The Vigiles Amicae is a roleplaying guild in Everquest 2, on the Freeport and Antonia Bayle Servers.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Question of Time

In the Vigiles, we rely on the concept of Soft Time in our role play. This means the passage of time is flexible, and determined by narrative and the agreement of the players involved, rather than any particular fixed formula.

In dialogue, this means we usually refer to time with quantities like "some", "many", and "lots"*. We tend not to talk about firm dates more than a week or two in the future when we're in character,

But, When did things happen in Norrath?

There is great disagreement about the timing of historical events in the Norrath of Everquest 2. By design, the world of Norrath is slightly broken, and there are places where no time passes at all, time runs backwards, time runs faster... you get the idea. No powers in EQ2's Norrath have ever had much success agreeing on the time of day, let alone what year it is!

But-! There's a date when I type /time!

Yes, and in the original release of the Shattered Lands, it was standard practice for roleplayers to use /time as a reference. It was simple, it was built-in, and nobody had to do very much math to figure out what time it was in Norrath when it was Happy Hour here on earth.

You say that like it's not true anymore.

Just now, I ran the /time command and was given the year 3923 - which is only 212 years after the "official" date of the Shattering of Luclin. This corresponds to no method of Norrathian time equivalencies that I know of - but what is worse, I have logs from 7 years ago that have a /time artifact of 3950 and later.
Although /time is still a built-in command in the game of EQ2, the answer it gives you is no longer reliable - or even the same from player to player. It's still a neat feature to add some flavor to your rp, to run a quick /time check and site your character in the month and season it gives you. After all, no matter what time format other players are using, you can't be more than nine days off on the day of the week, 2 on the season, or 11 on the month. Being "wrong" about the day according to someone else's way of measuring time also gives you an instant story hook - where did you - or they! - lose that time?

So... what year is it? The game came out on a certain day, so can't we just count from there, even if the game counter is bugged? Should I bug report it?

We don't know, not for certain, and don't bother with reporting it as a bug. Even the original development teams couldn't agree on how time should work in EQ2, and rather than resolve the dispute, they built the game around all of the approaches at the same time. You can count from launch day, if you like, but there's more than one way to do it, so don't expect other role players to be using the same measuring stick.

When in doubt, use soft time.

Well, I'd like to know what time it MIGHT be. If we started from launch day, and counted each day/night cycle as one day...

It can be done. The math is interesting, because one full day/night cycle now runs 72 minutes long**, but with a decent knowledge of spreadsheets, you can calculate the exact game-clock date of any time stamp you care to try***. This odd length of time allows even daily players with a set earth-time for playing to experience every time and season of Norrath in their playtime. There are a few world events which still rely on the Norrathian time to determine spawn rates, though in the years the game has been running most have been removed or set to a base timer of 15 earth minutes or less.

A Norrathian week is 10 days long, a month is exactly 3 weeks, and each of the three seasons is 4 months long, for a 12 month year. Like our own Ancient Greeks, Norrathians group their years in Quatrains, but in Norrath each year has an elemental association and unique weather influence. For example: if you're in Freeport during the year of the Triumvirate, you'll notice it's always raining, whatever the season is supposed to be.

That's nice, but what day did the game start, so I can start number-crunching?

I've looked, but I can't determine what time of year the game clock was started. But, since there's some wobbliness about time in general after the Shattering, even the year is a but of guesswork.
For every date in the game-clock method of time progression, you'll have to give or take about 500 years, since no official, extended universe, nor fan-created timeline agrees with itself or with any other. However: most NPCs which are/were involved in the main storyline which launched with the game on day 1 informed your character that the Shattering was 500 years ago****. Official lore suggests the explosion of Luclin happened around 3711.
Therefore: launch day might be reasonably assigned as coinciding with:
Moorday, 8 Blossoming of the Growth Season in the Year of the Triumvirate, in the Age of Shattered Lands 4211.

But that means more than 60,000 years have passed! Everyone who was alive at launch should be long dead -!

It's an easy mistake to make, if even one number in your progression is incorrect, or in the wrong order. This kind of math sortof... bends your brain, if you're like me, but once you have the formula correct, it's very satisfying.

