Do a Little Dance, Run a Couple Quests

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Art, Appearance, Housing, Expansion News, Game Updates & Maintenance

EQ2 Producer Brenlo has Twittered a couple of interesting sneak peaks into the future of EQ2.

New Dance Moves

First up, if you’ve been thinking that what Barbarians really need is some new dance moves, you might enjoy this new video. No word on when we can expect Guitar Hero: EverQuest edition. :)

New Barbarian dance on YouTube

You can safely infer that since this dance is specific to male Barbarians, that EQ2 is getting a bunch of new dances unique to male and female members of each race. I wonder if they will all be pop culture references. :)

Quest Helper

And if you have been longing for the Quest Helper window that other MMOs have been enjoying, you’ll be thrilled to know that a Quest Helper is now coming to EQ2 as well. Check out all those stacked up quests on the right side.

quest_helper

It is unknown if this will be part of Game Update 54 or Game Update 55/Sentinel’s Fate in February.

Speaking of Game Update 54, it should be going on Test Server soon enough, and we’ll have those notes for you as soon as possible.

The FreeRealms Experiment

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary

moneybag-freerealms

Note: No EverQuest II content.

When FreeRealms was launched in April 29, 2009, Sony Online Entertainment pondered the question: Can a Massively Multiplayer Online game produced and sold in America support itself with Real Money Transactions (RMT)?

On November 2nd we found out the answer:

Effective November 2nd, the free-to-play classes available to NEW players of FreeRealms will shrink from Ninja, Chef, Postman, Kart Driver, Demo Derby Driver, Brawler, Adventurer, Card Duelist and Miner to just Adventurer and Card Duelist. Starting November 2nd, all players will be able to sample all character classes up to Level 5. Existing free-to-play characters of those original classes are not affected at this time.

Not For Lack of Trying

I don’t think there is any question that Sony is putting their weight behind FreeRealms. If you read the FreeRealms Blog, you know a lot of new content is coming this year. Player Housing, new Pets, more Holiday events, Daily in-game events, a streamlined User Interface, a unified Coin Market (instead of visiting vendors around the world), Item Dyes, new Combat system, more Minigames, etc.

SOE has dumped a ton of money into promoting FreeRealms with various tie-ins, TV commercials, and getting FreeRealms-branded StationCash cards into major retailers. They went after an audience that were traditionally not MMO players. They launched the GIRL (Gamers In Real Life) program. But it’s clear that most of those 5 million players that FreeRealms managed to attract weren’t buying much.

Eastern Philosophy

So why didn’t the FreeRealms model work?

Was it something SOE did? Was the balance too much on the Subscription and not enough on “must have” RMT items? Was it the name? FreeRealms always implied to me that someone could play a good chunk of the game for Free, and that RMT and Subscription were optional. Perhaps a lot of other people felt the same way. Incidentally, the Free in FreeRealms, according to SOE, has always meant “free to do what you want”, not an implication that the game was free of charge.

Is it a cultural difference? Free-to-Play with RMT games are widespread and wildly popular in Asia. Microtransactions are just accepted. Americans in contrast are somewhat sensitive to being “nickle-and-dimed”. I received a link to an interesting article about the differences in Game Design between Asia and North America. It’s worth a read: Game Designers – Everything You Know is Wrong

A Transition

I see FreeRealms undergoing a transition. While nobody is being booted from the game (you can still keep your friends, play the game, travel the world, and still play a fair amount of content), the direction of the game is now clearly steering towards a “velvet rope” model. What was previously viewed as a “free” game becomes a generous Free Trial which lets you sample every class in the game and decide if you want to subscribe. Everything after that requires a Subscription. I’ve been told it’s similar to Toon Town and Club Penguin although I don’t know those games.

Frankly, the FreeRealms subscription is really not expensive. And it can be paid for with cards purchased at major retailers. For $4.99 a month, you get  some nice benefits, like additional Jobs, 3 Character slots vs. 1, and 400 more Items and Quests. It is unknown whether Housing and the other content will require a subscription, but I think it’s a safe assumption.

Resources

If you would like to read a more “Just the Facts” type of posting about the changes coming to FreeRealms, check out this posting. Also, there is a public discussion on the FreeRealms forums about the changes as well.

A Cautionary Tale

Normally I would have a witty conclusion to such news. However I don’t. FreeRealms has to do what makes sense for their business model. It was never advertised as a game where an incredible amount of hard work was required to receive certain rare, powerful items, followed by those items becoming available with RMT.

It was built from the ground up as a casual, fun, RMT game designed for the largest possible audience with a large variety of playstyles. I think there are a lot of folks having fun out there playing FreeRealms, and enough of those folks will upgrade to the subscription to make the game self-sufficient. I don’t see a lot of folks quitting, since nothing currently changes for those “free” players.

However, I do want to close this posting with a warning:

RMT clearly wasn’t enough to cover the costs on FreeRealms. This revelation should strongly guide the decision-making on how items are added to SOE’s existing subscription-based games like EverQuest and EverQuest II. Never assume that RMT will be able to keep a subscription-turned-RMT game alive, if it couldn’t keep a game built from the ground up for RMT afloat.

Oct 28 and Nov 3 Hotfixes

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance, Grouping, Itemization

EQ2Wire is back in town and brings you some Hotfix notes.

