Monday, December 22, 2008

There And Back Again

With Station Access canceled, and EQ1, Vanguard and SWG removed from our computers, we did decide to reactivate LotRO for the time being. They had advertised this deal where if you got their recent Moria expansion for $29.99, the monthly subscription would be $9.99. But it turned out that was an error that founding members were viewing this pricing. But after talking to a rep on the phone, they did honor the $9.99 deal. Anyone who was a founding member at the $9.99 rate will have to call Turbine to reactivate. There is some bug in the system when you try to reactivate your account online. But no big deal. After being on hold for a few minutes, they were pretty quick at resolving the issue.

I have heard a lot of good things regarding the Mines of Moria and would really like to experience it, but the expansion is for 50+ and our alts we left behind were 39. While we could grind them out some levels to catch up, neither one of us liked our classes nor the server we were on. The tank and healer combo served us well in other games, but not here. His guardian and my minstrel were very ineffective. We killed slowly, his taunts never worked well, and once I was getting hit, I couldn't channel off heals. So we died often.

But the expansion brought with it a new version of the tank and healer, the warden and runemaster. The wardens use this new gambit system where using combinations of attacks opens up new attacks. It's a bit more complicated than their previous classes and involves some memorization regarding knowing what combos activate what. The runekeeper can play the role of healer or damage dealer, or do both less effectively. The more you heal, the more powerful your heals become. The more you hurl damage spells, the more powerful they become. If you go back and forth between the two in a fight, neither are very powerful. There is an attunement bar that shows your current effectiveness for both abilities.

So we started fresh on the Landroval server. The community seems very nice and the general chat channel is usually pleasant, more so than EQ2 general chat. Low level areas are still very active and I see people everywhere. The early level money frustrations are still there. When you only have 25 silver, 5-15 silver horse travel, 6 silver repairs, and several silver to train is really steep. So we'll be hoofing it for awhile and just letting our armor decay. I'm trying to avoid the things that annoyed me previously. I'm not going to grind mobs for traits and no pie delivery quests while trying to avoid hungry hobbits.

I took a jog over to the various housing zones. I won't be able to afford even the small home for awhile, but the neighborhoods were very nice. There are four housing areas, each racially themed (dwarves, elves, hobbits and humans). You are not restricted to your own race's community, but can only have one home per account. Supposedly it's cheaper to repair in neighborhoods and you receive a direct gate there. It seemed similar in some ways to DAoC housing. Your items you place in the home are limited to certain hook spots, and you can place trees and such outside your home.

I don't know if we'll last long enough to hit 50 and see Moria, but at the moment it's a nice occasional diversion. Here are some shots from the housing instances:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

RMT Has Arrived in EQ1&2

Servers in EQ2 came down this morning to patch in SOE's new Station Cash which they are offering in both EQ1 and EQ2. After you have added cash to your account with your credit card, you can then purchase items in game using the new Marketplace tab.

I took a look at the few items they have. It was certainly nothing game breaking and included some ugly appearance armor sets, experience potions and some pets.

Part of me isn't bothered since I could care less about any of these items. Maybe they are just breaking us in gently before adding the nice stuff. But considering how stingy they are with character slots, and many of us are already paying $30 for Station Access just for more alts, another part of me is annoyed. But I guess it was just a matter of time.

TCoS - Not Looking Good For US Players

While news that Acclaim would be the US publisher for The Chronicles of Spellborn was a disappointment for many, their non-informative, uninspired website is even more disappointing.

The artwork links lead to empty pages and the forums are generally empty with much moderator locking going on. Their website looks like something you'd see three years before a game is released, not weeks before. Europeans have had to deal with crappy publishers in other games so I guess it's just our turn. :P

Considering the download will be free, I still intend to try it. Hopefully, their servers function better than their website.

EQ2 - Working the System

One of the fun aspects of EQ2's mentoring system is being able to participate in lower level content with friends but as a more powerful character. Even though technically you are at the reduced level of whoever you are mentoring, you still retain a portion of your higher level abilities.

Since the dungeons in the latest expansion could not be completed by many casual players, the mentoring system has been put to use. It was assumed that bringing in a lower level member to mentor would make the dungeons more manageable. Unfortunately, the dungeons didn't scale down well initially, and the level 50 mobs were hitting like level 70 mobs. So players unmentored, making the mobs gray to complete the missions.

While some complained on the forums about this, it didn't seem to really be too much of an issue since you can only do each instance once a day, meaning it will still take weeks to have enough shards for one piece of armor. And with mobs being gray, there are no drops to be had. We've been doing some guild runs but some members have already lost interest. While the dungeons were interesting to figure out and see the first time or two, after that it's just a repetitive grind to get shards.

But the option to obtain shards this way may soon not be available. Seems people have been selling space to enter cleared dungeons for lots of platinum. While this sort of thing has been going in EQ2 for years and really is nothing new, devs have stated on the forums they are looking into this situation. If they remove mentoring capabilities completely from TSO dungeons, there will be a lot of unhappy players.

My hope is that they tweak down at least 3 of the 20 dungeons so they are manageable for casual players. By casual I mean wearing mastercrafted gear and not having the absolute perfect group setup. We are running these with a full group -- one healer, three tanks, and two dps. We're told we need to dump the two other tanks for another healer and dps. I'm not dumping anyone. A full group with a tank and healer should be enough for a dungeon crawl. I don't think anyone really enjoys doing these dungeons gray, so I really do hope they come up with some other options.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

AIR - Steampunk Online RPG

"Picture the Earth, post apocalypse. Land has been broken and thrown inexplicitly into the aether, and there hangs a world of floating cities - islands in a sea of clouds.."

That's a description of a new indie steampunk game in the works, called AIR. Players will be able to sail the skies as a sky pirate, naval officer, or mercenary. Other professions include Eyot Miner and Farmer, Tinkerer, Chemist, Scientist, and Noble. No screenshots yet or much other information.

Captain Robert of Abney Park will be doing the soundtrack. I love these guys. Can't wait to see how this develops.

Monday, November 24, 2008

EQ2-Shadow Odyssey Impressions

While my beta experience wasn't favorable, I was still hopeful some modifications might have been made after I left. So I set out to experience all aspects of the most recent expansion, except for raiding.

Moors of Ykesha - This is considered to be the outdoor solo zone. It's separated into three main areas. Normally, EQ2 travel involves zoning, but the Moors is one mega zone with no zoning involved. And this approach has been causing some problems. For many, this area is unplayable due to lag and delays. Fights are taking forever as you stand there not moving unable to do anything for seconds at a time.

The quests do have you running long distances back and forth but many have been fun to complete. Several involve using illusions to gather information from the hostiles. There are three factions you are working for. I have not seen any armor or weapon rewards, but have received some upgraded charm slot items. I'm assuming the intention is you work through the dungeons if you want armor. Also, the only purpose I've seen so far to gain faction is to purchase furniture recipe books.

While it is considered a solo zone, I've been hearing a lot of grumblings in guild from people attempting to do so and several have given up already. Many areas are jam packed with mobs making it more difficult to solo. And they dot you to death. I have never seen mobs constantly stacking up the dots like these. They root you, stun you, and put all sorts of nonsense on you. And if you cure it, it's immediately put back on. This part is a bit annoying. My husband and I have been duoing, so it's not been so bad for us. But I have seen very few soloers running around. Most have been guild groups. Overall, we're having a decent time doing the quests. With the new achievement points they've introduced, it's the most efficient way for our level 80's to gain more points.

The Dungeons - There are 20 new dungeons and they had been rated by difficulty from easy, moderate or hard and some in between. This is assuming you are raid geared. For casual players the rating is extremely hard or forget about it. We ventured with a full group into one of the "easy" dungeons. We picked up a mission to acquire four items. While there were some neat DDO type aspects like traps and solving puzzles, the mobs themselves were just too much to handle. Three hours and multiple deaths later, we had only one of the four items. Folks started saying they either had to go or needed to repair so we split up and left to lick our wounds. I logged back in a few hours later and one guild member asked if we wanted to try again. Everyone responded "no" and discussion followed about how the casual players got the shaft here. We all felt so inadequate. Our guild's intention was to run dungeon instances one week night and every weekend. But we're done. These dungeons clearly weren't intended for us.

