Mobhunter
"I don't want to join any club that would have me as a member."

Flagging and Attunement: Blizzard Gets It, SOE Doesn't

by Loral on March 08, 2008

In their patch notes for version 2.4 of World of Warcraft, Blizzard removed the attunement requirements for entering Mount Hyjal, Black Temple, and Karazhan. These three raid zones have been the cornerstone of raiding in the Burning Crusade expansion. Until now, these zones have required a series of quests and instances in order for a player to enter the raid. With this patch, that requirement will disappear.

The same week that this was announced, my wife's Everquest guild went back to Planes of Power twice to get a few guild members flagged for the upcoming Everquest anniversary Fabled boss mobs. Planes of Power is over five years old now. Five years and SOE still hasn't released the flags of Planes of Power.

Flag restrictions break guilds apart. Flag restrictions alienate players. Flag restrictions make it harder for players in a massive online game to play together. It is contrary to the primary purpose of an online RPG: bringing people together.

Flags can kill an MMO. Blizzard understands this. SOE does not.

For six years I've discussed flagging with game developers and other players. I've read all the articles about it. I've pontificated about it with hundreds of players; some who take a practical big picture approach, some more narrow-minded and exclusive. Everyone has an opinion about flagging and I will admit that, in some circumstances, it has a place. However, that place is fluid and changing - not static.

I've discussed flagging in numerous interviews with designers for Everquest. They have stated to me that the days of flagging entire expansions, like Planes of Power and Gates of Discord, are over. They state that the difficulty of the content will be the requirement for entering and battling in a zone. They state that any flagging will be minor and require very little for those who wish to enter.

Yet flags remain. New expansions still require quests to enter zones. Older zones continue to have the flags they required upon release. The designs intended to keep guilds that play four hours a day, seven days a week, from progressing too fast now get in the way of guilds that play far less often.

Flagging has wrecked guilds. Struggling guilds that lose members often have to recruit new members without flags, forcing the guild to move back to previously defeated raids. Now long-time members find themselves spending hours on raids they already defeated a year back in order to flag a handful of new people. These veterans, seeing how their time is wasted on events they no longer enjoy, rightfully leave to find better ways to use their time. Now the guild itself is even further back than before.

I have watched guilds self destruct like this for years. The guild that first entered Plane of Time on my server broke apart because flagging for Demiplane of Blood became too much of a burden. Now I see the same thing happening again with guilds facing those same flags today.

Flags also prevent players from returning to their game of choice. A player might leave a game and return half a year later to find that their friends have progressed so far as to leave that player behind. The guild either chooses to spend their time in raids they have long since defeated or that player cannot rejoin them. In a game as old as Everquest, any barrier keeping older players returning hurts their business.

People were surprised when Blizzard announced they would be opening up the attunement restrictions for their top raid zones in Burning Crusade. There was a public outcry from those who had spent their time attuning their characters and their guilds. They felt the removal of this attunement cheapened the time they spent "working" to get into these high-end zones.

Blizzard didn't listen. Blizzard sees a game with ten million players and knows that most of those players don't post on the forums, don't read the websites, and don't have the time to attune and re-attune others for high-end raid zones. Though the game doesn't often stress social interaction, they know that flagging hurts the ability for players to play together in these high-end zones. They learned that the requirement for flagging to slow down top end players ceases to exist when those players are well past the top end. They learned that attunement should be fluid and changing - not static walls that must always stay in place.

I managed to acquire my attunement for Karazhan over about two weeks. I fought through all the solo quests. I begged my way in to the three required instances. When I first stepped in, I remember how it felt to finally enter the zone for which I had spent those hours. Like many, when I heard the attunement would be dropped, my immediate visceral animal reaction was one of jealousy and pack security. How dare those who worked not at all enter the zone for which I worked so hard! That moment disappeared quickly. I know why Blizzard did it, and they were right to do so.

It would be inaccurate to state that World of Warcraft's high numbers and the dwindling numbers in Everquest are strictly due to flagging. These flagging restrictions in Everquest aren't the biggest barrier for new or returning players. The steep level and alternate advancement requirements are worse. Flagging, however, is the largest barrier for high level players. Flagging grinds up guilds and spits out those who remain. Some end up in a smaller and smaller number of high-end guilds. Others leave the game completely.

All is not lost for Everquest's flagging woes. SOE could, and should, take an aggressive stance on the removal of flags for older expansions. Removing flagging for every zone and raid in every expansion up to and including Prophecy of Ro would be a good start. Removing flagging for every expansion older than a year would be the next logical choice. Alas, such aggressive moves are not SOE's style. They choose to play it conservative, making small changes over long periods of time. This is wise. Why alienate the players they have left? Yet this must be balanced against the damage that older flags inflict on lower-tiered guilds.

Flagging and attunement requirements work against the strongest draw of massive online games. They prevent players from playing together.

Loral Ciriclight
7 March 2008
Loral@loralciriclight.com

Comment Posted by: Yrys on March 10, 2008 12:56 AM

Planes of Power? Heck, doesn't Vex Thal still need a key to enter? For that matter, doesn't ST? Keying for those older areas probably isn't all that hard anymore (I don't know, I don't play EQ anymore), but that it's even still there is kind of crazy.

Comment Posted by: Skuz Bukit on March 10, 2008 03:35 AM

Flagging: I agree to some point about flagging needing to be there for when the hardcore guilds tackle the expansion...relaxed (bit not removed) for the mid tier guilds hit it & removed for the social/family & casual guilds hit it.

After content is one year old ..lower the number of tasks/flags required after two remove/lift flag requirements, & do this each yeae.

