April in Review

The Site

It soldiers on.  I keep thinking I am going to change the theme, but whenever I do, I switch back in a couple of hours.  I even used April Fools as an opportunity to try out a new theme.  I couldn’t wait to switch back.

The Wilhelm Arcturus Experience

I do not know why I have this urge to change the theme.  It probably comes from the fact that almost every magazine to which I subscribe feels the need to change their look and layout at least once a year.  Of course, that annoys me, so maybe that isn’t it.

One Year Ago

Video games as art?  Have we flogged Roger Ebert enough over that yet?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has yet to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

And then there was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as usual.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand, looks like it might become reality pretty soon.

New Linking Sites

I would like to thank the following site for linking here.

Please take a moment to visit them in return, it is totally worth your time.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. First Pokemon Black and White Download Event – Victini
  2. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  3. Pokemon Secret Egg Event Coming to Toys R Us
  4. 2011 Pokemon Video Game Championship Series Announced
  5. How To Find An Agent in EVE Online
  6. April Fools at Blizzard – 2010
  7. April Fools at Blizzard – 2011
  8. Play Breakout, Win Pokemon on Global Link
  9. Play On: Guild Name Generator
  10. Who Would Be in the 2011 Gartner MMO Company Magic Quadrant?
  11. I was Ganked by Cheaters!
  12. PlayStation Network – Hacked Before I Could Enter My Credit Card

I’m glad to see something that wasn’t merely a link to some place else made the list.

Most Common Search Terms of the Month

  1. zorua
  2. how to get zoroark
  3. how to catch zorua
  4. zoroark
  5. blizzard april fools
  6. pokemon secret egg
  7. white mouse
  8. pokemon global link
  9. blood elf porn
  10. ancient gaming noob
  11. blitzle
  12. tagn

Search Term of the Month

why is lord of the rings online free?
[There is a Free Peoples joke in there somewhere]

world of warcraft hentai porn
[Come again?]

Spam Comment of the Month

This may be the most epic warcraft book ever written!!!!! I am still wowed, speechless, and enthralled by what i just put down. I’ve never been this excited to play a game expansion in my life. I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone, so i will not hit on the plot scenarios of the book. So much happens. I got to understand characters i’ve seen in game for years so much more. Golden did her masterwork with this one. Also, is it just me or has blizzard’s books just been kicking ass these last few years? Golden has been doing an amazing job, but even the other lesser talked about books like the manga and more have all been really good.

This is a must read. I just pre-ordered the game after reading the end. can’t wait.

[I really have no idea.]

Where I Spent My Gaming Time

From Raptr, which seems to have a problem detecting EverQuest at times and which still does not count Lord of Ultima (which it ought to) or Pokemon (which it probably can’t).  Still, for what it can count, here is the ranking.

  1. EverQuest II Extended – 49%
  2. EverQuest – 37%
  3. Dungeon Overlord – 6%
  4. World of Tanks – 4%
  5. World of Warcraft – 3%
  6. Lord of the Rings Online – 1%

Time spent in LOTRO was entirely collecting lottery winnings.  Dungeon Overlord is an SOE Facebook game.

EverQuest

The Fippy Darkpaw adventure continues.  It has been side tracked just a bit by us delving into a different game and by the allergy season.  The wet winter made for a vibrant spring, which in turn set off my allergies which tend to leave me exhausted by the end of the day.  So EQ, which requires some focus, especially when 2-boxing, falls off the desirable list.

EverQuest II Extended

The new destination for the instance group, though EQII is an old home for me.  I think this adventure in Norrath will work out as long as we can keep the group together level-wise (for which the game provides tools) and are able to find suitable group content.  That last bit could be the sticking point, since EQII favors open dungeons which means you might find all your choices overrun with other groups, farmers, or higher level players just in the mood to grief.

On the bright side, at the end of an allergy plagued day, EQII harvesting and crafting are just about my speed.

World of Tanks

It is live, it is still fun, I still play.  It is the go to game when I have 30 minutes to play.

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm just was not doing it for the instance group.  I think the time spent in WoW was mostly while talking about what other games we should try.

