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Games Entertainment

EverQuest: What You Really Get From an Online Game 1134

Posted by michael
from the step-one-is-admitting-you're-an-addict dept.
dsanfte writes "If you're reading this, you may be considering picking up EverQuest. Most likely you've heard from friends how great this "addictive" game is, how in-depth it can become, and how much fun you'll have playing it. As usual, however, you aren't getting the straight deal. So before you pick up that EverQuest box, let me tell you the other side of that euphoric story." The rest of Sanftenberg's excellent article is below.

Everquest is a game centered on rewarding you for how much time you put into it. This is the core design philosophy behind the game, since they charge you by the month and make more money the longer you stick around. What they don't tell you is that taking your money is about all they're interested in. They care little for player complaints, and less about player suggestions and requests. They're in this to milk you for all you're worth, and that's the first thing you have to know.

The second thing you have to know is that the game stops being fun. By that time though, you're so "addicted" to the game, you don't realize it. The game becomes a source of frustration and anger instead of a source of entertainment and fun. It becomes a chore. It becomes a job. You plod away at the keyboard, obsessed and consumed with getting that new item, or finishing that last quest, and while so consumed you begin to hate the game. Vehemently. It's a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win.

After playing the game for a while, you'll start conversing with other players, and you'll see the one thing all players have in common is that they all hate Sony - the designers of Everquest. (It should be noted that Verant, the original development company, has been absorbed into Sony Online Entertainment -- so will be referred to as Sony for simplicity) This is baffling at first glance, because they send Sony $12.95 every month for a form of supposedly voluntary entertainment, which they enjoy, and yet they despise them! Look a little deeper though, and you'll see that most people who dislike Sony are the ones who no longer have fun playing Everquest. They aren't getting what they want out of the game anymore, and they look to Sony, being the source of all changes and improvements/breakdowns in the game, as the cause. Right or wrong, this is the state of affairs; the consumers hate the company providing them with a service that they think they enjoy.

Let's go back to the part about Sony not caring about their customers. Recently, they changed their GM (Game Master) Customer Service system such that, instead of one GM being assigned to each game server permanently to handle problems, there would instead be a smaller pool of GMs roaming all the servers infrequently. When enough player problems on a server requiring GM help cropped up (around 30), a GM would be sent to handle the petitions (problems) one at a time until finished, and move on to the next server. This had the effect of increasing wait times on getting petitions answered from a few hours to many hours, or even several days by many accounts. This was introduced supposedly as a cost-cutting measure, which would improve efficiency. They'd have to hire less GMs if they pooled them up into a roving band, instead of assigning one for each server. In actuality, while this may have made things more efficient on Sony's side, the players were left waiting for days until that magic number was reached where a GM would log on to the server to help them out.

On Sony's website, there is a link to a feature called Developer's Corner. Over the two years this has been up and running, the person in charge of Customer Relations at Sony, Alan "Absor" VanCouvering, has turned it from a section dedicated to answering player questions, into a simple Press Release box with little useful information. Where there would be several updates per day, now there are perhaps one or two per week. Answers to player questions are few, and replies to player emails are fewer. Since most answers to customer questions are now handled on specific, "class" (ranger, paladin, monk, etc) message boards by the developers themselves (once in a blue moon of course), one is left wondering what Absor is paid to do. Twiddle his thumbs perhaps? The world may never know.

This leads up to a lack of will at Sony to address their customers with any sort of respect. Often, sudden "game-changing" features will be added or removed in a patch, with little or no explanation given to the players, and no recourse for the players themselves other than to submit comments to the black hole at the Dev Corner. Other changes can render a class' or items' abilities weaker, slower, or even drastically altered or removed from the game. Again, the players have no say in the matter officially, and rarely get these changes reversed through massive online signature petitions. It is quite common now for these sorts of changes to come completely unannounced and unexplained, leaving the players themselves to bug test, figure out what happened, what is wrong, and leaving them again to wander off to the Dev Board asking what the purpose of the change was. Far too often in this process, the sheer discoordination and incompetence at Sony is revealed, as the changes happened accidentally or were not intended to occur in the manner they did. The bottom line being, you can go to bed one night with a great character and items, and wake up in the morning to find all that has changed; leaving you holding your member and your opinions mattering less than a pig's squeals in a slaughterhouse.

The final aspect of the will at Sony to disassociate from the customers is how they handle disputes between players. In the Everquest game world, you can find yourself in competition with other players for the ability to play the game. Yes, in EQ, you compete with other players for the right to kill the monsters. It's massive artificial scarcity. If you aren't online early enough, or if you don't move fast enough, you lose. MOBs (as monsters are known) spawn at predictable intervals; and the design of the game itself, added onto the times that Sony resets its servers for patches, means that if you don't live in Europe or on the east coast, you and your guild (an organization of players) are provided with less game content than any other time zone or area. You get to have "fun" as another guild of players in another part of the world kills a mob required to advance in the game while you're in bed, or at work, and nothing can be done about it. Often, players will do this purposefully to keep you from killing other, stronger mobs, so they can keep that part of the game to themselves. The GMs will not help you, the Guides (volunteer player GMs) will tell you they can't do anything (and that's true, they are impotent for the most part), and you and the 60 people in your guild are left holding your collective members for six months while you wait for said east-coast unemployed or European guild to take pity on you and let you have the mob. Fat chance.

Sony of course doesn't mind these situations in the slightest; because you see, this is their high-end game. Where in the lower levels you'll spend your time getting great items by fighting mobs that take seconds to prepare for and a minute to kill, at the high end you are required to spend multiple hours (sometimes up to twelve hours) with a "raid force" of 60 or more people just killing useless, annoying mobs (which drop little or no loot) put there as obstacles. Finally, when you reach the boss mob, the fight may last perhaps 30 minutes or more. This 30 minutes of combat is certainly not fun, as all you do is point your character at a mob and press a single button to auto-attack. Many melee-classes go watch TV for the duration of the fight. Your clerics (usually eight or more) cast the same healing spell in a long healing chain to keep your warrior alive, and your wizards all cast the same damaging spells for the 30 minutes of the fight. This is to kill a single mob (in this case, named Aten Ha Ra), which drops four items for your guild.

These situations are 'lovingly' referred to by the players as timesinks; gameplay traps intended to waste your time and keep you playing longer. There are hundreds of them; others incredibly longer than simply getting to a mob. Several quests required to advance in the game require you to spend 100+ hours sitting in single locations, killing hundreds of mobs in 12-hour stretches for a "rare drop", such as ore in the ssraeshza mines, which you use to create "bane" weapons; or the shissar commanders for key pieces; with which to fight the boss mob of the zone. Unlike the other parts of the game, these timesinks are required for advancement, and there is no getting around them unless you wish to stop playing. This is of course not fun at all, but as said above, by this time you'll have long stopped having fun with EQ. You'll do it anyway though, as thousands of others have, because you, like them, are addicted. The quest to kill the shissar Emperor of Ssraeshza is one of the most vicious timesinks in the entire game, but it is merely one example among dozens. To even reach this area of the game requires months of non-stop raiding with your guild; sometimes up to a year of raiding. Only then will you be powerful enough to enter.

Expansions to the game are put out about once per year. These cost around $30 to buy when released, and are required to visit new zones, gain new levels, and so forth. For anyone just entering the game now to be on equal footing with others, they will need to buy the original game and all four expansions at retail price. Of course, no expansion yet released by Sony has been complete when it hit the shelves. Often the final zone in the expansion would be left unfinished, or in such a state of bugginess that it was unplayable. Other zones will be incomplete or have bad pathing for the mobs. Items and monsters will not be "balanced" for difficulty, and players will sometimes stumble onto great equipment for their characters, only to have Sony later decide it is too powerful, and "nerf" it. When an item is nerfed, it's reduced in effectiveness or power, often to the point of absurdity, or it simply stops entering the game world. This rewards players who gun through the new expansion as fast as possible to get the upper hand over their competition on the server, and punishes anyone who cannot put 12+ hours of EQing in per day. The problems with expansions highlight another aspect of Sony which is decidedly underwhelming: their playtesting (or lack thereof). Many bugs in the new expansions are left for players to discover themselves and work around; fixes are often delayed by as much as a week while Sony tries to find a solution. In Everquest, you pay to be a bug tester, and receive no feedback or acknowledgement that any bugs you report are fixed, or even looked at, unless its fix shows up in a terse (bi-) weekly patch message. Most bugs are left unfixed due to their overwhelming numbers.

Class balancing is an on-going project of Sony to try to make sure each class (warrior, cleric, wizard, ranger, etc) has its own niche, and feels useful and meaningful in the game world. They seem oblivious to the fact that items are just as much a part of the game as classes though, and it seems they let their zone (game area) developers run wild with items, creating more work for the developers. If you're keeping a tally, the Mrylokar's Dagger in NToV was one of them. The Mistwalker from Lady Vox was another. These weapons were both nerfed because they were too powerful, and made the classes who could use them much too strong versus the mobs of the time. There is no feedback to the players on what the "visions" for the classes are supposed to be (beyond the vague three-line descriptions in the manual), and no way to for the players to venture a guess of what might be "too powerful" and in line to be nerfed next. Playing EQ is a lot like playing in a casino; you can see your winnings vanish in the blink of an eye out of sheer bad luck. It is not a game where you can ever feel secure.

