EverQuest II: A Different Take on Heroic Characters
Last week, our Editor-in-Chief wrote a piece about why EverQuest II’s new heroic character feature should be in all MMOs. The feature allows players new and old to either create a decently-geared level 85 character from scratch or upgrade an existing character to that level. Both get some AA’s and a flying mount as well. Sardu thought it was a great idea, but I’m here to explain why I’m not 100% onboard with the whole shebang.
On the surface, I think there are some relatively cool ideas about being able to get a high level character right off the bat. The biggest advantage this gives to players is the ability to hop into the game and play with their high level friends that have already been playing for some time. The addition of this many high level characters showing up on each server has also been a huge boon for guilds all around the world. Whether they were previously lacking specific classes, or members were tired of playing their current main, they can now get high level characters to join their raids in the blink of an eye.
Since I haven’t played a Necromancer since shortly after launch, that’s what I picked for my heroic character freebie. I appreciate that the team took the time and effort to create a heroic UI system that tries to ease you into things, but I couldn’t take only having one hotbar for very long. If you want to load up the full UI they created, use the following command: /load_heroic_ui necromancer – replace the class name with whichever is appropriate for your character.
My biggest concern lies in the realm of knowing how to play a character effectively. I’m not looking to hop into a raid within the first day of playing, but at the same time, I don’t like feeling as though I’m doing little more than button mashing. I’m slowly learning the more intricate aspects of my spells. After playing around for a couple hours, I don’t feel completely lost, but I’m still not efficient by any means.
When returning to a game I haven’t played in years, I’m the type of player that likes to start up a new character for at least a short time, just to get the hang of things again. I had a level 52 Necromancer on a now nearly dead server, so I started a new Beastlord back in August. I didn’t think much about it when I initially heard about the heroic characters coming and didn’t care about them right up until they went live with the latest game update.
My Beastlord had just hit level 74 when the latest update went live. I was only 11 levels away from where my new heroic character started. Do I continue playing my old character that I’ve been logging onto for two months? Do I set aside the character that has been with me through the dark corners of Neriak, battled the sand giants in the desert Sinking Sands, or went hand to hand with the Drachnids of Kunark? I have a connection with this character because of the challenges we’ve overcome. I was with this character when they were terrified and wet behind the ears. I saw them transformed into force of nature, tempered with the experience of our adventures.
Now I’m being asked to drop them and pick up this new character that is not only extremely powerful, but is even more so than the character I had. The problem is that I don’t have any connection with this new Necromancer. I have no ties. I don’t care about their wellbeing or their health. As a result, rushing headlong into a dangerous situation becomes more about playing whack-a-mole with video game monsters than it does about feeling like I’m having an exciting adventure.
If this were any other game, I have no doubt that I would be in the minority here. Most players would just care about getting a high level character and never look back. They look at the screen and see nothing more than a digital set of numbers that now allows them to skip tons of “useless” content. This isn’t any other game though and it’s not any other franchise. This is EverQuest and as such, I’m sure there are plenty of players out there that want to connect with their characters.
I agree with the EverQuest team in that players need a way to quickly hop into a game and be able to play with their friends. Rather than giving them a character that starts out so far into the game, I’d like to propose a counter idea. Instead of starting players near the end, why not give them a massive experience boost? This could allow them to go through content quickly, but still learn each individual class skill as they came. It would also allow them to create an emotional bond with their characters. As important as friends are when it comes to player retention, I think a character bond is equally important.