Next week I travel west to the Las Vegas Fan Faire and to the second Everquest Summit. Once again I will bring my recommendations to help improve Everquest. Many of the items discussed in previous Evil Agendas have been addressed by SOE and it is my hope that these issues will be addressed as well.
This is by far the number one issue in Everquest today. SOE developers should do anything they can to help players find groups, build groups, and get groups off and hunting as fast as possible. Players below 60 have much greater trouble finding groups than those above 60. SOE should always look for ways to increase the pool of players looking for groups at all levels. Here are some specific suggestions to help improve grouping:
- Allow group invites across zones and from within the "Looking for Group" tool.
- Continue to focus on mission-based content. Missions are the best thing to happen to Everquest.
- Add missions for groups of three or four players instead of six.
- Add an in-game group scheduling tool to help players find groups during certain play times.
- Add better rewards to single-group encounters so raiders and non-raiders group together more often.
- Do not rely on soloing to solve the grouping problem.
SOE may also consider more radical approaches for players to group such as allowing searching for players in other zones, allowing players to automatically join a group, and allowing for cross-server groups for instanced zones.
Beyond any other issue, SOE should continue focus on helping players find groups, build groups, and have fun.
Dragons of Norrath gave us some of the best game mechanics in a massive online game but the beasts left much to be desired. In Dragons we met level 72 goblin kings unarmed and wearing loincloths, level 68 pumas that hit harder than Cazic Thule, and spiders - lots and lots of spiders.
I have watched gods die. I have killed vampire lords with my bare hands. I fought in the Ringwar of Thurgadin. I have traveled to outer worlds and to the deepest pits of hell. I shouldn't have to run from a puma. I am a level 70 high priest; make me feel like it. Add beasts worthy of my power and skill. Examples include cyclopses, death knights, demons, devils, dire beasts, ettercaps, ettins, greater elementals, giants, golems, gorgons, hell hounds, hydras, liches, lycanthropes, medusa, manticores, mephits, minotaurs, mummy lords, nagas, ogre mages, rocs, spectres, titans, vampire lords, wights, wraths, and wyverns.
No more rats, bats, spiders, pumas, or loincloth goblins for level 70s.
Fun monsters are only one part of this topic, however. The other part comes from varying the challenge of these encounters beyond hitpoints and melee damage output. Fighting a lich and fighting a giant shouldn't be similar encounters. Single-group monster challenges should have the same wide variety that raid encounters have.
As Everquest gets older the average level of players gets higher. As this average level increases, including methods so higher level and lower level players can hunt together, meet challenges, and receive rewards, becomes more important. Add a method so lower level and higher level players can group together, face challenges, and receive rewards. This will lead to a much larger possible player-base at any given level and allow friends who have different amounts of play time to continue to hunt together. While level-based systems such as the Mentor system of Everquest 2 work well, it is not the only way to accomplish this.
More and more players, both old and new, use the Plane of Knowledge as their central gathering place. Rebuild the Plane of Knowledge with new graphics, a new layout, new quests, and a new storyline. Make the Plane of Knowledge the City of Adventure with a new government and new ties to existing content. Build the city to prevent the video lag we receive in the current city. While this is no doubt a monumental job, the heavy activity in Knowledge, now and in the future, warrants the update.
Massive online game competition is fierce this year. Games begin to demand more and more of our time. Everquest remains competitive with all of the newer games and expansions like Dragons of Norrath offer features unseen in existing MMOGs. If EQ developers continue to improve grouping options, add new useful features, improve monsters, and update the core city, Everquest can continue to thrive for years to come.
1 June 2005