Category Archives: EverQuest II

April in Review

The Site

April is usually a big month for page views.  The Blizzard April Fools post usually gives me a boost in search engine traffic for a day or two.

Googly eyes at the hero select screen in Overwatch was the big item

August generally sees a boost in page views as well due to Blaugust.  So turning that into Blapril ought to have been a double whammy.

The Blapril commeth

And I suppose I did get a boost from the both.  Traffic was up noticeably from March, this month being the most active for page views since last September when WoW Classic traffic was driving people here.  But it was down from last April, which was down from the April before, and so on.  My peak page view date is April 1, 2013, and it has been a slow decline ever since.  Even the pandemic and stay at home orders can’t make blogs popular again.  But I persist.  If I wrote for page views I wouldn’t write how I do currently.  Sometimes it is better to quietly write what you want than to write to seek attention.

One Year Ago

April Fools, once a grand tradition at Blizzard, was pretty sparse.

Google Plus went away.

The Minecraft Village & Pillage update landed.

CCP loudly announced the removal and banning of CSM13 member Brisc Rubal.  And then in what I described as the “nightmare scenario,” CCP hedged, promising to investigate further.  And then they exonerated Brisc and restored him apologizing for all the trouble. A disastrous example of “measure once, cut twice” by CCP.  And Brisc didn’t get his reputation back.  I still see people who think he must have been guilty and somehow worked a deal or threatened to sue in order to get CCP to back down.

CCP also announced the CSM14 election timeline.  Brisc opted to stay away from that.  And the April update brought capital nerfs, especially for the Rorqual.  Hilmar was starting on something about player retention.  And CCP unveiled the Katia Sai monument in Saisio.

Actually out in space myself in EVE Online, I was flying with Liberty Squad as we visited The Spire for a fight over a Sotiyo as well as busting some other structures and setting some timers.  There was also an op from Delve to Lonetrek and another Reavers Race.

NantWorks handed H1Z1… or Z1 Battle Royaleback to Daybreak, having failed to make a go of the challenge of reviving the game.

I reviewed a bit of the coverage the EverQuest 20th anniversary got.  There was also some changes to the Selo progression server, which reflected on what players wanted versus what Daybreak was offering.

I was also playing World of Warcraft, binging on pet battles and catching some new pets.  We got some news about the approaching update, which would unlock flying in Battle for Azeroth.  That promoted me to get the first part of the pathfinder achievement done.  I also got my first alt to level 120, though he hadn’t even been to Zandalar or Kul’Tiras.  Pet battles will do ya.

And I came up with a guide to criticizing games you do not like.

Five Years Ago

As ever, it was April Fools at Blizzard and elsewhere.

Elsewhere, EA was still selling lots of Sims titles, but were cutting online games like Need for Speed: World.

In what I thought must be an April Fools joke, Daybreak said they were not going to do any more expansions for EverQuest II.  Instead it was going to be DLC like the Rum Cellar.  A rum idea if ever there was one.  Likewise, though EverQuest was getting a new progression server, it seemed like it was the end of the road for expansions in old Norrath.  Also, that logo, totally not stolen.

Of course, why would you even need an official progression server, since Daybreak declared Project 1999 totally legit.

And speaking of rum ideas from Daybreak, they were also pushing people off of their forums and on to Reddit.  How were they going to lock threads and delete posts there?

CCP was talking about ship skins in EVE Online, in hopes of finally finding the right formula for the Mosaic expansion.

In New Eden the war was still going in Delve, including a big fight at ZXB-VC, while the Reavers were doing their work in Querious.  Not only that, but we were also decked out in our spiffy new jackets… well, some of us were.  I was trying to be in both fronts of the war. The Reavers front was the place to be though.

The Imperium was declared, with Max Singularity VI as our spiritual leader.  Also, Karma Fleet was launched and Xenuria got in and was a Goon for like ten minutes!  How crazy was that?   I’m sure that will never happen again.  Right? [Narrator: Xenuria has been in KarmaFleet since August of 2015.]

Blizzard’s WoW Token idea went live, and the US regional version immediately dropped below the opening price.  It recovered and went up eventually, but it took a while.  They also had a beta for the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void expansion for which I was not prepared.

The instance group was doing Auchindoun and Skyreach in Draenor… after which we were fresh out of dungeons until we all hit 100.  After that I was leveling up some characters and complaining about little things in WoW.

Meanwhile, the war of the rings in Lord of the Rings Online was dragging out into its eighth year.  Is this Mordor or Afghanistan?

While we’re there, Guild Wars turned ten.

And there was this Liebster thing, which feels like it happened a lot further back than it did.

Ten Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as used to be the case.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

Fifteen Years Ago

Guild Wars: Prophecies launched, with ArenaNet going with a “buy the box, play for free” business model for its new MMO, though they wouldn’t call it one at the time.

Twenty Years Ago

The first expansion for EverQuest, The Ruins of Kunark, launches.  We got ten more levels, new races, and a new continent to explore.

Nintendo sold its 100 millionth GameBoy/GameBoy Color.  That total eventually passes 118 million units sold, only tapering off with the arrival of the GameBoy Advance a year later.

Sony announced that the PlayStation 2, which launched the month before, was so sophisticated that the Ministry of Trade would place export controls on it as it could be used for military applications.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard 2020 is Centered on Overwatch
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. The Hunt Goes Live in New Eden with New Implants
  4. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  7. I Fly a Titan At Last
  8. CCP Launches a Surgical Strike on New Eden
  9. WoW Tokens Five Years Later
  10. CCP Quietly Starts a New Login Campaign in EVE Online
  11. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  12. My Actual First Computer vs My First Real Computer

Search Terms of the Month

“world of warcraft” “subscriptions” “2020”
[“sorry” “just” “MAUs” “now”]

is dragonvale dead
[It is dead to me]

sto game sexiest female uniforms in the game
[It is Star Trek]

eve online apparel account wide
[No. In fact, it has to be in your current station to use.\

Game Time from ManicTime

I played, or at least logged into, more games in April than in March, with the time break down looking like this:

  1. WoW Classic – 38.49%
  2. EVE Online – 25.29%
  3. World of Warcraft – 12.57%
  4. RimWorld – 8.91%
  5. EverQuest – 7.45%
  6. Pokemon Sword – 4.89%
  7. EverQuest II – 1.98%
  8. LOTRO – 0.42%

WoW Classic remained the top choice, though not by the long margin it was last month.  I go into the reasons below, but overall I spent less time playing games in April than I did in March as well, which I mentioned in a post earlier this week about motivation.

EVE Online

I did get out and on a few ops at the start of the month, though even the tempo of ops has slackened with the changes that CCP applied mid-month.  Super carriers being more vulnerable means that they don’t undock, so there are fewer to save and/or blow up.

EverQuest

I am not really “playing” EverQuest in anything like the traditional sense.  I have been messing around with the Overseer feature instead.  It does, as some have noted, seem to have more in common with a phone game than an MMORPG, but they gave it just enough depth and progression to keep me logging in every day.

EverQuest II

I am really not playing this, not even the version of the Overseer they have.  Darkpaw updated the feature, actually giving it a bit of progression.  But it still lacks what depth the EverQuest version has, seeming to be more of a magic prize machine rather than a game.  Oh well.  I also used my level 110 trade and adventure boosts on a new character, and then haven’t played them.  But they are geared up.

Lord of the Rings Online

I patched this up and logged in for a short bit.. I was certainly in for a lot less time than the patch process took.  The patcher hs never been a strong suit of the game.  I was primarily interested in purchasing the Minas Morgul expansion with my LOTRO points, SSG having said it would be available in the online store come March.  Here it is, the day before May and it is not yet available.

Pokemon Go

I hit level 39 at last just a couple of days ago.  That sounds like I am almost 98% through the leveling game, but since the gap between 39 and 40 is five million points, or 25% of the total points to level cap, I suppose I am only 75% of the way there.

Level: 39 (2% of the way to level 40)
Pokedex status: 531 (+5) caught, 560 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Servine

Pokemon Sword

I did play a bit of this, though not as much as I intended.  As a game on the Switch Lite, it is something I can play away from my desk, where I now spend all day for work.  However, I need a kind of quiet place to focus.  I used to go play on the couch when nobody else was home, but we rarely achieve the state of “nobody else home” these days.  Still, I made it through the sixth gym.

RimWorld

I thought I was going to play a lot more of this in April.  It is, in its way, a pretty good game to play while you listen to an audio book or a podcast or whatever, and I am pro multitasking in that way.  And I did play some.  Just not as much as I thought.  Part of that was just not feeling like playing anything, but the fact that RimWorld suffers from the classic mid-game problem added to my lack of play time as well.

World of Warcraft

I did actually play some retail WoW this past month.  As I posted, I unlocked flight in Battle for Azeroth.  And with flying now available on all my alts as well as the 100% xp boost that will be available until the Shadowlands expansion hits, I have been tempted to play more.  I did work on a Horde alt some, but I am not really invested yet.

