October 24, 2007 by Tim

Oh man, what have I done? What was I thinking?

I’ve gotten back into Everquest 2. Again.

I’m drawing this comic strip for the official Everquest magazine (which it occurs to me now I have completely forgotten to mention anywhere, ever), EQuinox. Anyway, they’re finishing up the second issue, and I had to submit a new strip. So I whipped one up, and it got me poking around recent patch notes for the game, out of curiosity.

The first thing that catches my eye is the new “Appearance” tab that apparently went in not too long ago, and after finding out what it does, all I can say is “hell yes”. Basically it’s a separate tab of armor slots where you can put items to designate what will display on your character, visually. It’s a feature EQ2 desperately needed, because in the lower levels you run around looking like a motley fool with your seven different colors and styles of armor.

So essentially, they’ve done away with the question of “Well, this chestplate looks awesome, but this other one has better stats (but looks like crap)”. You equip the good stat chestplate, and display the good-looking chestplate (which you don’t get stats from now). It really seems to open some control over character appearance that was sorely lacking, and variety in armor was always one of EQ2’s weak spots. But now, if you want your Swashbuckler to wear a puffy pirate shirt, you can go for it without sacrificing the stats that keep you competitive. This, plus the fourth expansion in a couple of weeks had piqued my interest.

So I figure ‘what the hell’, and reactivate my account. This is where things really went downhill. Apparently since I last played, SOE has produced this online CCG based on EQ called Legends of Norrath. And when you sign up, they give you a free starter deck (for that and for the Pirates Constructable Card Game, which I’ve played in person, but always wanted to try the only variant anyway). So I flipped through the deck.

Now this is quite the racket they have going, let me tell you. You can play this CCG against other gamers online, either via an independent program, or right from within EQ/EQ2 while you’re playing. You can purchase booster packs with real money or with in-game money. And here’s the real kicker: booster packs randomly contain special foil cards that can be redeemed for in-game loot. I really had to marvel at the cleverness of the whole setup.

So I decided to give the card game a whirl. I’ve become sort of a sucker for CCG’s since my girlfriend taught me to play Magic earlier this year. My first impressions of Legends of Norrath were positive. From a graphical standpoint, the artwork on the cards is really, really nice. The cards actually feature some pretty quality paintings. I played through the tutorial and a practice game, and while (at least so far) the game doesn’t seem quite as… fluid as a game like M:TG, it certainly parallels a lot of the familiar features of EQ, such as equipping armor/weapons, completing “quest” and whatnot.

It doesn’t feel in any way like it’s just a marketing ploy. I think it’s good marketing, tying it in with two popular MMOs like that, but I see how someone could easily get into, and play just the CCG, if they were interested in that. Booster packs are priced similarly to any other CCG, and while you don’t get physical cards to have, there are upsides to that as well. Such as, you know, not having a bunch of cards taking up space. And having access to far more players for trading/playing than you’ll find at your local geek hangout. I like the concept of more of these games going in that direction. Not strictly, but as an added option.

I really want to try the Pirates CCG online (haven’t had time yet), but that’s the whole problem here. What the hell am I doing starting up an MMO now? With Eye of Judgment, and Ratchet and Clank coming out this week, The Simpsons game and GH3 coming out the following week, then we get into Assassins Creed, Mass Effect, Kane and Lynch territory. And the next GalCiv2 expansion coming in December to finish me off if I’m still standing.

And it’s a busy time of the year for work stuff too. Planning for Digital Overload 2008 is starting to gear up. Few other projects that I could tell you about, but then I’d have to fly to each of your houses and kill you, and I don’t think the government would let me write that travel off as a business expense. But soon, maybe as early as next week for one little announcement. Who knows.

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