UltimateEQ will be getting a massive update this Summer. There are many reasons for this, which I will detail. Along with my explanation for all of this, I will also detail the expected changes. So with that said, lets get into it.
Why Is This Happening?
There are two primary reasons for this update:
1. I did not properly anticipate scale when it comes to numbers, particularly damage / hp / mana. If you are a long-term player, you will most likely recall Ultimate and Avatar tiers having, more or less, sane numbers when it came to player stats/combat output. However, Demigod and God tier really ballooned things. This created significant barriers to creating new content, as damage numbers got so high, for example, that occasionally they would roll back from the server as 0. Similar issues were encountered with player hit points, where the client could no longer calculate things correctly, so the hp bar would get quite weird, as an example.
When scaling so high, whether its due to innate spell attributes, focus modifiers, and so forth, it becomes a really difficult endeavor to create, test, and balance new content. I've always taken pride in creating balanced content as well as functional classes, and to be blunt, that is a near impossibility if only for the issues discussed above. Essentially, a post-God tier is not doable.
One idea I initially had was to use the Hardcore functionality to essentially create "seasonal" content, very much like traditional Hardcore seasons work. However, while that gives fresh progression, it doesn't solve the issue with creating new content, which is what most people seem to want. To be fair new content is also what drives my interest in maintaining things.
There are other challenges as well, but more from a technical standpoint as opposed to design. It may come as a surprise, but I am nearly out of spell ids within the EQEMU backend. Spell ids are generally linked to new spells I create, and with custom spells being one of my big features, that's a problem. This prevents me from further fleshing out/scaling classes when introducing new content. Other issues include way too many DB calls for spell scripts and other data necessary for players, such as flags. This has all been solved via what are called entity variables on the new revision, but on live, I really cannot change the structure - It would introduce a massive amount of potential defects.
2. I learned a lot of design lessons over the years that, from an implementation standpoint, are not possible within the framework that exists today. If you were around during the great stat squish, I went through an exercise where, aside from all allocated stats on items, I also scaled damage, focus, etc. That was a really painful process, certainly one I wouldn't want to inflict upon myself again, particularly when, if I start with a relative blank slate design-wise, I can now "do things the right way".
As a practical system example, on the revised code base I now have scripts in place to generate spell scrolls, dbstr data, spell data, price scrolls, add scrolls automatically to appropriate vendors, and auto-generation of spell/disc learning scripts. This allows me to spend my time designing items/spells, while the rest of the drudgery is handled with a click of a button. This is a big deal for solo designers like myself, where nearly all the manual labor is removed, allowing me to focus on raw creativity. The downside to building these systems is that they simply aren't visible to players, which is intended, but at times it can look like work is not getting done, when it actually is.
There are many other instances of learnings that I want to apply to make everyone's experience better, and those will be reflected in the section to follow.
So what exactly is getting updated? Well, quite a bit. I started with a fresh code base, and only brought over things that I knew would be reusable and not cause any design issues as I spoke about above. There isn't a large amount of reused code, mostly just helper functionality for instances and npc communication. Otherwise, this is all new code. On the backend, everything is new as well. Things will not feel majorly different, the server is still UltimateEQ, but I can guarantee it will smell like a new car while still maintaining all of the approaches/feel/themes of the server. You certainly will not feel shellshock when logging in.
That said, lets dig a bit deeper into a Q/A.
Question: When I log into the server will things look different?
Answer: The Lobby and its use should be essentially the same (right now it is temporarily the Nexus on the test server). There will now be an incorporation of open world zones for progression, however. FYI Wizards will be able to send you directly to instances/zones as well now.
Question: Is the level cap changing?
Answer: Yes. The new max level will be 50.
Question: Is 1-50 still just grinding up for the sake of getting to "real" content?
Answer: No. I wanted to bring back some of the EQ feel to things. Ultimate progression now starts at level 1 and goes up through 50. Avatar, Demigod, and God tiers will be 50 only. One philosophy I have taken is that levels should matter, as should obtaining levels. I would guess that leveling will be a bit slower than it currently is, but that will be offset by a few things. First, all classes have completely custom spells/discs (similar to now in many regards) and you start learning talents at level 10. The vendors you know (Doug, Flex, Max) that use "credits" will still provide you with gear, but will now use the alternate currency functionality. Dungeons, obviously, will be your best avenue for top-tier gear/clickies, no changes there.
