Look, up in the sky!

Posted: May 9, 2006 by Kendricke in General Game Concepts

With the upcoming Echoes of Faydwer expansion, we're going to see a new race brought into the Everquest 2 world, the Fae.  Now, besides the obvious questions which come up with the introduction of a new race into any game (Stats?  Armor restrictions?  Racial bonuses?  Visual appearance?), I've got a doozy that matters to me:

Can they fly? 

Now, I realize the game's simply not built for outright flight.  We're not likely to see anyone buzzing the Oracle Tower or trying to race Griffons, but the idea of the Fae as a ground bound running class just…well, it annoys me. 

For several years, I Gamemastered a pen-and-paper RPG for the Earthdawn system.  One of the primary races you could play was a Windling.  We had some fairly talented players who picked up Windling characters and ran with the whole concept of a life loving fairy, apparently devoid of common sense (but who held a deep intelligence and wit under the guise of nonsense).  To this day, several of my old players still lament over the pure joy that was "Noggly the Greatest Ever", a Windling "Windscout". 

These little guys were great, and infused with magical sight, the ability to alter body coloring, and of course, flight. 

Now, even within the game, we rarely had these little 18" faefolk zipping hither on yon without restriction.  Frankly, that would have just made the game a bit on the crazy side as far as balancing went.  So, we held to the ideal that flying was for sprints, not marathons, and that Windlings were constantly hungry and tired as a result.  When travelling, they'd typically find a comfortable backpack or pack animal to rest on, and fly only as needed…which was apparently quite often (but again, for short spurts). 

Now, I'm already hoping the player who owned Noggly decides to bring him back, but we got to talking about what Fae will really be like.  Does the game really need a 17th race?  In a game where any race can be any class, what's really going to set the Fae apart?  Initial starting statistics don't really matter in Everquest 2, as gear overcomes all hurdles by the highest levels.  Racial bonuses are really more fluff than substance.  Unlike Everquest classic, differing sight types don't tend to help at all in Everquest 2.  I know I rarely use any of them, except for the novelty effect.

So, what's going to set Fae apart?  Flight?  In a game which is specifically designed without levitation in mind, how do you accomplish real flight?  A version of innate safefall?  Faster sprint?  How do you introduce such racial bonuses for this race without equivilant bonuses for other races? 

Everquest 2 is much more Marxist than Everquest classic.  Differentiation and uniqueness are broken down at the class level as opposed to the racial level.  I can understand the desire for more accessibility that this brings, but at the same time, it's missing something that I enjoyed in games such as Everquest or Earthdawn.  There's something to be said about racial diversity and restrictions.  There's something to be said for uniqueness.

Sadly, I can't imagine Fae getting real flight.  What we'll likely see is a hover that means Fae will simply "fly" at eye level for taller races, but in reality, the race itself won't be flying in the traditional sense of the word.  So, other than the novelty effect of the race, I'm left wondering once again – what's the point of a 17th race?

When the Frogloks were first released on all servers (both in Everquest and in Everquest 2), you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a Guktan.  Frogloks were hopping and skipping EVERYWHERE.  A month or so later, and you had trouble finding Frogloks to group with.  Where had they gone?  Where were all of these Froglok players?

If they were like me, they were back on their mains, because they realized they didn't really want to spend that much time on an alt after all.  The novelty had worn off, and there was no real bonus to having a Froglok as opposed to an Ogre or a Ratonga.  Realistically, the only real difference was in what you felt like playing…and I personally don't think that justifies the expense and resources put into another new "novelty" race from a design perspective.  I wonder at the ROI on something like that.  Is the art work put toward a new race worth losing a few new armor designs or a new robe, as a possibility?  Is it worth another new dungeon or raid zone, for example?  What IS the bottom line on manhours and resources used to create a new race?

These are the type of questions I ask myself every time I see a new feature. 

With some features, it seems obvious the work paid off, such as climbing; movable objects, or destroyable walls.  These were fun advances that were put to good use after initial creation and which furthered gameplay.  However, what about Arena Champions?  Was the work and effort put into creating dozens of arena pets and several arena zones even worth the effort?  I would love to see the level of arena participation on an average server over the course of even a month. 

I hope the Fae end up being a good choice.  I have a lot of good memories of windlings from my Earthdawn days, and I can't wait to see a forest full of Fae on day one of release.  However, it's my thinking that these little guys are going to go the way of the Guktans shortly after release, and by Ground Hog's day of next year, you'll have trouble finding them in groups at all.

For Noggly's sake, I hope I'm wrong.

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Comments
  1. Uanelven says:

    I see why you draw comparison with the Froglok race. There is one difference of note though within the release of this new race and that is content. The new race will have access to brand new ‘newbie’ and I would assume ‘lowbie’ content. This would, for sure, encourage people to carry on through more levels with these new little folk than with the froglok which was simply a repeat of old content (pre-revamped content to boot).

    To me it is a question of how well the fae are presented on screen and if they are good enough and simple enough to not become an irritating gimmick. To achieve this they certainly need a bit more character mystery and twist than satisfying the perception of fae as fairy alone. I just can’t (thankfully) see many people wanting to play a tinkerbell-type guardian. It just makes no sense.

    The introduction of iksar and kerra into eqlive proves it can work. They are both examples of a really playable race sustainable into high levels.

  2. kendricke says:

    The difference between the Everquest 2 Fae and the Everquest Live Iksar and Kerra is that there is no real differentiation between races in Everquest 2. Iksar had the best regeneration of any race in Everquest, and Kerrans had natural safe fall. These were just two ways in which these races were different and unique. Within Everquest 2, racial differences aren’t really all that…well, different.

  3. Wunabei says:

    Kendricke, that was very well written. And I agree, the Fae shouldn’t be implented. I think they should offer Kelethin more as a Maj`Dul, just with the ability to have it as a starting city and not just a place of residence. The “Guards” persay of Kelethin should once again be the Fier`Dal now that Kelethin has been re-discovered, with the Fae more as a magical assistance to them.

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