Lockjaw – EverQuest’s New Progression Server

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Lockjaw: the new Time-locked Progression server

It’s a numbers game:

Mercifully, Daybreak has recognized that they completely underestimated the demand for a classic-era server. When Ragefire launched there were some “speedbumps” okay, that’s being too polite. Let’s be real, the launch of the Ragefire server was a disaster. It was ridiculously difficult to get into the server, stay connected to the server, and not be trained and/or KS’ed by people running groups of 6 multi-boxed Magicians around.

The thing that kills me is that there should have been better preparation for the influx of new players. That may sound unfair, but bear with me. There three ways that they could have done a better estimation of the demand for the new server or at least have adjusted for it on the fly.

  1. There are 2 ways to play EverQuest –

    1. Free to Play and “All Access” which is $15 a month. To play on Ragefire, however, requires “All Access” account standing. Therefore, when the announcement of the new server was made there should have been a close observation of the number of new/reactivated “All Access” accounts. This is only part of the equation, however.
  2. Metrics from the beta period should have provided important data

    1. The number of beta participants should have been an indication of the demand for the server – as only a fraction of the folks actually interested in playing on the new server would have been in on the beta, I’d wager (in an at least slightly educated manner) a 4x or greater population demand for Live vs Beta.
    2. The beta period was just too short – 7 days wasn’t enough to validate that the bugs were all ironed out (as evidenced by the level 50 Heroic-equipped characters that people were running around with at server launch), or was it enough time to get a clear understanding of what the player load would look like. Look, I get it – they wanted to get this running ASAP, but it really seems like caution was thrown to the wind and flew back in their faces on this one.
  3. Have Lockjaw on standby from the get-go

    As someone who works in a SaaS industry, this is the biggest offender on the list. It is nearly 100% trivial to have a standby server waiting in the wings to handle additional load. In today’s world of virtualization and hyperconvergence there really was no reason not to have a second server ready to roll on day 1.

With those items laid out, however, at lease two good things have come out of this fiasco.

Que es Queue?

The queuing system has finally been written. Okay, let’s call a spade a spade: the queuing system was finally necessary. After years of dwindling population and server consolidations it’s refreshing to see DBG have to find a way to handle high demand for their game.

We told you!

For years people have been saying “Give us classic EQ and I’ll play!”. This has proven that to be true in no unequivocal terms. The demand has been astonishing. With Project 1999’s recent endorsement by Daybreak and now not just Ragefire but also Lockjaw being successfully launched it should now be completely clear to DBG that classic EQ is something people want and are willing to pay subscription fees for.

Lockjaw bearing the load

In the frenzy that followed the launch of Ragefire there was much frustration with not being able to log in, not having mobs to gain XP from, and so it goes with any major population challenge. Lockjaw is in an interesting position and presents a potentially difficult choice to people frustrated by Ragefire’s massive population: continue to battle the mage-boxing hoard on Ragefire or start over on Lockjaw. My gut says that Lockjaw will be a smaller population than Ragefire, and that’s okay with me. I ran around a bit on a mage last night to see what the server dynamic is like and I found it to be fine, over all.

Classic EQ…?

The fact that DBG refuses to prevent people using 3rd party external applications to make playing 6 characters at once is disappointing to those of us who wanted to experience the closest thing to “classic” EQ you can get outside of Project 1999. The biggest issue beyond that for me is that the game has just changed so much in the last 16 years: many zones have been completely and fundamentally redesigned. I understand the reason for these changes from a game design perspective; they needed to be changed based on modern concepts and provide graphical overhauls to some of the very earliest (and often highest population) zones such as Freeport, Commonlands, and North / South Ro (Oasis).

Bottom line

The point to all this rambling? It’s been fun to play on these two servers, when I could get in to play of course. Time will tell if the “modern classic” version of EQ will hold crotchety old EQ players’ attention or not. The prevalence of “boxing” and the changes to classic zones have proven less than classic in nature, so the question remains whether the classic zones and fresh economy will continue to capture the imagination of the old-timers that helped launch EverQuest into the history books of gaming. Ultimately there’s a win-win to be had here. Daybreak gets a large influx of subscribers to bolster their bottom line and Project 1999 gets tons of free advertising when the old-timers log in and see that the “classic experience” has been watered down and largely altered. The number of times I’ve seen someone recommend Project 1999 to a complaining old-timer in game and on the DBG forums is large and only seems to be growing. As someone who has historically played quite a bit on Project 1999 I see this as a good thing.

I’m actually inclined to continue on Lockjaw even though I am loathe to abandon my level 16 Paladin on Ragefire. The lower population and drama over on Lockjaw are appealing and I am finding it quite pleasant to actually be able to log in when I want to without waiting in queue until I fall asleep. Granted the fact that Lockjaw has been added will probably reduce those queue times significantly, we shall see. I’ll probably bounce between the two servers for a while to continue to feel out how the addition of Lockjaw affects the population as a whole.

Are you playing on Ragefire, Lockjaw or Project 1999? Why have you made the choice you did?

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