What the what?!? How did I miss this?! I just went to browse the new things in EverQuest II’s marketplace (honestly, I wanted to read what that new training monkey thing was that I could only glimpse on the startup launcher) when I was totally gobsmacked by a prestige housing deed called The Baubleshire. You know, that racial borough of the Halflings that was stripped away from us years ago. I blinked a couple of times, stunned. Are you serious? was my first thought, with the very next one being I needed to check this out.
I’ve known and kept tabs on the many prestige houses (specialty instances that are free from in-game rent) that take an area of a game and give it to players to live in, but I’d missed that one of my beloved boroughs got this treatment. Even if I missed its introduction into the game, I cannot express how much this find excited me; I hopped all around the area giddily for a while.
Then it hit me: Had I missed other borough housing? Quickly I zoned out and checked the housing portal and I found the Oakmyst Glade as well. Disappointingly, I didn’t see any others. I’d like to see all the boroughs for both Freeport and Qeynos. Doing so would surely make many long-time players and long-lost veterans happy. As I bounded across the Baubleshire bridges, I thought about how I would happily collect each of them to wander and roleplay within them. Of course, having the actual zones themselves reopened would be the best plan, but the housing is better than no access at all. I started hoping that Longshadow Alley would be next.
And then I got a double whammy when reality hit: Here I was all excited to get the return of content that was stripped out before, but I had to pay to have it back. Is this what EQII fans have been reduced to, excited enough to have content that it doesn’t even register that it was previously free content that we now have to pay for?
I was not a happy camper when the Isle of Refuge was removed from EverQuest II. Why must devs remove areas, especially iconic ones with so much nostalgia? Well, that feeling of disappointment and loss seemed small compared to how I felt when all the racial boroughs were destroyed. When Daybreak announced those changes, I went and took screenshot after screenshot of the areas, and spent time just sitting in my favorite places for a long while as well. (I think my Half-Elf wore a hole in that rock outside the Willow Wood Inn over the years.) And I have missed those zones ever since.
Many folks were upset about the loss, but I guess you can’t stand in the way of progress. The first to go were Freeport’s boroughs: The big Freeport revamp in December 2011 stole the special racial suburbs of Scale Yard, Temple Street, Big Bend, Longshadow Alley, Stonestair Byway, and Beggar’s Court. Then come July 2012, the Qeynos revamp obliterated the racial zones on that side of Norrath: The Baubbleshire, Castleview Hamlet, Greystone Yard, Nettleville, Starcrest Commune, and The Willow Wood.
I’ll never get why a developer wants to remove content. Taking stuff away engenders feelings of loss and even betrayal. Why do that? I understood streamlining the cities themselves into seamless and/or or fewer zones, but I never agreed one bit with erasing the suburbs. My characters all lived in those racial areas; they upped the immersion factor. I loved them. And now all of that was gone. While it is true that you could revisit your racial zone once during a racial questline, that was only the one time during the quest, and only the one for your own race! My Ratonga that betrayed and committed her heart to Qeynos would never again see her beloved Baubleshire. And for what? Streamlining.
I have come to really loathe that word in gaming.
As someone who very much opposed losing the Island of Refuge and the boroughs, I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was to stumble across The Baubleshire deed (so much so that I had to share!). Did you all know it was hidden there on the prestige housing portal? I was pretty ecstatic when Producer Holly Longdale first shared the Isle of Refuge was returning on the then-new progression servers (I even rolled there just to go back to it). Before that I was excited about the introduction of the Island of Refuge prestige home as a free 11-year veteran reward (great move). But that paled in comparison to the discovery that the boroughs are back, or at least one of them.
After my initial excitement mellowed into regular happiness, the full situation finally struck me, and I was a bit embarrassed by how I was so delighted at the discovery that it didn’t even register that I was crowing about paying for the chance to get some old content back. Yes, decisions need to be made to continue with a revenue stream, but I really think this could have been done a bit differently to be more positive for profit and for community and public relations.
