Category Archives: EverQuest II

Daybreak and Forums and Reddit

I have always been of the opinion that online games ought to have official forums.  There a costs, both financial and in political games, but those seem to me to be balanced out by having an area under the company’s control that services the percentage of the game population that wants a forum.

As we have seen, if you depend on a forum out of your control to support your game, it can quickly go toxic.  Your biggest fans, who are the type of people who would set up such a thing, can become your bitterest foes if they feel wronged.  Even Mark Jacobs, who was dead set against having official forums for Warhammer Online eventually relented.  And there was certainly no similar question when it came to Camelot Unchained, the forums were a given.

Of course, once a company has forums and a segment of their user base invested in them, there seems to be a strong temptation to simply use the forums for everything.  There is a receptive audience that will comment on anything you post.  I gather that it can start to feel like you’re talking to the whole community, rather than what can often be a very small subset of the community, in the official forums, so why not use them for announcements and such.

I sometimes feel like CCP is veering in that direction, though they will then put out a huge and detail Dev Blog or something else on their main site, away from the forums, so that people outside of the forums are at least aware that a discussion is going on.

SOE/Daybreak, on the other hand, has often felt over dependent on its forums over the years.  They have favored their forum followers with special insights, dev access, and used them as a primary form of feedback on many occasions.  To follow EverQuest II, for example, without spending time in the forums every day, you need a site like The EQ2 Wire.  You won’t seem a tenth of what you probably know if you depend on the news feed on the main web page.

SOE has, at various times, attempted to remedy this.  They have had dalliances with Facebook and Twitter and every so often they form some sort of partnership with Zam or Wikia or somebody to be an official news source.  These ventures have never really played out well, serving as more of a distraction and, of course, pissing off the long time official forum followers.  In the end, it has always been “back to the forums.”

Until H1Z1.

If you go to the main Daybreak site (which is still there under the SOE domain two months down the road) and look for forums, you will find links for every game… except H1Z1.

No H1Z1 forums for you!

No H1Z1 forums listed

There is actually a forum listed off of the actual H1Z1 site, but the emphasis since the game was announced has been on Reddit.

Smed started doing Reddit during PlanetSide 2, and when it came time for H1Z1 he and the company went full bore on Reddit, leaving the forums behind.  The General Discussion part of the H1Z1 forums points to Reddit and Twitch.  The forums are for news and support issues only.  If you want to talk about the game, the official place is Reddit.

Which isn’t the end of the world.

Well, until SOE starts pushing other game discussions towards Reddit, and then there is some wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It seems like the EverQuest II devs are now headed towards Reddit,  The EQ2 subreddit may soon be an official thing.

Never having been a part of the EQII forum community, I must admit to a wee bit of schadenfreude at their privileged position being assailed.  And, certainly, anybody who has complained about SOE’s moderation tactics, where the community team loads up the dread SOE MOD 4 to locks threads and delete posts according to some sort of Brownian motions as oppose to a clear pattern, ought to at least see some positive aspect in escaping that aspect of the SOE forums.

Not to mention being banned, as happened to Feldon of The EQ2 Wire

Not to mention being banned, as happened to Feldon of The EQ2 Wire

The thing is, here we are again at something I mentioned at the top of the post.  Here is a game company that has essentially outsourced their forums to a third party that they cannot control.

Yes, Daybreak can depend on the fanboy veto, the Reddit down vote, to hide the cranks and complainers and those who offend the true believers with their impertinence.  They were always there in the forums, fawning over every official statement, but now they have some power.  They can smite Daybreak’s foes by clicking that down arrow.

If they show up and if they click that down arrow.  Otherwise the leading topics might not end up being very Daybreak friendly.

Not all happy, supportive topics

Not all happy, supportive topics

When RadarX said, “What I can tell you is downvoting works most of the time.” I am not sure that is what he meant.  That is the site of a company letting go of control and finding out it might not be all that great.

While Daybreak has been trimming back their official forums, I am not sure they are destined for the scrap heap yet.  I certainly hope they are not.  There are long stretches of game history recorded only in those forums… because of that long SOE dependence on them that I mentioned previously.

What do you think?  Official forums?  Reddit?  Both?  Neither?

Addendum: Some of this lead to an open dialog on forum moderation and bans and such.

EverQuest II – The Circle is Now Complete

I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now *I* am the master.

Darth Vader, wrong as usual

That was the first quote that sprang to into my mind when I read the summary of the April 1st (why would you ever pick that date for a press release?) announcement that EverQuest II was apparently dumping the whole yearly expansion idea in favor of smaller adventure packs.

The circle is complete because way back in 2005 SOE went with the whole adventure packs idea.  It was an era… another era… when they were looking to get more money out of players on a more regular basis.

At launch SOE put a choke hold on alts by limited accounts to four characters total (a huge change after having 10 characters per server back in EverQuest) so that you had to opt in for whatever they were calling the All Access Pass (I recall it having another name before it was Station Access) back when it kicked off just to get a couple more slots.  SOE also offered up all sorts of player data… but you had to opt-in for a monthly fee to access it on their site.  And then there were Adventure Packs, small bits of content that you had to purchase separately.

