these new boost 90s are ruining the game
-Search term of the day
Last week we got insta-level boosts in both EverQuest and World of Warcraft.
In WoW they are a $60 option, though you get one “free” with the purchase or pre-order of the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
In EQ they are a $35 option… or maybe less, depending on how you acquired your 3,500 Station Cash… and you can get one that is actually free for a limited time. The offer for that ends on March 26.
So I had to go try these out.
I went for the WoW option, boosting up a Death Knight, which I covered in another post. There were quirks. Some of them have been addressed. You no longer get dumped at Timeless Isle when starting out, which is probably good. But there are still points where you wonder how a new player is going to handle an insta-90.
I had to go look up how to play my Death Knight now that he had all of his skills and access to all of his talents and would be expected to have glyphs in group content. I went to Icy Veins this time around, which has a nice set of class guides. A new player might do that as well.
However, I did have a serious advantage over a new player in that I knew what I wanted this character to do at level 90. He is already out and exalted with the Tillers so I have another farm for trillium when I need it. I have him on a couple of other faction hunts and running through some content that benefits me overall. I never hit the “so what do I do now?” question. Of course, he got through some of the things I wanted so fast that I’ve gone back to another low level alt that I am leveling up. But that is more a matter of being boosted to level cap where there is only end But he is also my third 90, so things like LFR are no longer fresh and new.)
I did wonder how it would feel if I didn’t really have a goal, what the game would be like if I got that insta-level character and was facing a world in which I had no real plan. I couldn’t do that in WoW.
But EverQuest looked like it might be a different story. While I have played plenty of EQ over the years, I have never had a character past level 60, so most of the last decade of new content is completely unknown to me. So I was curious to see how the EQ insta-level plan, which gives you a fully equipped level 85 character, would guide me. Time to take advantage of that free boost.
More after the cut because verbosity.
Insta-85 in Norrath.
I logged in and decided I would create a fresh character for this rather than boosting one of my old characters. I chose a paladin, whom I named Valmont. I am surprised that name was available, but this was on the Vox server, the one they launched when the game went F2P, so it probably has the most free names.
As for boosting my character, I am not sure if I did things in the right order. I created the character, ended up in the tutorial, boosted him up, ended up as a level 85 in the tutorial, then left the tutorial and headed to the Plane of Knowledge.
So I was already screwed up when it came to following the path of a new player because I knew how to get to the PoK. I would have followed the game’s advice, but it did not actually tell me what to do. Still, the boost seemed to go okay. At one point I was asked to make a gear choice of some sort.
I couldn’t tell you which one I should have chosen, but I chose one and moved on. I got some gear, which the game equipped me with automatically… except for the weapon slot. For some reason EQ left the default level 1 newbie weapon equipped, so I had to swap the new one in manually.
The game also asked if I wanted some pre-set hot bars, to which I answered in the affirmative.
I thought that was an excellent idea. The hot bars included skills and positions for some spells. No spells were selected by default, and that became my next issue. The EverQuest spell system made a lot of sense when you capped at level 50 and had maybe a couple dozen spells. My freshly minted level 85 Paladin however had 211 spells in his spell book, sorted out in the usual way for adding to the active spells.
I picked a couple, stared at the list for a while longer, then said, “Screw it!” and moved on, assuming that I would figure out what sort of spell support I really needed once I got to a point where I was killing things. I had a mercenary there set to heal me, time to get stuck in.
Overall, I seemed to be pretty well prepared for that. I had a full set of equipment, including an awesome Lexan riot shield, a mount that wasn’t that awkward looking raptor (okay, it was a unicorn… I’m a pally, what did you think I would get?) and I was there in the Plane of Knowledge, the gateway to all of Norrath. Time to set forth and adventure.
Only I was wondering where I might go. There are, according to yesterday’s anniversary infographic, more than 1,557 zones in the game at this point. (Don’t they know how many zones? Why say “over 1,557?” rather than an exact number?) The choices seemed daunting and I had no real clue as to what was appropriate.
Somewhere in the back of my brain, a little reminder arose to tell me that the game always sends you an email at every level to tell you what zone is ripe for your adventuring pleasure. Advantage veteran again I guess. The mail icon is pretty subtle. But I was right, the game had a zone picked out for me.
I was to go to the Old Bloodfields zone! Excellent! I now had a destination! And it was even a Hot Zone, though again, not sure a new player would know what that meant. Now I just had to figure out where in the 1557+ Old Bloodfields was located was a bit of a mystery.
This turned out to be my undoing.
