Category Archives: EverQuest II

In the Great Library of Myrist

Having hit level cap in the Plane of Magic, with a good two weeks or so before the launch of the next expansion, I was wondering how best to use my time.

First I geared up.  I went to the panda merchant from the Days of Summer event and got all of the upgrades I possibly could.  That included a token that upgraded my ascension level to 15, which gave me some more skills and necessitated a re-work of my hot bars.  I am resistant to just adding more of them.  As with EVE Online, I like to be able to look out the window and see the game rather than having it overrun with UI elements.

I was also able to use some of the drops from the anniversary dragon event to upgrade the equipment on my mercenary and mount.  All together this boosted my stats quite a bit.  It didn’t make me invincible.  I ran out to the dragon event at an off hour when only a few people were doing it and was in mortal peril a few times.  But any non-epic mob that even looked at me sideways was in for a beating.  My potency, what I am told is a prime stat, sits at 45K.  I am no epic raider, but I fear no solo content.

The dragon thing was wearing a bit thin though.

Getting thrown into the air in Nek Forest again…

The drop rate is pretty random and I was getting a lot of duplicates, plus you can spend a long time just waiting for the next dragon to spawn.

I looked into a couple of alts, bringing them out into the Plane of Magic, but the xp boost wasn’t what it was when I went out there with Sigwerd, my main.  I hit that at the right moment for the server boost, so he sailed through levels.  I don’t mind a bit of work, and persisted for a bit, but I felt like I ought to concentrate on my main if I was going to hop into Blood of Luclin with him when it launched.

I had something in my mail box.

A summons

This appeared to be the opener for the Chaos Descending expansion, the current content in the game.  I am sure my hitting level 110 triggered its arrival.  It came with an item that would bring me to the opening scenes.

The Tribunal was looking to pin a murder rap on me.  I am going to guess that I did not get far enough along in the Planes of Prophecy expansion content to get to the murder of the Goddess Lanys T’Vyl, but that appeared to be what I was up for.  However, Druzzil Ro, whom I did meet in the last expansion in the Coliseum of Valor, stepped up for me.

The tribunal speaks

They sentenced her for the murder and I was sent on my way.

Thus into the Chaos Descending expansion, I figured I ought to poke around a bit.  The hub for the expansion, as I recalled, was the Great Library of Myrist, which was also a travel spot on my map.  I figured I might find something interesting there.

Welcome to the library… shhhh!

The first NPC I ran into there was a linguist vendor.

Selling stuff, in the library?

She sold books that would teach you a wide variety of languages.  I bought every language I did not yet have, something that won’t surprise you after the last post I am sure.  My list is much longer now.

My current language list

While still well shy of the whole list, many of which require quests, at least I won’t be caught up on something easy.  And yes, I am pretty sure I’ve seen a similar vendor somewhere in Qeynos in the past, but given recent history and having stumbled upon her just now, I thought it was wise to just fill up when the opportunity arose.

I also picked up the first quest in the signature quest line for the expansion, which mostly involved me running around the library in search of this or that.  Completing it however, boosted my Alternate Advancement levels up several notches, to the 350 cap.

Double cap

Being at the level cap is a rare thing for me in EQII.  Being at both the level and AA cap… well, I am not sure where my experience will go now.

And I am not sure where best to use my time between now and Blood of Luclin.  There will be a large gear reset with is launch.  A lot of the other levels, like updating skills, can only be accomplished with time or money, not activity.  I might look into getting my trade skills up to the cap as well.  But for the first time in a long, long time I think I can go straight into a new EQII expansion.

November in Review

The Site

Another quiet month when it came to traffic.  There was a spike at the start, because writing about Blizzard and BlizzCon will get you some attention.  But then writing about EVE Online or Daybreak games… that is pure death for traffic.  But I write about what I am interested in and what I am playing.

It was apparently also “internet picture posting month” or “inpipomo” or some such.  People were posting screen shots and keep count and that sort of thing.  I thought about joining in, but every month is picture posting month around here.  I am well past 100 for the month I am sure, but I’ll post one more just for luck.

SIEGED!

I’ll leave you to figure out what that even means.

One Year Ago

It was the end of days for WildStar.

I commemorated TorilMUD for having survived for 25 years, and did a post about the Castle Drulak zone on Evermeet.

I was looking back at the decade old VirginWorlds podcast dedicated to the Star Wars: The Old Republic announcement.

BlizzCon was on its way and I was projecting what we might see.  What we actually got… well, Diablo Immortal didn’t play well with fans, but we heard a lot about WoW Classic.  I went over why I felt fan expectations for Blizz are hopeless, but nobody listens.

I had finally schlepped my way to level 120 in Battle for Azeroth and collected my WoW 14th anniversary gifts.

In EVE Online, there was the very pretty Crimson Harvest event.  I was also showing off the swag I got from EVE Vegas. There was also an op out to Geminate to tangle with Pandemic Horde.

But mostly there was the Onslaught expansion, which landed mid-month and reduced the once mighty POS to just so many bubbles in space, though they still haven’t pulled them from the game a year later.  There were also daily login rewards and the activity tracker.

Project Nova, shown at EVE Vegas, had been postponed.

Daybreak was announcing The Burning Lands expansion for EverQuest while the Chaos Descending expansion launched for EverQuest II on my anniversary with the game, though I bid the game farewell for a while.

But the month was really focused on Lord of the Rings Online and its Legendary Server.  I wondered what we might see on the eve of its launch.  The server itself was overwhelmed pretty quickly and there were problems with its login queue.  A second server was announced almost right away.

After fiddling around with ways to beat the queue I was able to get in and start a new character.  There were some quirks of the game to come to grips with, like the lack of tin.  But I made it to the Lone Lands before the month was out, working on the many deeds there.

Five Years Ago

Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Launched.

There was BlizzCon, about which I made the usual predictions.  I found the event itself vaguely dissatisfying.  But those who were bitching about lack of focus on WoW at BlizzCon 2015, go back and look at how little attention it got in 2014!  Otherwise we were in Azeroth collecting achievements and waiting for the expansion to hit.

Oh, yeah, the expansion hit… Warlords of Draenor and server queues and all that.   Blizz was trying to fix that while I had to figure out who to play.  Blizz eventually gave everybody 5 days free for the problems.  But hey, they had 10 million subscribers on the hook again, up from the 7.4 million low point during the summer.  Remember when subscriber numbers were a thing?

In EVE Online the Phoebe expansion arrived, bringing with it Jump Fatigue and the 10 year/50 skill long training queue.  Then they were on about removing other annoyances with the upcoming Rhea expansion.

In game the Reavers had finished up in Feythabolis with a bang and were off into Omist next, hunting the unwary before returning home again.

Rixx Javix was drawing spaceships.  He’s still at it.

And there was the This is EVE video that became wildly popular.

I reflected on EverQuest II at its 10 year anniversary.  Veterans of the game even got their own island.  Over on the EverQuest side of the house, The Darkened Sea, the 21st expansion for the game, went live.

And, finally, the power supply on my computer blew out, taking the motherboard and drives with it.  I had to rebuild, but was up and running again in a couple of days.

