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Thursday, September 26, 2013

WAR's Impact on the MMO Genre Part II

As promised, here's my second post highlighting the impact that Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (aka WAR) had on the MMO genre.

Better PvP Maps System

Back in the day, these actually had a purpose.
If you've ever played WoW (and you most likely have), you know how the battlegrounds system works now. You queue up anywhere in the game for the map(s) of your choice and duke it out against the opposing faction in your level bracket. If neither faction wins the game in a certain length of time, the match ends. It didn't used to work that way, though.

Plenty of time to level fishing, I guess...
In the past, you had to visit the entrance to the battleground you wanted to join (kind of like a dungeon/raid instance portal). A few years later, they added NPCs in the city capitals you could queue from, but that meant you were stuck in town waiting on your BG to pop (there was no LFG or LFR then either).

Once in the battleground, you might be stuck there for hours. There was no time limit, and if either team decided to farm honor instead of go for a full victory (which was often), you were in for a long night. In addition, it was usually a bad choice to even join a battleground unless you were near the high-end of the level bracket for several reasons.

Welcome to Nordenwatch!
Then WAR came along and changed it all. You could start joining for scenarios (their term for battlegrounds/PvP maps) from the moment you rolled your toon, before doing any quests! Also, you could queue from anywhere via several clicks in your UI.

When the scenario popped, all characters on the map got scaled up (at least in terms of the basic stats) to resemble the top of the bracket. Your level one now had at least a fighting chance in the battle!

Each map had its own objectives of course, but if a side hadn't won by a certain time (typically 15 or 20 minutes), the match was over. In any event, after it was done, each player would be dropped back into the game right where they left off. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's WoW's BG system as it is today (sans the player scaling). You have WAR to thank for that.

Open-World PvP via the RvR Areas

WAR didn't use the phrase "player versus player" (PvP), instead choosing to use their own term of "realm versus realm" (RvR) combat. At first, this sounds like a cheesy gimmick, but if you got to experience the system you found there was more to it than most games offer.

The area in the middle (shown with the red border) is the RvR zone.
The zones for each race were paired with an opposing faction, and in between them was a shared RvR zone. Inside these zones were the objectives of a number of quests, a public quest spot, and several strategic locations to capture.

You could ignore these quests and the RvR area entirely if you so chose, but you'd be missing out on content, rewards, achievements, and the chance to engage in enjoyable open-world PvP.

These kind of areas could be found in games already - WoW had the Plagueland Towers (pre-Cata), Silithus, the Hellfire Fortifications, Halaa, etc. - but they were often not highly-featured. In most cases, you could go sightseeing in those zones and never have to participate in PvP. The rewards were often minor, and mostly skippable.

By comparison, WAR's RvR zones were often worth doing, and once you got to enjoy the PvP opportunities of the zone, you'd be sad to leave it to venture into the next tier of content.

Anti-Griefing Mechanic

I've been talking about how great WAR's open-world PvP was, and I'm sure many of you are skeptical. If you've ever rolled a new toon on a PvP server, you've probably been griefed and ganked dozens of times by some high-level d-bag that thinks killing lowbies constitutes "balanced PvP". Heck, I'm sure most of you scoff at the very term of "balanced PvP" like it's a misnomer... but it's not. WAR had it, and it wasn't hard to accomplish.

There was a mechanic in place to stop griefing dead in its tracks, known as the "Chicken" debuff. If you took your higher-level toon into a lower-level area, you'd get a warning on your screen. If you ignored the warning, you'd soon be turned into a chicken, with huge stat penalties that turned YOU into the prey of lower-level players! In addition, you couldn't use items or special abilities, and you couldn't gain XP, Reknown, or Influence, so you either ran through the zone as a chicken, or went somewhere level-appropriate to remove the debuff.

This one simple game mechanic was pretty much all it took to have balanced open-world PvP.

Capital Sieges

I killed the leaders of each enemy capital,
and all I got was this crummy t-shirt mount.
Whether you actually enjoy PvP or not, any WoW player worth their salt has at least attempted to get the For the Alliance/For the Horde achievement(s), and you probably remember the day you completed it fondly. Getting that Black War Bear mount is a red-letter day that's hard to forget. You and your crew rolled into each capital city, fought through waves of guards, battled enemy players, and assassinated the city leaders. What happened then?

Depending on how well the last city was defended and the strength of your team, you either stuck around a little bit to rub salt in the wound, or you found a convenient hiding spot to hearth home and enjoy your new mount (which was really just a status symbol, as you already had access to better mounts both in terms of performance and appearance).

