Events, schmevents!

Or: Ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggity beasties.

I’m not usually a huge fan of events in MMOs. Let me qualify that: I used to be, and then somehow they got to be more of a chore than anything else. Much anticipated, much hyped within a game’s community, but then they roll around and you have to do eleventy-zillion things before zomg-time-runs-out!!11oneone! And somehow, imperceptibly, you slide from having fun at game events to feeling like you have to cover every last piece of an event with every damn alt (which for someone like me is a lot of alts) or you’re not getting your money’s worth, or your achievements’ worth, or whatever it is.

Happily, EQ2 is breaking that mould for me somewhat. For one thing, the events in EQ2 are either nice and long, or short and sweet but recurring. As an example, this year’s Hallow– wait, Nights of the Dead celebration runs from October 21st to something like November 9th; that’s almost three weeks to get your ghoul on which means that there is absolutely no hurry. Even the slackerishest slacker, like me, can manage to leisurely stroll at least ONE character through that in that kind of time-frame. As for the short-sweet-recurring ones, those would include the monthly Moonlight Enchantments event, which contains five different fairy-themed mushroom rings that you can visit with any or all of your characters, one at a time. Those only last something like 48 hours, if that, but if you don’t get there this month there’s always next month.

NotD app armourWhat’s even better about both of these events is that they offer kickass fluff rewards. (There might be useful rewards as part of the Nights of the Dead thing too, but that kind of stuff doesn’t tend to stick in my mind.) The Moonlight thingies let you collect tokens that you can use to buy a vast range of faerie/nature themed housing items, from grassy squares to full-size trees to pixie plushies, not forgetting various kinds of temporary mounts like leaf-strewn magic carpets or unicorns. The Halloween event includes a set of appearance-only armor, collection shinies that fight back, various housing items and all manner of other crafted, quest-rewarded, looted and clicked goodies.

Since it’s all fluff I feel no particular push to do them. I am doing them on various characters and I’m enjoying the events, but I don’t have this feeling that if I don’t run everyone through it, or run at least one person through everything, that I’ll be missing out. people_china_zIf there are any particular achievements linked to these events (other than the “Take part in seasonal events!” one) I’m not aware of them, which is just as well. There’s nothing quite as good for damping my enthusiasm than to have something be almost nothing but achievement-chasing — which was one of the things I really disliked about my brief return to WoW at the end of last year. That and the fact that suddenly the whole world and her dog was doing whatever event was going on at that time. Sure, people should do them and it’s fun to see people doing events alongside you, but when it’s the equivalent of rush hour at the beach I just end up wanting to pack up my plastic shovel and go home.

Not content to have had two events running concurrently, EQ2 has thrown in a few more for good measure. There’s the “find out what happened to that nice Erollisi goddess woman” event thingy, which is ooookay. The Plane of Love zone at the end might be fun, but I’ve only putzed around in it long enough to know that I was badly outclassed trying to be in there on my own; the quests that led up to that plane I found to be, frankly, extremely tedious, even if they did try to tell a story. For one thing the story was presented in massive chunks of NPC exposition, which is never the best way to present any kind of lore, and the quests themselves were of the run-back-and-forth across 8 zones variety that I’ve already railed about in the past. Pillar-to-post quest design is lazy lazy lazy, and if your story requires some kind of constant return to the quest giver then you should at least try to mix things up a bit so you’re not just doing A–>B–>A–>C–>A–>D–>A and so on. That’s just plain boring. All the same, even that event offers some fun but not must-have fluff/housing thingies, so you can be sure I’ll find a way to get through that zone someday.

Aside from all that eventy goodness, there’s something going on with the teleport spires that dot the Norrathian landscape, which is a nice nostalgic shout-out to those of us involved in the first spire-rebuild event some years ago. That one’s very quiet, but it’s still there and I’ve done a few repeating quests to earn some tokens to… buy more fluff items!

