Tag Archive for EQII

The Innovation Apocalypse

Everyone these days seems to be talking about innovation (every letter is a link there).  And by innovation they mean games doing something “new”.

I’ve made a few comments around, but there is one thing I want to post about here that I feel is important.  I’ve touched on it before, at the end of this post.  MMOs are a different beast that other forms of games.

Left 4 Dead 2 made some game play changes from the Left 4 Dead model.  They added melee weapons, and the new boss infected shake up how you have to play, and the new “hordes until you turn them off” events instead of just the “hordes for X minutes/waves” ones change everything.  However, if you hate the changes, all you need to do is put your old Left 4 Dead disc and play.  The original game is still there.

When EverQuest launched, it had flaws.  Parts were unfinished and some things just didn’t work.  They released patches to fix those, and over the course of the first few expansions they expanded the game with new races, classes, item slots, abilities, and more.  But, the underlying game, the way in which you played, really didn’t change.  That came later.  If you were to play EverQuest now, you’d find it plays very differently from the original game.  With the new quest/task system that mimics WoW’s abundance of quests as opposed to EQ’s original more in-depth longer quests, mercenaries, more instancing, and other bits and pieces, it just isn’t the same.  The old game still does exist on the EQMac server, but if you are on a PC and want to play the old EverQuest, you can’t.

Even World of Warcraft is not immune.  The game as it exists now doesn’t play exactly the same as it did in the past.  The faster leveling, the LFG tool for instance cross-server groups, the changes in raid designs.   If you want to play the old WoW, you can’t, you have to play the WoW that exists now.  The new Cataclysm expansion will put an end to the old game permanently as those zones won’t even exist in their original form anymore.

This is what I mean by the title, The Innovation Apocalypse.  MMOs are expensive to make and expensive to run, and companies don’t want to see their game dwindle to a hardcore fan base and be faced with launching a sequel.  EQ did that with EQII and initially EQII was a flop.  They’ve recovered somewhat, and they have continued evolving EQ (up to expansion number 16 now).  They are looking at EQIII (which might be referred to as EverQuest Next), but don’t expect it to be an iteration of the existing model – it will probably be a complete reinvention.  If you are a fan of EQII, you should be thrilled with the idea of EQIII, because it means that all the new ideas are headed that way and are likely not to be implemented in EQII for a while yet.  But that may just be a matter of time.  Many of EQ’s more drastic elements didn’t come until after WoW and EQII were out.  Someday, the EQII that you love may be gone as well.

Personally, I’m all for innovation in new games.  But please don’t innovate in the game I’m already playing and enjoying.  It is heartbreaking when a game you love ignores you and is ruined in its chase of a new lover.

Subscription versus RMT

Search around the gaming blogs and you’ll probably find out the opinions of everyone weighing in on SOE putting RMT in the form of their new Station Cash into EQ and EQII.  There have also been announcements that the new Star Wars MMO from Bioware might be a free-to-play/RMT model game.  And SOE does have FreeRealms and The Agency coming.

To be honest… I really don’t care overly much.  About the only problem I have with the whole thing is that I find it weird when a game offers both on the same server.  EQ and EQII both still have a monthly fee that you have to pay to play the game, and now on top of that there is the Station Cash which allows you to buy weapons and armor (nothing great, but definitely a leg up from starting with nothing if you are willing to pay the $10 for it rather than get gear as you play), and experience point bonus potions (where you get use it and for the next 4 or 2 hours you get a 10%, 25% or 50% bonus to your exp earning, again nothing great, but would help you out if you’d rather spend the cash than the time it would take to grind out that exp on your own).  It will be interesting to see where they take it, how much of what kind of items they end up putting on the market, and how much profit they derive from it.  And of course, if they release an expansion that increases the level cap, now that they sell exp bonus potions for cash, will they be inclined to increase the experience curve in new levels making people desire the potions more?  If that is the route they end up going, that’s where I find the problem of using both payments in one game.  So now I am paying my $15 a month to get a game designed to make me want to pay more money…  seems underhanded, if that is the direction this goes.  But for now, its all a “wait and see”.

Another reason I don’t care about which payment model they follow is that neither subscriptions nor microtransactions address the problems that I have with most MMOs.  Let’s take Warhammer Online for example.  I really wanted to play this game, and on some level I still do.  I haven’t played it since beta because my contract job ended and I am out of work.  Its hard to justify paying for a game box and then a monthly fee when I need to be saving every penny until I find work again.  (I am just about the unluckiest person when it comes to unemployment… contract ends right as the economy goes to shit… the last time I was unemployed was in 2001… you remember 2001, right?  That was when the tech field kinda collapsed a bit and then terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center… so, I’m unemployed, sell your stocks and don’t visit any targets of opportunity.)  If I were to play Warhammer Online, sadly, I could only play with half of the people I want to play with.  A bunch of gaming bloggers and readers made up a group called the Casualties of War and picked one server.  I tried to steer my old EQ friends on to the same server, but they ended up somewhere else.  Unfortunately, these two servers were not merged.  So, if I did buy the game, I’d have to pick one group of friends over the other.  This has pretty much been true of every MMO to come out since EQ.  Even with EQ, while I started out on E’Ci with my local friends when I started a new job and found out a couple of people there played EQ too, they were on another server.  Sure, we could still share stories about the game and talk about stuff, but we could never play together… and even more odd, the two servers in question had totally different communities: for example, on E’Ci, player item auctioning was done in the East Commonlands tunnel; on the other server, Greater Faydark.  One server was fairly decent about setting up a raid calendar and people trying not to close people out of content, the other was totally free-for-all.  And while it was interesting to be able to talk about and compare how two groups of people played the same game completely differently, it was overshadowed by not being able to play together without paying fees, leaving behind friends, or playing on two servers (which given the “effort” required to level and raid in EQ, playing on two servers was kind of insane unless you were only serious about one of them).

These days, when a new MMO is launching, I don’t even bother to ask if its a subscription game or a micro transaction game… the first question I always ask is “How many servers do they have?”