Category Archives: EverQuest II

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.

Three to the Moon Now

Meanwhile, in Bizarro Norrath, I now have three characters at the new level cap introduced with the Blood of Luclin expansion.  This is a feat so without precedent that I am not sure what to do.

Now available to more of my characters

And I am not just at the  level cap for adventure levels, but also for crafting levels as well.  I have three level 120/120 characters.  And all of them have gone from level 100 to 120 since I got back into the game back in November.

The first, my berserker Sigwerd, was probably the biggest effort, since I opted to get him to Luclin the “hard” way, via the adventure versus the trade skill intro quest.  But he was still there at level cap only a few days after the expansion launched.  It took him a bit more time to get his crafting up to level 120, as he started at level 100, so went off to do the trade skill quest line in the Plane of Magic.  But in the end he was there.

The second time around was a bit easier.  I got out my other level 100 character, my paladin Vikund, and sent him on his way to Luclin.  He did the Plane of Magic to get to 110.  Then, because doing the access quest to Luclin unlocks direct access to the expansion, Vikund was able to go there, grab the gear upgrades from the box… I went on about gear for a bit previously… which made things go more smoothly when he went back and did the intro quests.

The third time through was with my templar Nehru, who is a copy of my first EverQuest II character, Nomu.  Back when EverQuest II Extended came along, the free to play experimental server, SOE had a deal where you could copy characters from other servers, though they could only bring with them what they had in the bag and not everything in their bank.  The price was a mere 1,000 Station Cash which, with the 3 for 1 bonus sales offers they were fond of at the time, made the idea seem pretty cheap.  I copied a few characters. (Vikund was a copy as well, taking my second oldest character to the new server.  There is clearly an exploration of my character paths post somewhere in the future here, if only so I can have it all laid out for myself.)

He was only in his 60s, but I had a level 100 boost token leftover from some point in the past, so I boosted him up back when the dragon even was going on, just to get him in on that.  I didn’t think I would get to him when it came to leveling up.  But then I was two characters in and he seemed like an interesting third.

That was because, unlike the first two, who were plate wearing tank types with healer mercenaries, making them somewhat impervious to most encounters, Nehru is a templar, which is a healer/caster type, and he had a paladin tanking mercenary. (Templars wear plate armor, like any good cleric should, but still.)  I wasn’t sure how that would work out.

In the end, he ended up doing very well.  While his merc’s DPS was nothing to get worked up about, geared up he was able to hold on against every encounter with Nehru healing him.  Meanwhile, Nehru’s offensive spells had enough power to take care of burning down mobs.  He actually moved through the encounters in the intro quest much faster than the two tanks.

It is a different sort of play style.  With the pally and the berserker I was content to gather up all the mobs in the area and burn them down while my merc healed.  I had to be a little more focused with the templar, if only to not spend all my time healing the merc.  But done right, he moved along to the adventure level cap quickly enough.

On the crafting side he was a level 95 alchemist.  I’ve been through the crafting without crafting thing in a post already this week, so I’ve mentioned how slow crafting writs get.  Fortunately, there are some trade skill quest options before the Plane of Magic, so I was able to pop him up to level 100 with that, then to level 110 in the Plane of Magic, and then to 120 on Luclin.  He pushed on and finished the whole quest path on Luclin so as to unlock flying.  Now he can soar, as can my other two level 120s.

Nehru Soaring Free

Speaking of flying, his path to 120 was made much easier as they fixed the flight path options.  Previously you could only fly from Seru’s Ascent, the city hub where a lot of the quests are based, but not to it, forcing you to make the run through a hostile range of mobs.  It wasn’t a long run, but you end up doing it a lot.  The last update put in the option to actually just fly there rather than being automatically sent off to Grieg’s Spire when you clicked on the drone.

This was not an option previously

He might be my most useful crafter at this point, as alchemists make skill upgrades for warrior types.

All three of my level 120 have finished up the crafting quest, but have not gotten to the end of the signature quest line.  All three are at the same stage too, where they need to do another instance run to kill a whole pile of specific mobs, which is not an enticing option.

So, instead I have been looking at who else I can get to the level cap.  I have two more level 100 characters, left over from the various free heroic character offers Daybreak has given out.

One is probably a no-go.  First, he is a berserker, which I’ve already done, and second, he is on another server, so won’t benefit from the handy dandy guild hall I have access to on the Skyfire server. (More on that in another post.)

