EverQuest II: Farewell to the Isles

SOE will remove legacy starting zones from EQII, starting in Game Update 56

Game Update 56 will bring the end of an era to EQII: Norrath's major cities, Freeport and Qeynos, will no longer be available as starting locations for new characters. Originally announced back in February, this caused some panic and consternation among players. Alan Crosby, former EQII Senior Producer, said "The new player experience in Qeynos and Freeport are just not up to snuff anymore and do not provide as solid an experience when you enter the game for the first time." New Senior Producer Dave Georgeson said he would not be changing plans for the short term, and sure enough, Monday night on Test the Queen's Colony and Outpost of the Overlord were "turned off". I'm in the group of players that's not very happy with the decision.

In EverQuest II Freeport and Qeynos are cities diametrically opposed in politics and philosophy. After the Shattering they became the homes for all the playable races of Norrath. It seems strange to me that new players will not be allowed to start in these cities, around which the lore and stories in EverQuest II revolve. What will drive players to explore and live there? How will players discover Queen Antonia and the strangely missing Lucan D'Lere? Is Norrath becoming decentralized as the native races rediscover their heritages?

We've come a long way since launch, when we were hauled bodily out of the ocean in the aftermath of Luclin's shattering and taken to the Isle of Refuge to make ourselves useful. You chose an Archetype (fighter, priest, rogue or mage) and later, when you chose your home city, had to complete a tough quest to choose your subclass. When you got to the city you were dropped off in a village catering to your race, and had to earn citizenship to even enter the city. The game wasn't as user-friendly as it is now, but there were tons of low-level quests to help you learn and eventually move you out into the world.

In February 2006 (Live Update 19) the new player experience was revamped. The Isle of Refuge was removed and in its place two zones were introduced: Queen's Colony for Qeynosian (good) players, and Outpost of the Overlord for Freeport (evil) players, collectively called "The Isles" after the original starting zone. There were no more class/subclass quests; players chose their class at character creation. At the same time the city newb quests were revamped: tons of petty errand quests were removed and each suburb got a short series of racially-oriented quests which eventually led players to the local adventure yards. The ultimate effect was a streamlined new player experience with an easier learning curve that got players out into the world quicker, at the cost of some immersion and backstory.

As the game expanded new starting areas were introduced, starting with Kelethin. Neriak and Darklight Wood were innovative, streamlining the new player experience with nicely organized quest hubs and a natural flow to progression and storyline. Gorowyn and Timorous Deep became player favorites for the loot, which was superior to the old Isles. But they have their disadvantages: players are locked into a linear quest series, making it very hard to jump content and get right out into the world. It's difficult to get to other level appropriate areas from them. Players have to travel a bit just to get to what will be their home city after creation. The cities themselves seem small, and thus far are underground or in the treetops, not proper cities at all.

With the Isles it was possible for a player to immediately leave the isle and be out in the world doing level 10+ content in about 15 minutes, if you knew where you were going. The newer starting zones pull the player all the way through level 20 making two huge zones of content virtually obsolete. What does this mean for Antonica and Commonlands? Players are now guided to Echoes of Faydwer content, which is great, but does this mean that Thundering Steppes and Nektulos Forest will become disused? The Tier 3 Guild Halls were put off Commonlands and Antonica because Freeport and Qeynos are the major cities with which all other cities are aligned. How difficult will it be for new players to make their way to those halls the first time?

Paul “Cronyn” Molina posted that Qeynos and Freeport aren't going anywhere. They want to "repurpose them somewhat into content destinations rather than starting points. A good deal of overarching content deals with these cities directly, and we'd like to create even more content that basically turns these into important quest and activity hubs...." That sounds great, but with two-thirds of the under-level 50 content fanning out from Qeynos and Freeport, a huge chunk of the game goes undiscovered and underutilized. While herding the population into one general path might make for better grouping and socialization possibilities, the world becomes less vibrant without those older stories and adventures. By the time players get out of their starting areas to Freeport and Qeynos they will have out-leveled the large majority of the existing content preserved there.

If players are guided to newer content, how will they discover Hadden's Earring, Ghoulbane or Dwarven Workboots? There's nothing to direct them there and players won't run across them if they're playing elsewhere. How will they learn the heritage of the Green Hoods when they get to Zek, if they even bother? Unless they have veteran friends or enjoy poking though fansites, they will never discover them, and large chunks of content and story fall by the wayside.