However:

There should be some form of recognised reward for anyone wishing to actually work through the flagging content, be it a clicky of some kind or a title, or a charm item, or a trinket.

Comment Posted by: Kiztent on March 10, 2008 09:16 AM

In regard to the first comment, keying for VT is retarded stupid, if I remember right. A classic run all over Luclin and get rare drops from rare spawns quest.

As far as the kara keying goes... it's pretty easy. Huntsman and Moroes are pretty good 'gear check' bosses. Not like you'll see much of Kara if you can't down them, so who cares if people can zone in.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on March 10, 2008 12:44 PM

Flagging needs to change, for all the reasons Loral mentioned. Flagging for a current expansion is fine, if done in moderation, butt after a period of time, 1 to 2 years, the flag has served it purpose, and needs to go. Unfortunately, 2 things happening recently mean this is unlikely to be even considered.

Cultural armor in SoF, when combined with a last blood aug, is overpowered for what is required to get it. That is a problem, but a small problem if handled correctly(ie beta test, and/or fix immediately). Unfortunately, SoE handled it as wrongly as they could, telling players that this ungodly expensive armor was, in fact, intended to be as powerful as it was. Players then sunk unreal amounts of PP(it could take up to a million or more PP for a full set of this armor)...then SoE realized that, in fact, this stuff was too good. By now it was too late really to fix it, and after much debate, decided to leave it alone, as it will be a short lived issue. A vocal segment of the high end populous is incensed(partly because many had threatened to quit over this if not fixed, and now they look foolish not quitting...not that they ever where going to).

SoE announced a plan to increase AA experience at low AA counts. Basically, if there is a multiplier added to AA exp, and the lower your AA count, the higher the multiplier. Some loud high end players are, not surprisingly, totally and completely pissed over this. How dare SoE help players other than themselves? Despite the fact that these people have zero reasonable arguments, they are spamming the boards, making it look controversial. Truth is, of course, very few people are anything other than totally for the SoE plan, but those against it are throwing an all out hissy fit.

With those two things going on, I suspect SoE is going to avoid anything right now that might benefit non high end players. It's sad, but it's the truth. High end players like to refer to the 'Mentality of Entitlement", claiming that lower end players think they deserve special consideration...ignoring that high end players think they should get the special treatment, and ignoring that lower end players did not ask for unbalanced cultural armor, or this AA exp change.

Among MMO players are some of the whiniest, loudest people around. I should know, I am one of them. The unfortunate truth is that these people can, and do, get in the way of developers making needed, good changes.

Comment Posted by: Ogulbuk on March 10, 2008 01:29 PM

The real problem with flags is that they are character based, not guild based.

It makes sense to have a way to force guilds to progress through content, but its silly to enforce this at the character level.

It would be way harder to implement, but it also would be much more useful for the comunity, if flags of these types were a "sit based" deal than a direct character thing.

Imagine if every time a given guild ran a "flagging process" they didnt flag the members of the group but instead aquired entrance tickets for each member of the process. If 5 members were present, they earn 5 tickets.

Every time the guild wants to enter a raid zone, they automatically hug a ticket, so if a guild has 100 tickets they can have 100 players raiding that zone at once (makes more sense if the zone is instance based as it allows for multiple raids to go on at once.)

Such a ticket based system would do wonders for guilds in any game. For one, its a guild asset that can be used as a "benefit for joining".

It also can be a more quantifiable guild progression system. New guilds start in zero, just as new characters start at level 1.

Finally it establishes a system that locks out new content from guilds, yet wont force players to return in 5 years for more flagging.

Theoretically, a guild may have to redo flagging if their ranks grow large enough for their current concurrent roster to enter these raid zones at once.

This system can be kept hand in hand with the current character flagging so that solo players that quit guilds can still enter flagged zones if they were part of at least one flag acquisition team.

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on March 10, 2008 09:43 PM

Loral,

Good article. I agree that while flagging is not the deathnell of EQ MMO issues. It certainly is the cockblock on joining a guild and on recrouting to a guild.

As some know, I was a long long time player of the enchanter class. When the raid guild I was in dissolved I chose to roll a shaman. Simple reason being that at that time (I don't know about now) enchanters where generating more agro for less effect and had essentially no defenses vs. the mob DPS by comparison to a shaman. Net effect was enchanters where getting fewer and fewer non-guild non-raid invites.

So after solo'ing to 70 my shaman began solo aa grinding. After 100 aa's solo I took a look around the "raiding" guild on The Nameless. Fully 100% required new members to be Anguish flagged. No exceptions. With an understanding you'd either "solo" them (which ment 3 boxing by most descriptions), or joining a lower level guild, using them as a tool to get flagged, then leaving them.

That canabalistic approach to using others as a tool was one of the hand full of reasons I tossed in the towel.

Removal of essentially dead weight flags/keys, etc., would go a long way to stopping that practice.


~ Ghost

Comment Posted by: Loral on March 11, 2008 12:21 AM

Everquest would be a different game if they opened up all the flagging back through The Serpent Spine. I can't imagine anyone would leave because of it that wouldn't or shouldn't leave anyway.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on March 11, 2008 02:06 AM

I bet a few would threaten to though. They would use the exact same tired arguments, threaten to cancel there eleventy-four accounts, and generally throw a hissy fit over it.

Comment Posted by: xsi on March 11, 2008 03:40 AM

Between the cultural armor outcry, the aa change outcry, and the levitate change outcry, the official boards have been about as stupid as I can ever remember them.

