Archive for June, 2008

I’m just dropping a note here to share one of the most amusing passages one of my members has ever posted in our guild forums.  In a discussion related to a raid target my guild has been having issues with, we’ve started looking anywhere we can to try to find out what, if anything, we can do to improve our performance.

One of our guild’s brigands, Almayer, decided to share this as part of his contribution to the discussion:

“Finally, and this may be the real key: After watching a large, large number of videos, it has become glaringly apparent that the biggest problem we’re having with this encounter is that we’re not listening to enough hard rock and aggressive rap as we approach the fight. I, for one, will be remedying this by dragging my stereo from my living room to my office and surveying a number of angry, pierced youths on their favorite, most explicit, anger-filled bands. I’m also planning to put some posters of scantily clad rock-goddesses on my walls, and will be digging out an old concert souvenir tee shirt (black, of course) to wear every raid, without laundering, until we defeat the [target]. I’d recommend you all do the same. (perhaps Kendricke could shout random Rage Against the Machine lyrics over Vent at key points in the fight?)”

I was able to spend some time this week running through the new high level Runnyeye instance, “Runnyeye: The Gathering”.  Even though I keep hearing comments from some players that the dungeon is “too hard” or “too exclusive”, I can’t help but think that some of those critics may be missing a very large point.

First, this dungeon is not exclusive – at least not in any traditional sense of the word.  Anyone can get to this dungeon (it’s a level 80+ dungeon sitting in the middle of a level 30-40 zone).  You don’t need high end raid gear to run this dungeon and in fact, it’s entirely possible to run this dungeon without such gear (hint:  groups are already doing this).  Even if you can’t clear the entire dungeon, the first couple of named all but fall over and die within 20 seconds of so much as seeing a player.

Any “exclusivity” is with the dungeon’s ability to skill/gear check.  You can’t just load up on crafted gear and put together any random group of tank/healer/four damage dealers and expect to run the dungeon within a couple of hours.  Even in an ideal group with decent gear, the vast majority of players will still need to pay attention through most every fight, which is a complete turnaround from such dungeons as Crypt of Agony or Vaults of Eternal Sleep.

To be fair, I’m not personally finding there to be that much difficulty in Runnyeye II so far.  Last night, three guildmates and I grabbed a pickup tank and healer and ran the dungeon through in under 2 hours.  With a guild group used to working together, we should be able to blow through the dungeon easily within 90 minutes, and probably closer to an hour.

However, for those players who feel those numbers are simply unrealistic, the dungeon itself has a 3 day timer which gives even the most casual of groups plenty of time to play, take a break, log back in the next night and go again for an hour or so, take a break, and then log in on a third night to finish it off.  You simply won’t find that many group dungeons within Everquest II that allow for 72 hours of attempts.

What’s really and truly different within this dungeon though isn’t the hit points or damage per second that the players are dealing with.  It’s the fact that the encounters themselves have some scripting involved.  In many ways, this is the closest many casual players will get to Tier 8 raiding.  In many ways, Runnyeye II can be seen as the first “raid zone” of the Kunark era.  Guilds that can’t handle Protector’s Realm but who were able to pick up Fabled Epics should look at Runnyeye II as a zone to hone their raid discipline one group at a time.

I think this is the reason you hear so many raiders discussing how easy the zone is while many non-raiding players are decrying the difficulty and pointing to a lack of raid gear as the excuse.

I’d argue that raid gear doesn’t break this dungeon.  Raid experience does.

It’s interesting, because for years I’ve heard arguments from non-raiders (and some raiders) who indicate that raiding isn’t harder than grouping – that raiding doesn’t make better players, only better followers.   Yet, last night as we blew through the instance, I took stock of the reasons we were destroying the goblins by the boatload while other players are getting stopped clean by the first few named.

