Friday, October 29, 2021

It's All Just EverQuest In The End, Isn't It?

At one hundred and twenty hours in, I'm starting to feel I have some idea just what it is about New World that makes me enjoy playing it so much. It's basically EverQuest. Or maybe Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, which was EQ 2.5. No wonder I like it.

I guess you could say New World is the latest addition to the EverQuest family, although I'd stop short of calling it EverQuest 3. Or EQNext god forbid. Could have made a great clickbait title out of that. Amazed I managed to show some restraint.

No, it's more like a cousin than a sibling or a daughter but it feels as though it's very much in the same bloodline, just like Star Wars: the Old Republic and Wildstar felt like they were in the same family as World of Warcraft. Which, of course, makes them second cousins to EverQuest, too.

Let me be a little more specific about what I mean. Here are a few of the more significant things I remember about about early EQ as it was when I played in 1999-2000.

  • There was no central narrative.
  • Any story there was came from quests, few of which seemed to have much to do with each other.
  • The world was sprawling and mysterious, filled with mysteries from a deep, forgotten past.
  • Travel took time and felt dangerous.
  • Gameplay revolved around leveling your character and not much else.
  • Skills, including weapon skills, leveled on use.
  • If you wanted to buy something you had to go to where it was sold.
  • Dungeons required groups but there was no automated means of finding one.

Most of those things also existed in Vanguard and now I see them in New World. I haven't seen all that many of them in any new mmorpg I've played over the past decade. The last time I noticed something similar would have been WoW Classic, the version of WoW that really does show its EverQuest roots, and that also grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go, until an external Blizzard scandal spoiled the illusion.

All of the above relate mainly to adventuring but EverQuest also had a crafting system from the start, although in those early days it was comparatively limited. It was a click-to-make process rather than a hands-on operation although it was nerve-wracking, too, with the relatively high chance of failure and material loss.

New World's crafting shares the fire-and-forget nature of the EQ crafting stations (Although thankfully they don't eat your mats if you use the wrong one.) but it drops the anxiety-inducing risk of failure in favor of a much more welcome chance for bonuses. It also speeds everything up hugely with the machines churning out hundreds of items in a matter of seconds.

Essentially, though, it's very much the same process. You supply the right materials and the machines turn out the product. In EQ each combine gave you a chance at raising that specific craft skill by a point. In New World you get a set amount of xp per item for the craft skill it requires. It removes the random factor but otherwise it feels very similar.

Both games involve a large amount of redundancy. In EQ you needed to make countless items in order to skill up. A few you might be able to sell to other players but most you sold back to NPCs. If you were lucky you'd break even. Mostly it cost you money. Vanguard sidestepped the need to go and sell  by making most of your combines part of consignments requested by NPCs in the first place.

New World doesn't have any NPC merchants willing to buy players' old cast-offs or overproduction spillage and the only orders you can get come from the town boards, which are ultimately controlled by other players. Other than a pittance for doing your civic duty, if you want to make money you either sell to other players or you don't sell at all.

Since most of what you'll be making to raise your skills no-one will want to buy at any price, there has to be some way to dispose of it and that's salvage. You rip it up and use the pieces to make more of the same. It doesn't feel a lot different to what I did in the older games.

If adventuring and crafting remind me strongly of EverQuest, gathering reminds me of Vanguard. EverQuest, unlike its nominal successor, EQII, had no real gathering other than a smattering of ground spawns (Iron Oxide, anyone?). Almost all materials were dropped by mobs as loot or bought from NPCs. 

Vanguard was the first game I remember playing where you could chop down trees for the wood, use your sickle on plants for the fibre and smash up boulders for the stone. It was also the first game where you could skin the animals you killed, something I found almost unhealthily enjoyable. 

My raki disciple was a skinner and a leathercrafter, two disciplines I absolutely loved. I eventually levelled skinning all the way to five hundred, not once but twice on the same character. It took me weeks if not months and the reason I did it twice was because I foolishly believed you could change gathering skills to retrain in another without losing the progress you'd made in the first. You couldn't. Yes, I am still annoyed about it, thanks for asking.

As well as skinning animals you could chop up treants for wood and mine elementals for stone and metal. You can do all of that in New World. Well, sort of. There are Angry Earth bears and wolves that can be logged, at least, and I came across something that could be mined after I killed it but I can't remember what it was. I didn't have enough skill to mine it, I remember that much.

It is absolutely no surprise to me that my two highest skills in New World are currently Tracking and Skinning and Harvesting. Just as I did in Vanguard, I find it all but impossible to pass up the chance to skin a beast or harvest a plant and there are beasts and plants all around. There are also trees and boulders but somehow their utter ubiquity makes it a lot easier to keep on running rather than stopping to aim an axe or a pick at every single one. 

