[MUD-Dev] EQ: what makes a zone interesting?

J C Lawrence claw at 2wire.com
Wed Apr 25 17:58:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


On Wed, 25 Apr 2001 10:45:52 -0700 
Frank Crowell <frankc at maddog.com> wrote:

> On the Everquest board , one of the topics recently was "What
> makes a zone interesting".  The posting includes compilations from
> the over 300 responses that they got on the question.  Makes for
> some interesting reading, especially if you are familiar with EQ.

>   http://boards.station.sony.com/ubb/everquest/Forum1/HTML/000103.html

Quoted:

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Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-16-2001 01:34 PM            

Once again I asked my esteemed colleagues what questions they would
like to ask of all of you. Now most of us were all questioned out
after the Fan Faire, but that didn't stop us.

      quote:


      I'd like to know this:

      If loot was not a factor, what do the players find interesting
      about zones? What would they like to see?

      Dave Nevala
      Artist



Awesome question.

So what sort of things do you find interesting about the zones that
you like. We're not talking about the Phat Lewtz here, we're talking
about other things. For example, I love the neon and sort of smutty
feel of Neriak. It conveys a sense of the people that live there
very well. And I hear endless raves about the bar fights that them
silly dwarves have.

It could be about the kinds of battles that take place in certain
zones.  It could be about the geometry of the area? whatever strikes
your fancy.

Just use the Submit Comments button and let us know what you think.

Thanks.

Alan
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Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-18-2001 03:03 PM            

We've received so many comments on this topic that I'm not going to
even try to respond to all the ones that I'm going to post
here. I'll just start it off with a thank you for the responses and
end with in a comment.  You're all tired of hearing me chatter by
now anyway?

Well...my favorite zone in the game (so far) is the Crypt of
Dalnir. I've only been so far into it, but the theme is
coherent. The zone itself tells a story. I love the
hyper-intelligent slimes who are controlling the other races in the
zone. The mobs are, for the most part, pretty much stuff you can see
in a zillion other zones, but they are tied together in a way that
is easy to read as you travel and fight in the zone, even if you
haven't heard the story from some elf halfway across the world. I
really like that. I'm also fascinated by Najena, and would like to
know more about her and the fallen temple she inhabits. I'd also
like to see more about the Moltor family, whose crypt is
Unrest. Paineel is my favorite city. It's beautiful. It has a look
that very much matches its inhabitants. It has little things that
make it interesting (like the skeletal musicians in the bar).

Ghuz Spineshank of the Mystic Alliance
25 Warrior on Rodcet Nife
Rob

***

RaanVenturis wrote:

Two of my favorite zones in the game are Lower Guk and Sebilis (even
though I have not yet seen all of sebilis as I am not yet high enuf
-only 53). So, when thinking about what I like about zones, I have
to consider what I like about those zones.

First, those zones REQUIRE a well organized and varied group in
order to survive. You have to have your healer, your buffer, your
snarer, your tanks, corwd control, etc.

Second, there are only two REQUIRED classes for those zones (cle and
enc).  All other members of a successful can be varied.

Third, even with a well balanced and organized group, you are not
guanteed success. Both zones still requires playing well together
and everyone doing their job to succeed. That makes it a continuous
challenge.

Fourth, both zones DON'T require more than a full group to be
successful (except the lowest reaches of sebilis).

Fifth, there are enough "room areas" that multiple people can play
successfully in the zone.

Sixth nice and varied graphics with a common "theme".

To sum it all up, the thing that makes a zone great is a that it is
a challenge for a full group, has decent loot, does not take so many
people to be successful that there is more time spent organizing
than fighting, and requires a balanced, varied, and organized group
to be successful.

***

Nimbul wrote:

I think my favorite zone so far, Tower of Frozen Shadows.

Crowding: hardly any. Most of the time it's a group to a floor

Location: not hard to get to, right near a port. See crowding, zone
in, if it's crowded, leave. It's great.

Keys: well done! Adds just enough risk to keep lazy players out, but
they don't become a hassle. We worked to get a complete backup set,
and carefully chose who in the group got keys. (though the spawn
rate of the angry librarian needs to be looked at in my opinion,
that key is WAY too hard to get compared to the others).

Phat L3wt: not so much as to draw farmers. Enough to make it
exciting when you find something.

Loot: cash is decent as are weapon drops (for cash)

Difficulty: just right. If you're smart, risk is minimal. Few
roamers for adds means you can do this without the "required"
enchanter. You can also do it without a full group.

Trainless: (is that a word?) the keyed levels eliminate trains. You
can only zone out, or to the next (harder) level (and supposedly
mobs follow), so there's no place to train to and kill others, or
worst, have others train onto you.

Variety: each new level has a new look/feel, yet still stays within
the theme.

I'd love to see more zones like this.

***

OccamsRazor wrote:

I like the little mini-dungeons in the Kunark zones, such as, the
small spider cave in Field of Bone, the goblin tunnels in Lake of
Ill Omen, the Burynai mines in Frontier Mountains, the Yeti caves in
Dreadlands, etc.  These aren't full dungeons, but they're more than
just tents with a few monsters standing around a campfire. I was
impressed and delighted when I found them, and it made me feel
rewarded for exploration for the first time in a long time in EQ.

***

For me what makes a zone is the ability to move around as you
fight. Most zones are overcrowded all the time so you can't do this
but certain zones are empty enough that once in a while you can take
a group of six and adventure through a zone, instead of killing the
same respawning mobs over and over. Sebilis is a great designed zone
because it has several part of it that are like independent
dungeons. For example you can go to the grup, pick area and most of
the time be by yourself with one full group. That part of the zone
is big enough so you can move around a bit rather then just pulling
non stop. The crypt, and bar/chef area is the same way. For me
sebilis marked the evolution of the games dungeons because of this.

Nurok


***

Hrm, the Subject thingie is broken again it seems.

Well, Hi there.

I wanna comment on this by an example. My favourite zone when it
comes to design is Blackburrow (nope, not because I like trains, not
really). I like it because it's completely asymmetric, no straight
lines anywhere, the guy who created it really did some great work
there. It's all messy, you run down first, then over some bridges,
you have to dive somewhere, then you go a bit up again to move
further inside, climb some ladders, etc. Just like one would expect
a real gnoll-hole. When I went in there for the first time, I was
really lost, and thats how it's supposed to be.  If I would crawl in
some newly discovered cave in real life, I would probably get lost
the same way.

