Tag Archives: New Halas

A Meeting of the Instance Group Steering Committee

Which basically means that Saturday night rolled around and we actually had the whole instance group online.  This was the first time this month that everybody had been able to make it.

The time away from the group had given some of us, most notably Potshot and myself, time to reflect on how things were going for us in World of Warcraft.

Certainly, some things were moving forward.  Our guild finally hit level 2 at last!

10% Exp Boost! Just what you need in WoW!

But other aspects of our time in WoW seemed to be… less satisfying.

The instance runs have become slam dunks.  We feel over powered going into an instance at the earliest possible level.  And while the Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep got serious updates with Cataclysm, a lot of the instances are just about the same as they were back when we started running them as a group.

Then there is the Dungeon Finder.  I love it as a tool to assemble a group to do an instance.  I could see it being declared the most successful looking for group tool ever.  But with Cataclysm Blizzard removed any need to deal with the outside, shared world if you want to run instances.  The quests are all inside, lined up, and waiting for you.  So rather than spending an evening getting ready to do an instance and maybe knocking it off, we have regularly run two or three instances during our time on Saturday night.

All of which has left a couple of us dissatisfied with the experience.

So we started the discussion on Saturday night about what to do.

One proposal was to turn the group around and avoid instances.  Instead we would just do the outdoor, overland content.  The problem there is that, for everything outside of the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, group overland content seems to have been completely erased.

So not only would we face the grouping penalty (how different from EverQuest where there is a grouping bonus) but there seemed little chance that we would run into anything challenging.  Azeroth seems to be a very nice shared single-player experience these days, with no barriers to the solo player but little incentive to group.

And thus other games began to be discussed.  While factions in the group are interested in some titles we hope to see later this year (i.e. Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2), we needed something to bridge the gap.

Lord of the Rings Online was a potential, and is a favorite of mine, but only four of us played it over the summer, and we had already made it into the 30s.  To effectively add in the fifth player would mean starting fresh again.  As much as I like Middle-earth, even I am not sure I want to run through the Lone Lands yet again.

Rift was mentioned as a possibility, but it found no champions in our group and so withered in the discussion.  To get us to buy the box, somebody has to be enthusiastic for a game, and none of us were.

Of course Potshot and I are already playing another game, EverQuest, but neither of us thought that would be quite the thing for the group.  The progression servers would be too slow for a group with a play budget of 3 hours a week.  The standard servers have potential, but EverQuest is quirky and, no matter how much you love it, it does feel its age.  Getting the group to go for that seemed unlikely.

Eventually, EverQuest II Extended became to focus.  It held the advantage of being free to play without even the requirement to invest in a box.  It also met the major requirement of having group content available both overland and in dungeons.  The heritage quests alone make for a reasonable series of group projects.  Add in housing and crafting, which Ula brought up, and it seemed to be the most likely candidate for the moment.

And with the streaming client, we could start right away… as long as we all started in New Halas.  That seems to be what the streaming client downloads first.

All we had to do was create Station Accounts and grab the client.  Three of us were already there, so only Mike and Earl had to get on board.

Of course, Sony is notorious, in my mind, for being a bit balky in delivering.  It turned out that just signing up for the Station Account was a road block.  Mike got through the sign up page on the third try, it having rejected him for no recorded reason on the first two attempts.  But the EQ2X sign up seemed determined to thwart Earl.  Switching browsers and running updates did not get him any further.

First you must pass the trial of account creation!

Eventually I suggested he try another path towards making a Station Account.  There are probably two dozen different ways to make one, but I sent him to the plain Jane creation form off of the SOE main page.  That was simple enough and worked on the first go.  But this is the sort of thing that makes me wonder how many potential customers had the same issue and just walked away.

Then came the great class discussion:  Who would play what?  Potshot and I, with an eye to keeping our options open, both went for Gold accounts.  For me, already playing EverQuest on the account, it was easy enough to go for Station Access.

But everybody else was sticking at the Bronze subscription level for the time being, which meant a limited selection of classes.  Eventually came up with a plan.

Then there was name and race selection and getting everybody to choose New Halas as their starting town.

Potshot and I were the first through the process and we sat by the new player spawn point waiting for the others.

You could spend an hour or two standing there where new players first show up and end up with a humorous blog post on a regular basis.

For example, we saw a new player named Qwertyuiop spawn.

