EQ2 – Ch-ch-ch-changes*

MMO players don’t like change. Actually, people aren’t fond of change much, unless it’s change they’ve initiated and therefore welcome at least in part. But MMO players really don’t like change.

So when you yank out EQ2’s most hallowed and ancient (keyword: old) starting cities, there’s going to be a little outcry. The forum thread on it is already 15 pages long after 36 hours — which, while it’s not the 150+ pages such controversy would generate on the WoW boards, is s sign of pretty heated debate among the EQ2 community. Arkenor has weighed in on his blog with a pretty reasoned “gah! no!” — and even got a dev response from Greg Spence, lead programmer for EQ2. (Rawr Ark!)

Note — the cities aren’t going away. Just the Islands associated with them as newbie experience, and hence the opportunity to start in either of those two cities.

A quick comparison:

— Any of the newer starting zones (Timorous Deep especially but also Darklight Wood and to some extent Greater Feydark) provides better and more class-appropriate loot, more money, and more in the way of ongoing global storyline.

— The newer starting cities aren’t segmented into separate-zone compartments the way Qeynos and Freeport are. Now, while this can actually make it a pain in the ass to move around in the newer cities (or craft, for instance, when there are 85 other people in the zone with you) it does provide a much more connected feeling. I’m IN Kelethin or IN Gorowyn, and not just in some village or outlying quarter that’s norminally part of the town it’s in.

Admittedly this is a contentious issue. The Freeport and Qeynos “villages” — basically racial ghettoes, call em what you will — were part of those cities’ charm. They were also part of why moving around in those cities was a pain in the ass, but the charm thing was undeniable. You’d get funnelled to where your racial buddies lived and could settle there if you liked, or move to another village if you didn’t like. There are tons of EQ2 players who love the Willow Wood (the Wood Elf village) with a passion I’ll never understand. I think that place is twee and ridiculous to navigate. Personally, I’m fond of Castleview Hamlet. Point being, each village had character (or a slightly different shade of browny-grey muck on the walls, for Freeport). The newer cities are much more homogeneous.

Aye, and there’s the rub. We don’t like homogeneous. We want to stand out.

Even more fundamentally, as MMO players, we feel hugely threatened when stuff is taken out of our games. Putting stuff in — fine, that’s what we pay you guys for. Taking stuff out — whoa, what? No!

Doesn’t really matter what it is. But when it’s something that deeply affects the in-game identities of a bunch of players (especially the older (read: more committed to the game?) players), you can expect some pretty heated debate and WTFs.

I’m going to be on the fence on this one. I’ve gone through the Island newbie experience at least a dozen times in the last year, and I’ve been through the other cities’ newbie experience even more times (with the exception of Greater Faydark — I really dislike that starting area though detailing why would take a whole ‘nother post). I even have the pix to prove it:

Alas poor Ysh - this one didn't live to see level 20

The stories on the newbie islands are fun, and the experience did get streamlined a few years ago. There’s something appealing — to me, anyway — about being in a “safe zone” before you head out into the wider game world, though I suspect that’s actually a minority view. (“Sheeeit, just drop me into the action already. Make me start at level 20 too while you’re at it, m’kay? The game only starts at the level cap, right?”) On the downside, the money and items and general “this is how I fit into this freaking GINORMOUS game world” are kinda lacking.

Sure, you could fix that. Update the loot, update the money. But that takes time and real resources, which are at a premium in every single MMO team I’ve ever seen. And for all we know, maybe they’re doing just that but they don’t like to talk about it (kind of like working for charidee).

So while I’m not sure I like this change, because I’m an MMO player and I too dislike seeing stuff taken out, I kind of see why it’s being done. As I mentioned in the comments on Ark’s post, a lot of people that I’ve induced to try EQ2 over the last year have eventually given up at least partly because they couldn’t find a foothold, a direction to go in, an idea of what to do in a world that’s not quite a sandbox but still so damn huge people aren’t quite sure what to do with it when they first get there. A few more guidelines might result in a few more retained players — and EQ2 is really good enough that it deserves to retain some new players, even if it is getting a little long in the tooth here and there.

Now, on to the other change. Oh yes – not just one major thing, but two. I can imagine the EQ2 team getting out the asbestos knickers when they patched those things into the test server.

No more mounted combat.

That’s it.

