Tag Archives: Vox

Maybe 50 for the First Time in EverQuest

I did it.  I made my low key EverQuest 20th anniversary goal, I got a character to level 50.  On a live server, naturally, and during the anniversary experience boost for the most part.  But I still did it.

Dolenz at 50… should have rolled a druid

After my first round of adventures getting to the Scarlet Desert things settled down a bit.  I found the poison vendor in the Plane of Knowledge and bought a stack of cloudy potions so I could slip through Grieg’s End by going invisible.

This guy, he has the cloudy potions

There in the Scarlet Desert I did the quest again, got the piece of gear, and then hung around to fight some more until I was closing in on level 48.

The next day I opted for the level 50 hot zone quest, leaving the Scarlet Desert behind.  For that I was pointed towards the Ruins of Sebilis, which is Kunark.  Kunark I sort of remember.

The place with the lizard people… and ruins…

The route was simple enough this time.

  • Fields of Bone
  • Swamp of No Hope
  • Trakanon’s Teeth
  • Ruins of Sebilis

Kunark has such charming place names.

The travel wasn’t up to the previous challenge.  The main points of friction were that the route pathing on the map was a bit wonky and I had to remember that you can swim up waterfalls.  Oh, and once I got to Trakanon’s Teeth I had to work with the welcome wagon waiting there to greet me.

Everybody came by to say hello

I will say, while there are some minor graphical improvements over launch day EverQuest in Kunark… for example the trees actually move a bit like there is wind… some of the textures are just bad.  I mean, I get that this is supposed to be a swampy area, but that ground texture just looks bad.

Once in the Ruins of Sebilis I was tasked to slay 5 “bok.”  I have to admit, I had no idea what that meant when set out.  But it turns out the frogloks in the area all have an association that is part of their NPC name.

In the Sebilis Ruins fighting a “dar” knight… need a “bok” for the quest

Unlike the Scarlet Desert, where I am pretty sure I was the only player in the zone, Sebilis seemed to have some traffic.  There were people coming and going, some my level, some higher level.  I was just interested in tracking down my five “bok,” but I worked through enough frogloks that I made it into level 48 on the first run.

On the second run I got my five “bok” and then hung around pulling mobs until I hit level 50.

The output, in an odd order

That was that.  I was level 50 with three full days to spare.  I am not sure I will carry on much further.  I still have Moria to attend to.  But it was nice to get there.

Then I started thinking about when I may have hit 50 previously in EverQuest and I couldn’t really come up with an answer.  In the early days, with my first… and now lost… account, I had at least one character in the 40s.  But I was very much into alts, so I had a pile of characters on the E’ci server that were in their 20s and early 30s.

That seems to have been a recurring theme.  I get close to 40 and I make an alt rather than carrying on.

So no level 50s then.

During the early days of EverQuest II, when the Station Access plan came out, some of us went and played EverQuest as well.  I might have gotten there then.

I am pretty sure I didn’t get there when The Serpent’s Spine came out and I went to play.  And Potshot and I didn’t get out of our 20s when we had our run on the Fippy Darkpaw progression server.  Our momentum having been undercut by the great Sony/SOE hacking outage.

There were a couple of other times when I have gone back to play, but in sifting through the various servers I could remember, I wasn’t able to come up with a single character at level 50 or beyond, save for the paladin on whom I used the free level 85 boost about five years back. (They don’t hand those out as often as they do for EQII, where I have a had a few such free boosts.)  And I never really played him, having gotten hung up finding my way via the zone guide back then as well.

So Dolenz might be it.  My youngest character, who started out in the tutorial less than a month and a half ago, made it.  He might be, after 20 years of on and off tinkering with the game, the first character I have that has made it to the original level cap.

Traveling to The Scarlet Desert

It has been a low key goal of mine to hit level 50, the original level cap, in EverQuest during this, its 20th anniversary month.

Of course, I don’t want to do that on one of their retro servers.  A live server will do me just fine.  And that there is an experience boost active on live servers through the end of the month is all the better.  I want to be a tourist.  I want to see the sights, not get in there and grind away.

This goal was prompted by the fact that I seemed on a pace to get there, so why not keep on track to make it happen.  All I seemed to have to do was go visit the daily hot zone quest giver on the Plane of Knowledge every day and run the quest he gave me.

The loading screen tip told me about him

Bonus hot zone experience on top of anniversary bonus experience was popping me up a few levels every day.  There was also a nice piece of equipment as a reward and it got me out into the world to see zones I had not visited in years, or may have never visited.

Hunting tigers on Kunark

And then I took the level 45 quest that sent me off to the Scarlet Desert and things began to go awry.

Norrath is a big place.  As we saw from the infographic they put out for the 20th anniversary, there is a lot of space and a lot of places in EverQuest.

That is a lot of walking

This is not helped by the fact that I haven’t really played EverQuest actively at level in the current content since some point in 2001.  That was 18 years ago.  Maybe my playing into some of The Serpent’s Spine content when it launched might count, but even that was back in 2006, at the start of the life of this blog, now nearly 13 years in the rear view mirror.

Even the Plane of Knowledge, the PoK, which came in with the Planes of Power expansion back in 2002, is in my mental list of “that new stuff.”

