Daybreak (SOE)

Free 100 : Everquest 2

I keep refreshing my sidebar to see if Bhagpuss has already made this post (or one like it) – and I think if I type fast enough that I might just beat him to the punch this time. That is probably because he is away somewhere (is my guess).

Still, Everquest 2 is giving away (yet another) free level 100 Heroic Character.

This is exciting for me as I had recently spent a lot of time levelling several characters from one to as high as fifty – across both live and public test servers. My highest, the Warden, was indeed the most fun to play and as such the Public Test Realm is now my EQ2 “home”. This offer is limited until the first week of June and last time there was a free level 100 I did not log in in time to get the benefit – so now I am feeling the pressure to make a decision and do it quickly before life gets me busy and I forget once again. While always a tough decision I have been thinking out loud about what to do. I basically have three choices, with the third counting as 20+

The first, obvious choice is the Warden. I could zoom by 50 levels on what is (so far) my favourite character. I could then join the “end game” of EQ2 (which for me is solo questing, really. Or whatever solo players do in “end game”). In that case, am I just cheating myself? I have really enjoyed playing him thus far. So it is a conundrum – do I take away the levelling fun to myself or do I just accelerate it because I would then be doing “relevant” content? Is the Warden I see myself as my “main” in EQ2?

The second choice is the Coercer. I love Enchanters from EQ2 and funny enough I had decided to “main” the Coercer in EQ2 at launch – and boosting this character would be boosting the first character I made at launch in EQ2. Oh, the delicious irony of that. I have had fun messing around with this character more than playing it directly in a way that enchanters often do. Can I solo this instance if I can land a charm on that way to powerful for me NPC? Let’s try! The gifts of magic give you fun options in MMOs and to be fair I have never mained a caster class in any of my games. I usually revert to healer / tank to take advantage of being “needed”. (Which is also why i loved enchanting in EQ1 – was a very sought after class). Charming things and pushing limits is a fun playstyle.

The third, of course, is to take a brand new shot at any of the other 20+ something classes and start fresh. This could very much be a waste if I don’t enjoy the character.

At this early stage of thought, I am leaning to the Coercer because I know I enjoy the Warden – which means I won’t mind levelling him up the “old fashioned way”.

Any ideas? Have you used a character boost in EQ2 and how did you decide? Did you regret the choice?

Otherwise – even if you don’t play EQ2 regularly – go install and take advantage of this offer because it is limited – and regardless you get to keep the character. You never know if you ever want to jump into EQ2 you might enjoy it. I definitely have.

If you want to read the posts on my return to EQ2 this year they are here.

Almost Half Way There : EQ2

The other good side to having your blog broken is that the time I would often spend writing was spent gaming instead. I have continued on my EQ2 journey with furor and much attention. Playing an MMO like “the gold old days” again has been a ton of fun. I am playing both on Test and on live (for the extra character slots) and while I have jumped between several classes frequently I have clearly landed on my Warden as my “main”. For now. He is level 48 on the test server and currently following “The Golden Path”, in Lavastorm.

I don’t know what that means, but people always congratulate them so that must be important.

Still, I have spent a lot of time on my Coercer, who is a Freeportian – opposite to my other characters who are Qeynosian – and I find that to still be the biggest barrier. The Coercer has a 6 room prestige home with a patio held over from my live, testserver playing days and I’d love to let all of my characters live there. Seems as though this is not possible – or at least, not easy. This is a bit of a surprise considering how most other parts of the game have been completely streamlined for the player experience. Take, for example, Druid travel spells. The Warden is a melee subclass (when specced correctly) of the Druid class – meaning at level 25 they get the all important teleport line of spells. Many a day were spent paying coin to a friendly druid for such a port. Well, no longer is this necessary as anyone can port if they just  click a bush within a druid circle.

Automation is not just causing lost jobs in the present day.

This is a fair compromise – the Druid still gets the benefit of being able to cast that spell and travel from anywhere, whereas any other player still has to travel to the rings to get benefit. I suspect that the wizard spires work similarly. It is not a big complaint as I suspect with auto port to housing and the like this minor convenience is still nice to have for me, and doesn’t put anyone else out. Still, I am finding that it is the “little things” about the game that still bring me a lot of happiness. The benefits that each race gets is pretty interesting. Take the Erudite, for example, who has a self buff to identify magical creatures. A blue hue for damaging magic types and a green outline for healer types. This is extremely handy when looking for a pet but also is just a clever little fun function. My Warden has tracking due to the half elf racial, and I suspect it is one of the more important ones to have for a solo-adventurer these days. Nice to find the exact mobs you need and/or any named mobs in the area for treasure.

Feeling blue? Good – I’ll charm you. And then you will kill and die for me. This was almost a poem.

I keep getting sidetracked on instances as the Coercer with his charm ability, and invisibility – can get pretty far in exploring and there is a real sense of danger. On a random encounter with a real, live human being on test (which is admittedly extremely rare for me) he tried to explain a self-mentor ‘chronomance’r thingy where you de-level and solo instances for pretty good XP. This would be a better way to explore these dungeons (as long as I can really solo) because by the time I find bosses if they aren’t green I can’t usually win – and if they are grey then there is no loot. And loot is always fun. I will have to explore this feature better to understand it. And by explore, I will just Beetlejuice Bhagpuss here so he can explain it in the comments. Will save me navigating a google system that seems to recognize info from 2009 in EQ2 as up to date. “Bhagpuss, Bhagpuss, Bhagpuss!”)

I love him so much I should marry him. Or her. It.

My new, greatest toy which has completely changed the game for the better is the level 30 mount quest – a Mountain Salaraptor that has an incredibly fun and effective leap ability. I can jaunt across entire zones, relatively safely but much more quickly. This has made the game much more fun AND convenient. I suspect flying mounts will be even better but there is a certain joy of bounding across a landscape, and reaching peaks and areas previously barred from travel. It very much reminds me of the Super Leap ability from City of Heroes, which was amazing too. Another thing EQ2 does exceptionally well is letting you use the skins/graphics you like best. Don’t like the updated models? Turn them off. Don’t like riding a dinosaur around? Equip your horse (or whatever) in the appearance tab – keep the leap, stats, etc but change the model.

My 2H Warden is now a dual wield Warden. LOVE LOVE LOVE

I figured that part out quite by accident – on a forum – but I have always enjoyed playing dual wield characters. Wardens can’t. They can use swords, and blunt, and shields, but not two one handed weapons. This is where the appearance tab shines – I can use an offhand weapon in my shield slot and my shield looks like that weapon. It strikes and swings like that weapon. It does NOT change what the shield abilities do, but just the graphics and the swings. This alone has made me get back to leveling my Paladin as I always played dual wield Paladins in my pen and paper campaign, I just loved the theme of it. Now that I can do that in game as well I am excited to see how that looks. It doesn’t change the core, fundamental gameplay but it really allows me to customize the game to what I want to see and experience. It really is amazing.

Does this match?

It’s probably a really good thing too – or else you end up with outfits like the above. EQ2 does do a good job of varying the sets but you can really tell when a player is in between two. The appearance tab changes this if you can be bothered. Since I am wielding two weapons I feel like it doesn’t matter how bad the rest of me looks.

Now that my “main” is 48 I found two heritage quests – one of which required me to ask for help for the first time, which I thankfully and luckily received from a very happy and willing test server person who enjoyed the change of pace from whatever they were doing. I also ran out of quests in Lavastorm with 4 levels to go before the next “Golden Path” step. I either missed a quest hub or need to go explore more of Norrath. Either way, I am not short of options and am very thankful that I took the plunge to explore this game. It really is easy to come back to, is a lot of fun to play and level in, and there is a lot of depth and interest to hold even the finest connoisseur of MMOs.

And me too.

Up to Four Then Back to One : EQ2

I finished my “one character of each armor type” and “exploring all of the starter zones” experiment in EQ2 and it was a really fun way to spend my gaming time during my holidays. Oddly enough, the Dirge ended up two levels higher than the other characters by the time he had finished Timorous Deep – I am not sure if I missed side quests in other others or not – but each ended up in their main city in an Inn room, with their items placed. They all now have a home and I can continue the journeys (of one or more) knowing that I was fair to them. Odd that I feel the need to treat my online characters with care. Oddly enough – they all have quests pointing them to Butcherblock. Is there a single, recommended path on the way forward through that Zone? Do the four starters funnel into it? (this makes me curious if the leveling experience becomes less varied). I did read of a “golden path” quest line once you hit mid thirties, and Butcherblock goes to 35. Perhaps there is just the one path. I hope there isn’t, because I did enjoy the differences in getting my stable of characters through the varied and interesting zones. Technically, there is still the “original” levelling experience through Freeport and Qeynos. I say “technically because I am unsure if that has been updated to be as smooth as the others.

all items from just doing the story line

The best housing haul (housing items just from questing) hands down goes to the Dark Elves. Look above, all of those things were just from running the starting area. Weird though, the outdoor tent and other items feel very “outdoor prestige zone. Compare that to the haul of the Dirge, below:

also the same. Far more boring!

Four books, a steam machine, and a trophy. Seems like a rip off compared to the Dark Elves, but then again – the DE are probably far more pompous, right?

While it is fresh in my memory, I have different impressions of all of the starter zones. I have different rankings of the four zones for different qualifiers. For example, in terms of story, I would probably rank:

Frostfang Sea – Darklight Woods – Timorous Deep – Greater Faydark

Smoothness of the questing experience (lack of backtracking, easy to navigate, etc) would be in this order:

Greater Faydark – Timorous Deep – Frostfang Sea – Darklight Woods

Housing Items received would be:

Darklight Woods – Frostfang Sea – Greater Faydark – Timorous Deep

Gear Quality received would be:

Timorous Deep – Darklight Woods – Frostfang Sea – Greater Faydark

All of those are very subjective, of course. Just how I felt. I didn’t add up the gear levels or quality. Each had varying named bosses to fight (which I always did when i found them) and those bosses could drop a boring old treasure chest, up to an Ornate one – which had superior loot. That was the luck of the draw.

Since all roads lead to Butcherblock it’s an easy next step. I am still a bit torn on the Paladin or Coercer for this next leg of the journey, but am going to start with the Coercer and see how it goes. I am excited to see what happens next.

On a side note – I hope there is a “shared house” option for your characters and alts where they can all decorate their own rooms and areas and share them all. That really is my hope as I suspect at least two will not see much play as I do want to “catch up” to modern EQ2 eventually – and a little focus will help there. I also have my year in review posts to finish, so experiences with DDO, and my year looking forward posts to complete. I see a lot of blogging to start the year but none of it will be very timely. Whatever inspires me to write will be the subject matter. Also looking for suggestions on best way to give Daybreak some money, they deserve it! I am sure their purchase options will be as interesting and opaque as many of their in game systems. I mean that in a good way.

I am glad to have taken the jump in EQ2, it has been a nice experience.

And Then There Were Three : EQ2

I have spoiled myself with gaming time this holiday season. We often go on vacation during Christmas holidays but due to work and child activities/commitments we could not this year. The family decided to literally take three days and sit in our pyjamas at home, with a roaring fire, cheesy Christmas movies, and lots and lots of takeout/delivery food to eat. It was the closest thing to being lazy on a beach – minus the sun of course – but we kept the heat very cranked. It was glorious in it’s own, special way. My first goal was to complete the Kelethin story line – and I was not disappointing by the plethora of housing items as rewards as I played along.

(with all of my picture posts, you can click on them to expand to full size in a new window)

In the “old days” of MMOs  (wait – isn’t EQ “the old days”? Am I back to the future here? Time capsule? either way..) Quest rewards were a bit of coin. In the newer, old days they were clear upgrades. In EQ2 you get those upgrades AND something pretty/cool to put in your house. Don’t believe me? I was more excited for the hanging luinescent florets than the Sorcerer’s Bracelet above. Sure, I could kill things easier, but hanging things that glow! That is a true adventurers reward!

Not to be outdone Tuathil gave me a bookcase. I was truly happy for this as I had collected several books and had no where ideal to place them. Sure, I had some tables and boxes but not a proper bookshelf. Even better with this reward is that there was no gear upgrade to accompany it. Unless you could equip a bookshelf to swing furiously against enemies. And while I was enjoying the housing aspect of EQ2 I was even more excited to where my adventurer was heading. Crushbone.

