New Player Experience on Live: Thoughts

Discussion in 'The Newbie Zone' started by Gnomeland, Nov 12, 2018.

  1. Gnomeland Augur

    Been wanting to make this post for a while, but didn't have time until now.

    Basically, I've been going through the new player experience with various characters, focusing on the 1 to 85 game. Below is a list of thoughts I have for it.

    I'll try to keep this as short as I can, since I realize many people's response will simply be "new players should play on progression servers." But these issues should also apply to returning players from classic, and people starting characters on new servers, and at the end of the day, the live experience is supposed to represent the modern game:

    The tutorial is solid, but not very representative of the actual game. I've always enjoyed Mines of Gloomingdeep, but you have to admit, it is a highly structured experience that doesn't represent the larger open world game. I do like it, but the effect of leaving it is a bit overwhelming, and it disrupts players expectations, and also contributes to this next issue...

    The basic idea of Everquest is not being taught to players. From Classic on, I would argue that the central concept of Everquest, as opposed to most other games in its class, is the game's action cycle: find monsters that are around your level, kill them, collect their treasures, and repeat. This is what we were taught to do in the old starting cities, as there was no way to advance your character without learning this concept. Both Mines of Gloomingdeep and Hero's Journey, however, give the impression that the game is actually about following a quest chain, like World of Warcraft. This would be fine, but for the fact that...

    Hero's Journey is overwhelming... The first set of achievements you get for Hero's Journey, and which represents every starting player's first impressions of the game, is overwhelming. It involves a list of almost a dozen quests, which require you to find items and persons all over the map, many of which cannot be found using the game's search feature, and which would lead to frustration unless you decided to look it all up online. Worst example: Council of Six. This would be fine for a quest in the middle levels, but at level 1? It's not a kind introduction to the game.

    ...And also broken. But say that you do get past this initial frustration, and complete Hero's Journey 1-25. Then, however, you're faced with the problem that Hero's Journey quickly breaks down around level 30 to 60, involving quests like The Queen Bixie and Kill the Queen of the Harpies, both of which are raid level quests at 40 and 60, respectively, that block you from completing their respective zone's completion achievements and thus much of the rewards. And in case you think this is just a lower level issue, I give you The Bubonians are Coming, at level 80, which is once again a raid level quest that blocks you from getting the zone achievement.

    Yet, not doing Hero's Journey is a problem Okay, you say, but Hero's Journey, despite being encouraged by the game repeatedly on level up, is ultimately optional. You don't need to complete it. This is correct, but misses an important fact: while defiant armor for the visible slots is relatively easy to obtain once you figure out how to buy it from other players, it is very hard to obtain defiant armor for: earrings, face, rings, and neck, which represent key focus effects for many classes. This is because the defiant armor merchant in Plane of Knowledge vastly over price the equipment - charging thousands of platinum for a single ring at level 60, for example - and there is no other source for it, except for Hero's Journey.

    This makes the early levels a living hell for spell using classes. A class that doesn't use spells can get away with paying 10,000 to 30,000 platinum for a set of defiant armor jewelry. But for classes that do use spells, the cost of spells themselves are often already prohibitive in terms of exhausting your money income. Yet, spell classes are punished further by the fact that they are the classes most dependent on the focus effects on defiant armor earrings, rings, neck, and face. The end result is that new players are often forced to farm platinum in order to keep themselves up to date - not exactly an enjoyable experience at the lower levels.

    Defiant armor practically ends at level 75, after which the path is difficult. Whether we're talking about merchant bought defiant armor, or dropped defiant armor, or player bought defiant armor, it all basically ends at level 75 - unless you count extravagant defiant armor, which is way below the power curve - after which you're "supposed" to graduate onto actual camped equipment. But the expansion this lands you in is Secrets of Faydwer, which is one of the hardest expansions in the game in terms of getting equipment. Sure, the initial zones are easy enough, but as soon as you enter Fortress Mechanotus, much less Steam Factory, etc., you can just forget about trying to advance the natural way. In fact, you must follow Hero's Journey to 85, but the game doesn't tell you that.

    The best path through the game is not understood any where online. Is there a solution to the above mentioned problems? Yes, to a degree: the best path through the game is actually to mix and match easy Hero's Journey achievements at each armor cycle with hunting mostly in money making zones with monsters that are under the power curve of their respective expansions. But this path isn't mentioned any where on the internet. The best help for new players is Almar's Guides, which tell you which zones to go to, but not which Hero's Journey achievements to do. So what you end up, following them, is a brick wall around level 70 or so, when mercenaries and defiant armor start to fall off and you lack equipment to go further because the guides mostly end up telling you to do Heroic Adventures or hot zones at 75, which you definitely cannot do without up to date equipment.

    In fact, Hero's Journey is a critical piece of the puzzle, and absolutely vital for character advancement past level 70. But no one seems to have developed much understanding of the process because of how involved and complicated Hero's Journey is, and because, to be honest, the journey isn't nearly as fun as it's made out to be. Further, I would argue that Hero's Journey actually ends up hiding the joy that is exploration in Everquest: since Hero's Journey only takes place in a very limited set of zones, and only one expansion below the level of 70, it causes players to miss out on the vast majority of the game's content and its best zones.

    Yet, there is no question that, should you spend most of your time visiting those old zones and expansions, you will end up having poor equipment that is way behind the curve,and no practical way to advance past level 70 beyond farming platinum for weeks at a time. All the beauty of exploration in Everquest is thus lost - you're only hurting yourself, in the long term, by attempting to get off the trail.

    To end on a positive comment: I very much enjoyed figuring out the best path through the game and the lower levels, especially, which are still consistently enjoyable now that you can do most of the content with just yourself and a mercenary. But I did so with the benefit of a veteran's experience. At each stage of the game, I thought to myself, what I would do had I been a new player, and inevitably, I arrived at the idea that I would be lost, and would pursue options that either strictly limit my experience of the game world, or which represent a broken path and lead to frustration later down the line. Even so, I was surprised that, even after all these years, that the game still held up so well, especially at the lower levels with all the places to go and challenges to meet. Had it only been the case that the game actually rewarded you for doing 90% of it, the new player experience on Live could be so much more enjoyable than it is.
    Trakker and Shanarias like this.
  2. SunDrake Augur

    Nice post, and I tend to agree with most points you make. I came back to EQ in March to play on Coirnav, and still play primarily over there. When Velious raids got locked down I started messing around on live, and let me tell you - it was bewildering, even for someone with a lot of EQ experience. I still spend as much time researching things on the internet as I do progressing in the game. I can only imagine that the truly staggering amount of knowledge required for progression would be a deterrent to anyone without any previous experience or love for the game. It's nice to see that you seem to have figured it out, though. :)