Monthly Archives: March 2007

Departure From Zek

The time has come for me to leave Zek, the Orcish Wastes.

The orcs have almost all gone green or gray to me.

I have run through the long quest chain that starts with Mess Sergeant Akseltz on the docks and ends with a fight on The Greenmist, a boat that is, well, the same boat you always see in EverQuest II.  They need a new boat. 

Here I am critiquing Akseltz’s cooking one last time.  I flew away quickly before I ended up in the pot.

meandsarge.png

I have hit a bunch of the side quests and those that remain in my quest journal have gone grey.

So, after a total of 46 quests done in Zek, I must bid it farewell as a focus of my adventuring.  It is a great place to adventure as a fae.  The landscape is ripe with places that let you jump and glide.  Sometimes I hit a stride just right and it is like I am walking on the moon in huge low gravity leaps.

So tonight I went in, turned in one more quest, and took one last look outside the fort.

lastzeklook.jpg

I will return no doubt.  I still have the heritage quests “Training is a Shield” and “Rescue of the Greenhoods” to take care of.  And with some friends back and playing actively, a group to finish those two is not out of the question.

And now I have to decide where to adventure next.  I still have quests to finish in Steamfont.  But where else should I head?  Do I delve into Feerrott or should I head into the Desert of Flames?

The Alchemist’s Lot

Way, way back, in the fall of 2004, the group of us that started playing EverQuest II together decided to split up the trade skills that were available.  I picked alchemy.

This turned out to be quite a good choice.  Alchemists, along with provisioners, were the only trade skill classes that did not depend on other trade skill classes for their supplies.  Both could make final products with harvested raw material alone.  The rest of the classes all required supplies processed by other classes.

For example Gaff, the armorer in our circle, needed chemicals from an alchemist, leather harnesses and padding from a tailor, and further items like metal rings from a weaponsmith, in order to make a piece of armor.  When I picked up wood working next, my wood worker needed chemicals from an alchemist and processed metal from an armorer or weaponsmith.

The idea, according to SOE, was to ferment an active economy.  What resulted was chaos, hysteria, price gouging, complaints, alt creation (when 4 character slots were all you got!), and popularity for alchemists.  Somebody always thrives in any situation, and everybody needed the chemicals that alchemists could make.

Not that I got rich at that point.

My friends all needed the chemicals and were happy enough to provide the raws to make them.  So I gained levels and did not have to do a lot of running around gathering.  Temper, resin, wash, oil and ink, I cranked out chemicals by the stack… though stacks were only 20 high back in those days.

Soon enough though SOE wised up and tried to fix the situation.  They added in some new trade skills that anybody could learn that would allow you to be able to make all the refined raws you would need for you trade skill.  Soon any carpenter with a little patience and a stack of raws could learn apothecary (apostatery if you ask me!) and make their own chemicals. 

Still, that was a whole new skill to grind, and if you were already at tier 4 in you skill and needed to get apothecary up to match, you might think that buying chemicals was a good deal.  The market had settled down some.  Chemicals were no longer too over priced.

And ink was still a good deal for alchemists. 

I wrote previously about my ink revenues.  SOE made more advanced chemicals, such as ink, require double fuel for those of the apothecartic bent, thus preserving the market for alchemists.  So ink I made.

And I worked hard to protect that cash flow.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, never start a price war with somebody who makes ink by the barrel.  I would choose a tier without much competition, flood the market at a low price, buy out any small competitor who undercut me, and generally made my money in quantity.  Sages and jewelers loved me.

But since LU24, there is no ink.  There are only final, finished product that spring straight from raws.  In the name of simplification, I applaud this.  As an alchemist looking for steady revenue though, it is a bust.

As an alchemist, all you have left are skills, poisons, and potions.

Poisons and potions are expendable items.  That is an upside.  Things that get used up are a good revenue model.  A lot of provisioners have made money because people have to eat and drink.  But the competition to sell poisons and potions is pretty fierce.  Margins are tiny. 

And potions barely sell at all.  In fact, I would wager that most people do not even know that potions exist.  And those that do know ignore them mostly because the naming scheme is bad.  If EQ2 had WoW-like healing potions, there would be a market.  Instead we have things like Exceptional Arcane Reprieve.  Can you tell me what that does just by the name?

And then there are skill upgrades. 

Alchemists make skills upgrades for the warrior classes; berserkers, guardians, paladins, and shadowknights.  Skill upgrades come in different flavors.  In ascending order of desirability and effectiveness there is:

  • Apprentice I – the base level for any skill you get when you level
  • Apprentice II – an upgrade you can buy from a vendor or an alchemist who really screwed up
  • Apprentice III – an upgrade you can buy from an alchemist who only screwed up a little
  • Apprentice IV – an upgrade you can buy from a competent alchemist
  • Adept I – an upgrade that drops in chests
  • Adept III – an upgrade an alchemist can make you with a rare raw, screw up mostly unpossible
  • Master I – an upgrade that drops in chests from some named mobs
  • Master II – Something you get to choose every tier for one of your skills

An alchemist levels up by making every damn App IV skill at least once.  That gets all the first pristine bonus experience possible.  And then the alchemist, if he is smart, sells all those skills back to the vendor.

