Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 07, 2007
Accessibility is king

I was playing Everquest 2 last night, trying to see whether I could get a Legends of Norrath booster to drop. No luck, apparently they are very rare, nobody in chat even knew somebody who had seen such a drop. But I was having fun anyway. Everquest 2 has an incredible breadth and depth, I'd even say it has more depth than World of Warcraft. On the other hand it felt as if I was playing the last of the dinosaurs of MMORPGs, with EQ2 scoring very low on accessibility, intuitivity and user-friendliness.

Compared to somebody who is starting to play his first MMORPG, I have a huge wealth of experience. I played MMORPGs nearly every day for the last 8 years. And yet in EQ2 I often come across features that catch me by surprise, or that it takes me quite a while to figure out. For example, and I don't know if that is a graphics bug or just badly designed, the little white numbers showing you the numbers of items in a stack in EQ2 are not inside the icon, but below and to the right of it. But they are further away from the icon they belong to than the distance to the next square in your backpack. Thus the number belonging to one stack looks as if it was printed in the upper left corner of the stack below and to the right. The stacks on the right column or lowest row of a backpack have their numbers not or only partially shown, as they would be outside the backpack. That is rather confusing, and takes a while to figure out and get used to. I'm tempted to download some interface mod with better inventory display. Another example was me doing a quest and suddenly receiving an achievement point for it, which is kind of like a talent point in WoW. Great! But why was I completely unaware of the existence of achievement points before I stumbled on it by accident? So on the one side I'm extremely motivated to keep playing EQ2 over the weekend to explore it more. On the other side I feel I'd need to read a third-party newbie guide to not miss half of the features of that game. I already discovered so many things, like collections or the "legends and lore" quests where I had the feeling that I could well have totally missed them. I'm feeling like a noob again.

That is not just because I don't know the game well. I've played other games and betas since WoW came out, and none of them had me feeling so lost. It is the specific design philosophy of an older generation of games, which aimed to create a sense of wonder by having you figure out everything for yourself. That can be fun, especially if it isn't your first game, and you know at least the fundamental and important stuff. But I would never recommend Everquest 2 to somebody as his first MMORPG.

So now I understand how Everquest 2 lost the fight for subscriber numbers against World of Warcraft back in November 2004. EQ2 picked up a solid percentage of MMORPG veterans, many of them EQ veterans. WoW picked up a good share of veterans too, plus millions of new players. World of Warcraft is simply more accessible. Even people who never played a role-playing game before understand WoW immediately. WoW does a brilliant job of teaching people how it works, and guiding people to where they should go. And I do think that most post-WoW games are at least trying to be as accessible. For example LotRO is as easy as WoW to get into. Accessibility is king, because MMORPGs aren't just for EQ veterans any more. Being newbie-friendly is an important part of the game if you want to break into the mainstream.
Your icon numbering issue is a bug and shouldn't happen. Might need to update your video drivers and/ro check the offical forums.

I agree about accessibility though - EQ2 is an awesome game once you get into it but it's pretty tough to get to grips with especially compared to WoW.

I'd recommend starting an evil character in Neriak... it's the latest starting city and offers the best progression from 1-20 with slick quests, good lore, and nice tutorials.
I completely understand you, Tobold. I'm a former WoW player who just started EQ2 a couple of weeks ago, and I am learning stuff left, right, and center. (I got kind of blah with WoW after reaching 70 and raiding a bit, and I was always looking for a game with good crafting and housing systems -- EQ2 fit perfectly.)

I knew about the achievement points, collections, and the 'lore and legends' quests because I trolled almost the entire Newbie Forum and EQ2 Trial Forum on the official boards while I waited for my retail box of Echoes of Faydwer to get to me here in Europe (from the US). The alternate ability points (aka, AA points or achievement points) were implemented in Kingdom of Sky and further refined in Echoes of Faydwer. Oh, and by the way, the achievement screen (default 'L') has two tabs: for example, a Bard tab and a Dirge tab. Being the newbie that I am, I didn't see that there were two tabs when I was putting my first point.