Ten Years Ago

I was writing about how I had not changed the blog format since I started.  I have since changed it, though mostly due to the fact that WordPress.com broke the old theme.

Our Thanksgiving entertainment was Rock Band 2.  While I was really bad at it, it was a lot of fun.  The next year we played Super Mario Bros. Wii, which I was also really bad at, but which isn’t nearly as much fun.  However, the kids liked it.  I rode along in a bubble most of the time.

And while Tech Crunch was exposing the odious practices favored by Mark Pinkus to get FarmVille and Mafia Wars profitable, the New York Times was gushing over this wonderful new virtual goods market, which I summarized and provided links to here.

I managed to get some playtime in with the original Torchlight, though there were some problems.  It turns out that if you bought the game from the wrong vendor, you could be a while waiting for patches.

The first LEGO Harry Potter game was announced, which I had anticipated would come to pass almost two years before it was announced.

Warhammer Online announced that levels 1-10 were going to be free, making me wonder if they were just going to breed a mass of level 1 twinks.  I think that is what the end result was.  Well, there were twinks, but I don’t think the amounted to much of a “mass” in any way.

In EVE OnlinePLEX was off to a booming start.  The price of a PLEX has risen some since then (~300 million then, well over a billion ISK now in new PLEX).  Meanwhile, the first Hulkageddon was on and even I noticed something was amiss.  Eventually somebody pointed me in the right direction in the comments.

I wondered if fishing was really the secret ingredient for MMO success.

I got all nostalgic for Star Trek because of Star Trek Online’s impending release.

World of Warcraft and EverQuest II both hit their five year anniversaries.  Then I had the temerity to say that there were things that EQII didn’t do very well in my opinion.  Odd how some of those things from a decade back have changed… or how I have changed… or both.

On the WoW end of things, somebody was suing because they felt the game wasn’t easy enough.

Then there were Mr. T Mohawk grenades and a 24 slot Portable Hole, outrages both along with the $10 vanity pets.  And I was complaining about not getting the Headless Horseman’s mount during Hallow’s End.  Again, sound familiar?

I wrote a very short post about Pilgrim’s Bounty which went on to become the most viewed post on the site November of five years ago.

And the instance group started in with Ragefire ChasmWailing Caverns and Deadmines on the RP-PVP server.  Actual PVP occurred since we had to walk to the Deadmines.  We get called griefers for daring to engage in PVP on a PVP server.

Fifteen Years Ago

As may have been mentioned, World of Warcraft launched fifteen years ago this month.

Also celebrating a fifteenth birthday this month was EverQuest II.  It launched a few weeks earlier, but has ever remained in WoW‘s shadow.

EVE Online got its second free expansion, Exodus, which introduced player owned starbases… the POS of yore… one of the uses of which was to claim territory in untamed null sec space.  And thus the race to for empires began.

Twenty Years Ago

Asheron’s Call, the third of the big three break out MMORPGs of the late 90s, launched.  Never as big as its rivals (it peaked at 120K players to Ultima Online’s 250K and EverQuest’s 550K) it blazed its own trail in trying to define what an MMORPG ought to be.  Neglect, a mis-handled sequel, and a studio that made some dubious and costly moves, left the game without a home when Standing Stone Games was split off to support Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings OnlineAsheron’s Call was officially shut down in January 2017.

Most Viewed Posts in November

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. The Apology
  4. CCP Falcon Leaves CCP
  5. Looking Back at BlizzCon 2019
  6. End of a Vision
  7. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  8. Visions of a Sunken Temple
  9. No. I’d Rather Kill Rats.
  10. Quote of the Day for WoW Classic Fans
  11. Gambling Returns to New Eden
  12. BlizzCon 2019 and The Big Four Announcements

Search Terms of the Month

how to like raspberries
[to my mind they can only be tolerated]

new everquest game
[Maybe some day]

meeting stones dont summon in classic
[no they do not]

mau wow
[poppa oom mau wow]

why did ccp change the cyno rules in eve online
[If I could answer that…]

Game Time from ManicTime

World of Warcraft gets dethroned from the top spot after three months in a row, as I spent some time in EverQuest II for the 15th anniversary.  I did play less WoW Classic than I did in October.  However, EQII got a big boost thanks to my being off from work most of Thanksgiving week, giving me the time to indulge in its long, side track questing.  It was well behind in time spent until this past week.

  1. EverQuest II – 49.47%
  2. World of Warcraft – 42.94%
  3. EVE Online – 5.53%
  4. EVE Aether Wars – 1.69%
  5. LOTRO – 0.37%

EVE Online

Not a lot happened in New Eden for me.  I went on a total of two ops.  I’m not terribly interested in a lot of the game at the moment and a good chunk of my time was simply spent moving all my junk from one Keepstar to another since our staging station changed.

EverQuest II

Went back for the 15th anniversary and managed to find a goal that seemed obtainable, getting my alleged main to the level cap of 110.  Getting to 108 was quick, but then there was a few days of distraction as I went off on what was something of a wild goose chase, at least when it came to the task at hand.  However, there were some other things unlocked that may do me well later.

Pokemon Go

Still lingering around level 37, though 38 is getting closer.  My wife asked me what we were going to do when we hit level 40.  I said we’d probably quit and go play the Harry Potter version of the game for a change.  That seemed to be okay, since she is much more of a fan of that than Pokemon.

Level: 37 (+0… but very close to 38)
Pokedex status: 470 (+7) caught, 495 (+7) seen
Pokemon I want: I need more Sinnoh stones…
Current buddy: Tepig

World of Warcraft

I logged in for Darkmoon Faire, which is what I do every month.  I will level up my trade skills that way eventually.  I also logged in for the 15th anniversary, though really only to get the achievement and whatever they were handing out directly.  I did not do any of the events nor the LFR for the mount.  I might regret that if mounts were rare, but when you have more than 400, it just isn’t that big of a deal I suppose.

WoW Classic

I slowed down a bit in WoW Classic in November.  I didn’t stop, but as you can see from the play time break down, I didn’t spent more than 90% of my time playing it to the exclusion of all else.  It isn’t a sprint but a marathon to get to level 60 and through all those instances.

Coming Up

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, according to some.  I like that the production servers at work will be locked down for most of the month so no worry about pushing updates or changes.  Just don’t let anything go wrong.

Game companies though… there will be expansion for EverQuest and EverQuest II and EVE Online next month.  We’ll also be getting battlegrounds in WoW Classic.  Then there will be holiday events and the Steam Winter Sale and all of that.

As for me, expect the usual end of the year nonsense I suppose.  There is of series of annual posts I have accumulated over the years that I will no doubt get to again.  Reviews of predictions, a look at what I played, highs and lows, maybe even something about books, all culminating in predictions for the new year.

To Speak as a Dragon and the Plane of Innovation

I left off last time with my quest plans thwarted due to a failure to speak the language.

Say what?

Without that language, Sathirian, I was not going to be able to get the quest that would lead me on my way to getting access to ascension levels.  The wiki said I needed that.

