Monday, June 17, 2019

Now We All Got Crowns. (Ok, Bunnies...) : EverQuest, EQII

EQ Executive Producer Holly "Windstalker" Longdale popped up today with not one but two Producer's Letters for the EverQuest franchise, one for the original game and another for EverQuest II. She really seems to have settled in as the public face of the franchise. I find her tone both professional and friendly, in marked contrast to some of the previous incumbents.

What she has to say is also pleasantly reassuring to those of us who, only this time last year, suspected the active development of both games might be drawing to a close. In recent times EverQuest and EQII have each established a familiar pattern for the summer months. This year promises more of the same.

EverQuest has the usual sequence of extra-tough dungeon makeovers, now trading under the title "Hardcore Heritage". The first phase is already under way - in fact it's just about to end. The final day for "higher difficulty and better rewards in Blackburrow, Cazic Thule, Ruins of Old Guk, and Unrest" is this Tuesday, June 18.

I wouldn't have bothered with it in any case. I think my "serious" EQ days are finally behind me and I doubt many PUGs would want my badly-geared, badly-played Level 93 Magician tagging along. There might have been some upgrades I could have used but most of them are probably tradeable so I could buy them in The Bazaar - if I could afford them.

The second phase begins on Wednesday, June 19 and includes Crushbone, Permafrost, Castle Mistmoore, and Nagafen’s Lair, all of which come at an even higher level of difficulty. For some arcane reason, Sebilis, which is already in play, straddles both phases, continuing until July 2.

July brings something called Death, Death, Death!, which takes place in Great Divide and involves the Coldain Dwarves. From bitter experience I have learned to distrust, deeply, any war effort involving those blue-skinned psychopaths so I'd be giving that one a wide berth if I was playing, which I'm not.

I am still playing EQII regularly and the prospects there look considerably more enticing. Summer is the Ethereal season in new Norrath and there would be rioting in the streets of Freeport and Qeynos if people couldn't farm their drops. Every year I think about joining them - I am probably just barely competent and geared enough to scrape a place in a public-spirited or desperate PUG  - but in the end I'll most likely forget.

I might very well manage to make it to a few of the upcoming Chaos Descending Public Quests, something we're getting as part of tomorrow's Game Update. Holly is deliberately vague about these in the letter so I can't say whether it means new drops for the existing PQs or new PQs altogether. Either way, the lure is "some best-in-slot items", which guarantees whatever we get will be extremely well-attended, at least for a while.

As I mentioned a few days ago, we're also getting the Scorched Sky holiday event. It starts on June 26 and runs until July 8. The second "Season" on new PvP server Nagafen starts on July 16, which may conceivably be of interest to someone. By all accounts I've heard, the first was a shambles so let's hope the promised "changes and tweaks" improve matters this time around.

That's it for game-specific content but there's one very welcome addition to the Cash Shop, available in both EQ and EQII: Pride Bunnies. These aren't rabbits that roam in lion-like packs, although anyone who's encountered the fanged and ferocious holiday version would be forgiven for thinking so. They're rainbow rabbits celebrating Pride Month and they're free from the in-game store between June 21 and July 31.

In the nearly twenty years I've been playing EverQuest games, attitudes in MMORPGs to what we now call the LGBTQ+ community have changed almost out of recognition. The days when a single /ooc recruiting call for a "gay and lesbian friendly" guild would result in a torrent of abuse seem like something from deep history, thank the gods.

These days, in most of the games I play, well-established LGBTQ+ guilds advertise freely without it seeming in any way extraordinary and any rare homophobic response is quickly and roundly talked down by a chorus of objecting voices. I don't take these hard-won freedoms for granted, not at all, but I do recognize progress where and when I see it.

I'll be getting my "Pride-themed bunny familiars" for every character that's eligible. I don't know if there are any restrictions in level or limits per account. If there are I'll try and report back.

Both of Windstalker's letters drop some very faint hints about the expansions for each game, due much later in the year. The solid news from both is that there will be level cap increases all round: ten levels for EQII, five for EverQuest.

For me, that's a mixed blessing. I love levels and leveling and I always feel an expansion is more "real" if it raises the cap. On the other hand, the way EQII works these days means that a level increase almost completely invalidates all previous content for any characters at the top. Not only is all the gear no longer worth wearing but as of the past year or two you can't even get meaningful xp in any content but the new ten-level range.

Also, and perhaps most painful of all to me, a level cap increase means the loss of the substantial account bonus to XP that comes with having max level characters. I currently have a 120% XP bonus on my subbed account for having half a dozen capped characters. Losing that is really going to hurt on the ones I'm still leveling. Perhaps I'd better follow Windstalker's advice and "level up [my] characters over summer and fall with our leveling-up events".

As for where the expansions will takes us, she's not giving much away. I couldn't make anything of her hint for EQ, "it will be unfamiliarly familiar". Maybe familiars come from some specific place in the lore? The EQII hint is more straightforward: "'s a familiar one if you know EQ". Although, now I type it out, I realize that uses the "familiar" word, too. Hmm...

Last but by no means least there's some mention of the mooted "fan event", the idea of which was originally floated in the run-up to EverQuest's 20th. It hasn't been forgotten but clearly it's taking more organizing than expected: "We are still working on planning a fan event (now probably next year to give EverQuest and EverQuest II fans and guilds time to prepare and plan)."

Even as the timeframe stretches, the shape of the event is becoming more defined, into "a weekend fan event... with Q&As, roundtables, and activities for gamers and roleplayers". I have to say that does sound almost like the old SOE Fan Fare, if not the overblown SOE Live that replaced it.

All of which bodes very well for the future, I think. It could fall apart at any moment, as could any MMORPG from any developer, but at least we're talking as though the future exists. I'll take that as a win.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide