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!