Course, it’s never that simple. My gut reaction is “WTF? I’m going to be hopping on and off my damn horse every time I have a fight?!” Actually, I have a vague memory of that being exactly how it worked in some game or other (WAR? EQ2 in the old days?) and it was a pain in the visual ass. Seriously. Clip-clop, clip-clop, swing-sword, *poof horse*, kill mob, *unpoof (repoof?) horse*, clip-clop.

It’s about as ungainly, visually, as that was to read.

Then again, if it’s done smoothly and doesn’t have all the stupid little issues of which I could name 5 or 10 right off the bat — the main one being it happening when you really don’t want it to, repeatedly — maybe I can live with it. Many of the classes have some really cool combat animations (eg Monks, Bruisers) that just don’t show well off the back of a horse. (Hovering mounts are another matter, but NONE of my chars use those. I hateses them. They makeses me seasick.)

My take on this debate is simple: if possible, I’d like to have a choice in the matter. Let me turn that on or off. I understand that’s not likely to happen, but that’s how I’d like it. Hell, make mount-visible combat be off by default, but give me the chance to turn it back on if a) it won’t impact general resources too much (I gather it’s an issue in raids?) and b) I don’t care about seeing my monk do genuine crane kicks.

I’ll be interested to see what the upshot of the howling debates is, though I suspect it’ll be something like this: Qeynos and Freeport as starting cities will go away, because the initial experience they provide just doesn’t match up to the other places and you end up in a city that’s made up of a million little villages… and you end up wondering where the hell all the people in the game are. This is not good for a game in terms of first impressions. As for the mount thing… if the howling is loud enough it may get postponed, but if there’s some real graphical impact from doing this then it’ll get done. Maybe we’ll get the on/off switch somewhere down the road if the performance gains aren’t as noticeable as they’d hoped.

EDIT — The above fence-sitting notwithstanding, if they start removing some of the (admittedly myriad, but each unique and snowflakey!) classes, I’ll be at the front with my pitchfork and my torch. Just sayin’.

~ ~ ~ ~

*And if you know the Wonderstuff song this title came from, good for you. You must be almost my age. If it made you think of David Bowie instead, you’re even older. Suck it up.

17 responses to “EQ2 – Ch-ch-ch-changes*

  1. I can agree with the deep sixing of the starting cities. I have also done Qeynos several times, and although I have gotten GOOD at it, I can understand how it mitt be overwhelming to people new to the game. Part of EQ2’s Charm is the sandbox element…which can also be a curse to those used to games which hold your hand more.

    The mount issue? I don’t really understand. Is it all about the graphics? I have the Recruit A Friend mount, and I have welded my butt to that saddle because of the XP boost. How is THAT going to work? It’s not fast enough to be worth it as nothing but a mount, so I don’t know how useful it will be if I’m not getting that XP bonus.


    • I think it’s a purely visual alteration — the mount becomes invisible, rather than actually being non-mounted. I could be wrong, but it would be sheer dumb-assery to do it any other way since many mounts provide bonuses over and above the speed one.


  2. That’s lazy. Why don’t they just revamp the starting cities (again). I don’t care about the islands, just have people start off in the cities, in the ghettoes, on the docks, with someone nearby who starts them off on a new set of quest chains.

    And stop the crazy mudflation. So they don’t have to revamp it yet again.


  3. Wait wait…what?

    They are taking out mounted combat? I like to think I am up on my EQ2 changes but I have not seen that mentioned anywhere…

    I have two questions…wtf and why?

    You have a link to any discussion on that Ysh?


  4. OK I found a post by the new producer on it.

    This just seems so clunky and talk about immersion breaking, holy cow. It seems…lazy?

    Man, this is just disappointing to me. Popping on and off your mount everytime you attack a monster while you’re questing/harvesting/traveling in overland zones? :-/ I don’t like it. I’d rather they have just left the lame animations you already have. Jesus you see your combat animations plenty in instances where you are unmounted anyway. I’d much rather watch less “involved” animations while mounted than being constantly popped on and off my mount.

    Here’s the response from Smokejumper, our new Producer:

    Well, I guess it’s time to stick my head in the dragon’s mouth. Here goes nuthin’.

    I’ve played with the system as it is currently on Live (rather extensively). I’ve also played the system that is on Test now.

    It’s basically a change about “what looks best”.

    The fact is, the Live solution doesn’t look very good. Especially if you’re playing a character with radical animations, like a Monk.

    Also, we already have the conceit in the game, for things like climbing and swimming, where your mount turns off/on.

    Additionally, there is no way that we can add the literally hundreds of necessary anims and hunks of code to make combat look spectacular while on a mount. (At least not with our existing task load for future features.)

