Islands and Mounted Combat. Everquest 2 removes content and features.

There are two horrible decisions in the current Everquest 2 test-build that are being protested strongly by the playerbase. You’ll find them both at the top of the patch notes.

GENERAL

* Qeynos and Freeport have been disabled as starting cities.
* Mounts will now be temporarily suspended while in combat.

They’re similar, in a way, in that they both take things away from the game, instead of add new choices. We were already somewhat aware of the threat to Qeynos and Freeport, and I have discussed my opposition to that change in this post.

We have been able to fight while mounted, if I remember rightly, since the beginning of the game. Back then, Paladins even had some combat moves that could only be executed while mounted, so mounted combat was always the intention, and an important feature of EQ2. The animations if you’re on the back of a horse or other animal look fine, and if you’re standing on a flying carpet then they’re exactly the same as if you were standing on the ground, except for, you know, that you’re standing on your awesome flying carpet.

Now your mount is going to vanish every time you enter combat. Nobody was asking for this. Even the raiders, who are concerned with lag, just wanted to be able to turn mounts off for raids, not for the entire world.

Mounted combat is a feature that most MMOs would kill for. How can it be that SOE is prepared to give it up so easily? I love my mounts. I was even going to post about my very newest, the Hotwired Gnomish Hoverpad, and quite how awesome it is. Not feeling quite so enthused now, seeing as Maltheas won’t be able to do this any more:

Everquest 2 Mounted Combat Enjoy It While You Can 500x322

Everquest 2 Mounted Combat - Enjoy it while you can.

There has been a response to player unhappiness from Smokejumper. My comments are in green:

Well, I guess it’s time to stick my head in the dragon’s mouth. Here goes nuthin’.

I’ve played with the system as it is currently on Live (rather extensively). I’ve also played the system that is on Test now.

It’s basically a change about “what looks best”.

The fact is, the Live solution doesn’t look very good. Especially if you’re playing a character with radical animations, like a Monk. It looks bad in your opinion. In the opinion of the players it was working fine. Even the folks with kicks looked perfectly fine on flying carpets. Fighting on the back of your mount is cool, and makes some of us happy.

Also, we already have the conceit in the game, for things like climbing and swimming, where your mount turns off/on.

Additionally, there is no way that we can add the literally hundreds of necessary anims and hunks of code to make combat look spectacular while on a mount. (At least not with our existing task load for future features.)

So, the solution is to turn off the mount while in combat. You may ask, “When does the mount off/on occur?”

1) It doesn’t happen if you’re just aggroed. It only happens if YOU attack something.

2) We’re going to massage the code a bit (soon) so that your mount doesn’t immediately pop back in until a few seconds after you destroy your current opponent. That way, if you’re not using AoEs, the mount doesn’t keep popping back in before you can switch to a new target and continue fighting.So we get to see even less of our mounts.

This system allows you to continue seeing the great combat animations and makes the game more visually appealing for all players.If we cared so much about seeing the “great combat animations” then we’d get off our horse. We already see them when fighting in dungeons (mounts are disabled in indoor zones), so having some variety when outside was nice.

Regarding the “/showmount” request…that’s not something we want to do either. If you’re getting the speed boost, other players should know why that’s occuring.That’s an utterly spurious argument. The game is packed to the gills with items that increase run speed, such as the Earing of the Solstice and the Journeyman Boots. Other players can’t see them, so that is no argument whatsoever for not having a /showmount command. You may well have a reason not to implement the /showmount command, but it certainly can’t be that.

Regarding a graphics option to show the mount even while you’re in combat, we’re not doing that either. This is an aesthetic decision that keeps the game more attractive for all players. The currently munged animations that occur while riding look like (well, actually “are”) a bug. Since we don’t have time to create all the extra anims required to fix that in the perfect way (which would also make it *much* harder for us to create new mounts in the future because they would need all those extra anims also), we’re going to have to go with this solution. Why? Why has this suddenly become so important?

We fully realize this won’t please all players, but it will result in a better looking game for most players, so that’s why we’re making the change.. Having our mounts pinging back and forth into existence is NOT aesthetically pleasing.

Elsewhere, Cronyn had this to say about the Qeynos/Freeport issue:

Hey folks. I understand that many of you would like to see the old starting islands remain, but I’d like to explain the decision, at least so you see where we were coming from.

