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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tradeskill Saga: The New Beginning





Yes, I've picked up the sewing needle of glory once again and decided to give tradeskilling another try. I started from level one in my quest to defeat the loom. Here are some things I noticed:

Harvesting is a lot less unpleasant then it was when the game was first released. Your skill goes up more quickly. Also, harvesting on Nagafen is much more interesting then on a PvE server.

At first I didn't like the way the Freeport tradeskill area was set up but now I find it much more fun then the Qeynos one if you have safe-fall.

The tradeskill quest is great. It just makes things more interesting and it lets you try out the different subclasses. I did have the following issue:

The first thing the quest asked for was White Tea. The only thing was, I had no recipe for White Tea and no idea of how to get one. I had to ask in Guild Chat like a noob and was informed that White Tea was (I think) a level 3 recipe. So I had to level up to 3 before I could get it. Very confusing. This has already been addressed
on the forums (and Blackguard responded) but since it happened to me personally before I read that post, I'm echoing the concerns. Edit: Actually it sounds like a similar problem but not exactly the same one.

The quest also didn't recognize the fact that I dinged 10 before completing it. It would have been nice if it told me at that point to go select a class. It took me a while to figure out why I wasn't leveling and the NPC was hard to find. Might as well make it the tradeskill quest NPC who let's you pick your class rather then sending players to another obscure area without any guidance.

I also missed the quest when it was gone at Level 10. Some nice tradeskill quests (in addition to the writs) could keep things interesting.

I actually had a decent time until the mid-teens when the subcombines got really annoying. I'll likely be waiting for the tradeskill revamp before I continue the saga further. And wasn't there also some talk of batch combines? That would be great.

All in all, I would say tradeskilling is a good deal better then it was at release and I hope the revamp improves it even further. I'm not claiming it's fun, because it's not. But it can be slightly entertaining or at least relaxing at times.


Also, note to EQ2-Daily: If you can, edit all those tradeskill tutorial audio segments by Vaddir (sp?) into one file and have SOE link to it because it should be required listening for new players interested in tradeskilling. It's a clear, excellent guide.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kill Schill





I didn't have a problem with Curt Schilling working with SOE to promote EQII because, as I've discussed before, he's been playing EQ and EQII long enough to have "gamer street cred."

And now Schilling is working with SOE on a charity event to fight ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. You can read all about it
here or here (via EQ2-Daily's news aggregator). The event involves players defeating a virtual Schilling in battle.

While the cynical side of me can't help thinking it is also a marketing maneuver that will net a few EQII subscriptions, does that really matter? It's a very worthy cause. So cheers to SOE for putting this together. It will spread awareness of the cause and hopefully they will donate the full $10,000. And cheers to Curt for participating and lending his likeness. A great job by all and I hope it's a smoothly run and fun event.

Also, as a Mets fan, I hereby predict that the Red Sox will win the division this year. Laters Yankees.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Humor: Exit Interview






I discussed the EQII cancellation survey yesterday. But I figured with a few Aggro Brand (TM) tweaks, I could improve on it. And even though my nemesis Blackguard commented on yesterday's post by stating "For what it's worth, this is about to be updated with about 12 total checkboxes and that's it. ;)," I'm not going to let reality interfere with my humor piece. And so I present to you...

The New and Improved EQII Exit Questionnaire

I'm leaving the game because:

A. The stolen credit card I was using was just cancelled.
B. I can't solo triple up heroic yellow mobs.
C. The GM made me change my name, "Naruto," which I had for valid lore reasons.
D. No one has ever offered me cybersex.

I would return if:

A. Wardens are granted the power of flight.
B. /pizza returns to the game and once again brings cheesy goodness to Norrath.
C. I can "deal with" my pesky family once and for all.
D. "Aggro Me" promises to group with me.

I am leaving to play:

A. Star Wars Galaxies
B. Planetside
C. Matrix Online
D. Vanguard

Yes, those are all the choices. What do you mean there are other games? Just pick from that list okay - I gave you four choices.

Have you found the in-game Knowledge Base system helpful?

A. Are you serious?
B. No way.
C. Helpful in letting me compile a list of completely outdated information.
D. Yes. (For real? Wow.)

Have you found Station Players helpful?

A. Hahahaha.
B. Oh, that's a good one.
C. Laughing too hard to answer...
D. Yes.

Did you just answer D to that last question? Are you high right now? I need you to take this questionnaire seriously.

A. Okay

Alright, good.

Would you recommend EQII to a friend?

A. Yes.
B. No.
C. Do imaginary friends count?

Which of the following spells or combat arts would interest you?

A. A buff which makes tradeskilling fun.
B. A direct damage spell which only hits for 1-5 damage but has insane particle effects and shows up as 5,000 damage on any DPS parser.
C. A spell which lets you summon a Maj'Dul Courtesan to your inn room.
D. A spell which makes all Paladins and Shadowknights in the zone lose their horses for the duration of the spell.

Which of the following tie-ins with other current or upcoming SOE games would you find the most super exciting?

A. You finish a quest in EQII and realize that all of Norrath is really a virtual world and you're actually in a cocoon which provides power to robots. Do you dare to leave this Matrix and help fight the war against the robot oppressors?

B. Chewbacca is on his way home to Kashyyyk for Life Day when his spacecraft crash-lands on Norrath. Can you help him find presents for his Wookie family and return him to space in time for the Life Day party?

C. Braniac manages to trap Superman inside the Phantom Zone. However, the explosion of Luclin jars Superman out of his prison. He decides to fight alongside the people of Norrath against evil. Will you aid Superman in his quest for justice or attempt to kill him with all-new kryptonite weapons?

D. The Terran Republic opens a wormhole to Norrath but the New Conglomerate and the Vanu Sovereignty follow them through. Which faction will you choose to fight for?

Which of the following improvements to game systems would you like to see?

A. A map interface which doesn't require you to install a map mod to have even slight functionality.
B. A death penalty.
C. More Arena zones.
D. An Achievement line which lets you pick up collection items faster than other people.

Which of the following potential marketing promotions would convince you to continue playing EQII?

A. Curt Schilling comes to your house and throws fastballs at your head until you resubscribe.
B. Anna Wainscoat personally delivers hot-wings to all players who subscribe for a full year.
C. All subscribers receive an autographed picture of Brad McQuaid pensively contemplating the future of online games. In a bathrobe.
D. Subscribing for six months nets you a live version of the DoF monkey. Note: SOE is not responsible for monkey bites or other monkey related accidents.

Are you really sure you want to cancel?

A. Yes
B. No

Have you thought about Smed at all? Just so you know, because you're canceling he can only get one new S-Class from Mercedes and not two. Have you thought about that?

A. Yes
B. No

Have you? Have you really?!?!

A. Yes
B. No

I feel like we've gotten to know each other during this survey. I don't know about you but I feel a connection. Do you want to, I don't know, get a coffee or something sometime?

A. Yes.
B. No.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Exit Interview





When I read this post by Bandit about the "exit interview" you get when you cancel EQII, I was intrigued. I asked him about it and he sent me a copy of the EQII exit questionnaire (thanks Bandit). I found it quite interesting so I thought I would share it.

Please help us make EverQuest II a better experience! Tell us what you think.
Q: 1 How long have you played EverQuest II? A: 0-30 Days 1-3 Months 4+ Months

Q: 2 What level was your main EQII character? A: Level 1-10 Level 11-20 Level 21-30 Level 31-40 Level 41+

Q: 3 Why are you closing your EverQuest II account? (Check all that apply)

A: I tried the game and did not understand how to play.

The game does not perform well on my system.

The game has too many bugs.

I primarily play solo or paired and I ran out of fun things to do.

I primarily play in groups or raids and I ran out of fun things to do.

I am primarily an Artisan and I ran out of fun things to do.

I feel that my character was not advancing fast enough.

I feel that the game rules are too restrictive.

I am leaving to play with friends in another online game.

I did not like the game world or characters.

I did not like the quests I was asked to do or the rewards they gave.

I did not like the items in the game.

I did not feel there was enough story in the game.

