Thursday, March 31, 2005


Kicking It When It's Down

I'm going to start out with an overview of what's wrong with EQ2. I'll get into detail with each complaint in later entries, because I want to explain my reasoning for each complaint thoroughly. After that, I plan on suggesting solutions. If I still have enough motivation when that's done, I'll start throwing out the "cool ideas" for additions to the game.

Without further ado:

1. Interface - Boring look, lots of long lists due to poor organization (buy/sell in particular), too many numbers and words and not enough icons/pictures (skills, persona), some windows too big and clunky (esp. at lower resolution). Feels like a placeholder interface that was slapped together in a couple days.

2. Loot - item stats too similar to one another, not enough special/unique effects, not enough variety in "vendor junk" drops, no use for most "vendor junk" drops, too much restriction on what drops for solo/small groups, no special ("named") monsters for soloers to kill. Tiers for armor/weapons enforces the "this game is a set of rules you have to follow and memorize" feeling (rather than the "this game is an alternate reality" feeling that it probably should be aiming for). People play these games primarily for the persistent character aspect (certainly not for the enjoyable game mechanics), so it is critical for the loot system to be appealing.

3. Monsters - too many ordinary/boring monsters (e.g. life leeches). Too many small, unimposing monsters (e.g. life leeches). Not enough variety in monster animations. Not enough particle/special effects on monster models. Humanoid monsters need more texture variety/impressiveness in clothes/armor.

4. Level design - world is too monochromatic, especially in certain dungeons. All green or all brown. Too many invisible barriers ("this game feels like a set of rules" will be a common theme on this blog). World is excessively incontiguous (loads, islands, bells), feels like you are picking a zone off a menu rather than traversing a real world. Loading screens are a missed oppotunity to alleviate this a little. Not enough landmarks and special areas, both in normal zones and in dungeons. New instances are throwaway zones that look like an intern made them in a couple hours.

5. Tradeskills - game mechanics are terribly tedious and not even remotely fun, ever. If not for the benefit that it provides to the persistent character in the metagame, no one would ever choose to participate. Beyond the actual mechanics, quests and individuality of characters are poorly done.

6. Player art - Humans look like peasants instead of heroes. Not enough variety in armor looks.

7. Misc. art - Not enough variety in "autoattack" combat animations. Lower LODs need to be improved (especially since many people are near the lower end of the required hardware specs). Particle effects in combat are overdone. Effects should have a better visual correlation to the name of the power that triggered them, and elaborate effects should be reserved for special instances. Right now it's a veritable orgy of effects that usually adds little to the user experience. For melee characters, animations are a better way of increasing visual coolness than particle effects. Pet animations aren't done.

8. NPCs - no depth to NPCs. Almost all feel like props. Defeats the purpose of voiceover (which itself is more unintentionally amusing than impressive). Having 5 NPCs that feel like real people is better than having 50 of the current type.

9. Writing - sloppy and low quality, with few exceptions. Also helps defeat the purpose of voiceover. Spelling and grammar errors galore, in dialog, quest journal, books, etc. Frogloks mangle the King's English, not quite as badly as the Ultima series did, though. Having collectible books = good idea. Having poorly written collectible books and a visually unimpressive reading interface = waste of time. Very little freedom in choice of dialog responses (NWN was good with this) - adds to the feeling that your character's path is "on rails" and you just need to put in 4000 hours of work to get to the end.

10. Bugs - It's 4 months after release and the problem with invisible monsters is still there. That's a pretty aggravating bug that affects gameplay significantly, and it still hasn't been addressed. Releasing the game early was a bad decision, for many reasons--bugs, WoW was going to get far more people regardless, unrefined game mechanics, unbalanced game systems (which are now 10x harder to balance and refine because certain things you can't change much after release), etc.

11. Solo unfriendly - the game was designed to cater to guilds and groups. Now SOE is tripping over itself trying to do a 180 and be like WoW. Still, solo loot sucks, solo quests suck, solo instances suck, and tradeskilling, while able to be done solo now, sucks. There is very little in EQ2 that makes the solo player want to come back for more; they either get a guild or stop playing. The typical Diablo2/CRPG player doesn't want to have to interact regularly with other people in order to play the game in a fun way. That is why WoW is mass market and EQ and EQ2 are niche games.

12. Combat-centric - There's nothing fun or interesting to do in the game besides combat (harvesting can be fun in that sick "I'm unemployed and want to feel like I'm working" sort of way). Exploring not worthwhile because of limited landmass (particularly with restrictions on travel to the higher level zones), need for a group to explore dungeons, exp debt inevitability, not enough interesting things to see or do while exploring. And tradeskills suck (have I said this already?). There are many possibilities for improvement in this area, which I will discuss in the "cool ideas" phase.

I'm probably missing a few things that I had thought of earlier, but I'll just go back and put them in when I remember them.

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