October 28 Hotfix

ACHIEVEMENTS

  • New Achievements have been added! Test your skill with three new types of Achievements: Flawless Victory, Sense of Urgency and Shorthanded Victory achievements have been added to Rise of Kunark and The Shadow Odyssey zones.

ITEMS

  • Equipment with pet buffs should no longer experience stacking issues which cause the cancellation of multiple pet buffs when removing a single piece of armor.
  • Jewelry items purchased from Lavastorm and the Moors of Ykesha are now heirloom attuneable.
  • Jewelry items acquired with Void Shards is now Heirloom.
  • The “Blanket of Fog” should now be placed as a red puzzle cube then after placed should retain its fog effects.
  • The “Blanket of Fog” should now change into a red puzzle box when turned off by the defogifier.
  • The Necklace of the Plague has been increased to 12% base damage.
  • Hallow’s Gallows now grants ranged crit.
  • Frostburn and Mutagenic Burst now give larger gains when stacked.
  • The appearance of the Ceremonial Robe of the Brethren has been corrected.

MIRAGUL’S PLANAR SHARD

  • Miragul Encounter (Hard mode) : Miragul’s Arcane impairment now only affects spells. Miragul’s Physical Impairment now only affects auto attack and combat arts.

USER INTERFACE

  • The placeholder detriment icons were removed from the raid window.
  • The raid window’s font-size was decreased and the overall window is a little more compact.

November 3 Hotfix

ITEMS

  • The Collar of Ice is now Heirloom.

Butcherblock/Lucan D’Lere Downtime

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

“1:10PM SYSTEM MESSAGE: Greetings Norrath! The server will be coming down in 30 minutes for brief maintenance. Please plan accordingly to be logged out during this time. Thank you!”

“1:25PM SYSTEM MESSAGE: Greetings Norrath! The server will be coming down in 10 minutes for a brief maintenance. Please get to a safe location and camp out as soon as possible. Thank you!”

“1:26PM SYSTEM MESSAGE: Sorry Norrath! That’s 15 minutes, not 10. But, please get to a safe location and camp out as soon as possible. Thank you!”

No idea yet the duration or cause of this downtime. No other servers are going down to my knowledge.

EQ2Wire On the Road

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Art, Appearance, Housing, Game Updates & Maintenance

EQ2Wire is on the road this week, so updates will be a bit less frequent.

Nagafen/Venekor Server Merge

The Nagafen/Venekor Server Merge was completed Friday night. We’d certainly like to hear comments from folks on what the new 64-bit server experience is like (I know Butcherblock is a lot snappier with the new hardware), as well as having more folks to kill. :)

Issues with using the Broker, Banker, and World Chat channels were all related to the last stages of this merge, and should long have since been resolved.

New Shaders 3.0 Snapshots

Imago-Quem (Ryan) surprised us over the weekend with the news that Shaders 3.0 is getting very close to completion now. He also posted some new screen shots. Hopefully there will be enough time to get Shaders 3.0 onto the Test server and for everyone to test them out before Game Update 54 now slated for early December.

All 416 zones and 29,000+ objects have been converted over with a very small set of exceptions, those I am working on and those that will stay 1.0.  There’s about 1% left in the game that is still shader 1.0.  Right now I’m working on remaining bugs and optimizations for better performance.

EQ2_000398 EQ2_000403 EQ2_000411

EQ2_000414 EQ2_000417 EQ2_000423

EQ2_000425 EQ2_000426 EQ2_000430

EQ2_000434 EQ2_000438

When can we expect to see Shaders 3.0?

The plan is to have it out on Test first thing November and on Live with GU54 on December 1.

I’m working my very hardest to get all the major bugs out right now.  I’ll continue working on bugs and performance over the next month or so.

EQ2 Streaming Client

Testing continues on the EQ2 Streaming Client. This, along with the EQ2 Complete Collection ($19.95) now in stores, are our best opportunities to get new players into EQ2. The Streaming Client will allow new players to get into EQ2, create a character, and get started in the newbie area with as little as 10-15 minutes of downloading. Compare this to the current digital download option, which is a 6-10 hour download.

What Bugs You Most 2009

Players continue to post their ideas in the What Bugs You Most 2009 Edition thread. What is interesting is that unlike the What Bugs You Most thread from Feb 2008, the vast majority of the issues being brought up are not User Interface fixes (which Rothgar is a champ at) but long-term design changes. It’s not known just how many of the issues being brought up will be possible to address between now and the expansion.

Silverwing

Speaking of bugs… Some folks are having trouble with Silverwing in Veeshan’s Peak since Game Update 53. Some workarounds to prevent his massive healing while the issue is addressed have been posted in this Silverwing Issues thread.

October 21 Hotfix

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance, Grouping, Itemization, Live Events, Raiding

Here are your Hotfix Notes for October 21, 2009:

GENERAL

  • Nu’roga now has plunderable loot!
  • Malicious Thoughts and Icicle Explosion now trigger on ranged and melee attacks.
  • Frostburn and Mutagenic Burst now correctly modify each other’s damage.
  • Purifying Persistence should properly modify the caster’s heals rather than the targets.

LoN

  • The Cloak of Crystal Shards, Assassin Master’s Cloak and Cloak of Runes returned from Collector Rattelis are now Heirloom.

