Category Archives: EverQuest II

The EverQuest II Varsoon Time Locked Expansion Server Launches Today

Check another one off of the EverQuest II roadmap that Daybreak gave us back in January, as the Varsoon time locked expansion server they promised for May is arriving today.

Varsoon today

Such servers are no longer anything new for EQ or EQII, but the team does continue to refine the formula with each launch.  This time around expansion unlocks will be on a 16 week timer, save for Desert of Flames, which is only worthy of 12 weeks.  That means you have 16 weeks to play through the content with the main lump of players who start today in order to experience the old content as it was meant to be, with that aforementioned lump of players all in the same expansion and zones.

They have posted a FAQ in the forums about the server.  One of the key items is that you need to be a Daybreak All Access subscriber in order to join in.  Special servers are for subscribers only.

Other tidbits from the FAQ:

What’s Happening on Varsoon?

Varsoon is a Time-Locked Expansion (TLE) server where expansions unlock automatically. This server will be very similar to the Kaladim TLE except that Varsoon will also be a Free-Trade server. Which means items that are normally heirloom, will be able to be traded with other players.

Return of the Hoods

The hoods and villages will be open for Varsoon, like Big Bend, Longshadow Alley, the Baubleshire and Nettleville. Quest content in these villages will remain changed, but the hoods themselves will be there to access and reminisce.

Overseer

Q: Will the Overseer System be available on Varsoon TLE server?
A: Yes! The Overseer System will be available on the Varsoon TLE server.

That latter is interesting.  It isn’t so much that the feature is completely out of bound for most of life of the game so far.  It is more a matter of wondering how they will itemize the rewards.  They can barely be bothered to update the reward system for the Overseer feature on the live servers, so you end up with stuff a couple of expansions out of date.  I assume they have done some work for this server, but will it change every 16 weeks or just muddle along in some semi-useful state?

In addition, Daybreak has also announced the Summer Jubilee, which will run from June 2nd until August 24th, and which will be an umbrella event that covers Tinkerfest, the Scorched Sky Celebration, and the Oceansfull Festival.

  • Tinkerfest — June 2, 2022 to June 15, 2022
  • Scorched Sky Celebration — June 30, 2022 to July 13, 2022
  • Oceansfull Festival — August 11, 2022 to August 24, 2022

I mention this because special rules servers, including Varsoon, will get their own version of the event.  Anyway, Bhagpuss has more to say about Jubilees than I do.

So, at some point today… I am sure the plan is noon Pacific time, but experience shows that later in the evening is more likely… the Varsoon server will unlock and the rush through the content will begin.

Discord as a News Source

One of the ongoing issues of the blog over the last decade and a half has been consistent access to a reliable news feed when it comes to the games I follow.  I’d like to write about what they’re up to if only they would take a moment to let me know.

You can find a few rants early on in the life of the blog where I am frustrated that a given company… usually SOE… has a new page on their web site dedicated to a game and then won’t update it, or breaks the RSS feed, or insists on putting any useful information deep the forums, where no sane person dare go, or, perhaps most common of all, simply fails to update anything anywhere for long stretches of time.

That was in early days of social media, when Twitter and Facebook were something of a novelty and community teams mostly hung around on the forums or made podcasts, which were the hot new thing.  There was a long stretch of me dissecting each SOE podcast for news, back when that was a thing.

Social media has made things a bit better.  At some point various studios realized that they needed to raise their profiles on the various social media outlets, so we got official accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and where ever else one might find potential customers.  Some go so far as to post game news on LinkedIn, which has basically become “business Facebook” because the advice of every half-assed consultant demands that you build your brand by posting nonsense there.

The problem is that social media platforms are bad at timelines.  Twitter seems distressed that I follow so few accounts (I keep a hard cap of 500), so gleefully injects all sorts of suggested accounts into my feed, muddying up the waters.

And they are great compared to Facebook and Instagram, where time apparently has no meaning (I seem to get all the Instragram “Going into Friday like…” memes on Tuesday for example) and once you’ve seen something it gets stored somewhere you can never find it again.

And even when they are not screwing with your timelines, you do need to be there and looking at their site when something gets posted in order to see it in a timely fashion… or at all… which, admittedly means being online and ready at some point after 4pm on a Friday looking for bad news.

That used to be a standard Daybreak move, though CCP ran with the same plan for the great price increase news this past week.

Things have gotten better in that various community and marketing teams seem to get that they have to, you know, keep the players informed in order to keep them engaged.  That is literally the base function of their positions.  If you can only do one thing, do that.  But consistency remains spotty and, as noted, the social media platforms seem to be working against any sort of useful information getting to people since that doesn’t drive engagement like inflammatory political rantings from niche players you would never have heard of except that the know how to play to the algorithms.

Getting timely updates remains harder than it should be.  And don’t even get me started on the Bizarro world that is Google Alerts, which will go out of its way to tell me about every sketchy analyst group that wants to sell me a report on battle royale games but doesn’t seem to know that Massively OP is a thing when I get results for “Daybreak.”  (And when Pokemon has a “Daybreak” update… fergetaboudit.)

Then I ran into a Discord feature that allows game companies who run their own server to setup a news channel that you can subscribe to and pipe into your own server in order to get updates as they get posted.

Unity through Discord

I took the TAGN Discord server, which I setup back when Fantasy Movie League was a thing, and created a new channel in it, and went around and subscribed that channel to the news feeds of various video games.

And it has worked pretty well.

It has its limitations, the largest of which is that a studio has to set up its own Discord server and actually maintain it.  But Discord is popular, even by my own meager measuring, and has become a go-to spot for a lot of companies since gamers are already there.

For example, Daybreak seems to have bought in fully on running a Discord server for at least a couple of their games.  I am subscribed to the news feed for the EverQuest and EverQuest II servers and, for maybe the first time in the life of the blog, I feel like I am getting timely and relevant updates for those games.

Granted, Daybreak as a studio has gotten much better at communication, but this puts updates in my field of vision faster than ever.  They seem committed to the platform for now.

Valheim also provides updates in a timely and consistent fashion.  The Forza Horizon team might be a bit too eager to share, though I will admit everything they post is relevant for players of their titles.

Amazon Games is a little iffy.  They do post updates reliably, but seem to forget that they have more than one game.  They seem to copy an update from either New World of Lost Ark and post it to Discord without actually mentioning which game the news is for.  Usually it is somewhat obvious, but if they announce server restarts and don’t mention a game, do I assume them both?

And then there is Playable Worlds, which has yet to discover the subscribe feature… but they also don’t have a lot of news yet that is worth digging into.

So, for game companies that commit, it works very well for me.  The problem is that not every studio is that into the idea, and those that are do not exactly advertise their servers very well.

I know that Daybreak, as a studio under Enad Global 7, is very much into the Discord thing, but you had to know the servers were even a possibility in order to find them.  LOTRO, in a classic, old school move, announced their server in the forums… more than five years ago.  Early adopter, but non-obvious if you’re looking for it today. (They have social media button for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch on the front page, but no Discord.)

Addendum May 10, 2022: That was actually a third party LOTRO server that was being promoted, and it has since decided it isn’t interested in LOTRO anymore, so forget about that.

CCP, which does like to get into the trenches with customers now and then, seems reluctant to go the Discord route with an official server, but then made a server for Fanfest which quickly became the official server by default because they ran it.

