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Everquest Nostalgia

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in Blog, Everquest | 0 comments

Sometime in early 2001, I went to the computer store to look for yet another computer game, since I had grown bored of the most recent one. I had seen the box of Everquest, Rise of Kunark before, but had put it back into the shelf for one reason or another. But this time there was also “Scars of Velious” standing right next to it. Seeing the second expansion of a game gave me pause. Guess there must be something to it, I thought and grabbed the Kunark box.

A bit later a new dwarf named Tomlin appeared outside Kaladim on the Vazaelle server. I had yet to discover the newer full screen interface and could see the world only through a window less than half the size of my screen. Things were confusing, but I managed to kill some skeletons and some goblins. But of course I got lost, had to search for my corpse and got saved by some friendly player who saw I was in distress. Eventually, my dwarf grew up a bit and found his way into Greater Faydark, which he left almost immediately for Lesser Faydark at level 6 or so. There he meet some brownies…..

The story from here on is the same as many others have experienced the game. Getting your first set of banded mail, experimenting with other classes and general exploration of all continents. There were my first steps onto Kunark, wondering how to get to that level 14+ zone while dodging monster spiders and giant dogs. The boat trip to Velious was fun, seeing the gnomish steam boat. Going out exploring as a non caster was always interesting and dangerous, since you’d better find a bind point fast. I had settled to play a bard, which I turned into a Vah Shir bard once Luclin came around.

I joined a small casual guild, left them for a bigger guild, which imploded to form another more “focused” raiding guild and joined a newly founded raiding guild by the time Planes of Power went live. That’s where I meet my wife through frequent grouping and raiding. More expansions came out, but so did Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft. The guild collapsed, but we played on for a while, before succumbing to the lure of World of Warcraft. That was around the time of Omens of War. My wife held out a while longer, but eventually moved to WOW as well.

We had short appearances during veterans weekends and I took the opportunity to return to Fippy Darkpaw for a short while, but have stayed away since. Now Everquest is going free-to-play on March, 16th, 12 years after its introduction. I will be there. I finished the download of the regular client a couple of hours ago and I am waiting for the doors to open. I don’t know if I will start on the new server or revisit my old toons. Most likely scenario: A new beastlord on the new server. I certainly won’t be a frequent visitor, but free-to-play will give me the opportunity to drop in every now and then, just to see how things are faring.

It is some investment to get re-aquainted with the game and the user interface. Or just imagine the geography. I will probably manage the classic Norrath maps, a bit of Luclin and Planes of Power, perhaps even Ykesha. But after that, I don’t even remember the zone connections anymore. Yes, I know, things have gotten simpler in the game, but it has become a huge world. I guess it’s still the biggest world out there in MMO terms. And a nice one to go back to. See you on Friday.

© Disclaimer: Everquest

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WTF, Taris?

Posted by on Mar 11, 2012 in Blog, Featured, Star Wars: The Old Republic | 0 comments

A few days ago I finally managed to get my Sith Marauder to Taris. I had some trouble at first getting oriented at the landing site, but nothing really to post about. A few initial quests yielded me some decent amounts of crystals to artifice and things looked good. Until I arrived at the “Border Assault Post”.

Damn, I’ve seen that place before. It looks just like one of the Republic outpost on Taris. And as it turns out, the whole map is identical to the Republic map. Which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since it’s the same world and both sides are competing for this world. However, all the quest hubs are now in use by Imperials instead of the Republic and there are different mobs throughout the area. No pirates, like on the Republic side, and the Cathar and the Taris Militia are exclusive to the Empire map.

I just got quests leading me into the starship Endar Spire, but I fear the story which presents itself there will be very different from the Republic one. Just like the other quests throughout Taris. It’s not just a different point of view, the events in the stories differ. Which annoys me to no end. I’ve seen a few story elements within class quests which just didn’t fit together with other class quests. Most obvious to me is the complete absence of the Twi’lek matriarch of the Consular line within the Jedi Knight quest line. Or the differences around Nem’ro the Hutt between the Imperial Agent and the Bounty Hunter quests. Nemro’s located on the left side of his palace for IA’s and on the right side for Bounty Hunters. He’s got lieutenants for the IA where there’s just a single accountant around for BH.

This really makes me wonder, if I should head over to some SWTOR role playing sites and check out hat they have to say about the poor development of lore. In the end, it’s just another piece of the puzzle that is Bioware. I keep noticing issues where I keep thinking that they went designing the game all by themselves as a company who makes single user games, without much consultation of experts from the MMO world. They could have learned a thing or two. And somewhere down the road, when they finally notice the errors of their ways, they will have to create some very clumsy stories and explanations to make the lore between the classes and the factions consistent.