Basically, the game has grown far beyond my ability to comprehend, and I have forgotten a lot of even the bits I used to know.

Still, I was managing okay.  The daily hot zone quests for levels 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 were all pretty much in Antonica or Kunark, which meant I could find them by just looking at the in-game atlas and tracking back to a nearby zone that had a teleport from the PoK.

But the quest for level 45 was set in the Scarlet Desert, and I had no idea how to get there.  That was Shadows of Luclin content so, for me, it might as well have been on the moon. *cough*

Yes, it is on the moon

Actually, I went to the Paludal Caverns for one of the earlier quests, but that wasn’t too difficult.  I generally go to Zam, look up the zone, then look up the connecting zones to see if I know how to get to any of those, then the zones that connect to those, by which point I have usually found a landmark or a place with a portal on the PoK.

No so with the Scarlet Desert, the path to which you can see nestled in on the right side of the map, as well as on the south east side below the Twilight Sea. Easy points of reference, like Shar Vahl, the city of the Vah Shir cat people, were multiple hops away, leaving it looking like a long way to walk.

While fiddling around I discovered… or rediscovered, since I am sure I saw it at some time in the past… I guess that was about five years ago at another anniversary… the zone guide interface.  This lists out the many zones in the game and will attempt to chart a path to your destination.

A great idea!  I got it set to direct me to the Scarlet Desert and set off to follow the wisp.

Destination Set

The route seemed to be okay.  It did not include the need to go through an NPC, which I discovered five years back, breaks the pathing… and possibly your ability to follow the path if the NPC is no longer there.  The wisp can be comical at times, following a strict angled path along roads at times, while at other times lighting off and heading straight up almost vertical slopes at others.

One of the things I forget about EverQuest is that you can run up cliffs that would be impassible in other games.  But the wisp knows where you can go up.  Going down, at least without taking damage, can be another matter.  I didn’t have any life threatening falls, but I took some hits going down steep slopes.

Everything was going find until I zoned into Grieg’s End.  The first room in the zone had three aggro level 54 mobs.

Welcoming committee

I had also learned, as I leveled up, that while my mercenary was practically Superman when I was in my 20s, by now he was starting to show some weakness.  At level 41 he couldn’t simply take on three mobs at that level.  He wasn’t going to be able to chip away at them successfully even with heals from me. (Which drew aggro and led to more fun.)

With Grieg’s End seeming impassible for now, I gated us back to the PoK to look into another route.  The guide had actually offered up three and I had just taken the first one.  I excluded Grieg’s End from the list and took the next one offered.

The Fungus Grove route

This one routed me through several routes to the Twilight Sea and, from there, to the Scarlet Desert.  As before, the trip started smoothly enough, until I arrived in the Fungus Grove.  The mobs there were not as high level as Grieg’s End, but still a bit higher than my merc and I.  We dealt with a few solos, but accidentally got embroiled in a mass of attacking mushrooms that was clearly going to overwhelm us over time.  I decided to leave the my merc to his fate and just run for the zone line following the wisp.  But the wisp led me to a dead end… which was soon my dead end.  I was down and back in the PoK again.

Thinking there had to be an easier way, I went to Google to search for routes.  Somebody wrote that the easy way to get there was via the Guild Lobby off of the PoK.  There was a portal there that would drop me just two connections from the Scarlet Desert.

Unfortunately, one of the zones was a level 90+ area and I was one-shotted before I knew it and back in the PoK again, this time down a level.  I forgot that you could lose levels.

Time for another route.  If longer is safer I’d be okay.

Going via The Grey

The route updates as you go along, so that was a few zones into the trip.

This route, again, started out swimmingly.  The main problem along the way, was that the Chelsith Reborn zone was about on level with me and full of aggro mobs.  It also has that classic EverQuest feature/flaw where the mobs are all on the same pathing, so my merc and I ended up being stuck in one spot for over 30 minutes fighting off a seemingly endless series of adds that would wander up and join the fight.

On the bright side, Chelsith Reborn was also flagged as a hot zone, which meant bonus experience.  I recovered level 41, made it to level 42, and got a hair into level 43 just standing around slaughtering elementals and raptors during that time.

As lucrative as that was exp-wise, I did want to move along.  So I made it to the cave that zoned me into The Grey and started carefully looking around there.  It seemed safe.  I threaded my way around the dangers marked on the map when I suddenly noticed that the little breath meter was up, the one that you get when you’re under water.  The zone was airless.

I died.  And lost level 43.

I called it a night, but returned the next day to give The Grey another try.  I got my level back and padded it a bit in Chelsith Reborn, then got to the zone line determined to make a straight run through The Grey to the Scarlet Desert.

At about the halfway point, some mobs chasing me, and my air almost gone, I figured I was not going to make it.  You need to be going faster than I could manage to cross the zone in time.  Fortunately I had my Gate spell on my spell bar and I was able to land safely back in the PoK.  Again.

Having used the three recommended paths to the Scarlet Desert, I decided to pull back and see if maybe it would recommend something different if I specified the Twilight Sea instead.  And, as it turns out, yes, it does.