ITEMS

  • Icy Prison now has 3 shield effectiveness to match its deflection chance.
  • Charm of Solusek Ro once again triggers multiple times on AE casts, however its effect is now limited to 5 targets.

Miragul’s: Crucible

  • The Master’s spell reflect percentage has been greatly reduced.

Miragul’s Planar Shard

  • In the final hard mode fight with Miragul, his Brilliant Adepts will no longer stun/mez players within a second of initially spawning, but will wait 3-6 secs after spawning to start casting.
  • The Miragul encounter (Hard mode): Miragul will now cast Curse of Confusion on up to 2 players per cycle, rather than 3.

MISTMOORE’S INNER SANCTUM

  • The Vampiric Protectors that spawn during the Mayong encounter will now respawn in the center of the room if they break, rather than rapidly spawning and despawning near the point where the encounter broke.

MUNZOK’S MATERIAL BASTION

  • Certain items that drop from Munzok have become slightly more powerful.
  • Overlapping unstable void protrusions should provide protection from Munzok’s edict as expected, and no longer conflict with one another.  Additionally void protrusion protection now more closely matches the sphere’s size.
  • Munzok’s max health has been reduced.

NIGHTS OF THE DEAD

  • Altius Volfban in the Hollow Hedge should be much easier for mage classes to handle.
  • The Headless Horseman now spawns somewhere near his tree instead of just in the same spot every time. He also requires someone offer him the necklace instead of simply taking the necklace near him to activate. His respawn has also been lengthened slightly.
  • The Nightmarish Ceremonial Armor has gotten a slight change to color.
  • The Nightmarish Ceremonial armor should now all have an equal chance of dropping.
  • Altius Volfban now has a chance to drop a piece of the Nightmarish armor when killed.
  • The Blanket of Fog now comes with a remote so you can turn them on and off. In the off state it should be much easier to tell where they are!

USER INTERFACE

  • The option to always show the threat window has been moved from Game Features to Options->User Interface->Game Windows.

Nagafen-Venekor Merger On Track, Hotfix for Wed Oct 21

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

Rothgar, who has been up for how many hours now? brings us this update…

The upgrade is looking good and we should have the servers up soon.  The QA department is just doing their final pass.

We have a 30 minute downtime scheduled tomorrow morning to roll out a hotfix for all servers.  Since we had to skip our normal hotfix window this morning due to the database migration, we are doing it tomorrow instead.

We’re still planning on going forward with the PvP server merge Wednesday night at midnight PST.  Initially only Venekor will be brought down to backup the database and export all of the data.  When the export is complete, Nagafen will be brought down for us to merge the data.  After the merge takes place, we have some other background tasks that could take a few hours.  This includes cleaning up universal-chat, merging shared banks and updating player names and guild names that had conflicts.  Be prepared for as much as a 24-hour downtime for Venekor players.  Nagafen players will experience around 12 hours of downtime depending on how fast the processes go.

We’re hoping that the newer hardware will help the process go faster than our test runs.

Thanks for enduring the downtime this week.  We know it’s never at a good time but the final outcome will be worth it.

Tomorrow’s hotfix is expected to include some changes to the Headless Horseman x2 encounter.

Servers Could Be Up as soon as 7pm PDT

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

From Rothgar on the EQ2 Forums:

All 3 servers are currently up and locked while our QA department goes through the normal testing process to confirm everything looks good after the upgrade.  We are specifically testing characters and guild halls on each of the three servers that had problems copying over last time.  So far those are loading fine so everything is looking great.

I’m hoping that we will be ready to bring the servers up within the hour.

and Glip the Gnome:

Hey all! We are smoketesting the servers right now before we open them back up. Right now it looks as though we’ll have them up around 7:00pm PDT. We’ll let you know if that changes.

Butcherblock, Nagafen, Lucan D’Lere down until 10PM

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

The latest news

Update:

The downtime for Nagafen, Butcherblock, and LDL has been extended to around 10pm PDT this evening.

We apologize for the extended downtime.  As a result of this, the team has already extended the Moonlight Enchantments event an extra day to make up for all the time that these servers will be missing.

Thank you again for your continued patience.

This makes 22 hours estimated downtime.

Server Confusion – ALL west coast servers to be rebooted

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

Due to two mistakes in how the Server Downtime scripts were triggered last night, ALL servers must be rebooted. This will happen in a few minutes. The issue:

  • All West Coast servers, not just Butcherblock, Lucan D’Lere, Nagafen, were set to stop allowing instances (dungeons) from being created starting at noon today.

Announcement by Rothgar:

I just wanted to take a moment to explain some of the broadcasts you may have seen and what is happening with the servers.

Last night, prior to the maintenance for Butcherblock, Nagafen and Lucan D’lere, we scheduled the downtime which is responsible for notifying the worlds via broadcast and also safely shutdown and lock persistent instances until the worlds come down.

There were two mistakes made.  This notice was scheduled for all west coast servers, not just the three that needed it.  We also mistakenly set the time for today at noon instead of last night at midnight.  This is why BB, LDL and Nagafen didn’t get the notice last night.

Unfortunately once the servers have gone into maintenance mode and the instances become locked, there is no way to reset it unless we reboot them.

So we are planning on taking all of the west-coast servers down in 5-10 minutes for a reboot.  This will clear them so you’ll be able to create instances once again.

The reboot shouldn’t take long, maybe 10-20 minutes at most.  We apologize for this confusion.  Unfortunately some processes still require human interaction and occasionally we can make a mistake like this.

