Everquest II Nostalgia

March 30, 2007

Perusing former posts and pictures, I have come across a few screenshots of what I tend to think of as “the good ole days.”  Actually, the game has improved significantly, not just in terms of gameplay, but in scope and depth.  I have kept these pics to recall the good times and the grind we all experienced–I will float a few out now and then.  With the revamp of Deathfist Citadel, I thought I would share a couple from one of my guild’s numerous trips to that zone.  I will soon return to finish the two HQs requiring Emporer Fyst.

The intense fight and teamwork required for the Emporer Fyst fight/zone is one of my favorites, aside from the lag created by every orc ever spawned in Zek running willy-nilly about the castle.  I also loved tanking in halfling form, for the sheer irony of it all.  I hope the lag has been fixed by the new zone.  Note: in the first pic, the fight with the Emporer, I’m wearing the old fulginate vanguard plate.  The second two pics are from my first trip into the zone, still in my trendy carbonite vanguard from tier 3.  The red mobs would not completely destroy you at that time–you could still take a couple hits from much higher level mobs–another change to the game.

 And where have all the access fights gone?  Sure, it’s great to be able to zone into any zone at will, but it always made you feel a little special to actually quest your way into say, the Enchanted Lands while still in tier 3 gear when few others earned that right until later.  TAGN published an analysis discussing the ship side of the game, which touched on the whole boat issue some months back as well.  But the fight was the thing!

I was all of level 27 or so when I earned my Zek and Enchanted Lands access–all the cool kids had it! 

Favorite nostalgic moments? Let’s hear about it.


Console Gamers Update

March 30, 2007

After thinking it over, I was remiss in not linking the Se7en Samurai article which responded to The Common Sense Gamer’s first article mentioning the topic.  I avoided it only because I felt it was WoW specific, and I was trying to stick to my current game of choice.  It seems, in my analysis, to take exception to TCSG’s characterication of WoW as some sort of control group for the study of “asshats and battlenet kiddies.”  Se7en Samuri’s rebuttal is concise and friendly–there are a lot of good players in WoW.

Kilanna, in a comment to my original article, mentioned that some EQII servers bear a similiar reputation–players have “less than completely enjoyable gaming experience[s] due to a minority of the population.”  While I have not played on other EQ2 servers, I have had my share of bad experiences on good ‘ole Crushbone.  I mentioned sometime ago that I was actually threatened by another tradeskiller for selling armor at too low a price in the early days of the game.  I think that kill stealing, node stealing, and other infractions are still fairly common in EQ2.  The fear seems to be that large numbers of player inundating the MMO world will lead to the most egregious behaviors becoming more commonplace.

P@tsh@t has written on this topic as well–it appears the original post from TCSG is taking on a bit of momentum.  P@tsh@t has a bit of a different take, and is worth a read–his idea of player feedback is a good one.  He also defined the real difference between console-style gaming and the PC persistent world:

No, its definitely the fear of asshatery that contributes to my bias.  Most multiplayer console games haven’t had the opportunity for the most fundamental characteristic of MMOs:  persistency.  Without persistency, there is effectively zero disincentive for asshatery.  There are simply no persistent social consequences.  Be bad, get kicked, relog with a new name, full reset.  No consequences. 

TAGN has a unique perspective, as usual, on the feedback option–apparently he meets asshats in all sorts of places.  His narrative is worth a read if your interested in a feedback feature for MMOs.

To clarify my stance on the issue, I think group dynamics are incredibly important–and when I say group perhaps I should substitute “server.”  The number of different people in a given “room” or “channel” will contribute to how people behave.  Statistically, the more people playing a given game, the more likely one will see anti-social behavior, i.e. asshattery.  I do believe growth is good, on the whole, but ignore commands and toggling channels will still come in handy, if we do not see the “player feedback” option offered by P@tsh@t implemented.

Will the Sky Fall…

March 29, 2007

…if MMOs come to consoles? Over at VirginWorlds.com Brent assesses the situation and surmises “we have no problem.” He mentions that Everquest Online has been a console title for years and it is inevitable that other titles will come to the console market. In fact, some newer MMOs are being released primarily on the console and the PC is the secondary platform, states Brent. These comments and the article came in response to The Common Sense Gamer’s assertion that the console market is much like the World of Warcraft population.  Game Informer reports in the April print issue that The Burning Crusade sold 2.4 million copies in North America–and that was in the first 24 hours of its release.  There are a huge number of gamers out there, as Blizzard has demonstrated.  Whether the genre becomes a console mainstay or continues being a PC-specific activity, we are going to see increasing numbers of players.

