Mobhunter: The No-Patch Day News Roundup

I had hoped to post an article shortly after the latest patch would stream across our servers but a delay until next week forces my fingers to the keyboard a little early. There's been quite a bit of large news most of which we have already discussed at length. So today, we will see where all of these big changes stand.

A week ago, SOE announced the official dates for server mergers across all servers. Both my girlfriend and my friend, editor, and grandmaster-diaper-changer believed I was pulling their leg when I told them about SOE's announcement that all servers will be merging into half the number.

I was surprised to see the sudden announcement for all servers, but it makes sense. I always felt that the rip-off-the-bandaid-fast-so-it-hurts-all-at-once approach is a good one for something like this.

I would be lying if I said I read the 1400 posts about server mergers after the announcement of this topic, but a brief glance brings up a few common thoughts. 1. Servers are merging so Everquest is dead. 2. Servers are merging and we're losing our identity. 3. Servers are merging so how will I get my ph4t T1me l3wt.

Merging servers don't show the death throes of Everquest. A lack of new content, new expansions, or a lack of attention by SOE would show those death throes. The merging of the servers itself shows SOE's continued support to keep Everquest healthy. As long as new expansions come out, as long as new patches fix bugs and add features, as long as every class argues that they are the slapped-in-face red-headed step child of Everquest, the game is alive and well.

Identity is an important point in these mergers, however. I, myself, could not exactly say how I would feel if my server name were lost. It would be a pain to change my signatures and web sites all over the web from Quellious to Rodcet Nife, that's for sure. Server identity is important, though the real spirit is held within each member of that server. That isn't going away. I am reminded of flag-burning debates when I read about this. Is the symbol of the server name more important than the community it represents?

SOE clearly stated a couple of times that server mergers were based on active population, though many wanted a variety of other solutions to decide including the age of the server, the power of one god over another (Veeshan could kick Luclin's a55!!), and even barbaric duels in the arena. It was bad enough that I depended on uberguilds to open up the Nest, much less decide the fate of my server. Total population makes the most sense.

So what about Ph4t T1me l3wt? One solution brought up at the Summit a year ago, is to instance Time. I don't support this solution. The rate of dropping equipment in Time is based on a non-instanced zone, not an instanced one. Instancing Time would make it a tighter knot in the center of equipment progression.

Offering Time level loot in other areas, areas huntable by non-Time equipped hunters, solves this problem. For example, a second tier of loot on the Dragons of Norrath mission vendors with increased hitpoints, mana, foci, skill increases, and higher damage weapons, helps remove Time as a single dependency for equipment progression.

Such a solution helps raiders who wish to gear up but don't want to go back five expansions to do so; it helps close the huge power gap between single-group hunters and raiders; and it helps offer multiple paths for raid progression for up-and-coming guilds. It will remove the single required dependency on Time for progression both for raiders and single group hunters wishing to reach places such as Riftseekers, the MPG trials, and The Nest.

Needless to say, the topic of server mergers brought up thousands of conversations but if anything, the huge amount of activity shows that players care a great deal for such a big move.

Next week, SOE will release the first wave of class re-envisioning changes. A quick glance over to Lucy shows the details of many changes to a lot of spells, mostly in direct damage spells. Many classes will see an increase in overall damage to mana ratios if not a direct increase in damage per second values. Clerics, for example, saw a nice boost in magic blasters and a bigger boost to undead blasters. Now if I could only find some undead to blast.

Shaman picked up their pitchforks and torches in another wave of angst against a change that added a 30 second recast time to their new DON proc buff spell. Supposedly, the change helped prevent a single shaman from adding significantly to the overall damage of a raiding force, but with a one minute duration and a high mana cost, I don't know how big a threat this really was. In the mean time, adding a 30 second recast hurts its use in a group. The latest postings from Rytan on this topic offer a few possible alternatives including a group version of the spell or a version with a lower damage proc rate. The group version makes the most sense to me.

There's a lot of other interesting changes in next week's patch mentioned in the Test server patch message. It looks like we'll see some new Dragons of Norrath missions. New hotspots were announced, although they look strangely like the existing hotspots if my fading memory serves. Dragons missions will have their crystal rewards fixed - I'm betting the Gimblax mission will be worth about 10 crystals now. That poor goblin needed a vacation. There's a bunch of other smaller changes as well; it should be a nice patch.

On Thursday evening, John Smedley posted a letter on the state of all of SOE's games. He mentions that Alan Crosby, our own Brenlo, was promoted to Director of Community Relations. Looks like Moorgard got a new boss!

SOE will host the next Everquest Fan Faire on June 9th to June 12th. Again, I will re-envision the Loral Evil Agenda, decide what areas I feel SOE needs to concentrate on, and bully for it among the other summit representatives doing the same. I expect we will hear about the next Everquest expansion before this Fan Faire so there will be a lot to see. Now where did I leave my spock ears?

Loral Ciriclight
6 April 2005