Fortunately, the side task to learn Sathirian turned out to not be that big of a deal.  I needed a collection that rewarded me with a book that unlocked a quest that sent me to somebody with a couple of tasks.  Really, in post-cataclysm Norrath that is like being asked to pop around to the store for a pack of smokes.  So I was soon back, speaking the language, and ready to move on.  That led to a series of quests… because it always does… which I seemed to be able to move through pretty smoothly.  I was following the wiki because, as I noted, this was all a huge side task to unlock ascension levels.  So I ran off and did the quests and reported back.

That one time a mob kicked me out of the zone…

That led me to a quest that, over on the wiki, had the following language requirements.

  • You need to be able to speak draconic to speak with the Scrollkeeper Sataleeti
  • You need to be able to speak Sathirian
  • You need to be able to speak Goblish for this quest.

Goblish, the language of the goblins I had for sure, and I had just done the quest for Sathirian, so covered on that base.  But Draconic?  I had to check my language list.

Languages are a thing in Norrath

Draconic was not on the list. (My list is kind of short compared to all the possible options.)  So I went to the part of the wiki about that language and it advised me that I needed to run through the quest To Speak as a Dragon.

That told me I needed to speak Krombral first, which I had covered, and that I needed to head to Lavastorm in order to kick off the quest.  Off to another zone.

There I followed the first couple of steps… though I seemed to be going through the motions.  I wasn’t getting any updates, and the steps seemed vaguely familiar to me.  But I’ve been dinking around in Norrath for more than 15 years now, I’ve been a lot of places and Lavastorm is one of the original launch zones.

I got to the step that sent me off to Solusek’s Eye, a dungeon in Lavastorm, which I fumbled around a bit finding, but eventually got into.  Once inside, I needed to go to Nagafen’s Lair, which is at the very end of the dungeon… and this is a big dungeon.  But getting down to the bottom started simply enough, largely because I still have the EQ2 Maps addon installed, so it was a matter of finding the arrows that led to ramps or elevators or whatever.

Waiting on the level 1 elevator

Along the way I saw some Efreeti, which reminded me that I still had a lore and legend quest for them.  So I slew all that I saw, which actually completed the quest for me eventually… on the second run.

Way down on level 7 you have to run along translucent ramps over lava pits to get to an elevator that isn’t well marked and… well… mistakes were made and I got stuck and had to recall and start over again.

You can fall off of these ramps

The second time around I got to the right elevator, went from level 7 to 6, followed the other path, went through the thingy, killed the guy, and eventually got to the right person.  Really, there is a whole wiki page about the dungeon and then another on how to get where I was going.

Majordomo Inferinus with Nagafen in the background

Majordomo Inferinus had a quest update for me, the first that I had run into, indicating that I had started down this path at some time previously… and likely gave up trying to get to Nagafen.

The update sent me to the Tower of Oracles in Antonica, a really old school zone.  There I spoke to the Sage of Ages who said he could teach me Draconic if I could run out and fetch a few things for him.  Runes.  Twenty-six runes.  Twenty-six runes that had been scattered all over the original zones of post-cataclysm Norrath.

I was going on the road.

I wasn’t going to even pretend to seek any of these runes out on my own.  I went straight to the wiki to get zone and location of every single one of them, and they were hidden far and wide.

Most were easy enough to get to.  The first one was nearby in Qeynos.

Like flying home

For one of them I had to sneak into Freeport via a side door.  Fortunately, at level 108 the Freeport guards mostly just shake their fists at you in annoyance.

First one to give me lip gets the shovel

There was a lot of entering old dungeons, pasting in the waypoint from the wiki, and just running to grab the rune.  But there were three spots that I had trouble with.

The first was in Stormhold, which was a dungeon I used to know like the back of my hand.  We spent a lot of time there back in the day.  But I could not recall how to get to the library.  Eventually I found a reference to a grate on the floor, but I spend some time running around.

Then there were the three in the Obelisk of Lost Souls.  The first was easy, but the other two were on the third floor of the dungeon, but to get to that you had to solve the maze on the second floor.  In the end it didn’t turn out to be difficult.  The problem was more that the wiki was focused on the step before then the step after, rather breezing over a couple of key facts that would have made everything go much more quickly.

I ran a quest that I didn’t need to, but whatever.  Eventually I made it to the last run on the third floor.

The place is kind of a dump

That got me the runes from there, though I saved the two in Lavastorm, down in Solusek’s Eye, for last just in case I needed to speak to Nagafen or his buddy again.  But I did not.  It was back to Atonica to the Sage of Ages who agreed that he could now teach me Draconic.

Lets get to it then!

Then, hey presto, I had the language on my list.

Now featuring Draconic!

That done it was back to Kunark and the Obulos Frontier to carry on with the quests.  I pressed on ahead, successfully running down the quest chain.  Everybody around the ascension trainer I wanted to speak to was now no longer hostile to me, the vendors wanted my business.  It was time to speak to Aranolh Tol’ren, master geomancer, to learn the Geomancer ascension class.  So I clicked on his and…

You son of a bitch!

Yes, I totally did not speak the right language.  Again.  Fuck me.

By this point though Bhagpuss had left a comment on my last post suggesting that I might not even need to do this quest chain, that the ascension trainer in the Coliseum of Valor might just train me up if I asked.  Th wiki says you can upgrade your ascension level cap there, but seems to suggest that you have to start out in Kunark as I was attempting.  Still, checking out the suggestion was probably easier than another language quest.

So I went back to the Plane of Magic and went to the Coliseum of Valor and spoke to Sunspear the ascension trainer and, well…

I feel like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz

Thus enabled, I trained Geomancer powers, used my little five level ascension boost token, which got me a couple of heavy hitting skills, which I managed to find room for on my four hot bars.

From there me, my mount, my mercenary, my pet, and my familiar, my upgraded combat skills, and my new Geomancer attacks, headed back into the Plane of Innovation to put the hurt on some tinker toys.

Give me numbers! More numbers!

Seriously, the numbers in EQII are pretty much set to ludicrous speed.

At that point I really couldn’t tell which thing I did had what effect, but overall I seemed to be slaying things more quickly.  Named mobs were maybe 8 minute fights, down from 25, while normal heroic groups were just a minute or two.

I fought a rogue roomba and what looked to be a giant floating mechanical head.

Getting ahead in the Plane of Innovation

It all ended up with a final mechanical boss that I had to stop and wind up at various points of the battle… anything to keep the fight going.

Taking the fight to him

That got me through the first instance.  However, I was disappointed at my leisurely progress. I remained level 108 and, though all of this, I think I advanced maybe 2%.  It isn’t that I haven’t enjoyed tracking these things down, but my goal is to get to level 110 before the Blood of Luclin expansion hits, and time was running out.  After all of that… and a lot of those Kunark quests were blue to me, so granted experience… I was all of 7% into level 108.

Well, there was no point in going elsewhere, so I pressed on into the second instance for another round of battle with clockwork menace.

Clockworks with a theme

There was some slow going.  A couple of the named mobs, like Toa the Shiny there, drain you power, which means you end up being unable to use your combat abilities, and you are nothing it you are reduced to melee only.  This isn’t WoW Classic. But I muddled through, thanks in part to some power restoration potions I had in my inventory.  I am not sure where I got them… probably part of the ages ago level 90 character boost… but they came in handy.  Anyway, I made it to the final confrontation with the Great Gear.