I did not get the level of customer service necessary to enjoy my subscription.

I do not want to continue with EverQuest II due to Station Exchange.

I was unable to accomplish much in short play sessions.

I did not like the art style in the game.

The game world did not visually interest me.

I did not like the way my characters looked or moved.

I did not like the audio in the game.

I did not like the spells or combat abilities in the game.

Out-of-game commitments (family, school, etc.)

I do not have enough time to play.

I can no longer afford to pay the monthly fee.

None of the above corresponds to why I stopped playing EQII.

Q: 4 I would recommend EQII to a friend.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 5 I would consider returning to EQII at some point in the future.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 6 I am already playing another online RPG.


A: Yes No N/A

Q: 7 My current PC system is equal to or greater than the EQII recommended system.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 8 I feel that the EQII web site is useful to players.

A: Yes No N/A Q:

9 I feel that the EQII forums are useful to players.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 10 I used the Station Players service and found it useful.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 11 I was very satisfied with the responsiveness of in-game Game Master support.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 12 I was very satisfied with the responsiveness of telephone support.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 13 I was very satisfied with the technical performance/stability of the game servers.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 14 I was aware of the Knowledge Base and how to access it.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 15 I used the Knowledge Base and was very satisfied with it.

A: Yes No N/A

Q: 16 What is your opinion on EQII's Grouping: Adventuring and doing quests with others?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 17 What is your opinion on EQII's advancement in short play periods?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 18 What is your opinion on the effectiveness of EQII's User Interface to manage inventory, set game window preferences, and display chat?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 19 What is your opinion on the pacing of advancement/leveling opportunities in the game?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 20 What is your opinion on the quality and quantity of EQII's rewards and loot received?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 21 What is your opinion on the uniqueness of your character's abilities as well as his abilities to acquire items?

A: High Medium Low Never Tried

Q: 22 If we were to add even more features to EQII, which of the following might cause you to continue to play?

A: Player vesus player (PvP) rulesets using your adventuring character and abilities.

A dedicated PvP advancement path.

The addition of even more content that doesn't require a group.

The addition of even more high level zones.

The addition of even more interesting and unique loot.

Faster combat speed.

Faster travel options.

The ability to hire NPC group members to assist you.

An alternative system to sell items in-game.

The ability to create adventures or quests for your friends.

Even more plot-lines, in-game events, and holiday events.

Expanded player housing options.

Broader avatar appearance options.

A concentration on fixing the existing game instead of new features.

Q: 23 During a typical week, approximately how many hours did you play EverQuest II?

A: 1-5 6-10 11-20 21+

Q: 24 Finish this sentence. … Usually when I play EQII, I play …

A: ... Alone. ... Online with friends that I know in real life. ... With friends I met online. ... With strangers I met during game-play. ... With someone watching me play. ... With someone in the room playing with me, but on a different computer.

Q: 25 If you are leaving EQII, which of these online games are you are leaving it for?

A: World of Warcraft City of Heroes EverQuest Dark Age of Camelot LineageII Star Wars Galaxies EverQuest: Online Adventures Planetside Eve Online The Matrix Online Guild Wars Final Fantasy Asheron's Call Asheron's Call 2 Other -- not listed No Other Game

Q: 26 If you are leaving EQII, is it because your friends are leaving with you? (Please answer Yes or No)

A: Yes No

Q: 27 Is the game changing too much?

A: Yes, the game gradually became unfamiliar because of how much it has changed.

Some changes were made that I didn't agree with.

No, I liked how much new stuff was added to the game.

Yes, recent changes were made to my character class that I did not agree with.


I think I would be careful about how I analyze the results of such a survey. I'm not saying don't take player feedback into account. I just think you're catching people in a bad mood and they are going to be negative about a lot of stuff. People who are leaving the game due to burnout or because their friends don't play any more are still probably going to take shots at things like class balance, bugs, tech support and itemization. Even if those aren't the real reason they're leaving. I would prefer if you could rank the choices in that question in order of importance rather than just checking all that apply. Along similar lines, a lot of the stuff in Question 22 sounds great on the surface. But I wonder if people consider how some of those things would change the game as a whole.

I don't think it's a bad idea to have a survey. I'd just take it with a grain of salt.

As for question 24, who usually plays EQII "with someone watching me play?" I mean, come on. I hope they're not watching you tradeskill.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

EQII Parkour

I sometimes check out EQII videos on YouTube and I came across a great one last night. The video, brought to you by the mysterious Ridiculously Cute Kitten Studios, features the insane antics of the Parkour Crew owning the rooftops of Freeport.



At first I didn't know what parkour even was, so if you're curious like me, check out the Wikipedia entry. I watched a few parkour videos and it's pretty amazing that the EQII one mimics the vibe so well.

You can call it an emergent meta-game if you want. It just looks like a lot of fun. And I think things like this add to the feeling that Norrath is a deep and "real" world.

I've always enjoyed playing around with the terrain in EQII, but I had no idea it could be taken to such extremes. I've already tried to do one of the insane jumps in the video and, while it did take me a long time to get it down, it is doable.

I'm off to log on and attempt to mimic some more of the parkour fun. I wonder if competing EQII parkour groups will arise and post their own videos. I hope so.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lore Quest





There were recently some mysterious goings on in Nek Castle. Hey, I always expect mysteries in Nek Castle, or the Scooby Doo zone as I affectionately call it. But this quest was special, as you can see for yourself by reading this quote by Vhalen:

"This quest is the beginning of something I always wanted to add... Forum Quests based on lore discussed on the board. I hope to add more in the future. The next is already planned. I will always notify a few of the lore forum participants before it is released. They will not always be the same ones that were clued in before. Not all of the forum quests will be as difficult, or easy, as this one. But I do plan to add more. The purposes behind these quests are to reward those that follow lore, (especially little-known lore), and provide clues to new mysteries. If you are looking for weapons and armor forged by the gods, look elsewhere. These quests are for those that seek knowledge and not riches."

My only real comment is: bravo. What a great way to build the lore of the game and reward those who are well versed in it. While I didn't participate in the quest myself, those who did certainly sound like they enjoyed it. Not everyone is a lore junkie, but why not give those who are some additional fun? And something like this might even create a few lore junkies out of people who weren't that interested in lore beforehand. Plus, it connects the forums directly with the game and helps build community.

I have two posts I'm working on about lore so keep an eye out for those. But a great job by Vhalen for this innovative quest.

And right now it seems like one of my favorite NPC's, Sir Tatters, is in the mix so check Vhalen's
latest post out.

Monday, May 22, 2006

House of Commons on Stratics





I thought the recent Stratics House of Commons chat with the devs was very good reading. Even though I didn't get my question to the devs answered ("Why r u all such noobs?") a lot of people did. So head over and check it out.

Some stuff I wanted to comment on:

Achievements (the questioner couldn't trick Scott into calling them AA's) in EoF are "going to be its own separate tree, one for each of the 24 classes, and our goal is to make it a series of choices you make along the way, instead of a number of linear paths as we did with KoS." Sounds like an interesting system which could further increase diversity between subclasses and even within a subclass. As always the key is not having one "correct" path.


On PvP, Lyndro says "We do have some plans in the works currently. We aren't at a point where we want to talk about them, but we do have some interesting ideas in the works." I hope so. PvP is still fun but it could use some more content and additions. I'd hate to see EQII lose its PvP player base and some new features could really keep people interested.

With regards to the tradeskill revamp, "tradeskill changes to the subcombine system (along with a few other changes) are going to be in Live Update #24. At this point, you can already find some of the changes on the Test server (scholar and outfitter recipes) with carpenter and woodworker recipes coming shortly. " This is fortuitous for me since I just started tradeskilling again and I really enjoy the lack of subcombines thus far. Hopefully this goes live before I hit level 20. Knowing me it probably will. The new secondary tradeskill lines for EoF also sound fun.

EoF will feature a "great cat mount." Will it be a He-Man style Battle Cat mount (aka Cringer)? Or perhaps Happy Cat? NEDM.

