I’ve been reading some really interesting blog posts lately that have made me think about the current state of EQ2 and what it could do to help attract new players to the game and orient them once they are there.

Wolfshead has a fantastic post analyzing the first 15 minutes of starting EQ2. He really points out a lot of little things that could be improved. It’s a great read.

Ogrebear has another post about the newbie experience, and We Fly Spitfires makes a great point about the difference in EQ2 players versus other games.

I’ve long defended EQ2, as it is a game I love, and it has great depth and all kinds of features you can’t find in other games.  These posts have helped me realize that essentially it’s a completely different kind of game from WoW and newer MMOs based on WoW. I read the EQ2 newbie forums and people are constantly saying things like – “I didn’t know where to go next.” or “I didn’t even know that part of the game existed.” A lot of EQ2 players tend to read these statements as if newer players from other games want their hands held every second of the game, but that’s not it at all. Really EQ2 could do a lot more to make the game accessible and it wouldn’t take that much.
First of all, I second Ogrebear – they really need to revamp the Antonica and Commonlands starter areas. The difference between those areas and the newer starting areas could not be more clear. As long as they stay basically the same as they were at launch, at best you’re sending the message to players that they can ignore all that old content, and at worst you’re driving them away from the game.  There are a lot of neat places in those zones that can be kept, but the questlines need to be redone, item rewards improved, and it needs to be much clearer where to go.

Next would be helping players find places to adventure. They already have the tutorial pop-up system in game, pop-ups every so often that lay out good places to go next and how to get there would be a good start. Once you break loose from the starter zone around level 20, it’s not that obvious where to go next, and more importantly it is not that obvious that you have choices.  Also, I’d like to see a bit more help for newer folk in terms of dungeons in their area – what are they? When can they start adventuring there? How about pop-ups that notify people about deities and their options there, or to tell them how city writs work and where to go to get them?

I’d also like to see some UI changes. It’s probably hard to find any veteran player who is still using the original UI with no modifications, so why should new players be forced to? The new map system that was put out a while back is a good option, but a revamp of the basic UI to make it easier to use, and to make it easier to modify, would go a long way. Right now when you start, there’s a jumble of various windows, it can be confusing to move them around (those window lock and click through options seem ancient now don’t they?) I’d really like to see a version of Vanguard’s layout mode for EQ2 – it’s a really good system, you click one button to activate it, and then you can move or resize any window anywhere on the screen – when you’re done, one click and the UI is set.

Progress is definitely being made – the new starter zones are fantastic. The U button tool to find guilds is probably the best out there of its kind.  There are research assistants to help with lower level spell upgrades (a major problem before) and I’m sure the developers are working on more surprises. I don’t think it would take that much work to really tie people into the rest of the game. New players aren’t demanding the game be turned into WoW, they just want it to be a bit more accessible, and it should be, because the longer new players play the game, the more they see all the positives and get interested in playing for the long term.

Look at my last post on this subject – a lot has changed in two years!