However, it's made in such a way that you can recognize some spots
(like the brewing barrels, or the bridges) so you can learn your way
around once you've been in there for awhile. Thats the one thing
about Crystal Caverns I didn't like, there aren't enough of those
memorizable spots in there, so it's hard to remember the way upwards
through the orc section. Apart from that it's a beautiful zone too,
with lovely textures and the singing velium in every corner. Yes,
sound effects add alot to atmosphere in a zone
too. Drip. Drip. Drip...

Also I enjoyed some of the funny creatures you did, e.g. snow bunnys
in a 30+ Zone Or a snow dervish slowing down in its rotation and
finally falling apart when slain, or the geonids et al.

And I laughed my ass off when I was in that school room in Thurgadin
where one kid pinches the other and the teacher tells the one who
was pinched to stand in the corner, because he yelled out loud Or
the sleepy Guard in Icewell.

(Bah, Absor never posts my comments anyways.)

/bonk Absor

Hmm, too many chars to put them all in a signature. You may refer to
me as Menemtahe for the moment :-)

***

Wow...I could probably write a book about this topic. Here are some
short thoughts :

Speaking from the graphical design of a dungeon, I especially like
dungeons that tell a story. The Hole is a very good example. If you
are down there you can imagine how it mustve been when the
elementals from the plane of underfoot conquered the city and
destroyed everything, forcing the heretics to retreat to
Paineel. Its creepy to walkk down streets in a ghost town....you see
shops and inns, destroyed and with broken furniture.

As for the gameplay side of design: I think its vey important to
have a safe zone in in a dungeon. Not everyone can assemble a party
before going to a dungeon. And its hard to form pickup groups if you
cant hang around an entrance of a dungeon because of mobs spawning
there (Howling Stones).  From the entrance it should be possible to
go in several directions..not just one way...that would allow for
multiple groups to go down without stepping on other people
toes. When you go down a path..make it possible to branch off to set
up camps in certain areas..so that folloing groups dont have to go
through your camp to reach another spot. As for mobs: I know it is a
an old topic. But please make it possible to go down without having
to have a chanter in the group. Too many mobs in an area and too
many roamers together with bad pathing makes a chanter a MUST in a
group.  Perhaps make the mobs harder but not that many in one
spot. Make rooms with just one or two mobs in it. Make a mob that is
very hard (doable by one group of course) and that procs pets to
make things interesting for example.

Well, as I said..I could probably write more about it..but I am sure
you have a lot of other emails to read...thanks for listening.

Thoril Honorblade

***

Lantir_DelArmgo wrote:

I, personally, love the feel of Thurgadin. Almost all of the other
cities in EverQuest feel barren. Walk into a tavern in Felwithe or
Kaladim and what do you see? Not a whole lot. There aren't many npcs
in the bar. The pubs in Thurgadin, however, are full of people, and
the added sound effects of lots of people talking help bring this
area to life. Crowded barrooms are just one of the little touches
that make this zone more interesting than others.

***

Goladus wrote:

Scenery, atmosphere. I love the remote and desolate feeling of
Permafrost, the sinister atmosphere in qeynos catacombs, and the big
lava pits in Sol B. Dalnir is freakish and unnerving. To me
blackburrow feels like an infestation, though I'd not rate
blackburrow as one of the more scenic zones in the game.

I like when a zone has a good story behind it.

I like a zone that I can explore solo(meaning the creatures are low
level or not agro).

Or I like a dungeon that a significant portion of can be explored by
a single group.

I like when NPC's respond to hails!
I like when NPC's respond to hails!

***

We received over 300 comments about what you all like about zones so
far.  The majority seem to like a theme, a story, a sense of life
and mood.  Personally, I think that's a key to making the world more
enjoyable. Loot is only exciting the first time you see it. A well
designed, well plotted, nicely populated zone will be nice every
time you see it.

I just can't post all 300+ messages. But the team has access to all
of them. And I'd like to see many more messages for them to read
over and use when thinking about zone design. Keep sending in your
ideas. I'll post more of your comments later.

Thanks.

Alan
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Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-19-2001 03:53 PM            

EQ team,
Can you post more comments?

I have so much fun reading about the broken town in The Hole and
crowded bar in Thugardin. I've never been to those places before and
these stories makes me want to explore the place myself.

I believe that these are the STORIES and LORE of Everquest. Where
you heard about the great city and history.

EverQuest comes alive for me after reading the comments.

-skyp


Most certainly. We've received a lot of responses to this post, and
rather than trying to come up with clever responses to them all,
I'll just post more of them for you to read.


Sumyun-SR wrote:

just wanted to tell you about my first visit to the temple of
veeshan last week. something that i really enjoyed about the zone
was the way in the opening halls of the zone were portrayed all of
the old world and kunark prominent dragons. such as nagafen depicted
fighting a barbarian warrior in his lair or vox also doing battle it
was really a trip down memory lane telling the player look what
youve been through and how far youve come to get here. it was a
really neat connection for an old school player whos been there and
done that. any zone that has content that can trigger that kind of
response from a player and kind of connect with them like that is
excellent.

***

Leata-Evoluxa wrote:

Personally, my favorite zones are:

  Nurga/Droga:

    FINALLY, a dungeon where you don't just choose a cubbyhole where
    mob_003 spawns and drops loot_00456 or loot_0064. These are both
    dungeons you actually have to crawl through and explore, and
    they are very linear.  Almost everything wanders, almost
    everything drops random loot. The only shame was I was just
    almost too high-level for Droga when Kunark came out.  =(

  Tower of Frozen Shadow:

    A dungeon that again, is linear and not just a random collection
    of rooms with specific mobs with specific loot you can squat and
    camp. Having to fight special creatures to gain the key to the
    next floor is awesome, especially Tserrina's Key which is your
    "passport" to the whole Tower as a reward for killing Tserrina,
    which is no easy task. My guild on Brell Serilis practically
    LIVES in the Tower, especially the 7th floor where Tserrina
    spawns.

  The Hole:

    I like the whole design and the toughness factor of this
    place. Even without the Experience Bonus it has, I would hunt
    here a lot. Lots of tough mobs, and you really need to have a
    solid and experienced group to go through here. Plus it's not
    crowded like Sebilis or Karnors because the "phat lewt" is not
    as prevalent here.

Oh, and I have to say as well that Paineel is my favorite city,
hands down.=)

***

EverQuest needs a good pyramid. The pyramids in Cazic Thule are lots
of fun, but they're more Mayan style than Egyptian. There are plenty
of great towers, but no really good pyramids. I'm talking a "Plateau
of Giza" kinda pyramid complex here with some nice, elaborate
dungeon complexes inside of them. I'm reminded of what was quite
probably the best AD&D module series I ever played (Pyramid, and,
uh, the other two ), and the flavor there was just tremendous. I'm
thinking a grand, rolling desert zone, akin to the Karanas in size,
with a few massive monumental pyramids off in the distance. Come on,
it's not like you need to mine the stone or anything, it's all
digital .

As for what makes a zone interesting, I'm a flavor magnet. Chatting
NPC's, eerie, creepy effects, difficult maps to get used to
(Blackburrow, Splitpaw, and Guk are excellent examples...as well as
Droga/Nurga). To date, Mistmoore, Unrest, and (most especially)
Befallen raise my "creepy factor" right through the roof every time
I go in. Befallen especially has a tremendously good "tomb" feel for
me, even better than Dalnir. Just the right combination of low
ceilings, collapsed areas, and general decay to make my first
adventures there real knuckle-biters.

Danger is another important aspect. I personally like doing "dungeon
crawls", where you start with just a few friends and go from one end
of the dungeon to the other, fighting what you find along the
way. There's something really freaky-kinda-disturbing about huddling
hidden in a corner at almost no life trying to get enough mana just
to escape (or heal yourself, or whatever). Nothing is better than a
knuckle-biter combat where everyone gets out with less than a bubble
of life and mana. I also like places where it's readily apparent
that once you go down, there is no easy way back up (if you're a
caster, that is...Dalnir's is priceless for this).

That's my suggestion, ambiance is VERY nicely done most places in
EQ.  Background sounds are pretty fantastic.

Oh, and one other thing. You need drums. You need a good orc/goblin
cave with dangerous, bottomless wells and orcish drumming, and
grunting echoing through the halls from the distance. "Drums in the
Deep" worked in Moria, it'll work in EQ .

-Zekestrom of the Many Names

***

It's not easy to say I like one zone better than another. There are
things I like about every zone, but I have to compliment you on the
way you seem to have been thinking in Velious. Velketors Labyrinth,
Crystal Caverns, Dragon Necropolis and to a certain extent
Skyshrine, all of them seem to have been designed in a way where
moving about in the zone is just as rewarding as sitting still.

I think that is a good way of thinking. When you are moving, the
movement itself creates "story". I'll try to explain it: A story is
a row of "events" happening in the course of a certain time period
(like an evening). When you crawl in a dungeon, the "movement"
creates changing "events" , and your playsession becomes much more
of a story than most camps (as you experience more varied monsters,
NPC's, areas, PC groups...)

Not to say camps can't give you a feeling of having been part of a
story, but as with most theatre plays happening in a single room, a
lot more depends on the dialogue. Less room for surprises in a
single room as well...

A few of the areas and feels I like: 

  - The fairy tale look of the entrance to Velketors castle (The
    patio and garden area, after the well)
  - The view from the cliffs down at the Howling stones entrance.
  - Resting at the dock inside Rivervale.
  - The run from the Paineel Newbie gardens down to The Hole
    entrance.
  - Sneaking around in the Graveyard and Crypt in Mistmoore.
  - Running around in Kelethin and knowing where everything is.
  - The size of Unrest
  - The concept of the Tower of Frozen Shadows, from outside
    drumbeats to scraps of history spread out, to variety, to 
    fitting loot.
  - Fighting our way south in Howling Stones.
  - The way you never get the full view of KC.
  - Walking on the walkways at the sky floor in City of Mist.
  - The music in Nro.
  - The uniqueness of the Cobalt Scar tower.

Piip Ignatz
Iceni - Innoruuk

***

Kalad_Divinewind wrote:

My favorite zone in the game is Kaesora, for several reasons.

  1. Has a place to sit outside and gather a group. I think this is
  critical of many dungeons. The one's that are underused don't have
  any safe places to get everyone together. Example--Howling Stones,
  which would be my favorite zone if you didn't have to spend 2
  hours trying to find enough people to go at it (no safe gathering
  spot either outside or inside).

  2. General spacing of mobs. It always seems to be a challenge, but
  in general you don't get run-away, out-of-control mobs.

  3. A "doable" dungeon. Meaning, the layout just lends itself to
  being "done" by moving through it, rather than camping one spot.

  4. Level-appropriate loot. The loot is very good for the level of
  the dungeon, but no so good that high levels come in and farm it
  all the time alas the Chief in Droga for the Thorned Idol.

  5. A sense of history to the place. You can just FEEL that the
  place has history. The same thing with City of Mist, Mistmoore and
  The Hole. I love dungeons like this. The church area is beautiful
  and you can just picture Xalgoz up there at his pulpit preaching
  to his horde of undead.

It's dungeon's like this that make Everquest such a dynamic
world. Kudos!  and Keep up the good work.

***

For most zones (towns in particular), I love seeing NPCs that
interact with other NPCs. The Holy Harbringer bar in Thurgadin is
probably my most favorite spot in EQ due to its bad jokes and
Horasug's attempts to save the dwarves of Velious. It's touches like
these that make the world seem alive. Too many zones are treated as
if getting through the zone as fast as safely possible is the
goal. Thurgadin is one zone where it's fun to walk slowly and see
what events unfold.

I've seen this done somewhat outside of towns (such as the
Broodmother quest and Garadain quests) and would love to see more
such quests and NPC events happen.

