Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Village Green Preservation Society (Freeport Chapter): EQ2



I was going to get Furglebin to give his thoughts on the new, instanced versions of Freeport's villages (or " 'hoods" as the EQ2 dev team has somewhat embarassingly chosen to start calling them ). Furglebin never saw the original versions, though so he's going to have to keep his thoughts to himself for a while and let me compare old with new.

 So far I've seen behind the gates of Temple Street, Beggars Court and Scale Yard. Some of us who've been around Norrath for a few years now had built up quite a store of affection for those villages. Before the Age of Discovery arrived there were requests for one of the old zones to be kept open for nostalgia's sake, so we could go on living in the village Inn and pass on Lucan's unusually generous offer to have his personal housemovers (I forget whether they're trolls or ogres) move all our precious stuff to the ever-unpopular Jade Tiger in North Freeport. Or as we must learn to call it, the North of Freeport. No zoneism under the Overlord's enlightened rule.

Gnomish equations. Who knew?

Failing that, people asked, could we have a nostalgia tour, where we'd be whisked around the old zones on a look-but-don't-touch trip. Maybe on a Maj'Dul carpet, since the many pleas for a Sedan Chair mount continue to go unheard. But no, there was to be no last-minute reprieve. All six villages were converted into Instances, their high, ironbound gates firmly locked to those without the requisite quest in their journal.

A few weeks ago I went round my favorites (Temple Street, Beggars Court, Big Bend) using EQ2's spiffy newish in-game video option to make my own documentary on the Way We Lived. I'm quite glad I did because the new villages are very different and it'll be nice in a few years to look back at the good old days, but if I had in mind that the villages might be ruined, or just wasted, I needn't have worried.

Norrath, Doctor? Are you certain?

All three of the villages I've seen so far look very much as they did. They're immediately recognizable as the same places, the zone architecture largely unchanged. What's really changed is that the villages have come alive.

Yes, isn't it weird? All the characters controlled by living people have been booted out, leaving only computer-controlled NPCs and yet the villages feel more vibrant, more lived-in, more "real" than ever before. In Temple Street, where gnomes and ratongas always lived an uneasy, uncomfortable truce, the removal of any need to pander to commerce with players has freed both sides to give fullest expression their shared technological insanity. Clockwork excrescences have appeared on the buildings like barnacles on a boat and tin men walk the streets where pigs frolicked. It's like Ak'Anon with added ratonga.

Beggar's Court, longtime den of minor ganglords, thugs and receivers of stolen goods, has made full use of the meridian wall that was always its signature. Below, indentured craftsmen whipped straight from the refuge boats (those are still coming? Really?) slave at the forges and workbenches, while above the gangmasters lounge around tables laden with roasted poultry (looking suspiciously like Vulrich), drinking ale beneath the newly-planted palms.

A gnome would not be my first choice for Prison Cook.

Scale Yard is a prison. The Freeport Militia have annexed it and filled it with surly and unruly "criminals" and many of the inmates and the guards seem to be Iksars and Sarnaks. Hence the name. And once again there's a table groaning with food and ale for the Overlord's favored to enjoy.

The stories are pretty good, the small segments I've seen so far. The Beggar's Court one was actually too morally disturbing for even my "evil" ratonga characters. If it goes on the way it started I'll have to skip that one with the rats and let my Iksar Necromancer and Troll Shadowknight take over. One way or another, though, I'm going to explore these new villages and their stories. There's more going on than I ever knew and much more than I expected.

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