In any event (see whut I did thar?), the point is I can miss these things if they don’t appeal. I don’t think games should ever, ever,EVER hand out stuff that’s in any way important at these events, so that people don’t end up thinking they have to do them. Having to do a game event is like having to go to work for the holidays when you’d rather be on a beach in Maui — it doesn’t exactly fill a player with fuzzy feelings and enthusiasm. And yeah, I know, nobody is actually holding a knife to anyone’s throat in a game but if you make a reward required enough (by other stuff, by peer pressure, whatever) then you really are making something as close to compulsory as MMOs get.

So hand out fluff or hand out nothing — give out temporary rewards that make people laugh, give out decorations and appearance items and whatever else you can think of, as long as it’s more cool than important to have — that’s all fine by me. But most of all, make sure your events are FUN. Shockingly enough, that seems to be getting forgotten a lot of late.

Gotta go, I want to run the Haunted Mansion one more time! Got another vampire mirror to get!

Colourful is the new brown

When I decided to give EQ2 another go, I was sort of resigned to a world of strangely shrink-wrapped brown-ness (and strange character models, but I look okay to myself from the back so that’s not so bad). While the graphics are pretty good, they also used to be pretty dull, and not just in comparison with more stylised, hyper-saturated games like WoW.

Well, things have changed! While I’m sure much of the basic scenery is still what it used to be (I haven’t been anywhere yet!), I was very impressed to see that housing, housing items, mounts and who knows what else have taken a turn for the better. There are of course a zillion things in the game now that weren’t there when I last played 3 years ago, and there are lots of other things that have been vastly improved. Mounts, for one — my portly palomino was rather sweet, but he was square, big-butted even for a horse, and with really weird leg movement when seen from behind; now, however, he’s a lean mean transport machine, and it’s obvious the models have been seriously upgraded, since they look a lot more like horses now. I doubt I’ll ever be totally happy with horse animations in games, but that’s what I get for being aware of what horse movements look like; it’s mostly something I overlook as not being particularly important, unless it’s done especially badly.

Guild houses are new to me too. I was kindly invited to tour a “medium” sized one, which is only about one-third the size of Versailles but doesn’t give anything away in opulence. The small and large halls use the same textures but are, as you might guess, smaller and (WAY!) larger respectively. The large guildhall is the first in-game housing building I would say is much, much too large for any but the biggest guilds — any friends & family guild would just rattle around in there and never see each other for weeks. The medium, while pretty big, isn’t quite so intimidatingly huge; though admittedly it also doesn’t have a throne room, an indoor gazebo, a rooftop football stadium (or at least room enough for one), and a freaky monolith in the outsized exterior courtyard. Seriously… the large EQ2 guildhall is the McMansion of in-game housing. If you play and you haven’t toured one yet, I highly recommend it.

From a less rubbernecking-tourist perspective, I was impressed with the new textures and, obviously, the new colours. The guild halls aren’t a study in beige, tan, brown and “mud” and are much closer to Neuschwanstein’s throne room (see below — I’ve been there and yes, it’s got ornate bits on the ornate bits and more gold leaf than you can shake a stick at) than to the Ripper-era Whitechapel dives that clearly inspired most of Freeport’s slums. (Speaking of which, I only saw Qeynos guild housing — I have no idea what it might look like in other parts of Norrath.)

Since for once I remembered to take a few screenshots, I’m throwing them up here for the doubting Thomases who, like me, thought EQ2 will always be nothing but brown. It still looks like it’s been varnished when it rains (which may be the same kind of effect, but to me there’s no fooling the eye — when it rains in real life, the world looks wet, not varnished) but it undeniably looks better on the whole. Having a better graphics card probably doesn’t hurt either, but in that respect EQ2 might be living up to what it intended, and is ageing more gracefully than I expected.

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Serenely Seeking Sixth Screenshot

Spinks tagged me for this growing MeMe (read: me! me!), and while I’d like to think my ego is small and well-behaved, being namechecked turns it into a ravening Hulkish brute. That, and it’s a fun meme. The originator, incidentally, is here.