The Adventure Packs

The Adventure Packs

I don’t recall the first one, The Bloodline Chronicles, being much of a big deal aside from being the vehicle for introducing the ability to blow up special walls.  The Splitpaw Saga was much more memorable, though I think that might have been primarily because of the huge amount of experience you could get running some of the quests.  When that got nerfed, it stopped being a thing.  And then there was The Fallen Dynasty which, if I recall right, was an attempt to salvage the work of SOE’s studio in Asia.

There was nothing horrible in that group, but they also weren’t very notable either.  Of those three, I think only The Fallen Dynasty gets much play these days because SOE tosses a few new quests into the zone now and again.

But now we have The Rum Cellar campaign and Daybreak seeming to jump on the who adventure pack idea again.

Includes another ugly mount

Includes another ugly mount

And I am curious to know why Daybreak, having said that when it comes to the traditional big expansion, up to a third of those who purchase them go for the full boat, all the extra fluff, more than double price ($90 vs. $40) Collector’s Edition, would now opt for $15 adventure packs again?

Is this the end of what I would call “the tyranny of Kunark,” where that first EverQuest expansion set the bar for all MMO expansions going forward?  Is this the inevitable destination in the world of free to play?  Are smaller chunks of content sold in such packs better, or will they lead to a chaos of “who has what?” when guilds want to do things in groups or raids?  Should, as Keen asks, all MMOs have DLC?

Addendum: And Syp weighs in with four flaws in this DLC plan.

Progression Servers and Post-Cataclysm Norrath

We came up short as a group in Azeroth this past weekend.  Life will get in the way and the whole group has gotten older over the last eight years we have played.  But three of us, Potshot, Ula, and myself were online.  We got on Skype together as we went about doing some garrison things and quests and what not.  Blizzard has made “soloing in a group” work a bit better over the years, but sometimes it still feels like the optimum open world group size is one.

Potshot and Ula were off on a quest chain to unlock a garrison upgrade while I was running around Azeroth visiting elders for the Lunar Festival.  I was sparked into late action on that when I read that 40 tokens from elders will buy you a 60 to 90 heirloom armor upgrade as part of the whole new heirloom system that came in with patch 6.1.

Blizzard has found a way to get me to do holiday events again, gotta give them that.

Anyway, as we were off on our tasks, we started talking about the possibilities of the EverQuest progression server that may (or may not) be showing up at some future date.

Potshot and I are pretty much on board for it… same as it ever was.  We will be there for the dawn of whatever new server they put together.  We also sold Ula on the idea for the moment of going back in time to a world of simple graphics, bad linoleum textures, and limited skills and spells.

Bandit fight in West Karana

Bandit fight in West Karana

Depending on when (and if) Daybreak gets this going, a progression server excursion might make a nice break from Azeroth for a bit.  I would call it a hiatus, but I think we would need to play more to qualify for the term.

On conversation meandered about on the idea of EverQuest nostalgia and then I started to compare old EverQuest to EverQuest II, which in many ways seems to be almost the antithesis of EverQuest, at least when comparing the early versions of both.

Vinkund's hot bars

At what point in EQ did you need 3 full hotbars?

Of course that made its way around in my mind to what an EverQuest II progression server would be like.  How do you take what there is out there today, the game having just hit the 10 year mark back in November, and recreate the 2004 experience?

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

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

Even the EverQuest II team, during their recent “Don’t go, we’re still alive!” live stream the other day spoke of a desire to do something like a progression server for EverQuest II, if they could figure out how.

And therein lies the rub.

I must assume that the EverQuest II team is stuck with the same restrictions that the EverQuest team faces when doing progression servers, which means working with the current client and server and zones and just playing with some of the flags and settings in the background.

In this EverQuest has a clear advantage in that SOE hasn’t spent a ton of time going back and revamping old zones.  Yes, they redid Freeport and the Commonlands and the Desert of Ro, for which they will spend time in purgatory I am sure, but a lot of the old zones are still the same ugly ass stuff we thought was the bees knees back in 1999.  This is why I always roll on the Qeynos side of Norrath.

Qeynos... at night!

Qeynos… at night!

SOE added a lot of stuff to EverQuest, including a starting tutorial and some new starter zones, but they left a lot of the old stuff intact.  Camping bandits in West Karana in 2011 was very much like camping them in 1999.

We're hunting bandits

We’re hunting bandits

EverQuest was ever looking forward to the next expansion, the next round of content, then next increase in the level cap, the next pack of AA skills.  It isn’t like it launched perfectly.  There were many problems, some of which took years to fix.  But the team seemed to have their eyes constantly on the horizon as they chased a crazy two expansions a year dream, which ran unbroken for a five year stretch of time, from Legacy of Ykesha to Secrets of Faydwer.  Success allowed that.

Meanwhile, EverQuest II has spent a lot of its first decade trying to fix, change, or simply forget about what the game was like at launch.   There have been a lot of revamps of game mechanics, as there have been with EverQuest.

But the EverQuest II team has also spent a lot of time going back to the original content to change and update things.  Qeynos and Freeport have been changed and revamped and updated to the point that it is difficult to compare the 2004 versions with the what is there now.  There is no Isle of Refuge on which to start anymore… unless you want to run around your own version… and I am not even sure you can still get to the swamp where that first screen shot above was taken.

And zones that made a huge impact on me back in the day, like the Thundering Steppes or Nektulos Forest, have been changed so much over the years that they hardly feel like the same places.

Taunting centaurs

Remember when centaurs were all group encounters?