    So, the solution is to turn off the mount while in combat. You may ask, “When does the mount off/on occur?”

    1) It doesn’t happen if you’re just aggroed. It only happens if YOU attack something.

    2) We’re going to massage the code a bit (soon) so that your mount doesn’t immediately pop back in until a few seconds after you destroy your current opponent. That way, if you’re not using AoEs, the mount doesn’t keep popping back in before you can switch to a new target and continue fighting.

    This system allows you to continue seeing the great combat animations and makes the game more visually appealing for all players.

    Regarding the “/showmount” request…that’s not something we want to do either. If you’re getting the speed boost, other players should know why that’s occuring.

    Regarding a graphics option to show the mount even while you’re in combat, we’re not doing that either. This is an aesthetic decision that keeps the game more attractive for all players. The currently munged animations that occur while riding look like (well, actually “are”) a bug. Since we don’t have time to create all the extra anims required to fix that in the perfect way (which would also make it *much* harder for us to create new mounts in the future because they would need all those extra anims also), we’re going to have to go with this solution.

    We fully realize this won’t please all players, but it will result in a better looking game for most players, so that’s why we’re making the change.


  5. Wow, how far I have fallen from my EQ2 information.

    I remember when Crusaders had an AA line that was designed around being mounted. Now, I understand this is a visual thing only, but still, the difference is amusing to me.

    As for the starting islands, even after the revamp (and the removal of achetypes), the islands were never really stellar. Particullarly when held up to Tim. Deep, DLW, or GFay. Sony is absolutely right in saying that the experience held there is a much stronger one that draws the player in far more than the starting islands could ever hope to.


  6. I thought Flight of the Conchords. 😉

    Removing the old starting areas bothers me more than removing mounted combat. I started playing EQ2 in TD, and it wasn’t until I took a character through the Outpost of the Overlord and into Freeport to meet my racial “mentor” that I realized how much better the old starting areas are at giving a new player a sense of the lore.

    Yes, they’re clunky, the loot sucks and there’s hardly anyone ever in them except for crafting alts, but I hate to see them go.


  7. I hadn’t realized that they were going to take out the Qeynos/Freeport starting islands with the new update – I’m glad I finally got to finish the Freeport island storyline during my latest free trial, so now I won’t be wondering what I missed! As someone whose first impression of EQII was going through the Qeynos beginner area a few years back, I have to say that barring the reduced equipment rewards compared to the newer areas, I quite liked it. I found it homey and welcoming and it left me with a good impression of the game (I only didn’t continue on because I was already playing a game sub-free at the time).

    As for mounted combat, kindly add me to the chorus of WTFs. Mounted combat was *absolutely* a selling point for me with EQII, and with my better half as well, who has been searching in vain for an MMO that allowed it (other than Age of Conan)! I’m positively gutted that they’re about to remove it just as I was working up to re-subbing. This just feels like one step forward and two steps back. 😦


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  9. I have mostly played the Freeport/Qeynos starter areas (actually mainly Freeport – could not really stand Qeynos), but I do not think I would necessarily miss them.

    It does not sound like any extreme changes getting rid of those starter areas, so why not?

    I do not recall that there even was mounted combat when I played EQ2.

    And yes, I thought of Bowie. Wonder who?


  10. I don’t think they should remove the starting zones. If players don’t like the path let them choose the other. Some people like those, I know I still like the areas. I don’t like to see areas like this removed from games.

    Mounted combat is one of the things that I really like about EQ2, this does bother me.


  11. Honestly, changing the starting experience in EQ2 at this late date isn’t going to really impact much. It WAS very claustrophobic and close, and it did make you wonder where the hell everyone was. But are there thousands of new players flocking to EQ2 every day? I doubt it.

    I think the horse is already out of the barn on this one.


    • Not entirely. In the last year I alone (fear meh!) have induced probably a dozen or more people to try the game, and it’s not because I’m a blogger of such incredibly wide fame and fortune. Mostly I just tell friends I’m having fun, and some of them try it out.

      Only a few of those are still playing. Of those that left, some have nothing to do with the newbie experience, but a good half dozen made comments about how confusing EQ2 can be if you don’t come at it the right way.

      So sure, it’s not a new game and it may not have *thousands* of new players flocking to it, but it does have some. There’s no harm in making the game a little easier to apprehend. (Though I’m not sure New Halas is the way to go about it, but that’s a story for another day.)


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