All this pales in comparison to player harassment, of course. From sexual-orientation insults to other players spamming your chat bar, EQ has it all. There are other forms of harassment too: Often when in competition with other guilds (as you will find yourself quite often if you play long enough), you will see them employ tactics such as "training" mobs onto you to keep you away from the contested mob encounter or zone. A "train" is typically a large number of powerful mobs (10-20), which the other guild will gather up from the zone and dump onto your raid in order to kill you. The GMs will again do nothing about this, nor will the Guides, unless they are there to witness it. Being that there are typically only a half-dozen GM/Guides on a server of 2500+ players at any given time, and that trains are completely unpredictable and random, there is of course almost no way for them to witness these events. While server logs exist that can prove this malicious player harassment occurred, they will usually refuse to even take a look, because it constitutes work, and simply dismiss the problem outright. Your guild is then left holding their collective members once again. Do you see the pattern forming here?

Everquest is a game full of people who want to "win" and "be the best" at any cost. This includes griefing you and your guild, making your gameplay miserable. Why not simply quit then, you ask? If the game isn't fun and sucks this badly, why would anyone play it? Well, because they are addicted. They are addicted to the mobs, to the loot, and to the social atmosphere with other people in their guilds. They have invested so much time in these characters (often hundreds of days of play time, sometimes more time than they spend at their jobs), that they can't will themselves to give it up. They play on instead, hoping things will get better, and nursing a great and deep hatred for Sony and the game itself. If you play long enough, you will see this as the universal truth. People who quit are viewed as giving up on their guilds; they are ridiculed, denounced, and hated. There is massive peer pressure to keep playing. Often people you thought were your friends in the game were simply using you to advance, or improve their characters. Online relationships between people in EQ are fickle, and are only good as long as everyone's getting a good dose of the drug (loot, advancement in the game, and good social relations with their guild).

Perhaps now you've begun to see the other side of EQ: The buggier side, the darker side; the side of despair and anger, fear and frustration. The game will absorb your life if you let it, while the days and weeks melt away into oblivion. I have barely touched on the repetitive gameplay you must endure to reach the top levels of the game: killing mob after mob, hundreds upon hundreds in an endless non-challenging stream to gain experience. I have not said anything about linkdeath (losing your connection) from Sony network problems, or server crashes where you lose any experience or items recently attained (and for which you are not compensated by customer service). I have not said anything about the Legends(TM) subscriptions, where you get to pay $40/month to get the customer service that you should be receiving anyway. There are many other problems with this game that I did not go into here. Before you get into EQ, realize what you're jumping into. Look before you leap.

David Sanftenberg
aka Dolalin Bonewielder
62 Necromancer of Lanys T`Vyl

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EverQuest: What You Really Get From an Online Game

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  • Political System (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drunkrussian (619107)
    Maybe EQ needs some kind of player-based political system to make such decisions...it could also add a whole new level to the game.
  • Gotta say it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xerithane (13482) <xerithane@@@nerdfarm...org> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:32PM (#4967533) Homepage Journal
    Everquest is a game full of people who want to "win" and "be the best" at any cost.

    Because they can't be in real life. Yay for delusions of grandeur!
    • by telstar (236404) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:41PM (#4967621)
      Everquest is a game full of people who want to "win" and "be the best" at any cost.
      • "Because they can't be in real life. Yay for delusions of grandeur!"


        • Eh, somebody's got to hold the record for most twinkies eaten, fewest days in the gym, and fewest encounters with a real woman that doesn't go by the name "Mom". I'd say they're "the best" at some things.


  • by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@@@gmail...com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:34PM (#4967543) Homepage
    DON'T PLAY IT.
    • And share your experiences so that others may gain from them. Oh wait, that is what he is doing.
    • by Mynn (209621) on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:10PM (#4967890)
      Don't forget the expansion coming out, Kingdom of Stone, the phone version coming out, the single player version coming out, EQ2, and of course, EQ for the PS2.

      For someone who has never had to kick a habit, like drugs, drinking, sex, smoking, etc ... it's easy to stand there and laugh at those of us who have been there and tell us simply to "stop" or "don't".

      • For someone who has never had to kick a habit, like drugs, drinking, sex, smoking, etc ... it's easy to stand there and laugh at those of us who have been there and tell us simply to "stop" or "don't".

        I have a very addictive personality. I avoid drugs because I'm relatively certain I couldn't stop. The only games I play on the computer are ones like Freecell, Tetris, etc, for the same reason. I try not to criticize people who become addicted to things, but I think that if I can foresee an addiction than other people should be able to also.

        As for some advice, I think that the most effective way to kill an addiction is to stop yourself from being able to do it for a while. Cancel your credit card if you're addicted to EQ. Trust your money with someone else if you're addicted to cigarettes, so they can decide what you're allowed to buy. There is always a way to quit.

  • by Faggot (614416) <choads&gay,com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:34PM (#4967549) Homepage
    Gaming addiction is not a behavior of gamers... it's a behavior of addicts. The games just happen to be there for the addict's mind to latch onto.

    Blaming particular games (particularly in a manner which reeks of personal bitterness) for addictions is like blaming alcohol for alcoholism, or blaming heroin for junkies: it's a foil. The real ones to blame are the ones who are addicted.
    • And that's the market the original game designers targeted. Addicts keep the money coming in! Maybe Verant's ceo came from Philip Morris...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:55PM (#4967768)
      Blaming particular games (particularly in a manner which reeks of personal bitterness) for addictions is like blaming alcohol for alcoholism, or blaming heroin for junkies: it's a foil. The real ones to blame are the ones who are addicted.

      As far as i can tell, the story being discussed was not meant to blame Sony for creating an addictive game, it was to blame Sony for creating a poor addiction. It seemed more aimed at convincing current addicts to realize they aren't having fun, and warn new customers away from the game, than to actually alter or condemn the behavior of Sony itself. (Of course, it did seem *very* keen on condemning Sony, but i think that was more meant to be a secondary effect of the article. Altering Sony's behavior, on the other hand, the author appears to have given up on.)

      While, yes, of course, it is addictive personalities and addictive substances that are to *blame* for putting persons like Mr. Sanftenberg into situations like this, it is of note that addictive personalities have a wide variety of addictions to choose from, and there is nothing wrong with attempting to steer potential addicts toward more pleasant things to waste their time and effort on than, say, Everquest, even if said steering is done in something of a rather bitter manner. Semianonymous gay sex [adultfriendfinder.com], as you suggest, is i think a far more rewarding time sinkhole than MMORPGs.

      -- super ugly ultraman
    • by g4dget (579145)
      The games just happen to be there for the addict's mind to latch onto.

      So? I may also get addicted to mathematics or chess playing. But those don't cost money, they aren't designed by a company with making money in mind, I can enjoy them for many years to come, and they are generally socially acceptable.

      Sanftenberg's point is that EQ has few of those desirable attributes. People seem to stop enjoying it quickly, and, unlike many other things I could choose to get addicted to, EQ was designed with the goal in mind of a steady revenue stream for Sony.

      Sanftenberg's analysis is cogent and relevant. It tells people: "don't get addicted to this particular game, it's not worth it". That's a lot more useful information than the platitudes you are giving us.

      The real ones to blame are the ones who are addicted.

      There is nobody to "blame". "Addiction", meaning compulsion to engage in a particular activity, doubtlessly has served some useful evolutionary purpose. We have other examples of that: obesity is caused by behaviors and physiologies that demonstrably are advantageous in some environments.

      If addiction causes problems, those problems are a product of personality and environment. Placing blame is futile--it won't fix the problem. The solution is to change the environment and/or redirect the addiction towards more useful purposes.

      Until we get more worthwhile MMPORGs, I recommend people redirect their addictions towards, say, Yahoo! multiplayer games [yahoo.com]: chess, word games, etc. It doesn't cost anything and it's socially acceptable. And you can chat, too.

    • I agree... sort of (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ACNeal (595975)
      Personal Responsability is a concept that is being lost in this world, and to that point, I have to agree with you, it is the person who is ultimately to blame.

      We can use the analogy of the cigarette industry to demonstrate my complaint.

      The cigarette industry didn't get sued because it's product was addictive. They didn't get sued because they hid the fact that it was addicitive. Ultimately, what the suit was over was the fact that they actively tried to addict people to the cigarettes in a very seruptitious method. They would change the levels of the addictive substance (in the same "strength" of the product) at seeming random intervals. This would cause you to start smoking more cigarettes when they lowered the level to get the same buzz. Then when they raised it, you would maintain that number of cigarettes per day. Then when they lowered it again, it would cause you to start smoking even more cigarettes per day. This was the main complaint of the suit.

      Sony, or Verant, or whoever (that is a pointless argument overly used to obfuscate the "problem") employs the very same concepts to ensnare people into playing their game. The reward system employed by them isn't at all fair, consistant, or reasonable. The fact that they change the meaning, strength, or utility of different spells, items, or character types from one day to the next means no one knows what to expect from one day to the next.

