Monday, July 12, 2010

Early Review of EQ2's Dungeon Game

Among people who are not currently playing WoW, it is taken as an absolute given that Blizzard's game is devoid of all difficulty.  Having arrived at EQ2's endgame in time to actually run some recent dungeons (I did hit some at level 80, but that was a mere month or two before the end of an expansion cycle when the content was no longer challenging), how does that perception actually measure up?

Before you walk in the door....
Even before the advent of WoW's much touted dungeon-finder, the game actually had a decent LFG system.  As nearly as I can tell, no one uses EQ2's LFG UI, so it's off to the public channels to listen to trolls joking about domestic violence (yes, I've seen this go on for 20 minutes at a time) if you want to find a PUG.  Moreover, EQ2 dungeons take significantly more time to clear than WoW dungeons, partially because they're actually longer but more often because trash mobs that don't appear to actually be threatening to kill anyone have enough HP to stand there non-threateningly for a few minutes each.

The ironic result is that I spend far more time grouping in WoW than EQ2, because I almost always have the hour it takes to run a heroic dungeon, and I relatively rarely have the 3 hours to find a group and complete an EQ2 dungeon run. 

Sources of difficulty
WoW and EQ2 are in an unfortunate footrace for whose itemization is more screwed up by hyperinflationIn WoW, the result is that 12 of the 16 dungeons in the random heroic dungeon finder are generally pretty trivial during these final months of the expansion cycle, as average DPS has literally doubled during the year and a half since this content was challenging.  If you compare the newer dungeons in Wrath to the new endgame in EQ2, though, the difficulty feels relatively comparable.  (Random WoW dungeon runners don't necessarily appreciate this challenge, and it's entirely common to have one or more players drop group and take a 30 minute deserter buff when they discover what dungeon they've been placed in.)

If anything, I've been pretty surprised at the portion of EQ2 dungeon fights that are reduced to a simple tank-and-spank DPS check.  In WoW, even the 5-man dungeon fights are relatively heavily scripted, if you're not so overgeared that you can ignore the failure conditions and burn through the mobs anyway.  My experience has generally been that, if you're wiping, it's far more likely to be because someone isn't switching targets or moving out of the fire or stopping DPS, or whatever the other conditions of that fight happen to be than because your group simply lacks the firepower to be capable of defeating the boss.

Now, in some ways, "you need to be doing more damage" is more of a fair reason to punish the party with a wipe than "you didn't figure out the latest gimmick fast enough".  There is a skill factor involved in getting the most out of your character, and I can honestly say that I'm learning more about the correct order to use abilities so that the cooldowns will be ready faster.  On the other hand, there have been a number of fights that have left me feeling like I've been beating away at a target dummy for five minutes, which doesn't feel especially challenging even if it does take 2-3 tries to come up with the right DPS rotation.

A rejection of the PUG?
WoW's old world dungeons feel similar to what I see in modern EQ2 dungeons, especially in terms of amount of trash.  It takes a pretty darned long time to solo a level 20 dungeon at level 80, one-shotting all the mobs, for the achievements, much less clearing it on level. 

Since then, however, Blizzard deliberately cut the no-wipe clear time for its single group dungeons to about an hour in the game's first expansion, and cut it again to the 30 minute mark in the current expansion.  The news from the Cataclysm beta is that those old world dungeons are being chopped up into similar bite-sized, dungeon-findable chunks.  Turbine tells Massively that LOTRO's lengthy old dungeons will also be divided into short-sesssion clearable wings.  This shift is absolutely crucial to being able to run dungeons quickly and repeatedly, which in turn is necessary to being able to find groups efficiently and in a timely fashion. 

At the end of the day, I'm left wondering whether EQ2 dungeon PUG's are non-fun because they're not supposed to be.  Lyriana's last name is "Lockbreaker" because her disarm trap skill is atrociously low, and she's constantly doing large amounts of damage to our guild by accidentally detonating chest traps.  That kind of in-joke isn't possible in the faster paced WoW heroic dungeon setting, and in any case isn't meaningful to people who haven't taken large amounts of trap damage repeatedly over the past year.  When you're running with people who you actually know, you can be entertained by the company rather than the content.  The EQ2 content feels relatively well suited to that purpose. 

