Mobhunter: On the Wings of Dragons

There was a lot of interesting news this week, so lets cut out the metaphorical introductions and cut straight into the news:

On Thursday of last week, a few folks from the EQ design team, along with Brenlo, the EQLive Community Manager, gathered over on the EQ Stratics chat server for a moderated and informal chat with players. Here are some tidbits:

Some of the designers work on developing missions using the new Dragons mission system both to learn how it works and to develop new missions. We will hopefully see this system used a lot in the future. Cultural armor can currently not be turned in for tribute. There are no plans for a new player character race and there are no plans to release new PC models anytime soon. There are plans to add functions to the in-game email system.

Let me spend a moment to talk about PC models. At the Guild Summit a year ago, SOE announced that they planned to release new player models by the end of the year. The plan, at the time, was to outsource the creation of these models to an outside company. As the year grew on and no new announcement came forth, it became less and less likely that this plan would happen. By the end of the year, it was clear that no new models would be released.

Now we can shout out, raising our fists in the air and crying foul, but little good will come from it. SOE wants new models for EQ as much as we do. They have heard our requests for new models and, unlike us, they know the cost. There is little use in poking a sore topic clearly addressed and understood by both us and SOE. Hopefully we will see models some day, but for now, we have what we have.

During the release of Dragons of Norrath, Brenlo began "Brenlo's World", a weblog-style set of articles over on his own private corner of the EQLive forums. The first set of these included a lot of pictures of the EQLive development team and a wacky yarn of the loss of his coffee cup. A few days later, Brenlo posted a controversial piece on the evolving world of Everquest and the reaction from old-school players as new features were added to ease the burden of travel for newer players. The article spawned a lot of heated conversation. More recent articles revealed another wacky yarn of Brenlo's top ten things he doesn't like about his job. These articles give us an interesting look on the insides of the shining building to the west and the people building our world within it.

Last week, SOE announced plans to migrate the first set of blue servers. On March 22nd, Antonius Bayle will merge with Kane Bayle retaining the name Antonius Bayle and on March 23rd, Bristlebane will merge with Solusek Ro retaining the name Bristlebane. It's a tough call on whether to keep the names of one of the servers or offer up a new name instead. While keeping one name makes the migrating server feel like a bunch of traveling hobos, it helps half of the players maintain their server identity. I don't expect this to be the last server migration we see in the next few months.

There has been so much talk about server mergers and server population over the last few months that I don't think such server mergers come as much of a surprise. Originally I felt that the discussion of mergers at all might create a mass exodus of people who feel that such mergers show that the game is on its way out. However, merging servers after the release of an expansion helps people realize that server consolidation doesn't mean the game is dead. Dying games don't release new expansions. Merging now is probably as good a time as any.

A lot of conversation surrounding the new bazaar layout hit the EQLive boards over the past couple of weeks. Most of the players commenting on the new layout don't like it. Universally, people understand that the new layout helps with lag and allows a lot more players to sell without getting in the way of one another. The complex layout of the two hubs and the webwork of corridors is a lot different from the familiar large warehouse style of the original bazaar. In the old bazaar, however, the only way I could ever find a trader was to hide traders and use "Find". In the new bazaar, I still have to use "Find" but now I don't have to hide the rest.

People don't always react well to change. Most of the criticism of the new bazaar will fall away once people get to know the new layout. Many people with whom I speak outside of the EQLive boards don't mind the new bazaar and enjoy the absence of video lag.

A few posters on EQ Live also mentioned the puzzling decision to separate the bazaar and barter zones into two separate zones. The barter zone over on Quellious sees little use. Brenlo stated that the reason to keep the two zones separate had to do with server load. I don't really understand how adding a new window into an existing zones would effect load, but I trust that SOE spent a lot more time thinking about this than I have.

Brenlo started two new threads on the EQLive forums asking for what they like and don't like about Dragons of Norrath. This is a good chance for players to offer their direct feedback on the expansion from their keyboard to the developers' eyes.

Three of the five new dragons of Norrath, Terranun, Rikkukin, and Yar'Lir, fell under the blades of powerful guilds. Blades of Wrath over on Torvonnilous defeated Yar'Lir and was the first guild to open up the Nest. Once open, the Nest becomes available as an open zone and as a new zone for single-group missions for all players. Guilds desiring raids in the Nest, must go through the rest of the progression including the deaths of Terranun, Rikkukin, and Yar'Lir.

Deep in his citadel of Anguish, the Overlord Mata Muram still rests easy on his throne.

Over on the Everquest 2 boards, SOE announced the new Mentor system. This system lets higher level players temporarily reduce their level to that of a friend or companion with whom they wish to hunt. This reduced-level character earns experience at the rate they would at the lower level, making it profitable to earn experience while still hunting with other friends. This is a huge and powerful advantage for gamers, and meets one of the biggest problems in MMOGs: friends out-progressing other friends. This Penny Arcade comic covers it better than I ever could.

So this raises the big question: how can we get this in Everquest? I argue that EQ, with its huge spread of level ranges, needs this feature a lot more than EQ2 at this point. No doubt with all of the percentage modifiers, multipliers, zone modifiers, and other mutations of level and experience over the past few years, it is much harder to add such a system to EQ, but such a system would do much to improve this game and bring in new players. As hard is it might be, SOE would do well to apply resources to it. Expect to see this on future evil agendas.

Loral Ciriclight
28 February 2005