EQ2 Extended… Next?

Like many a curious MMO gamer, I saw the words “free” and I sauntered up to the install button and casually pressed it.  No skin off my nose if EverQuest 2 Extended sucks, after all, since I’ve got my plate full of excellent fantasy MMOs and more on the way.  Yet still I’m always intrigued when friends recall their favorite parts of EQ2, and I realize that as experienced as I may be in some titles, I’m a virgin in many others.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the beta-slash-soft launch of EQ2X, but it’s occupied an hour here or there.  Initially, my impressions were positive — fast install (it kind of keeps downloading in the background once you’re in the newbie zone), enough race/class choices that I had some variety, the UI is a lot cleaner than last time I checked out EQ2, and hey, it’s free!  Sort of!

And yet I’ve got this uneasy feeling every time I look at SOE’s plan for the game that it makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy it.  Every freemium/F2P title approaches moneymaking a bit differently, and SOE’s is to apparently make me feel like I’ve been given a “gift” by a charity but haven’t put in my donation to cleanse my conscience.

Their membership matrix for EQ2X is just about one of the most obtusely confusing charts I’ve ever seen, and at no point could I identify what SOE wants from me.  Do they want me to buy station points and purchase content a la carte?  Then why is there a lot of content (classes, advanced spells) that are never unlockable as a F2P player?  Do they want me to just subscribe?  Then why bother with the F2P pretense and make the EQ2X servers’ subscriptions worse than live servers — and give me no way to transfer to live?

I mean, hey, I probably wouldn’t mind dropping a few bucks now and then, but I’ll still be confined left and right with no clear way out of it unless I shuck the F2P bonds and head over to the older servers.

While I obviously like LOTRO a lot, what I’m going to say isn’t an attempt to go “ha ha, LOTRO F2P is better, EQ2 sucks”, but instead I just want to express puzzlement.  It just seems that SOE didn’t think this through, didn’t test this model enough, and they’re charging ahead without considering how confusing they’re making this for brand-new folks.

LOTRO’s F2P model is similar in some aspects, particularly in its tiered membership chart, yet there are a few key differences:

  • LOTRO’s F2P players and subscribers will be on the same servers; EQ2 is segregating their players
  • LOTRO isn’t selling stat items in the store (just stats, but that’s another issue); EQ2 is gung-ho for people buying great items instead of earning them
  • LOTRO offers players a way to earn free points and content; EQ2 doesn’t
  • LOTRO will let non-subscribers buy all of the content and abilities that subscribers have; EQ2’s non-subscribers will eventually hit a wall no matter how much they spend a la carte

Now, EQ2X does have a couple great things going for it.  The first is that there is simply a mountain of free content available — no zone restrictions or quest restrictions up to the last expansion pack.  And I did get 600 Station Cash for nothing, which is kind of nice.

But game preference aside, my gut isn’t going wild over EQ2X.  I’d love to be able to play it casually now and then, but seeing the immovable boundaries of content, I don’t know if I could enjoy it for the long haul.

Other bloggers weigh in:

Quote of the Day

“And that’s pretty much your standard reasonably high level character in an MMO after you’ve been away from them for any significant period of time. You start looking at all the buttons and, if you have any sense, run away screaming. If you don’t do that, then you’re possibly the sort who laughs merrily at all the power that your character must possess, because look: there are six finger-aching hotbars worth of buttons there! So you immediately run into a fight with three or four mobs of plus five levels, and as your character’s health starts to careen its way off the side of the screen you start maniacally pressing buttons in the order that you seem to vaguely remember from several months ago, and it all goes downhill from there. You find the button for ejecting your character’s armour, you find the button that sends up a flare in order to attract all the other mobs in the zone, the button that changes your hair colour, the one that launders your underwear (which you note down because it’s about to become quite useful), and you find the button which announces in General Chat that you’ve taken off all your armour and are currently flashing your whiter than whites at fifteen hundred angry orcs.”

~ KIASA

Nostalgia Lane: Space Quest 1-3

In junior high, the world of computers ceased to be a teaching novelty and became a standard institution in our school.  Computer class was the highlight of every day, mostly because our teacher would let us fart around as long as we were “learning” something.  That was when he showed us the wonders of CompuServe, where we could — gasp! — learn the skiing conditions in Colorado in real time through modems.