Given all of the changes that have rolled back over the original game over the years, I am not sure that much of 2004 can be really recreated given the limitations that the EverQuest II team will face.  They are not going to be allowed to roll a special client or a special version of the server software, which leaves us with what?

I suppose there would be some interest, some value, some fun to be had in simply rolling up a fresh EverQuest II server that required Station Access or SOE All Access or Daybreak to Dusk Access or whatever the all-in-one only subscription option will be called some day, starting with just the original zones, and then not allowing transfers or level 90 character boosts.  Maybe they could tinker with the experience table or toughen up the mobs a bit.  It could be a hardcore or challenge server maybe.  But I bet it would be tough to justify keeping the cash shop limited, especially if it turned out that the people who jumped on that server were subscribers already.  Siphoning your most dedicated players off to their own isolated server can’t be viewed as a win in accounting.

So where does that leave us?  Back with the status quo?

Of course, it is also reasonable to ask about how much nostalgia there is for the early days of EverQuest II.  In many ways 2004 in Norrath feels like a survivors tale of horrible ideas we’re all pretty much glad we no longer have to deal with.  Is any significant population of players really longing to go back to early days of the game?

There is an EverQuest II emulator project out there, but it doesn’t seem to generate anywhere close to the amount of interest that classic EverQuest or World of Warcraft or even Star Wars Galaxies server emulation does.

The cliche response is always that you can’t go home again, but in this case, do we even want to?

A Vision of Norrath at Daybreak

…because the Everquest franchise is our lifeblood and we treat it with the respect it deserves.

EQN has the largest development team at SOE. It is going to be more than ok.

John Smedley, on Twitter (one and two), post layoff.

The web sites are all still flavored “Sony Online Entertainment,” and I haven’t even seen an official logo yet for Daybreak Games Company, but the wheels of the Columbus Nova Prime acquisition continue to grind forward.

The week before last we had the “straight from the acquisition playbook” layoffs when DGC shed those it saw as redundant, low performers, or possible trouble makers when it came to their plans.  None of those who were let go had anything bad to say about DGC, but a good severance package can have that effect.  I don’t know if Columbus Nova Prime when full EA in the fine print, telling people they would want their money back if they said anything negative about Daybreak, but I wouldn’t count that out.  Not that I expected negativity.  The first day there is generally too much shock and dealing with the business at hand, and later, if you’ve left friends behind, you don’t want to shit all over them.

With that settled for the moment, DGC had to turn around and reassure the customer base, and especially those customers who are invested in the company and who are paying the bills for just about everything, which is the Norrath fan base.  Smed himself seems to spend all his time and energy on everything besides Norrath.  I think he may have said more about EVE Online in the last few years than he has about straight up, old school, made the whole company possible, EverQuest.

H1Z1 isn’t making any money yet, Dragon’s Prophet seems dubious as a cash cow, PlanetSide 2 is finally carrying its own weight, and DC Universe Online appears to be doing well on the PlayStation, but I wonder how much of that money flows back to SOE and how much stays behind to bolster PlayStation Plus revenues.

So, from the outside, it feels like Norrath is still paying the bills.  Michael Zenke came back from talking with Smed some years back with the impression that EverQuest was so cheap to operate on a day-to-day basis that it might literally hold out until the last subscriber walks away.  Throwing away the cash cow, or letting it starve, seems like a bad play.  And when the layoffs seemed to be focused primarily around people working on Norrath related projects, some of the vocal members of the fan base were clearly running scared and talking about swearing off any form of EverQuest before the place ended up a stagnant backwater.  So something had to be done.

That something was live streams.

I will say right now that I hate live streams for developer updates.  They are fine for a special announcement or some such… SOE Live or BlizzCon level events are okay… but as a method for delivering more mundane updates or plans, I really don’t like them.  They involve too much personality and not enough detail and you end up with half-considered statements that people will glom onto, like Tom Chilton saying that he felt Warlords of Draenor was further along back at BlizzCon in 2013 than Mists of Pandaria was when it was announced at BlizzCon.  That practically became “Draenor by February!” in some corners.   Plus, I must admit, I am old and grumpy and actively resent a developer group making me sit and watch something for an half an hour to glean maybe five minutes worth of actual details if I am lucky.

So I skipped what I could on that front and have depended on the MMO focused gaming media to deliver tidbits about what transpired.

Most of the coverage was about EverQuest Next, as that is the future of Norrath on which any number of former, but never again, EverQuest and EverQuest II players have pinned their hopes on.

Firiona Vie makes it to 2013

Still looking at this picture of EverQuest Next vision…

On the interesting side of things, there is apparently some hedging as to whether or not EverQuest Next will be free to play, or at least free to play in the current SOE model.  I suspect that might be wishful thinking, because unless Daybreak really has something new and different that can command a box price or a mandatory subscription, they might do themselves more harm than good going that route.  And my confidence in Daybreak being able to recognize a good idea from a bad one, given their track record, is pretty low.  But I couldn’t tell you if, in the long term, F2P has been the salvation that has been claimed on the Norrath front.

Then there is EverQuest Next on consoles.  Given what Smed has been preaching since the acquisition has been announced, that feels more likely an outcome than not.  The question then becomes one of balance… as in how many PC players will stop playing the game when they find a clunky UI designed to be used with a gamepad?  There is going to have to be a lot of XBox and PlayStation interest to counteract shitting all over the main fanbase if we end up with a DCUO interface.