WoW Classic

As with most of the past six months, WoW Classic continues to top the play time chart.  But it also has the biggest month over month drop in time played.  It has a double whammy in that not only to I sort of have to stoke myself up to log in and play, I also have to figure out what I want to do as my prime alts, who are all in the around level 40 trough where quests ramp up faster than you do.  It wasn’t so bad with my hunter, as it is easy to just grind mobs with him, especially if I can skin them as well.  But my pally… he is sitting at 40 and I now remember why my pally back in vanilla seemed stuck at 40 forever.  The instance group is carrying on, but on the whole we’re not logged in nearly as much.

Coming Up

Another month.  Isn’t that enough?  So tired.

Well, there is the Blapril roundup for sure.  One last time to link out to everybody.  If history is any guide, the title of that post will be The Labors of Blapril.

There are some EverQuest bits and pieces coming up.  I’ll probably get to that tomorrow.  I also want to write something further about the Overseer feature.

There are updates and such for EVE Online expected as well.  Maybe that rather dry login campaign will wrap up and be replaced with something a bit more engaging.

In World of Warcraft Classic it seems likely that the instance group will enter Zul’Farrak.  It is also possible that I will hit level 50 with at least one character next month as well.  Maybe I’ll even figure out where to go with my level 40 paladin.

I am still tempted by the double xp in retail WoW now that I have unlocked flying.  I could maybe get my blood elf paladin to level 120 without much effort beyond seeing the story on that side of the game.

What else is coming up… Mother’s Day and Memorial Day in the US…the Activision-Blizzard Q1 earnings call… and probably a few other things I am forgetting.  Oh, another month of stay at home here as they have apparently have been under counting cases where I live.  Apparently in suburbia we just die at home and don’t tell anybody.

March in Review

The Site

What a month.  There was nothing much of note new on the site, but gaming life and blogging time and all of that was subject to some changes as the COVID-19 pandemic confined so many of us to home.  Fortunately my job is doable from home, but being there at my desk all day long does suck some of the joy out of gaming or writing.  If I’ve already been in my chair for nine or ten hours, there isn’t a lot of joy in staying there for a few more to play a game or write.

At least I can go sit on the couch and play Pokemon Sword.

My new Switch Lite

Good thing I got that for my birthday early in the month, as they are sold out now.  I have not yet succumbed to the mounting pressure to get Animal Crossing: New Horizon though.  My daughter loves it, but she isn’t sure it is a game I would like.

Otherwise it has largely been a constant series of, “Wait, did that happen this month? It seems so long ago now.” moments as the world falls further into whatever it is that we have going on now.

One Year Ago

I dug up my old Macintosh PowerBook 190cs, which I didn’t even remember I still had, and thought about writing about some of the games still on it.  However, I was unable to get it onto the network, so screen shots were difficult to obtain and I ended up running out of steam on the whole thing for the time being.

Activision Blizzard was hedging a bit on what effect their layoff of 8% of the company might produce.

Perfect World Entertainment officially killed of the Foundry in both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online, ending their player made content experiment.

Steam decided that they really did need to curate games on their site, a decision pushed by their inept handling of Rape Day.  The Epic Game Store, always eager to capitalize on Valve’s foibles, declared that there would be no porn in their store.

Gamigo killed off the Rift Prime retro server due to lack of popularity.  It remains my opinion that the Storm Legion expansion killed the game the first time around, so having it do it again was no surprise.

A data center move brought down and kept offline Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online for longer than expected.

Over at Massively OP they were talking about “niche MMORPGs,” a term as ill-defined as most in the gaming world.  Honestly, one could argue that MMORPGs are a niche genre.

Over at GoG.com we got a version of the original Diablo, and while it felt primitive it was still very playable and pretty damn good.

Niantic finally allowed players to change teams in Pokemon Go, allowing me to swap from Team Mystic to Team Instinct.

I was giving Path of Exile a shot again with their Synthesis update.

On the LOTRO Legendary servers the Mines of Moria expansion opened up.  That sent me off to Eregion in search of legendary weapons and such.

In EVE Online the March update brought new restrictions to Alpha clones.  They could no longer run level 4 or 5 missions.  People could buy skill books straight from their character sheet… for a bit of a markup.  CCP was also tinkering with null sec anomalies.  They were worried about too much ISK in the economy.  Skill Points though?  They were just handing those out.

There was a video of Burn Jita 6 in full 4K.

CCP Guard announced he was leaving CCP after 16 years of service.

In New Eden there were two notable ship losses, the first Komodo titan to die and a rare Gold Magnate.  I also got a ship blown up as part of my Myrmidon Experiment, though that was a much less expensive loss.

There was also the EVE Ather Wars tech demo, which went well enough, even if it did not get as many players in space as the company had hoped for.

But Katia Sai was being celebrated for visiting every system in New Eden.

I was pondering the proposed level squish for World of Warcraft.  My guess was that Blizzard would be too risk-averse to do it, but I was proven wrong later in the year at BlizzCon.  Blizz also revived Wintergrasp, the huge battleground from Wrath of the Lich King, which was fun to visit again.

Runes of Magic turned ten and I reflected on its place in the tale of the genre.

But the big news was EverQuest turning 20 years old.  I reflected on its history and celebrated its anniversary.  I covered what the team had to say, which included some good news as well as a bit of hubris.

And I was still doing my own play through of some EverQuest content.  I got a mercenary for my cleric, traveled to distant zones via dangerous paths, and even hit level 50.  It was a lot easier to get there than it was back in the day.  It was quite the tourist excursion!

Five Years Ago

I hit level 50 yet again.

The Elder Scrolls Online dropped the subscription business model.

The Crowfall Kickstarter campaign was still running.  I was wondering if they had a mid-game plan.  They really didn’t, but the campaign still brought in $1.7 million, double what was asked.

EA closed down Maxis as an entity within its organization.  It is what EA does best.

It was a Turbine roast as an insider spilled the beans on problems that have plagued the developer of Lord of the Rings Online.

Rift hit its four year anniversary, but it felt like it had been around for longer than that.

I was wondering what a progression server would look like with EverQuest II.  But it was Sweet 16 for EverQuest, which was getting a new progression server for its birthday it seemed.

Blizzard announced that they were going to go ahead with their PLEX-like idea, the WoW Token.  The instance group was in the Iron Docks and farting around in garrisons.

CCP was talking about the next stage of the proposed sovereignty changes for EVE Online.  There was the Scylla release, which was overshadowed by Fanfest.  Also, the members of CSMX were announced.

In New Eden I attempted to fly an Ibis from Immensea to Deklein.  Then there was a rumor of war as the usual suspects attacked our sovereignty in Fountain.  That called for a big old move op which, in post-Phoebe New Eden, meant caps taking gates.  Then there was that system our foes took.  And once they were evicted from Fountain, it was time for a punitive expedition to Delve.

And The Mittani declared that the power blocs of New Eden would never die.  We shall see.

My daughter and I tried out Diablo III on the PlayStation 3.

I put together a review of my Kickstarter history… I should do that again.

Finally, it seemed as though some of the MMO news sites were paying attention to bloggers again… at least briefly.

Ten Years Ago

With the March 2010 month in review I was able to announce that the site had passed the one million page view mark.  A minor milestone.

FarmVille.  We all tried it as research for Shut Up We’re Talking #60.  We didn’t inhale.

ran through GDC and had dinner.

I was waxing nostalgic for some flavor of Rome.

EA was saying very stupid things about how many subscribers Star Wars: The Old Republic would need.  It is never too early to set the bar for failure.  Also they were threatening to taint 38 Studios.

I was also wondering about greater challenges in MMOs.  Must all paths be equally easy?

I held an April Fools contest, which got a few entries.

Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver launched and, after some delay,  I was picking that initial Pokemon.

I was still invested in Star Trek Online… I was trying…. well, they were giving us lifetime subscribers some perks.

In EVE Online I hit 50 million skill points.  I also had my first Tengu.

World of Tanks was staring to announce some of their progression trees, starting with the Russian and American sets.  Those have changed a lot since then.

The instance group was beginning to embrace the Dungeon Finder.  However, after Mauradon we found we still had to do a chunk of external legwork to prepare for our Sunken Temple run.  I also got a chopper along the way, on my birthday no less.

And, finally, that whole Derek Smart/Alganon thing was just kicking off.

Fifteen Years Ago

Monolith, backed by Sega and Warner Brothers, launches The Matrix Online in the US.  It hits Europe a month later. The title is soon taken over by Sony Online Entertainment, which runs it until its closure in 2009.

The Bloodline Chronicles adventure pack is released for EverQuest II.  It is free for Station Access subscribers.  Among other things it gives the game destructible walls.

Twenty Years Ago

Sony launched the PlayStation 2. Available initially only in Japan, it had ten launch titles.