But the other one is a level 100 shadow knight who is in the guild already.  He also has an inquisitor mercenary, which is supposed to be close to the best balance between healing and damage.  Having taken him out for a spin in the Plane of Magic, he might be the next candidate for the moon.

After that I still have the level 110 booster that came with the expansion, which would allow me to send one more character directly to Luclin.  The question is, who?  I have a few low to middle range characters about… a ranger, a swashbuckler, a troubadour, and a mystic… all of whom are fairly far along with their trade skills.

And if I get five to level cap, I will then have a 100% boost to xp for all of my characters.  Is it then worth it to go back and level some up the old fashioned way, flashing through expansions until I out level them and then moving  on?  Do I start somebody from scratch with that big of a boost.

Anyway, I am not tired of the whole thing yet.  We shall see how long this run lasts.

Leveling up Your Crafting Without Actually Crafting

Another one of those EverQuest II posts.  This time I ramble on about crafting.

Crafting has changed over the years in EQII, and the best route for leveling up your crafting as much as anything.

As with my running off at the keyboard about gear the other day, I want to start off with how crafting in EQII differs from WoW.

But there is a twist this time.  WoW crafting is very much the child of crafting in EverQuest, with skill points you get by crafting and recipes going gray and not giving skill ups after a while and all of that.  The WoW version of this was much streamlined from EQ, and took something of a departure in how much stuff any particular trade would let you craft.  You cannot/could not outfit yourself fully at any point when crafting in WoW.  You could sort of manage that with EQ, but I am not sure it was worth the effort, at least back in the early days.

EQII took a completely different tack on the crafting idea which stems, as I understand it, from a plan at one point to make crafting a parallel character class to the adventure classes.  I think Kendricke mentioned that once or twice in comments here back in the day.  (I wonder where he ended up.  Also, I found the comment on this post, where I was writing about crafting gripes back in 2007.)

While that idea got ditched at some point in beta, the basic structure of crafting was set and crafting had levels the way adventure classes had levels.  This led to some odd situations, since either your adventure level or your crafting level seemed good enough to unlock level gated content.  I recall figuring out quite by accident that I could get to The Enchanted Lands or Zek with my level 25 templar because he was already a level 35 alchemist.  Of course, I only figured that out after the guild got out and helped me do the access quest for Zek, but that is the way these things go.

Anyway, the evolution of crafting in EQII.  Back in the early days you leveled up by grinding away.  But there was lots of grinding to be done as getting to a finished product required you to start with raw materials and then go through several stages of production.  And there was the whole interdependence thing where to get to a finished product you needed something from one of the other crafting professions… unless you were an alchemist or a provisioner.

Fortunately I went down the alchemist path, so my various products… inks and washes and whatever else… were in high demand, at least from my guild mates.  This is how my crafting level got well ahead of my adventure level early on.  Higher level guildies would go out and harvest the stuff I needed to keep going if I would just stay in the crafting hall and crank out what they or their alts needed.

At some point along the way the concept of “vitality” was introduced.  This was/is essentially the EQII version of WoW rested experience or “blue bar.”  SOE wisely waited until Blizz changed the perspective from a penalty on people for playing too much to a bonus for people who were had been away before copying the idea.  Having that sped things up a bit, especially if you were an obsessive like me and have a trade skill going on each of your characters.  You could optimize by rotating to the character with the most vitality.

Meanwhile, crafting when through some convulsions as SOE first added auxiliary trade skills that let people craft their own secondary parts from other professions and then just did away with the idea of interdependence altogether, revamping the materials needed for recipes, removing intermediate production stages, killing off the quality levels in production, and somewhat simplifying the whole range of harvestables.

At the end of all of that you could just harvest some raw materiel, buy the fuel required, and craft a finished item in one go.  While people still moan about the removal of crafting interdependence, being able to just make stuff in one pass felt pretty damn good.  Your pet theories about complex cross-profession crafting can suck it.

You still leveled up the same way, though somewhere in the mix we got a new benefit.  We got some super bonus experience for the first time we crafted a particular recipe.  So leveling up your crafting profession began to involve crafting one of every single recipe in every level you unlocked… ideally while you had a good portion of vitality running… to move yourself along.

And then that first time bonus went away.  I don’t recall why, though I seem to associate it in the back of my brain with the return of Domino to the EQII crafting team and another round of changes overall.  It may have been a balance or fairness thing… some professions get a lot more new recipes per level than others… or it might have simply been to contain recipe profusion.

As a replacement we got crafting writs.

Crafting writs are small crafting quests that cover your fuel costs, take your crafting output, and gives you a small monetary award, some bonus crafting experience, and some status.