Years the game has been running...9.33
...multiplied by days...3,405.83
...multiplied by hours...81,739.99
...multiplied by minutes...4,904,399.20
...divided by 72 minutes per Norrathian day...68,116.66
...and 12 Norrathian months...5,676.39
... and 30 days in a Norrathian month.189.21

By this calculation, about 189 years and most of three months have passed in Norrath, as of today. That means the year is roughly 4400, and although most humans and other short-lived races alive at launch might be dead, the Shattering would still be in living memory for most elves. If the game clock started at day 0 of the year 4211, then we can calculate today's date as follows:

Norrathian year at launch4211
Norrathian month1Deepice
Norrathian day1st of DeepiceFeastday
Norathian year now4,400.21
Norrathian month3Stargazing
Norrathian Day14th of StargazingSoulday

or, if you think the clock may have started in the Year of the Triumvirate, the result is still very close:

Norrathian year at launch4211.33
Norrathian month5Blossoming
Norrathian day8th of BlossomingMoorday
Norathian year now4,400.55
Norrathian month7Scorchedsky
Norrathian Day14th of ScorchedskySoulday

Either seems roughly plausible, with the following catch: in that scheme, our experience of Frostfell - and other holidays! - as players bears no relationship whatsoever to the ingame year or season.

Can it sync up at all as designed? 

Short answer: No.
Because the Earth year is not 360 days long (to the eternal torment of those who would prefer the poetic and mathematical ordering of days), no, it can't. Over the course of a single earth year, the Norrathian calendar would repeat the quatrain every 72 days: a little more than five times.

Can we "flex" the Norrathian calendar in a particular month to make it sync artificially?

Yes, if you want to do the math fresh every year, you can stretch four Quatrains over the course of one Earth year, and force at least ONE holiday to fall correctly in both calendars.
I don't recommend it, as it made my head hurt.

What about that other method you mentioned? Does that "fit"?

Short answer: Not quite as designed, no.
In the Concordium Tower in South Qeynos you will find a book titled, "The Norrathian Code of Trade Standards". We have a copy in our Library and in our Guild Hall. In that text, the ordering of the months, seasons, and quatrains is explained. Each year of the Quatrain corresponds very clearly to our four Earth seasons, and in the description of the Year of the Triumvirate it is revealed that the last month of the year - and therefore, the quatrain - is a time of feasting and celebration, when Norrathians give gifts to one another.

Ah ha! That's Frostfell!

It is, and the Frostfell event occurs every year for some number of Earth days to either side of December 25th*****.  So! If you discard the rigidity of 30 days to a month, OR, you create null-periods at the end of every quatrain to absorb the extra days, you can stretch the Norrathian quatrain over one Earth year.

What's the catch?

The coincidence of Frostfell in the Deadening of Triumvirate with Yuletide in December in Winter only works for the Northern Hemisphere. EQ2 is played all over the globe, so any scheme which shows favor to any group of players based on geography is a Bad Idea.
Furthermore, if only one quatrain passes each year, then only a little over 37 years have passed since launch. That's very little time for the epic events of Norrath to take place in, although it does mean that the Shattering could be in living human memory as well.

Well, 200 years isn't very long either.

No, it's not, especially since the climate has stabilized gradually after the Shattering. The siezmic and astronomical events which shaped the Norrath we know and love were truly, unimaginably catastrophic. Remember, in the original Shattered Lands, there were only a few pockets of survivors, worldwide, and magic was unpredictable and incredibly limited. It takes time for those kinds of things to stabilize again.
Recently the moon has even been fusing itself back together...

They could be gluing it back together with magic. Or the Gods could be doing it. Norrath doesn't have to use REAL physics.

All good points - but from the beginning, EQ2 was designed to bring Norrath to vivid life, and in order to do that, the designers worked to create a plausible and consistent world for us to move in. The intention was to incorporate real physics, real geology, real materials and textures in a beautiful, magical, exciting world which didn't ask us to suspend too much of our disbelief to imagine our way through it.

But Norrath has time travel, with Chronomagic.