Like many others (as you’ll see if you follow the meme threads up and across and around), the screenies I have available on this machine are only the tip of the iceberg. Ah, if I’d known in 2000 or 2002 that I’d want my Asheron’s Call, EverQuest, and UO screenies… or my AC2 beta screenies… or even my Horizon beta screenies… Those were the days. Sadly, my occasional fits of deleting (because this comp only has a *cough* 80 gig hard drive) apparently led to my deleting screenshots with it, so I don’t even have my Vanguard or EQ2 or EVE screenshots anymore, and some of those were rather nice. Maybe by the time I’m 80 I’ll learn to have a little more foresight.

I’ve been taking a few WoW screenies since I’ve been back, but loads of people have much better ones, and I tend to take landscape shots more than anything else. For amusement’s sake though, the 6th screenie in my WoW screenshots folder is rather fitting, given the blog name. (It’s been cropped and resized.)

dead_aeternal

The for-real sixth screenie, though, I picked from my SWG screenies folder. It’s partly nostalgia (isn’t that what most screenshots are for?), but also partly to illustrate what cool things SWG let you do and other games should let you do, though in many cases the actual implementation could be improved.

tcp-lifeday-2007

It’s the sixth in a series of screenies I took that day — Christmas Lifeday 2007 at Galactic Senate city on Test Center Prime. The vegetation is the result of special Lifeday presents you could only open outside, that would cause a riot of wookiee-goodness plantage to flourish wildly for half a minute or so before disappearing. The rest is player-set decoration (or should that be player set-decoration?), the possibilities of which have expanded even more since the introduction of the Storyteller props & systems. The red-robed Wookiees are NPC “props,” for instance. (If you really need to know, I’m the Zabrak second from the right in the front row, with the baby Gurreck pet. That Kashyyyyyyk bantha isn’t mine, it’s just trying to sniff my butt.)

Now, I’ve done my share of griping about player cities in SWG, mainly because they abetted (if not caused) the progressive ghostification of the “real” cities and especially their cantinas, but then again there were many other things driving nails into that particular coffin (the increasing uselessness of the doctor profession as anything other than a buff-machine, and so on). Besides, the benefits of player cities were pretty enormous. I still have a wish-list a mile long for how those should have been done, one item on which would be allowing us to add ROADS or at least PAVEMENT so that our cities didn’t look like jumped up campgrounds plonked on the grass, but still… it’s a great and essential idea in principle. Fluff to the Nth degree.

And yes, fluff and player-driven stuff like housing, decoration, city-building and event-holding really DO promote community. They won’t create it for you, but they sure do make it easier. If you want to get a gathering together it’s a damn sight more fun (and attractive) to hold it at the Spanking Tusken Cantina in Spinksville, Tatooine, than to just mass up in front of the bloody starport. If you want people to lounge about and chat, it’s a damn sight easier to achieve if you have furniture players can *gasp* sit on.

Nostalgia isn’t always a waste of time, especially in MMOs. What we’re nostalgic for is (mostly) stuff that we really enjoyed, which makes it a signpost for future development.

But enough of the tomfoolery and MMOetaphysics. Now to try and get people who haven’t already been got… TAG, you’re it!*

— Melmoth AND Zoso from Killed in a Smiling Accident. Yes, you both have to do it.
— Pete S at Dragonchasers
— Wiqd at iMMOvation
— Ethic at Kill Ten Rats (not all of you — I’ll let other people tag the rest of your nefarious crew!)
— Sara at Symptom of a Greater Cure
— and last but not least, especially if it’ll make the bloody man post, Genda at Grouchy Gamer

PS: Not being tagged doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means my stabbing finger didn’t hit you when I was blindly poking through my blogroll. Can someone lend me some LCD-screen cleaning fluid?

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* Psst, if you’d like to be tagged and I missed you, just comment. Nobody said six was binding. I am not a number! I am a free meme!

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(EDIT — curse you, Spinks, unto the 6th generation! It’s all your fault that I’ve added about 73,239 (hyperbole? moi??) to my feed reader. Gah!)

(EDIT 2 — 6 tags just isn’t enough when you have a gajillion blogs linked and 100+ reader feeds. GirlIRL, you have been TAGGED! Git ‘er done!)