Headed for the Twilight Sea

That was a long path.  The run through the Katta Castellum was especially long, though it was probably worth the trip just to see it.  It is an example of the EverQuest dev team not being afraid to build on the epic scale.  And the swim across the Twilight Sea leveled up my swimming skill nicely.  But best of all, I arrived safely in the Scarlet Desert.

The Scarlet Desert welcoming committee

Now I just had to find five of the mobs I needed to slay in order to complete the task.  That can be a chore, and I wasn’t having much luck.  On the big mesa in the zone I spotted one of the mobs named however, and decided to give it a shot.

These guys, up on the mesa

There things went south.  I didn’t get just the one mob I wanted, he was linked with two others.  Still, a triple pull seemed within the bounds of our capabilities.  They were all +/- 1 level to us.

However, for no particular reason I could see, I had a moment of merc berserk as he suddenly ran off and collected up every other mob in sight, leaving me high and dry with the three original mobs who proceeded to beat me into the sand.  And there I was, back in the PoK again.

So I ran back.  Visited the castle.  Improved my swimming some more.  Then started in again on my mob search.

I tried the same mob again, thinking it might have been a glitch.  It wasn’t.  My merc just goes crazy up there.  Fortunately I stood a ways back this time and was able to zone out before my merc died.

Time to hunt elsewhere for mobs.

Around the mesa I did find similar mobs and eventually some of the ones I wanted started to spawn.

A sun reaver at last

I found my five, got my nice bit of gear, and ended up just shy of level 45.  Not bad.  It would have been better if I had been able to do it all right the first time.  But this way I did see more of Norrath… my zone achievement count went up quite a bit… even if it took me three evenings to get it done.

And then I had to gate back to the PoK because to get the quest for the next day I had to go back and speak to the hot zone guy again.  So I will be traveling some more.

But the real irony in all of that… the damn quest is called “A Simple Task.”

Daybreak Updates Its Norrath Anniversary Progression Server Plans

As I have no doubt mentioned a few times already, and will likely mention again before we’re there, this coming March 16th is the 20th anniversary of the launch of EverQuest.  This is a big deal for me, having been there for the launch, and for Daybreak, as this is the oldest title in their catalog and the foundation of the company that was once Sony Online Entertainment.

So naturally enough Daybreak has some special things planned for Saturday, March 16th, including the launch of four different special servers.  Two are focused on the original EverQuest while the other two are in EverQuest II.

That we’re getting two EverQuest II servers seems a bit odd to me, as that title has its fifteenth anniversary coming up in November of this year.  But maybe they just want to get in on their ancestor’s glory moment.  We’ve already heard that EverQuest II is getting an expansion this year, so maybe that will the the focal point of its 15th anniversary.

Anyway, the official rules for these four servers seem to be set, so let me review what we have here.

The rules for the two EverQuest progression servers were announced a couple weeks back and met with some push back from the players.  Daybreak said they would take this under consideration and came back on Friday with an update heralded on Twitter with this message:

Hail, Norrathians! We heard your feedback, and have made changes to the upcoming Selo and Mangler Progression Servers so that you can get excited about finding a new home in Norrath on March 16th.

So what did they change?

Selo – Ultra Casual becomes Fast

The Selo server was probably the most controversial because Daybreak said in advance it would be “Ultra Casual” and then didn’t define what that meant.  As one might expect, that let everybody interested in the idea set their own mental expectations, so when the rules for the server came out they seemed for many to be at odds with their personal view of the situation.  The Selo server was going to start three expansions in, be true box, unlock an expansion every month, and offer faster experience gains than other progression servers, but still slower than live servers.

Beware of an old game in a hurry

Reading the forums, that seemed ideal for the hardcore raiders, who as a group are always antsy for the next raid unlock, but not exactly casual.  Meanwhile, if you read any of the forum posts on this topic, what constitutes casual is a pretty wide topic.  I personally expected mercenaries or multi-boxing to be allowed and probably experience at the level of a live server.  Others were calling for slower progress, or less experience, or whatever their hearts told them.

Anyway, Daybreak fixed all of this by changing the description of the server from “Ultra Casual” to “Fast Progression.”

Seriously, looking at the FAQ for the Selo server, nothing else has changed.  Given that, I would claim that the message I quoted above was pretty much a lie when it comes to the Selo server.  I’m not saying there was a right answer for everybody who was complaining, but this looked like no answer at all.

Mangler – Plain old Progression Server

Mangler was supposed to be the hardcore server.  Again, what constitutes hardcore is up for debate.  Some people want slower progression, others want to wear the hair shirt and have slow exp.

Hair of the dog

As with the Selo server, Mangler was supposed to start with the Shadows of Luclin expansion, but move more slowly with a much more oppressive experience curve.

In the update, Daybreak has relented and will start a progression server on the 20th anniversary of the classic launch at classic content.  That seems fitting.  But with that, they decided it will be standard progression server, with 12 week unlocks until the Gates of Discord expansion and 8 week unlocks there after for any expansion without a level cap increase.

There is a FAQ up for Mangler, but if you’re familiar with any of the last few progression servers, you won’t find anything new.

