Sunday, 5 August 2012

One Size Fits All: EQ2

I don't know. Step out of the room for five minutes and someone moves all the furniture around. I only popped over to The Secret World for a moment and not only did they fix up Qeynos while my back was turned but it seems they gave Battlegrounds and the Dungeon Maker a makeover while they were at it.

Both got the full "level agnostic" treatment, which is supposed to let anyone group with anyone regardless of level. The game sorts it all out behind the scenes. By magic.

Well, almost. Battlegrounds actually got split into two sizes: 30-89 and 90-92. Presumably the thought of autotuning a raider with max AA, Prestige Points and end game gear versus a level 30 in quested gear made someone's wig fly off.

Dino Wars
I tried both last night, as a level 66 Necro dressed largely in odds and ends she appeared to have found in a bin, who hadn't gotten around to updating most of her spells beyond Adept and as a 92/420/10 Berserker, CAs at Expert or better, dressed in good quality legendary and fabled quested gear. Somewhat surprisingly, the experiences weren't all that different.

EQ2 Battlegrounds use a highly counter-immersive but eminently practical system of random matching. You queue up and when your BG pops you can find yourself in either the Blue Team or the Red team, often fighting alongside some of the same people you were trying to kill in the last one. Although pre-mades can still queue together and exercise their heavily distorting effect on a match, at least there's no possibility of them steamrolling you ten times in a row until you throw your monitor out of the window (Hi, Whitefall Steppes!). You're as likely to be fighting with them as often as against them.

This is what I'll be wearing
My success or failure seemed to depend more on how our whole team was doing rather than on my relative level. When the Team did well, my contribution seemed about what I'd expect from my meagre PvP skills and current lack of practice. I was able to stay upright for a while, knock some other people down and generally not be a complete drag anchor on the rest of my team. On the other hand, when the whole team was doing badly (we had two total whitewashes), at least everyone else seemed to be dying as fast and as often as I was.

Thumbs up for the Level Agnostic thing then. It also seems to have revealed a previously-unknown bloodlust in EQ2's famously laid-back population. Both level ranges were popping in moments. I don't think I had to wait more than 20 seconds for one all night. As the evening wore on it got so busy a second instance of Champion's Respite spawned.

If I PvP for a year straight
That's the zone with all the PvP vendors and questgivers and therein may lie the key to all this sudden activity. It used to be that PvP armor was great for PvP but only so-so for PvE. You'd only want it if you wanted to do PvP in it, and unless PvP was all you did you'd still need another set for PvE. That's all changed.

GU64 made it so that your PvP stats derive from your PvE stats, meaning you can get started in your regular gear. The PvP gear you buy with the tokens you get from doing PvP makes you better at PvP but also now has comparable stats to equivalent PvE gear. Which means you can, if you so choose, get the equivalent of Solo Quested, Heroic Group and even Raid PvE gear purely by doing PvP.

If I wasn't about to spend what I hope will be a good while in Guild Wars 2, I would be thinking seriously about Battlegrounds as my main combat activity at 92. Lots of upgrades and very achievable solo.

Moving on to player dungeons, again the changes seem to have worked. The two big complaints about the Dungeon Maker have been
  1. most people want to play their own character, not some weird "avatar"
  2. most designers want to be able to tell stories and there aren't any tools to do it
 SoE had a go at the first on Test a long time back but the results were terrible. Worse than playing an avatar was the unanimous verdict. This time they seem to have got it right. I ran several DM dungeons solo this morning with my 90 Beastlord and they played pretty much like any other solo content in the game. All the fights lasted longer than with the avatars, which I see as a very good thing (I always found the avatars incredibly overpowered although some people seemed to find them the opposite).

Mental health issues. The Designer, that is.
Crucially, the difference between the weaker and stronger creatures in the dungeons was very clear. That has never been the case before. When I got to the final boss in one dungeon it was a very close-run fight. All in all, a big improvement.

So much for the player's side of things. How about the designer? Not had time to test it for myself yet, but the store now offers items that allow for text to appear on screen in locations of your choosing and you can also designate mobs to be non-combat, allowing for both extras and actors in your dramas. All these items, like all Dungeon Maker stuff, can be bough for the Marks you get from running and building dungeons - no Station Cash required.

I'll try to find time to play around with it before GW2. Making dungeons was already fun but this should add a whole new dimension to it.

Job well done, SoE. Patted backs all round.

2 comments:

  1. The Dungeon Maker has interested me ever since I've heard about it, and in the end it seems like it would do one thing --

    Make people want to create their own PnP Campaigns, and tell stories almost like a PnP game. Which is just plain hard to do in the digital space.

    That's actually what my first thought was when I heard the name "D&D Online", I though it was going to be a massive Campaign editor service, where you could host Campaigns or use a Campaign finder. No such luck.

    Great to hear about the improvements though!

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  2. There is something a bit like you describe, although not exactly. Tipa at West Karana wrote quite a lot about it, starting here

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