We hope to have all servers except for BB, LDL and Nagafen back up very shortly.  The DB migration is going well.  Nagafen is the only remaining DB to be copied and we’re hoping that it will complete in a few hours.  After the DB has been moved, we will need some additional time for QA to verify the migration.  Once we have the green light from QA, the remaining 3 servers will come back up.

Thanks for your patience!

Server Downtimes — Now looking at 4pm PDT

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

The latest news on those 64-bit Upgrades:

Things are still going well, however it is looking like it’s going to take a bit longer than we had originally anticipated.

We’re now looking at an uptime of around 4pm PDT.  If we need to adjust the time again, we will be sure to update this thread.

Thank you again for your patience.

Rothgar is posting updates regarding the downtime to a discussion thread on EQ2 Forums.

I apologize that the server downtime was not made more clear.  We discussed it a few times in other threads while the maintenance was still tentative.

We weren’t able to make a decision on the maintenance until our DB tests passed with our QA department which happened late on Monday.

The only option would have been to make an announcement and hold the DB upgrade for a couple of days to make sure everyone had ample time to plan for the maintenance.  Unfortunately this would have pushed the server merge back to next week and we wanted to avoid that since it has already moved back several times.  We’re still trying to get the database upgraded and server merge completed in as timely a manner as possible.  The compromise to this accelerated schedule is a little less notice on the maintenance.

Should the database upgrade happen successfully, we are still planning on performing the merge on Thursday of this week.  We also have a 12-hour maintenance window for the merge so please plan accordingly.

All 3 servers are definitely getting the database upgrade.

Stay tuned…

12 hour downtime for Nagafen, Butcherblock, and Lucan D’Lere

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Art, Appearance, Housing, Game Updates & Maintenance, Live Events

Sorry for the late post on this but Butcherblock, Nagafen, and Lucan D’Lere servers are currently down to complete the maintenance which was attempted last week. Note that ALL 3 servers are being upgraded at this time. Hopefully at noonish Pacific time, we’ll be running 64-bit and see some significant improvements to zoning time, zone lag, etc.

The announcements on the EQ2 Forums:

Greetings all!

This is to let you know that Nagafen, Butcherblock, and Lucan D’Lere will be down from Midnight PDT tonight (October 19th) until Noon PDT Tuesday October 20th, while the team migrates Nagafen (only!) [all 3 servers] to the new DB structure.

As you all know from last week, the migration process did a little wonkiness with some of the longer character files.  In order to prevent this from happening again, Nagafen [the 3 servers] will be migrated by hand.

During this downtime, bonus exp will be enabled on Venekor and our Nagafen players are encouraged to make alts over there to take advantage of the exp boost.  We’ll also look into having the mushroom rings extended on the affected servers so that no one misses out.

The plan is then for the server merge between Nagafen and Venekor to take place on Thursday (more details on that will be forthcoming).

We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your patience!

and the followup:

Good news all!  We look to be on schedule for noon and from what I understand everything is going as planned.  Butcherblock and Lucan are being migrated as well, now, as things are going so smoothly.  So that means shiny new databases for all three servers SMILEY

As previously mentioned, the Moonlight Enchantment event will be extended for these servers (and others as well because gnomes got into the works!).

Thank you again for your patience while we migrate the databases for these servers and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Note that other servers besides those affected by this upgrade are spitting out various announcements indicating that their server will be shutting down. These can be ignored. Glip the Gnome posted:

Hey all! Between now and 12:30pm PDT today (October 20th) folks across most servers may notice broadcasts saying that the server will be shutting down or restarting — you can ignore these. The only servers that will be affected and be down are Nagafen, Butcherblock and Lucan D’lere and they are still scheduled to be up again at roughly 12:00pm PDT.

So once again, players can ignore the server restart broadcasts and we apologize for any confusion it may cause.

Thanks!

In other news, Moonlight Enchantments got a late start today, so my understanding is it will be active for another full day on all servers.

A Cure For Curing

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary, Raiding

After reprinting the excellent Letter to SoE written by Shianne (Spritelady), we here at EQ2Wire weren’t expecting much of a response. So today’s detailed feedback from timetravelling was a real eye-opener. As he says, there is a fine line between challenging and frustrating. Some fights in TSO are just plain annoying with the unbelievable amount of curing they require. Nobody is asking for easier fights, just ones that are not hair-pulling annoying, fights that healers are quitting over.

Here’s the refreshing quote from EQ2 Forums:

A good thread with some excellent feedback!

From the population side, we are definitely always trying to improve the ‘fun’ of fights going forward. It’s a very thin line between challenging and frustrating, but we are always looking for ways to improve y’all’s experience. As a couple of people mentioned, Miragul’s Planar Shard was a step in this direction, and one we plan to continue with Sentinel’s Fate. We would like for many guilds to be able to have the satisfaction of clearing an entire zone while preserving the very difficult fights for players to really test their limits!

You have been heard on the curing side of things. We’ve begun to move away from it already, but we’ll make sure and look at each fight to hopefully ensure that the curing required is part of the fight, or plays an important role but does not devolve into ‘spam’ curing an excessive number of debuffs.

