EQ2: Heroes’ Festival

I decided to pop into EQ2 last night, something I’ve been doing at random times recently. At this point I’m mostly still re-exploring Qeynos and doing the quests involved with that (which scale to your level). Anyway I found out something called the Heroes’ Festival is going on. I normally ignore events in EQ2 since the stuff that’s always there is overwhelming enough but after a little nudging from Angela I decided to poke around and see what was going on.

I found one quest that I really enjoyed. (Sorry, I’m telling this story from the Good side..not sure how it works if you’re evil). It’s called Thumore’s Absence and it starts with an NPC named Milupet Cogsory who is near the big Claymore Monument in what used to be North Qeynos. Milupet is looking for Thumore D’armer who is apparently something of a legend at the Festival; you’re sent to locate him.

Well it turns out that Thumore is, well, sleeping. But a bunch of mages are preventing anyone from waking him up. When you investigate you’re told that anyone who touches Thumore also falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, so the mages are keeping people away from Thumore’s sleeping body. Of course, you agree to help by entering Thumore’s dream in order to see what’s going on. If you want to do a good quest, just go do it, but otherwise read on for spoilers.

When you enter the dreamworld there’s not much for you to do other than speak to Thumore, who needs you to recover shards of memory in order to wake up. This takes the form of a linked series of quests. For each one you’ll go through a portal and into a ‘slice’ of some high level (well to me and other noobs, anyway) zone where you’ll have to defeat some even-level mobs in order to collect the memories. I thought this was really neat, since I got a taste of a bunch of places I’ve never been, and got to fight a bunch of monsters I’ve yet to encounter, all without spending too much time traveling.

Once you’ve recovered all the memory shards, Thumore thanks you but then implies that the memories you’ve retrieved are not his. Hmm. With no other choices open you leave the dream world to find…the mages are still there but Thumore is gone. If you talk to the mages they’re feeling groggy and out of sorts and they say they’ve never heard of anyone named Thumore. In fact no one has. Before the quest everyone was wondering where he was. After the quest no one has ever heard of him.

Eventually you find him in a ghostly form and he sends you off to help others trapped in their dreams, and that’s as far as I got. But I can’t wait to learn who or what Thumore is. It’s a mystery!

Now if you don’t read quest text then this whole series would be a lot less interesting but this time around I’m soaking up the EQ2 lore and quests like this series make me glad I am!

An expected non-adventure

So here’s another side of EQ2 (yeah, I’m on a bit of a kick). Last night, after a crappy day at work, I was able to get job #2 done pretty early and by 9 pm I was ready for some relaxing gaming. And when I say relaxing, I mean just that… I wasn’t in the mood for stress or excitement.

It was the last day of TinkerFest in EQ2 and I had an incomplete quest, so I logged in to finish it up. All I needed to do was collect some gnome grease and then craft a battle-bot, so no fighting. Finished the quest (my bot lost 🙁 ) and then wandered around GnomeLand Security picking up quests and taking the time to read the quest text (or listen to the NPCs) as I did so. There’s some amusing stuff there if you take the time to appreciate it.

Then we had a surprise visit from a GM in the guise of a semi-broken tinkered robot named Firstaidomatic. It was attempting to repair itself and needed spare parts. I hesitate to call this encounter a quest, but it was a fun diversion and after we satisfied the robot’s needs we each got a personal light and some level 100 food and drink for our troubles. One of the strengths of EQ2 is that they do a lot of these micro-events where a GM controlled character just appears at a focus point (ie, the last day of TinkerFest, at the hub of all TinkerFestivities) to interact with the players.

Having finished with TinkerFest for this year, I headed to Kelethin for the City Festival, and took a quest to harvest ingredients for the troll that was running things. Remember how I’d been intending to level up harvesting the other day? Yeah, I was getting back to that. I spent the next hour and a half or so just roaming around the outskirts of Greater Faydark. Everything was quiet; I never saw another player out there. But that was ok. I just kind of flowed into the world, letting real world stress drain away as I fished and chopped wood and got really good looks at the creatures that I’d always had to fight during prior visits. It’s amazing the detail you have time to notice when you aren’t swinging a sword. And the ambient sounds out there just kind of drew me in. It was all very soothing, and I got all my harvesting skills up to where I can go harvest Tier 3 next, as well as completing the harvesting quest a few times and getting tokens for Kelethin City Festival goods.

