Played about in EQ2 extended again last night, and once again ran into some old EQ1 bods and got talking.
It’s hard not to look back on my EverQuest 1 experience without rose tinted glasses, but the reality is that it was a brutal gaming experience. Like playing blackjack with only the dealer seeing your cards until you bust or stick.
Imagine for a moment: EverQuest 1 is a rock, “fun” from playing a game is blood, and you are a vampire with nothing to eat but said rock…
The same way that 100 years ago a wheel and a stick was amazing fun, compared to 50 years ago where Monopoly was amazing fun, compared to 20 years ago when Pong was amazing fun compared to today where 10 million people consider playing an online 3d graphical computer fantasy game to be a baseline for fun… 10 years ago, searching for your corpse in a just-barely 3d online game was fun.
People accuse Warcraft of being dumbed down, but really it’s dumbed up. EQ1 started with no auction house, for instance. On my server, players went to the tunnel in East Commonlands and /yell’d their wares. It was a bonafide flea market/jamboree.
Warcraft’s Auction House is far from “dumb”, but for players who relished the social element of buying and trading in EQ1 it’s definitely a negative.
I think most folks would agree it to be a minor issue, though. What old-timers harp over are things like corpse runs (note: EQ2 ditched them, WoW still has them). For Warcrafters: Imagine if, after dying, instead of coming back as a ghost, you came back alive but naked and have to run back to and loot your corpse. No option to spirit rez.
Tricky, eh? Oh, did I forget to mention that you also lost experience (and possibly your level, or multiple levels if you keep dying) and that if you didn’t recover your corpse within 24 hours … it and all of the items on it would poof?
Dying was a huge deal in EverQuest1. You really wanted to avoid it. If something could kill you while fully geared, getting at your corpse while naked was going to be an issue…
Let me cut to the chase: EverQuest 1 was a lousy game, what made it an awesome experience was the wealth of player-to-player situations that arose. People who played EQ1 together formed a camaraderie that compares vs WoW the way combat troops bond vs reserves who never see action.
On almost every measurable level, Warcraft and EverQuest 2 are better games. But neither of them serves the player with any real adversity, because adversity sucks.
Brad McQuaid tried to restore some Old School with Vanguard, and it has been commented that the hard cores didn’t rush to it in droves, or didn’t stick it out when they got there.
Why do the two experiences have to be treated as mutually exclusive?
Why can’t the bells and whistles be an option?
The answer is that, historically, hard core gamers have a very vocal sub-community of people who think that hard core gaming is too soft.
I think the reality is that hard core gaming is self-defeating, because very few people are actually really that hard core, or at least not for a very long time.
People get jobs, people lose jobs, people get involved with other people and then get uninvolved, people have exams, etc, etc.
I say: Sod the hard-core-hard-mode-hard-core gamers. There are soft-core and mid-core gamers who like it a little bit hard core now and again.
I’ve been enjoying EQ2 with my friend Megan, who is not that much of a gamer. We’ve been coasting along on easy mode fights and taking down mobs that are a cakewalk. It gives us time to chat and relax, soak up the lore etc.
Fortunately, EQ2 throws you the option of getting in over your head now and again, and we both thrive on the opportunity of facing a real challenge.
Key word: Opportunity.
I think our game, Battleground Europe, one of our key selling points being “there are no NPCs”, could use a PvE component that players could go to for “ezmode battle”. In-character R&R.
I think EQ Next, WoW2, etc, need to maintain their soft-focus, but bring in the hard mode option.
Give us a toggle: I want to adventure in adversity vs I don’t feel the need to prove how awesome I am mode. Bragging rights are an integral part of today’s MMOs. So you don’t really need much more than that. The guy who says “It’s not fair – I worked really hard for this item, and that guy just pressed three buttons and the mob gave it to him” … that guy is not your target audience.
I want to be able to log in, maybe on a weekend after a really good nights sleep, after a good Sunday morning breakfast, a whole pot of coffee, and enter the game world with risk and dare. I want to spend the entire morning crossing one zone in jeopardy and fear, until my buddies log on and then I want to flick the easy mode switch and run back so I can hang out with them and goof around until dinner is ready.