The cumulative effect of all of this is to make me feel very much as I did in the early days of EverQuest and Vanguard. I feel at liberty in a huge, fascinating, mysterious world with no script to follow and no agenda to meet. I find the absence of an overarching, linear narrative positively freeing, exhillarating even. All the same, I seem to be one of a very small minority actually enjoying the storytelling in New World and one of the reasons is that I don't feel I'm being pushed down into my seat by the shoulders and forced to watch someone's home movies.

I think it's very telling that the bloggers I've read who aren't enjoying New World as much as I am, some of whom gave up very quickly, others who carry on somewhat grimly, all seem to be very much more focused than I am on either the potential endgame or the lack of a story. I've addressed the latter but the former could use a gloss.

I don't like endgames in mmorpgs. Over the past decade I believe I've been lulled into a kind of acceptance of the concept, whereas in the decade before I would have vehemently rejected it. I used not just to be disinterested in endgame play as I am now, I actively reviled it. 

My feeling was that mmorpgs neither could nor should have an endgame for the simple reason that they are, by practice and custom if not by definition, never-ending. It was my contention that mmoprgs existed to be explored and experienced and that characters existed to be levelled up and then retired. 

I once counted all my characters in EverQuest, the ones I considered myself to be actively playing, and there were something like thirty or forty of them. I had as many as you were allowed to make on several servers and plenty more scattered around elsewhere. Vanguard only had one server but I had as many characters there as an account allowed.

There are two major differences between those games and New World in regard to making new characters. Firstly, New World only has one race and secondly one character can do anything in the game. In EQ and Vanguard, there were many different races and classes and you needed many  characters to try them all.

That meant, in my opinion, there was no need for an endgame. Even playing the hours I did, putting in about as much time each week as a full-time job, there was never any realistic chance I'd be able to experience what it was like to play all of the available options up to the level cap. Add to that the extreme rate at which new content, including more levels, races and classes, came into the game and the whole idea of getting to some notional end state seemed fatuous.

Over the succeeding twenty years many things have changed but perhaps the most impactful has been the pace. There are still levels and classes and races in most mmorpgs but the time it takes to get to the level cap has reduced by orders of magnitude and the number of characters required to be all the things has collapsed to a handful.

New World fails very badly on the races and classes test. You can be a human and like it or a human and lump it. There are no adventure classes at all, only weapons, and no crafting classes, only skills. What's more, one character can do the lot.

As for levelling, that, too, is comically fast by the standards of classic EverQuest or even Vanguard. The game's been out for a month and my character's already two-thirds of the way to sixty. Level forty-one in fact. 

Even so, the levels are hardly racing by. Leveling in New World is well-paced. It feels solid. Every new level comes with the sense of satisfaction that used to accompany the famous EverQuest Ding! It also seems to be slowing down somewhat. I would guess it will take me another three or four weeks to get to sixty, maybe a couple of months or more from creation to cap. 

When I hit sixty, though, what then? In the old days it would have been off to character creation and another class, another race, another round of level-up. In New World I'm imagining a plateau period of filling out all the weapon trees and all the crafting skills. That should take a while. 

The two things that could keep me playing after that are housing and territorial PvP. Both are activities I very much enjoy in other mmorpgs. Whether there's enough in either or both to hold my attention when the leveling is over and all the skill trees are full I'm not so sure. It's going to depend how much work Amazon put into developing them further, fleshing them out, smothing the rough edges, truning them into genuine endgame activities.

I have to remind myself that whether or not they do so successfully doesn't really matter. Not at all. I do not play for endgames. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself now and that's all that counts. The game doesn't need to hold my attention forever, just for as long as it takes me to do all the things that interest me.

It's dangerous to make predictions but my feeling at the moment is that New World is likely to become the first mmorpg since Guild Wars 2 to join the fairly short list headed "Mmorpgs I always play". 

That's not because it's better than a lot of other games that have come along in the last ten years. I don't think it's better than Black Desert, for example, or Elder Scrolls Online

It's because it feels more familiar than anything I've played for a long time. More comfortable. More natural. Even with action combat it feels more like Vanguard than any game has a right to feel. If they'd just add some more races and give us a reason to make more than one character I could easily see myself leveling to sixty a few times over the next couple of years.

As it is, I imagine I'll drop in and out as the mood takes me and as the game changes. It will change, of course. It's an mmorpg and it's barely begun. In time it will scarcely be recognizeable as the game we see now, another reason not to get worked up about what's not working.

But the game I see now is one that works for me and that's mostly because it reminds me of other games that have worked for me in the past. I'm sure it's not working for everyone but I can only hope it's so working for enough to keep the wheels turning.

