Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What Are All These People Doing Here? EQ2

The EQ2 wiki is surprisingly vague on Public Quests, something I only discovered when I was doing a little research for this post. I thought I'd better check a few facts before setting finger to keyboard because, even as I was framing an opening paragraph about the oldest PQs in Norrath, the ones in The Commonlands and Antonica, it occurred to me that I wasn't sure whether they really were the oldest. Didn't the PQs in Great Divide that arrived along with the Velious expansion pre-date them?

As it turns out, yes they did. Public Quests arrived on Norrath as a highlighted feature of Destiny of Velious. So much for my memory.

I do remember doing Echoes of The Ring War in Great Divide many times. Many, many times. Sometimes I'd run it several times in one day, particularly on a Sunday. It was fun and profitable. Also well-attended.

Almost from the day they appeared Public Quests were a popular success. They added a new element to the game, something that felt rather like ad hoc raids. PQ's offered something different, something we hadn't seen before - or not in EQ2, at least.

Bertoxxulous, taking the form of a giant, rotting ratman.
He wanders around talking to himself and one-shotting people. Wouldn't you?

Here, once again, I find my memory playing tricks on me. For this paragraph I first wrote "Newer MMOs like Warhammer Online and Rift had been making hay with this kind of all-pile-on semi-casual content for a while by the time the idea filtered down to Norrath" and then I wondered if they really had. So I checked .

Wrong again! Although WAR, where Public Quests began, had been around for three years by the time EQ2 got its own version, Rift had yet to launch. The first Public Quests in EQ2 opened for business in February 2011; Rift didn't officially go live until the following month.

Despite having stolen a march on the competition, EQ2 remained diffident about its achievement. Where Rift and, eighteen months later, GW2 put their signature large-scale, hot-join events squarely front and center, both in the design of the games themselves and their marketing campaigns, PQs in EQ2 remained something of a supporting feature, at best.

Nevertheless, development of the format continued. And continues to continue. I think every expansion since has had some kind of Public Quest attached and today I did my first PQ in Planes of Prophecy.

I guess this must be the place...

I'm keen on Public Quests. I liked them in WAR, loved them in Rift. I've spent the last half-decade doing little else in GW2. My experience with PQs in EQ2, however, has been somewhat sporadic.

As I said, I started out doing one of the Great Divide PQs with some frequency. The other GDPQ was less popular and less enjoyable. I did that one quite a few times but it was harder to find enough people who knew the mechanics and it often failed.

In the intervening years I've done The Commonlands PQ maybe a dozen times or more but the Antonican one I may only have done twice. Coming up to date, during the last year I did all of the Kunark Ascending PQs multiple times each.

Looking at the wiki page, though, I can see there are plenty more that I've never done at all. Most of them I didn't even know existed. In total there are nearly two dozen listed but that's clearly incomplete because neither Antonica nor Great Divide is included and nor are the various holiday-related PQs.

I'm just going to stand here and watch this round, if that's okay with everyone.

Some of the others I've never even heard of let alone seen and it's more than likely I never will. The idea that a full PUG raid will assemble in Lesser Feydark or Steamfont Mountains to do content from several years ago seems fanciful.

In EQ2 Public Quests seem destined to remain tied to current content. While the old PQs lie forgotten, the Kunark Ascending set have been consistently called in General chat for the whole of the active lifetime of that expansion, with multiple copies of the relevant zones spawning to accommodate demand.

They're still being called, sporadically, even now, so someone's still doing them, at least for the time being. It's a long time since I heard anyone call a Terrors of Thalumbra PQ though and that's only looking two expansions back.

Planes of Prophecy brings a big change to the system in that, for the first time, the new Public Quests take place in their own instances. They're "public" in the sense that anyone can join but no longer in the sense that you could run into one by accident while roaming the open world.

The screen splatters are very clever and all but they do kind of draw attention to the fact that I'm looking at a screen.

The reasons are two-fold. Firstly, recent expansions with reduced development resources don't have a wealth of wide-open, above-world areas where PQs could just happen. Space is limited and a huge event spawning raid mobs would be problematic.