I've often felt like EQ's main problem was that the devs listened too much (one might say, exclusively) to their hardcore playerbase. I'm happy to see them start to make changes that appear intended to benefit the game as a whole, in spite of the potential outcry. And I'm happy to see a lot of people on the boards come forth in support of the changes, whether they benefit them personally or not. But, man... the venom and rhetoric being spewed by a few posters is just unreal.

Comment Posted by: Naagin on March 11, 2008 07:30 AM

Another upcoming change in Everquest is the new class correspondent set up. Rumors say the whiny high end players will be targetted for inclusion and will have to sign an NDA once in the program.

I see this as reversing the current EQ trends and a shifting back to "catering to the ubers" will begin anew, effectively killing the idea of flag releases after x amount of time goes by.

P.S. Flagging on a guild level vs a player level is BRILLIANT.

Comment Posted by: Skuz Bukit on March 11, 2008 08:41 AM

I really like the "guild flag" idea , it would help EVERY guild a ton, flagged members leaving mid-tier guilds can totally wreck their progression while they are forced to yet again reflag new members for the billionth time.

More things like that please.

Also I'd even go so far as to make gear "guild-flagged" whatever you earn on a raid with your guild, gets stripped if you leave, wanna go elsewhere? let them gear you up.

Comment Posted by: Loxyll on March 11, 2008 02:33 PM

Wow! I really like the guild flag idea. I am a long time but casual player (over 7 years and 7 Veteran AA's to prove it). With my playing habits I know there are zones I'll never be able to see because there is absolutely no way I can take time to get flagged. Associating flags to guilds would be fantastic and as was mentioned in an earlier quote, would be a great recruiting point.

I hope SoE has the since to look at the bigger picture and not the whiners.

Mike
Loxyll, 61 Druid (and a host of others) on Maelin Starpyre

Comment Posted by: Colous on March 12, 2008 05:04 AM

"I hope SoE has the sense to look at the bigger picture and not the whiners."

This isn't meant to be an attack on you, just seems appropriate starting point.

Everquest is the bigger picture. It's not a single person's perspective, or 1000, it is, what it is. Being the truth that this is, Everquest has been doomed to collapse under the weight of it's own player's wishes, complaints, visions, expectations, needs and wants. Players, my friends, are "the problem".

Thankfully I accept and understand this concept, probably why I'm still enjoying Everquest. Acceptance people, acceptance.

Comment Posted by: naagin on March 12, 2008 07:18 AM

You're missing the point the original article and most of us in the comments section are making.

"Players" aren't the problem.
"Short-sighted, loud, and listened to" players are. Because they do not represent the vast majority of subscribers.

The only thing leading to the collapse of EQ are a lack of marketing and a history of the game swinging back and forth on class abilities, nerfs, and flagging requirements.

Comment Posted by: Kaelon on March 12, 2008 03:08 PM

It also isn't just the flagging/attunement that Blizzard gets - it's also the loot. Consider how they continue to make the same or better gear available on alternate paths. With Patch 2.4, players will be able to obtain gear that is superior to Black Temple gear by either solo-ing or 5-manning in instances and Heroics. This builds on the previous tradition of enabling solo-ing PvP'ers to get competitive gear to PvE high-end items. However, the latest changes place gear in the hands of badge collectors, rather than elite raiders. Excellent move!

Comment Posted by: Brubel on March 12, 2008 03:19 PM

I really enjoyed EQ when I played but realize I could never go back and play it. I don't have the time to devote to a mass keying/flagging timesink. I stopped playing just at the ends of the PoP and beginning of Omens. The content seems to be geared for large raids and that play style is no longer for me.

I do play WoW very casually and am glad to hear about the flagging requirments going the way of the DoDo Bird. If I have time and get to that level; I'll still try do some of the attunement quests. Glad they can see the light where SOE can only see burnt out bulbs.

Comment Posted by: RetiredEQ'r on March 12, 2008 06:17 PM

I retired from EQ in Janurary, partly as I needed to change directions in my life, and partly because of huge issues such as the articles topic.

There are many things which motivate a player to continue to play, or to finally say enough is enough.

This article is just one, but for me it was a pretty huge one.

Like the proposed aa exp changes (that are not yet live), I think they may be finally starting to realize they need to do more to keep new blood flowing and ease some of the requirements over time so both new and returning players do not have to go through the motions of ~9 years of content (or however much was missed by the returning player) just to catch up to current.

Comment Posted by: Moreau on March 13, 2008 02:16 AM

I will keep this short tonight. I agree with Loral that the older flags need to be removed. I cannot see a guild seriously pursuing Planes of Power content when superior armor is available to farming groups or in the bazaar. Those old raid zones are no longer part of the bragging rights list. I personally think that Demiplane of Blood is a bit early (level 70), but everything at level 65 seems deserted (Planes/Gates). So, it is probably best to drop the flagging and just let people roam free and enjoy the sights of yesterday, just as they do with zones from original 1999 EverQuest (level 50).

Comment Posted by: Brewall on March 14, 2008 11:07 AM

Flags on content older than one year should be removed and is long overdue. Zone flags were put in place to slow people down from consuming the content too quickly. With 9 years of expansions, there is no need to slow down old content.

Let's face it, having people pay for a new expansion but use content from 3-4 years ago is not something that is going to retain people. If you bought a new car and had to drive around in your old clunker - you would not be happy. If you then had to keep driving it - you would sell them all and drive something else. Sony's goal should be to have uber guilds at latest content and majority of players an expansion behind. This will ease recruitment, and keep people with latest graphics and content - plus generate excitement/sales for new expansions. More sales = more development funds. I would find it hard to believe uber guilds would argue that majority of players should be multi-expansions behind. If they do, their hubris is killing the game and should be removed from any recomendation group.