The belief system probably has me the most excited of any EoF feature: "You'll be able to choose a god to follow, and will be rewarded for doing so. This may include access to specific quest lines, the ability to wear certain items, and access to abilities that players who worship other deities can't use." In essence, it sounds like a faction system, but a fascinating one. I'm sure players will love building up their "faction" with a god for special abilities. And, again, it will increase diversity between players.

What do I mean when I talk about diversity? You might have one wizard with different regular Achievements then another. Then add in different subclass Achievements. Then add in different abilities from a different belief system. That would make my character feel more individual and I'd probably feel a stronger connection to it. It also makes the game more fun when not everyone is a cookie-cutter wizard, tank or whatever.

I don't discuss technical issues too much here because I think the game is pretty solid overall but I do feel the pain of "Homegrown" who:

"would like a way to handle when things like a server crash causes a raid force to lose their lockouts, this happened to us about 4 times in the past few weeks, and its really frusterating to have a 7 day lockout timer lost becuase the server went down."

This has happened to my guild twice in the last month (when I was present) and it really kills the night and is discouraging to players. We were on the last mob of the (honestly rather dull) Trials raid when the server went down. Total buzzkill. Not only did we lose our progress but we were faced with a lockout.

Lyndro tells us "Until LU 24 Customer Service has not had good tools to fix lockout timers that are incorrectly set. We've given them new tools to address this when they determine that you've had a lockout timer applied to you unjustly."

That's a plus but it's still not good enough. When the server goes down during a raid the lockout timer should be reset automatically. I shouldn't have to deal with petitioning and why should we clog CS with reports? Of course, it would be even better if we were placed back in the raid zone exactly where we were. I realize that both of these things may be technically impossible, but, hey I can still ask, right?

There was a question about profession hats. "Since we get comments saying that we'll hold off on releasing profession hats until the next expansion, I assure that's not our plan. We'll be releasing each of the profession hats as they get finished, and guardians are, as I said, coming soon." I've been pretty patient in not complaining about the profession hats and I think the players have been as well. I happen to love the ones that are in the game. But it's been a while now since KoS and some subclasses are still left hanging. It's getting lame considering profession hats were an advertised feature.

The cloak system is sounding cool. To summarize, they will be customizable but not completely so. So, you may be able to pick from a bunch of colors and patterns but will not be able to draw your own cloak graphic (for obvious reasons). That's the way I would do it so no complaints here. Guild emblems will be a great feature.

Scott comments on voice-overs, stating that they are working on "an extremely large one that will cover much of the live content that's been added and changed of late." I'm somewhat torn on this. I love the voice-overs in EQII. They are really some of the best I've heard in any game. You can check out
this post I did a while back about some of the amazing voice-over talent who participated in the game.

But I'm not sure I miss it when it's not there. I certainly enjoy it when it is. But I'm wondering if the resources might be better allocated to other areas. I'm leaning towards pro-VO but what do you think?

Regarding the Adventure Pack raid content:

"We're going to be adding two X4 raid encounters (one contested one instanced), several X2 raid encounters, and one extremely difficult single group instance that will be geared for the very best equipped level 70 players. "

That sounds like a nice amount for an adventure pack which will likely have a good deal of regular content as well. And I really like the idea of a super-tough group zone. For players like me who love single group combat the most it's a perfect addition.

I was also glad to hear the LFG feature will get better as I've requested that
in the past.

I've just been summarizing the points that stood out to me, but there is plenty more info there so be sure to check it out. Most of the questions were excellent and I thought the dev's did a good job of providing informative answers. Kudos to Stratics for a great feature.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Friday Humor: Cheers






GameDaily recently created a rather funny drinking game for E3 press conferences.

But where is the MMO action? I've risen to the challenge and created a drinking game for MMO press releases.

Take a sip if the game is described as a "next generation MMO."

Take 5 tiny sips if "microtransactions" are mentioned.

Take a sip if getting into the beta requires you to subscribe to a magazine or a web site.

Take a sip if the setting is described as "unique." Down your drink if said unique setting has elves in it.

Remove the label from your drink if in-game advertising is mentioned.

Take a sip if the graphics are described as "cutting edge."

Take a sip if WoW is referenced.

Take a sip if the game is described as "innovative." Down your drink if said innovative system is based on the Tank/Healer/DPS trinity.

Take a sip if the game is PvP-centric and promises a "completely new" form of PvP.

Take a sip if the game has dragons in it. Two sips if you can play as a dragon.

Take a sip if the world is said to be "evolving" or "dynamic."

Down the bottle if perma-death is mentioned.
---
But hey, you might get bored while browsing the official EQII forums and need to drown your sorrows. I have a game for you as well!

Take a sip whenever WoW is mentioned in a post that's complaining about something in EQII.


Take a sip when someone claims that SOE "hates their customers."

Take a sip whenever someone says they are only playing EQII until Vanguard comes out. Finish your drink if they say they can't wait until Vanguard comes out to be done with SOE forever.

Take a sip whenever someone calls SOE "$OE" or refers to them bowing before the "almighty dollar."

Take a sip whenever Blackguard makes a pirate joke or uses pirate terminology.


Take a sip when a poster replies to a previous poster's argument by making snide commentary on their guild rather then addressing the argument itself.

Take a sip when someone refers to someone else as a "fanboi."

Take a sip whenever the title of a post is a variation on "Dev's look here!!!!"

Take a sip whenever a poster refers to paying the dev's salaries.


Take a sip whenever someone who doesn't play on Test posts in the Test forums. Hope you have big drink.

Take a sip when someone references the "last straw."

Take a sip whenever you think Moorgard looks at a post and regrets ever posting that DPS tiers thing. May as well finish your drink now.

Take a sip whenever someone refers to the "good ole days" of EQ or early EQII.

Take a sip whenever someone starts a thread that is identical to the one directly below it.

Take a sip whenever a poster prefaces their post with a lengthy intro discussing their l33t gaming history to give themselves "street cred."

Take a sip if five minutes go by without a new NGD thread.

---

And since E3 just passed, here are some of the best E3 related YTMND's. I know these are not for everyone but I'm a fan of the site.

Chunk at the PS3 News Conference

Breaking News: Cloud in the New Super Smash Game!

Blizzard Owned at E3

A Take on the Lore of Burning Crusade

Guess Who's Back at E3?

Also,
good line by Lyndro on the EQII forums. It definitely got a chuckle out of me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Group Quests (With Bonus Pirates Note)





We've all had the bad feeling of being in a group and everyone but you has a certain quest which they are intent on finishing. And we've all had groups where people are on different stages of a quest and you end up redoing earlier stages over and over as more people join the group. With really long quests which have multiple stages it is very hard to get everyone organized.

Now, it would be easy to point to City of Heroes and say shared group quests (or missions as they may be called) are awesome. Because they are. My friend might have a mission that I don't have. But I don't need to get the mission to play it through with him or her and get credit. It makes grouping a lot easier and cuts down on the tedious process of getting the same quest on the same stage.

But, unfortunately, you can't just throw that system into EQII. Because:

* Quests in EQII involve multiple stages and you can't just let someone skip a stage.

* Sometimes part of the difficulty of a quest is getting the quest in the first place. If you just allowed players to transfer, say, "Speak Like a Dragon," to other players it wouldn't be fair.

* Getting the quest from the NPC provides lore and storyline to players.

So I don't really think this would work in EQII. I would like to see the shared quest function in the journal be a little more robust.


Yarr Note:

The eagle-eyed Aether, Community Envoy for Pirates of the Burning Sea noted the "Making me Nervous" comment in my E3 post. He dropped me a note to let me know things are "moving full speed ahead" and provided me with some E3 linkage. Normally I wouldn't care, but Aggro Forums readers will know I've been following this game for quite some time and am trying to get a forums group to play it when it comes out. So, in the interest of fairness, here are some links:

Video on Alla
IGN
Ten Ton Hammer
Coldfront
Darniaq

I'll even add one of my own: MMORPG.COM.

I've long been a fan of the Aubrey-Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian and the exciting tales of naval combat therein. And while I realize the setting is not the same, it's probably the closest I'm ever going to get in an MMO. I may provide a run-down of the game when the release date is announced and I'll be sure to give a review when I play it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Test Update 24





The notes are here.