I have to agree with TCSG’s assessment, however;  both the console and the WoW population are ones I do not care to game with. The console market will be a problem for MMO gamers, but I also realize we probably don’t have much choice either. The game manufacturers will seek to put their product in front of as many paying customers (and they hope, subscribers) as possible, and tapping into the console market will help them do that. However, I decided some time ago that the “time sink” and the raid system alone is not enough to keep the “asshats” out of endgame guilds or from generally hindering the enjoyment of the game for normal, sedate, and mature players. WoW is full of people who are experiencing their first MMO and making the mistakes anonymous, selfish people make when there are little to no consequence to their actions, as I wrote late last year. Further, games like Everquest II have brought their leveling system into line with WoW in order to compete and allow for a much greater degree of solo leveling than was common just a few years ago, helping people with no social skills move towards the endgame more easily.

However, there is a distinction between the “loot whore” or the overbearing gaming know-it-all and what the above two posters term “asshats.” In my Clan gaming experience (in [OgV]), beginning with Battlefield 1942, the mod Desert Combat, Battlefield Vietnam, and most recently Battlefield 2, we had a different term for the ignorant and generally malicious FPS denizen who team killed for vehicles, hacked to advantage, and unfortunately, put racist, profanity-laced comments over the in-game channel—that term was “Smacktard.” The connotation that this player is developmentally-challenged applies—they haven’t learned to play the game, and probably won’t because playing by the rules is boring for these extroverts—they need to ruin the game for other players in order to enjoy themselves. I normally “fragged” with the server admin panel up on my laptop so I could ban them without alt tabbing out of the game.  Persistant worlds in games such as Neverwinter Nights also suffered from hackers and unscrupulous players.

I do not have admin permissions on Crushbone, unfortunately. But this is a problem we don’t have to confront on our own, however. We have established guilds, a network of online friends, and a manner of playing that suits us—it is a social experience, which is why most of us continue to renew our subscriptions. If we want to induct new players into the gaming etiquette specific to your MMO, we have to demand these players conform to our expectations if we group with them and certainly if we guild these players. New blood is an asset to games, and more players means a dynamic economy and a lot more choice in grouping and the marketplace. I must admit part of my decision to leave WoW, with both my accounts, was the belief the bad elements of the population would never learn to act like mature individuals and either I would need to join them, or get out—and I chose the latter.

Fifteen years ago, during the heyday of the MUD, MOOs, and MUSHs, you had a healthy “asshat” population, even on a server of 300 players.  This hasn’t changed.  Human nature is static–people have been acting like fools since we came together online–if I searched my memory I could probably come up with examples of this type behavior from my BBS days in the 80s.  We have always had to deal with these people online, and in daily life as Brent points out, if we have any social interaction at all.  However, we tend to remember the bad experiences we have online, and sometimes the view that “all” the other players act that way overwhelms one’s sense of community in a game.

If I evaluate the MMO market objectively, and step back from my personal experiences over the last twenty years, I agree adding a large number of subscribers can be an asset to MMO gaming, though it will undoubtably have a detrimental impact in some areas. How will it work in my current game of choice, Everquest II, if SOE ever decides to put it on the console market? I don’t know. I am not sure how the title would sell, as I am not a market analyst. I do know if I encounter “asshattery” I will try my best to redirect such behavior and help the newbie have a successful experience ingame. I may fail, but if enough players join me in demanding a certain level of play, I think all but the most recalcitrant “asshat” will have to conform, and we already have a goodly number of those type of players, on gaming rigs I’ll never afford, I’m quite sure. In the last word, I will not stereotype the entire console-owning population as “smacktards,” but adopt a wait and see attitude. I think we will all be in for some suprises.

