This, one of the largest containers and most visually appealing back items in the game, can be obtained only by means of a quest, The Nebulous Newsies. I have a vague idea I might have blogged about the day I got my Triple-N Bag (as no-one calls it) but if so I can't find the post.
Desirable rewards from lengthy quests are meat and potatoes to many MMOs but there's something very unusual about this particular example. The quest only becomes available when a Guide appears on the server to offer it. This happens as and when it becomes convenient for the Guide to run the event, not when it might be convenient for players.
Guides aren't employees of DBG. They are players who've chosen to give up some of their free time to run events. They abide by a very lengthy and detailed set of guidelines and appear at times of their own choosing. On any given server that might be several times on a weekend or once in a couple of months.
EQ2Wire today published an excellent and comprehensive overview of this often overlooked institution. It makes for a great read that should explain just why so many EQ2 players are not just willing but happy to put up with a little inconvenience in the cause of encouraging their Guides to carry on the good work.
|I have no memory of this event whatsoever but that's the entrance to Blackburrow in the background. I feel as bemused about it now as that poor gnoll must have been feeling when it was going on. Whatever it was...|
For MMO players whose memory and experience of the hobby goes back more than a decade or so this all may not seem so strange. I played MMOs for years in the knowledge that many things would happen in the game that I would only hear about when I logged in and someone told me what I'd missed.
It was common practice back then for GMs and volunteers alike to run ad hoc events with no fanfare and no warning. The first you'd know would be when an excited guildmate started yelling about it in guild chat. Even when you'd found out something was happening there was the issue of getting there, which in the glory days of EverQuest or Dark Age of Camelot could mean a thirty minute run - and that's assuming you could survive the journey.
Those events were server-specific, random and of extremely variable quality. They could turn out to be zone-wide carnage or an hour of improvised roleplay. Sometimes both at once. By the time the event finished you might have acquired an amazing, extremely rare item or have lost a level. I had a friend rage quit when that happened to him.
Indeed, so wildly did the experiences vary and so disparate might be the potential outcome for characters of different levels or classes or races, you would frequently arrive at the zone in question to find a host of players running towards the locus of the action while an exodus of terrified refugees fled in the opposite direction.
The defining factor of all these events was that you had to be there. There was no appointment for fun. Fun happened. If you could call it fun. Some of the events would be repeated, sometime, who knew when? Some happened just once, ever.
|This looks like it might have been an "event". Then again, maybe it was just a rift. I took a lot of screenshots, though, which suggests I thought it was something special.|
As time rolled on and fashions changed this kind of "be there or be square" event-making fell out of favor. Every major attempt since to introduce the concept of genuinely "dynamic", one-off events to the infrastructure of an MMO has met with a disastrous reaction from a playerbase trained by years of post-WoW MMO design to expect convenience and consistency, not happenstance and opportunism.
Both Rift and GW2 fell at the first hurdle trying to bring something approximating full-scale, real-time event-making into the game. Trion opened the first Planar raid zone with a one-time event then had to spend weeks dealing with PR fallout, both from those players who weren't able to make the date and those who were there and didn't think the effort they'd made had been well-enough rewarded. ANet changed the entire direction of development for their game after the Karka debacle.
The risk that any developer runs by endorsing and encouraging this kind of old school thinking has rarely been exemplified better than in the comments following this much more recent post. Commenter Daemonsbane articulates the dilemma developers face:
I know that for me that when I logged on last night and learned that I had missed the unique opportunity to pick up the quest for perhaps a couple of months that it took the wind out of my sails. I had earlier visited a Mariner's Bell to investigate the quest area, and came away with the understanding that it would be a bit before I was the appropriate level to pursue the quest. But the feeling of waiting to level up to access the quest was totally different, for me, from the feeling of being denied the opportunity to get the quest for perhaps months.No business wants to lose customers like that and Daemonsbane is far from alone in feeling that there are certain benefits to automation and accessibility. On the other hand, as can readily be seen from the forum thread in which a player suggests that very thing, there's an equally vocal lobby in favor of keeping faith with the old way of doing things.
In fact, after finishing up what I was doing last night I no longer had the enthusiasm that I earlier had and so logged over to LotRO to quest there. Of possibly more concern to the devs is that after subscribing and spending money in the cash shop this past weekend I was still considering spending more in the cash shop to pick up some wings, but today I no longer have the urge to spend additional money on EQ2.
With the withdrawal of paid GM's from this kind of community-building activity the torch has passed entirely to the cadre of volunteers who make up EQ2's Guide program. Without our Guides Norrath would be in stasis.
As Feldon says
Guides provide an invaluable service for players and make Norrath feel a bit more alive.That's a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. It might, perhaps, be worth considering in future whether Guide quests should have such extremely desirable rewards attached, given that these are quests that most players may never be lucky enough to happen upon but really, if having a great reward increases the appreciation for the work these volunteers do in their own free time and enhances their status and reputation within the community, the inconvenience that accrues is probably a price worth paying.
Daybreak Games would seem to agree. Talking about the Newsie quest, Feldon reports that
Players line up by the hundreds to pickup the quest from a Guide (it cannot be acquired by any other means) when word breaks that they will be seeking player help on a server. A comparable quest was just added to the Guides’ repertoire this month and it will be interesting to see how frequently it is made available.
Can't wait to see what the new quest brings! Over to you, Guides of Norrath...