I've discussed the new Betrayal system before but it sounds excellent. I love the fact that its a faction based system which is much more realistic. I also like the option to betray at any level. And the Exile stuff sounds quite good. Exiles will not have all the benefits of a regular city, which is as it should be.

I totally understand people being upset about the spell issues (reduction to App I's) when betraying. It hits those who are max-level especially hard. But there have to be some negative consequences to betrayal. And you have to reduce the spell levels to App I's when you switch classes because doing otherwise wouldn't make sense. And if you're doing that, why should the people who have to switch classes be penalized more than those who don't?

I'm torn on the access quest removals. I really enjoy access quests. I like to see people work for things and not just have access handed to them. With the major zones I could understand, but is it really necessary to remove access quests to smaller instances?


But I will give a counter argument. I've honestly never been to a lot of zones on that list. And I'm sure a lot of people like me never bother to do access quests for every zone. So there's a lot of content going unused. Maybe the numbers SOE have showed that a vast majority of players were not ever going to these zones. (I don't mean Nek Castle obviously, I mean places like the Vestibule or the Lair of the Necromancer which I've never heard of).

But to give a counter to that counter - some of these zones are really "rewards" and not actual zones. You do the access quest for the reward of getting the loot in a small instance. Just giving access to that zone would defeat the purpose.

Back in
July of 2005 I talked about how memorable the Zek access quest was for me. And it was really a shared experience for most players. But then there is the issue of repetitiveness as you go through the same access quests on your alts over and over. However, these are smaller zones you really don't have to visit.

In the end I think this change is too sweeping. For most of these zones only one group member needed access anyway. For more commentary
check our forums. And don't forget this may change before it goes live.

P.S. There's no access requirement to RoV. They probably mean CoI in RoV.

"Tradeskill societies have been removed."

I found these pretty pointless. It will be much more convenient to enter any tradeskill instance. And it will be a lot less confusing to new players. If I felt these societies had any narrative depth in the game, I wouldn't care about confusing new players. But since they don't, may as well be rid of them.

I really don't want to bog this blog down with class specific stuff, especially since I'm probably biased. I may comment but I'll wait to see the final changes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Station Launcher?






News of a new Station Launcher for SOE's games was announced at E3 but I figured I would handle that news separately.

I first read about this on
Cesspit, where Abalieno rightly questions some of the Reuter's article as not really being new information.

The best way to get a good idea of what the Station Launcher is all about is to watch
this Ogaming Video interview.

It's basically just a single launch pad for all of the games in the SOE line-up. Which is good.

From a player's standpoint, I really like the clean graphical look of the interface. And it will make it easier to play a variety of SOE games without cluttering your desktop with separate launch pad shortcuts. From SOE's standpoint, it will make it easier for players to purchase other games or expansions, which is fine. It also kind of mentally drives home the Station Access idea of multiple subscriptions for one price (though Station Access is not required to use the new launch pad).

As I stated the interface looks good. But it's more than just a launch pad. If I understand it correctly, it is also a chat interface which will allow you to talk with players in any SOE game. I absolutely love the idea of seeing which of my friends are online before I log on.

There was some mention in the interview of being able to talk to a friend even if they were playing another game under another name. Let's say you have Aggro on your EQII friends list. Now let's say I'm playing Planetside with my new character named
YouWillRegretThatVanuTatooVerySoon. You would be able to find me and talk to me on my Planetside toon even though I never gave you my Planetside name. To be clear, the person sending me tells in PS would still not know my name in that game. They would just see me as Aggro. This sounds like an excellent community feature. I imagine you can still retain total anonymity if desired.

All in all it sounds like a smooth interface that will be good for the community.

There was a lot of uproar over the mention of the PS3 in the article.

"'It's not going to stop at the PC,'said Nathan Pearce, a creative director at Sony Online Entertainment."

This led to a round of forum posts like "OMG SWG for the PS3 LOL." Which, in turn, led to this SWG forums statement by Garva:

"Launchpad is ONLY a gateway to our different games, this does not mean ANY current launchpad using game is going to the PS3. SWG is not, as has been stated endlessly before."

So there you have it. I think the Pierce quote refers to the fact that future SOE games which are playable on the PS3 will be integrated into the Station Launcher umbrella. For instance, (pure speculation) you may be able to see if a friend is playing Untold Legends or talk to someone on the PS3 in a future SOE game from your character in EQII. Maybe someday this will extend to the PSP as well. It's an integrated world.


Quick Note: Regarding my uncertainty yesterday on who is producing the Fallen Dynasty Adventure Pack, here's a quote from Scott Hartsman on the FoH Forums:

"It's much more of a collaboration between two studios than it is outsourcing. Our sister studio in Taiwan (SOGA) is a real dev studio, just like SOE-SD, Austin, or Seattle. By the time Fallen Dynasty gets to its beta on Test Server (which is coming up pretty quickly), something like 10 artists and designers from SOGA will have worked on it, plus about 12 designers, artists, and audio folks from SD."

So there you have it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

E3 Continued





Okay, one more link-fest E3 post.

Let's start off with the EQII news today. Gamespot has a
trailer up for EoF. I thought it was excellent - SOE usually does a good job with the trailers so I wasn't surprised. If you prefer your trailers with a little commentary then check OGaming's video.

Launching in Russia? Uh, okay. China went well. But, hey, my research of international MMO demographics is limited to typing this sentence, so maybe it's a great idea.

And here's
an EoF writeup from Gamespot and one from Ten Ton Hammer. So far so good.

From the TTH look by RadarX:

"One of these zones Moorgard mentioned, would be a personal favorite of mine, Castle Mistmoore."

"This expansion will allow a player to choose a deity to serve. Doing this will allow the player open up a line of deity specific quests, which will reward them with specific abilities."

Read the rest for more info.

If you are at all interested in the Fallen Dynasty Adventure Pack then
this video of gameplay and commentary from Erik Theisz on Allakhzam/OGaming is a must see. The video gives a great look at some of the zones from the upcoming Adventure Pack.

I was a little nervous to hear the game was produced by SOE's Taiwan studio, not because I have any reason to doubt their ability but because I wasn't sure they had the same experience in creating content the San Diego team had. But maybe they just handled the art. And the art may be a bit different from the EQII norm, but it doesn't seem that out of place. The zones look amazing and expansive (there are outdoor zones which is great for an Adventure Pack), the mobs look good (the Naga are far better then the EQII ones quite frankly) and the new weapon models look very nice. I wasn't sure I liked the NPC models but it was a bit hard to tell. Check it out for yourself. On the whole, it seems pretty impressive for the price. Oh, and did I mention the Pig Racing? Awesome.

Gamespot
also has a look which is a good read. Points of interest:

"seven playable areas in the game, 30 new weapon models"

"looking into creating monk training quests that players will be able to use to advance their powers"

"The plot of Fallen Dynasties revolves around a fallen half-god, half-man that last appeared in Everquest I"

It sounds from that write-up that the final raid dungeon will be limited to six players? Zuh? I'm not sure they got that one right, but, hey I think it would be really cool to have, for once, the toughest dungeon in the game be a group dungeon. Raiders I've enraged with that last sentence - feel free to repeatedly kill me on Nagafen.

The
Alla write-up states that June 13th is the launch for Fallen Dynasty. Ten Ton Hammer also has a look.

In
my last E3 post I linked to a rather positive look at Vanguard at E3 from Ten Ton Hammer. And now I have a pretty negative take from Action Trip. An excerpt:

"Now let me tell you, it's almost unbearably obvious why MS got rid of this one. Merely looking at the game was a disappointment right off the bat....Gameplay wise, Vanguard seemed standard in every possible sense."

Now, some of the negative comments were based on the art, but that's a subjective matter so you can look at the
screenshots they provide and decide for yourself. There's also some quite positive commentary on Gods and Heroes in that article (I'm liking what I hear about this one so far and love the setting). For more on Gods and Heroes' intriguing minion system check Ten Ton Hammer. It's apparently not just the Guild Wars NPC's as filler when you don't want to group system. You can use your minions in conjunction with a group of other players who have their own minions as well.