Oddly, my daughter has gotten bored with WoW as well, although that is probably more because she spent most of the summer in the Cataclysm beta.  After running around a lot as a well equipped level 85 character, she wasn’t thrilled about going back to leveling I guess.  Now Animal Jam is her favorite.

So the play time report for both of our accounts has come back with this for the last couple of weeks:

There was no play time activity this week.

It is time to cancel Azeroth for a while I think.

Pokemon Black and White

I am progressing slowly but steadily.  I am still trying to gauge the new games.  They are, as the series demands, much like their predecessors.  On the other hand, each generation adds something new.  It is not as exciting as the first Pokemon game I played, but it still keeps me interested.

PlayStation 3

It is turning into a fine video device.  We stream Netflix through it all the time and watch DVDs and Blu-Ray disks on it.  Games though?  Not so much yet.

Coming Up

The instance group will have to find its legs in EverQuest II.

We will get our first new video game for the PS3, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.  I am looking forward to that.

And hopefully the pollen in the air will die down and my sinuses will start to feel better.  It has been a miserable allergy season so far and we’re only a couple of weeks into it.

Explaining EverQuest to my Daughter

“Why are you just sitting there killing those same guys over and over?”

My daughter was there looking over my shoulder as were killing bandits a couple weeks back.

Her view of MMOs is entirely colored by WebKinz, Toon Town, Club Penguin, World of Warcraft, and the Winterfell zone in EverQuest II.  Each of those online games has multiple mechanisms that give you something to do, a variety of pre-defined short term tasks.  Quests are the most common form of task, but there are other things, mini-games, crafting, housing, or an active an easily accessible marketplace for goods.

But here I am in EverQuest, in a form as close to 1999 as SOE could (or dared) make it.  While not exactly a sandbox game (though that Mecca of sandboxdom, EVE Online, has a lot more guided content than 1999 EQ ever dreamed of), the goals are rather more basic.  Level up, equip yourself, make some money, and try not to die.

And, sitting there on the edge of the bandit camp in West Karana, if I had said, “Role Playing,” my daughter probably would have felt she understood and let it be.  Instead, I said “camping.”

Camping!

“Camping?” she asked.

So I explained that we had gotten together a group with the express intent of sitting here on the edge of this bandit camp so we could kill as many bandits as possible.  For the experience and the drops, I added.

“Why?”

Why indeed!  I could read the thought bubble over her head, which indicated that she really wanted to know “Why not something else, like quests or an instance or maybe a battleground?”

So I started in on the history lesson.  EverQuest pre-dates her birth by almost three years and her exposure to online games, in the form of WebKinz, by a good eight years.  EQ had already gotten to The Serpent’s Spine, expansion number 12, by which point EQ, having started off as the fundamental baseline from which Blizzard started in their creation of World of Warcraft, was then being influenced in turn by WoW.

As Darth Vader might say, “The student has become the master.”

So I tried to explain, over my shoulder, how things used to be.  Quests were uncommon, not well marked (no big, yellow !) and tended to be primarily focused on item or maybe some money as a reward, as opposed to simple experience.

So to level up, you spent your time killing things.  And if you were smart, you did your killing in a group as even stuff your own level had a fair chance of killing you or at least beating you down to such a point that you would have to sit and recover for a while.

She walked off for a bit, but came back later as Potshot and I were working together.  She saw Potshot run nearly out of visual range to pull a mob.  As he ran back she said that the mob would never make it to us.  And in WoW, or any number of more current games, she would be correct.  The mob would hit the “boredom radius,” give up, and wander back to its starting point, not bothering anybody else along the way.

In old Norrath, I had to explain, mobs were not so easily discouraged.  A mob will follow you all the way to the end of the zone.  And if it is an aggro mob, like the bandits, that werewolf, or Froon you might be making an unplanned run for the zone line if you got caught unaware.

We talked a bit more about aspects of the game.  She wanted to know about mounts (none on Fippy yet) and travel (mostly walking, at least at our level), and a few other things.  I let her sit down and “drive” for a bit and then play with character creation, which is one of her favorite things.