Some people have been working around this by having a second account with a lower level. Everyone mentors the lower level and then unmentors once in the dungeon so the mobs are grey. They don't get experience but they get their shard for completing the mission. We shouldn't have to work around the system this way. Some had returned to EQ2 recently thinking we'd be getting an LDoN type experience. What a huge disappointment.

Crafting Missions - Ok on to something more positive. There is a new faction and they are stationed on the Isle of Mara. You can do a solo mission for them once a week and a group mission once a day. You receive a token and save them up to buy mounts, recipes, or crafting armor. The intent was that crafters would get together to work on these, but I have yet to see anyone asking for groups or looking for more in the crafting channel. I did my first crafting mission with some guild mates. We were stocking up some troops to beef them up for this battle that was taking place as we crafted. Upon completion, a big fight took place and a chest dropped with crafting related goodies. True to my usual luck in MMO's, I walked away with none of it. The next day I enlisted hubby to do one with me and will likely just go that route so I can at least get something from it. My guess is others are soloing them to be sure they get something. It does take longer to solo, about three hours I hear, but it can be done. Would be nice if other aspects of the game worked this way.

For crafters, this is the best expansion to date. For the well-equipped more hardcore, they are likely having fun in the dungeons. Since they are already geared up, not sure what they will spend those shards on though. For the casual soloer, you might be able to solo in the Moors depending on class. For the casual grouper, nothing to see here; move along.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meaningful Solo in MMO's

Not a week goes by where I don't see a remark somewhere on some forum that the current trend of soloing is ruining MMO's. But I think they have it all wrong. In comparison to older titles, the more recent ones are actually less solo friendly.

Let's look at EQ1, what many consider to have been the ultimate grouping game. A good portion of folks I knew there soloed at some point. Every one of my alts soloed, of course some better than others. It took a long while to kill something, your experience bar didn't move much, and maybe you had to stick to green/light blue mobs. But it was done. Typically, I'd go to a zone and start soloing. If someone shouted out that they were looking for more, I joined in. If someone shouted looking for a group, I invited them to join me and eventually more would join. While leveling was still slow, grouping took some of the tedium away and just made things more enjoyable overall.

In more recent titles, leveling speed is increased and quests often yield more than the kills. It's not efficient to group since many are on different quests. And forming up groups is more tedious than just going out and getting it done on your own.

All that's changed is leveling speed, color of mobs you can take on, and the introduction of quests. But there's one major difference in current titles from prior. There is no meaningful solo content anymore. In EQ1 there were numerous dungeons that could be soloed, many with placeholders for named mobs that dropped nice items. This wasn't exclusive to dungeons though. Named mobs could be found in outdoor zones as well, if you didn't mind camping a spot to get them to spawn. In DAOC also dungeons and named mobs indoors and out could be soloed, both for armor and trophy heads which could be mounted and placed in your home. I didn't have the best gear and didn't always have the best solo class. But there were meaningful things for me to do on my own while out adventuring. Even SWG was more solo friendly pre-NGE than it is today.

In the current games I've played, you solo strictly to level. It doesn't lead to eventual groups and usually gains you nothing but experience. Anything meaningful, and what I consider to be fun, requires groups, usually full ones at that. And they are organized events, not chance encounters while you're out and about. Occasionally you might meet someone on the same quest. You group up for a few minutes to get it done and then part ways. So come to think of it, not only are current games less solo friendly, but also less group friendly.

So soloing has always been around. It's just not very fun anymore.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dungeons & Dragons Online - New Player Revamp

DDO has launched Module 8: Prisoners of Prophecy. Along with a graphics engine upgrade, a new wilderness area, and some high level dungeons, they have added the following:

- Enhanced New Player Experience: To support a more story-based and friendly introduction to the game and make DDO more accessible to players unfamiliar with the 3.5 Edition rules-set, we have created a completely new starter experience. Players will now have the option to create well-built characters based on their play style without needing to assign any stat or skill points, or select any feats or spells. Subsequent characters created on the account will have the option to skip the tutorial, and will gain relevant XP and rewards as if they had completed it.

- Introducing Hirelings: Hirelings is a huge new system designed to improve the solo play experience in DDO by letting players contract henchmen to help them in their adventures. Hirelings are player controlled NPC combatants with a given class, level and personality that can be contracted to aid a player in the dungeons of Stormreach. Players can contract with one Hireling of their level or lower for a few hours at a time, or until the adventure they are playing is complete. This massive new system will be introduced to players through a series of live in-game events after the launch of Prisoners of Prophecy.

Although I had heard of D&D, I had never played it and was not someone familiar with the rules and the die rolls. I had to do a lot of reading to figure out how to set up my character. My husband wasn't too keen on DDO during our trial, particularly since we really couldn't duo anything past the first few dungeons. But I enjoyed it enough to subscribe for a couple months afterwards. I did join in on some pickup groups of experienced players whom had already been through the dungeons so raced through them rather quickly. I really felt like a noob in this game though. If I could have convinced my husband to join me and perhaps join a guild, I think I might have enjoyed it for awhile. So I think the new player experience change is a good thing, making the game a little less intimidating for those unfamiliar.

The hirelings system seems to be the new trend. Considering we couldn't duo, not sure how well a hireling will benefit a soloer unless the game has changed since I played. But I'm curious enough to see how well it will work for a duo. I'm going to resubscribe at least for a month to see these changes firsthand and maybe I can convince the other half to finally explore it with me.

I'm not sure at this stage of the game if it's enough to bring in players. But their timing is pretty good. There's a lot of discontent right now with the new releases this year, so some will likely at least be willing to try it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

EQ2 - The Shadow Odyssey

It's been about a week since the NDA was lifted for EQ2's upcoming expansion. I thought I'd hear more buzz about it as I had for prior expansions, but things have been pretty quiet, except for complaining on the forums.

I was in the beta for this expansion and personally was extremely disappointed. First, there is the overland solo zone, Moors of Ykesha. You access this zone from an airship in Sinking Sands, which was actually pretty cool the first time I saw one. The zone itself I didn't find particularly attractive and was confusing to nagivate. It's sort of like Sinking Sands but with rocks instead of sand. The mobs start at level 76 and will serve as a way for level 80's to obtain achievement experience so they have points to spend in the new achievement lines.

Some classes will gain some nice damage increases from the new achievements. For my mystic, they were a bit uninspiring...2% more to this buff or this heal, etc. And to get to that point, I have to spend a lot of prior points on unnecessary things. The one nice ability though was the achievement granting the chance to gain additional harvests while out harvesting.

There are 20 new dungeons. You gain a shard for completing the dungeon and accumulate shards to purchase legendary gear. We were given fabled gear to test the dungeons so difficulty was adjusted according to fabled testers. I'm not sure what the logic there was. Anyone who has fabled won't need the legendary except for some filler pieces here and there. Those who would want the legendary gear are in mastercrafted/treasured, but the dungeons will be difficult to complete in that gear. I was a huge fan of LDoN in EQ1. This is no LDoN where you could complete one with three people or an all beastlord group (now that was fun). These are full group difficult dungeons requiring all the necessary classes to succeed. In beta one piece of armor required about 10 shards; however, we were told the requirement would be doubled or tripled for the expansion. So expect to do 20 to 30 dungeons to acquire one piece.

The expansion seems to me to be an overreaction to the complaints about last year's expansion being too solo oriented. We do plan to attempt them with our guild to try to gear us up. So we'll just have to wait and see if we can actually complete any. Once people have a few pieces and have done them 50 times though, I think it will be difficult finding full groups to do them. The one or two that are determined to be easier than others will still get some traffic for awhile, while 10+ dungeons will sit empty, much like most Kunark dungeons are empty.

I think anyone who enjoyed the KoS expansion will probably enjoy this one. I'm not a fan of KoS and never go there. My favorite expansion so far has been EoF. There was content from 1-70, a new starting area, and the zones were beautiful. I pretty much do all my leveling exclusively in these zones. With so many expressing disappointment with this expansion, there's lots of talk on what the next expansion might bring instead. Looking at what zones from EQ1 are still missing in EQ2, there's some speculation that maybe it would be the continent of Odus with Paineel and Erudin as new starting areas. At least that's how I hope they would offer those cities, instead of what they've done to poor Kaladim, Ak'Anon and Felwithe.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Conan in LotRO

I was always amazed by some of the performances I came across in LotRO.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

World of Gatheryn

I just caught word of a new multiplayer online world in the works called Gatheryn. The setting is Victorian era with elements of fantasy. Rather than what most consider to be a typical mmo, this seems to be a combination of mmo, virtual world, and Myst. There are lands to explore and quests which involve mini-games and puzzles, rather than slaughter. You will have a home which you will be able to furnish. But all is not peaceful, as the background story involves the struggle of the people to free themselves from the powerful overlord.