For another negative Vanguard take we have
GamersInfo's look.

"At first glance the game smacks with its generic-ness. It looks like every other game out there, and worse in places. The UI is uninspired, and from what I was able to gather the combat and class system is exactly what we’ve seen in almost every other game out there. Which is exactly what the guys at Sigil are shooting for."

Zuh? Great thing to shoot for. The article makes some positive points but concludes that "The graphics aren’t spectacular and the fact that core design ideas come from the belief that Everquest was right make me think that Sigil designed the game that they wanted to play, but they didn’t bother to check with the rest of the world."

And here's
another Vanguard look from Ten Ton Hammer which is a positive take. The charater customization is praised and the ability to build guard towers which spawn NPC's definitely sounds cool.

And one more
look at Vanguard from Gamespot which has some nice comments on the graphical effects, housing customization and flying mounts. The Warcry writeup has some interesting commentary as well.

And here's
a video of sailing in Vanguard which to me looks really cool in terms of graphical appeal.

And Brad
himself comments (or shall I say writes a novella) on perceived Vanguard marketing weakness. I have to be honest. Most people aren't reading all that. I know I write a lot too, but, dude, chillax a bit. No fun mocking you in Friday Humor if you make it that easy.

In my previous E3 post I stated that I was really excited about the Conan MMO. However I gave one caveat: "But the key to the game will be how the 'action' combat system works (or doesn't work)." So what happens? Sigh. "Where Age of Conan goes wrong at this point in the development (the game is in pre beta stage) is, sadly, the combat itself. While the idea behind the melee combat is fundamentally cool, in practice it doesn't work so well."

Great. That quote is from an E3 hands-on by Action Trip, and there's more there
so check it out. They do have some positive things to say there but shoddy combat will be a deal-breaker for me. Here's hoping they get that sorted out because it's really a quite interesting game.

I was never that excited about Warhammer Online but what I've read has certainly piqued my interest. The game seems intriguing and apparently has a sense of humor. Check out this
quote at n3rfed to see why.

That quote is from
IGN's look and Ten Ton Hammer has not one, not two, but three reports. And one from Gamespot. And another from GamersInfo.

Eve Online is not only still around but doing well. Abalieno has the Eve
E3 news and commentary. A significant part of the news is the announcement of integrated voice chat, for a fee of course. I'm not sure how I feel about this but it does appear to be something more companies are trying.

Also on the Cesspit is
discussion of NCsoft's upcoming free MMO's Exteel and Dungeon Runner. Frankly, that whole business model scares me but I think it could work with some games. So I'll keep an open mind if the "micropayments" are related solely to additional content. Oh wait, I checked further and found this write-up on Gamespot which mentions "a content payment system that gives you access to specific, elite items." Pass. Any game where you pay for a competitive advantage is an absolute "no thanks" for me.

NCsoft is also
apparently a bunch of rebels who play music too loud for the rest of E3 and got fined $5,000. Rock on NCsoft, you wacky band of MMO misfits! Actually, I agree with the ESA on this one. Give people a chance to hear the games and the developers at other booths and not your subpar rock band.

E3 Awards from someone who wasn't there:

Best EQII News: Everything I read about Fallen Dynasty makes it sound like one heck of an Adventure Pack.

Most exciting trailer (MMO Division):
Warhammer Online. EQII a close second with their EoF trailer.

Making Me Nervous Award: Pirates of the Burning Sea and Hero's Journey for lack of E3 buzz.

MMO Interest Award: I went from total non-interest in Warhammer to mild interest. And I've seen Warhammer threads popping up in forums where I didn't expect to see any. That's a nice E3 job.

Most exciting trailer (Non-MMO Division):
Super Smash Bros Melee.

Continued Awesomeness: Spore.

Most likely Katamari-esque quirky hit: Tie -
Loco Roco and Elebits.

Personal Fan Favorite That Nobody Else Cares About: New
Phoenix Wright trailer.

Most Underrated: PC Gaming. Sure there was Spore and some MMO news but that was a tiny fraction of the media focus on E3. According to
Joystiq's analysis of a survey, "The report provides numerical evidence that PC gaming is not declining but is in fact already the dominant platform for video gaming and the penetration of PC gaming into North American households is expected to rise." That's the reality and game companies and the media would do well to realize this.

Worst Trend: The "pay for an uber sword" business model as demonstrated by NCSoft.

For some great first hand E3 commentary on a range of topics check
Broken Toys and Kill Ten Rats.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Humor: The V Files






With last week's news of a Vanguard/SOE co-publishing deal, a multitude of forums were abuzz with whispers, rumors and conspiracy theories. I put my most powerful tinfoil hat on and delved into a land of madness. As I dug deeper and deeper I uncovered more and more terrifying secrets. I began to put together a list of information which I termed "The V Files." What I discovered may shock you. The following revelations may very well cost me my life, but the truth is now out there.

* All Station Access subscribers will receive one free Pizza Hut pizza with pepperoni toppings per month. Tasty Cinnamon Sticks are still extra and the amount of frosting has been nerfed.

* IGE has purchased SOE, Sigil and Vivendi.

* The Vision (TM) of Vanguard is now legally a religion which will make subscription fees non-profit donations.

* Duke Nukem Forever is slated to join the Station Access program when it is released next week.

* Sony will sell half of all PS3 units with a HD-DVD player and half with a Blu-Ray DVD player. You won't know which one you get until you open the box.

* Hideo Kojima has created a Metal Gear mini-game for Vanguard which will focus on trading card battles.


* Raph Koster is returning to SOE to work on the sequel for SWG. Hope you like dancing.

* SOE did, in fact, already have an impact on Vanguard gameplay. As part of the deal with Sigil, travel times to a level 20 zone have been decreased from 2 hours and 18 minutes to 2 hours and 12 minutes.

* During the SOE/Sigil negotiations forums poster meangirl238 reports that the following shocking occurrence happened: "Okay, so omg you won't believe this one girls. Nancy from NCSoft called up Smed and was like 'hey do you want to go out some time' and he was like 'sure, baby' haha. But then she was like 'tell me, what do you think of Brad - he sucks right?' And Smed was like 'oh yeah he sucks.' But then, get this - Nancy had Brad on the line listening in the whole time ROFL! The old three-way calling trick, OMG! And then Brad was like 'what did you say Smed?!?!' But then they both realized Nancy was a total snob and they became friends again."

* The upcoming MMO's Spend the Night, Naughty America: The Game, Sociolotron and Red Light World were all purchased by SOE. They will be offered under a single monthly subscription fee entitled "Station Pass - Sexy Edition."

* Sir Howard Stringer, the CEO of Sony, cedes his knighthood to Brad McQuaid's D&D character.

* The employees of Sigil must give all of their Neopoints to Smed's Uni Neopet named Prettyhorse.

* Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes named their baby Suri after an as yet unannounced zone in the EQII EoF expansion.

* Ceciliantas is Brad McQuaid.

* Smed was behind the death of Patches the cat.

* At the precise moment the SOE announcement was made, the Vanguard beta servers crashed.

* Nintendo actually chose the name Wii as part of an arcane ritual intended to prevent the Sigil-SOE agreement.

* Smed gets to have a Fiery Avenger in Vanguard. In return, Brad gets max-level on all Toontown gags.

* The Seventh Seal of the Apocalypse has been breached. C'thulhu is now a partner of SOE and Sigil and is to be praised by all.


And because I'm a reasonable enough person to admit when Penny Arcade is funny, check out their take.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Another E3 Already?





Yes, it's E3 time again. E3 (drum roll please) - "Where Business Gets Fun!" Hey, that's their slogan not mine.

My E3 information is reliant on what trickles through the massive information superhighway known as the interweb, with a dose of G4TV to spike the hype punch. I'm a bit more cynical this year. I used to read up on every straight-to-vaporware MMO in existence. But since I started this blog, what MMO's have actually been introduced? Guild Wars, DDO and Auto Assault. All three are from major companies which have published previous titles. Am I forgetting any?