I had mentioned before how much I loved Crushbone from Everquest. It was my standard leveling stop. I knew I would visit Crushbone eventually in EQ2 – I could see it clearly labelled on the map – so as I went from quest to quest it was always there as a reward for me for being a stout little adventurer. And here I was, at the gates of it, finally. Of course, one just doesn’t waltz into Crushbone – no! One must do all the quests surrounding the entrance first. Of course that wasn’t true in EQ  but here, in the new guided experience, it was.

The entrance to CB was always a mess in EQ. You had trains going in, and trains going out.  You would often barely escape one train by zoning through only to get crushed on the other side when the loading screen completed. This is where the name Crushbone comes from, I am certain. They have fixed that in EQ2 with a non-loading tunnel that is far longer (and safer) than the original.

The Orcs have also done some housing quests of their own, I see. I wonder how many adventurers they had to kill to get the “Orc Masthead – can be placed in any lair type” item.

EQ2 always plays on the nostalgic heart strings – and it works. The ORC belt quest was one of the first quests I ran in EQ. And every character I had that levelled through the elven zones ended up doing it. Heck, I did it on the progression server to great effect. In EQ it was a repeatable quest, not so in EQ2.

Not to be outdone they also added in the harder, upgraded quest of Orc Shoulder pads. Development of this game must have been easy peasy. Now fueled by nostagia, but I wonder at the time of launch if people were bored of “the same old thing” ?

There was an odd and comforting familiarity to entering Crushbone. It was always an open air dungeon of sorts – and the buildings in the background and wide open areas in between promised me farmable mini bosses, challenge, and “camp checks”. Except no one was in this zone except me, so I had all the bosses to myself.

Except I only found one and he did not drop the Shiny Brass Shield. At least, not in the 4 or 5 times I killed him. The timing was off in CB unfortunately – while the outdoor areas were easily soloable by the time I got there the gear was tuned for low level groups who skipped the quest line and went in as a team. I was level 21 and here level 10 gear was dropping. Still, the nostalgia factor was more important than the actual loot here. One big change in the new and improved leveling experience was that Castle Crushbone was it’s own zone. I went in and tried some soloing but it was truly dangerous for my level and I know I’d want some extra levels to fight there more safely.

I finished Kelethin at level 21 and was given a horse for my troubles. I wish I had the horse a bit earlier as Kelethin is a very big zone, but I still got by. There wasn’t a breadcrumb on where to go next and I was worried I missed something (I very well may have), but I had Google as a guide and it recommended Butcherblock. Which wasn’t the standard levelling swing in the old days but it would do. I took a Gryphon there and decided to take a break. Kelethin had a nice story to it and I was glad to have completed it, and the bits of EQ sprinkled throughout also made the experience a bit more satisfying. What to do next? I remembered a wise, old (?) blogging mentor once told me “there are so many leveling paths in EQ2 you could level several characters and not see it all, young padawan” (misquote and added a bit of style to it). That sounded good. What did the Frostfang Sea hold for me?

And just like that I was level one again. And a Paladin. Since I had a caster type I wanted to try a tanky type and I always aligned well with the theme of the Paladin class in many games. They were always alts of mine – but the stalwart defender of the weak style is how I like to live my life. I may have oversold that a bit.  Off I go again!

I did enjoy questing through the chain in Frostfang but sometimes it is the little things you appreciate. Such as having a potion to turn into a Manta ray to get to quest destinations faster. I also appreciated that when I was swimming around in the sea that the developers had placed mobs in the oddest of places – but it gave the zone and area life. Sometimes it is the little things.

And just like that, before I knew it, I was level 20 again. With more keys on hot bars than I could properly manage and a compelling and fun story line (albeit standard MMO fare) I decided to explore non-prestige housing, New Halas style. It was very quaint and cozy. Small Gallery below.

One thing I wish I had found – and it probably does exist if I searched for it – is a fire. I have fireplaces in my homes but no fires. I need to figure that out. The second experience was much quicker than the first to level 20 – and I ended up finishing the zone right at level 20 (the timing was impeccable) but I did the starter island first on my Gnome and spent WAY more time on housing. I was able to get the Paladin to level 20 in a single day.

Here my curiosity got the better of me. I mean, the “good” guy experience was pretty good. No spoilers but I really helped Kelethin and New Halas. What were the bad guys up to when I was doing all of this goody-two-shoe work?

I needed to find out. “Evil” races don’t normally resonate with me from a story perspective. Yes, my first real main in EQ was a troll warrior – but there was no story for me to be shoehorned into. I was the gently giant and quickly left my hometown in search of people who would understand me and that who I could protect. I became friends with Gnomes, Elves, and even Halflings! I find playing evil races in the new, quest-guided mmo experiences normally out of character for me and I have to do things I don’t want to do to progress the story lines. I picked a Dark Elf because they are often more worried about killing each other than the innocent (well, okay, usually both, but I am reaching here) and while Greater Faydark was all about learning what was poisoning the land, and the Frostfang Sea about how the Orcs were invading – Darklight Woods was about ensuring the current power structure was kept in place. Very Dark Elvish, I was not disappointed.

I chose a healing class – because I already had a tank (plate) and caster (cloth). EQ2 is very bad at explaining classes (as are most guides on the internet). The Fury (which I chose, which I had never heard of) was very satisfying. It was a druid style class (leather) that had offensive and healing spells. Could shapeshift (Wolf, Tiger, Lion – so far) AND could also charm a pet. None of the cool things (shape shifting, charming) were explained at character select. And Charm Creature seems to work on anything living – including people. Basically I have a healing melee enchanter, or something like that, and it was very satisfying and super fun to play. I wouldn’t have known this by reading the tool tips and didn’t fully realize it until I was in my mid teens. Am I going to have to play all 25 classes to level 20?

Much to my surprise I may have a new “main”. The heals, the forms, the charming – it is kind of like a druid and enchanter all rolled into one. Although the charm doesn’t last as long and due to the buffing mechanics you can’t have all of your self buffs up and charm at the same time (there is some sort of mental capacity cap). I don’t want to speak too soon, however, as I have one more mission to do.

I need a scout class (chain) that can adventure in the Timorous Deep. I was leaning Swashbuckler as I love the idea of being a Musketeer, but they are a “good” class. I don’t want to have to worry about positional requirements which excludes Rogue (soloing with those requirements usually means I am in front of the mob, not behind or the side) so that leaves a Dirge, Ranger, or Troubadour as the primary candidates. Is there any secrets I should know? Much like how the Fury was an incredible surprise on capabilities, I don’t want to miss out on a cool class or mechanic because there is not a good explanation on them at character creation.

Thinking Dirge, which has great self buffs as a melee Bard. Any other recommendations?

Home Alone : EQ2

I asked about housing in prior threads to Bhagpuss and Izlain, and finally I decided to jump right in. Firstly because I was getting a bunch of housing items that was taking up precious inventory space and secondly because I checked the /claim rewards and I indeed have a Mistmoore Manor prestige housing reward as the 7 year gift. Prestige housing has no upkeep so what did I have to lose?

A full day, apparently.

I of course have not fought in the EQ2 version of  Mistmoore although I did in the EQ proper version. Thus, I had no frame of reference to what is normally in each of the rooms. I dind’t love the colors and all the checker patterns and at first I found that there wasn’t a proper bedroom. So I started setting up my bedroom in what my best guess was the throne room. I put the bed in, and a table, and a map on the table, and the candles on the corner of the table (which lit things up beautifully) and finally a small jar of honey on the other corner. I might get hungry reading that map. After those few, small moves I was hooked. You can scale, twist, turn – so much customization.

The second fun thing I learned is that some are interactive. Rubbing the bottle took me to a genie themed area, where, I have no clue, but I went and interacted with some NPC’s and learned some lore. I had to exit back to Antonica and run my way back to the prestige housing zone in (before I learned you could access your house from your character screen. Upon re-entering my Mansion I made a wrong turn and discovered there was a whole other wing! In this wing I found there was a better room for a bedroom. I am not sure why the bedroom is the most important room for me but it probably has to do with needing a place to sleep. By that logic, I should find the kitchen next.

Another interaction was with an Orb, and staring into it prompted me to concentrate further, and once more concentrated (ie: do it again) it would open a window into a different land. This was a different view the two times I did it – and the game warned me to be cautious. I don’t think I can travel through the window – it may have just been a view. Below is a gallery of my adventures working on my first house.

Of course, after all of that effort and time I looked deeper into my Veteran rewards and lo and behold there was a prestige housing – Starter Island. Yup, my own freaking island! Bhagpuss had mentioned this before but I wasn’t sure if I had qualified. The /claim section was in Alphabetical order – but not sequential. For example, it Goes Veteran Reward 1 hour, then Veteran Reward 10 years, back to back. It would have made far more sense to have them in sequential order – at least the annual ones. Still, there was an island, and since I did not love the Mansion I picked up everything that I had just done for a fresh start. I remembered there was a mage tower-y thing on the starter island which felt like a much better fit for my Enchanter – plus, hey – who doesn’t want their own private island? Bonus for me was that had a basement that felt VERY bedroom(ish). Plus, fire, and a pond – where I put all of the cool little things I had collected. Finally, I had a space I really liked! I setup my desk very similarly to how I did originally, including the pot of honey, in the top of the tower. I used the basement for beds and other items, and the pond of various treasures.

Bonus to the island is NPC plushies so I put animals and mobs throughout so I wouldn’t be quite so alone. The Gallery below shows all sorts of angles and pictures as I built out my homestead.

In the end I took all the Veteran Rewards with housing items and placed them all. Even the cheesy pirate flag. Now that I had a home it was back to adventuring for me – and looking forward to collecting more items and tidbits to continue to personalize my own very small slice of Norrath. No matter what people have said about EQ2  the housing system is really fun and I spent a full day sorting through it – just with what I had found in the world and from various annual rewards. I haven’t read a single guide but sorted through enough of it on my own to really enjoy it. I don’t know how much deeper I will get into the housing but I know whatever trophies I find out in the wild I will definitely place there. The other bonus of the Veteran Rewards was finding a lot of free and large bags – no more worries about running out of Inventory space.

You are welcome to come visit, if you like.

Everquesting 2

This was supposed to be a level 1-15 post but I didn’t quite get there last night and was too tired to continue. In it’s wake I do have an EQ2 levels 1 to 14 post that will just have to do. It is almost as good, I promise you! I can’t say I am wholly surprised but I have been really enjoying my time in EQ2. The quality of life changes from EQ1 (and no doubt, from itself, over the years) has been great. One of the big things you always had to be ready for as an Enchanter (ahem, sorry, Coercer – I will never get used to calling myself that) is when your charm prematurely ends. This is normally during a very hectic pull when you are low on life and you have to think fast, react, and use stuns and mezzes to get the mobs under control quickly – including your ex-friend. As a cloth wearing caster some of my best memories are pulling myself from the brink of death on a charm break. The opportunity to have to rescue yourself from over extension was fun. That is gone in EQ2 as I have a handy, 8 minute timer to watch after I cast charm 2. And to be even more concrete about it the whole screen flashes brightly when charm breaks. Still, as a solo player I appreciate that.

8 minute charm timers are handy when your charmed target has bigger poops than your size

I read I should stick to caster mobs as charmed targets but I don’t think it matters that much t this low level. I enjoy certain “pets” due to look. Running around Kelethin win an Orc in tow seems like the right thing to do. I loved having this gigantic bear as my friend in Greater Faydark. Sometimes I just pick the closest one for convenience, not form or function. The questing has been as expected and I am really enjoying my run up to entering Crushbone. Crushbone was one of my set leveling zones in EQ1 and even when I went back to the progression servers I spent a lot of time farming the Shiny Brass Shield (SBS) as a force of habit. The familiar naming conventions to new spaces is still a hit with me – I just hope there are side bosses I can farm rare loot for in CB when I finally get there. The first time I went into Crushbone as a young gnome in EQ1 was a treacherous journey with a skilled group. Now I just run through and aggro mobs without fear. Again, modern conveniences that I appreciate.

the tree, the tree, the tree is on fire

I am still largely lost on the systems outside of the questing. I keep getting AA points but haven’t spent any – I don’t think. I believe they may self assign? There is a lot of confusion in a decades old game when you haven’t experienced it the first time through. I have close to a dozen housing items but not sure where (or when) to start there, so hopefully one of my EQ2 friends comes here and gives me an EQ2 housing starter guide in 100 words or less in the comments (or makes their own blog post about it! Hint hint!). I actually read somewhere that the 7 year anniversary is a free Mystmore Casle house? I should check my /claim. I did play at launch but not for very long.  Still, those things – including crafting – I can revisit and any time.