About the quantity numbers, I don't have the problem you do so I'm not sure what's causing it. Mine are within the bag slot and are just fine. Do you use any addons? I was a real addon fiend with WoW -- used dozens of them, like CTMod, Titan, Bongos, Omen, Auctioneer, Extended Quest Log, and a billion other little utility mods. For EQ2, I decided to try out ProfitUI -- which is awesome. It takes away the space-wasting "frame" of the bag, it lets you resize them and put them in any kind of column/row combination you want, it gives you a big "Open All" button in the bank window so you don't have to individually open everything, and it gives so much information right there on the screen. It also gives you a really nice market screen when you go to the broker. You might want to check it out, it's quite cool and with everything in the EQ2 interface, you can customize everything.

I agree with you that WoW does a better job in explaining certain things, but I distinctly remember that WoW never explained the talent points either ... so they're equal on that score. Hell, you have people leveling to 35 and never realizing they had points to put in their trees.

I still miss WoW from time to time, especially since my husband still plays. I have a lot of fun with EQ2 though, and for the first time I am having altaholic syndrome. There's lots of fun classes I want to try -- at the moment I have a level 19 dirge, a level 10 coercer, and a level 4 warden (who is a level 20 carpenter, hehe). Hell, I was never, ever into melee classes, so it was a complete shock when I enjoyed playing the bard so much. :)
PS I agree with Anon about Neriak. Darklight Woods is an awesome, awesome starting area -- so much better than Outpost of the Overlord and Queen's Colony.
Tobold, here's a shot of what my bag slots look like:

I hope you get that number thing fixed soon, because that sounds like a real headache.
Good to know it's not a general bug. I have on UI mod called eqmap, I'll try playing without it and seeing whether that is the problem.

If it's the video drivers, I would need to *down*grade them. Currently using some NVidia beta drivers that were specifically recommended for Bioshock, where I was trying the demo. Might need to go back to the latest approved version.
Tobold, I also use eq2maps, so I don't think it's the addon. :)

By the way, do you ever get the feeling that the movement/camera in EQ2 is a bit weird, especially when you're strafing and such? I always seem to have trouble with it, such as the camera just moving to an odd angle when I strafe or try looking around (no matter how I play with the movement/camera options). It makes me miss the movement and camera controls in WoW. :/
I too started playing this game as an EQ noob about 3 weeks ago and if there is anything I could recommend to a new player, its to start out in Darklight woods or Faydwer.

I can primarily speak for Faydwer as being perfect for a new player and more in line with a controlled and channeled progression through the quests. Right now as a level 18 character, I am still exploring Greater Fayedark and loving it.

I started a alternate character in one of the other areas and found myself, once off the boat, in a very large city and qucikly overwhelmed.
The game that I am spending lots of time on is Dinowar. I am addicted and it is fun.
I think new MMORPG have to ask themselves whether they're trying to attract players from the current MMORPG demographic or whether they want players who perhaps never played such a game before. WOW apparently chose the latter and caused an explosion of new players. One of the biggest reasons Runescape has such a large player base isn’t because it’s particular nice looking, but because you can play it on a web browser anywhere. Every time I go to the local library, there are at least one or two kids playing Runescape on the free computers there. That game is nothing compared to WOW or EQ2, but a kid doesn’t need even his own computer to play.

My point is this: game companies can either try to take a piece of the pie (which is finite) or they can try to grow the pie (increasing the market as a whole).
I am in the same boat about being very confused in EQ2. I went from WoW to LOTRO to EQ2 and only in EQ2 have I had a hard time figuring out what the hell to do. I don't know if it's just not explained well or if things are just so complex that causes this. The game just feels like it has a very steep learning curve compared to the other offerings out there.
Hmmm. Food for thought now that convention season is over. Obviously the first priority is to take care of the expansion, but perhaps I can find a way to task out some time to document the things a newbie needs to know and get them in a very visible location. No promises, but it's a good point - and something that can be done once the time/involvement is sorted out.
I will second (third) the recommendations to try starting your characters in either Kelethin or Neriak, those are really the only cities worth starting in right now as they are a lot easier to play in and learn the game.

Tobold, part of the issue you had with Achievement points is that you can't start racking up Achievement xp (tracked with the L key) until you're level 10, so if you were below that level it can appear to just suddenly appear on you with no warning.
Having the information in a convienent spot would be great. But it doesn't help your average casual player who logs in trys the game and either connects or leaves. If understanding the game requires a trip to the forums or some other website to be "educated" Then you'v already lost most of those players.

I saw EQ2 once on the shelf for 10 bucks. But as it was just the base game I played all alone because everyone was in the expansion areas. Didn't have much fun as a result so I let the account lapse and never looked back.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool