Thursday, September 13, 2007

EQ2 as knowledge-based gaming

My excuses if this EQ2 post sounds a bit like the last one, but I did something similar in EQ2 to what I did last weekend, and it made me realize some things. My warden is level 16 now, and in Kelethin I got offered a quest which was obviously the start of a series of crafting quests. Oh, interesting! I already did some of the simple crafting quests, make X items and receive status and money for them, but this one appeared to be more complex.

The first step of the quest told me that for the crafting I'd need lots of materials, and asked me to travel to Thundering Steppes and gather 50 tier 3 resources there. Now if I had been a total noob, that would have been the end of it. At that point of the game there isn't even a safe way for a level 16 character to *get* to the Thundering Steppes, and with the place swarming with aggressive mobs in the mid-20s, it is hardly safe to gather resources there. But I had two things going for me: One was the probably most popular spell in the history of the Everquest series, Spirit of Wolf, or SoW for short, which makes me run much faster, enabling me to outrun many mobs. The other was previous knowledge.

I knew that on the west side of Thundering Steppes there is a large area full of non-aggressive centaurs with lots of resources, because I had gathered those resources with my level 14 guardian / 26 carpenter 3 years ago. (The centaurs are kind of funny, because the females wear panties between their front legs, which if you think about centaur anatomy doesn't make sense at all. There isn't anything to cover there.) And I knew how to get to Thundering Steppes because I had travelled to Antonica last weekend, and getting to the Steppes is even easier, there is a direct boat from Butcherblock docks. So I ran like hell through dangerous Butcherblock, and then again through Thundering Steppes until I arrived at the centaur place. There are some aggressive griffons and lions there, but not all that many, and they are easily avoided. I gathered my 50 resources, plus some extra pelts and roots for my tailoring, even got a few rares, and then teleported back. Next step is crafting something with those resources, I'll see where that leads to this weekend.

But the whole exercise made me realize how important knowledge is in Everquest 2. Not that knowledge isn't helpful in World of Warcraft; but in WoW there is much more hand-holding and guiding you to your destination. There aren't any quests in WoW in the dwarven newbie zone that ask you to go the other continent and gather stuff from Ashenvale, a higher level elvish zone, with no information on how to get there. And WoW quests usually tell you pretty much exactly where you have to go. Not so in Everquest 2. Even the worst WoW quest (finding Mankrik's wife in the Barrens) gives a lot more hints as to where to go compared to many EQ2 quests. I don't know if that quest still exists, but back in 2004 I had a quest in Qeynos that asked me to find "a dwarf in Antonica". With Antonica being twice as big as the Barrens, and no hint whatsoever as to the location, that is a lot harder than finding Mankrik's wife, of who you know at least that she is close to the Gold Road and near the Bristlebacks. In World of Warcraft most quests are for close to where you are, leading you to content appropriate to your level, and once you run out of quests for that corner, there will be a quest leading you to the next higher one. In Everquest 2 quests are all over the place, leading you in many different directions towards content of different levels, and it is up to you to chose where to go. Even newbie quests like "Welcome to Kelethin" ask you to find landmarks of which you are only told the name, with no hint as to their location (I was level 15 by the time I finished that level 7 quest, because I couldn't find the Opal Pond).

What I realized was that this isn't due to bad game design, this is by intent. If you were told where the Opal Pond is, or looked it up on sites like Allakhazam, the quest would be trivial and boring. But if you go exploring on your own you'll learn more about the zone, and the more you explored the zone, the easier it gets to find all those landmarks or mobs for quests, because you remember where you saw them. Quests in EQ2 aren't there to lead you to somewhere like in WoW. In EQ2 quests are there to reward you for the knowledge you acquired about the game. The search for your goal, or the previous exploration that makes you know where that goal is, is an integral and important part of the quest. Or as Raph would say it: It is the learning about the game that is fun.

And up to now that is working very well. I'm having fun exploring Greater Faydark. In the few cases where I really can't find something and get frustrated, I look it up on some website or with my EQmap UI mod (which still messes up my inventory, although I downloaded the latest version, so I haven't loaded it permanently). I would still say that for a player new to MMORPGs World of Warcraft is the better choice. But with growing MMORPG experience at some point you just don't want to be guided any more, and a game where you have to find everything out for yourself is more fun. In EQ2 I have the impression to have a bewildering multitude of options what to do next, and that is not a bad thing. Every day in the game I learn something more, and that is fun. Reading a quest and saying "Hah! I know where that is!" is fun. I call it knowledge-based gaming, and so far I'm enjoying it.

No comments:

Post a Comment