So, as Foton aptly put it on
AFK Gamer: "I’m not much interested in what I might be able to buy some day. Tell me what I can buy NOW." I'm not quite at that stage so I'll add the Aggro Addendum. "Tell me what I can buy now or what I know I'm going to be able to buy in the near future." So that means I'm laying off the MMO's that are all dreams and zero hope of release.

So what does E3 have to offer by way of information? Just like last year a massive percentage of all media coverage is related to the three next-gen consoles. And I'm pretty tired of hearing about them, since I'm a PC gamer at heart and I always will be. But I'll give a quick opinion because it gives me a chance to run my mouth off about something:

X-Box 360

It's actually out. Will probably have the best online systems in place (X-Box Arcade, X-Box Live, etc.). Currently looks to have the best shot for console MMO action. Halo 3 if you're into that.

PS3

OMG $600! The media latches on to something and doesn't let go. It's expensive! (And you do need the more expensive package - please stop insulting our intelligence with crippled cheaper versions). But what people forget to tack on to that OMG $600 is that the PS3 has a Blu-Ray DVD drive and the X-Box 360 has no HD-DVD drive. Do you care? I really don't but I might in a few years. Regardless of what I think, the reality is that they did seem to pick a price point that has turned off a lot of people.

The PS3 conference at E3 was considered underwhelming at best. There were a few new details like a redesigned controller with tilt sensors. But it won't vibrate. There was also mention of a free online service but I don't know the details.

The list of launch titles is somewhat dull, to me at least. To bring things slightly back to the topic of this blog I saw a hands-on of SOE's Untold Warriors for the PS3 on G4TV. It looked fine and I'm sure it will sell a lot because it's a decent launch title. But there's nothing revolutionary there and the online features sounded lacking. Metal Gear Solid too if you're into that.

Wii

The name furor has subsided. I think it's a fun name and I like it. But it fails the embarrassment test: "Hi, do you have any Wii's in stock?" I would have preferred they came up with an equally fun name that adults can say without sounding like idiots. But I'm over it.

The Wii controller is very exciting with its motion and position sensing. But I'm still cynical after some experience with the DS. Games like Trauma Center for the DS rely too heavily on the touch-screen gimmick and aren't great games in their own right. Similarly, I feel the first generation of Wii titles will be overly reliant on the controller.

Ask yourself, is this game going to be fun if I'm pressing the X button instead of waving my hand sideways to use my sword? If the answer is no, that's not the game I want to play. Because you'll get tired of a novelty quicker then you'll get tired of a great game. But that doesn't mean designers can't make great games which are even more fun due to the controller. And I think they will. And Mario if you're into that.

In summary:

I think the X-Box 360 and the PS3 will both be successful. I think the X-Box will have better titles over the next two years but the PS3 titles will be slightly better after that. But I'll buy a Wii before I buy either, because it's cheaper and I will enjoy the quick, casual fun as a break from MMO'ing. I'll likely wait for the prices to drop on the other consoles and the software to improve. The Wii's graphics will never outshine the other two, but that's fine if the games are fun.

Now, it's time for random E3 discussion:

While I blasted G4TV
recently (and believe me they deserve it and more) their E3 coverage has not been completely horrendous. Of note was yesterday's interview with Will Wright and a hands-on with the Spore creature creator. This incredible game does look like it will actually live up to the hype and I may discuss it in greater detail in the future as it definitely has some MMO elements.

Today they had an interview with Richard Garriot on the upcoming MMO Tabula Rasa. He certainly lived up to his legacy of horrendous fashion sense, but he also had some information on the game. When you look at the gameplay footage it looks a lot like Planetside with better graphics. But Garriot claims it's actually not a "twitch" shooter at all. So what's going on? This "innovative" system is strongly RPG based. But when fighting you use the left mouse button to fire your weapon and the right for special attacks in a quick-paced combat scheme. The damage and accuracy is determined "behind the scenes" based on your weapons, character skills and other RPG factors and not on your literal mouse accuracy.

Wait a minute. Where have I heard that before? Oh, that's right, it's exactly the way post-NGE SWG works. Exactly. The only difference I could surmise is that there is an auto-aim in Tabula Rasa so once you have an enemy targeted you don't have to keep it targeted with the cross-hairs. The game will allow for short 30 minute play sessions and instancing was mentioned.

World of Warcraft

The new race in the Burning Crusade expansion (there are actually two - Blood Elves were revealed earlier) is the Dranei. What's shocking about this is not the race itself but that the New York Times scooped the interweb on this one. Cosmik kindly excerpts the Grey Lady's interview
here. It sounds fine and I can't really comment that much because I don't know the intricacies of the game. Flying mounts will be available but they are only usable in the new zones.

I'm sure the expansion will be excellent based on how polished WoW was and the time Blizzard has taken on it. If it's not, heads need to roll at Blizzard and Vivendi for not taking advantage of the biggest cash cow in the MMO world. And note to the Paper of Record - stay out of my Aggro radius. You start doing a daily EQII column and I'm out of a (non-paying) job. Also, here's a Burning Crusade
hands-on from Joystiq and one from Gamespot.

Vanguard:

Sigil has a blog going
here. They are apparently so hardcore they believe in long travel times even at E3. Yes, their booth is in Kentia hall. Kentia is known as the hinterlands of E3 because it is hard to get to and usually stocked with vaporware. But hey, I would hang out in Kentia if I was at E3 because I'm hardcore and cool like that. And at least they have air conditioning in the Sigil booth. They actually have another booth with SOE in a location which is somewhat jealously described as being "right by the main door." Their SOE locale features a "15 foot fully functioning waterfall." If SOE ever gets around to setting it up, that is, since they apparently "had their hands full with all of the setup for their products." Why Sigil feels they need dual booths is beyond me but whatever.

I didn't come across much Vanguard news yet but Cosmik does have some comments from NDA breakers
here (lots of other good news items in that long post as well). Since I was criticized for referencing "illegal" beta-tester comments in my long Sigil-SOE post, I will say the following:

NDA breakers are more likely to be negative because those who love the game want to continue playing it and not be banned.

Not everything you read on the internet is true.

Comments on games in beta often fail to take into account that the game is still in beta.

So what do I do when I read one of these posts? I take it with a grain of salt and try to decide whether the comments make sense in terms of publicly stated knowledge about the game. But I'm not going to discount them totally.

Oh, and I just found
this Vanguard hands-on at Ten Ton Hammer. It's a positive take.

Age of Conan

Again from N3rfed (I'm setting a reblog record here) is a
link to an E3 video. I don't know if I've mentioned Conan on this site but I have talked about it quite a bit on the forums and to people in game. It's taken the place of Hero's Journey (because I haven't heard anything about Hero's Journey since last E3) as the game I'm most looking forward to. This video does nothing to change my mind, but if you want to understand why I'm intrigued, take the time to browse the gameplay previews on the official site. I found them fascinating. There's also a good hands-on from GameSpy. But the key to the game will be how the "action" combat system works (or doesn't work). I may talk more about this one at a later date.

Hero's Journey

Did I say I hadn't heard much about Hero's Journey? Well, MMORPG.COM
has an E3 preview up. Some of my initial excitement about this game has been replaced by doubts, but I still read every bit of news I can find on it with gusto. Notable in this preview is that the game will not be as heavily instanced as I perhaps assumed. I still recall the E3 video from last year where a mage cast an AOE by drawing the spell on the screen with his mouse to target the areas he desired the spell to hit. Amazing stuff and I like the scripted nature of the quests or missions. I do have doubts (which I can get more into in a separate post) but I hope Simutronics silences them with a good product.

Pirates of the Carribean Online

A look at Pirates of the Carribean Online from Kotaku: Note that this is not Pirates of the Burning Sea. It's another pirate MMO. Since Buena Vista is making it, it probably will actually be released. But it seems shallow and nothing there really excites me. The fact that there's a cell phone version makes me seasick.

Gods and Heroes

IGN has some Gods and Heroes
screenshots up. And though it's not E3 related there's an interview about the game at Firing Squad which provides a decent overview.