He doesn’t look so great to me…

There was, of course, a fight, but I made it through once more, grabbed the magic dingus, and retraced my steps back to an NPC and then back to the Coliseum of Valor.

The Wiki entry on this was very helpful, as at several points it has to tell you not to do what the quest tracker tells you to do or you’ll have to start the instance all over from scratch.

Back in the Coliseum of Valor it was time to turn in the quest to Druzzil Ro.  My hope was that this would at least get me close to level 109.  But when I turned it in, I was suddenly level 110.

Level cap at last!

This may be the first time in nearly forever that I was at the level cap before the next expansion dropped.  I was maybe level 48 when Desert of Flames hit back in the day, and I’ve been behind ever since.

I was also now able to use some of that stuff that dropped from the dragon event!  Time for some mount and merc upgrades.

But I was left wondering what to do next.

Part of me wants to just go run the dragon event some more, to farm for more drops.  But another part wants to get out an alt and, using what I now know, do a sprint to 110.  Don’t I get some sort of xp boost now that I have a character at level cap?

And then there are my lagging trade skills.  Do I get moving on those?

Any route I choose, my main goal was accomplished.  I will actually be ready when Blood of Luclin goes live on December 17th.

Getting Side Tracked on the way to 110 in Norrath

I carried on for a bit in the Plane of Magic in EverQuest II.  I made it through the faction quest line I was working on and dug into the signature quest line for the zone, making it into the Coliseum of Valor.

Hob nobbing with the deities of Norrath

I managed to make it to level 108 as part of that.

Another level further along

I even managed to collect enough status along the way to boost the guild up a level.

I don’t think we get anything until 50

It has been a few years since that happened.  I think we got to level 40 back in 2010 during my attempt to bring the instance group to the game.

After that it was into the Plane of Innovation where things… really slowed down.  Not the drip of experience, which was already almost non-existent for mobs, but the pace at which I could slay them.  I was able to slay them, despite being level 100 heroic groups.

That guys was worth an achievement

With a mercenary along to keep me healed and my gear level I was in no danger of dying.  But it was taking a long time to kill encounters.  Heroic groups were running past 5 minutes per fight and that Ancient Clockwork Prototype was a 25 minute bout.  That is a long time to be mashing buttons… and in EQII you have a ton of buttons to mash.  I have four hot key bars up in my UI, three to keep essential combat related skills and another for utility items I use often, and I know I am missing a bunch of skill.  I am just glad that when you die the game retains all of the “until cancelled” buffs you cast on yourself.  I’d need another hot bar for that list.

Anyway, with fights starting to run that long I began to think that perhaps my DPS was not up to snuff.  As I said, my defenses seem to be fine, so it was time to look into things to make me hit harder.

First up was skill upgrades.  I think I have mentioned before the complexity of EQII skills.  When you gain a skill, or a skill upgrade, it comes in at apprentice level.  You can upgrade that to journeyman level via trade skills, adept via random skill drops, expert from trade skills using rare components, master from rare chest drops, grandmaster via an every 10 levels, pick one skill, alternate advancement mechanism, and ancient via rare raid drops.  There is a whole thing on the wiki about this.

You can also train them up via a time learning mechanism akin to EVE Online skill training, which at level 100+ takes about 16 to 20 days to go from apprentice to journeyman.  But  if you want to spend money you can buy Station Cash and level those up instantly.

Upgrades, wait or pay

I opted to wait given the current price of Daybreak Cash.

Daybreak Cash Prices

With my subscription discount and buying Daybreak Cash at its cheapest per unit price, that instance upgrade to just journeyman would run about $78.  And, while I would take a journeyman upgrade, I really wanted something a bit better.

That is because, as you might expect, every step up the upgrade ladder makes a skill noticeably better.  You can even get in situations where a level VI version of a skill at grandmaster is much better than the level VII version at apprentice.  The game tries to work around that by doing a compare when you earn a new skill and leaving the old one on your hot bar if it is better.  But if you later upgrade the new one you have to go and audit your hot bar to make sure you have the right one.

And if you have boosted your character up levels… well.  Sigwerd got past level 60 on his own, then boosted to 90 and has gone from there to 108.  Along the way some of the skills in his hot bars have fallen behind.  So I went through and fixed all of that.

Then I started shopping for upgrades on the market.  But the prices for adepts for level 100+ skills are insane.  Sigwerd has about 50K platinum, making him my wealthiest character.  Inflation got him that money through the market.  But inflation means he could piss that all away quickly on the adept upgrades for his skill, which run from 2.5K to 10K platinum each.

Few people seemed to be making journeyman skills, and those that were on the market were even more expensive than adept skills.

The prices of a Frenzy VI upgrade

I went to my alchemist, but he is only level 92 in that trade, so I need to level him up there.  And even then there is the question of getting the recipes which require a signature quest run.

So I did what I could there then started fishing elsewhere.

I went through my alternate advancement trees to see if there was anything I could boost there.

I looked at gear, but my stuff from the Days of Summer quest last year was still better than anything on the market, along with the upgrades to that I had gotten in the Plane of Magic.

At one point I was looking through my claimable items… those have piled up over the last 15 years… and found a mount that had better stats than my own, so swapped to that and started upgrading it.  I also claimed a companion pet I had in there that also gave me a stats boost.  And I bought a familiar… which is also a pet of sorts that also gives you stats, so I am not sure what the difference is, other than that familiars are “collectable” and have seasons and cost Daybreak Cash.  I got a slug.  But it was a slug that gave me a stats boost.

While in the claims window I also ran across some other, older, unclaimed items I found a token worth a five ascension level boost.  Somewhere in the back of my mind I recalled something about ascension levels and it being something of an alternate alternate advancement path.  So I figured I ought to track that down.

Now we get into one of my gripes about EQII.  I am sitting in something close to the current content, running one expansion back in Planes of Prophecy.  But ascension levels came in with Kunark Ascending, the expansion before that.  In order to unlock access to ascension levels, I need to run down a signature quest in that expansion.  But to get that quest I need to go back to the expansion before that, Terrors of Thalumbra, and run through a signature quest there to unlock the trigger to get the quest that will get me into the zone, Obulus Frontier, that has the NPC that will give me the quest that will unlock ascension levels.  That quest chain actually starts on the Isle of Mara, which sends me around a bit to other zones.  Then it is finally off to Thalumbra, which you have to do a quest to access, and where I need to work on my faction with the local in order to get the next quest that will lead to the further quest.

Thalumbra is underground

So I ran through that, getting side tracked along the way to unlock access to trade skill recipes so I could craft beyond level 100, since that was only another six quest chain and I was down there anyway.

Eventually I get into Obulus Frontier, but it is late in the evening so I figure I will pick this up the next day and recall home to sell stuff in my bloated inventory and put stuff up for sale on the market.  In my inventory is a bunch of stuff from the Days of Summer 2019 quest event, which was still running, and which I ran across by accident when I ended up in the Sundered Frontier on one leg of one of the quests to get access to Obulus Frontier, so of course I stopped and ran those.  Now I have a full set of level 110 gear to wear if and when I make it to level 110.  So I had to put that in the bank.