I do get caught up in grinds here and there – there was one to learn the Orc language by finding 5 transcripts that drop from Orcs. I appreciated the fun text they use for Orc language but moreso curious what the heck they were saying. Especially if I had one charmed. Good news is that there were enough quests involving killing Orcs – and probably many more when the quest breadcrumbs lead me to Crushbone – that I didn’t have to specifically stop my questing for any length of time to get them all. That drop ended up being far rarer than I expected but there was a sense of accomplishment in achieving it. I actually don’t think a single Orc has said a things since I sorted how to understand them. That is probably also a feature.

MMOs are largely more fun when you aren’t racing to get to a game state to enjoy them – which always seemed the case for me with WoW and my raiding days. At this stage I am just playing and sorting things out in game as I go –  I would love – and appreciate – any tips anyone has for me. I still have at least one free boost to 95 it keeps reminding me of but I am going to get there the old fashioned way the first time.

 

So, This Happened : DDO

Dungeons and Dragons Online was a game I pre-ordered. Not-so-secretly I really miss Pen and Paper games. I have no friends who play them, or connections to groups who do, but the one thing PnP games have over their PC variants is active imagination. In PC games whatever happens is pre-programmed. That is very, very limiting.

[10:21am]

Bio Break had a post about the DDO Ravenloft expansion. I remember playing in several campaigns based around the area in pen and paper format and really enjoying them. Looking back on my blog I had already started, and quit, DDO before I had started blogging. And here I am, reinstalling. First and always the fun part is remembering your login information. Which is handy when you have had the same gmail address since day 1. Once retreived, through Turbine, I was pleasantly surprised to see this:

I am PREMIUM! Whatever that means. Truth be told, I don’t remember the last time I logged in. All I know is that I signed up in 2006. That’s amazing, almost 12 years to the month. I am sure that will give me tons of login rewards, points, dragons and whatnot when the game patches up. I am really going into this blind. My last, fond memory of DDO was my Paladin hitting level 9 (I think). I am putting that guess up here right now to see how right (or wrong) I am when the game is patched up (this is currently happening while I type. I figure a ‘live blog’ version of my re-entry into this game would be fun.)

[11:02am]

Launching the patcher, this took me quite by surprise:

Uh, Daybreak End User Licence Agreement? Isn’t it Turbine? I accessed it through my Turbine account. I don’t even remember reading Turbine selling this to Daybreak, but then again, I think they are just partnering. Ugh, OK, a bit confused although I feel like I know the answer and am just having a case of the Monday foggy-blues. (For the record, I am writing this on a Wednesday). Of course I agree, and then get the option to download 3 gigabytes of HD graphics, which of course I do. And then I wait.

[11:43 am]

I do see that shared storage is for sale and that makes me wonder what else is for sale. Of course, I don’t even know what is involved in the base game, or anything added since uh, 2006, so no buying for me (for now). Although I really want to see what Ravenloft has to offer I still need to understand if I am even going to play this game. I have time and patience to sort it out. This is both the beauty and wonder of old MMOs that keep going – there is a sense of familiarity and newness all in one. As things patch up I am constantly trying to remember pieces of the game and my memory of it. I really wish I was blogging back in 2006 as I would love to go back and read my thoughts and how they compare. Instead, which is also as fun, will be fresh and new thoughts with a small bent memory.

[12:13 pm]

I’m patched and logged in. Something to say about modern day times when you can think about playing a game, and have it fully downloaded and patched in under two hours. We are spoiled, I tell you. The down side? What server did I play on? I need to log into each one, don’t I…

So I start at the top. Not sure why they are in that order, but I seem to recall the name Khyber – but I am still jsut going to go in order. I am treated to login video that I accidentally skipped when trying to resize the window, and the first sever loads up!

Of course, there is no “back to server select screen” I have to close down the game and re-patch, and re-log in. Convenience was not important in 2006, apparently.

The second server I have success!

Well, sort of. That is definitely a character, but not the character I remember playing. I knew it wouldn’t be so easy. Still, finding a character feels like progress! Onto the next server. Right after I exit, repatch, re-log in.

On the third try, I find my main. Still named Braack (that was from my EQ days) and while my guess was level 9, I am only level 7. That tells you something, doesn’t it? How we always remember things bigger and better than they were? And while I do recall being an elf (or maybe half elf?) I don’t remember making myself a red-head. I never play red heads. Still, ENTER adventurer, and go forth!

Greeted by Maude, “Serving Wench”, in a bar.  A pop-up window tells me I have 28 points to spend and hitting left click to try and pan the camera makes me swing my weapon and leave it out, ready. A glowing hook. It also shows I am part of a guild! I had totally forgotten being a part of Sunder and I am going to go visit the web page to see if they are still alive and kicking. Nice of them to not kick me after 12 years, and no, no one answered my call.

Look at all the hot bars, abilities, potions – so many things to explore and things to try. I am excited to go back exploring.

What a wonderful gaming world we live in.

Things are Looking Up: EQ2, PC Gaming

I spent the weekend thinking about gaming, and playing a bit. I kind of realized that I don’t envy being a developer trying to make games right now. I read somewhere that Battlefront 2 probably “only” sold 1.2 to 1.5 million boxes in it’s first month of sales – and is considered a complete failure. There are not many industries where doing over 100 million in sales in your first month (on a single title) – with Christmas sales and a supporting movie launch on it’s way still – that causes your stock to drop – but welcome to PC gaming and a broken capitalist system. It was #2 just behind Call of Duty on the sales charts.

We had some super hot titles such as Crowfall and Camelot Unchained that have largely fallen off the radar, and depending on who you talk to Star Citizen is either vaporware of the best self-funded perpetual marketing campaign in history. Didn’t Lord British launch a game? Or almost? Is that still in Beta or Alpha somewhere? Fortnite, a Co-OP PVE darling that I funded decided to (very successfully) copy Player Unknown Battlegrounds and finally find a niche they could be successful at. TONS of people are playing Fortnite : Battle Royale. The catch? They haven’t monetized the game mode yet. They launched a paid-for beta for a largely abandoned PVE mode to instead successfully find a niche in a free for all PVP mode that is not monetized. That that shake around your noodle for a bit. Heck, I was largely tempted to buy myself pre-alpha access to Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen – except I still don’t trust Brad and Fortnite swore me off of early access titles. Meanwhile, Paladins is in it’s 64th patch of Open Beta and has changed/altered their monetization methods four or five times in 14 months and have finally settled on one – that has their best supporters quitting outright, and most others following them. Despite an outcry to please listen and not ruin what makes their game great – they are not listening and ruining what makes their game great.

Yet, as the title says, I am very optimistic.

It’s the little things – like PCs and NPCs making eye contact when interacting

I visited Norrath again. I do this often in EQ1, but have not in EQ2. I have often updated EQ2 on my PC and thought about it but this time I finally did it, and spent hours. Stalbik was not my first character in EQ1 (That was Fisdib, a Gnome Magician in EQ Beta 1) but he was my EQ Guide avatar on the Rathe server. And instead of making a new character I decided to retrieve Stalbik from the EQ1 Guide only island and give him his first real adventure that does not involve a player camping dispute. He was off and on his way.

Before specifically discussing my EQ2 experiences I have to say that my year in review post is underway as a draft and where I spent all my time gaming this year was a bit of a surprise. Not to spoil it, but looking back makes me hugely optimistic for PC gaming. There are so many long running games that are so interesting and satisfying to play. There are platforms where small developers can launch great games and make money. There are still tons of sequels and big titles for the giant conglomerates to launch meaty marketing yet shallow but satisfying experiences. There is really something for everyone right now. Developers clamoring that if they can’t monetize something to death they won’t build it will only push gamers to games that are fun instead. If you can’t develop a fun game at a decent profit point then learn a new way of developing games. No one feels bad for you that you haven’t mastered the easy way to suck the blood dry out of a big enough fan base.

I should be a big target demographic for gaming companies. I have more disposable income to game with then I can imagine. I almost spent the $1000 on the Pantheon alpha because I have no issue with spending that on games in a year, and I can’t see where or how I will spend that in 2018 with what is coming up. Unfortunately for gaming companies I am a very patient gamer. I don’t mind waiting for 3 days for my next Warframe to be ready. I will pay for the extra slots and customization options though, so Digital Extremes gets my investment. They have found something that is worthwhile for me to invest in. It wasn’t forced either – I won’t spend money on a “you must pay this to be on a level playing field” or “you must pay this or wait!” items. I pay to reward companies for good gaming design that makes me happy. And I’m willing to pay a lot of they figure that out. Unfortunately, it seems many gaming companies are instead focused on triggering consumption habits that players can’t control – taking advantage of their weaknesses. That won’t last long, I am afraid.

Back to EQ2.

I have returned to this blog with the news of my victories! While EQ2 was very new to me it is also very familiar – both by being standard MMO fare with WASD and hotkeys, as well as being the sequel to my favorite game of all time. There weren’t many surprises along my first journey except the voice acting. As funny as it is, I don’t remember that when I first tried EQ2 back at launch. That is actually something pretty stand out that most MMOs still do not do (at least not the ones that I play) and I found myself paying more attention to the NPC interactions because of it.

I rolled an Enchanter because I really enjoyed playing one in EQ2 – sorry, Coercer. I always loved controlling a group of NPCs and making a “friend” of my enemies to fight with me. Here is a short list of thoughts / first impressions / questions:

  • I rolled on Maj’Dul server – I believe Izlain and Bhagpuss are both there.
  • Outlevelled the starting island really quickly, but I was invested in sorting out what was causing all the issues there – so I stuck through the story line to the end although all bad guys were grey to me
  • Impressed with little things – like how on one quest I had to disable totems as a source of infection, and during the last boss fight I had to notice there were also totems there – and that by disabling them it allowed me to damage the final boss. It didn’t prompt me to destroy the totems first, I just figured that out from my prior quest experience. One of those experiences that reminded me of The Secret World questing. Rewarding to solve something on your own.
  • Appreciate things such as quests that start by inspecting random loot – for example, zombie flesh – which leads to a bigger quest if I am willing to farm other pieces of zombies to really understand how they are put together. (badum-ching)
  • Aforementioned eye contact between PC and NPCs when interacting was a no brainer. Especially so as a gnome
  • Is there any reason to NOT trigger a heroic moment when soloing? Seemed like it did a ton of damage? Can you macro that to a spell hotkey, so you hit that and then a spell automatically?

I finished the starter Island and had the boat drop me off at the docks at  Qeynos. Qeynos was special to me in EQ1 although I never made a starting character there or venture within it’s walls much. The Qeynos gates was the end of a long journey for my Gnome pals and I. At launch, Minotaur Axes were one of the best starter weapons and of course they only dropped in Steamfont Mountains. We would farm them, fill up our bags, make the long trek to Qeynos and sell them for handsome profit at the gates. The city is familiar and brings me a bit of joy and a lot of comfort – although it is hardly the same except in name now.

Greeted at the docks, Moyna had an all too familiar style of quest to collect centipede meat so she could continue to fish. I was prompted to go to a nearby Inn to find a room – my new home perhaps? The tutorial kept flashing about housing and every once in a while Daybreak reminded me I could give them money for things, even though I had no clue what things were best or what would be wise to do. The docks were as good of a place to log out after Stalbik’s first adventure and like a creature comfort, I know he will be waiting patiently for me right there for when I return.

Where to next? Who knows! That is the best part.

This and That

Destiny

Hot off the heels of me ranting about the ridiculousness of the base premise of Destiny – I am happy to report I spent most of my rainy, Canadian long weekend playing Destiny. It is not hypocritical to me because as a PVE shooter it is a wonder and a beauty to behold.  Which is why I think I get ever so frustrated with the invincible zombie premise. If you are in no danger of dying, as per the video last post, then you are in no danger of losing. Which means just keep dying and pushing through and eventually  you will win. There is not a good story premise – it takes out any sort of drama from it. It is a foregone conclusion, story wise. Just keep eating brains, immortal zombie.