Level 87 provisioner writ

It was a decent system.  With your vitality full you could get a couple of crafting levels with five or six writs.

That gets us up to about the EverQuest II Extended era and the experiment of trying to bring the instance group to Norrath.  The former worked out well for SOE, while the latter was something of a fiasco.  We made a guild, which persists to this day (there is likely a “joys of having a guild hall” post in me somewhere) and worked on crafting, but the game still didn’t stick with group.  But while we were there a bunch of work went into leveling up the guild, a lot of it via Gaff doing trade skill writs. Between those and some heritage quests done as group efforts, we got the guild to level 40.

A cut from the guild event log…

That is about where my knowledge of crafting stayed.  It was 2011, the level cap was 90, and I only played sporadically after that, coming back for brief visits every year or two.  Writs worked okay once the level cap went to 95 and were even still viable, if a bit slow, when the cap hit 100.  But from level 100 onward the xp slope went way up and writ rewards took a big hit.

Level 106 armor writ… not much status…

You theoretically could use writs, but the xp ramp up was so big… as it was with adventure xp… that just crafting or doing writs would be a very long road forward.  The company clearly wanted to push people away from that. (All of those 100% bonus to adventure and trade xp potions I have in the bank are now useless.  I saved them until they had no value at all.)

That is where I had to go back and learn about the now standard trade skill quest line that comes with each expansion.  I first ran into this in the Tranquil Sea, which I believe came in with the Altar of Malice expansion.

Reward from the FSTC… that effect is useless now as well…

I did the trade skill quest line for the Terrors of Thalumbra expansion with Sigwerd as part of trying to get languages and past expansion pre-requisites setup to unlock more current content and get access to ascension levels to help me in the Plane of Magic.

That set and the Plane of Magic signature quest line done, I found myself at level 110 for adventure levels, so decided to pursue the trade skill quest line as well.

This was an odd diversion, in part because it looks like a adventure/combat series of quests at time, but it most assuredly is not.  I quickly learned that no matter how green the mobs looked to me, they are meant to be avoided and not fought.  They cannot be defeated except through special means that are part of the quest lines.

It sure looks like I could beat him…

It is, I suspect, meant to be level independent.  I am not sure I would want to try it with a really low level character, but in the instances your mercenary is removed and you are not expected to fight. (EQII remains inconsistent in telling you how tough a mob is even in their over-wrought, too much detail consider system.)

Also, aspects of it are kind of expensive.  The end of the quest line in the Plane of Magic requires six rare harvest items and, while you could hang out and harvest them yourself, that might take quite a while.

That pricey final combine

Also, you really need to know about what the quest lines require in advance to not spend a lot of time running back and forth.  At points there  will be items to harvest in the quest instances or you will need a special fuel that you can only find there.  But at other times you will need a pile of raw materials and fuel with you.  And it can be critical that you have it all.  At one point I was most of the way through an instance on Luclin, but forgot one of the raws I needed, so ended up engaged in the quest but without the sprayer I needed to engage the next two mobs in the instance.

I recalled back home, got the items, but then found that the quest was stuck in place, so I had to delete it and start it over again.  However, on the second run I was now out of materials to make the first item.  I already had it though, so could get to the two mobs and spray them, but the quest wouldn’t advance because it hadn’t recognized that I had made the first item.  So I recalled again, got fresh supplies, deleted everything, went back in the instance, made both items, got to the two mobs… and found that since I had already sprayed them they were now in the state for the next part of the quest, but I couldn’t advance the quest because I could no longer spray them.

So I left again, but I couldn’t reset the instance until the next day for whatever reason, at which point I ran through it again and got it right.

Some of you may know where I am

But I seriously suggest you go to the wiki and come prepared with all the stuff you need, because the quest chains can be a bit brittle.  The wiki even warns you now and again to bring double portions for this stage or that because of known issues.

Anyway, I have managed to run through the Plane of Magic and Luclin trade skill quest lines twice now, so have two characters at max level for their respective professions.

The kicker is, and this wraps us back around to the title of the post, at no time during my advancement through 20 levels of trade skills did I actually need to craft anything that was related to either profession.  I have a max level armorer and woodworker.  Not once were the skills for either needed.

That makes some sense.  These quests are for ALL professions and, as such, when you do craft… and you actually do craft some things now and then… you end up using a set of independent reaction skills with icons borrowed from other skills in order to make required items.

