3 things to grow EQ2

  1. Re-treat the User Interface.
  2. Performance.
  3. Emphasize pretty where it counts.

1. Re-treat the User Interface:

I’m fixing to put out a hit on the guy who did our UI: Want to go halvsies on a double-kill?

EQ2s UI is perfectly functional, but it really does look like bad coder art.

The color scheme is lackluster, it uses ultra-simplistic straight-line decorations. The little help ‘scrolls’ look apathetic and dull.

The font probably looks sexy in a font viewer. One of the main things that kills my enjoyment of EQ2 is that I can never bring myself to read any of the text on screen because that font is aggressively unreadable: the font doesn’t produce nice, even lines of text, they look like you’re having difficultly rendering the text in straight lines.

It’s even worse when you’re talking to an NPC and the text is floating in a speech bubble. For a start, you have that same uneven effect, but now it’s bolstered by the fact that the speech bubble bobs up and down with the NPCs idle animation and as it wanders off.

The speech-bubble presentation also has the effect of making it seem disconnected. Even before I played WoW, I didn’t like that. I really think you should consider giving NPC dialog it’s own local window – if for no other reason than consistency with what happens when you interact with a banker or a vendor etc.

But you could start by finding a decent font.

2. Performance:

I haven’t played EQ2 in a while. I figured that firing up my 3Ghz Core i7 with GeForce 280 would probably be able to play at slightly higher settings than my old 1Ghz AMD with a GeFore 8800.

For a while there it did. And then it didn’t. I had to tone it back down to balanced and then manually shuffle some settings down. Possibly a leak of some kind or possibly just the number of people in the game world at the moment. But I took a few screenshots for comparison with my original EQ2 experience and … I was actually treated to better visuals 3 years ago than I was with this new box.

And you have WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too many performance settings. I’m an advocate of tweakability, but that many settings … People are gonna screw themselves by trying out a slider in one area and everything seeming fine, and then tweaking another, until they find something that makes a noticeable difference. Then they’re gonna get hammered the next time they zone or get into a fight.

With about a half hour of tweaking, I was able to make the mid-to-far distance look quite splending, but …

3. Emphasize pretty where it counts.

3a. The back of your toon.

EQ2 toons look like they’re wearing painted latex. Even with all the fancy fiddly options turned on, the moment you zoom out far enough to see anything more than just your toons’ asses, the armor just looks … noddy. Now, I realize this is the starter gear, and no I’m not talking about it popping to a low LOD.

I’m saying you could afford to make things look a little less pristine – especially the starter gear, so that it doesn’t look like a failed “Tron” gitup.

3b. The ground (especially nearby).

They say emulation is the greatest compliment, but I’m begging you to stop complimenting Battleground Europe’s “up close” ground appearance. The near-distance ground polys are sharp and angular and thus ugly looking. Even with fauna turned on.

It’s great that you can look out at spectacular long-range vistas; those vistas make fabulous “farewell” screenshots as long as you zoom out far enough that the area immediately around you isn’t showing.

3c. Other people.

In WoW, when things get too busy, people warp around. That’s one thing. In EQ2 people 15 feet away skate and slide and dance the robot. IT IS HIDEOUS. We’ve only recently discontinued 56k dialup support, but even then with more people in vis range than you are displaying, our player animations were smoother and cleaner.

3d. Other models.

Really? You have to go to extreme quality (which I’m not sure there are any systems that can run in) to get more than yourself and the creature you’re fighting in anything higher than “ugly” LODs? That’s kind of a shame, since the back of my toon isn’t all that interesting and my toon is generally obscuring the creature I’m fighting, which means I’m left looking at a bunch of low-poly models skating around on my screen…

[Edits to expand on the above following exchange with Bhag below]

It’s definitely the “old” EQ2 UI. I know there are some layout changes, but I’m talking about the styling: the simplistic line-drawing element decoration, etc.

The default font settings enable “Smooth fonts”. The result is very unsmooth, at least on my system:

Whereas if I turn off smooth fonts, it suddenly becomes a whole lot nicer:

(If you notice the names don’t match, that’s because when naming them I went based on which looked least smoothed ;-P)

Then there’s the dialog thing I was talking about.

With, default, “Smooth Font”s:

And then with Smooth Font’s unchecked:

Well, neither survived very well thru the jpeg conversion. On my screen, the first one the ‘ss’ in assistance look bigger than the other letters (but again, zooming in and viewing it at the pixel level proves otherwise).

So is it just me, or does the “again” look like it’s not on the same level as the rest of the sentence?

That’s what I’m talking about in terms of font.

The font in the chat buffer is quite lovely.