But you're an artist, so you're probably focusing on the zones
themselves.  I'd have to say my favorite zones are the purely 3D
zones, such as the town of Kelethin and the mine shaft in Crystal
Caverns. They add a sense of danger that's not in most other
places. Triggered forms of travel (such as the elevators of Kelethin
and Paineel) are also intriguing, but teleporters usually ruin the
effect of delving deep into a dungeon for me.

I guess the other piece I like about the some zones are the small
imperfections in the world. In Qeynos, a sign disallowing fighting
has "and no Dwarves" sprawled on it near the bottom. The aqueducts
have graffiti such as "Aradune sucks". It's almost something that
I'd want to do but an NPC has already beaten me to.

Well, those are my thoughts about why I like to explore the world of
Norrath.

Corinus
Cazic-Thule

***

I like to see a place that seems like a piece of a real world. I
love the comings and goings in Thurgadin. It's great that the king's
council packs up for the night and goes home. I like the zoo in
Ak'Anon and the sled dogs in Halas.

For hunting, I like the zone to force you to move
around. Unfortunately, if everyone is moving, the zone supports
fewer adventurers at once, because each group occupies a larger
area. Once you have slash-and-burned your way through a part of the
dungeon, it should be uninteresting for a long time while you
explore other areas.

I like to find a number of different challenging fights: a mass of
melees, a mass of casters, a mix of melees and casters, a lord with
guards, a trio of lords, a caster lord and a melee lord, a group of
unmezzable stuff.  Each kind of fight takes a different strategy and
it is fun to have to switch strategies between fights.

I like interesting geometry, but only as much as the game engine
supports.  Arching bridges and mazelike tunnels are really neat to
see and navigate, but if the creatures can't path on them naturally
or if unseen things kill you through the ceiling, much of the charm
is lost.

Kael, for example, is a beautiful zone, with interesting geometry
and good mob placement. It is harmonious with the pathing algorithm;
nothing ever runs directly away from you when it is trying to get to
you. It does lend itself to a moving hunting party, but the fights
are fairly uniform in nature (1-3 unmezzable things).

--
Xymarra Elen-gariel
Enchanter of the Arbiters on E'Ci

***

What I love is beauty and tranquility in the zone design.

Surefall Glade and Thurgadin/Icewell Keep

I could sit and relax in SG all day. If it were a real place I'd
want to live there, it is that quite and beautiful. Thurgadin is
just simply my favorite town. It's alive and bustling. The people
talk to you, get in fist fights with you, and move around and do
things.

Things I dislike. Repetitiveness and dingyness. I do not like
Freeport and Guk. I understand they are zones that were probobly
some of the first created, and therefore ugly.

I love Thurgadin and High Keep also for utility reasons. You can
bind, buy food, gems, arrows, bank, and FIGHT in the same zone. How
awsome is that.  I love pure utility zones. places you don't need to
leave to feel safe, yet can still give you awsome experiance. There
is no travel hassle, or LOADING, PLEASE WAIT... Hell in Thurgadin,
being a Paladin, I can even visit my trainer! Though it is
understandable, these zones only support you during certain levels,
it's still a good stretch of time.

I love that.

I like rich textures and beauty, but not extreem complexity. Crystal
Caverns my be the best looking, well intentioned, yet most horribly
executed zone ever. It is a wonderful and amazing place, but THE
single most complicated dungeon. Go upo to go down, go down to go
up. You can't map this place if you tried. And honestly I find it
hard to belive even the Ry`Gorr and coldain would survive down
there, and not stumble around getting lost. Over complexity is not
fun or rewarding in any way.

Lower Guk suffers form the same problem, but not to the same extent.

Hope this helps.

Mirithal Darkbuster
Knight of Mithaniel Marr
Illuminatus
Karana

***

Why does a zone appeal to me? I'll tell you that my 3 favourite
zones, are Crystal Caverns, The Tower of Frozen Shadow and
Thurgadain, all in Velious. Since this can get long I will only go
into detail of one of em.

Crystal Caverns.

This zone feels ALIVE. From the twisting tunnels and shimmering
velium crystals to grumbling of Ry`Gorr miners outraged at the
"thieves" crawling around their velium veins, to the lost dwarven
city of Froststone full of barely surviving left behinds from before
the founding of Thurgadain, with stories just waiting to be
uncovered, to the breathtakingly beautiful silent and eerie velium
caves below the city, where Queen Drachnia awaits.  And in the
middle of this, an outcropping of Geonids just minding their own
business...This zone has a LIFE. it also feels the most like a true
dungeon crawl of any zone yet in Everquest.

The loot here is nothing to sneeze about, but I could just spend
hours listening to dwarves, or swimming in the crystalline rivers
dodging Velium Crawlers and looking for new things. I love this
place deeply, and it's a good way to get away from the XP grind
sometimes.

The other two zones are interesting to me for the same reason. deep,
DEEP atmosphere.

That's what makes a zone interesting to me.

Jurrasic Epoch


Thanks for all your comments.

Alan

[Note: This message has been edited by ubbadmin]
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Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-20-2001 05:54 PM            

Sounds like Velious is the place to be for nice zones.

Are there any comments about the old world ... you know, for those
of us who can't get to Velious, because we won't have a character
over the level of 30 any time soon?

Jynx

Well, since this question has generated a lot of response, I'm sure
I can find some?


Numtini wrote:

What makes a good zone is sometimes different from what makes it
interesting. I think making it interesting involves a lot of
different visual zones and keeping something on a theme.

I think the most interesting zone for me is Neriak because of the
atmosphere (for an adventuring zone, I think Lavastorm has great
atmosphere) while the best zone for playing I've been to is the
Warrens.

I think music and sound add a huge amount to a zone. After I played
in Blackburrow for the first time with a Soundblaster Live! I went
out and purchased one for myself. The echos etc. were just
incredible. I feel similarly about the little "descent" sound when
you go down the tunnel towards "the bridge" area.

The warrens has great gameplay even tho it's not that exciting in
atmosphere. The loot is level appropriate (and thanks to the special
rules, not farmed by ubers). The trains can be huge, but they are
not automatic death. There is a nice range of levels and if you get
yourself into trouble, you feel like it was you doing something
stupid, not something unfair in the design. And even tho the wall
textures are similar, there are enough landmarks: different sized
openings, altars, short ramps and stairs, doors, etc. that I found
it easy to learn my way around.

