Saturday, June 18, 2016

End Of A Legend

The news that Daybreak Games is to sunset the Legends of Norrath collectable card game didn't come as much of a surprise when it was announced yesterday. Despite Massively OP's yellow journalism (to which, once again, I decline to link) I don't read anything into the choice of Friday for the announcement. We're all on a seven day, twenty-four hour news cycle now. The days of burying bad news before the start of the weekend died with print media.

Anyway, the straws were in the wind a while back, when the client for the game was decoupled from EverQuest and EQ2. It's hardly the most upsetting of sunsets, given that in the many years the game has been available to play I've never done more than run through the tutorial and open my free packs.

All the same, I do feel mildly miffed. I will miss opening those imaginary packs of imaginary cards once a month, hoping for a loot card to drop. Over the years it has become something of a ritual. One more small death along the way to the big one, I guess.

There's still time for a couple more rounds. The final date for clearing the decks is Aug‌ust 1‌7, 20‌16 at no‌on pacific. The final round of free cards under All Access membership will arrive by Ju‌ly 1‌8, 20‌16 at 10‌AM paci‌fic, which is also the last opportunity you have to buy packs, assuming anyone ever does any more.

The very exact and precise notification of the timing DBG have announced seems unusual. Presumably they are aiming to avoid any messy in-fighting or even spurious threats of legal action over supposed virtual assets and obligations. Not that any amount of detailed information before the fact will prevent that. There will be plenty of people who go to log in and claim their dues after the cut off date having heard nothing about the game ending. There always are.

I logged into the standalone client to see how many packs I had left to open and to start thinking about claiming all the Loot that I've left sitting in LoN over the years rather than bothering even to move it to the Claim section of the games themselves. I probably don't need to explain that my /claim is stuffed to bursting with freebies I've never gotten around to using...

I was surprised to see, since I was, for once, paying attention to what was on the screen instead of
ritualistically clicking through check boxes, that to date I have accumulated almost 5,000 different cards on my longest-standing All Access account. I am also Level 9 in LoN just from opening packs.

For a few seconds I considered screen-shotting the lot. There's some lovely artwork in there. Then sanity prevailed. I'm sure someone, somewhere, is archiving them as I type. They will live on the internet forever. And if they don't, well, we'll muddle through somehow, I'm sure.

It did make me consider just how much work has gone into this small, uncelebrated game over the years. And how much "art" is produced commercially to no real end, day after day, year after year. It's no wonder Keen can't find anyone with the time to make him a Twitch logo.

The ratio of Loot cards to regular game cards has always seemed quite generous to me. It seems to run at less than one Loot card per five packs but better than one per ten. I am in the habit of holding a safety margin of 20-25 packs unopened in reserve, so each month when I get my five freebies I open them until either I get a Loot card or I've opened ten packs. I rarely have to open all ten.

Today, though, I had a bad run. Because the game is closing soon there's no reason to hang onto the packs, which was just as well because I opened fifteen without a Loot card popping. The LoN client was also lagging very badly, possibly because lots of people are trying to clear their backlogs like me. More likely, DBG is under yet another DDoS lockdown as it has been all week. H1Z1 at the root of that, as usual.

Because I've played a lot more EQ2 than EQ since the free monthly packs were added to All Access, I've mostly chosen to allocate any Loot cards to the newer game. You have always had to specify, at the point of opening the pack, which game you are pointing it at.

Today, partly because I've just recently gotten EQ re-installed on my new PC and I'm back playing there again, partly just because of the bad run, I switched the target to EverQuest. That really changed my luck!

In three packs I got two Loot cards. One was an ornamentation for a dagger, which I will never use, but the second was a mount! Mounts are a big deal in EverQuest and my magician has been riding the raptor that comes with the Heroic Level 85 boost for what seems like forever. That mount puts her at a ridiculous angle, staring at the sky, and it marks her out as a Heroic upgrade, so it's great to have a low-slung lizard to ride instead.

Mostly what I've received over the years have been pictures. There are a lot of those. Some of them are very nice but they tend to have ludicrously ornate frames that overwhelm the illustrations so most of mine are still in the "box". I've had some exciting drops, though. I got a house once.

There is a very useful page on the official LoN website that allows you to see every Loot card for both games in detail, along with which packs to open to try to get them. I have used it to go for specific items but not with much success. There are sixteen packs to choose from and usually I just pick from the list at random.

I also have a Choose Your Loot card that I haven't used yet. That allows me pick any Loot card from any pack there's ever been. I've been saving it because, the way my mind works, until I use it I own ALL the things. Yes, I am Schrodinger's cat. I'll have to collapse the wave function before August 17 though. I'll probably go for the Ice Cream Cart. Always wanted one.