It's been a fun ride so far. I want to see where it goes next.


  1. I really don't get why they limit us to 1 character/server and 2 per region. I would understand if they limited our characters to a single faction, yes. But like why prevent someone from leveling a character and dumping all their points into STR/CON to tank, and then started a second character who'll be a healer with points in ... that healer attribute that I can never remember. Not Int, that's for spell slingers, right? Willpower or something?

    Anyway, I bridle at the limitations!

    1. It's Focus, I think.

      Yes, I don't get the two character limit either. DAOC, which started the three faction territorial PvP idea, limited you to one faction per server but you could make as many characters as you wanted. I can't figure out the reasoning for the way Amazon have done it unless it somehow factors into their pre-planning for server merges. I initially assumed they'd be selling character slots in the store but that doesn't seem to be the plan, unfortunately.

    2. I suspect the 2 characters per server is a legacy bit from when the game was more PvP focused. It would keep anyone from just playing whatever faction was dominant. When you can only be 2 of the 3 you're going to have to make a choice. Also, as a buy-to-play only two characters per server does keep down their storage costs/usage over the full player base.

    3. I wonder if part of the reason for the one character per server limit is to prevent people creating bank mule alts. Storage scarcity and localisation is very much a thing in New World, and it feels deliberately so.

    4. It's two character *per region* - so only two in EU Central for me - and only one per *world set* (which is a group of servers), so there's no way to try and pick the strongest faction using an alt.

      Don't like that limitation either, it has to be said, but oh well. Levelling becomes slower over lvl 35 or so, and levelling the important stuff (weapon skills, trade skills) takes a lot longer still. I'm focussing on Furnishing at the moment, because I want my three houses to always be #1 rank (a legacy of BDO), and daaaamn that takes a lot of time :).

  2. I wasn't gonna play NW, but decided to jump in to join Bel's Greysky group. But I didn't remember what server he said he'd be on, so I just picked one that Steam told me a friend was playing on. Got that one up into the high 20's in 2 or 3 days, then rather than trying to re-spec and re-gear to test out the various weapons I just started doing throwaway alts on other servers that I'd get up into their teens and weapon level 5-6 to get a preliminary feel for everything. Even got 1 of them up to 21. Then figured out which server Bel's group was on and made a new character after work. Played about 6 hours and was already level 17, despite trying to *avoid* leveling past level 15. The character was level 49 this past Tuesday, and I've been deliberately doing things that cause leveling to slow down -- avoiding crafting and gathering, not doing quests or town board, etc. And I still made it to 49 in 2 weeks.... Playing as a mage on this one, but I've actually leveled all my weapons to at least 12 now, though Fire Staff and Ice Gauntlet are both 20. Oddly, I've found that even a Life Staff will accept an INT gem, so I can level that up without needing to re-spec, though my heals with it are utter crap due to not having any

    I've actually gone back to my 1st character (focus healer with a gemmed hatchet) and it's now up to 37 (from 29) in 3 days of play despite also trying to not level it. But since everything you do gives xp, well... there ya go.

    I've also created a bow/spear DEX alt -- level 25, I think.... And last night I started a STR alt, just played it a couple of hours, but it's 13 or 14 already too.

    Anyway -- all this is to demonstrate that I think leveling in this game is comically fast.

    1. I see this a lot, the way people find leveling speeds to be subjectively all over the place in different games. I think GW2 has one of the fastest leveling paces I've ever experienced. You can easily get a character to 80 in a few sessions and yet I regularly hear people in the starting zones asking for suggestions on how to level because they're struggling.

      Compare my experience with yours - I have played one character since launch. I've played most days. I have 121 hours played now and the game's been out just over four weeks. That's about 30 hours a week and it's all active play, no afk tabbed out time to speak of. It's taken me four weeks at 30 hours a week to get to 42.

      Add to that, for a good deal of that time I have been actively trying to level fast so as to get to 43 to be able to start working on Murningdal standing - you have to be 43 to get the quests there, other than town board ones. If I could go faster I would! As for getting to the teens in a couple of hours... I think that took me about three days.

      Not sure what makes for the difference but I'm guessing spending about half my time gathering and the rest focused on Faction quests might have something to do with it. Yes, you get xp for everythig but the amount of xp you get for each activity varies enormously and I think a lot of the things I've been doing are on the low end of the xp scale.

  3. Hmm... What about Black Desert? It sure has no central storyline (at least when I played it several years ago).

    1. I think when BDO was new the main storyline was about the same as New World, just a single strand that you could ignore. I beleive it's much more fleshed-out now but you'd have to ask someone who plays regularly. BDO is a real outlier, though, in terms of mechanics. It's one of the least EQ-like mmorpgs I've played. If it's a cousin it's a very distant one.


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