The Tattered Notebook: Peeling back the layers of time

EQII flying
I was watching Shrek with my kids the other day, and one of my favorite scenes is Shrek's stroll with Donkey when they first meet. Shrek tries to explain how Ogres are like onions and how both have layers. When you think about it, EverQuest II is also like an onion because it has layer after layer of content and features that have stacked up over the years. In fact, some players have argued that there's almost too much to do, particularly at the lower levels.

I have always loved the fact that EverQuest II has been willing to try out new ideas over the years, and some of them have been remarkably successful. But there are a few that have gotten lost in the shuffle, while others have ended up directly conflicting with later additions of content. In this week's Tattered Notebook, we'll peel back the onion and look at the lost and conflicting layers of EQII.

Instanced PvP

When battlegrounds first went live, I ran them quite a bit with guildies even though I'm not exactly a PvPer at heart. I didn't rack up the kills, but I did my part to help keep the relic holder alive in Gears and moved with the pack to take towers in Smuggler's Den. They've been fun and well-done overall, but it wasn't the first time instanced PvP was introduced to EQII. Back when Desert of Flames was new, players could join arenas, which were instanced zones designed for team battles, each with a different layout and different objectives. And you even had the choice between playing as yourself or as a creature, which you could purchase from a vendor unless you wanted a rare one that you got through questing and adventuring. I always liked the concept, but it never really caught on, and my creature collection sat in the bank, with only a brief moment when I broke them out to try them on the creature summoner guild perk (which also never really ended up used much). The arenas are still in game but don't see any use these days.

EQII Battleground
LFG/dungeon finder

The dungeon finder was the most recent attempt to help players find and group with one another, but it's not the first time EQII had a tool to help with grouping. The looking-for-group window was added years before, and it allows players to advertise themselves for groups and lets incomplete groups shop around for more. It's different from the dungeon finder in that it's just a catalogue listing of LFGs and LFMs, so players still have to manually group up, and it's little surprise that it's empty. One has to wonder whether it's better to just remove it from the game, since it could be confusing to new players to see two different grouping systems available.

Fixed lockout timers vs. persistent instances

The addition of persistent instancing was a welcome addition to the game, but there are still old instances in EQII that not only have fixed lockouts (meaning you can't re-enter once you zone out) but spawn you outside the zone, so you basically get one shot to clear it per lockout duration. These instances are usually pretty small and don't see much use because they're not part of the Golden Path, so it's probably not worth spending developer time trying to make all the instances consistent. It is, however, a glimpse at the game's roots and testimony to how far it's come through the years.

Mentoring vs. "level agnosticism"

We looked at this in the recent column on the May update, but will the concept of "level agnostic" gameplay in player-made dungeons be something that could carry over to the rest of the game? It sounds like SOE is working on a more accurate mentoring system, and if that's the case, will we see it replace the current mentoring system that's live now, which is pretty overpowered? It's too early to tell, but it's sounding like we might see two separate systems of level-scaling down the road.

The lost features

Then there are the great features that need some work or were interesting at the time but end up getting neglected because the team is busy with new projects. The mobile app that was built a few years ago was a neat way to connect with your guild and the game when you weren't logged in, but it seems to suffer from crashes and bugginess and doesn't seem to get much use. There's a really great in-game calendar, but I doubt many players even know how to access it, and even if they do, the only things on it are the Moonlight Enchantments and City Festivals. I noticed, though, that it's not filled in past December, so it looks like Norrath might also believe in the Mayan calendar.

Looking back at the early years of the game, I realize there were lots of little side activities that didn't necessarily involve combat and were interesting ideas but were forgotten over time. Lore and Legend quests were a fun reward for the mass slaughter of various races, but we haven't seen any new ones since the Sentinel's Fate expansion. There are language books available in town that allow players to learn other races' languages, but few players probably even know they exist and probably don't know that you can drive your friends nuts by speaking in your own racial tongue. And of course, there's my favorite activity, scrying, which involves buying special stones in the Thundering Steppes and then using them on little rainbow-glowing areas in lower level overland zones. Based on the color pattern that your scrying stone gives off, you end up either getting a reward or squaring off against a handful of monsters or getting special tomes that offer quests. It's a little quirky, and it never really took off, so those rainbows sit there largely unused, and I wonder how many people even know what they're for.

When you look back at EverQuest II, it's interesting to see how many different ideas came to fruition in game. Not all of them worked out, and the ones above tended to be either limited in scope or neglected completely in favor of an improved system. However, there are many additions to the game that are innovative and that qualify as features that every game should adopt. We'll look at some of those next week!

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to
This article was originally published on Massively.