Mobhunter: The Reign of Zorillius

Things haven't slowed down in recent days. This year alone we've seen the War of Dreadlands, the release of Dragons of Norrath, the sixth year anniversary events, and the first class re-envisioning. It doesn't appear things will slow for some time. Today we will take a look at a few pieces of news, a few articles, and speak a little about "fun".

It appears our friend Robert Pfister has moved off to new horizons and Craig Knapp, also known as Zorillius, has become the Producer of Everquest. Craig's first Producer's Letter has a lot of interesting pieces of information.

SOE plans to instance the Plane of Time. We spoke about this at the first EQ Summit nearly a year ago and it was on their larger to-do list.

Time is popular because it drops a large amount of powerful gear in a single raid. It is a bottleneck not only for raiders but for just about everyone above level 65. There is no other way to acquire gear of that power in that short amount of time. Many argue that the work to reach Time is the cost of that reward but with the 85/15 rule in place, anyone can get into Time without any previous effort as long as they know the right people.

There is a lot of content tuned around Time level gear, not just raid content but single-group content. Once you hit a certain stage in the game, Time becomes the only viable place to upgrade your equipment to the point that you can hunt in places like Riftseekers, the Muramite Proving Ground Trials, or the Nest.

Offering equivalent gear elsewhere is a better alternative to instancing Time. I would rather see another revamp, perhaps a revamp of an instanced zone, that offers equivalent gear for a similar effort. I would also like to see Time-level gear become available to single-group hunters at the same rate it is received by Time raiders. We will discuss this more when we speak of Gemdiver's State of the Game article.

Based on long-standing raid rotations, the server merges have changed. Karana will now merge with The Rathe and Bertox will merge with Tholuxe Paells.

Due to popular demand, the names of merging servers will come from a vote rather than simply based on population. Depending on how they handle the vote, I would expect the results to be the same. If the original choice of the server title was based on active population, say the number of unique players who logged in within a week, and now they replace that with a vote over a week period for all unique players, one would expect the results to be the same. Anything can happen, however, and depending on what period of time the vote occurs, it could change the results.

Craig's letter also mentions plans to revamp the newbie experience and upgrade the look of some of the original EQ zones. This is something I think is critical to bring in new players and keep Everquest competitive with newer massive online games.

The key to this success comes from proper marketing. I outlined a few ideas in my "Five Steps to One Million Subscribers" article including offering the game on a free CD or DVD like AOL, and improving the initial user interface. Proper marketing of Everquest and selling it alongside Everquest 2 and Worlds of Warcraft could help fill in a lot of empty seats since last November.

I am happy to see new content for new players. The quest and mission system of Dragons of Norrath holds a lot of potential for all players of Everquest, not just the 50 to 70 crowd it currently targets.

SOE announced new Veteran Rewards last week. These seven features, one for each year a subscriber has remained active, include some shockingly good abilities. It appears that every player who has either played for a year or who will subscribe for a year to come will receive a 30 minute a day double experience bonus. This is a direct benefit to just about all players who play regularly, though it really helps players who only play for short bits of time every day.

Other abilities include a 100% res and corpse summon; a full mana and hitpoint refresh; two crazy buffing pets; short duration resist, statistic, and run speed increases; and a boost to heals and blasts. We will spend more time discussing each of the abilities once they go live in May.

My friend and debating partner (one might call him a master-debater *snicker*), Gemdiver, wrote an excellent article called the "State of the Game, Part 2". Gemdiver outlines two specific problems with the existing game: the focus on clerics and the equipment gap between raiders and non-raiders.

I agree with his detailed assessments on these two topics but I don't necessarily agree with the scope. I don't think the average active Everquest player, who I believe to be below level 60 has a continual requirement for clerics or sees the problem with high-end gear progression. I don't think fixing these problems will make or break Everquest for most players. I do, however, agree that both of these problems are large enough to warrant addressing. I think both of these problems far outweigh the problem of instancing Plane of Time.

At levels above 65, I think there is a large focus on groups requiring clerics. Places like Riftseekers, most of the Dragon missions, The Nest, MPG, and the MPG trials require a cleric in order to survive. In most places below these high-end zones, however, groups can probably get away with a druid or a shaman. We don't know exactly how the healing improvements to druids and shaman will play out but hopefully it will allow for a wider variety of successful groups.

Gear progression between raiders and single-group hunters has been a hot topic for me for nearly two years now. I have a few philosophies on this matter:

No single-group content should require raiding to access. This includes flagging but more recently includes equipment gaps. Riftseekers, the MPG Trials, and The Accursed Nest are single-group zones that require raid-equipped players.

All players should be able to improve their equipment through single-groups. This includes raiders. If raiders find the gear on the DON vendors to be underpowered, SOE should offer higher-end rewards that get all players excited about these missions. Likewise, single-group hunters should always have further avenues for equipment progression. There should always be higher-power gear for them to receive through single-group methods.

This topic could easily fill up an entire article so I won't dig into the problem here, but expect an article soon called "The Bloodwar" about the continuing war between raiders and non-raiders.

One last point, however. When guys like Gemdiver agree with guys like me on a topic like this, its probably time SOE began to listen. Something needs to be done to close the vast gaping chasm between single-group equipped players and raiders.

The gap must close.

When my mind begins to turn around this giant wheel of a topic, however, I always return to one thing: how does this relate to fun?

A recent post over on the EQ Live boards entitled "Thoughts of a... resting... EQ player" got me thinking about the larger scope of this topic: What is fun and what is not?

Believe it or not, I recently picked up and began playing World of Warcraft. I've barely scratched the surface of the game and I have no idea how it ends up in later levels, but it does give me another view of what makes MMOGs fun. While I won't get into specifics about "fun" now, I will ask that we, as players of Everquest, should continually focus on what we enjoy instead of worrying about statistics or re-envisioning or gear or class balance.

What matters is that we enjoy our time. What can we do to enjoy it more? What do we like? What do we not like? These are the questions that matter and it is this feedback that will really improve Everquest. Adding another 20 hitpoints onto an item won't make the game more fun.

Loral Ciriclight
18 April 2005