***

Someone mentioned Freeport, and I just wanted to throw in my opinion
on that. I LOVE Freeport. It's a city that you can really USE. It's
designed as if the people living there laid out the city as it
grew. People that don't like each other stay away from each other,
supplies for making things are where you need them to be (for the
most part), it's a big center of commerce and people, it's messy and
it feels alive. No other city approaches the realism that Freeport
offers except Thurgadin. And I'm really jealous that I'm not working
with you on making cities.

- Bihlbo (working hard to teach himself 3D image tools and game
design)

***

I love the mood of certain zones, especially when enhanced by sound,
like the creepy sounds in Unrest. I especially like the little
places in zones where the sound comes alive, like under the fallen
pillar by the undead ruins in the Swamp of No Hope. It is a little
mini-reward for exploring the nooks and crannies of a zone.

Sheesh

***

Daye_Tradye wrote:

My personal favorite is Castle Mistemoore. The design is great, all
the secret passages and the castle itself! the zone is also
challenging, it's easy to die yet not so hard as to be
un-playable. The loot that drops is decent for the risk involved in
getting it, and it' never over-crowded. My chars go from 16 - 35 in
that zone hehe sometimes higher if i can find a good group to sneak
in with. We all invis up and sneak back to the maid / butler or up
to the tower thru some of the secret passages. I think all this
factors, the visually appealing design, challenge w/o being too
hard, and decent player load, make this zone interesting and
incredibly fun to play in, IF you know what your doing.

***

The sunsets

Alexandrae and Sock

***

My favorite dungeons? Well for scenary I'd have to say Chardok tops
the list. Take a nice look at the library and you'll see what I
mean.

For mood? I'm not really sure. Yeah, storyline is important to an
RPG but my SK was never to worried about that, just shredding
creatures to bits.  Najena, Befallen, Unrest all have a nice dark
atmosphere. But I personally prefer fast paced dungeons with lots of
action.

My two favorite dungeons in the game are Cazic Thule and Lower
Guk. Cazic Thule is easy enough to learn with time. The central
courtyard makes grouping extremely easy. There is a druid port just
outside, a wizard port INSIDE the dungeon. There are a ton of places
groups can set up and pull to. The challenge is definately present
as well, but not so overpowering as to discourage players.

I've been in a ton of "non-perfect" groups here during my time and
had extreme success and very fast paced nights. Try fighting your
way through the maze from the courtyard to the ziggurat, then
clearing the entire ground floor and fighting all the way up to the
archon on top and tell me you don't have fun....all at 30th level
with no cleric, and no enchanter, just a druid, bard, sk and
rogue...

Lower Guk is layed out wonderfully. The seperation of live and dead
mobs is superb here, I think. And the mob seperation and pathing is
wonderful.  There's nothing more exciting than holding the frenzy
area (30+ mobs) with just 2 warriors, 1 sk and a bard...

The problem with higher level dungeons, as they stand now, is that
unless you have a large group of friends that already hunt there you
can't find a group unless you are a cleric or enchanter. Spending 2
hours LFG in a remote dungeon like Sebilis is not my idea of
fun. Karnors is a bit better for that but the exp reward is not
worth the time it takes to find a group, find a place to pull to,
etc etc. Chardok, while a superbly designed dungeon, isn't hunted
becouse it's seen mostly as a raid location due to the difficulty of
the mobs as you move deeper in.

Some dungeons should be designed to be "crawled" while others should
be designed for the "camping" mindset that we players have grown
into.  Dungeons with buy/sell/bind points close by, ports nearby, a
setup area to build groups in, distinct rooms that once broken make
good camps, not a lot of see invis mobs in the way, or see invis
undead mobs depending which are present, and not a heavy mix of live
and undead standing side by side.  Pullers like to explore before
they dig a group into trouble. At 50+ if you get groups killed a lot
trying to learn a dungeon you won't see many more groups. LGuk I was
able to explore and learn, risking only my neck, without destroying
the whole night for 5 other people when my explorations went
badly. And being a good puller I got into tons of groups.

So to sum up, a good dungeon has a balance between challenge and
explorability/ability to learn. Good dungeons are located in such a
way to make hunting in them feasible and desirable. And good
dungeons have a good layout, design and mood.

Vendric Ravenkrest

Again, thanks for the comments.

Alan --<cut>--

--<cut>-- Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-24-2001 06:41 PM

I am primarily an old continent player. My machine does not well
support the newer areas of the game.

My favorite zones in the older areas: (will also include things I
don't like in those areas)

Blackburrow: Just an incredible warren, complete with waterfalls and
gaping holes. The echos from barking Gnolls are incredible. This is
the reason I prefer to contribute to the genocide of gnolls over
orcs or goblins.

Upper Guk: A real mish mash, with tight corridors and a good
claustrophobic feel to it. Areas carved out of the living rock, and
areas with dressed stone walls. Very nicely done.

Innothule Swamp: Amazingly enough, I think this zone has less 'mist'
than most of the forest zones, making it easier to see where you are
going. I much prefer running through this area than the neighboring
Feerrott jungle. Could use some more snakes though and gators
though.

Everfrost Peaks: This zone makes me cold. Beautifully executed, and
the ability to get near the tops of the mountains on the edge of the
frozen wastes makes for some incredible views. I do wish for the
'crisp frozen morning' view though, the fog is not bad but you
should be able to see forever. (good cold air is much clearer than
normal air because it holds less moisture)

Cities:
Qeynos, has a lived in look and feel while not being as ugly as
Freeport.  Ak'anon is a very well done Gnome city... I'd like to see
another pop up somewhere at some time, though the incessant ticking
will drive me mad!  Mad I tell you!

Kaladim, Neriak and Rivervale are well suited to their
inhabitants. Neriak is a city prepared to stand a siege, and under
expansion (deep in the third gate are areas of construction.) 
Kaladim also seems to be carved from the bones of the earth, and has
that daunting front portal to assault. I would have thought the
dwarves would have cleared the area in front (what's knocking down a
few mountains) for a better sortie/killing zone, but otherwise very
Dwarvish. Rivervale is just... halflingish.