I spoke with our lead raid designer today and we’re going to look into perhaps removing as many ‘non-essential’ debuffs from the TSO raids as we can. A number of the fights had varying amounts of spells and effects that were not necessarily an integral part of the difficulty or flow of the encounter and we’re going to re-evaluate whether or not they need to be there. The goal of this proposed change (for the devil’s advocates out there) is to reduce the # of cures required while not affecting the difficulty of the fight in any significant way.

Thanks again for all the feedback, and good luck!

Crashing Fix in the Works?

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance

If you are just about fed up with the out-of-memory crashing in EQ2 since Game Update 53 — I know I am! — you’ll be interested to know that the major causes of the issue have been identified and fixes are in the works. As soon as an updated client is available, we’ll let you know. When I start to see texture corruption, I minimize and then maximize the window every few minutes. It’s really a sad workaround.

Rothgar posted on the EQ2 Forums:

We’ve been taking a lot of snapshots of memory allocations and comparing this data to the code from different times.  We’ve gone back as far as June, rebuilt the code and compared these allocations to today’s code.  We have an understanding of what is happening and when.  Unfortunately it’s not as simple as rolling the code back to June because it would take a lot of other code with it.  So we’re working on a way to fix the problem correctly.

There are actually two issues coming into play.  There appears to be an issue with data not being cleared from the cache as aggressively as it should.  This isn’t really a memory leak, its just the client holdng on to things that it can probably get rid of, especially after zoning.  Then there is also the issue of memory becoming fragmented which eventually causes the allocation error.  Both should really be fixed if possible, but as soon as we have a fix for one or the other, we will get it out asap.  Fixing either issue should keep the client from crashing as much as it is.

I’ll let you know when I have more info.

Nights of the Dead full of Tricks and Treats

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Art, Appearance, Housing, Grouping, Live Events

Spoilers ahead…

Maze

If you have been struggling to complete the Nightmarish Hedge Maze as part of Nights of the Dead, especially as a mage or pet class, you may be interested in this thread on the EQ2 Forums. Of course if you’d rather be challenged to figure it out for yourself, then don’t. :)

Fog

Another item as part of Nights of the Dead you may not want to miss may make your head a little more Foggy than usual. Again, if you’d rather figure it out yourself, then don’t visit this forum thread on the EQ2 Forums.

Headless

If you are an aspiring raid of 12 players, or a heavily-armored confident group of 4-6 players wishing to tackle the contested Headless Horseman, there are two things to know:

  • The Headless Horseman is on a 1-2 hour spawn timer.
  • At least one player must have the necklace from the Hedge Maze. Note that every player who has a necklace within range when the Headless Horseman spawns will see that necklace disappear from their inventory. More Info

Have fun out there! We may see some changes to the Headless Horseman on Monday.

Headless Horseman Has Head in Clouds

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Itemization, Live Events, Raiding

One of the exciting aspects of the 2009 Nights of the Dead live event is the contested x2 Headless Horseman Knight. No less exciting (and surprising) than the loot that drops from said encounter:

notd-hallows_gallows
Hallows Gallows
Bloodthirsty Choker 2.0?
\aITEM 430679940 306448646:Hallow’s Gallows\/a
notd-soulleach
Soulleach
\aITEM -1026839664 -1911359172:[Soulleach]\/a
notd-secret_sash
Secret Sash
\aITEM 71107619 -1772367845:[Secret Sash]\/a
notd-brainless_belt
Brainless Belt
\aITEM 1534172351 1374785267:[Brainless Belt]\/a

and of course these humorous items:

notd-an_oddly_empty_crate
an oddly empty crate
\aITEM -1414756000 -2003420917:[an oddly empty crate]\/a
notd-frictionless_piece_of_eight
Frictionless Piece of Eight
\aITEM -1495753407 -624402372:[Frictionless Piece of Eight]\/a

Note that some players are reporting issues with the new Hedgemaze zone (an instance of Cauldron Hollow). Not all players have been able to progress beyond the “Trick” step.

Legends of Norrath Brings Powerful Items to Norrath

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary, Grouping, Itemization

If you have been following the increasingly train-wrecky Legends of Norrath Affects Gameplay topic on EQ2 Forums, you know that the Legends of Norrath card game is on the cusp of making powerful items available within the EverQuest 2 universe.

Already, by purchasing booster packs of cards (at $2.99/ea) and/or playing the LoN card game, one can acquire cloaks, mounts, appearance items, potions, and other items within the EQ2 world. So far these items have drawn the line at being comparable to dungeon/raid drops.

Many have argued that EQ2′s $15/month subscription + $50/year expansion cost should be more than adequate for Sony Online Entertainment to cover their costs. The latest subscriber estimate is 250,000 players. Considering 6 months a year and 25% expansion buyin, that’s $26 million revenue per year.

Yet increasingly, in-game items have been made available through StationCash (funded with a credit card, items have a fixed price) and Legends of Norrath (player must purchase an unknown number of card packs until they find the loot card they desire, trade with others, or buy such cards at an extreme markup on such sites as LoNLoot.com).


Today marks the launch of the 8th expansion: Legends of Norrath:Travelers. It was announced 2 weeks ago including this controversial passage:

Incredible loot cards, including exclusive new quests in EverQuest® and EverQuest® II that open all new chambers and rewards of loot and XP!

