Ever eager to ride whatever EverQuest nostalgia wave rolls in, both Potshot and I have been rolling up characters on the new Vox server now that EverQuest has gone free to play. This was egged on by the epic opening post for the EverQuest goes Free to Play thread on the Something Awful forums, which may be one of the best summations and guides to the game I have ever seen. (And it is, for the moment, up to date, unlike a lot of what you find when you use Google.)
However, one of the problems with the whole thing is that the EverQuest tutorial doesn’t seem to be quite up to the task due to what seems to be problems of SOEs own making.
A tutorial instance can hold up to 100 characters. This I know because SOE broadcasts that number quite regularly as the tutorial instances exceed this limit quite regularly.
How do they manage that?
Well, you will note that I said 100 “characters” and not “users,” or “accounts.”
It seems that mercenaries count towards the total in the instance, and they are characters of a sort. SOE put them in the total of players for the zone.
One aspect new to the tutorial since I last ran it is an NPC who tells you about mercenaries and lets you acquire one right there to use in the tutorial. The thing is, people enter the tutorial individually, and then within a few minutes have a mercenary added to the total. And then the zone-wide announcement starts that there are 104 players in the instance and the server will be suspending some mercenaries to reduce that count. Which is all very amusing until it is your mercenary that gets the chop.
Which makes me wonder why SOE routes so many people into a given instance of the tutorial in the first place. 100 players, even if it is 50 people with 50 mercenaries, is too much for the zone. The place is packed, often out numbering quest mobs by a significant ratio. Any “kill that one guy” quest can turn into a competing camp fest, all the more so if it is like the Kobold Locksmith who drops on key per spawn, so if you are in a group, you need to kill him once for each person. All while other people are milling around trying to grab him as well.
Of course, there are alternatives to the tutorial. Crescent Reach, jewel of The Serpent’s Spine expansion and the city to which all new free accounts are initially sent, has quests starting at level 1.
It is pretty easy to get there even, you just exit through the cave at the back of the slave revolt where all the training NPCs are and you get plopped down right in Crescent Reach.
Unfortunately, I had done the Crescent Reach quest chain through into the 20s before, and I just wasn’t up to it again. It very much follows the “kill 10 rats” thing over and over again. That is not EverQuest to me. Furthermore, the communication for quests is always a bit annoying. Not as trial and error as the MUD days, but it can get on your nerves if you are doing a lot of quests.
And I do not recall any big rewards from the quests in Crescent Reach. The tutorial quests, if you completed them, now send you out well equipped to face the world. I wasn’t sure I would get the same thing in the city of the Drakkin.
So I decided to scout ahead, to get to Qeynos and see how things looked there, which meant getting to the book that takes you to the Plane of Knowledge from where I could teleport to Qeynos. Qeynos would be familiar and I though maybe I could run the noob armor quests there. They are more like the quest EQ should have, a long list of things to procure with no need to run back and get a new quest over and over.
Back when The Serpent’s Spine expansion was young, the PoK book was way the heck out in the next zone over. I was only level 5 at this point and did not want to risk dying on the run across the big zone to get to the book, so I broke down and bought a horse from the Station Cash store. I have a pile of Station Cash from a triple cash sale they had last year, so in real dollars the horse wasn’t that expensive… at least it did not seem so until I realized I had a free horse I could /claim on my account. Ah well, I will save that for another character.
So I got out on the horse, with its sill animation, and rode across the zone to where I expected to find the PoK book… where it was marked on my map… where I had visited it before. And it wasn’t there.
A few questions on the OOC channel helped me locate it. SOE decided to fix their own “run across the wetlands” low level trial and moved the book to just outside of the canyon that leads to Crescent Reach.
Potshot, on as the bard Garfinkel, joined me and jumped to the Plane of Knowledge, where we bound ourselves, and then jumped to Qeynos.
The big Q was still there and a few players were visible, having also decided to skip the tutorial for more nostalgic pastures.
The problem was that the quest armor NPCs were gone. The armor quests that we had such a good time running down a year back on the Fippy Darkpaw server were not there on Vox.
While we were they, we killed a few things. I even got a pair of crude defiant boots as a drop, which appear to be, compared stat for stat… and in color as well, pretty much the same as the equipment you get in the tutorial. However, the drops are random so you are not really in control of your destiny.
After playing in front of Qeynos for a bit, we pretty much decided to grit our teeth and get the tutorial finished so as to be equipped to face the world.
Of course, that was back to the old set of problems. In addition to lots of people hunting the same thing, just getting into the same instance of the tutorial together as well as into one with enough space that we could have our mercenaries presented a challenged of its own. I saw somebody say on OCC that there was a way to switch versions of the tutorial from the Plane of Knowledge, but that tidbit came so late in our adventures that I never ran it down.
But we did manage to pick our way through and finish out all the key quests that had equipment as rewards, ending on the battle with Overlord Gnikan for the Freedom’s Stand group quest. For this one a stranger actually joined our group. I had tried to find groups in the past, but with mercenaries, everybody seemed to want to try to solo every thing.
Freedom’s Stand was an important quest for me, as the reward was a new weapon. Weapons are the one thing I will go out of my way to obtain. My memories of EQ are always colored by the constant search for a weapon upgrade.
Oddly, the Station Cash store will sell you armor set kits that will fit you out appropriate for your level, but there are not any weapons in the store. The one piece of equipment I would consider buying. Anyway, the quest reward weapon was a serious upgrade from the initial weapon you are given.
Not a huge damage machine, but fast and with lots of stats, most of which increase as you level up.
And so it was last night that Potshot and I finally finished the EQ tutorial zone.
Thanks to crowding in the tutorial zone, it took quite a while to get through it.
Alone, we could have bowled through the quest chain in a couple of hours. But where is the fun in that?
And being done, we bid farewell to the Mines of Gloomingdeep. I only died there once this time.
We headed to Crescent Reach, where we stayed only long enough to get to the Plane of Knowledge Book and teleport out. On the PoK, we found the armor quest guy who sent us off to more familiar places.
Now to figure out our post-tutorial plan. Do we do some old-school camping in the Karanas? How do we get started with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath? What gear quests should we be looking for? And am I going to be able to afford this mercenary once they start charging me for it?