Primarily, the starting islands and following content, simply put, are not up to the standards of the newer starting cities. Players who start in these zones are at a disadvantage when compared to players who start in the newer zones. In the more recent starting zones, the play experience is laid out better, with improved loot and quests. From an art and design standpoint, the islands were great five years ago when the game launched, but the game has changed and improved in many ways and we don’t feel the newbie islands are as good as they should be today. Then update the loot. How long would it take to change the stats on some items?

A great positive effect of having four starting zones is that it helps focus players into areas with other people, and encourages interaction and community. The current content revamp helps players travel along a common path as they level up, so that they will more likely come across other people, and form relationships, form communities, and experience the game when it’s at its best – with friends. Making sure they have this chance by focusing them into content we feel is strong is one of the goals with turning off the islands as well.If you follow that logic, then I guess this is just the first of many zones to be removed. Anything not on this newfangled golden path had better watch out.

Finally, I’d like to say that we are not planning to abandon Freeport and Qeynos. However, we’d like to repurpose them somewhat into content destinations rather than starting points. A good deal of overarching content deals with these cities directly, and we’d like to create even more content that basically turns these into important quest and activity hubs, so to speak – I can’t go into it too much right now (although you saw some of what I mean during the destruction of Freeport live event), but there’s definitely an idea on how we’d like them to be presented going forward. The legacy content that is there (especially the racial quests) are not being removed, but we’ve been discussing ways to make this content more functional overall.

Anyway, we really appreciate all of the feedback, and we hope you can see why we felt this was a necessary change.

The other thing these changes have in common is that the solution chosen to the perceived problem has been the one that requires least effort, rather than fixing or making something new. If the newbie islands are truly lacking, than the proper thing to do would be to bring them up to speed, not to just cast them aside.

Nobody was asking for either of these changes, and we’re being utterly ignored and overruled. I am beginning to wonder why they have a feedback forum at all if we’re just going to be told that father knows best. We’re not being listened to, and it feels like many of the reasons being given have been made up after the fact to justify the decisions. It is feeling at the moment like some sort of “old is bad” ideology has crept into the thinking. Possibly because most of the people who made the original content have moved on, and people are naturally more supportive of content they were involved in making.

You can see the main forum threads pertaining to these issues at “Qeynos and Freeport have been disabled as starting cities”, and Mounts will now be temporarily suspended while in combat. Thus far, it is very clear how the majority of players feel.

This would be a good moment for our new Producer, Dave Georgeson, to make an appearance. In a recent interview, Zam asked him:

ZAM: Have you yet gone and thrown out any of the plans that were on the table as of last Wednesday?

Dave: No. I will go so far as to say that any of the short term plans are not going to be changed a bit. The farther it gets from today the more impact I’ll have on what’s actually happening. But I would expect it to be a month or two before any kind of shifts the I’m making will have any kind of difference in what we’re doing on the game.

This is your opportunity, Mr Georgeson, to show that you are willing to listen to us. It would be unfortunate for you to spend the first month of your reign standing by and letting this happen.

I would rather have written that post about how fun the new tinkered mount is. I’d like to be planning to rave about Halas. As it stands, the breezy and dubiously argued way that player feedback is being discounted is the thing I’m thinking about most when I consider EQ2 at the moment.

Update: It turns out Smokejumper IS Dave Georgeson. I find that EQ2′s producer would have said what he did in his comment on mounted combat to be deeply discouraging.

21 comments to Islands and Mounted Combat. Everquest 2 removes content and features.

  • Greg Spence

    Keep in mind that every change SOE makes will be met with some opposition from SOMEONE. It’s not fair to say that because some people don’t like it, that Dave should revert the decision. If that were the precedent, nothing would ever get changed because there is always someone unhappy with change. There is a push to make the game more polished and this was a simple fix for something that has had a buggy appearance since the beginning.

  • Greg Spence

    The decision about the islands has nothing to do with an artistic point of view. It’s about exposing new players to the best content that is available. Sure, in a perfect world we’d completely revamp the quests and items of both cities and make it perfect, but unfortunately that would require a lot of time and keep us from focusing on new content for the majority of the player base. The cities aren’t going away, players will still be able to experience them. It just won’t be the first impression they get of EQ2 for now.

  • I appreciate you taking the time to respond, Rothgar.

    The removal of mounted combat is hardly just being opposed by “someone”. At what point do our opinions start mattering? Folks have been posting against the loss of the islands since they heard rumours of it a few months back. It is frustrating, because it seems to me that our only, not particularly pleasant, option is to kick up as big a fuss as we possibly can, because asking nicely does not work. We’re not allowed petitions, so how can we show player feeling except through raising the volume?