© Disclaimer: Star Wars: The Old Republic
This site is not endorsed by or affiliated with LucasArts, BioWare, or Electronic Arts.
Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. LucasArts, the LucasArts logo, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks in the United States and/or in other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © 2008-2011 Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. or Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. BioWare and the BioWare logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of EA International (Studio and Publishing) Ltd. You may not copy any images, videos or sound clips found on this site or "deep link" to any image, video or sound clip directly.
Game content and materials copyright LICENSOR. All Rights Reserved.

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Darth Vader on a Unicycle Playing Bagpipes in Portland,OR

Posted by on Mar 10, 2012 in Blog, Star Wars: The Old Republic | 0 comments

Imperial march starts 3 seconds before the video ends. Listen closely. Not much else needs to be said about this video.

© Disclaimer: Star Wars: The Old Republic
This site is not endorsed by or affiliated with LucasArts, BioWare, or Electronic Arts.
Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. LucasArts, the LucasArts logo, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks in the United States and/or in other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © 2008-2011 Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. or Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. BioWare and the BioWare logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of EA International (Studio and Publishing) Ltd. You may not copy any images, videos or sound clips found on this site or "deep link" to any image, video or sound clip directly.
Game content and materials copyright LICENSOR. All Rights Reserved.

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Why Still Have Shards or Servers

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Blog, Everquest II, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Uncategorized, World of Warcraft | 4 comments

Some of my posts are triggered by the blogs I read, but end up looking only remotely related to the original content. This is one of them. A couple of blogs started to complain about WOW’s revamped “Scroll of Resurrection” (Bio Break, MMO Quests, Corpse Run). Among other things, players returning to WOW can get an instant character at level 80.

Which leads to the question, why would it be advantageous to have an instant, content skipping, nearly painless level 80? Of course the assumption is that players, and in this case returning players want to play with their friends. And an instant level 80 might just be the solution for some of the returning players, some of them having gone through the content way to many five times.

Multiple Servers

Others would love to go through the WOW-Cataclysm content, but fear they will face empty or low populated zones on their mature servers. Of course new players face the same problem if they pick a mature server. WOW offers the LFD tool as a partial solution, where it matches you up for dungeons with players from other servers. Which doesn’t help in non-dungeon areas, especially if the zone is structured in a way where it is advantageous having multiple players adventuring nearby. For instance, to quickly drop a tougher NPC together and continue soloing. Rift’s zone events and open grouping or WAR’s area quests are similar, since you will need more people in the same zone. Disclaimer: I haven’t been playing Rift lately, so I don’t know if there is a solution in place.

Competitive players and guilds face also problems with a multiple server environment. The major one being recruiting. A server is usually to small to sustain many high end guilds and recruiting often happens cross server. A server transfer costs money, but is usually not that much of a problem. Cross server communication is harder. It usually happens offline on forums and can become clumsy, if those forums are spread out. The EQ/EQ2 cross server chat is nice, but you still need to know on what server you’ll find your partner.

Single Shards

If WOW puts already player from different servers together temporarily, why not drop the shard concept all together? Why did we have them to begin with? Part of the transition from multi user dungeons (MUD) into Massive multi player role playing games was the need to spread the players out across multiple servers, simply to handle the need for server capacity. The games architecture just couldn’t handle more. The ability to multiply the name space and have multiple versions of “Chug Noris” was nice to have as well. And lastly, new players could be sent to newer servers to get a better social experience with people in the same level range.

But, as EVE and the zone instancing of EQ2, Rift and SWTOR shows, modern architectures can handle more than 2500 players online at the same time on a single server. (2500 used to be a common assumption for server capacity). Zone instancing, were a zone gets duplicated once a certain number of players is reached, was introduced with EQ2. This eliminates one big problem, the number of interactions between multiple players. It just won’t work well if your graphics card has to draw 200 characters around the bank in Stormwind and it causes similar problems on the server side as well.

On a single server all players in the same level range can play together in a zone appropriate for this level. They will be split into multiple instances of the same zone as the number of players increases. New players, returning players, and players leveling an alt would all be together and could certainly achieve objectives meant for more than a single player. The highest number of instances I’ve seen was 10 for the New Halas area on the Freeport server in EQ2. It can still happen that a zone is empty at the wrong time of the day, or, what’s worse, if the game is in full decline.

Player Chat

Which leaves the problems with chat. Multiple instances of the same zone should share a chat channel, otherwise it becomes harder to find groups. This will meet limitations, once the chat channel becomes an unreadable scrolling stream of text. But at that point, it is probably fine to have multiple instances of zone chat as well, perhaps mapping 2 chat channels to 5 zone instances each.

There shouldn’t be global chat for the same reason, it will just become a huge scrolling wall of text, populated with attention seeking trolls, looking for the widest audience. Guild recruitment and other recruitment for social activities will need a different medium. Again, look at EQ2’s guild recruitment tool and the LFD and LFR tools in WOW.

Another effect which I have become aware of just recently are native language chat channels. Especially in Europe, the chat on the English servers is actually international: for instance Russian, Hungarian and English all together. Which makes things complicated. People have declared certain servers as unofficial Russian servers, which causes problems for the remaining native English speakers. A single server concept helps, since it just needs to create chat channels for each major group. And with a single server, it is easier to reach critical mass for a single new language channel.

The World is Round and Technical Realities

There is one limitation to the single server concept: Geography. Just to throw out a number, a latency of more than 200 ms becomes unplayable, less than 100ms is desirable. Internet architecture and physics make it nearly impossible for an Asia Pacific player to have less than 200ms round trip time to an US based server. Thus, if the subscription numbers allow for it, there should be at least one server in each major region: EU, NA, AP. Brazil is also an option to place another server.

And finally, WOW, with 13 million subscribers at peek has 4 data centers in the US and 2 in Europe to handle the load. I don’t have any hard evidence, but it’s hard to believe that a single server architecture could handle 13 million subscribers. Thus, some division is needed in the end, but not at 2500 online players (wild guess: translates to 20,000 subscribers), but at a much larger number >300,000 subscribers.

PVP is different

One problem remains, but EVE  has a solution for it: fleet battles or epic scale PVP with thousands of participants. I don’t have much technical insight how it is being solved, but I am sure there will be certain hard limits as well. Space battles are probably easier to handle, since the ships won’t get to close to each other, but your graphics card still has to draw at least some dots and laser beams.

However, a multi shard concept won’t even attempt fleet battles.


I just don’t see why the MMO makers stick with the multi shard concept. They face the challenge of long queue times during the opening weeks, and empty servers thereafter. I googled a couple of questions to research this article, but there wasn’t much of an answer to “Why multi shards”. I have only one conspiracy theory to offer: the game companies make money with server transfers, but I just can’t bring myself to taking it to serious.

© Disclaimer: Everquest II
© Disclaimer: Rift
© Disclaimer: Star Wars: The Old Republic
This site is not endorsed by or affiliated with LucasArts, BioWare, or Electronic Arts.
Trademarks are the property of their respective owners. LucasArts, the LucasArts logo, STAR WARS and related properties are trademarks in the United States and/or in other countries of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. © 2008-2011 Lucasfilm Entertainment Company Ltd. or Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved. BioWare and the BioWare logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of EA International (Studio and Publishing) Ltd. You may not copy any images, videos or sound clips found on this site or "deep link" to any image, video or sound clip directly.
Game content and materials copyright LICENSOR. All Rights Reserved.

© Disclaimer: World of Warcraft

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Returning to your MMO

Posted by on Mar 6, 2012 in Blog, Current Games | 2 comments

There’s a little meme going around on the blogs I read: Are you returning to MMOs you have left? Do you have favorites you return to multiple times? Syp at Bio Break and Syl at Raging Monkeys have something to say about the issue.

Before I can tell you which games I am returning to, it might be helpful to know what is currently on my hard disk. On second thought, I shouldn’t do that, considering how many of tags and categories this will produce.

Current Games:

Aerrevan Needs to be deleted. Played in beta for about 1 hour
Aion Will certainly go back, just because of the looks
Darkfall Never subscribed, but had a couple of trial accounts. Might even go back just to look at the class model
DDO Played on opening day, returned two or three times once it was free-to-play. Spent hours playing with the offline character generators.
Eligium Currently in beta, fumbled around with it for a while, won’t be playing it
Everquest99 Project 99 client. Everquest private server like it was during the Kunark period. Fun. But leads to moments of “did I really have that much patience?”
Fallen Earth Love it. Returning frequently. The fact that the original creators offices are 1 mile away from my house may have something to do with it
Guild Wars Did only a trial. Not sure why I didn’t stick with it. Tried it only years after it came out, and most likely was waiting for another game to come out.
Istaria Friends of mine beta tested it way back when. It has certainly a sandbox feel. And is free to play now.
NWN2 Started playing it also years after it came out while waiting for MMO #27
Rift It’s up-to-date and waiting to be played. I like the soul system, but wasn’t to happy about some play-on-rails aspects
Runes of Magic Spent some time playing, never got a character beyond 20, but liked the dual class system and the fact that it didn’t have any quarrels being a WOW clone
Everquest Last played when they opened Fippy Darkpaw. Awaiting F2P
Everquest 2 Was there when it opened and came back many times
Star Wars Galaxies Can’t delete it, yet. It has been played only before the revamp. Syl was talking about nostalgia. There it is.
Vanguard Played the beta, was subscribed for a couple of weeks on and off, did some free trials. Waiting for the F2P announcement. Like that will ever happen
FF XIV Did the Open Beta, turned me off. Went back once shortly before they announced that monthly payments would begin again. Didn’t see any real improvements
SWTOR Currently subscribed and played 95% of the time
STO Tried it in Open Beta and a few weeks back, still don’t like it.
SWGemu SWG private server. More nostalgia than real interest
Tera Online I am in beta, but seriously wonder why I bothered
LotRO Was subscribed when it went live and a couple of times since. I am having fun with it usually for 2 month at a time
WOW Played open beta and subscribed since day 1. Use it on occasion to help my wife or to chat with friends I left behind there
Aion Will certainly go back, just because of the looks.

What used to be there:

Age of Conan Played it for a while, even got a guild started, might even try to go back some day.
Warhammer The fun lasted through open beta and the free month
EVE Tried a couple of times, but never got really into it
Uncounted numbers of betas, open betas, some f2p’s which I didn’t enjoy and pretend not to remember their names.


What’s my short list of games I want to go back to or most likely will go back to in the near future? In descending priority, which can change daily: Rift, Everquest, Fallen Earth, Everquest 2, WOW, Aion

Rift has just fun mechanics, dynamic events and some other nice features.

Everquest will be a nostalgic return to the roots. After all, I started a few weeks after Velious came out.

I like Fallen Earth because of its sandboxy feel, and to be honest a little bit because it used to be so close to home.

Everquest 2 is halfway nostalgia and halfway amazement that it keeps coming up with new stuff.

I know I will be rolling a monk and a panda on WOW, not necessarily a panda monk, though. Pure curiosity.



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Streaking in MMORPGs

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Blog, World of Warcraft | 2 comments

Social control is what keeps us from running down the street naked, even so we feel from time to time like we should just do that. All while having half a million reasons and none of them having to do with sex. Just to make it clear, this is not an article about streakers, it’s about social control. Even so there’s a half naked troll dancing in the streets of Ogrimmar in the feature image. But it is about trolls, and other not so welcome players in MMOs.

How often have you been annoyed by the behavior of another player in your game? How often does something similar happen in real life, for instance on the subway, in the nearest Wal-Mart, your neighborhood Starbucks or in your office? Since I ordered this list in a certain way, it happens online at the highest frequency and of course in your office with the lowest frequency. More often on the subway, less at Starbucks. Why? Because the consequences of us misbehaving are very different in each of the venues I’ve listed.

What happens if you mine a node in WOW while somebody else kills some mob that was guarding it? Nothing. Somebody calls you a jerk, and that’s usually all that happens. Unless you are on a PVP server. Rolling need on every single item that drops? Go right ahead, maybe somebody votes to kick you from the group after 3 need rolls. But the dungeon tool will get you into the next one after a short wait.

What happens if you play loud music in the subway? Not much. Maybe there’s a transportation cop around who’ll give you a warning. What happens if you behave like a jerk to the baristas at your Starbucks? You’ll be asked to stay away, and if not, you better check if they aren’t spitting into your beverage. And if you get out of line in your office, there’s a pink slip waiting for you pretty soon. The consequences of your doing are the harshest with people you know. They are the ones who care and speak up.

The wikipedia article about social control says that society is using shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism and disapproval as tools for social control. Discrimination and exclusion are the most extreme forms of social sanctions. And that’s a pretty common reaction to trolling or other forms of misbehavior online. The difference is, the perpetrator can avoid the social consequences so easily: He logs out and switches to another character. If he comes back the next day, he’s got most likely a new audience, who hasn’t heard his trolling, and the ones who’ve heard him might have him on their /ignore list. In extreme cases he just deletes the character, asks for a name change or a server transfer. No real consequences. And at no point in time he actually has to look his victim in the eyes.

Syl, over at Raging Monkeys talks about the consequences for raiders  because of the lack of social control. There she explains that it is so easy for players to acquire the gear necessary to raid without learning the skills to raid. Five man dungeons and heroics used to be gate keepers, where players trained the finer points of their class. But with the LFG tool nobody really bothers to interact with a newbie and to show them the ropes. The usual reaction is to call them newbs and kick them, without much consequence for the group, since the next player is 3 clicks away.

I don’t have any solutions to offer to fix the lack of social controls. PVP is not the answer, since it can lead to even worse behavior (griefer, corpse camping and the Jihad of EQ Sullon Zek days). One of my answers is usually to call them out earlier or leave groups where they are in and explaining why you are leaving. It won’t help much with the clinical cases, but occasionally you’ll get an in-game mail from somebody who feels sorry for his actions. Artificial measures like a social vote for a character are easily abused and therefore not very helpful.

In the end, the only way to improve this, is to make our virtual world look more and more like the real world. But who would want that?

© Disclaimer: World of Warcraft

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