These are not my skill icons

This means that now, at level 120, my actual crafting skills are still where they were when I was at level 100.  EQII still has skills that need to be raised up through usage, going up five points every level, which was never a problem when we were banging out a few writs per level.  You can get those five points in two runs if you work at it.

Now though my skills are all at 500, but the skill cap for 120 is 600.  I am going to have to crafts a lot of stuff to bring those up to spec… or not.  I am not sure they matter all that much beyond a certain point.

So the way all this works in EQII is… as I keep saying… different.  It is not necessarily bad… I am pretty sure running the trade skill quests that come with each expansion now is more fun than grinding out writs or what not… but I did advance 20 levels as an armorer without needing to make a single item of armor.  I feel like I got my armorer’s GED or something.

Anyway, I keep going.  With two players at the level cap I now have a 40% veteran’s bonus for trade skills… which probably does me zero good for levels 100 to 120, but I have a couple of alts at lower levels, down where writs still mean something and crafting xp isn’t meaningless, that might benefit.

Bhagpuss posted his own bit of reflection on the state of crafting in EQII, which overlaps a bit with my own, but not that much.  I was already well past the 1,500 word mark when it was posted, so his chances of influencing or attenuating my output was minimal.

My ManicTime Numbers for 2019

We have finally arrived at what I believe to be my final end of year post.  I have nothing else on my list.  So after this it will likely be a return to my more common ramblings and complaints.

I mentioned back in January of 2019 that I was going to track my game time with ManicTime.

The idea came from Endgame Viable and landing as it did right at the end of the year it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try.  And so with every month in review post for 2019 I added a short entry that listed out which games were tracked at what percentage of my play time they represented.

But, of course, I kept all those numbers in a spreadsheet so I could trot out the numbers for the full year once it was done.  And here we are with the list of all the games tracked.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%
  8. Path of Exile – 0.84%
  9. Dota Underlords – 0.82%
  10. Civilization V – 0.60%
  11. Diablo – 0.46%
  12. Defense Grid – 0.44%
  13. StarCraft – 0.43%
  14. MS Solitaire – 0.33%
  15. New World – 0.31%
  16. Teamfight Tactics – 0.19%
  17. EVE Aether Wars – 0.14%
  18. Combat Mission – 0.10%
  19. Age of Empires 2 – 0.09%
  20. GTA V – 0.08%

That list is pretty easily parsed into two sections.  There are the first seven games, which are measured in full percentage points, and everything else, which are in fractional percentage points.  That, in turn, lines up pretty nicely with this chart from a previous end of year post, where I graphed the games I recorded playing every month in the month in review posts.

2019 games played by month

Yes, that list is slightly different… WoW Classic is its own thing while a couple of the ManicTime measured games are not listed… but basically, the top seven on the list are games I played for more than a single month or so.

  1. World of Warcraft – 44.49%
  2. EVE Online – 20.22%
  3. EverQuest II – 9.38%
  4. RimWorld – 8.46%
  5. LOTRO – 4.83%
  6. Minecraft – 3.96%
  7. EverQuest – 3.81%

So what makes those seven games so special.  That six of the seven are MMORPGs is the most obvious.

World of Warcraft was always going to be a player on that list, but the launch of WoW Classic was what made it a lock for the top spot.  The first couple months I binged a lot on that.  And, as I mentioned in the December month in review, Blizz changed the name of the WoW Classic executable and ManicTime now tracks that independent of retail WoW, so we will get to see how those two diverge in 2020.

EVE Online is the static regular.  It isn’t the monthly top of the list unless there is a war… and, honestly it suffers somewhat from the fact that it is the game I spend the most time tabbed out of and in another window while playing and ManicTime stops the clock when the game isn’t the window of focus… but zKillboard has me recorded for every month of 2019 with a kill mail, though for August the kill mail was me.

EverQuest II is probably the biggest surprise on the list.  I wander back into it every year or so for a bit of time, and expected to again this year due to the 15th anniversary thing.  What I did not expect was to find the stars aligned just right for me to get hooked and lined up to run into a new expansion.  It ought to have been down with EverQuest.  Instead it banked nearly 10% of my play time for the year mostly in the last two months.

LOTRO was kind of the hangover game in the new year.  It was in kind of the EverQuest II position for 2018, where the LOTRO Legacy server thing saw it get a lot of binge play.  However that tapered off as I wrapped up the initial content, and did not pick up when Mines of Moria was unlocked.  It got a bit of time as I poked my nose in now and then to try out things like the new 64–bit client.  But for the  most part things ended when Moria began.