The screenshots so far are very nice. Although the information available is pretty limited right now, it definitely looks to be something quite different from anything else out there. I'm not a puzzle type person, but this has piqued my interest enough that I'll be keeping my eye out on this one.

Carebears vs. PvP'rs - The Final Showdown

Errmm ok not really. But the developers of Crusades sure seem to think so. Here's a snip from a recent interview:

"Carebear players might form large guilds in order to protect their cities. We all know how much time they spend crafting. Thus, they will most likely have the best crafted items which the PvP'rs will enjoy looting (if they can) and that will force the Carebears to unite and fight, or perhaps hire the best PvP'rs to fight. Within an infinite universe setting, confrontations for territory and resources may escalate into major battles between the two player-styles. The current speculation is that PvP'rs may not survive. PvP'rs need to work with the Carebears to obtain the best weapons, planetary defenses, and spacecraft, and Carebears won't tolerate being attacked everywhere they go. Thus we have a potential Yin & Yang per say, where Carebears vs. PvP'rs could develop into a final showdown. Personally I think it is long overdue, and it could make for some interesting gameplay. But only the players may answer the question as to who would win."

Since when does carebear = crafting? They are correct though about one statement they made. As a card-carrying member of my local Carebears Union, it is true that I will not tolerate being attacked everywhere I go. However, my solution to that is not to unite and fight or hire someone to fight for me. It's to not play in the first place.

Aside from the PvP, they do have some interesting elements, some of them reminiscent of pre-NGE SWG. It will be a player-based economy, there will be player-run cities, and rather than levels it will be a tier-based skill system. Similar to Guild Wars, there will be one server and you will be able to hire NPC henchman. Release date currently planned for 2009.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As We Approach Election Day

I have my own political opinions which I won't share here, but as a fan of Dancing With The Stars, this gave me a chuckle and I just had to share:

TCoS - Small Groups and No Raiding

Over a year ago I had The Chronicles of Spellborn listed as one of my anticipated games. But as I read more about it, it seemed to be a PvP-focused game so I dropped it from my radar. However, I came across the following recent post from TCoS staff:

"So far for PvE biggest group is 4 people and we do not intend to increase it, so far for PvP biggest group is 8. We also do not intend to have EQ/WoW style raids - that sort of thing where you need numbers to be able to do it."

I may just have to try this out after all. My biggest gripes with EQ2 have been the full-group requirements for dungeons as well as the trickle down effects of raiding. We tried to do a Kunark dungeon with four guildmates last week. The mobs were seven levels below us and we couldn't do it. Our gear just wasn't good enough. I hear raiders can solo this dungeon, but four of us in regular gear couldn't. And with the upcoming expansion being centered around dungeons, I'm guessing I'm not geared well enough for that either. Just as in EQ1, I anticipate the expansions will continue to get more difficult with raid/instance gear in mind, and the casual players will get further and further behind.

Honestly, I've been so annoyed with this aspect of EQ2 lately that if it weren't for the guild, I wanted to just cancel and uninstall. But really, where is there to go? I might have tried out LotRO again with the upcoming Moria expansion. But with TCoS coming out in a month, I plan to give this a try now. While originally there was just one server type, due to popular demand they have added a FFA PvP server. So maybe it won't be quite so bad on the other servers as the gankers have found a new home.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Nice Place to Visit, But Would I Want to Live There?

Sometimes there are those stressful days where I'd just like to escape it all, climb through the looking glass monitor, and settle down in Norrath somewhere. Maybe a cabin hidden in the forests of Greater Faydark or a homestead in the fields of Antonica.

There are some games that elicit that feeling. I look around the world and think "Yep, I can live here!" I have to wonder if that's been a big part of why I enjoy one game over another. When I think back on the games I most enjoyed, they all had that livability factor. Not only is the world pretty, but my character felt connected to it.

I experienced this in EQ1, EQ2, DAOC, SWG, Anarchy Online, and WoW to a lesser degree. I'm sort of on the fence with LotRO. But with Vanguard and more recently Warhammer, I just didn't feel part of the world. I had this feeling like I was a visitor just passing through.

I don't know if it's a gender thing, an age thing, or maybe it's just me. But I need to have a home base in my MMO. And as much as all MMO's are pretty much all about slaughtering things, I need to have a peaceful home and safe haven there. In Vanguard, while you had a starting home, there was little reason to visit again once you left and it was too dang far to travel to anyway. From then on, you just move from outpost to outpost with no connection to anywhere. In Warhammer also you have this movement from outpost to outpost. While there was the main city of Altdorf, it was a long trip that I rarely made and even the city wasn't safe. And when I envision setting a house down anywhere in the Warhammer world, my first thought is that it would be burned to the ground within hours.

I have a feeling this is likely the trend of future MMO's. Rather than town heroes, we're nomads traveling down the one and only path.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Guild Hall Decorating

What a busy few weeks it has been! Along with some things at home keeping me busy and a couple of betas I've been squeezing in some time for, the guild halls have taken up a tremendous amount of time. Most of it is done but still much tweaking to do as ideas continue to pop in my head. I'm definitely not as talented as most of the decorators I've seen out there, and it can take me days of staring at a room before something finally hits me.

While we had the money to obtain the level 50 guild hall, I was a little worried about the weekly maintenance and how we'd sustain it. But the guild came through and almost half the members donated both money and status, a few quite generously. The size is just perfect for us. What with the costs of the level 70 hall, as well as the lag I hear many complaining about there, we have no intention of upgrading when we hit level 70.

The halls have made game play so much more convenient. While you used to just have one gate ability with an hour refresh, you now also have a guild hall gate with a 15 minute refresh. Gone are the boat rides, waits for spires, and multiple zonings. We have just about all the portals and bells and can get places quickly now. The tradeskill stations are all there, as well as the writ givers and vendors. So it's been nice to be crafting alongside guild mates I usually rarely saw.

Here's just a couple pictures to share. The first here is the entry room. That center device is hard to see here but is an orrery with planets rotating around it.

We have a recreation room off the entry that has a gambling area as well as the bar here with some clickable kegs with free drinks. Watch out for the big keg behind the bartender. The effects from that one take along time to wear off!

One of the first things a few guild mates asked for was a spa, so that was one of the first rooms I worked on downstairs.

I think the halls have been a wonderful addition to the game. But it has had both positive and negative effects on our guild and I'm sure others as well. Our members have built stronger relationships because of the halls. It's a central meeting point regardless of race. And we've all been having a blast hanging out together. But for those that had alts spread across multiple guilds, I think it has put some pressure to stick with one guild. Most would prefer to donate status to one guild hall rather than several, so we have seen some departures for larger guilds. But we anticipated this might happen so were prepared for it.

At the moment we're closed to general visitors, but may change that in the future. But if anyone wants to stop in, don't hesitate to give a holler and I'll add your name to the visitor list.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Well That Was Quick

Here I thought I would be making some gaming compromises but hubby has informed me he's lost interest and won't be subscribing to WAR after the free month is up. I kinda wish he realized this in beta before buying our two boxes.

As many have blogged about, I think WAR is a game where you get the most out of it being in a guild. I think if he had a large group to pvp with, he might have stayed longer. And having a good population is important even for pve. When we first started, it was early morning and all servers were low. So we randomly picked one. Our server choice stayed on low for days after, and there was never anyone around for public quests. So we started over on another server. Having people around definitely makes things more fun.

For my play style, I felt a little confined. Zones felt small and jam packed with aggressive mobs. The explorer in me was getting claustrophobic. And for some weird reason I'd start getting sick to my stomach after a few minutes of playing. I'm prone to motion sickness. The warg mount in EQ2 had this certain rolling movement to it that used to make me sick as well. But I never could figure out what it was that was causing it here just from general game play.

