The Crushbone Creep and Other Maladies

Dungeons in EverQuest II, at least most of the dungeons below level 60, are considerably different from their World of Warcraft counterparts.

While WoW favors instances, in EQ2 most lower level dungeons are more like indoor zones.  There are some instanced locations, like Nektropos Castle or Deathfist Citidel, but they are the exception, not the rule, at our end of the level curve.

And like regular zones, there are quests that take you all over the place, multiple groups of people in the zone, and the mobs tend to span a rather large range of levels.  For example, in Crushbone Keep, our latest location in EQ2, the mobs inside the front door were level 20, but up on the second floor we were running into mobs that were level 30.

Also, like zones, mobs respawn rather quickly (your trash mob might be somebody elses quest mob) and there can be contention for named mobs, which some groups might need for a quest but which others are camping just to get master chest drops.

So a dungeon like Crushbone Keep… or Stormhold or Runnyeye or any number of other examples… tend to be places you need to delve into multiple times over a range of levels.

Which might be an issue in getting the instance group invested in EQ2.

We certainly have spent our time doing zones, running down quest lines, and the like.  But in WoW that tends to lead you towards a zone.  Westfall and the Deadmines are the classic example, at least pre-Cataclysm.  The main story in Westfall drove you towards the Deadmines, and completing that instance was the culmination of the zone.

Not that there are not, or were not, exceptions.  Uldaman was a good example, an instance with a wide level gap between start and finish that had a series of quests that required you to make multiple visits.

But the much-belabored point is that, as a group, we have grown used to the pattern of zone, then instanced dungeon crawl, then boss fight, and finally sense of accomplishment and moving on to the next thing.

Which is probably why EQ2 isn’t sticking for some of us.  We’ve been to Stormhold and Fallen Gate and I get the sense that there wasn’t much point.  We did some quests, we saw some boss mobs, but did we finish things?  Did we accomplish something?

How like real life, no?

Even I, long schooled in MUDs where “let’s go kill some stuff” was often the only goal for weeks at a time, miss the structured goals and regular achievements of WoW.  EQ2 is the game for some groups I am sure… but I am not sure it is the right game for our group with its “once a week” focus and varying level of commitment to any given game.

And so I have delayed doing this post about our venture into Crushbone keep because… well… we went there, we did some quests, and we left.

Before Crushbone Keep

That is actually us leaving Crushbone Keep, but it is the best picture I ended up with of the entry to the keep, and it hardly does it justice.

Out in front of the Keep

That gives a little bit of the sense of scale, but not that much.  Still, you can see that it is much bigger than the version found in EverQuest.

EverQuest Crushbone Keep

That also shows our group.  Gaff got out his level 83 characters, Sixo the berserker and Chuggs the mystic and mentored down to Trucknut who, at level 19, was the lowest level member of the group.  I got out my troubadour and Potshot his Templar, and we headed towards the place.

Immediately inside we ran into one of the joys of open dungeons.  There was a pile of people just inside the door and they seemed to be intent on recreating the stimulating conversations that take place in Barrens chat right there on the foyer of the zone.

I had picked up some quests for the zone and there were some waiting for us just inside.

Initially we appeared to be following in the footsteps of another group, as the hallways appeared to have been cleared for us to move around.  Given all the running around that we needed to do, that probably wasn’t a bad thing.  The alternative was to fight our way through the trash mobs over and over as we moved to and fro.

Another room cleared before we arrived

We did eventually have to fight.

Killing orcs... always good

Eventually we worked our way upstairs and reached a point where even having a mentored down, raid geared, tank ceased to be the ticket to overpowering any resistance.  While Trucknut had gained a couple of levels by then, we were facing mobs that were level 30.  That was too much.

So we fought our way back through the repawns.

Haven't we killed you before?

We ended up at the altar inside the main door for our traditional group shot.

Take the picture already, this thing is on fire

Quests were completed.  Orcs were slain.  Levels were gained.  Items were looted.

But was there a sense of accomplishment?

That is the tough one.

It didn’t feel like we accomplished much, even to me.

And so it goes.

Our momentum in the game, which was shaky at best after the “punished for grouping” experience of the starting zone around New Halas, and which took a kick in the nuts with the SOE down time (that opened the door to LOTRO for a couple of us), and which has been handicapped by people having other priorities over the summer, was clearly slipping before this evening’s adventure.

But then Earl said he was probably out for the rest of the summer and that he was done with EQ2 as a game.  That would have been a blow had we been fully invested in the game.  But as a group we have grown lukewarm.  Even Gaff, who worked so hard getting to the guild to level 40, was feeling somewhat burnt out on the game after that sprint.

And so EQ2 seems to have faded for us again.  This is our second or third attempt at the game as a group and it just hasn’t stuck for us for a variety of reasons.

