Saturday, June 27, 2009

Thoughts on John Smedley's Address at Fan Faire 2009

Last night SOE President John Smedley gave the 3rd annual Community Address at SOE's Fan Faire 2009 in Las Vegas. Tipa's coverage over at West Karana of the news coming out of that speech is very good, although I don't recall anyone saying that "auto-mentoring" was coming to EverQuest 2. I can believe its coming as a way to keep the content required to get mythical weapons non-trivial; I just don't recall hearing it. What I heard was similar to what Feldon is reporting on The EQ2 Wire, that you can self-mentor. I'm giving Feldon's coverage of this issue a bit more credibility only because his post on the subject came before Smedley's presentation and it sounds like he actually either sat in on a panel or personally talked to a dev about the feature.

Now that I've had a little time to think about what I saw, here are my thoughts.

Sentinal's Fate - The next expansion will be the island of Odus and not Velious. I never played EverQuest, so those zones mean nothing to me. I guess that means as long as I don't pay too much attention to the forums, I'll be able to at least start the expansion content with an open mind. Well, at least an open mind about the story line.

A rise in the level cap to 90 - That had to happen. While AA points are nice, I really like to hear the levelling ding. The fact that I think a lot of my guildies will be near or at level 80 when the expansion goes live helps me think good thoughts about the level cap rise also.

Release date of Sentinal's Fate is February 2010 - When I first heard Brenlo say this, I groaned. EQ2 expansions traditionally come out in November. But then I thought about it and started to smile. I've now got 8 months to get those last 15 AA points so I can have a max'ed out character? Before I felt a little rushed about getting to 200 AA points by November, although I was going to be able to do it. Now I can relax. More importantly, all of my guildies who are just now hitting level 80 with 90-120 AA points will have time to improve their toons for the next expansion.

I will say one thing about the delay. With the recent changes made in GU 52 (research assistants, higher conversion rate of combat xp to AA xp for max level characters) and some of the changes I'll write about later in this post, expect the starting content in Sentinal's Fate to be a bit more challenging than in the past. In other words, if you are not raid-geared, you better do some homework (i.e. read the forums; play on test, etc.) or you're going to get pwned!

Auto-mentoring/self-mentoring - This seems like a good thing. The mechanic that Tipa described is actually in the game right now, although I only know of one place it is used. In the heritage quest Casualties of the War of the Fay, any player over level 70 was reduced to level 70 for the final boss fight. The reason is that the quest prize, the Rain Caller bow, is required to get the ranger's mythical weapon.

If I can use the mentoring NPC that Feldon describes to do grey content in order to complete my quest of getting 200 AA points, I will. I hate going back and doing grey quests and I really would like to go back and do them when there is a chance of dying.

I can see this mechanic being abused. Can you imaging higher level characters getting all geared up and then self-mentoring to a lower level to farm named mobs? I can. But that's a thought for another day.

Achievements - When I played Warhammer Online, the Tome of Knowledge didn't really appeal to me, although I thought the map feature was really cool. What Brenlo described sounded more like Blizzard's rip-off of the Tome of Knowledge rather than the actual ToK. For me, putting in an achievement system into EQ2 is *yawn*.

Putting in that type of achievement system into EQ2 should be a lot easier for SOE than putting the system into WoW was for Blizzard since EQ2 was already giving out titles for how many mobs you had killed, completing a certain number of heritage quests, etc. Not only that, but the game also keeps track of certain server and game firsts (I have one game first and about 40 server firsts, all related to crafting) that get you listed on EQ2 Players.

I guess WoW's achievement system is so popular with its player base and is so successful in helping in player retention that every game is going to have some sort of achievement system going into the future. But just remember, EQ2 had the system first. It's just that EQ2 used titles (which is a feature coming soon to WoW!) to reward players instead of something called "achievements". And if you don't want to credit EQ2, then you need to credit Warhammer Online and the Tome of Knowledge.

Halas - I'm not really excited about new cities. I get lost a lot, although seeing parts of the cities for the first time when I'm lost has been interesting. I'm really going to have to visit Halas. With self-mentoring, I'll actually be able to do the newbie quests and experience the city instead of just wander around aimlessly. I like doing new things. And if I still need AA experience when it comes out, you can bet Halas will receive a long visit from my ranger.

Shard of Love - This zone promises to introduce another god into EQ2. Since the Plane of Love never existed in EverQuest, I think everyone will be interested in at least visiting the area at least once.

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