Remove flags, and add character badges of honor. Each old flag earned shows on your character that you defeated it. No bonuses, but a status symbol and recognition that you achieved something.

Brewall

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on March 14, 2008 08:05 PM

Brewall,

What a lot of people forget is that "going it the hard way", or "earning" each of those flags do in fact confer both AA's, special AA's only obtainable via the flag system, and other rewards.

SOE can leave in place the flag system, the quests that are flag related, etc., and as a result leave in place the reward system for completing the flags for those expansion.

SOE could also remove the "flag check" or as I prefer to call it, the cockblock, for zone entry.

In essence SOE could have thier cake and eat it too, all by removing the flag check on attempted zoning.

Realistically Skug or whom ever they have to the coding, should only have to modify the code slightly to create another variable in the table. I'm infering that SOE has previously migtrated all the flag checks to a single data table to internal design and sanity, no guarantees they have however. Once done, the check could automatically open up a zone after a set date.

Anyway, the key here is, existing lore, rewards, acheivements could be left in place, while still opening the zones to casual/hobbiest play. Heck even long term "raiders" will no doubt find that they have access to zones that they didn't simply because thier particualr guild was unwilling to go back to "waste time" on old content (i.e. Luclin).

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on March 15, 2008 06:54 PM

>>> Flags can kill an MMO. Blizzard understands this. SOE does not.

Flags haven't killed EQ yet. 9 years and still going. HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVERQUEST.

>> For six years I've discussed flagging with game developers and other players. I've read all the articles about it. I've pontificated about it with hundreds of players; some who take a practical big picture approach, some more narrow-minded and exclusive.

I'm surprised at how harsh you are coming across. People who don't agree with you are "narrow minded and exclusive." People used to be allowed to have dissenting opinions without being pre-emptively attacked. (who's going to post a dissenting opinion now, since you've already labelled them.)


Comment Posted by: Redhenna on March 15, 2008 09:11 PM

Nolrog: you mean other than yourself?

You make a point that overstating thecase is probably bad, and pre-labeling those who disagree is bad. However, I do think that after a point, flags have served their purpose, and can be removed. No one is harmed, and some are helped, being able to see old content. I won't think worse of you either way, so do you agree, or disagree with that, and why? Honestly curious of your opinion.

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on March 15, 2008 10:01 PM

Well, I certainly didn't feel that my opposing viewpoint was welcome based on that fact.

Comment Posted by: Loral on March 15, 2008 10:55 PM

Hi Nolrog!

I have spoken to and listened to many people whose argument to keep flagging of old zones comes down to "I had to do it four years ago so they should have to do it today" or "They don't spend the kind of time we do so they shouldn't get in" . I consider those views narrow minded and exclusive. There are wider views of the importance of flagging and staging of content for the longevity of a game - a view I still disagree with but one that, at least, takes themselves out of the equation.

Not all descending views are narrow minded and exclusive but I've seen very few arguments for keeping Planes of Power flagged that didn't come down to "it hurt for me so it should hurt for them".

Do you feel it is still critical to the game's success to keep Planes of Power flagged? Do you think it would hurt anyone to open up content that previously required flags after two years?

Comment Posted by: Probably not Nolrog on March 16, 2008 03:10 AM

[Removed for inciting drama and impersonating another poster. Who'd of thought Mobhunter was still popular enough to start drama! - Loral.]

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on March 16, 2008 08:17 AM


If you want to criticze me, then have he balls to put your own name behind the post.

You bash me for anonimity, and yet you use my name to bash me. Hypocrite much?

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on March 16, 2008 04:18 PM

Nolrog, there is at least one person who occasions this site, who finds it amusing to post under another persons name and make outrageous comments. It's sad, but take comfort in the fact that most of us can tell the difference between you, and the other.

Comment Posted by: Teremar on March 17, 2008 04:17 PM

I'd have an easier time believing Blizzard was removing those attunements due to their enlightenment on flagging if they had also removed the entrance requirements on things like Upper Blackrock Spire, Onyxia, Molten Core, Blackwing Lair, and Naxxrammas (i.e. everything before the expansion). Those attunments are staying.

The only official explanation we've gotten is that they are "easy," which is true in the sense that a level 70 group probably won't wipe doing them. But while groups head for the dungeons required for the Karazhan key every day, the ones needed for, say, Onyxia, are all but abandoned. Unless you've got good friends who also have the urge to fight good old Ony, you can get keyed for Kara a whole lot quicker.

But this brings up an important distinction between what Blizzard is doing and what people are proposing for EQ: Hyjal, Black Temple, and Karazhan are current content. In fact Black Temple is the absolute cutting edge right now (though 2.4 includes the Sunwell, so it won't be once the change goes live). This does not represent a decision by Blizzard to open up older content--the WoW equivalents of PoP are staying closed.

So what is going on? Well, the current expansion is already well past the one year mark when they had hoped to have the next one ready, and all we know about a Wrath of the Lich King release date is that a Blizzard convention in June will still be showing sneak previews. So Blizzard is in content-stretching mode. They are releasing some new stuff, which is good (I can name several people from my guild who would probably still be playing if Zul'Aman had come out three months earlier) and they're trying to get more people to use the stuff that's already there. That, I think, is the reason they're removing the attunement requirements from Mount Hyjal, Black Temple, and Karazhan.

Now I like stories, and I like how flags and such make sure people follow the story. So I'm all in favor of them in new content. But I also agree that backflagging has got to go, and removing the flagging requirements from things after a year seems like a reasonable solution. I just hope both SOE and Blizzard will get that someday.

