The Tattered Notebook: Player-generated content please


Ahhh. You hear that? That is the sound of relief, as the obligatory free-to-play reaction column is safely in the rearview mirror. It feels great to be talking about EverQuest II again as opposed to its payment model. MMORPGs are of course big business, and I don't begrudge developers and executives from trying to take their products to the next level, but damn am I ever tired of reading (and thinking) about subs versus RMT and yada yada blah blah.

It sometimes seems as if the industry is putting all of its considerable talent and brainpower behind payment model innovations rather than gameplay innovations, and I for one would love to see stakeholders actually improving and expanding their products rather than devising new ways for people to pay for their products. Speaking of improving products, let's move forward. As my ratonga wizard makes his way slowly but surely towards level 40, I'm starting to feel more comfortable in the world of Norrath. So comfortable, in fact, that I can safely start talking about what the game lacks and what would potentially make it even more awesome (because, the following mini-rant notwithstanding, EverQuest II is a pretty awesome MMO).

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When our own Seraphina interviewed EQII head man Dave Georgeson a couple weeks back, he had a number of interesting things to say (so many, in fact, that this is the second straight week I'm pilfering a quote for this column). Aside from his thoughts on the Extended F2P bombshell, he talked specifically about how EQII is one of, if not the, deepest MMOs in existence. "Over the years the teams have really done a great job at building a huge world with tons of features and depth like nobody's business," he said, and he's completely correct.

EQII's Norrath is freaking huge, with enough solo and group content to keep gamers busy for years. Not only that, but it has some truly unique features that simply aren't found elsewhere in the genre. Chronomagic, crazy customizable player spaces (housing, guild halls), and guild management tools that should be the industry standard are just a few off the top of my head. Despite all this, there are a few gnat-bites and strange oversights that occasionally gnaw at me while playing, and what better place to verbalize them than the pages of the Tattered Notebook.

Player-generated content

As I'm loathe to pump out Top 10 (or in this case, Top 4) lists, we'll just devote a paragraph or three to each missing feature. First off is player-generated content, and it's the big one as far as I'm concerned. SOE has shown that it has the technical capability as well as the manpower to implement an absurdly deep player content generation system in an older title. If you've ever fooled around with the storyteller or chronicle systems in Star Wars Galaxies, you know what I'm talking about. With storyteller, you basically get to play GM on a personal scale, with the ability to place NPCs, static props (everything from furniture to starships), and all sorts of fascinating eye candy all over the game world for anyone to see and/or interact with. There are limitations of course (the stuff expires on a timer, and you can't place any of it inside NPC cities).

The chronicle system is similarly spiffy, and similarly absent from EQII. It's basically a mission generator, similar to the architect functionality in City of Heroes but less apt to be exploited for power-gaming purposes. Were EQII to implement some sort of player-designed mission system, there would be precious little reason to play other MMORPGs, at least for me. On top of the huge amount of professional content, the game could additionally serve as a virtual table-top, allowing unlimited adventures for small groups of roleplayers or dungeoneers. The recently released player-written book mechanic would be an ideal building-block.

Unrestricted flight

Next on my personal "things I'd like to see" list is some sort of unrestricted flight. Now, before you go burning me at the stake, I'm not talking about turning EQII into Aion-lite, but rather dedicating a zone or three to some sort of riff on Aion's time-limited flying and gliding mechanics. If my memory serves, you can soar through the zones introduced in the Kingdom of Sky expansion on a nifty little cloud transportation network, and there's also the old reliable griffon towers dotting the landscape.

The problem with both of these systems, from a pure fun standpoint, is that they're on rails. I'd kill to be able to jump off the towering cliffs above the Butcherblock docks and soar through the zone for a few seconds (or better yet, a new zone designed explicitly for airborne exploration). I know, I know, it's not very likely, but you can't fault me for asking.

Can I get a (working) chair?

My third request doesn't seem like it should be that difficult, at least from an outsider's perspective (and especially given the number of other titles, even SOE titles, that feature it). I'd really like for my characters to be able to sit in a bloody chair. It isn't too much to ask, yet apparently it is because here we are six years on from release and my poor ratonga is still forced to eat his dinner hovering a foot above his favorite chair with his knees tucked under him like some sort of ill-conceived cross between a meditating Jedi and a Buddhist monk.

I assure you it doesn't have anything to do with the size of his rodent posterior (which is quite trim), so I guess it's something to do with the engine, or some complex coding restriction that's beyond the grasp of a simple scribe. Whatever the reasons, it is completely vexing that a game that features such amazing player housing and amenities forces me to pretend to sit down instead of actually allowing me to do it.

[Update: According to Feldon at EQ2Wire, an announcement regarding this feature could come during Fan Faire.]

Nameable crafted goods

Another feature that would be nice to have is the ability to name your crafted items. Admittedly this is a small concern, and I assume it would add a lot of overhead to SOE's database which may be one reason why it isn't available. Looking again at SWG, I'm reminded of all manner of creative uses for crafted items that could bear player names, descriptions, cryptic characters, pseudo-ASCII art, and anything else you could think of typing. Little touches like that added a lot of life and length to the game, and I'd dearly love to see some of it come to the world of Norrath. Beyond the fluff value, there's also the utility such a feature could provide to artisans, namely via the ability to advertise their wares beyond the standard "made by XYZ" stamp.

At the end of the day, I'm having a ball in EQII, and probably will be for quite some time due to the sheer amount of content and explorable area. However, there's always room for improvement, and these are just a few of the additions I feel would add immeasurably to the game without taking up a huge amount of development time. Feel free to share your own ideas (or tell me I'm crazy) in the comments.

Jef Reahard may be an eternal EverQuest II newb, but he writes a weekly column about the game anyway, through the eyes of a Ratonga Wizard (or any one of 3,720 other alts). If it has to do with the huge and ever-expanding world of EQII, it's been jotted down in The Tattered Notebook. Send Ratonga fan mail to jef@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.