing that by creating a cool system which is actually better is great. So I'm definitely looking forward to it (no idea on the ETA), assuming it works properly, of course.


Okay, wow, that's only one item I covered today but I'll have to continue tomorrow. But before I end this post, I did want to post a picture of a sticker which was handed out at FanFaire. It appears to be a puzzle of some kind. I'm sorry I can't seem to take pictures which show the detail clearly (
EQ2Ogaming has a pic of it too) but maybe you can figure it out anyway. It might have some clues about some stuff going on in EQII. Or it might not.





















Thursday, April 06, 2006

Nostalgia






While I agree with those who state that most emotional content in MMO's comes from a player's societal connections, I don't think that abdicates designers from trying to create emotion in the games themselves.

One such emotion is nostalgia. The clearest example of this is in the Prismatic Quest (some spoilers ahead). By bringing the player back to the Isle of Refuge the designers evoked nostalgia. It was a zone you hadn't seen in a long time and probably thought you would never see again. And seeing it in a different state had an effect too. The whole thing created a perfect circle and to me was the culmination of the old world game.

One problem I had with DoF is that I never once left it after I gained access to the Court of Truth. There was just no need to. Everything I needed was right there in Maj and the game gave me no real reason to go back, except maybe to check on the zoo in my inn room.

KoS rectifies this problem by (mild spoilers ahead) sending you back to old zones. I went back to Lavastorm for a heritage (which I never finished but still) and to collect my first piece of relic armor (more on that another time - drool). And, of course, there are the spires themselves. You need to travel once again through Antonica, the Commonlands, the Thundering Steppes and other zones in order to return to KoS. Some complain about the inconvenience but I like the mild travel factor and I like riding through my old stomping grounds.

I would like to see even more use of nostalgia. I would like to see quests directing you to speak with old world NPC's like Fippy or Vida or even an Everling sister. I think it would be cool and bring about a little nostalgia as you see the old world in a new light. If the designers wanted to use say, the Ruins of Varsoon as a new instance related to a KoS quest, I wouldn't think it was laziness. I would think it was interesting.

But you can argue that you're just tired of old zones and would rather to stick to the fresh content. So I'm not sure if people would agree with me on this or not. I'd basically just like to see SOE get a little more mileage out of the original territories in a meaningful way.


Okay, sorry gang, but this is my last post until Monday because I'm leaving for FanFaire tomorrow. I'll try to get some good info for you. If you're going, looking forward to seeing you there!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Update 22 (For Real This Time)






When reading the notes for Test Update 22, I didn't notice anything particularly exciting, either positive or negative. So I was quite surprised to head over to the feedback thread and find a full fledged uproar in progress over something I'd blithely skimmed past.

The offending sentence:

- If you die within 2 minutes of unequipping an item, the item will still take damage to its condition.

You would think it was Armageddon if you read the thread. Now, I'll probably annoy a lot of people by saying this, but if there's one thing that bothers me more than people in raids complaining about repair costs, it's people in a forum thread complaining because they can't use an exploit to avoid repair costs.

Let me break it down for you. Originally there were three penalties for death:

1. Time: You had to retrieve your shard.

2. Progress: You had xp debt.


3. Money: You had to pay repair costs.

SOE already removed aspect number 1. So you're left with 2 and 3. And if you're at max level you're left with just number 3.

But obviously even one mild penalty is too much for people. They had to use the unequip macro to avoid it. That move is pure cheese. It's just lame. Suck it up and pay the repair costs, they're really not going to break the bank.

So now this exploit is removed and people are up in arms. Sorry, no sympathy here. If you want to raid, you should be prepared to die and to pay some penalty for doing so. Otherwise there's no challenge and no point.

Well, I will make a few caveats. If you know you're going to die before you enter combat (say that time you talk to Vox or if you're doing a weird type of pull) go ahead and get naked. I think that's valid. So I wouldn't mind if the timer was reduced to one minute instead of two.

Also, on the PvP server the economy is a bit rougher so I have much more compassion for those who complain about repair costs there.


I do think there should be a maximum of one item damaged per slot. Thus, if you swap out a ring for another ring for the resists, only one of the rings should be damaged if you die.

For the rest, I'm sorry your exploit is gone. Actually I'm not. Tough luck. Risk and reward is what makes games fun.


To quickly sum up the rest:

Guild recruiting changes are not a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with guilds being able to offer more information to potential recruits and allowing those potential recruits the ability to be better "consumers." Hopefully it can cut down on guild recruitment spam in chat channels but I doubt it.

I'm guessing changing the Orcs to Rujarkians is a graphics thing for improved performance.

I always like to see dungeon improvements but I have to quibble with the Obelisk one. That place is a farmer's heaven already - it doesn't need more.

I like the ability to change your character's style. Some of us have been playing for over a year already. And just like in real life, it's natural to want to change up your look a little.

The news of a new instanced raid zone is great. I don't know all the raid content in KoS. I only really know a portion of the Lab. But it seems, from what I hear, that this was sorely needed. And how can you argue with more content?

Well, that's it for the update but I did want to "review" SOE's April Fool's attempt. Last year Blizzard took a shot at SOE with its franky hilarious
Pandaren Express parody of /pizza. SOE came back with a somewhat weak self-parody in response. Not that funny, but it was quickly written and they took the high road by linking to Blizzard.

This year we have
this. Nothing there was laugh-out-loud hilarious but it was funny (especially the submissions). I also give points for the following:

1. Effort: If you read the rules there are a ton of jokes hidden there. Great job by whoever wrote that section.

2. Self-Parody: I like that they made fun of their own Quest for Antonia.

3. Music: I missed this at first because I had the volume off. But Sela mentioned the music in
this thread so I checked it out. And the music did make it funnier.

So, all in all, a nice job. If you read some of the other April Fools stuff in the gaming world, this is a notch above most of them.