I think WAR has been done well, but doesn't offer what I'm looking for. But I've always loved Mythic as a company back when I played DAOC and cheer Mark Jacobs for his stance on gold farmers (go get 'em Mark!). So I really hope they succeed and the game continues to do well.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Guild Halls on Test

I thought it was about time I paid a visit to the test server. I just had to see the guild halls before they go live. The entry room of the level 50 Qeynos guild hall looks like this:

Originally, it was planned to be a 10-room hall. But if I added correctly, there are 13 rooms now. I thought they were beautifully done and just a perfect size for our guild. The amenities have been reduced somewhat as well, making it a little more affordable both to purchase and upkeep.

The level 30 guild halls, which originally were just existing 5-room houses with amenities added to them, are now smaller versions of the level 50 halls and quite nice as well. This is great news for the smaller guilds.

I did pay a visit to the level 70 guild hall. While the entrance is impressive, the layout was confusing and it was difficult to find your way around. I never thought I'd say it, but I actually prefer the level 50 hall. I think they've done a great job on the halls as well as a great job taking in the player feedback and making adjustments.

Along with guild halls, they've also increased experience gains from levels 20-70. While many aren't happy with the change, a lot of folks do seem to get stuck in the mid levels. I think this will help some with player retention. Also in the next couple updates they will be adding experience bonuses for players with alts at the level cap. For every maxed toon you have, you get a 10% experience bonus for all your other toons, up to a maximum of 50% bonus. Time to get my 70-somethings closer to 80!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MMO Compromises

Playing with your significant other sometimes means compromises. We got our start in EQ1. While we were there for four years, I was quite ready to move on to something else. It's a game that I felt was very stressful on our relationship. When I heard EQ2 was being released and would be more casual, I packed my bags and moved. He wasn't quite ready to leave, but since I wasn't there and most all of our friends had moved on already, he did join me in EQ2.

He enjoyed himself reasonably enough in EQ2, but I wasn't happy there. I didn't like the access quests, the class quests, the crafter dependency, the group death penalties, among other things. After a couple months I moved on to World of Warcraft. He stayed a few weeks longer, but eventually joined me.

We reached level 60 after several months and I then moved on to SWG. I hooked up with some old friends from EQ1 there, and after watching me play for a few days, he left WoW behind as well. We both talked about trying something else after several months so we moved onto DAOC from there. After a year there with several maxed characters, we heard EQ2 had made some changes and decided to head back there.

When I heard LotRO was coming out, I knew I just had to try that. I was a huge fan of both the books and movies. While we were in beta, my husband knew fairly early on it wasn't for him. I kept hoping it would get better. But he stuck it out with me for five months before he decided to go back to EQ2. So I went back as well.

Aside from the games listed above, there were a few others I tried that he pretty much hated after the first day and just refused to play with me (CoH, DDO, Horizons). But aside from those few instances, if you noticed a trend here, my husband has been the one doing much of the compromising. So after returning to EQ2 for the third time, I decided to settle in for the long haul, as there likely wouldn't be another PvE MMO that offered so much that suits my interests.

But lately, he's been the one getting bored. He'd been trying to get me to play EQ1 again with him for several months. I tried on several occasions, but I can't play that way anymore. There is just nothing fun about it for me. And with all the cursing and banging of keyboards going on next to me, I have to wonder if he really is enjoying himself or enjoying a memory.

And then we spent a few days in the Warhammer Online beta. Although I knew it wasn't a game for me, I saw him enjoying himself. So now it's time for me to do some compromising. I'm still committed to EQ2, particularly because of the guild, but I will be dividiing some of my time up to spend in WAR with him. I'll be playing a healer type on Order. While I preferred the appearance of the warrior priest, I enjoyed the play style of the arch mage and rune priest better, so still undecided. He'll be playing the ironbreaker with me and something on the Destruction side for when he's on his own. Gamestop called to let us know our copies are in today. So off on another adventure tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Guild Wars Hoax

A year ago I came across a blog from a supposed ex-employee of, the developer of Guild Wars. He claimed had ties with the gold farming companies and would initiate account bannings to pacify the gaming community. Supposedly, however, they would inform the gold farming companies of the upcoming bans so that they could create new accounts. I came across no other sources to substantiate this anywhere so just filed it away to look at again in the future.

I was clearing out some old bookmarks (yeah I have way too many), when I came across this blog again. It seems recently this fellow came clean and admitted it was a joke. He was bored and wanted to see how gullible people might be. Wow, talk about attention-seeking. The whole series of nonsense can be found here. Ah well, one less bookmark in my clutter.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vanguard Models - Finalized Version

After much complaining on the forums, the female faces were reworked to look more like their former selves. I've logged in all my characters and have to say I really can't tell much difference. They don't look worse; they don't look better. They are pretty much the same. The armor stayed the same on all but my ranger. She was in some plain full coverage armor, much like my other alts. But hers now looks like this:

It's not too bad I suppose. Also with the model update came the new Isle of Dawn, the long-awaited trial isle. New characters now have the option of starting at the home cities or here. And anyone trying out Vanguard on trial will be limited to the isle. The trial is anticipated to be available for download next week. They also graciously gave everyone four additional character slots.

I rolled a new alt to check out the new isle. I was disappointed to see my fps at 15 in spite of all the changes. So I'm not really sure why the model revamp was needed since it hasn't affected performance. But I give them credit for taking in all the feedback and putting the pretty back in the faces.

Aside from that, the bug fix list in this update was absolutely huge and filled up three pages of posts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

It Really is a War Out There

They weren't kidding when they said war is all around you. Unlike most fantasy setting MMO's where hobbits are talking about pie and villagers are happily going about their business, here it's all about war. Buildings are burning everywhere, guards are fighting onslaughts of mobs, and angry peasants are joining in. This was my first impression as I entered the open beta of Warhammer Online.

I generally am never happy playing evil, so I looked to the Order side for options. I started off with an Empire Warrior Priest. I had only done a few quests when I came across my first public quest. I saw a message flash on my screen that started a timer on a public quest. I looked around to see what I should be doing and decided to follow some other folks I saw running around. I won't go into too much detail to ruin the experience of those who haven't played, but it was a bit of fun. It is pretty much every man for himself though, as people are trying to do the most damage to rack up the most points. I tossed out heals here and there but when I got into trouble, I was left to my own defenses. I died quite often in public quests.

The leveling rate at the low levels is slower than most other MMO's, but that's not a bad thing, particularly for an RvR-based game. From a PvE perspective, I ran into a bit of a snag at level 7. I had completed all the quests, and the next quest hub only offered RvR quests taking me into open PvP areas. I ran further up the road and found another quest hub; however the mobs in the area were 10-12. The public quests at my level didn't have enough people to complete and we kept wiping, so I went back to the lower level ones and did those over and over until I reached level 8. I found the flight master and thought I'd visit the main city. The cut scene of the dwarf flying me over there was pretty funny. I thought about maybe heading over the High Elf area and running through their quests, but decided to start something new instead.

So onto the High Elves. This time around I picked the White Lion class. I always gravitate towards classes with animal pets. I was getting annoyed that she kept staying in combat stance with her legs spread far apart and crouched. And when she ran, her head was always turning like she was peeking around a corner. I finally figured out that after you kill a mob, if you still have the corpse in your target, it keeps you in combat stance. So after every kill I had to hit escape to clear target. Also, there was a bug where I kept losing the pet command bar. It would just vanish from my screen. I'd have to resummon my pet to get it back. Aside from that, I did like the class. However, I didn't enjoy the High Elf area as much as the Empire. Some quests I never did figure out and I found myself at level 6 in the same boat as my Warrior Priest.

My husband, in the meantime, had been playing a Dark Elf Disciple of Khaine and enjoying himself. Despite my goody two shoes nature, I decided to have a look at Destruction. The Chaos caster I created slouched around in that undead manner so I didn't stick with her for long. I created a Goblin Squig Herder, but the constant jumping up and down of the squig on the right side of my screen cut my play time short with him as well.

I started a Dark Elf Witch and found myself surrounded by nothing but females. I guess it's possible that many were actually females. But considering how scantily clad they were, I'm guessing that guys that enjoy playing females are more likely drawn to this race than others. Also, the Witch Elf which is a rogueish type class, can only be played as a female.