My Warlock

Man, is it ever such a great game if you ignore that part though. I started the weekend at 320(ish) light level and got to 385. A lot of zen grind in there and I loved every minute. I just had to suspend the provided story and create my own. At 385 the gear grind gets very tight (as a non raider) as only purple engrams (the drops that loot-box into items) give upgrades. And each is giving a 386-387. Which means the going from here on out is just going to get tough and in tiny increments. With the Destiny 2 beta coming in the summer and the game itself in less than four months there isn’t a ton of desire to get to 400. We will lose everything anyway. Still, with being uninspired by other games right now – and not having a “go to” game – it is filling fun gaming time nicely.

I am now working on my Titan. Of which, I suspect will be my “main” again in Destiny 2. They redid the sub-classes for D2 and the Defender Titan will now have a Void shield (a la Captain America) which they can use not unlike the Captain – blocking things, chucking it to bounce in between enemies and the like. With the armor style above it is not hard to imagine an Iron Man / Captain America combo.  It looks like a blast. I hope it plays as fun as it looks.

Overwatch

I have never played this, up until last night. My son (now 12) plays it with his friends. I was never a big fan of Team Fortress 2 and other spammy shooters but watching him play a lot made me curious to check it out. I only played against AI to sort through the various characters available and it wasn’t bad shooting mechanics wise but there is so much going on and so little feedback I felt quite lost for some time. For example – I was playing a healer who had the ultimate skill to ressurect any dead team members in the vicinity – but I couldn’t find anywhere if team members were dead. You should have a team profile in a corner somewhere to show who is dead and/or alive, and where they are. At one point it DID tell me two were dead and I am not sure if I missed it the first time or whatnot – so I hit it and it worked, but I was very confused by it. I played bots on Easy and Medium and was fine, got some nice kill streaks and won rounds (as you should against AI, right?) As soon as I put the AI match to ‘hard’ we got destroyed. Utterly and completely. I felt very inadequate.

My son did tell me he struggles against those bots too, which was oddly comforting coming from a twelve year old.

I am not sure if I am going to continue much – I will try my hand with online play against ‘evenly matched’ humans and if the fact I am a year behind is grossly evident (even at same level) there isn’t much hope of me sticking with it. I know from other shooters high ranking players get bored and start new characters just to auto-faceroll noobs like me. Hopefully Blizzard has solved that problem (which would be VERY EASY to solve) but if not it’s fine – but whether I buy it on PC or not depends on my PS4 experience.

Green Lantern

Side stepping games – I love the Green Lantern. This is odd because I grew up a Marvel ‘guy’ and didn’t spend much time, effort or money in the DC universe. I do not know where I became interested in Green Lantern but I do remember being in a local hobby/gaming store and seeing “The Sinestro Corps” graphic novel – of which, I heard was quite well done. I bought it and read it – and it IS quite well done. Now I have the desire to learn more and become more deeply involved in the Green Lantern lore. This lead me to thinking of buying other, critically acclaimed graphic novels (Blackest Night) but also look at gaming options. First, and most obvious – is DCUO – a game I have never played. I have installed it but have not fired it up yet (on PC). I have googled tutorials on how to build a Green Lantern character but have also read that you have to buy an expansion first in able to do so. I had this same issue with the Warden class in Lord of The Rings Online – the one character type I was most interested in playing was gated behind an expansion of which, I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy because I wanted to play that character to BEGIN with to decide if I was going to invest in the game. It took me years (literally) to make that decision in LOTRO and I finally broke down and bought the expansion on a big sale to get the Warden. It still remains the only reason why I am considering playing LOTRO, and the biggest motivator for me to dip my toe into DCUO. I am not sure if that is a fair expectation on good old Hal Jordan.

The second option is Injustice 2 – the fighting game from the DC Universe which as been reviewed incredibly well – so much so that when I went to go buy it at Best Buy they were sold out of the PS4 version. I didn’t buy it online because I have a $70 GC from Best Buy and wanted to use it for that, so I have held off. I have not played Injustice 1 and I am still mildly hesitant to buy a game for a single character that may be a terrible experience as anyway.

That is where I find myself at odds – I am making great money and in a part of my life where I have the most disposable cash ever – but am less likely to part with it on odd grounds – on principle, rather than on reason. Perhaps that is a sign I am getting old. Maybe just unreasonable. Maybe a little from column A and column B.

In General

I still don’t have “that game” right now so remain in an uncomfortable position (like the back of a volkswagon? – bonus points if you know where that is from) of bouncing around half interested in various games, all loaded and ready for me to enjoy at my whim. In the past week I have logged into and/or played (in no particular order or reason) – GW2, LOTRO, EQ, Destiny, The Division and have loaded up many more in the background – Wildstar, DCUO, EQ2. I don’t do well playing the field and need to commit soon for maximum enjoyment. When is Secret World Legends out again?

Portal Knights Inspiration

I know, I should stop. Landmark is what Landmark is, and no amount of wishing for private servers with complete autonomy (paid for, of course) and entire worlds that can be changed, explored, and molded will change that. Oh the adventures to be had. The game is what the game is and I should just accept that.

Except I can’t, because I think it would be perfect in a private server model. And I am going to keep dreaming (and writing) about it. The latest inspiration is from Portal Knights, a game my son and I are playing together. It is in early access, and on steam, and checks off every box that I want Landmark to be (except one).

  • Persistent, private world? Check!
  • Sandbox-y, build, conquer, create? Check!
  • Explore, discover, surprise? Check!
  • Character Development? Check!
  • Modern, believable graphics? NO. *sadface*

Portal Knights has three character classes (Ranger, Warrior, Mage) that all play just a bit differently. In the simplest of terms you could say it is a more focused Minecraft. It has all of the building elements of Minecraft but more RPG built in. You start on your own private, floating island and through discovery find and unlock a portal. This leads to a separate floating island with different resources (mobs, plants, trees, ore, etc.) which also has portals. Some islands have dungeons, boss mobs, and the like. Each world, currently, has 49 different floating islands. I can setup homes and crafting stations in each (which is overkill) but there is that option to personalize each of the islands. The time swaps between fighting and resource collecting (and a day/night cycle) keeps the game play fresh.

I have my private world and can do what I will with it. I can also invite up to 3 friends to explore my world with me, through Steam friends, and/or LAN. It’s a great setup. We have been having more fun with PK than Minecraft and my son is level 15 while I am level 13. One of the better parts is that we can have our own, private worlds plus a shared one for when we can play together. You can advance in, around, and outside of each. Whatever you have on you when you visit a world you have. It’s that great mix that a world moves on without you, but yours can’t. You can have your cake and eat it to.

It’s fun, addicting, and the first boss battle I did was simple enough – but it is always exciting to drop a boss in any game. I look forward to continuing to explore the worlds and enjoy the game for what it is – did I mention it was in early access?

While enjoying it for what it is, I can’t help but think Landmark could have a similar setup, where you could explore other people’s worlds when invited and they even have a better setup to personalize your world with dungeons and mob placement. That is the version of the game I really want to play.  I am also being consistent here, as I have argued for World of Warcraft to have private, paid for servers as long ago as 2008. I think that is the kind of model that is going to have a future. Portal Knights is where we spend our gaming time now and it has been a polite, engaging distraction. Hopefully other worlds follow.

Missing the (Land) Mark

Like my dear Landmarkian friend ( Landmarker? Other guy who plays?) Bhagpuss, I went back to Landmark now that it is a “real” game, completed and everything.  For a quick recap on how I felt about Landmark: it was an awesome time killer. I was an early tester of Minecraft and Landmark could be the next big thing! Although I hate action combat, there was enough in Landmark to get me excited about Everquest Next. It was a fun tool slash simulator to run around and play in. I even built an awesome serviceable home. (That link is important later).

Sure, there was no game there, so to speak, but there was a grind and building and exploration and a grind. It was a visual update to Minecraft without being able to change much of the world permanently – just your own little plot. Beautiful graphics, great movement animations, great scenery. The future was bright.

I stopped playing. Really, I got back involved in EQ (Progression servers) and my serial game play nature doesn’t let me delve into more than one title effectively. Besides, there was a lot of work to be done from it’s Alpha state and since I was a founding member, I could come back anytime and check out the changes. I just didn’t bother. Part of that was the fear of the time I would lose “playing” a “game” that had a long way to go before being done and the other was that I was engrossed in other games. It remained there as something I couldn’t wait to see shape and grow and then get back into when the time was right.

The time never was right. EQ:N was cancelled and there was even more doubt about what Landmark would be. I kept playing other games. Bhagpuss started posting about it again and I became interested and updated the game, and loaded it back up for fun.  I made it to the selection screen, made a character, and had to log off for some reason or another. It sat another week. I forgot about it. I found it again. Loaded it up, to find I made a character in a space suit, whose first tutorial job was to build a castle. Good, fitting, scenario.

While it should have been a futuristic colony I did appreciate how easy it was to click “castle parts” and build a castle. No more messing around with various shaping tools. I also got a dream plot of land – waterfront! Without any effort. No clue how it got there and what went into that random choice.

The server population was low, and a quick glance around was a sea of other barely started tutorial land plots. Not what you would call a vibrant, inviting neighborhood.

The landscape was dotted with half built castles as far as the eye could see. What WAS interesting, mind you, was the first row of the building tool in the screenshots – the game had saved my Claims from alpha, including my home sweet home ‘Isey’s Mountain top retreat’ (which I don’t recall naming as such, but was accurate as I remember it.). Sadly, I couldn’t build that due to a lack of resources and props. I suppose there will be some work to do in Landmark after all. What I could build though was my dragon mouth (the link far above, that I said was important, is for this reason). I did have the resources for that so stuck it on the side of my vanilla pre-fab castle just to see if it would work.

Fully satisfied in my initial building experience I continued down the road of the tutorial, stopping right after I bought the Dungeon pack where it seems I can build my own mini dungeon with NPCs and the toolset. While I didn’t get far two things became crystal clear to me. The first being that I couldn’t set up shop there. Too empty, too many people started there an didn’t finish, there was literally not a single building completed as far as I could see. Just a couple tutorial pieces. I am tempted to keep the waterfront but more curious to go explore and see where (if) the community is.

The second moment of clarity was that if I didn’t log off immediately I would be sucked in and lose a few hours of my afternoon, which I could ill afford to sacrifice today.

/quit

It’s a dangerous title and one I am not sure what I will do with. What i am certain of is that if it was indeed the next minecraft, I would pay a lot of money. If I could host my own server where my guests could shape and build the world, and not just a small plot of land, that would be worth a lot of my investment. As the way it stands now, not so much. I will play it for sure at some point. I often struggle when I want to give money to a company if they would only do one thing I want that they don’t do. It feels selfish of me. Still, I will hold out hope that they sort out a hosting business model so they get their money, and I get my updated Minecraft-esque world to build, shape, and populate with imagination.

Everquest Not Next

There was little surprise with the announcement of the cancellation of Everquest Next. Some hopes and dreams were minorly dashed as a game that never really was a game was finally ended the way it began. As an announcement. EQ:N was never really there so the announcement that they officially ended their prior announcement that they were building some successor had all the shock of telling a 25 year old that Santa wasn’t real. Well, duh, dad, I’ve known that since I was seven. Thanks for keeping the illusion alive for a while there though.

The real question is now, is what is really next? Next for EQ, and next for MMOs? There is no future so bright shade wearing on the horizon.

Daybreak and EQ are fortunate to have the huge success of their TLPs and continued ways to get a subscription fee. Really, I bet they are the third highest subscription gaining MMO out right now if you count it that way (after WoW and Eve, is anyone even collecting subs anymore?). They can (and should) ride that train to the next sell point. Remember Columbus Nova is a private equity investor and they normally run on 5 or 10 year investments. Get an asset, ramp it up, sell it to the next, bigger PE firm. Columbus wants a high return (many PE firms think it is a failure to not get 20x, or at least, that is a waste of their capital) so it probably makes sense that they would cancel something that would take a huge investment with little clear chance of success. I’ll be back to Phinigal soon as I finish Pillars of Eternity (or unless X-COM 2 has DLC out by then). I can only give one game at a time my attention and EQ TLP is currently sitting in second place.