And some companies… well, they just aren’t that into us.  I was kind of surprised to find that Gamigo actually has a couple of servers for former Trion Worlds game, including Rift and Trove.  I am not sure how useful they are… Rift seems to mostly be about the weekly cash shop deals and server restarts, which is not news that interests me… but it is there if you’re still playing.

Anyway, a new option in the struggle to find news.  It is out there, though your mileage may vary.

What Makes Housing Worthwhile in an MMO?

Over at Massively OP they had a daily grind question about which MMO housing was the most “usefless.”  That elicited a lot of opinions, many of which with I agree, and even another blogger response, but I still felt like there was some cross purposes in some answers, because “useless” is something of a loaded description.  We all know at least one pedant who will argue that it is all useless by definition because video games have no practical use or some such.  But even among the more sensible, there is a wide range things that make housing something they will use in an MMO, so I thought I would explore some of the items that came to my mind on that front.

Personalization

Basically, can you make the housing your own, or will it always look like everybody else’s place?  This can mean a lot to some, but doesn’t necessarily influence the other items on the list.

I would put Rift and EverQuest II at the top of the list, as both allow free form decor and have crafting that can create house items.  EQII would be my top choice because it allows you to convert things from some special quests into trophies for your home, which is what I tend to display.  Also, there is a ton of wall art.  But Rift gets the nod for overall flexibility and being able to go nuts constructing things.

New World isn’t too far behind, mostly because it doesn’t feel like there as many general “things” in the world for basic decor.  The housing options also feel a bit more constrained.  But it is also new, so it may catch up.

Then there is EverQuest… my list is not exhaustive, I am just going through the titles I know personally… which has borrowed a lot of ideas from its younger sibling and has free form placement, including out in your yard.

Lord of the Rings Online is a bit behind that, largely due to limited items and the fixed hook system that puts a rather low cap on the things you can actually put in your house.

Then we get down to WoW and Warlords of Draenor garrisons, which I am declaring housing for the purposes of this discussion, and not simply to dunk on it because it ranks highly in some regards.  But for personalization it had a very limited range of pre-set options you could unlock, so every garrison felt very much like every other one.

Then, finally, I am going to bring in the captain’s quarters from the EVE Online Incarna expansion, specifically to dunk on it and provide a bottom end of the range for comparison.  The only thing that made the captain’s quarters unique was the presence of your avatar shambling about it awkwardly or sitting on the couch.

Captain’s Quarters

It was otherwise identical to every single other one until they introduced a couple of basic faction options, and then they were identical to everybody who chose the same faction as you.  Not that you could tell, because you were the only one who could enter.  We can argue over whether or now a POS or a station or a citadel counts as housing, but this actual attempt at player housing in the game was absolutely the suck.

Asthetics

Is it pretty?

I am going to be down on LOTRO housing in a number of these categories, but I will say that if you like the art style of the game, then their housing is very nice.  And the limited customization that I mentioned above means that in the neighborhood housing concept that the game uses, you can’t really end up living next to that horrible person who fills their yard with crap that spells out obscene words or political symbols.  The Valar giveth, and the Valar taketh away.

I am going to put New World up high on the list too.  Again, despite its limitations, the housing looks good and is well integrated into the settlements.

Since I brought WoW into the mix, I will say that garrisons look find, fit in to the game, and actually have some fun aspects in their look.  Once more, huge limitations on how much you can customize, but it doesn’t look like crap relative to the rest of the game.

I am a bit iffy on EQII on this front.  It isn’t that there are not some wonderful, pretty housing in the game.  But there are also a lot of dingy little spaces.  If you are a new player and get your first house anywhere save Halas, it probably sucks.  I remember my first one room cracke rbox apartment in Qeynos.

Likewise, Rift has so much potential, but a lot of the new player starting dimensions just look like work rather than a place you want to own.

I am also going to put EQ down here.  While it uses the neighborhood concept like LOTRO, its neighborhoods are kind of shabby and there is always the person who has their decorations for their favorite holiday out in the front yard all year around.  Plus vacancies are very obvious.

And the, finally, just to see if Bree at MOP reads this, I am going to drag the Tatooine trailer park that was SWG housing into the mix as an example of ugly housing in an MMO.

Looks like they had used YT-1300s on sale at QVC

I will grand practicality and integration into the game, however they looked like ass and in places stretched for as far as your draw distance would allow.

Practicality

Can I actually do something useful to the game in my home?

Or, perhaps more to the point, if I can do things in my home would I bother doing them there rather than in town or a guild hall or some other location in the game?

Warlords of Draenor garrisons could barely be personalized at all, and aesthetically it was basically part of the game, which could be good or bad, but you could do stuff there.  So much stuff.  Too much stuff in the end really, as it managed to deliver on the prophecy about housing that Blizz had used as an excuse previously, that it takes people out of the shared gaming world..  I still visit my base when I play retail WoW to craft some 30 slot bags for alts and that sort of thing.  It remains useful.

So, for all of the other knocks on garrisons, they are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to integration with the game.  I mean, you had a flight point, a special hearthstone for the place, and could have a bank and transmog vendor.  I kind of want to dig through Reddit to see if anybody wrote a post about playing the expansion without building their garrison.  Is it even possible?

And after that I guess I would put EQII which, while far behind in function, is integrated into the game in that you have to setup your store front for the broker in your home.  That was a day one item, and no doubt something influenced by SWG, so if you were looking for a compliment on that front after ripping it on aesthetics, there you go.  You can also set up crafting stations, mail boxes, and all sorts of other things in your home that may be of use.  Crafting stations in a home used to be a sure fire sign of somebody who botted their crafting back in the day, but it is still something you can do… craft, not bot.

Then maybe LOTRO, because at least the neighborhoods have a crafting hall.  I found them less than convenient to use, but they are there and you could commit yourself to them I guess.

After that… well, I think the bare minimum, the low bar, is to provide some additional storage space, or access to your bank storage in absence of that.  I think all the usual suspects and a few more that I have yet to mentions, like Rune of Magic, at least give you that.

Viability

I don’t think that is the right word, but it is the one I am running with.  Still, I will explain what I mean.

What I am driving at is whether or not any player, new or old, who wants to engage in housing as part of their play can do so without too much effort or cost.  I supposed “accessibility” might be a better word, but it is also a word weighted down with its own baggage, so I try to avoid it.

So, for example, EQII ranks highly in this regard in my estimation.  The game guides you to player housing in the first ten levels of the intro, gives you some instruction in it, and the rent for basic housing is very reasonable at 5 silver pieces a week.  That was a price that didn’t even bother me back in 2004 when SOE was trying to keep a very tight lid on the economy such that mobs did not drop coin and when I finally got my first platinum coin it felt like a huge achievement.

EQII even hands you some furniture as part of the intro.  Everybody gets that same table and mirror that they have been handing out since launch, back when having an in-game mirror that actually reflected was kind of impressive.

Rift as well, once they introduced dimensions, gave new players a shove in that direction and a basic location right off the bat, though it was not very inviting in my estimation.

Dimension by the Sea with my free items strewn about

Lost Ark, which I haven’t mentioned up to this point, also gets right in there and requires you to take on a stronghold as part of progressing in the story.   You may or may not like it, but you’re getting one… also, it is shared by all your characters on the same server, which I view somewhat favorably.