She asked if the game would run on her iMac, but she asks that about every game I play.  I said it did not, mostly because I am not sure what revisions of hardware and software the Mac version of EverQuest supports these days, and even if it did run on her machine, EverQuest Mac players are banished to their own server and locked in time at the Planes of Power expansion.  That probably makes the Mac server closer to “classic” EQ than the progression servers.

But, oddly, one thing did not come up in our talk.  She never commented on how the game looked or how dated the graphic were.  I was, after all, in the Qeynos/Karanas section of the world, which pretty much retains the 1999 look.

I do not know if this is because the graphic style simply isn’t that important to her or if she just imagined that the designers were going for a certain look.

The only time she has ever mentioned anything about the graphics was when she saw the tiger we fought during our visit to Kerra Island, and she thought that was one excellent looking tiger.

Herding Cats, Tundra Beets, and Other Fun in the Frostfang Sea

There is, in fact, a quest that has you herd cats.  Well, you put leashes on them and lead them across a glacier, so it isn’t quite herding.  But my experience with every cat I’ve ever known is once a leash goes on, they start immediately walking backwards.

Some of you know what I mean.

They will do a lot of things if you leave the leash on them for a while, but letting you lead them placidly is not on the list.

And don’t even think about a leash for these guys

But the real herd of cats was us as we tried to keep ourselves coordinated following the quest line through the Frostfang Sea.

World of Warcraft has spoiled us a bit and we are having to learn to make do without as much immediately accessible data.

For example, we have grown used to mousing over a mob or harvestable item and getting a info balloon that lets us know that we need said item for a quest, the quest for which we need it, and if we need more than one of the item, how many we need and how many we have already, plus that last line of information for everybody in the group.

That allows the whole group to be aware that an individual has not gotten and update, or has not killed all the ice bears required, or has not harvested that last ice beet.

On the last rolling stone

So those of us in the group who tend to obsess over who has gotten all of their ice beets were left to more primitive means, which did not always pan out… especially with tundra beets and bear poop.

The ice beet harvesting quest has one of those UI quirks that makes me fume.  It begins presenting data in a standard fashion, but changes format at the last tundra beet.  So the quest guide in your peripheral vision on the right hand side of your screen updates as follows. (This is an approximation, not a literal transcription, but it gets the point across.)

  • (0/3) Tundra Beets
  • (1/3) Tundra Beets
  • You should gather one more Tundra Beet
  • You should go talk to Charlie Questgiver

I have now done this quest four times, and every single time I do it when the quest guide switches from numbers to text I mentally mark the quest done and fail to collect the last tundra beet.

Damn you tundra beets!

Actually, I remembered about the tundra beet quirk before I ran back to the quest giver, and I made sure to tell everybody else about it, so we did not foul up the tundra beets.  However, there are a couple of other quests that do the same thing, so we ended up with the group out of sync a few times.  We would do the three parallel quests that seem to be the standard at the start of Frostfang Sea, and everybody would finish two of them, so everybody would run back to the quest hub and have something to turn in, but inevitably, it seemed, a quest went uncompleted.

This was usually discovered only after we moved on to the next item and somebody realized that they didn’t have a quest for the things that everybody else in the group seemed to be slaying.  Then we would double back and try to get everybody back in sync, though once we ended up having to backtrack a few quests because the person in quest got a few quests ahead in one line and so being out of sync was fine until all the quests for the group failed to line up.

In the snow, out of sync

You can visually audit the quest status.  You can see your own pending quests on your screen, you can see the quests that are shared by everybody in the group in the quest journal, and if those do not add up, you can then go through the quest list for each person in the group, which is also displayed in the quest journal in a tree control, until you figure out who is out of sync.

Not the worst system imaginable.  All the data is there for you, if a bit awkwardly laid out.

But I would be really happy if somebody on the EQ2 team went over and copied how LOTRO does group status in its quest log. (There, I didn’t even say, “Go copy WoW!”  But if they wanted to, I’d be good with that as well.)

Fortunately, we were not in a hurry to accomplish anything in particular.  This was the second night of EQ2 orientation, and we were all learning (or relearning) how things work in the game and what we need to keep an eye on.

The only real goal of the night was to form a guild.

The Guild Creation Window

Forming a guild in EverQuest II extended requires a few things.