Warhammer Online

Mythic has a
blog going (just pictures so far) and IGN has a trailer for Warhammer Online. Wow, I really liked the trailer. Still, it's going to take more than a great trailer to get me into this one. But I'll keep an open mind.

EQII

Well, if you've read this far, you deserve a little EQII news, right? Okay, then check out
this excellent interview over at OGaming with none other than my arch-nemesis Ryan Shwayder aka Blackguard aka Grouchy Gnome. I remain intigued by the Belief system. There will not only be new mounts in EoF but "possibly some new ones beforehand." There will be "roughly as many Signature Quests as Heritage Quests in Echoes of Faydwer, and that there will be at least one for every 10 level range starting at level 20. " This is good to hear as many felt this area was lacking in the last two expansions. A mention is made of meaningful faction choices, which I enjoyed in DoF.

Gamepot has an
E3 Echoes of Faydwer page up but there's nothing really of note there.

Lord of the Rings Online

There is some news about Lord of the Rings Online on the OGaming forums, but since I find it hard to stir up any personal interest in that title I'll just provide you
the link. Also the beta is now open for signups.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ding 70






I've always posted when I reached max level, so I'm keeping the tradition alive. My wizard has reached level 70 and gained access to Ice Nova goodness. But I'm a little shocked that it has taken so long, with even known slackers such as Moorgard apparently beating me. So it's time for some excuses:

I reached 66 by the early days of March, which is not too shabby considering KoS launched February 21st. But then it took me until the end of March to ding 69. And then a whole month to get that final level. Why?

I kept up with my static group until around 65, but then they started to outlevel me. And the xp reduction when people are even a level or two ahead of you is fairly noticeable.

I cut my play time on my main from 4-5 days a week to 2-3 due mainly to PvP. So I did level a 36 Troubador on Nagafen in the time it took me to get from 60 to 70.

But probably the biggest reason is that I missed "xp season" within the guild and got stuck at 69 in "raid season." When I log on to my main, it's usually right in time for a raid (so far Trials, Lyceum, Lab or some T6 stuff we never completely cleared before KOS). And when the raid is over it's time for me to call it a night.

But, for all my excuses, it never really bothered me. I still brought the famed Aggro dps and was a contributor on raids. And, most importantly, I had fun.

But now I can make fun of the slackers who haven't reached 70 yet.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Scouring Expansion Tidbits






I spent a bit of time this weekend on the forums seeing what additional news I could come up with concerning Echoes of Faydwer. I guess I'm going to have to start calling it EoF because I'm lazy. Or hmm, maybe Echoes. Anyway, here's what we have:

Some Good (and Evil) Info on the Fae from Lotus:

"New Fae characters will start out Neutral.

The Fae are smaller then Gnomes when not hovering.

The Fae found in those screen shots are still in early development.

The Fae can appear cute or dark depending on how you customize your character."

Moorgard adds this:

"There are many different varieties of faerie folk, some of which other races might consider feminine and others that they would not. The Fae are a specific race that developed on Faydwer when... well, such things you'll learn about in time. "

Blackguard gives a definitive answer on the level cap and a rough launch date:

"It isn't due out until mid-November, and we've been working on it a while. There aren't 10 more levels in this expansion. It's a level 1-70 expansion."

Blackguard on Cloaks:

"As others have said, cloaks will have their own, new equipment slot. They will indeed be visible cloaks--we've stated before that we wouldn't add them unless they showed up on characters. We've also hinted at some other things, including higher quality (cooler) cloaks as you progress."

Blackguard tells us not read to much into screenshots:

"That's likely the result of characters that don't actually have normal skills. It looks like the person who made the video had the bow equipped in the primary hand rather than the ranged slot, which can happen if a character doesn't have a class (i.e. it can't happen in the game, just when we script things)."


Lyndro on Content

"We count zones a litte differently than you all do. Remeber we said that KoS would have "over 10" zones (Or something like that), so bear that in mind when you see "over 20". We want there to be content for everyone to experience on Faydwer, however we know that currently there is a good amount of content for people 1-50 (or 1-60), but the content thins out a good bit 60-70. The AP will help some of that, Faydwer will as well. I won't be so naive as to say that we're looking to please everyone, but we are aware of where our content is thin. I know this doesn't answer your question, and you'll probably have to wait a few months before anyone answers your question, perhaps beta... I'm sure by the time the NDA is lifted everyone will know anyway. However if you are worried about finishing too soon, I can impliment the final raid, I have some more "fun" puzzles in mind that won't be able to be beaten until shortly before the next expansion launches (This is a joke... and a jab at myself...).

As for being dead set at not letting people persue a playstyle, I can tell you that we are not "dead set against providing ample amounts of raid content to those players who choose to persue such a playstyle". Remember that there are lots of playstyles though, there are people who like to see everything and start lots of alts, and really dislike doing the same content over and over, there are people who like to group, who like to quest, who like to solo, who like to piece together stories, people who want X(y) Raids, People who want new levels (They are already mad), Tradeskillers, etc., so yours is not the only group that needs new content to fit their needs. I can guarantee you that Faydwer isn't going to be exactly what every player wants out of an expansion for EverQuest II (If I said - Ok, we're putting in 5 contested raids, and 4 weekly raid instances, I guarantee you that someone else would be in here demanding 42 new Woodworking recipies. Although more than 5 contested raids and more than 4 weekly raid instances is probably a pretty safe bet, I imagine you are talking about Top tier level 70 raids).

In closing - We are aware of what you want, and we aren't ignoring it, but we can't guarantee everyone exactly what they want, but we'll try."

Freedom of Movement is Good

"Yes, you will be able to jump (or fall) off of bridges and platforms in Kelethin. Most people in most situations will die a horrible death from the rapid impact with the, rather hard, forest floor below. One of Gallenite's demands for Kelethin was the ability to jump (or fall) from Kelethin, so it is so."

I don't usually do straight news posts like this but I thought it might be helpful to aggregate some expansion info. So there you have it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

MMO Round Table







Note: In case you missed it, scroll down for a rare Saturday post on the Vanguard/SOE news.

Hear ye! Hear ye! I bring glad tidings. Three brave knights from across the barren and dangerous land of the internet have joined forces to create the MMO Round Table.

"An MMO Round Table," you say wonderingly. "What is this astonishing and magnificent thing?"

It is a joint project of MMO bloggers who are passionate about online game design and seek to spread the light of truth and justice to the world. We will retain our individual blogs but you can find all of our posts aggregated on
the Round Table. We plan to discuss and debate MMO game design just as the knights of old debated dragon slaying and who was sleeping with Guinevere and whatnot.

You will also discover the fabled
MMO Round Table Forums: a sane and friendly place for all to join in the discussion. There you shall find excellent discourse on MMO Game Discussion, General Game Discussion and Game Development Discussion. Also feel free to relax in the Tavern for fun and merriment. Note that these forums are not for EQII specific discussion or questions. Please keep that to the official forums or the always terrific Aggro Forums.

Who are the cast of characters embarking on this great venture?

Well, one is a
good-looking, wise and witty blogger with a heart of gold and a talent for overnuking. Yeah, me. And that's pretty much it.

Oh, right, there are two other noobs involved that I've never really heard of but I'm going to give them a shot. These noble knights go by the names
Blackguard and Moorgard. Actually Blackguard did most of the actual work so blame him.

So
stop by, check out the forums and stay tuned for more MMO Round Table news. We hope it will become an invaluable resource and grow into a great community of people with a common interest.

This won't affect my regularly scheduled blogging on this site in this slightest.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Brain Exploding...SOE and Sigil Unite





Sigil and SOE sitting in a tree? Vanguard part of Station Access? I'm still dumbfounded. But I've been thinking about the news and I'm going to try to analyze it from different angles. First, I think we need a little reality check:

Reality

Press Release

Brad Levels Up His Post Count on the Vanguard Forums (edited to change link to Silky Venom's Dev Tracker because a direct link wasn't working)

SOE did not buy Sigil. Nothing remotely related to that happened.

