Friday is for crafting

There’s something about Friday nights that make them perfect EQ2 Crafting. I get home, tired and cranky from a long week, but feeling the relief that is a few days away from the salt mines. Crafting in EQ2 is … soothing. But it takes a good amount of time. I don’t do a lot of it on most weeknights because I always have that vague time pressure of “a few free hours, then bed and back to work”. And by Saturday I’m ready for a bit more action than crafting provides.

So yeah, Friday is for crafting.

The new Shadow Odyssey expansion adds Crafter Quests starting at level 50, so I’ve been pushing my Alchemist lately. Tonight I took him from level 43 to level 46 before his Vitality gave out (and I’m too stubborn to use a character that is out of vitality when I have so many other options). About haflway through the night I idly mentioned that he had 4 Achievement points not spent (he is also a level 28 Swashbuckler, but hasn’t unsheathed a weapon in years). Angela pointed out that there are new Shadow Achievements that relate to tradeskilling. I looked and sure enough, there’s one for harvesting and another for crafting. I put all 4 points into the latter and now my Alchemist is making an extra 8% Crafting Experience. Sweet!

So many good games to play. Really it is an embarrassment of riches.

Tradeskilling in EQ2

Yesterday the EQ2 Tradeskill bug bit me again, and I lost several hours leveling up tradeskillers.

Now granted, I’m prone to enjoy tradeskilling in MMOs, but only in EQ2 do I have “career tradeskillers” — characters that pretty much only exist to do tradeskills. In part, that’s because EQ2 allows pure tradeskill characters. As far as I know, you never have to suddenly go fight a dragon to advance tradeskills like in some (most?) other MMOs. Granted, you either need Adventuring characters/guildies to gather resources, or be a pretty shrewd wheeler-dealer, but the actual tradeskill character doesn’t have to go out and adventure (at least, in my experience, as in all other aspects of EQ2, I haven’t seen the endgame).

But there’s more to it than that. Sony seems to have really nailed the sweet spot in making tradeskilling interactive enough to feel like a process, but not so fiddly that it feels like a headache. And kudos to them for being flexible, because when EQ2 launched it was headache-fiddly, with sub-combines and a jillion different tradeskill materials. They heard the cries of torment of the players and streamlined it.

Also, tradeskilling here is useful, even if only for fun items. I personally am working on an Alchemist who makes Skill “Potions” for fighter archetypes, as well as various health potions, and poisons for sneaky rogue types. Since my main is a Berserker (a fighter architype) every time he levels and gets new skills, the alchemist can hook him up with decent upgrades. My other main tradeskiller is a Provisioner, who keeps the rest of my brood in good food and drink. Aside from the obvious weapon and armorcrafters, there are tradeskills that let you make fun items for your house; the imagination that EQ2 players have demonstrated in house-decorating is pretty astounding (see screenshot; that was an empty room before Angela/Seagoat started decorating it to reflect the Halasian theme of our guild), and the broker is always willing to sell your items to these home-makers if you’re not interested in that activity.

Tradeskiling doesn’t have the excitement of adventuring; it’s more a “relax and unwind” activity for the most part. After a couple of hectic days of Thanksgiving travel, it just felt good to sit at the PC, chatting with Angela, listening to Christmas carols streaming over her 24/7 Streaming Christmas Carols station, and mellowing out. It feels like maybe the same kind of process as knitting (maybe? I don’t knit but have spent many hours observing people who do)…something to occupy the ‘physical’ part of your brain while the rest of it kind of idles and rejuvenates.

Of course this only works because of the complex web of systems in EQ2. If the skill system didn’t require ‘augments’ to improve skills, or if the food and drink system didn’t exist, or particularly if the game didn’t have highly customizable housing, then there’d be no way to keep all the tradeskill careers interesting.

Later in the night, we did go adventuring. It was a topsy-turvey day, with me mentoring one of Angela’s alts for a change (I’m usually the mentor-ee). We ran around in the Ruins of Varsoon for quite a while; a zone I’d never been in beyond the first room or two. We both downed a +55% Experience Potion (a veteran player reward) so even though most of the mobs were green (with a few blues) we got good experience. Her Inquisitor made 4 levels during the evening, and my Berserker made one. A somewhat frustrating zone, though. A lot of target mobs seem to spawn very rarely, but the fighting was good fun.

Weekend recap: EQ2 bonanza

So aside from re-subscribing to WoW, the weekend was mostly about EQ2. (Hmm, it just struck me that in the past few days I’ve griped about how lost I felt in EQ2 because there’s so much new stuff, and griped about how WoW seems so unchanged!)