  • A guild charter – 450 SC from the Station Store (60 silver won’t cut it)
  • A full group – that means 6 people
  • The whole group in the same zone with the guild registrar (herding cats again)
  • A guild name

Of course, it was that last bit that took longer than almost anything else.

Despite Potshot and I throwing around potential guild names for almost a week in advance, picking the actual name followed the usual pattern.  We began tossing names around and rejecting them until people grew tired enough to lower their standards.  The key here is to keep the name you really want to yourself until you sense that standards are beginning to waver.

Unfortunately for me, I sprang my own pet name, “Koyaanisqatsi Now!” too soon.

And so we ended up with the name Creedence Qeynos Revival.

There’s a bathroom on the right

(Those under age 30 might need to go here to understand the  guild name reference.  For the joke in the caption, you are on your own.)

One interesting note.  While you need a full group, six characters, in order to create a guild, guild creation is not canceled if one of the group members declines to join the guild.  Trucknut declined at the moment of guild creation for some reason, but the guild was created anyway.

We also went over collection quests, status item drops and where to turn them in to help level the guild, and AA experience slider bar.

So as far as the Frostfang Sea quest line went, we did not make a huge amount of progress.  We essentially moved from the quest hub on the shore by the raft to the quest hub in the cave.  If you’ve done the quest line, you know what I mean.  If you have not, well, we’re about one third of the way through, with the whole group ending up at level 11 or 12.

But since was more or a “training and explaining” evening, we were not expecting a lot of progress.  Plus Earl could not make it on with us (I logged on another account for the six member of the group at guild creation) so we did not want to get too far ahead.

Next time we should be able to bash through the remainder of the Frostfang Sea quest line.  We all want the mount you get at the end.

And then there will be the question of where to go after that.

The Frostfang Sea quest line sends you to Butcherblock, but I am wondering if we shouldn’t start looking into some more dungeon-like group content.  Maybe Stormhold over in Antonica.  There is a series of quests for it both in Qeynos and inside the zone itself, and the encounters are all tuned for groups.

Plus I haven’t been in there at level since early 2005.

PlayStation Network – Hacked Before I Could Enter My Credit Card

We have had a PlayStation 3 for a little over two weeks now, and for about half of that time the PlayStation Network has been down.

Sony, along with their PlayStation branch here in the US, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), has failed miserably to keep people informed in anything like a timely or complete manner.

And even when they have attempted to be forthcoming, their statements have had the tentative, CYA tone common to corporate BS rather than anything like a frank assessment of what has happened.  This blurb is about as clear as any statement I have seen so far:

Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.

Out of an abundance of caution?  This isn’t an advisory suggesting one wear both a belt and suspenders.  This is people’s financial information.

Not to pick on the Japanese, but we’ve seen how reluctant large Japanese corporations are to tell their customers bad news.  We saw how Toyota behaved last year which was followed up by TEPCO’s closed mouth approach to the information after the Tohoku earthquake, both of which potentially put people’s lives at risk.

So I suppose it is no surprise that Sony is dragging its feet when it is just your credit card information that might have been stolen.

As noted elsewhere, It is better to be safe than Sony.

Personally though, the melt down of the PSN has had little impact on the PlayStation 3 usage at our home.

We are still able to stream Netflix through the PS3, which is the unit’s primary function in our household.

Sony tries to make you log into the PSN when you use the Netflix streaming application.  However, once it fails a couple of times, it gives up and then Netflix runs just fine.

Go Netflix!  Way to look good!

We are also able to watch Blu-Ray and DVD movies through the unit.  In the Blu-Ray version of The Sound of Music, the hills do genuinely seem alive on our TV.

Even our gaming was undisturbed.  The Easter Bunny brought us a copy of Little Big Planet, which not only ran just fine, but which updated without a hitch, all without the PSN being active.

It is enough for us to wonder what the PSN is for, aside from distributing our personal data to hackers.  And I hadn’t even had time to enter a credit card number, so it is just personal data about me that hackers have.

Granted, we do not yet play any games that require the PSN for connectivity.  I had no plans to bother with DC Universe Online and my daughter was done with Free Realms in less time than it took to download it.  But I am sure many people miss being able to connect to those games and many more.

