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Category Archives: Everquest

Rearview Mirror

everlook.jpg

Greetings from Everlook, ca. 2007, when getting there meant something and not just to the Timbermaw…

Apparently blogging or at least the MMO blogging community is dead.  Or something.  Well, I’ve never taken directions very well, so here I am.

Ardwulf’s “What Was Lost” post caught my attention.

As Wilhelm has been blogging, our formerly-WoW, currently Rift instance group has been on a bit of a roll (or a lack of one) for the last 6 months.  As adults with various combinations of jobs, spouses, aging parents, growing children, and real life in general, having all the stars align to put all five of us online on a Saturday night at the appointed hour to partake in group content has been a rare occurrence.  This year, our score has been 2 for 24 (weekends), if I score it correctly.

And even when the gang isn’t all there, no one is spending a great deal of time in Rift.  Was not always the case.  When we were in Azeroth oh so many years ago, there always seemed to be something to do, something to explore.

Ardwulf seems to have reached the same conclusion we reached a while ago for what seems like many of the same reasons.  Lots of things in Azeroth have changed.  Many things lost, but what were those things that made it so compelling in those halcyon vanilla days?

Its a bit difficult to define what it was, but as some of the comments in his post point out, certain changes changed or radically impacted many aspects of the game in a negative way (IMHO).  So by looking at the negative impacts you can infer a bit of what the secret sauce was in the vanilla days.

Worldliness

For me, it comes down to a loss of “worldliness”.  That doesn’t mean a sandbox per se, but that the game world was a place with a sense of dimension, danger and the unknown.

Quest-centricity

Quest content was a way to experience the game but not the entire game.  That was initially a great strength of the vanilla game, providing a non-exclusive guided path through the world. Of course, we often stepped off those paths, encountered others and generally explored.  There were quest lines that lead no where.  There were side stories that were interesting in and of themselves that were utterly “optional”.

Increasing quest-centricity to the exclusion of all else migrated what was a game world in which there were many storylines to a story in which your character was largely a passive and captive participant.  By the time Cataclysm rolled around and I was budgeted with three quests at a time and I had to complete the entire zone to unlock the next zone, I was done.

Lost with that was any desire for replayability with alts.  Why trod the exact same path again and again?  I may have wanted to do so in some instances, but to be denied any choice in the matter just sucked the life out of the game.

Dungeon Finder/World Wrecker

The dungeon finder was certainly the world shatterer.  The world became a game lobby of course, we started to see that when PvP became instanced and you could queue and be whisked away.  Both travel and story were trivialized and in large part the world-based story line was mostly divorced from what was the instance based climax of those story lines.

Phasing

Another world shattering “innovation” was phasing.  The world around the character was representative of the experiential path that character had taken rather than vice versa.  Players on different steps of a quest may be in the same location as each other but in another “phase” and completely unable to see each other, play or assist each other.  Player-centricity versus world-centricity, Player wins again.

Repetitive content

Because of Blizzard’s formerly vaunted quality control to not release an expansion before its time, daily quests and associated grinds were added to bridge the gap.  An utterly immersion breaking and transparent attempt to pander to the ADD crowd.

And why create more content when you could just repurpose existing content?  Heroic dungeons were added.  What was the story or setting-based set up for these again? Oh yeah, none.

Death of Travel

Flying mounts and the demise of travel.  Worldliness is defined by the perceived size of the world.  Whether that is by some peculiar scaled physical metric (feet, miles, meters, km) or by the amount of time that it took to cross a particular zone, etc. each of those experiences created a sense of space and dimension and with that investment of time into travel, a sense of rarity, danger and a heightened risk of loss was created.

EQ did this is spades.  I remember being utterly terrified doing the run from Ak’Anon to Qeynos as a low level character in 2000.  It was terrifying and wonderful.

Risking the time invested and fighting to make progress to discover that next flight path was a great part of exploration.  As annoying as it could be on those AFK flights across Kalimdor after taking the boat from Menethil after taking the bird from Ironforge, and then running across Tanaris to get to Un’Goro, you had a very real sense that the world was a very big and very dangerous place.