      One could argue that they are employing specific tactics to ensnare borderline addicts, and completely control addictive personalities. Yes, the addict has the ultimate responsability. That doesn't totally alleviate the pusher from giving out free samples, uping the dosage, or some other trick everytime it looks like one of their users is kicking the habit.
  • "By that time though, you're so "addicted" to the game, you don't realize it. The game becomes a source of frustration and anger instead of a source of entertainment and fun. It becomes a chore..."

    gee, if thats the case Id rather Play BRE!
  • by overunderunderdone (521462) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:35PM (#4967557)

    EverQuest Gold [amazon.com]
    Includes EverQuest and the expansions Ruins of Kunark, Scars of Velious, Shadows of Luclin, and Planes of Power.
  • by telstar (236404)
    "Most likely you've heard from friends how great this "addictive" game is..."
    • People do this because it allows them to cultivate the friendships they can't in the real world. Most likely they didn't hear it from
    • friends because most likely they don't have many or any.
  • Everquest (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mut3 (634239) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:36PM (#4967570)
    This game does have some interesting ideas, but still, 12.95 a month for a game that would require 1000+ hrs to make it even some what fun, is a waste of people's time.
  • by Jonny 290 (260890) <[ten.epatcud] [ta] [semajorb]> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:36PM (#4967571) Homepage
    You signed up for a monthly-subscription massively multiplayer online RPG with thousands upon thousands of 50-hour-a-week players, and you expected it to be anything BESIDES a level treadmill and venue for inter-class bitching?
    • by BasharTeg (71923) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:01PM (#4968322) Homepage
      In his next review Sanftenberg is going to subscribe to a porn site, download porn, become addicted to it, complain that the porn producers won't have the porn starts do what HE wants them to do, scream about how slow the porn downloads are, rail against the repetitiveness of watching single heterosexual porn couples in the 3 or 4 most common positions, then rant and rave about how porn is addictive, drains all your money, and ruins your life. The whole review will be typed with his left hand of course.

      Get a life.
  • by craenor (623901) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:36PM (#4967572) Homepage
    And enjoyed playing it for over 3.5 years now. In the past year I have slowed down my play some, but once I revelled in the "uber guild" end game of EverQuest.

    This person is obviously bitter and I can't argue with many of their points. The game is addictive, getting what you want from customer service is hard sometimes...

    But if you manage to keep track of the fact that it's a game, you'll enjoy the experience much, much more. Relax and enjoy it, they've done a phenomenal job.

    As for the complaint that Sony doesn't care. Well...they have continued to improve the game and add features customer's request at a steady and impressive rate.

    YMMV
    • I think the problem is that the author mixed up various issues and ended up with a pretty incoherent argument by attaching repeatedly the label "addictive" to the EverQuest experience, as if the game were a drug with physical withdrawal symptoms like heroin.

      It isn't, it doesn't have any such symptoms at all. It has the addictive properties of a fun day out with friends --- a very appropriate analogy because most of one's time in EQ at the higher levels is spent in a social framework with other guildies. It's as addictive as pizza, in that you can stay away from EQ for a couple of weeks or so, but eventually you want to go back, because "you like it", like pizza. Well, OK, maybe pizza is more addictive, as two weeks without pizza is a long time.

      But I've yet to break out in sweat, tremble in shivers, be any later for appointments than normal (:-), hold up a drugstore to pay for the next "hit", or lose contact with family and friends as a result of enjoying EverQuest. The analogies made with drugs are simply wrong. None of my many work colleagues that also live in EQ seem to suffer from heroin-like symptoms either.

      Maybe some of the misunderstanding stems from considering EQ as an inconsequential game, because if it were inconsequential then there would be no reason other than addiction for staying so many hours per week in the EQ universe. But it's not just a game by any stretch of the imagination, it's more of an online existence. Although it's still early days in this area, EQ provides as fine a framework for socializing in a virtual world as you can get so far.

      So, is EverQuest addictive? Of course it is, just like everything else that we enjoy a lot is addictive. But you've got to be careful when using that label. It's very easy to misuse it.

      Finally, be very careful when condeming virtual worlds for being enjoyable, because we will in due course have our own free and open virtual worlds, outside of the control of money-grabbing corporates and with the kind of "customer service" with which are well accustomed in this community. When that happens, the label of "addictive" will be seen for what it really is --- pure FUD.
  • Everquest (Score:5, Funny)

    by bogie (31020) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:37PM (#4967580) Journal
    "What they don't tell you is that taking your money is about all they're interested in. They care little for player complaints, and less about player suggestions and requests. They're in this to milk you for all you're worth, and that's the first thing you have to know."

    Welcome to Reality. I hope you enjoy your stay.
    • by V_drive (522339) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:22PM (#4968478)
      I frequently see the anti-capitalist rant. "The companies don't care about me. They care only about making money!"

      When was the last time you bought something from Sony and gave them an extra $5 to help them out? No, you paid the minimum amount--just enough so that you could legally acquire what you were purchasing. Must be that you care only about keeping as much money as you possibly can. Your motives are selfish and greedy.

      Sure Sony doesn't love me. I'm okay with that. I don't love Sony. Every now and then, they offer a product or serivce I want for a price i like and we do business. That's where our relationship ends. They provide me no more than I pay for, and I pay for no more than they provide me.

      There are some exceptions--times when I've acted specifically to support a particular company. However, my efforts are primarily greedy because it's always a company I want to survive and grow, or a situation in which the company owner is a friend of mine.

      Love your family and friends and get it in return from them. Business is just business.
      • by gr (4059)
        When was the last time you bought something from Sony and gave them an extra $5 to help them out? No, you paid the minimum amount--just enough so that you could legally acquire what you were purchasing. Must be that you care only about keeping as much money as you possibly can. Your motives are selfish and greedy
        What color is the sky where you live? Can you actually read that aloud with a straight face? You're blaming a consumer for paying market value for something and then having the outrageous gaul to criticize what he purchased?

        I'll agree this whole article smells of sour grapes, but there's a kernel in there somewhere of a legitimate complaint that Sony is not treating their customers in a reasonable manner. I'm a Unix systems administrator. If I make a change to the way in which a system functions and it breaks something for a client, my company almost definitely loses money, and if that happens enough, we lose clients. Sony is in the remarkable position that its clients don't vote with their wallets, but that doesn't mean they're allowed to hold those clients in complete disrespect.

        You're welcome to devolve everything into personal interest (and it's quite easy to do so), but try not to state your belief like it's absolute truth, eh?
  • What A Joke (Score:4, Redundant)

    by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:38PM (#4967588)
    What a joke!

    Perhaps now you've begun to see the other side of EQ: The buggier side, the darker side; the side of despair and anger, fear and frustration

    And then..

    game will absorb your life if you let it, while the days and weeks melt away into oblivion.

    And of course

    ...repetitive gameplay you must endure...

    Enough with the victimhood nonsense! Enough pretending like it is being inflicted on you!

    Is this a sick joke? Everyone is a victim. Everyone is abused. Everyone is being held hostage by forces bigger than themselves. We are helpless! Ohh no! Panic!

    GROW UP PEOPLE. It is only a video game. Play it, don't play it. Who cares.

    This type of stuff really is just an insightful indicator into the larger problems of our current culture.
    • Re:What A Joke (Score:3, Informative)

      Enough with the victimhood nonsense! Enough pretending like it is being inflicted on you!

      Is this a sick joke? Everyone is a victim. Everyone is abused. Everyone is being held hostage by forces bigger than themselves. We are helpless! Ohh no! Panic!

      GROW UP PEOPLE. It is only a video game. Play it, don't play it. Who cares.


      Perhaps this site needs a new motto. SlashDot: There place where Libertarians (or whatever this idiot is) know more about addiction than Psychologists.

      If you have some conclusive evidence that video game "addiction" is not real, then you should present it now. Otherwise, you'll just have to accept that perhaps video games can be addictive (the jury's still out on that: see the bottom of this page [mediafamily.org] for a list of articles in academic journals on the topic).

      Perhaps these people are talking about becoming addicted to video games, and perhaps their addictions are real. I don't think you can prove otherwise. In the overwhelmingly likely event that you cannot, then your blase attitude not only foolish, but perhaps downright harmful (Imagine what it would be like if people reacted like this to alcoholics!) So stop acting like you know more than everybody else, including the people who are actually studying this issue.
      • Re:What A Joke (Score:3, Insightful)

        by danheskett (178529)
        So stop acting like you know more than everybody else, including the people who are actually studying this issue.
        Okay, I gotta respond.

        I am well aware of how addiction works, but lets establish a few things:

        1. Dependency occurs in two primary ways. First, your body can become chemically dependent on a drug. Cocaine, alcohol, etc. These drugs trigger stuff your brain wants. Your brain demands more of the stuff it wants, and that sets off urges to consume cocaine, alcohol, etc. There is lots of debate on what makes some people more susceptible to this than other people. This is not a solved issue by any means. 2. Dependency also occurs without additional chemicals. This is how people get addicted to pleasurable things - sex, video games, etc. You get happy when doing things you like. Your brain likes to be happy. It demands more of the stuff that makes it happy, and that triggers urges.