Saturday Night’s for Fighting

March 25, 2007

Saturday night! Rock and roll, beer, and women! The mantra of the young man—for me, it was turkey potpies while I watched the news—the wife and kids were visiting relatives, and I was not cooking for just me. As I sat at the table I realized there was a raid scheduled tonight, so I quickly finished dinner and sat down with a large glass of iced tea (sugared of course),  fired up the TV on the other monitor, and logged into Teamspeak for the second raid since my return to Everquest II. We were off to the Laboratory of Lord Vyemm. As far as progression is concerned, at the end of the run I think it is safe to say we have this raid on “farm status.” However, it was fun none-the-less.

At 6:00 we were in the Bonemire, stuck on a wall, waiting for stragglers. I took a look around and snapped a few shots. I even got the zone-in clickable, in case you’re in the area with 15 or 20 friends.

I also made good use of the time and adjusted my video qualities and display, sacrificing titles and guild names for visibility–this is evident in the screenshots throughout. I sacrificed video qualities for stability–I could have turned off the TV on the other monitor, but I was really into the movie, Ghosts of Mississippi.  The game lags on balanced or higher, and is much worse in raid zones, so I have to play without seeing all the neat bells and whistles.  The entire time I was thinking, “I can’t wait for my new system. I will be able to run my TV and EQ2 without lagging at all, even on the higher settings.” On a side note, MMO Evolution just wrote an article about the “tech” rich and new systems–I don’t fall into the “rich” category. 

By 6:35 we were inside the “Labs” proper. A Labs run seems to be the EQ2 equivalent of what many guilds in WoW did with Molten Core—it is a ubiquitous raid across the servers. I started the raid 20% into my 29th AA. I was 75% into level 68. The first room of the zone netted me about 4% XP. It was nice to see the bars moving, and I hoped to level this run.

We began to clear trash, and that hope fizzled a bit when I realized I was getting mere tenths of XP points on these level 70 plus epic x2 or 3 mobs. Biting my lip, I hoped there was plenty of discovery XP in the zone.  The Forge room did net me another 4%.

I tried to keep track of the named mobs—I really did. I keep a couple pads and a pen at the computer, and jot down notes so I can later identify screenshots, named mobs, items that dropped, etc. However, at some point I got out of order—I think it was the first mob—we bypassed what I assumed was the first named, The Slavering Alzid, and came back to him and his two friends later. I believe we started with this Uncaged fellow, who for obvious reasons we put back in his cage.

Here we are preparing for the Slavering Droag–

As the night progressed, we saw a lot of metal chests, as is to be expected. I was not planning on bidding for anything. I want to save my DKP for my two new toons, the berserker and mystic. In fact, at least one person in the raid was two boxing, so that holds some promise to be able to get both characters in future raids.

Buffing up during our ascent:

I could not keep to my “no bid” rule. I saw a very nice two-hand weapon drop and realized it would go a long way to helping me harvest in peace, at least once I get my final level.  I am hampered by the solo mobs in Bonemire and elsewhere when harvesting, and my guard does not deal much damage, so this looked like an ideal fix—and I won the item with the minimum bid. My willpower was tested, as a number of other nice plate drops came along as we progressed, but I held steady, opting for the one item and earned DKP for the two future toons.

Eventually we made it to Lord Vyemm. I enjoyed the fight, although it was the first and only time I died in the zone. He dropped a very nice plate breastplate—people on Teamspeak mentioned what a nice piece it was, and I toyed with bidding, but there was another lower-level guard in the group, and that character is his main, so declined and he got the cheastpiece for the minimum.  Here we are fighting the wyrmkin!

By the end of the run I had made some good progress with this character. He leveled towards the end of the run, hitting 69 finally. I picked four AA points—the run was over in just about three hours. The guild was going to hit something else, but I opted to drop group and go work a few quests with my duo. It was a fun and productive night and I look forward to running it again.

If You Have a Gambling Problem…

March 24, 2007

Then this Everquest II feature is not for you.

I must admit I never played the Gigglegibber before a couple days ago.  When I moved on to the Desert of Ro for some AA and XP, I found this guy by the carpet quest mob.  I knew I was plush with silver from selling back crafted items, so I began to let fly the tumblers.  Of course, I haven’t won more than 10 silver in about 40 tries.