And then there is the question of what EverQuest Next will be now that Daybreak has cut its ties with Storybricks.

I refuse to go full Tobold here and declare that this move means that EverQuest Next is likely to be a boring old WoW clone.  On the break with Storybricks, Senior Producer Terry Michaels said,

We made the decision that it was in the best interest of the game to take that work in-house. They did a lot of work for us and we’ll be utilizing that. It’s not like that work is lost.

So I am not sure you can make the logic-defying leap and declare that EverQuest Next is going to be completely 2007 or whatever in makeup because of this change, at least not without a supporting argument along the lines of “SOE is lying to us again” or some evidence that they are, indeed, trashing all the code related to Storybricks’ involvement.  Of course, bringing all of that work in-house isn’t likely to make EverQuest Next appear in the “near future” as was recently mentioned.

Anyway, that is the meat of what I saw over the weekend, which really wasn’t all that much, as the game is still out in the future.  I am sure I missed some details on the EverQuest Next front, I’m just not sure they matter until the game is an actual thing on Steam access at a minimum.

I had to go to a more a dedicated site, the ever alert EQ2 Wire, to find out what was going on when it came to news from the EverQuest II stream.  That appeared to be much more focused on simply reassuring the fan base that EverQuest II was still a going concern.

This treasure... you cannot have it

Is there still treasure in post-cataclysm Norrath?

The core of that seemed to be that updates and events and what not would continue on as before along with an acknowledgement around some pathological desire in the fan base to have a duck mount.

Then there was the EverQuest stream, which as far as I can tell, no MMO news site even bothered to dig into, so I had to actually go listen to that video once it was up on YouTube. (I put the video in the background because people sitting around talking wasn’t exactly adding to the flow of information.)

There the talk started off with some of the diminished team introducing themselves, and a statement that Holly Longdale was taking over as executive producer, putting her in charge of both EQ and EQII.  There was mention of new updates coming up in the next couple of months, including a new loot system and some vague statements about this year’s expansion, so I suppose that isn’t totally out the window, along with some minor talk about what they want to add to the game going forward, including making the UI better.

The biggest part of that whole stream for me was the mention of continuing to do things that work well with EverQuest, including progression servers.  There wasn’t anything concrete about how they want to do them going forward or what form they would take, but they were definitely on record that they want to do them again, which is great.  I thought we had kissed that idea good-bye forever once free to play hit everywhere.

Timeline stuck in time

So many expansions to unlock

For a game that has such nostalgia value for so many people, the whole progression server idea has always been a winner, delivering a lot of bang for the buck for bother players and the company.  There are a lot of players who will jump on board, even if it is subscription only, to have a “Day one, everybody level 1, lets go camp bandits!” experience.  It would just be nice if Daybreak could actually really run with the idea and promote it and keep people interested.  My past experience has been that progression servers get attention for about five minutes on the front page and then never get mentioned again, while in the forums, the most common company presence is SOE-MOD-04, the harbinger of locked threads.  The Fippy Darkpaw progression server just passed the four year mark last week and I still can only find updates about it when Daybreak screws something up.

Anyway, those are my notes from the weekend on the Norrathian front at Daybreak. (I will also say that the new company name is just the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to post titles.)

A few other blogs are writing a bit about these topics as well, including:

And the beat goes on.

January in Review

The Site

Well, there is usual load of things to complain about when it comes to  Their new “upgraded” stats and writing interfaces remain sluggish and feature poor compared to the originals.  Then there was the momentary stats debacle around the middle of the month, where suddenly they fumbled and misplaced a bunch of data.  I was checked my stats and saw page views actually going down.  And while they seem to have mostly fixed things, there are still a couple of days where things numbers do not add up.

I am plugged into just about every notification system of theirs I can find and they NEVER use any of them to mention problems or warn in advance of upgrades.  They prefer to keep everything locked down, rarely responding to any inquiry with anything besides clearly copied and pasted phrases.  There is a certain irony in that, with them running what is essentially a communications platform.

Still, better than dealing with Google… or Yahoo… or AOL.

Anyway, aside from my usual bitching and moaning about mishandled technology, I seem to have added a bunch of new followers to the blog over the last month and a half.  Back at the start of December the number was ~200.

People who “follow” the blog, as I am using the term here, have to have accounts and then opt-in to view posts in the rather mediocre reader interface that offers.  More complaining, I know, but really you are better off using RSS and something like Feedly or FlipBoard.

But by the middle of January I had gotten this little achievement from

500Followers500 isn’t a huge number, but adding 300 in six weeks after a couple years getting to 200 seems… odd.  All the more so when many of those clicking the “follow” button seem to be not at all game, or even entertainment, related.

I suspect that there is some SEO related “secret” that has caused this surge in followers.  Or maybe it is a Twitter-like thing, as I notice that some of those who follow then unfollow rather quickly… though that may be because WP tied following and email notifications together at some point, meaning you cannot just sign up to see things in their reader, you also have to get email updates.  Or, at least you get an email about getting automatic email updates.  The actual email updates never arrive.  So dumb.

Anyway, welcome new followers!  I suspect that most of you will never read this!