Starting today, players can acquire a Legends of Norrath loot card “Legends of Norrath: A Mysterious Key” ( \aITEM -691738313 583949373:Legends of Norrath: A Mysterious Key\/a )

  • This key will unlock a unique level 80 combat instance for the holder and his/her group. One use only.

lon-keyitem

Examining the key offers the quest Repulsing Repuuli.

  • After receiving a location of an up and coming threat to all of Norrath, you are sent to destroy Repuuli the Destroyer within the Moors of Ykesha.
  • Find and enter the Destruction Chamber near the Obelisk of Ahkzul in the Moors of Ykesha.

lon-questoffer lon-questjournal

EQ2Wire went on safari to The Moors of Ykesha to get the facts. Upon entering the portal (which is a short distance from the Obelisk entrance), the surroundings immediately seemed familiar.

lon-portal

Indeed, I was greeted with the sight of the last room of Obelisk of Ahkzul.

lon-obelisk1

lon-obelisk2

After defeating four roaming 80^^ void beasts, Repuuli the Destroyer (82^^^) became interested in my presence. Defeated as easily as Executor Vark in the Obelisk, it is then that the true nature of this Legends of Norrath tryst was revealed. Although housed in an unassuming Ornate chest, the rewards found within were anything but ordinary.

lon-questcomplete

Inside the Ornate chest is an item container called A Void Cube. One player per zone visit gets to loot this container.

lon-ornatechest

The recipient must then choose between 7 items. Make no mistake folks, these items are comparable to Ward of Elements x2 raid drops:

lon-portalbracerofthevoidwarrior lon-portalclaspofthevoidinvoker lon-portalwrapofthevoidassassin

  • Portal Bracer of the Void Warrior ( \aITEM 1363089210 -1153524204:[Portal Bracer of the Void Warrior]\/a )
  • Portal Clasp of the Void Invoker ( \aITEM -29585155 -1544401326:[Portal Clasp of the Void Invoker]\/a )
  • Portal Wrap of the Void Assassin ( \aITEM -932311402 966076848:[Portal Wrap of the Void Assassin]\/a )

lon-portalbangleofthevoidknight lon-portalbindingofthevoidcaller lon-portalbraceofthevoidwarder

  • Portal Bangle of the Void Knight( \aITEM -1348074215 2070418077:[Portal Bangle of the Void Knight]\/a )
  • Portal Binding of the Voidcaller ( \aITEM 935669575 190604106:[Portal Binding of the Voidcaller]\/a )
  • Portal Brace of the Void Warder ( \aITEM 552342734 -2044085964:[Portal Brace of the Void Warder]\/a )

lon-portalbraceletofthevoidpriest

  • Portal Bracelet of the Void Priest ( \aITEM -1900203042 2008289082:[Portal Bracelet of the Void Priest]\/a )

How Does Legends of Norrath Affect Me?

Legends of Norrath is a game I was never interested in, that I’m forced periodically to wait for it to download updates. It has never appealed to me. So far I’ve been able to ignore it other than checking to see if I get any loot cards. I’ve gotten a few cloaks. I got the heal potion.

And I bought some StationCash when it was half price. I’d probably use it for appearance gear or name changes. Maybe even a vitality potion to level a 5th tradeskiller to 80.

So I’m not like “Mr Furious” about RMT/SC/LoN. But I know others are, so LoN affects my gameplay if others want to quit EQ2 because of LON getting further and further entrenched in the game.

How does one level from 1-80 in EQ2 these days?
How does one get geared up in EQ2 these days?

Right now, I think a lot of folks solo quest from 1-80, missing the entire content of this game. Then they transfer plat and HEIRLOOM gear from their main to twink out their alt. They might even run a few Mentored (grey) Shard Runs to gear up their alt.

Without having ever stepped in a 1-80 dungeon, people feel they need to gear up alts just to have a chance — just to get a group. Imagine if you are a level 80 character these days and go LFG (Looking for Group) and show up in mastercrafted/quest gear and adept 1 spells? You will be laughed out of the building (and dropped from the group). When I started playing EQ2, grouping from 1-70 was prevalent. I feel sorry for the players now who will never know this content.

I am lucky that I was level 80 when The Shadow Odyssey was released. I already had the best Kunark group gear available to me, and started the first night earning as many void shards as possible. It’s just expected now to get a group you have full T1, possibly T2 gear, fabled weapon, etc.

Hand Me Downs

It’s easy to earn plat in this game. So easy that the plat farmers aren’t doing as well as they used to. With a few hundred plat, you can gear up with some significant jewelry and even T4 bracer/boot pattern to a toon that’s never fought in a dungeon let alone a raid zone. If you are raiding 4 nights a week and getting all kinds of patterns that everyone already has, then your alts are going to be built to the hilt.

When my Dirge dings 80, he will have full Tier 2 Void Shard Armor, with Tier 3 (Ward of Elements) boots, and pretty substantial jewelry. Who knows, he might even have Tier 4 FABLED bracers by then.

If some idiot really wanted to pay a few hundred bucks to acquire a few thousand platinum pieces and spend it on T4 raid patterns (The T4 chestpieces go for 1200-2000p on BB right now), they could. They could even pay for group updates on their Fabled epic, and then pay more for VP updates for their Mythical. In short, with a few waves of the credit card, I can build a toon in full Tier 4 FABLED gear, jewelry, and Mythical having hardly ever DONE the content.