Despite some bugs where mobs are hitting you but you're getting this message that you can't attack them or you can't see them, I think the game is very well put together. Classes are interesting and it was nice seeing long hair options for females which seems to be a rare thing in MMO's. However, it's not a game that I feel compelled to log into and not one I intend to purchase at this point. I'll keep grinding away some levels this week while I have the opportunity to and see if my feelings change. But for those that enjoy RvR, I think they will have a great time here. That really is where the game shines.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Guild - Episode 1

Just found this series of episodes on YouTube and thought them pretty funny. If any of you watched the Dr. Horrible series, you'll recognize one of the cast. Check out YouTube to see the rest of the series.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vanguard - Model Revamp on Test

For months I've been hearing about the model revamp they've been working on and how they're bringing back sexy. I was more interested in seeing the females, but here is an example of one of the new males:

It's okay I suppose, but my initial thought was one of an over-inflated superhero cartoon. But maybe the guys like that, so on to the females. While they've made some changes to the armor showing skin, the most disturbing change has been to the faces.

First, look at this high elf female progression. The face on the left is how it was in the early days of Vanguard. The face in the middle is what is looks like now. The face on the right is the new model currently on test server.

Here is another example comparing the Varanjar:

And again, here is the halfling from then to now:

There most definitely is nothing sexy about the new models on test, at least where faces are concerned. If anything, they have lost some femininity and prettiness and have more masculine features. And what's with all the big noses now? In some ways it looks like they used the male faces and just tweaked them.

I don't play often enough to be too bothered by the changes. They may very well help the game to run better, but not sure how receptive new players will be to these models when the trial island is soon released.

Guild Halls - The Saga Continues

Shortly after we finished rejoicing that the purchase costs on the level 30 and level 50 Guild Halls were cut in half, the costs of amenities and their upkeep were released. Amenities are really the purpose of a Guild Hall to begin with. These include transportation, tradeskill writ givers and supplies, brokers, and bankers, etc. Amenities are costing between 10-25pp plus 1-2 million status EACH. But the sting doesn't stop there. For both the hall and each amenity, you are required to continue paying weekly fees of money and status just to keep them.

Up until now, I think raiders and casuals have coexisted fairly peacefully in EQ2. Except for fabled and mythical gear, everything else in the game as been accessible to me. This was not always the case, however. When the game was released, housing was priced exceeding high both to purchase and maintain and so most of us elected to remain in our starter apartments. Also guild levels used to decay. So members were required to constantly stay on top of doing writs to both maintain and move the guild forward. The game was a chore for casual players, and I left it behind back then. When I returned, they made housing affordable to everyone and eliminated the guild decay. I have three 5-room homes that I can decorate now. This is FUN, and this is what a game should be about.

But the dividing line is now back and the topic remains heated on the forums. I don't know how many times I've seen some sort of car analogy. If you want to drive a Lamborghini, not everyone is entitled to one, you have to work for it....blah blah blah. This is not real life; this is a game. This is not about work; it's about having fun. And we are talking Guild Halls here, not fabled gear. Every guild should be able to afford the Guild Hall their level qualifies for. This should be something that brings the guild together, not divide them.

SOE is viewing this is something we all have to work together to achieve and maintain. To achieve maybe yes. To maintain? So as a guild leader, I am now supposed to crack the whip on everyone to both donate money to the hall on a weekly basis as well as work on status and turn it over to the guild? Most in our guild are low to mid-level. They don't generate enough money on a weekly basis to be tossing it our way. They struggle enough as it is just to maintain their characters. Our members don't play to be forced to do anything. That's the whole point of the guild. And why should they have to? They could fork over all this money and status and the guild leader decides to quit. If I were a member rather than a leader, I know I sure wouldn't be paying for anything weekly just to sustain the guild. And what about members who don't pay? Do you cut off access to the hall to make it fair to those who paid? What a weekly headache. So if I can't afford to absorb the costs and status on my own, it's just not happening. And as it stands now, it's not happening. Sure I guess I might be closer to affording the 5-room level 30 Guild Hall instead of the 10-room level 50. But I won't do it. We all worked together to achieve a level 56 guild. That should be enough to grant us a hall.

What will happen from this is small to medium sized guilds will get smaller as people leave to be granted immediate access to a level 70 Guild Hall in another guild. If they are to be expected to pay and donate status weekly for a level 50 Guild Hall, why not just fulfill that obligation in a level 70 guild and have access to all the bells and whistles? I know we have a lot of faithful members who will stick with us no matter what, but this just makes me feel like I've let them down.

Casual players do not have disposable income and status to throw out on a weekly basis. Unlike other MMO's, money drops from mobs is very small. You have to work at making money in EQ2 because it doesn't flow on it's own. While initially some may be motivated to take on the grind mentality to keep the hall afloat, months down the line having to continuously struggle to keep what we already own will become burdensome. This isn't fun. People will stop playing.

At SOE's Fan Faire, they had this statement up on the screen as their guiding philosophy, "The fun is working toward a goal, not working to maintain the achievement." Stick to this philosophy here. Leave the purchase costs currently in place. It will give us something to work towards. But remove the weekly maintainance. It serves no purpose other than to annoy, demean, and exclude.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guild Hall Update

Boy what a hot topic on the EQ2 forums. I give kudos to SOE for a quick response on this one. Here's the latest:

Since our unveiling of Guild Halls at Fan Faire we've heard lots of feedback, over 60 pages worth! This morning we discussed a lot of this feedback and have decided to make some changes.

1. Zone Art

One of the issues that concerned you was that the Tier 1 guild hall made use of the existing 5-room house. Initially this was added to give us another tier that originally wasn't in the plan. However, we can certainly understand that the effort and cost involved in obtaining your first guild hall is significant, especially for smaller guilds. Tim "Haohmaru" Heydelaar, our zone art lead, made a huge commitment to guild halls this morning and agreed to building a new 5-room guild hall using the brand new zone geometry and textures that are used in the larger guild halls. He will also be making changes to the Tier 2 guild halls, adding a new atrium and expanding their size slightly over what we showed you at Fan Faire. The Tier 1 and 2 guild halls will still be located inside the city. If you're concerned about travel, see #3 below.

2. Pricing

For some of the smaller guilds the pricing of entry-level guild halls was a barrier. We've decided to leave the pricing of the Tier 3 guild halls alone, but have lowered the price of the Tier 1 and 2 guild hall. Below is the new pricing table.

Tier 1
Purchase: 50p (Lowered from 100p)
Upkeep: 50g, 50k status (Lowered from 1p, 100k status)

Tier 2
Purchase: 250p (Lowered from 500p)
Upkeep: 2.5p, 100k status (Lowered from 5p, 150k status)

Tier 3
Purchase: 1,000p
Upkeep: 10p, 200k status

3. Accessibility

Many people were concerned that guild halls located in other cities would not be very accessible. You will have several methods to get to your guild hall very easily, regardless of its location. First, you'll be able to purchase a house item from the city status merchant that will allow you to port from your personal house straight to your guild hall. Secondly, we've reduced the cost of the "Call to Guild Hall" amenity greatly. It will now only cost 1p, 250k status to purchase instead of 10p, 2 million status. In addition we've lowered the recast timer on Call to Guild Hall so you can use it every 15 minutes instead of once per hour.

4. Tradeskill Tables

Another concern was having to purchase amenities for each tradeskill table when you already have them available in your personal home. This made it difficult for small guilds because they'd have to use most of their amenity slots for tradeskill devices. We've decided to allow you to place your existing tradeskill tables in the guild hall and have removed them from the amenity list. Now smaller guilds will be able to use those slots for new features like the supply depot and harvester or convenience features like the fuel merchant and writ giver. Keep in mind that this removes 7 amenities so the original count of 40+ amenities at launch is now around 35.

We hope that these changes will have a positive impact and resolve some of the concerns expressed so far. Smaller guilds should have a much easier time getting into a Tier 1 guild hall and now have an easier upgrade path moving into the Tier 2. The amount of upkeep required to maintain a guild hall still greatly depends on the choice of amenities you decide to purchase.