Most Viewed Posts in March

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. Overseer Feature, Progression Servers, and Free Heroic Characters Coming for EverQuest Anniversary
  4. The State of Voice in 2020 with a Poll
  5. The March Update Brings Market and Moon Changes to EVE Online
  6. New Servers and Server Merges and More with the EverQuest Anniversary
  7. The Windstalker Leaves Norrath
  8. The Passion of the Overseer
  9. Visiting the Katia Sae Monument
  10. An Uldaman of Vague Memories
  11. Blizzard in the Badlands
  12. Seeking the Hydrocane

Search Terms of the Month

camelot unchained massive refund requests after terrible announcment
[Somebody knows what they’re looking for]

online rpg apple iie
[That is going to be a bit or a stretch. A MUD maybe?]

does concord intervene during killing spree in eve online
[All normal CONCORD rules apply]

null sec infrastructure to spawn mining belts
[infrastructure hub]

what plane in war thunder has the most bombs
[Going to guess it is the B-29]

wilma flintstone memes
[I don’t even]

Game Time from ManicTime

Time tracking shows I spent most of my play time with WoW Classic.

WoW Classic – 64.13%
RimWorld – 13.25%
Pokemon Sword – 10.93%
EverQuest – 5.10%
EVE Online – 4.32%
EverQuest II – 1.92%
World of Warcraft – 0.34%

You would think I would be further along, but I always find time to potter about.  Also, Pokemon Sword isn’t tracked by ManicTime, being on the Switch and all, but the save page in the game gives you an elapsed time played report with each save, so I can include it in the mix.

EVE Online

While I did not spend that much time in New Eden in March, the time I did spend was fairly active.  There was a move op north to Venal, followed by some fights, and then a move op home.  Structures were shot, ships exploded.

EverQuest

With the 21st anniversary going on I decided to poke my nose in while my all access subscription was still running.  I used the heroic upgrade on my cleric from last year’s anniversary, which promptly made his spells an unfathomable mess.  But I did end up playing with the new Overseer feature.  While it has a mobile game air to it, the EQ version has more depth than the EQII one does, so I do keep logging into play it.

EverQuest II

I fear my momentum has faded in EQII.  After grabbing the expansion last year and driving a few characters up to the level cap, both for adventure and crafting, I sort of lost interest and wandered off.  I did a bit of the Overseer thing, but it isn’t all that compelling.

Pokemon Go

My drive to the level cap slowed down somewhat.  The friend rewards, which are worth 100,000 points when you hit the highest level, drove me the last couple of months.  However, daily gifts have tapered off as people hole up at home and can’t get out to Pokestops.

Level: 38 (83% of the way to level 39)
Pokedex status: 526 (+14) caught, 556 (+11) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Dewatt

Pokemon Sword

As noted previously, I got Nintendo Switch Lite and a copy of Pokemon Sword for my birthday, which was about a week before we all had to go into hiding, so that is some timing.  I am three gym leaders in so far and it is shaping up to be a pretty solid entry in the genre.  The villainous team is a little more buffoonish than normal, but we’ll see how that plays out.  I just have to get myself setup to pull screen shots from the game so I can post about it.

RimWorld

RimWorld got the Royalty expansion, which adds a new dynamic to the game.  I have that out and played through some.  But even if you do not get the expansion, the launch of it also brought a bit update patch for the base game that includes a lot of nice improvements.

World of Warcraft

As usual, my time spent in retail WoW was mostly around Darkmoon Faire, though I did log in to grab a map of Gnomeregan for a post, and found that I had forgotten that they had nerfed some of the outside area as well.

WoW Classic

A lot of time spent playing WoW Classic.  I was grinding for a mount and working on some alts, but the big effort was around UIdaman where, after three weeks, we took down Archaedas.  Now comes the time to prep for Zul’Farrak.

Coming Up

It is Blapril, so expect some blogging reflective posts and as much linking out to other participants as I can manage.

It is also April Fools tomorrow, though given the current state of the political scene in the US, I am not sure anybody will notice.  Much of the last couple of months has involved public figures saying things that should have ended with “April Fools!” but somehow did not… more so than usual.

EVE Fanfest should have been kicking off soon, but that was cancelled in what seemed like forever ago, though it was just a month back.  Still, it has been reported that CCP will have some news and a new trailer for us.

And it seems like a fine time for video games, especially online games.  But April promises to be as relentless with bad news as March was, so the end of the month will probably feel like another year has gone past.

The Windstalker Leaves Norrath

If it is Friday afternoon it must be time for a news bomb from Daybreak.

It follows you as you move about the room!

This time it is the departure of Holly “Windstalker” Longdale from the company.  Yes, I suppose it should be Darkpaw Games, but it isn’t like Daybreak doesn’t still pull all the strings here.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

Holly Longdale has been running the combined Norrath division of Daybreak since EverQuest and EverQuest II were rolled up into a single team.  That was back when Smed was still promising us that EverQuest Next would be fine because it had the largest development team at Daybreak. (Some fun comments on that post.)

EverQuest Next was cancelled and then Landmark was shut down, but the Norrath team carried on.  And, despite something of a rocky start in the Daybreak era… all that talk about doing little campaigns as opposed to expansions… a plan reversed in half a year… things seemed to go pretty well for the Norrath team.  They managed an expansion and a big update for both EverQuest and EverQuest II each year since.  And while everything hasn’t gone perfectly, for the last five or so years it has felt like the company has cared more about the franchise than during the final five years of the SOE era.

And, thanks to the team finally embracing the nostalgia and special server idea, it was reported last year, during the EverQuest 20th anniversary, that the player base had been growing since low ebb in 2015.

At the helm for that whole time was Holly Longdale, Executive Producer in charge of the EverQuest franchise.  And while you can’t credit her for everything that went right, a good boss makes good things possible, while a bad boss can make even good things turn to shit.  So she gets some credit for the improved state of the games.  I was very much on #TeamHolly over the last few years.

Which is why the Friday night post over on the EverQuest and EverQuest II sites announcing her departure made me sigh and wonder what was going to happen next.  The text from both posts:

Greetings Norrathians,

It is time to bid ye all a heartfelt fond farewell.

I will be taking my leave from Darkpaw Games for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I owe to all the players and developers of EverQuest and EverQuest II.

From my first experience at EverQuest’s launch as a dark elf wizard trying to leave Neriak for two hours, to joining the EverQuest and EverQuest II teams, my life has been a thrill and a blessing. For more than a decade, I’ve felt honored and thankful to have been a part of the lives of so many players and our amazing family of developers.

I’ve seen these games grow and evolve for so many years. I took part in the first-ever instanced content and forging new ground with Lost Dungeons of Norrath. I had the honor of working with Brad “Aradune” McQuaid, John Smedley, and a great number of talented people.

Both games have grown through the rise of nostalgia with progression servers in ways we didn’t expect. Above all, our community is ever-present, guiding and informing us, and helping us make better choices.

Our success as a franchise is built upon the love of those who live in Norrath. I can’t thank every one of you enough for being part of this magical life. I will miss you, but I won’t be far away!

My passion and love for EverQuest and EverQuest II is unending. Even though I am leaving Darkpaw Games as a producer for now, I will remain part of the community as a player.

Our intrepid Franchise Technical Director and EQ veteran Jennifer Chan will take hold of the reigns with gusto and head up the studio. She has been my leadership partner for over 5 years and excels at keeping us on track, improving our technology, and making sure everything gets done as smoothly as possible.

I promise you that the game and teams are in more-than-capable hands.

Rest assured, Norrath will continue to grow and prosper as I hope you all will.

Much love to one and all, forever. And, as always, I’ll see you in game,

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale

People move on.  New opportunities arise.  Things change.  It sounds like she is leaving for something she wants to do.  But whether she left or was pushed, the inevitable question is, “What happens next?”

Jennifer Chan will be taking over.  All I know about her is that she has some technical chops, with a BS in Computer Science, and has been a technical director for SOE, then Daybreak, since early 2014.  There is a Shack News interview with her that puts a little more info out there (side note: She mentions that they work closely with the LOTRO and DDO teams, so who owns Standing Stone?  Also, the interviewer was the author of Stay Awhile and Listen.)  But that isn’t a lot.

My sense from that is that she might be more technical than “vision,” but maybe that is what the franchise could use.

So we will have to wait and see what this really means.  Back in January there was some hope that the splitting of Daybreak into sub-studios would mean good things for the EverQuest franchise, secure on its own as Darkpaw Games.  But the fickle finger of fate will have its way.

Related Posts:

The Passion of the Overseer

The Overseer feature came into EverQuest II as part of the Blood of Luclin expansion back in November and I have been trying to pin down its raison d’etre ever since.

Snakes. Moon snakes.

My introduction to the Overseer feature involved the typical SOE/Daybreak muddled experience.  I had purchased the  collector’s edition of the expansion, which entitled me to three special Overseer agents.

The agents are available through the /claim interface, where EverQuest II keeps all the special goodies you have been awarded over the years… bonus expansion content and veteran rewards and the like… and fifteen years down the road with the game I have quite a bit of junk hanging out in that interface.