I can see some of the logic behind the decision. Budgets are not infinite, and there are only so many development hours available. The devs can spend their time re-developing the original new player experience (again), or they can direct players to the newer streamlined and shiny areas while they work on new content. Time can be spent changing the storyline to redevelop the cities into something new, like contested zones, or they can just be left alone while the game moves forward. At some point you have to decide whether to direct your efforts at the past or at the future, and in this case the future won. But while the newer starting areas might be better, the Isles were not broken and I do not agree with removing content from the game. If the cities were being completely revamped I would reluctantly admit the Isles would not be worth keeping. But as Freeport and Qeynos are only being “repurposed,” leaving the existing content, what harm would there be in leaving Queen's Colony and Outpost of the Overlord so that players could experience Norrath's greatest cities as a young character?

Some players have taken a position of optimism, hoping that sometime down the line the decision will be reversed and we will once again enjoy the legacy of Freeport and Qeynos as new characters. In this even my fabled optimism fails: I find it unlikely we'll ever see the Isles again. They were as much a part of my Norrathian experience as Blackburrow, Crushbone, and the Temple of Cazic-Thule, and I shall miss them.


Post Comment
What a shame
# May 27 2010 at 9:56 PM Rating: Decent
I've been playing EQ2 since it launched, and while a lot of the changes made to the game over the years have mystified or even angered me, none of them except the removal of the isles of refuge has saddened me. I think that they should have revamped the Isles quest lines and gear to be much like the quest timelines of Halas and Timorous Deep, allowing the player to advance from 1-20 with corresponding quest armor and loot.

Are Queynos and Freeport to become ghost towns, with only the veteran players living there and all of the great low level quest content obsolete?

As well as the cities themselves, I wonder if antonica and the commonlands will also become unused, just areas that new players run through to gain quick exploration aa and xp.

I understand that the game was created and is maintained to make money. But in the past three years, a lot of the changes seem to be making the game more newbie friendly, a game that's faster to race through without looking for a group, and in the end a game that does it's best to get players to the end raid content. All of it seems to be progress simply for progresses sake.

For now I still play, simply because I am still in love with the world of Norrath. As for the isles, I will miss them deeply but can still laugh about the memories of grouping to kill the Guurok for the legendary gooey earplug.
Qeynos and Freeport are our homes....
# May 05 2010 at 7:29 AM Rating: Decent
Qeynos and FP will ALWAYS be our homes, and no matter what you do we'll always guide new players to one of these locations as their homes as it's been ours for quite a LONG time.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this move, and will fight it with every inch of anger I currently posses :)! They are, and always will be our homes.

This move will do nothing but make people angry in the long run, and we'll undermine you all the way!

ps: Wonderful write up Catherine :D!

Edited, May 5th 2010 9:32am by TheDraGa
Lack of creative minds at SOE
# May 04 2010 at 1:59 PM Rating: Decent
Wow this makes me bummed. They should at least make them into museum zones that you can go visit and reminisce about old times.

Maybe put up some velvet ropes and make it owned by the gnomes with a clock work tour guide. Put in a gift shop to sell house items. Sell tickets for the boat ride etc. That at least would be a creative idea rather than lets just hack it out of the game for good.

Everquest really has been disappointing for the last few years. When is the new version coming out I am bored.

Edited, May 4th 2010 1:01pm by mmostrategist
As a teacher
# May 03 2010 at 12:01 PM Rating: Decent
151 posts
As someone has been getting others into the game and trying to get them over that initial hurdle/learning curve. I'm ALL for this. I'm constantly getting new players in my guild that ask why they can't survive a fight in the teens and 20s, and without fail its the players that went through the isles and commonlands/antonica, and have gear from when the game was designed around enforced grouping and old stat systems.

With the edition of Halas, there will finally be a real answer to TD for good races/classes, effectively obsoleting the isles for good.
# May 03 2010 at 11:18 AM Rating: Decent
Being a leader of Vitality, Content Raid Progression Guild, on Antonia Bayle, I just don't understand how they can take this out and still hold true to the "Fire / Ice" Quest line.

This is a mistake in my personal opinion.
Removal of choice
# May 03 2010 at 6:36 AM Rating: Decent
13 posts
I feel removing content is always dicey, & I am disappointed. Eventually I figured there to be a starter isle revamp...but removing them without replacing?

I've always considered my options carefully when starting a new character, even today. This was especially true when I was beginning this game (although the only options at the time were Freeport or Qeynos).