Easy to spell, if nothing else

He came into the world hostile, insulting us immediately.  This attitude was not improved when I gave an opinion about his name.

Welcome to New Halas!

That earned me “STFU ugly!” and “Go die!”  He sat down and camped out.  With that name he had to be just a placeholder for something.

Then there was Helloimbob, who responded appropriately when greeted.  He said, “I’m Bob!”  We said, “Hi Bob!” and then everybody took a drink.

It is Bob!

I laughed out loud when Trucknut appeared.

Welcome Trucknut!

Then we found out it was Mike, Bungholio and Nancyboy from previous versions of the instance group.  He was going for humor, so the laugh worked, though in hindsight he said that he really should have added a “Z” to the end of his name.

And so our group was formed.

The Group Reformed

The new group is made up of:

  • Earlthedaogwo – Barbarian Berserker (Earl)
  • Cerredwyn – Half-elf Swashbuckler (Ula/Xula)
  • Trucknut – Erudite Wizard (Bung)
  • Fergorin – Barbarian Templar (Potshot)
  • Campell – Half-elf Troubadour (Me)

Hopefully that will work as a balanced group.

Groups in EQII are made up of six people, rather than the five in WoW, and Meclin/Gaff has rolled up a character and may come play with us.

We spent the balance of the evening, which was not a whole lot of time, running the initial set of quests on the starter island and learning how things work in EQII versus WoW.

Some day, all of this will be yours

Those new to the game got to see a few new things, like the whole “climbing up walls” mechanic in the game.  And they got to see a few odd things, like odd way some quests share group credit when one of the group hits a milestone, and some quests do not.  For example, we all got credit when one of us defeated the sparring partner in the combat tutorial.  Why would you set the flag for shared credit for that quest?  Meanwhile, a few quests later, we had a “kill 8” quests that shared no credit.  Odd.

We finished out the quests on the first island and decided to head into town.  Everybody got to get their starter home.  The New Halas versions of the starter home are very impressive compared to the four bare walls of my first home in Greystone Yard back in 2004.

Anyway, EverQuest II, at least the extended version, is getting its chance with the instance group.  Will it offer enough to keep us interested?

Certainly it is alive, at least around the Frost Fang Sea and New Halas, where 5 or 6 versions of the zone were running at a time.  And there is a lot of new content out there to explore.

On the other hand, nobody had compliments for the graphics or the character models.  The latter still are in a bad spot in the uncanny valley while the former aren’t bad, but you have to tinker with your settings (and does any game have more settings options than EQ2?) to make things look good.

And how will a group mix of three Bronze and two Gold accounts work out, with the Bronze not having broker access, rested experience, alternate advancement, and the sundry of other things that SOE leaves out to push you to going Gold?

Next time we should be able to push through most of the remaining starter zone, which ends with a mount as a quest reward, and perhaps even form a guild.  Then we will have to start figuring out where to go as a group.

A Swashbuckler in New Halas

Okay, if I had known I was going to get a spiffy outfit like this as part of the New Halas quest line, I would have rolled a swashbuckler and not a peppermint berserker first.

Frozen Swashbuckler

Now if I could just use dyes as in LOTRO to change the colors.

Do you hear me SOE?  Dyes?  Could you manage that?

You managed that in EverQuest?  Remember that hot pink?  You don’t have to go that far.

You could sell them for Station Cash.  People would buy that.  I would buy that.

Lost in Norrath

Not the post-cataclysm Norrath of EverQuest II, but the original Norrath.

We are talking EverQuest.

I opted for 30 days of Station Access so I could visit both games and because if I didn’t get Station Access I would be way over my character limit in EQII.

And while it is easy to find all your characters in EverQuest II, in EverQuest it can be a bit of a challenge if you’ve forgotten the name of the server.  And was recently merged.  Again.  So the name no longer appears in the merged name.

Ah well.

I learned from my trial downloading EQII to avoid the soon-to-be-defunct Station Launcher and downloaded the new launch pad for EverQuest.

The new launch pad is every bit as slick as the EQII version when it comes to style and patching.

The Latest EQ Launcher

The starry part of the picture is my desktop pattern in the background.

I ran that and went to bed while it downloaded and patched away.

The next day I went past the launcher to find that the old server interface for EverQuest is still there in its muddled glory.

Good enough for 1999

And I was able to find Luclin right away, where a while back I was in Nostalgia the Guild.