In WAR, each faction had only one capital city, but it was freaking HUGE (there were plans for more, but they were shelved). Your faction had to push forward into enemy territory, capturing two fortresses before you could even attempt to besiege their capital.

Once inside, you didn't get to head straight for the city leader, oh no. You had to fight to lay claim to the city - killing NPC bosses, taking control of locations, and fending off opposing faction players - public quest style. The defending faction meanwhile got a public quest of it's own to attempt to kick you out of town.

Assuming your team could accomplish this task, you then got to fight the capital leader in a PvE boss encounter. Instead of a mostly worthless mount however, you had a chance at some of the best loot the game had to offer.

But it didn't end there. For successfully conquering the opposing capital, your faction had up to 24 hours to loot and pillage the city! Special NPC fights, missions, and other goodies were all available. Meanwhile, the opposing faction is locked out of their own capital and forced to make due in a refugee camp until everything resets. How's that for insult to injury?

As awesome as that sounds, things didn't go quite as planned. Some servers got to the point where one side's capital was almost on permanent lockout, due to population imbalance. While locked out of your capital, you lose access to a number of important resources, further ruining your faction's chance to defend against future assaults. In the end, this turned out to be a great idea that was poorly thought-out for the long-term, and was detrimental to keeping the players subscribed. Had it been better implemented, this would have been one of the most glorious faction PvP features of an MMO ever. Hopefully a developer will someday fix the mistakes made there and produce something amazing.

This concludes my look into how Warhammer Online influenced the MMO genre, but I'm not quite done talking about WAR just yet. Expect a couple more posts in the near future where I'll recount my most memorable moments of the game, and possibly go into detail on the issues that plagued WAR and helped lead to its end.

Monday, September 23, 2013

WAR's Impact on the MMO Genre Part I

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (aka WAR) is set to shut down December 18, 2013. It has/had a lot of issues and shortcomings that ultimately led to its end, but that's not the focus of this post. Today, I want to highlight what this game did to impact the MMO genre long after it's gone.

The Tome of Knowledge

In-game achievements weren't new when WAR released, and nowadays are expected in pretty much every video game made, but the sheer amount of information collected by the Tome of Knowledge was pretty mind-blowing at its time.

Want to know how far along you are in a certain zone's storyline (and the rewards for each stage)? Open the Tome. How many high elf archmagi players you've killed? Tome. What's the deal with that big spider in the cave? You guessed it, look in the Tome.

From lore details to player stats, the Tome tracked everything. In addition, you gained stuff for completing things outlined in the Tome - titles, achievements, items, and even some special abilities. Being that WAR released around the same time as Wrath of the Lich King, it's arguable that WoW's achievement system came first... but it still doesn't hold the amount of information that the Tome of Knowledge had.

Public Quests

For those not familiar with the term, it's an open-world multi-stage quest event that's shared by everyone in the area. You don't have to be in a group to participate, and there's sometimes several ways to actually go about participating in the quest. Typically, it starts out as a small event that leads to something big... you might even say giant.

Each major zone had at least one public quest, and in most cases it culminated with some type of boss fight. The first one located in the Orc & Goblin v. Dwarf starting zone involved the coercing of a giant to help break through an enemy location. The orcs and goblins decide to enlist in the giant's formidable strength by capitalizing on his love of brew. For the Destruction side, the event went something like clear the trash Order NPCs, steal some beer barrels, then lure the giant to the dwarf fortress to help smash it. If you played Order, the objectives were to kill waves of attacking Destruction NPCs, then deal with their big ally in an explosive finale!

If I remember correctly, these were separate events in single-faction PvE-only areas... but there were also public quests in RvR spots as well. I recall the next zone (or perhaps farther along the same zone) including a mountain pass with a public quest for both factions in the same location. Players raced to forward their faction's public quest while fighting off enemy players attempting to do the same! It was EPIC.

Several years later, RIFT, EverQuest Next, and a number of other titles would build upon the public quest idea to create dynamic events and large, multi-stage quests that can run anywhere from hours to months for an entire server to complete.

The Dangers of City Life

When I say every major zone had a public quest, that included the capital cities as well. You could be walking the streets of the Order capital, and find a greater demon of Nurgle as you turned the corner.

This was the finale to a public quest in the city, unlocked by players completing the previous parts of the quest. I recall this happening on several occasions when I played, running for my lowbie life as a plague boss lurked the city streets! It really added to the atmosphere of the game as a reminder that even in town, you weren't entirely safe.