Comment Posted by: FiremageEQ on March 18, 2008 12:28 PM

The reason there is still flagging in EQ is so there's a challenge. Without flagging, guilds like Triality and Cestus Dei would plow through the expansions and be in farm status in less than a week. SoE has endgame flagging down to a science. Removing the old ones would be a good idea too. Blizzard has already removed SSC and TK attunements, and personally I think that was stupid. My guild can get into SSC but we aren't ready for it, and we try anyway. Removing the Kara one I agree with, if you can't do Kara you fail. But BT and Hyjal? No. You need to have killed Vashj and Kael'thas if you're thinking about Hyjal anyway, why remove the requirement for the zone?

Comment Posted by: anonymous on March 19, 2008 02:33 PM

I don't play wow so I've no idea what your talking about as far as specific content, but you have answered your own question:

"But BT and Hyjal? No. You need to have killed Vashj and Kael'thas if you're thinking about Hyjal anyway, why remove the requirement for the zone?"

Why have a requirement for the zone, if you need to have killed previous bosses anyway?

Its a circular arguement.

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on March 23, 2008 07:41 PM

My original position was pretty middle of the road. Loral's argument above really wasn't about the problem with flagging, but the lack of back flagging. Loral's argument would be rather moot, for example, if you could zone into Anguish sans signets and the drop was the entire key, instead of just the Mastery of All.

However, I had a discussion with someone that pushed me more to one side than I was when this article was first posted.

>> The reason there is still flagging in EQ is so there's a challenge.

There really is no challange in getting the shards for Vex Thal or the signets for Anguish. That's just a needless timesink at this point in time. The difficulty is in the raids themselves, rather than getting access to them.

My thoughts about PoP, since you asked Loral, is this: each year, on the anniversary of EQ, they both make the zones fabled, but also drop the flagging requirements to enter (they should also tag that expansion as part of the "core game" and enable it for anyone that doesn't already have it, so in the future expansions, it's a possibility to build land mass off it.) The flagging change stays even after the fabled are gone. That's a way to celibrate the expansion and give something back at the same time.

As for what WoW did, well, when I read that they eliminated the flags from the CURRENT raid zones, I thought, that's not what Blizzard got right, that's another reason why I don't care for WoW. There's no real challange to the game, even in the current expansion.

Comment Posted by: Teremar on March 24, 2008 04:06 PM

A clarification on my previous comments: Yes, they're current content, but Black Temple has been out for ten months, and Mount Hyjal and Karazhan fifteen. (One of WoW's chief problems is that Blizzard is still too slow about creating new content.) The attunement process has had plenty of time to accomplish its chief purpose of slowing down the serious raiders. By the one-year standard people are talking about, Black Temple is only a couple months early.

Besides, you still need the gear (which may be what FiremageEQ was getting at). I can only speak from experience about Karazhan but I think it's true for the others as well: if you just set out to gear up for the instance you're almost guaranteed to get attuned along the way. But gearing up will take much longer.

One could argue that Blizzard does "get" the importance of opening up older content, but thinks pre-expansion stuff is old enough to be completely irrelevant and not worth spending time changing. I disagree, but I happen to have a horde alt on a young server where people are still trying to hit 70 and my guild there would love to do some of it. I know that's not typical.

Nolrog, I think you're dead right that the difficulty is (and should be) in the raids, not in getting flagged for them. That applies to both EQ and WoW. I don't want to start a round of game-bashing, but I do have to say that I find raiding in WoW at least as difficult as any raid I did in EQ (though I'm not a very serious raider in either game).

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on March 24, 2008 08:07 PM


Hmmm, doomsday indeed. I find myself writing in support of both Loral and Nolrog and Redhenna.

Probably doesn't help that I'm waiting on word on when/if the changes to AA exp go live (and remain un nerfed) in order to re-up an EQ and EQII account.

Anyway. Nolrog, excellent idea!! All three points of the idea.

- Use the aniversary date as the opening date.
- Remove flag requirements on older content.
- Add the content to the game "core".

Bloody brilliant!

That said, a quick side foot note on the actions at Blizzard regarding thier opening of "current" raid content.

Blizzard has modified and removed previous older raid content before this, and we can expect them to do so in the future.

Key points to remember with Blizzard and "raids".

1) Raiding is not the only way to get high end gear in WoW.
2) Blizzard routinely releases new higher level content, including Raids between expansions.
3) Blizzard appears to be balancing the gear/level/player experience so that no one faction of the player base raider/hobbiest/casual has a clear upper hand.

In short; for people who raid, the raid zones that are being opened are zones they have had access to for some time. They are also zones that will soon be depreicated in value do to the Sunwell being opened. Meanwhile; no-raiders, who have geared up on faction and pvp, have the gear to tackle those zones, but may not have the time/interest in doing long key quests. This opens that content for them, at a time when raiders will have a new trophy to persue.

Net gain for everyone.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on March 24, 2008 08:15 PM

The only problem I have with Nolrogs plan, which is a really good plan overall, is that I think that where fables are is too far behind where I think flags should be removed at.

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on March 24, 2008 10:48 PM


Quick side note. While we sit here and talk about Nolrogs plan, Lorals plan, or anyone elses plans, none of them are even far off rumor milled plans of the SOE developers.

So while we sit and debate the "best" implementation of getting rid of dead weight flag requirements; SOE remains on track to churn out more new flags in the next expansion, raise levels again, add more AA's, and push the ceiling even higher; leaving what will become yet more dead weight in the drift.

Just something to keep perspective while we chat among ourselves.

Comment Posted by: Loral on March 24, 2008 10:49 PM

An interesting set of factoids:

When Zul Amen was released for WoW recently, a post Karazhan level dungeon, it was released without any flag.

