May 19, 2006

Bread and Circus

So everyone is up in arms right now over Live Update 24, which they should probably rename the coming of the apocalypse. I haven’t followed the specifics, all I know is that they are nerfing some things that seem to make people feel like their class will become the next version of the EQ bard. (Did they ever end up fixing that class? Seemed like all they did was break it more and more) If I had more time, I’d peruse the update notes more carefully and disect why each change totally decimates the game and will lead to everyone cancelling their accounts. But I don’t so I won’t. It would be pretty cool though if Mutz and I had the entire world to ourselves! The update notes can be found here though if anyone is interested.

I want to write about the opposite today. Rewards! We actually do have a nice one coming this weekend, with bonus experience to anyone level 1-60. Even though I probably will hit 60 before this bonus weekend is over, I think it’s nice to help newer players and more casual players catch up a bit and be able to start tackling the Kingdom of Sky expansion, as well as be ready for the new adventure pack, The Fallen Dynasty, coming in June. I for one can’t wait to find out why the gods left Norrath! And the theme reminds me of medieval Japan, which I think fits much better with the spirit of roleplaying games. (Much better than aliens at least!)

I’d like to see more rewards given out though, but not for the reasons you’d think. There is something missing in “the next generation” online roleplaying games. Everquest not only grabbed a huge following, but was able to maintain it for a good 5 or 6 years before there was any real sign of mass departures to other games. I remember hearing several times about new games that were going to kill Everquest, but it never really happened. Even the release of Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft didn’t really kill EQ. While it did make a noticable dent in subscriptions, there are many who still avidly play, and many who have left and returned to the game. I don’t see that happening with Everquest 2 or World of Warcraft.

Why?

There isn’t that strong sense of community in newer games that existed in Everquest. The Prexus community, for example, had such a strong sense of community that the server message board is still going strong even after the retirement of many of its players. And Prexus has actually formed a sort of shared history, with players fondly recalling such moments as “Oops I poofed Dain again,” “the PDF flash video,” Sanctioned!, Renvhoek’s insane deals in the EC tunnel, Meemers hacking the server (!), and the BoTB tournaments, which still get discussed even 6 years later. It’s a place where the four letters TWDL carry great importance.

This probably isn’t an earth shattering observation, but the tweaks that eliminated bad interaction among players, such as training, scamming, and guild cockblocking, also eliminated opportunities for good interactions.

That’s fine, but that means there has to be another way to motivate people to come together if there is to be that same sense of community, and stronger commitment to staying with a game, which brings me to my next point.

Know what people want in games? They want a bone thrown to them here and there, and they want to feel like they are getting something special. This weekend’s bonus experience is a good example of that. I’m sure we’ll see a busy weekend coming up. I’d like to see something like this, but with a few more perks, in a festival type event that comes and goes every so often. It can be part of the Live Events on servers, and can be scheduled rarely enough, and rotated through days of the week enough, so that all people have a chance to participate at some point, but not so often that it waters down the challenge of the game.

Having a Festival type event that throws a bone to all sorts of play types will bring back the sense of community, and with it a deeper commitment to sticking with the game. People play to be noticed, whether it’s through slick looking gear, fancy titles, pvp domination, unique market wares, or roleplaying performance. Reward for participation in festival, as well as the audience it brings together, will establish that community. There are several different playstyles, so there should be several different incentives to match them. Here are some ideas I had:

For the lower levels — Fast leveling. An NPC could give out an easy quest or funny game, with a sure win. The reward could be a useful combat buff or a bonus experience mod for set amount of time. Like the bonus weekend, this could be limited to certain level ranges.

For those with end gear/levels — An audience to flaunt it! Also, you could set up a tournament like Best of the Best, which would be a nice way to let the power players determine who is “the best.” Winners would get bragging rights, obviously, some kind of title, and maybe take the winners from every 10 or so tournaments to compete in a round robin tournament to settle the true best of the best….of the best. Winners of that could win some kind of item, like a charm, with a unique effect. Something like the old GM awarded artifact items from live events.

For the tradeskillers — A marketplace to hawk wares. You could flag the entire zone to be a “bazaar,” like the one in Everquest. Tradeskillers could become walking vendors to sell to people at events, or stay afk and sell in some kind of separate area. The incentive would be that there is a large consumer population ready and waiting, plus there would be no broker fee, so consumers would be more willing to buy at the festival.

Roleplayers — Events that add atmosphere and spirit. Perhaps there could be a player judged competition for best tale, with in game voting by participants. The reward could be a title, like The Lorespinner. (Lame, I know)

There have been several terrific live events so far in Everquest 2, so I’m sure doing stuff like this wouldn’t be difficult at all. And the types of quests and games offered at the festival could vary, allowing some opportunity for developers to push the envelope a bit and roll out new ideas.

Hey, it worked for the Romans, why couldn’t it work for online gamers!

On another note, last night Mutz, Lauxen, and I went to Poet’s Palace for an hour, and did the access quest for the second floor.

I love the zone, despite Mutz grumbling how he hates the ali baba and the fourty thieves theme. Experience was great too, and while we didn’t get any nameds, we hopefully will grab some loot next time we go in. I’ll try to do a full write up of the zone when we complete it. So far, it was well worth the pita quest for access though.

Happy Bonus Experience Weekend!

