EQ2 – Ch-ch-ch-changes*
MMO players don’t like change. Actually, people aren’t fond of change much, unless it’s change they’ve initiated and therefore welcome at least in part. But MMO players really don’t like change.
So when you yank out EQ2’s most hallowed and ancient (keyword: old) starting cities, there’s going to be a little outcry. The forum thread on it is already 15 pages long after 36 hours — which, while it’s not the 150+ pages such controversy would generate on the WoW boards, is s sign of pretty heated debate among the EQ2 community. Arkenor has weighed in on his blog with a pretty reasoned “gah! no!” — and even got a dev response from Greg Spence, lead programmer for EQ2. (Rawr Ark!)
Note — the cities aren’t going away. Just the Islands associated with them as newbie experience, and hence the opportunity to start in either of those two cities.
A quick comparison:
— Any of the newer starting zones (Timorous Deep especially but also Darklight Wood and to some extent Greater Feydark) provides better and more class-appropriate loot, more money, and more in the way of ongoing global storyline.
— The newer starting cities aren’t segmented into separate-zone compartments the way Qeynos and Freeport are. Now, while this can actually make it a pain in the ass to move around in the newer cities (or craft, for instance, when there are 85 other people in the zone with you) it does provide a much more connected feeling. I’m IN Kelethin or IN Gorowyn, and not just in some village or outlying quarter that’s norminally part of the town it’s in.
Admittedly this is a contentious issue. The Freeport and Qeynos “villages” — basically racial ghettoes, call em what you will — were part of those cities’ charm. They were also part of why moving around in those cities was a pain in the ass, but the charm thing was undeniable. You’d get funnelled to where your racial buddies lived and could settle there if you liked, or move to another village if you didn’t like. There are tons of EQ2 players who love the Willow Wood (the Wood Elf village) with a passion I’ll never understand. I think that place is twee and ridiculous to navigate. Personally, I’m fond of Castleview Hamlet. Point being, each village had character (or a slightly different shade of browny-grey muck on the walls, for Freeport). The newer cities are much more homogeneous.
Aye, and there’s the rub. We don’t like homogeneous. We want to stand out.
Even more fundamentally, as MMO players, we feel hugely threatened when stuff is taken out of our games. Putting stuff in — fine, that’s what we pay you guys for. Taking stuff out — whoa, what? No!
Doesn’t really matter what it is. But when it’s something that deeply affects the in-game identities of a bunch of players (especially the older (read: more committed to the game?) players), you can expect some pretty heated debate and WTFs.
I’m going to be on the fence on this one. I’ve gone through the Island newbie experience at least a dozen times in the last year, and I’ve been through the other cities’ newbie experience even more times (with the exception of Greater Faydark — I really dislike that starting area though detailing why would take a whole ‘nother post). I even have the pix to prove it:
The stories on the newbie islands are fun, and the experience did get streamlined a few years ago. There’s something appealing — to me, anyway — about being in a “safe zone” before you head out into the wider game world, though I suspect that’s actually a minority view. (“Sheeeit, just drop me into the action already. Make me start at level 20 too while you’re at it, m’kay? The game only starts at the level cap, right?”) On the downside, the money and items and general “this is how I fit into this freaking GINORMOUS game world” are kinda lacking.
Sure, you could fix that. Update the loot, update the money. But that takes time and real resources, which are at a premium in every single MMO team I’ve ever seen. And for all we know, maybe they’re doing just that but they don’t like to talk about it (kind of like working for charidee).
So while I’m not sure I like this change, because I’m an MMO player and I too dislike seeing stuff taken out, I kind of see why it’s being done. As I mentioned in the comments on Ark’s post, a lot of people that I’ve induced to try EQ2 over the last year have eventually given up at least partly because they couldn’t find a foothold, a direction to go in, an idea of what to do in a world that’s not quite a sandbox but still so damn huge people aren’t quite sure what to do with it when they first get there. A few more guidelines might result in a few more retained players — and EQ2 is really good enough that it deserves to retain some new players, even if it is getting a little long in the tooth here and there.
Now, on to the other change. Oh yes – not just one major thing, but two. I can imagine the EQ2 team getting out the asbestos knickers when they patched those things into the test server.
No more mounted combat.
Course, it’s never that simple. My gut reaction is “WTF? I’m going to be hopping on and off my damn horse every time I have a fight?!” Actually, I have a vague memory of that being exactly how it worked in some game or other (WAR? EQ2 in the old days?) and it was a pain in the visual ass. Seriously. Clip-clop, clip-clop, swing-sword, *poof horse*, kill mob, *unpoof (repoof?) horse*, clip-clop.
It’s about as ungainly, visually, as that was to read.
Then again, if it’s done smoothly and doesn’t have all the stupid little issues of which I could name 5 or 10 right off the bat — the main one being it happening when you really don’t want it to, repeatedly — maybe I can live with it. Many of the classes have some really cool combat animations (eg Monks, Bruisers) that just don’t show well off the back of a horse. (Hovering mounts are another matter, but NONE of my chars use those. I hateses them. They makeses me seasick.)
My take on this debate is simple: if possible, I’d like to have a choice in the matter. Let me turn that on or off. I understand that’s not likely to happen, but that’s how I’d like it. Hell, make mount-visible combat be off by default, but give me the chance to turn it back on if a) it won’t impact general resources too much (I gather it’s an issue in raids?) and b) I don’t care about seeing my monk do genuine crane kicks.
I’ll be interested to see what the upshot of the howling debates is, though I suspect it’ll be something like this: Qeynos and Freeport as starting cities will go away, because the initial experience they provide just doesn’t match up to the other places and you end up in a city that’s made up of a million little villages… and you end up wondering where the hell all the people in the game are. This is not good for a game in terms of first impressions. As for the mount thing… if the howling is loud enough it may get postponed, but if there’s some real graphical impact from doing this then it’ll get done. Maybe we’ll get the on/off switch somewhere down the road if the performance gains aren’t as noticeable as they’d hoped.
EDIT — The above fence-sitting notwithstanding, if they start removing some of the (admittedly myriad, but each unique and snowflakey!) classes, I’ll be at the front with my pitchfork and my torch. Just sayin’.
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*And if you know the Wonderstuff song this title came from, good for you. You must be almost my age. If it made you think of David Bowie instead, you’re even older. Suck it up.