Question: What do you mean all spells/discs are now custom?
Answer: As you level up you will gain access to spells I have made. They are all very much in-line with what you would expect from UltimateEQ, but are also familiar from an EQ standpoint. I feel like, particularly in the God tier, that I got away from what EQ was. To be fair it was an experiment I made a bet on, and I think I partially succeeded and partially failed. I want your characters to play great, content to feel engaging, and progression to feel rewarding. That is my primary focus, and making custom spells/discs allows me to do this. Also, as an FYI, traditional 1-50 spells will not be accessible any more, only spells I've made. You most certainly will see a lot of familiar spells, both from a traditional 1-50 EQ standpoint, but also from a current UltimateEQ standpoint. The later will just be far better designed and implemented.
Question: Why in the world are you using only custom spells?
Answer: Generally, for every memorable EQ spell, there are 5 that are either useless or uninspiring. Spells should really define the class and make you feel powerful and engaged with players or mobs. I am primarily focused on retaining class identity, but making every class feel amazing to play, even at low levels.
Question: Are you seriously recreating/redesigning spells and talents for 16 classes?
Answer: Yep! Expect some commonality with current custom spells and talents, however.
Question: How are talents different?
Answer: Aside from starting at level 10, there are now many, many more talents you can choose from. Specs will be very important. A new UI has been created (use the command #talent to view it, example work in progress below) that allows you to choose talents without talking to an npc, to save a primary and secondary spec which you can change on the fly, and all info about all talents is now housed within help files which are accessible from the EQ -> help menu.
Question: Help files?
Answer: Absolutely. The help UI within EQ can be modified to show whatever HTML content I want. I have scripts that generate HTML for all class spells, talents, tradeskill info, and quests automatically. So when I do a release, I will provide updated files. My hope is, anything you need info on will be accessible within a few clicks, accessible from anywhere, and will not require you to converse with an NPC. Here is an example of help files in action:
Question: Tell me about tradeskills?
Answer: Tradeskills are one of my favorite new features.
-Enchanting allows you to create custom items on the fly, adding custom attributes to your selected item.
-Disenchanting breaks down items you loot into Enchanting materials, which are used for Enchanting and Transmuting. These can also be sold.
-Alchemy allows you to create really powerful potions.
-Herbalism/Mining allows you to go out in the world and farm up materials to use for tradeskills/sell as well as provide an alternate route to gain experience.
-Transmuting is essentially a carryover from current implementation, with new recipes.
-Titanforging is the new implementation of your "Ultimate Weapons". It will also incorporate armor now, as well.
Question: How do I track my trade skill level/learned formulas?
Answer: I hijacked the AA (Filter by tradeskills) window to show all custom formulas you have learned as well as your skills for every tradeskill. No longer do you need to speak to NPC's about these things, it's all nice and streamlined. Here is an example of how tradeskills look in the UI:
Question: Are there still Ultimate Weapon quests?
Answer: Yes, but it will be handled by Titanforging NPC's and the quest itself will now start at the end of Ultimate progression (Kerafyrm).
Question: Can I still summon bosses like Arch Magus Phil does on live?
Question: What about the bazaar? Will there be an economy?
Answer: Absolutely. Everything, aside from some vendor bought items, will be tradable. This is something I tried to hamstring into God tier content as it currently exists, but with a fresh start we can have a living economy from the get-go, which I think will bring a greater level of engagement. You will have to ask yourself, should I disenchant an item in order to enchant my gear or someone else's, use it in transmuting, or should I sell it? Things will be quite interesting and interdependent.
Question: How many characters can I play at once on the new revision?
Answer: I am going back to 2 max characters out in the world. I will allow for a bazaar mule to be on as well, as long as that character stays within the bazaar. Systems are already written to ensure, at any given time, you only have 2 characters out in the world.
Question: Give me a bit better idea of what the open world content means for me.