For MMOs in general this decline is good for them. It’s good that people have stopped trying to out budget and out muscle WoW. It’s good that developers are realizing that you can’t build an excellent graphically represented top ten MMO feature list and jam it into a soulless world and call it an MMO and reap profits. In the mindset of what spurs innovation and better business/ thinking:

  • “Business as Usual”  – until
  • “Crisis” – which leads to a necessary
  • “New way of thinking” – which, once realized leads to a
  • “New Reality” – which once executed, leads to
  • “Business as Usual”

Good businesses skip crisis and self create a new way of thinking, but that doesn’t happen often in most industries and definitely not gaming. MMOs already hit “crisis” with the huge failures of TESO, Wild*, and major MMO closures such as Warhammer Online. The “new way of thinking” is occurring with the Kickstarted and crowdfunded niche titles. We just haven’t seen the new reality yet.

But we will, and hopefully that creates games that aren’t just bullet pointed feature sets, but worlds to explore. The focus you see in these new kickstarted titles does give some hope. EQ:N also gave some hope.

The only hope I have now, is patience for a new reality.

[link to TAGN for all sorts of good coverage about it.]

The EQ True Box Server

I thoroughly enjoyed my foray onto my first TLP server when Ragefire and Lockjaw were recently launched. I made a few posts about it and stepped away due to learning that a new server would be launching soon – and did not want to “lose” my time investment. At the time I left EQ it was the first game I had paid a subscription for since WoW a few years ago, and it was a great investment. The “fun” return on a 1999 based game for all intents and purposes is quite ironic in this current world of amazing and free games. The hook was initially nostalgia, but afterwards, it just proved to be a better game for my tastes.

So, with the December 9 launch of the Phinigal Server I am proudly announcing my return to EQ. Again. And for a long haul.

Starting in three months.

This time the expansions are locking at a rate of 90 days, no vote. This is great. I hope they stop expansions before craziness of mercenary NPCs (and whatnot) make it into the game, but who knows. The 90 day start time for me is my always conundrum of what-character-to-play-AND-STICK-WITH-THIS-TIME and to which i have it down to Enchanter or Wizard. Kunark starts in 90 days, Enchanters get Breeze at 16 in that scenario, and leveling to 30 just got infinitely better. If I sell myself on the Wizard (which was the most fun I had in EQ in forever) then I start early – if not, I get 90 days to avoid over camping (and finish off Fallout 4). Or, if I be sensible and roll a Cleric for free groups and loots I can start right away too.

The True Box server is actually being supported by the program makers of multi box software. I was digging deep on some googling threads where the owners of the programs were encouraging their paying users to not violate the ToS  on the new server. Some even publically announcing they wouldn’t be using their time to write code to fix any blocks Daybreak puts up. A prominent dev of that software even mentions he thinks that it could bring down EQ boxing completely on all servers if they push hard on the Phinigal server, when there are every other server you can box on at Daybreak’s support. Fun and odd balance that relationship is, and will be fascinating to see how things play out.

To clarify, all True Box means is that multi-boxing on one PC is now banned – you can pull out 3 separate laptops with three keyboards and still do it.

Gaming life is good – Fallout 4 is fun for what it is, TSW continues to drive a great single player experience stuck in an MMO (imagine if it was built like Fallout where your choices impacted the world permanently and you could actually solve some of these mysteries? Missing out on a huge opportunity!), Star Wars: Battlefront is a great time waster and soon I’ll have EQ to itch my true MMO gaming desires.  I find myself with not much to add to the conversation, but also nothing to complain about. I’ll take that.

Half Pregnant

They say you can’t be half pregnant.  This is what slows me down from blogging, the thought that you are either in or out. I’m on the line. It has been awhile since I have posted and like most excuses reasons, they are varied and plentiful. It was partly time, passion, focus, desire and gaming. The Pie chart would look like this:

I know. Fancy. I still read a lot of blogs but I used to dedicate some serious time to reading and writing. Hobbies are fun and all, but I found new ones that also took away my time. At one point I thought I would shutter the blog on my anniversary (August 27th, Happy 7th!) but that felt really melodramatic and over the top. Especially for something that I have loved so long. If I set it free I wasn’t so sure it would come back, and being a nostalgic fool that would be hard to handle.

I have really stepped up being healthy. I get up at 5:00 am everyday, have a coffee, read the news, and then work out. I track my progress and stay focused. I have lost a lot of bad weight and added good muscle weight. I also have been focusing a lot on my diet. I feel happier, healthier, stronger and more satisfied with how I feel. I think it might add years to my life. I still drink beer and eat bad food now and again, but it’s in balance. This does seriously cut into my gaming time as I used to play late night when my wife went to bed. With a 5:00 am wake up time, I know that time is better spent with the sleep I need. C’est la vie, something always has to give!

And yet here I am. A burning desire to belong to Blognation ™ and to write, and to game (and think about gaming). Here I am, half blog-pregnant.

But I have been gaming!

The Everquest TLP servers have been amazing. I finally stepped away after getting multiple toons into the 30s as there is a promise of a bot-free TLP coming around Christmas time. One character logged in at a time would really take away the distractions of having every named camp perma-camped by AFK mages. It is a big problem. Also, the single person running full raid teams. I am looking forward to really playing it again once they launch that server as interdependence and team play was key in the core experience. The best part about EQ TLP is that they did modernize grouping and looting, while retaining a lot of the magic. I just do not want to invest more time in characters that I will be leaving behind, and preserve much more of the core experience when I go back. They haven’t announced whether or not you can transfer there (guessing no) but if that announcement comes that you can I may continue a bit. Either way, strange to believe that my time in Everquest actually isn’t over after all these years – and in many ways it is the only place providing a satisfying MMO experience.

True to my word, I am playing WildStar again! I said I would go back when it went F2P and I am there. I am really enjoying the story line and even the 5 man adventures. I do plan to take one Exile and one Dominion to cap to experience the story. It is a fun, furiously-paced game and in many ways is EQ-opposite but a nice spacey distraction when I have 30 minutes to play. They have fixed a lot of what made that game less fun and it’s worth playing now that  you can do it at your own pace. I will be giving them some money soon, as I do like supporting games that provide me with fair entertainment for my time.

I also downloaded Project Reality 1.3, which is now a standalone product. I am hungry for a FPS experience and this one was the best one out there, so I am going back. The download just finished last night (all 6+ gigs) and really looking forward to carving out some time to play. It is another one of those games that really need you to dedicate distraction free and focused gaming to get the most out of (and give the most in). Project Reality has provided the best platform for  memorable FPS gaming and it’s gritty realistic and rewarding of patient game play (and team play) is completely different from the other options out there.

EQ tore me away from The Secret World and although I am only playing it for the single player experience, there is a lot left to enjoy there and I also recently updated it. I am still at the savage coast and a ton left there to explore as well.

Feels good to write and good to be back to pluck away at things.

The Hunt for Red V

Reading the Daybreak forums for progression servers I came across an update to the class stats from the post beta information. This one had more respondants of people who (seemingly) actually participated. It is also a fun way to look at what people say versus what they do. They are still very similar. I am not going to break it down at all, but linking to them here. And stealing a class graph picture for fun.

[IMG]

So, basically, Mages are liars. I think we all knew that deep down. Due to the OPness of mages they are everywhere. The group that downed Nagafen was mostly mages. (Yes, Naggy is already dead.)

I finally did start my adventure on Ragefire, and did it by still not deciding what class I wanted to play. I quickly made several and started messing around early levels to see which fit. Wood Elf Druid made the most sense (due to my mostly solo-ish playstyle and desire to be wanted in group if/when I could) and as suspected that area was really busy. For fun I rolled a Gnome Shadowknight and Steamfont was also the busiest I have pretty much ever seen. Still, I did what I always do with my Gnome characters. I go hunting for Red V.

Braack was my EQ proper troll name but in my flurry of messing around with 6 characters I ran out of my standard names, so named my Gnome my Troll name. Not that I expect anyone to recognize me. Gnome Shadowknights weren’t possible in EQ classic (if I recall correctly?) so this is further proof that the progression server isn’t really class, you need Project 1999 for that.

Ak’Anon has a mechanical maintenance crew and the entire city has plenty of mechanical help. From Scrubbers to Sweepers to Guides you can’t walk very far without encountering a Mechanical friend. And like most technology, sometimes they go bad. When they do go bad the seem to congregate in the area where other ‘bad’ gnomes are, Necros and Shadowknights guildmasters. Those two groups live side by side. This is a great area to level as there are snakes, spiders, skeletons and rogue clockworks in abundance – and it is rarely overcamped. There is also a named that spawns (Red V) and when you kill him you get a box, that filled with 4 items (blackbox fragments) from the other clockworks makes a rusty box. This rusty box get’s turned into the GM of the Warriors (Malik) and you have a chance to get a really nice item. Also – while hunting down here, please remember to keep your scrap metal. You can turn that in accross the pond from the entrance to that area for faction, money, and more goods. I leveled to 5 in this space. Red V was camped by a cleric for a good while but he buffed me up (he was level 8, so they were very helpful) and let me cycle in for Red V now and again.

This reminded me of the good of grinding in an area. I didn’t have to read quest, run around, collect, run back, read quest.. I just stayed in an area and killed things. A lot of them. It’s a nice view.

There are a lot of “no drop” items that take up a lot of space if you aren’t careful so they are normally left on. After spending a couple hours in the same spot, doing the same thing, chatting with the dwarf I realized I was having a lot of fun. I didn’t need to be entertained or cut scened, just play, grind, xp, level, chat, and enjoy.  There is often a Zen to the right level of grind.

This play session also reminded me of some of the great parts about EQ. First, is no instancing (or at least, no real instancing. I hear they have some server version in the starter areas due to the server being at cap, but I haven’t seen that in play).

The three biggest I was reminded of:

  • Getting higher level buffs from higher level characters (my HP went up 30%, and AC up 15% from cleric buffs) and in most games they don’t want lower level characters having an ‘easier’ or ‘fun’ time leveling. In EQ, you could get great buffs that changed your power level. Nothing wrong with getting help from a veteran player.
  • Your items are your items – and you can give them away when you are done with them. Even to a lower level character who would then become more powerful as a result. Character locked items is one of the bigger failings of modern day MMOs. Especially in PVE games.
  • The Mob items are actually items. I spoke about this before and it is awesome. If the skeleton you are about to kill has a mace, or scythe in his hand(s) when you kill it is lootable. Such a small thing but very important for immersion.

What I wasn’t planning on is that I didn’t have the faction to turn in the quest. I didn’t quite realize how much SKs were hated by our close to kin Warrior brethren. I need to go grind faction to turn in the quest. Which means back to the mines, as the scrap metal quest is the only one nearby that gives Gemcutter faction. Looking at my items above all that armor was found on skeletons in the area, and raising 9 plat in a play session isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Solid haul.

I’m back and it’s fun. It’s really, really slow in comparison to what we are trained to like but it feels like a nice leisurely stroll into danger and death -instead of the normal sprint. How much endurance I have remains to be seen. I didn’t even really plan on playing the SK but once I got it in my head to complete the Red V quest I got into a zone. It is a quest an area I had done with all of my gnomes – even though the big winning item is the Bull Smasher – a small race only mace that is awesome. Even if you got that on your caster you could give it to your friend – or to one of your other characters. I also got a ton of bone chips which sells well to necros.

I went for maximum nostalgia on this one and really need to choose a character and class I plan on sticking to. Who knows, it might just end up being this guy.

EQ Ragefire PRE Launch Class Survey Results

I haven’t started my adventures on the EQ progression server but wholly expect to this weekend. It is probably a good thing as well due to the slate of problems – the funniest of which, is a full server. For a 1999 game that still requires a subscription. Goes to show the strength of nostalgia.

I am still struggling with class choice – do I do something fully new and have a new adventure? Pick a class I am comfortable with so I don’t have to relearn everything? I enjoy playing most class styles and types but due to limited play times I do not get the benefit of working on several characters. This is why I fully appreciate MMOs that let you have one character and try different roles. Unfortunately, EQ is the furthest thing from that. Also, due to the extra, super slow leveling experience (yes, the extra extra emphasis is necessary) if I am going to have any fun and make any friends in game I am going to have to pick one and just go with it.

While pondering what to play I came across this survey conducted by a community member (totalimmortal) that statistically is +/-5% accurate (~400 respondents) which provides all sort of interesting information categorized in interesting ways. Including class, race, age, playtime, timezones, if they have a significant other and if that significant other supports their EQ progression server participation (I kid you not). Cool graphs and what not follow, taken directly from the link.