    The loss of mounted combat has come right out of the blue. An axe is being used instead of a scalpel. And I wonder what will be removed next in the name of “polish”. The Qeynos/Freeport sewers? Splitpaw? They’ve both been neglected for years too, and have fallen far behind modern zones of a similar level. If removal rather than maintenance is the new mantra, then where will this lead? You could start calling the updates “Unexpansions”.

    You could easily just not let players start their first character on the islands, or heck, just stick a big warning on them if you think they’re that awful (Which they are not. They’re good zones made by great developers. I don’t even know where the idea is coming from that they need to be hidden away in shame.). Lots of people love them, and it is unfortunate that the option to start there is being taken away from them.

  • Greg Spence

    Public opinion always matters but that doesn’t mean that design decisions will always be voted on by the players. The community has a long history of resisting change and many times that initial backlash dies down after a short time and it’s no longer an issue. Some decisions are made based on what we feel is for the greater good of the game. People won’t always agree on them. Heck most of the time members of the team don’t always agree with changes. That’s just something we have to deal with sometimes. The past has proven that we DO listen to our players. I can give you countless examples of things changes solely on user feedback. So it’s not fair to say that your opinions don’t matter.

  • Longasc

    As far as I know, g33kg0dd3ss does not like these two changes either.

    I do not play EQ2 and did not play EQ1 much. I can’t say if you just experience a SWG style “NGE” – some by now say this change was for the better of the game in the long run, others say it sealed the decline.

    So let’s hear my OUTSIDER’S perspective: I recently read about this “Golden Path” thing. EQ2 apparently has tons of wonderful content and quests hidden among a heap of not so cool content. Basically, the gems might be hidden and could easily be missed.

    Freedom of exploration vs guidance is a hot topic, as you know I favor the freedom. But nowadays more and more the “guided bus tour through Azeroth” made popular by some MMO by Blizzard has become more and more and too much popular with the stinking masses! :>

    You were telling me about battlegrounds recently and what a mixed bag of reactions they caused, most prominently “did we really want that???”

    So now, after years, mounted combat gets removed. Working on the new player experience is great, but making old starting areas go away instead of pushing them up to today’s standard by just replacing them with a totally new zone is quite harsh. This is going to lose more goodwill from veterans than it really gets appreciated by the new players (sidenote: I wonder how Cataclysm’s revamp especially of some underwhelming WoW zones will be regarded a few months after launch). This more sounds like the team wants and should rather make EverQuest 3 based on the experiences of EverQuest 2.

    Funnily, I also always argue for a dynamic, changing world, but the kind this change happens does not seem very acceptable for the veteran players. I bet Guild Wars 1 lost tons of players early on because the beautiful Pre-Searing Ascalon gets destroyed and replaced by smoldering brownish ruins. You do not destroy someone’s virtual home or birthplace without major consequences.

    Working and maintenance the new player experience has become vital for all MMOs by now, at least every developer accepts this notion by now. But this smells a bit like an ongoing WoWification rather than emphasizing the strengths of the EQ2 world. And I think the quest guided bus tour and dismounting in combat are not really the things one should take from WoW as inspiration. You know with what disdain players nowadays treat their levelling content.

  • I’m aware that some changes are made based on user feedback, and that’s a good thing.

    And I know this isn’t a democracy and in the end we have to do whatever the developers decide. But if I think something is a bad idea, I can’t very well be quiet about it, even if I am told that the decision has been made and there’s nothing I can do, as there is always hope right up to the point it is implemented.

    That’s why backlash die. When there’s no more hope of stopping something, there’s not a lot of point going on about it. You move on, slightly less happy than you were before. Once these awful changes go in, I’ll stop going on about them too, and go along, quietly missing my mounted combat. Please don’t take that silence when it happens to be agreement.

  • @ Longasc Heh. I was one of the few bloggers who supported Battlegrounds.

    Why? Because they increased player choice. They added to the game. I oppose these new changes because they reduce player choice.

    EQ2 has changed a lot since I started. These days, most new players have outlevelled me within a week or two, because they’re rushed, by design, through the levels. It’s a crying shame, but there you go. That is why I am somewhat militant in my defence of lower level areas. I suspect a lot of them are now seen as surplus to requirement, but the wide range of Norrath, and its ability to support many diverse playstyles, is what makes it so special. I worry that SOE doesn’t understand this any more.

  • Well, to give a slightly different point of view… I’m ambivalent about the mount thing and if I had my druthers it would become an option — “Show my mount while fighting yes/no”.