And in those very big, very dangerous and remote places are often wonderful things.

Difficulty

Finally, getting through the world was not a gimme as it is now.  The world was a dangerous place and you needed to be thoughtful about where you went, the path you took to get there and how to engage mobs.  You could die, and often did.  Sometimes in very bad places which was a good thing.

Those dire circumstances created opportunities for both good and bad behavior.  One could assist someone in need or ninja their miniboss.  At least there was the opportunity for emergent interaction.

With the world no longer being a “place” and the challenge dumbed down and generally meaningless, players not can’t get through if fast enough.

Final Thoughts

Alright, enough rambling down the rough road of nostalgia.  For all that it does right, poor Rift doesn’t quite have that same sense of place that old Azeroth did, but its certainly much closer than post-Cataclysm WoW.  But frankly there really isn’t anything out there now or on the horizon that looks promising.

I truly enjoyed my time on the EQ timelocked progression server, Fippy Darkpaw, at least before SOE went down.  I even enjoy the F2P version as well and a big reason for that is the sense of place that old Norrath has accompanied by its dangers and rewards.

I see Syp has a post up about emulators keeping the flame alive and I briefly ducked into the Emerald Dream vanilla WoW private server.  As its a bit dubious, I couldn’t get completely comfortable with the whole private server thing, but if Blizzard offered one, I would pay them for it.

Until then, I guess I’m waiting for the next world to be borne.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Everquest, Rift, World of Warcraft

 

Pictures on Radio

So, I was sitting there Saturday morning catching up on game blogs and what not while patching Everquest which has now gone free to play.  Part of me felt excited as if it were the next highly anticipated new release and the snarky part of me thought “how exciting, a new ‘release’ of a thirteen year old game”.  I can only imagine how disappointed the uninitiated might be when they finally log in and see how much the old girl lacks by way of modern conveniences and shiny graphics.

That, coupled with reading through Wilhelm’s long but delicious dive through the nostalgia of Air Warrior, got me thinking about why those games held/hold such sway.  In the mindset of the time, it was certainly the excitement of the possible embodied in a new medium.  The fact that you could do anything on through 1200 baud modem was exciting enough.

Immediately the old quote that “the pictures are better on radio” came to mind.  Limitations of the available medium meant that developers of yore were limited in what they could put into the game.  Indeed, in the earliest computer games, barely anything more than the core elements of the game could be represented, let alone a fully rendered three dimensional world.  Sometimes all you got were a few pixels and a line of text.

Of course that left the rest of the game space to be depicted in the mind of the player or at least to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  Not that this is any shocking discovery or revelation.  Checkers and Chess are just abstracted turn-based military strategy games after all.  D&D begat MUDS which begat 3D RPGS which begat MMORPGs as we know them today (and all the myriad branches of that tree along the way).  With each step of evolution, a bit more of the player’s imagination was no longer required as the world was more fully rendered.

But having revisted some of the early games this last year (TorilMUD, EQ, etc.), I found myself having quite a bit of fun with them and not simply because of the nostalgia factor.  Indeed, living vicariously through Tobold’s and Tipa’s recent pen and paper adventures even has me considering rediscovering D&D.

So I’m left with the question of how much (developer created) environment is needed or desirable to make a game enjoyable?  How much immersion do you gain or lose by rendering more and more of the game environment for the player?  At what point does more become less?  If you make the player do too much work, they’ll disengage, but if you do everything for them, they’ll have no “ownership” of the game environment and they’ll just change channels.

How much is too much?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Everquest, Free to Play, TorilMUD

 

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What’s that in the road? A head?

Since the latest patch to the EQ Fippy Darkpaw progression server went live this week, I’ve been spending a bit of time attempting to finish up my Pine Druid newbie armor quests in Surefall Glade.

