Saturday, July 16, 2016

Project Patchwork Pegasus : EQ2

The change of name and management from SOE to DBG has brought a lot of changes to the two EverQuest titles but one thing that has continued unabated is the long-established predilection of Sony Online Entertainment for experimenting with variant rulesets. It's an approach to curating MMORPGs that I have always endorsed wholeheartedly. I've even suggested that for any MMO to have two servers running under the same ruleset is a wasted opportunity.

Over the years I've done my best to taste all the flavors but even with the greatest goodwill and enthusiasm there are only so many hours in the day and you can only play so many characters. When Holly Longdale announced in her Producer's Letter back in May that two new servers would soon be available I read the rulesets and decided that I'd probably pass on the offer this time around.

Neither of the new servers looked especially appealing. The Isle of Refuge server, whose unique selling point is that almost all items that are flagged "Heirloom" on regular servers will be freely tradeable, seemed to me to be a re-run of EverQuest's Firiona Vie server minus the awkward (and quickly abandoned) "roleplaying" rules.

I played on Firiona Vie when it launched and for a few weeks afterwards. It was a unique and surreal experience. The RP rules included severe language restrictions that meant even characters of the same alignment couldn't communicate - dwarves and elves and gnomes had no common language for example.

The first few days seemed to consist mainly of language parties, where groups of characters of different races would sit in circles and spam each other in /say with repeated text in their own language. That's how you learned a language in  Norrath in those days.

The fact that almost the first thing players attempted to do on the RP server was nullify the very restrictions that had been implemented to encourage roleplaying foretold the story of Firiona Vie's future. Within a short time the only aspect of the ruleset that mattered was the free trading of just about everything, which in turn led to FV's status as the RMT capital of Norrath.

I'd remembered that Firiona Vie later fell into severe decline but it seems that's not the case. If it ever happened that decline has been reversed. I mentioned my belief in a comment to Wilhelm, who observed that FV sits at "Medium" on DBG's server status page, a level that puts it well above most servers for population.

Since I have a level 22 ranger there I took the trouble to log in and check. Using the very reliable benchmarks of /who in Plane of Knowledge, and the Guild Lobby, number of people in General Chat and number of Bazaar traders, all data points that can easily be compared between servers, I find that FV does indeed have a considerably higher population than Luclin/Stromm, my main server these days.

So, reports of Firiona Vie's failure seem to be apocryphal and it makes a lot more sense than I thought to see EQ2 attempting to replicate its comparative good health. Still doesn't make me want to play under that ruleset. When Isle of Refuge went live at the end of June I declined to attend the party.

The other server, which launched a couple of weeks later, looked if anything even less appealing. The server name, Race To Trakanon, is self-explanatory. This is the first of what Holly Longdale suggests may be a series of "Event" servers.

The server runs until the specified event is achieved, in this case the killing of the dragon Trakanon. There are set markers for players to achieve, which provide a variety of material rewards if hit, but soon after the dragon dies the server closes. At that point players get a free character move to the regular ruleset server of their choice and the server re-opens with a new target event.

This seems to me to be a good idea in principle. Over the years the various "Progression" servers for both games have tended to be seen by certain players and guilds as competetive "race to the top" environments. That hasn't always played well with the wishes and desires of the players who were looking to recreate the original Norrathian experiences of the past, or just to play through older content at a reasonable pace with a decent population around them.

Although I approve of the concept of Event servers, which should help to serve the needs of those conflicting communities, as someone who already plays far too many characters in far too many MMOs, much though I love that new server smell, the idea of starting yet another character on a server that won't exist in three months didn't really seem to make much sense. I was going to give this one a pass as well. And then I saw the sweetener.

Like Telwyn I couldn't resist the lure of a free flying mount for every character on my account. That really is a proper incentive. The mount itself isn't just a pegasus, something I have never owned, but a rainbow-hued patchwork pegasus. The patchwork versions of creatures, which appeared a few years back as part of the Bristlebane Day festivities, have always been one of my favorite looks.

What's more, the bar for obtaining this highly-desirable mount has been set exceptionally low. All you need to do is get to Level 10. Even under the slower xp rates and restrictions of the RTT server, that's no more than a couple of decent sessions.

It's very smart marketing. The server requires an All Access account to play on, which effectively makes it a Subscription-only option. Chances are most people playing there right now already had such an account but each of these "AA Only" additions to the game takes it further in the direction DBG clearly intends to go - back to a Subscription service with a generous free trial.

I've spent several hours playing on RTT very happily. Very happily indeed, actually. I forgot just how much fun starting a genuine new character with no access to the accrued wealth of high levels on the same account can be.

Right before I began writing this post my ratonga bruiser dinged ten and the free mount was mine. I could stop there, mission achieved, but I'm not going to do that. I'm having far too much fun.

I chose to begin in Qeynos because even after all these years there's still a great deal of content in Queen Antonia Bayle's capital that I have never experienced. I could have written three more posts already on new quests, new instances and new events that I've found, all of which I've never seen before.

When the time comes for my new bruiser to move home I'll be excited all over again for whatever comes next but it's not the event for which the server is named that's doing it for me. I'll never see Trakanon fall, not unless I watch it on YouTube. No, it's that starting over yet again has made me realize just how much there is still to see even after a dozen years of heavy play. That's been the real "event" for me.


  1. Gratz on the pony! I got one too, still need to do a post on it. It was a nice perk, I figured I'd ignore the event server but that mount couldn't be passed up, Lol. You can use it to fly at 35 too... That's simply awesome. The only other mount I've seen like that was the CE flying mount from this expansion.

  2. There is definitely an audience out there for "competitive" race-type PvE. This is in fact one of the main selling points of Path of Exile, where they are called leagues I believe. Certain people have it down to a science too: kill that mob, get that piece of gear, go here skip that guy, buy this doo-dad from that vendor etc. etc. They absolutely love it too.

    It's also a relatively non-toxic way to introduce competition to PvE (as opposed to the raid-type epeenism). It's sort of the like the different in personality types between sprinters or tennis players, and those who go in for team sports: personal challenge. If EQ2 already appeals to those who like crunchy systems, then it may work there too.

    - Simon


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