This was true for both Order and Destruction's cities. Wander down an abandoned alley, and you might get jumped by skaven. Perhaps you decide to get nosy and see what's going on at the Khorne training grounds - you'll probably be attacked by berserkers and Chaos hounds. Just look at that place and tell me anywhere there seems remotely safe.

The Destruction capital also had an arena where you could test your might against the servants of Chaos. I remember finding several quests that led me to that pit, where it was pretty much everyone for themselves (think Gurubashi Arena, but with big nasty NPC monsters to fight in addition to other players).

I'm not sure if any MMO since has added this element of danger to cities (perhaps AoC? I haven't played it but it sounds possible there), and I doubt we'll ever see anything like this again for a good while. Blizzard has attempted this several times now as an introduction to their next WoW expansion (Scourge raids pre-WotLK, Deathwing attacks pre-Cata), and players mostly whined about how their bank mules got killed while running to the auction house. *rolleyes*

I have much more to talk about concerning the best parts of Warhammer Online, but this post is already long enough. Join me for a second installment where I'll focus more on the PvP/RvR aspect of the game.

WAR: Tribute Movie and Fortresses

I found this today while browsing youtube, and watching it brought back some great memories. Give it a watch if you played WAR's RvR at some point, or if you wanted to see what it was like. For me, WAR made PvP enjoyable beyond what any other game before or since has offered. EA/Mythic had a great IP and a decent game to build upon, but they let it languish until most players (including myself) quit.

Reading their forums earlier today, I found out that due to exploits the RvR fortresses were removed at some point. That's pretty sad because the RvR fortress battles were a lot of fun. If you played oldschool WoW, think of the Southshore/Tarren Mill rivalries, but add a structure in between that a faction could capture for a short time. The controlling faction had access to special vendors, siege defenses (ballista, etc.) and a small army of high-level NPC guards. The opposing faction could then return with their own siege weapons (battering rams, etc.) later to assault the location. In addition, you could loot the enemies to gain a currency (like Honor points in WoW) and you could always pick up repeatable missions to kill X enemy players. Suffice to say it was grand.

So, when people figured out a way to exploit the system, the devs simply shut down the fortresses. Apparently it was too much hassle to actually set about fixing the best open-world PvP system they (and possibly any other game) ever had. The stupidity of this decision leaves me staggered.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Lore According to Arthas

I haven't seen much in the way of good WoW machinima as of late, it seems that most of the best ones have moved on to other things. I just happened to find this, and got a great laugh from it. Check out the other videos from SlightlyImpressive while you're at it - good stuff!

Surprise! Minecraft 1.6.4!

Yo dawg, I heard you like updates, so I put some updates in your updates. With little more than a tweet announcement, Minecraft 1.6.4 was dropped into the public's lap. According to the patch notes, all it does is change how structures are saved (will be useful in converting older maps to 1.7 when it releases) and provides an idle-player timeout feature for servers.

It's still a bit early to tell whether or not mods are going to be affected much. Most will need a minor update, simply to tell your game "hey, don't freak out, I'm compatible", but I'm a bit worried for some others. Those with structure generation - particularly Project Zulu, Twilight Forest and the like - may run into some snags. Here's hoping for a smooth transition!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

LOLs with Lorewalker Cho

Here's an amusing Hearthstone video where a certain combination gets very ridiculous very fast. A minion gets buffed beyond what the game can handle... so what happens? Watch and find out.

At first glance, this looks like a broken combo, but you need to keep in mind several things. The engine card (Lorewalker Cho) gives a copy of the spell played to your opponent. They can choose to do what they wish with that spell, but you'll only get another copy if they play it. In a real game (as opposed to this demonstration of a funny trick), you'd equally be able to cast the spell on your own minions, so if anything it's equally ridiculous for both players.

You could also choose to use the cards as "fuel" for spells that make you discard a card when you play them, thus stopping the combo from going anywhere. Also, there's removal cards that will take out a minion regardless of their health, so Cho could be shutdown right fast (and you probably should make him a priority target if your opponent plays him). With a properly-tuned deck, Cho might be overpowered... but I'm not sure the cards are available to do that (at least not yet).

Warhammer Online Shutting Down

It was called the "Age of Reckoning", and it looks like the Day of Reckoning is now upon us. Warhammer Online will be shut down as of December 18, 2013. It was live for 5 years - a short time for an MMO.