Lastly… When I’m talking about your toon looking “meh”. I’m not talking about the low LODs. I’m talking about the way that the fine detail that looks so nice up close becomes “meh” when you zoom out to see what you’re doing:

It just looks bland and dull. The photorealistic take results in emphasizing, to me anyway, the low poly count.

Obviously, WoW takes the opposite approach and leverages their low poly count. Instead of going for gorgeous textures, they bump and gnarl the model which gives the eye less detail to latch onto.

Which allows them to retain greater apparent detail further out:

What that really does for WoW is allow them to have less LODs and maintain each LOD out to a greater distance, causing a smoother visual effect as things transition. EQ2s LODs pop more frequently and more drastically.

It’s stuff that’s not going to matter so much later on, when you’re fighting in dungeons and raids. But it’s stuff that stands out early on…

13 Comments

Credit where it’s due… The new “Newbie Guide” pop-ups look INFINITELY better than the UI they are explaining…

And the Legends UI trounces the EQ2 UI by leaps and bounds.

You seem to be suffering from the same problems that lead proofreaders to have such difficulty just relaxing and enjoying a good holiday read.

I’ve been playing EQ2 since beta and I play a ton of other MMOs. I love the new UI. It’s clean, simple and very easy to adjust. The old UI was fine too, but this is even better. I always use the default UI in MMOs and I like them to be as unobtrusive and minimal as possible. With just a very few twitches on the sliders, the UI can be made almost invisible.

There ARE a lot of options, that’s true. That doesn’t mean you need to play with them. As a professional, maybe you can’t resist them, but I just change the few that matter to me. In fact, the only graphic setting I’ve touched since I installed EQ2X is the screen resolution. Everything else is what the game chose when I logged in and it looks fantastic! (In fact, it looks much better than the Live servers, to the extent that i’ve been running round taking screenshots of places I know inside out just becasue they look so different. Not sure what’s going on there).

I found your comments on the font really disconcerting. As a lifelong voracious reader I would say I am fairly sensitive to typeface. I find EQ2’s text to be emininently invisible, as a good font should be. There are games I have uninstalled just because of a bad font, so it’s quite a key thing for me. My ideal for any font is that you never notice it at all. Gorgeious font aesthetics are for artists or calligraphers or print historians. Readers don’t want to know there IS a font. EQ2 seems to do that just fine.

As for performance, my machine and graphics card are both way below the spec of yours and I get what I consider to be perfect performance. The world looks fantastic, I get no stuttering or frame rate issues in busy areas (in the older zones that is – not been in the newer, higher level ones on EQ2X yet. Performance in TSO and SF zones on Live is a lot worse).

It’s been my experience over the years that most people complaining of performance issues have much better gaming rigs than I do. I was always able to run Vanguard satisfactorily, with beautiful visuals, on a very modest system, for example, when many people with way better kit couldn’t get it to run at all.

Overall, I wonder if it’s really possible for most people who are immersed in any medium or trade at a professional level to enjoy anything but the very best in their speciality when they look at the work of others. I know writers and artists tend to be hyper-critical of the work of their peers. Once you cross that line between consumer and producer it can be pretty hard to cross back.

You are talking about the UI in use on Extended, right? It looks like the old UI to me. If they’ve already replaced it in EQ2 Live, wahoo :)

The font: I was in game after writing that and talking to someone in chat, and I thought “what was my beef with the font?”. The font they use in some parts of the UI – particularly chat – is beautiful. But then I talked to an NPC and the NPC dialog font is ugly. I mean, it’s a nice clean font, but when you put it on screen it is … squiggly… For instance, the ‘s’ character is taller than most others, the ‘a’ character shorter… I’m not sure if they are center aligned or what, but the upshot is that my eyes visually expect the text to begin doing a mexican wave at any moment.

I’ll amend the post with some examples, Bhag. Let me know if you’re seeing something different? I don’t have EQ2 installed on this machine, but it’s still sitting on my G: drive.

Also: Note that I’m not just randomly picking on EQ2; they obviously want to try and grow it – but those are the 3 things that struck me as most likely to keep people from sticking around on the F2P model.

Hmm. I’m in game now and tabbing between what I see there and your screenshots. I don’t think it’s that I’m seeing anything different to you (alhough with the blurring of the blown-up screenshots it’s hard to be sure). I think it’s more a matter of taste and degree of interest.

I tried toggling the “Smooth Font ” setting (which I had never even noticed before). The difference is certainly marked, but I much prefer the “smooth” version. I’m guessing that you prefer the font to look as precise and “tight” as possible; I don’t mind that for explanatory text, but I prefer a slightly fuzzy, “warm” font for speech. I also think a high fanasy game benefits from a more traditional font like Garamond or Times New Roman, and the EQ2 font looks like those. I agree the chat window font is nice. It’s very plain and upright. Reminds me of Helvetica, which I always liked.

