A Meeting of the Instance Group Steering Committee

Which basically means that Saturday night rolled around and we actually had the whole instance group online.  This was the first time this month that everybody had been able to make it.

The time away from the group had given some of us, most notably Potshot and myself, time to reflect on how things were going for us in World of Warcraft.

Certainly, some things were moving forward.  Our guild finally hit level 2 at last!

10% Exp Boost! Just what you need in WoW!

But other aspects of our time in WoW seemed to be… less satisfying.

The instance runs have become slam dunks.  We feel over powered going into an instance at the earliest possible level.  And while the Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep got serious updates with Cataclysm, a lot of the instances are just about the same as they were back when we started running them as a group.

Then there is the Dungeon Finder.  I love it as a tool to assemble a group to do an instance.  I could see it being declared the most successful looking for group tool ever.  But with Cataclysm Blizzard removed any need to deal with the outside, shared world if you want to run instances.  The quests are all inside, lined up, and waiting for you.  So rather than spending an evening getting ready to do an instance and maybe knocking it off, we have regularly run two or three instances during our time on Saturday night.

All of which has left a couple of us dissatisfied with the experience.

So we started the discussion on Saturday night about what to do.

One proposal was to turn the group around and avoid instances.  Instead we would just do the outdoor, overland content.  The problem there is that, for everything outside of the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, group overland content seems to have been completely erased.

So not only would we face the grouping penalty (how different from EverQuest where there is a grouping bonus) but there seemed little chance that we would run into anything challenging.  Azeroth seems to be a very nice shared single-player experience these days, with no barriers to the solo player but little incentive to group.

And thus other games began to be discussed.  While factions in the group are interested in some titles we hope to see later this year (i.e. Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2), we needed something to bridge the gap.

Lord of the Rings Online was a potential, and is a favorite of mine, but only four of us played it over the summer, and we had already made it into the 30s.  To effectively add in the fifth player would mean starting fresh again.  As much as I like Middle-earth, even I am not sure I want to run through the Lone Lands yet again.

Rift was mentioned as a possibility, but it found no champions in our group and so withered in the discussion.  To get us to buy the box, somebody has to be enthusiastic for a game, and none of us were.

Of course Potshot and I are already playing another game, EverQuest, but neither of us thought that would be quite the thing for the group.  The progression servers would be too slow for a group with a play budget of 3 hours a week.  The standard servers have potential, but EverQuest is quirky and, no matter how much you love it, it does feel its age.  Getting the group to go for that seemed unlikely.

Eventually, EverQuest II Extended became to focus.  It held the advantage of being free to play without even the requirement to invest in a box.  It also met the major requirement of having group content available both overland and in dungeons.  The heritage quests alone make for a reasonable series of group projects.  Add in housing and crafting, which Ula brought up, and it seemed to be the most likely candidate for the moment.

And with the streaming client, we could start right away… as long as we all started in New Halas.  That seems to be what the streaming client downloads first.

All we had to do was create Station Accounts and grab the client.  Three of us were already there, so only Mike and Earl had to get on board.

Of course, Sony is notorious, in my mind, for being a bit balky in delivering.  It turned out that just signing up for the Station Account was a road block.  Mike got through the sign up page on the third try, it having rejected him for no recorded reason on the first two attempts.  But the EQ2X sign up seemed determined to thwart Earl.  Switching browsers and running updates did not get him any further.

First you must pass the trial of account creation!

Eventually I suggested he try another path towards making a Station Account.  There are probably two dozen different ways to make one, but I sent him to the plain Jane creation form off of the SOE main page.  That was simple enough and worked on the first go.  But this is the sort of thing that makes me wonder how many potential customers had the same issue and just walked away.

Then came the great class discussion:  Who would play what?  Potshot and I, with an eye to keeping our options open, both went for Gold accounts.  For me, already playing EverQuest on the account, it was easy enough to go for Station Access.

But everybody else was sticking at the Bronze subscription level for the time being, which meant a limited selection of classes.  Eventually came up with a plan.

Then there was name and race selection and getting everybody to choose New Halas as their starting town.

Potshot and I were the first through the process and we sat by the new player spawn point waiting for the others.

You could spend an hour or two standing there where new players first show up and end up with a humorous blog post on a regular basis.

For example, we saw a new player named Qwertyuiop spawn.

Easy to spell, if nothing else

He came into the world hostile, insulting us immediately.  This attitude was not improved when I gave an opinion about his name.

Welcome to New Halas!

That earned me “STFU ugly!” and “Go die!”  He sat down and camped out.  With that name he had to be just a placeholder for something.

Then there was Helloimbob, who responded appropriately when greeted.  He said, “I’m Bob!”  We said, “Hi Bob!” and then everybody took a drink.