I want to be able to go into an instance with hard mode set while my companions are in easy mode so that I get somewhere in the middle, with less bragging rights, because I’m feeling pugilistic.
I’ve been on raids that went badly, but where coming away with the fact that you made some progress felt really good, where failing spoke “challenge”. But I’ve been on raids that went badly where coming away just felt plain shitty.
When you haven’t quite completed the dungeon, why do we have to give up? Why can’t we decide whether to call it a loss vs turning on our personal/group easy mode flag and getting to the end? Yes, most players will choose easy mode and cruise to the end.
Why does that bother you? Do you even understand the concepts of thousands, tends of thousands, hundreds of thousands of runs of this instance, by all kinds of mixes and mixups of characters and players, all sorts of conditions and circumstances? What is it that bothers you, the 3 eight year olds that totally pwn the boss you thought was the ultimate boss ever encountered in any MMO past, present and future… Or is it the group of guys taking their buddy (now on tour in Iraq) for an old-times run to make him feel good and in touch, who want to show him the last boss and win him that shield he didn’t get when they were busting their chops on hard mode previously?
If that kind of thing bothers you, you’re missing out on so much: Get your head out from where the sun doesn’t actually shine, and imagine how much more fun you could potentially eek from encounters and experiences designed to offer two paths.
For this concept it’s important that both modes are designed in. Lets take the case of EverQuest Next…
In EverQuest 1, you had a limit of 8 spells/combat arts you could hot key at a time. You had as many spells – possibly more – than you have in today’s MMOs, but you could only have 8 of them active at once. You had to get out of combat and swap them out if you wanted others.
That mean’t you had to plan your hotbar in advance in many cases.
It could be alternately sucky or challenging, depending on the situation and your frame of mind.
EQ Next could make it an option. Give us the plethora of hotbars we are familiar with, but in hard-mode combat, only allow us to use hostile/friendly abilities from bar #1.
Most MMOs have this annoying habit of basing the success of things like attacks and spell casts on the percentage of your current skill vs your maximum skill. I say ‘annoying’ because this means every time you level, the same engagements actually become harder while you max out those skills again.
One minute you’re fighting even-match level 20 rats, and the fights are “slightly risky”. Then you level. Your stats go up, so the fights should be a little easier? No. The fights are actually now harder than they were when you were level 19 and the rats were tricky to fight, because your relative skill level has dropped. Your actual skill hasn’t gone down, but it’s now some percentage less than your max skill, and that – not your actual level of skill – that matters. BLARGH.
In both Warcraft and EQ, when you go from 20 to 21, if you were fighting challenging level 20 mobs, you have to time out and find level 19 mobs until your skills peak.
But I digress. Point here is that in easy-mode, the relevance of skill levels could be diminished; less resists, etc. You have requested easier fights. So be granted them. Only if you select hard-mode does the full brunt of whether you have your casting ability maxed need to be brought to bear.
If the dungeons and encounters are designed around that, IMHO they’re going to be different. Taking a traditional boss fight and applying it to this model is going to produce a boring, unfulfilling experience. It’s going to need a little different thinking.
It’s going to beg for more puzzle and a little more challenge in other dimensions.
Most Single Player games have a difficulty level option, and it’s rare for an AAA title not to allow you to adjust that difficulty level on the fly.
So why are MMO designers still working in the stone age, where they choose the difficulty level and if you want a different level of challenge, well screw you.
Those of you who consider fixed-difficulty-hard-mode MMOs to be the gold era of MMOs, I’m sorry for not sharing your passion, but as much as I loved playing EQ1, I would never more than visit a 2001 EQ1 server for the sake of nostalgia, and I’m pretty sure the same is true for most people.
But there’s good news: If a game is designed around the split levels of difficulty, there’s no reason they couldn’t throw in a hard-only shard for you folks, so you don’t have to put up with the likes of us care-bears. Then, I can choose whether to be punished or pleasured by my game based on my mood, the kind of day I had, whether I have cheese or tomatoes in the fridge… Whatever.