I leveled my Berserker to 40, finishing out all the gray & green quests he had laying around for Butcherblock, including a fun storyline involving fighting off an invading bugbear army. I did have to call in the cavalry for the last step of that one. Angela brought in one of her healer girls and mentored me as I fought the last boss.

So now I had all these skills at Apprentice I, so I jumped on my Alchemist who was level 38 or so, but with 100% Vitality I quickly caught him up and got the ‘Zerker to at least Apprentice IV on everything. The Guild Hall makes this *so* easy to do. There’s this huge pile ‘o resources that you can draw directly out of, and all the crafting stations have been nicely laid out around vendor NPCs. The only time I had to leave the Hall was to buy training books off the crafting vendor. Thanks to everyone in the guild that have made the guild hall possible: I’m definitely riding on coattails in that regard.

I also played a bit of LOTRO, but that was mostly busy-work, trying to get my inventory organized across various characters. I turned in my Moria rewards, which seem mostly meh. There’s a cute “pesky dormouse” that you can put in your house, but he takes up a large wall slot. And a songbird, also for the house. And a pocket item that wasn’t too interesting (to the point that I don’t recall what it did). Let’s see. A horn that gives a hope (or whatever hope is now called) buff; that could be useful. And then potions for resistance to the 4 elements. Of those items, I could pick any 3. I got the dormouse, bird and horn.

I also gave up on trying to tank with the Champion, and re-arranged his traits. Dropped the one that let him carry a heavy shield and the ones that gave him better taunting and went full-on damage improvements. Oh, and I raised up his cooking a lot, just burning through components to get some inventory space cleared up. So my main LOTRO character spends his time either slicing & dicing orcs…or baking blueberry muffins.

Virtually no single-player gaming this weekend.

EQ2…so very, very lost

I spent most of my gaming time this weekend playing EQ2. Now I played this game at launch and I’ve gone back to it intermittently since then, but since launch Sony has released 5 expansions for the game.

And I find I just have no idea what’s out there any more. And the only reason I realize how much I don’t know is because I look over at Angela’s screen and say “Where is that?” and she’ll rattle off a zone name that I’ve never even heard of. Turns out I’m unaware of huge swatches of the gameworld.

This leads me to wonder how much I’m missing in other MMOs. LOTRO has had a series of free expansions since launch and honestly I’m never sure if I’m in an original area or an expansion area, so I have no idea if I’ve explored everything there is to explore.

I guess the only way to really keep track of an MMO is to be active in their *shudder* forums. But my experience is that after about a day surfing the official forums of any MMO, I’m ready to delete that MMO from my hard drive and snap the CDs in half; forums tend to attract the real bottom feeders of online society, and it only takes a few of these wretches to drown out all the well-meaning people who are saintly enough to endure the environment and stay around to help people. I come out of these places thinking “I do not want to associate with these people EVER AGAIN” and logging into the game means associating with them, so I just go off the game altogether (even though in-game experiences tend to be much, much more positive than forum experiences — this is an emotional reaction on my part, not a logical one).

Back to EQ2

Last night I *finally* booted up EQ2 for a real gaming session. Sure glad I activated on Tuesday — one tenth of my monthly fee squandered! (See, that’s the mentality that a monthly sub causes in my cheapskate brain that a lifetime one doesn’t.)

Anyway, sheesh, talk about starting on a negative note. Let’s get on to the good stuff. My berserker’s hotbar was filled to the brim with 30+ skills that I no longer had a clue how to use effectively, so I started out by knocking some gray quests out of my journal. A few updates past, gray quests started giving Achievement Point experience so they’re actually worth doing now. I played for about three hours and never took on anything more dangerous than “green” but it was a good shakedown to get the kinks out.

The increased leveling speed was really noticeable. I made almost half a level by doing gray and green quests and killing gray and green mobs. My ‘zerker is a wisp of experience away from level 40 now. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do like getting the rat pellets of new levels and abilities. On the other hand, I’ll always feel like I failed to reach cap (if in fact I do reach cap) “fairly.”

What really struck me last night, though, was how much “local knowledge” is contained in a long-running MMO. My berserker is in Angela’s guild (of course) with a few other old friends, and I was just listening to them talk and feeling totally lost. The shorthand lingo that gets used and the common knowledge shared makes the game really confusing for a “noob” and I’m essentially a noob who is starting at level 40ish. This isn’t even remotely an issue exclusive to EQ2; all MMOs have their own local dialect. I just usually return to MMOs guild-less and so am not immediately exposed to the lingo.