Nagafen – Another Shot at PvP

On the EverQuest II front, the previous big news was Daybreak trying to revive PvP with the Nagafen server.  PvP servers have tended to be self consuming for EverQuest II, with the population dying off, followed by players complaining in the forums, then SOE making changes which have tended to only to make things worse.  But they’re willing to give it another try, so if you’re willing to subscribe to all access, you can have a PvP server to play on.

Nagafen’s all consuming fire

The server will be free-for-all PvP and will only allow you to make a single character per account.  You can kill anybody from any faction, with the only safe areas being Qeynos and Freeport.

The newbie starter areas will only allow you to attack people +/- 4 levels from your own, while in the open world you will be restricted to +/- 8 levels, save for the level 40+ zones, where there will be no restrictions at all.

The Nagafen server FAQ covers the plans for seasons, itemization, and expansion unlocks.

Kaladim – A New Gimmick

Finally, there is the Kaladim time locked progression server.  I think there is a message in the fact that Daybreak thinks they can launch a plain vanilla progression server for EverQuest, but for EverQuest II they need something to spice it up.  Not that I am against a gimmick.  I like me a new gimmick now and again.  But it seems odd that Kaladim needs one while Mangler does not.

Kaladim is a dwarf place, so a dwarf

When it comes to the Kaladim server the twist is that you will be able to earn account-wide rewards for completing heritage quests and special account-wide titles for collection quests.

In addition, you will be able to go to the old starter home areas.  This is something of a mixed blessing to my mind.  On the one hand, it will be nice to see old areas of the game that have since been removed.  On the other hand, few things were as disappointing as the racial ghettos of the two starting cities when EverQuest had a unique hometown for every race.  While I missed the old Isle of Refuge starting area, my memories of Greystone yard in Qeynos are mixed at best.  Barbarians and dwarves started there, and little about the place reflected either race.

Also, I had never heard anybody refer to these areas as “hoods” until the Kaladim announcement.  When I saw the word “hoods” I literally thought there was going to be some new cosmetic head gear.   But I guess they cannot call them ghettos, the way I do.  I am certainly using that word in the pejorative sense.  And they aren’t home towns, but places where they are sorting our refugees from the great cataclysm.  No wonder I have little affinity for them.

Anyway, as with the previous three servers, there is a FAQ for Kaladim that goes into more detail.

Which to Choose?

So that is four new servers, all launching in March 16th in celebration of the EverQuest 20th anniversary.

Honestly, I am not enthusiastic about any of them.

If I was part of a group that was keen to visit any of them, I would probably go along.  But for just me, there isn’t much of a call for any of these four.  In this they are unlike the LOTRO Legendary server, where I knew that I could at least progress through and see all the sites on my own.

So where does that leave my plans for the 20th anniversary?

I think I might just stick with the Vox server, where I am already through the tutorial and in the Plane of Knowledge with my cleric.  I am not sure if there will be anything special for him at his low level, but There will be banners and special NPCs to see if nothing else.

It also raises the likelihood that I will head off into Moria once SSG figures out when that will unlock on the Legendary server.  I don’t expect Daybreak to make any changes to the servers announced at this point, but we shall see.

The Revolt in Gloomingdeep

Following on from the previous EverQuest post, I arrived in the main area of the tutorial.  It was time for it to teach me a few more things about the game.  There was a list of people to speak to… to hail, in the parlance of the game… who would in turn instruct me in some aspect of world.

A list of people to speak to…

But before I could start on that, I was told about the Find option, which you can invoke with Control-F or via the Find button that is placed on your hot bar by default.  This present you with a list of NPCs in the zone, with a description of each.  You just select the NPC you need to find and a glowing wisp trail appears to guide you to them.

Follow the wisp

For whatever reason I feel that EQ does this better than most games.  That includes EverQuest II, which has pretty much the identical wisp mechanic.  But the wisp in EQII seems to spend a lot more time confused as to which way you should be going.  It also seems more likely to send you towards impassible terrain before changing its mind.  In EQ, at least in the early zones where I have used it, the wisp is solid in its directions.

You end up visiting somebody to upgrade your weapon.  Base EQ weapons have basically two stats, damage and delay.  You want a big damage number and a small delay number, which together you can use to figure out DPS.   The upgrade actually just made my club slightly faster.

My polished club

You also learn some basics about spells from another NPC, which generally includes a spell to add to your spellbook.  The spell system was definitely influenced by TorilMUD, yet ended up as kind of its own thing.  It is still over complicated though, and I still have to go look at Allahkazam or some other site online to figure out what spells I need to buy when I level up as they’re all just at a vendor listed by name.

Another NPC tells you about the map, which is another item that came in after my time in the game.

The map of the tutorial safe area

The map is primitive, but better than nothing.  And it is community driven, as you can add and edit maps.  The game provides some basic maps, but the community does the rest.  You have to go download the collected maps if you want to know where things are.

Also, just to roll up a pair of items, one of the reason the wisp is superior in EQ is that the route it sends you down also shows up on the map.  That is a surprisingly useful aspect of the wisp at times.