So I suppose we are lucky.  We are largely unaffected.

But on my list of things to do, subscribing to the PlayStation Plus program now falls somewhere behind changing my birth date.

What Would You Spend Station Cash On?

Sort of the flip side of the last post when I was wondering what we should commit ourselves to crafting as a group.  What do you think you is worth some money in the Station Cash Store?  What should we consider buying?

There are some choices.

The Categories

Appearance Items – A matter of taste I suppose.  Not sure I need a giant mushroom hat or a cosmetic pet.  But I did buy the bunny hat.

Bags – 44 slot bags are 550 to 750 SC and they actually show up on you character as backpacks.  Interesting if you want that look.  Standard bags are 50 SC for 16 slots to 150 SC for 24 slots.  A 24 slot bag is 4 gold on the broker at the moment, so I would probably buy from the broker.

Character Packs – If you want to play one of the races outside of humans, half-elves, barbarians, or erudites.  While I have played a dwarf, I generally go half-elf or barbarian.  And having a gold account at the moment, all the classes are open to me.

Consumables – Exp buffs, ability buffs, and the dreaded Wand of Obliteration.  Only 50 SC for that.

One shot, one kill

Expansions – If I want the Velious expansion, it is 4300 SC, or 9700 SC for the collector’s edition.  Seems a bit pricey, but I am a long way from needing that content, and if I wait long enough they might give me a free level 90 character.

Housing – Real money for virtual decor.  I’ll stick with in-game carpenters.

Legends of Norrath – I’ve never gotten into the game, so no draw there for me.

Mounts – I actually considered buying a fast mount for Station Case… until I saw them.  I do not feel the need to have a mount that screams “Everybody look at me!”  I’ll save up for a plain horse.

Services – Well, the guild charter came from there.  Not sure I’ll need the name/race change stuff any time soon.

Tradeskill Components – Buy a stack of 200 common harvestables for 50 SC or 5 rares for 250 SC.  I suppose, in a pinch.

Equipment – Saved for last, since these are the items that compete with trade skills.

A weapon is a possibility.  I wouldn’t invest at lower levels, where you might out grow it fast.

Sword for Sale - $1.00

But at high levels a master crafted sword for 100 SC might seem like a deal.  Shields run in the same price range, but for some reason I am not as enthusiastic about paying a buck for an in-game shield.

Armor is a little more expensive, 250 SC to 750 SC depending on the level, but again it is master crafted.

A selection of armor

And then there are arrows.  50 SC will get you 5 stacks of vendor quality arrows.

Crap arrows for you!

I’d level up a woodworker before I’d bother spending Station Cash on those.

On which items would you spend Station Cash?  Or would you spend any at all?

Planning a Division of Labors

With the transition of the instance group to a new game, everybody is in the process of establishing their role in the new order of things in EverQuest II.

We started with our characters, shaking out into the roles of tank, healer, and a variety of not necessarily DPS classes. (Okay, the wizard is totally DPS, but the troubadour and the swashbuckler have more tricks in their portfolio than a Swiss Army knife.)

After character classes, we started talking about trade skills.  Trade skills can be very useful in EQ2, and some of them feel almost indispensable to any regular group or guild.

Not all of us will pursue trade skills, given the variability of play time across the group.  But a couple of us will, and with Meclin joining us for the ride and an alt or two in play, we can probably count on covering at least 4 of the crafting trades in game.

But which ones should we go after in a serious way?  Which ones will benefit the team the most?

Which craft to choose?

There are nine major crafts in the game, and a character can learn only one.  So while Potshot muses about harvesting materials for trade skills, I am trying to figure out what we should be trying to make.

This is complicated by the Station Cash (SC) Store, something new in the mix of things in EverQuest II Extended.  Some of the crafts compete directly with the store while others have the market to themselves.

The trade skill choices are divided into three categories for reasons of symmetry I would guess.  A couple seem to overlap and one sticks out as different than the rest, but when you force things into groups you’re always going to end up with one of those “and everything that was left” categories.