What also struck me is how much deep lore there is behind the game. I went to Butcherblock vi the Sinking Sands and saw a dude who had work for me, so I stopped to chat. Since I was alone I read everything he had to say, and he had a lot to say about the political climate of the main city in the area, what sorts of dangers I might face there, who the local tribes were, and so forth. I think I stood there for 10 minutes reading and re-reading until I’d absorbed all the info.

On the negative side of things, I’m not sure EQ2 does enough to put events and things in your line of site. They have a lot of “live events” that come with updates and patches, and whenever I’ve wanted to partake in them, I’ve felt like I needed to ask Angela where they were. That might just be laziness on my part (it’s easier to just ask her) but I’m not sure. But I just consulted her on how SHE learns this stuff and it sounds to me like she learns about stuff by reading the patch notes or surfing forums. I’m a firm believer in putting all the info a player needs IN THE GAME in such a way that most players will self-discover it. Use Town Criers or something in the main cities, near the banks, that sort of thing.

Last and trivial point in this wall of text. I took some screenshots, which you can see parts of in this post. These are the default quality screenshots and I think you’ll agree they don’t look great. I wonder how much bad press this has given EQ2, because the game looks pretty sharp when you’re actually playing it. I need to tweak the settings in order to get better screenies.

Oh, and one more last point. My crashing is gone; turning off multi-core support seems to have fixed it.

Upgrades and patches and crashes, oh my!

So last night, leaving work, I was like a kid the day before Christmas. Not one but TWO shiny new expansions awaited me at home. By the time I went to bed, I felt like a kid on Christmas afternoon who’d found that all those mysterious packages had held socks and underwear.

I first hit LOTRO to get Mines of Moria installed. I’d opted for the downloadable version of that, and had “pre-downloaded” and installed the expansion a few days earlier. When I got home, the servers were down for a hot fix, but I ran the client anyway and… it took two hours to convert the game to Moria! Urgh. Once that finished, I logged in (after sitting in a queue) and played “spot the differences” with the UI (which primarily seemed to surround traits). I’d read about the big combat changes but I didn’t really see anything markedly different, but then I’m no theorycrafter. I wanted to get EQ2 going so I logged out after a few moments.

Angela had run the updater for EQ2 for me in the afternoon, so no patching was necessary. I had to re-open my account, apply my key and off I went, back to Norrath. My Dire Bear was kind of cool, but not as cool as the higher level ones (my character is 38) and not as fast as my horse. And beyond that… nothing really. I can’t fault Sony; they’d made it clear that this expansion was for level 50+, but I figured I’d find *something* shiny and new to excite me, but not really. I did log in to find I had 153% of the experience I needed to level from some change made in the past. So as soon as I got a point of xp, I dinged to 39 and half-way to 40, so level 50 doesn’t seem out of reach.

But then I crashed. Silently and with no fanfare. The screen froze for a second and suddenly I was looking at my desktop. I rebooted the PC, just in case, and once Vista eventually lurched back to life I logged back in. Played for 20 or so minutes and bam! Another crash to desktop. No obvious cause…nothing that connected the two occurrences in my mind. When last I played EQ2 (this past summer) the game was rock-stable for me, so I dunno what’s up. I have updated my video drivers since then; maybe its the PhysX crap in the nVidia drivers? I started surfing the support forums, but by this time it was after 11 and I finally just said “To hell with it” and went to bed, dejected and rather cranky.

And woke up even crankier this morning. Tonight I get to check out the “New XBox Experience” which honestly doesn’t sound all that exciting, but we’ll see. I’m going to set EQ2 to use a totally default interface in case one/some of my mods are out of date and breaking that game. If that doesn’t fix it, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Probably let it set for a few days until I’m more in the mood to troubleshoot PC gaming. If it turns into a long-running diagnosis/fix attempt cycle I’ll just write off my return to the game as a bad idea and go back to Warhammer.

Ah well. At least its Ghost Hunters night!

Update Week!

This week is going to be full of excitement, once we get through the typically dreary Monday.

Tomorrow, the first major Warhammer patch goes live, LOTRO: Mines of Moria launches, and EQ2: The Shadow Odyssey launches. I’ve got Moria pre-ordered and pre-installed but I have to wait for Thursday, apparently, for Amazon to get Shadow Odyssey to me. In between those 2 MMO expansions, Wednesday brings the “New XBox Experience” which should be worth an evening of playing with.

I am, frankly, more excited about Moria than I am about Shadow Odyssey. On the other side of the room, however, Angela can’t sit still, she’s so eager to get the latter, and she has zero interest in Moria or LOTRO. Moria brings 2 new classes and a level cap raise, along with lots of other stuff, not least of which is 2 more character slots/server. Odyssey is directed at casual level 50-80 characters, from my understanding, and since my highest level EQ2 character is 38…well you can see why I’m not that excited.