I had collected most of the materials when we first got going on the server, but once it was acknowledged the combines were broken, I banked them waiting for a patch or not.  Apparently, I must have lost some interested in collecting some of the more difficult to obtain materials because when I went back to my bank, I was short a few items.

Not surprisingly they were the No Trade items– Giant Field Rat Whiskers.  Of course these whiskers only drop off of Giant Field Rats which only spawn after Large Field Rats and Giant Rats have been exterminated.  Even then, its not a guaranteed drop.The only zone in the game where they can be found is in Qeynos Hills which is convenient enough since my druid can port home to Surefall Glade.

After having little luck trying to force the appropriate rat spawn, I decided I needed to take a break.  The final piece of the newbie armor quests is a separate quest which will yield a nice weapon.

At this point, I had all but the boots and one bracer which would require three Giant Field Rat Whiskers.  I made the conscious decision to chuck that.  I always hate it when a higher level character is patrolling a lowbie zone bopping field mice trying for that rare spawn and potentially disrupting the lowbie players advancement.  Call me old fashioned, but I always thought that was bad form.

So with most of the armor items in hand, I thought it was time to move on.  The weapon quest, however, would be fairly straight forward– collect a mob’s head, sharpen an item, add two more easily obtainable drops and voila.  How long could it possibly take?

Fortunately, the mob, a Bloodsaber Defiler, is conveniently located in Surefall Glade.  So convenient in fact, that its located mere steps away from the quest giver through a false wall in the Glade (no doubt a disturbing surprise to newbies exploring the boundaries of the zone)…

Quest obtained, Defiler located and defeated and… no head.  Ok, well sources indicated that it was probably about a 50% drop, so just my bad luck.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t quickly respawn, so off I went looking for more Giant Field Rats.

I returned a few more times with the same result.  At least now I was certain that her respawn timer was 60 minutes like clockwork.  I could log on, kill her and if no drop log off and go do something for an hour…

We've got to stop meeting like this...

During one of those hours, I did some surfing of the forum thread that was originally tracking the newbie armor quest issues.   Sure enough, one of the old posts (pre-patch) mentioned that the Bloodsaber Defiler appears to have no head to drop…

Sadly, I’ve come to the same conclusion.  After six or seven successive kills, I’ve got to conclude that its probably still broken. Yes, I took statistics, but I can still smell a broken quest when I see (or smell) one.

So for now, its back to Runneye with our little group, much greener for the effort.  The completionist in me bleeds a little, but I grow weary.  Just goes to show you how hard it is to get a head in this world…

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Everquest

 

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Surefall Glade Druid Love

Indeed, the Surefall Glade newbie druid armor quests got some love in this week’s patch.

I had, or thought I had, most of the materials needed for the newbie druid armor quests sitting in my bank.  Throughout our adventures, I’d been porting back from time to time and checking to see if somehow the quests had been mystically fixed, but to no avail I was met with the “you do not meet the requirements to complete this combine” or some such.

With this week’s latest patch, I logged on eagerly to try yet again.  Indeed the quests were working.  Curiously, though my “inventory management skills” must have been awry or perhaps Norrathian bankers are far too similar to earthly bankers and I found my quest material cache wanting for Giant Field Rat Whiskers and Giant Field Rat Pelts.

After running about in Qeynos hills for the night, I was able to acquire a few of the missing materials, though the spawn and drop rate are abysmal and managed to complete the tunic, helm, gloves and pants portion of the quest.  Visually they are more green than the leather items I was wearing.

Greener than Thou

I still need a few more materials for the boots and sleeves (and ultimately for the scimitar) but for now, its a great relief to have most of the pieces.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Everquest

 

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PotD: Misty Thicket

Approaching the Misty Thicket Wall from Runnyeye Citadel

The revamped Misty Thicket as viewed from the Runnyeye Citadel approach.   Overall, I must say the screen shots just don’t do the revamped EQ zones justice.  They are quite nice.  Of course, Wilhelm and I keep wondering what sin Qeynos must have committed to invoke the wrath of SoE to be ignored…. For god’s sake, they even revamped Toxxulia Forest

And while we’re at it, why did Misty Thicket get to keep the fog that went away in the Karana’s and Surefall Glade?