Of course, the next day I had to figure out how to get back.  The wiki says there is a way to get there from Thalumbra, so I go to Greater Faydark, take the gnomish transport device, and fly around to the spot where I can get in.

Me, my companion, and my familiar

However, it won’t let me in.  I have not done the quest that opens up the access from Thalumbra to Obulus Frontier, because of course I haven’t.  So I go to Kunark and find my way through to the portal that will get me to the zone and I go in and I find the mob that will give me the quest that will finally unlock ascension levels… and I get this.

Say what?

As it turns out, I do not speak her language because, as you might be able to guess at this point, I have not done the quest that will teach me the language that lets me speak to her to get the quest that will unlock ascension levels and one voice in the back of my head is shouting, “Are you fucking kidding me?” while another is just sighing and saying, “Or course there is another quest.”

So I ran off to find that quest.  And I know that won’t be the last quest.  I took a moment to fly off to the person who actually ends up training you in your ascension class and they were surrounded by hostile guards, which likely means I will need to do some more quests to raise my faction sufficiently to get through the guards and converse with the trainer.

I am not upset about this trail of events.  That I spent three late evening running through all of this and am still going is an indication that I am invested.  But as a solution to my original problem, that fights were taking a long time, it seems to be something of a bust.  I don’t know if this will actually solve the problem and, more pertinently, if I had just put up with the long fights I would have easily been done and through and on to the next thing and probably level 109 with the same investment of time.

And if I had spent that same amount of time running some of the repeatable, faction earning side quests in the Plane of Magic I would undoubtedly be level 110 by now, my original goal.

Such is life with EverQuest II.  If you haven’t kept up, catching up can be a long process.  And I have had no shame in this using the wiki, pasting in way points, and just taking the direct route to things.  I cannot imagine figuring this out without simply giving up and embracing out of game information.

It has also been something of an interesting dive into an attitude or two that has changed at Daybreak on the Norrath team.  There was a era when they were very big on marking quest locations or areas on the map when you had then up on your tracker.  There were blue dots and shaded blue areas where you could expect to find the relevant NPC or mobs for the quest.  They have apparently given up on this completely with the last expansion or two.  Why spend time on that when there is always the wiki I guess.

The quest for level 110 continues.

My Own History in Azeroth

Saturday was the fifteenth anniversary of the launch of World of Warcraft.

I wasn’t there for the launch fifteen years ago.  Honestly it didn’t register with me at the time and I was only really aware of the game after the fact.

As I wrote earlier in the month in recognition of another anniversary, I was busy playing EverQuest II.  And I wasn’t even planning to play that, a tale that was pretty much covered in that other post.  Suddenly invested in EQII after a hiatus for EQ, I was pretty much oblivious to the launch of World of Warcraft when it came.

Eventually it came to my notice and clearly I ended up playing it.  So I decided that I should try to piece together a timeline of my own relationship with World of Warcraft.

On the plus side, I have this blog to help.  On the negative, this blog started in late 2006, some time after I started playing WoW and long after what I would consider the pre-history of WoW.  And since launch the blog had passed the five thousand post mark, almost 1,300 of which are included in the World of Warcraft category, which gives me a bit of a problem finding some of the exact details I might be looking for.  The search function in WordPress is a bit too loosey goosey for my taste. (I really want multiple tag/category search.)

Still, I managed to scrape something together.

The Years Before WoW

World of Warcraft did not manifest in a vacuum, but was part of a stream of development that started in the 90s with the original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.  That launched 25 years ago this past Saturday, sharing a launch date with WoW separated by ten years.

I didn’t play Warcraft when it launched either.  I don’t think I ever owned a copy of it, but I was aware of it.  I worked at a company that did Macintosh products and it was popular in the lab because it was a network game.  I was playing more Marathon and Bolo then, but I bought copies of Warcraft II and Warcraft III in turn.

I never played the campaign for either.  I bought them to play against friends and co-workers on the company network.  Thus, I recognize all the peon phrases, recall some of the units, but am completely lore bereft.  (Same story with StarCraft really.  Played a ton of head to head, never really did the campaign.)

I did, however, play Diablo and Diablo II very thoroughly.  Those do not share the same lore universe as Warcraft, but a lot of the ideas and mechanics that went into WoW came from those two.

Oh look, a quest, potions, and a proto-hot bar! Not pictured: Skill tree and points

There was a point when I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t want WoW but a Diablo based MMO.  It did not take me much time to realize that much of the underpinnings of WoW were lifted straight from Diablo, right down to gear drops and such.  It is not the same lore, and it is a bit brighter in places (though you spend a whole act in Diablo II in a brightly lit desert) but WoW, at its mechanics core, is very close to what a Diablo MMO might have been.

All of which lays at least a groundwork of familiarity with Blizzard and its games.

WoW While in Norrath

I think I first heard WoW mentioned on our guild voice coms at some point in December 2004.  It was becoming clear that all was not well with EverQuest II.  There were lots of updates as SOE scrambled to adjust the formula of the game to try and stem the flow of players from the game, either headed back to EQ or off to WoW.  The words about WoW were not kind.  It was derided as a colorful kiddie game, not a real MMORPG like EQ was.

But those doing the grumbling had also pinned their hopes on Brad McQuaid’s Vanguard as the real successor to EQ, though, so far as I know, not one of those people grumbling ended up in Vanguard.  Instead, they all migrated to WoW eventually.  Even Wooflin, our guild leader, and the most anti-WoW voice in the guild.

March 2005 – I Go to Azeroth

The weekend of my birthday, at the prodding of a friend from the EQ days, I bought a copy of World of Warcraft, created an account, and attempted to play.  It did not impress me.

Part of the problem was that I bought it on a Friday evening on the way home from work and it required so much patching, which moved so slowly on our rinky dink, but not bad for the time ADSL internet connection, that I did not get to character creation until Sunday morning.

The patcher was so bad back in the day that, when I did start playing, I had a paid account at File Planet because they would host the updater and you could download it quickly and apply the patch long before the default patcher would even realize it needed to update.

Annoyed by that… you buy a game, you want to play that night… I was in no mood for anything when I rolled up a dwarf paladin.  That didn’t click with me at all.  Bland snowy terrain, ugly cartoon character models, none of the depth of EQII, not even any housing, I wasn’t having it.  I played a couple more days then cancelled before my initial 30 days expired.  I went back to the guild and told them how much it sucked.

Late 2005 Return

But EQII was sucking a bit as well, with constant changes and updates along with stability problems from time to time.  We made it pretty well into the first expansion, Desert of Flames, but people in our guild were dropping out of the game, and most of them were headed to World of Warcraft. (Though I recall one person, Oteb maybe, who went straight to EVE Online.)  Meanwhile, more people I knew outside the guild were also talking about WoW.  Maybe six months later I renewed my account there and rolled up a new character on the Hyjal server, where some friends were playing.