        So great. We got that, okay?

        When you withdraw from a chemical you are dependent on your body physically revolts. REVOLTS. Puking, shivers, etc. You are hooked. Resisting is more painful in the short term than filling the hole with more and more chemicals. When you stop doing an activity that you are addicted to (these used to be called "habits"), you do not experience these same characteristics. You might feel aniexty, you might feel pain, but you are not *physically* experiencing withdrawl.

        The jury IS still out. But the bottom line is this: I don't buy into "addiction" as a "disease", and neither should you. If you are an addict to something that is harmful, than you have a defect. You are defective. You are not diseased. You did not get this defect from hanging around dead rats. Somewhere along your life you became mentally defective. There was a time when alcoholics were "drunks" and people did stuff out of "habit". "Break the habit" was a serious medical prescription. If you are addicted to anything (there are so few exclusions they are barely worth mentioning, for example, you are born addicted to crack; for example, you are force fed video games at gun point) it is because you blessed it. Any day you continue to be addicted against your will is further proof of your defect.

        The jury is out, but they can say anything. Because at the end of the day, no matter how compulsed you may think you are it is all about what is in your head. If you can't quit its because you made it so, because you are a weak person.

        My attitude is not what is harmful. YOUR attitude which is pro-actively that of a classic "enabler" is harmful. PROVEN harmful. I will say it clearly again: if you can't break an addiction to something it is your own fault. No matter what. There is no one to blame but yourself. You are defective.

  • It's a game. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by antis0c (133550) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:38PM (#4967589)
    I'm not going to try and lecture you or come up with some kind of witty retort.

    Simply stated:

    It's a video game. If it pisses you off, turn off the computer, go outside and take a walk.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This articles describes NOTHING about EverQuest and EVERYTHING about the author's personal gripes because his game of EverQuest isn't going the way he likes.

    I have never played EverQuest, but I have been curious what all the fuss was about. Of course every time I try to find out by searching on Google, all I find is people talking about playing, but no one actually describing the point of the game or even posting a screenshot. I really want to know what the game is about.

    You say the game is addictive. Great. Tell me why. Tell me what keeps drawing you back. Don't feed me your laundry list of problems with Sony's sysadmins. Don't complain to me about how Sony doesn't care about their users. Tell me about the freakin' game!

    • by Mr Guy (547690) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:54PM (#4967759) Journal
      It's addictive because it's fun.

      Whether or not the author wants to admit it, it is VERY MUCH like the BEST parts of a casino, without the chance of losing your entire paycheck (well you could, but at 12.95 per account that's alot of accounts!)

      Whether or not he gets 'screwed' by changes he doesn't like, the reason he plays is because he LIKES that moment when you THINK you will all die, but you win in the end.

      He LIKES the teamwork.

      He LIKES the feeling of progress when you waste 100+ hours but finally get that last brick of whatever.

      He LIKES clicking combine and have an item appear on the end of the cursor or a text message show up saying, "You have gotten better at Tailoring (250)".

      He LIKES talking to friends.

      He LIKES planning things, following through, and tasting victory.

      He LIKES seeing: "You have gained experience! Welcome to level 62"

      He LIKES going back to places he's been and feeling incredibly powerful, like Sauron blowing through the enemy hordes.

      He LIKES see his armor get better, his skills go up, and being able to kill bigger things.

      He LIKES all of that, despite bad timing keeping him from getting certain mobs, bad luck keeping him from getting certain drops, bad planning preventing him from keeping things that are too strong for the game design, bad customer service to explain why his uber sword of necro dick licking had to be taken from him.

      Most of all, he likes all of that despite his bad perspective that convinces him someone OWES him something. It's a game and it's addictive because it lets you set your own goals and work with other people to achieve them.

      Maybe his problem is just that he needs to work on how he sets his goals.
    • by Uller-RM (65231) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:55PM (#4967769) Homepage
      He actually describes the game pretty well. :P

      You create a character with six vital statistics, a spell/skill book, and a bunch of empty slots for inventory. You put armor and weapons in your inventory slots. You walk your blocky 100-triangle avatar out in a third-person view, you click on a monster to target it, and you hit a key to start auto-attacking it. You sit there twiddling your thumbs until either it dies or you die.

      Once you get a few levels, you can start getting spells and skills. These make it slightly less boring -- you make your character sit, and memorize spells, and then drag them to a bar on your screen, and you can hit 1-8 to cast them in battle. It's still pretty boring.

      That, right there, is the game in a nutshell. You use a mix of auto-attacking and spells (or, being honest, either one or the other depending on your class) to kill creatures and level up. There is no plot, no rise in stature beyond who has the best items (aka phat lootz) and highest levels. Oh, and one thing the article writer forgot to mention -- those high-level planar raids have to be signed up for on a calendar up to two months in advance.

      Yes, that's the game. What people get addicted to is the in-game chat, the shared experiences and what people share when they've got little else to do. I played EQ for two years before getting bored with it, and never got beyond lv20 -- my fondest memory of it is just BSing one night with a friend, drinking myself silly in-game (there's actually an Alcohol Tolerance skill) and doing drunken leaps off the bridges of a tree city called Felwithe.

      The author's mostly just a whiny little technogoth -- but the game really doesn't have that much to offer. For the cost of the game and four expansions, and a few months subscription, you could easily buy an XBox and a copy of Splinter Cell, or upgrade your video card and play Doom 3 in a few months... or, my preference, do something nice for your significant other. Believe me, I'd rather have warm arms around me than an item in EQ anyday.
  • by HBI (604924)
    ...all have this in common. You are at the mercy of whomever develops it. MMORPGs run by large commercial outfits are particularly able to lose sight of the target, which is player satisfaction.

    Still, one cannot blame Sony entirely. Players have unreasonable expectations based upon their unique point of view. They want a 'fun' game. The makers of the game are concerned about bottom line, and game balance, in that order.

    I run a free mud so i have a bit of perspective on this. I used to play muds, but it's like crack. So I just code lightly for those who are still addicted and try to run a sort of 'halfway house'.
  • Tis True (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NfoCipher (161094) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:41PM (#4967623) Homepage
    I sunk 2 years of my free time into the game. Had something like 150 days played time (that's 24 hours x 150) and all it got me was a poorly rendered avatar that could still die to the lowest level monsters if left alone for 5 minutes.
    Ended up selling the account after I came to my senses. Got my money back on the software costs and monthly fees, but I'll be on my death bed wishing I hadn't spent all that time wasting away playing EQ.
  • A Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FortKnox (169099) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:42PM (#4967632) Homepage Journal
    A simple solution to all MMORPGs.

    The introduction of an age system.
    An age system will benefit those that don't have a lot of time to game, but want to play the game, those that have time to be a little better than the lite gamers, but its still competitive, and you can discourage addictive play. The simple idea is the more you play, the more you age (until death).

    For example:
    For your 'lite' gamer that can't spend a lot of time on the game, they can start off with an 'auto-30-year old char.' This character has a good deal of skill without having to spend time getting the skill. So you can jump on, be competitive with those that spend a great deal of time building their character, and still have fun.
    For your 'heavy' gamer, you start off with a '16 year old char.' This character can be better than the auto-30 year old, by playing him until he reaches that age, and building the skills yourself. You get the benefit of better skills than the lite player by spending time building your character by yourself, but its still competitive, and, therefore, fun.
    For the 'addict', you have a death age. When you char hits 40, your skills begin to degrade until you eventually die (yes, you character is no longer usable. Its gone.). This is a tactic to discourage addiction.

    Of course, this would never be implemented on a system that has a monthly charge, because the addicts are the ones willing to pay it, but it would be good for games that don't have a monthly charge.
  • by Maxwell_E (16977) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:42PM (#4967634)
    Have been the sort of, if you don't like it, don't play it!
    I think it's this sort of defensive vitriolic reply that defeats the point of the article. That being, if you are considering playing EQ than you should probably save your money for something else. Albeit an obvious point. I myself found the game to be unfun after about 6 months running into many of the same problems. What did I do? Quit. I mean really, you EQ fan boys should just move along from this thread, it's not intended for you as I see it.
  • I don't pay monthly fees for games. I pay one-time fees for games and then play them all I want, online or off. You hear that, game developers?
  • Skinner Box Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aggrazel (13616) <aggrazel@gmail.com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:44PM (#4967648) Journal
    The most startling fact about EverQuest is how well it conforms to the Skinner Box model, making one believe that Verant specifically designed their product around principles to make it more addictive than it would be otherwise.

    Here [nickyee.com] is an interesting read on that subject.

    Honestly, if the company is exploiting psychological theory in order to make their game addictive on purpose, its not much different from cigarette companies using nicotine or cola companies using caffiene IMO.

    Bad? Maybe... I've heard of a lot of otherwise well adjusted people playing EQ to thier own detriment. But then, ultimately it is the responsibility of the individual to take care of themselves.
    • by JanneM (7445)
      This is _exactly_ how many games work to motivate the player. You do something, get a small reward, do something, get a reward ad infinitum.