Why?

Because there is no market for App IV skills.  People who know they need skill upgrades will seek out Adept I skills on the broker.  When I left EQ2 at the beginning of 2006, Adept I skills were selling for less than the cost to make App IV skills. 

Since I have come back, Adept I skills have been in the 5-20g range. 

As I needed to make some poison for Blintz, I decided to crank out some warrior skills as well to see if I could get a level for Nomu, my alchemist.  Since LU24 reset all the recipes, he can get that first pristine bonus all over again.

He made level (61 alchemist now) and I shifted his output to Vikund who does all my selling.  He checked the market and found that prices for tier 5 App IV skills ranged from nearly cost to wildly optimistic.  I gritted my teeth, matched the lowest price using my 3 year reward salesmans case, which gave me a price advantage because it cuts the broker fee in half, and put them up for sale.  36 level 47 to 49 skill upgrades at about 1 gold each.

And I have not sold a single one in a week.

I sell every Adept I drop I can get for 5-10g, but not a single App IV.

Such is the alchemist’s lot.  I could make some money if I hung around with the LFW flag up.  People with lots of cash always want Adept III skills.  But I hate to waste my play time waiting for work.  I usually do my trade skill work when I am on conference calls for the office.  It is easy to grind that way, but hard to negotiate and do custom work.

Still, I have most of that ink money hidden away for a rainy day.

44/44/44

On Sunday Blintz was a level 44 armorer, a level 44 swashbuckler, and had 44 Alternate Advancement points.  In a flurry of Nightblood slaying in Rivervale with Gaff later in the day he progressed to 45, but for a little while there was a symmetry of levels.

And how did I get 44 AA points?

Out of 310 quests done, 198 of them counted towards AA, which probably makes up the bulk of Blintz’s total AA experience.  At first I was a bit mystified that only 64% of the quests counted.  But if you exclude all of the quests done before level 10, when you first become eligible for AA experience, quest that I completed even after they were grey (no AA for those), and certain quests that are not eligible for AA experience such as city tasks (31 writs completed), the number seems to work out about right.

Discovery has been another good source of AA exp.  Actually, they are called “Exploration Events” in the AA vernacular.  Often, when I get close to getting another AA point, I will run off to a new zone just to get a bit of discovery experience to push me over the edge.  Anyway, 195 of those events have contributed towards my AAs.

Collection quests have been good for another chunk.  I have not gone out of my way for collection quests on Blintz. I have some other characters for whom I bought levels by picking up collection items from the broker.  Since the adventure experience seems to have been tuned somewhat between KoS, when I took a break, and EoF, when I came back, I have not pursued collections as avidly.  All 36 collections that I have completed have counted for AA experience.

Then there are those lootable items that give AA.  I have hit those 22 time so far.

And finally, there is AA for killing named mobs.  I received AA experience for killing 17 named mobs.

So for me, at least, the vast majority of AA experience has come from quests.  Since I tend to gravitate towards quests anyway, this has been a boon for me.  I do wonder though, how people who were already level 60 when KoS came out managed to get their AA points.  Mine have shown up mostly as part of my play style while levelling up.  Are there enough quests and such for level 60-70 players to get the total of 100 AA points possible?

My Aching Head

There is this contested bridge in Butcher Block.  It is around the corner from Kaladim.

Sometimes the dwarves hold the bridge, sometimes the kobolds hold the bridge, and every once in a while, the bugbears gain possession.

I have never really figured out how or why the bridge changes hands, but it does.  Since everything in Butcher Block is grey now to Blintz, I have taken something of a commuter’s view of the bridge, which I pass over on my way to the docks.

“Oh, it looks like the dwarves are here today.”

“Boy, the kobolds seem to have been holding onto the bridge for days now.”

The other day the bugbears seem to have gained the upper hand after a Red Sox-like record of not quite making the grade. (I wonder who played the Curt Schilling role for the bug bears… and if that bug bear is now branching out into baseball, hiring away top talent from competitors… am I describing George Steinbrenner?)

So what?  I am just passing through on my way to some place else.

The bugbears however, no doubt trying to beef up their defense and hold onto the bridge, positioned archers in the broken towers at either end of the bridge.

The job of these archers appears to be to fire comically over size arrows at any player character passing by, regardless of level.  I am sure they are trying to bring attention to the plight of the bugbears in the effort to regain their traditional homeland or undue some other historical wrong they feel they have suffered.  At least they aren’t blocking traffic or trying to wash my windshield.

Still, I am not sure that screen shots like this are getting their message across as intended.

Go Steve Martin!

What is this, Dealey Plaza? 

There is no denying that that is one comically over sized arrow!

Telstar Arcade in April CPU

I received the April edition of Computer Power User Magazine last week. (I subscribe because I aspire to be a power user, not because I think I am one.)

I started leafing through it and got to page 9, where I saw a picture of the “forgotten” consol from my Christmas 1977 holiday posting, the Coleco Telstar Arcade.

The picture was part of a short write up on a site called The Ultimate Console Database.  I find it an amusing coincidence that this particular console should surface again after I wrote that story.