Runes of Magic also gets you into some housing pretty quickly as a new player, though it was pretty dull and pointless housing as I recall, so I set it up and never returned.

New World throws housing at you as well… but then  makes it too expensive for low level players.  Without grinding for coin specifically I could have bought a house, but upkeep would have been too expensive with all of the other day to day costs of the game.

LOTRO throws housing at you at some point… you get a quest about seeing somebody about a deed or a house or something.  But housing has so little practical purpose in the game and is so out of the way and… at least back in the day… used to be a bit pricey for any new player that it falls way behind.

Then there is EQ, which I am not even sure ever tells you directly that housing is a thing.  I think the only in-game notification I can recall is getting a reward that was marked as something to put in your house, which at least strongly implied there was housing.  I have a whole post from 2010 about the effort I went through to get a house.

Some EQ housing

Also, the EQ housing is very reasonably priced… so long as you’re a veteran playing in the current content.  If you’re a new player still selling rat whiskers to the vendor for 18 copper, housing is way out of your reach.

And then, way down at the non-viable end of the list for me sits any game where your home exists in the actual game world on real estate that only one person on the server can occupy.  So I am looking at you SWG and Ultima Online and FFXIV and a few other title that escape me at the moment.

And yes, I know what you’re going to say if you think that kind of housing is great.  I get that it is very cool that your house, and yours alone is there in that spot and everybody can see it.  But as soon as you make real estate scarcity a thing and put specific locations in demand, housing shakes out into winners and loser and most players will be on the losing end of things.  The argument that it makes the game more “real” doesn’t wash with me.  If I wanted a game with the same pain as real life I’d go play EVE Online…. wait….  Anyway that is my opinion and you are free to disagree, just know that you are unlikely to sway me.  I live in Silicon Valley where real estate PvP is a thing already.

Location, Location, Location

The tired old joke of real estate is that the top three considerations are “location, location, and location.”

In this case I am not referring to the whole “instanced vs in the world” housing which I was going on about in the previous section, though I will say that if new players can’t get a house some place useful, your game fails on this front… which means instanced housing rules for location generally.

For the purposes of this section I mean whether or not housing is some place useful, like in town or near services you might need as a player.  EQII is pretty good on this front, though some locations are better than others.  As a new player in Halas everything you might need is right outside your door, which is great… if you chose Halas.  If not, your mileage may vary.

New World is also pretty good on this front.  Housing is all in settlements.  There is some vagaries around what level facilities will be available, but you will be in town.  That makes it feel like you live somewhere worth living.

Other titles seem a bit more dicey.  EQ puts you kind of off of the Plane of Knowledge, through the guild staging area, if you know where that is.  LOTRO puts you out in the middle of nowhere, though there are fast travel options.  But I seem to recall there also being some mithril coin or other cash shop currency relation options is you need it on demand.

So What?

I’ve gotten this far kind of riffing on memories and old screen shots of housing, and have probably mislaid my point along the way.

Oh yeah, housing being worthwhile.

In this reflection, it sure seems like the genre can be all over the map on the various aspects I have picked out.  In general I am in favor of having housing in our MMOs, but I also feel like if the developers don’t have time to do it well, have it look good, be useful and integrated into the game, and have it available to users in general, then maybe they should spend their development time on other tasks.

EverQuest II Getting a Community Resource Council as Well

One of the items from the Daybreak roadmap for EverQuest and EverQuest II was a community resource council, but it was only listed for EverQuest.  (And yes, I am going to anchor a lot of posts off of that roadmap from January.  They probably regret publishing it already.)

When Daybreak recently announced that they were taking applications for the long standing EverQuest II raid council, I figured that was the balance point, that it would stand in for the community resource council.

They really don’t have their own Firiona Vie, do they?

But I was wrong.  An announcement went up on the forums on Friday saying that they were taking applications for the EverQuest II Community Resource Council, along with a mission statement and a FAQ.

The mission statement is:

The Community Resource Council is a program designed to give players and members of the development team a confidential space to discuss upcoming design decisions with the benefit of a non-disclosure agreement. This allows members of the development team to be able to discuss topics that are still in development and not yet ready for public scrutiny, with an audience of players, providing a degree of player feedback to assist in the making of development decisions. The Community Resource Council also assists members of the development team with research and provides a player perspective on topics where and when it is needed.

Like the EverQuest side of the house, this is much more akin to EVE Online’s Council of Stellar Management in that it includes an NDA to discuss future projects, rather than the WoW Community Council model, which does everything out in front of a live and angry studio audience.

The FAQ is pretty much the same as the EverQuest version, the whole thing is voluntary, there is no compensation, you will be required to sign an NDA, and that they will be accepting applications twice annually.

This time around we have an application time frame.  You will be able to submit applications from March 18th until April 1st.  The submission form will only be available during that time.

Related:

Vetrovia Flameout

The arc of my relationship with EverQuest II has achieved a fairly consistent pattern over the years.  I get into the game for a burst of dedicated play and then, suddenly, I am kind of done.  And I seem to have played out that arc once more with Visions of Vetrovia.

What will we see in Vetrovia?

I was a bit slow getting into the expansion.  I pre-ordered it before launch and then played EQII a bit, doing the pre-expansion events, waiting for the new content to land.  And then I waited a bit longer, barely getting into the expansion in December.

But come January my play time started to pick up and, by the end of the month it was my main game.  For the first two months of February it was my most played title by a long shot.  I played a ton of that and very little else.

I had a lot of plans.  I have gone through the leveling up and the crafting signature quest line with several characters, I had used one of my saved heroic boosts to jump an long neglected character to level 120 and went in and started working on their trade skill leveling. (He was my provisioner, which used to be quite the useful trade to have around.)

I was working on the daily familiar quests and training up mercenaries and the latest mounts to make sure everybody had the oomph to be able to maybe take on the adventure signature quest line.

And then I kind of hit a wall.  It wasn’t Lost Ark that diverted me away. Lost Ark was merely there to catch me on the rebound.

So what was the stumbling block this time?

This time it was the adventure signature quest line.  As noted in a previous post, I was already struggling a bit on that front.

And I will certainly cop to the fact that I might be in over me head with EQII at this point in time.  There are a lot of moving parts in the game, and it can be difficult for somebody like me, who is out of the game for 18 out of every 24 months, to grasp what is important, what I should focus on, and what I can safely ignore.

So, after leveling up a season 8 legendary familiar, leveling up and equipping a mount from the expansion, re-gearing my already level 20 mercenary, upgrading skills and figuring out once more which of the couple dozen combat skills my berserker has hits the hardest, I went back to do another instance on the adventure signature quest line… not even the next instance, but one I was supposed to do before I did the last one for Shaman Bawiggi… and got completely shut down.

It wasn’t like the first boss was too hard.  No, I had to slay some mobs around the place where the boss was to light the boss up for the real fight… and I kept dying to the gate keeper mobs.  And, the worst part, as always, is that I couldn’t really figure out why I was suddenly choking so badly.

And, in going on to another objective I found myself running into a wall there as well.  Something was really off, but I didn’t know what.  So, after dying enough to red out my gear, I left the instance, repaired at the mender, and logged off.

I thought about where to go next.  I considered that perhaps the berserker wasn’t my strongest options.  I had also leveled up a paladin, a templar, a shadowknight, and a ranger and was slowly working on them, leveling up gear and skills and mounts and familiars and mercenaries.  I also had a necromancer and a mystic that could have closed the gap and made it to 125 as well.  But they were all, to one degree or another, well behind my berserker in getting up to snuff.