I get that it may just be a marketing thing to get money, but I am also pretty sure devs are also excited to bring back beloved content that players want. I think reintroducing the suburbs is a smart decision. Maybe reintroducing them as a paid feature is not. Yes, Daybreak may get me right in the wallet with this: The game without the racial boroughs is not quite EQII to me. But to make players pay for the privilege to have a portion of free content that was removed will definitely garner some side-eyes even among those happy to have these. There has to be a better way.
I think a better decision is to either offer the boroughs themselves as free prestige houses or implement them into the game as player housing you pay rent for gold in-game with. Just let the zone in point be the original door in the main city, and folks can choose whether to go to housing or the zone. We shouldn’t pay to get a small portion of old content back.
Better yet, the ideal solution would be to simply RE-OPEN THE SUBURBS! This is really want players want! They want these racial boroughs back. Then when those have returned — for free — you can sell prestige houses of the areas for cash. Otherwise it feels like forcing people to pay for something that was free before, which is a pretty shady move. EQII players love their housing and are happy to have their own version of live areas from all over the game. We are willing to pay for it. But also let us have the original game content back!
If I had the chance to get all of the racial suburbs to visit and roleplay in whenever I wanted, you better believe that will make me very happy to open my wallet in other ways. If I could visit the real ones in game, I’d definitely be buying my favorite ones in game as well.
As noted, I have missed the racial suburbs quite a bit, and their readdition to the game is a very exciting prospect to me. The upside is that with this prestige housing I have the chance to recapture some of the magic of living in The Baubleshire. That is definitely worth something to me. And once bought, it’s mine to keep! No more just living off of new memories — I can make new ones.
I haven’t gotten this home yet, though I anticipate I will — unless I hold out for more to be released. I might have just spent late into the night wandering the trails of The Baubleshire and Oakmyst Glade (which, by the way is the entire immense zone of Oakmyst Forest!), and visiting other players’ homes to check out their decorations. I was reveling in the happy nostalgia, even bringing in the friend I joined EQII with all those years ago to revel along with me. It was the perfect complement to us just starting our characters over last week. What would be even better is to have Longshadow Alley back so we can continue their lives more like it was back when we first started playing.
If you are excited about owning your own Baubleshire, you can pick it up for 1,350 station cash in the Marketplace. Note: It must be redeemed by the character that buys it. If you want a second character to have the house, that character needs to buy a separate deed. Also, it is important to note that a Baubleshire deed redeemed in Freeport will be a The Baubleshire of Freeport house, and one redeemed by a Qeyenoian would be a The Baubleshire of Qeynos home. If you want to just check it out and relive nostolgia like I did, you can just use the tour function in at the prestige housing portals in Queynos and Freeport and roleplay for free.
If the other suburbs do come out, perhaps I will own one of each. Since all your alts can be added to all of your houses, I see no need for multiples. I would want to open them up for others to enjoy as well! Maybe I’d even make two new characters called some version of the cities, like Qeynoss and Freeportt, and have each hold their respective boroughs. Putting them on the housing boards would also open them up to a broader audience to access. If I can’t have the original zones, maybe I can make a decent substitute for folks to enjoy. (Obligatory reminder that I’d prefer to have the real zones reopened without the fees!) [Edit: I’ve learned that the boroughs appear to be open and accessible on the TLE and PvP servers. I hope this is a sign of them heading into the whole game just like the Isle of Refuge moved from progression only into the main base game!]
In the meantime, I do want to say thank you, Daybreak, for the opportunity to relive life in The Baubleshire. Those moments of giddy nostalgia were quite a boost. I’d also really like that chance with the other suburbs (personal plug for Longshadow Alley and Willow Wood!). But I’d be much happier and willing to pay for all the houses if we had the original suburbs reopened so it feels less like a money grab and more like offering new additional housing content.