The Tattered Notebook: What EQII can learn from Minecraft

Karen Bryan
K. Bryan|09.03.11

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The Tattered Notebook: What EQII can learn from Minecraft
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EverQuest II's Update 61 is officially here, and the sweeping itemization revamp has been about as pleasant as the arrival of Hurricane Irene. I spent the better part of a morning trying to go through all my gear and then redo all my AAs. But I was one of the lucky ones because I don't really have alts. Some of my guildmates had at least half a dozen or so toons to fix, and they had to do that two or three times because hotfixes were resetting gear all over again.

It's not really that surprising when we consider there's a mountain of gear in game, and over the years, certain stats grew in value only to be de-emphasized in a future expansion. But it's frustrating for players because some hard-earned gear has become less powerful by comparison, and that's altered the landscape when it comes to old content and challenge.

I ran out of gas about two-thirds of the way into respeccing, and I decided to shift gears and check out the new housing changes. The leaderboards are great because people can surf the list of homes and directly port to them to see them up close. The problem right now is that the ranking system could use a little work; it currently allows for abuse and griefing. But despite the issues, it's helped put the decorating community in the limelight, and it's given housing a new purpose in game.

That got me thinking about the future of EQII's housing system and the upcoming addition of player-created dungeons. With the new focus on player-generated content, EQII could learn quite a lot from an unlikely candidate -- Minecraft. Let's take a look at how.

Sound

If you're familiar with Minecraft, you know how important sound is to the game. The hiss of a creeper makes you run and never look back. The sound of liquid, deep in a cave, makes you wonder whether that next block you punch will bring cool water or molten lava pouring in. Eerie sound effects tip you off to the presence of a cave system, important resource, or a jackpot spawner. Even day and night are signaled by short musical interludes. Sound plays a major role in game, and when done well, it evokes emotion in the surrounding world.

Imagine what decorators could do with placeable sound effects. Those beautiful tranquil gardens could carry the sounds of running water or birds chirping. The haunted houses that players have decorated could come complete with jolting screams and creepy noises. And think of what players could do with sounds when they're able to design dungeons in game.

There are actually a few items already in game that have sounds, such as the music boxes, the jack in the box, and the screeching noise box. So it wouldn't be hard to build on that and add a greater variety of sound-effect items that are player-activated or make a sound based on proximity.

Movement

I remember a year or so ago there was an amazing player-made train that was posted in the Norrathian Homeshow, and my first thought was that it's a shame it can't move. Players have created amazing things in their homes, but almost all of them are basically just a 3-D tableau. There's a ton of movement in Minecraft, from powered carts on tracks to flowing currents of water to more sophisticated items like pistons, circuits, and dispensers.

In EQII, we have gears that spin, thanks to Tinkerfest. But what if we could actually use those gears to power our creations? What if we had wheels that spun, items that rolled, levers and pulleys that worked? Adding ways for players to build more dynamic environments would really add to the housing system and design-your-own-dungeon feature.

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Darkness and light

In Minecraft, darkness is the enemy, and when in survival mode, you always have one eye on the sun and the other on your stack of torches. The dark brings danger but also the unknown, as underground caves hold a supply of valuable resources as well as armies of monsters.

I've always enjoyed EQII's use of light and shadow, and when I'm not raiding, I love to crank up my settings and take it all in. But while lamps and torches allow for increased light, there really aren't any homes with dark spaces -- and by dark I mean pitch black. Even if I don't place a single candle in my home, it's still sufficiently lit to enable me to see everything inside. Granted, there are placeable items that create fog, making it harder to see, but nothing that decreases light.

Imagine, though, what decorators could do with the ability to adjust light. Homes and player-created dungeons would have an added element of suspense, mystery, and danger. This might be something that's hard to add to the game, but if it ever did go live, Hitchcock would be proud.

Altering the terrain

What a watershed moment it was when players first learned how to break out of the walls of their guild halls and homes and were able to decorate the outdoor areas outside. When my guildmate Vadel finally got a portal through our guild hall walls, it was as exciting as some of our best raid milestones. For years, players had to deal with the strict confines of their homes when planning their creations, but outdoor spaces are now much more available, and the arrival of the Tenebrous Refuge, an entire outdoor area, is a sound rejection of zoning laws.

But what's still missing is the ability to alter that landscape. In Minecraft, if I want a moat around my structure, I can dig a trench. If I want a mountain with a waterfall, I can build it. If I want to do mountaintop removal mining, I can do that too. This would be difficult to add to EQII, but it would be nice to have the ability to take our instanced environments and be able to adjust the terrain and the outdoor environment to our liking.

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Items with odd uses

This is actually one area where EQII has always done well. In Minecraft, items tend to be a bit vague, and it's left to the player to decide what to do with them. As a result, we've seen creations ranging from the replica Star Trek Enterprise to fully functional motherboards.

In EQII, players have found ways to build new structures using items in different ways than they were intended. Aquariums were always the best example of that because for a long time the only way to get one was to build one using items in creative ways. So ordinary house items like shelves, columns, and beds were transformed in such a way that you could hardly recognize the items in the finished product. The EQII team has met the demand for all-purpose items with a variety of tiles, panels, stone blocks, and other items that can be used in multiple ways that allow players to think outside the box (literally!).

Overall, EQII has come a long way with player-generated content, and the new housing leaderboards, as well as the upcoming design your own dungeon, are shining the spotlight on player creativity. The next step is for the game to add in a greater variety of sensory objects, like sound, movement, or darkness. The decorating community has done some incredible work so far, but one can only imagine what we could do if EQII had a little more Minecraft in it.

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 karen@massively.com.
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