Were I a new player today, having learned of Freeport ahead of time...no matter how great I would've thought Freeport was, I think adding citizenship change to newbie quests, learning & changing the UI, making sense of the lore, tradeskilling, harvesting, finding my friends & making new ones...see where I'm going with this?

I believe a large & seemingly unending amount of content is a great feeling, but (to the dev who replied to official thread) thinking new players will be jumping upon the citizenship-changing bandwagon when everything else is in their face, seriously who is he fooling other than himself. I know I'll be irritated that I cannot start my character where I want.

In truth, I am not even the biggest fan of the isles. Nevertheless, I start most of my newbies there because I far prefer Freeport. I am also a questaholic, & doing levels 10-20 in the Commonlands (or Antonica) really feeds that. I don't mind the other starter areas, & have tried them all. My least-preferred is Timorous Deep because I dislike the city, & after I leave there, nearly every piece of gear I get is sold. When going through quests, it's nice to see something I can use every now & then...especially at level 25.

I certainly hope to see more content in the big cities, for all level ranges...but trying to steer people there later, when you've removed one of the biggest links to start & stay there seems foolish. Feeling herded into a more linear path is not what the EQ I've played for so long (both of them) has been about.
Fine With Me
# May 01 2010 at 1:01 AM Rating: Decent
I don't recycle characters. I have the max 12 now. I prefered Refuge/villages over the colonies.

Since I cannot create anymore characters on my server (or elsewhere) the elimination of the colonies (Isles) has no effect on me.

Qeynos and Freeport really aren't that important at this time. A well stocked Guild Hall replaces them easily. Yeah, there are some useful quests in them (tradeskill), but you really don't need to bother with them. The holiday events are centered in them, but they don't hold much appeal to me. A quest or two and get me out of there.

Qeynos and Freeport didn't even seem to be enemies in EQ 2. I felt there was more animosity between them in EQ 1.

And since you can get to level 20 in one to two good days worth of work (since they made the xp rediculously easy to get), you can bypass tons on content without feeling like you are missing anything.

I have characters that skipped Zek because I enjoyed Enchanted Lands more. Temple of Cazic Thule? One character ever ventured in there when the mobs weren't grey. Area wasn't that interesting. Might mentor down and kill some nameds for AA now and then or work on the L&L or language, but actual running the place? Nope. Not interested.

To be honest, perhaps Qeynos and Freeport have both served their purpose and should just be known for the place where your characters' houses are located for broker sales. You never even have to venture into the cities unless you are visiting a lvl 1 or 2 guild hall (and watch SOE change that so you don't have to waste the time sneaking into "the enemy city" to have something commissioned.

As I said at the beginning, I don't recycle characters and have the max number. The starting areas don't get visited unless I mentor down to kill named for AA. The game is already set up to bypass a lot of the low level content because of the amount of xp you get below lvl 20. You have to make the effort to remember to set your AA slider high enough so the content goes slow enough to even have a chance to do half the content available to you on either continent.

Won't miss the colonies (Isles) at all. They became a waste of time back at Game Update 19.
Re: Fine With Me
# May 01 2010 at 7:22 AM Rating: Decent
But there are those of us that it isn't fine with... I don't like the other starter areas, but I wouldn't want them to be taken away from those that prefer them. It's not like we can't all win. Don't like them, don't go there. Like them, go there. Don't care, well, don't care. d:

Also, Qeynos and Freeport have books. Not just Sage-purchased books, but books you clicky. And books that require you to wander into these zones. So, from a bibliophilic standpoint, they have bookish significance!
# Apr 30 2010 at 8:19 PM Rating: Decent
I wonder what Mr. Horse thinks?

I've tried all the starter areas as they've come out, and no sir, I don't like them. At all. But it's a done deal now, so... *sigh*
Well... damn?!
# Apr 30 2010 at 4:43 PM Rating: Decent
I'm trying to remain optimistic about this whole "removing the Isles" thing but, to be honest, I can't seem to find any real GOOD reason why they would want to do this. I understand that developing a game of this scale is not exactly cheap, but how hard can it be to take a step back and look at where the game was at launch and where it is now and say, "Well, this area could use some improvement" rather than just shutting entire areas down all together.

While I'm all for pushing the game forward and expanding upon it, I don't agree with removing content just because it doesn't fit into where the game stands now. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind starting in cities like Timorous Deep or Kelethin, it's just that having the option to relive some old content is nice every now and then.

