SOE released the first major patch since the release of Depths on Thursday. The new user interface was one of the most noticeable changes. This new UI was released with the Escape to Norrath Everquest demo, and finally made it to our servers this week. Reactions to new user interfaces are pretty easy to predict. Some folks hated it, some folks loved it. While most of the changes were cosmetic, the new horizontal and vertical hotboxes shook some people up. I found it a lot easier to run all four hotbox sets at once with this new layout. I keep two above my array of chat boxes on the bottom of the screen and two along the left and right sides of the screen.
The new spell gems are a bit of a change. Anyone who has used Thomas King's UIs in the past will recognize the style but they aren't quite as intuitive as the older spell gems. SOE moved the older UI to a new "default_old" folder so traditionalists can stay with the older UI, but I imagine we'll see less support for the old UI as new features are added. Overall, however, the new user interface gives EQ a nice fresh look, an important move for a six year old game.
The new audio trigger feature introduces a lot of potential. One can set up the audio triggers to alert them when they receive tells, when buffs have worn off, when invis drops, when someone mentions their name, or even add some nice sound effects to critical blasts and critical heals. The tool is flexible enough to use in very specific situations like the emotes in Anguish or complete heal rotation triggers. Powerusers will most likely find the best uses for this tool, but it offers a lot of possibilities.
Everquest now uses the default system mouse during play. The biggest improvement seems to be mouse cursor speed regardless of the framerate of your game. Players can also mouse out of the EQ window in windowed mode without having to release the mouse. This addition wasn't without bugs, however. It appears some discrepancy between Microsoft's use of the mouse and EQ's caused the mouse to stick in the upper left corner. Dev Rapez posted a fix that requires an upgrade from Microsoft.
Stormhammer received a new Arena. I heard whispers of this new Arena at the last Fan Faire and I expect we will see it on live servers in a month or so. Stormhammer is a server in dire straights at the moment. At nearly 1/10th the population of the other servers, players on Stormhammer find it harder and harder to progress through the content of newer expansions. While most servers had the Nest opened up within a month or two after the release of Dragons of Norrath, Stormhammer only had it opened up recently. Sony needs to make a decision about Stormhammer and the most likely solution is to disband the server, send the players to any other server they'd like to go, and lower their monthly rate back to the normal fee.
The patch message mentioned power improvements to spirit shrouds. We have yet to see how much more powerful these shrouds will be. My "Shroud the Creator" contest is still going on. Send me a screenshot of six spirit shrouded characters defeating the Creator and win a new copy of God of War for the Playstation 2. The screenshot must show six shrouded players, a /who to show the levels and races, and the dead creator all in one shot.
This patch also included this year's Halloween events. Keep an eye out in Kithicor woods for some strange activities including a trick-or-treat scavenger hunt, an undead attack in East Commonlands, a high level quest in Hate, and what appears to be a monster mission of divine proportions. There is also an excellent spoiler thread on the EQLive forums for weaker souls.
We didn't see any improvements to Depths of Darkhollow's loot in this patch, but we can expect it for the next one. A few developers commented on the loot balancing process and while the exact statistics of these new improvements aren't yet known, we can expect some nice upgrades.
The patch did include a new quest NPC in Undershore who rewards players for finishing Depths of Darkhollow mission sets. The rewards for these quests appear to be items with a clickable +50 resist buff, one for each of the five resists and a final one for all five at once. From the quest's text, it appears to open up some event as well but details are not yet known.
The developers joined EQ Stratics on Thursday night for another developer's chat. Aside from pompous egotistical pasty jerks hogging all of the questions, the chat went well. We learned that SOE is as excited about the success of Monster Missions as many players. Zorillius mentioned the release of one or more new monster missions before the end of the year.
Prathun, the force behind the creation of the Demi-Plane of Blood, the top raid zone in the game said that he felt progress through raid content in Depths is about where he expected or "slightly behind par".
The raiders of Anguish learned that during the last patch, the raid mob Hanvar grew in strength. This nerf appeared to fix an outstanding bug from the previous designer that fell through the cracks. While many raiders are upset about the nerf, the most common complaint seems to be about the time it took to fix it. Raiders have already defeated the encounter and it is unlikely to severely block those seeking the epic 2.0 spheres that Hanvar drops.
While the Hanvar nerf may seem like a very big deal to those currently working on epic 2.0s, it is unlikely to stay a big deal for long. Player power continues to go up so any upgrade to difficulty will simply keep Hanvar from turning into the next Qvic M'Shas. In a couple of months, people won't know the difference. How many people still complain about the Vulak nerf? From all accounts, Hanvar was bugged and finally got fixed.
Everquest is up for a star at the Walk of Games at the Sony Meteron in San Francisco. These stars celebrate the most influential games of our time. While Everquest no doubt often faces criticism, I can think of no other game I have played for this long and one that has had the most impact on my life. I can't think of a more influential game on that list.
Time to go trick or treating!
29 October 2005