Of course, they were all much higher level than I was, so it was sort of a side venture to hang out and chat with them now and then.  I was still more serious about playing EQII.  But the guild there began a full on run for the doors, and those of us from TorilMUD decided we needed to head into Azeroth as a group.  And so I ended up on another server, Eldre’Thalas in early 2006.  It was after Desert of Flames but before Kingdom of Sky.  I know this because I never purchased the latter.

Twilight Cadre and Servers

When the TorilMUD faction washed up on Azeroth’s shore we decided to create a guild… because of course we did.  Back on TorilMUD we had been the Shades of Twilight guild, and had even managed to create an alt guild in EQII with the same name.  But that name, and most obvious variations, had already been taken in WoW.  Eventually we went with Twilight Cadre, which has to be something I came up with, having a vaguely Soviet feel to it.  But I cannot say for sure if that was so, just that we adopted it.

We were not much of a guild though.  I think many of us were a bit burned out by our time in EQII.  I pottered around, made the human pally that remains my “main” on retail through to today, along with a few other alts, getting to around level 40 and losing my way.  It was almost all solo.  Some people got more into it and joined raiding guilds.  But this was the time of server splits, and a couple of raiding guilds, and my friends in them, went off to new servers.

I also rolled a couple characters on Hyjal only to have the people I knew there disappear when their raiding guild opted to take a free server transfer to a new realm.

On Eldre’Thalas activity tapered off and with the impending arrival of the Echoes of Faydwer expansion in EQII… expansion number three… and its promise to revive the game and get back to a more EverQuest-like theme, WoW didn’t have much of a hold on me.

The Instance Group Forms

In September 2006 I started the blog, so events start to have hard dates… at least if I had a mind to write about them at the time.  The early days here were somewhat chaotic when it came to figuring out what I ought to record.

One key post in hindsight, made just 16 days into the life of the blog, was about changing my solo ways with WoW, which had been the default for many months.  I don’t remember why I dropped Skronk a line, but he was interested in playing WoW with me.  He was already playing, had something of a group, but was on yet another server, which was ever the problem back in the day.

Somehow I was able to convince him to start over on Eldre’Thalas.  I had already taken over ownership of the Twilight Cadre guild, so we rolled up new characters, I invited them in, and the instance group began.

Tales of Dungeon Crawls

At this point there is a paper trail of blog posts.  I have a nice summary post about the instance group in vanilla WoW with all the dates.  We played through until March, when Earl had to move across the country.  During that time the four of us remaining ran off to play LOTRO at launch.

Earl returned in September and we picked up again at Zul’Farrak and played on through and got our epic mounts.

The instance group all mounted up

We moved on into The Burning Crusade and got fairly far, but eventually tapered off before we had finished all of the instances.  We were struggling a bit as a group and had been playing for ages straight through, so there was a bit of a break once we got our flying mounts.  The next item on our list was Warhammer Online, which brought us together in late summer of 2008.

Also, somewhere in here, before WotLK, I setup an account for my daughter who had been watching me play.  She was about six and now, nearly a dozen years later, she scolds me for letting her play WoW at such a young age.  I think Pokemon is her main gaming with daddy memory, but WoW is a close second.  My mother also picks up the game and at some point we have a three generation group going on.

Three Cats in Hillsbrad

She drew this picture in KidPix to commemorate the event.

Her Mount

Now she has PhotoShop and is taking AP Art and does amazing work.

Wrath of the Lich King

Probably the high point of the group and my longest continuous stretch of playing WoW.  I was there from the pre-expansion events… remember the plague… through until Cataclysm launched.

I should go through and create summary posts for the instance group in each expansion at some point.  But for now it was quite the time.  We jumped from Warhammer Online into the launch of the expansion and carried on as before.  We finished up the instances that were available, then there was something of a break.  We did spend some time as Horde, but didn’t get too far.  But I didn’t leave, and kept on going with the Argent Tournament until I had earned every item it had to offer.

The Cataclysm

The instance group came back to WoW when Cataclysm hit.  The old world had been reworked and we rolled up a fresh group to experience it.  Unfortunately, the world had gotten much easier. (Or we had gotten less bad.  Or maybe both.)  Reworked instances and the dungeon finder and all that combined to make for an unsatisfying experience.  We got bored and stopped playing.  However, I was still subscribed because I opted in for the offer to get a free copy of Diablo III if I subscribed to WoW for a year.

Long term subscription offers always seem to coincide with player unrest in WoW.  When the year finally ended I wrote a post about my final achievement and predicted that while I might come back to visit that I would never be as invested in the game again.

The Year Off

I spent a full year away from WoW, during which many other games were played.  The instance group went to EverQuest II and Rift for a while.  There was a return to LOTRO.  I think I finally got through Moria then.  But Blizz was not spoken of for a long stretch as the stink of Cataclysm remained in our nostrils.

Pandas Come Calling

After a year or so things were idle, the group was on a break, and I was looking for something to do.  Blizz, in an uncharacteristically well timed move, sent me a note that Mists of Pandaria was half price.  So I bought a copy and went back to give it a try, and it was delightful.

MoP was probably some of the best PvE content ever in an MMO.  On expansions for me it ranks only behind Wrath of the Lich King for my level of satisfaction.  I rolled through and did the dailies got most of the factions to exalted (examined here), worked up with pet battles, did the LFR to see the fall of Garrosh, and got that azure water strider, probably the most OP broken mount that Blizz has ever handed out.  I used it constantly on my main and alts for years.

We all loved that water bug

The instance group came back towards the end as well, and we did some of the instances with our original characters.  We also did the Cata instances, including the raids redone as five person dungeons, and they were all pretty damn good.  We warmed to WoW again as a group.

Warlord of Draenor and the Big Fall

The build up to WoD was huge.  Blizz was promising to get back to some old school orc shenanigans with what seemed like a re-roll of The Burning Crusade.  And, according to Tom “they should never let me speak off script ever” Chilton, garrisons were going to be housing for WoW.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a bad expansion.  There was good overland content and such.  But it did not live up to the hype, and garrisons backfired in a big way, becoming grindy little hidey holes that took people out of the world just like Blizz said housing would, but did not provide any of the player satisfaction that housing does in other games.  Subscription numbers tanked, falling back to 2005 levels and causing Blizz to stop reporting them.

The instance group did a few dungeons, but we were fading by then.  Life was getting in the way and the passion was not there.  In April 2015 we ran what remains the last dungeon in retail WoW we did as a group.  I took a big break in there, though came back before the next expansion and did what I needed to do to unlock flying.

Legion

Legion was good.  I played it through with multiple alts.  It was enjoyable.  I unlocked flying, which has now become something of the benchmark “I really played this expansion” achievement.  But it was completely solo experience.  I did a few Dungeon Finder groups for quests, but gave up on that.  I hate those groups not because people are hostile or toxic or don’t talk, but because they are all about getting things done.  You are at a run through the whole thing and then it is over and I barely know what really transpired.  Just follow the tank, hit what they hit, move on.

In all I played about ~15 months out of the two years that Legion was the main content.  Not bad.  I ended up with seven or eight characters at the level cap, including a Horde character.