Minecraft saw a burst of activity when Microsoft released a big new update, the Village & Pillage thing.  However, once that wore off, things tapered off and I eventually backed up the world and turned off the Minecraft Realms server.

And then there is EverQuest with just under 4% of my time, which ended up being about 45 hours of play time.  That is more than I thought I might spend with the game.  Despite updates and expansions and all that, it is still a 20 year old title and I have been away from it for so long that it can be tough to find my way when I jump back in.  But I found a path to follow for a bit and got to be around for the anniversary.

Which leaves us with RimWorld, the sole single player game on the list.  How did that happen?

RimWorld is a very good combo of elements that appeal to me.  It isn’t constantly demanding.  You spend time adjusting or setting priorities rather than directly doing things.  It has that compelling “I just want to see what happens next” aspect to it, akin to the “just one more turn” thing that a good Civilization title gives you.  And it is pretty compatible with listening to podcasts or audio books.  Something I pick the game I want to play because I want to listen to something while I am doing it.

The question really is why I didn’t play more RimWorld if it has a feature set that appeals to me.  And the answer to that is “mid-game.”  Just like Civilization and some other titles, eventually you solve your critical problems and your path forward becomes clear and you end up just tuning and adapting a bit and solving little issues and pushing back on random attacks, but things are otherwise so in the bag that you know you’ll get there.

Looking at the numbers so far for 2020, EverQuest II is well ahead of the pack.  It is my current focus title for solo play.  That doesn’t mean it will stay there.  I have a habit of being into it for a stretch, the dropping it to return to WoW.  And WoW Classic is still a thing and the instance group has many dungeons ahead of it in the new year.  The interesting question will be if some new or unexpected title makes it into the full percentage point, multi-month play category for 2020.

But now, one final question.  Did ManicTime alter my game play habits?  This might seem a silly question to some, but it has long been proven that observation and measurement of people’s behavior will change that behavior, and it is something that I felt I needed to bring up at the six month mark of using ManicTime.  I am going to say yes, and unequivocally so, that ManicTime did influence my game choices and play time in some way.  The question is only how much.

I am pretty sure, for example, that my games played list for 2019 is only 20 games deep due to the knowledge in my head that I was tracking and  reporting on games played.  How significant was that I cannot say.  I would guess that the list might have had from two to five more titles on it otherwise.  There are probably a few games I might have launched had something in the back of my head not said, “Do you want to have to write about that in the monthly wrap up?”  I was determined to mention every game tracked early on, though I relented on that as time passed.  But it still sits there in my brain.

On the flip side, I am going to say that GTA V might not have even been launched had I not been measuring.  There may have been some internal mental pressure to get it on the list after having said I bought it during the Steam Summer Sale.  (We’ll see if my buying The Witcher during the Winter sale does the same thing!  I’ve already thought about it.)

So without ManicTime the list might have been as low as 19 or as high as 25 possibly.  And a “made from memory” end of year list might have even been much shorter.  That month to month chart above only has 17 titles from the ManicTime list.

That said, I suspect that the changes would have been confined to the “less than a full percentage point” part of the list.  I can attest to being tracked having made small changes to my behavior, but I doubt it was going to suddenly make me start playing something I didn’t already have a mind to play, nor keep me playing a game that had grown  stale.  I said nice things about RimWorld a couple paragraphs up, but it hasn’t gotten any play time recently.

And so it goes.  Heisenberg was right.  But people will over think so many things that I find it difficult to worry about, even as I over think it.

Gearing up for the Moon

In which I run on about gear just for the sheer joy of doing so.

EverQuest II is a bit of an outlier MMORPG.  If nothing else, it was perhaps the last such game to launch into a world where World of Warcraft wasn’t live and taking over the genre.  Both EQII and WoW were children of EverQuest, but even launching in the same month in 2004 they ended up very different beasts indeed.

My working theory is that the WoW team, despite being game devs, took what they loved about playing EverQuest and tried to improve it while the EQII team, with their insider perspective, tried to solve a lot of what they saw as problems with EverQuest, including things people were complaining about on the forums.

So while EQII has been influenced by WoW at times, it has always been grounded in a pre-WoW sensibility that has set it apart for better or worse.  And it has, over time, developed its own set of standard mechanics, like the box of equipment at the start of each expansion.

WoW and EQII are both big on gear, but EQII drove that obsession to 11 from day one, with way more gear slots, way more stats, and almost a phobia about letting people use the same bit of gear for too long.

Currently EQII has 21 gear slots for your character.