    As for the Qeynos/Freeport starting areas, I start enough alts to be able to attest to the fact that, nostalgia aside, those areas are pretty lacking in comparison to newer areas like Darklight Wood and Timorous Deep. It’s not just the 1-10 experience on the island, it’s the fact that afterward you end up in Qeynos/FP with no particular idea what to do.

    Sure, our gaming shouldn’t be on rails, but when you have a really nicely put together newbie experience with only a few flaws (TD) compared to a 5-year old newbie experience that gives too little cash & goodies and zero guidance once you hit 10 — then I can understand why there’s a desire to remove the less satisfying experience.

    About half the players I talk into playing EQ2 end up quitting for the following reason: “It was too big and I had no idea what to do.” Now, you could say that they should just STFU and L2P, but for one that’s not fair and for another that’s cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s old-school face.

    Again, if I had my druthers those islands would be updated to match current newer content, but I have a feeling that’s what the team would do too if they had unlimited time and resources.

    So… I’m not cheering about the changes per se, but I can see the need for them. Even if I’d rather have an on-off switch for the animations thing. (I happen to agree that with monks & some other classes, fighting looks much better when it’s not on mount back (excluding carpets).)

  • @Ysharros

    If we were talking about something that let a player choose to turn off mounts, instead of what is proposed, it wouldn’t trouble me at all. Equally, you agree that magic carpet combat looks perfectly fine, so why are such mounts also to be affected?

    The answer to problems is seldom binary. In both these cases, we’ve just switched the bit from 1 to 0.

    This isn’t about me thinking new players should L2P. I want them to have the best experience possible, but that cannot be a one-size fits all approach. EQ2 needs to support every playstyle, and that means giving people choices, not taking them away. I’m not going to be making any more characters, so far as I know, so I’ll likely never see the Isle again, but other people should have that opportunity if they desire.

    There was nothing stopping some guidance being added to Qeynos and Freeport. In fact, I thought that sort of thing was the entire point of the Storyteller system that is coming in. That would have been perfect for guiding people about the old cities. The shoddy rewards and equipment ought not to have taken a ridiculous amount of time to restat. As I said earlier, you could simply not let a new player make his first character there, rather than taking it away from everyone forever.

  • [...] would generate on the WoW boards, is s sign of pretty heated debate among the EQ2 community. Arkenor has weighed in on his blog with a pretty reasoned “gah! no!” — and even got a dev [...]

  • I didn’t think you specifically would ever say STFU. :D It was more of a general thing, heh.

  • Oh gosh. I would never think you would have suggested such a thing. I’m just riled up with Celtic fury!! There’s nothing we like more than fighting an utterly hopeless righteous cause against impossible odds.

  • Oh God help us. Not the bagpipes, please! :D /end post derail

  • Aeyri

    Thanks for the reply, Rothgar. But what do you think about the lore issue – that it really makes no sense for a human, a froglok, a ratonga, a halfling, an erudite, to start in any of the four remaining starting cities?

    If any starting city had to be scrapped, I would think Qeynos and Freeport would be the least likely candidates, since they offer homes for all the races. I would have much rather seen them revamped instead of a new starting area. Also, without getting a real idea of what your future plans for Qeynos and Freeport, it is hard for us to judge with what we are getting in exchange is really worth such a loss.

    I posted this idea to the EQ2 forum thread, but will post here as well:

    Turn the newbie islands into Good and Evil “Tutorial” islands sort of like the EQ1 tutorial they added with the jail and whatnot. This sort of matches what the islands actually are – since as others have mentioned, they really do the best job of letting you know how to play. Perhaps add representatives for Halas/Kelethin to the good one and Neriak/Gorowyn to the evil one, to explain the mindsets of the different cities.

    When you create a new character, have an option to go through the “tutorial” first, or skip it and go directly to one of the four starting areas (Halas, Neriak, Gorowyn, Kelethin). Once on the “tutorial island,” you can play it as long as you want, and then when you are done use the boat to travel to any of the other four starting areas or choose to travel directly to the cities (Qeynos and Freeport). There can be a nice big warning then that traveling directly to the cities is only recommended for veteran players.

    This solution keeps the newbie islands for those who want a gentler introduction to playing (and in fact brands it as such), while letting those who want to jump right into the “main game” skip it and start in one of the “more polished” newbie areas (and if they decide to start in the tutorial and get bored, they can leave at any time for somewhere else).

    The option to start in Qeynos and Freeport still exists, although much more hidden and discouraged. Thus, only folks who know what they are doing would choose to start there.

  • Did we take into consideration…costs?