I just read on Gamespy that the Sunwell 25 man top-end raid; the hardest raid in WoW; will be released without any flag requirement in the 2.4 Sunwell patch.

Comment Posted by: AenorVZ on March 25, 2008 01:57 AM

While we're on the subject of things that would improve EQ, let me just state that I'm impatient to hear further word from the devs about future alternate ruleset servers. In one of the producer letters, the Sleeper and Combine progression servers were called a huge success. They opened a thread to invite input on future rulesets, and the overwhelming popular response was that people wanted another progression server in which expansions would open more slowly.

SOE enjoyed thousands of re-subscriptions for the three months or so that Sleeper and Combine remained in the pre-Luclin era. But once that classic era was left behind, the player base on those servers quickly dropped and the servers were merged.

What Sleeper and Combine showed is that EQ has replayability, and people want to experience the old game again for longer than 3 months. SOE can increase its subscriber base without adding any new content... all they have to do is launch Progression 2.0 with longer lockout timers for the expansions. For 6 months, however, there has been no further word on plans for another alternate ruleset server. I hope Progression 2.0 comes soon... I'll be 6 boxing on it whenever they launch it.

Comment Posted by: Teremar on March 25, 2008 12:56 PM

"for people who raid, the raid zones that are being opened are zones they have had access to for some time."

Absolutely.

"no-raiders, who have geared up on faction and pvp, have the gear to tackle those zones, but may not have the time/interest in doing long key quests."

Not so much. There are many paths to good gear in WoW, but they don't converge.

If you got all the rewards from all the factions plus good quest gear in other slots you might do okay in Karazhan, but not the other dungeons.

PvP gear is for PvP. Other people have this odd tendency not to spend all their time trying to kill a tank while ignoring the healers and DPS, so PvP gear is designed to give everyone a balance of offense and defense. In raiding, of course, specialization is required. DPS might do okay on a raid in PvP gear, but healers would struggle and tanks would be absolutely destroyed.

Sure, a good raid can carry along an undergeared person. There are many encounters where a single careless person will wipe the raid ("Flamewreath! NOBODY MOVE!") but few where a single undergeared person will. (Though there are some--Leothras the Blind comes to mind. He summons the "inner demons" of raid members and each raid member must solo theirs.) But a whole raid equipped from rep rewards or PvP gear will fail.

Badge gear is quite good for raiding, but it's acquired by doing heroic five mans and raids. In theory a guild could collect enough badges from heroics and Karazhan to go straight to the Black Temple, but they'd have a lot to learn. Besides, they'd probably want to do the rest just for variety.

The key quests are not long, and if you're not interested in doing them you're probably not interested in doing what they open either. Getting the key to Karazhan (ten-man) requires doing a total of five five-man dungeons. The others are 25-man dungeons and to get attuned to them you need to do...25-man dungeons.

So what will the actual impact be here?

1) New recruits will be able to raid with their guild from day one, if not contribute much. That's a good thing.

2) Guilds who have been wiping in Tempest Keep and Serpentshrine Cavern can now add wiping in Mount Hyjal and the Black Temple to their weekly agendas. That's a good thing. (If they weren't wiping, they could have gone to those places already.)

3) Guilds who are putting together their first 25-man teams will have more options where to go (but see #2). That's also a good thing.

Remember the serious raiders are already keyed for all these places. This doesn't affect them at all other than avoiding backflagging. What it mostly does is allow more people to see the content--but I don't expect to see a big change in the number of Illidan or Archimonde (final bosses of the affected instances) kills as a result.

Comment Posted by: Turik on March 26, 2008 09:50 AM

@AenorVZ

Can you tell me why you would be six boxing on a new server if one opens? I've always assumed that people tend to box as there aren't groups for them to go in if they only have one char (found that myself on the odd occasion when I have been overcome with nostalgia and fired up EQ - have a station account). Surely with a new server there would be lots of people to level up with therefore meaning not much reason to box? Or is there something special about 6 boxing on a new server that you couldn't do by 6 boxing on a "standard" server?

Comment Posted by: Jochen on March 31, 2008 11:50 AM

While I agree that flagging should be dynamic, the course of WoW leads to other problems. In this case, it's content skipping.

The attunement for Mount Hyjal (and consequently Black Temple) were extremely tough with the hardest known fights for the time. However, in Hyjal and the Temple itself, the first bosses have a rep to be extremely easy, working as a "reward" for having beaten Vashj and Kael'Thas (the requirement-bosses).
The reward argument doesn't work anymore, if you don't have to do anything to merit the reward. The underlying problem is that the content progression is maladjusted, with harder bosses coming before easier ones.

Now, guilds face the alternatives of either wiping for several weeks or months on Kael'Thas and Vashj or going directly to the instances with better loot and easier encounters. What happens is what has already happened in the past: the extremely hard, complex, challenging and interesting encounters are simply left out in favor of "quick loot", because the risk/reward-balance is skewed.

It has happened with Magtheridon (a cool fight which gets nerfed to death in 2.4, because nobody bothered to learn it anymore) and it will happen again.

I'm all in favor of raising restrictions. But only with a logical difficulty progression and risk/reward-structure, not so much with block-encounters and reward-encounters.

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on April 3, 2008 06:19 PM

Quote: Rytan_the_Wyrmlord:

As I'm sure most of you are aware, backflagging has been a hot topic for EQ for quite a while now. The complex flagging mechanisms for older expansions can make it difficult for guilds that take on new people to experience the content they are wanting to do. With the sheer amount of content between Qeynos and Crystallos it can be extremely difficult for new players to catch up with their friends in any reasonable time frame.

