Not posted to Lum, because it would threadjack the thread in question painfully. I may post this as an update in the next day or two, I may not. I haven’t really decided yet.
Since I’ve criticized Verant for not responding to their critics, though, I really have no choice but to put my money where my mouth is, and fire off a few suggestions on what I think would actually improve EverQuest. Indeed, I pretty much have a suggestion on all the topics I’ve criticized you for so far.
1. Realize that EQ is not a roleplaying game. EQ is a hack and slash video game. It is a hack and slash video game that lends itself to very, very limited roleplaying experience, very much like D&D, only, frankly, moreso. The only characters that are really at all entertaining to see on EQ are comedic ones. I play an atheistic paladin. It’s, in many ways, a one-joke character, but it’s a character that works within EQ, because he can be
drawn out convincingly and completely in about two minutes, while pulling lizards in Cazic-Thule. My primary alt at the moment is a bard who worships Veeshan, on the grounds that humans must be fed to dragons to keep the dragons alive so that we can kill them for their phat lewtz. He reasons that this is OK, because death demonstrably has no consequences. You just reappear at your bind point, or show up again a week later.
These characters work really well in EQ, because they are characters that do not get in the way of the main business of EQ, which is killing monsters, looting their corpses, and repeating until that neat “ding” sound comes out of your speakers. But part of EQ, like D&D, is that characters with wildly different moral and personal attitudes come together because of the strange concept of “the party.” Why? Because the game is structured so that the only quantifiable rewards are experience and equipment. Contrast with White Wolf, where there isn’t a quantifiable “level”, and equipment is really not a big deal at all. So the reward the players can chase after is the more abstract one of character development and character accomplishment within the game world. There, the games are structured the opposite way, and getting a big hack n’ slash fest into the game is just as challenging as getting serious roleplaying into EQ or D&D. c.f. the Vampire video game.
The upshot of this is that, without a fundamental change to the dynamics of EQ, that is to say the introduction of another quantifiable goal beyond your level and equipment, roleplaying based EQ is a doomed idea. The only thing I can possibly think of would be to have a really, really dedicated staff of GMs on the roleplay server that made the world truly interactive. If there were actually lots of unique quests, lots of personal goals, and an interactive world to provide character motivation beyond kill loot level repeat, the server has a chance of working out well. But the manpower needed to do that would be enormous. Maybe you could do it with volunteers. I’d certainly volunteer for that position in a second. But I can’t think of any other way to make it work.
2. Do not implement the trivial loot code ever again, anywhere. More importantly, do not put it into Luclin. This is a point I have aside from discussions of the merits of the TLC, which I think is a bad idea. Luclin, if Lawrence Poe is to be believed, is going to introduce “caster focus items” that do things like decrease casting time, increase effectiveness, decrease mana cost, etc. These items have been requested by casters pretty much since day one. And Luclin is putting them in.
But Luclin is also putting in a trivial loot code on all its zones. And here is where the difficulty is going to arise. Because casters want these items. And they want them in Kunark. The result of this is, I would wager, going to be that casters are going to want the items immediately. The combination of limited supply, and the fact that the trivial loot code SEVERELY restricts where they can get them is going to lead to lower level characters managing to loot the items, and turn around to sell them at extremely high prices to upper level casters who have wanted these items for over a year. This is just how the player based economy will work.
The result of this will be a massive influx of cash down to lower levels, which is going to do really nasty things to balance. I could see putting Trivial Loot on for the first month of Luclin, to allow people to play in the zones that are appropriate to them immediately, and then taking it off. That might still damage the player economy, but probably not as bad. Perhaps the better idea, though, would be the opposite. Allow a month of ruthless bottom feeding, and then put the code on for a while. Probably take it off again after a few months as well. Because things will balance out. You don’t see popular low-level Kunark camps with a few decent items camped by high levels all the time. The only one I’ve ever seen camped is the goblin fort in Warsliks Woods, and I have never seen someone camping that who wasn’t willing to PL me while they did it, and give me the one item I wanted from it. And, frankly, I’ve also never seen a low-level group try to go to the goblin fort in Warsliks, because the 30 goblin that everyone camps it for will wipe groups that are appropriate for the camp out really easily, unless they’re good groups. And that’s unlikely.
3. Try to make CS look less like a matter of convenience for you. Your calling me on this on Lum was actually a pretty good step. So was Gordon’s reply to me in e-mail. But it still very much seems like you’re only answering the complaints that are convenient for you to answer, with a few fairly public opportunities to make it look like you’re taking steps in the right direction. How about posting the questions that don’t get answered in Developer’s corner? Or opening a new Whineplay alongside Developer’s corner? That would allow pressing questions to get answered in a way that doesn’t descend into Whineplay, while still making our contact with your CS seem actually interactive, and less like we’re banging our heads against a faceless monstrosity.
4. Turn high-level encounters on their ears. I recognize that class balance at lower levels is pretty good. Uber-raids, though, suck for a lot of classes, and this is something said across the board. And equipment like Primal Velium does not help that. The game needs a massive re-evaluation at high levels, and, frankly, it needs to be a re-evaluation that isn’t based on player requests. (The lovely paradox. Players don’t know what they want,
but you need to convince them that you’re giving them what they want anyway. I confess, there may well be no possible solution to your customer service problems.) The Wizard Anti-Gate spell is a nice touch. But things like this need to be done for almost every class. And the given things have to actually be challenging. Lawrence Poe has said that he does not want to add mobs just so enchanters have something to do. Why not? The enchanters already have to be along on the raid. Why not add something for them to do,
even if it makes it harder? The point here is that going at the high level encounter problems from the approach of “How can we change the classes to be useful in the high level encounters” is not enough. The question “How can we change the high level encounters to be interesting for all classes” must also be considered. Will you get bloody cries of “Nerf” if you do this? Yes. Will people cancel their accounts? They probably haven’t with every other nerf you’ve made. Pissing off your entire player base is not, in fact, a bad thing. Pissing them off and not addressing their concerns after you do it is.
So there you have four suggestions. Make of them what you will.