Still a bit pricey for T2 halls but closer to being manageable for us. The T3 will be something to work towards. Can't wait to see the redone T2 version and new atrium. Yay!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guild Halls - The Big Slap

Information regarding EQ2's Guild Halls was released at the Fan Faire. This has been what I've been most looking forward to for several months. But boy, oh boy has my heart sunk. Those beautiful guild halls being constructed out in the oceans of Antonica and Commonlands are for level 70 guilds only. The rest of us poor shmucks have one of the following two options:

Guild Level 30
5 Room House in Qeynos, Freeport, Neriak, etc.
100 pp to buy
Upkeep 1pp and 100k personal status per week

Guild Level 50
10 Room House in Qeynos of Freeport
500 pp to buy
Upkeep 5pp and 150k personal status per week

These costs are ridiculous. Only raiding guilds and those with all level 80's have the funds and status to maintain this. Our guild is level 54 and our guild doesn't generate anywhere close to that much status each week, let alone trying to come up with the platinum. Being a casual guild, we're certainly not going to start demanding that everyone grind status writs and donate all their money so we can maintain it.

As for the level 30 Guild Hall, why would one bother? You can buy that same 5-room as a personal home for mere gold. All you are gaining is having a tradeskill center, a porter, and broker there. There already is a tradeskill center and broker outside the door of most homes. Level 30 guilds do not have this sort of cash flow and status. Also, status on furniture will not count towards the weekly status as it typically does in the larger homes.

This is a huge slap in the face to the majority of guilds and if it hits live servers at these figures, Sony will be screwing up majorly. They seriously have no concept as to how much money and status a typical player generates.

This is the one feature I'd had my heart set on and what kept me playing even in times of boredom. What a sore disappointment.

EQ2 Expansion Speculation

Apparently, the company that operates the Russian servers for EQ2 has released information to their clients regarding the upcoming expansion. Assuming it's been translated correctly, there will be 20 new zones including Innothule Swamp and Guk. Achievement points will be increased to 200 with new class options available. Also, two more deities will be returning.

Also, these two statements:

  • Studies underground: The new system will allow quests to all those wishing to go to dungeons again, receiving a unique experience

  • Trade shrapnel: A system of points, allowing players to acquire equipment for its improvement.

  • Something got lost in the translation there as I'm not quite clear what those mean. If they are applied together, it may very well be something similar to the LDoN expansion in EQ1, where completing dungeon missions earned you points, which you could use to purchase some really nice armor.

    Not sure yet if the information is legit but it sounds plausible enough.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    EQ2 - Farewell Skeletal Revamp

    One of many players' gripes with EQ2 is the blandness and lack of variety in the armor. We were told the reason for this was the tremendous amount of time involved because each racial model had its own unique skeleton. So when one piece of armor is designed, it has to be reworked to fit each race in the game.

    The past couple years, however, things were looking a bit brighter as we were told a skeletal revamp was under way so that they would for the most part use the same skeletal structure for all races, making it easier to implement new armor styles. Looks like that idea has been scrapped. According to a recent dev chat:

    Kirstie: The skeletal revamp has been through a lot of iterations internally on the EQII team and is now a bit of a misnomer. The original technology that we had planned to use didn't work out as we expected (software, who knew).

    Kirstie: And we are also being careful not to drastically change the character models. We don't want anyone to log in one day and not recognize their favorite character.

    Kirstie: What we are focusing on now is ways to customize the look of your character with what we're referring to as "snap ons" that will change your characters profile or silhouette.

    Kirstie: There are also a few other plans to enhance the look of characters that we'll be talking about more once we are more confident that they will work within the EQII framework.

    No idea what these "snap ons" are or how they will look and work but I suppose it's better than nothing. How long it will be before it sees the light of day, however, we can only guess. But I imagine it's at the bottom of priorities and will be a long way off.

    As much as I enjoy EQ2, the armor appearance always has been disappointing to me. But the clothing is worse. The tailored dresses are all identical except for color variations, and they look like granny dresses. The high end dresses purchased with status take it to the other extreme and are of the red light district variety. Having no toes, but just square stumps aren't helping either.

    Ah well at least the Guild Halls are still coming!

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    When a Ranger Feels Like a Ranger

    Through the years I've developed expectations of how certain classes should "feel." I don't know where I've gotten these notions from. Using the ranger as an example, I didn't enjoy that class in EQ1. This was my first MMO, so I clearly didn't develop expectations based on that. The ranger I envisioned as a lone traveler, slaying evil in the woods with a few bow shots, perhaps with an animal friend at their side.

    It wasn't until I played DAoC that I fell in love with this class. The Midgard hunter perfectly fit my expectations and the whole Midgard setting cemented the deal. I played a hunter in WoW as my main up until 60, but she really felt more like a cartoon with a bow in a crowded forest. Not that I didn't enjoy it somewhat for a time, but she didn't elicit that ranger feel.

    I had a short-lived experience as a ranger in EQ2. This was probably the least I've ever enjoyed a ranger. The bow seemed more like an after-thought and they just aren't set apart very much from other scout classes in EQ2. I also tried one in LotRO. The setting was great for this type of character; however, my limited enjoyment of the game kept me from leveling her far enough along.

    After having filled all but one of my character slots in Vanguard, I decided to try their version of the ranger. It's turned out to be a nice surprise. On a rare occasion I can one-shot, but for the most part mobs are nearly dead on arrival. And there is so much land to explore to keep her busy in the woods. Was disappointing to learn my pet only lasts a few minutes and can only be summoned on occasion. It's not perfect, but I'm enjoying it over the other classes I've tried there.

    My husband as well has certain expectations when he plays a warrior. EQ1, EQ2, and DAoC all fit the mold for him, while the WoW and LotRO versions were quickly abandoned. And to date, I've yet to play a cleric that feels like a cleric as the EQ1 version did.

    Vanguard broke a lot of the molds and created some other very interesting classes. And while they are fun to a point, I also feel some sort of disconnect as if they don't really make sense or fit into the world. Maybe it's the lack of deities and a feeling that your power is drawn from somewhere. Or maybe I've been reading too many books.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Small Group Content - Seeing the Light of Day Once Again

    Currently on EQ2's Test Server is the following update:

    Kander has lowered the difficulty on Karnor's castle, added a couple of named critters, spread out some of the loot a bit, and thinned some of the population. We'd like to get this zone in shape so that it's more appropriate for smaller groups of players entering that level range. Please take a few friends with you and see what you think of the zone. Do keep in mind that we're shooting for smaller groups of level 72-76 players with average treasured/mastercrafted gear.

    If this actually makes it to Live, all I can say is it's about time! And tweaking it for us poor average geared players too! While it existed in the older MMO's, small group content has been absent from nearly all the more recent releases. So you are left with soloing or a three-hour ordeal of waiting for a group to fill and then a long journey ahead. Certainly I can gather two friends to do solo mobs. But really why bother?

    I believe many that solo do it because they don't like the only other option available. A large percentage of our guild solos. I can say with certainty that if there was a dungeon three of us could do, and be done in 45 minutes to an hour, the majority would jump at an invitation to do so.

    I would really love to see a change to this solo/full group mentality in the future MMO's. Warhammer seems to offer an interesting alternative with their public quests. We'll have to wait and see how that actually plays out. But good to see EQ2 make a change in this direction. It's just one small step, but hopefully there may be more to come.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Ding 50!

    Our guild hit another leveling milestone! We ran a status contest for a few days, with the winner who generated the most status in that time period would win the shinies needed for a no-drop furniture item. It was a level 80 quest, so good experience for the turn-in as well. Out of our 60 members, 5 signed up. Initially, I was disappointed at the low turn-out but it was amazing what a small group could accomplish. We gained two and half levels during that time. They were all winners to me, so I harvested enough shinies for them all.

    But it also made me realize something else. I don't know the majority of members anymore. We grew from 25 active members to 60 in about three weeks. It's become routine when someone logs in, my husband turns to me and says "Who's that?" The majority of the time I reply "I don't know."

    When we started this, we thought it would remain just us and a few friends and never imagined that we would have to actually remove ourselves from the recruiting tab. But we did. I've seen guilds explode before due to sudden growth and am trying to avoid people feeling like numbers rather than members. It's a good and a bad thing. It's great that we're doing this well but we really hate having to turn people away and maybe miss out on some great folks. I'm sure there will be some that will move on and we can re-open our doors at some point. But for now we need to get to know the ones we have.

    And I still can't wait for those Guild Halls!

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    MMO Players - An Underutilized Resource

    We are passionate about our MMO hobby. We blog about it; we sign on with gaming sites and volunteer our services; we create mods and maps to help other players. We spend gaming-related hours outside of actually gaming. And we do it for free.