I only have about thirty unopened packs left but Mrs Bhagpuss, who hasn't played EQ2 or over three years and EQ for a lot longer than that, has 120. They aren't going to go into the void. If she doesn't want to open them then I'll do it. Could take a while.

The end of LoN, along with Planetside, a game I never even downloaded in all the years I had the option, probably signifies something both about the future of Daybreak Games and of the EverQuest franchise but I have no clear idea what that might be. It's apparent that DBG is clearing out what someone in charge sees as the deadwood but to what end is impossible to say.

They could simply be reducing costs to increase profitability (or mitigate losses). They might be cleaning up the business to make it more attractive for sale. They might simply be removing older properties that are not well-used and which are increasingly time-consuming to maintain - housekeeping in other words.

The acquisition of SOE by Columbus Nova has been a strange and mysterious event in gaming. Unlike other takeovers or sales, where one gaming company has assimilated another, the purpose and intent is hard to fathom. I find it hard to imagine an investment company choosing to run a portfolio of low-impact MMOs long term, but equally it's hard to imagine them buffing the current roster of games to a shine that makes a profitable resale likely.

As all MMO sunsets do, it makes me aware of the fragility, the evanescence, innate in the genre. It's really not a hobby for anyone who deals badly with loss. The thought of all my EverQuest and EQ2 characters slipping into darkness disturbs me more than it probably ought. The knowledge that, as  Vanguard and Warhammer attest, games can get a rez is a considerable comfort but still I'd hate to lose my little people and their homes. So much time and love has gone into all of that.

But that's life. Everything is mutable. Doesn't do to dwell on it.

For now the servers are up (hackers permitting) and the worlds live on. Let's enjoy it while we can. And don't forget to grab your Loot!


  1. Yeah, the purchase of SOE by Columbus Nova is still a bit inscrutable. It doesn't seem like a breakup, strip and sell transaction. But they are Russian I think, so the motive could be along with line of Jagex's purchase by the Chinese mining company: a way to get money out of the country, and invest in safer regions or industries abroad. (I live in Vancouver, B.C., which currently has a housing crisis because rich Chinese buy up real estate as a way to keep their money safe and growing).

    MMORPGs, of course, are notoriously risky, though only in development. Once paid for, however, they appear to return a nice annual dividend. Which does seem to be how Columbus Nova is treating DBG thus far: close down the empty ancient titles (PS1, LoN), the risky titles in development (EQN), and those stuck in development twilight (Landmark). That leaves them with the perennials (EQ, EQ2, DCUO, PS2), and the new success (H1Z1).

    They did make some high profile hires in the last few months though, so clearly they do seem to be planning something new. My suspicion is that any new games will not be MMORPGs, but more along the lines of smaller multiplayer games that run through Steam (a path Funcom is also taking in the face of relative MMORPG failures). These have far less risk, and since they are smaller, conceivably more prototypes can be thrown out.

    So if one more vet from the first "golden age" of MMORPGs does in fact exit the scene, it does cede even more territory to the new wave of indies.

    - Simon

    1. I didn't know CN had roots in Russia. That is interesting indeed...

      I only found out today, having gone back to playing EQ after a few months and therefore inevitably finding myself having to look stuff up, that Ngreth, Niami Denmother's husband, the long-time tradeskill dev who had been "let go" when SOE turned into DBG, has been re-hired. That I would count as a very optimistic sign, as was the appointment of the guy from Cryptic over at the DCUO office.

      I'm not at all doom and gloom about the situation. I do believe that it would have been worse had Sony not been able to sell the business on. The mid and long term prospects really are a puzzler though.

  2. I do love opening the new packs for EQ2 loot since some of my favorite appearance gear came from LoN. I forget about it a lot and then open a whole bunch of packs at once. I doubt I will miss it much since I would go months without even thinking about it. I will definitely not buy the new LoN random loot packs in the market store. I do not like the idea of randrom packs in general.

    1. Yes, it's one of those things that won't make much of a hole in the overall experience but that I'd rather have kept than have lost. On the other hand, I can still remember the song and dance EQ players made when LoN was introduced in the first place - you'd have thought it was the end of the game when it came in! EQ and EQ2 players never really like any kind of change, whether they're getting something new or losing something old.

  3. It's a good thing you reminded me that LoN is about to go away! I've always wanted the deed for one of the Qeynos mansions. Not so much to save the money (in this day and age, that pocket change, after all), but because with that deed, my house would stay available for everybody during my inevitable wanderings away from the game.

    I just realized I have 80 packs saved up. Spitting on the dice and hoping for a last chance to finally get it! Thank you so much for the reminder!

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