If this is the case, though, SOE may be doing themselves a disservice by moving the game more and more towards the WoW model of daily dungeon quests rewarding tokens towards high quality gear as a carrot to get players running the content on a daily basis.  Right now, everything else about the way the endgame is set up (at least on my server) appears to be working against a thriving PUG dungeon scene. 


Magson said...

3 hours for an instance clear? I will admit I did have one of those once -- The Erudin Research Halls. It was the 1st time through for everyone except the tank, but he'd only been in 1x before and didn't really remember it. We also were far from an "optimal" group, so our dps was low and we wiped a lot and the 2nd to last named kicked our trash something like 17 times before we finally downed it. I don't think we managed to finish off the final named that time either. Wiped a couple of times, got him down to like 2%, then wiped a couple more times and finally called it a night. But any other time I've gone through it's taken maybe 45 minutes. Even the Vigilant zones (hardest non-raid ones) only take about 45 minutes to an hour in any PUG I've been in after the 1st month or so since the expansion.

Have you tried any of the scaled up TSO instances? They don't take any longer than before and have pretty good gear drops.

Anonymous said...

When WoW's last expansion started average dps in instances was like 1500-2000 range, so in the world of today it didn't double, it tripled, seeing people do 4500-6000 dps especially on multi-mob trash is not that uncommon.

That trash was designed to stand around for some time but under current circumstances people stopped thinking about trash itself only the distances they need to travel between trash packs or the timer on which the trash spawns, because the trash itself cannot occupy an average group for more than few seconds.

And yes, some of the bosses which used to have interesting mechanics can sometimes be burned down before they manage to cast their special, or their specials can be healed through and dpsed through, it's a pure factor of gear inflation, when people started running those dungeons at the beginning of expansion in intended gear (gear from levelling, quests, "old" normal dungeons) some of those bosses actually posed a threat, Loken in Halls of Lightning and Volazj in the Old Kingdom were sources of "whine posts" on the forums like "we can't do it with our class setup and gear". Anub'Arak in Azjol-Nerub wasn't quite fun without poison cleansing either (nowadays the poison adds just die in split second so who cares).

Green Armadillo said...

@Magson: The times I listed for both games include an average guesstimate of time I'm going to spend looking for a group. Clear time on my successful groups has run in the 90 minute range, but I'm often looking for over an hour before I can even start the dungeon run. (Or, more frustratingly, giving up after looking for an hour because it's no longer early enough in the evening to start something.)

My one goal at this point is to complete the Epic Repercussions quest. I never completed (or, in fairness, attempted) my mythical, so that quest is good for a relatively significant reward that would presumably stay with me into future expansions. I've done the Library, the RH, and the first named of DB (that PUG struggled on the first and couldn't touch the second, in part because we had two under-leveled characters, but at least I got my update), and I also ran Conservatory. The Cella run has been much more difficult to find a group for.

The main problem is that there will maybe be a total of 2-3 groups forming in public chat on LDL per hour during peak times, so I'm really dependent on luck to find a group that wants to do the zones I need at a time when I can stay up late enough to finish a dungeon run. We'll see how I feel if and when I get the epic done, I'm not really gathering gear for any particular reason so I'm mostly happy to go tour whatever old mentored content my guild's tackling if I happen to be online on group night (Saturdays, more often than not a time for off-line activities).

Magson said...

I actually am usually not on during the evening prime time anymore, and I can totally see where you're coming from in saying that some instances aren't really being run outside of that time. I was able to buy access to a finished DB yesterday afternoon, though. I watched the guy put the group together in the 1-9 channel and was interested in going myself, but... already done on my coercer and he was an SK already and we didn't need 2 of those in the group. But once they were all done they let me come in for my update, so it all worked out ;-)

TBH, I don't recall the last time I saw anyone putting together a Cella group. I see groups forming tor Library and Research Halls all the time, occasionally the Erudin Palace, Vigilant runs are pretty common too, but that's about it. Seems like the Vasty Deep zones just aren't being run much anymore.

In another month or so I'll be playing in the evenings again, so I'll see how my server "feels" then, I suppose.

Yeebo said...