Computer class was also where my friends and I traded games, and some of our favorites were the adventure games that were omnipresent in the 80s.  King’s Quest, Police Quest, the Infocom games, and even the forbidden fruit of Leisure Suit Larry.  However, when I first booted up Space Quest I in that class, I knew I found my one true love.

Similar to how King’s Quest lampooned the fantasy/fable genre, Space Quest set out to snark on scifi in all its incarnations — but mostly Star Wars and Star Trek.  Instead of a bold, muscular hero, you stepped into the slightly damp shoes of Roger Wilco, space janitor.  Wilco would’ve lived his life free of adventures if destiny was not thrust upon him.  In the events of the first game, he becomes the sole survivor of an alien attack on his ship (because he was napping in a closet), and has to escape and escape and escape some more.

Unlike other adventure games — such as a bulk of LucasArt’s titles — you could and would die frequently in Space Quest.  Horrible deaths around every corner was a fact of life, and only by trial and error and a very small amount of wits could you live long enough to see the next plot twist.

Adventure games relied on their stories as the reward that propelled you forward — in order to get the next slice of the tale, you’d have to solve a puzzle, figure out a tricky conversation, or accomplish a task with an obscure arrangement of random tools.  Space Quest was better than its contemporaries in giving you a good reason to keep progressing, because the story was flat-out hilarious, and crazy easter eggs were hidden everywhere.  As a die hard Trekkie in the late 80s (and a considerable Star Wars fan as well), I found all of the obvious references hilarious, although I’m sure they wouldn’t stack up as well today.

I only played the first three titles all the way through — Space Quest III was a particular favorite — and for a solo game, it was a surprisingly social experience.  Back before the internet, there was no easy source of help when you got stuck in these games (and you WOULD get stuck), which meant that teams of friends playing the same game would become the main resource for each other.  We’d collaborate on tricky spots, and race against each other to see how far we could progress that night (or during class) to boast about it the next day.

I heard the main guys behind Space Quest left the series (or were booted) mid-way through, which caused the later installments to be a little less dependable in quality and laughs.  I wouldn’t know, as I moved on, but I’ll always remember my tour of duty on the Arcada with fondness.

Neverwinter Nobodies

While it was long rumored to be true, this morning Cryptic confirmed that their third MMO is indeed Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter Nights (or just “Neverwinter” to the hip).  Expect to see a lot of lids flipped about this, both excited for another D&D title and the continuation of the popular Neverwinter Nights series, and people angry that Cryptic is doing anything ever again.

The press release delivers a few tidbits of info:

“In Neverwinter, players choose to become one of five classic D&D classes and team up with friends or computer-controlled allies to form five-person co-op groups. Players also create their own storylines and quests utilizing an extremely user-friendly content generation system, tentatively codenamed Forge.”

Only five classes?  Huh, seems kind of skimpy there.  It also appears that the game is less of a true MMO and more of a co-op title — I don’t think people who hated the instancing and non-explorable world of DDO are going to be pleased here.

It’s also interesting that Cryptic is putting a lot of focus on content generation — in other words, players making their own missions for others to run.  Personally, I love this sort of thing, as long as it’s done *right*.  Mission Architect in City of Heroes is a great case study for both the good and bad of such features.

Gamespot scored a more informative interview that covers several details:

  • Going to be based off of the 4th edition, which may be a deal-breaker for some (it’s not a widely-loved ruleset)
  • Classes: Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Ranger, Cleric
  • Races: Humans, elves, dwarves, plus a few others
  • R.A. Salvatore’s new trilogy will be an introduction to the game world

My feelings on all of this?  “Eh.”  I mean, it’s good to finally get confirmation, but nothing about this announcement intrigues me; on the contrary, a lot of it seems generic and not that ambitious.  I think a lot of people displeased with DDO (I personally love it) really wanted a traditional open-world D&D MMO, and they’re certainly not going to get it here.

However, if Cryptic really can pull off a fun and involving mission creation system, and if the classes have a lot of diversity and specializations to them, it could be something.  I’m going to settle into a laid-back wait-and-see mode.

A TERAble Idea

Watching this Tera video, I had to wonder if the developers just got unhealthily fixated on the notion of “guys play girl characters to stare at their butts while they run” and went waaaaay too far with it.