And, when I started thinking about the end goal to hand… there is another mount and probably a title and something for the house… and weighing it against the long term prospects… no matter how many gear upgrades I get, everything will literally be unusable junk come the next expansion, which is just 10 months away now… my desire to grind out the signature quest line faded.

I am just not that into the game any more. I don’t care enough to do all the legwork to get one character, much less half a dozen, tuned up and able to handle the instanced story content… content that is marked as “solo,” in case you were wondering.

I mentioned that one of the joys of the new Lore and Legend server they launched is that it is capped at level 90, which mean gear and stats are all in two and three digit numbers for the most part.  There are still mounts and mercenaries and too many combat skills, but you aren’t running around with a familiar that boosts your potency by 18,559.1% so that you can hit reliably into the billions of damage with each attack.

There is something to be said for simplicity… not that EverQuest II was ever simple, or at least as simple as its older sibling was back in the day.  (And EverQuest beyond level 80 starts getting out of hand as well, so it is likely just a symptom of the genre.)

It is probably a sign of age that I just don’t want to deal with that sort of thing as much anymore.

Of course, in saying that, I do wonder how I will do in Lost Ark.  It starts off simple, but I now have a stronghold and access to several new mechanics and I just want to go wipe out dozens of mobs with my attacks and fight the occasional boss mob with nice “red warning zones on the floor” mechanics.

February in Review

The Site

Another month flies by and we are at the 186th month in review post.  Part of getting older is wondering how time goes by so fast.

I did, however, get another meaningless achievement this month.

700 Days in a Row

We’ll see if I keep going.  If I get to the end of March I will have gone two years straight.

February was also a light month for traffic.  It is already a short month and world events seemed to draw people away over the last week.  I get that.

The odd bit is that ad revenue was way down relative to the dip in traffic, barely cracking the $10 mark.  And it seems a different problem from last month, where ads served was way up but revenue was down, reflecting low quality ads being pushed.

This time around ads served was way down as well, much more so than the down turn in page views might suggest.  Either more core audience all has adblock loaded up… and I commend your good sense in that… or ads simply aren’t being served up.  Some checking showed that there was at least some of the latter going on.

Checking from my iPad with Safari, which is not set up to block ads, I was seeing nothing come up for a couple of days.  I don’t know if that is WordPress.com’s problem or the ad broker they are using, but the well of ads was running dry at times in February.  That never seems to happen with Words with Friends.

We’ll see how next month goes.  I’m still on track with my goals even at $10 a month from ad revenue.  That is enough to pay for the premium hosting package.

One Year Ago

It had been a year since the first documented death in the United States from Covid-19.

It was also the end of Silicon Valley retail staple Fry’s Electronics.

Nintendo announced that they were going to finally do a remake of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl.

Out of nowhere, so far as I could tell, Valheim showed up.  I took a look and very soon our group was playing together.  We went out hunting deer, along with the first boss, set sail to find the Black Forest, stormed ashore and setup a base, fought trolls and smelted bronze, then set sail to find the Elder, the second boss, fought an epic battle with that, and wandered into the plains and died to deathsquitoes.  It was quite a time.

Then there was BlizzConline (and Blizzard’s 30th anniversary), which was spoiled a bit by leaks, but which featured the Burning Crusade Classic announcement along with Diablo II Resurrected and other news items.

The Activision Blizzard Q4 2020 earnings call showed WoW was carrying the ball for Blizzard, while SuperData Research showed WoW up on the Shadowlands launch and ongoing WoW Classic momentum.

Actually in WoW Classic, I was working on my paladin, who was catching up to the group, we spent some time getting materials for enchanting, and we were still working on Blackrock Depths, though we got down to the final quest there.

In EVE Online, World War Bee carried on, with PAPI starting to come out of their post M2-XFE slump and CCP’s economic changes sending mineral prices climbing.

And I went on a bit about the difficulty of entering the MMORPG market.

Five Years Ago

Daybreak shut down Landmark less than a year after it officially went “live.”  That’s what extended early access will do to you.

In EVE Online applications to run for CSM12 opened up.  The CSM itself was reduced from 12 members to just 10.  That allowed CCP to potentially fly all members to summits, but also reduced the likelihood of more voices outside of null sec being elected.

Blog Banter #79 explored the benefits and pitfalls of being a long time veteran of New Eden, while CCP posted a nice graph tracking the 25 largest corporations over time.  The graph only had starting numbers, so I provided the ending numbers.

We also got an update that introduced insurance to citadels and kicked off the Guardian’s Gala event.

Actually in game I was blown up by battle Rorquals as well as spending time moving my stuff to a new home system, sitting on a titan, sitting on a Keepstar, survived my first capital op, and dipped my toe into the spectacle that was Burn Jita 2017.  I also had a new favorite EVE Online screen shot.

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft, but that didn’t stop me from trying to find information about it in Activision Blizzard’s annual financial report.  Good luck there.  I didn’t even bother this year.  Meanwhile, in an unexplained turn, SuperData Research divided WoW into East and West on its monthly Top Ten chart.  I still suspect that was an attempt to make Overwatch look better.

Not only was I not playing WoW, I wasn’t playing any fantasy MMORPGs.  Standing Stone was trying to get me to log into Lord of the Rings Online with the promise of a new mount.

I was confronted by a metaphor for a MMO Kickstarter projects when somebody decided they wanted to make an Apocalypse Now based MMO.

I was still working on the mansion road in Minecraft.  I hit a setback along the way… fell into lava surrounded by creepers… but still made it past the half way point.

And finally, after taking a bit of a break, I was back into Pokemon Sun, working my way towards filling the Alola Pokedex.

Ten Years Ago

I made a video celebrating the first year of the instance group, which formed up back in 2006.  It was focused on what was essentially vanilla WoW and had a serious nostalgia vibe to it.  It got some views.

Then I made a video about Sunken Temple in the same vein that pretty much nobody watched.  That instance always got mixed reviews.  (And my video of the EVE battle at EWN-2U was more popular than both combined.)

Somebody stole our guild on Lightninghoof.

And Blizzard was making money, optimizing clients, and selling new mounts.

In EVE Online, the war in the north had gone kind of quiet.  There were some big battles over tower (e.g. EWN-2U, which was my first epic fleet battle, and 92D-OI), but the sov grind had not begun.  There was some fun around VFK.  I also noted that a “green” kill board seemed to be the norm for individuals.  Meanwhile, CCP was making money and giving us the occasional fun statistics about the game.

Trion gave us actual loot pinatas as well as a check box to turn off exp in Rift.

And, probably most importantly, we got standardized build templates for common rolesRift’s soul system is still deep and complex for those who want to theory craft, but for mere mortals it became possible to just get a workable build and go play.

As a group in Rift we made it to the Darkening Deeps.

I also figured that, due to the way Rift was progressing, it wouldn’t go free to play unless WoW did.  Wrong on that in the long term I guess, it went free to play ages ago now.

On Fippy Darkpaw, the Planes of Power expansion opened up.  For many the PoP expansion marks the dividing line between what counts as “classic” EverQuest and what is considered “the new crap.”

And EverQuest Mac was saved from the chopping block, going free for… as long as it stays up I guess.