      What is more, the frustrations he describes about going through hoards of lower level monsterw with no reward, and frequent boss monsters with little or no reward is exactly in line with it as well. Far from lessening the players motivation, it strengthens it. Other aspects that seem taken straight from classical or instumental conditioning are monsters that only occasionally bear a reward (a variation of the above), periodic resupply of opportunities for rewards (rather than having them there at all times), and the importance of guilds (as social approval is the strongest reward we have available).

      This is not true just for Everquest and its ilk; even the lowly Tetris and Minesweeper uses these mechanisms to hook their players.

      Now, as the writer has found out, motivation does _not_ have to imply happiness (there's even some solid neurophysiological backing for this). And why would Sony care if you are happy, as long as you are motivated anyhow?

      So is this like cigarettes? Well, no. There is a strong motivational component in tobacco addiction, but there is a physiological component as well that is missing here. Also, in the end, cigarrettes do cause cancer and other lung-related diseases, while playing Everquest is no more dangerous than any kind of computer use (obesity and heart condition due to incufficient exercize and so on).
  • that was the exact reason I stopped playing... It stopped being fun. I just hit that point sooner than most people. But now my fiance wants to try out Asherons Call ... is that any better? Should I split the cost of an account with her?

    When is Rekonstruction going to finally come out?

  • My Precious (Score:4, Funny)

    by DoNotTauntHappyFunBa (592447) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:45PM (#4967659)

    You plod away at the keyboard, obsessed and consumed with getting that new item, or finishing that last quest, and while so consumed you begin to hate the game. Vehemently. It's a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win.


    "He loves and hates the ring, as he loves and hates himself."
    -Gandalf in the first LOTR movie, referring to Gollum.

  • I have known of many of these problems from my friends experiences playing the game. They convinced me to play for a whole month, and I said forget it guys, this game sucks. Ultima Online was WAY better, and guess what, in a couple months we were all back playing that.

    Anyway, is anyone at all convinced that any of this will change with the new games being developed? SWG is close to being released, and I already see some problems...

    My big concern is Everquest 2. Some of these issues are big and annoying enough to piss off everyone but the people who are playing EQ right now, and why would they want to lose their Uber characters?

    We've had a lot of discussion of this over at eqii.com [eqii.com], and I dont think we've come to a decision whatsoever. It seems to me that for some reason people look past these huge problems to play the game, and I just dont understand it.

  • by bogie (31020) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:45PM (#4967662) Journal
    " It's a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win."

    So your saying that the only winning move is not to play? How about a nice game of chess?
  • Except for the fact that you're paying for it, I didn't see any part of the rant that couldn't have applied to a text mud a decade ago.

    I guess the only difference there was that anyone who was on 'em was normally a college student or researcher (or you didn't have internet access) which changed the overall mindset of the population, and we weren't paying, so there was no reason to feel compelled to play to make the most of our subscription -- some people would take a long hiatus (ie, on academic suspension after gaming too much and having to take a semester off), or there'd be those of us who would just hang out and talk to people, maybe game a little on the side.

    Oh...and the fact that the coders didn't get paid. Normally meant that most of the people who wrote the game also played it regularly, and would fix whatever it was they thought was broken.
  • by Emmettfish (573105) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:51PM (#4967729) Homepage
    It's a commercial game, released and maintained by a commercial company in order to make money. Corporations exist to make and process money, in order to return value to their shareholders and/or investors.

    Every commercial game produced is released in order to make money. The reality of this seems to have escaped the author of this review.

    As a consumer, you have a number of choices. You can choose to buy the game and play it, or you can choose to buy the game and not play it. You can also choose not to buy the game, as well.

    The problem that the author is trying to address has nothing to do with Everquest; It has everything to do with the perception of value. He wants you to know what you're getting into, and he obviously feels that EverQuest is not worth the money.

    Some games are addictive; The only difference is that you're not spending $x every month to play Tetris. Saying that 'you can't win' doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There are a lot of games you can't win; I own several of them.

    Spy Hunter (the arcade game) was a great game. It cost twenty-five cents, and there's no way to win. It goes on forever. If you want to play Spy Hunter as long as you want to play EverQuest, it'll cost a hell of a lot more, unless you have crazy-mad Spy Hunter skills.

    EverQuest offers a flat monthly rate. Some people pay something like $10 an hour for this, because they only play a couple hours a month. Some people are logged in sixteen hours a day. From an entertainment point of view, the people who are 'addicted to the game' are actually getting more value for their money. Read that again. Addicted to EverQuest: Hopeless gamer, or thifty shopper?

    Maybe they don't update their site as often as they should. Are site updates part of the cost, or can anyone access them? If you're not paying for it, it does not apply to the 'value for money' problem. Poor updates, inefficient game masters... If you don't want to deal with this, don't buy the game, I suppose. On the other hand, I wouldn't rush out and buy a game that claims 'Kick-Ass Support!' and 'EXTREME GAME-MASTERING.' Game companies in the future will likely feel the same way, and just keep putting hot chicks on the boxes in the store.

    All in all, I do appreciate the honesty of the rant, and I do believe that many people may not understand the value proposition of EverQuest before they buy the game and start playing. On the other hand, caveat emptor, baby!

    Emmett Plant [mailto]
    CEO, Xiph.org Foundation [xiph.org]

  • by Lumpish Scholar (17107) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:55PM (#4967765) Homepage Journal
    Some of what you said is EQ specific. Some is coporate greed and indifference.

    At the moment, The Sims Online has just jumped from beta to production, and is "the hot thing" for Electronic Arts. I've got to believe indifference will be minimized at this point; maybe greed, too. The "mob" and "timekiller" stuff doesn't seem to apply.

    Should EQers move from pikes to pizza, from dungeons to decorating, swords to Sims?

    And the big question for Sony, since any individual player has time for at most one online addiction: How many will switch?
  • by wwwssabbsdotcom (604349) on Friday December 27, 2002 @01:56PM (#4967772) Homepage
    I did appear to be one person's opinion of the Everquest universe, but everyone has their own opinion on MMORPGS. I personally became "addicted" to Asheron's Call (1) and then am currently playing Asheron's Call (2). A much smaller fanbase (7K after 3 weeks of release), compared to over 100,000 for EQ, but I also enjoy playing stand alone games, or free online games such as Halo on Xbox, or AoE on the PC. Homeworld is great, Metal Gear Solid on the consoles as well.

    One person's alternate fantasy/addiction is another person's misunderstood waste of money. I think we'll see a lot more MMORPGS come out, some come and go, because people want to interact with other human beings, not a bot, not a macro, not a program. I find a great sense of teamwork having 4-5 other humans from around the world, maybe a magic user or two, a melee, two archers and just healing each other, fighting, some witty banter, and not necessarily the big time commitment of EQ, but enjoy to enjoy the sense of community. Also, in the other games, or on specific servers, people want to KILL each other and have a human opponent to defeat. Each to their own.

    One of my most memorable moments in online gaming was surprisingly in WWII Online a few weeks ago. I had chosen to play a French rifleman since the town where the action was didnt have any tanks to spawn, and when I appeared in the base, I heard this drone in the sky. It didnt sound like a bomber, or a lone fighter zipping by, I panned up and looked and saw 5 (YES FIVE) bombers almost in perfect formation heading towards the front lines. Now each bomber can have 3+ humans flying in it, all from different places on the internet. How does one fly in formation online with other people on the internet? I was amazed and laughed, but its a sense of teamwork which will keep the masses coming for more for online games.

  • by JoeShmoe (90109) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:01PM (#4967817)
    http://www.progressquest.com

    I guarantee you won't have any of the problems this guy mentions. There are plenty of monsters, you'll never worry about artificial scarcity. There are fantastic items, and they never get taken away from you. There are no level caps or future expansion packs required. And now that they have added guilds, you can have everything you had in EverQuest, albeit without the fancy 3D rendered graphics.

    But this guy said the only factor is spending time, right? Well, then Progress Quest is the best choice...there is no other factor but time!

    - JoeShmoe

    .
  • by Blackwulf (34848) on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:06PM (#4967856) Homepage
    I'm not gonna sit here and "defend" Sony or Verant or Absor or any of them, even though I have had the pleasure of meeting with them personally and sharing beers with them. This article is obviously by a bitter gamer who wants to smear EQ's reputation through the mud, and that's fine. This is the age of the Internet, and it's his right to do that.

    I left the Guide program due to hardware issues about a year ago - after about two years of service. This was back when we had our own GM on the server, but it was difficult to get in touch with him during his work hours. Why? Because of kids. Because he had to clean up after scammers and recover lost items...He was insanely busy for his entire shift, and he wouldn't really be on server all that much.

    When I was a Guide, I can safely say that out of every 20 petitions I fielded, I was able to help about 17 or 18 of them. I was able to help the majority of the players I conversed with during my shift. But you don't hear about them. You don't hear about the people that had the volunteer CS staff help them in a quick and expedient manner. They don't come out and say "Thank you." You only heat about people like the author of this article, who feels he has been wronged. The ones that say that we didn't care.

