There is always something refreshing about hanging out with a lot of people who like the same things you do. So, to say I had a great time at Dragon*Con would be an understatement! I had the opportunity to meet with both MMO players and industry folks and that is never a bad thing. Despite our little Con in Atlanta not being one of the big “MMO Cons,” we still received some very interesting information! I want to share with you what was shared with me and then thank some of the wonderful people I met.
Lord of the Rings Online
The LotRO panel was given by Shawn Schuster of Massively and Ethan Gilsdor, the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. They were kind enough to offer us the opportunity to carry some information back to Turbine as their representatives were at PAX this year. Without having more than the Mirkwood press release, they were limited on what they could offer game wise but did an exceptional job of talking LotRO up and going into the lore. The panel was quite well done and it was a great opportunity to meet other players.
I was really stoked to attend the 7th annual EverQuest meet and greet! Over the course of the Con I had been trying to track down Ashlanne, Brenlo and the rest of the SOE crew and this was my first opportunity to really say hello. I had found them earlier but we were going in multiple directions! As expected they were more than kind to me. I’ve always been so impressed with just how wonderful SOE representatives are to the fans (or at least to me)! I felt really bad about not staying long enough to attend the fan party. Sorry guys!
For EverQuest we were told that users who pre-purchase Underfoot and complete a few events will have access to the expansion early!
They also said there will be a way to experience original EQ content like never before. There will be NPCs that can give you a quest and then send you off to do a special Nagafens lair, Permafrost, or Guk as old veterans like myself remember! That sounded pretty thrilling to me!
In that panel I also had the chance to meet Bonzz of Bertoxxulous and his lovely daughter (and much to my embarrassment I just got her character name, not her first name). They were really nice folks and we took the time to chat a bit. I never got the url to Bonezz’s website but he does a write up on EQ1 paladins. I’d like to see that!
For EverQuest II, Brenlo promised the Dragon*Con audience some exclusive information! In my fevered attempt to take notes on nothing more than my iPhone I don’t remember which point was the exclusive one. At any rate here is what we found out!
EQ2 is going to be getting a huge upgrade to the shader system shortly. This will shift the graphics processes from the CPU to the GPU and that has already shown marked performance increases in the game, if you have anything better than an Nvidia 6800 line. Most of us do these days! This will not add SLI support, however. We were treated to some screen shots of before and after and it was amazing! The game looked stellar.
Another big announcement was that SOE figured out most new players quit the game before ever getting into it because of the download. To combat this development, SOE has figured out a way to steam EQ2 as you download it! You can start playing the game with just 64Mb. Due to how this was achieved (putting related objects together) this also increases game performance! You only download what you need.
We were informed that 40% of the player base uses station cash. There were concerns that all the cool graphics were being funneled there but Brenlo assured us that his art staff told him that the newest expansion “would have more new armor sets than there are armor sets in the entire game.” This is largely due to a new snap on system that allows armor to be completed without having to start from scratch.
Player retention was brought up and we were told that EQ2 has had a steady base for a while with a slight uptake. With these new changes it appears the SOE staff really wants to push the game to higher subscription levels.
Along that same line, Brenlo mentioned that new players will be put along what he called the “Golden Path.” This is essentially an MMO on rails system (that you can get off if you want to) that will guide new players through EQ2. At any time you can return to it if you get lost. Otherwise, you can do your own thing. To assist in this, they’ll likely be disallowing new players from starting in Freeport and Qeynos (shocking to me!) and putting them in the new starting zones. Halas (another new starting zone) will be released in February.
Odus is making a return and includes Kerra village and the Hole! I am so glad to see that SOE has figured out that the best content for EQ2 is EQ1. Desert of Flames did a lot of damage with its weak connection to the original game, in my opinion. In addition to this you’ll also be able to temporarily de-level your character so you can go back and experience content you missed on the way up! This will help earn bonus AA points.
All in all everything that is coming the way of EverQuest II sounds really exciting! It really started to tug on me to go back to the game that I love so much. After all, I have never left a SOE game due to anything the developers have done. In each case where I have parted ways with an EverQuest it has been because I retired from my guild(s). I think it has been long enough to where I can go back without bruising my ego. We’ll see!
It was my mission to find and meet the folks over at Guild Launch as I’ve always wanted to do a project like they have. If you’re not familiar with their product, they offer in and out of game management for your guild. They support over 100 titles and they honestly do a great job of it. I really do recommend them for any guild leader who is tired of trying to go it alone with spread sheets.
I also have to say just how nice they are as people. I met Stephen (their President) and about five other folks on the staff and they were just so kind to me. They are also really passionate about MMOs. So, if you’re concerned that Guild Launch is just some company that has no idea what an MMO does but can code, let me assure you that it isn’t. These are real MMO players who designed a product to make their lives easier. Let them make your life easier too!
Jason and I finally ran across each other during one of the various MMO panels. He writes Aim for the Head which is one of the blogs I like to read as much as possible. He was a great guy and we chatted for a bit between the various activities we wanted to do. He also paid for the internet at his hotel (I was too cheap) and did some stellar write ups of the events while they were fresh in his mind. Head over that way to see what he wrote up!
Despite the focus of Dragon*Con not being MMORPGs, I still had a stellar time. SOE had a really strong presence (thanks guys!) and I got to meet some of those people I correspond with via Twitter in person! I’ve also got a lot of pictures that I will be posting as soon as I clean them up. Beyond that, thank you to everyone I met for being awesome and I hope to see you at an event again soon!