One Year Ago

Do I need to say more than B-R5RB?  That was the biggest single battle in the history of EVE Online when it came to total ISK destroys, most of it in the form of 75 titans blowing up.  Lots of big numbers in that fight.  It made it to lots of non-gaming news sites.  And I was there.  I am on six titan kill mails to prove it.  The whole thing was a hell of an event after the crash at HED-GP earlier in the month.

That about spelled the end of N3 in the southeast as the Russians rolled in with CFC support.  My joke about the power blocs seemed to be true.  What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, Blog Banter 52 was focused on the EVE Online community.  All sunshine and lollipops there, right?  Otherwise it was a pretty slow month in New Eden for me.

Speaking of bloodbaths, SOE announced they were going to close four titles, Free Realms, Wizardry Online, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, and Vanguard: Rise of the Saga.  Meanwhile, deadbeat Planet Side, which hadn’t netted a nickel of profit in years went 100% free to play.  Way to show favorites Smed!

Then there was how Hearthstone was going to inspire SOE to update Legends of Norrath, because SOE has been cast in the role of follower for a while now.  Also, never going to happen.

Then there was the question of when “Next” was, specifically EverQuest Next.  Things had gotten quiet already.

At least SOE made subscriptions cheaper, though not before pissing off their subscribers first.  SOE being SOE.

And then there was Lord of the Rings Online, which announced there would be no expansion in 2014… or raids or dungeons… which left people kind of wondering what was going to happen.  You want to know when people started to doubt the future of the game? It was with this.  I did point out that Turbine was not the only entity that tried to tackle Tolkien’s work, only to be brought up short at Helm’s Deep.

There was the Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen kickstarter.  Brad McQuaid was back, asking for too much money and promising too many features.  We know how that works out.  Even SOE closing his last title couldn’t push his pledge totals up to what he wanted.

Then there was World of Warcraft.  People were wondering what classes to boost to level 90. and what the so-called stat squish was really going to mean.  They also, in hindsight, pretty clearly broadcasted the Warlords of Draenor ship date, only few believed it.

Our own group was still running through the Cataclysm expansion, catching up from our year or so away from the game in places like Deepholm and the Vortex Pinnacle.  I was also lusting for living steel and making friends with the Netherwing at last.

What else?  Oh yeah, EA decided that maybe SimCity should be a SimCity game.  I was wondering if level cap upgrades were an aberration.  There was some naming policy shenanigans.  And there was my yearly MMO outlook for the year as well as the usual prediction.

Five Years Ago

Well, there was the usual set of ill-considered predictions.

Oh, and that Battlestar Galactia/Bohemian Rhapsody video on YouTube.  I liked that.

The first issue of The Official World of Warcraft Magazine shipped.

I was wondering how many people remapped they keys for games.

There was Hulkageddon II, from which I tried to draw lessons.  Always good for some gamer angst… and anger.

There was a certain amount of excitement on my part for Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.  January was the ramp up time for Pokemon hype.

The instance group was still warming up on the Horde side, making it as far as Razorfen Downs.

And the whole forever argument around Tanks and Healers vs. DPS?  We were going on about that back in January 2010 as well.  The Dungeon Finder brought this all into sharp relief.

But the month was primarily about Star Trek Online.  I was obsessed.

I was making making up polls and contests around that Del Taco shuttle tie-in and silly lists of things to do while waiting for open beta.

And when it finally arrived, I spent a lot of time with the character creator, some of it to make my first character and some of it just in the name of science.  I customized my ship and wondered how I could get rid of the shields in my combat screen shots.  Did they ever change that? And I pondered whether or not it was a good idea to get a lifetime subscription.  The poll results said it wasn’t, but I did it anyway.  The majority was correct it would seem.

Oh, I did do one other thing in January 2010.

New Linking Blogs

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in January

A surprise link from Crossing Zebra’s vaulted a four year old post to the top of the chart this month.  And the rest of the list was made up of mostly recent posts, which is a rarity some months.

  1. Some People REALLY Want to be Goons…
  2. And What of Another Middle-earth?
  3. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  4. And What of Another Middle-earth?
  5. Last Minute Molten Core
  6. A Warning to My Fellow Dummies
  7. Have Basilisk, Will Travel
  8. Level 85 in EverQuest… Now What?
  9. Tech 3 Destroyers and Other Tidbits from EVE Vegas Keynote
  10. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  11. Making Friends and Influencing Capsuleers the Gevlon Goblin Way!
  12. The State of the Garrison Address

Search Terms of the Month

planetside 2 memes
[I don’t think PS2 is there yet]

( a$.32;?
[This actually brings people to a World of Tanks screen shot here]

where in the world map are the halls of montezuma
[Well, for a start, they’re pretty far from the shores of Tripoli]

prince of persia 4 pc game under 40mb
[Size isn’t everything]

sunny sex noob photos in 2015
[Really, you don’t want to go there]

EVE Online

It has been a semi-quiet month for me in New Eden.  I am with the deployment down in Immensea, but I keep missing fleets.  Timers seem to require us to form up just as we are sitting down to dinner at our house.  Still, I got on the kill board a few times and hopefully clicked on enough participation links to keep my CEO happy.

I did pull my second account out of the corp and let the subscription lapse.  Aside from the very rare need for a cyno beacon, I hadn’t really been using him.  So I am back down to one account.

EverQuest II

After some fun in Norrath, getting a couple of characters into the Rise of Kunark expansion I decided my vacation from Azeroth was over and let things settle.  I will likely return at some future date to continue my better-late-than-never journey through some of the EQII content.