It is Bob!

I laughed out loud when Trucknut appeared.

Welcome Trucknut!

Then we found out it was Mike, Bungholio and Nancyboy from previous versions of the instance group.  He was going for humor, so the laugh worked, though in hindsight he said that he really should have added a “Z” to the end of his name.

And so our group was formed.

The Group Reformed

The new group is made up of:

  • Earlthedaogwo – Barbarian Berserker (Earl)
  • Cerredwyn – Half-elf Swashbuckler (Ula/Xula)
  • Trucknut – Erudite Wizard (Bung)
  • Fergorin – Barbarian Templar (Potshot)
  • Campell – Half-elf Troubadour (Me)

Hopefully that will work as a balanced group.

Groups in EQII are made up of six people, rather than the five in WoW, and Meclin/Gaff has rolled up a character and may come play with us.

We spent the balance of the evening, which was not a whole lot of time, running the initial set of quests on the starter island and learning how things work in EQII versus WoW.

Some day, all of this will be yours

Those new to the game got to see a few new things, like the whole “climbing up walls” mechanic in the game.  And they got to see a few odd things, like odd way some quests share group credit when one of the group hits a milestone, and some quests do not.  For example, we all got credit when one of us defeated the sparring partner in the combat tutorial.  Why would you set the flag for shared credit for that quest?  Meanwhile, a few quests later, we had a “kill 8” quests that shared no credit.  Odd.

We finished out the quests on the first island and decided to head into town.  Everybody got to get their starter home.  The New Halas versions of the starter home are very impressive compared to the four bare walls of my first home in Greystone Yard back in 2004.

Anyway, EverQuest II, at least the extended version, is getting its chance with the instance group.  Will it offer enough to keep us interested?

Certainly it is alive, at least around the Frost Fang Sea and New Halas, where 5 or 6 versions of the zone were running at a time.  And there is a lot of new content out there to explore.

On the other hand, nobody had compliments for the graphics or the character models.  The latter still are in a bad spot in the uncanny valley while the former aren’t bad, but you have to tinker with your settings (and does any game have more settings options than EQ2?) to make things look good.

And how will a group mix of three Bronze and two Gold accounts work out, with the Bronze not having broker access, rested experience, alternate advancement, and the sundry of other things that SOE leaves out to push you to going Gold?

Next time we should be able to push through most of the remaining starter zone, which ends with a mount as a quest reward, and perhaps even form a guild.  Then we will have to start figuring out where to go as a group.

15 thoughts on “A Meeting of the Instance Group Steering Committee

  1. stargrace

    I would really suggest those people who have bronze at least upgrade to silver. It’s a one time cost of $10 station cash, and your account will remain that way. It at least gives you access to the broker, public channels, and I forget what else but it’s a nice deal at least for a one time charge. Freeport server is one of the most (if not the most) popular server in EQ2, right up there with Antonia Bayle. Good luck and have fun! I look forward to reading your groups adventures there, and thanks for inspiring me to play a bit more over there ;)

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Stargrace – Certainly, Silver offers more than enough benefits to justify the $10. However, I think we have to get everybody invested a bit in the game before they start spending any money. If we really get into it, I bet that most of us will end up with Gold accounts. But first we have to get into it.

    And yes, the Freeport server is not only very active, but active throughout the range of levels. While I’ve not played on AB, my experiences on Crushbone and Guk seem to indicate that the population on the EQ2 Live servers skews to the higher levels. (Something that won’t get much better with EQ2X taking in all the new players.)

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I also have to find the setting for screen shot quality in amongst the mess of settings. (Seriously, as I said in the post, what game has as many settings options as EQ2?) The quality of those screen shots with the default settings is… disappointing.

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  4. SynCaine

    Too bad you guys passed on Rift, some pretty solid 5 man content is available, and I’d be curious to see how your five does compared to my five in the pre-50 instances.

    Hopefully EQ2 fails and you all reconsider :)

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  5. Bhagpuss

    As far as I can figure, all your play Instance Group sessions take place while we’re asleep, so sadly I don’t think Mrs Bhagpuss and I are likely to bump into you all, which is a great shame. Also we’re pretty much full-time in Rift for the foreseeable future. We have several max level crafters, so if there’s anything you need in the way of spells or gear made, feel free to send me an email. We still retain our Station Access accounts so we can pop in any time.

    EQ2 is a magnificent MMO nowadays, with an insane amount of widely-varied content. I hope you all settle in there for a while because I’d certainly enjoy reading your adventures in places I know so well. I actually thing Rift might be a better fit for your group, but I can see why people might not want to lay out for the full box cost when EQ2X is there for free.