The trade skill divisions are:

Craftsmen – Workers of wood, makers of pastries

Carpenter – Makes house decorations, storage boxes, salesman’s racks, and altars

  • Plus – Everybody needs those boxes, the salesman’s racks are essential to any serious seller, and housing decorations sell surprising well on the market.
  • Minus – Nothing you make will kill an NPC directly, even if you drop that dresser on it.  Plus the altar thing makes me think of the first two commandments and that scene in Inferno when Alan Carpentier has to explain away making up religions in his books. Is creating a fake person and having them worship a fake god heresy?

Provisioner – Makes food and drink

  • Plus – No SC Store equivalent, player created food has bonuses far beyond NPC vendor food, has been a money making profession in the past.
  • Minus – A lot of people will just by NPC vendor food, while slot-machine like food harvest nodes have a habit of coming up with three lemons when all you needed were two cherries.  And did you keep your fishing skill up to level?

Woodworker – Makes totems, small shields, bows, arrows, other wooden weapons, and gets confused with the carpenter a lot.

  • Plus – Bows are nice and I have made more money selling arrows on the broker than I have via any other method.  And harvesting tools are appreciated by everyone.
  • Minus – Almost everything you make competes with the SC Store.

Outfitters – Makers of player equipment… unless it is made from wood… or is considered jewelry.

Armorer – Makes chain and plate armor plus shields

  • Plus – Very handy to have about when you need a new suit.  People need a whole suit of 10 pieces every 10 levels or so.
  • Minus – The SC store competes directly, with the demise of the first pristine exp bonus you end up having to make a lot of armor sets to level up.

Tailor – Makes cloth and leather armor, plus bags, quivers, and other ammo pouches for ranged weapons.

  • Plus – Like the armor crafter, people need a new suit of something every 10 levels or so, bags are really handy, and quivers and ammo pouches actually sell pretty well.
  • Minus – The SC store sells the same suits and better bags than you’ll be able to make for a long long time.

Weaponsmith – Makes all metal weapons like swords, daggers, and axes.

  • Plus – Handy to have about, not many people take this route, lots of strange and exotic weapons to be made
  • Minus – People generally just need 1 or 2 weapons every 10 levels so selling can be tough even when you don’t compete with the SC Store, and of course you compete directly with it.

Scholars – Makers of skill upgrades and shiny little things

Alchemist – Makes skill upgrades for fighters along with poisons, buffs, and the closest thing to a healing potion in EQ2, which frankly isn’t that close at all.

  • Plus – Lots and lots of recipes, no SC Store competition
  • Minus – Competition comes from the very, very common Adpet skill drops from NPCs which cut into the sale of journeyman skills while NPC vendors sell lesser versions of some of your potions.

Jeweler – Makes skill upgrades for scouts along with items for all of the non-armor spots including rings, necklaces, earrings, and, oddly enough, belts.

  • Plus – Plenty to make, little SC Store or NPC competition
  • Minus – The whole Adept drop competition plus you end up with so many recipes it can be tough to keep track of them and what they do.

Scribe – Makes skill upgrades for priests and mages

  • Plus – Lots of skills to make, no SC Store competition
  • Minus – Adpet level skill drops from NPCs tend to flood the market which kill off the sales of journeyman skills, and all you make are skills

So that is the list.

My temptation is to try and get people to cover all of the scholar professions to cover the making of player skills and spells.  It is easy to forget, coming from WoW, that skills have various quality levels.  The skill tiers have been renamed since I last crafted heavily in EQ2 (and what hasn’t been renamed or reworked heavily in EQ2 by now?), but they are now ranked:

  • Master (rare drop from named mobs)
  • Expert (crafted)
  • Adept (random, but common, drop)
  • Journeyman (crafted)
  • Apprentice (free)

The apprentice skill is what you get for free as you level up.  You don’t even have to visit a guild master or anything.  However, life starts getting tough with only apprentice skills somewhere in the mid-20s and I hear that beyond 70 or so life with such skills becomes near impossible.

So keeping the group out of the apprentice doldrums has an appeal.  On the other hand, I’ve been down the skill creation path before and the free flowing adept skills can crush you if you are not careful.

Still, having those skills upgrades on hand would be good.

At this point I have sent Campell down the path as a jeweler.  That will keep him and Cerredwyn good on skills as well as having all the jewelry slots covered.

