Ying to the Yang (Yo)

I have been playing EQ a lot. It’s a fun comparative after just playing WildStar for the weekend. I have recently spent time being nostalgic about starter zones in EQ, and decided it would be neat to try out EQ from a new player’s perspective. And that means starting off in Gloomingdeep Mines.

I rolled an Enchanter (one of my favorites) and was ready to experience the ‘new’ EQ.  Some of this is going to be WildStar comparative. EQ arguably does a better hand holding job through the early levels, with a methodical explanation of the systems available from hotbars to questing. Wildstar threw you in with a “oh, you know MMOs” mentality – whereas EQ treats you like you aren’t that smart. As they should! (no offence). I also found EQ is less chaotic, more focused. Do one thing at a time. As mentioned in my WildStar impressions – you need Ritalin. Too much going on too fast. EQ starting zone is much better paced. Challenge! What? I actually died a couple times pre level 5. You have to be careful. Even with a Merc. No such worry in WildStar, where you can play eating a sandwich while watching Doctor Who episodes and still move the levels along. One thing that gets harder to overlook is the graphics are so ugly in EQ. We all know this, but after driving around in the graphics equivalent of being in a Pixar movie, it’s hard to go to Hercules.

Think

Versus

And that might even be too kind. More like c64 era graphics. Anyway. Ugly. All that being said, I can’t recommend EQ to a new person entering the MMO genre, and I LOVE how slick WildStar weekend was.

I  hope some of the old vets still check EQ out. There are always people on (and I am really curious what kind of income it still generates).  The biggest takeaway I have from playing EQ again? EQ has more “flavor”. As a level 3 enchanter I can illusion into all sorts of things, from rocks, to other races.. there are a LOT of spells that are mostly useless you would think – but that adds so much flavor and immersion. I bolded that section because I read a great write up over at Murf’s (who also links to the original thought starter) about WoW class homogenization – and that is what WildStar, among a lot of other games, is missing.

Fluff.

Bear with me on that thought. I have read some tales that Elder Scrolls Online rewards people for going off of the beaten path, and those are the types of things that can make an average MMO great. Are the 14 spells my level 4 enchanter can memorize all used for “optimal” rotations? No. Do they provide opportunities for fun, engagement, roleplaying and gameplay? Yes. From my experience, those are the things missing out in today’s MMO offerings – they are so optimized there isn’t discovery or room for adventure. It’s kind of like taking art class out of elementary school curriculums because it doesn’t pay off in the end. But what is the world really like without art? What is any world without it?

While that is a very broad and sweeping generalization (admittedly!) I am disappointed in Blizzard’s decision to take innervate away from druids. Nerf it to hell if you like, but that has been one of the class defining abilities since launch in WoW (and I know, because I had a raid spot waiting for me because I was one of those rare druids in vanilla wow). Hunter’s mark? Oh, that hunter ability that also is part and parcel with what hunters are. Let’s get rid of that too.  There is nothing wrong with a little bloat – those things don’t have to be on hotbars, but leave them in the spell books – that way players can still play with them when (and if) they want to. Are they getting rid of that Eye of Kilrogg from Warlocks too? I am not trying to live in the past – I don’t even remember the last time I hit innervate when I played WoW. I just dislike the thought that anything unique (see: Shaman Totems in WoW, buffs, etc.) gets homogenized out.

Hell, what if McDonald’s got rid of the Big Mac?

Innovate like crazy. Move ahead. Just don’t forget the things that got you here (there) in the first place.

Here is a good example of how to do it right. Announced, and in testing, is moving Rogue and Feral Druid combo points to the player (instead of the target). This might address why rogues are the least played class in WoW these days (beating a dead horse – but they were once kings of single target DPS, homogenized out of it..) This is a good example of keeping the class core with combo points and fixing around it. It would probably just be a lot easier to drop combo points and give them mana, or rage, or focus – things they have already built systems around. But that would suck, right? Bland and blah is not the answer.

3 Comments

  1. Izlain

    It’s kind of unrelated to the topic, but funny that you should say “What if McDonald’s got rid of the Big Mac?” because about a month ago my roommate and I paid a visit to said restaurant, and they did get rid of a menu item that has been there for years. It’s not something that ever would have affected me, but he was devastated. We ordered chicken McNuggets, and he always wants the spicy mustard sauce to go with that. We were in the drive thru and the lady told us that it had been discontinued. He was very upset, but also though that the girl was lying or didn’t know what she was talking about. So he asked again at the window and we were again told that it was discontinued. He went as far as to call their corporate office to complain, because in his 30-some years of existence, that has always been his dipping sauce of choice.

    They ended up saying they’d give us a free meal — more chicken nuggets (LOL) so that he could try their other ‘new’ sauces to try and find a replacement. He still wasn’t satisfied, but I enjoyed the free meal.

    Reply
  2. Murf

    I’m with you. There’s definitely an element of flavor that newer MMOs have abandoned almost wholesale. In the efforts they’ve taken to streamline everything about their games, designers have created these perfectly packaged, completely homogenized entities which rarely pack any real distinction from one another.

    Reply
  3. Isey (Post author)

    @Izlain: Food analogies always bite me in the ass =) Something like that they probably have the argument that the sauce is spoiling, going to waste, (etc.) and they are throwing it out and wasting space. That of course doesn’t happen with bits and bytes – but I thought your story was particularly amazing about how passionate your friend was about a sauce! That is a good example of what pushback Blizzard might expect =) And that is just the sauce – imagine if it was the McNuggets?

    @Murf where does creativity and art fit into good game design? World building vs world mapping, etc. Its a really interesting conundrum and I am extra curious about ESO now – arguably a themepark/on rails type experience, but I’ve read a lot about the flavor and homage to Elder Scrolls prior games. Those easter eggs can add up to very cool (very fast) – especially to fans of the other games. Hell, I don’t even like homogenized milk, let alone homogenized gaming.

    Reply

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