Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just what is it that makes today's ratongas so different, so appealing? : EQ2


Cast your mind back 500 years. Seven if you prefer. Either way you wouldn't have found any three-foot tall rats scurrying through the streets of Freeport. No overgrown rodent would have tried to draw you into a plot to poison her sister or discredit a commercial rival. It was safe for a gnome to walk the streets in full confidence that he'd never have to look anyone straight in the eye, much less turn a corner to find his path blocked by a raddled rodent grinding her verminous hips beneath a tattered ballgown and giving him the old come hither.

Here kitty kitty!
When EQ2 was in development and even while it was still in closed beta, ratongas were under heavy suspicion. On the ever-inflammatory Everquest forums opinion ran strongly against their very existence. We never asked for more rats, they complained. Why, we're hardly using the ones we've got!  Even let's say we did need more rats, why would we want these new-fangled "ratongas"? What's wrong with the good old Chetari, then? Eh? EH!?

I remember when I had dialog
It's fair to say that public opinion was divided. About 80% against if my memory serves me right. Still, ratongas always had their supporters. All-ratonga guilds were being lined up. Cheese-based names were being reserved. And when the time came, after all the Shattering and Rending that split the earth deep enough to let in the dim Freeport light, up came the ratongas to the Norrathian equivalent of a golf clap.

As the years passed, though, it seemed that almost all that bad feeling just melted away. Ratongas simply fitted. The snide remarks and open criticism so familiar to players of ratongas over the first few months gave way to the kind of genial racial banter gnomes and dwarves have always found so welcoming. With their extraneous esses and their skittering gait ratongas became emblematic of the new Freeport. Devious, disturbing, unsettling yet always that strange, dangerous promise of intrigue.

"You want somes company?"
Temple Street was my favorite village from the start. It had character and characters. Chef Schmenko. waving his cleaver, chasing cats around the central square. Arms Dealer Schinka with her deals you couldn't afford to miss. Vlepo and Vleko, locked in their eternal vendetta with the Togglesmeets. Not to mention the terrifying Spezi. Please, not to mention.

All the original EQ2 villages were vignettes. Short stories. Miniatures. Meticulously detailed pocket-size zones filled with incident and intrigue. Temple Street had the trump card, though. Ratongas and gnomes. In Qeynos not only were there no ratongas at all, but the gnomes had to share their little patch with halflings. Halflings, I ask you!

They do say that nothing good lasts long, and it was a sad day when the ill-advised Simplification cleared out most of the village quests, sweeping away back-story and depth along with them. Soon it's going to happen again only this time round Temple Street will turn into an instanced dungeon. Let's hope it brings a storyline worthy of its history and preserves both the look and feel of a place that's been home to two of the shortest, oddest races on Norrath. And me.

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