[IMG]

I am surprised cleric is so high and same with enchanter – I never recalled the latter being a top class. I wonder how much of these responses are “what I think the server will need/want” versus “what I want”.

[IMG]

Humans playing humans online. How boring! Gamers and their comfort zones. Put a tail on the Half Elf and I bet that shoots near the top. The only surprise for me here is that Erudite is so low, as they are the best magic casting human class and with Enchanter so high as a class choice I expected that to also be reflected. I do suppose that the Monk also impacts the human statistic since monks are human only.

There are a ton of other neat stats there so I encourage you to go visit. Here is my favorite insight though:

[IMG]

With this news, that almost half of the entire interested population is going to leave sometime after TSS, which makes me wonder if they should ever get there. Still, that is 12 (I think?) expansions in. That will take some time to get to. As mentioned prior I love learning about class/race combos and stats and do believe all MMO companies should be forthright with that information. This isn’t post launch information but is still helpful for me to frame my own mind about who will be out in the EverQuest world.

After much thought I know that I will end up soloing a lot, so I need to lean towards a class that can do that well. That makes me lean magician, druid, or enchanter. Bards used to be decent soloists but here is the other problem – I don’t even really remember and updated 1999 information isn’t really a thing. I’ll have to Google Fu. Enchanters are always wanted in groups and I can be a Gnome which I am leaning towards heavily. Of course, I could just roll a Ranger because Wilhelm feels so strongly about them.

In the meantime, bring on the data. Hopefully by the time I figure out a class this weekend the servers will be both online and accessible.

 

Gaming Week #20

While it may seem like perfect sense I didn’t realize that for reporting purposes people actually use week numbers. Last week was week #20 for the year and it has been awhile since I have shared what I am playing and figured it was a good way to start the week off. Canada had a long weekend – Victoria Day Weekend (The May two-four weekend, as it is commonly called) celebrating the life of Queen Victoria. Canada does holidays well, and the date changes every year but it is always the Monday before the 25th day of May – this ensures the long weekend status. Two-Four is also Canadian slang for a case of beer, since there are 24 beer in a standard case here. It reminds me of the quote “Education is important but hockey is importanter”. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Where have I been spending (and not spending) my gaming time?

MLB The Show 2015 : Majority of time, but nearing completion

Well, I played three weeks of this title before calling it ‘mostly complete’. Sure, the game goes on indefinitely but in my second season of “Road To The Show” I was promoted from relief pitcher to starting pitcher one third of the way into the season. I pitched well enough on my remaining 20ish starts to win both the NL MVP and the Cy Young award. Those were always my goals in the game. I am still with the Nationals, I bargained hard for a huge pay increase (MVP plus CY Young should be 25+ million a year (Scherzer gets 30M annual and he didn’t win both of those awards in a season..)) but the Nats had a 510k option on me. They did offer a 5 year, 10 million deal but when I said I wanted a 5 year, 100 million dollar deal (a bargain, I assure you) they scoffed, and used their option on me. So I am playing the season mad at my club, and there is no holdout option. I’ll have to play the season but thankfully I am an unrestricted free agent at the end of it so I can go to where I please. My goal there is to get to the American League so I don’t have to worry about hitting. Screw you, baseball purists. I was playing this nightly but with my major goals accomplished, I may pitch a game or two a week to see what kind of salary I can pull in year three but for the most part this game is no longer my focus. It was fun, and highly recommended if you love baseball.

The Secret World : Back in the saddle

With Baseball monopolizing my time I haven’t played much TSW but I did carve out some time this weekend. I am going through every quest in every zone to experience it fully. This is one of those games that if you don’t do that you might miss out on a gem. I am pretty much finished the Savage Coast and already have my main quest-line pointing me to Blue Mountain, but a few side quests remain that I want to finish before moving on. A small annoyance here – I wish the mini map changed the color of quest givers based on status, so it is easy to see what is doable. For example – white – never completed. Yellow, completed once, repeatable. Black, completed, not repeatable. I am currently putting a map marker on each as I complete them (with the label “done”) to mark off which ones I have finished. I haven’t been able to find a mod to do what I want =) I am still using Sword/Fist and still have over 100 AP and 40 SP. The story is amazing. I feel like I have so far to go just to catch up but this is definitely a game that is rewarding to stop and smell the roses along the way (they usually smell like corpses, unfortunately).

Dragon Age Inquisition : Abandoned

I really enjoyed the game at the beginning but it quickly became “chore”-ish the way the game was fleshed out. The main enemy, once revealed, didn’t really intrigue me. Once I cleared out all the quests and sub-quests and challenges and flag markers/camps in four or five “zones” it felt like that was all I was going to end up doing for another hundred hours or so. I found the combat boring, and the wall of text texts on areas and items made me curious enough to read, but feel like my gaming sessions were turning into failed Oprah Book Clubs. Furthermore, relationship management with my team was like pulling teeth. Travelling to each one just to see if they have anything interesting to say to make sure you don’t miss anything  became entire play sessions. You would think they would sit around a small camp nice and easy for you to approach, but no, they have to spread to the four corners of the camp just to kill more time. I am shocked they just don’t approach you when they have something to add to the game play. The other shocker to me is that in a single player game, I can’t change my class. I rolled sword and board tank but want to play around with an archer class and I would have to re-roll (after 30 hours). It’s single player. Who cares. Let me change and try, and change back if I want to, or change to something else. Have an in game fee if you like or some “punishment” but still, this is complete silliness that you can’t do that. I would still have to worry about gear and learning how to play – but again, single player. Stupid barrier. I may go back if I run out of things to play, but the chances of that happening are slim. I still think the DA series failed by not giving you a persistent character across the trilogy (a la Mass Effect)

EQ Progression Server : Upcoming

The nostalgic fool that I am, I am jumping into this game. Tomorrow. I have no clue who else will be playing (I know both Wilhelm and Bhagpuss will be in some capacity) and I am still torn on race/class. I may be a Gnome (the same class I did beta with and the same avatar I was an EQ guide as) or may go Troll once again – although I do dislike the new Troll graphics. Guk and the swamp was where my quintessential MMO experience was fleshed out and truly born, while the Minotaur caves in Steamfont was one of my fondest gaming experiences. I’ll make up my mind at some point. How long I last in the classic world remains to be seen but I have to go even just to visit. It will be wonderful to see starting areas with population again. Nostalgia is always temporary fun.

Summer is here, and I garden (don’t laugh! The vegetable kind!) and play outside, and don’t focus a lot on gaming so the EQ thing has terrible timing.  There is so many games coming up that I am curious about but we will see how the summer unfolds.

Happy (Belated) Birthday, EQ!

I am bad at remembering dates. I have only managed to wish Happy Birthday to my first MMO girlfriend twice in the past 7 years – in 2009 and 2014. Thankfully I have people on my blogroll who are much better at this than me (and better at many other things as well, but let’s focus on the current topic, shall we?)

In 2009 I shared a story about how I found my guild and what we shared in that game. I also linked to the discovery of an in game dungeon and my exploration of that place with my friends – with no guides, videos, or predetermined strategies. We went in and explored blind. It was exactly the sort of thing you would do in a Dungeon and Dragons Pen and Paper session. That remains one of my best gaming memories and always will – because there is zero sense of discovery in games now. They aren’t built that way.

Last year I explored the pain and suffering that EQ brought and how everyone has one of those stories – and now they are fondly remembered. Funny how many old gamers define the greatness they remembered with the pain they endured. That’s not something I recall Grandma and Grandpa relishing in memory of everything they suffered through. Though I suppose there is truth to that because they often talk about the people they suffered with. Oh, human nature.

This year I thought about telling more EQ stories because there are so many, and with my recent discussion of trying to get the guild back together that would tie into that nicely. Truth is people who haven’t lived EQ stories can’t fully appreciate them – much like I can’t completely when I hear other stories about other old worlds such as Vanguard, or Asheron’s Call. Besides, I have never really been that great of a story teller although I do try. Joseph Skryim does a great job of telling stories if that is the kind of content you enjoy consuming. I know I do. (I also like writing them, but work to be done!)

I am also not just going to write a bunch of paragraphs linking to my old content and other blogger’s new content. I am going to create some original content! And that content is a realization I had about the difference between MMOs of today and MMOs of yesteryear. This thought actually spawned from a discussion I had with Syncaine about F2P in which I argued that a gated subscription model really isn’t a subscription model at all

That short discussion lead me to think more on it and decide it would be worth fleshing out a post from, and I have been plucking away at that post both in my head and in my drafts folder on and off since. The truth is that I had no reason to bring it out. The F2P, B2P, Sub model debate always rages on and while I have confidence in my viewpoint it doesn’t change much about what is currently out there. It could (and should) change what comes in the future. But I am getting ahead of myself.

To flesh out my argument is to be clear on this: gated subscription games aren’t any better than a slow XP curve in a F2P game where you can buy XP enhancement potions. The gated content ensures you can only experience it at the rate the game wants you to, and this forces you to subscribe for longer periods of time. A true “all you can eat” model would have the game open to you fully for you to consume at your own pace and will – and once you are done you can stop subscribing and wait for the next expansion. People who argue that subscriptions and F2P are that different are just looking at it through the lens of what they prefer. They are, in fact, completely similar in the sense that there are artificial barriers put in place in your gaming that you have to pay to get past. The downside of subscriptions is that you can’t pay more to break those artificial gating and barriers, you are forced to pay monthly and consume the content at a pace that may not  be optimal for you.

Syncaine’s argument above is true in some regards but really, when did MMO companies become our parents and have to treat us like children? I know that even with unlocked content that guilds and communities would form that would be responsible in consuming content at the pace they feel comfortable with. Bear with me a bit longer, I am tying this back to EQ soon!

All of this, and even the core of the Sub/B2P/F2P argument is because of the fundamental shift of where MMO games are currently and where they are going. MMOs are – in effect – just giant lobby games now. You sit around in your instanced Garrison waiting for your LFR or LFG to pop to instantly transport you to another instance where you will go through the achievement and advancement motions with 5-19 strangers for 30 minutes to an hour before either getting ported back to your Garrison, or logging into an alt to do the same thing. We are playing giant lobbies. All of the quest and world content are one time consumed and never visited again. Back in 2009 I did the math:

The WoW quest system, while mired in mediocrity (typical escort/kill/collect) is a HUGE part of their development costs. WoW currently has 8027 Quests (searchable at wowhead.com, at least). How many of those are “endgame”? 223. WoW has 7804 planned obsolescence quests. While you could argue the quest system is just a means to an end to GET to the endgame – how many 5/10/25 man instances could you build in place of the 7804 one off quests?

and of course, two expansions later, those numbers are even larger. I even explored the other, planned obsolescence content at the time:

WoW has ~80 pre-cap instances, (when you count instance wings and heroic modes) and only 22 targeted for max level. Isn’t that split in reverse? Shouldn’t there be 20 instances before the cap, and have 80 instances when you hit the cap – wouldn’t that make it harder for players to “run out of content” fast when the game truly begins?

of course, in that article I was arguing that we need less wasted (and boring) levelling content and more endgame focused content. Still that same idea applies that if WoW was a lobby game right now no one would really tell the difference. Even zones could be instanced (and some are in other MMOs for ‘overflow’). Games stopped being virtual worlds a long time ago and current MMOs should embrace that fact and just be more honest about it. They aren’t fooling anyone.

Back to EQ and her birthday – EQ was a true virtual world at the time. It really was. There are several reasons for this.

  • No instancing – wherever you went, every dungeon you visited, every area you traveled through you saw real people. Whether you wanted to or not. Just like the real world.
  • Travelling times – at certain levels it was dangerous to travel alone so you made friends fast – safety in numbers. Everyone has a crazy travelling story in EQ. I remember learning new languages in game when on the boat to Freeport. When was the last time you took a road trip with friends and family?
  • Downtime – non ADD game play styles meant there was time to stop and smell the roses – and build relationships. People who ski talk about the time in the chalet just as much as on the slopes.
  • Need for others – Corpse runs were a thing, yes – but everyone had their turn for bad luck and needed to turn to the community for help. And because everyone had that experience complete strangers would take the time to help you. People relied on one another. Not unlike our lives now, where I rely on the police for safety, the butcher for meat, and the farmer for lettuce. Inter-dependency.
  • Sense of discovery – you could find things in the world that weren’t mapped out. In game auto-quest resources and sites such as WoWHead weren’t fleshed out for EQ in the early days. It wasn’t as easy and it wasn’t as accurate. You could stumble upon things that were wonderful. When I was in NYC last month we found this little pizza joint and it was amazing. I didn’t find it on YELP, it was just there, and we went in to check it out, ate amazing pizza, and had a few beer together.
  • Hand me downs – gear was gear. I could take it off and give it to friends when I was done with it. I could give it to my alts. I could sell it to anyone. Imagine if you tried to sell your old TV on kijiji and someone forced you to stop? Your items were yours to do with what you would.