Cerredwyn has expressed a desire to try carpentry, so we may have housing decor and boxes.

But what other trade skills should we try to pursue as a group?

I am also tempted to copy over one of my characters from Crushbone.  I have an alchemist and a woodworker that are both up in the 70s skill wise.  And with SOE having dropped the price of a copy by $10 and that half-price Station Cash I just bought, the price of copying one character seems fairly reasonable.

First though, we need to figure out what we want  to do and what we really need.

Quote of the Day – Nostalgia for a Box Lined with Broken Glass

If your community was currently being dragged from place to place in a wooden box lined with broken glass, and you told them you were going to replace the box with a hovercar lined with fur, you would have [to] pry half of them out of the box with a crowbar. And some of them will be complaining years from now that riding in the box built character, and fur makes them sneeze.

-The Metaverse Mod Squad (Sanya Weathers)

on Making Community Changes Without Pain

That wooden box lined with broken glass made for much better war stories.

Sell Max Level Characters? As Long As You Do It Right!

The small fraction of the EverQuest II community that reads the forums or follow news about the game is rather predictably up in arms about EverQuest II Senior Producer Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson’s trial balloon about making available max level characters.

On the surface, selling max level characters sounds like a dumb idea.  Sell people a way to skip most of the game?  Not a recipe to keep people in the game long term.

But there are three things which players do that cause MMO companies like SOE a lot of grief.  These things are:

  • Buying Gold
  • Selling Accounts
  • Using Power Leveling Services

Buying gold we know all about.  Game companies hate it, but in the case of SOE they have thrown in the towel and simply look the other way when you buy currency in their games.

Selling you account is against the terms of services of most games.  In EVE you can transfer characters to other people for ISK, but they are a rare exception.  Most companies, SOE included, view the person who originally opened the account as the sole and final owner of that account.  You cannot transfer the account to another person.

And yet, people buy and sell MMO accounts.  There are a number of sites devoted to this.  I see ads on Facebook for them often enough.  This leads to grief for the MMO company.  The person who sold the account can simply call up SOE and ask for the password and secret question to be reset and reclaim the account.  This has happened.

The process of selling the account also leave it open to exploit down the road.  The sites that sell the accounts require the password and secret question from the person selling the account.  They then transfer this information to the buyer.  However, the buyer has no standing to reset the secret question, so the site can wait a bit then drain or reclaim the account.  The buyer can do nothing, but I am sure some call up SOE to complain.

And then there are power leveling services.  Again, hand over your account to some strangers and hope they don’t take advantage of you while they level up your character by using it as a mule for gold selling advertising and services.

As I said, all of these hurt companies like SOE.

SOE has simply washed its hands of the first.

The second two are still an issue, but if you could just buy a max level character, they would fade away.

Buying a max level character wouldn’t be something to tempt me, but I am the type who feels the game is pretty much done when you hit max level.  I’m not much for end game.  But some people are all about the end game.  Some people want to skip the 90 levels between creating a character and hitting the cap.  And if they want to buy a max level character, that does not bother me.

Unfortunately, what Smokejumper was suggesting was not the selling of max level characters to anyone who was willing to pony up the money.  He was suggesting giving away a level 90 character to anybody not currently subscribed who buys a copy of the latest EverQuest II expansion.

This is what they call a “win back” program, and Smokejumper says that SOE has been very successful with such programs in the past.  And part of the reason for that success has been how generous they have been to non-subscribers during these programs.

Recall the Living Legacy program from mid-2008.  Any past subscriber was able to play EverQuest or EverQuest II all summer long for free.  Further, players who came back and played for free were offered some very generous incentives to purchase the upcoming expansions for these games, incentives that were not extended to current subscribers.  A very generous program indeed.

The current subscribers, those who paid to play all summer, who missed out on these offers, felt a bit cheated.  Loyalty was not rewarded. (Is playing the game reward enough?)

And now we see SOE suggesting something like it again.  They are willing to give out level 90 characters, but not to current subscribers.

Scewsville for the loyal subscriber base yet again.