I played until midnight, never drew a weapon in anger, though I was tempted after a Fae played a practical joke on me in the guise of teaching me her language. I didn’t do any serious crafting. Basically I just roamed around while my real self unwound.

I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and for me to ‘go off’ EQ2 again. I always do eventually. But for right now I’m really enjoying the game a lot (again). I’m taking care to only do things that are fun and to not pressure myself. For instance Angela asked me if I wanted help in doing all the TinkerFest quests I hadn’t done, since it was the last night of the Festival until next summer. My first instinct was to say yes, not wanting to miss out on anything. But then I caught myself because I knew I wasn’t in the mood for trying to pound through quests, and just let that content go until next year. Basically the way I look at it is this: I have two real jobs. I don’t need my games to become a 3rd. Everything comes ’round again eventually, right? And if not… well there’s more than enough content to keep me happy for years at the pace I play.

An unexpected adventure

When New Halas hit the EQ2 servers I rolled a new character just to check out the starter area. I chose a Fury because I’ve never really played a healer in all my years of MMOing (or if I have, I’ve forgotten about it). He quickly sped to level 20 and finished the New Halas zone (Frostfang Sea) and moved to Butcherblock and kept going.

Somewhere around level 30 I realized this was no longer a throw-away character and he was here to stay. I decided he would be my Transmuter (a skill that turns magic items into raw materials to be used in Adornments) but in order to get his skill up I needed a lot of low-level magic items to practice on. Also I’d more or less ignored his harvesting skills since I’d been playing him like a disposable character.

Enter EQ2’s ChronoMagic. I set his level back to 5 and ran him through the Timorous Deep newbie zone, working on his harvesting and transmuting all his quest rewards. About halfway through I went to level 15 with him and eventually the Sarnacs also sent him on to Butcherblock. Most of my quests there I’d already done, of course, but there were a few faction-specific ones waiting.

So that’s where things stood Saturday night. I had some new level 22 quests I want to knock out but I’m level 35. Back to the Chronomage to be set back to level 25. But one of the quests is a harvesting quest and my lumberjacking skills weren’t quite up to snuff. I headed to the area of Greater Faydark near Crushbone to increase those skills, but soon wandered into Crushbone itself. The orcs there were easy prey for me and killing the odd orc broke up the constant hunt for harvesting nodes.

Then I saw an Orc with a quest feather. Turns out he had a job that needed to be done inside Crushbone Keep, a place I’ve never been. I went in there, found an elf who needed help too. The orcs near the entrance weren’t too bad but I knew this was a group zone and I’d need more firepower eventually.

So here I am, artificially level 25 and needing help. Chronomagic to the rescue again. Angela had a level 35 Berserker. She Chronomaged down to level 25 and we set out to conquer the Keep. As we delved deeper and deeper into the Keep it was clear we were getting in over hour heads. So we both canceled our chronomagic, leaving us at 35 & 38. 38 was high enough that our quests were gray, but then I mentored back down to 35; now we had a duo that was high enough to finish the Keep, but low enough that the quests didn’t go gray. And finish it we did.

But early on in the conquest of Crushbone I saw the flaw in my play style. I was gaining levels while doing lower-level content, which was going to leave my “unaltered” level quests going gray on me, which in turn would force me to chronomage back down again, setting up a viscous cycle. Then Angela let me on to a tip… you can choose to divert your combat experience to AA points rather than leveling.

So that’s what I did and instead of gaining levels I was earning AA points that let’s me tweak my character class to be something ‘just right’ for me. Sweet!

By this time it was late afternoon Sunday and we’d been playing all day, so we quit, but honestly I was left wanting more. I love all the options available in EQ2 between the parallel quest lines, using chronomagic and mentoring, and now my new favorite toy, deciding where you want to put your experience points to work. I loved that I’d logged in to do a level 22 harvesting quest and wound up going through a lowbie dungeon that I’d never seen before. That’s the kind of unexpected adventure that brings me back to a game time after time. I loved that we could tweak the difficulty to suit us doing it as a duo rather than having to wait for a guild member of appropriate level to log in, or turning our group into a PUG.

I’m definitely a game grazer and rotate through MMOs on a pretty constant basis, but everytime I re-visit EQ2 I find something new and fun to do. I never stay around very long, but I’m not sure that’s the game’s fault. It’s the one MMO I play where I’m in an active guild and I can only sustain that social aspect of my game playing for so long before I drift off to another MMO where I’ll solo for a while.