Battle for Azeroth

I wanted to like BFA, thinking that Blizz had figured stuff out with Legion.  But the broken content scaling that favored either people who upgraded no gear or who went epic made the whole thing a grind.  After getting used to class reworks in Legion having to relearn them yet again threw more cold water on my enthusiasm.  It was an expansion where I liked the world but had no love for the updated mechanics.  Only my main has hit max level there and I have not unlocked flying yet, though I still have a year to go.

WoW Classic – The Second Coming of WoW

And then there was WoW Classic, which launched back at the end of August.  You can follow the WoW Classic tag to see all I’ve written about it. (This post will be at the top the day it goes live, so scroll down.)

My hopes for it were tentative.  I’ve gone back to retro/fresh start servers before in EQ, EQII, Rift, and LOTRO, and they are fun for openers, but they have an expiration date, a point when the joy fades and I just stop logging in.

WoW Classic also relaunched the instance group and my baseline hope was that we could get together and run Deadmines again.  That seemed viable.  Instead we have carried on.  For the last couple of months WoW Classic has easily been my most played game.  And even this month, where it has gotten some serious competition from EverQuest II due to its anniversary, it is still getting a lot of play time.

The Future

If you’ve read my annual predictions, you know I am wrong way more often than not when trying to see into the future.  But it sure seems like I’ll be sticking with WoW Classic for a while. It is also likely that I’ll buy the next WoW expansion and probably play a bit in that, though now I only have a single character at level cap and ready to move on to the next thing.

What Blizz does with the WoW Classic idea over time will play into how invested I remain in the game.  If they do “off year” updates and give us The Burning Crusade Classic and Wrath of the Lich King Classic I will no doubt dive into those.  A new branch of content based on WoW Classic would be interesting as well, though I am not sure Blizz has the mental flexibility to manage that.  They have grown too big and the whole company depends too much on WoW revenue to gamble, which means that things will likely stay safe and dull.  We shall see.

And so it goes, my general tale of my time in Azeroth.  When I had the idea for this I was somewhat determined to create a hard timeline based on blog posts.  But we’re past 3,000 words with just my vague, hand waving tale.  Imagine how long it would have gotten if I nailed down dates?  I don’t think either you or I have the time for that!

Level 105 Fever in the Plane of Magic

I re-subbed to the Daybreak All Access pass for the EverQuest II 15th anniversary events, as I did back in March for the EverQuest 20th anniversary.  This started off with chasing some dragons, as I mentioned last week.

Dragon in the Loping Plains

There are four dragons and they are not hard to find.  They spawn in a rotation by the travel spires in four zones.  You can follow them through their cycle going from Thundering Steppes to Everfrost to Nektulos Forest to Loping Plains.  I think that is the order.  I just go where the crowd goes.  There are some interesting drops and an achievement and special mount form if you slay all four dragons.

Spires Defended

Achievement reward

I did that with the character I consider my main, Sigwerd, a level 100 berserker on the Skyfire server.  Then I got out my level 100 paladin on the same server and did it again.

Dragon in Nektulos Forest

And then I did it yet again with a level 100 berserker, Reynaldo on the Hands of Fate server, who is still knocking around in the Revelry & Honor guild.  It was a bit tougher with him as I have never bothered to get him a mercenary, and not having your own pet healer means taking care.  Still, I managed it with him.

I have another level 100 character sitting around, a Shadowknight who was one of my level 100 boosted characters… Sigward is the only one who leveled up to 100, and I seem to recall boosting him to 85 back in the day… but I wasn’t sure how much commitment I really had to him.

And I was wondering how to use some of the nice drops I got from the dragon event.  Bhagpuss has a post that shows the dragon form mount.  They were all flagged for level 110 players and my highest group there is all level 100.  I wanted to get somebody to level 110.

The easiest way to do that would be another boost.  And since you get a level 110 boost with the base Blood of Luclin expansion pre-order at basically the same price as a boost out of the cash shop, I figured I might as well grab the expansion.

So there was now a level 110 boost in my /claim items.  However, in buying the expansion I also unlocked all of the previous expansions.  I do not remember the last time I bought an expansion, but now I had everything live on the server.  So I decided to see if I could just level up to 110 via content rather than using the boost right away.

Of course, as I always say when I come back to EverQuest II, the game is pretty bad at telling you where to go or what to do in order to get started at whatever level you left off at.  I had been doing something in the Vesspyr Isles previously with Sigwerd, but I recalled it being very slow.  He was barely 5% into level 100 and I knew he had done a series of quests there already.  I was not keen to go back, so I looked around at what else was available.

There was Myrist, The Great Library on my map, but that said it was for level 110 players.  Next to it, however, was the Plane of Magic.  That said level 100, which seemed good enough for me, so I gave that a shot.  I took the spires there and was in.

When you wander into the Plane of Magic you have to pick a faction to work with.  Each espouses a specific philosophy, but I chose House Vahla pretty much at random.  They had a nice gold trimmed platform.

Turning in a quest on their platform

The first couple of quests boosted me up to level 101 pretty quickly.  It was one of those deals where you have to earn enough status with the faction in order to unlock further quests, so I repeated the first two a few times.  Soon I was level 102.  Clearly these were decent quests.  I had read somewhere that Daybreak chose to emphasize questing for leveling up.  While I had the membership boost, the vitality boost (blue bar in EQII land), and a pre-expansion experience boost going, slaying mobs didn’t move the experience bar at all, no matter how hard I hit things.

Hitting things repeatedly

The damage I do seems to throw out crazy random numbers.  And EQII does not suffer from a lack of combat skills, so I just mash a bunch of buttons and things die.

Getting around wasn’t too bad either.  EQII has embraced flying and my berserker had a mount from a special event from way back, so I just glided over the terrain, dropping on my targets when I needed to.

Swooping by a waterfall

But it is the quests that boosted me along.  It wasn’t a long time before I had made it to level 105.

Half way to 110

After that the quest experience started to slow down some.  But I am going to try and carry on a bit and see if I cannot get to 110 on my own before the Blood of Luclin expansion hits.  It might be something to actually be lined up at the right level for an expansion when it drops.  Of course, we’ll see if I can actually figure out where to go when it does drop.  Daybreak still isn’t very good at that.

Addendum:  I carried on after I wrote this and made it to level 107.  I had to use the Orb of Concentrated Memories, an item usable once every seven days that restores you exp vitality.

The guild log shows me leveling up

Now I’ll have to see if I can make those last three levels before the bonus exp runs out.

EverQuest II at Fifteen and the Memories of What Could Have Been

I am sure I’ve told this tale before… probably several times… but playing EverQuest II back at launch was really a last minute decision for me.  Meclin… or Gaff… or Rarik…  or whatever I call him these days… Tim I guess… with whom I had played Sojourn/TorilMUD on and off for the previous decade, was suddenly taken with the idea of playing EverQuest II.

An ad for EQII from the August 2004 issue of Computer Gaming World

I hadn’t really been paying attention.  I’d stopped playing EverQuest for a variety of reasons, gave my account to a friend who still played and was doing some multi-boxing (they never changed the password, so I checked back on that account and found all my chars deleted), and basically played single player games or online match-based games like Delta Force and Battlefield 1942.  I knew some people who played EQ or DAoC, but I wasn’t interested.  I had neither the time nor the inclination.

