SOE released a patch today with a few small but useful additions. Players can now cycle through PCs and NPCs with a single key. We will have to see how this works in practice but it sounds great. Everquest Online Adventures included this feature and it worked well there.
The patch included changes to see-invis mobs in two Gates of Discord zones that caused problems for people on corpse recovery. I've already talked enough about corpse recovery for a while, but I do want to talk about another frustrating aspect of Gates of Discord.
Friday night I traveled to the far reaches of Barindu and put up my "looking for group" sign in the hopes of getting into the Vxed trial. About 10pm that night I found a group willing to fight their way to the end. We killed our seventy fifth beast by about 1am and began our last twenty five kills on the way to the NPC who would give us our flag. By 2am we reached the room before him and got stuck. There were too many mobs and we couldn't break them up. Time ticked away and eventually we tried a pull. It went badly. With the strength of divine aura and the rest of my party slain, I managed to get the flag although the rest of the group did not. Four hours had been spent working to that point and the trial offered no recovery. Sorry. You lose. Try again when you have another four hours.
Gates of Discord Expeditions require too much time. Instead of having several hour and a half encounters that a group can work on with limited time, players need to have four free hours to get through the trial. The time duration is so long that many players knowingly violate the Everquest End User License Agreement, give their password to another player, and have the other player get them through a flag.
In my Friday night Vxed expedition I didn't log off until 4am. I spent six hours working on a single trial and although my divine aura helped me get my flag, five other players did not. I have no problem with the difficulty of the expedition. I have a problem with the time required.
Splitting a single expedition up into four 90 minute expeditions fixes this problem. Instead of passing six four hour trials, one can pass eighteen 90 minute ones. This requires the same time to succeed but not all in one sitting. It allows players with limited time a chance to progress through Gates. Now players with limited time are faced with a choice of handing out their account info or not progressing through Gates.
When I sat down to write this editorial I asked myself what I hoped to accomplish. I don't expect that the trials will be modified as I described, but I do hope that SOE builds future expansions and content around durations of under two hours. The two-hour time focus of Lost Dungeons adventures permits people with limited time to progress through content (and equipment) in small pieces. Future expansions should follow this model. Gone are the days where we must camp Ragefire in Solusek B for four straight days.
Like my argument about corpse recovery, the challenge should be in the encounter not in its duration. If I defeat twenty five beasts in Vxed, I can probably defeat seventy five more. Encounters tuned to 90 minute durations increase the accessibility of Everquest to a larger player-base.