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