Standing there in the Plane of Knowledge, there wasn’t much in the way of clues. The map of the area is fairly… busy. I went to Google to help out and found out that Old Bloodfields was part of The Void and that I should get there via Druzzil Ro. However, it wasn’t quite clear if that was an NPC or a location or what. It did, however, indicated that whatever it was was somewhere around the Priest of Discord. Him I could get to, thanks to the find feature and the guided paths.
However, while I found the Priest of Discord… or where he should have been… he flashes when I arrived at him then disappeared… there were no likely prospects in and about that location. But, given the problem with the Priest of Discord, it might have been obscured in some way. Back to Google.
Another search result suggested that I use the in-game atlas to figure out how to get there. I wasn’t really aware that the atlas was of much value.
However, it turned out to have some uses. There was The Void in the midst things, and clicking on it game me a more detailed map of the area.
From there, it looked like maybe I just had to get to the City of Dranik or some other location in The Void. But the zone connection list for Plane of Knowledge wasn’t helping me here.
Fortunately, I discovered yet another useful tool I had no idea existed in EverQuest. The game has a built-in travel planner. It knows what zone you are in, so you just tell it what zone you want to get to and, hey presto, a route is listed along with a glowy path to guide you on your way.
At least that is the theory.
And the route seemed easy enough. Plane of Knowledge to Plane of Time via a “translocator.” Plane of Time to The Void via a portal. And The Void to Old Bloodfields via another portal. A hell of a lot easier than getting from Deklein to Curse.
The only problem was that the path wouldn’t show up to get to the Plane of Time. Instead, the game threw an error:
The zone path was unable to determine the exact location of the zone connection to Plane of Time. If the zone connection is made through an NPC, you may be able to find it by searching the NPC’s in the Find Window.
No amount of tinkering about seemed to be able to get past that and my usual resource for this sort of thing, the now horribly out of date Allakhazam, wasn’t exactly helping out. After a bit I got distracted wondering if this was the only path the game would send you on or if you might see something else with a different character. So I hauled out my other EverQuest account and logged in to create another insta-85. That should have been a viable option given that SOE had written:
For accounts created before Nov 8, 2013, the free Heroic Character option is available one time per account.
For accounts created on or after Nov 8, 2013, the free Heroic Character option is available one time per household.
My second account had been created even before the Fippy Darkpaw Time-Locked Progression server was launched, so I figured I was covered. After all, that went live back in February 2011. However, when I got to character creation, I was informed than I had no heroic characters left.
So SOE fumbles again. No second heroic character for me. I logged Lentil in just to put Valmont in the guild just because.
After which I poked around some more and then went on to other entertainments, as it did not appear I was going to get anywhere productive as a level 85. Valmont never once drew his shiny new sword in anger.
All of which brings up a question I have been wondering about for a while now, which is who is the real target audience for level boosted characters?
In theory it is for new or inactive players so that they can come back and launch into more recent content. There have been a lot of words written about how you do not need to level up a character in order to know how to play it, though my experience so far does not bear that out. I couldn’t even follow the indicated path in EQ. I still don’t know how to actually get to the Old Bloodfields which, considering that is where SOE told me to go, adds up to at least a flaw in the system.
Sure, EverQuest is an archaic old game and opaque in many ways… look at all those spells, not to mention all the hidden features… but even in World of Warcraft I felt I had to go out of game to look up how to play a character at 90 that I had been playing at 68. It reminds me of the Dennis Moore line:
This redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.
This insta-levels thing is fraught with minor peril.
So my gut says that the primary audience is the current player base and that it is just a quick source of alts. If you already know what you are doing in EQ, you wouldn’t have even noticed the issues I ran into.
But that seems at odds with some of what I have seen in WoW since the WoD pre-orders went live. The search term at the top of this post is indicative of some feelings out there. I did a couple of LFRs over the weekend and the main topic in chat seemed to be an inquest to figure out who had a freshly boosted level 90 and was thus the obvious reason the raid was wiping… or at least wasn’t progressing fast enough. The assumption seems to be that insta-90s are primarily new players who have been given a shiny toy they don’t know how to use.
(My daughter insta-90’d a priest, a class she doesn’t have currently, went immediately into LFR and, after her first run, actually succeeded as a healer. I am not sure if that says more about her, the optimism of youth, or the ease of healing in LFR.)
But what are insta-90s supposed to do in a game where the 91-100 content is slated to show up by December 20th of this year?
Who do you think the real target audience is for these boosted characters? Is it for new players to get into the “good” content, lapsed players to catch up, or just an alt factory for the current player base?