Account age as I started writing this

They used to give bonus age to your account for buying expansion, which meant they had to be a year ahead on veteran rewards, back when they were still doing those.  Veteran rewards died out at year twelve.

Anyway, I went to the /claim interface and went to the Blood of Luclin tab, because where else would I go, and saw my bonus agents.

Here they are…

They come in a box, which you unpack into three boxes, which you unpack in their turn.  Each of the three boxes lets you choose one agent.

Who to pick?

There isn’t a lot of guidance as to whom to pick.  Two of the packs contain agents with a single trait, while the third has agents with two traits.  The traits are things like “agile” or “noble” or “lucky,” but there isn’t any real guidance as to how those might work.  The agents have little descriptions as well, but those are meaningless as well.

So I picked one from each pack.  They end up in your inventory where you can right click on them to add them to your collection.  After that I went to the Overseer window from the main menu and… couldn’t figure out what to do.  I had three agents and no missions and nothing seemed to be going on.

As it turns out, in order to get started you need to pick up the starter pack which is in the Promotions tab of the /claim interface.

Start here

That gives you a starter agent and a starter mission.  When you add those to your collection then open up the Overseer interface, if gives you a quick tutorial mission, then sends you on your way.  At that point things worked.

I have, on a few occasions, compare this to the mission interface in the garrisons of the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft.  This is very unfair… to WoW.

Love them or hate them, the missions and minions in Warlords of Draenor were a big deal, a very deep system, and fully integrated into the expansion.

You could have dozens of minions, but had pick a select set for your active group.  Minions had to be leveled up, and then geared up, which made them more effective on missions.  Minions could also be used in your various garrison buildings.  Some minions could even be drafted to come adventure with you out in the game.  Even getting them was a “gotta catch em all!” game.  Some you could recruit, others came from quests, and more still from dungeons and raids.

And the missions… there were many missions, and picking the right minions was critical to mission success.  Mission availability ebbed and flowed.  Some missions lasted from couple of hours to a couple of days.  And eventually you even unlocked naval missions.  It was crazy complex, such that somebody built a huge addon (Masterplan) just to help you keep track of what was going on without needing to keep a spreadsheet.

If you want a metaphor, garrison missions were to the Warlords of Draenor expansion as the plumbing is to your house.  You could still live in your house without it, but you really get used to having it and come to depend on it… which was one of the problems of that expansion.

Even the pared down version of missions and minions that came with Legion and Battle for Azeroth were still heavily connected with the game and the story.  They were integral to those expansions.

When we speak of the Overseer feature and EverQuest II, the metaphor is probably different.  It is more like somebody attached a tube and a funnel to the side of your outhouse.  It is a nice little addition and adds a bit of convince, but it is a cheap, nailed on feature, and if fell off you’d just go back to going into the outhouse to take a piss.  You might miss it, but it didn’t change the basic functionality of things.  It isn’t an integrated part of the outhouse system, such that it is.

Okay, the outhouse metaphor probably sounds worse than I intended, but the point remains; Overseer is its own system pretty much independent of the game.  As I saw suggested elsewhere, it could have been a mobile app and maintained the same functionality.

While the Overseer functionality has gone through some functional gyrations since launch, it has remained mostly the same basic premise.  You open up the interface and you see your agents and your missions.

Welcome to the Overseer

You have a list of your agents on the left, with icons to indicate their special traits.  Most agents do not have traits.  To the right, in the main part of the UI, is a list of missions at the top, with details of the highlighted mission below.  Missions have a “Mishap Chance,” which is a failure, or 5% or 10%, which means the success rate is 90-95%.  That can be mitigated by a percent or two by assigning your familiar to the mission.

There is also a bonus chance, which stands at 5% by default, but which can be improved by assigning agents that have traits that match the mission, and further by assigning your mercenary to go along on the mission.

A mission with the odds changed

Neither your mercenary nor your familiar actually “go” anywhere.  They are still with you, so there you might as well click on the plus sign above the chance options and add them to a mission every day.

Missions vary in duration, running from one to three hours so far as I have seen.  The only exception is a rescue mission.  If you hit the mishap roll, you then have an opportunity to go rescue your agent.  Those missions run six hours or so and offer some special rewards if you hit the bonus, so maybe you don’t want to put your familiar in the mix just to get some more mishaps.

Missions themselves reference places in the game, like the Fool’s Gold Tavern, which I rob daily, but otherwise have no depth to them.

You are limited to 10 missions a day.  A real world 24 day, not a game day.  That 10 mission limit is account wide, so you’ll probably end up concentrating on one character to run missions.  There won’t be any need to log in all of your alts daily, which was one of the Warlords of Draenor grinds.

The mission list, which was per character for a while, are now account wide.  For a long stretch missions would come and go and I rarely had more than six on my list.  With the account wide change, I now have more than 10 missions to choose from on any given day.

Agents, however, are per character.  So, once again, you will probably want to concentrate on a single character to run missions.  I found that I could trade my special collector’s edition characters through the shared bank boxes, so some of my alts handed over better quality agents to my main mission runner.

The rewards vary.  You can get crafting materials, both common and rare, advanced crafting recipe books (which are so common that the market for those books has crashed), gear, collectables, and additional agents and missions.  The gear you get is better than basic crafted, worse than master crafted, and not always better than gear you might pick up on quests.  None of it was better than gear I got on the signature quest line.  But since you can salvage or sell the gear on the market, or just vendor it, it won’t go to waste.

I think the collectables are my favorite reward, though I say that now that my bank is overflowing with advanced crafting recipe books.

Overall, not a bad little feature.  I log on to play with it a couple times a week.  My crafters now all have their advanced skill books in hand.  But, as I noted, not exactly connected to the game in any meaningful way that I have noticed.  More of a mini-game with some rewards.

So I was a bit surprised to see the Overseer described as a “passion project” in the EverQuest producer’s letter I mentioned last week.  It isn’t bad, but it isn’t something that would keep me subscribed to the game either.  It is a little too simple and a little too limited to be a big deal to me.

But apparently it is a big enough deal that it will be coming to EverQuest this month as part of the game’s 21st anniversary.  I will still be subscribed at that point, my current three month cycle being good into April, so I will no doubt give it a try there.  I might even find it more useful in old Norrath than new, but we shall see.

Bhagpuss has been posting about the Overseer feature for a while now, and his takes are more complete, so visit his posts for a better look at it.

February in Review

The Site

With Firefox and (finally) Chrome trying to make the web safer, both browsers are now less tolerant of potential security risks, flagging sites as containing questionable content much more aggressively.  And The Flag Counter widget, which I have been running for almost a decade in my side bar, apparently started causing the site to be reported as a risk at some point in the last month or so.

The thing with the flags and numbers

After some tinkering and manually updating one embedded URL to be HTTPS things seemed to be kosher again and various browsers stopped declaring the site a danger.

Thanks to MagiWasTake of the Indiecator blog for pointing out that recent browser updates were causing the blog to be flagged as unsafe.  It should be all good now.  But if it isn’t, let me know.  I’d rather just remove Flag Counter than have an “unsafe site” warning pop up when people land here.

One Year Ago

Epic Games had announced their digital storefront the previous December, but we were finally getting a deeper look at their strategy for taking on Steam.  One word: Exclusives.  (Some of which were already up for sale on Steam, then withdrawn, making as many people angry as happy.)

Over at Activision-Blizzard they announced record annual revenues for 2018, then laid off 8% of their staff.  I suppose, in hindsight, they predicted 2019 correctly.

Daybreak gave us some details about their planned special rules EverQuest II PvP server.  On the same front, the plans for the EverQuest anniversary servers sounded a bit muddled.  They gave us a revised plan for all servers before the month was out.

Meanwhile, the PlanetSide Arena launch, pushed back to March, was pushed out again, this time until “summer,” with a planned simultaneous Playstation 4 launch given as a reason.

I also wondered what EverQuest III should even look like, were it a possibility.  I doubt that it is, but it is fun to speculate.

All of that aside, with the approach of the EverQuest 20th anniversary I started logging in to play a bit with a fresh character.  I started on Vox, a standard rules server, with an eye on the tutorial.  I ran through the revolt in Glooming Deep.

On the LOTRO Legendary server I was wrapping up in Eriador.  It was time to start considering Moria.

I was also rolling back into WoW and Battle for Azeroth for a bit.  It was a change up from LOTRO.

On the EVE Online front it was announced there would be no alliance tournament for 2019.  The February update brought us some fixes and the Guardians Gala event.  CCP was also talking about letting people buy skills straight from the character sheet.  There was also talk of a new launcher coming.

I wrote something about the time zones of New Eden, it being a world spanning, 24 hour game.

Burn Jita was back again, kicking off with explosions as usual.

I wrote a bit about the city of Waterdeep, the heart of TorilMUD.

Twitch offered me a free trial in Final Fantasy XIV, but I couldn’t get it to work.

I was on about there being no good expansions again.

