The art team has done a fantastic job. There are a host of new effects in the new zones. The trees in Greater Faydark are absolutely ginormous, and the terrain below the platforms of Kelethin explain why one would want platforms in the first place.

One of the visual treats to look for (at “Balanced” performance) is flying things. In GFay, its birds. In Loping Plains, home to vampires and Mistmoore Castle, its bats. These are non-targetable animations. I first saw these in Loping Plains, flocks of bats flying over my head into the horizon. They flitter ands swirl in a flock, like something out of a Dracula movie.

The same technology gives us leaves that float gently to earth in our field of view in Greater Faydark. And there are probably more examples of this elsewhere in the game.

In Steamfont Mountains, there are geysers. They erupt periodically, and leave a fine spray, which sometimes produces a rainbow. The eruptions can be ridden by a player character and seem to do no damage, though a high enough fall might be a problem for someone without safe fall.

And then there are capes. The animation of cloth that dangles freely is no small feat, and requires intensive computation. Which is why they cheat a bit and don’t calculate collisions with every single body part. As a result, you can sometimes see legs or elbows sticking through a cape if you look closely. Still, they look good.

The lighting effects have changed too. Often characters or monsters will seem to glow in the light, due to a spell effect or just the lighting conditions. This doesn’t seem to be unique to the new zones either. Sometimes this seems a bit much, though it certainly seems appropriate for the Fae wings.

There’s probably more visual richness to be seen, but those are the high points I noticed during my whirlwind tour. Post a comment if you see something else noteworthy.

Echoes of Everquest

Some of my guildies and I are having major Everquest 1 flashbacks with the release of Echoes of Faydwer. All the major places are there, and with many of the same inhabitants. Kelethin, Felwithe, Crushbone, Kaladim, Steamfont Mountains, Ak’Anon (taken over by clockworks and called Klak’anon now). Not to mention Mistmoore Castle and The Estate of Unrest.

There’s still an orc hill near Kelethin. There are kobolds in Butcherblock Mountains, which, incidently are a lot more rugged and mountainous than before. The Chessboard is still there, too. The kobolds are every bit as mean and a lot less cuddly looking. The dam and hydroelectric plant is still in Klak’anon, though it’s fairly run down now. The watch towers look like the old observatory in Steamfont and Lesser Faydark, only much more richly realized.

The boat ride is back, too. The boat for the new continent leaves the TS and Nek docks about once every five minutes, and it works a lot better. The boat takes you to an invisible zone point, and you zone through to Butcherblock Mountains, still on the boat. You ride the boat for about a minute to the docks.

In the old game, there were very serious synchronization problems with zoning while on a boat. Since zone times vary from player to player, and zoning is also an opportunity for link death, it’s very hard for the game to know when to start the boat moving. Move it too soon, and some players will zone in where the boat used to be. Too late, and its slow for everyone.

They seem to have changed that by making the zonin point be relative to the boats position. Naturally, there are really two copies of the boat model, one in BB and one back in TS. Each of them chugs around its respective zone, coming into port at the appropriate time. When someone zones in, they are placed not in absolute coordinates, but in their coordinates relative to the boat, so that they always land on the boat.

An extreme delayed zone time might land you on the boat after it’s docked, and taken on return passengers, which would be odd, but much less of a problem than being dumped in the water in the middle of a huge ocean zone with no map, which is what could happen in the old game. Anyway, this incarnation of the boat is very nice, and seems like it will be a lot less error prone.

Another thing that goes back to the old game is tighter integration of new characters. New characters from Kelethin don’t come in to their version of the island, they come into Greater Faydark. There are areas reserved to them and the gear, quests and progression are similar, but its in an area that higher level characters can get to, for better or for worse. Much more like the old game.

It can be irritating to see a level 70 taking the mobs you wanted, but it also allows higher level characters to mentor or otherwise assist their new compatriots.

By no means have I made it around to all the zones. So I’ll be wallowing in nostalgia for some time to come.

UPDATE: I almost forgot druid ring porting and wizard porting. With druid ports, the mechanics are changed slightly. In order for you to be ported to a ring, you must have visited that ring already and have harvested a sacred leaf from the ring. All praise Tunare!

Speaking of which, sacrifices and blessings from the gods existed in the old game, though not really in this form.