Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Constant Headache

At 12PM PDT on May 11 the curtain went up on Darkpaw's latest attempt to bring PvP to EverQuest II. I hadn't been planning on joining in, not even to make a character and run around for new server giggles, so although I'd heard it was coming I'd forgotten all about it.

There wasn't much chance of my remaining in ignorance for long. Wilhelm, who makes a point of chronicling all significant developments in both the EverQuest games, put up a post marking the occasion right away. I expected that, or I would have done if I'd have remembered it was launch day. Then, a few hours later, I got an email from Darkpaw telling me Tarinax was live.

That felt quite unusual. Darkpaw don't send out emails about every blasted, tiny, trivial little thing the way other developers *cough Square Enix cough* do. I checked my email history and the only other direct communications I've had from Darkpaw about EQII over the last year or so have been for the expansion and some, not all, of the Game Updates. 

Someone clearly thinks Tarinax is a big deal. Or hopes it will be. And it probably is to the very vocal hardcore of veterans who see EQII as a PvP tail wagging a much larger and far less interesting PvE dog.  As Wilhelm points out, EQII's history with PvP has been fraught. I'd go a bit further than that and say "fraught" is pretty much EQII PvP's natural state.

We could spend the rest of our lives arguing over whether EQII ought to have PvP at all. Plenty of people do that on the forums already and have done since the game began. Even if we were able to agree that it should, we could keep ourselves occupied for a second lifetime, debating what form that PvP should take. And if we could agree on that (Just a thought experiment, you understand. It could never actually happen.) we'd still have many happy years ahead of us trying to iron out a ruleset we could all agree on.

I have no idea how many dedicated PvPers EverQuest II really has. What I do know is that enough of them are prepared to make their voices heard both on the forums and inside the game to make it feel there are plenty. If you listen to what they have to say about the demand it's very hard to understand why EQII has so many PvE servers and why the PvP servers it does have keep closing down.

It's tempting to say it's due to lack of interest. That's certainly what the PvE hardcore like to claim. And the PvE softcore. They're the ones who take the very existence of PvP in Norrath as a personal affront. Really, though, who knows?

Until recently population figures for EQII were a matter of pure speculation. Absolute figures, that is. It's long been possible to rank individual servers in terms of how many people are playing on them at any given time by simple reference to the invaluable Game Server Status page. Granted, we have no clue what the numerical trigger points for "Low", "Medium" and "High" might be but we for sure know what order to put them in. 

I look at the page frequently, sometimes to check if servers are up yet after a patch, but more often out of idle curiosity. It seems to fairly reliable as far as I can tell. For EverQuest, certainly, the servers marked as "High" are known in game as the busy ones and the "Low" as the dead ones. And the levels generally seem to reflect the logical expectations, with EU servers being busier in the correct time brackets and spikes of activity reflecting known changes in the games, like a new update or some increase in publicity.

That's for the games in Daybreak's portfolio that have populations big enough to show those kinds of variations. EverQuest has twenty-four servers that split (as I write this) to six "High", nine "Medium", nine "Low". EQII is not one of those happy(ish) games.

All EQII's servers are currently showing "Low" except for the EU server, Thurgadin, which has just moved into "Medium" as we reach the early evening here. Most times I've checked recently that's been the case. Even Kaladim, the TLE server, which used to be "High" a lot of the time (not making the joke) is now "" most times I look.

Of course, today of all days, it's possible no-one's on the regular servers because everyone's answered the call. Maybe the newbie zones on Tarinax are overflowing with junior player-killers, eager to grab their quota of rats and bats so they can level up and get on with the serious business of battling the other factions. I wouldn't know.

I wouldn't know because Darkpaw haven't seen fit to add Tarinax to the server list yet. That's one reason I wouldn't know. The other is because when I went to make a character there to go see for myself how busy it was I ran into a small problem.

To play on Tarinax, as with all special ruleset servers in both EverQuest and EQII, you have to be an All Access member. I am a Member (Honestly, I preferred it when we were called Subscribers. I guess that makes me old. Which I am.) That wasn't the problem. The problem was I didn't have any free character slots.

It didn't come as a surprise. I hadn't forgotten I had to buy an extra slot to make my Vah Shir just last month. I was just hoping if I stared at the screen for long enough, I might notice one I'd somehow missed. I didn't.

I thought about buying yet another slot but it seemed profligate. Okay, I could delete the character after my fact-finding mission and re-use it for someone I'd actually play, only I'm not actually playing the last two new characters I made so that didn't seem like it was much of a position.

All of which means I still have no idea whether or not Tarinax is, on release day, painfully full, cheerfully busy or disappointingly quiet. What I can say for certain is that EQII as a whole is the last of those.