I also talked to the NPC about mercenaries.  You can hire a mercenary to heal for you or tank for you.  While I have used the mercenaries in EQII, I have tended to stay away from them in EQ, mostly because my EQII characters have a lot of cash while I tend to be dirt poor in EQ and mercs cost in game money to keep around.  You have to fork over some in-game cash every 15 minutes for your merc.  However, the in-game economy is focused on richer, high level characters.  In the tutorial I was looting stuff that sold to the vendor for some copper or a few silver, yet the vendor is now scaled to display prices in platinum coins.  Hard to get there on loot, though a couple of the quests did give out plat coins.  So I gave that a pass for the time being.

You don’t really need a merc to start with anyway.  You’re just going to go kill some rats.

I am savagely beating this cave rat

The quests start off easy enough.  But eventually you hit some that are flagged as being for a group.  While the tutorial was more populated than I expected… I saw maybe a dozen people running around at any given time… it was a quiet bunch and grouping didn’t seem to be their thing.  So I went back and rented a tank mercenary.

Despite reading the intro, I rented the tier I apprentice tank, who is about as useful as a third nipple.  After having to flee from Spider Tamer Gugan, I went back and got the journeyman tank.  After that, things went much more smoothly.

The demise of the spider queen

From there, supported by my mercenary companion, I continued on through the tutorial, trying to do all of the quest.  The mercenary is free for a while, and then it starts charging you every 15 minutes.  First one gold coin, then two, then three.  I kept him on since he was effective, but when it is 10g to 1p, and I had about a dozen plat all told, that was starting to seem expensive.

On the quest hunt I found one I had missed previously.  But I am also sure I missed a couple.  The meta quest ends when you speak to Arias at one point, even when there are some sub-quests still available.  But you will hit level 10, which overall doesn’t take too long, and you’re all dressed up in the blue armor set that you acquire from the quests along the way.

I’m now a blue meanie

At that point the game sends you off to the Plane of Knowledge, the hub of Norrath.

Off you go then…

Of course, first you have to get there.  My memory of leaving the tutorial is pretty vague.  I think you can hang around until level 15, at which point you’ll get kicked out to the PoK, but if you want to leave earlier, you must take direct action.

Avoid the obvious cave.

Obvious cave is obvious

There is a sign next to it that moves… for reasons I do not recall… but you get a message about the slaves having dug a way out.  You can go through the cave to exit Gloomingdeep, but you end up in Crescent Reach.  That is a whole different experience that came in with The Serprent’s Spine expansion where you can level up to… I forget how far, but pretty far… in a series of purpose built zones with quests and the like.

Wait, this isn’t the Plane of Knowledge

That’s not horrible, but it starts at level one and is an alternative to the tutorial.  If you’re already at level 10 or beyond, and if you want to do the PoK armor quests, going there won’t help you. (Unless you go find the PoK teleport book, which you will probably only be able to do if you’ve downloaded and installed all those maps.  It used to be in dangerous territory, but I think they moved it.)

I got back to the tutorial by camping out and selecting the “Tutorial” button from the character select screen, since I was too lazy to go find the teleport book.

Back in the tutorial you have to go find Arias one last time, select him, and say “I am ready to leave” to get out.  The tutorial tells you that at some point I am sure, but like so much of the information, it is in small text in various windows and easy to miss or forget.

Saying that to Arias will teleport you immediately to the PoK where you can run over and bind your soul… basically set your respawn on death point, just select the NPC and click on the “bind my soul” link in chat… and be ready to work on the armor quests.

I hear you are into bindage

The next set of quests, at least on a live server, will get you well along to level 20 or so.  That is what I seem to recall anyway, the evidence being the other characters I created on the server, which all seem to be level 20-ish.  After that, the game has tended to get a bit less directed in its help.

Of course, the last time I played was a while back.  Since then some new things have come along.  There are a whole series of achievements for going places and slaying particular mobs.  That might even be an interesting way to tour the game.  And then there is the Hero’s Journey, which the game popped up a window to tell me about.

Joseph Campbell would be… something

I’m not sure how deep that is… at level 10 it seems to just point me at an achievement in my level range… but it might be something to look into.

Now to see if I carry on in Norrath.  I’ve warmed up with the tutorial.  The anniversary events are about three weeks away.  I could wait for that or I could go do the armor quests and see where that leads me.

Towards the EverQuest Tutorial

As part of the post last week about the EverQuest progression servers that Daybreak announced for the 20th anniversary, Bhagpuss and I ended up exchanging comments about the tutorial.

There is a tutorial, though it was added at some point well after launch.  Neither I nor Bhagpuss nor Google could say exactly when… so if you know, here is an opportunity for you to leave a comment… and it has been through various iterations, so there is probably somebody out there who longs for the “classic” tutorial.

Anyway, I said that, despite its unknown provenance, I kind of like the tutorial.  I’ve been through it a couple of times, though not recently.  In fact, I think the last time I went through it was when Daybreak opened up the Vox server, which I think coincided with the game going free to play… which would make it 2012.

It has been a while.

Anyway, all this thinking about it made me want to go try it.  At least it would get me warmed up for the game in time for the big day next month.  So I cranked up the EverQuest client, logged in, and looked at the old server list window once again.