    Different gaming companies here and there have programs that take some small advantage of this. EQ2 has a guide program; however, you aren't permitted to do it on your own server and are randomly assigned another server. I had considered applying at one time, but I want to make my own server a better place, not someone elses. SWG took on player volunteers to silence the gold spammers. But so much more could be done to put players to use that would enrich the gaming community, create a reputation that brings in more players, and retain the ones you have. You can create a good game, but you need a community to build it up.

    One idea would be someone leading weekly dungeon groups with an emphasis that those who never grouped before would be welcome and given guidance. I have come across so many who avoid grouping because they are afraid of doing something wrong. While players could undertake this task and start this up without developer involvement, odds are slim they will. Give them a special title while on duty, make them feel like they are part of your company, and give an occasional pat on the back and you'd be amazed how many would step forward to fill roles. And likewise, when players see an official representative getting that group together, they feel a bit more safe joining up.

    The same goes for raiding. Many would love to try it once in awhile but do not wish to join a raiding guild. Why not company-sanctioned events and "hiring" on volunteers for the job? Or what about roleplay for beginners groups, particularly on the roleplay servers which can be intimidating when new. Or how about tours through zones, pointing out little-known lore and locations. These are just a few thoughts and I'm sure there are great ones I haven't thought of yet. Just like the guide program, there would need to be some accountability to be certain volunteers remain courteous and helpful. Expand on that guide program but please don't send them to other servers. We're more likely to volunteer and work hard for you when it benefits our own server and community.

    This would also be a way to get guild leaders more involved in the community. The majority of players don't read forums or pay attention to official notices. So when your fancy titled group leader wants to lead a heritage quest group next week, how does that information get out to the community? Either the guild leaders can sign up for a mailing list to be notified of events which they then message to the guild, or make it their responsibility to keep up with a section of the forums for these events.

    Now here's an example of how not to handle your company-sanctioned events. Recently, EQ2 advertised having a Guild Recruitment Fair. Guild leaders were asked to sign up, which I did, and we were told it was taking place at the Claymore Monument. So what was it I signed up for? Nothing. We were basically just given a time and date and told to show up. As I said, the majority of players don't read forums and didn't even know about it, and there was nothing there to signify any event. I showed up prime time evening on a Saturday night and here was the fair:

    So much can be done to take advantage of our MMO passion and benefit all of us all the way around.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    The Older, Older Gamer

    In most games you will find guilds targeted for the older gamer. Usually their requirements will be 30+ or sometimes 25+. I was once in one of those guilds but found my play style didn't quite fit in with the guild. I was older than everyone else but at the time just attributed my differences more towards me in general than my age.

    While our guild in EQ2 doesn't have an age restriction, we advertise ourselves as most members being 30+. But actually we've evolved into a 40-60's guild. As we've grown, I've noticed that there tend to be certain differences in the 30's crowd compared to 40+.

    When a new member joins and they tell me they have a Ventrilo server we can all use, in all cases it turned out they are in the 20's-30's. The first couple times I received the offer, I asked in guild chat. But there was absolutely no interest in it, so I've gotten in the habit of declining up front. I can't speak for the other members' reasons, but I know I have no interest in hearing voices while I"m playing. I actually like the ambient music in games and would much rather hear that. EQ2 will be implementing their own voice chat which is currently on test server, so we'll see if this changes anything for us.

    When a new member joins and asks how they move up in rank in the guild, in all cases they were in their 20's-30's and male. I specifically set up the guild to give little weight to rankings. I turned off promotion announcements so guild members don't see when a promotion occurs. Having a higher rank doesn't make one better or more valued so I place no emphasis on it.

    Something I've noticed specific to the older female is a strong dislike for PvP. There are a number of couples within the guild, and while the husbands were very open to PvP, the wives wanted no part of it. As I said, this applied only to the older female player. We have several under 40 couples and in most all those cases, the wives did participate and some even enjoyed PvP.

    The older females tend to be more social and community driven. While the game may not be perfect for them, they are more likely to stick around because they like the people around them. And often they are the driving force behind which game the couple is playing, so the husband is there by default.

    Keep in mind these are my observations in EQ2. Older gamers in another MMO may very well have different tendencies. But what is it that happens somewhere around 40 that changes gaming perspective? We are not all gaming vets from EQ1. Some played WoW as their first MMO and for some EQ2 is their first gaming experience. So it has nothing to do with number of years played.

    Maybe after so many years of working, dealing with teenagers, or going through life in general, we're seeking less structure and more camaraderie? I honestly don't know why that dividing line occurs, but I do know the 20-30's tend to eventually move on, while our 40-60 bracket grows. Will be interesting to see how MMO's evolve in 20 years to accommodate the interests of the aging player base.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008

    The Big Easy

    There are times when challenges just become frustrations and I'm in the mood for easy mode. Such was the case yesterday. My husband and I had become accustomed to duoing dungeons in EQ2. However, the dungeons in that last two expansions have gotten progressively more difficult so that we have not been able to even attempt them when green. And the new Runnyeye instance is out of the question unless you have a full group in legendary gear and two healers. He logged in briefly, not knowing what to do with himself and logged off to play his necro in EQ1, which to him feels easier and more fun than any class he plays in EQ2. I tinkered with with an alt, but most of them are in those yucky levels where a lot of the mobs and quests are heroic.

    So I thought I'd play a bit of Vanguard and do something more relaxing like diplomacy. I have a ranger who was in the middle of a quest series and thought I'd pick up where I left off. So off I went to parley with some mean looking fellows. I failed the parley and he killed me. Ok I loot my corpse, change card strategy, and win the parley. He hands me some items and tells me I will fall to my death unless I summon some spirits to aid me. Next thing I know I'm up in the sky falling to my death. I look at the items he gave me that call upon the spirits and they are a level higher than I am so I can't use them. So splat I go. I couldn't see my corpse anywhere on the map so had to use the altar and take the loss. I logged off quite frustrated, particularly that they would even give me the quest at that level when I had no means of being successful.

    I checked my desktop. Hmm, let's see what other options there are. EQ1? Errmm definitely not tonight. SWG? Used to be easier but not so much today. So I went to bed instead.

    Just like in real life, challenges here and there can be fun. But honestly I don't want to be hit with it every day. Sometimes I want easy and why can't there be both? I understand the allure of WoW because if I had it installed, I might have played it last night. Even DAOC was sounding tempting again. Maybe it's an age and situational thing. I have so many exhaustive challenges at home, I am just not in the mood for more of it at night. Maybe when I was younger and had fewer responsibilities, the MMO hardships would have filled a void. And maybe that's a whole different subject to get into later.

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    In spite of the Living Legacy whining...

    ...which can be found here, from what I am seeing, this promotion has been very effective in bringing in players to both EQ and EQ2. We have gained more than 15 new players to the guild in the past two weeks and more servers are showing as heavy load.

    A few guild mates wanted to get together in EQ1 on a weekly basis. We planned to hook up after picking up some items in the tutorial; however, the tutorial has been so full of players that it's been difficult to get the quests done. While there were a few decked out twinks plowing through, the majority of us were naked noobs.

    So it seems both games are benefiting. I think SOE's timing on this was great. Many are in an MMO slump anyway so figure "what the heck; it's free." I had recently gotten a free weekend of play for LotRO, but it was such a short period that I just didn't bother. But give me two months free in many of my past MMO's and I'm likely to play. Also, school is out and although both games typically have an older player base I'm sure there are kids now playing as well.

    SOE took quite a bit of heat from unhappy loyal subscribers who felt a bit left out. And understandably so. Heck the returning players even got that baby dragon that I've been wanting for years. But putting it all in perspective, the promotion is only just beginning and I'm sure the veterans have some goodies on the way as well (at least I hope so!). And really it's good for the health of both games.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Innovative vs. Fun

    Alganon has been taking a lot of heat lately for some similarities to WoW. Anyone who has actually read the features of the game would see some interesting aspects not found elsewhere. But visually, comparisons are being made. One recent poster criticized the UI looking too much like WoW's and therefore believed the game to be a hoax. One of the dev's responded as follows:

    "At the risk of feeding the trolls (you may not be one, but there are plenty who will take advantage of having a dev response), I'll reply.

