Unintended Night

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What I was supposed to be playing last night is World of Warcraft as Wednesday is our normal mythical nonsense night.  Unfortunately we were down two people already and I myself wasn’t really in the mood to do it either.  I’ve been dealing with some stuff and yesterday was a bit of a bad mental health day.  When those situations happen I tend to turtle up somewhere quiet and hang out by myself until whatever it is has passed.  World of Warcraft is such an inherently social game that even the act of logging in ends up prompting a bunch of people to poke me and say hello…  and it feels bad to ignore them when I need to ignore them.

Sure there is now “Appear Offline” mode but even then that is not a perfect scenario.  For me at least there are a handful of people that I am generally okay with interacting with, because they know the drill.  They understand deeply because they go through their own periods of turtle time, and as a result there is no need to attempt to keep up appearances as it were.  However if you are in Offline mode and you reach out to one of those people who are on the closest rings of your monkeysphere…  they cannot respond.  You will be able to send them messages all day long but they will always get the offline message when attempting to respond back to you.  As a result when I am feeling like this I just avoid WoW like the plague because it isn’t worth the hassle.

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What I wanted to be doing was to sit on the couch and play some Everquest while watching some more Mighty Boosh streamed through the television.  Unfortunately they seem to have had a rather traumatic maintenance yesterday.  The servers went down at 5:00 am EDT on the 18th and did not come back apparently until 2:30 am EDT on the 19th.  I have no clue at all what was going on…  but I kept trying to fire up the launcher and getting the maintenance message.  I have been enjoying myself a shocking amount in Everquest, but I realize that I am riding the drug that is nostalgia.  I am not sure how long that drug will last but for the moment I am riding its high.

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What I did instead was play a lot of MTG Arena as I got it set up on my laptop.  Yesterday Scopique wrote an interesting response to my post about Arena…  or at least one that mentioned it because it wasn’t exactly a direct response.  The funny thing is I wouldn’t necessarily call myself much of a competitive gamer.  I traditionally shy away from player versus player situations, but games like MTG Arena or the Crucible in Destiny don’t seem to bother me that much and I am not entirely certain why.  I stumbled across a post from Tobold who very much did not enjoy his time with Arena, but for the moment I don’t mind at all that it is largely just a stripped down 1v1 client.  I think ultimately if you are going into Arena expecting Duels of the Planeswalkers or MTG Duels either one… you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Arena is simply a Magic the Gathering Online that isn’t horrible.  Sure MTGO is serviceable but nothing about it is really intuitive and it feels like you are jumping through a lot of hoops to make anything work.  MTGO was absolutely less cludgy than the days of trying to arrange a game on IRC and then getting both parties to fire up and connect to each other through the Apprentice application.  However card gaming on a PC has changed drastically since then and Hearthstone more or less has led that charge.  Arena is that Hearthstone-esc interface for the far more seasons and complicated game of Magic the Gathering, and the thing is… it works amazingly well.

There have been a few times I have been bit by the game trying to move forward without me…  but in the grand scheme of things it seems to do 99.9% of the right things at the right time.  The other moments don’t bother me too much because I am not placing a lot of my personal ego into whether or not I am winning.  I am simply enjoying playing cards and occasionally I do really well.  I do feel like Tobold’s comment of not feeling like he could be competitive with the decks presented was a bit nonsense given that I have been entirely playing the stock Golgari Exploration deck.  I felt like I was able to pick it up and start winning matches almost immediately…  and sure as my rank has risen I am winning less matches but even that doesn’t bother me much.  I am still winning more than enough to complete daily quests getting me packs and gold…  to buy more packs.  All in all I feel like Arena is going to shape up to be a very solid version of Magic the Gathering Online…  but we need to stop the comparisons there for our own sanity.