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Everquest

 

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PotD: Estate of Unrest

Someone call for an exterminator?

EQ’s Estate of Unrest on the continent of Faydwer.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Everquest, Picture of the Day

 

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Interesting choices

A theme has been circulating around the blogosphere of late, several posts for which its too late and I’m too lazy to link back to (apologies), that have been commenting on aspects of gameplay that can be loosely categorized as requiring (or at least permitting) the player to make “interesting choices”.  I’ve been somewhat busy and remiss in commenting on them, but ultimately think they are on to something…

In some games like Rift with its multivariate soul system, that means that players get to make interesting choices about character development and differentiation.  Likewise those choices in theory permit a player to choose how to configure one’s character for a given play scenario– instanced dungeon, rifting, solo pve, solo pvp, etc.

Gordon at We Fly Spitfires and Wil at The Ancient Gaming Noob both touched on a few aspects of class design that highlighted another aspect of player choice or the (merits of the) limits thereof.  Likewise, Keen had a few good thoughts on old EQ which resonated.

My own recent experiences on the progression server in EQ which were initially borne of nostalgia and perhaps a bit of a masochistic streak have been validated well beyond the mere “lets go see how bad it was and we can blog about it” angle.

I’m having a good time on Fippy Darkpaw.  Its not easy.  There is no definitive path.  Death is my copilot.  Travel can take both time and luck…  My druid may know two dozen spells, some of dubious value, but can only equip eight at a time.  Choices.  I can’t cast them all, only the ones I’ve memorized.  A load out.

Once out of the pure noob zone, our progression has been fueled by a desire to “see the world”.  There is no definitive path.  We’ve zigged and zagged across Antonica and now to Faydwer to serve a our own goal or to build our own story.  Not a narrative that came out of a team meeting and was preordained by the only progression mechanic permitted but rather one of our own making.

There’s an interesting tension in reading about the seemingly extreme flexibility of Rift’s design paradigm and the rather rigid structure of old EQ, however both are based on creative player choice.  I wonder what problem they are truly trying to solve.

In the case of Rift, players have what appear to be myriad choices and are thus capable of adapting their characters to emergent gameplay situations.  In old EQ, its more like chess.  Or even Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Each piece(class) has certain attributes and to be effective, a player has to learn, analyze and make creative choices to be effective.  In essence, rigidity creates unique opportunity for making interesting choices and emergent gameplay.  Players are forced to solve problems with the tools they are given.  This is a good thing.

Encounters aren’t so finely tuned that there is, in essence, only one solution of player classes and actions that permits success, but rather, the opposite– multivariate solutions permit success and thus create a dynamic choice environment for players.  Iteration and innovation in situational tactics permit success on many levels.

That sounds like a bit of a high falutin’ way to describe that I tend to enjoy games that emphasize creative problem solving (given a relatively limited set of resources) more than those that restrict the “solution set” and rely merely on execution– Dance Dance Revolution writ large.  One successful strategy, one optimum group composition, etc.

More problematic, IMHO, is the fact that mainstream games like WoW have trivialized the leveling game completely removing any meaningful player choice.  Likewise, raiding (I’m not a raider) and for that matter current instanced dungeon content, only requires execution rather than tactics and strategy.  Regardless of your class choice, the optimal solution requires X effective dps, Y effective hp of the tank, and Y effective mana of the healer.

I’m probably in the minority, but I’m certainly more interested in the journey rather than the destination.  Currently, I’m enjoying the journey involved in a twelve year old game over everything offered in the current crop of MMOs.  It will be interesting to see whether the convergent trend to in essence no free will or player choice trump more open systems in the next few major releases.

I suspect I’ll be playing GW2 more than SW:TOR.

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Everquest, Rift, World of Warcraft

 
 
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