I’m not sure if EQ2 Extended is a good idea, but I hope it at least gets more people to try the game out. 5 years of additions and expansions and system tweaks has left a rather massive, wonderful game that’s overlooked by most MMO players.

Role-reversal: EQ2 and the end of domestic bliss

Last night I was in EQ2 again, playing my newbie Fury (who is now 22). Angela was on her 24 Troubadour.

This Fury is the first healer I’ve played. Generally I gravitate towards DPS classes. Angela generally plays healer types.

Now would be a good time to admit that we’ve encountered some friction playing EQ2 together in the past. She knows the game far, far better than I do, but my male ego has trouble accepting that fact. She tends to be very helpful which I tend to hear as her being patronizing. It makes sense that she be in the lead when we’re together, but I make a lousy follower. Mind you, it isn’t like we get into yelling arguments or anything, but there’s a reason we often play different MMOs. 🙂

So back to last night. I was waiting for a named to spawn and she logged in her Troubadour to come make sure I was in the right spot. I knew I was in the right spot but she always assumes I’m lost in EQ2, and about 90% of the time she’s right. She has some add-on map module that shows Points of Interest provided by the community so she wanted to double check that I was at the mob’s spawn point.

Of course, I was in the right spot /smugsmile but as long as she was there, we decided to group up. Now, if you haven’t played New Halas you might not understand just how easy the zone is. I’m almost finished and I’ve never been below 3/4ers health, always playing solo up to now. It’s really one long tutorial with no combat-challenge to it at all, assuming you do all the quests (which will keep you comfortably leveled up so you’re always doing green/blue quests).

And now we were grouped, a 22 & a 24, doing quests that were easily done solo by the 22.

Had you been a fly on the wall, you probably would’ve been very amused. First, I kept running headlong at baddies and dumping my DoTs on them, immediately getting 100% aggro, until her Troubadour engaged, which would normally pull aggro off me. This would frustrate me since I’m used to her being the healer and so used to doing everything I can to keep mobs off her. And she kept reminding me “Don’t forget to heal me!” even though her health never dipped below about 90% without me ever touching my heals.

It was so clear we were both in the opposite roles we’re normally in… me charging into fight after fight, doing damage as quickly as possible. Her fretting about the group having enough healing when no healing was needed. Both of us getting stressed out and a tiny bit annoyed with each other, even though we were rolling over mobs and finishing quests without breaking the slightest hint of a sweat.

I had to laugh, after the fact.

We’re going to have to find someplace more challenging to fight, and we’re going to have to do it soon if I’m going to learn to break my “First into the breach” habits and develop the pattern of staying in the back debuffing, healing, and dropping DoTs after she’s gotten aggro.

It just amused me how we slip into familiar patterns, regardless of the class we play.

I’m finally to where I got a quest that leads me into the actual city of New Halas. My inventory is bursting at the seams with house items I’ve got from quests, as well as discarded items that I’ve been saving for tinkering or whatever its called (no idea if any of it will be of use for that).

I still think the Sarnak starter area (I always forget the name of it) is my favorite so far, but the Sarnak city is a major PITA to navigate around.

Back to EQ2?

On any given Saturday night, there’s a very good chance that Angela will be playing EQ2, and a pretty good chance she’ll be doing some quest with a bunch of old and dear friends of mine. Folks I played Ultima Online with, just to give an idea of how far back we go.

EQ2 never really ‘sticks’ with me but between a desire to reconnect with these old chums, and curiosity about the New Halas starting area, I re-subbed. Paradoxically I created a new character (since that bunch is all level-capped so the only way for me to join up with them is to get a character to cap, too). I chose a Barbarian Fury, which I’m told is a kind of offensive healer.

So, between about 11 pm Saturday night and 11 pm Sunday night, I managed 18 levels in New Halas. This is without any kind of ‘experience buffing’ and I’m not talking 24 hours of game play. A couple hours Saturday night, a couple Sunday morning, then a few more Sunday evening. That felt crazy fast to me!!

So far I have mixed feelings about New Halas. There’s still an awful lot of travel back and forth and quest hubs so far have lasted too long. I get pretty bored with an area before I’m sent on to the next. I do like the theme; early on you’re helping pilgrims ready themselves for the trip to New Halas, then later you’re involved in an epic and eternal struggle between blue dwarves (Coldain??) and orcs. Fun stuff, in that noob-ish way.