Tyas
Enchanter of the 24th chapter.
Morrel-Thule

***

Electricz wrote:

What I find interesting in a zone is a certain ammount of
intelectual challenge. Puzzles that need to be solved and such. This
is present in PoM, and unfortunately, i cant think of much else
besides that. I really dislike the trend i see whereby which
strategy and critical thought seem to become less and less
important.

***

I think that the most interesting zone that I have ever been to is
kedge keep. The minute walk...i mean swam in, ready with my
rebreather on, I really got he sense that I was in a mermaid
castle. The things that really make the zone are:

  -the fact that it is completly underwater, making it a challenge
  for group organization, making sure no one suffocates.

  -the 3-Dness of the zone, how the next room can be up, down, or
  through a crack in the ceiling. It is like diving in real life.

  -The range of the NPC's, how there are folks you can uber-raid,
  like Estele(sp?) and Phingle; and the good single group stuff near
  the entrance and 1st floor.

I also love the Felwithe Magic Guild, it really feels like great
mages came together and each created their own guilds. And Cabilis
is just a great looking zone, and you can really see how each area
is ruled by a faction


Vago De'Fuego
Mage of the Brew
45 Seasons under his belt
Druzzil Ro

***

Dungeons, i hate outdoor zones. and Action!!!!!! I love zones with
constant action to them. Growing up in places like Blackburrow then
moving on to High Pass and High Keep they REALLY taught you how to
group well cause if you didn't play your part well you died, it was
that simple.  Pulling from the raider room in High Keep into the
warrior room and then the room suddenly spawns and your working as
best as you can. The warriors are nervous cause the hitpoint bar is
dropping fast, the enchanter is gettin whacked, the rogue just can't
seem to backstab and the cleric has just anounced LOM. But then as
if some miracle happens then cleric lands his heal drawing the mob
off the enchanter onto himself, the chanter messes a few while the
warriors and rogue make short work of the remaining mobs and in the
end you all breath a sigh of relief. Thats fun and thats what makes
a good dungeon for me


Autobot

***

The way Kael Drakkal and Thurgadin are set up is easily my
favorite. I like how the friendly quest mobs to some can be seen as
threats to others... the town/dungeon combo thing. Very well done.

-Hekler, Head Bathroom Cleaner of the Tarsis Shriners (EMarr)

***

Veneratio wrote:

I know you probably have gotten 33,000 responses on this but I have
to throw something in. I've talked to many people and we all agree
on a few things on this subject.

Anything to get away from the spawn camping atmosphere makes us want
to go to a zone. Dragon Necropolis is by far the best zone in the
game. The layout, the mobs, the traps, everything is top
notch. Velkators has a unique but similar feel. Lots of ice, mobs
that feel like they were meant to be in the zone, a stimulating
layout. Temple of Veeshan just has a feel to it. It's graphically
stunning but it's the feel that makes it great. I wish every zone in
EQ had that feeling when you were playing in them. I'd go to Dragon
Necro even if there wasn't any loot in there just because the zone
is that good. Plus you'll never have a list, a camp, or a bad time.

***

Personally, I like zones where there's something interesting to do
besides hunting and killing. For instance, with the recent overall
Events going on in the Karanas and elsewhere in the world, several
of the NPCs that used to say little or nothing (for instance, the
farmers in WK and NK) are now aware of events going on around them
enough to complain about the mist, the swarms, etc.

What I would love to see is more of this, where the NPCs at least
can relay events that they saw in their zone. Lanys was in the zone
trying to recruit help? The NPCs should be able to gossip about
it. Sir Jevik was seen fighting some nasty undead? Again, that
should be something the NPCs could gossip about.

Of course, depending on how 'major' an event is, would help
determine how long it's gossiped about. For instance, Firiona Vie
seen wandering around the outpost named after her would bring only a
few days or a few weeks worth of gossip while a big drag out battle
like Kithicor could be talked about many, many, many months later.

Something like this would allow people who weren't lucky enough to
take part in one of the Big Events that tend to shape our world be
able to stay informed enough so that when they do take part, they
don't have to ask questions that tend to sidetrack what is being
relayed to us. Plus I'd imagine that it would help take some of the
load off of the GMs who otherwise have to try to fill in the
backstory for those who are present at the plots.

Just my two copper,

Grei

***

Edair wrote:

wow, good topic.

The more memorable peices for me,

The catwalks and castle view of Velketors labrynth, the maze is cool
too, velketors escape route behind the throne.. also Wow! 
(actually. the more i think about it the more i like that zone , now
that its been tuned to be not quite so painful)

The sound (if you have surround sound set up) in the Plane of Hate
fully spawned. Nothing else i've ever heard compares to that creepy
feeling, and the silence after a clearing. The echo's in velketors
entry also amazing.(and that laugh! What IS THAT!)

The first time i saw the graveyard, the ball-room , the gargoyled
alcoves in Mistmoore. I also must say seeing a mistmoore train as
the roaming guards and entire contents of the castle pour out to
defend it. While very ugly and brutal to the player, gotta say it
was impressive and seemed to make the place alive.

The entrance to Temple of Veeshan. The stark external veiw of the
pillars had me a bit disapointed untill i stepped up on the dias and
saw the guard and the statues. Nominee for best use of colored
lighting too. Took my breath away.

Kudos. Also after zoning in.. the artwork on the entry hall was very
cool for the oldest players who remember doing those
things. (finally we see how that frozen barbarian in vox's lair got
there!) These things that tie the world and zone together.. make
Norrath whole, not just a collection of ideas, but a world aware of
itself.

I'm not sure what the magic is with Frogloks, but they are by far my
favorite opponents. The wet dripping texture of the walls in sebelis
and guk , the heirarchies of frog society. excelent. might just be
the way frogs flip when they cast. Or the mixes of their classes,
some roamers, some healers, some warrior types, some wizards. adds
variety to each fight.

An individual note on Sebelis, The sheer amount of content packed in
there is incredible. I've seen 100 people in just the frogs area /
crypt, and everyone had things to kill (there were still frogs left
alive, unlike pre-kunark guk) nobody down in the jail, mycons or
jugs. which, at a guess, could handle another 40+ people easy. This
zone was obviously built to handle a ton of people and it does so
very well. Yay frogloks!