Fifteen Years Ago

I wrote a lot of posts.  Not the 59 posts of the month before, but 41 is still a lot of posts.  Half of them seem to relate to stages of heritage quests in EverQuest II.

Back then Kendricke (remember him?) dropped by with the news that Sony Online Entertainment applied for a trademark for “EVERQUEST II RISE OF KUNARK,” thus confirming my guess from December that Kunark would be location of the EverQuest II expansion due near the end of 2007.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site did not show anything for my guess for the 2008 expansion. (Return to the Planes of Power FTW!) The USPTO did show that SOE at one time had the trademark for, “EVERQUEST: THE DEMISE OF ARADUNE,” which was mildly ironic from a Vanguard point of view. I wonder what they had planned for that title?

Of course, SOE also announced a price increase for Station Access shortly thereafter, always a buzz killer. This was immediately blamed on Vanguard.

Meanwhile, SOE launched The Buried Sea expansion for EverQuest.

I also started off in the Lord of the Rings Online open beta which eventually lead to the instance group spending the spring and summer in Middle-earth before returning to Azeroth.

And speaking of Azeroth, a year ago we were just starting to get into the fun that is Uldaman. And somewhere along the line I swapped out my rogue Blintz for my paladin Vikund, who has remained with the instance group ever since.

I also compared how long it took me to level a swashbuckler up to level 40 in EverQuest II versus how long it took me to get a hunter to the same level in WoW. 

Also, Gaff got flight form in WoW and was really happy with it.  There is flying in WoW, and then there is druid flight form, which is in a league of its own.

I listed out five insane MMO things I wanted, which were not all that insane.  Includes the first time mentioning that I wanted EverQuest redone using WoW’s engine.  I was also on about people picking famous names for their characters, how WASD was messing with my typing, and something else about modelling stealth.

I was looking into the distance to see what Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising might offer.

Peggle launched.  Do you remember Peggle?  It was from PopCap.  Do you remember PopCap?  The game was all the rage on the GFW Radio podcast.  Do you remember the GFW Radio podcast?  Do you remember GFW?  How about Jeff Green?  You know I met him once, way back when he covered modems for MacWeek.  Anyway, it all ended up at EA, including Jeff.

And, finally, my wife got me a Wii for Valentine’s day that I couldn’t use until Easter!

Twenty-Five Years Ago

Mario Kart 64 launches, the second version and maybe the first truly great entry in the Mario Kart series of games.  This one is worth buying whenever Nintendo revives it on later platforms.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  2. Guardians Gala Returns to EVE Online for YC124
  3. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  4. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  5. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  6. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  7. 20 Games that Defined the Apple II
  8. Pearl Abyss Promises a Blockchain Economy while CCP Prepares for EVE Fanfest
  9. The CCP World War Bee Press Briefing
  10. Off to Another New World in New World
  11. Looking Into Lost Ark
  12. Opening Weekend with Lost Ark

Search Terms of the Month

john carmack create facebook horizon world
[I don’t think you can lay that all on him]

Разработчики установили в eve online стальной памятник девушке
[I’m not sure they were really a “girl” technically]

огромный дом в майнкрафте локация
[Where ever you want to build it]

everquest ruins of kunark back of box
[I don’t think I have that here]

Game Time from Manic Time

Well, there was a bit of a change up in the list this month.  Two weeks ago EQII was at the top and Lost Ark wouldn’t have made the list.  I did, at one point, think about playing Crusader Kings III.  There was an update, and I like the stories that come out of it for other people.  I even patched it up and got it ready, but didn’t end up playing.

  1. Lost Ark – 42.78%
  2. EverQuest II – 37.23%
  3. New World – 10.61%
  4. EVE Online – 5.92%
  5. Pokemon Pearl 1.80%
  6. EverQuest – 1.65%

EVE Online

The month started out with my account lapsing and me spending some time figuring out what I could do as an Alpha clone.  That developed into me mostly not logging on at all once the Guardian’s Gala login rewards were over.  I suspect there is a message in that.  Like many other aspects of the game, free to play hard mode is much harder in New Eden than it is in other MMOs.

EverQuest

The game turned 64-bit, which was a thing I guess.  It was enough to get me to update the client, create a new character, and play through some of the tutorial again.  I kind of enjoy that once in a while.  I had some mad vision of doing a year long event to run a character from creation to level cap, all in the 64-bit era… and then I wandered off and did something else.

EverQuest II

I came into February very strong on EQII, playing it more than anything else for the first half of the month.  I got several character up to the new level cap for both adventure and crafting and started working on the adventure signature quest line… and kind off fell off there.  Expect a post about that this coming week.

Lost Ark

This sort of came out of nowhere for me, and was a bit of a slow burn at that.  With EQII tapering off and not logging into EVE, I had a hole in my play time just when Lost Ark showed up.  I tried it on a lark, kind of liked it a bit, kept playing, and started getting into it.  Here, at the end of the month, it was my most played title.  I had to convert it from a tag to a category here on the blog because the instance group started playing it.

New World

Ah, New World… I don’t hate it, but it does manage to disappoint on such a regular basis.  Amazon games is working on it still, but their list of fixes for February was a bit underwhelming.  That, and being dropped into a new server where the bad things people have been talking about started affecting our game play… and it was time for a break.

Pokemon Go

The month ended with the Johto Tour, which was a good day’s fun.  My wife and I did the free part of the event, because $12.00 is kind of a big ask for a bit of content, and were happy enough with that as it took us nearly all afternoon to finish up.  The downside of the event was that it very much focused on past content, so was a good catch-up for newer players, but there were no new Pokemon out there for us.  I did get a shiny Raikou though.

Level: 42 ( 27.9% of the way to 43 in xp, 4 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 685 (+5) caught, 705 (+5) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 15 of 18
Pokemon I want: I need a Torkoal for my Hoenn Pokedex
Current buddy: Floette

Pokemon Shining Pearl

Playing this remake was a good time, but I have to admit that once I got through the Elite Four and Cynthia, I was kind of done playing.  That is the culmination of the story, the basic win scenario, and after that everything is somewhat self-directed.  I’ll do a final thoughts write up on the game at some point.  Overall though, I quite enjoyed it.

Zwift

Much to my surprise, I am still doing this regularly… three or four times a week… six month down the road.  It would be very easy to just stop, and there are times when I want to skip even my rather minimal routine.  But somehow I have carried on.  This must be what adulthood is like.

Meanwhile, my distance cycled puts me about from my driveway into the middle of Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where the Winter Olympics were held 20 years ago.  I didn’t watch them then, and I didn’t watch them this past month in China either.  Keep on peddling.

  • Level – 13 (+1)
  • Distanced cycled – 774.8 miles (+90.3 miles)
  • Time – 1d 16h 55m (+4h 45m)
  • Elevation climbed – 33,855 (+4,354 feet)
  • Calories burned – 25,924 (+3,113)

Coming Up

March is upon us and it is Mardi Gras tomorrow.  Most people won’t care, but a branch of my family is from New Orleans, so it will be jambalaya, red beans and rice, and king cake at our house tomorrow.  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

March also brings my birthday.  Pokemon Legends: Arceus is on my list, so I might be playing that later on this month.

Then there is Lost Ark.  No doubt this will come up a few more times on the blog.