But don’t you hate it when you get sent to an area to kill level 10 mobs and see some level 12 mobs standing around, or an object that stands out, and you just KNOW that as soon as you go back to turn in a quest, you’ll be sent back to the same spot to fight those level 12 mobs or interact with that unusual object? That happens over and over again in New Halas.

As for the Fury, had I designed the class I would’ve turned its progression on its head. At level 18 I still have 2 direct damage spells and 1 debuff. I have plenty of buffs, and a vast array of heals that I never have reason to use. Angela tells me Furies get a lot more attack spells later on.

Since most new characters don’t bother (or need) to party, and early quests don’t require much (or any) healing thanks to constant ‘mini-dings’ it seems like an odd decision to front load the class with healing, cure, and resurrection spells. Honestly by Sunday night I was pretty damned bored of Heroic Opportunity/Deadly Swarm/Tempest over and over again. (Just to be clear, I’ve gotten upgrades, so really it’s something liked Deadly Swarm III/Tempest II, but as I swap these in, the key strokes don’t change.) Give us the attack spells early, and add healing spells when we’re high enough level to require healing and/or grouping!

I also still have not hit the city. I have had access to venders and a bank, but I have 3-4 collections that need turning in and a bunch of house items I’ve earned that I’d love to put in a house. I know I *could* just go to New Halas but I’m kind of playing it deliberately ignorant and just going where the quest chains aim me.

For all this grumping, I’m happy enough to be back playing. One thing about EQ2 is that returning to it is always very easy for me. I’ll have to re-acquaint myself with what all the skills/spells do, sure, but the mechanics are as familiar as an old shoe.

I’ll probably finish out New Halas then jump back over to my level 50-ish Berserker and see what I can do about getting him somewhere towards level cap. Unless the Fury gets a bit more Furious. Don’t get me wrong, the class isn’t weak, it just feels like every combat has me doing the exact same keystrokes. That isn’t true with the ‘zerker, but of course he has over twice the levels worth of skills.

We’ll see how long I last this time around. Maybe I’ll buy one of those $25 mounts just to drive @Longasc crazy. 🙂

Expansions are feeling a little bit pricey

I’m going to talk about SOE’s Sentinel’s Fate expansion for EQ2, but what I’m saying applies to pretty much every ‘boxed’ expansion (even if that box is virtual) for MMOs. Try to keep that in mind.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought Sentinel’s Fate. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had been rolling the idea of returning to WoW around in my head, and Petter convinced me not to, but the ‘new MMO in my life’ seed had been planted. Not that I’m new to EQ2; I’ve played it on and off since it launched. But I haven’t played it for nearly a year at this point, and hey! New expansion. So why not?

There was a standard edition for $40 and a collector’s edition for $70. As far as I could tell, the difference was that the $70 version came with a mount. There were some physical gee-gaws too, but Angela has the collector’s edition so I figured I could play with her figurine if I really felt the need to do so. $30 for a mount sounded insane; maybe there were other differences that I didn’t pick up on. Frankly $70 was out of my price range so I didn’t look too closely.

So I pay my $40+ tax and get home. Don’t really need the disks, I’m told. I can just patch in Sentinel’s Fate once I activate it on my account. To do that I have to re-subscribe of course. $15 for a month. I start the patcher expecting it’ll run overnight or something. About 15 minutes later it was done.

And it struck me that I’d spent $55 to play this new content for a month. That seems steep to me; I could’ve bought a brand new MMO I’d never played for that much. Most new games cost $50 and give you a month to play for free. By deciding to return to EQ2 I’m actually paying $5 more than I would to play a game I’ve never played before.

And, from an emotional point of view, the fact that it could be patched in very quickly made it *feel* like a small expansion. I know that’s silly… basically I’m faulting a really efficient patcher and that’s no honest reflection of how big the content is. Or maybe something is fubar’d; I haven’t patched my client since maybe last summer at some point. How could it patch so quickly!? Is the new streaming technology built into Sentinel’s Fate?

But I digress. I think $55 is a lot to ask of people who’re returning to your game, and who represent potential sustained increased income if your content hooks them.

I was fine paying $40 to see what was new in EQ2, and this isn’t a case of bait-and-switch or anything. Sony is very above-board in letting you know you’ll need a sub and all that. But for some reason this time it just ‘clicked’ that I was paying $55, not $40, to try the new content, and that’s sort of soured the experience for me before I’ve even logged in.

