Thoughts After a Week in The Serpent’s Spine

Have people made “Spinal Tap” jokes about this expansion yet?  I supposed I missed an opportunity when my Shadow Knight hit level 11. 

Graphics

The graphics for a seven year old game are pretty good, but there are some things that grate.

There are still too many nicely pressed creases in the terrain for my liking.  Yes, I know, that is just what you are going to get with the current engine, but considering how good of a job they did masking the creases in the field outside of West Freeport, I am surprised that they did not do more of that in TSS.  Granted, I have only seen the very first zones, so maybe more of that sort of work comes in later.

I also had to turn off shadows.  The behavior of shadows in EQ is just too odd; odd to the point of being immersion breaking.  There were times in The Hollow where I could see two or three distinct shadows from my character coming from impossible light sources.  At one point I had a shadow up on a cliff wall above me as though the sun was shining up hill.  Then I would see shadows of the spiders in the wagons out in the meadow.  No wagon shadow, just the spider’s shadow, clear and distinct.  While it made it easy to find the spiders, it certainly killed a bit of realism.

On the plus side, a lot of the mob animations in TSS are really good.  The drakes that fly around out in The Hollow look really nice.  The bear cubs that wander around go up on their hind legs every once in a while to survey the scenery.  And the pumas not only look really good, but in combat they act like cats.  When you get a good hit on a puma they pull back and to the side with the very same look and posture that my cats at home give me when I accidently trip over them.  Very true to life!

Quest Givers

There appear to be four flavors of quest givers in Crescent Reach. 

First there are the NPCs that are sub tagged “Quests” with a level recommendations.  Some say a minimum level, like 1+, 10+, or 70+.  Others have a range like 5-10, 10-15, 40-45, and so on.  These are nice.  You know to which NPCs you should be speaking to right now and which ones you should get to know in a little while or way down the road.  If you can find them.  They are scattered all over.  I found a number of them hanging out in private rooms at the Inn. (There is also one locked door at the Inn.  I wonder what is in there!)  If somebody doesn’t make a list of these NPCs to post it then I am probably going to try.

Then there are the NPCs that are sub tagged with just the word “Quests.”  You know you should talk to them, but at low levels you frequently get the response that you need more experience or that the NPC does not have anything for somebody of your level.

Third there are the NPCs that are sub tagged “Tradeskill Quests.”  I have generally left them alone.  I do not plan to do much with tradeskills in EQ.  I might try a little fletching to make myself some arrows, but other than that I have little interest.

Finally, there are the NPCs that have no tag at all, yet give you quests.  This annoys me a bit.  You do get sent to some of these NPCs by other NPCs sporting a quest tag, and that is great story line kind of stuff.  But I have already found a couple, such as Champion Untenka, that you just have to talk to in order to find out whether they have anything to offer or not.  I do hate the “run and talk to every NPC” plan that grew out of how MUDs worked.  Avoiding that is one of the things that Rob Pardo of Blizzard brought up in his keynote address at the Austin Game Conference that really resonated with me.  That and the idea of making sure players can follow a series of quests that will give them an idea of where to head has really worked well for WoW.

Other Items

Mana and hit point regen out of combat is noticeably faster than it used to be, so the downtime of days gone by is reduced.  Hit point regen especially seems to be huge now out of combat, so non-healing character classes now have a reasonable chance of going out to solo.

On the other hand, I still have not found where to buy my Shadow Knight spells in Crescent Reach. (Or spells for any of the other classes.)  I cheated a bit from my “stay in the new expansion” policy and went back into the tutorial at level 9 and bought up the spells that were available.  I am sure there must be a vendor around the city somewhere with my spells, I just have not run across him.  Of course, he might not be there, in which case the run to the plane of knowledge book is a bit of a challenge until your mid-teens.

I have not seen a ton of people in zone.  I was in game Saturday afternoon and there was a fair crowd, but nothing that would cause any competition over quest mobs.  One thing I have seen is higher level players stopping in and buffing people.  That is something I recall from the past days of EQ; people were often very generous with buffs.  So I have ended up having Temperance cast on me a few times, which is both a help and a hindrance.  It is great to have your hit points boosted like that, but as soon as I get it cast on me, I fall of the quest wagon and try to grind out as much exp as I can before it fades.  I guess that is part of the true EverQuest experience, I am just surprised how ingrained that response is within me.