There is a possibility that CCP will makes some changes that might loosen up the economy and make larger scale warfare viable again in null sec.  I’ll go back to Omega for something interesting.  The battleship changes look interesting to a lot of people.  But EVE Online is still in kind of a messy state.

I might try to figure out what Elden Ring is.  A lot of people are suddenly into that in my Twitter feed, but telling me it is like Lost Souls doesn’t help me, because I never played that.  Also, it is $60, has some issues, and I don’t get how the co-op works, so I can wait.

EverQuest II Launches the Kael Drakkel Lore and Legend Server

The Norrath team has hit another item on their 2022 roadmap this week as they launched the new Kael Drakkel Lore & Legend server for EverQuest II.

Lore & Legend time

The theme of this server is going back to run older content.  When you create a character at the main screen, there is a new option for Lore & Legend

The one on the far right

You then go through the usual character creation process, choose Qeynos or Freeport as your home, pick a name, then launch yourself onto the Kael Drakkel server.

There you start off at level 90 in The Great Divide, the start of the 2011 expansion Destiny of Velious content, with a full set of gear and adept skills.  It is almost heady to be in that era of the game with stats and bonuses on gear in double digits and attacks that aren’t counted up in the millions of points of damage.

From there you can carry on into the Destiny of Velious content, or you can go back to older zones, at which point you will be auto-mentored down to an appropriate level for the content.  I dropped myself into Antonica and found myself at level 15.

Of course, the EQII downleveling system is a little aggressive, so you’ll be at least a bit overpowered and ready to take on most any encounter you come across.  That said, I did see my power bar move in combat, so it isn’t like the current live meta where, unless some mob has a power draining attack, you can just keep on using your combat skills forever.

The purpose of the server is to run the older content and claim achievements.  There are 1,800 achievements available on the server, so there is a race to see who can collect them all first.

Achievements also earn you earn you special tokens which you can spend at the achievements vendor.

Some more tokens for you for… overseer level 5!

I am semi-interested in this whole idea, just to go run the older content.  We’ll see if I find the time though.

There is even a trailer for the launch.

 

The server info and FAQ are available on the EverQuest II site.  Launch night saw six instances of The Great Divide zone, where you land once you join the game, indicating some interest in the idea.  We will have to see how it plays out.

Addendum:  I forgot to point out, as I generally do, that in order to play on any EverQuest or EverQuest II special server you must be a subscriber.  Free to play is for the regular live servers only.

Wrestling with Krelburn in Visions of Vetrovia

Having tuned up my mount and mercenary as mentioned last week, along with upgrading my familiar (I’ll probably do a post about that if only for future reference when I once again forget everything about familiars), my main character in EverQuest II, my berserker Sigwerd, actually felt considerably more powerful.

Once I fiddled with familiars a bit overland content, heroic or otherwise, became fairly trivial for him.  Mobs went from needing a full pass of basic combat abilities to kill to everything needing a hit with just one ability to go down.

Having done that, I decided to put him back on track for the adventure signature quest line, the main story line through the expansion.  He had somehow fallen off that path and made it to the level cap.

I had left off at the step that involved going into an instance, which I guess I hadn’t bothered to look for, in order to eaves drop on Mayong Mistmoore, the vampire in chief of Norrath, to see how he was causing problems yet again.  This wasn’t a difficult instance, and I had done it before with another character.  As with most instances in EQII, there is a solo version of it where you get a special buff that allows you to go through what would otherwise be a group event.

The mobs are not all that deadly, but they are damage sponges, and it can take a while to bring one down… and you have a dozen or so to take out.  I actually did this before I upgraded my familiar, so even with the other upgrades it was taking a couple minutes per mob.

Fighting my way into eaves drop

You have to slay all the mobs in order to lower the barriers and trigger the event you’re there to witness, so I settled in to grind them all down.

All to witness some vampire drama

That done, I was off to do some more lifting, carrying, and slaying for the locals until I landed on the next instance adventure, Dedraka’s Descent.

This is out in the jungle and you face the undead pygmy menace along with a variety of dinosaur mobs.  Once again, my first run into this was before I had upgraded my familiar, so I was running somewhat under the stats one could reasonably expect to have if you knew all there was to know about the game.

Still, even punching up on my first run, I didn’t do too badly to start.

The first boss, Zaag the Unburied, doesn’t have many tricks up his sleeve, save for the fact that if you don’t clear out all the groups of mobs in the vicinity before you start on him, he runs to them as the fight progresses, which complicated things for me on the first attempt.  Figuring that out, however, I was able to clear the area and then finish him off on my second try.

Fighting Zaag

After him the next boss was Scarfeather, a big raptor dinosaur.

Scarfeather in the pool

He hangs out in a pool of water for whatever reason.  His fight turned out to hinge on kiting him into the bubbles in the water before the three triceratops dinos dispersed about the pool.  When you get Scarfeather there, the triceratops will smack into him, knocking him over and making him vulnerable for a short duration, during which you can get some decent damage in.

It was still a long fight… these instances very much feel like they want to give you the full solo raiding experience by not only giving the encounters special mechanics, but by making them last a good ten to fifteen minutes.  I didn’t put a timer on the battle, but my ascension combat abilities, which are the big damage skills, are on cool downs of 4 to 7 minutes, and I used them all two times at least, and three times in some cases.

I died during the fight, but my mercenary is a mystic with a ress spell, so I was able to finish the fight after being brought back to life.

That sent me down the path to the next boss in the instance, Krelburn, and here is where my troubles began.

Krelburn revealed

Krelburn is a giant plant, like a mobile venus fly trap, that eats the local blazing drake flies.  If he eats one in combat he gets a big buff and if likely to kill you.  As you approach him, there are drake flies all around, so I figured I would be smart and just clear them out.

Of course, that isn’t enough, they spawn during the fight.

The fight itself didn’t seem too bad.  By this point I was reading the guide I linked above, and for Krelburn you just have to avoid the roots he shoots up from the ground under you… presages by a dark patch under your feet… and the burn effect that happens when he eats one of the drake flies.  The guide said to stop hitting him, as you’ll take damage, and to “joust.”  Sure, I can do that I guess.

In reality, I died.  A lot.

Down during the Krelburn fight again

The upside, again, is that my mercenary will try to ress me when I die.

You have died yet again

The downside is that getting a ress doesn’t solve all problems.  I have died, gotten ressed, only to die again if I wasn’t able to quickly get clear of the next attack before my merc hit me with a heal.  Lots of deaths.

Also, it seems that the default key is “No” if you’re doing something else and the ress message pops up, at which point it goes away and maybe your mercenary will try to ress you again.

The guide is correct in saying that you should probably drag him off to the right side of his area.  I learned the hard way that fewer of the drakes spawn over there.  But other than that bit of intel, I did not accomplish much on my first run.  My gear was damaged and needed repair, so I went back to town. (Your gear takes 10% damage on each death, so after 10 deaths your gear is done.)

Back in town I went to go tune up what I could, see if there wasn’t anything else I could add to my mix to get me through the fight.

After boosting up my new mount a couple of levels, blowing 10 day training drops on 3 or 4 days of training, and making sure I had whatever gear upgrades I could find, including commendations for my mercenary.  He had a bunch of really old ones, so I upgraded them all.

Then it was back to the instance.  Fortunately EQII let’s you go away and come back again, holding the instance as you left it for a couple of days, so I was able to go straight back to Krelburn and resume… dying.

I did have a couple of runs that started off well, and even got him close on one attempt.