Paladin Slot Count

I am not counting the food and drink slots nor the quiver slot for your ranged ammo container. (Food and drink are very different than in WoW too, following the TorilMUD to EverQuest to EQII tradition of you needing to always have some to hand.)

Compare that to WoW… and I’ll do WoW Classic and WoW retail, both with paladins to maintain a paladin specific matrix I guess… and you will see that WoW Classic has 19 gear slots, while somewhere along the old relic slot went away, so retail WoW only has 18 gear slots.

WoW Classic and WoW retail paladins

Furthermore, two of those WoW gear slots, the shirt and the tabard, are purely cosmetic, so I am going to say that they don’t really count.  So we’re really talking 17 and 16 slots.

And in WoW, or at least in WoW Classic, you get introduced to that gear fairly slowly.  My characters, now in the low 30s in old Azeroth, finally all have hats.  One so far has a necklace, and nobody has trinkets yet.

In EQII you can find and equip gear for all those slots from level 1 forward.  The various crafting professions can make anywhere from two to half a dozen choices for each gear slot I would estimate, while the weapon slot has a lot more options.

And don’t even get me started about stats.  That was simple back in the day, but unlike WoW, EQII has never felt the need for a stat squish so the numbers just keep growing while the range of stats expand.  And then there adornments, while are slots in the gear that you can use to upgrade an item.

A modest item, stat-wise, and an orange adornment

And I won’t even bother with reforging, which lets you tinker with the stats on your gear, as I am completely unqualified to even boggle at that.

On top of all of that, in EQII you pretty much have swap out every single piece of equipment you’re wearing every ten levels.  At one point they put in a mechanism that basically made any equipped gear worthless to wear if it was more than ten levels below your current level.  I think that was put in to drive the trade skill market… believe me, there is a whole post coming about trade skills here… and might have been pulled out later on when the company decided they needed to hand out gear.

WoW gates content behind levels and gear as well.  But when you roll into a new WoW expansion you just do a few quests and you get enough gear upgrades to make you viable in the new content and allows you to progress and earn more.

But EQII these days… I’ve never had an MMORPG simply hand me so much gear.

Some of it, like the summer Panda gear, is behind a few simple quests.  But most of it is just on a box on the ground by the first quest giver you run into in an expansion.  And in that box is something for every damn slot.

The box o gear on the Plane of Magic

That isn’t a set of “this is all you’ll ever need gear” either.  You still get a stream of upgrades as you run quests.  I was replacing items within minutes of getting that gear.  Rather it seems to be an admission that gating content gating based on gear hasn’t always worked out for them. I recall Rise of Kunark being a trial because the beta test was mostly raiders in peak gear so all the solo starter content was tuned for them.  So, rather than fret about that they toss a box of gear on the ground behind that first quest giver.  And it has been a thing for a while.  I saw that same box in the Planes of Prophecy and in the Chaos Descending starting areas.

I didn’t need gear from either of those boxes because I had the summer Panda gear, but it was there if I did.  And, as my struggle to get to Luclin… the hard way, as it turned out… indicated, I might have been better off had I run through Chaos Descending for some better gear, though the easier answer was just to do the trade skill signature quest intro, which basically involves running down to the chemist for a pack of smokes, get access to Luclin, take the gear upgrades, then go do the intro quest for the adventure signature quest line.

Of course, once you have done either you not only have access for that character, you have access account-wide.  So now I have two characters at the level 120 cap, my paladin having gone through as well.  He still has some catching up to do on the trade skill front… he’s back in Planes of Prophecy for that… but that won’t take much time.  I’ve done that recently which, again, is another post in the making.

And then there is your mercenary, who also has slots for gear.  Because of course.  The slots get unlocked in a very EVE Online way, over time, like skill training.  Or you can pay for the unlocks with Daybreak cash, though the option is pretty expensive.

Still less time than a titan

To straight up buy the next rank would run me $15, which is a bit steep at this point.  I’ve been content to wait it out.

Mercs wear normal gear, but there is also mercenary specific gear.  In a stroke of good luck my first character to level 120 in both adventure and trade skills was an armorer who, it so happens, can make mercenary gear.  Or, at least gear for mercs who are level 100 and up.

Some merc gear items

I cannot make the accolades though.  Those are the ribbon items that are akin to stat boosters.  I am not sure who makes those yet.  But after Sigwerd made it through to 120, my follow on characters all have pretty well equipped mercenaries.

And then there are mounts, which got stats ages ago, but which got gear with the previous expansion, Chaos Descending.