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  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Given that, with daylight savings time, 5pm/17:00 here on the West Coast of the US is midnight UTC/GMT, you might be able to log on Sunday morning and wave at us towards the end of one of our Saturday night groups. We are usually on from 9pm/21:00 to midnight Pacific time. (Earl is the man of steel, since he is on the East coast, so game time starts at midnight for him.)

    There is a lot of content in EQ2, of that there can be no doubt. I am trying to work out where we might head to find good group experiences. There are dungeons, both open world and instanced, all the heritage quests, and open world quests that are group focused. The trick is knowing enough up front to point us in the right direction so that our 3 hour weekly play budget is spent in the most satisfying manner.

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  7. TheRemedy

    Your instance group seems to have a very small comfort zone when it comes to trying new experiences. There are like a bajillion mmos out there and some of them are nothing like World of Warcraft.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @TheRemedy – And? Did you think we were going to suddenly pick up EVE Online as a group? Or maybe A Tale in the Desert?

    Given the parameters I have mentioned on a few occasions over the course of the run of the instance group, the keys being five people with very different levels of commitment to learning and playing a new game who want to play together and who get together to play for a grand total of 3 hours on a Saturday night, the options are probably somewhere south of “a bajillion.” (Especially if we exclude badly ported Asian PvP grind-fest MMOs, and believe me, I am using my veto on those.)

    If you have suggestions, fire away. I’m all for more data. If you have something that would fit the above parameters, I’d actually be glad to hear it. I generally keep track of a pretty small corner of the market.

    But as it stands, I think your comment betrays a lack of understanding of the situation.

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  9. TheRemedy

    Guild Wars, DDO, Ultima Online, DCUO if you could get past the fact that it’s a superhero mmo. I just recalled a previous blog post when you were attempting to play Lotro with your instance group and the sentiment was something along the lines of, “This is too similar to WoW so why aren’t we playing WoW?” I don’t find it offensive that you all are playing EQ2. It’s a fine game and it probably more closely resembles classic WoW than WoW does now. I realize finding a quality game that 5 people like is going to be a crapshoot, but EQ2 and WoW are basically the same game in a different setting and that in the past got old quick for your group.

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @TheRemedy – Fair enough, and certainly the WoW-ness had some appeal because I would guess that at least two of the group would have been okay just continuing with WoW. (I’ll let somebody else defend EQ2’s besmirched honor! hah!) Potshot and I were the agitators for change, and the group did agree that WoW was getting a bit stale.

    Potshot and I also tend to be the scouts, those most interested in games in general. So, aside from UO, we have played the games you have mentioned and quite a few more besides. If one of us finds something we really want to play, we try it out and, if it seems good, we bring it to the group.

    But as I said, somebody has to be a champion for a given game. If somebody else had felt strongly about another game, I would have gone along. But I did not feel strongly enough about DDO, Rift, DCUO, GW, RoM, STO, or a few others I am probably forgetting, to stand up and say, “Let’s play this, it’ll be great!”

    Likewise, I knew LOTRO hadn’t won some of the group over, so even though I really like the game (and have a lifetime membership), it was better to leave it off the table.

    EverQuest II I was ready to stand up for. I played at launch and really enjoyed it as a group game before. And with the EQ2X free to play option, the investment was light enough that others would go along.

    We’ll see how it works out. Playing as a group and keeping the group together is important to all of us.

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  11. mutharex

    Curiously, I recently went back to EQ2, too. I was looking for something a bit more complex than WOW and from that point of view it delivers. Unfortunately, they streamlined it a bit so it doesn’t have anymore the complexity it used to have but it’s still miles ahead than WOW. Shame about the graphics and animations. To try getting out the best, select options, Performance, activate ‘Advanced’ and try teh max to see how it behaves, then start toning down lightning and water to see if you get better FPS. You can hit F11 to get an onscreen FPS/ping meter. Also try Shader 3.0, many people have problems with it but when it works it gives better results than 1.0. And before you leave the small initial island, try to grab some ‘body parts’ from the orcs, to start a quest to ‘know them better’. EQ2 is full of those kind of quests. And don’t forget to lock/unlock XP/AA evry now and them, to pile up AAs. Also, at 15 you can go to Qeynos and Antonica to pickup quests for Blackburrow, at 18 you can do Wailing Caves in Commonlands and 20 Stormhold in Antonica

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  12. Pingback: The Fun Quotient « pOtshOt

  13. Telwyn

    Interesting post, I’ll look forward to reading EQ2X stories. I like the game a lot, though the characters models are underwhelming shall we say .

    I do get the sense from my limited exposure (main is level 21) that there’s a lot of depth there. If it can offer more group open world content than WoW then enjoy! I wish I could wean my main MMO friends off of WoW as the lack of open world content for groups is a big fault IMHO.

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