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.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Toldain's Travels

I love to travel. One of my favorite quests was the Bootstrutter's Guide to Antonica. I frequently make road trips from Qeynos to Freeport, and sneak around the city. I've learned orcish and done the Lore and Legend: Orc quest, as well as garnering the title of Hunter of Orcs.

I've also done some of the History quests. These quests don't require you to kill anything directly, just to visit places that are, well, dangerous, depending on your level. I like sneaking, too. Fortunately, I have an invisibility spell. I've explored most of Thundering Steppes this way, Nektulos is getting high on the list.

All this travel means time not spent doing anything else. I don't really mind, but not everyone loves travel the way I do. So lots of folks would like a way to skip all that travel and get right down to killing things. And they want a way to teleport.

In Everquest in its original form, there were lots of barriers to travel. Boat rides involved a typical 15-20 minute wait at the dock for a literal boat to arrive, and then another 10 to 20 minutes spent sitting on the boat, doing nothing while it traverses the ocean. This could be entertaining, since there were often sights to be seen from the boat. But it got tiresome after a while.

In original Everquest, every character had a bind point. If you died, you revived automatically at your current bind point, minus all your gear and some of your experience. Sufficiently high level casters could change your bind point, but only to a limited set of areas, usually around cities. They could bind themselves in many more places, closer to the action.

Which means that after spending an hour traveling to another continent, if you happened to run across a higher-level mob that trashed you, you would realize, "By the gods, I forgot to bind!!" Usually, just before you saw the message,

Loading, Please wait...

that meant you were going to be revived all the way back across that ocean, and there was another boat ride in store for you. Never mind that the boats were notoriously flaky, and didn't always work correctly. (There's a huge network synchronization problem under the surface there, but never mind, that's a story for another day.)

Ok, I wouldn't call that fun. But, as it turns out, some classes had spells that could help you travel around. Druids could use stone circles that were dotted about the landscape, and take their whole group to one, if they knew the spell for that one. Wizards could do the same thing to old monuments known as spires. And they could port any character back to its bind point without going with them. Useful stuff, and made more valuable by that long boat ride.

Druids often earned very nice rewards because of this ability. Wizards, too. But Druids could also enhance your run speed after porting you, making them the one-stop shopping choice. But then came Luclin. You know Luclin, the moon? That smear in the sky over Norrath today? The one that left all those craters in Thundering Steppes?

When we first got to Luclin, it was through very large versions of the wizard spires, but you didn't really need a wizard to use them. There was one station on each continent, and the portal operated once every 20 minutes. They all ported you to a place called the Nexus, which was sort of an interchange. So, it could still take a long time to get somewhere, but it was better than taking the boat. That all changed with Planes of Power.

Planes of Power introduced the Plane of Knowledge, a plane of existence with a huge library, and stones which, when touched would transport you to some other place, where there was a statue of a book on a pedestal that would transport you back. No lines, no waiting. Nirvana! There was one of these books near every single starting city. Nirvana!

This had some unintended side effects. Most of the zones in the game emptied out. Since you could move around so freely, people tended to congregate in just a few of the "best" zones. The starting cities became ghost towns, and new characters left them as quickly as possible, setting up shop in Plane of Knowledege, putting their bind point there.

I don't blame the players to do this, it was logical. But it meant a great deal of the content was no longer playable, interesting or relevant. There wasn't anyone else there, so you couldn't get a pickup group. This is an environment which is fairly hostile to new players, who don't know the "right" zones to go to. It doesn't give an impression of a thriving game when your new home town is a ghost town. So it's a business problem, too.

The other thing that happened is that the market for ports pretty much dried up completely. Most people with druids stopped playing them. Which meant that the few remaining places where a druid port was the best way to get there got harder to get to.

One other thing killed of the starting cities in EQ1 -- the bazaar. About the time of Planes of Power, SOE introduced a special zone, on Luclin, where you could set up to auto-sell, leave the keyboard and sell items. Before that, all selling was done via auctioning and bargaining between live players. One of the most popular places for this was the Commonlands outside of Freeport. There were often hundreds of people there shopping or auctioning, or organizing an expedition.
In addition to those that were adventuring in the zone. Quite the hustle bustle, but not very good at clearing markets.

In the bazaar, there was no broker, though while you were in the bazaar zone, there was a UI you could use to search through everything currently for sale. The biggest problem with this zone was actually client peformance. Cramming models for several hundred sellers into a small area placed severe demands on display performance. Mostly, I had to navigate this zone by staring at the floor, because then the software didn't have to try to render all those models. Not an ideal situation. I don't think we'll ever see that setup again, at least not in that form.

I don't know exactly why SOE doesn't want to allow offline selling. I haven't seen a clear statement. But the current arrangement, where you sell through the broker from your own private zone, addresses the performance issue of the Bazaar beautifully.

But with regard to travel, I'm not surprised that no class has the ability to teleport. Clerics can send someone to their starting city, which they could have done themselves, using call. I'd like to have the ability to change which village or city zone in my home city that my Call of Qeynos sens me to, though.

Everquest 2 is designed to be a game where you can log in and accomplish something in 2 or 3 hours. So travel time has to be commensurate with that for higher levels. They reduced the speed benefit from spells and horses recently, so they are clearly trying to slow us down, and make travel a bit more difficult. It's time consuming and dangerous to get from Qeynos to Freeport, which is what makes it rare and gives me a sense of accomplishment. But between the griffins, and tickets, you will be able to get to an adventuring spot with plenty of time left for hunting. Perhaps they want to make the choice of whether to call or just camp where you are every night more interesting.

Now if I they can just fix it so I don't end up looking at a black screen sometimes while mounting the griffin.


Post a Comment

<< Home