Krelburn down to 9%

However, either I died too much or he nuked my mercenary at which point… he does almost no damage to my mercenary when I am down, but my mercenary does almost no damage either, so I can’t really wait it out and let the merc do the work… without healing, the fight is over.  Krelburn does stay in his little area, so you can run back across the branch leading there and he’ll disengage and the fight will be over.

I gave up again.  Then, after Bhagpuss mentioned familiars and such, I went digging into those as well as finding every scrap of upgrades I could possibly grab.

Too much time went by for me to be able to resume from where I had left off, but with an upgraded and leveled up familiar, I was able to go back in and knock out the first two bosses again without much drama.  More power and knowledge helped.

And then it was back to Krelburn.

I blew the first two attempts, but on the third things seemed to be going better.  It helps to do the fight in the brightest part of the day/night cycle.  During one attempt it was so dark I couldn’t see the warning area on the ground for the root attacks.

I still died… a couple of times… but things were progressing, my merc ressed me, and it looked like it might go my way… and then I died again and the ress didn’t go through.  I was sitting there, dead, with Krelburn at 3% health and hoping that my merc would try another ress.

Please just ress me… also, look at all the drakes in the background

After a few minutes it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, so I bit the bullet and spent the 89 Daybreak coins to buy myself an instant ress.

Convenience for sale – 89 coins for me with the 10% subscriber discount

I was up again and able to stay alive long enough to finally bring Krelburn down.  I will be happy enough not to have to do that fight again… or at least hold off until the team tones it down a bit.

The Krelburn Achievement

After that, some vines appeared and I was able to climb up to the plateau above Krelburn’s spot, where I faced the next boss, Cannibrea.

The big bird will come get you

I blew this fight on the first run as well.  You have to jump in a nest every time Cannibrea spreads her wings, or you’ll get blown off your feet and slammed into the ground, which is an insta-death mechanic if you blow it.  I blew it on the first run.

Also, don’t step on the bones.  Those are the remains of the pirates Cannibrea has snatched, and if you step on them they come to life as adds, though if you got through Krelburn you probably have the ability to power through some adds.

I made it through on the second try and was on my way to the last battle, which was mercifully simple, if a long fight.

The final boss match up of the instance

You have six things to kill in this fight, their three mounts and then the three riders.  The guide suggested saving the Elder for last, as his two companions boost him, so I went that route.

I was nervous a few times as the group of them hit hard, but my mercenary was able to keep me healed, even if my health bard strayed down below 20% a few times.  There is an annoying visual bug in the fight where, once you kill the mounts you don’t get a health bar for the rider on in the UI at the top of the screen.

The says he has zero health, yet he lives

The mobs themselves have a health bar other their heads, but that does get obscured in the combat spam.

How much health does he have now?

Also, with all the upgrades I put in place, you can see I am, at times, hitting for multiple billions of damage.  There is a 5.2 and a 2.68 billion hit in that image.  The numbers might be getting a bit crazy.

But the fight went my way all the same.  With the bosses down, the instance was done.  I was able to update the signature quest line.  Then it was out of the instance to go find out what I had to do next.

It turned out, I had some side quests to do.  If you haven’t done some of the quests in the Karuupa Jungle, the mob you need to turn in the quest won’t have gone to where you need him.  So I have some work to do on that front.  Easy enough, but it seems a bit silly to make getting through that zone without the side quests that you need for the main quest line.

Playing Mostly the Same Game for Nearly 30 Years

My wife was looking over my shoulder and asking what I was playing the other day.  I said, “EverQuest” which to the response, “The same game you were playing back when we lived in the condo?”

I had to clarify that it was EverQuest II, a subsequent title from the original, but still not all that new, having passed the 17 year mark back in November.

This made me think for a bit about how long I have been playing some of these titles and, more broadly, how long I have been playing what might be accurately a specific lineage of a sub-genre of video games.

Regular readers know that I do not play a lot of new games.  The title of the blog itself includes the word “ancient,” which was in part a reference to the fact that I was likely going to focus on titles that were not exactly new, as well as reflecting the fact that, in my early 40s, I was starting to feel a bit old.

That latter bit feels burdened with more than a bit of hubris now, viewed from the back half of my 50s.  I was literally at my peak in many ways.

Anyway, It occurred to me that conflating EverQuest and EverQuest II was not all that inaccurate.  EQII was clearly created as a response/update/continuation of the the original.

Likewise, if I am going to go for that point, then World of Warcraft could somewhat accurately be so named.  It was, after all, also built in response to EverQuest, an evolution of the game created by a team of Blizzard employees that were hard core raiders in Norrath, using the RTS IP that the company was known for as a shell in which to house their vision of how the EverQuest experience should evolved.

And, naturally, in thinking that the game that is/was EverQuest evolved through those two other titles, I felt that it must naturally have its own antecedents.  I mean, I know it does, that Norrath didn’t spring out of thin air.  It has often been pointed out the similarity between it and the Diku MUD mechanics and, more specifically, Sojourn and TorilMUD.

All text, all the time, login page from the past

EverQuest was, in many ways, directly pulled from TorilMUD, a MUD that both Brad McQuaid and I played over the years.  Some aspects of the new game were lifted wholesale from the old, and one of the aspects that drew me to the game was the interesting mix of newness… how to even describe day one EverQuest… and the scattered familiar aspects.  The races, the classes, the multiple hometowns as starting locations, and even some of the gear, were all influenced heavily by TorilMUD.

I’ve been down that path before.  There is a whole TorilMUD category here, at least 75 posts deep.

I have also covered before how long ago I started playing… that would be some time in the fall of 1993.  And TorilMUD was the only MUD I played, it was just the one that caught my attention and that I stuck with for many years.  So there were some others before that, including Gemstone on GEnie.

So, if we take it as read that all of these titles… TorilMUD to EverQuest to the EverQuest II and World of Warcraft branch… are essentially an ongoing evolution of the same basic game, then I have been playing that very same game for about half of my life, or almost 30 years.

Of course, it isn’t that simple or clean cut.  They are not literally the same game.  In fact, all four still exist, in parallel, today.  I could log into each of them if I wished.  And the games did not cease to grown and change as the newer variations appeared.  TorilMUD still gets updates and EverQuest, which will get to its 29th expansion before the end of 2022, is being updated to 64-bit server and client this month, a move necessary to ensure that it will continue to run for years to come.

And certainly EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, which were born very different titles as evolutions of EverQuest, have gone down very different paths.  The two have grown and changed in ways that have moved them even further apart as the years have passed.

Yet they still seem to be following some similar threads.  I have mentioned that EverQuest II has opted for a path that gets players to the level cap of a new expansion fairly quickly, then gives the players a lot of instanced dungeon content, including solo versions of that content, as the ongoing end game.

That seems oddly similar to WoW and the Shadowlands plan, which set brisk pace to level cap and then led players off to faction building and instanced daily content.

The two certainly feel different in style and mechanics, yet still share something in their roots and direction.

Of so it seems to me.

Addendum:  And just as an afterthought, even at times in the past 30 years where I wasn’t playing one of the four games mentioned I was most likely playing something that was very much an off-shoot of these games.

Lord of the Rings Online tried to steer a bit of a different course, but eventually found its way into more WoW-like mechanics, like the skill tree… which, oddly enough, WoW had abandoned at just about the point LOTRO jumped on that.