Which reminds me of another plus. Zones that 'make sense', not just
having a story but places you feel were built a certain way for a
reason. like the dead vs live ruins of old guk, or the 3 room
council of kobold royalty in nagafens lair and the giant court as
well. Zones where you get a sense these creatures actually live
there and life goes on with or without you..  really adds to the
realism (i still cant figure out why there isnt a winding secret
passage from the commanders room (or maybe the library) in sebelis
over to the kitchen.

Also have to add my appreciation for the mini-dungeons in a
zone. The sarnak fort in lake of ill omen was very cool to
explore. The old minotaur mines in steamfont. The goblin camp in
warsilk woods ruins (the ravine is lovely too), The underwater tower
in Lake Ratheatear, (which very cool, is hinted at by qeynos
residents)

Kedge keep, love it, a totaly unique zone with its own quirks to
figure out and several paths through to various areas. Its a shame
there aren't more stories of the old kedge race or why there are
portraits of kedge painted in east karana.

Another point i think i just stumbled over.. when there are several
ways to get places in a zone, not only does it add to the 'sense' of
the place.. but when you come full circle and suddenly recognize
where you are the natural reaction is wow, cool! =)

Being able to enter a room or see its inhabitants acting naturally
guarding or standing around a table without them all charging you
immediately adds volumes to the magic of a place. Seeing the wedding
party in tower of frozen shadow (or in kurns tower), sneaking into a
corner of mistmoore castle's entry and watching the guard walk
through.

I could go on, the world is so huge =). I'll mention one last
thing. The temple surrounded by fire in the plane of fear was a very
cool idea. but the halls of the temple, the building itself.. in
fact the scattered buildings all over PoF make no sense at
all.. they're just 'there' , kinda hurts the sense of reality.

***

Justynn wrote:

Areas I love:

  -The froglok city in Swamp of no hope

    All very green to me, so not useful in a hunting aspect, but low
    enough that I could wander around at 53 with camo on
    undisturbed. This whole area is shaped about how I would picture
    frogloks building a town. I don't know too many people in EQ that
    know this place exists =)

  -Sebilis

    Beautiful but varying artwork, challenging mobs, good exp/loot
    vs. risk, and the fact that each member of the group is relying on
    every other group... What happened if your chanter were to
    suddenly gate out...  Cleric? Tank? Ranger?

  -Burning Woods

    Love the burned out patches... really plays out the story, has
    good mobs to hunt... just a generally fun zone

  -Plane of Hate

    This zone is freaky to me still. Dark alleyways and dark buildings
    full of monsters - Almost resembles a twisted, gothic city

  -Kedge

    This zone actually feels like it was built for fish people. Pipes
    and passageways in the ceilings and floors, making you feel *very*
    not at home. plus, you've got estate of unrest directly above
    it... Could this be related? I'm not sure

Zones I DON'T like

  -Karnor's Castle

    Same artwork everywhere.  Boring Camps.  Trains every 10 minutes
    on a good day.  Not enough variety in mobs.

  -Plane of Fear

    Looks like Feerot with a red sky.  No monsters we haven't
    already seen.  Boooooring unless you are on pull team.

  -Lesser Faydark

    What is the point of this zone? There are some quests here, but
    no significant hunting thanks to the wandering brownies. If you
    are high enough level to hunt brownies, they are too hard to
    catch to be worth hunting. If you are too low, you will end up
    running or dying from them far too often to hunt here

  -Ocean of Tears / Timorous Deep

    UGH - I hate boat rides, and if you plan on hunting here,
    waiting for a boat to zone in or out is a pain in the butt. Why
    the heck can't we swim through zone walls?

***

I'm sure you're swamped with comments, but I thought I'd go ahead
and add mine since you asked. :-) I'll lump my responses into 4
categories.

  1.) What I like in a city. I really like how each city in Norrath
  has a unique feel or flavor. Erudin is bright and clean, yet
  stark. Qeynos has a very tight, windy, old-world feeling. I could
  go on and on. But it's great that each city has a unique feel and
  flavor. For utility I spend the most time in Freeport or
  Thurgadin. They have the most supplies for trade skills and other
  things.

  2.) What I like in an outdoor zone. I like a zone with a great
  view. I love to stand up on the cliffs of Lake Rathe and look
  across the water.  Firona Vie has some good spots to look at the
  city from a distance.  Sometimes, in East Karana, I stop on the
  ramp and look at the carvings in the stone walls.

  3.) What I like in a dungeon. I like a dungeon that's do-able by a
  six-person, pick-up group. I don't like places like Karnor's
  Castle where an Enchanter is just a requirement because single
  pulls are just impossible. I also like safe places where a group
  can rest without too much to bother them past the occasional
  roamer. The 30+ person uber-raid is fun, and has it's place, but
  sometimes I like the D&D feel of just grabbing five fellow
  adventurers and crawling through a dungeon.

  4.) What I like in general. I'd like to see more mini-quests, or
  quests that can be done with a small group. Ak'Anon is rich in
  these quests, but the Ogres seem blessed with far fewer
  mini-quests. I definately like a zone to have a rich, full story,
  background, and theme. I like a zone that I can remember for it's
  unique flavor and features.

I just got done with my first raid deep into Velketor's Labrynth. We
sure scored some "phat lewt" but what I remember most is advancing
slowly through the dark, gray, cramped, underground tunnels. And
then swimming up the water to the castle area. Suddenly I was
swimming out of a beautiful fountain, in a gorgeous, out-door
fairy-tale castle garden. I'll remember the shock of going from
sewers to gorgeous garden more than the loot.

Thanks!

TexasRanger

It's nice to see so many zones that have their own fan clubs.

Thanks for the nice comments and suggestions.

Alan
--<cut>--

--<cut>--
Posted by Absor, Station Member at 04-25-2001 05:20 PM            

Sirap wrote:

For me, what makes a zone interesting is a combination of several
things.