Here is the UCD entry on the Telstar Arcade.

The Official SOE Podcast #14

Alan “Brenlo” Crosby and Aimee “Ashlanne” Rekoske host this show with Jason “Pex” Ryan reading the news.

  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • EverQuest’s 8th Anniversary
  • Interview with EverQuest Community Relations Managers Past and Present
  • EQII Brewday
  • Visit with the Werner Server Hamster
  • The Matrix Online’s Second Anniversary
  • Interview with Fippy Darkpaw
  • Interview with Bill Trost, co-creator of EverQuest
  • Alan at GDC
  • EQII’s new zone Unrest
  • TV and Movies
  • What are you playing?
  • What did you play in EverQuest?
  • Out takes

The show is available on iTunes as well as from the official SOE podcast site.

The show was recorded on March 12th and runs in just under one hour and nineteen minutes. The show notes feature cast pictures and links.

8 Years Ago Today…

One of the nice things about moving… and at this moment I feel that there are relatively few nice things about moving… is that you get to discover hidden treasures as you box up your life.

Just a few weeks ago I ran across a receipt dated March 16, 1999.  A Fry’s receipt, naturally enough.  8 years ago today I left work early (a little before 4pm), hit Fry’s on my way home, picked up a copy of a game that had just been released, brought it home, and loaded it up.

The game was, of course, EverQuest. 

The first night was rough.  Servers were up and down.  Logging on and staying connected was a challenge even when the servers were up.  And zoning… that was an invitation to disconnection.

And yet in the small amount of time I got to play that night, I was hooked. 

The game was hard.  There was no tutorial, you were just handed a weapon and pointed towards the world.  The few quests there were had to be remembered or written down, because there was no in-game way to track them.  And the UI left quite a bit to be desired.  And still I was hooked.

Not because of anything surprising.  Nothing shocked me about the game.

I was hooked because, despite the hurdles in the way of playing, it just seemed so right.  It was some sort of magical mixing of just the right elements.  There was no question in my mind that I would put up with the flaws in the game to keep playing it.  I could see what the game… what the genre… could be, and I wanted to be a part of it.

And a lot of people felt the same way.  A lot of people I know played it.  Some still do.

EverQuest was, and still is, a success.

Now that receipt, along with the original EverQuest manual, CD, and cloth map, are packed away in a box in the garage.

These days I poke my nose into EverQuest on occasion, but I do not play.  The game seems rough and primitive compared to more recent titles.  And yet I still remember it fondly.  It was one of those games that comes along every so often that changes how I look at gaming.

Congratulations EverQuest on 8 years of success!  May your lore never fade!

Now I’ll knock back a few Halas Heaters, go watch “Sayonara Norrath,” and get all misty eyed again.  I’ll probably end up in front of Qeynos telling Fippy, “I love you man!”

Cameras With Ears

So I had this indignant article all written up.  It was a lunch time effort that flowed almost effortlessly from my fingers through the keyboard and onto my screen.  It contained a scathing attack on World of Warcraft and featured it in an unfavorable light compared to my pet favorite MMO, EverQuest II.  It also contained a barb about Lord of the Rings Online and was sure to be a hit.

However, since being indignant is one of the five warning signs that I am completely wrong about something (which I often fail to note, being caught up in said indignance) I decided that perhaps a bit of fact checking was in order. 

And while I wasn’t completely wrong, I would say that perhaps I was a bit over the top.

The subject in question was sound perception in game and my peeve was the fact that in WoW, sound appears to be relative to the camera rather than your avatar.  In EQ2, of course, sound is always relative to your character, which seems to me to be the correct way to handle sound.

I had many an argument for having sound relative to your avatar and even dipped into first person shoots as a comparison point.

However, a look through WoW’s sound configuration shows that there is an option you can check to have sound always relative to your character rather than the camera. 

This rather let the air out of the main part of my post. 

I can still bag on LOTRO, since it also plays sound relative to the camera and does NOT appear to have an option to change that.  But LOTRO is in beta still, so they could fix that.  Besides which, I can barely play LOTRO now that my x1950 is on the fritz and it is hard to sustain that sense of outrage against a game you are not playing.

So I am left with the questions “Why would you ever want sound to be relative to your camera as opposed to your avatar?” and “Why is the ‘camera with ears’ option the default for WoW?”

Can anybody answer either of those convincingly?  What sounds are best heard 20 feet behind and 10 feet above your character?

x1950 – Back To The Shop

It looks like the problems with my Sapphire x1950 Pro are hardware related. 

After rolling back the Catalyst version I was able to avoid the infinite loop issue, but the card itself is still displaying garbage all over the screen.

I went through AMD’s list of things to try, including sticking the card in another system, and it just seems to be the card itself. 

I summarized this all in my ticket for Sapphire’s tech support.  I guess it was convincing because they asked me to send the part number, serial number, and my receipt to an email address they provided, and they would issue an RMA number.

Part number and serial number are easy.  I had those to hand already.  But a receipt?  I bought the card from ZipZoomFly.com, so I have an electronic receipt, so I am covered.  Or I hope I am.  I just wonder what I would do if I bought the card retail.