I remember being so incredibly excited for this game, and it was one of the few titles I bought as soon as possible. I've even purposely waited to buy WoW expansions just to keep from having to deal with the bottleneck situations from too many people doing the same quests, but with WAR I was willing to deal with it. I installed the game and was very pleased with what I saw. My first toon was an orc, possibly a black orc, I don't remember now. What I do remember was a wonderful starting zone where I was smashing dwarf skulls and the amusing "barrel" quests. Also, being able to join PvP maps from level 1 and have fun was amazing (they'd scale all players to be able to compete with the top level of the bracket). The maps were all great, and at the time WoW's battlegrounds paled in comparison (except perhaps for Alterac Valley IF you liked those extended sieges).

For a while, I kept subs active in both WoW and WAR, because I enjoyed both equally. I rolled toons on both Order and Destruction, and enjoyed both sides equally. I have several fond memories of the game that I may retell on another post (a couple are quite long to explain but worth it). At some point though, things turned south. I don't recall the exact patch, but class balance eventually got out of control to the point that some classes were simply not played because others were so much better. I left once I realized changes weren't coming to fix this glaring issue.

Fast-forward a year or so later, and WAR releases the Tomb Kings expansion. Players now fight to control the expedition point into the desert to fight the ancient undead and loot their ruined cities. A side could only hold the area for a short time before the other side was allowed to come back and fight all over again - think Tol Barad, but the winner gets a small continent (with a number of instances) to explore instead of one island and a raid. This piqued my interest, and if memory serves me the game had a limited trial available at that point. I reinstalled and gave it another try. The new content was a lot of fun, but the class balance was still a huge problem, so I didn't stick with it.

In the years to follow, Skaven were added as a cross-faction race (I still don't know how they justified that on the Order side), the servers were merged in several waves (from 36 I think down to 4 now), and entire zones and PvP maps were removed from the game. I can only assume the reasoning behind the last two were to keep the game from looking like a ghost town (and to save money from wasted resources). Whispers abounded about WAR going F2P, which was officially squashed with an announcement soon after.

That brings us to today, and the sad news of WAR's close. According to a well-respected (now former) moderator of WAR's forums, EA wanted to make WAR F2P, but Mythic refused. The license for the Warhammer IP expires at the end of this year, and Games Workshop and Mythic have agreed to part ways.

Some are wondering if the license will go to another company and a new game will emerge. I don't see that being very likely, at least as an MMO title. Warhammer 40k was going to have an MMO adaptation (you can even find videos of it on youtube), and WAR's poor long-term showing seemed to be part of the reason behind GW pulling out from another title. I can't imagine GW willing to license out the IP again right away - remember, it takes at least several years to develop an MMO and that's rushing it - and WAR closing will still be fresh in the minds of gamers for a little while. The Warhammer IP is going to have that black spot for a while, keeping players leery of investing time and money into another game any time soon.

Anyway, that's the news as it stands. I'm going to keep an eye on the WAR forums and website to see if anything will be done towards the end of the game. I'd like to be part of the last hurrah in some way if possible because for all its shortcomings, Warhammer Online influenced the MMO genre pretty heavily. I'll go into more detail on that topic in another post soon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

When Did Gamers Get So Dumb?

 While reading about one of my favorite mods on the Minecraft forums today, I saw a post giving incorrect information on a boss fight (big surprise, I know). The post claimed the boss was immune to a certain type of attack, which is only partially true. In this case, the attack is "very effective" when using it at the right time, but has no effect the rest of the time.

Anyone that's played video games for more than 30 minutes of their entire life knows that bosses have a number of tricks up their sleeve... or so I thought. Seeing that post reminded me of the Ultraxion boss fight in Dragon Soul (WoW Cataclysm raid), where I literally saw dozens (if not possibly hundreds) of people in LFR die because they couldn't be bothered to pay attention to basic things.
I see dumb people... and then I kill them.

 Ultraxion had an uber attack meant to wipe the raid. However, players had access to a special ability that protected them from it entirely, in the form of a big purple button near the center of the screen. All you had to do to avoid it was watch Ultraxion's cast bar for the spell, and click the button just before the spell was done being cast.

Not only that, but the game itself TOLD you he was preparing to cast the spell and how you could avoid it. If you had Deadly Boss Mods or something similar, this was probably the easiest boss fight in all of WoW, as it did everything but hit the button for you! You didn't even move - the entire raid stacks up in one big spot for the fight to take advantage of AoE heals and such. Seriously, go to youtube and watch an Ultraxion fight if you don't believe me.