And yes, by the way, that “again” DOES look above the level of the line. Ithink it’s an optical illusion caused by the descender of the “y” and the comma so close together.

The UI got a complete revamp in GU57. The same UI is now on EQ2Live and EQ2X as far as i know, although I haven’t actually logged into Live since the GU. It was a Big Deal and there are a ton of complaints about it on Live, where change generally goes down very badly. It’s a revamp of the old one, yes, but if you’ve been playing regularly it’s very noteicably changed. I play on Test and we had it there for a month before that. I like it, but it took a bit of getting used to.

I can’t argue on the character models. They are and always have been dreadful. There’s a reason I only play non-human characters. Ratongas look great!

I think a lot of people are indeed put off by the look of EQ2. I can’t honestly say I like it myself, even though I’ve been looking at it for 6 years. On the other hand, what a game looks like, while important, isn’t necessarily as important as how it plays, and the eye and brain soon stop noticing these things with familiarity. Or mine do , anyway. I reckon you are right that changes to the appearance of the game would pay dividends with potential new players, but frankly if they haven’t done that in 6 years for the paying customers i can’t see them doing it now for the free ones.

Hmmm – in terms of UI, I did say it was pretty functional. I like it for that, but I’m mostly talking about the UI treatment, item decoration etc.

Largely I figured this was an apropos time to bring it up because EQ2X is still “Beta”, so the main marketing push hasn’t happened yet.

If they could give the UI treatment a makeover before that happens, I think they’d put the game in a good position to keep people who come over from WoW, for example.

Someone mentioned /claim on one of the chat channels, and I found a really nice armor set in my /claim list. I’m a little reluctant to wear it, because it looks high-levelish, and it’s a bit of a shame not to see my toon advance. But I tried it out and I notice it has that slightly more over-the-top embellishment that other games use that allows the lower level LODs to retain distinctive characteristics.

My toon is wearing chain, and those early sets are all up-close details. It seems like the WoW approach is that early sets have less finesse in their decoration – the bumps and wotnots look kinda … wilted, worn, adhoc. The higher level ones are only slightly more defined, but simply adjusting the angles a little makes them look more deliberate and crafted, plus they develop the texturing. E.g. an early piece *has* texturing but the colors are sullied, flat looking, as you level up your gear begins to look more pristine.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that (the texture dirtying) isn’t somehow algorithmic or automated; because even tho the models don’t really change much, swapping a piece of early gear in WoW always seems like a noticeable change.

In EQ2, you get the same amount of change in terms of the actual kit model, but the EQ2 sets tend to take radical color shifts… E.g. Tier 0 scout gear is that silver/green combo, and then suddenly you’re switching your gear for earthy brown, and then it’s going blue… Which I’ve found, every time I’ve gotten back into EQ2, serves to emphasize the fact it’s the same model colored differently.

And I wibble all of this because, if anything, WoW learned the trick from EQ1 ;)

What’s baffling is reading a coder’s critique on graphics as “bad coder art”.

If you look at the “Assistance” dialogs fonts, with the default font option, you get a serif typeface like Times New Roman (basically, the font I am typing into the comment window), however with the Smooth Fonts option checked, the typeface changes to a sans-serif typeface, like Helvetica or Verdana (basically, the font you are seeing while reading this comment).

I don’t know if any actual font smoothing went on, or they just changed from a bold Times New Roman to what looks to be Verdana regular.

I just unsubbed from EQ2, I had two accounts and had become dulled to the game.

I’m back playing EvE which is good fun for the moment.

How about “3 things to grow WWIIOL”?

1. A New Capture System
2. A New Capture System
3. A New Capture System

Did I forget to mention that WWIIOL needs a New Capture System?

It recently got a new capture system ;-P And capture system changes remain on the table at all times anyway, so there’s usually a capture discussion every few months. We’re actually set to execute some of them post 1.32 too.

But its not really New now is it? You’re still requiring a Player to directly interact with a Capture Object in order to engage a Capture Timer to flip some arbitrary Switch. Admittedly, you now allow more then one Player to interact with the Capture Object, so instead of letting only one Player ‘hump the table’ you’re letting not just one Player, but multiple Players do the Time Warp inside of a shoebox. But it doesn’t really change the basic System. Your ‘new’ Capture System is less of a step forward and more of a jump to the left….or perhaps just a step to the right.

Still, I do hope your plans for the Capture System, post 1.32, actually do change the Capture System. Not gonna hold my breath, mind you, but I’ll hold onto a modicum of hope.

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