WoW vs. EQ2 : Customization
A big sticking point between EQ2 and WoW is the character customization.
I will agree that EQ2 does offer far more options, but I feel WoW is on a better track in an overall sense.
EQ2 lets you play with minute details (nose tilt up/down, full/thin lips, eyebrow arch, etc.) but has everyone starting in the same ragged shirt and pants.
WoW has a handful of faces and hairstyles, but at least each class starts with distinctive clothing (Rogues in black leather, mages in robes, etc.) and the choice of quest items leads to more differentiation. Two characters completing the same quest might opt for different rewards, like a different hat or boots.
But what is TRUE customization? True customization is the offering of REAL options.
Let's look at the current Holy Grail of customization: City of Heroes. There aren't that many face choices in CoH (a standard handful really) but it's the large choice of other clothing options and colors that set everyone apart. I can pick out Battle Bovine and Killer Whale out of a crowd a mile away. And I know that red streak that went by was Robo-Flash. There are no equipment options/clothing drops later in the game, so they are all presented up front.
BUT ... the very essence of customization isn't in the NUMBER of choices, but in their implementation.
In CoH, the costume you wear has no effect on your stats or gameplay. One set of shoulder pads or pants is no different from any other. People make their choices through pure aesthetics.
If one set of shoulder pads gave +5 STR and a pair of pants gave +25% speed (essentially being better than all the other choices), how much choice do people REALLY have? If gear infers bonuses and one set of gear is inherently better than another, then you can expect to see a majority of players wearing that particular gear.
In EQ2, the face tweaks are great on the character screens, but in game people are like 2 to 4 inches tall. Is the angle of your nose REALLY that important when your head is usually an inch tall (if that)? Can you even see it AT ALL? What I noticed in EQ2 was that for the first 6 levels almost EVERYONE has the same robe (the best cloth armor for those levels) and the same staff slung across their back (the best weapon for those beginning levels). So you have dwarves, elves, ratongas, etc. all running around with essentially the same gear on.
In my opinion, WoW is on the right track. Instead of wasting polygons on the minutae of facial features not often seen, they have created for them selves a quick playing, near lagless game with an eye towards more a broad, sweeping artistic feel. People are differnet looking enough in thier clothing and hair styles that I've been on numerous raids of 30 to 60 people and had no problem discerning one player from another. The gnome with grey tufts of hair and the robe? That's Blumpkin. The gnome with the spikey blue hair and shield? That's Weeble. Even across the field of battle wher ethey are only an inch tall. Identification of the most obvious features. Plain and simple.
Now, should any game be able to offer multiple models of items carrying the same stats (+5 STR shoulder armor with spikes, with rounded edges, swept up, a single pauldron, etc.) then people could customize thier characters witht the stats they need AND an eye towards the aesthetic.
And that freedom leads to true customization. WoW vs. EQ2 : Graphics
Most likely THE deciding factor for more game players is the graphics. Gameplay may be good, bad, or indifferent ... but it's the screenshots and box art that initially grabs your attention.
WoW and EQ2 have gone to near polar opposites art style wise. EQ2 is highly rendered, utilizing all the bells and whistles your video card can pump out (bump mapping, vertex shaders, etc.) where as WoW goes almost backwards in their uses of 3D with low polygon count models and basic rendering techniques.
Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
In theory, EQ2 is on the right track. They have created a super charged 3D engine that is truly bleeding edge. An engine that can push current graphics technology to the max AND still be viable years down the road. No need for a Luclin like graphics update down the line for this game. Campfires flicker and give off heat shimmer. Water reacts to light and to physical objects in it (like you swimming). Shadows are cast as you walk past light sources. The individual bumps of bricks on buildings are there if you look closely.
A truly well rendered world that utilizes all the latest technology. But at what cost?
Unless you have THE most up to date software and hardware, you can expect not to take advantage of all the engine has to offer. At least not for a while as hardware technology catches up. Some folks are ok with that while others feel cheated at having to run the game with mid range or lower settings just to be able to move around without the game looking like a slide show. In addition, this kind of memory crushing detail must be segmented.
Say hello to your old friend, the "zone".
"Ring the bell to take the boat to your new home young adventurer." LOADING, PLEASE WAIT.
"Welcome to the inn. Could you go in the basement and do a quest for me?" LOADING, PLEASE WAIT.
"Ahh, a weary traveler. Would you like to rent an apartment?" LOADING, PLEASE WAIT.
"Greeting hearty adventurer, that door leads to the forest." LOADING, PLEASE WAIT.
And it's not even the old "screen pause on the last thing you see" loading screen. Now it is a separate loading screen that shows you pre-production art and sketches while the loading counts down.
But since it is something that people are used to, it might not be that big a deal to a lot of folks.
World of Warcraft on the other hand ...
WoW does indeed use a simpler looking, but inherently more stable 3D engine. Sure, the polygon count seems to be along the lines of what you might see in the original EverQuest when it first came out.
But it's what Blizzard DOES with those polygons (and what EQ2 does not) that makes the world of difference.
Blizzard has taken a bold step and fashioned their fantasy world around a truly unique art style. Colors are vibrant, landscapes and vistas are sweeping panoramas. The style is more cartoonish than real, but everything in the game follows this art style. The buildings are skewed and bowed and have weight. The trees are bent and gnarled. The mountains and valleys are majestic. It is singular in its artistic vision, and that inherently creates immersion.
And since WoW is able to load lower polygon counts and rendering details, they are able to create a word without zones. At least in the greater aspects of the world. Instanced dungeons still have a brief load as the instance is created and the tram system has a load pause. But you can literally run (and sometimes fly) from one end of a continent to another without seeing a single zone load. Don't get me wrong, the zones are there (you can see them change on your mini-map) but they are just seamless.
And along with this inherent stability comes the benefit of little to no lag. Heck, I've been on raids with over 60 people, met up with 30 or more enemies and had grand PVP battles. No lag. No slowdown.
Both games have character animations, and lots of them. I think EQ2 has more, but overall emote animations work very well in both games. Blizzard has given their animations that extra "Blizzard touch" in that each race's dance emotes are quite amusing. Orcs dance like MC Hammer. Night Elf males dance like Michael Jackson (moonwalk, tip toe hat tip, etc.), Night Elf females dance like ... well ... like strippers. Trolls do a Caribbean type break dance. Undead do air guitar and rock out. All in all very fun to see. But don't just take my word for it ... cause you can't touch this.
While the art styles will appeal to different types of people. Personally, I find EQ2s art direction to be uninspired and just another chapter in the same old, same old. Everyone and their brother are developing games that try to capture a "real" look and feel 3D graphics wise. And unless it's done right, it just looks like an uninspired environment with mannequins running around in it.
For my money WoW has the better looking characters, environments, and streamlined graphics code that make my gameplay more immersive and enjoyable. It's a gamble that Blizzard took graphics wise and I feel they pulled it off beautifully.
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