No, not the play-by-mail game of the 80s and 90s (and if you know what I’m talking about, many props!). Rather, Syp’s thrown down the gauntlet to EQ2 players to give him 5 ways in which EQ2 is better than WoW. Since both games launched at almost the same time 5 years ago, it’s a good challenge.
I’m not generally a fan of numbered lists but this one does interest me, not in any spirit of WoW-bashing but more to examine why I’ve spent more time in EQ2 than in any other game since Asheron’s Call, my first MMO. We originally played it for a year in 2005-2006, then left for greener pastures. I don’t recall wanting to leave the game as such, I think it was more the lure of greener, shinier things “over there” — including various betas like Vanguard. I returned to EQ2 in April this year and have been playing it consistently ever since. The only game that’s lured me away for any length of time has been Dragon Age, and even that is on hold until I decide I’m willing to drag Kaitou’s bored backside through the end of the Fade section.
For the benefit of those new to this blog, you need to know the following about my playstyle to understand how I judge games: I am a crafter who adventures as a hobby; if it’s shiny, it must be picked up, no matter the danger; if it’s harvestable, ditto. I avoid raid-type stuff at all costs, primarily because I’m not motivated by the item-treadmill reward such raids offer, but also because I find them (much like other people view crafting) to be a rather tedious waste of time better spent doing something else. The only exceptions to my item-disinterest include anything that can be used to decorate a house or anything silly that can be used to decorate a player.
So, the list, per Ysh.
1. Crafting. While the process itself is as repetitive and ultimately tedious (for many) as in any other MMO, the “sphere” of crafting, to intentionally borrow from Vanguard, really is independent from adventuring in EQ2. You don’t need to be a level 50 adventurer in order to be a level anything crafter, which was something that turned me off WoW both times I’ve played it. Crafting is the core of my gameplay, not the side-dish. There are many other things that fit into this category, like the plethora of crafter quests that are constantly being added to, that make EQ2 one of the few games that genuinely understand and cater to the crafting playerbase — not the adventuring playerbase that also happens to craft when they can’t get a group.
2. Guild Halls. Quite a few games have guild halls now, but not many of them offer the communal amenities EQ2′s guilds & halls can offer to their guild-based communities. Aside from being very grand buildings with tons of decoration options, guild halls can offer bankers, brokers (think auction house), crafting stations, adventuring/crafting writ givers, and a ton of other stuff that’s normally found in the outside world. The downside is that guild halls have become the social hubs of the game, emptying out city areas that were already underpopulated due to the weird partitioned way in which the two primary capital cities were originally designed. On the other hand, however, most guild halls are at least partly open to the public which means they can become genuine alternative meeting places.
3. Housing. Most other EQ2 players will mention this, I suspect, because it’s one of the most glaring lacks in WoW. If you like housing and you’re playing WoW, you’re SOL, to pile on the TLAs. Aside from the fact that it’s at least offered in EQ2, it also comes in eleventy-zillion different flavours — each city has its own distinct housing look and several different room-counts and layouts to choose from. In Freeport and Qeynos houses you can actually change the texture of walls, floors and ceilings. Furniture can be dropped freeform and moved as you please — there’s no x-axis rotation (as there is now in SWG), but you can resize, move stuff up/down, and rotate on at least one axis, all of which is a lot better than simply being given hooks to hang things on, as in LOTRO. (As an aside, that LOTRO system is one Turbine used in Asheron’s Call housing back in 2001 — time for a change, guys!)
4. Mentoring. Unlike many games, WoW still doesn’t have a system to allow players of disparate levels to play together. That said, since WoW’s focus is now entirely on getting people to max level as fast as possible, it would be silly for them to include any such system, but that speaks to a fundamental difference between the two. EQ2′s levelling used to be really slow, compared to WoW, even back in the vanilla days; the curve has been flattened quite a bit in the intervening five years, but EQ2′s motto is not, and hopefully never will be, “The Game Begins at 80.” This always jarred me in WoW, was one of the things (along with … well, #1-3 above) that turned me off the game, and is I think one of the major contributors to the bad side of raid-based gaming — you know, elitist jerks and gear snobs. (Who are starting to come out of the woodwork in EQ2 as it starts to focus more and more on raiding. Oh, EQ2, step off this path before you become Brown-WoW!) Now in EQ2 you can mentor yourself down for no reason other than that you want to be a lower level again for a while, which reopens up a ton of previously greyed-out content — and trust me, there’s a LOT of content in EQ2.
5. It’s not a Theme Park. It’s not entirely a sandbox either, but one of the things many people who try EQ2 often end up saying is “I didn’t know what to do or where to start!” This is a frequent sandbox-type issue, and actually EQ2 has become a little friendlier to new players over the years, but it certainly doesn’t put you on rails and send you out along the Ride To 80, even today. For the type of player I am this is a definite plus rather than a weakness, because once you get past that head-spinning stage you end up faced with tons of possibilities whenever you log on. It doesn’t always come down to the only choice being adventuring — and I know that’s not the only choice in WoW, but since so much of everything is tied to one’s adventuring level and since the game is by design slanted towards chomping through content, then adventuring and chomping through content sort of end up being most people’s default choice. Fighting stuff is very rarely my activity of choice in any game, and in EQ2 there’s still always more to do than I have time to do it in — which is exactly what I want from an MMO.
I could mention guilds as levellable entities, collections, appearance slots (so that you don’t have to look quite as ridiculous as you do in WoW), art style (it’s on the brown extreme but it’s learning to be more chromatic)… but I won’t, since we only get 5 slots. Go add your own to the comments here or to Syp’s.
Other bloggers to have joined this meme-in-the-making include Stropp, whom I may have had a hand in luring to EQ2 in the first place. /halo. See also this Elder Game article kindly linked to by one of Syp’s commenters, since it’s an oldish post; good read!
Last but not least, Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating it today in the US.