Tistann in Surefall Glade

Ironically, Nostalgia the Guild is now something of a subject for nostalgia.  I had forgotten how far back that was, back during the Living Legacy promotion.  Nobody in the guild has been on for quite a while it seems.

Nostalgia for Nostalgia

I am probably in violation of some rule of the guild charter for posting a screen shot of part of the guild roster, but who is going to call me on it?  Somebody would have to re-subscribe to do so.

Anyway, once I remastered… or at least remembered… some of the controls for EverQuest, I got to look around a bit.  Surefall Glade is where my first character, a half elf ranger, started out.

I should have rolled a druid.

After some poking around there, I went to see what my other characters were up to.  I have characters on three servers.

Luclin was, as I said, easy enough to find.

The remains of E’ci was less so.  I found it eventually, and probably could again.  Tunare.  That was the server it got folded into a merger or two ago.

But the last server? I cannot for the life of me remember, and I wasn’t inclined to log on to each and every server to check, even if there are characters.  So somewhere there are a couple of characters lost in Norrath.  But they are probably in good company.  I wonder how many characters are in the EQ database here past the 11 and a half year mark.

I will probably spend some time looking around this weekend.  I should probably go to Halas, just to see how it compares to New Halas.  And I should see if I can find the new in-game player housing and how that stacks up.

I’ll probably have to go watch Sayonara Norrath to get a few more ideas.

That Didn’t Take 14 Days

Not that I thought it would.

That got finished off the quest “The Great Challenge,” which I would put in air quotes if I were saying it aloud, and nabbed me the title “Knight of Bayle.”

Gold coins?  There isn’t anything worth having that costs less than a plat these days, judging from my last peek at the broker.

Okay, time to find my way to New Halas proper already.  The snow is blinding me.

And, for the record, by the time I hit 20, I was outrunning some of the quests in the zone.  A couple went gray before I could complete them.

New Nostalgia, Old Nostalgia

Once I actually got EverQuest II installed and running, the next big question was, “So, what am I going to do?”

Of course, all 12 of my character slots were full, which meant that I should have had plenty of characters to choose from.

The problem with that is, if I’ve stopped playing a game, and stopped playing a character in particular, there is usually a reason.  I’ve usually hit a flat spot or a place where the next area in which to adventure is either not obvious or a place that just doesn’t click with me.

In EverQuest II there are so many paths to get a character to 50, which used to be the level cap way back when, and the levels go by so fast, that you feel like you cannot possibly see all the content.  And then around 50 the options get spread somewhat more thin.

There is a reason I have a clump of characters in the level 49-52 range: The Desert of Flames.

It isn’t the worst set of zones ever in the history of MMOs, or anything close.  It is, in fact, well put together.  But as an expansion it never clicked with me. (Plus I hate seeing freaking flying carpets all over Norrath.)

I gritted my teeth and got through it once, by bouncing back and forth between it and Lesser Faydark. But I am a fan of neither and the less said about the Kingdom of the Sky, which is where you end up after those two, the better.

So my characters tend to stop at what is around the mid-game these days, level 50.

Thus, my “3 weeks until I’m back in WoW full time” nostalgia tour did not seem well served by getting one of my old characters out and trying to press through content I’ve already given up on in the past.

Fortunately, SOE has been back to the nostalgia well again, something that has generally benefited them in the past.

New Halas, the latest home city in Norrath, with an accompanying starter zone, seemed to be just the ticket.

As I mentioned above, all of my character slots were full.  I could opt-in for some Station Cash and buy another character slot, or I could delete a character.  Since I had two characters that were still very low level, I decided to do the deletion route.  Or, to look at it another way, those were the only two characters for which I could not make a case for keeping.

Now, what to roll up and on which server?

The goal here was to have fun as opposed to filling a specific role for a group effort. (Not saying that such a role isn’t fun, but I wouldn’t focus on a dedicated healer for a solo career, as an example.)  While I really enjoyed playing a swashbuckler in the past, as a solo character it is almost too powerful.  With stealth and evac it can be a bit too easy to just walk past danger and avoid your mistakes if you get in too deep.

I like doing a lot of damage, but favor the armored versus the cloth wearing classes.  Plus I tend to prefer the direct approach.  With that in mind, I decided to go with the berserker as a class.  Again.