Posted by jayernh under ,Archive,Everquest II | Comments (0)

May 18, 2006

Tower of the Draftling

Snuck in some free time today to just write about one of my favorite instances when Mutz and I were in our early 40s. It’s called the Tower of Draftling and it’s a great spot for anyone level 40-45.

This zone used to require completion of an access quest, but that’s no longer the case. Mutz and I were level 42, I think, when we went in there, and it was terrific experience, with all heroic mobs. It’s located in Rivervale, and has no lockout timer, I don’t think, so you can go in there as many times as you want. There are also a few quests inside that give some nice added experience, and you can find the lore and legend Bixie quest in there as well.

There are many things I like about this zone. First, it was easy to get to, and the only real danger was charging by the bees that swarm around the outside of the tower. Second, there are no repops, so as you clear, if you run into trouble and have to start at the zone in, you can get to where you left off very quickly.

Third, as I just mentioned, when you die, you zone back in at the entrance. There are so many dungeons in Everquest 2 that make you run back through the outdoor zone that they’re located in if you die. Honestly, Mutz and I would love to do these dungeons but we like to challenge ourslves and take risks, and we don’t have the time to run back over and over. We’re usually on about 2 hours a session, so running across a zone every time we die would probably mean we’re running for half our hunting time. I noticed this way back when we did Blackburrow, which was mildly annoying, but tolerable. But it really got to me with Permafrost, a zone that I found very impressive and challenging. The layout and immense structures inside reminded me of Kael Drakkel, and the zone music made me feel like I was riding up the river in a PT boat from Apocalypse Now. But we died one time, discovered that we were way the hell back at the zone in, and decided we wouldn’t bother going back because running across Everfrost, with it’s twists, turns, and aggro mobs, is too much of a pain in the butt to bother with.

Anyway, as for the Tower of Draftling, apparently what happened is dear Mr Draftling decided it would be great if he could move a beehive with some worker bees to his home, so that it would be easier to make jumjum juice. Well, the bees ended up taking over, and his tower became the hive itself. Part of the zone is just a tunnel system of honeycombs, and part of it are the old rooms of Mr Draftling’s domain. There are a handful of quests inside the zone, and you can pick up the lore and legend Bixie book here too.

We found that the experience in here was better than hunting mobs in some open air zone. It was a fun crawl too. There are several roamers inside, but if you move carefully you can clear without getting too many at a time. It’s fairly easy to pull the rooms too, and there are a few named in there that can drop loot.

We ended up dying at the big jumjum machine thingy, to the Overseer I think it was. We did not reach the Queen’s room, unfortunately. And although we intended to go back, we never ended up returning, and it’s all greyed out now. We’ll have to find someone to mentor though, because we’d love to return to finish the quests and hopefully catch the Queen bee.

On another note, I was on yesterday but didn’t have much time to do anything productive, so I headed over to Tenebrous Tangle to do a few quick quests, and had a flash of brilliance while on the cloud transporter. If you time it right, there are a few spots where you can jump off the cloud transporter (space bar) and land on these tiny islands. All these islands are parts of the Plane of Sky bleeding into our realm, and the dragons of course took all the big ones. But I found one that was empty. I’m claiming it for my own, and I think I’ll name it Erika Island.

So anyway, this is me, doing my own rendition of Le Petit Prince. I really don’t get that book btw.

Happy island jumping everyone!

Posted by jayernh under ,Archive,Everquest II | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Adventures with the Caretaker and Mermal

I’m back, hope you enjoyed the guest blog entries from Mutz.

Right. Anyway, just a brief update today. I got back online last night and really started off with a bang. An hour and a half later, after a brief server crash and a long saga with my very upset son, I was able to get in game, roll up my monkly sleeves, and finally finish that pesky access quest to Poet’s Palace.

Above: Taking on the guards inside the Tower of the Moon. Doesn’t that guy look like the scimtar twirling bad guy from Indiana Jones? Makes me wish I had a gun.

Mutz and I needed to face off with the Caretaker, and I was all too willing to kill her, for the simple fact that I was flat out tired of running around collecting all that crap for her. We were lucky enough to run into Ohelia, the bald headed sad bard, and she was willing to come along.

Long story short, we got her, and got access. Ohelia also dinged, and we found that the wisps in the courtyard were good experience and seemed to have a nice rate of chest drops. Nothing special, but it’s just nice to see chests now and then. Seems like a pretty nice spot for grinding out the early to mid-50s levels.

We popped in and took out a group of entrance mobs. I loved the opulence of the zone, and can’t wait to tackle the quests inside to get access to the other floors of the palace. Hopefully we will be able to live in there till we ding 60 at least.

Before I headed to bed, I met up with Meopha, and got to meet her new monkey pet, Mermal. Mermal took no time in finding trouble. I wanted a picture of him up on the canopy of Meopha’s bed for my blog, but when she put him up there, he promptly warped onto the floor and slid all the way across the room, disappearing into the wall. It was like a scene out of Poltergeist. I was sure that the only way we’d get him back was to get that freaky little lady with the high pitched voice to call out, “Mermal, come to the light!”

Turns out, zoning out of the room and back in does the trick too. Here’s Mermal, getting ready to eat Meopha’s carefully scribed documents. (Makes me wonder what she’s plotting)

Posted by jayernh under ,Archive,Everquest II | Comments (0)

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