And there was word of a smaller Switch, the end of the Wii Shop Channel, eports was stomping its feet and demanding to be taken seriously, and the Olympics rejecting esports all wrapped up in a Friday bullet points post.

Five Years Ago

Sony Online Entertainment ceased to be, having been sold off to Columbus Nova and rebranded as Daybreak Games Company.  The launch was not auspicious to my mind, with Columbus Nova issuing a questionable press release while the new company shed many old hands.  Still, classic Norrath seemed to be safe.  New progression servers for EverQuest were announced fairly quickly thereafter.

H1Z1 was out in early access (or “recently launched” according to Colubus Nova) and having some issues.  Polygon took my own point of view in stating that if a company is out there taking money for a game then they felt entitled to review it as it stood.

The Crowfall Kickstarter campaign launched and the game quickly hit its initial goal.  Meanwhile, I was wondering how Nebula Online, another project with a Kickstarter, was going to make any money.

Massively and WoW Insider were recreating themselves as Massively OP and Blizzard Watch.

I was still playing WoW , which still had 10 million subscribers, while looking towards the 6.1 patch was due.  I was doing pet battles and looking at my addons.

I was also still flailing about a bit with Elite: Dangerous.

Star Wars: The Old Republic seemed headed back to that vaunted fourth pillar.

The Tiamat expansion hit EVE Online, unleashing the Svipul menace.  CCP was bribing people to vote in the CSMX election. And for the monthly blog banter walking in stations came up again.  I was also figuring out how to change my space clothes and Reavers were making a difference.

The now defunct BattleClinic had just finished their site overhaul, allowing players to mine more data out of their kill mails.

Then there was Juche.

And, finally, a farewell to Leonard Nimoy.

Ten Years Ago

We learned SynCaine’s dirty secret.

I was invited to go play in the beta for the web based Crown of Byzantus.  It didn’t really stick with me, though I wrote about it a couple of times.

There was another press release or some such for a Wheel of Time MMO.  My call then: It isn’t going to happen.  And it still hasn’t happened.  And it isn’t going to happen.

Ten Ton Hammer made a list of their Top Ten PvP MMOs, and there was some chagrin that Ultima Online didn’t make the cut.

For reasons I cannot recall, Conner at MMO Fallout started looking into how MMO companies ranked over at the Better Business Bureau.

There was an announcement for a new game… World of Tanks!

In World of Warcraft, the instance group did Scarlet Monastery, Uldaman, and got as far as Zul’Farrak in our horde adventures, though we were still forgetting we could use the Dungeon Finder.  Otherwise we were running around doing holiday events and the like.  Also, I finally fished that last coin out of the fountain in Dalaran.

Oh, the Dungeon Finder.  My first runs with that were… not so good.  I seemed to run into some cliche bad groups.

Meanwhile, WoW decided to emulate WebKinz and start selling stuffed animals that had codes for in-game versions.  My daughter wanted that Windrider Cub real bad.

Hi-Rez Studios launched Global Agenda.  The game went down during a server move in 2018 and was later reported as dead for good.

Over in EverQuest II the Sentinal’s Fate expansion launched.  The sixth expansion for the game, it raised the level cap from 80 to 90.  I remember almost nothing specific about this expansion

The Azeroth Advisor went buh-bye.  Thanks for killing it 38 Studios!  I saved all the email tips they sent me, however they were all pretty much worthless post-Cataclysm.  Also, they were full of live links that no longer work.  Ah well.

Finally, there was Star Trek Online.  The head start ended, The game went full-live, I was fiddling with my super special pre-order collector’s edition junk, and I gave out some codes in a caption contest.  There was even some new content.  But by month’s end, STO faded for me.  Worst gaming purchase of the decade for me.

Fifteen Years Ago

The Dragons of Norrath expansion launched for EverQuest.

Twenty Years Ago

The Sims launched, becoming a staple of video games sales lists for well over a decade and one of the best selling video game franchises of all time.

Most Viewed Posts in February

  1. The Camelot Unchained Refund Stonewalling Begins
  2. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  3. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  4. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  5. Honest Game Trailers Hits Warcraft III Reforged Hard
  6. A Good Fourth Quarter for Blizzard… When Compared to the Rest of 2019
  7. Radical Rock Reductions in New Eden
  8. EVE Online Gets Wormhole Fun, New Implants, and More
  9. Scarlet Monastery Cathedral
  10. Camelot Unchained Refund Received
  11. Raids versus Fleet Ops
  12. I Burst to the Top of the Chart

Search Terms of the Month

will there ever be another everquest
[reply hazy, ask again later]

is it easy to learn everquest if boost to 85
[Oh, heavens no!]

karmafleet which race
[They are down with whatever you are]

i did a search on the internet for somewhere with a warm sea, not cold. with is a none words
[And yet somehow you arrived here]

Spam Comment of the Month

Anything cam have an innuendo with food and/or sex if you try hard enough…

Again, think outside the trapezoid

Game Time from ManicTime

The measure this month shows that I tapered off quite a bit when it came to EverQuest II.  That was both because I ran out of steam on my desire to get more characters to the level cap… four is pretty much three more than I have ever had… and because things picked up in both WoW Classic and EVE Online.

  • WoW Classic – 69.29%
  • EVE Online – 22.07%
  • EverQuest II – 8.36%
  • World of Warcraft – 0.28%

Those percentages do not reflect the raw data reality, in which I spent less than half as much time on video games in February when compared to January.  I was away from home for a week and I didn’t have as much free time when I was home.

EVE Online

A new SIG and a new deployment gave me something to do in New Eden.  I was out in Venal with the GEF.  The DDoS attacks early in the month made playing problematic at times, but CCP got past that eventually and even gave us some skill points for our trouble.

EverQuest II

I have tinkered with some alts, but the drive to level up has faded somewhat.  I had considered seeing what it would take to roll a fresh character from level one to the cap, but upon reflection I guess it would take more than I had in me.  Still, I was surprised to find I still had a free character slot and now I have a level 20 necromancer hanging out somewhere.

Pokemon Go

I have been moving along pretty well in the quest for level 40.  This has been largely due to exchanging gifts with buddies in the game, which yields 100K points when you hit maximum friendship.  I have also had some fun with the new Battle League.  I want to keep going with that at least until I unlock the Pikachu wrestler outfit.

Level: 38 (61% of the way to level 39)
Pokedex status: 512 (+17) caught, 545 (+20) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Dewatt

World of Warcraft

As I have written almost every month since summer, I pretty much only log into retail WoW for Darkmoon Faire.

WoW Classic

Back to the instance group and my alts in the land of vanilla.  I am still happy with the experience.  The combo of simplicity, difficulty, and lost memories around so many corners will keep me going for a while still.

Coming Up

Another busy month in RL for me… though with the Coronavirus running about maybe everything will get cancelled and I will just stay home and play video games.

The instance group will carry on in WoW Classic.  Once we get past Razorfen Downs it will be time to ramp up for Uldaman and then Zul’Farrak.

Out in New Eden we will have to see if the GEF deployment will continue.  There are probably fights to be had and structures to be shot still, but target of the war, Darkness, has disbanded.  Oops.  And then there all the new things that CCP has in store for us.

As mentioned earlier this week, EverQuest is coming up on its 21st anniversary.  I’m not sure it will be as big of a deal as 20, but we shall see.

Finally, RimWorld has an expansion and a new update patch.  After a couple of revisions it looks like it has settled down so it might be time to break that out again.

One thing that won’t be happening next month is GDC up in San Francisco, which has been postponed until late summer due to Coronavirus.

Into the Kronosphere

Being back to playing EverQuest II at the level cap in the latest expansion put me at something of a disadvantage financially.  A lot of my characters are pretty old, with the oldest dating back to the launch of the game in 2004, with another generation that was rolled up as part of the EverQuest II Extended experiment in 2011.

But like most MMOs, and their MUD predecessors, EQII has been subject to quite a bit of inflation over the years.  SOE, then Daybreak, has tried to keep that under control  In the deign of the game they opened the gap between coins, so 1 silver was worth 100 copper rather than 10, while back at launch mobs didn’t even drop coin in an effort to keep the money supply tight.

But all plans like that fall through when faced with the players.  Exploits, dupes, and holes in the system were found, the money supply ballooned a few times, and the price of everything went up.

So in the game with even my nine year old characters I was feeling a bit of a pinch trying to by things from other players off of the broker.  Those characters felt pretty set back in the day with 100p in their pocket, now stuff things I was looking at were selling for hundreds or thousands of plat, with some items in the auction channel going for hundreds of thousands of plat.

It is a different economy.

The one thing I could do was sell though.  Some things, like collectables, were selling for dozens to hundreds of plat on the broker at times, so I forswore filling out my own collections, opting to sell them to raise plat.  And I did pretty well with that.  When there is a lot of coinage in the economy it is easy to get some of it to stick to you if you focus on selling.

Coins gained so far

That meant day to day expenses were well and truly covered.  The cost of mending your armor is still stuck in 2004, and even your mercenary only runs a bit over a plat every 30 minutes up to level 110.  (For whatever reason your mercenary is free after that.)

