Sunday, 30 July 2017

Under The Radar: EQ2, DCUO

Syp is a great ambassador for the MMO genre. He's enthusiastic, curious and indefatigable. He's the most entertaining writer at MassivelyOP as well as, with his Game Archeologist series, the most informative.

When it comes to Daybreak Games, though, he does seem to have a bit of a blind spot. The introduction to a recent post on games we haven't heard much of for a while (the DBG title in question being Planetside2) reminded me of the kind of call you might get from your mother six weeks into the second year of college - "Are you okay? Are you sure you're okay? Is there something you're not telling us? You never write, you never call...we worry about you!"

It is true that DBG seems less interested these days in pushing new product to a new audience. The focus seems to be much more on dishing up a familiar diet to the customers they already have. It's interesting to learn that DBG's PR department "hardly ever (read: never) sends out notices these days"). Radio silence for the media, while, for those of us actually playing the games, there's a steady stream of information and new content.

This week brought a couple of new developments to DBG's portfolio, one a major and long-awaited revamp, the other a small tweak to a holiday event. Guess which impressed me most.


The big ticket event was the sweeping change to the way stats work in DCUO. I can't remember how long ago this was trailed; it seems like years ago. I remember I'd just made a fresh character on my new All Access account. I was enjoying leveling her up but as details about the extent of the revamp filtered out I decided to mothball her pending the patch.

By the time that patch finally arrived I'd forgotten so much about how the game worked that any subtleties buried in the new systems were utterly lost on me. I logged in, got lost in the JLA Watchtower as usual, then made a complete hash of choosing my new powers and abilities.

I ended up putting all my points into my travel options. Fortunately, in DCUO travel powers are also fighting powers, so I can still function. It's not the character I was planning on playing though. Lucky I finally found a mailbox to collect the free respec token granted to subscribers. I'm going to need it!

The game seemed busy, especially given most of the action takes place in instances so the huge majority of players are never visible. The Watchtower resounded with explosions as players dueled each other, or pretended to. The hallways of the Metropolis PD stations were alive with heroes zipping in and out. It's always hard to judge but DCUO seems healthy.


EQ2 may not be quite as insanely sprawling as EverQuest but as it approaches a decade and a half of continual growth the in-game real estate is far too large for anyone to assess the population at a glance. Periodically, certain events cause critical masses of players to coalesce; the launch of the Fallen Gate server was one such occasion and to a lesser extent so is every in-game Holiday.

Mid-summer means Tinkerfest, one of my favorite Norrathian holidays. I would have made time to log in for the gnomish festival even if nothing had changed since last year but as it happens there was a very big addition to the blueprint for 2017.

Public Quests got off to a shaky start in EQ2 but over the years they have become a core part of gameplay. "Any PQs up?" would probably head the list of "Things people ask in General Chat" these days, closely followed by "Can I get an invite?" as each zone hosting an active Public Quest fills to capacity.

I love PQs. In every MMO I play they are an absolute highlight: Dynamic Events and World Bosses in GW2 Invasions in WoW, Rifts in Rift, even FATES in FFXIV, it seems to me that this is the gameplay MMOs were invented to provide.


EQ2 doesn't have a huge number of PQs but they're being added all the time and they are getting better and better. The new one that came with Tinkerfest is top-notch.

It's called Hack & Slash and EQTraders has a great write-up. I won't go over that ground again. If you play EQ2 at all, log in and go do the PQ before it vanishes next week. If you don't, read Naimi Denmother's piece and wish you did.

I've said this before but it very much bears repeating. Whatever may be going on behind the scenes at DBG and however much certain customer-facing representatives may appear to lack any of the necessary skills for that role, when it comes to adding free, fun content that inspires me to want to log in and play, the EQ2 team has no competition at all.

Every holiday event they step up to the mark but this time they really hit the ball out of the park. It's not just the quality of the events and quests themselves, which is uniformly high, but it's the rewards. They are almost always truly desirable.

I can only dream that one day ANet might come up with a Living Story episode that includes a single item I actually want. It could happen. I guess. For Tinkerfest this year, for the most determined we have the big ticket reward from Hack & Slash, the Spidermech Defender familiar (which I can't link because no-one's made one yet).

For everyone else we have a slew of house items, cosmetic pets and plushies as well as the regular PQ armor drops and a new helmet. I got a house pet from the very first one I did and I was as excited as if I'd had an Ascended Weapon crate in GW2 - more excited!

Since then I've done the PQ twice more and received a plushie and an excellent furniture item with a revolving turret. This is what I want!

What's more, the event itself is an absolute hoot. PQs in EQ2 are very hard to screenshot because they are, without exception, a chaotic jumble of players, mobs and explosions. My personal heaven in  other words. I would absolutely do this particular PQ multiple times even if there were no rewards I wanted because it's thrilling, exhilarating and hilarious.


Returning to where we began, it's also very busy. I have no idea how many people are playing EQ2 these days and even less can I estimate whether however many it might be is sufficient to keep the game profitable. What I can say is that, from the perspective of a player, the game feels vibrant, bustling and very much alive.

I do wonder sometimes why I play anything else.

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