Along the Golden Path: EQ2 takes a shot at a smoother levelling experience

The MMOs I currently play are all several years old. This was never a deliberate choice, I have tried (and liked) newer MMOs, but like so many other players, I’ve drifted back to the virtual homes I’ve loved most and where my friends are after testing the new waters.

In any case, game design and MMO design shifts over the years. The trends are well known. Towards accessibility, away from enforced grouping. Towards instanced content, away from having to beat the other players to the named mob. Towards achievers, away from explorers. Towards the game, away from the virtual world.

LOTRO has offered complete redesigns of some of the low and mid level zones. They’ve introduced new content for levelling characters via skirmishes, and made it easier to complete book 1 of the epic questline solo. WoW has the dungeon finder, and a redesign of much of the world coming along. They’ve also eased the xp curve for levelling. Plus numerous other accessibility tweaks.

EQ2 is going to take a different tack. Instead of redesigning the sluggish zones (although I believe there have already been some revamps), they are going to offer a guide to players on how best to navigate the mid levels. The game already has so much content that one of the main sticking points for new players is trying to find a way through the maze. There has also been some tidying up of older zones, and a new epic questline to guide players through the good bits.

We want to make a path for new players or players that are making new characters where they can level up a new character quickly and effectively through a bunch of zones that we’ve gone through and really made sure are just top-notch content,

I thought this was an interesting approach. Instead of streamlining the content, they offer a guided tour option to those who want to take it. Chances are the guided tour is more fun than the DIY tour, but the other content is still there for those who want to explore. What I like is that this exploits one of the huge benefits of playing an older game – there’s tons and tons of content.

Also, it would be great if the guided tour epic questline dribbled in more information about the game’s theme and lore. I always felt that was lacking in the starting areas, and is one of the reasons why EQ2 is not as welcoming to newbies as games like WoW or LOTRO which settle you in with some lore and background as you explore the newbie zone. It isn’t that EQ2 doesn’t have tons of both lore and background, and it is out there to some extent for explorers to find, but not having racial starting zones does affect the experience.

EQ2 was never a sandbox game, so this isn’t about turning a sandbox into a theme park. But it might be about turning a chaotic theme park into a better organised set of levelling rails. Speaking of sandbox games, and in another example of blogger hive minds, Tobold explores the same phenomenon today in EVE Online. EVE is certainly closer to being a sandbox games, but new characters are nudged towards more familiar mission running (ie. quests) to help them acclimatise to the game. I suspect EVE is a game that you can never really ‘get’ until you join a solid corps (guild) because like most sandbox games, the sandbox only really opens up when you have a bunch of people behind you.

I’m going to be curious to see how EQ2 players take to the new golden path. Also, I’ve never been a fan of EQ2 mounts, my time in the game was punctuated by regular pauses to watch other players ride by on their flaming rhinos (I did not make that up) and think, “WTF?!” But the cloud mount is genuinely awesome.

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The nature of monkey was … irrepressible …