People gear up alts with plat (earned or bought) and shards (earned or greyed out). Enough people view this as shady that there is still some sense of dignity maintained. Some folks still take pride that they built their characters without the aid of a powerful main character supplying them shards, gear, and plat.

I am NOT advocating stopping loot rights. It’s just a somewhat dysfunctional reality that I too have benefited from (I got the Ethernauts Roundshield of Ranger Pwnage for 120p). I think grey shards screwed them up and should have been stopped it.

So I think by putting FABLED-like gear into Legends of Norrath, SoE are legitimizing this process. It is a signal to a lot of players that SoE does not care how you build your toon. In combination with all gear getting the HEIRLOOM tag, it sends a message that rules can be bent and/or broken. You can build up your toon however you want, either by playing the game or swiping your credit card.

So I stand on principle and say that I will not use my credit card to get Legendary or Fabled gear and build out my character. I will not buy Legends of Norrath cards to get access to some significant loot. Already, so many barriers have been broken down in how characters are geared up in such a short time, I wonder how it will affect the future of the game. I think it will inevitably kill it. The thrill of the chase, the actual PLAYING of the game is diminished. Why learn the encounters and play the game when you can just put in a few bucks and get to the same destination?

When Legends of Norrath was launched, several promises were made by John Smedley, president of Sony Online Entertainment. It seems the expression “Time changes everything” is never more true here.

How Good Is the Loot?

The following diagram compares the LoN rewards with equivalent or similar items elsewhere in Norrath. It is disturbing to me that some of the rewards are similar to Ward of Elements x2 raid drops:

lon-cat-comparison
LoN Item Comparison

The truth, as they say,  is out there.

What’s Wrong with EQ2 Raiding?

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary, Itemization, Raiding

Most of my gametime these days is either raiding with my Ranger, or leveling my Dirge alt. I do live events (looking forward to Nights of the Dead), but otherwise, I’m fairly bored with the runaround quest lines. Groups in the 20′s-60′s are few and far between, but that is an issue for another blog post…

Our guild is currently running Ward of Elements (I have all but shoulders and the cloak from Aiden) and we do as much x4 raiding as we can with 2 1/2 groups. That’s the first 3 named of Tomb of the Mad Crusader (including Thet) and the twins in Palace of the Ancient One. We’re probably going to start doing Kurn’s X2 because we’re pretty much blocked from doing anything else by lack of players/needed classes.

This is a chronic problem on Butcherblock, and I think other servers. At last count there were over 15 semi-casual raid guilds each about 4-8 players away from having a full raid force. Nobody wants to merge or switch guilds. And there’s never been a successful Raid Alliance on Butcherblock.


I read the EQ2 forums every day looking for news and info for EQ2Wire readers. So today I found a couple of posts that really jive with how I’ve been feeling lately…

First up from Shianne <Tainted> @ Kithicor:

Dear SOE,

I have been a loyal subscriber since July of 2005.  I have been a co-leader of a raiding guild since Dec of 2006, and an officer prior to that.  In the time I have played I have seen many people come and go.  I have seen good expansions and bad.  I have seen nerfs and character balance issues; server mergers and many other developments and setbacks.

One thing I can say is that I have always enjoyed the game, no matter how badly my class was messed up or how many of my friends or guild mates left for greener pastures in other MMOs or guilds or just to experience the real world. However, my enjoyment is waning along with so many others.

My server, Kithicor, has suffered many guilds disbanding of late due to a lack of available players to fill out their rosters.  i have lost 8-9 people of my raid force myself.  The commen thread to all of the people leaving?  They are bored.  Most of them (including myself) have multiple characters that are level 80 and at 200 AA or close to.  They have no need of shard gear.  They have no need of instance loot.  They don’t want to level yet another character.  The only thing to log in for is raids and when you can’t get classes you need, those are getting old to since you can’t progress.

The release of GU53 did little to entice people to remain.  The Achivement System gives no tangible and USEFUL rewards.  Those that missed out on getting AA for various things aren’t likely to go get the achievements done as they will hold out till there is an AA cap increase.  So, there is still no reason to log in.  The Shard of Love offers nothing but fluff items and 1 time AA experience.  A fair amount of people will do it once, then never again.  Miragul’s Planar Shard – while it is nice to have another raid zone, many of us can’t clear what is already out there due to lack of population to flesh out our ranks.  Then, you add items into the heroic instances to make the raids easier, so in essence creating the necessity for many people to run zones for no other reason than to collect those items.  It is becoming a JOB and not fun.

If the achievement system had offered useful rewards, such as dual stat adornments, or the ability to add 2 points to an AA tree when completing an achievement, or rocking charm items, etc. This MIGHT have been a draw for those of us who want something to work towards that IMPROVES our characters.

If you had done server mergers, then at least the population wouldn’t be spread so thin.  I realize that server mergers would cut into the Cash Cow transfer potions that are available thru the Marketplace, but please, understand that the economy sucks at the moment.  For many people this is their entertainment.  This is their hobby.  This is their escape from reality.  Many people are struggling just to pay the subscription fees.  Throw us a bone and think about merging some servers so that we have a base of people to work with so perhaps we may find some enjoyment in the game again.

This latest expansion with its cure heavy scripting has burned out the healers.  I have been looking for ONE templar for going on 3 months. I have had 2 applicants in that time and neither were able to handle the whack-a-mole curing as well as keeping their reactives up. When you spend THREE months trying to find a single class and have no success, this tells you things are not well in the land of Norrath.