World of Warcraft

I am all about the garrisons.  Or that is what it feels like some days with five characters in Draenor.  Every day I log in there is some garrison maintenance waiting for me.  I have to keep those followers active and those work order queues filled because… because… otherwise the won’t be active or filled!  Doing that has left me with a single level 100 character.  I still have three level 94s and a level 95 to work up to cap, plus I have this absurd dream about getting one of my long disused Horde characters up to level cap.  I am going to need another 13 month content drought.

Coming Up

The final days of Massively and WoW Insider are upon us.  On February 3rd they will go away, though the nature of their disappearance has yet to be announced.  Where will all of those URLs resolve to on the 4th, if anywhere?  We are rapidly approaching the last minute, though I doubt there will be any last minute reprieve from Vice-President for Being AOL Zorg.

I do have to look into replacements for both sites in my reader.

In EVE Online we have another expansion looming, while in World of Warcraft 6.1 patch is on the horizon.  I suppose I will stop fretting about how it is changing from day to day since WoW Insider won’t be keeping me up to date on that.

And by Grabthar’s hammer, I will get my ship undocked and fly around in Elite: Dangerous.  Also, Pokemon.  I must get back to Pokemon at some point.


Wandering the Palace of the Awakened

The thing about doing a set of content a second time is that it can feel very different, especially if you do it not to long after the first run.  The difficulties, the confusion, the wondering where you should go… a lot of that gets smoothed out.  Going into the cloud mount quest chain with a second character so recently after having done it the first time highlighted this.

Vikund and his merc in the Kingdom of Sky

Vikund and his merc in the Kingdom of Sky

The whole dynamic of the quest chain felt very different.  Places where I spent long gaps of time trying to figure out how to get to a particular mob or location, I had the answers for those now.  I moved quickly and efficiently during those stages on the second pass.

Which meant that areas that required patience versus knowledge stood out as they ended up occupying a much greater segment in the overall duration of the quest chain.  And one segment stood out more than the rest; the Palace of the Awakened.

Before the Palace of the Awakened

Before the Palace of the Awakened

A lot of the cloud mount quest chain uses the standard mechanics of quests that we have grown used to over the years.  Find a mob, find and kill a mob, find and kill a dozen of a mob, find and kill a type of mob for a dozen drops, and so on.

The Palace of the Awakened segment uses one of those special to EverQuest II mechanics, the collection. (Along with climbable walls, which SOE devs were in love with during that era.  Climbable walls seriously out number stairs, elevators, ramps, and whatever for moving vertically in the expansion.)

Collection quests were one of those special and popular features of EQII at launch, and one that has stood the test of time.  On the ground in the various zones of the world you may run across a little question mark highlighted with a sparkle effect or a little exclamation point over a document on the ground.  You can pick these up and will be rewarded with a random item exclusive to that area.

A collection sparklie in Kelethin

A collection sparklie in Kelethin

Each collection needs anywhere from 3 to a couple dozen items to be completed and they reward experience, AA points, and special items on occasion.  The EQII player base took to collections very well… at least once they got their own special section of the question log… and new collection quests are part of every expansion.  They used to be a great way to get a few quick levels on an alt and the trade in collection items is a big part of the market in Norrath.

The only game I have seen copy the collection quest directly from EQII is Rift, and given the Scott Hartsman connection, that isn’t very surprising.

Of course, a big reason that the trade in collection items is popular in the market is that to finish a collection you either have to be very persistent in hunting for items or you have to buy the items you are missing from somebody else.

Vikund, who I spent a lot of time persistently hunting for collections with back in the day has discovered over 150 such collection quests, but has only completed 60.  That percentage puts him way ahead of most of my other characters.

Anyway, the Palace of the Awakened segment of the cloud mount quest series is a collection quest.  You are given the binding for a book, which is the first item in the collection and establishes it in your collection log.  Then you have to go to the palace and find nine missing pages to complete the collection.

The spawn points for collection items are scattered all over the palace.  The density it fairly sparse… rarely are there such points within sight of each other and almost never in the same room… and the respawn time feels longer than average, so if you want to get this done you have to roam the palace.

And for Vikund, going into this at level 61, roaming the palace was a bit of a challenge.  The mobs range from level 65 to 70… and maybe beyond 70, as I couldn’t get past the level 70s… and are heroic encounters, which means they are designed for groups.  Or were designed for groups from 2005.  Vikund and his healing mercenary could handle things if I took everything slowly and carefully.

So he went roaming the Palace of the Awakened over the course of two days and a couple of hours.

The thing with this sort of collection quest is that the first item you find is always a winner.  The spawns are random, but if you do not have any of them yet, it doesn’t matter what turns up, it will advance the collection.  The second one is almost always a winner as well.  And the third is likely to be too.  But there is a tipping point where you start picking up duplicates.  As your collection grows, your odds go down.  I spent probably three quarters of my time in the palace trying to get the last two items and at least half the time trying to get the final piece.