My mount and its gear

Like mercs, mounts unlock gear slots over time.  I happened to get a few mount related gear drops as part of the dragon event that went on during the 15th anniversary celebration.  I was level 100 at the time and couldn’t use them, but on hitting 110 I had a few options.  Crafting them is apparently part of the Chaos Descending crafting timeline, an expansion I skipped over almost completely as there was no level cap increase… and I was able to gear up from the box on the ground on Luclin once I got there.  But I might have to go back and run through that just to get that as an option.  The good stuff is expensive.  More than I can afford to spend.

All of which is a whole lot to take in.  Believe me, it has been spinning around in my head at various points.  But it has taken 15 years and 16 expansions to pile on all of this, and some complexity isn’t a bad thing.  It is just another case of wondering how much this locks out anybody wandering into the game fresh versus veterans who have figured things out over the years as expansions have layered on change after change.

Otherwise there was no real point to this post other than to bring together a bunch of gear related items that have come to me as I have been back in EQII.

What Would I Like to See in 2020

So far this year I have done predictions and a forecast of my own likely game play pattern for 2020.  It is time for something more upbeat here on the first Monday of the new decade.

The problem is that I am a bit of a pessimist by nature.  I am a product of my environment and have been part of too many rosily optimistic ventures that have been about as well grounded in reality as that of the gnomes in South Park.  Four out of five start ups fail because they cannot satisfactorily answer that second section. If I never hear another exec wave away objections to a vague plan with a quote from Field of Dreams I would be quite happy.

So even in a post predicated in optimism I feel the need to stay somewhat grounded.  No miracles.  No “just be good so you get a million customers” sentiments.  Which, of course, makes this post a tad more difficult.

World of Warcraft

Just make Shadowlands not suck?  I’m already off track.  See, this is going to be difficult.  Hrmm…

Okay, maybe get this whole level squish thing right?  I am warming to the idea of being able to run an alt from 10 to 50 through which ever expansion I choose.  But I also wonder about the itemization and how it might make all those parallel experiences lose any uniqueness when it comes to equipment. Also, I know they said they thought about this, but still make sure the favorite of running old raids is still viable at level cap.  And whatever you do, don’t make mobs scale based on ilevel.  That went so badly in BFA.  You could literally screw over all new players… unless the plan is to force them to buy character boosts, which is something not included with the Shadowlands base expansion.   Please don’t do that either.

Class rework.  Make classes great again or something.  WoW Classic has shown how well simplicity can work.  It was imperfect, but the designers can work from that.  At one point I had seven different classes at level cap.  With BFA only two of them were any fun to play.

WoW Classic

Again, a place where I could go crazy with pie in the sky wishes, like wanting Blizz to develop fresh new content on the WoW Classic platform.  But that just isn’t going to happen, so I have to reign myself in.

Given that, I want a path forward to later expansions.  I don’t know how Blizz is going to do it, but if five years down the road there are not classic experiences availabe for The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, I will be angry.  That is the Cornetto Trilogy of WoW.

What the best path forward will be remains to be seen.  Separate fresh start expansion servers?  Transfers off of WoW Classic to expansions?  Expand WoW Classic into the new content?  No matter which way they go somebody will be pissed off.  And I suspect that Blizz will end up needing to create a version of the client for each era, which will no doubt lead to them bitching about having to keep a total of four clients up to date.  But this is a gold mine and will pay for itself if worked correctly.

EVE Online

All I want is vision.  Of course when CCP is talking about vision we complain about all the little broken things they ignore, and when they work on tactical items like balance and all the little broken things we go on about a lack of vision.

That said, I still think the lack of a longer term vision for the game is hurting EVE Online.  As I have opined before, people who like space games tend to be the type of people who get caught up in vision and the promise of the future.  Making sure the NPE doesn’t drive people away is a good goal, but it doesn’t spark any sense of adventure or wonder at the possibilities.  As lame as player made star gates ended up being, just the idea of them and what they might be was probably worth something.  We need a vision.  And visions are cheap, though it does help if one goes with a vision that has some grounding in the possible.

EverQuest

There are so many things I would like to see done with EverQuest, not the least of which is a redone modern client.  I would happily take all the old content, doled out in annual increments, named EverQuest III or whatever, if they could just throw together a client that ran even half as smoothly as WoW Classic.  That is probably too much to wish for, but if somebody like Pearl Abyss bought the Norrath part of Daybreak… hell, I’d take a Black Desert Online looking version of EverQuest too.