And then there is Rift, which was very much an attempt to out-WoW Blizzard for a bit.

Very much the same game in different guises.  But I guess that is what appeals to me, given the evidence above.

Tending to my Mercenaries and Mounts in Visions of Vetrovia

I posted last week about making it up to level 125, the new level cap, in the Visions of Vetrovia expansion for EverQuest II.

I did that with Sigwerd, my barbarian berserker, who is generally my main character in EQII, the first one I send into things and the one I do most things with.

A berserker is a plate wearing warrior and, while the class was ostensibly about DPS at one time, the lines between berserkers and guardians are not as firmly drawn as they once were.  A berserker can tank, and has some defensive skills, but not as well as a guardian, and a guardian can dish out damage, but not as well as a berserker.

With his plate armor and his mercenary in tow, Sigwerd did not have a much trouble climbing the five levels to the cap.

The mercenary is important.  I don’t think I am overstating the facts when I say that having a mercenary is pretty much required to solo the overland expansion content these days.  In fact, you need a mercenary, a mount, and a familiar, the latter two having stats that improve your abilities.  But we’ll get to that.

Sigwerd’s mercenary is a mystic, whose main role is heals, buffs, wards, and the occasional bit of damage.  He can also ress, which can be handy if things go wrong.  But things went well for the run to level cap, with Sig out front slaying and his mercenary, Nevis Yewkus, tagging along, keeping Sig healed and happy.

The run was a bit chaotic, as my first run through any EQII content tends to be.  I am half relearning how things work and where things are… this was probably the last fantasy MMORPG to launch before WoW set some standards that most titles have chosen to follow since… and trying to remember which combat skills cause the biggest numbers to flash on the screen.

Can’t add all that up in my head

In that run I somehow lost the thread of the adventure signature quest, but got to the level cap all the same.

Sigwerd also managed to get to the tradeskill level cap following the tradeskill signature quest line, though he hit the cap and stopped literally two quests before the end and its final big reward.  We’ll get to that later as well.

But, having made it once without running into any insurmountable roadblocks, I decided to send a second character through to the cap.

I chose Nehru, a templar, which is the classic plate wearing clerical healer class in EQII.   He is also a copy of my first EQII character, Nomu.  I copied him to the Freeport during the EverQuest II Extended era, the test run for free to play, when SOE was allowing you to make such copies for a pretty reasonable price.

He is essentially a branch from Nomu and, while he couldn’t bring all his bank and house contents to the new server (probably a blessing), he still has all the skills and reputation and whatever that I had earned on Nome.  When I put in /played I get my original character creation date.

More than 500 hours right there

That is proof of the 500 hours played from my post the other day, though some of that was because back at launch, in order to sell from your house, you had to be logged in.  So I would log him into the game in the morning then go to work, leaving him to sell all day.  That will inflate your play time a bit.

Anyway, he traveled out to the expansion, got him self all the gear out of the chest so that he was set to go, and headed out into the content so recently run by Sigwerd.

Nehru attired for the new zones

But out in the new content Nehru struggled and died a few times right off the bat.

Like Sigwerd, he has a mercenary, but his is a paladin.  The pally is supposed to hold aggro, heal itself now and then, throw a few buffs, and do a bit of DPS, but the main goal is to keep mobs off the caster.

Of course, part of that was remembering how to play another class with a different mercenary dynamic than the berserker.  I managed to get better with keeping the pally healed.  The target forwarding works well for that.  I just keep him targeted and he gets any heals I cast, but the DPS is passed along to the mob he has targeted.  It can be a bit annoying when he changes targets, but I gather than is to make sure he is holding aggro.  Still, I do end up in fights with six mobs and end up burning them all down in parallel rather than one by one.

That worked, though I was still spending a lot of time healing.  Fortunately, stat inflation has made mana pretty much inexhaustible at this point in the game’s life, but it still takes time to cast and that is time I’m not burning down mobs.

And then I took a look at my mercenary and was reminded that they have gear sets as well, and he was wearing whatever gear I had put on him back during Blood of Luclin.  The same was true for Sigwerd, but since he was geared up and tanking, it wasn’t nearly as noticeable.

Fortunately, I had a solution to hand.

Sigwerd’s tradeskill is armoring, which crafts both player and mercenary armor.  And, in a flash of sanity, the EQII team made all mercenaries wear the same type of armor, so it was easy to find which set to craft.  At least once I had the recipes.  But there is an NPC in town for that.  I bought all the basic books for the expansion, which were now unlocked for me, plus some books I had missed previously, padding out my total recipe list.  But the mercenary armor was easy to find.

Some of the 2,706 recipes Sig knows

So it was back to the guild hall to craft.  As I have said before, having the guild hall is a boon and I open it up every time I play for a stretch.  The harvesting NPCs make sure there are enough raw materials, so I was able to bang out a set for Nehru, another for Sigwerd, and then a couple more for other characters that I will likely level up as well.

That made a pretty big difference for Nehru, and he was able to carry on through to the level cap for both adventure and tradeskills.  Getting the 20% veteran’s bonus for having a character already at both caps, he was done sooner in the quest chains than Sigwerd was, but I decided to carry on to the end of the tradeskill signature quest line to see what the final reward was.

That was when I found out how short of the end I had stopped, so I ended up going back to finish it up with Sigwerd as well.  There is some more crafting and a werewolf that gets shot with a ballista.

Aim for the furry one!

And then there is more gathering and a few more things to craft, including a final item that has a special set of six counters, as opposed to the usual three plus three, which boost either speed or durability.

Lookout, squirrel!

I normally craft with my left hand on the 1, 2, and 3 keys and just use the durability counters, but now I had to respond with six and, as you might suspect, I only have five fingers, so I blew the first attempt trying to figure out how I should respond.

Worse, when you blow it, you can’t just start over.  When you try it shows you’re missing all the ingredients you had previously crafted.  Fortunately, they are all in a container in your inventory, but I thought I was going to have to start over again.

For the second, and subsequent, attempts, I just used the cursor to click on the appropriate counter icon.  If you miss even once you lose half durability, and twice fails, so I wasn’t ready to trust my hand-eye coordination on a new system.  Better just to click.

And I succeeded.  That sends you back to the start of the expansion to turn in the quest line for the final reward, which includes a new mount.

And here we get into why I’ll be doing this with any alt I level up.  Mounts, as I mentioned above, also have stats and the stat comparison between my current mount, from Blood of Luclin, and the new mount, is rather striking.

Old on the left, new on the right

Some of the stats don’t seem to change much, but things like Ability Mod, which I seem to recall being one of the critical stats de jour, jumps from 586K to 3.1 million whatevers.  There is also a pretty substantial boost to the health pool, while resolve, another stat that was important at some point, is almost doubled.

So it was time to swap mounts.  The new mounts are, in my opinion, quite ugly, being a pteradon carrying your character in its claws, but the dev team saw fit to provide us with a cosmetic slot for mounts, so I can stick with the look I prefer.

So that is two characters to the level cap and upgraded.  Nehru is also an alchemist, which means that he makes skill upgrades for warriors, so I put him to work in the guild hall making journeyman upgrades for Sigwerd as well as my next character into the expansion, Vikund the paladin.

Meanwhile, Sigwerd should probably look into finishing the adventure signature quest line, which might be a bit easier with an updated mercenary, mount, and skills.