The problem I have with WoW these days is that the solo leveling game is too easy. That doesn't mean WoW is devoid of any challenge. For example, some of the instances are still quite challenging if you do them on-level. However, on anything short of a badly geared rogue I felt like I was never in any danger whatsoever when out solo questing.

By contrast, in EQ II I often felt like I was up against a decent challenge, even questing solo and despite the fact that the pace of leveling is similar in both games.

Anonymous said...

Solo elites and group quests, and AOE farm.

It doesn't work on every class/spec, but that's where WoW's single player pve challenge lies now.

Mikey said...

This is the Problem I have. I love EverQuest 2 and I mean I loved that game. Finding a group even at peak times were always so hard and like you said sometimes I would look forever and never find a group, or even more nerve racking find a group and someone leave 5 minutes in and it breaks up, Thats the sole reason I went to WoW. My favorite thing to do in MMOs is group because to me thats the beauty of a MMO! Having other people around to always group with and complete task is always rewarding. Most of my friends will not even touch EQ2 because the graphics are so demanding, let's face it WoW can run great on an older computer with a integrated video card, EQ2 is just not optimized enough even after the patches to help improve lag. When they added "multicore" support to EQ2 to my surprise they only added duel core support, the two extra cores in a quad would of been such a great help. Even with a great computer EQ2 still feels sluggish, when raiding I notice character animation being reduced and some boss mobs just spin in circles with little movement. I just feel like EQ2 has so much against it, even with all its greatness, the lack of population and other issues were enough to drive me away from the game for good. Don't think I'm bashing on EQ2 because I will always love the game, its not like WoW don't have its own problems but it seems to do so much more right. Thats just my 2 cents. 8]

Lomax said...

In both WoW and EQ2 the early levels are all mostly tank+spank, and I'd agree that while there is more scripting of fights in later levels with EQ2 its common for 1-2 bosses in each dungeon to just be tank+spank or close to it. Certainly a little bit more then WoW where its normally just 1 per a dungeon, the biggest gameplay advantage though that I think WoW has is the gameplay speed, compared to EQ2 its probably 50% of the speed, that allows for much more thought and action-reaction gameplay to work.

As for content difficulty and time taken to do it WoW is continuing to dumb down the MMO genre and people are following it, at least that's the message I'm reading here as the desire seems to be to be able to repeatedly play the same content rather then to be given a lot of content to run. And a 15 minute dungeon run is pretty meaningless, but that is what is served up. Even the BG's where long epic AV's would carry on for hours/days were cut down to 15 minute snippets of content, its just not memorable for me, but I think it fits a more console style crowd now.

I've played WoW through TBC and then onto WotLK and after the first 3 months the dungeons there were extremely easy and offered no challenge at all, there was no sense of progression outside of the raid game unlike EQ2's TSO where the dungeoned ranged from very easy to extremely hard.

As for grouping, both have auto grouping for PVP but EQ2 lacks it for PVE, however I found it to be a meaningless soulless experience pugging in WoW because there was no community being built up doing so, we'd just join up, run through it and go off on our seperate ways never to meet again. This felt much more like Guildwars then a persistent world. Whereas before it I got to know people, joined guilds and the people I met often influenced the content I followed up on (in the end though this was just raiding as nothing else offered a challenge, whereas before in TBC we had some tough group quests at least).

Anonymous said...

Any perception of WoW being easy and EQ2 being hard is historical rather than current.

Any EQ2 player knows that it has been hugely "dumbed down" over the years to attract more of the WoW audience. This is only good business sense.

The games are therefore becoming more and more similar. Certainly the difficulty levels are now quite equivalent.

I think really that if you like one game you will like the other. EQ2 has more of an adult population (especially on the Runnyeye server for some reason - there are virtually no kids at all). But the reason I chose to play EQ2 over WoW is simply because I didn't get on with WoW's cartoon graphics.

Anonymous said...

Meh... pull your head out of your ass. Come to me this time last year running the 'off year' non lvl increase expansion raid zones and tell me they are 'trivial'.

Yes Sony has watered down a TON of content (the worst making all overland zones entirely 'solo'), and they did it while chasing the "WoW" formula and their sub numbers... but the ebb and flow of eq2 can only be judged in 2yr intervals.