So, in order to make it easier for players to access appropriate content we would like to make some changes to previous flags. All of the existing flags will stay in place, as will the various quest rewards that were additional benefits to their completion. However, the following zones will have an alternate entry criteria of a minimum level. It's important to know that either the previous key OR the new minimum level is required to enter the zone, not both.

Required Level 46
The Howling Stones
Old Sebilis
Skyshrine

Required Level 55
Veeshan's Peak
Vex Thal
Locked areas of the Temple of Ssraeshza

Required level 57
Bastion of Thunder
Halls of Honor
The Temple of Marr
Tower of Solusek Ro
Drunder, The Fortress of Zek
Yxxta
Kod`taz

Required Level 60
Plane of Water
Plane of Air
Plane of Fire
Plane of Earth
Uqua
Ikkinz

Required Level 62
Plane of Time
Qvic
Inktu`Ta

Required Level 65
Texvu
Tacvi

Source: http://forums.station.sony.com/eq/posts/list.m?topic_id=130431

Nolly's comment: I guess they are starting to get it Loral.

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on April 3, 2008 07:51 PM


Nolrog,

Swear to me that's not just some sick belated April Fool's joke....

Then right after that, let me know when both that and the AA changes will go live. I do believe that between those two changes 60% of my major issues just went away.

Thank you for the heads up post btw!

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on April 3, 2008 08:38 PM


>> Swear to me that's not just some sick belated April Fool's joke....

LOL. I didn't even think of that. But I posted the link to Rytan's original post, so you can read it for yourself. I wish he would have gone up to Anguish (because that would benefit me personally the most) but this is a great start!!

N

Comment Posted by: AenorVZ on April 3, 2008 11:29 PM

Turik, boxing is just fun. I have a nephew I play with so we'll prolly each 3 box and I'll have the other 3 avail when he is not online. That was the great thing about Sleeper is that the world was very full and alive, just like when it launched in 99. I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities to group, and I'll only play one char if I have 5 other people to group and have fun with. But I'll have the option to play all 6 if I don't have a full group.

Comment Posted by: Loral on April 4, 2008 07:30 AM

It's a good first step but it isn't far enough. I hate to continue to compare it to WoW but WoW just opened up every zone all the way through to the top and most recently released zone, the Sunwell.

If they added Anguish, DPoB, and Theater of Blood that'd be even better, but I say open it up through Ashengate and Frostcrypt.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on April 4, 2008 11:05 AM

This is 2 changes in 2 months aimed at new/returning players. Makes you wonder if maybe SoE has decided to spend some advertising dollar on EQ later this year, and is trying to get the game ready for that. Advertising dollar spent on a game that is unfriendly to those new/returning players is wasted money.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on April 4, 2008 11:15 AM

Heh, and as I now read the thread on these changes, I see Rashere said this:

"As I said earlier, though, these changes are being made along with others. Yes, by themselves they won't do much, but as a whole they're pretty powerful and something that we actually can market."

I think I was right, incoming advertising later this year.

Comment Posted by: Keisa on April 4, 2008 11:39 AM

I think Rashere's comments will tell you more about SOE's thoughts on these changes and more:

Two things to note here:

First, these changes won't occur on the progression server. The point of that server is to experience content as it was released as much as possible, so this runs contrary to that. The work Rytan has been doing has included a check to negate the changes if we're on a progression server. When the progression server eventually catches up to normal servers and essentially becomes a normal server, these changes will kick in.

Second, this is part of a larger push aimed at updating the low to mid-tier game in a way that will culiminate in events aimed squarely at attracting new players and people who have left over the years. This isn't the first change we've made like this recently and certainly not the last. There are a number of other things that will roll out over the next few months so if you're upset about this change because you feel the way to keep the game healthy is to continue to make sure that people new to the game or returning to the game have as steep a hill to climb as those of us who did the climb when the mid level game was thriving and the hill was much smaller, then I'll apologize in advance because you're not going to be getting happier anytime soon. I understand the feeling that it cheapens what you personally had to do to get into the content at the time and Rytan is working out some rewards for that effort, but I think continuing to attract new players that you can actually play the game with once they reach your level is a bit more important than that and, frankly, the online landscape isn't the same as it was. People simply won't tolerate what they would even a couple years ago so we're working to address that.

Rashere

Comment Posted by: Loral on April 4, 2008 07:32 PM

It sounds like they've got their head in the right place. The question is, will they alienate the thin margin they still hold? I know I'm the one who argued for the removal of flags - and I still think that is the right way to go - but depending on what else they have in mind, it may not be well received by the core.

We'll have to see. I, for one, look forward to what I hear although its unlikely to win me back at this point.

Comment Posted by: Ghost of Zek on April 4, 2008 07:54 PM


As someone who walked away from the first Player Summit feeling very warm and fuzzy only to deal with three years of non-stop disappointment and a feeling that I'd been bold faced lied to, I have to say that simply put, I'm sceptical.

That said, the tenor, the words used to communicate to the community have changed. There's a certain level of confrontational tenor in the rhetoric, that implies that SOE is willing to take a stand and force EQ into a different direction, with a focus on what has become a vast wasteland; the mid game.

In a nutshell. I like what Rytan and Rashere are saying. But will they follow through?

1) Will the changes actually "go live"?
2) Will they be nerfed to completely as to be a waste of breath?

Don't get me wrong, I have a strong emotional tie to my old EQ toons. I WANT to think I can go back and play them and not regret it. But I NEED proof that this isn't yet more smoke and mirrors from SOE.

Nuff said.

Comment Posted by: rosesarered on April 5, 2008 02:25 AM

All comments I have seen in guild and chats are enthusiastic and excited. Even the septics are cautiously optimistic ...

Comment Posted by: AenorVZ on April 5, 2008 08:16 PM

When I read this about a possible re-marketing of Everquest, I can't help thinking it is only coming about because of the success of the Progression servers. The Combine and the Sleeper made SOE a ton of cash without having to introduce any new content. Loral called us "EQ Luddites" for wanting to re-experience the original game, but when the devs finally pulled their heads out of their asses and gave the players what they'd been screaming for for years, all of a sudden they can justify budgeting advertising dollars and more development for the middle game.

It just goes to show, giving the players what they want is ALWAYS a good idea. When you have posts asking for a "Classic Server" that number in the thousands, to the point where the board moderators have to eventually shut them down to deflect attention from the fact that they are ignoring popular demand, people will leave the game because they don't feel like the devs are listening.

When they did the most obvious thing they could have possibly done, launch the progression servers, they made money and now those of you who didn't want an "old school" server that you wouldn't play on taking attention away from your pet issues may possibly see funding for those issues.

Comment Posted by: xsi on April 6, 2008 04:43 AM

I think you're seeing connections where there are none. Given that they had to merge the two progression servers, I highly doubt the momentary blip in subscriptions has anything at all to do with the changes we are seeing.

Comment Posted by: Redhenna on April 6, 2008 09:27 AM

If special ruleset servers where the solution as SoE sees it, I think there would be an entirely different set of changes being worked on. These do nothing for any classic/progression type server. In fact, since SoE does not see that type server as being a long term success, and the changes so far mentioned are directly aimed at helping retain new players for the long term, I think it specifically argues against the likelyhood of a new classic/progression server as part of this process.

I do think there is a good chance of a new server, if my guess of advertising is accurate. I think a new server along the lines of Stromm, after the changes so far revealed, and the further changes hinted at, go live, in conjunction with an advertising blitz, is a likely scenario. I think that is what this is all about: make the game more friendly to newer players, so that they have a chance to get to endgame within their lifespan, do the advertising to get those new players, give them a server where they are all together so they have some one to group with, and enjoy an increase in profits over a longer term.

None of this means that a special ruleset server, in addition, is impossible, or even unlikely. Just that these changes are not aimed at something like that. The progression servers did provide a nice short term boost to revenue, so something similar is entirely possible. I doubt a classic server is a real likelyhood, but another progression server is possible.

Comment Posted by: Skuz Bukit on April 7, 2008 03:31 AM

The AAXP "boost curve" & the adding of level-based flags for keyed zones are just the tip of the iceberg.

New models are in the works along with more zone revamps & there are signs the next expansion will provide for a few gameplay twists that will further aid newer players, whether that's new technology such as "side-kicking" or "mentoring" or new content.

I think we will see a decisive change of heart as far as solo-progression capability goes.

As far as marketing I think we wont see an advertising push until the new expansion is released, & maybe not until after, but an advertising/re-marketing is most definitely on the cards, past changes have been there for securing & keeping the playerbase it has the new changes are all aimed at making the game more open, accessible & focused for new players & a lot of the words used to describe the changes are talking about "marketable" changes, a clear sign of the intent to attract new players to EverQuest.

Some of those changes will no doubt be unpopular, however it will be seen if the naysayers stick around to see if the fruits of those changes come to bear, or if they are left to wither on the vine.

Comment Posted by: concerned1 on April 7, 2008 09:44 AM

LOL.

Comment Posted by: Cinexa on April 8, 2008 11:34 PM

Loral!!

Comment Posted by: Nolrog on April 10, 2008 08:31 PM

According to a post on EQLive (posting the patch message from the test server) they are removing flags up to PoR.

Required Level 68
Anquish

Required Level 70
Dreadspire
Demiplane of Blood

Required Level 72
Theater of Blood
Deathknell

Assuming this is true, it will be very cool.

Here's the source: http://forums.station.sony.com/eq/posts/list.m?topic_id=130759

Comment Posted by: Loral on April 11, 2008 11:02 PM

I take my title back - they get it (or are getting it).

Comment Posted by: xsi on April 12, 2008 12:03 AM

...and the usual suspects are crying foul on the boards. I'm glad it seems like SOE has finally started making big decisions, even if it annoys some of their more vocal fanbase. Only time will tell if the strategy pays off, of course, but, for the first time in a long while, I am excited that SOE might actually have a plan (even, dare I say it, a vision?), for improving EQ and growing its playerbase.

Comment Posted by: Skuz Bukit on April 13, 2008 04:27 AM

I am very optimistic for the future of EQ, the ramifications of all the so far announced changes (& I'm sure there are a few more to come yet), all bode well, if they get the game in a competitive state with the other MMO's & then push some advertising out it could be really good for the health of the game.

Comment Posted by: Tilluan AB on April 14, 2008 09:10 AM

The opening of Anguish e.g. is an important step to make reasonable loot possible for casual and midtier raiding guilds and guild alliances. So casual players may male experience of raiding in higher zones of "old" content (3 expansions behind the actual one). This is a good step of SOE!

Comment Posted by: Aarkan on April 17, 2008 11:23 AM

These changes sound great, the only thing that I wonder is if I do decide to come back to my level 61 Ranger with next to no AA's and no loot that's significant will I be able to find groups and guild and raids and progress? I'm not saying get to level 80 fighting Meldrath or whoever in a week I mean hitting up some PoP or Gates content or getting EQ/AM3 and stuff like that... I'm strongly considering giving this another shot and putting a month onto my account to go back to the world I once loved.

Comment Posted by: Moonsonata on April 17, 2008 12:33 PM

SOE removed many flagging requirements as of today's patch.

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