What I Really Want

Of course, having come back from playing World of Warcraft and EverQuest II, there is no end of things on my wish list for improvements to EverQuest.  But if I had to pick just one, I would say ditch the F9 camera controls and do whatever it takes, bribery, extortion, anything, to get the camera control code from the EQ2 team.  When you are a noob in EQ and you start playing with the F9 modes, here is what they seem to be:

1- First person that can zoom out to third person, but I cannot pan the camera
2- Show my character’s bald spot, if any
3- Check the back of my character’s head to see if it is male pattern baldness or not
4- Fix the camera in a single, random direction
5- Same thing, different direction
6- Awkwardly close chase mode

Okay, I know, it isn’t that simplistic, but I never remember all the key combinations to control the different camera modes. (I always have to go to this site, and even then it only sticks in my brain for about 30 seconds.)  In the end, I just want the camera to behave as it does in EQ2; let me zoom with my scroll wheel, let me move the camera angle freely with the mouse, let me control tilt with page up/page down, and give me one key to center everything back behind my character.

Oh, and there is one more thing I want, which is more of an EverQuest community thing.  I want an EverQuest specific podcast.  I know, this is a big wish, especially when the only EQ2 specific podcast, EQ2-Daily, seems to be on the path to permanent podfade (yes, I know they just released another podcast, #31, but I am referring to the trend on which they appear to be as documented in the podcast rant podcast on Falcon Twin), but the EQ community is still big and rabidly loyal in many quarters.  There must be somebody out there who will pick up the torch. 

Don’t make me do it, or it will be called “Noobs in Norrath” and it will be nothing but how I solo’d in Crescent Reach and old stories about killing snakes in front of Qeynos, trains in Blackburrow, and horrible corpse runs in the Karanas!  And then I’ll start podfading after six shows!

You’ve been warned!

4 responses to “Thoughts After a Week in The Serpent’s Spine

  1. Just started EQ myself, somewhat based on the top 10 review over at VW but mostly due to having station access. Agree camera angles need some improvement, but mostly I wish for a larger quantity of lower-level players. More than anything, it would be nice to experiance the lower-level race zones as they were meant, but lack of population makes it a lonely grind.

    What do find that after bouncing from 1 MMO to another, the graphics dating become less of an issue, and I am much more able to focus on the complexities of the game itself. The sheer size of the world resonates with the challenge of exploration, something that few games these days have.

    As far as podcasts go, while there appears to be some podfading over at EQ2-daily’s show, just tune into the OGR show every tuesday, for a 2-3 hour EQ2 bonanza, those guys pack a lot of content and commentary on the game every week.

  2. More new players would be good. A lot of the lower level players I see running around in TSS have guild tags, which generally means an alt. I think a Serpent’s Spine w/ all expansions on the store shelves would really be required to get new players into the game. (Emphasize the 1-75 content on the box.) Digital download means that only those already playing EQ are likely to show up.

    The graphics aren’t a huge deal for me either, I was just a bit disappointed in the terrain after seeing West Freeport. It set my standards a bit higher than they should be.

    What I really want is an EverQuest podcast, EQ2-Daily was just my moaning that even EQ2, the “new” game, isn’t keeping up. Heck, EVE Online has two podcasts, as does SWG, why doesn’t the original EverQuest have even one?

  3. Agree, one of my favorite things to do when starting a new game is to queue up all of the historical podcasts I can get my hands on and listen when working out or chores around the house. Really helps put some things in context, and I don’t get in trouble with the wife for playing too much.

    Why does EQ1 not have one? Seems like that most of the community focus is internal to the game. The message boards are all very lightly trafficed in comparison to WOW/EQ2/etc.

    If you decide to produce one, even is noobie focused, I will subscribe.

  4. I did find out where the spells are sold in CR. It seems the spell vendors are sitting on the floor in the middle of the room where you find you guild master. How undignified!

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