So for most of my time, the collection looked like this

So for most of my time, the collection looked like this

None of which is necessarily a bad thing.  The palace is heroic but manageable, so the experience was good… and all the more so since the past weekend was a bonus experience event to celebrate the new year.  Vikund went in at level 61 and came out at 64.  But in how the quest chain felt, I spent less than five hours working on the whole thing, but at least two hours of it were hunting for scraps of paper in the Palace of the Awakened and more than an hour of that time was spent looking for one specific piece of paper.  So while my first run felt like I did a whole series of activities, the second run felt like I did the Palace of the Awakened and little else sticks out.  There was less than two hours invested getting there, and it only took that long because I did some side quests, and after the palace I was done with the whole Bonemire segment of the quest chain in under an hour and back and starting at that huge pile of loot again.

This treasure... you cannot have it

This treasure… you cannot have it

Then again, the whole quest chain ends up with you finding the treasure parked pretty much right below where the whole thing started, so maybe the feeling of having spent a bunch of time elsewhere plays right into the theme of the quest.

Anyway, Vikund got his cloud mount.

Riding the cloud mount back to the quest starter

Riding the cloud mount back to the quest starter

I quickly put my horse back as the visible mount once that was complete, so now he has a magically gliding horse when he jumps off of high places.

Horsie slow fall

Horsie slow fall

And he has a the seven pieces of the Angelic Soul paladin armor that comes from the quest chain and which will keep him going well into Kunark, should I bring him out there.

Paladin in gold

Paladin in gold

I mentioned that the Frostfell armor made me feel like I was running around in my pajamas.  I am not sure that the golden look of the Angelic Soul armor is an improvement.  I might have to go put my ebon armor set in the appearance slots. (Because, of course, I didn’t vendor that set, I just put it in the bank next to the Frostfell armor set.  See what huge amounts of bank space does to me.)

And, one side benefit of the whole Palace of the Awakened trip was that I was able to make some platinum by selling the repeat drops to people who just wanted to get past that part of the quest chain.

They all sold for over a plat each

They all sold for over a plat each

I remain ever impressed when I sell anything for a plat coin or more, still being stuck mentally in the old days when it was a moment of celebration to earn a whole platinum piece.  So a sales day like that seems amazing to me.  And those sales financed the upgraded sword and kite shield Vikund needed.  So he is level 65 and stands ready to enter Kunark when the time is ripe.

That also makes him my second highest level character in EQII, behind Sigwerd, who is about 10 levels ahead.  And I feel better about not opting to boost one of them to level 85.  I had fun enough with the cloud mount quests and SOE just announced they are changing the insta-level option to boost people to level 90.  Five more levels should I ever want that option.

And, standing at what for me is the pinnacle of my advancement through the game, it seems like my vacation in Norrath might be nearing and end.  I am back to focusing more on Azeroth and there is a deployment coming up in EVE Online.  But at least I can say I have finally made it into the 2007 content. (Though, technically, I did get one level in Kunark way back when it launched.)

My characters can go back into a quiet state where I just log in every so often up update their skill upgrade queue so they will be upgraded the next time nostalgia strikes.

If it is Fun Once, It Must be Fun Twice, Right?

During the last week of last year I had gotten my berserker, Sigwerd, through the Kingdom of Sky expansion and into Kunark.  He went out into the Kylong Plains, wrapping that up and now sits just shy of level 75 in the Fens of Nathsar.

While he is still 25 levels shy of the cap, he made some decent progress and is my highest level character now in EverQuest II.  In the Norrathian expansion timeline I have nearly made it to 2008!

But in his bash through Kunark, Sigwerd had used up all of his vitality… or bonus experience… or blue bar in the parlance of Azeroth… as well as his weekly refill from the Orb of Concentrated Memories, a veyeran’s reward that is now available from the loyalty points vendor.  And since I am in tourist mode… I want to see stuff, but not necessarily grind it to death… I started looking to see if there was an alt I could run around with while Sigwerd recharged.  My goal was to find a character I could get to run through the cloud mount series of quests again without a lot of effort.

To do that, I needed somebody at least kind of close to level 55 or so, about the soonest you can really dig into that quest line.

My first choice was Nehru, my level 56 templar, and a copy of my very first character in game. (Copied over when EverQuest II Extended was the hot new thing and its own server.  He still shows a November 13, 2004 creation date and all the play time recorded back when I used to leave him logged in to sell while I was at work, back when there was no offline selling option.)

He was right in the zone and I had even played him some in our last run through EQII way back when.  He was geared up and good to go.  So I got him out and gave him a try.  To do this I figured I would have to work with a mercenary, as Nehru was biased towards healing.  However, the rhythm of working with a tank mercenary felt really awkward and I gave up after a short time.

Which did not leave me a lot of choices if I wanted to stay on the Freeport server.  I have a bunch of characters in the 20-40 range, but there was only one other character beyond those.  That was Vikund, a level 49 paladin.  He is a copy of my second ever character in EQII, but unlike Nehru, who got a new name and who actually got some play time, Vikund was copied over for his trade skill and was otherwise left as he was.

He was actually very close to level 50, so I quickly ran out and got that.

Level 50 about a decade late

Level 50 about a decade late

But from there he was struggling a bit to move forward.  This appeared to be, in part, because he was geared up straight from 2005 before some gear had stats and such.

I like my cloak to be clear of numbers!

I like my cloak to be clear of numbers!

I thought I would be okay because I was at least wearing a full set of Ebon crafted armor.  However, it was really, really old.  Gaff made it with his character Meclin… I would guess in 2005 or so… back when the mastercrafted gear was available at 20, 30, 40, 50, etc., rather than the way it is now at 22, 32, 42, 52, etc.  So I am going to guess that it did not get whatever updates eventually got applied to gear over time.