TorilMUD revived itself, after having gone missing for a stretch, in early 2003 which got some of the people I knew back together.  I dove back into that and for one last stretch it became my main game.  But after getting to level cap and getting into a guild and doing zones regularly, word started to get around about EverQuest II.

There was a strong tie between TorilMUD and EQ, with TorilMUD having been the home of a number of EQ devs, including Brad McQuaid, and having served as the basic template for EQ.  A lot of early EQ, from classes to the death mechanics, were rooted in TorilMUD.

So with an new EverQuest coming, it was natural for people to be looking into it.  Not me however, I wasn’t feeling any sort of itch.  Tim though, he was listening to the reports on the new game.  He even passed me a write up somebody had done in beta.  He wanted to get in on the new game, and all the more so since he missed out on early EverQuest.  So a bunch of people from our guild… him and Chandigar and Pril and Oteb and a few others… got on board with playing EverQuest II at launch.

Or almost at launch.

We didn’t get there for the first round of servers.  But the team at SOE had a plan for launch that included bringing new servers online as the current ones filled up.  So we joined in with the launch of the Crushbone server on November 13, 2004, fifteen years ago today.

My earliest screen shot of EQ2 – Nov. 14, 2004

We got in, got through the Isle of Refuge, made it to town, and eventually formed a guild the next day.

Our guild on Crushbone

The guild was a mix of TorilMUD players and some EverQuest players that included a friend of Tim’s.  We all joined together and became the Knights of the Cataclysm.

The EverQuest II lore is based on a cataclysm, the breaking of the moon that rained down debris on Norrath, sundered the lands, broke up continents, reworked the landscape, and basically provided a way to start from scratch to a certain extent.

The game, heir to EverQuest, the reigning champion of the fantasy MMORPG genre with more than 550K subscribers, was expected to carry on the tradition of the original.  The headline of the review by Jeff Green in CGW was The Once and Future King!

Unfortunately, cataclysm proved to be something of an apt metaphor for the game.  There was a lot wrong with it at launch.  For openers, the systems requirements were way too high, something that prevented much of the EQ base from even considering migrating to the new game.  And that migration was clearly central to the plan at SOE.

There were also a myriad of bad assumptions, bad features, and last minute changes… the game was already a year or so “late” so the need to launch seemed to be driving much of the process at that point… that hamstrung the game.

Some of it was self-inflicted.  There has long been the tale about how the EQII team felt they had to steer away from the original game and create their own lore.  Crafting, which had been its own class during the beta, because a sub-class for players, though retained the same advancement structure.  What it also retained was an overburden of complexity and interdependence between the professions.

Adventuring classes had the odd archetype system, where you chose fighter, rogue, cleric, or mage up front, then specialized at level 10, then again at level 20, at which point you were finally at your final class.  But there were really too many classes and too many races and not enough character slots (just 4).

Grouping was pretty much required if you wanted any sort of smooth ride while leveling.  Some zones were locked behind group quests, though only if you wanted to go there before a given level.  Afterwards you could just walk in.  And somebody at SOE had given too much ear to people complaining about twinking in the forums, so a lot of spells could only be cast on groups members, others had pitifully short duration, and some spells combined both.  Gone were the days of casting Spirit of the Wolf on grateful lowbies.

And then there were the core issues, like zones.  The market was moving towards the seamless world idea, but EQII still had you zoning.  And there wasn’t even the illusion of a single world as with EQ.  The place was chopped up into disconnected areas that you visited via a portal or a bell.  I am sure that some problems were solved with this approach, but it left the game feeling less like a world.

Add in the graphics, which were not bad if you had a rig that could display them, though the color scheme tended towards muddy, but when you did crank them up went a little too far into the uncanny valley when it came to characters, and the seeds of discontent had been sown.

Meanwhile the gaming market itself had changed.  When EverQuest launched in March of 1999 there were other MMORPGs, but they were pretty different.  Ultima Online had its isometric 3rd person perspective.  Meridian 59 was all about PvP.  When Asheron’s Call showed up it had a different advancement philosophy.  These were all distinctively different titles.

By late 2004 more games had appeared in the genre.  Dark Age of Camelot talked about being like EverQuest with PVP but without the “suck.”  There was already news coverage for other competing titles.  Guild Wars was in the offing.  Brad McQuaid had already left SOE with some of the original EverQuest crew and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes was vying for the successor to Norrath title.  And, of course, there was that title from Blizzard that was getting lots of coverage.

And so the cataclysm metaphor seemed apt.

Not that it was all bad.  The game’s housing system, and how well integrated it was to the game, including a trade profession dedicated to building furniture, still stands apart from any other MMORPG I have played.  Its free form decorating and the ability to hang trophies from your adventures on your wall, as well as being your in-game store front, worked very well.

As a group, as a guild, we stayed mostly pretty dedicated to the game for almost a year.  But we were something of the exception rather than the rule.  People who did not feel at home in the new world often went back to EverQuest.

But in a couple of weeks after we first logged in World of Warcraft launched, and a lot of people who didn’t go back to EverQuest moved on to WoW instead.

SOE knew they were in trouble pretty quickly after WoW launched, and the game started changing to adapt.  We got little quills and books over quest givers, the EQII version of the big yellow exclamation mark and question mark in Azeroth.  Trade skills got revamped.  We got offline selling.  The emphasis on grouping being a requirement after level 20 or so was relaxed somewhat.  A lot of those group encounters in the Thundering Steppes were made solo encounters.  Buffs got saner timers.  Travel was tinkered with.

Meanwhile, the SOE mania with more content lest we all leave… EQ was well into its “two expansions a year” era… meant that an expansion popped up before some of us were at level cap.

Within a few months people started to fade away.  On guild coms people were pining for Vanguard, which they were now sure would be the real EQ successor.  I went off and tried WoW. came back for a while, then a large portion of the TorilMUD faction in our guild went to WoW together, settling on the Eldre’Thalas server where I still play some of the characters I rolled up back then.

And now here we are, fifteen years down the road, and the game is still there.

As their splash screen proudly declares… though that is the original EverQuest box art

It has been updated, changed, and re-arranged over the years often, but not always, improving the game.  It still gets a new expansion every year, which is a lot more than many games in the genre get.  People still pine for an alternate universe where WoW never launched, but I don’t think that would have made the game any more popular.  It was a mess at launch, but has matured over time, so that the game today plays differently than it did way back when… though there are too many damn skills still.

Oddly, I think the fact that the game has changed so much, mostly for the better, is one of the reasons that the whole progression server idea isn’t nearly as popular for EQII as it is for EQ.

In EQ the old locations mostly look about the same.  Okay, they updated Freeport, but Qeynos and Faydwer still look as crappy as they did back in 1999.  Even if the progression server isn’t a pure 1999 experience, you can squint your eyes and pretend and mostly feel the nostalgia burn.

But EQII?  How the hell does Daybreak even begin to simulate the chaos and dysfunction that was early EQII?  So much has changed that there is no going back to 2004.  There simply aren’t enough free resources at Daybreak to re-create the original game.