Choose a server, choose a race, choose a class…

There I realized that I was still subscribed to Daybreak All Access.  I mean, I knew that in some part of my brain… and I’ve let it slip some since I was playing EQII late last year because I did the three month at a go subscription, but they stop giving you Daybreak Cash if you unsubscribe early and so I let it run, log in to collect, but lose track of the point when I should subscriber… so they’ve clearly got my number on that one… but the fact that I had all the pay to play progression servers on the list kind of pressed that home on me.

Also, I like the little scroll window that first tells you how many of the expansions you own… a useful number I suppose… and then proceeds to list out, by name, in order, all of the ones you do own, followed, again by name and in order, all of the ones you do not.

Given that there are now 25 expansions in the wild, that can take a while, even if most of them are just three word names.  I had to wait a bit for the scroll to come around so I could get a screen shot with my own count.  I own everything through The Darkened Sea, which was more than I could mentally account for… but whatever.  Even watching that list scroll past I kept seeing names that seemed like they only just shipped, but.  Everything from House of Thule forward seems like it was recent.

Once I was done staring at that I decided to go back to the Vox server once more.  I have characters on all of the progression servers… my thing seems to be to at least roll up a character and stand out in front of Qeynos even if I don’t play… but I wasn’t sure where any of them stood these days and I didn’t want any special rules of restrictions.  I wanted the tutorial.  So Vox it was.

I already have four characters on Vox, three in their low 20s and one at level 85 from that time they gave a free boost and then I couldn’t get to where the game was telling me to go.  That was almost five years ago.

Also, I thought surely the launcher was wrong when it was telling me about level 85 boosts.

Level 85 is hardly your best these days

Seriously, that was what the boost was five years ago.  Since then the level cap is 110 now.  Though, I guess looking through that list of expansions, it was 100 back then so it was hardly an invite to battle with anybody’s best back then as well.  The boost for EverQuest II has moved forward, but like so much in EverQuest, the boost there stays locked in the past I guess. (Bhagpuss seemed similarly bemused about this.)

But, again, I wasn’t here to boost, I was here for the tutorial.

So I rolled up a fresh character.  I had already done the usual suspects on Vox already, a paladin, a shaman, a warrior, and a druid, so I went out for something I hadn’t looked at in a while.  I considered a bard.  I do love EverQuest bards.  However, bards have always seemed like more of a group oriented class to me, and I wasn’t planning to group.  Instead I decided to go for a cleric.

EverQuest clerics are good, old school clerics, wearing heavy armor and beating people with blunt objects.  I like a healer that can take a punch and have always been a bit chagrined in WoW with cloth wearing clerics.  I mean, sure, they have mind control.  But wearing cloth like some sort of common mage?  But I guess you have the paladin if you want an armored cleric in WoW these days.

I ended up with a dwarf cleric named Dolenz because I was thinking about Circus Boy the other day or something.  I clicked the tutorial option… it is a bit confusing, because there is a button there on the character page that says “Tutorial” but I wasn’t sure what it did, so I clicked it a couple of times and figured it was just a toggle to indicate whether or not you wanted to go through the tutorial.  But then I couldn’t remember its initial state and, honestly, even if I did remember, it was not clear to me which state got me into the tutorial and which would drop me straight into Norrath.

Whichever I ended up choosing, it turned out to be the right one, because it sent me into the tutorial as I had wanted.

The tutorial, unlike a lot of what I remember about EverQuest, has a story of sorts.  It isn’t a very original story.  You’ve been captured by kobols and are in kobold jail and have to escape… because by industry convention all RPG starting stories must be a jail break or a ship wrekck scenario… and after a bit of an intro you end up in a room with a shirtless barbarian named Arias who has come to help.

Look at that oiled chest, 100% in my book

Arias takes you under his wing and introduces you to the basic concepts over EverQuest, like movement, the quest log, looting, and beating the tar out of kobolds.

Arias and I have done him in

I recognized the quest log, was hazy about being able to click on the keywords in dialog rather than having to say them, and was surprised a bit by the looting mechanism, which was a new one on me.

Well, new-ish.  It seemed to be very similar to what I saw had ended up in LOTRO when I came back for the legendary server there.

The loot just waits for you

It looks a little better in LOTRO, but it seems to act about the same.  And it was comforting.  One of the things I forgot to mention in my ramble about returning to World of Warcraft was how, after three months in Middle-earth, I kept forgetting to loot.  You get used to the loot just showing up in a window for you to pick and choose among.

After looting that key and learning again how to hand it to an NPC, Arias led us out of the initial story and into thee stronghold of the revolt.

The revolution begins here

From there I was set to learn a whole range of game mechanics.  But I will pick that up in the next post.

The (Over?) Power of Mercenaries!

Still infused with our fresh wave of EverQuest nostalgia, Potshot and I were out of the tutorial and in old Norrath again.  My warrior and his bard were both level 11, we each had a mercenary in tow, and we wanted to see how we might fare in the world.

It is a big world, and where to go is always a challenge.  And this all the more with the Plane of  Knowledge available to us, since we can drop in on so many places without much travel time.  But without a lot of time to invest in researching where we should go, it had to be some place obvious.

The game itself suggested Blackburrow when we hit level 11, which seemed kind of low level.  I suggested West Karana, which has a variety of things to go after, and Potshot agreed.  It is one of those classic zones where nobody ever hangs out.