I can’t pass this guy without spinning the wheel.  I think it is proof of that old saying, “The Lottery is a tax on people bad at math.”  However, in front of my face is evidence that I can make a fortune!

If I win it big I may retire from adventuring for coin, and move to one of those five bedroom jobs in South Qeynos.

Picture of my Week

March 23, 2007

EQ2 photography as art?  I did not want to scale this down for aesthetic reasons, so you’ll have to click the thumbnail to decide!

A longtime friend and fellow MUD veteran (the female rat to the left) and my duo have been hunting over the last few days–we were in search of named mobs and AA location XP and happened upon this corner of Steamfont.  I could not resist posing a pic!  The hot water pools in the background are, for lack of a better term, cool.  Gaff, my berserker broke not only level 50, but 51 yesterday.  For those of you interested in stats, that is level 50 adventure, 48 carpenter in 12 days, 23 hours.  I have no idea if that is good or not, I just know it is a fraction of the time it took my first ‘toon.  Lurk, who made 50 the day before, reached that level and 70 provisioner in 19 days, 21 hours of play time.

Other updates:

  • I have added a “how to” section for all of the “trot line” driven search terms.  I realize a lot of people find this site looking for information on how to run a line, so I have obliged, complete with pictures.  For the record, I am using that term as an extended metaphor to explain why I ‘blog.  If your curious, it is one of the tabs above–and yes, that is my son and me in the pictures.  They are also real fish–and I ate all of them.
  • New links!  Fannypacks of MMO Evolution has been added to my MMO commentary section.  I am still looking for some other sites–I am willing to reciprocate links.
  • Congratulations to TAGN for making the EQ2players Town Crier! even if he did it by stealing my “arrow to the head” scoop.   Seven months of daily articles finally netted him some official recognition.  Does this make him a sell out?
  • With the help of Wilhelm I figured out how to post thumbnails!  I do not need to overwhelm you with giant image-laden posts.  I reserve the right to post full size pics, however.
  • Speaking of pics, I have a new header.  It is the pick of my week, from the other side.

Search Terms and other Housekeeping Tasks

  • My most popular search term(s) of late is related to “two box,” “two boxing,” or some derivation thereof–many times it has the key words “druid,” “WoW,” “EQ2,” or some other term attached.  As for two boxing WoW, I only have one article touching on that subject.
  • Best search term:  “where is norrath in wow” I refuse to use this site to flame, disparage, or in anyway insult visitors or other people (my ire with TAGN is in good fun).  However, I should clarify that Norrath is specific to EQ2 and not in WoW.  There is a large number of things that each game has implemented, or borrowed, from the other, however.  For example, EQ2 transmuting=WoW enchanting, EQ2 Tinkering=WoW engineering, griffons, etc.
  • I did get one search for “biggest mud sojourn toril” which is nostalgic, I think.
  • Most of the other searches, when not concerned with how to run a trot line, have some word touching on fae’s, Everquest II, WoW, crafting/tradeskilling, or a specific class.
  • Coming soon:  expanded sidebar widgets to include helpful links and perhaps a few podcasts.  I recommend and enjoy EQ2-Daily’s podcast for a good listen.  I also want to thank EQ2-Daily.com for posting links to my articles, and the other blogger around the ‘net.
  • Average hits–around 120-130 a day.  I consider that a success!  Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

The AA Climb: A Comparison

March 22, 2007

Following Blintz’s level progression as a 40 this and then a 44 that has been interesting—seriously. For one I play with Blintz, and secondly I only blog because of his success over at TAGN, so I will give him that credit—though I’d like to get back to some literary posts and perhaps find some real feedback on my more creative side in the future. But to the task at hand—comparisons of levels, AAs, etc. with my current ‘toons.

When EoF launched, I completely changed my typical play style as I began two boxing. Solo play in EQ2 demands questing, but with my duo combo triple up blues and even white mobs fell with relative ease. When I began to two box, I used a new Fae fury my daughter designed (this one was Rella, please don’t sick the trademark police on me) to level with my new Ratonga berserker. Around level 20 I realized that the real healer class I wanted to play was a mystic, and I just happened to have a Froglok, Lurk, who was level 38. I mentored Gaff and began to run Stormhold, farming named mobs. I was lucky enough to get a Berik’s starter, which came in handy when I finished The Bone Bladed Claymore.