I think if SOE wants to go down that path, they should just open up max level characters to anybody who wants to buy one.  Create a package, say a level 90 character with 150 AA points to spend and a set of level 82 master crafted equipment, price it right (say $50?), and let those who want a character at level cap buy their way in if they want.

The arguments against selling max level characters I have seen are that getting to level 90 isn’t that difficult (in which case, who cares if somebody buys in?), that getting to level 90 is a difficult accomplishment that shouldn’t be trivialized (you know what you’ve accomplished and so do your friends, somebody buying in at level 90 won’t change that), that you’ll end up with a bunch of level 90 noobs who won’t be able to play their class (which doesn’t hurt anybody really, since raiding guilds don’t just take anybody off the street do they?), and that it is simply not playing the game right (we should all grind through the old content before we get to see the shiny new stuff).

So I am fine with SOE making max level characters available, so long as they do it right.  It would even solve a couple of their account issues along the way.

But what was being proposed does not seem right to me.

Tough Guy in the Bunny Hat

Nothing says, “I’m serious” in an MMORPG like the right hat on your character.

Who you calling, "fuzzy?"

Yes, this is the bunny hat from the Station Store spring basket special.


For a dollar (100 Station Cash) you get a bunny hat and a cape.

Actually, you get one of five random bunny hat/cape combos.  But I am not playing that game.  I was in for a dollar, but no more.

The cape is not so attractive.  Not in my opinion anyway.

LOTRO would never sell me a cape this bad

No, the hat is the key item in this deal.  It even has a cotton tail on the back.

Sam Waterson selling me on Ameritrade

The hat is a little disturbing when you think about it.  It isn’t just a bunny hat, but a hat with the bunny’s head sticking out of the front.

Still, it looks better than any of the male half-elf hair styles, so I am sticking with it.

Fearing the Worst about Flying Mounts

I was thrilled when I got my first flying mount back in World of Warcraft.

And then, later, that was topped when my druid got the ability to fly.

I enjoy few things in the game as much as having flight form on my druid.

Unfortunately, I have begun to suspect that the reason I enjoy it more than most things in the game is that it kind of takes the challenge out of a lot of the rest of the game.  In one of those zero sum things, more fun flying meant less fun elsewhere.

While I cannot say that I miss all the running around in Northrend that I had to do when Lich King launched, flight form does make a lot of things easier than they should be and takes some of the adventure out of the game.  Great moments in the history of the instance group include more than a few cross-continent runs.

Our first run across Northrend

On a flying mount, such a ride is trivial.

But, no worries.  We’re giving WoW a rest for now.  We are headed to Norrath… the second Norrath… to give EverQuest II a try.

Only flying mounts seem to be headed towards Norrath as well.

We timed our arrival in EverQuest II Extended with this item in the Station Cash Store.

Fly Free... For Free... For Now...

A flying mount.

A sample flying mount, available at no charge, single use (but you could go back and get another), given out as a free sample in the same vein as the tale about the old dope peddler.

SOE wants to get you hooked on the rush of flying right now.

While this expired from the store yesterday, I was able to log in and fly around a bit to try it out over the course of the offer.

Flying over New Halas

It was, of course, fun and exhilarating to be able to fly free in Norrath, so see things from a new perspective, and to roam where ever I wished without fear any fear of those mobs with the pulsing blood red names over their head down below.

Back from strafing noobs

Once the initial joy wore off however, I began to worry that I was facing another game shrinking, if not game breaking, feature.  This was druid flight form all over.  Fun and unbroken by activities like harvesting.  SOE seems to have figured out that they shouldn’t let you flee combat in flight, so the flying effects, like all other mount travel effects, goes away when an encounter starts.

But I fear where this will go.

I have no idea what SOE’s plans are for flying mounts in EQII, and the EQII site has been down for more than a day now, so I haven’t been able to read up on the whole thing.

I do hope there are some restrictions on obtaining such a mount.

I know that, if flying mounts turn into an “any level” Station Cash item, I can simply decline to purchase one.

But other people will buy them, and they will be in the world with me.  It will be worse than the damn flying carpets.

I have already had high level players dropping out of the sky to harvest a sparklie or a harvest node I was running towards.

I hope SOE has a plan.  I hope they know what they are doing.