Sunday, March 25, 2012

Less Is More: EQ2

Yesterday I mentioned EQ2's Chronoportal event. It's an atypical example because it seems it was almost thrown together as an afterthought and yet it's all the better for it.

The original Everquest understandably makes quite a big deal of its anniversaries and in 2011 EQ2 decided to join in. Some of the designers cobbled together eight instances using existing models and zones and drenched them in Everquest nostalgia. They pretty much did it in their spare time so they didn't create any baroque, overwritten story arcs or add any long-winded, time-consuming quest sequences. There's just a quick, optional introductory speech from one of the Chronomages to fit a fig-leaf of lore over the offending intrusion from the world of pure entertainment and then it's straight to the action.

That's what I call cutting to the chase
Travel isn't an issue. The portals open right beside bells or druid rings so the furthest is at most a couple of loading screens from anywhere. You can't quite group with anyone because each instance (one per tier from 20 to 90) has a minimum entry requirement of ten levels below the tier, but other than that the instance itself mentors you all to the same level when you zone in.

Oi!! Biggles!! She's over here!
Once inside, all the instances are small and compact. In a good group they each take five to ten minutes. You can run through all eight in an hour or so. All the mobs are tuned for a group and are quite tough if you are doing them at level, although they can be soloed with care by some classes and by most classes with a mercenary (an option which didn't exist when the instances were designed, of course).

What? Yes of course I did a camp check.
The loot is excellent for level and the event would be popular for that reason alone, but it's also very well-received by long-time players because of the strong nostalgia factor and the really rather good jokes. The boundlessly optimistic Fippy Darkpaw makes an early appearance, to the evident despair of the other gnolls, and several magicians see their epic hopes dashed yet again as they rush back from afk bio to see some guy in plate standing over a pile of horsefeathers. Best of all, a number of adventurer stereotypes offer the wisdom of crowds on how to spawn the Ancient Cyclops. I laughed out loud at these last time and they still raised a chuckle a year later.

As well as the good loot that drops, each instance rewards two Ancient Platinum Coins which can be spent at a couple of special vendors. All they sell are nostalgic house items, and each item costs just one Coin. There are twenty-six things to buy (four new ones were added this year), making it easy to acquire all the coins needed to collect everything.

Don't have nightmares
The event runs for nine days and doesn't outstay its welcome. It's very much a drop-in event with no compulsion to keep running the instances after you've seen enough (unless you're determined to get the rareish Pegasus Cloak and that might even be a kind of nostalgic meta-joke in itself). It's a textbook example of how to do more with less. First time round it was tossed up with no fanfare or hype and it returned this year in the same way. It's obvious that it was designed by people who were making something they thought was fun and it transmits.

More like this, please.

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