Now we have to decide where to head when we reconvene at the end of the summer.

I suspect that will mean World of Warcraft until one of the new titles, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2, or Diablo II shows up

In the mean time, it looks like a couple of us are going to pick up Lord of the Rings Online again and maybe, just maybe, see Moria.

6 thoughts on “The Crushbone Creep and Other Maladies

  1. lovisla

    Sad we had looked forward to having a few more to group with and honestly I think the problem is you guys were pushing hard to guild level which always causes burn out. We are in game anytime you want a group to join and we hope to see you back soon. I think part of the problem is picking a goal and having enough people to carry out that goal. Took us 3 weeks to finish the lost scout quest in nek forest and its painful to wait to have enough.

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  2. Potshot

    Been thinking about this quite a bit… And by “this” I mean the dichotomy between the sandbox and the theme park and ultimately whether a continuum can truly exist.

    As you said in the old days you didn’t need much more of a goal than let’s get together and kill stuff. We were given a limited number of tools which could be applied in any number of ways. Given rocks we could make fire, make other tools or smash some baddies skull in. Level differential wasn’t so critical, no one needed to be on the same stage of a quest, etc. Just take your limited tools out in the world and make your fate.

    Fast forward to the guided experience and it now feels like a quantum physics experiment with each character occupying a unique state in space and time. Quantum physics makes for a difficult time having a shared group experience.

    EQ gave us one world. WoW 1.0 gave us one world but would deliver us to small shared meaningful experiences in the form of what was then-climactic instances. Cataclysm turned that dial all the way to a virtual single player game with adjoining game lobby for largely meaningless repeatable content in the form of faceroll instances and bgs.

    EQ2 seems to have migrated far from the former but not quite to the latter. Vanilla WoW was almost the blend I’m talking about although still too guided and not enough world to explore and advance through (cue the STV problem). Can such a blend exist? Seeing most games end up at one pole or the other makes me think no one is willing to spend the resources to make both when one or the other is enough to make the sale.

    I’m beginning to think Bhagpuss is right and everyone should largely ignore what the devs put in front of you and find your own game in their world.

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  3. bhagpuss

    Well, that approach has been working for me and Mrs Bhagpuss for a good while. It does help a lot to have two or more of you doing your own thing in the same imaginary world, though. There’s a synergy that comes from the interweaving of the independent lives of virtual characters that makes the whole thing seem somehow more convincing.

    It’s a shame your instance group hasn’t really clicked with EQ2, if only because the reports of your adventures are one of my favorite reads and it’s even better when you’re adventuring in places I recognize. I’m not all that surprised, though. It was always tough keeping groups directed and focused in EQ2, even around launch, and with the vast amount of available content now, that’s even harder to do.

    Have you considered Dungeons and Dragons Online for the instance group? That’s pretty much made for what you’re trying to achieve, I’d have thought, especially from some of Tipa’s posts I’ve read over at West Karana.

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  4. pkudude99

    I too would suggest DDO as a possible “moving to” game since EQ2 isn’t working out for your group — everything’s an instance for one, and their F2P model allows you to get up to max level easily enough — my experience has been that I’ve never felt “gated” by the need to buy something.

    That said, the dungeons I’ve enjoyed the most are the ones I’ve purchased . . .

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Keeping a group together and focused is the trick, especially with a group that covers a range of interest and commitment.

    Potshot and I happily ground mobs in EQ this past spring, something that died off mostly due to time constraints. Heck, we have happily played EVE Online for months at a stretch. But to get the group as a whole involved… I probably worry too much, but I have problems dragging people into things where I cannot answer simple questions like, “Why is this fun?” or “So what is our goal?”

    We also faced a problem of too easy/too hard in EQ2. While mentoring is a great idea, Gaff’s characters in their raid gear make any manageable fights too easy. So in Crushbone, clearing trash on the second floor, level 27s were easy, level 28s slightly less easy, while level 29s and 30s represented horrific struggles where they shrugged off most of what we could throw at them. So while we could bring them down, with rest and recovery thrown in, it appeared we could kill them at about the rate they respawned.

    DDO has potential. One of the main issues is that the interface was a step below LOTRO in responsiveness and usability last time I played it, and when you have been playing WoW LOTRO can feel like you’re playing while wearing thick gloves. And so, for some in the group, the interface becomes an obstacle to enjoying the game.

    This sounds trivial, and I tend to not notice it myself when I focus on a single game, but last week I used the WoW 7 day trial to go collect the refunded items from our looted guild bank and just moving around Stormwind was a revelation. The interface worked so smoothly it made it feel like the EQ2 interface was actively resisting me. And since one member of our group plays WoW along with whatever else we play, this comparison tends to come up.

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  6. Ahnog

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I spent a lot of time in Crushbone when I played EQ1 many years ago. Have now moved on to WOW and EVE.

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