But when I went looking for Adept level skills for characters, those were running 10K and up, and if there is a legitimate complaint about EQII, it is that characters have way too many skills.  I couldn’t cover skill upgrades on one character, much less across a few with my selling efforts.

I was able to supplement that some with the loyalty points cash option.  The loyalty point broker will sell you a bag of 500p for 5 points.

At the Loyalty seller in Qeynos Harbor

That is good for topping up some alts, making sure anybody I drag out has enough coins to deal with the day to day costs of the game.  But all my points would only buy about 60K plat, so I was doing better selling at the broker.

So I muddled along with apprentice skills until over the holidays Daybreak had a sale on Krono.

Krono came into the game back in 2012 and is like EVE Online PLEX and WoW Tokens, a way to buy game time for in-game currency from players who need that in-game currency.

All About Krono from back in 2012

I bought two and, looking at the market, listed them for 5 million plat each.  Well, once I got them to the broker I listed them.  You have to drag them from your character sheet to the broker, and somewhere in that transition they disappeared.  But I opened a ticket and Daybreak fixed that pretty quickly.

Anyway, I listed them and they sold fairly quickly, which probably means I listed them too cheaply, but whatever.  I was now in possession of 10 million plat.

And that changes everything… or some things.

I doled out a million plat to a few characters and suddenly prices on the broker didn’t seem so bad.  I wasn’t splurging on things… there are a lot of items I could use that run above 250K plat, a price range that would noticeably drain my largess.  But cheaper items on the broker took less thought.

And I started keeping shinies I picked up, adding them to my collections rather than diligently listing them all on the market.  The whole thing really reduced my desire to sell and took the edge off the financial aspect of the game.

But I wonder if that is a good thing.

My observation over the years has been that people who get a lot of in-game currency easily, be it via RMT (illicit or officially sanctioned) or from friends or just good luck, tend to tire more quickly of the MMO in question than somebody dedicated to the financial grind.

Raids versus Fleet Ops

Massively OP ran a Daily Grind post last week about raiding.  Those are sort of their regular “questions for the audience” posts.  The question was whether people avoided raids in the MMO and why.  It seemed like a setup for some back and forth between those who enjoy raiding and those who fail to find pleasure in it.

I chimed in with a short comment about how I have never felt as lost an ineffectual in an MMORPG as when I have been on raids.

My raiding experience is long in the past, with a lot in TorilMUD then some in EverQuest and EverQuest II many years back, along with a bit of LFR in World of Warcraft.  Even that last bit, which is pretty much raid tourism as opposed to actually raiding, just reinforced how I ended up feeling in raids as time moved along.

Garrosh Awaits… back during Pandaria

None of my reasons for avoiding raiding stray very far from the usual list of gripes, from time to guild drama to time commitments to return on effort to just not having fun.

A raid group from back in EQII

I much prefer my MMORPG content in a smaller group.  Dungeon runs with 3-6 people, people I know, is the right path for me.  Not playing with strangers does mean that I do not end up knowing a lot of people in game, and the strangers I do end up meeting tend to be the very aggressive and demanding sorts who give interacting with people in MMORPGs a bad name.

None of which ought to be a surprise to any long time reader here.

Which, as usual, leaves EVE Online as the odd man out as, to put this in the format used on Twitter:

  • Me: I don’t like large group content!
  • Also me: 250 person fleet op? Count me in!

It is true.  While I am reluctant to join in large group activities in most MMORPGs, it seems to be what I do most in EVE Online.

And some operations include multiple 250 person fleets

And it isn’t like there isn’t solo and small group content in EVE Online.  A five person gate camp is very much a thing as are small group roams and a wide variety of other options.  And solo PvP is very much an primary occupation for some.  New Eden offers opportunities for groups of all sizes.

So why the big groups for me?

I think it has to do something with a sense of purpose.  There is very much a correlation between the number of people that are called for to fill out an operation and the certainty of its purpose.  You can get 20 people easy to go camp a gate for a bit or for a roam.  On deployments an FC can get 40-60 people on a quiet with the idea of going to shoot a structure in hopes of getting the defenders to form for a fight.

But when you start pinging early and often for a fleet and want 250 people, or maybe multiple fleets of 250 people, the intentions tend to be pretty concrete.  We’re going to blow something up, like a Keepstar or a Sotiyo or an opposing group has an operation planned and we’re going to drop in and shoot them.  Some specific content is on the menu and, while it doesn’t always come to pass, the agenda is generally short and clear.

Nobody calls for a huge fleet then says they want to go on a roam and see what turns up.  Well, not if they want to keep a fleet that size under their command.

There is also room for a range of skill levels in big fleets.  When you have a small group camping a gate everybody needs to be somewhat competent.  But in a 250 person fleet there is enough slack to cover those still learning.

The line members of the fleet, flying the DPS ships of the doctrine being used, are often derided as being “F1 monkeys,” but you have to start somewhere.  But some people are perfectly fine in that role.  I tend to favor flying in the logi wing, which is more demanding, but sometimes I too like to just shoot things.  It can be fun to just let the FC take you someplace and tell you what to shoot as you watch the pretty battle.  (And all the more so with the 64-bit client where you can leave your graphics turned up so the battle is actually pretty.)

You don’t have to be the main line DPS person.  A fleet has plenty of other roles for the experienced and novice alike.  It can be fun to just fly a target painting Vigil, getting on kill mails while sailing around the fleet at high speed.  And, at the other end, your average FC is busier than any raid leader.  You can find the level of effort/responsibility/skill that works for you.

And then there is scheduling.  In a big coalition fleets run all around the clock.  I don’t have to dedicate specific nights of the week to fleet ops.  In fact, I can be quite haphazard about my fleet participation.  If I sit down at my computer and have some free time, I’ll take the next fleet that pops up on Jabber.

I will set aside time for specific objectives.  If there is a Keepstar kill coming I’ll block that time off to make it.

So in this, as in so many things, EVE Online is an outlier, the game that doesn’t quite fit the roles of the genre.

Of course, fleet ops are PvP, so that changes things as well.  There is something more akin to raiding in New Eden.  They are called incursions, and I have tried that as well.  While they can be lucrative, it is not nearly as much fun as the chaos of live enemies.

January in Review

The Site

What can I say about the site this month?  I fell off my streak of more posts than days in the current month, though not by much.  That probably meant I spent more time playing games and less time writing about them, which is something I always say I am going to do. Maybe I actually I did it this month.  Or maybe nothing much worth writing about occurred.

Other than that… well… when I was over at my mother-in-law’s house to fix her WiFi she showed us a lemon she got off the tree in her back yard.

Citrus nightmare fuel… also 80s counter top tile

I don’t think this is related to the WiFi issue, but you never know what is connected to what over on Innsmouth Drive.

Oh, and IFTTT dropped me a note to tell me that my applet that auto-copied posts from here to Google+ had to be shut off.  Google+ has only been gone for 8 months or so now.  Good of them to let me know.

One Year Ago

Yes, there were predictions, because there are always predictions.  There was also the usual rosy “maybe I’ll play something new” post about the upcoming year.  And just to round out the usual start of the year trifecta, another Steam winter sale passed into history.

I was wondering what the EverQuest 20th anniversary might bring.  It did look like expansions might still be on the menu for both EQ and EQII.

But PlanetSide Arena, slated for late January beta, had that date pushed back to March.

Blizzard finally fixed the crafting quests in Darkmoon Faire, which had been broken since the pe-launch update before Battle for Azeroth.

In EVE Online I was wondering if Circle of Two was dead, or just mostly dead.  I also went on a bit about the PAP link economy.

We got some updated asteroid visuals with the January update.  Also, people were sending messages to CCP in Jita.  I’m not sure they allow container spam anymore.

Actually in New Eden I was out in Geminate with Liberty Squad.  We shot a POS and I wondered if it would be my last. (Answer: no) We messed with somebody’s moon chunk and shot structures in TKE.

On the LOTRO Legendary server I went down to Goblin Town before I had heading off to Angmar.  The legendary quest line sent me around Angmar and then told me the truth about Sara Oakheart, though it never explained why she was so damn slow.  Then I was riding down the long roads in Forochel before finally ending up at the ring forges in Eregion.

I was playing a bit of RimWorld, where setbacks can be a thing.

SuperData’s 2018 review report pointed towards a mobile focused future.

And I started using ManicTime to track game play time, listing the first stats in the January in Review post.

Five Years Ago

The Elder Scrolls Online announced they were ditching their mandatory subscription model.

We bid farewell to Massively and WoW Insider as AOL pared down their web content presence yet again.

At long last Runic was poised to deliver the Mac OS version of Torchlight II.  I just didn’t care any more.

Anet surprised exactly nobody and announced a Guild Wars 2 expansion.

Elite: Dangerous was making me feel like an incompetent boob… well, more so that usual.

Smed took the bait and wrote “money grab” in a tweet, which then became a gaming news headline.  Of course, he was also saying things about disgusting carebears and telling us things were not MMOs when they were clearly labeled as such.