All MMOs have moved away from these six things (even EQ) because they weren’t efficient and weren’t “fun”. Even BoE / BoP is to just slow down progression. Yes, these are giant fantasy game environments but I find it odd, and a bit sad, that the more they mirrored the real world the more they felt like virtual worlds themselves. And now that they aren’t virtual worlds – now that they are just a set of loosely interconnected achievement / advancement experiences – we need subscription gating, F2P gating and B2P expansion gating to keep people hooked. I used to log in to Norrath because it was a virtual world. I logged in to hang out with friends and “see what was going on” – and what I could maybe help out with, or explore, or do. I didn’t need any falsified reasons to extend my visits. Now it’s to gain a level, or upgrade an item slot, or grind faction. I am not visiting a world, I am visiting an opportunity to advance a specific part of one of my characters for a specific reason. It’s all very institutional and boring.

The world is a different place now with being so interconnected and phones glued to palms. I am not advocating for a return to how EQ was a virtual world as the community would reject it. I am celebrating what it was for it’s time though. We need to move forward, not backward. The challenge with moving forward is what things do our MMOs require to once again make them virtual worlds and not vending machines? What makes a community today, and how do we build that into a game? And most importantly, does anyone have the courage to make it?

Happy Birthday EQ! Thank you for providing us with this wall of text.

Sony Sells Everquest

I didn’t see this story making the rounds in BlogNation and probably due to the Massively and WoW Insider closing news – which I do want to address briefly. While said so much better by so many in our space, the loss of those reporting sources will be missed. I checked both frequently weekly. WoW Insider hit this blog with a linkback many years ago (June 2009) and it created a fun discussion. The link was about how many kids were born into our our WoW guild at the time.

Since the guild was formed at the beggining of Burning Crusade, we have had 12 kids born into guild members. Hell, that’s a solid 10 person raid group (with rotations, even). It’s a fun thought – a group of adult gamers grouped by an in game tag sharing parenting tips for newborns (after they read the Yogg-Saron strats, mind you)

That generated me a few hits and it was fun to be linked to by a major gaming news site. Other guilds chimed in on how many kids they had spawned and it was a fun little competition.

Massively also linked to me recently so it is nice when the big guys recognize us little guys – that is community building and I’d often see them do it to additional sites.

SOE will now be Daybreak Game Company – an interesting choice of words  that may tie the hopes of H1Z1 to the “new” studio. Mr. Smedley is the President of DGC and at least we can be certain of fun and interesting tweets for some time yet. The real positive news for the change is that the company can now produce games for the Xbox One platform, opening up a lot more opportunity in the console space.

“We will continue to focus on delivering exceptional games to players around the world, as well as bringing our portfolio to new platforms, fully embracing the multi-platform world in which we all live [emphasis added],” Daybreak president John Smedley said in a statement.

That same quote makes me wonder how much of their future is on multi-platform focused games as opposed to PC only (ie: MMOs) and like much of the announcement things will become more clear in time. Since the company is a private investment firm, not only were details not shared of the purchase but we won’t have quarterly earnings reports to look forward to over-scrutinize and read into. We will be at the whim of whatever their marketing departments decide to share with us (which isn’t that far from what we get from public firms otherwise).

Hopefully EQ and some of the legacy titles continue to get the investment into them that they return to the company. Again, will be very interesting to see.

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways

In the romantic comedy “How to lose a guy in 10 days” A reporter is writing an article with that name – and wants to prove she can lose a guy in 10 days. On the other side, the guy, a big advertising exec takes a bet that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. The result is genuinely cute (but mediocre) – no matter what she does that would make most guys afraid he sticks it out. Both are trying to win a bet. It’s not high on my recommended list, but a funny thought. If there are two people with exact opposite intentions, how to they get along? Is that the same opposite forces working between MMO developers who are trying to get as much money as possible for their product, and consumers who want as much bang for their buck?

MMO developer and MMO players look great together!

The truth is in real life that doesn’t work that much. Quick on the heels of WildStar’s decline and some other big launches over the years, lets have a look at 10 ways to ensure you can push those gamers and consumers away from your product.

#10  A flawed vision

I don’t disagree with having a vision – that is critical! What surprised me with WildStar was that I don’t know who created the vision or why. Did they consult with players? Did NCsoft buy into it? I ask these things because I get it – I understand if McDonald’s offers the Super Grease and Cardiac Bacon Burger because they are speaking to their customer base. So Gaffney and targetting the 1% vision was the outcome, but who approved and funded that vision? Why would he no longer be running the company when he achieved what he set out to do? With brands I always believe to be who you are. KFC will never attract a healthy eating segment. Be who you are, and be proud of it. In gaming that means design your game for the audience you want – niche or not. I think you see this improving with recent Kickstarter projects – we’ll see if and when they deliver on those.

#9 : Have key people leave the company near/after launch 

There are a few WildStar examples of this, but also some bigger ones in the past. I get churn, but nothing signals failure more than people leaving/fired who built it or spent years building the community – no matter what reasons are shared.

#8 Gate content in silly ways

Content needs to be gated, we get it. Do it in a way that isn’t insulting to the intelligence of the player base. I would be playing (and paying for) SWTOR if they didn’t make certain quest rewards contingent on subscriber status. I would be more fond of LOTRO if they didn’t make character classes gated by an expansion that isn’t required for them to play in the first place. This goes beyond cash shops though – if you have a subscription, don’t add a cash shop that gates content. If you aren’t a F2P or B2P title, don’t gate content with needless and obvious grinds. I would have played Mists of Pandaria a LOT longer if progression wasn’t gated behind daily quests.

#7 : Lose your most supportive community members

Games like WoW and EQ lived on as much in the fansites as the games themselves. I still read WoWinsider and I haven’t played the game in a year! Allakhazams was pure gold back in the day, and look at sites like MMO-Champion. You need a community to support and hype your game. WildStar lost it’s busiest podcast (among others) and some community news sites. Companies need to celebrate, support, and nurture those sites. When you lose those who are most enthusiastic about your game it sends a bad signal to the community.

#6 Do not reward loyalty to long time customers 

The industry has to mature sooner or later and start treating customers like every other industry – rewarding loyalty, and customers, with things not just to do with who spent the most money the earliest (paid beta, collector editions, etc.) That guy that has paid a subscription to you for 5 years? Give him a title, or perk, or hell – a free month. Do something to recognize the growth that individual has provided you. I know some do this well with early beta access to future titles (etc.) but I strongly believe this is an area developers and publishers can greatly improve on.

#5 Be non-supportive of diversity in gaming

There is a lot of heat on both sides of this argument – I won’t link to the gamer definition discussions, or the Blizzard developer quotes – but it is out there – and companies that aren’t aware, or mindful, of how they represent different views of the gaming community in their games will have a much harder go of it going forward.

#4 : Over market, over hype, under deliver

Warhammer online comes to mind here the most. “We have PVP! PVE! PQs! We have EVERYTHING!” – and they did. Everything except an immersive, reliable, consistent and balanced gaming experience. Too much hype. Less sizzle, more steak. With marketing budgets making up more and more of development costs these days, I am one who firmly believes that money is better spent on development. People will market your game for you if it is actually good.

#3 : Charge a subscription

I know some people like subs. I know some people prefer them and won’t play games without them. The truth is that a large portion won’t even touch a subscription. This is all fine and good (again) if the company doesn’t mind having less users paying more. I believe hybrid solutions are the way to go and that will retain the maximum amount of players. The all or nothing approach of a subscription doesn’t work as well anymore. There need to be stages and varying access levels for it to be accepted by the majority. Yes, it works for EVE and WoW and the jury is still out on ESO – but WildStar will almost be certainly going to F2P – as have everyone else. There is a reason for this.

#2 : Have a bad cash shop

Not ironic behind the previous point and cash shops aren’t inherently bad on their own. #2 and #3 are interchangeable in order. However,  a bad cash shop is as much the kiss of death as a bad subscription. Cash shops should be always available, never annoying. Let players know there is a cash shop, let them know the sales, then leave them alone and let them play. Constant reminders and popups are a great way to lose the community by sheer annoyance. I did spend a LOT of money in League of Legends, who never did anything silly with their cash shop. In hindsight, I spend more money per month in LoL than I did with a subscription in WoW – but didn’t regret it once. I had the choice of when and how much to spend.

#1 : Lack of immersion.

This is the number one problem for me personally, so I listed it as #1 although I am sure other people will have other thoughts on that. While reflecting on WildStar the truth is that while I loved the setting, the style, the characters and so many things they did right – the worst thing they did was constantly drag me OUT of the immersion. They had an announcer for so many things – challenges, dings, etc. It took the world away and constantly reminded me that I was playing a game. Sure, the point may be to play a game, but I play these kinds of games to feel like it is more than just a game. I want to get into it and feel like my character is helping solve the poisoned river that is destroying the town. I don’t need the 4th wall to be broken with an announcer voice telling me “f&*cking awesome job, cupcake” when I do get it done. EQ immersed me by the third person view alone that was standard back then. The game was through my eyes. DAOC through my realm’s reliance on my actions. WoW has it’s easter eggs but it really dug down in the lore overall. You felt like you were in Azeroth. Let’s get back to to immersion.

Do you agree? I admit these are very personal to me but I also feel they have merit to what is going on in the marketplace as well. Some are more obvious than others and the rankings could wildly change depending on who is reading them. Overall I think it is a good barometer of some huge issues in our hobby and I’d love to play a game that avoided these 10.

Vanguard – Feelings of Missing Something

The Ancient Gaming Noob has an amazing write up  and that for many, Vanguard wasn’t much but a failed blip on the radar. For others, it was a dream, a vision, a job (that may or may not have ended in a parking lot), a failed save by SOE. It is part, all, and none of those things – depending on who you asked. I was surprised to learn not too long ago that Bhagpuss has Vanguard as one of his favorites – and reading through the other links at the TAGN article it was an awful lot to many people. Somehow, now I feel I missed out. Much like this “goodbye Vanguard” post, just a little too late.

Vanguard was originally a dream for me. As an EQ pioneer (alpha test, beta test, EQ guide) I soured on EQ because I solely played on the test server. When they wiped it on us many left, and that was the end of the magic of that community. MMO communities were pretty tight back then – partly because there weren’t many of them (or many of US on them..) but the testserver population was even more so tight. We needed each other. Everyone knew the major guilds, everyone knew the major gamers, because there were so few – and Norrath was a dangerous world to be alone in. You couldn’t be. We weren’t.

When things started changing and people leaving and guilds merging (as mentioned before – a few of us are still on our original EQ test guild boards – they somehow still exist, and a handful of us visit now and again) the EQ world changed for me. I tried to start over on live servers but getting to level 50 was so hard to begin with. Starting again? No way. I began to be bitter about the things in the game that drove us to need one another (grind, loss of xp on death, loss of items after 24 hours of death – this happened to me once.) and when I quit EQ I wasn’t happy with EQ. Odd now, how much I miss it. (The original “it”. The new it I still visit with all of it’s newfound glory and mercenaries!)

Thankfully for me Dark Ages of Camelot had launched and I promptly joined the testserver there (Pendragon) and quickly formed a guild (Legends) with other testserverites – and Legends became the leader of the Midgard Guild Alliance. It was awesome! I ended up being the Shadowblade TeamLead for a stint too. The PVP meant we needed each other even more but the magic of testserver communities was put under pressure there. Not enough people to test the content the devs wanted. ToA launched to PVE grind away our PVP magic and opening up the testserver to auto-levelled max levelled characters (they did let us transfer off) ruined the game for us as well. Couldn’t find the same magic on live servers. I knew all of my enemies in DAOC and that part made the game so fascinating. (Zarbix is out  – watch out!)