Hypothetical situation here; let's say SOE decides to release a couple of more expansions in the future and push the game even further, what happens if we are forced to give up more older content such as Timorous Deep just because it's not up to par with where the game stands by than? It is possible to expand upon a game without just saying, "To Hell with it! Let's just get rid of all the old content so we can make room for all this new shiny stuff!" I don't consider myself a nostalgic type of guy but damn, REALLY? Just dropping old content seems ridiculous and I feel it's a bad idea. But hey, who am I to complain? I'm just the guy that pays my 15$ a month to play.
Another perspective
# Apr 30 2010 at 8:12 AM Rating: Decent
149 posts
The dev response on this was pretty interesting. Each server is capable of handling thousands and thousands of players. Many zones in the low level areas only get a few dozen players in them a week. However, newer zones like the SF raid dungeons are lagged like crazy because there are so many people in them that the servers are overworked. If the developers can close the isles, recoup a few servers and repurpose those servers to hosting raid content instead, wouldn't the majority of the population be ok with that? Not only do the new zones become less laggy, but the company saves thousands of dollars not having to buy new servers.

Also, the new player experience in timorous is vastly superior to that of the isles (and i expect halas to be even better). The quests flow better and the quest rewards are much more appropriate to the stats required by classes after the stat revamp. The quest rewards from the isles is reflective of the state of the game at launch. This is not the state of the game now, so closing the isles makes more sense than totally revamping them to replace the quest rewards, which would cost a lot of money that the majority of players would rather see spent elsewhere. This is a short term solution.

On the flip side, revamping the new player experience is probably better for the game in the long run. If new players have hugely enjoyable experiences in any zone they start in, they will be more likely to continue playing past the free 14 day trial. As a new player, I am hoping that the improvements to the "golden path" in the next update will help that even more.
# Apr 29 2010 at 9:01 PM Rating: Good
101 posts
I, too, give a thumbs up to being able to start a toon in Timorous Deep. However, I'd rather have a choice.
I simply don't understand the logic behind this change. Updates, in my opinion, should modify existing content or add NEW content without throwing out the good old stuff, the tried and true.
I've played EQ and EQ II for almost ten years and I'm sorry to say that, though I still enjoy both games, I'm not sure how long I'll continue to play. Sony has become somewhat disappointing.
more Dev follow-up
# Apr 29 2010 at 8:24 PM Rating: Excellent
Special Snowflake
6,786 posts
Community Manager | QA Lead
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Cook Ten Rats
# Apr 29 2010 at 6:16 PM Rating: Decent
Sometimes I feel like the devs are doing things they 'think' we want; instead of just asking us for opinions. As most people will tell you, they're quite happy with the starting cities the way they are.
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EQ2: Gwenythe: http://u.eq2wire.com/soe/character_detail/468152233422
# Apr 29 2010 at 6:38 PM Rating: Excellent
Special Snowflake
6,786 posts
missjackie wrote:
Sometimes I feel like the devs are doing things they 'think' we want; instead of just asking us for opinions. As most people will tell you, they're quite happy with the starting cities the way they are.

Something I had to keep reminding myself of as I wrote this: SOE is not obligated to consult us on game changes. They're often quite good about soliciting our opinion, but they don't HAVE to and they don't have to follow our advice.

Usually I'm a little ray of sunshine who can see both sides of the equation when changes upset the community, but I'm having a really hard time with this one. It feels hasty and ill-planned to me.
Community Manager | QA Lead
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Cook Ten Rats
# Apr 29 2010 at 10:20 PM Rating: Decent
Calthine wrote:
missjackie wrote:
Sometimes I feel like the devs are doing things they 'think' we want; instead of just asking us for opinions. As most people will tell you, they're quite happy with the starting cities the way they are.

Something I had to keep reminding myself of as I wrote this: SOE is not obligated to consult us on game changes. They're often quite good about soliciting our opinion, but they don't HAVE to and they don't have to follow our advice.

I don't mind majority of the changes, as I've enjoy them a lot. But removing something that lots and lots of people have enjoyed.. it's just.. /sigh
EQ1: Gooshy: http://eq.magelo.com/profile/1870652
EQ2: Gwenythe: http://u.eq2wire.com/soe/character_detail/468152233422
Starting as a new player
# Apr 29 2010 at 5:49 PM Rating: Decent
As a new player, I give a thumbs up to starting my first character on Timorous Deep.
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