Right. So we may not actually be in the year we think we are, by any count. 
Chronomagic was envisioned as a way to revisit old content without necessarily needing to make the monsters trivial or have a low level group member with you. The way Chronomagic was woven into the main storyline added further ripples to the strangeness of time since the rebuilding of the Spires back in 2006****** and was never resolved. 
It has been suggested that as a side-effect of stasis-magic used in the City wards, that time may pass significantly more slowly in the two largest cities, Freeport and Qeynos, than is does in the rest of the overland world. Consistent with fairy lore in our own world, it has been suggested that time also runs more slowly in most of Faydwer.
It has also been suggested that time does not pass in any measurable way in Neriak, Odus, Sky, Ykesha, or for obvious reasons, Ethernere.

So... what time references can we use to relate to guild story?

As part of our effort to integrate our own stories into the world of Norrath, we of the High Council have developed a perhaps idiosyncratic method, which you are welcome to adopt or not as you choose.
In the interest of brevity, we do not track the days of the week in Norrath. We may run a /time to harvest the "current day" for flavor, at the most.
Instead of referencing Earth seasons of winter or summer, we refer to the years of the Quatrain.

Fenin RoDecayAprilDeepice
We number each quatrain progressively in relation to the Age they belong to, which is pretty easy to do off the top of your head without even needing to look at the chart. The Age is whatever the last expansion was, the quatrain number tracks how many January 1 have passed since the expansion's release, and the Year name corresponds directly to every third month of the year.

A chart of the ages and their earth dates has been prepared in case you want to look up any given month, year, or age in our little corner of Norrath. These are the dates we use on any of our IC "official reports" and archives, if they have them.

This is all too much. Do I have to memorize all this wibbly-wobbly time stuff to role play with you or join the guild?

No, certainly not. Remember, we rely on "soft time" in most of our stories. All of this is just for your own interest, as a tool you may choose to incorporate, or not. 

And because we're geeks*******.

* tomorrow, next week, next month, next season, soon, someday, in the future, when x happens, yesterday, last week, some weeks ago, months ago, a while ago, long in the past, after x happened, before x happened, when x was happening, in ancient times...

** It used to be 40 minutes, and some are saying since the day/night transition started to have issues around the time ToV launched, that now the cycle is 90 minutes long.
I know. It's maddening.
Years the game has been running...9.33
...multiplied by days...3,405.45
...multiplied by hours...81,730.80
...multiplied by minutes...4,903,848.00
...divided by 40 minutes per Norrathian day...122,596.20
...and 12 Norrathian months...10,216.35
... and 30 days in a Norrathian month.340.55
and with 90 minutes:
Years the game has been running...9.33
...multiplied by days...3,405.45
...multiplied by hours...81,730.80
...multiplied by minutes...4,903,848.00
...divided by 90 minutes per Norrathian day...54,487.20
...and 12 Norrathian months...4,540.60
... and 30 days in a Norrathian month.151.35
We're going to use 72 minutes for this article as that was the length quoted recently by the EQNext development team in their poll of potential players. They wanted player feedback on the length the days should be, and one of the options was "72 minutes, like EQO and EQ2". So we're using that, for now.

*** Yes, Ari is developing a spreadsheet for guild use. Yes, it will be ported to the calendar. No, I don't know how to build a calculator widget, and neither does Ari. Yes, you can build one if you want, and if it works we'll put it on the blog.

**** Some roleplayers at that time, especially on the Qeynos side, started their personal story clocks by the Shattering itself, discarding the old calendar to place the end of the Shattering at Year 0, and their stories at or around Year 500. Since the Shattering was a pivotal event, causing massive climate disruption in a world which had already been undergoing the Rending of continents for the better part of a century, both catastrophies tended to blend together in the lore, and the clean slate posited by this method made - and still makes - a great deal of narrative sense. By this accounting, current Norrathian time is in the 1st or 2nd Century P.R. (Anno Post Ruinum)

***** In 2013, Frostfell began near the beginning of December and extended to January 9th - it varies every year.

****** The result for /time in Kingdom of Sky when it launched was Year 0, and still is.

******* Yes. Enormous ones.

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