Some went to WoW, some went to EQ 2. I brief-stinted EQ 2 on their testserver but didn’t get hooked. WoW is where I did, and first found, and then built, a community there on a live server. Then Vanguard was announced.

Vanguard for me was the opportunity to recapture the magic that EQ was. WoW was “great” but instancing and other things took away some fundamentals I felt were important to community. I still stand by those, with the way the WoW community has evolved, but I don’t really blame them – its the scale that got in the way.  There were high hopes for Vanguard. I had high hopes for Vanguard.

The first cracks of disappointment were in beta – loved the blood mage, struggled with the PC specs, but the world was huge and wondrous. I didn’t buy because my chugging PC couldn’t handle it. That, and the comments and reviews of the game from people I trusted drove me away. I did try to pop back in when it went F2P but had little patience with it and it just felt off. I regret that now.

So I am left with the feeling that another world is lost that I would never see. Isn’t that a funny feeling? The game, the world was there for so long but I didn’t give it the time. Visiting this blog (through TAGN)  has so many pictures of the world and I wonder what exactly was the point of the Strange tower ruins near Drathel, in Plains of Anguish in the level 45-50 section. Who built them? What mobs where nearby? I wonder if that is an MMO way of looking at a screenshot – wondering how I would interact with it if my character was there.

I find it fascinating those who stay to the end, until the plug is pulled. Is it beside manner? Last grasps? A group of connected people enjoying what they can, while they can? From my experience, when the experience is gone it is really gone. Thankfully that is what memories are for. I probably would have the same.

A MMO being shut down – a world “sunsetted” is much like a famous TV show being cancelled. Whether it is Cheers, or Seinfeld, or a CSI knockoff that lasts 8 episodes – the fans of the show, new or old, always have strong feelings. The difference with shows is that they syndicate or you can buy the DVD boxed set. When a MMO world is gone it is a missed opportunity to enjoy something built by people, enjoyed by thousands, and loved by many.

Maybe I wouldn’t have enjoyed Vanguard but I didn’t give it the chance – and maybe developers need to deserve that chance more. Or perhaps, just maybe, I needed to be more patient and give it a bit more time when it had the time. I’ll be more cautious of that in the future.

Thankfully, we have EQ and the Simpsons that just seem to run forever.

Player Servers

Is SOE trying to be a company for the people suddenly?

The idea of separate server rulesets is not new in MMOs with PVP, RP, PVE and other combinations but they don’t go far enough to offer real player choice. While not released (and just being discussed) I am liking the thought that SOE will give playing players a vote on specific rulesets – and they will create those servers to play on.

I still believe in taking it to the next level and allowing MMO players to rent (and pay for) servers with moddable rulesets.

This works well for FPS games and should for MMOs as well.Tesh and I bandied about the thought of it way back in 2008 and he on his blog in 2010.

First Person Shooter server rentals are good and hosts can customize map rotations, community rules, how many players per side (etc.) They are normally rented by clans or guilds and its great – the clan/guild provides the base community and the server populates (or not) based on their choices and base participation. Good servers with fair rules and fun communities tend to be busy. Even “asshole” style teabagfests find solid participation. Why?

Because servers attract different types of people that can play their favorite games the way they want to, and the way it is accepted by the particular community they agreed to join. The premise makes sense. Let people adjust the way they want it. Enough players will flock to what they want to play. Everyone is happy. Publishers get sub fees AND server rental fees, or some sort of combination.

The bullet points from my 2008 post are still valid. I’ll rehash them here. They are WoW centric (and a bit snarky at the time written) but really, insert any MMO acronym and it still makes sense.

Keep public servers still, offer this as a secondary market. All private servers are still hosted and controlled by Blizzard and all core mechanics stay the same.

  • At any given time in your WoW career, 95% of the world is unavailable to you anyway. You are either too high of level, or too low, or haven’t grinded X random raid boss 100 times to get the gear to go onto the next boss.
  • Could create a persistant world – Guild and individual housing? Why not? You don’t need 20,000 plots of land per server. Since it is a smaller and more dedicated playerbase Blizzard could create the tools to impact the world and leave your mark. World events? You wait until you have your players online then fire them off – every player gets to experience it. Think guaranteed Gates of AQ event. How many got to participate in that? NPC’s can remember you are the hero (as you would be in this realm) and not just chat tag %t “is a hero of the realm!” until the next person grinds the faction, or turns in the quest.
  • No Chuck Norris – unless you want that. The Chuck Norris type spammers (who stopped fitting on my ignore list 3 years ago) can all migrate to their own private server and spam away, patting each other on the back along the way, without annoying a single person.
  • End to Gold Farmers – Since I have to privately invite you to my server, and flag your account, no more fighting for resource nodes with thousands of bots and illegal farmers. Yes, you still have to go collect the items (preserving the ever so important time sink) but if you have to clear 6 mobs to get to a node, you don’t have to worry about jerkoff_001 swooping in and stealing it right as you kill the last one.
  • Characters on private servers can be ported to other private servers (not public). If I have a private server, and decide to close it down, everyone on that server still keeps their characters, items, everything – and can go to a new one. Conversely, if we meet a new friend and want to invite them along into our private little happy world – they don’t have to start from scratch if they have already been on a private server, they can port their characters over and play.
  • Wow isn’t really an MMO anyway (once you exclude the inflated-broken AH) and is just a group experience. Why not give me the choice on who gets to play within that group experience?

We could add a lot to that list that are smart and fun ways to enjoy the games, such as vanilla rule sets (etc.) and activating expansions only if the server renters want to, and when they want to.

Why force people onto the same rules when no one can agree which ones are good? Besides a single shard game (such as EVE) are there really any valid arguments against smaller, more specific, tighter knit communities on more varied rulesets? Let’s give up the entire running accepted illusion of “massively” and just let them be the multiplayer online games they really are.

Quote worth Quoting

I love reading Bio Break’s quote of the day and read Syp’s blog daily. Sometimes I find quotes on other blogs I really enjoy, so I may throw one up now and again. Here is one I read today!

“SOE has sent a message that H1Z1 isn’t just another Zombie-themed survival sim where the story ends when you get killed, looted, and teabagged”

AstralEcho MMOBsession

AstralEcho is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and what spoke to me about this quote is the accurate humour of it all. This is what seems to be the major complaint (and attraction) of DayZ, but also what is keeping away zombie enthusiasts such as Izlain and myself.

Have a great weekend!

Housing I Would Buy Into (or Rent/Lease)

Housing is all the craze and I’m loving the options. My first (and best) experience with housing in general was in DAOC. We had this nice, big, shiny Guild House! It had crafting, and portals, and trophies.. and was an awesome place where guildmates would spend downtime or whittle away at their trade skills. While there were limitations, it was something that was very cool, was ours, and it promoted spending time together in between the big battles.

I didn’t do housing in any other game – WoW was my predominant after DAOC and doesn’t have it, but I have heard good things about EQ2 housing, LOTRO, and even Vanguard (through Bhagpuss). I can’t comment on those, but I *can* comment on WildStar housing, and ask some questions about WoW’s upcoming Warlords expansion, and some general quirks and oddities about housing in general.

First off, WildStar housing is amazing. I can’t believe the level of customization available. Everything scales, and a pistol prop can quickly become a couch if turned and sized correctly. Your starter plot of land has enough for 4 FABkits (preset style plugins) and two backdrops (larger slots) and I have used a garden (that you can plant seeds into that find around the world) a relic garden (relic is a tradeskill collection item – so they actually grow there and you can harvest) a kiddie pool (funny) a couple party kits with bbqs and the like, and my favorite so far is the Moonshine Stein. You literally get a challenge to produce booze within a set time frame, and doing so successfully gets you a neon beer sign (that you can then scale, twist, and hang to your delight). Yes, you can even drink the stuff and get drunk. There is a fun line of functionality and coolness to items you can place around your yard and inside your house. The best part is you find housing items just by questing and killing mobs. There is also a whole tradeskill (architecture) dedicated to building housing items, of which I did not get into. I wish I would have taken more pictures of my house before beta ended, and I look forward to building a new one come launch. The more items your house has, the greater the rested XP boost you get. So its form and function.

WoW’s Garrisons look to be similar yet less customizable and more plug and play(ish). I only read the announcements and have not seen videos or followed it too closely, but both WS and WoW’s housing suffers from? Separation of community.

Listen, these housing ideas are cool but all instanced. The fun part of building them are completely awesome I agree – but it just further segments the community. I get it – there isn’t enough land in the world to make the housing – and there are some tools available (you can make your housing plot private, friends on, or public in WS) but its still segmentation. Why not make it easy? It isn’t that hard to do.

First off, have GUILD housing. Guild houses can be far more extravagant than typical homes and all guild members automatically get access.

Secondly, soon as you build your own house it automatically goes in the same instance as the Guild House. Each guild member does.

Voila. Now, instead of housing, you have  community. A neighborhood even. A neighborhood tied around a commonality (which is how most communities – digital or otherwise – foster).

If you aren’t guilded you build neighborhoods around “services” – crafting halls, transportation hubs, etc. You put some conveniences in that people want to be around, and draw them to that area and give them the opportunity to build their own communities. For even more fun you could build them around landmarks, statues, wonders of the world (planet) – anything to attract people around a certain area will give them the opportunity to build communities. The boat between continents in EQ, while crappy to wait for and too long of a trip, fostered an awful lot of friendships.

I know I am greatly simplifying a cause and effect but I also don’t think this needs to be complicated. Aligning personal space within community space is just common sense, right?

Does any game that I haven’t played do this better (or worse) than the ones I mentioned? I am genuinely fascinated to hear real experiences instead of feature set sheets!

Trolling EQ

Fisdib is almost ready to start farming the Minotaur Caves in Steamfont, and for fun I decided to check out all my existing characters on the Testserver. Its been hard to hop back in mid stride having missed a lot of things over the past, oh, 12 years (hence my fresh start with Fisdib). My two main EQ characters on my main account before leaving were Zraka Chakakhan and Braack Baccarat – both trolls. Looking back this surprised me and I am not sure why I chose trolls. I am not a fan of the new


 

models but perhaps the cartoonish nature of the old ones was fun. Regardless, for reasons unknown, trolls it was. I spent a lot of gaming time as them in EQ (and picked troll in DAOC as well) before moving on to Alliance-y type races and avatars in WoW and beyond. I may examine that decision in a future post. I had a main enchanter on a second account but I leant that account to a guildmate a long, long time ago and don’t even remember the login. No worries, free 85 and all that.

I decided to roll a new troll to see what the experience is like. Would it be as familiar as the Steamfont Mountain experience? Only one way to find out! I rolled up a Shadow Knight (so few Troll choices… Shaman, Warrior, Beastlord, SK) and boy, Innothule Swamp is a LOT busier these days. You can’t step out into the water without aggroing mobs and several pile in on the fray. This makes it a difficult start (haven’t found the troll mercenary giver-person) so I logged into my main Warrior to see what items I had to hand down. I had a lot! [Side note: this reminded me of how much I hate current BOE/restrictions on loot.]

I decided to finally move Braack out of the Great Divide and make the trek to Grobb to twink out my SK. This led to my next cool new EQ discovery – the mapping function. Pick a start zone, pick an end zone, and follow the glowing trail to there. Thank god – would have been hell for me to sort out the journey. I still expected a LONG run, but thankfully there are world portals to quickly zoom you between zones and planes and zones – so the other prodigal son returned to the swamp. I almost zoned into Guk for fun.

Twinking made things easy and I quickly leveled up. Getting the feel for it and now I am torn on whether to preserve the leveling experience and learn as I go, or to just do more reading and research and jump into my fee 85. Right now I don’t have a *purpose* in EQ – I have just been doing it for nostalgia, so that makes it a tougher decision. It isn’t like I am rushing to level to raid, or have a regular group of friends to grind/level with. Questing is a pain in the ass in EQ (keep getting no drop items that I don’t know what to do with..) and EQ was never one for story. I’ll sort it out. I think I may put a new character through the new-new character experience and see if that provides better next step clarity. The experience so far of the old-new character experience has been consistent with what I remember, and I think that is great.

The next chapter is up to me. Which is a fun, open thought in a MMO universe wrought with hand-holding.