We know that because of the torrent of hard numbers that spilled out from ther EG7 buyout a few months back. We were all surprised to see how well some of the games were doing, particularly DCUO and EverQuest, but the numbers on EQII were far less reassuring.

By those reports, EQII is the smallest of all of Daybreak's mmorpgs (and mmofps's for that matter, when we throw in Planetside 2), by all applicable measures, MAUs, Membership and Bookings. The only title that comes close to being as small is SSG's Dungeons and Dragons Online (We won't quibble about whether SSG is Daybreak for now - EG7 thinks it is and they should know - they bought the package.) DDO is slightly ahead on all counts.

The upshot of all this is that Darkpaw needs those PvP players. They need all the players. Those players say they want to play and within the company, on the part of individual developers, there's always been a pro-PvP lobby. It ought to be a win-win. Only it never is.

The problem first SOE and then Daybreak have always had is getting the PvP offer right. Everything they try seems to end up in a shouting match and a lot of grumpy customers. And yet, if you listen to the forums (please don't do that) you'll get the impression everything was murder heaven back in the good old days of Nagafen, the original EQII PvP server. If that's true, why did it close down?

Don't look at me. I didn't play on it. I've never played on a PvP server in EQII. EverQuest, yes, a few times. Ineffectually and often in screaming terror, but I have played. My EQII PvP experience is limited to the battlegrounds we used to have on PvE servers, now sadly gone (probably because of performance issues, although maybe because no-one much was using them.)

I won't elaborate on that right now although I might do a post on my personal PvP history. IIn fact, that was what I thought this post was going to be about when I started. As with just about everything related to PvP in EQII, though, things didn't work out as planned.  

I hope Darkpaw can get it right this time. The vibe on the forums doesn't seem quite as overtly hostile as usual and the ruleset they've settled on sounds as good as any. They've gone for faction-based PvP, which is what comes up most often as the thing people miss. They've also rolled in the TLE concept, which is something that's been working well for Darkpaw for a long time now.

Maybe this will be the PvP server that finally works. I'm guessing it won't be long before we know. When these things fall apart they tend to fall apart fast. And it doesn't have to last forever or even all that long. If Tarinax manages a couple of years that would be a success by the standards of special ruleset servers. By then, if they've enjoyed the ride, people are generally ready to start over and do it all again.

If it ends up as a permanent PvP server, or at least as permanent as Nagafen was, that would be even better. Maybe then I'd be sorry I hadn't bought a character slot and gotten in on the ground floor. No, not really.

Right now I'll just settle for them adding the damn thing to the Server Status page. You'd think someone might have thought of that if they were planning on keeping Tarinax around for a while. I hope that's not an omen.


  1. Oh, the battlegrounds are gone? Not that I ever played in one, but I though they could at least sustain that. There is no depth of failure they cannot plumb it seems, save actual closure.

    I often rely on Twitter and Discord to keep an eye on Daybreak and initially misread the first update I saw and thought EQ was opening a PvP server, which confused me because they still have the Zek server, itself a product of the four Zek siblings being merged into one.

    And keeping an eye on Daybreak will probably be more annoying as my Google alert for the term "Daybreak Games," which gives me dubious results at the best of times, reported to me that Fortnite is introducing a "Daybreak Game" mode of some sort, which is close enough to the search term that Google is already throwing it at me.

    1. It might help if the news came out from "Darkpaw" rather than Daybreak. I do try to remember to use the individual studio names but then I have to keep looking up what they are...

      Battlegrounds closed a couple of years back, I think. Maybe longer. My memory tells em they were somehow implicated in the lag issues DBG were trying to fix. They shut off various features and systems trying to work out what the problem was and not al of them got switched on again. It's possible I'm misremembering that, though, and BGs were just closed because of lack of interest. I didn't use them a lot but occasionally I played a few matches and they were pretty good fun. I'd be happy to see them brought back.

      Remember that competitive PvE feature? Proving Grounds, that was it. I don't even know if that's still working. I might check it out.

  2. I want to let the world know about Dr Azaka the Great spell caster that brought back my husband to me when i thought all hope was lost. Doctor Azaka used his powerful spell to put a smile on my face by bringing back my man with his spell, at first i thought i was dreaming when my husband came back to me on his knees begging me to forgive him and accept him back and even since then he loves me more than i ever expected so i made a vow to my self the i will let the World know about Doctor Azaka because he is a God on earth. Do you have problems in your relationship ? have your partner broke up with you and you still love and want him back ? Do you have problem with your finance ? or do you need help of any kind then contact Doctor Azaka Spell temple today for i give you 100% guarantee that he will help you just as he helped me. Doctor Azaka Email is drazakaspelltemple@gmail com or WhatsApp +2349059389105


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide