In this week's Tattered Notebook, let's take a look at the first week of launch. I rolled up a Beastlord along with the rest of Norrath, so I'd like to give some first impressions on the new class, take a look at the dungeon maker, and share some overall thoughts on the past week.
The downtime for launch day took a lot longer than was expected, and with memories of the Sony hacking still fresh in everyone's mind, there was some trepidation about whether the game might be offline for days, rather than hours. But by the next day, the servers were up and running, and despite a few issues to be hotfixed, things seemed to go OK. I was actually a bit surprised that it didn't take longer to patch everything through, given the fact that the team was not only adding the expansion but also switching everything over to a free-to-play model. But then again, I recall the choppy early years of EverQuest over a decade ago, when an hours-long crash at prime time was something you accepted and were almost used to. Overall, the SOE team did a good job of communicating updates through social media, both with timetables and explanations of why it took longer than expected.
I noticed quite a few familiar faces showing up on our guild roster once again, thanks to free-to-play. But I was chatting with one guildmate who had tried to log in only to discover that all of his characters were locked because he had the bad luck of choosing classes and races that weren't "free." So when I saw the announcement that SOE is going to grandfather-in all characters created before December 6th, I was thrilled. And it makes sense because it allows veteran players to come back, but they'll still have to upgrade their accounts if they want to use raid gear, inventory slots, etc. EQII has quite a few long-standing guilds, and the server communities are pretty tight-knit, so by grandfathering characters, SOE ensures that former players can get back in, catch up with old friends, and decide whether to take the plunge again or not. That's a much better alternative than not letting them log in at all, as was the case with my guildmate.
I rolled up my new Beastlord and got right into the action over in New Halas. Not surprisingly, there were already a few level 90 Beastlords on my server by the next day, thanks to things like experience potions, shiny turn-ins, and two-boxing. EQII is pretty alt-friendly, and some players have leveled up so many alts that they have it down to a science.
I overlooked the fact that by choosing a Half Elf and selecting New Halas (my favorite starting area), I can't take my Beastlord to Freeport, so if you decide you want to level up with the new content in the city, you'll need to make sure to pick a neutral or evil race and begin in either Neriak or Gorowyn.
The Beastlord is an interesting class because it's going to allow the player some flexibility on which role they want to play, based on their choice of warder. I still wonder how it will fit in with the other 24 classes and whether it'll become the preferred scout class in groups and raids. But even if it ends up being the weakest scout class, I think it'll always have appeal simply because of how fun taming is. Morgon Feldon from EQII Wire put together a terrific guide on all of the different creatures that Beastlords can tame, and the one thing you hear the most from players is how much they're looking forward to having an exotic pet and discovering that one unusual creature to tame that no one else has found. It's almost a game within a game, and it's a refreshing aspect to leveling up a class.
I started working on my first dungeon, but kept feeling like I needed to make it perfect, so I switched gears and tried running a few. In the menu, you can filter out dungeons by creativity and style, as you can with the housing leaderboards. But there's not a whole lot to help you choose, other than a small picture and a title. That means the name of your dungeon is potentially more important than what's inside of it, at least initially. I scanned the list and was immediately lured in by the "Jersey Shores Outcast Club," so I gave it a try. If you remember the days of the old void shard quest from The Shadow Odyssey, you'll be used to how things work with the dungeon maker. You start off with four choices of creatures, and you'll basically play as one of them. I chose the Drachnid for my "Jersey Shores" dungeon run, which was a caster class, but I'm really not a caster-type, and I realized later that my favorite of the bunch was the Tarrok Assassin, a scout class. Not only was I trying to adjust to being a squishy caster, but I also had to get used to being large. I felt like my spider legs were aggroing rats from the other side of the hall, but that could be from the creator adding a wide arc of social aggro when he designed it.
Some of the dungeons are pretty rough, and I had to exit a few dungeons before completing them. Unfortunately, that means you end up walking away with nothing, so it's wise to decide early on whether or not you think the dungeon is worth exploring. For designers trying to get to the top of the leaderboard, it also means figuring out that sweet spot of making it challenging without making it too frustrating. Putting 50 mobs right at the zone-in point probably won't help get you votes.
Overall, launch week went fairly well, and it does seem like many players are coming back to check things out now that it's free-to-play across the servers. If you're interested in getting a glimpse of some of the new features from Age of Discovery, you can check out the Massively Twitch TV channel. Jeremy Stratton and I took a look at Beastlords this past Friday, and we'll be looking at the dungeon maker, mercenaries, and more this coming week!
From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to firstname.lastname@example.org.