When you see this...

Get ready to hit this.
Yet, many people died and raids ended up abandoned because people couldn't read and follow incredibly simple directions.

I rag on WoW a lot for its lack of challenge, but its bosses at least have fight mechanics and stages you have to learn to deal with if you want to progress. I can't blame WoW for this one.

This leaves me wondering just what the hell happened in gaming that made people so dumb? What game(s) simplified things to such an extent that people found the above examples challenging?

I'll admit that I'm out of the loop when it comes to certain genres and even eras of video games. When PS2 was the "in thing", I was playing WoW and other MMOs on the PC. I haven't played an FPS since Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil on the original Xbox. Obviously, I've missed some things. Did some super-popular game(s) come along and make their boss fights ridiculously easy?

I checked youtube to see the final bosses for the Halo series of games, and those looked pretty dumb to be honest. The fights all looked very simple, and were much shorter than the cutscenes before and after the actual fight. Doing some quick searches, I noticed Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 often mentioned as having some incredibly simple boss fights.

With all those being well-known titles, I'm wondering why a developer would do this? Is this really what gamers want now, or were the devs being lazy? Sadly, I'm inclined to believe they were only giving people what they wanted - more of an interactive cut scene than an actual boss battle. Maybe I'm just old, but winning doesn't hold any value to me if there's no challenge. I'm not asking for insanity-level difficulty here, just an equal risk versus reward scenario. Has that left mainstream gaming, and if so, when? Feel free to fill in the blanks for me on this one.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Run to the Hills, Run For Your Life!

This is a fine example of the exciting things that should be possible in your MMO. I was in the desert of North Ro doing a quest (killing snakes, spiders and scarabs) when all of a sudden I'm stunned and my screen is blotted out by a large white shirt.

A sand giant spotted me and thought I'd make a good snack. Being a magician, my elemental came to my aid, and it was immediately clear that I stood no chance against this behemoth. I made a tactical retreat (aka I ran like a scared kid) to the nearest city for protection, with the sand giant chasing me the whole way.

He was a lot closer earlier, but I thought I'd better get some distance before taking time to snap a pic. Yes, I could've died quite easily and were it not for a speed buff he'd have caught me. It was a great thrill though and offered a fun diversion from the relatively mundane quest.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

EverQuest - Enjoying It So Far

While patiently waiting for WoW to get over Pandaria (and hopefully easymode) and Minecraft to get past it's 1.7 development birth pangs, I decided to try out the classic MMO EverQuest. So far, I enjoy it.

Now I know it's not the original version of the game as many changes have taken place since, but it's still an experience. It's definitely something most current WoW players would find archaic, what with having to actually leave town to go do dungeons and all (gasp). Heck, the basic maps for most areas are nothing more than pencil lines of the buildings if you're lucky - some maps are entirely blank and you have to figure out what's where. Yes, you can mark locations and things on the map, and you'll have to do that (or download maps from somewhere else) if you want to keep from getting lost.

You also don't get to know as much information about enemy mobs as most games have now either. Basically, clicking on them will give you a hint as to their difficulty in relation to your character, and their HP is listed as a percentage as opposed to a number.

Don't be confused though, I am not complaining. I like this because I have to actually explore the world and keep watch for enemies that might be too powerful. Those are foreign concepts to most MMOs now, and that infuriates me. If I know that a game is holding my hand all the way and making sure I'm not getting in over my head, what's the challenge?

In WoW for example, you have to take several deliberate steps out of the way to actually find yourself in a bind. If you follow the normal style of play, most of your time is spent sitting in town waiting on a dungeon queue that is tuned specifically to your level. If you're not a total idiot, you'll tackle that dungeon fairly easily, pop back to town, and repeat the cycle ad nauseum. This is not my idea of fun. It's boring and repetitive, and it encourages being a selfish jerkbag because you'll likely never see the people you're grouped with ever again.

Compare that to EverQuest where you have to travel to locations, find other players to help, and generally try to keep a good reputation on your server. Night and day difference there. Ok, I'll hop off my soapbox now and show you some screenshots.

Here's a few pics I snapped of various mounts in the game. The giant hands are relatively new - there's different ones for different classes, and some of them are kinda creepy. The steeds are interesting as well, almost "horseman of the apocalypse" looking. The one that really caught me off-guard was the steampunk jetpack. That's all kinds of cool, and I want one!