Sony players were told they would get as much as 450 Station Cash for the great downtime of 2011, while the lawyers would pocket $2.75 million.

PlanetSide 2 got a record for what I considered a somewhat dubious achievement.

In EverQuest II I was running a paladin through the same content I just ran through with a berserker including the Palace of the Awakened.

The Lord of the Rings Online Producer’s Letter wasn’t impressing me, to the point I was wondering whether anybody else might create an open world Middle-earth game.

In WoW I got in and did the 10th Anniversary Molten Core event at the last minute.  The instance group was discovering that you had to be level 92 to do just about anything in Gorgrond.  I was also opining about garrisons in Draenor.  I had five after all.

In EVE Online it was time to usher in YC117.  There was also a video about the age range of the New Eden player base, the Proteus expansion, Gevlon was making more friends, and the Reavers deployed again, passing though Thera on the way,

I was muttering about paid early access and that sort of thing again.  Even Blizzard seemed to be in on the act.

And we had to say goodbye to our little Trixie cat.

Ten 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 also the Dominion 1.1 patch.

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

Oh, and there was LEGO Rock Band out.

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 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.

Most Viewed Posts in January

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. EVE Online Gets Heavy Missile Buffs, Shield Slaves, and a New Event
  4. Pilgrimage
  5. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  6. 2020 and Predictions for a New Year
  7. California Explores Gaming Power Usage
  8. The Daybreak Studio Split Comes to Pass
  9. What Would I Like to See in 2020
  10. Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?
  11. Black Sheep Done
  12. Blizzard Wants to Lock You In with a Flying Rat

Search Terms of the Month

dota tft what to buy
[Wait, you can buy something?]

starting off as heroic 85 eq
[Too bad the level cap is 115]

darlpaw games
[so close…]

new eq server for darkpaw
[Soon enough I am sure]

eve online do i collect daily rewards not being online
[No, that is why it is called EVE “ONLINE”]

Game Time from ManicTime

My EverQuest II binge was going strong coming into the month.  I think the measure after the first two weeks would have been more than 80% in favor of Norrath.  But other things picked up as the month went along, especially WoW Classic as the group got past the holidays, so in the end there was a close race for the top spot.

EverQuest II – 48.65%
WoW Classic – 47.64%
EVE Online – 3.36%
World of Warcraft – 0.35%

EVE Online

Kind of a quiet month in New Eden for me.  In part I was playing other games a lot more, but I was also in a bit of limbo in looking for a new home.  The wait for my KF application to get reviewed had me wondering if I ought to just ship everything from Delve to Jita and take a break from the game.  But then I got accepted and a new SIG opened up in the coalition with a promise of deployments, action, and structure shoots, so I’m sticking around.

EverQuest II

I binged quite a bit on Norrath in December and January.  I slowed down some in the back half of the last month, but I am still sitting with four characters at level cap.  That is unprecedented for my in the game and I remain with an odd, heady feeling, like maybe I should use this opportunity to catch up a few more characters.  I haven’t done much of anything with them since they hit level cap, but I could!

Pokemon Go

We continue our trek towards level 40.  I made good progress towards level 39 this past month, mostly due to xp from friendship level boosts.  I also caught a lot of Magikarp.  For lunar new year the game was featuring “red” Pokemon out in the wild, and despite looking more orange than red to me, Magikarp was on the list.  I went from less than 200 candies for them to over 400.  I can evolve another Gyrados, though I want a shiny Magikarp before I do that.

Level: 38 (35% of the way to level 39)
Pokedex status: 495(+14) caught, 525 (+20) seen
Pokemon I want: Lucario, which is tough because I never any in the wild.
Current buddy: Oshawatt

World of Warcraft

I did the usual Darkmoon Faire thing during the first week of the month, but not much else.  The 8.3 patch hit and seemed to bring with it more woe for the retail side of the game.  The game is apparently broken for a lot of MacOS players and a substantial number of Windows players, with the game often crashing out in 20 minutes or less if reports are to be believed.

WoW Classic

I was a bit quiet with Classic at the start of the month, but ramped up as things went along, the holidays ended, and the instance group got back in the saddle.  And it isn’t crashing for us, unlike retail, which is a plus.

Coming Up

Next month is going to be a busy month in real life for me.  Lots of things going on.  So it is likely to be a light month for posts.  We shall see.

Activision-Blizzard should be rolling out their 2019 financials early in the month.  We’ll see if more layoffs ensue.

In EVE Online there is a new SIG that is inviting all and sundry to join up and go deploy to some new location in order to better make things explode.  Making things explode has my interest.  Of course, that depends on the game actually being  up.  It has been mostly down for four of the last seven days.  First there was a DDoS attack, but now things just seem to be broken.  That’ll mess with your new player retention right there.

I still have a level boost in EverQuest II.  I could get another character to level cap.  But which one?  And, with five there, is that enough of an xp boost to try and roll somebody up from the lower levels the old fashioned way?  It is a long way to 120 from anywhere below 80.

And in WoW Classic we ought to finish up Scarlet Monastery and move on to the next thing, which I gather is Razorfen Downs.

The Daybreak Studio Split Comes to Pass

It isn’t even Friday afternoon and we’re getting news from Daybreak.  The splitting of the company into discreet studios focused on specific games is under way, something that has been somewhat expected since July of last year.  Of prime importance to me are the fates of EverQuest and EverQuest II, which will now be run by Darkpaw Games.

Darkpaw Gamed for Norrath

A producer’s letter from Holly Longdale announced the change, though details were scant.  Quoted from the site for posterity:

Welcome to our first bark as Darkpaw Games!

Unsurprisingly, our motto is “Never Give Up” given that our studio name is borne from our beloved in-game character, Fippy Darkpaw – the gnoll that won’t quit. For over 20 years he’s been fighting the good fight for his tribe. Same goes for our studio, our games, and our tenacious players.

We are the OG. The passionate. The dedicated. And the proud! Grrr….Bark Bark…Grrr.

I’m sure you want to know what this change means…

Darkpaw Games will operate autonomously and focus on the EQ franchise, its community, and its future. I will be at the head of Darkpaw and Daybreak will be our publisher with its incredible support and operations teams we’ve come to know and love over the years.

We will work toward expanding the franchise and invest in our future as a studio.

Currently, nothing will change for your accounts and membership. No worries there.

Our staff has grown a bit and we’ll continue to adjust as Darkpaw evolves and grows into its development strategy and vision. What’s that, you ask? To create immersive entertainment that is socially driven and diverse, enriches lives and fuels imagination.

That vision comes from decades of working with and listening to our communities about how EverQuest games have impacted, changed, and enhanced their lives. We want to continue it. It’s what we do best.

Immediately, and in practical terms, our focus is on the fans and investing in our current games and the business of starting new ones. We’re already executing on the plans we had for 2020, like expansions and events for EQ and EQ2.

We’ll start evaluating the interest in, and logistics of, a fan faire and move forward with that as soon as possible.

More than anything, we want to deliver on what players love and go even further. We are going to think outside the box a bit, so hold onto your tails!

This month, we plan to sell a limited run of our EverQuest 20th and EverQuest II 15th anniversary shirts on Amazon. If it goes well, we’ll keep exploring official product ideas. We’ll send out links and details as soon as we have them!

EverQuest’s first anniversary in its THIRD decade will come in March and we’ve got plans for that, so stay tuned! EverQuest II has its own plans that will roll out soon – Yeehaw!

Now, with all my heart, thank YOU! We hope you continue to embrace us as we grow into our indie paws. We want to communicate in new ways with our own Darkpaw voice, too. Many of you are familiar with our personalities and we want to live our best life as gamers and developers with you.

Join the pack! More news as it comes!

Sincerely, as ever,

Holly “Windstalker” Longdale
Executive Producer, Darkpaw Games
“Never Give Up”

What this means for the business itself is unclear.

The PlanetSide 2 team had a similar announcement, declaring that they are now developing as Rogue Planet Games.

Rogue Planet for PlanetSide

Then there is DC Universe Online and the Austin studio that goes with it got a post from Jack Emmert that they will now be Dimensional Ink.  No cool splash screen yet from them, and they ended up not going with the previously registered Golden Age Studios.  Jack Emmert is probably most famous for his association with Cryptic and City of Heroes and his letter stands out among the three when declaring some level of independence.

Those three teams cover most of the company.

Omitted from mention at this point is the H1Z1 and Z1 Battle Royale games, whose web site has no similar note from a producer.  I suspect that they will roll along with Rogue Planet, but we shall see.

All three of the posts make sure to declare that nothing is changing right now and that everybody should remain calm.  That is the standard starting point for everything.

