Mobhunter: The Dangers of Progression, The Serpent's Spine, SOE's Vanguard

The Antonican bards lean against their trees, leather bags empty. Little news from the lands of Norrath crosses the desks of the fifty gnomish editors of Mobhunter, so we focus this article on what little news we hear.

The Progression Server

Many players paid much attention to the Progression server, coming in June. SOE sent out a press release containing previously reported details and announcing a release in June 2006. The server will be named "The Combine".

I worry that both players and Everquest developers place too much anticipation on the progression server. We still do not know how popular the server will be when players realize the tedium involved in things such as travel and corpse recovery. While many players complained about the Knowledge stones and feel the corpse altar removed the thrill of danger in EQ, we do not know if these same players will actually play instead of talk about it on the forums.

I for one still remember the tedium involved with long-term travel. I remember how awful corpse recovery was from failed Vox raids. I remember camping to chat and buffing each member of a raid at a time. I remember dying in some unknown area at a low level and having no idea how I would recover my equipment. I don't want to return to those days.

I wrote an article for Caster's Realm late last year called "Why a Classic Server is a Bad Idea" and I feel that many of the points are still valid.

SOE has spent six years coming out with improvements to Everquest. While not every improvement has been positive, many of those that were will be locked on the progressive server. All of those positive features, all of those improvements, will not be available for some time.

Time will tell whether the progression server is popular or not. I will keep a keen eye on it and, for the effort spent developing it, I hope it succeeds in its goal to draw more players back to EQ.

The Serpent's Spine

Rumors on the EQ Live forums and some investigative work by those with far too much time on their hands, has revealed the likely title for the next expansion: The Serpent's Spine. No other new information has been revealed except that SOE designers stated that while level 80 is not entirely out of the question, it is much more likely to increase the level range to 75. Given the difficulty in creating new items, disciplines, spells, and AAs at each level, and the great amount of new content discussed in the new expansion, we are very likely to see the cap at level 75, not higher.

Vanguard co-published by Sony Online Entertainment

In surprising news and resulting in a great gnashing of many sets of cynical teeth, SOE and Sigil Games Online announced that the two companies would co-produce Brad McQuaid's Vanguard: Saga of Heroes massive online role playing game.

While this stirred up great controversy, the outcome is likely not nearly as exciting.

Since Everquest, Sony Online Entertainment has acted as a sort of service provider for other massive online games. By consolidating resources such as technical support centers, data centers, backup and recovery, network connectivity, and in-game support, SOE can support a wider range of games much cheaper than any single company could on its own. We saw this recently with Matrix Online, added to SOE's extensive collection of MMOs including Everquest Online Adventures, Everquest 2, and Planetside.

Moving Vanguard to SOE makes sense if any game hopes to have any longevity. By running many games off of the same resources, SOE can afford to keep games alive much longer than a company producing only a single game. Expect to see more massive online games falling to one or two MMO service provider companies.

None of this speaks to any change in the direction of Vanguard or Everquest. The development teams are still separate and exclusive in their focus and direction.

Such ends the news for this period of slow news. Our spies will keep their ears open for any vibrations in Mobhunter's great web of information and pass along any such vibrations to you, our dear readers.

Loral Ciriclight
16 May 2006