Shadow Zek? Ever Bane? Dark Age of Zek? Anarchy OnCrack?
It’s pretty clear that the Sullon Zek server is Verant’s first semi-serious attempt to put PVP into their game. The other Zeks have been orphan children – concepted, birthed and then given away for adoption to the player base.
Everquest is first and foremost a PVE game and that priority has kept Verant pretty busy tweaking PVE balance, creating expansions, adding more must-have equipment, upping the level cap, spreading out the population into more and more zones, etc.. Basically they’ve put alot of work into everything that makes it difficult to PVP on a level playing field and for tangible results. But it keeps the hamster wheels turning. It keeps everyone plugged into the matrix, so that’s cool enough.
But then along comes a new wave of PIGs (Player Interactive Games) and hell if they’re not all closely addressing the PVP aspects of PIGing as a major part of their design. Hmmmm… this MEANS something. It means a few things, really.
1) Verant smelled the possibility in the air that the competition was developing a competitive advantage over them.
2) There’s a lot of PVE content in EQ now, so there’s breathing room maybe to tackle some other issues
3) The designers and developers at Verant are 5th and 6th Circle players itching for something more than beating the game and showing off the fact that they did it. It’s no closely guarded secret that most of the coders for EQ play on SZ.
All of this adds up to Sullon Zek – a new server with new rules, a new emphasis on PVP, and what appears to be a new attempt to make actual code changes to improve the state of PVP in EQ. But you know what all those “news” in one sentence mean. BETA. And that’s pretty much what we’re getting on SZ – the beta testing of PVP balancing ideas. It’s actually been an interesting trip thus far, and this is your status report you big, lovely, arm-chair designers.
They’ve taken alot of interesting steps
1) Unfragmenting the community by removing pvp level limits
2) Opening up options and fearless fighting by removing artificial rules about what’s acceptable
3) Balancing risk by finding a mid ground between item and coin-only loot – xp loss
4) Eliminating cross teaming
5) Cutting down on super-twinking low levels with high level buffs
6) Getting rid of the de-leveling strategy
7) Disguising exact levels to limit bottom-feeding kills
8) Implemented a point system to focus achievers on PVP
There’s some pretty good stuff there. But how is it working out? What’s broken, that’s what we all want to know, right?
We’ve seen a few changes go into the server since it started, but here are the current top concerns of the citizens of Druid Zek… er, Sullon Zek. Or at least these are the things I hear most often.
1) The point system, while interesting is lacking some basic usability for a few reasons.
—a) The ease with which a few players can sink their entire team by killing weaker players for negative points (by the way, when this negative points trend started, the evils had about 173,000 points – who knows how many “positive” point days were actually greatly reduced by negative points before it became obvious how severe the impact is)
—b) The lack of any “territory held” perspective conveyed by the points
—c) The lack of guild affiliation info on the top individual scores
2) The recent attempt to level the playing field by adjusting saves and allowing low levels players to have a much better chance at hurting high level players have pretty much broken PVP. Some of the most active PVPers are really cutting back on their PVP due to this change. And I don’t mean just that the bottom-feeders have cut back, I mean legitimate conflicts over zones between relatively equal forces are being scaled back or disappearing. This is because low-level “green” players are more numerous and can now do substantial damage to high level players WITHOUT risking experience loss and WITH the ability to inflict it. That’s ugly.
3) The server has currently been turned into what has been lovingly called “Druid Zek” by one simple SZ-only “bug”. Basically the ability to cancel buffs on enemy players with pumice/cancel magic has been taken away. Since Druids derive tremendous benefits from buffs, this places them in a MUCH better position in PVP. Rogues, for instance, can’t even think about attacking a druid with a damage shield up – it’s suicide. Enchanters will have little chance of making a kill on anyone with strong buffs up unless they can strip them off. Wizards can now use levitate spells to hover over water and pummel melee characters with spells without any fear of retaliation since the melee players can’t get to them. All of these things would change dramatically with the ability to remove beneficial spells from opponents. Incidentally, I also happen to think it heightens the skill involved in PVP since the struggle to keep or strip buffs in a fight adds another dimension that is otherwise missing.
Those are the MAIN complaints, although as always there’s no real shortage of them. On the whole, Sullon Zek has been the most interesting server I’ve played on thus far in Everquest. We’ve seen some actual cohesion happening among the religious teams that were created, and some sense of strategy over zone control continues to develop. This has leant an air of interest to PVP that has otherwise been absent on the other team servers (barring perhaps early Tallon Zek). The balance of the evil team having more numbers and slightly better zone control vs. the neutral team having far great mobility of troops with their concentration of druids has really made things interesting. And right now the teams actually do plot against each other to rip zones away from the other side.
I have some measure of respect for the Verant team for taking on this challenge. I just hope they realize that when it comes to PVP in their game they really should continue to maintain a healthy “beta” attitude about analyzing the effects of their actions. It’s clear that there are some good things going on here, but it’s equally clear that there are some mistakes in action right now. As long as we don’t lock down into the “Vision” disease, I think there can be some nice progress. Let’s hope we see it.
The False Prophet
Gratuitous RP Signature