Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Mentoring Profits

Mentoring went live last week. I love it.

It's great for couples or family groups that go online together. They no longer have to worry about keeping their characters in lockstep, to preserve the ability to group together profitably.

It's great for players that meet friends online, only to see their friends race ahead or fall behind, due to vactions, which can result in both more time and less time playing, depending on what kind of vacation it is. I wonder if any of you have planned a vacation around spending more time playing Everquest? I'm sure somebody out there has.

It's great for guilds, who can now muster robust raid groups with a good seasoning of experienced players without graying out the mobs. Also, higher level players can group and play with newer players and get to know them better. The higher level players will experience reduced experience benefits, and get loot of a lower order than they might playing at their own level, but if you're like me, just playing the game, facing challenges in a group and getting to know new folks is enough reward.

It's great of pickup groups, who have a lot more flexibility as to who they can bring in to the group and still adventure profitably.

It's great for questers and explorers, who can now revisit all sorts of zones with color and face the challenges therein, or do the quests therein. For example, I had fun working on the access quest for Vale of Shattering, but I did other things, too. By the time I got around to exploring it, the zone had completely grayed out. Bummer. Now I can go back there by mentoring a lower-level friend, and actually experience the zone, which I did. And I'll be back again, because I'm a glutton for punishment, er, because I love taking on challenges.

Is it a way to powerlevel? Perhaps, but not without facing risks. The mentor's HP and pow are reduced. Their gear is pro-rated. Their higher-level skills are grayed out. They really ARE that lower level. I felt this keenly when attempting to adventure in the Vale of Shattering while mentoring a level 18 guildie.

There are several wandering gnoll groups there who are on a very fast respawn. And there are a series of unlinked oracles who must be killed. But pulling one pulls aggro from the wandering encounters, even from a large distance.

As an aside, this is a really cool thing. An EQ dungeon where mob tactics are different, and need to be adjusted to. Strategy must be employed. I love it, even though we had our keisters handed to us.

At level 23, I got a spell that lets me mezmerize an entire encounter. This would have made things a LOT easier. But since I was mentoring, I didn't have it. I don't call this powerleveling.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that the zone would go gray for me at level 23. Coincidence? You decide.

Mentoring is trickier than it might first seem. For one thing, it is probably going to be necessary to reorganize your hotbars when you mentor down any significant distance. Along with this, you may need to reorganize your approach to dealing with certain situations. Scouts give up their evac ability if they mentor below level 25, this can make a big difference in your approach.

Now all of this was from the players point of view, but what about from the designer's point of view? Everquest 2 is a game that is targeted for a more casual player, that has a real life. So their schedule varies, and their friends may outlevel them or be outleveled. Mentoring allows them to play together and narrow the gap. Which makes them happy and strengthens the friendship. Which keeps them playing longer, which is in SOE's interest.

Mentoring makes couples happier, since they don't have to play in lockstep in order to stay at the same level. This gives them a lot more flexibility, something that many of the couples I know can really use and appreciate. And if they are happy playing, they will play longer.

Vital, thriving guilds are really important to the financial success of Everquest 2 as well. Mentoring strenghtens guilds, and allows more interaction between the senior members and the junior members of the guild. The payoff for the senior guildies is a growing, thriving guild. The payoff for junior guildies is a fun, social, experience, and some experienced players to pass on some wisdom about how to accomplish goals. The payoff for SOE is new players that want to keep playing the game, rather than quit, frustrated with bad or no pickup groups, or not understanding game mechanics, or whatever.

Finally, all of these features, plus many more game design features appeal to players that are more mature and stable. They are adults. I don't have any figures to back me up, but I'll bet that they have higher incomes and more stable lives. So they will play longer. Players that mentor demonstrate a willingness and an interest in doing something other than leveling to 50 as fast as possible and moving on to the next game. I'm not knocking these folks, I'm all for people enjoying themselves. However, they should understand that the strip-mining approach that some clans have to MMORPGs ultimately reduces their clout with gaming companies.

There are signs that many such clans have already walked away from Everquest 2. Some are mad about the bugs, and the many changes. Some feel the game is too easy. Some are unhappy about the lack of coin drops. Some are unhappy about boss loot drops, or the lack of "endgame content".

As a longtime tabletop roleplayer (Call me old-school, after all, I am a high elf) I don't take a linear approach to an MMORPG. You set your own goals in a role-playing campaign, and try to accomplish them. Leveling to 50 is a goal, but not the only goal. Taking out boss mobs, doing heritage quests, making cool stuff with tradeskills, clearing out all the black from my map, sneaking around the enemy city, collecting all the books, and leveling up a guild. These are a few goals that a player might choose. And, with most design choices I look at, the EQ2 team has aligned itself with my play style and life constraints, because it sees a financial interest in doing so. This is a win-win situation in my book.

It's always great to see when social interests and financial interests align.


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