In the last three months, we have lost at least two major guilds to collapse.  Unfortunately, those people didn’t remain on the server.  Most went to other servers or quit entirely.  We have had one guild transfer here to “rule the school” and another leave to go to another server to do the same.  We have at least 2 other non-avatar raid guilds on the verge of collapse and at least 2-3 others with severe recruitment issues.  Much of this is being caused by people QUITTING EQ2.

Please SOE, I implore you to do something to breathe some life into the game before more people take of for Aion or other MMOs. Delaying the expansion is killing the game, fluffy GUs with no real substance aren’t keeping the interest of a vast amount of us,  continued nerfs and re-defining classes isn’t the best way to hold on to people.

I see hundred of posts from people on ways to improve the game, ways to work towards class balance, ways to deal with itemization, ways to implement avatars into instanced encounters, and a majestic array of other ideas, suggestions, wants, desires,etc.  People WANT to play EQ2, but they also want to know their voices are heard, that the devlopers realize the we, the players, have a borader understanding of the game than you may think.  We the players are a font of knowldge, we are talented and skilled and we know what gamers want, do you?

Pervis has a nice followup which makes some great points about Itemization:

There is nothing more disapointing in raiding when you spend weeks working on an encounter to finally get the kill, only to have the one item in the chest be totally worthless. What this game needs, and what one of my primary complaints has been with TSO (paired with Research Assistants, which only add to the issue) is the total lack of any raid-based quests.

The original game was great. As soon as your guild killed Darathar, you basically took a giant step forward. Every mage and healer in the guild got a huge upgrade, and scouts and tanks got an item that was invaluable on many encounters.

Desert of Flames had the same with killing the Godking, and getting the weapons from the peacock quest series.

Kingdom of Sky had similar with the Claymore, though once you had killed Taranax you had no progression left until Fallen Dynasty was added.

Echoes of Faydwer was wasted, due to the Soulfire quest taking so long to implement. While it was great for lore reasons, it was horrible for content/mechanics reasons.

Rise of Kunark of course had epic [weapons], and as soon as you were able to kill Nexona and Druushk, you had an almost clear run to getting every mythical weapon. There is no need to even mention the difference between a raid with identicle equipment, but one with mythicals the other without.

The Shadow Odyssey has… umm… the earring from Munzok’s Material Bastion (MMB)?

There is no carrot dangling. When we kill a mob, we have no guarentee that the item it drops will be wanted. Why bother working on mobs in MMB if you know you are going to get a summoner-only item (we had the cloak and charm both drop 3 times in a row, prior to GU#53, we have no summoners).

While raiders are less interested in quests for the story aspect (in general, many raiders are as into the lore of this game as any non-raider), what they like is the guarantee that the time and effort they put in to killing encounters is going to be rewarded. Again until GU#53, I was looking at Ykesha thinking… why even bother? As a mage, he had no items that were worth me even looking at, and since he is not required for any quest update, I have no personal reason to care.

How is that good for the expansion’s end mob?

I have seen more raiders quit in TSO than any other time. Most of the players I know that have quit have done so for itemization reasons. While there are more item options and effect in game than ever before, it is how those effects have been distributed that has simply caused people to not want to bother. Its not enough to just create 100 items and throw them on loot tables at random, the placement of each item should have more attention paid to it than the creation of the item itself.

I have zero faith that the next expansion will be any better, simply because the same issues have been bought up with every previous expansion. Players have asked during beta to look over items to check for progression, and have either been not heard or ignored. Just look at how long it took to get items in to Miragul’s. If us players are being asked to test content out to make sure it is working as intended, and is set to the appropriate difficulty, we should also have someone asking us to test itemization progression.

Revisiting the same content over and over is just part of any MMO. Keeping players hooked as long as you can to keep subscription rates up is just part of the game business model. However the reliance on the Random Number Generator in gearing players up is really getting out of hand. Folks identify the best item for a slot (sometimes the best item in the game for a certain class and for a certain slot drops in an easy group zone, sometimes off the hardest raid mob in the game, it’s completely random) and then run that zone until they get the item. Then they never go back. Then there’s Healer Burnout, where healers are sticking around even though they currently hate some of the encounters just to not let their friends down.

October 13 Hotfix

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Game Updates & Maintenance, Grouping, Raiding

This week’s hotfix will be hitting today, October 13th (not the date on the Update Notes announcement).

EMPEROR ATREBE’S LABORATORY

  • The zone boss, Ka’El Ka’Vrish, should now reset properly in Kor’Sha.

ITEMS

  • Fists of Judgment will no longer indicate that they have a duration.

MIRAGUL’S PLANAR SHARD

  • Tuskers will now stagger his memwipe effects.
  • Enraged Haladan no longer gets an AE auto attack buff when he goes berserk, but will instead proc Haladan’s Fury (frontal only, slash damage AE spell).

PVP

  • You may now speak to the Priest of Discord on all PVP servers.
  • PVP weapons have been adjusted to bring them more in line with the intended damage for their tier.

USER INTERFACE

  • There is a new option to always display the threat window. It can be found under User Interface -> Game Features -> Always show threat window.
  • Fixed a bug where the threat window would flash or disappear when it shouldn’t.

We’re keeping our eyes out for any further LoN news, by the way.

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