There is a fourth post from Daybreak as well, which sums up the other three:

Daybreak Introduces Three New Franchise Studios –
Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games, and Rogue Planet Games

Newly Branded Development Teams Reflect “Franchise First” Model to Strengthen Autonomy of Studios with Signature Games and Genres from MMORPG to FPS and Superhero Titles

SAN DIEGO, CA – Jan. 21, 2020 – Daybreak Games today announced its “Franchise First” initiative in the form of a business structure that establishes three new individual creative franchise studios — Dimensional Ink Games, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games. Building on the success of the teams that introduced genre-defining games and franchises including DC Universe™ Online, EverQuest® and PlanetSide®, this business model is the result of a long-term strategy designed to amplify the existing franchises while enabling each studio to further foster its unique identity, community and culture.

By allowing the identities of each of these studios to thrive under their individual studios, each team will have the flexibility to continue their work developing current and upcoming games, recruiting new talent and building upon the legacy of their respective franchises.

Dimensional Ink Games in Austin develops and operates DC Universe Online, the one-of-a kind DC Super Hero-based MMORPG enjoyed by millions across PC and consoles. Dimensional Ink will be led by Jack Emmert, the mastermind behind City of Heroes, Star Trek Online, and Neverwinter. The studio will continue to support DCUO while developing its next high-profile action MMO project starting in 2020.

“Crafting iconic MMORPG experiences has always been Daybreak’s lifeblood,” said Emmert. “We intend to continue that legacy and grow Dimensional Ink, Darkpaw Games and Rogue Planet Games into the future. Whether it’s DC Universe Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, PlanetSide 2 or our future projects, we’ll be giving players their ideal fantasy game experiences for years to come.”

Darkpaw Games will be focusing on EverQuest, one of the most legendary MMORPG IPs recognized worldwide. Holly Longdale will continue to lead the studio as its Executive Producer. Darkpaw’s mission is to continue to expand upon the unique and amazing fantasy adventure that is EverQuest and EverQuest II and develop the next innovation for the franchise.

Rogue Planet Games, the studio branch in San Diego that broke new ground in the massively multiplayer first-person shooter genre with PlanetSide and Planetside 2, will be working to craft even more new and unique experiences in the space under Executive Producer Andy Sites at the helm. The team is looking to develop its next genre-defining experience for fans of shooters under its new banner.

As for what this really means, that is yet to come.  All three letters say that Daybreak will continue to publish and support the studios.  Does that put them on an equal footing of independence as Standing Stone Games and their work with Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online?  We would probably have to know something about the actual relationship between Daybreak and SSG to answer that.

Daybreak, however, will continue to be a thing.  How that evolves and what that really means is still foggy.  Are they set to become something more akin to Gamigo or Perfect World Entertainment, a holding company for milking old MMOs?  Is there a plan to perhaps sell off one or more of these new studios?  Or is it all window dressing?

The Darkpaw producer’s letter sounds very promising all the same.  Ongoing expansions and otherwise doing what they have been doing is about all you can ask for at this point… aside from a new EverQuest game, but that seems unlikely.  After some early stumbles, the EverQuest franchise has done better under Daybreak than it had been doing during the last few years at SOE.  I hope that success for Norrath will continue.

Of course, we have been waiting for this to come to pass.  It was on my list of news I was expecting in the last quarter of 2019, but had to roll it over into my 2020 predictions.  Now to see what it really means.

Other coverage:

The Handy Dandy Guild Hall in Norrath

More going on about EverQuest II.

I was on about leveling up crafting in EverQuest II last, but I decided to cut out a portion of the post where I drifted off into how much having a guild hall helped out.

EQII had housing… good, game integrated, flexible housing… at launch, but it took four years for the game to get guild halls.  In 2008 Game Update #48 kicked off an event that culminated in guild halls being released into the game.

And some of the guild halls are quite impressive.  I still have a character in the Revelry & Honor guild from way back in 2009… they never kick anybody I guess… and I can recall being quite impressed with their guild hall.  I mean, it was on an island visible from the shores of Antonica.  I wrote a post about it even.

So back in 2011 when the instance group made their one attempt to adapt to Norrath, a guild hall was on the shopping list… once we made a guild.

Guilds have been around since day one as well, and were considerably more complex than the World of Warcraft guild features, which consisted mostly of a chat channel, a guild roster, and a MOTD.  EQII guilds had levels and ranks and access to special perks like subsidized housing and early mounts and such, to the extent that there was a lot of whining in the forums about how you had to be in a guild to get some of these special things.  But there is always a lot of whining in the forums about everything, so welcome to the club.

So being in a guild was very much a thing, if you could form one.

There is always a barrier and it is amusing to go back a read some of the posts from that time as they are, like my current day posts about EQII, rife with confusion as to how to get things done… like how to make a guild.

The Guild Creation Window is more promise than details

At the time, because we were in EverQuest II Extended, the free to play experiment before the whole game went that route, you needed the following to create a guild:

  • A guild charter – 450 SC from the Station Store (60 silver won’t cut it)
  • Guild leader/charter buyer must be a subscriber
  • A full group – that means 6 people
  • The whole group in the same zone with the guild registrar
  • Everybody the same alignment (no mixed Qeynos and Freeport, even in New Halas)
  • A guild name that hasn’t been taken and meets the filer standards

According to the wiki we’re back to just 60 silver for the guild charter, but the other items still apply, the most difficult of which, for the random individual, is probably forming a full group of six and getting them together in the zone with the guild registrar.  Still, we managed to do it back in the day.

That gets you a guild.  But for a guild hall your guild must be level 30.  Having divided up labor for crafting (to do trade skill writs) and set our eyes on some heritages quests, we went to work to level up the guild.  It took us about a month, though almost two weeks of that time SOE was offline due to the great 2011 hacking of their (our) data. (Though the post hack exp boost that SOE gave people probably helped us along.)  Anyway, the we got the guild to level 30.  We could buy a guild hall.

In hindsight it is amusing how much of a burden the cost of buying the hall and playing for the upkeep seemed to be.  Now, with the usual ongoing inflation, the sums, both in coin and status, seem laughably small.  But that is what time will do.

50 Platinum seemed like so much back in the day

We bought the standard guild hall in New Halas, which turned out to be a boon in the long term as that allows both Qeynos and Freeport players to get to it, and started setting it up.  While decor was on the list, amenities were the key item.

Amenities added to the upkeep cost… you buy the hall then have to pay for upkeep every seven days… but were essential to making the whole venture worthwhile.  We setup a whole crafting room down in the basement with all of the crafting stations. (We did have to push the guild to level 40 to unlock enough amenity slots to get all the things we wanted, and some amenities require a specific guild level.)

The crafting room

The harvest supply depot, which lets you store crafting materials that you can automatically draw from if you craft in the guild, was placed in the center of the room.  This is perhaps the most handy feature, as you don’t have to keep raw materials on your person.

The supply depot limit has expanded over the years

We also opted for a fuel merchant, as crafting requires a fuel component for each run.

Then, behind a counter are the gathering hirelings, which which can be sent out harvest common crafting materials every two hours (you get to pick which level range you want them to harvest), and which Gaff and I shepherded pretty regularly in order to build up a healthy store of materials.

Guild gatherers ready to go

Then there were the two trade skill writ NPCs, one for normal and one for rush orders, with their clipboards on the wall behind them, which is where you pick up your crafting assignments.  And, of course, a banker and a broker NPC so that stored items and the market were only a few steps away.

The names were funny at the time

As I said, all of this cost coin and status and, at the time, it was a bit of work to keep it open.

The upkeep with amenities

Fortunately, nothing goes away if you don’t pay the bill, and for a long stretch when 136K status seemed like a lot, we would let the guild hall sit idle, locked, waiting for our need.  A feature of my return to the game every year or two would be the unlocking of the guild hall to do a bit of crafting.

The years have helped out when it comes to paying for the guild hall.  back in the day that price was something I had to think about.  Now, with the usual amount of inflation that goes on between expansions, keeping it open is a no brainer.  The signature and crafting quest lines hand out an abundance of status.  While it is pegged to the pricing of status items that come with the newer expansions, older items have become quite affordable.  The status is so free flowing at times that the guild has leveled up a few times.

So with the guild hall open and the NPC gatherers filling the supply depot every two hours… at least when I remember to go speak to them, as it is not automated… I managed to build up quite a supply of raw materials to draw on.

For items that I need to craft inside of an instance I look at the wiki about the quest line, specifically the supply list, and pull the items from the supply depot.

If there are items I can craft outside of an instance, and there are a number of steps that just have you craft items that get used as part of the crafting quest lines, I use one more feature of the guild hall.

A very short cool down

The guild hall homing beacon is one of the amenities, but it is a nice one.  You got in and attune yourself to the beacon… click on it… and then you get the skill that brings you straight into the guild hall.  And to compliment that we also have a mini spire for the in-game transport system so I can finish up and head straight back to Luclin. (The Luclin spire is not on the “I’m a subscriber, teleport me at will” list of options yet.  At least not for me.  You might have to finish the signature quest line to get that.)

Anyway, the work we did back in 2011 keeps paying off for me whenever I return to play.  If nothing else, I spend a lot less time out harvesting raw material for crafting than I used to back in the day.