West Karana all on One Map

(Map image from Phoenix Dragoons site)

My thought was bandit camps.  That was something of a known quantity for us after last year on the Fippy Darkpaw server.  And though we were a level or two up on where we were when we started on bandits back then, adds and aggro management was still a danger to us at our level.

So we waded into the bandits.  First in the smaller groups that are on the plains around the farm, then later into the larger groups up in the hills.  And we were pretty much invincible.

Bandit Problems? Call Mercs R Us!

We went through a few rounds of clearing out bandit camps, including spawns with the ever annoying (and often deadly), casting bandits.

Basically, any time we were coming up short, the mercenaries picked up the slack.

It was nice to see that my mercenary, the healer, would not only heal Potshot and myself, but would also heal Potshot’s tank mercenary along with herself.  In fact, there were times when we seemed to be somewhat superfluous to the fight.

In the picture above, we had managed to pull the whole camp of bandits.  That looked like trouble.  But my merc pulled aggro on the whole group by healing me and ended up off tanking everything while just standing there healing once in a while.  Meanwhile, Potshot’s merc was doing more damage than either of us.  I tried to look effective by taunting so I could at least tank one of the bandits.

At more than one point in these fights it looked like we could have just stepped back and let the bots clean things up.  There were a couple of fights where us focusing on the right bandit first, like the level 12 casters, needed our involvement.  But we clearly had to screw things up mightily to worry about a wipe.

After demonstrating clear mastery over bandits, I ran us over to the farm fields to chase scarecrows. (Scarecrows were one of my early favorite models.  I like light shining out of their faces and the way they move.)

Here, due to bad placement and wide ranging scarecrow movement, we ended up taking on three scarecrows in a chain.  We never had to face more than two at once, but these were mobs were red to us.

Scarecrow in West Karana

And while I was nervous going in, especially when we started getting adds, we ended up knocking off the scarecrows without much drama.  The mercenaries kept us going, again doing the healing and most of the damage.  I managed to taunt well enough to tank and pretend I was making a difference, but I was pretty sure again that we could have gone off for tea and the mercs would have cleaned up for us.

The experience was pretty good though.  I was seeing 12% of a level from each scarecrow.  That got me well into level 12 and tipped Potshot into that level as well.

We did eventually meet our match.  A wandering spirit roamed by us, looking like four wisps glued together in two pairs, and I immediately tagged it, only to find we were taking serious damage from it without doing much of our own.

I quickly googled the mob and found it on Zam and found that it was level 25.  I suppose here was the test.  It was pretty clear that we were not going to be able to bring it down, but we hung around in the fight long after we should of to see how long we would last.  In what I would call a 7 minute battle (estimating methodology: take how long the fight seemed and cut that time at least in half, because people always over estimate) the mercenaries covered for us and stayed up until the healer ran out of mana.  And then it was slow death, all of us dropping one by one.

The mercenaries went down first.  Then, when we finally decided it was high time to leave, we could never quite get away as the wandering spirit would root us.  So we died too, a full wipe.

We were then back at the Plane of Knowledge, where Potshot discovered he lost a level.  So we ran out quickly and got that back before calling it a night.

This was my first real “out in the world” use of mercenaries in EverQuest.  They seem pretty powerful, considering we were using a pair of apprentice mercs. I suspect that this will even out some as we level up.

Now we just have to figure out where we should go in the world with this group to get us in range of the Lost Dungeons of Norrath content.

Norrath is such a big place and there are so many choices at any level.

EverQuest Tutorial – Not Quite Ready for Prime Time, But Where Else Are You Going to Go?

Ever eager to ride whatever EverQuest nostalgia wave rolls in, both Potshot and I have been rolling up characters on the new Vox server now that EverQuest has gone free to play.  This was egged on by the epic opening post for the EverQuest goes Free to Play thread on the Something Awful forums, which may be one of the best summations and guides to the game I have ever seen. (And it is, for the moment, up to date, unlike a lot of what you find when you use Google.)

However, one of the problems with the whole thing is that the EverQuest tutorial doesn’t seem to be quite up to the task due to what seems to be problems of SOEs own making.

A tutorial instance can hold up to 100 characters.  This I know because SOE broadcasts that number quite regularly as the tutorial instances exceed this limit quite regularly.

More than 100 is bad

How do they manage that?

Well, you will note that I said 100 “characters” and not “users,” or “accounts.”

It seems that mercenaries count towards the total in the instance, and they are characters of a sort.  SOE put them in the total of players for the zone.

One aspect new to the tutorial since I last ran it is an NPC who tells you about mercenaries and lets you acquire one right there to use in the tutorial.  The thing is, people enter the tutorial individually, and then within a few minutes have a mercenary added to the total.  And then the zone-wide announcement starts that there are 104 players in the instance and the server will be suspending some mercenaries to reduce that count.  Which is all very amusing until it is your mercenary that gets the chop.