Kunark Ascending dealt with that by having one very localized PQ that was tied to the signature questline and several more in the thematically and geographically associated, but very much larger zones from the original Rise of Kunark expansion. That wasn't really an option for PoP - almost by definition all Planar zones, old and new, are instances anyway.

The second reason is cheating. By their very nature, Public Quests allow for rewards to be obtained for minimal effort. They are large, sprawling , chaotic events for which no-one is required to group or raid.

Although raids always form and everyone is always desperate to get an invite, anyone who participates gets credit. That's very fair for the soloists taking their chances but less so for the afkers sitting safely out of range, letting everyone else do the work.

Is that it?
Er, I mean, "Phew! That was a close one! And just look at all this ichor on my armor. I'll never get the stains out!"

DBG tried some preventive measures in previous PQs. They made the reward chest spawn at random locations, well clear of the battle and they even added a massive knockback to the end of the event that threw everyone into the air. People still found ways to get the goodies without making much of an effort.

With the new PQs you don't only have to click on a portal in Colosseum of Valor to get in. You also have to go back to CoV and hand in a token to the wonderfully named Dr. Arcana, an NPC who looks as though he's walked straight out of a 1930s Saturday Morning Pictures serial.

Still, none of that means you have to know what you're doing or indeed have to do anything particularly effective, as I discovered in my first run today. I happened to see the PQ was up as I was passing the Plane of Disease alcove, so I zoned in out of curiosity. Once inside, I couldn't see anything happening so I just followed the first person who ran by.

I ended up with a bunch of people at a lake. Someone invited me to join a raid so I did. I said hello and announced that I hadn't done it before. I asked for anyone to let me know if I was doing something wrong, whereupon some wit observed that it wouldn't matter if I was because all I'd need to do would be blame the healer like everyone else.

Dr. Arcana, I presume?

Someone offered a more useful thumbnail of what to do - pull the mobs and kill them under the seeds. I waited. The PQ began. Someone pulled mobs. I helped kill them under the seeds.

After a while of that I noticed there weren't many of us left. Everyone had gone somewhere else. So I went too. Then I cam back because I couldn't find them. Someone ran past me and jumped on a rideable bat so I got on one too. It flew me around for what seemed like quite a long time then, just as it landed and while I was still figuring out what to do next, the PQ ended.

Apparently we'd killed the two Queens of Disease. I never even saw them. All the same, I got full credit and my proof of participation item, so I zoned back to the Colosseum and handed it in for my reward.

That'll do nicely.
About par for the course on a new PQ. It usually takes a few goes to figure out what's going on, then a few more to figure out what you're supposed to do about it. Then there's a few runs where it's all very exciting as you feel like you're really getting the hang of things, followed by a stretch when it starts  to feel like just another day at the office.

Eventually, you reach the penultimate stage, when you turn up and do the minimum you can get away with to get  participation credit, so you can bugger off as quickly as possible to do something more interesting instead. And the final stage? That's when you no longer need anything the PQ has to offer so you never do it again. Until you're leveling up the next character, that is...

All in all, though, I think Public Quests are a Jolly Good Thing in any MMORPG. They may have been Warhammer's only lasting contribution to the genre but it was a good one. Not many developers have come up with anything as successful or as fundamental since then, so thanks for that, Mark Jacobs or Paul Barnett or whoever thought of the idea in the first place.

Meanwhile, EQ2's PQs may not be the most sophisticated around but they're pretty darn fun. I'm going to keep on doing them whenever I get the chance. With a bit of luck and plenty of patience, one day I may even find out what I'm supposed to be doing!


  1. I love PQs as well, but think that all the effort to stop "freeloaders" is just overdone. As long as the encounter scales properly by damage received instead of bodies around, who cares if someone gets easy loot. All of it is relatively easy and the fights (in most PQs I have done, anyway) are simple as pie and not too challenging.

    1. There must have been some kind of issue because DBG no longer have the resources to make changes just because devs don't like the way things are going. There were continual issues with KA PQs in that there were multiple instances up for much of the year and people were always complaining they were full so I'm guessing there were customer service issues. The new system is a lot tidier, if less immersive.


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