I went with a berserker when I made Reynaldo Fabulous on Guk back when we last jumped into EQII, where we enjoyed the luxurious hospitality of the Revelry and Honor guild on the Guk server.

I did consider a Shadowknight, a class I have not played, but you cannot make one and start in New Halas.  That blocked out a couple of options, so that in the end I figured I would go with a class I already knew would fill out the fun factor.

But who needs two berserkers on one server?  So for where to roll the new guy, Guk was out.  Plus there is some server merge activity coming up with Guk.  I’m not saying that there are going to be issues, but I’d rather not take the chance when I am going to be playing for a limited stretch.

I was tempted by the Antonia Bayle server, since that was where all the cool kids went a while back, and it boasts a high population which might be enough to stave off that empty city syndrome from which EQII often seems to suffer.

In the end though, I decided that I could just go home to Crushbone, a high population server that won’t be affected by the upcoming mergers.  And I have alts and access to two guilds on Crushbone.  Plus that is where I started six years back. What better way to serve nostalgia?

As for the choice of race, going to New Halas dictated that I be a barbarian, of course.

I saw that the character creation process had been revamped.  Rather than the list of 24 classes being popped up on the screen, SOE is back to the four basic archetypes to help guide you to a class: First you see the archetypes, then the classes represented by the archetype you chose.

The barbarian character models seemed to be much uglier and possessing odd, almost sumo-like physics than I remembered.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the SOE character models (I’d be hard pressed to name a game that has character models I like that I actually want to play), but this seemed to be going over-board on the ugly front.  I realized later that somehow the alternate model display was turned on for this (and only this) character and I was looking at the SOE Asia version of a barbarian.

Not sure how that happened on a fresh install.

Get him in a full suit of armor with a helm covering his head and it won’t matter much anyway.

Once rolled up, I was into the New Halas new player experience.

It is the same shipwreck story we’ve had for the last six years of course.

You wake up, standing bolt upright, with your rescuer before you.

Not sure how she pulled me ashore...

Note the SOE Asia model hair style and build.

SOE has changed the tutorial around some.  They now have some instructional pop-ups to show you how to interact with the world.

This is a quest, get used to them

Looking around, it certainly had the Halas feel to it… which is to say it was all white and snow covered.

Feerrott doesn't seem so bad now, eh?

There is even a little raft to take you back and forth across the bay, just like back in old Halas in EQ.

A little more ramshackle than the old raft

There are new things.  For example, I don’t recall Halas being a haven for butterflies.

So many colorful wings in this white tundra

Okay, so SOE re-used the same collection quests that you get at any of the other starting locations.  You have the seashells, the bird feathers, and a little later, the butterflies.  Still, butterflies do seem odd in this frozen land.

The game itself seems otherwise as solid as ever.  Advancement is quick through the first levels, but New Halas was put together since they reworked the level curve, so you do not seem to be in danger of out-running the quests and having them go gray before you can do them.  Well, at least not too badly.  The quests never went gray, but some of the mobs I had to kill did.

One of the first quests you get is the challenge to get to level 20 in 14 days.  Considering I got to level 15 in one sitting, that shouldn’t be an issue.

You will, however, out run your harvesting skills pretty quickly unless you get them to 20 quickly.  One of the first quests you get involves some harvesting, but it won’t be enough to get you to 20 where you can harvest the next tier.

One problem with the nice little help cards that they splash up on the screen is that unless you screen shot them or memorize them, I am not sure how to get them back if you have a question.

For example, I realize it has been a while since I have been in Norrath, but I do not know what this third bar is below an NPC’s health and mana bar.

That bar, is it new?

Aggro meter?  Special attack power?  Holiday decoration?  I have no idea any more.  Was that bar always there?

That I’d like it if they put a vendor with some arrows somewhere along the trail.  There is a banker out in the middle of nowhere, a repair merchant, and a general vendor.  But arrows?  Can’t find any for sale.

I was also a bit annoyed at one quest where I had to choose between a serious weapon upgrade and a serious shield upgrade.  I went with the weapon only to see that the very next quest from the very same NPC offered me a weapon with the exact same stats as the only reward.

And at some point you start wondering when you are actually going to get to New Halas proper.  15 levels, haven’t seen it yet.

But as I said, once you put enough armor on a berserker, it really doesn’t matter what he looks like inside his armor.

Red and white striped armor?

Though he might look a little more fearsome if he didn’t seem to be a giant candy cane.