Hard to read, I know. Click to see full size

Which makes me wonder why SOE routes so many people into a given instance of the tutorial in the first place.  100 players, even if it is 50 people with 50 mercenaries, is too much for the zone.  The place is packed, often out numbering quest mobs by a significant ratio.  Any “kill that one guy” quest can turn into a competing camp fest, all the more so if it is like the Kobold Locksmith who drops on key per spawn, so if you are in a group, you need to kill him once for each person.  All while other people are milling around trying to grab him as well.

Of course, there are alternatives to the tutorial.  Crescent Reach, jewel of The Serpent’s Spine expansion and the city to which all new free accounts are initially sent, has quests starting at level 1.

Start your questing right here!

It is pretty easy to get there even, you just exit through the cave at the back of the slave revolt where all the training NPCs are and you get plopped down right in Crescent Reach.

Unfortunately, I had done the Crescent Reach quest chain through into the 20s before, and I just wasn’t up to it again.  It very much follows the “kill 10 rats” thing over and over again.  That is not EverQuest to me.  Furthermore, the communication for quests is always a bit annoying.  Not as trial and error as the MUD days, but it can get on your nerves if you are doing a lot of quests.

And I do not recall any big rewards from the quests in Crescent Reach.  The tutorial quests, if you completed them, now send you out well equipped to face the world.  I wasn’t sure I would get the same thing in the city of the Drakkin.

So I decided to scout ahead, to get to Qeynos and see how things looked there, which meant getting to the book that takes you to the Plane of Knowledge from where I could teleport to Qeynos.  Qeynos would be familiar and I though maybe I could run the noob armor quests there.  They are more like the quest EQ should have, a long list of things to procure with no need to run back and get a new quest over and over.

Back when The Serpent’s Spine expansion was young, the PoK book was way the heck out in the next zone over.  I was only level 5 at this point and did not want to risk dying on the run across the big zone to get to the book, so I broke down and bought a horse from the Station Cash store.  I have a pile of Station Cash from a triple cash sale they had last year, so in real dollars the horse wasn’t that expensive… at least it did not seem so until I realized I had a free horse I could /claim on my account.  Ah well, I will save that for another character.

So I got out on the horse, with its sill animation, and rode across the zone to where I expected to find the PoK book… where it was marked on my map… where I had visited it before.  And it wasn’t there.

A few questions on the OOC channel helped me locate it.  SOE decided to fix their own “run across the wetlands” low level trial and moved the book to just outside of the canyon that leads to Crescent Reach.

There is the book!

Potshot, on as the bard Garfinkel, joined me and jumped to the Plane of Knowledge, where we bound ourselves, and then jumped to Qeynos.

The big Q was still there and a few players were visible, having also decided to skip the tutorial for more nostalgic pastures.

The problem was that the quest armor NPCs were gone.  The armor quests that we had such a good time running down a year back on the Fippy Darkpaw server were not there on Vox.

While we were they, we killed a few things.  I even got a pair of crude defiant boots as a drop, which appear to be, compared stat for stat… and in color as well, pretty much the same as the equipment you get in the tutorial.  However, the drops are random so you are not really in control of your destiny.

After playing in front of Qeynos for a bit, we pretty much decided to grit our teeth and get the tutorial finished so as to be equipped to face the world.

Of course, that was back to the old set of problems.  In addition to lots of people hunting the same thing, just getting into the same instance of the tutorial together as well as into one with enough space that we could have our mercenaries presented a challenged of its own.  I saw somebody say on OCC that there was a way to switch versions of the tutorial from the Plane of Knowledge, but that tidbit came so late in our adventures that I never ran it down.

But we did manage to pick our way through and finish out all the key quests that had equipment as rewards, ending on the battle with Overlord Gnikan for the Freedom’s Stand group quest.  For this one a stranger actually joined our group.  I had tried to find groups in the past, but with mercenaries, everybody seemed to want to try to solo every thing.

The battle with Gnikan

Freedom’s Stand was an important quest for me, as the reward was a new weapon.  Weapons are the one thing I will go out of my way to obtain.  My memories of EQ are always colored by the constant search for a weapon upgrade.

Oddly, the Station Cash store will sell you armor set kits that will fit you out appropriate for your level, but there are not any weapons in the store.  The one piece of equipment I would consider buying.  Anyway, the quest reward weapon was a serious upgrade from the initial weapon you are given.

Not a huge damage machine, but fast and with lots of stats, most of which increase as you level up.

And so it was last night that Potshot and I finally finished the EQ tutorial zone.

Wilhelm and Garfinkel in Tutorial Blue Armor

Thanks to crowding in the tutorial zone, it took quite a while to get through it.

Tutorial quest log, four nights of questing

Alone, we could have bowled through the quest chain in a couple of hours.  But where is the fun in that?

And being done, we bid farewell to the Mines of Gloomingdeep.  I only died there once this time.

Yeah, don't go into that one cave alone...

We headed to Crescent Reach, where we stayed only long enough to get to the Plane of Knowledge Book and teleport out.  On the PoK, we found the armor quest guy who sent us off to more familiar places.

Seriously, where does this eerie light come from?

Now to figure out our post-tutorial plan.  Do we do some old-school camping in the Karanas?  How do we get started with the Lost Dungeons of Norrath?  What gear quests should we be looking for?  And am I going to be able to afford this mercenary once they start charging me for it?