    I can assure you, it's not a hoax. The paycheck I get every month is all the proof I need. I have no idea if we'll be releasing video any time soon, but if that is the only thing that will satisfy you, then there is no reason for me to write any more on that topic.

    As far as the similarities to other games, my response is this: The ONLY rule that guides my design is "Is it fun?" Nothing else matters.

    For example:
    Would moving the mini-map to another portion of the screen make the game more fun? Nope.

    Then we're going to put it where players will naturally look to find it. If that means it happens to be the same place as it is in LotRO, and Guild Wars, and Battlefield, and WoW, and many other games, so be it. All I care about is "Is it fun?"

    Trust me, if moving the minimap made the game more fun, we'd move it.

    What about forcing players to scan the screen for where their minimap is, because it's not where they expected it to be? Would that make the game less fun? Yeah. It would.

    If you jump between games a lot, you'll notice that looking in the wrong corner for your mini-map is a pain. The same is true for any piece of information. It's not fun to die because the designers put your health bar where you weren't looking.

    I rotate through EQ2, Eve, WoW, Guild Wars, and a couple of F2P MMOs, so I suffer problem this all the time - Why, oh, why do game designers have to move the interface around on me? Why do I have to learn a new control scheme everytime I want to play a new game?

    Oh yeah! Because if they don't, people insult them on forums.

    When they have to choose between "do I make it fun?" or "do I avoid being mocked?" they choose to sacrifice fun and save their egos.

    Not me.

    I'll dive on the grenade. I'll make the sacrifice. I will suffer the slings and arrows of forum-troll-after-forum-troll saying that Alganon looks like (insert MMO here), as long I get to make Alganon fun.

    So, go ahead, let the mocking begin - but don't let it keep you from enjoying the game. Don't let it keep you from having fun, because there is only one thing I care about: "Is it fun?"

    Nothing else matters."

    I thought that was an excellent response. It had me wondering if in fact developers of future mmo's avoid good features of previous mmo's for this reason. Aside from the UI, those that have stepped out of the typical mmo mold...DDO, TR, PotBS...well they haven't fared as well. So what is it we really want?

    I think many of us stayed with our first mmo for so long because we made no comparisons and enjoyed it for what it was. And maybe too many of us have turned into a bunch of snobby mmo connoisseurs who have forgotten how to just have fun.

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    Half Way There!

    Over the weekend our guild hit level 40! It's taken us six months, and this level has opened up some more fluff such as titles and mounts. So I treated my inquisitor to a nightmare mount to speed her along a bit.

    I couldn't be prouder of my guild mates. They're some of the nicest people I've met anywhere and put forth a lot of effort to get us here. Onward to level 80!

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    Anticipating Guild Halls

    My husband has a tendency to fall over cliffs. It's a trait he carries over from MMO to MMO. And such was the case in Vanguard last evening. We were off roaming the countryside looking for something to kill. We came across a bugbear encampment and began to rid the menace from society. We were looting some items designated as quest pieces and also noticed some captured fairies within the encampment. Surely there must be some small outpost somewhere that gave out quests for this place. The map showed nothing, so off we went looking.

    We walked close to a cliff's edge and true to form, over the side he went. Dutiful wife that I am, down I went. Like many current MMO's, slopes in Vanguard are usually impossible to climb. The mountain looked steep as far as we could see, so we decided to explore this level of terrain. There was a fast flowing stream for us to cross. The stream ended at a waterfall which plunged into the ocean quite far down below us. My husband swam in intending to cross, but the current swiftly carried him down and over the waterfall he went. I crossed further upstream and successfully made it across. Oh well. Back in I went and down the waterfall I went.

    We swam for a small island ahead. It was devoid of life, so after checking our map for the next closest land mass, we swam some more. Land and trees started coming into view and we spotted something that looked like a castle from the distance. So we headed that way to inspect. What we came upon was a housing area, and that castle was actually a guild hall.

    The guild halls are quite impressive from the outside. One of them was open to the public and it was huge inside. While pretty; however, they didn't seem to serve any purpose that I could see.

    Sometime last year EQ2 devs mentioned that guild halls were in the works. To date, no time frame has been given. After the patch last month, I noticed that new guild hall permissions were added to guild rank settings. So hopefully they will be arriving soon. We've been pumping out status quests as much as we can to both level the guild and accumulate status. I can only assume that the higher level the guild, the more options there will be available in the halls. But I'm really looking forward to seeing what they've come up with.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    Vanguard Racial Mounts!

    Game Update 5 goes live today, with the main part of the update being racial mount quests. Supposedly it involves a lot of faction grinding and obtaining random npc drops, so we'll see how it actually turns out. Still debating whether I want to try for one of these or the unicorn mount already in game. Here's some pics:

    Ok now that lobster looks a bit corny. The bottom pic is what my main barbarian would be using. Can't wait to see the others!

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    And Still I Play

    A few weeks later I am still really enjoying Vanguard. Because of the guild, I've been splitting my play time between Vanguard and EQ2. If it weren't for that and Station Access, my preference would be to focus solely on Vanguard.

    I've become addicted to diplomacy. I am one that doesn't enjoy card games. But although you use cards in your diplomacy, it just doesn't feel like a card game to me. Unfortunately, diplomacy is a bit bugged in certain starting areas and it took me a few tries with several alts before I found a good flow. My high elf in Leth Nurae has had the most luck with it and she's been spending more time on diplomacy than adventuring.

    We've come across named mobs in our travels quite frequently. And it's always great being able to find upgrades that way. Drops from these type of mobs tend to be soulbound, so while I can't pass them along to alts, there are no frustrations of mobs being camped.

    For me the world is truly immersive. Some cities I just love being in and interacting with the npc's. If only I could have a house there. I thought back to this post in which a Vanguard developer revealed that the game was pretty much put together in a year by people with no previous experience. They must have been some pretty darn talented people because it's an amazing world.

    And I think the existing team has done an amazing job in "softening" the game a bit. I know a lot of the vets aren't happy with the changes that made mobs and travel a bit easier. But I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much back then. Long travel times are not how I want to spend my time gaming.

    Honestly, this is the most I've an enjoyed an MMO in years.

    Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    The Fun Stops Here

    I've been noticing a trend with the majority of my guild mates. Very few make it past the 30's before starting a new character. I even heard one make the remark that they lose interest in their characters when they hit 30. Looking at my own alts, I have several between 29 and 35 that I haven't played in quite awhile and actually dread logging in.

    EQ2 is designed in such a way that things get a little tougher as you level. I find the starting areas to be very fun. I absolutely love Antonica and the levels there go too fast. The area is wide open and huge, with lots of quests found in various spots. From there I used to move on to Thundering Steppes, which starts to get tougher to navigate with heroic mobs placed here and there. However, these days with the Faydwer expansion, I move on to Butcherblock to draw that fun out for a little longer.

    At 30 you're left with Enchanted Lands and Zek. For a soloer, Zek has a limited number of quests. The front half of Enchanted Lands has a number of quests; however the second half of the zone is nearly all heroic mobs. Except for high level harvesters, this section of the zone is usually empty. There aren't enough quests to get you through the 30's unless you group, which is rare these days, so it's time to do a bit of grinding.

    At 40 the only option used to be Feerrott, since both Lavastorm and Everfrost are all heroic. In Feerrott, you only have a small portion of the zone to work with as a soloer and must do a lot of dodging to get some of these quests done. Fortunately, Steamfont is now an option. But by the time 50 rolls around, I'm just really done with this zone.

    The 50's and 60's get even more cumbersome. Leveling becomes more and more of a chore as you progress.

    I really have mixed feelings on this. I'm one of those who likes to stick with one character when I start a game and see it through to the end. I use that character to make money and then buff up my alts so they are not such a struggle to play. Even though it's grindy, I'm just stubborn and determined to see it through. And when you get to the end, you sort of go "Whew, I made it". In WoW, when I maxed was more like "Ok, now I'm up here with everyone else".

    But how many times will people keep rolling alts that make it to the 30's before they tire of the game and move on? I don't want them to make it as easy as WoW, so the server is full of level 80's. They'd have to add new zones just to add more harvestables to accommodate. Getting some things done would become a nightmare. But I think something needs to be done from the mid 30's to 70 just to make things more fun and tolerable. I'm really hoping the expansion they're working on addresses these levels, rather than add more little used raiding zones.