  1. Probably the most important factor is NPC interaction. The
  scripted events in Velious are wonderful (perfect example is the
  dwarf in one of the Thurgadin bars who actually steps outside when
  you tell him he's ugly) including the various scripted
  quests. Also high up on this list is people to talk to. The
  stories that whats-his-name bladesinger tell in East Karana are
  nice examples of good NPC dialogue. The Qeynos guards who say
  things like 'Yes, Sir' and 'Buuuurrrrpp, oops, was that me?' are
  another example of this. I want to feel that I'm in a living,
  breathing world whose inhabitants interact with each other as well
  as interacting with me.

  2. Zone music. A lot of people don't like zone music, I know, but
  I think music can make or break a game. Excellent job to whoever
  composed the two pieces of zone music for Wakening Land. I
  especially like the music that chimes in when you wander around
  the PoG lake.

  3. The mini-dungeons that are in the various outdoor zones. It's
  neat and exciting to be able to go exploring without a big
  preparation/risk element.

That's all I can think of.

***

Old World...

Cities: Neriak, Oggok, and Paineel

I love the dark feel of Neriak and Paineel. These two feel like
sister cities to me. In Paineel, I love the dancing skeletons in the
bar. The libary has a ghoul libary assistant. All the ghosts
floating around and moaning. If you arn't actauly from Paineel it
can be spooky. Neriak has ghouls too guarding the Necro city. This
dark city has neon light like in Vegas. They already have a place to
shoot darts! Hehee... Oggok is truely an Ogre home. All the caves
and crudness of the furniture. I often wonder what the dead end in
Oggok near the Food Vendors will be for... ?!?  Perhaps leading to a
new future zone once the Ogres finish tunneling through?!?

Lost Temple of Cazic-Thule. 

This is my all time favorite zone in the game.  Bar None. People
cause a lot of trains here, but if you play it right you can stay
off the main tracks. This zone isn't linear. It branches off which I
like a lot. From the courtyard you have "Five" differnt places to
head off into... 6 if you count the zone exit/entrance. 1)Zone,
2)the Stone Golem area, 3)The Maze, 4)The Grid, 5)The Silverd
Temple, and 6)The throne room and eventualy the Avatar of Fear. In
each of these areas there are 2 and 3 areas for some of them. This
place has a nice theame to it.  Its not as crowded as it used to be
and thats fine with me as I always go back here with my other
charectars. Also this zone is close to a city.

Expansions - Kunark

My biggest beef with Kunark are the moving tree and the sheer number
of them in some zones... way way too laggy.. and I have a GeoForce 2
Ultra and ADSL. I lag so much here I just stay away from Kunark as
much as possbile. I hate it when I have to lower my clip plane all
the way down or turn off other display features to play in an
area.. and I'm not talking about a raid... just normal travel. With
that being said I'm sure there are some nice places here but I can't
comment on them as I stay away from Kunark based on lag.

Expansions - Velious

I LOVE Velious.. Kudos to you... the fact that there aren't many
trees helps with lag a great deal. The only zone I lag is in
Wakening Lands..  again because of all the darn moving trees... way
too much lag here to fight in... Funny but I don't lag as much in
PoG. Not as many trees here either.

City - Hands down Thurgadin because of the "Aliveness" of the
town. There is so much that happens here.. I wish you could revamp
the Old world towns and make them move alive. The only Old world
town that comes close is Paineel.

Zones - Plane of Growth, Crystal Caverns

PoG I like because its so big... I love the waterfalls, the changing
of the seasons, the river.. the Huge Lake... theame here is
nice... I like the totem men.. Oogga Booga! CC is has a great theam
too.. very cave like.  The mob I hate to love here is the Velium
Crawlers.. They are very loud and mean.. but I love them for
that... scary mob factor.

I can't wait for the next expanison... make story alive... make the
new town alive... have great theams... for the old world.. add more
story...  add more history... revamp old places not for lvl changes
or for loot, but for making them more "Alive".

Tekara Grimmhealer
54th Vicar
Hand of Chaos
CT Server

***

Tarrick's Zone Awards, Part I:

*Coolest Environmental Effect (Audio)* :

  - The Dragon Bridge in Iceclad -

    The way the sound of the howling, whistling wind picks up as one
    continues to run up to the apex of this obviously immense bridge
    actually gives me a chill sometimes. Perfectly done.

*Best Music* :

  - Qeynos Hills/North Qeynos -

    My favorite music in this area is that which plays near the
    small shop in the center of Qeynos Hills. I believe this music
    is also used in other zones, but Qeynos Hills is the first place
    I heard it.

    The stately, noble fanfares that play near the North Qeynos and
    Surefall Glade gates suit this human area perfectly. I am also
    very partial to the music in the ranger guild in Surefall Glade.

  Honorable Mention: - Lavastorm -

    The eerie music in this zone, replete with hissing, booming
    sound effects set me on edge the first time I heard it. It still
    does sometimes.

*Best Use of Color* :

  - Dreadlands -

    The area near the druid ring and wizard spires is still, to me,
    one of the most beautiful areas in the game. The stunning reds,
    yellows and oranges used for the leaves on the trees contrasts
    beautifully with the green of the grass and bright blue sky.

*Unsung Hero Award* (for the zone which receives nothing near the
praise it deserves) :

  - Runnyeye -

    Many people HATE this zone. Ok, I hated it for a while too -
    until I learned more about it. There are a few things that I
    feel make this zone something special.

    Most notable is the extent to which this dungeon represents a
    true "mob town". The fact that it has a usable bar/common room
    and a *functional bank* (for those who are fortunate enough not
    to aggro the goblins), is simply great.

    There is some fairly decent loot in this dungeon (for the levels
    it supports) and especially since they upped the EXP modifier
    for the zone, the EXP in here is quite good.

    One other advantage (which others may view as a disadvantage) is
    the challenging nature of the zone. For a 20's group, this zone
    is tough! It requires much care to not become overwhelmed and
    cause a train. And heaven forbid you should get lost while
    trying to flee to the zone with 30 goblins behind you. (Yes, it
    happened to me once). This zone will keep you on your toes.

=====

I'll post Part II as more outstanding features come to mind. 


Tarrick Greymoor
56 Outrider
Halcyon Conclave, E'ci


Thanks for the comments.

Alan
--<cut>--

--
J C Lawrence                                       claw at kanga.nu
---------(*)                          http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/
--=| A man is as sane as he is dangerous to his environment |=--
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