My understanding: Sigil purchases its own publishing rights from Microsoft, though they are still a "key Windows Development Partner," whatever that means (not much). Sigil enters into a co-publishing agreement with SOE. SOE provides "distribution, marketing, hosting and back-end support -- including billing and technical support." SOE tentatively agrees to add Vanguard to their Station Access subscription. That's the core of it.

From the Vanguard Fan Perspective

When I heard this news, the first thing I thought of was the absolute armageddon melt-down that must be occurring on the Vanguard forums. The posters there did not disappoint.

I can definitely understand why. Let's be honest - a large part of the Vanguard fandom is built on anti-SOE sentiment. Brad's Vision (TM) was perceived to be the antithesis of all that SOE represented (whether that's true or not). So when they hear that SOE is suddenly involved with their near holy game, it's a reaction akin to Johnny Damon signing with Yankees. And I completely empathize with that emotion. Like I said, I'm still in shock myself.

But you have to look past the emotions and look at the reality. SOE co-publishes other games. I recently mentioned that they were co-publishing Gods and Heroes. And they are a co-publisher on Toontown. That really doesn't affect the actual games, only the way they are delivered.

SOE has no right as co-publisher to dictate gameplay changes in Vanguard. Just as they would have no right to mess with balancing in Gods and Heroes or change the Cog spawn rate in Toontown, they can't mess with Brad's Vision (TM). And I guarantee that Brad made that clear, whether it was necessary or not. SOE development staffers are not going to work on Vanguard, they're going to work on their own games.

People who view SOE as villains who will somehow tamper with the Vanguard gameplay have to realize that the reality of the business world is not as dramatic as all that. This seems like a pretty clean and straightforward deal. If anything, Sigil has more control over their game then they did before. As sole owners of the publishing rights to Vanguard, I have to assume that they can drop SOE as a co-publisher at any time they wish. They could find a new co-publisher or publish the game themselves.

Sigil is the one with the leverage in this deal. SOE and Sigil are not merging anymore than SOE merged with Disney when it co-published Toontown.

As for the anti-SOE rhetoric, as I've stated, players are not going to notice anything SOE does in terms of the game itself. But is SOE evil? No, they make some horrible decisions and some great decisions. As with any large company, different divisions are going to have different personalities and work product. Have they done awful things in the past? Sure. Have they done great things in the past? Sure. Reality is never as black and white as people like to believe. It's much easier to paint someone or something with broad strokes than to try to see that they're probably more complex.

I will say that the some of the fervor on the boards relates to Station Exchange. And I completely agree with and understand that. This is just an example of how that bad decision negatively effected the public's perception of SOE, and justifiably so. For the record,
Brad says no Exchange type service for Vanguard ever. But as much as I didn't like SOE's Station Exchange decision, it has no real impact on the current news.

From Sigil's Perspective

This one's not too tricky. Things weren't working out with Microsoft. In the press release, Brad stated, "As the development process is ongoing and constantly shifting, it became clear that MGS and Sigil had varying visions and direction for the title's development." If you translate that from feel-good PR lingo, I would guess it was an absolute blood-bath.

And Sigil preferred to concentrate on the game itself rather than the technical and other subsidiary aspects of publishing it. That's probably a good decision for them.

And once they made that decision, the options were probably more limited than you think. How many companies have the expertise and wherewithal to handle a game like Vanguard? How many wanted to? There are really not a lot of options and I think SOE has the proven track record to handle this sort of thing (regardless of what you think of their game related decisions). And obviously, there were past connections between the companies which facilitated things.

As for the purported personal differences between people at SOE and Sigil, well, business comes first. People who let personal disagreements or feelings outweigh good business decisions are doing a disservice to their company.

All that said, Sigil had to have been (or should have been) aware of the public backlash this decision would had amongst the Vanguard faithful. They made the decision that the benefits of this arrangement outweighed that backlash. The fact that they went ahead with it anyway actually makes me think that they care enough about the game to do something difficult. How will this decision work out for them? Will they lose many potential subscribers? Will the break from Microsoft allow them to make a better game? Will SOE's services bring in more subscribers then they would have had? It's too tough to call.

From SOE's Perspective

This one is a bit trickier. I've been looking forward to Vanguard and hoping it will be an incredible game. But I had my doubts about some aspects of it. I won't get into specifics here but you can figure some of those doubts out from
this Friday Humor post, which is pretty funny. If I do say so myself.

And let me clearly say that I have never played the Vanguard Beta. But the things I have heard from people I trust make me think that those doubts were fairly accurate. Now you can say that there are always bad rumors and so on when a game is in Beta (and it is in Beta after all). But just going on my instinct and the content of those "rumors" I've tended to give them credence. And the issues with Microsoft (regardless of statements to the contrary) do not exactly reassure me.

If I had to wager now (based again on my admittedly quite limited knowledge) I would bet on the fact that Vanguard would have been unsuccessful or at least rather limited in its success.

So as the CEO of SOE I would be tempted to say, "Haha, good luck with that. Go find another publisher and we'll sit hear and eat some popcorn as your game completely implodes."

But now I'm the one letting my emotions cloud good business sense. Without knowing the details of the agreement, it seems like a relatively low risk proposition. If Vanguard is a success, SOE profits. Contrast this to the possibility that Vanguard was a success on its own, siphoned players from SOE games and not only made SOE zero money but cost them money. And what if it's a failure? Big deal. They're only co-publishing the game, not financing it. This might constitute an investment, sure, but it's a moderate one in the scheme of things.

SOE has cut their risks while gaining the possibility of reward. And that seems to make sense. Though I still might have passed, that's only my competitive nature talking.

From EQII's Perspective

This one's even trickier. Vanguard is a direct competitor. And from my personal experience, I hear more people in-game talking about leaving EQII to play Vanguard than I hear people saying they're leaving EQII to go play WoW.

So why would you want to help a competitor? Well, remember that people would have left to go play Vanguard whether or not SOE co-published it. The difference is that now they're still making money, but that's back to SOE's perspective.

The only possible difference in terms of EQII is that more people who are EQII subscribers might try it due to the Station Access subscription. And that might have a negative effect on populations which could have a negative effect on the game itself. But remember also that those people are still, in essence, EQII subscribers and are more likely to return to EQII to check out new content or expansions. Contrast this with the alternative - people canceling their EQII subscriptions and subscribing to Vanguard. So it may actually work out to their benefit. And then, of course, you may just have some Vanguard subscribers who go Station Access and try out EQII and love it. I don't see this as a huge number (due to anti-SOE sentiment amongst the Vanguard faithful), but, hey, you never know. You might also get people who weren't going to subscribe to either game to subscribe to Station Access for the possibility of playing both for one price. In the end, I see it as a net population benefit.

The important thing is that the EQII staff remains completely the same and will continue doing what they are doing. I have a feeling that the new Expansion and Adventure Pack will be excellent based more on the time and experience the designers have had with the game than anything specific in the press releases. Whether that translates into more players or retaining current players is tricky. But I don't think the player base will be affected negatively by this arrangement.

From Station Access Perspective

It's amazing the difference a few days makes.

Station Access has just gone from a much criticized price raise to possibly one of the greatest deals in gaming. The flexibility to play Vanguard and EQII for one monthly fee, even if you don't play the other SOE games, is probably well worth the price. Here's to hoping they don't raise the price further when Vanguard is added to the lineup.

And, hey, now that I know they can add games they are co-publishing to the Station Access lineup, I'm going to be even more on their case about adding Gods and Heroes.

From My Personal Perspective

First off, it's definitely surprising but also hilarious. Brad, Smed, SOE, Sigil. It's just too funny. SOE never ceases to entertain. Is SOE going to co-publish the Sigil Marvel Comics MMO and have a DC and Marvel MMO going simultaneously?

For all my doubts, I was going to buy Vanguard and I was hoping it would be a great game. And I still am. If I get to play it for no additional subscription fee, that makes me happy. I think it's a good business decision for SOE and I don't see it hurting EQII at all. And I honestly don't believe this will have any effect on Vanguard gameplay.

It's a new, wacky MMO world out there and I'm just along for the ride.