From Stormhold, I progressed in a flurry of fur and reptilian rage through Varsoon’s and Runnyeye. There was little questing for my pair of dungeon crawlers, less downtime, and more master chests than I can count. Add one DPS class and it was a quick route to farmage. Seriously. I felt like a gold farmer I was getting so many master drops off named mobs. I learned the spawn pattern and used it to my advantage. This coincided with the advent of transmuting, so even my adepts were fetching 8-10 gold on the market, not to mention all the fae’s in need of those master skills. Life was good—and remains so though my adepts don’t seem to be doing as well as some.

Eventually, through mentoring the lower level character (Gaff) exclusively, I have almost achieved parity of levels with the two ‘toons. Yesterday Lurk hit 50 and I did a mini-victory dance, as that was once a milestone. Gaff hit 49 and is poised to nose over into tier 6 today. One thing I have noticed—rest experience is not burned at the same rate with the character that is mentoring—I can go through 50% of rest XP on Gaff, and since Lurk is mentored, he will barely dent 10%. I like that feature. But enough on logistics— lets compare stats.

Remember, I did not go quest-heavy on these ‘toons—if you look at their stats at EQ2.players they probably read just like farmers—few quests, relatively quick progression (except when I was a knucklehead and went back to try two boxing WoW), and a decent number of kills. I actually have not looked at their stats. Here is the breakdown of AA progression for each:

Gaff: Level 49 Ratonga Berserker
Level 48 Carpenter
40 AA points
Items: 23
Named NPCs killed:59
Quests completed: 44
Exploration events 192
Collections completed: 42

Bear in mind, Gaff was created when AAs, both trees, were in place (post EoF). In contrast, Lurk gained his first 38 levels during DoF after I had finished running my main, Mec, to 60.

Lurk: Level 50 Froglok Mystic
Level 70 Provisioner (xegonberries are gold!)
32 AA points
Items: 9
Named NPCs killed: 57
Quests completed: 25
Exploration events: 127
Collections completed: 12

For a bit of color, here they sit atop the Great Pyramid in Cazic-Thule, yesterday, during a farming session.  We were out for the Screaming Mace, but came up empty on the named mobs we needed.

Now, in comparison my existing high-level ‘toon, these numbers neatly correlate to his progression. My main, Meclin, is a level 68 guardian. He was level 60 when both EoF and KoS launched, as for the latter I was away in Azeroth. So his only opportunity for AAs has come post-60. I have virtually stopped playing him, except to hit an occasional raids and to harvest tier 7, as two boxing is just entirely too much fun. Not only that, I prefer the berserker for tanking in a duo or three ‘toon group—DPS and AoE attacks make it worthwhile. Here is where the barbarian stands:

Mec: Level 68 Barbarian Guardian
Level 68 Armorer
29 AA points
Items: 25
Named NPCs killed: 42
Quests Completed 18
Exploration events: 244
Collections completed: 14

Summation: It appears the AA mouse over statistics only displays your accomplishments since you were eligible for AAs. Meclin was a quest machine at one time, completing close to 500 before KoS. Lurk, as my second box and higher level ‘toon in the combo, has not received the same attention as Gaff, causing him to lag behind the berserker. I need to buy him a few collections, apparently. Oddly, his exploration events are also much lower—I can only guess this is because he has not been back through the starter areas either on the “Isle of Refuge” (retro is cool) or the surrounding zones in Qeynos.

Meclin has gotten a number of AAs while running raid instances with the guild. The best AA experience for Gaff and Lurk has been Heritage quests. Last night, with Blintz, we finished “By Hook or by…” netting a full 70% AA XP, in addition to the exploration gained in The Tower of the Draftling, a few named mobs killed, etc. I am interested to see where I am in terms of AAs as these two characters approach the end of tier 7.

To state the obvious, it is nice to have a ‘toon that can take full advantage of each tier’s named mobs and quests, without having to find a lower level player to mentor, and maximize the AA climb while grinding the adventure levels. As one poster to TAGN’s 44/44/44 article stated, clearing out your journal of green quests will net you some good AA progress. I do not have first hand experience with a level 70 “toon—apparently AA XP is much easier to gain once you hit the adventure level ceiling.