Finally, here's me and my merc downing a rare spawn out in Blightfire Moors. Nothing special to any of the high-level players, but I'm still a newb at the game, so yay me!

WoW - The New Warchief and Level 100?

The 5.4 Siege of Orgimmar patch was released for World of Warcraft, and players flocked to the opportunity to give ol' Garrosh what for. Here's the cinematics for both Alliance and Horde victories. You'll notice they are similar, but contain important differences.

The new warchief ended up pretty much as expected and as many people were hoping for. As much as I like Thrall, I think it's best that he's not the Horde leader again. He's grown very powerful over the years, and is basically a living legend in the game now.

So, where does WoW go from here? If rumors end up true (and they're looking good so far), the next expansion will likely be named "The Dark Below", which is possibly a reference to the kraken that takes away Neptulon (and is in league with the Old God N'Zoth). It's probable that the expansion will revolve around the plots of the Old Gods, especially since Garrosh was using some of their power.

Speaking of power, I understand that Garrosh can drop BoA weapons that scale from player levels 90-100. Not only is BoA gear (especially for future levels of play) a new thing for raid bosses to drop, but it also hints that level 100 is on the horizon for players. Either your weapon will still be "good" for two 5-level expansions (including through all the raid content - not likely), or one 10-level expansion (up to the end-game raids - which is much more likely).

This hints greatly at a large expansion coming, possibly large enough to include both Old Gods' schemes as well as the return of the Burning Legion (another vastly rumored expansion theme, with grounds for plausibility in-game in several ways). If this ends up the case, the lore will be great. I can only hope the gameplay becomes challenging again...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vanity Blocks: The Coolest Mod You're Not Using!

 Mod author AnarchySage has a neat mod called Vanity Blocks that currently adds some nice new blocks to your game. What kind, you ask? For starters, there's white and black marble, which you can craft into variant blocks, slabs and walls for aesthetics.

Then there's the storage blocks and items - almost every common item in the game (and a few uncommon ones) now can be made into blocks to store more stuff. What's more, some of the blocks have special features - Blaze Rod blocks emit light and can be used as a fuel source, and Slime Ball blocks give a bounce effect when entities land on them. Pretty cool stuff!

There's some other neat things as well - the lavalamp is basically a glowstone block variant for those not ready to dare the Nether, and the melting core is a trash disposal for anyone using mods that add tubes or pipe systems.

Also, the mod adds stuff for people using a few other choice mods (like Forestry), so it's a great addition if you have those mods already.

But here comes the exciting bit... AnarchySage is working on some new types of blocks for future updates that sound very nice. How about a trapdoor block that can mimic the look of the block it's attached to (including blocks from other mods)? Perhaps you'd like Redstone lamps in a variety of colors? Or maybe hanging curtains that can look like any type of material? Yeah, he's working on all that stuff right now, and they look fantastic! Go see for yourself!

I noticed that this mod hasn't gotten a lot of traffic yet, and really deserves to be noticed. It works in SSP and SMP for versions 1.5.2 and 1.6.2, so go check it out!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Why Not EverQuest?

I gave EverQuest 2 a try when the "Extended" campaign was launched a few years back. It seemed like a decent game, but I lost interest fast because of the excessive limitations on free players. I didn't feel like I was even seeing a real representation of the game, as free players were on a separate server then.

At some point last year, SOE dropped the Extended thing and converted both EverQuest and EverQuest 2 to free-to-play games.

Doing a bit of research, it seems that free players have access to a lot more options than before, allowing you to see far more of the game's content and features before ponying up the dough. That said, the common consensus seems to be that once you reach the higher levels of play, subscribing is probably the best route.

While some will complain that the entire game isn't free, I consider this at least agreeable. If you want to remain a totally free player, you're going to be gimped at the high-end content. But really, if you've enjoyed the game long enough to get to this point, perhaps you should consider just subscribing.

Anyway, I've gotten the itch to play MMOs again and WoW isn't appealing to me right now. The game has gotten way too easy, and I feel I could easily see everything I wanted from the past year by subbing for 1-2 months. Being that I'm not interested in Pandaria, the only thing of any interest to me WoW-wise is the Siege of Orgrimmar, and I have plenty of time if I really wanted to play that. Honestly, I'm more interested in the events that take place after the siege - who will be the Horde warchief, what's the next threat, etc.

So, for now I thought I'd give EQ1 and 2 a spin. The novelty alone is worth it to me - EverQuest is going on 15 years now with around 20 expansions, and I've never actually played it before.