    Maybe removing some features allows them to put less into developer costs to keep these items up? I mean, the game is not topping any charts sub or money wise…and this may be helping in that respect.

    Finally my final thought is a Shader 3.0 consideration. Maybe the engine needed more work for those items than other pats of the game, and it was easier to drop it (again, leading back to costs)

    Just throwing these out there. And yes, it is sad about mounts, as most other games kick you off the mount anyways…and EQ2 was the only game to do it.

    Guess it is best to follow the WoW/Activision/Blizzard crowd like everyone else (except Arena Net)

    Cheers

  • [...] has already started to make his mark at SOE. A couple of recent changes in the latest test-patch have riled up the player base because they’re removing content rather than replacing or updating [...]

  • I’m in 100% in favor of SOE removing both Qeynos and Freeport as starting zones. Both of these areas were far too confusing and complex for new players to fathom compared to the newer more technically and artistically competent starting zones.

    It’s an industry reality that a video game only has 15 minutes to capture the interest of a new player. The player that happens to select either Freeport or Qeynos will be less likely to keep subscribing than a player that plays in a newer, more polished newbie zone.

    I wrote about this extensively last year:

    http://www.wolfsheadonline.com/?p=2570#32264

    The more new players that subscribe means more resources for SOE to keep developing EQ2 and that benefits everyone including veterans. I get tired of the attitude of some MMO veterans that feel that they somehow “own” the MMO they play and are seemingly resistant to any changes — even the changes that won’t even affect them.

    Without a steady influx of NEW subscribers your beloved (insert MMO here) will die.

    MMO developers need to find the courage to start changing things and eliminating obsolete sacred cows. Thankfully SOE had the courage to do this. Blizzard will prove the efficacy of this strategy by all of the changes to the starting zones in their upcoming Cataclysm expansion.

  • The proposal that starting in Qeynos and Freeport simply be blocked for brand new players has been presented many times, and would easily satisfy your 15 minute claim without removing options for everybody else.

    It is not surprising that veteran players should have feelings about a game they’ve played for five years, nor is it unreasonable for them to have opinions, even ones that differ with yours. I was under the impression that getting players to feel ownership of their world was something that developers aim for, so it seems a bit unfair to be upset with players when that is successful.

  • Chris

    I am by no means an EQ2 veteran. I started the game in July 2007 with a Classic EQ2 box purchased from gamestop and loved the game. As time went on I became very unhappy with the TSO expansion and what it did to the game and ended up quitting in July 2009 (so, 2 years of game play) Hey… the game was good overall, I had a LOT of fun in the level 1-50 content, and as I went out of 50 all the way to 80, it was alright. Kunark was sort of fun but once I hit level 80 I pretty much lost all interest because I was burnt out and experienced all I needed to from this game. I recently planned on coming back to “restart” and relive those 2 fun years over again, for nostalgic purposes. Well, once I heard they are removing these two legendary starting areas from the game, The thought of restarting (for pure nostalgic purposes) is now gone forever and I will not be restarting the game anytime soon or if at all… ever again. The way this game started, felt at their starting zones and…just everything about the starting zones made eq2 feel the way it did to me, it was a great game and that part of the game sold it for me, now they are going away in favor of new shit that caters to the no lives who play 24/7 just to get good loot and look shiny. Don’t expect them to stop at the starting islands and starting cities, expect classic content (aka Shattered Lands) to take a hike too. What are they going to do with Antonica, Commonlands..etc…? Clearly they look and feel old to SOE too, are they going to remove these zones too eventually? They are ruining the game, and thus, they will no longer recieve any of my money unless they do something that actually redeems themselves. But they will have to do a lot to do that, because removing classic, awesome content (that made eq2 the game it is) is a huge blow to the older/nostalgic players and a bad move. I hope the move causes a lot of people to stop subscribing. There may be content that is “worth while” like Kunark and content beyond that… but what happens when that becomes “out dated too” I feel like they are rewriting eq2 history by forgetting about this old content. New players will never know how this game got the ground it did today by not living though the original shattered lands content.

    At least Guild Wars’ primary classic content hasn’t changed in the past 5 years. I have that to go back to (for now…) and this makes me scared, if something happens like that in Guild Wars too.

    See ya later, Eq2. It was a VERY fun memory, sad that I won’t be able to relive it even at least once more. Time to…. move on….. I guess.

  • [...] from the fact that my monk in EverQuest II can do a roundhouse kick from horseback (I’m glad they announced that you’ll soon be dismounted for combat in EQ2.  Sorry, but that was just silly.) to the [...]

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