    And then, there are the people who petition and won't let you help them. Even if you do exactly what they ask, they will still curse you out and and call you incompetent. Or, if you inquire more information about the problem, they demand that you stop asking questions and just fix it. (As if we had access to the source code and could just recompile it on the fly...) Yes, I know. This is reality. This is how I was treated working in Retail, too. But luckily, people like this were very, very, VERY few and far between.

    We did care about every situation, every petition. I was a Guide on one of the two Teams-PvP servers, so not only did we have to deal with training and kill stealing, but we also had corpse campers, bind rushers, and immortal healing. Some of these were no-nos, and some of these (like immortal healing, where someone outside of PvP range would heal someone who's killing you) were deemed "Okay" by Sony. Did I agree with the ruling? Not really, but there's really not much Guides could do. The author of the article is right - we pretty much had our hands and feet tied. We were the eyes and ears of the GM's - nothing more. We could unstick players from walls and document warnings for behavior if they were dumb enough to still do it while we were staring at them. (We could be invisible.)

    I don't know how things are now inside the program, but I can say that when I was in it, we actually were helping many people and people enjoyed their time in EQ because of the ways we helped them. There are far more of those type of people than the type of people like the author of this article. However, everybody that will reply to my message here will be the bitter types that will tell me that I'm just a Sony PR person that believes the kool-aid fed to me by Michelle Butler for two years. (Just you watch, some AC will just cut and paste that exact sentence, or change a word or two.) :>

    I stopped playing EverQuest because all my friends did - and there was no reason to stick around. However, we're all waiting for Star Wars: Galaxies. And you guessed it, it's by the same guys who made EQ.

    For the bitter ones, you might want to stay away from all online games, because it will just be "Wash, Rinse, Repeat" for you.

    If you're still open to an enjoyable experience, we're in for one helluva ride.

    I think the moral of this whole topic is: EQ in moderation is awesome. But don't let yourself get bitter. That only brings you down.
  • by Quixadhal (45024) on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:24PM (#4967999) Homepage Journal
    You know, my initial thought was to respond to this in detail. I played EQ for some time, and eventually got bored with it and quit. Thus, the *GAME* is not any more addictive than any other recreational activity. Many, many people are far more "addicted" to television, sitting in front of the tube letting the hours melt away with absolutely nothing to show for it (and in fact, paying a monthly subscription to a cable company or satellite provider!).

    Why don't you go on about how these poor people are being mistreated by the television networks? Afterall, THEY have no say in what they get to watch either. Customer service never pays any attention to the television viewer, and certainly diputes amongst family members over what channel will be turned on are ignored. Why some kids will actually set the VCR up to tape a channel just to keep their sibling from watching something else! Artificial scarcity of resources and regular "spawns" of TV shows are commonplace here too.

    It's a game. It's a way to ignore reality for some amount of time so you don't become so depressed/angry at your situation/boss/President/etc, that you go postal. When it starts being more effort than fun, you stop playing it. If you can't do that, you have an addictive personality and need help. Be thankful you're only addicted to a $10/month game instead of crack or trips to the casino!

    Not every game needs to have a "win-state". The point of a mud (and EQ is nothing more than a DikuMUD with a graphics engine replacing the room engine) is to enjoy playing it... there often is no ultimate goal (well, for some it was becoming a builder... but you can't do that with Sony), other than to be more powerful than your neighbor. The main difference is that a graphical mud doesn't let you use your imagination the way a text game does. Try reading a book instead of watching a movie sometime, you might get the idea.
  • by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:49PM (#4968219)
    I think someone needs to point out the challenges facing the developers of Everquest. They have a world of 400,000 players with as many as 100,000+ simultanious spread across 30+ servers each with roughly 175 areas, 10,000+ MOBS, 16,000+ items, 2,000+ quests, 3000+ tradeskill recipes, and 300+ factions. (stats from Allakhazam's [allakhazam.com].) It is a world with an infinite number of complexities built on a framework that was set years ago.

    Any change in any part of the game has a signifigant chance of effecting multiple other parts of the game that no-one could predict. Players beat challenges with a speed that is awe-inspireing and demand more. Infact, the players do nothing but demand. ANY imbalance in the 15 classes causes thousands of complains. People get mad about the time that servers are patched, things spawning to fast and too slow. Things being too easy and too tough. Items entering the too fast or too slow. Players will use any method to win they can find whether legitimate or blatently exploitive. And then get mad when exploitive methods are removed.

    SoE (Sony online Entertainment) is trying to satisfy hundreds of thousands of people of different levels, different classes, different races, different play times, different lengths of play and different goals, and at the same time trying to keep the game sustainable for the future. You can satisfy all the people some of the time, or some of the people all the time, but never all the people all the time. And those unsatisfied will be as loud about it as they possibly can.

    I'm not trying to justify how SoE runs the game. I disagree with a lot that they do. They are by no means saints. But they DO face a daunting task.

  • by hamhocks (255514) on Friday December 27, 2002 @02:56PM (#4968282) Homepage
    "It's a game that goes on forever, and one that you can never win."

    After all, it *is* called EVERquest...
  • Dark Age Of Camelot (Score:3, Informative)

    by polarbear (611) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:02PM (#4968327)
    I'm suprised no one has brought up the many other games available in the same genre.

    One of them is Dark Age of Camelot. While not a perfect game itself its better then EQ in almost every regard. In fact sony hiding server populations and many of the newer features in EQ were pathetic ripoffs and "inspirations" copied from DAOC (much like many DAOC features were copied from EQ, UO, AC, etc). The released information about EQ2 looks more like DAOC rehashed then EQ... That should tell you something.

    DAOC servers are broken down into three types. The first is the most numerous, Realm vs Realm. This is where there are three realms, each with their own PvE content, that fight over forts, etc against members of opposite realms. On these servers your "uberguilds" are no where near as obnoxious as on EQ because it takes team work and alliances and overall good relations with your fellow realmmates or else your leadership is going to be laughed off and you are not going to be invited to relic raids and similar.

    The second server type is PvP. There are two servers, each where people can kill each other and travel freely between the three realms. I have to admit, it me its a pit of d00dness, but some people seem to really enjoy it.

    The third server is Co-Operative (aka "CareBear" aka what most EQ people play). Here PvP is limited to formal duels and you can travel freely among all three realms. With the expansion pack and all three realms open to you there is _a lot_ of high quality content.

    For more information you can poke around http://www.camelotherald.com. And while there poke around the server, guild, and character pages and note how pathetic it is to pay Sony $40/month for what Camelot gives to you for $12.95/month.

    Some comments on EQ "problems" not present in DAOC:

    - Training. Mobs pulled by other people not in your group leave you the hell alone and turn to their spawn points. This prevents _many_ problems that pissed off players, etc in EQ. If you don't touch a train, it doesn't touch you. (Of course in the dungeon Darkness Falls people have AE groups that often screw up and touch passing mobs and there are a few bugs, but its _nowhere_ near EQ)

    - Death and corpses. No finding your corpse, no asking for a bind or finding a bind npc (which was added in response to DAOC), no corpse graveyards, no waiting five hours for a GM to help you figure out where the hell your corpse is. You die, you lay there and either wait up to X minutes for someone to rez you, or you release and go back to your bind point with all your gear. You just loose a relatively small amount of exp, a relatively small amount of money (to buy back the CON points you lost), and the time it takes to get back where you were.

    - Camping - nowhere near as bad. There are plenty of spots to camp and wait lists are almost nonexistant except for one or two spots server wide (which I don't really understand considering there are many other spots but I guess people love killing the same mob over and over again for 10% more exp then other uncamped spots... *shrug*)

    - Loot - loot from creatures killed by a group is randomly distributed between members of the group. Most servers have a code of honor about "need before greed" and most people happily /roll if there is a contention. If you (or your group) didn't do like 50%+ damage to it, you can't loot it. Also you don't get loot from grays so no farming the same spot forever.

    Also camping for a day plus for loot is pretty rare. Crafting in DAOC is infinitely more viable and with armorcrafting and spellcrafting you can create some very nice suits of armor, etc with magic stats that rival anything you can get from a drop in the old world. (In the new world most of the drops from creatures are randomly generated items... so camping a particular spawn is kinda pointless)

    - Quests - needed mobs respawn fast, almost all of them (with the exception of a couple stages of an epic quest) can be done alone. If multiple people have the same quest they can group and when the mob dies they will all get the same item.

    - Kill stealing - very rare in comparison, the CSR (Customer Service Reps - aka EQ GM's) _do_ care and actually do crap about it. The game also has some safe guards built in dealing with looting, etc (see above)

    - Customer Service - stuck/emergency game stopping appeals usually get a response in 5 to 10 minutes. Other lower priority requests get a response in anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. My average seems to be an hour. With that said, I have not had a reason to speak to a CSR in over four months. No lost corpses, no quests that didn't work, no kill stealing to complain about. How do I know the wait times?
    From speaking to others and you can actually type /appeal and it tells you the wait time and how many appeals in queue and how many CSRs.