Still, more games to play than I have time for… I kinda hate the 4th quarter holiday rush of game publishers.

TGIF, WRUP, and other acronyms

So last night was all about the Thursday Night Football, thus no gaming was done. In fact overall damned little gaming got accomplished this week, much to my chagrin. XFire says I spend 2 hours playing Warhammer in the past 7 days, and that’s the game I spent the most time on, PC-wise (not that I always trust those numbers). I did play the Left 4 Dead demo on the 360 a couple of times, and spent quite a bit of time at Nile Online.

Yes, fascinating stuff. But what of the future? This is an odd week for me. I finished Fable 2 and didn’t/don’t want to wade into some lengthy single-player game because next week the LOTRO and EQ2 expansions hit, plus the “New XBox Experience” arrives (which, granted, will probably only be interesting for an evening). I could be playing Warhammer but fear getting sucked back into it, only to have my account turn off early next week.

So I feel like I’m in a quasi-holding pattern. I might stalk follow Ysharros into Wizardry 101 over the weekend, just because it sounds fun and easy. Quick to download, easy to learn… just some nice concentrated fun. Or at least that’s the vibe I’m getting.

Or I could fire up the EQ2 account and get re-acquainted, but I dunno… does it make sense to get re-acquainted only to install an expansion and have to relearn stuff? Might be just as easy to wait.

Curiously, I’ve paid very little attention to the big MMO expansions. I know WOW has Lich King and a Death Knight class and that’s about all I know. Moria has legendary weapons and 2 new classes, which I know very little about (but I’ll roll a Warden because I always roll any class called Ranger or Warden). The EQ2 expansion I know ZERO about, except that Angela is super-psyched for it. I guess it adds… new stuff. I don’t even remember the full name of it!! LOL.

This makes me an un-informed consumer but a happy gamer. I love discovering stuff on my own, and THEN researching it to learn the nuances. Werit wrote a post called Too Much Information that captures my feelings well enough that it seems pointless for me to repeat them here.

Apparently there’s a big free content update either going into Age of Conan, or already launched. Interesting. I’d like to jump back into AoC at some point. But then Ardwulf has me wanting to take another look at Vanguard, too. Plus Chronicles of Spellborn launches sometime soon, and I wanted to look at that as well. And I’m definitely not ‘done’ with Warhammer Online!

Is it any wonder that MMOs have churn problems these days? So many interesting choices and it’s hard to justify two concurrent subscriptions for most people. Add to that the lure of so many fantastic single-player games out now. It all just feels like too much. Are there enough gaming dollars to support all this content??

Anyway, let’s get to the WRUP part: What are YOU playing this weekend?

Character Transfers incoming to Warhammer

Everyone else has blogged about this too, but when I was getting ready to write my daily lunch-hour post I was drawing a complete blank. So I’m taking the easy way out.

We are pleased to announce that in the coming days we will be offering Free Character Transfers from our servers with lower populations to a set of servers with higher populations. To help you better prepare for these transfers we have provided additional details below.

Casualties of War’s Destruction side is on one of the servers that is currently tagged as a ‘Source’ server, so they need to decide if they’re going to move. My Destruction characters are on one of the servers tagged as a “Destination” server, so that’s good news for me. More warm bodies to wreak havoc with. CoW won’t be moving to ‘my’ server though as they’re on a Core Server and I’m on an RP one.

I’m glad they’re not letting people cross server-type lines in the transfer. There actually is RP on my RP server…not big elaborate stuff, but on a small, on-going scale, and its fun.

I’m still on the fence about what to do at the end of this Warhammer Month (the 18th of November, iirc). I enjoy the game when I play it lightly. When I start playing it a lot, the frustration builds. But do I want to spend $15/month for an MMO I’m going to play lightly? On the other hand, I still am somewhat confident that Mythic will continue to improve things (slightly less so after results I’m hearing about this Witching Hour event). And on the third hand, I don’t want to break my ties with CoW.

A perfect solution for me would be a Lifetime Subscription offer. That I’d snap up and then be able to relax and enjoy Warhammer when I’m in the mood for it without that nagging feeling of “I *should* be playing this game more since I’m paying for it.” That’s the route I took with LOTRO and I’m really, really content with that decision.

I’ve got a few weeks to decide what to do. But I have both LOTRO and EQ2 expansions pre-ordered. Maybe I’ll let Moria languish for a while and play EQ2 and WAR together for a month or two, then dive into Moria.