More in reality-ville, I honestly think the best I can hope for is ongoing annual expansions and maybe a new special server now and then.  Oh, and a heroic insta-level character boost that goes higher than level 85.

EverQuest II

The other Norrath franchise is strange because it is both crazy insular and focused on its core audience while being, at times, deeper than the ocean.  And the team is still not afraid to try new things every expansion.

So while my main wish might be a more comprehensible game… I don’t know how, as a new player wandering in off the street, how you even get started in such a way as to make the game stick… part of its charm at this point is its level of incomprehensibility.  I write what might seem like angry posts about the crazy level of effort that sometimes goes into getting things done, but that is what keeps me engaged.  However, I have no idea how somebody gets the wiki together.  I look at the flow of some of the signature quests and wonder how long it took to figure out some of those steps.  It still struggles from all the same problems, like too much old, outdated, and opaque content, odd, confusing, and sometimes archaic mechanisms to guide you places, the strange focus on the potency stat over all others, and way way too many skills.

With all those problems I cannot come up with an simple or realistic change.  I mean, I kind of want a Station Cash sale, but I am pretty sure there are still burnt fingers in accounting from that.

So I guess my wish here is to keep on being weird?

Lord of the Rings Online

Even more than the Daybreak team, Standing Stone Games feels like a group that doesn’t have a lot of slack for ambitious projects that won’t either bring in money, like an expansion, or that are required to keep the game viable going forward, like a 64-bit client.  So asking for a better patching mechanism to replace that “let me inventory all your files on the fly then go grab the files I need and copy them over one by one” isn’t going to make it.

Neither is some of the new content I might like.  One of the oppressive aspects of the MMORPG genre is the “moving ever forward” aspect of it.  So we’re never going to get, say, an alternate leveling path that would bypass Siege of Mirkwood.  Wouldn’t I love that?

So down in reality-ville, maybe fix the legendary weapon system?  That is a serious mill stone around the neck of the game, an awkward, demanding, do I really need to go back to a settlement and reforge this piece of crap again mechanic that they should have let go of when we passed out of Moria.

That, however, probably won’t be enough to get me to go back and play.  So maybe a special rules server?  I realize that one of my predictions this year was that SSG would go that route and do it badly.  But that doesn’t mean I cannot wish they would come up with something fun and new and interesting.

The MMORPG Genre

I realize that, as somebody whose wish list so far is made up of a set of games, the newest of which launched in 2007, I am not your ideal customer.  Or I am exactly your ideal customer as I will clearly become invested in your game and stick with it long term.

If the former is true, stop copying the games I already play and do something new that will attract a different target audience.  I’ve made it pretty clear with my dollar votes that I am not going to run off to play your game due to the graphics being 43% better or the elves being 19% sluttier.

If the latter is true… well… same story I guess.  Why would I put in the work to get invested in your new version of WoW if you are mostly retreading the old version with some minor variations?  Again something new.

Of course, the problem is that anything really new likely won’t fit nicely into my internal definition of what an MMORPG is or should be.  So, really, I have nothing here.  But I felt I needed to explain why.

Steam

Just curate.  You know you want to.  You’re effectively doing it already.  Just admit that there is, in fact, some bar a title needs to clear in order to find a space in your store.

I get it.  I get that having the biggest pile of games is a marketing point.  But I could illustrating the 2008 mortgage lending crisis of the with Steam.  It started out with quality, but then over time, to keep things going, it became necessary to mix in a lot of low value shit that kind of ruined it for a lot of people… like indy devs with actual quality titles who haven’t a hope in hell of getting noticed.

Honestly, I think the biggest rock that the Epic Store could throw at you is that your service is ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound bag.  It is hard to navigate and filled with things people don’t care about.  And once Epic gets a store that worth being something beyond second place, they might go there.  Steam is safe for the moment because Epic doesn’t have the critical mass to be anybody’s exclusive.  Steam is the only place you can have almost everything you want.  They even got EA and Microsoft to bend to their will and admit last year that they need Steam.

So Epic is trying to poach exclusives to make themselves matter until they can get a quality critical mass.  At that point they can start talking about what a huge pile of garbage Steam is.  Yes, I know EA tried that back when they introduced Origin, saying that they would be the Nordstrom to Steam’s Target.  But EA is rampant capitalism dressed up as a video game company and couldn’t back up their words.

Others

I tend to ignore pretty much everything else in gaming, unless it becomes a meme or so popular that it is getting a lot of press.  So maybe something that would distract for my MMORPG obsession for a bit?

Anyway, we will see what the year brings.