Although I do have to admit that when I decide to go adventuring, I slide on a teeny miniskirt and thong, then stick my tush out as I waddle down hills.  I guess it is more true-to-life than I suspected.

/AFK: New Experiences Edition

Although nobody ever said anything, I’ve always felt bad about letting /AFK lapse on Bio Break.  It was my weekly attempt to highlight the awesome writing that my fellow bloggers do all the time.  Unfortunately, it just got to be super-stressful and time-consuming; my RSS reader numbers well into the multiple hundreds, and every morning I log on to see 500+ new posts.  Granted, a lot of those are for work (Massively) and not necessary reading, but on any given day MMO bloggers will account for 100-200 new posts to read.  That’s a lot to even just skim, although I do my best to stay up to date with it all.

So instead of reintroducing all of that stress, I’d rather bring back /AFK in a slightly different incarnation — a “whenever” column in which I’ll post a handful of blogs who are talking about the same thing, same game, etc.  I want to continue to give all of these excellent bloggers props, so here goes nothing.

Today’s topic is trying out new MMOs:

Exit Strategy

Among my many charming foibles is my tendency to be somewhat claustrophobic — not in confined spaces, mind you, but in crowds or situations from which I can’t easily leave.  Like, a 10-hour plane ride.  Or a very stuffy funeral.  It’s not that I can’t stand being there, it’s just that once I begin to entertain the thought of leaving, I get aggravated that the option isn’t open to me.  Then it becomes an obsession, and cue the claustrophobia.

I probably would not do well in a MRI machine.  Just saying.

This particular feeling has started to press down on my shoulders in LOTRO.  I’m not as rabid a Moria hater as some, but man, I am ready to leave.  To go on.  To progress.  In all fairness, it’s not just this particular zone; I get antsy whenever I’m stuck in any area for more than a week or two.  It’s kind of funny to look back to about a month ago when I was extremely excited just to finally get here — I guess that’s how it goes.  But really, I think a month is a long enough time to be putzing about underground, don’t you?

Part of this virtual claustrophobia is, as I’ve previously mentioned, a lack of straight-forward progression through the vast underdark.  I feel like I’m bouncing listlessly from hub to hub and getting nowhere — or at least, making progression on a line with no discernible end.

See, this is what I need: a way to tell just how far I’ve come and what I have left to do.  I know that thinking like that takes away some of the exploratory fun of the game, but when I have my eyes set on a goal, I need to know how to get there.  Right now, my goal is to leave Moria and head on through Lothlorien, Mirkwood and Enedwaith.  I could, technically, leave right now; I’m at level 57, which is close enough to handling Lothlorien.

The problem is that at the bare minimum, I need to grab the two legendary traits that Moria has to offer: one for completing the second book, and one for getting kindred status in the Iron Garrison Guards.  The former task is straight-forward, although it’s going to take me a bit and I’ll need to find a group to finish it up.  The second has been frustrating me, mostly because I thought that quests and barter drops would’ve gotten me there already, and I’m barely through the second tier of rep as it is.

So last night I sat down, did my homework, and formulated an exit strategy.  I was happy to discover that there’s a pretty easy (if repetitive) way to get the Guard rep I need, by doing daily crafting instances.  There are six of these, and if I stick to it, I can probably knock out the rep I need much sooner than if I just kept questing and relying on barter drops.  The instances appeal to my two-birds-with-one-stone mentality as well, because by doing them, I’m accomplishing a variety of goals at the same time:

  • Getting Guard rep (and Miner rep as well, but I don’t care about that)
  • Getting resource tokens to trade in for Lothlorien gold leaves, which are useful barter items later on in the game
  • Earning XP
  • Wrapping up a few slayer deeds

Of course, this isn’t new to any high level vet in the game, but it wasn’t really spelled out for me up front.  I was reading a lot of threads on the forums last night where frustrated Moria adventurers were asking for tips how to skip the zone, and other than level requirements, the main sticking point was that you really should grab these legendary traits now than regret it later.

For those who have tackled this issue, am I on the right track, or is there a better way?

While this doesn’t give me an exact date to leave Moria, at least now I have a plan and a way to measure my progress.  That makes for a happy, claustrophobia-free Syp.