The obvious answer, at least to me, isn’t the gear.  It’s the fact that raiding gives experience into breaking the “code” revolving around certain encounters.  As raiders – even relatively casual raiders – my guildmates and I are very used to working with each other.  Our communications during the encounters last night reflected this.  Our macros were built around raiding, and came in just as handy during the encounters last night.  Our adornment and achievement builds are based around raiding, and it showed last night.

You don’t need raid gear to succeed in Runnyeye II, though it admittedly will help.  What you need is a raiding mindset.  You need to have the ability to keep from getting into tight situations in the first place, and when you do you need the experience not to panic.  If a wipe occurs, raiders simply revive and get rebuffed – while many non-raiders still take deaths more personally than perhaps they should.  A lot of raiders look for ways to avoid fear, position pulls, and avoid area of effect attacks.  Most raiders look for ways to learn from mistakes quickly, and adapt on the fly.

Do these statements mean that non-raiders do not do these things as well?  No, it does not.  However, the very act of raiding requires a skillset that includes these different abilities and thinking processes.  Most general solo or group content simply does not.

So, if you’re failing at Runnyeye II, try to step back and look at the actual reasons why.  Try to approach the dungeon as a raider might.  Assess your own gear.  Take a long hard look at the group composition you’re choosing.  Take the time to make sure your tank is up to the task.  Make sure you have enough support classes present.  Run a parser.  Watch your logs.  Use voicechat and communications macros.  Accept wipes.  Keep moving.  Keep watching. Keep learning.

When in doubt, ask.  Ask others if they know the “strats”.  Look around and try to research the dungeon a bit.  Don’t look for scapegoats to blame – try to find solutions, instead.

Do these things, and you’ll be dropping the High Shaman before you know it.  Do not, and you’ll likely frustrate yourself by convincing yourself that, once again, the raiders are to blame…

As myself and my guildmates tore into Update 46 yesterday, several of us noticed a few potential issues which may not (or may) have been intended.

For one thing, the storms in the lower level areas (like Forest Ruins and the Peat Bog) were absolutely overcamped by level 80’s who were clearing through the tempest touched creatures with impunity, often while lower levels sat around trying to snipe the occasional creature themselves.  I quickly realized I was part of the problem (as I was one of the level 80’s there) so I removed myself in favor of some of the Enchanted Lands storms (where NO ONE was camping the creatures).

Before I moved, I noticed that the voidbeasts which spawned would never fight the level 80s who had spawned them, and sometimes it seemed they would jump the lower levels nearby instead!  After observing for a bit, I realized that all the high levels had to do was to use the potion on the tempest touched creatures to “cleanse” them…and then, once the voidbeast spawned, they’d simply /yell to break the encounter, forcing the voidbeast to return immediately to its spawn point (i.e. – the creature it had been possessing).  It was a ridiculously easy way to avoid fighting voidbeasts with every cleansing, and allowed players to quickly move through the quests without having to worry about actually having to fight anything.

I’ll admit that I started to use the /yell technique myself.  After all, why fight through hoardes of mindless voidbeasts which provide little challenge or surprise if it can be avoided altogether.

Another potential issue noticed by one of my members was that mentored characters who cleansed a tempest touched creature would still spawn a voidbeast relative to their actual level, instead of their mentored level. I personally don’t see this as as large an issue, especially since the voidbeasts, regardless of level, can be just yelled off anyway.  I suppose if someone was looking for a way to fight the beasts at the appropriate level though, this could be seen as a rather annoying bug.

I’ll be running Runnyeye 2 tonight with some guildmates, and I’m rather looking forward to the run.  If the difficulty is close to what we saw on Test, I imagine this could be our new non-raid home for at least the next month or so.

Update 46 was pushed to live servers today.

Here’s the Quick Rundown:

  • * The Gathering Tempest event is now live.
  • * Runnyeye: The Gathering is open for business.  This is a new level 80 group instance version of Runnyeye.
  • * New carpenter items (including cloak tapestries).
  • * Rhino mounts no longer bounce the screen.
  • * Healers no longer remove charm from pets.
  • * Poisons can be set to automatically reapply now
  • * PVPrs can shrink once more
  • * Named in most higher level group dungeons now give status points

Full patch notes can be found in SOE’s official forums, or below the break.