    - Faster repop rates - The "Uber" mobs pop a lot faster and are usually surrounded by so many pops that its near impossible to claim a spot for a prolonged period of time. I think the slowest repops are the three dragons, which are a tad under a day (but then again, people only tend to raid them once a week anyways).

    - Level cap is 50. It wasn't raised by the expansion pack (*cough* kunark *cough*). Post-50 character development is done via realm points earned by killing enemies in RvR (or on the carebear server, killing the high level mobs that attack and take over the frontier forts). It takes _far_ less time to reach

    - Content. Yep, EQ wins by shear numbers. But falls flat in comparison to the carebear server and expansion pack when it comes to content available to people who are not in uber guilds or are below level 50.

    - Feel. On the RvR servers, the feeling is much friendlier for the most part. Guilds work together. There are arguments, and blow ups, alliances, etc... makes things interesting.

    There is a lot more. But this is long enough already. :)

    I played EQ for about 16 months and I've now played DAOC since its release. DAOC has proven to be much more fun, less iritating as a whole, with much more to do. I've rolled so many characters for fun on different servers in the same it took me to level up two EQ characters to a level where I would have had to invested a year or two and whored myself out to some guild to see the "end game".

  • by CamShaft (103126) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:05PM (#4968346)

    I have played EverQuest, up to and including the "end game" as a member of the strongest guild on a server, and I have to disagree with the general slant of Mr. Sanftenberg's comments.

    EverQuest is a game, a form of entertainment, and a fun way to fill your spare time if you are into any of the things it provides, from RPG/Action/Adventure gaming to online social interaction to powergaming. You can enjoy playing EverQuest in 1hr sessions or 16hr sessions.

    I had a ton of fun playing EverQuest. I started when the first public beta was offered, and I have great memories of exploring the giant landscape with a helpless little avatar that was scared for his life. I interacted with other characters and formed friendships that now exist outside of EverQuest. I played the "end game" and completed the "timesinks" that Mr. Sanftenberg describes so horribly and enjoyed them.

    EverQuest is a game and a hobby, and it is easy to get "addicted" to any hobby. I know people that obsessively modify their cars, tweak their computers, work out at the gym, or watch TV. You can spend hours doing anything, and at least EverQuest is cheap. For $12.95 a month you could go to the movies maybe twice, you could pay a fraction of your cable TV bill, or you could buy a new fan for your modded computer case -- or you could play EverQuest. If you figure hardcore gamers are playing 5 to 6 hours a day or more, then that $12.95 a month doesn't seem so bad.

    People have issues with class balancing, however if all classes didn't have relative strengths and weaknesses then why even bother having different classes? Who cares if your class only does 80% as effective as another class in some statistical category that you can only really measure by parsing hours and hours of logs - there is some other category your class does better, and in my experience the person playing the class contributes much more to the overall effectiveness than the class itself. The way to not enjoy playing EverQuest is to focus on "min-maxing" your character, not being satisfied until you are the "best". Sure, strive for new accomplishments, set goals for your character, but also enjoy the ride. The "timesinks" referred to in the post usually have some positive component to them. For example the Ssra mines and commanders are great places to earn experience for your character. The 60 man raid force clearing through the trash mobs to fight a boss mob is not a "timesink" but rather what makes the end game of EverQuest fun to play: 60 people working together to accomplish a goal.

    I enjoyed my time playing EverQuest. I don't play now because I have very little spare time these days, but I will likely start playing again one day when I do have time.

    --Cam aka Slithy Toves of Tholuxe Paells

  • Obviously Bitter... (Score:3, Informative)

    by toby360 (524944) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:15PM (#4968410)
    I've played alot of everquest, and it was definatly a fun game. When it wasn't fun any more, I stopped playing it.. It was that simple. I have a few friends who you might consinder "addicted" to the game, but I think the term addidcted is slapped on to easily these days when it comes to gaming. One of the most important and "fun" aspects of everquest is actually not the fancy dancy magic spells or any one of the many quests you can do, its actually conversing with people in a group. The social aspect of everquest is what I think makes the game a lot more fun than just a plain hack and slash game would be. your talking to real people with real problems, its quite similar to MSN/ICQ/AIM out there only you have a common medium to converse about (Everquest itself).
  • Game stability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:17PM (#4968425) Homepage
    This is one of the toughest problems in MMORPG design. Either you have a group of online managers with godlike powers, like AOL, or you have a violent anarchy, like IRC.

    One solution is just to accept that the game is a bad neighborhood, like Ultima Online. Making that work is tough. The game design has to be bulletproof, not just in a software sense, but in a social and ecological sense. MMORPGs have tanked because the players used up all the resources and turned the place into a wasteland. While this is realistic, it loses customers. UO seems to have something that more or less works, although it's getting old.

    Trying to solve the problem with an army of Game Masters and related flunkies doesn't work. You end up with endless complaints about the Game Masters, plus you have to pay for a big call center to take the complaints.

    Everquest is in the middle; the world isn't stable enough to run hands-off, and the operators aren't numerous to run it like a fascist state. It's like living in a third-world country.

    It will be interesting to see how the Sims Online manages this problem. That experience will drive the next generation of MMORPGs.

    Read the Farmer/Morningstar paper [scara.com] on Habitat, the first graphical MMORPG. Those guys figured out this problem a decade ago.

  • by pjrc (134994) <paul@pjrc.com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:17PM (#4968428) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot's comments forums are a website centered on rewarding you for how much time you put into it. This is the core philisophy behind design of the website, since they display banner ads and make more money the longer you stick around. They care little for user complaints, and even less for suggestions and requests. They're in it to shove as many ads in front of your comsumer eyeballs as you're worth, and that's the first thing you have to know.

    The second thing you have to know is that slashdot stops begin fun and informative. By that time, though, you are "addicted" to slashdot comments but you don't realize it. Comments become a source of frustration and anger instead of news for nerds, stuff that matters. It becomes a chore, a job. You plod away at the keyboard, obsessed and consume with getting modded up, or seeing how many people you can get to respond with flames to you "troll" post, while so comsumed you begin to hate the website. Vehemently. It goes on forever, and one that you can never win.

    After posting to slashdot for a while, you'll start conversing with other users, and you'll see the one thing all users have in common is they hate OSDN. (It should be noted that CmdrTaco and Hemon, the original developers, "sold out" to Andover and ownership changed hands again during the dot-com boom, so we will refer to them as OSDN for simplicity). This is baffling at first glance, because users view the banner ads every day and some even pay the volentary subscription service, and yet they despise them! Look a little deeper though, and you'll see that most people who dislike OSDN are the ones who no longer have fun posting to slashdot. They aren't getting what they want out of slashdot anymore, and they look to OSDN, being the source of all changes and improvements/breakdowns on the website, as the cause. Right or wrong, this is the state of addairs; the users hate the company providing they with the website they think has "stuff that matters".

    Let's go back to the parts about OSDN not caring about their readership. Recently, they changed their moderation system such that, instead of a dedicated team of well know moderators to handle problems, ordinary users would temporarily be assigned moderator points roaming the various discussions infrequently.

    ----------

    Ok, that's enough......

    For the humor challenged, this feeble attempt at parody was intended to compare this whiny Everquest piece to the whining often heard about slashdot. There's plenty more in there... changes to the game causing loss of power analogous to changes that might impact someone's karma... the section about players determined to "win" and playing dirty analogous to trolling, karma whoring, gaming the site.... players harassing each others analogous to trolling and flame wars.... bugs and patch problems analogous to slashdot's regular not responding problems and Taco's inability to spell check.... the level of whining is just perfect.

    Anyone else want to continue this?

  • by Bryce (1842) on Friday December 27, 2002 @03:34PM (#4968543) Homepage

    If you really care about playing a good MMORPG, devote some time to one of the open source MMORPG projects like WorldForge. Or just teach yourself how to make good 3D models of game objects and put those out under the GPL for programmers to use. (The reason there aren't a lot of great high-end open source games out there for you is because there isn't enough great high-end art for the programmers.)

    If 1% of the Everquest addicts had put 1% of their dedication into helping create open source games, the situation today would be much better than it is. It probably seems like a lot more effort to help make a game than to simply play it, but in the end it can be much more rewarding in the sense of being a hobby/craft, instead of just a hobby/game. You still get the sense of seeing things improve, being part of a community, and building up a good reputation.

    The game industry hasn't quite reached the same point as other media, where the *only* way to make it big is to prostitute yourself to the corps - theoretically it should still be possible to make games via grassroots means. But not unless grassroots people (i.e. YOU) put some dedication into solving it.

    Also, computer games are actually *important*. Seriously. Look at the list of reasons why people are still using Windows - up in the #1 or #2 slot will often be seen, "No games". Yet ironically, many open source developers will scoff at game efforts, "The project will never fly", "It'd take too much time", "Open source can't work for games", "They should be coding it in [C|Python|Java|etc.]", et al. The plain fact is that there are not enough creative and skilled people making open source games.