Answer: So progression will not simply be instances that start at level 1. Generally, as things stand (this can change at any time FYI), leveling up is broken up into 3 brackets:
Typically the first half of each bracket will be too low for "leveling" dungeons. So for instance, if Crushbone is a bracket 1 dungeon, it will most likely become level appropriate at 10. You will be able to level up to 10 in a customized version of Greater Fay. By taking this approach, I can also start to connect the world a bit better, so it doesn't just feel like a bunch of portals. Open world zones will also have the majority of gathering nodes for herbalism/mining, with some rare nodes being in dungeons as well.
Question: So there will still be Ultimate, Avatar, Demigod, and God tiers?
Answer: Yes, no changes here aside from the God tier level-cap increase. Things should feel fairly familiar, the only massive difference is Ultimate tier incorporates levels 1-50, while other tiers are strictly 50.
Question: Will the level cap ever raise?
Answer: Probably, but only for post-God content (current end-game).
Question: Will I be able to solo/dual-box all content?
Answer: I am going back to how I originally did things in the initial revision of the Ultimate tier in 2018. Most things should be duoable, but expect some major progression encounters or special events to require more, like how things are already. I very much want to foster community again, while also making things accessible to players who prefer more privacy. As things move towards beta testing all this will get tuned and I will take all feedback necessary to keep things fun.
Question: Am I going to have 1000 clickies in my bag like the live server still?
Answer: No. The amount of clickies will be reduced, but the usefulness and implementation of them will be far improved. it should feel rewarding to get a clicky, perhaps even more so than how things currently are.
Question: Is there going to be a reason to AFK in the game?
Answer: No. I will be adding things like rested experience and bonus alternate currency potions for alchemy. More than likely I will also have a platinum sink, similar to Ultimate Credits, for buying similar or stacking functionality to this. I do not want this server to preclude you from playing on another.
Question: So if you are starting from scratch, what happens to my characters?
Answer: I do not have a clear-cut answer on this yet. Items, progression, spells, and so forth are all new in their implementation, so there are not common threads. I will promise that no characters will be lost to time, but the exact manner as to how characters are preserved is TBD.
Question: Sometimes I feel like I rely on the Jenkins bottle/buffs from it. Is that still going to be a thing?
Answer: No. Every class is provided with self-sufficiency now. Certainly class buffs will still help, but you will want to actually engage with those classes, whether they are alts or other players. As time passes I may eventually provide some convenience items, but they will not be available when the update goes live.
Question: Do zones still use your auto-buff script for mobs?
Answer: No. I rewrote that functionality to work directly with the database. From a player perspective you wont see mobs leveling up randomly/not displaying correctly on MQ2 in terms of con. The functionality for the auto-buff has also been greatly improved from an implementation standpoint, further allowing me to create content faster.
Question: Will Hardcore progression come back?
Answer: Absolutely. Season 3 will launch sometime after the update.
Question: Is Infinite Kael going to come back?
Answer: Yep, but much improved. I pruned it out in 2019, then re-implemented it for Hardcore progression. I want it to be accessible outside of Hardcore. It will provide leaderboards, rewards, etc as you would expect.
Question: I really like the current revision of UltimateEQ, is this going to be that different?
Answer: Just think of this as a massive update. The best analogy I can come up with for the update would be: "I just painted my house, got new furniture, and built a pool". Anyways, this is going to feel very much like you would expect UltimateEQ to feel, but come with a lot of improvements, quality of life, and just general fun. Progression will be more or less the same, but with some new twists. Obviously there will be callbacks or reuse of signature items. I do not expect many people will wish for me to revert once this all goes into production!
Question: It seems like this has been a lot of work. How long have you been working on this update, and what can I do to help?
Answer: During January (2021) I pulled down the latest EQEMU binaries and started with essentially a clean code base. I spent most of January and February writing new systems and getting a design framework in-place to make everything smooth for implementation. I am now on the class revision phase (May 2021), which involves creating spells/discs/talents/testing each class. The last implementation phase will be getting progression zones back online and testing progression from level 1 through Sleeper's Tomb (End of Ultimate tier as always). If you want to help test all the new systems, you can always join the UltimateEQ Rev2 server, it contains the latest code and is live 24/7.
Question: Is gambling coming back?
Answer: Sure, but I will almost certainly tie it to Titanforging. I will poll the community on this one, but either way, I am a big Weasel fan and he remains in some form.
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