Not an astounding helm

Not an astounding helm

I could be wrong on that, but I was struggling some.  Fights against single mobs were very slow, though that could have also been because I had no idea what my skills did.  My hot bars were a complete mess.  I ended up wiping them out and filling them up again, trying to apply some order to them.

Vinkund's hot bars

Vinkund’s hot bars

My general logic is that a ranged started gets slot 1, whatever I need to do to start melee reliably (which means a skill without a cool down) in slot 2, first step and second step skills for heroic opportunities arrayed on either side of the starter (that yellow skill on 8), AOEs grouped together (alt 1 through 4), other stuff I think I might need strewn about where I will likely forget what it does when I actually need it, and buffs on bar 4, which I will scroll to should I need to re-buff… which I never need to, since most buffs are good until cancelled and persist through death.

Of course, SOE’s icons don’t always help.  You will note that 4 and 9 plus 6 and 7 have the same icons, despite being different skills.  A red background makes them single target damage attacks, but a couple are physical attacks, a couple are magic… because paladins… and the skill at alt 1, which has a mostly red background, is actually an AOE attack, despite other AOE attacks having a blue background.  And purple is for group buffs, except for the skill at 1.  There is nothing quite like having a system that you only mostly keep to.

(On the berserker side of the house, there are four skills, hate, enrage, mock, and chaos, which all use the same basic icon, three of which are taunts, which matches the “shouting at somebody” design.  But chaos is a temporary group buff.  Need more icons.)

And after I cleared the hot bars it took me quite a while to find the Master’s Rage skill, the special attack you get to use against mob types for which you have completed the appropriate Lore and Legend quest.  The spell book is as muddled as always, which wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t remember what the skill was called.  I found it after I set the spell book to show all spells, sorted them alphabetically, and went through them page by page until I found it.

But now I have a system that mostly works, though I am going to have to move that long cool down big heal at alt-7 because I hit it now and again when going for the short cool down attack at alt-6.

I also decided to grab a mercenary.  With Sigwerd I went with the barbarian warder as support.  While that worked out well, I decided to change it up a bit and went for a mercenary in the druid line.

Desert healing

Forest Spirit Healing

That meant an elf following me around and summoning plants and what not, but it wasn’t a bad change.  That allowed me to get up to level 52 quickly enough where I diverted into Frostfell village (which was still up last night… how long does Frostfell last?) where I ran enough quests to upgrade my gear to the holiday set. (Also, no helm for the Frostfell set? I didn’t notice I had the ebon helm on still because I had the blue Santa cap in my appearance slot.)

Vikund in holiday armor

Vikund in holiday armor

It does feel a bit like I am running around in my pajamas at times, and the snowflake aura isn’t exactly a tough guy look either, but the upgrade was very noticeable.  I added in a cobalt sword and kite shield, after which I was able to put away my mercenary for a while as I tore my way through the Pillar of Flames to level 55.  (Also, at some point in the distant past, I got an item that applied that glowing yellow eyes look to me and I have no idea how to turn it off.)

Anyway, I got to 55 and headed up to the Tenebrous Tangle… which meant getting to some spires… where are the closest spires to New Halas? I keep going to the Commonlands… to start the cloud mount quest chain.

That went well enough.

Okay, I fell off the edge a couple times... mounts are too fast

Okay, I fell off the edge a couple times… mounts are so fast

I did not need my mercenary until I hit the Sanctum of the Scaleborn, which includes heroic mobs.  I also tried to pick up a side quest now and then to run in parallel as the cloud mount quest advances in levels much more rapidly that you, as a player, do if you are running only that.  Parallel quests went okay, except for one in the Sanctum of the Scaleborn which runs just fine until the very last step.  At that point you discover that, if you did not complete a language quest back in the Desert of Flames expansion, you cannot finish it.   I’ll have to get back to that.

I also got skunked in the Sanctum of the Scaleborn for a bit because it is an open dungeon and a group popped in with me… the first time I had seen another player doing anything beyond passing through in Kingdom of the Sky… and proceeded to jump ahead and wipe the whole place out.  So I had to wait for the end of their rampage and a round of respawns.  (Commence “instanced vs. open dungeons” argument.)

Those quests were still not quite enough to keep Vikund from getting ahead of himself at times.  But that is why he has a healing mercenary.  I think his main problem in running ahead as fast as he has is that all of his skills are at the apprentice level still, which means that they do not hit higher level mobs as often as I would like.  I may have to get Nehru out again, as he is an alchemist, so he can whip up a batch of journeyman skill upgrades.

Overall, swapping out to a new character for another shot at the cloud mount quest line has been fun.  It has also been a bit quicker, as I know where I got lost or confused previously.  Vikund has made it past 60 already and is into the second stage of the quest line in The Barren Sky.

Level 60

Level 60

I was tempted to run back to Frostfell village to upgrade his equipment again, but then I started getting pieces from the Angelic Soul paladin armor set that are part of the quest line rewards.  That will keep him going for a while.  The question is, how long will I keep going?

I guess I can make it through this weekend.  SOE is having a bonus exp event, so I should be able to get a little bit further with either Sigwerd or Vikund.  But my thoughts are turning back to Azeroth.  There are garrisons to maintain and alts to work on and Darkmoon Faire to run through.  So much to do.