    Open source games are particularly important, because unlike proprietary games, they have "longevity". This is due mostly to the fact that there are so few of them, to begin with, but also because of the intrinsic nature of open source. For examples, look at Hack, NetTrek, FreeCiv, etc. Games that originated a LONG time ago. A single good/big open source game can have a vast and long lasting benefit to the open source community.

    Many of the problems mentioned in the articles can be avoided via open source. Bugs can be fixed by anyone who can read source and has an afternoon or two to kill. If the people running the server aren't providing decent service, find someone else that's running a copy of the game - or set up a copy yourself just for you and your friends. If the game seems too long in the tool art-wise or feature-wise, well grab a copy of the content and/or code and start making patches.

    Anyway, unlike the problems of the RIAA, Globalism, suppression of freedoms in the US, etc. etc., this is a problem that YOU can _directly_ do something about to fix, without risking anything but some freetime.

    If you have a flair for art, create some good 3D meshes. If you can do photography, build a massive library of texture images. If you're good at making or performing music, or have a good voice, or just like to wander around in the wilderness with a microphone, then create sounds for games. If you can do code design, then come up with modules for game logic (like a perl module for simulating vegetation growth, or a C code for making snazzy spell effects, or a library to go with SDL). Design nifty looking GUI interfaces. Make maps of an imaginary world. Scan in your fantasy drawings and post on the web for 3D artists to use as sources.

    If you know none of this, well, at least you can (presumably) write. And it turns out that writing is the 100% MOST needed skill by most open source projects, games in particular. Write a paper summing up good ideas for certain game rules you've seen, and your thoughts on improving them. Invent a new race for a RPG and put in intricate detail into every aspect of it.

    Can't write? Well, likely you can read web pages and make lists. Find some topic of relevance to games and start building a table. Create a spreadsheet of different kinds of real-world flowers, with data about how they grow. Collect a database of riddles, sorted by difficulty. Invent a list of futuristic handguns. Build a solar system with details for each planet.

    The important thing here is to create reusable *components*. Games are *hard* to make. They take more time than you have yourself; more time then you and your clique of friends. (Well, except for dinky little arcade or card games, but of course those aren't what we're talking about here.) In order to make these big games, we need to leverage open source's strength of _modularity_. We as a community need to have lots of really good "bits" that someone can gather together in a year or two and turn into a good game. Or, hopefully, a bunch of people can take and turn into a bunch of different games.

    If you don't like working alone, no prob - there are still a bunch of game development projects/communities out there that you can join for feedback/help/encouragement/friendship/etc.

    Whatever you choose to do, please, PLEASE put it out explicitly under the GPL license (or BSD, or Public Domain). If you do, then open source game developers will be able to make use of it in their game efforts. (There is tons of content out there on the web right now, but most of it is unusable due to license issues.)

    So, next time you feel a sense of frustration over some proprietary, closed source game, that disempowers you from being able to fix it, grab Blender, or emacs, or Sodipodi, or Timidity, or whatever, and create something to help the game developers out there.

  • It's a trend (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom (822) on Friday December 27, 2002 @04:25PM (#4968866) Homepage Journal
    Aside from the obvious ("don't play it then, vote with your money"), the problem is more general, it seems.

    People have become used to live with all kinds of shit. Windows constantly crashing? They just take it like the weather. "Improved" service at the gas station? Oh, no use complaining anyway. My rights taken away by a fascist government? Nothing I can do, so why care?

    I'm told by old folks that there was a time when there were no young punks being cool on the train. If they'd start harassing someone (especially a women), a bunch of local dock workers would stand up and put them where they belong.
    That was maybe 30 years ago. Last year, a bunch of students in my city made an experiment. They staged all kinds of harassment, from mild to bad up to a knife fight during various hours at a train station (with knowledge of authorities, yada yada). If I remember correctly, the record was that nobody did anything, and one women used one of the many available emergency phones to call for help.

    So what's that got to do with Everquest? It's that most of us rant here at /., but 99% of us are lazy cowards and wouldn't lift a finger to change things, much less save someone they don't even know from harrassment (except if it's a cool chick).

    Disclaimer: I'm more of a coward than I like to, but I've done the occasional stepping up, and I've written to my representative a couple times. I also keep a list of shops where I don't buy anymore.
    It ain't that much, but it ain't that hard either.
  • My sister (Score:3, Funny)

    by BitwizeGHC (145393) on Friday December 27, 2002 @05:03PM (#4969138) Homepage
    My sister hassles me so she can play Kingdom Hearts for hours at a time. If she discovers EQ, she's gone.
  • by Windcatcher (566458) on Friday December 27, 2002 @05:13PM (#4969219)
    Many moons ago I played EQ (when I quit the WTC was still standing), and once had to do the Testament of Vanear quest. The quest is to get a book that is really great for clerics and druids (i.e. healer types). One part involves waiting for a certain rare MOB (moving object) to spawn. Basically this guy appears, and you have to kill him. He's such a pain to get that people OFTEN try to kill-steal him (i.e. kill him before you can), so like most people I called in guild members to ensure that I got the kill. How long did it take? Let me put it this way: I went to the appropriate place, called in my guild buddies, and then WATCHED AN ENTIRE THREE-PERIOD HOCKEY GAME while waiting for the guy to appear. About a half hour after the game was over, POP, there he was, and we killed him in 30 seconds. The mob has an EIGHT-HOUR SPAWN TIME. That means, once he's dead, he doesn't reappear for another eight hours (REAL TIME). That's what we EQ players mean by needless timesinks. The sole purpose is to waste your time so you play longer.

    I eventually quit the game, when it got to the point that raids were lasting until AFTER SUNRISE. That was well over a year ago, and I haven't been back. My character is dead, may it rest in peace.
  • by Bryan Ischo (893) on Friday December 27, 2002 @08:13PM (#4970126) Homepage
    Recently I became semi-addicted to the online Magic the Gathering card game. I was really enjoying building up a good deck in the league I was playing in and was doing pretty well and couldn't seem to get enough of it. I found myself playing for hours on end when I knew I had better things to do. I found myself staying up too late, telling myself "just one more game" repeatedly.

    Pathetic, for sure. I don't know why, but for me games easily become addictive. Almost every game that I have ever owned and really liked, I found myself playing too often and had to "destroy" to get myself to stop. In every case, I'd play more and more until one day I would finally cave into that inner voice that was telling me that I was playing too much ... usually after an hours-long binge of game playing. I have microwaved several game CDs to get myself to stop playing. I used to play a MUD too much, and I committed suicide in the game repeatedly until the character was reduced to level 1 from level 15 and in doing so forced myself to lose interest in it. I've smashed cartridges with a hammer. At some point my will to stop playing the game overcomes my desire to keep playing and so in a moment of clarity I do things like this to keep myself from playing again.

    At any rate, getting back to the Subject of this post. The way that I quite Magic Online was, I opened a text editor, looked away, and mashed the keyboard to produce a sequence of random characters. Then I looked askew at the editor as I copied the text for copy-and-paste purposes. Finally, I ran the "change password" dialog for the game, and pasted the text that I had just copied, and did not know, into it, thus giving myself a new password that I did not know.

    Viola. I can no longer log onto the game. I no longer have to deal with the temptation to play at all hours of the day. It's a very cleansing experience, and very shortly after destroying a game, or removing my ability to play the game, I always feel as if a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

    I'm just suggesting this as a way for people who are addicted to online games, to cure the addiction. If you stop yourself from being able to play, it is much easier to get over the addiction. I suppose that if there were some way to, say, make yourself unable to use drugs, then drug users would have a much easier time giving them up. But computer game addictions are easy to get over, you just have to be willing to destroy the game, or change your password as I have described, or whatever.

    Anyway, I'd really suggest this password technique to the guy who wrote this Slashdot article. I think he seriously needs to use it.
  • Perspective (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DiveX (322721) <slashdotcontact@oasisofficepark.com> on Friday December 27, 2002 @09:14PM (#4970355) Homepage
    "that they can't will themselves to give it up. They play on instead, hoping things will get better, and nursing a great and deep hatred for Sony and the game itself."

    Ironic I'm using one fantasy world to describe another fantasy world, but this system sounds much like the 'One Ring' in LOTR. I am not an EQ player and will not be. I certainly know I would enjoy the game, for a while, but then I know I will fall in the same trap as just described. I don't have to be a player or even know an EQ player to realize that what was said would be true. Of course it is a money making venture. For the same reason EA Games won't fix bugs in 'Battlefield 1942' or enable ways to remove team-killers, it just isn't profitable. Why spend resources fixing the problem when it won't really keep new players away and that same time can be put into an expansion pack that just ads a few new maps and weapons (easy to create after the game engine is done) and sell it for nearly the same price as the original (which of course must already be purchased). After going through countless hours in Counter-Strike playing the same damn 4-6 maps over and over, I can understand how bad it is. I will not even try the Star Wars: Galaxies for the same reason. Same idea, just different graphics.

    Every player in EQ, to me, seems to be like Gollum. Reading the article, if I replaced 'Sony' with the 'Ring' or 'Sauron' I would swear I was reading a synopsis of Tolkien's world. The plays both love and hate the game and cannot be rid of it.

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