In fact, when I look back even further, there are many things I've really come to appreciate in EQII, and I miss them when I'm playing other MMOs that don't have them. So in this week's Tattered Notebook, I'm meeting up with the EQII ghosts of Frostfell past, present, and future to look at what I love most about the game and what I want to see in the game as we approach 2013.
Lately, I've been spending a lot of time re-reading my old blog about my EQII adventures, and there were several things about EQII that kept coming up time and time again. There are many old aspects of the game that reveal quite a bit, not only about EQII's growth but about how the MMO landscape overall has changed dramatically since EQII's launch in 2004.
When the betrayal system first came out, it was harsh (and you couldn't betray once you turned level 17). What's interesting, though, is that as the betrayal system became easier to complete, it reflected a greater shift toward class flexibility in themepark MMOs overall, and today we see things like respeccing and even wholesale class changes without rerolling as a common occurrence in MMOs.
Guild leveling system
Again, this system originally was pretty rough. The concept of leveling as a guild was a great one, but systems like status decay and de-leveling turned the job of running a guild and being in a guild into one of keeping up status rather than playing the actual game. As it changed, though, the guild leveling system is one of the things I love most about EQII. Members can help level the guild through a variety of playstyles, so crafters can contribute as much as adventurers can, and as a result, the game helps make it easier for guildmates to bond and work together as a team towards a common goal. It's also something that even casual guilds can accomplish, thanks to the three tiers of guild halls. And the amenities are something that every guild can attain in time.
Well before the World of Warcraft plague and the Star Wars: The Old Republic plague, EQII had its own plague that turned you green and bubbly. I remember it fondly because I ran into a guide who was sporting a wok hat, the first time I had seen one in game. I also loved it because the quest he gave me rewarded me with one of my favorite items: a lore book that glows golden-yellow. The plague event will always be one of my best memories because it came during a time when holidays and world events were uncommon in some MMOs.
Not many games have such a loyal and large lore community as EQII's. Part of that is because of the EQ refugees who want to follow the storyline (and also scrutinize things to make sure it's accurate!). The other part is that the game always had lots of ways to introduce lore, like collectible books, NPC dialogues, forum quests, and even the unique lore promotion involving fansites. Even though I don't consider myself a lore expert (I'd like to be, though!), I still remember the following that a lore dev like GM Vhalen had when he was still with the team, and I am happy to see how the lore today is still a vital part of the game.
Name a game that has in depth questlines for tradeskillers and rewards them with epic spoons and pans? That embodies the value that EQII has always placed on tradeskilling, from the early vision of Raph Koster to Emily "Domino" Taylor to today.
It's great to see the game branch out and embrace every type of adventurer with its content. EQII has had solo and heroic versions of instances going back to launch, but it's a big jump to take the overall signature questline and make it available to all. Solo players can finally come face to face with the important characters in the story, and it's another nice way for non-raiding lore fans to access the story without having to try to piggyback on a raid.
I liked the attempts to add features to the game that are non-traditional, like SOEmote and the Dungeon Maker. I still think they're an important first step in changing the face of MMOs and shouldn't be ideas that get left behind just because they might not see much use. Player Studio, though, is the best idea yet, and I want to see much more from it. I love the fact that we'll get to see some truly talented players finally create items in game, and I also love the fact that they'll be able to profit from it. But what I really love is that it bridges the gap between players and developers. We're so used to seeing the two groups on opposite sides; it's refreshing to see them both working together on making the game great, and that's something everyone benefits from.
A looking-for-guild window
EQII has the best in-game guild recruiting window out there, but for guild leaders, recruiting is a lot like fishing: You put together the best message to lure potential matches, cast it out there, and hope for the best. But there are many players who are seeking a good guild and who don't necessarily use the current recruiting window (or who haven't had much luck with it so far). It might be worth it to put a looking for guild window in game that allows players to describe themselves, select certain attributes that they're seeking from a guild, and then add themselves to a filterable list that guilds can browse. We have plenty of looking-for-guild forums, but since only a portion of the playerbase actually uses forums, an in-game tool would be much more effective in helping match players with guilds.
Multi-guild alliance support
Back in 2008, among the many great ideas that came out of a gathering of players at an SOE Influencer Summit was the suggestion of adding multi-guild alliance support. Interestingly enough, with games like Guild Wars 2 out now, we're seeing a another push toward softening the lines between guild and playerbase, and EQII has always had the type of community that coordinates multi-guild events and raids on occasion. I'd love to see some in-game tools that make it easier for guilds to plan together or share relevant data like rosters and DKP. Not only would it make it easier for guilds to work together in an alliance, but I think it would help guild leaders be able to connect and share ideas with other leaders overall.
I know it's three strikes and you're out, but I still hold hope that EQII can have a grouping tool that the community will actually use. The current LFG and in-game calendar tools are pretty quiet, but what if there were a way for the community to add in their own events each night over a two-week period, and players could add themselves to the event from a drop-down menu automatically? From there, the player could join the party or raid, port directly there, and join in, if the leader consents. It brings new life to both tools; it gives the community the chance to plan ahead, post details of the event, and specify needs; and then it allows players to opt in and gain the approval of the leader.
True mentoring system
One of the things that was mentioned about the dungeon maker "play as your avatar" scaling system was that it could have a ripple effect on other in-game systems. The most obvious is the mentoring system, which is still not properly balanced and isn't used the way it was probably envisioned. A true mentoring system would provide old content at the intended level, preserve the original challenge, and eventually reward players with items and tokens that they can use at their true level, similar to what RIFT does currently. There is so much content in the game, and much of it is either unused or overlooked, so it would be a huge improvement to get rid of the scenario of "disposable content" in EQII.
Rare drops in unused but good dungeons
Going along with that notion, players would seek out old dungeons and zones if they heard tales of rare, but valuable, drops coming from them. This could be something similar to EQ's hotzones, where a few select locations each week could drop said items, which would help funnel players into those areas to mentor down (using the true mentoring system above) and take a chance at getting those drops. I for one would love to see the return of the Whip of the Earthcrafter.
Sleeper part II
Dynamic content is all the rage these days, but the Sleeper's awakening has been around for long time, and given the nostalgia trip that EQII has been going on, I think it would be great to see a sequel. We saw a hint of a move toward open-ended events with the public quests in Velious and the starter zones of Commonlands and Antonica, but it's hard to build a ring event that doesn't exclude a majority of the population because of the tiers of levels. A world event like the Sleeper's awakening could take place in many zones, bring challenges to the entire playerbase, and make a lot of people happy with new rewards. (And if Kerafyrm could start its attack by eliminating the Gnomes, I'd be even more excited!). There are actually many notable events in the lore that could be worked into world dynamic events, and I'd love to see some of them unfold in the open world.
There's a lot I've enjoyed over the past eight years in EQII, and I'm excited to see what the next year brings, not only to EQII but to the EQ franchise with the upcoming EQ Next. EQII survived the one-two punch of launching against WoW, it survived a potentially devastating cyber attack, and it successfully transitioned to a free-to-play model with a Marketplace. Based on the news from Fan Faire, I think there's a lot for players to look forward to seeing down the road. Now if we could only find a way to eliminate Billy, things would be perfect! Long live EQII!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.