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It doesn’t take very long to find a few choice words regarding SOE’s new “Living Legacy” promotion from existing customers:

“But wait a second, what about those loyal customers, who never left. Or what about those people who subscribed last month, or the month before, still ‘recently’ returning.” – Stargace, MMO Quests

“In a stroke of a pen, SOE signed away any reason at all to explore or try difficult dungeons.” – Tipa, West Karana

“Yeah, I sound bitter. I do think the Living Legacy program is fantastic, but I cannot for the life of me see why they didn’t include rewards for those who are currently playing Everquest II.” – Jaye, Journeys with Jaye

Even on the official forums, it doesn’t take long to find more than a couple of long time customers who feel left out:

Qupe: “Let me get this straight: Loyal and existing subscribers who chose to CONTINUE playing (and paying for) Everquest 2 get absolutely nothing via this promotion?”

Auroz:  “Ditto to the fact that it just plain sucks that people who have QUIT or people who ‘recruit’ for this company get rewarded and the people who have been playing the enjoying the game actively with no cancellations.. get snubbed.”

Lunah:  “After all this time I am to be punished and not get the ingame items or game time that people who gave up on eq2 are getting?? And yes before you ask I find it an insult that the loyal customers are being slighted with this.”

Striothia:  “As a loyal paying member of EQ2 since its launch (even the months I didn’t play) this is yet again another kick in the pants to loyal customers. Its not that your trying to get back customers, its not even that your using in game items to do so. Its that these items will now be completely exclusive to returnees that your customers that have stuck with you all the way will never have obtainable.”

I could certainly continue with dozens more similar posts, but I think we all get the point here:  a not-insignificant number of some of SOE’s most loyal customers are feeling left out in the cold.

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What if SOE Sold Lettuce?

Posted: June 4, 2008 by Kendricke in SOE
Tags: , ,

For several years now, I’ve been shopping at the local co-op here in Minneapolis.  Every week or so, I walk down to this store to buy my produce and soup, my milk and eggs.  It costs a bit more than the big chain stores here in town, but I like co-op a little bit more.  They may not stock the same diversity of goods or the same brands as the big box stores, but I like the quality and attention the member-staff provides, and I happily pay my yearly dues to keep my own membership current.  Other members pay off their dues by putting in hours at the co-op to work registers or stock the shelves.

Unfortunately, most of the people in my neighborhood do hit the chain stores, though.  As the years have gone on, more of more of the folks who had been shopping at this co-op have moved on to the big chain with their glossy ads and lower prices.  As the economy softens a bit, I think the co-op is feeling the pinch.

Now, if my co-op were run by SOE, they’d probably start handing out free memberships to entice former members to come back, which isn’t a bad idea.  They’d probably throw in some free fruit or coffee cards as well, which is also good.  They’d probably offer a couple of discounts on future shipments of premium produce as well, which I can’t fault them for.

However, if my co-op were run by SOE, I can’t help but wonder if they’d start special limited edition t-shirts or canvas backpacks to those former members…all while completely ignoring those of us who’ve been long time customers the whole time.

Luckily for me, my co-op isn’t run by SOE.  Members who’d been with them long enough were given free t-shirts and backpacks, too.  I even scored a couple of temporary membership cards that I can give away to friends or family to get them to come into the co-op for a visit with all perks of full membership.  In addition, the co-op now sponsers a couple of specials each month where long time members (like myself) get extra discounts on coffee, tea, or baked goods.  I even got a special “blue” membership card to signify that I’ve been with them longer than 5 years.

All in all, these extra perks don’t really amount to much.  It isn’t costing the co-op all that much, but it went a long way to making me feel appreciated for making the extra effort to shop there while other people in my neighborhood drive over the big chains.  Though I also hit the big chains from time to time, I’ve found myself spending more in the co-op lately.  I guess that’s my own way of saying “thanks” right back to them.