The solution? Give a 30-day time credit with the purchase of a boxed expansion. When you activate that expansion, activate the account for 30 days (or extend the duration for already active accounts). Sure, that’s going to be a big dip in subscription income for a month, but think of the goodwill you’d generate and potential long-term increase in revenue. Alternatively, give the 30-day credit only to accounts that have been inactive for 3-months; then you’d just be covering people newly returned to the game (though that could be a real PR nightmare).

Anyway, I think next time an extension for an MMO I’m not currently playing comes out, I’ll wait for a sale or a price drop.

MMO news from Sony Fan Faire

Just finished watching the live stream of the SOE Conference thingie from the Sony Fan Faire in Vegas. I didn’t take notes or anything, but here’s what stuck in my head:

Free Realms has a new soccer minigame incoming, as well as full progression for the two driving games, along with customizable cars and garages for the latter. Beyond that, a new desert area, the home of the dwarves, is incoming, and a new combat job (Druid) as well as a level bump for all jobs (how much wasn’t mentioned).

Oh, and you can get you avatar put onto a CCG game card (a real one, sent to your house). Kinda neat.

The next EQ2 expansion, Sentinel’s Fate, is due out in February 2010 and will raise the level cap to 90. It adds a bunch of areas that have EQ fans all giddy, but I never got very high in EQ so I didn’t make much note of them. But Halas is being added as a new newbie island. I wonder if you’ll have to swim back and forth in the frigid waters to get to it?

Nearer term, the next Game Update is going to have ‘auto-mentoring’ which will allow you and friends to access any content and be mentored down to where you can get adventuring and achievement experience for doing it. So I guess it’s time to stop working on those gray quests and just let them sit for a few months until we get the next update.

Previews of The Agency and DC Universe Online showed us nothing we haven’t already seen, and there was talk about a new EQ Expansion (the 16th!), Pox Nora, and some weird SWG expansion that adds undead for October.

I’m sure all the real news sites will have much more details by tomorrow at the latest!

Crafting and Creativity

There’s been a lot of crafting talk lately. And a little bit of discussion around how rigid (my term) MMOs tend to be.

Angela was checking out this thread on the EQ2 boards and I asked her to send it to me. It’s a guild hall turned into a circus, built of crafted and collected items. The ‘figures’ are all quest rewards, I’m sure. But the structures are all creations made of crafted items.

I realize to a lot of people stuff like this is “pointless” but to another lot of people, stuff like this is what makes MMOs magical. Preemptively cutting off the nay-sayers, the point isn’t about quality of graphics or that the elephant’s foot doesn’t intersect perfectly with the ball he’s standing on. The point is the ‘sandbox’ aspect that allows people to come up with original crazy ideas, and execute on them.

Anyway, here’s the link:


Ever thought of trying EQ2?

Now could be a good time, because Sony has introduced a new “Invite a Friend” feature that can get you lots of bonus exp, and a cloak that gives you +25% run speed, and a lot of other goodies.

And why am I telling you this? Do I want to recruit you? Nope, I’m not playing. But Angela (my lady) is, and she’s looking for recruits! She’d be a great one to get this offer from, because she plays *all the time* and is extremely well versed in the game. She’s also running a level 50+ guild, which (if you join in — that’s optional) gets you all kinds of perks.

Check out her blog for details.

Big worlds (EQ2)

I’m sitting here doing my thing, and Angela is doing hers. Of course, her thing on a lazy Saturday is EQ2. And I hear her say “Hmm, I’ve never been here before.”

It took a few moments for that to sink it. She just went somewhere she has never been.

Now, this girl is a walking, talking EQ2 encyclopedia. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve asked her where to find something in EQ2 and she’s not been able to answer without a second thought. She’s been playing the game since it launched, and she plays a LOT. It is rare indeed that a day goes by without her logging in.  The /played on her main character is over 160 days. Think about that. That’s 3,840 hours spent playing that character. (Frightening, no?) And she has 12 characters, about 5 of which she plays very regularly.

Point being, she spends an incredible amount of time exploring the world.

And she’s still discovering places she hasn’t been to.

I just think that’s pretty astounding. Now granted, Sony keeps putting out expansions and new content, but still… I just find it really cool that a virtual world can be so expansive. The Explorer in me rejoices.

That is all. No real point. Just a ‘celebration of gaming’ post. 🙂