Everquest For Reasons

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Last night I did some nonsense “for science” or mostly to refresh my mind so that I was no longer talking completely out of my arse about Everquest.  Prior to last night the last time I had played was apparently in 2013 if my screenshot archive was to be believed.  So not exactly the most up to date information about the game considering it is still receiving updates and tweaks.  Prior to starting up… or more correctly as the game downloaded I watched a video from Cohh to sort of re-familiarize myself with the game.  This video included a link to Brewall’s Everquest Maps pack… which I then installed to have slightly better guidance than the default options.

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The game presented a series of servers… some of which were flagged as preferred…  something I am not completely certain what it actually means.  However it did get me to end up rolling on Vox instead of one of the classic servers that slowly got joined over the years.  This is technically a newer account than the one that I had while playing the original Everquest, but it is the one that I have the vast majority of my EQ2 characters on…  so if I am going to sub somewhere it would be here.  On my older account however my characters are spread between Veeshan and Xegony…  neither of which sounded like an amazing option for starting fresh so I just went with Vox the new standard ruleset server that was being presented in the preferred list.

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Originally I created a Gnome Shadowknight…  but the fact that I could not change the color of the eyebrows from grey to something else caused me to ultimately delete that character and roll something completely different.  This time around I went with a Troll which  was a more min-maxery choice given that the latent regeneration has always been a little broken.  Essentially there are three races that are large enough to be able to Slam…  or essentially shield bash without the requirement of having a shield.  So you if you play a Troll, Ogre or Barbarian you can interrupt casting while using a two handed weapon…  which always seemed to fit the feel of a Shadowknight better than sword and shield.  Yes these are things that I was somehow able to dredge up from the past and summon forth to advise my judgement.

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The user interface still makes me deeply frustrated because it is sort of a much worse version of Everquest 2…  and I have never thought the EQ2 interface was that brilliant.  After about thirty minutes of tweaking I managed to get things moved in a way that didn’t make me quite so frustrated…  though still not entirely happy.  The hardest part was the mouse but after tweaking both the X and Y sensitivity I managed to get mouse look feeling a bit more normal.  The next step was trying to figure out how to get tab targeting to work properly which lead me out onto the forums to sort out which of the keybinds would actually do what I wanted it to do.  It turned out that basically I wanted to bind two things to tab…  nearest npc and cycle extended targets…  which combined sorta give me the style of tab targeting I am used to which is target the nearest thing or cycle through the things I am currently engaged with.

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Over the course of the evening things started feeling significantly better as I got adjusted to this window on time.  The combat is still largely non-interactive at low levels for a melee character and it was not long before I set up my old “Taunt and Slam” macro so that I could have a single button to train both abilities up with.  Originally I had lumped Sense Heading in there but it seems that you maybe no longer need to train that like you did before.  Most combat involved me pulling with my single spell Spike of Disease then starting up the auto attack and hitting my single ability button anytime taunt or bash/slam were up.  It was not glamorous…  but also pretty chill to hang out downstairs while watching television.

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Unfortunately as of writing this…  I am finding out that they apparently moved the spells so you start to get something new every level instead of not giving Shadowknights much of anything until around level 10.  So I just bought Sense the Dead, Locate Corpse, Invisibility vs Undead, Disease Cloud and Siphon Strength which should serve to make combat significantly more interesting.  The other thing that makes this entire experience more reasonable is the introduction of mercenaries… so I am running around with I believe a Human Cleric allowing me to do my tanky nonsense almost indefinitely receiving the occasional heal to keep me alive and functional.

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All in all it is not a bad experience so I do need to back pedal a bit regarding some of my comments the other day when talking about Project Gorgon.  That said I do think the interface for Gorgon is leaps and bounds ahead of this one, and it is probably the single most frustrating part of the experience for me.  I feel like I will spend some time soon trying to clean the interface up a bit or seeing if I can hide some of the interface elements to reduce the size of everything.  I am linking in a picture from Project Gorgon for reference…  as there is just way less stuff on the screen but providing most of the same information that the Everquest screen does.  Regardless it was interesting enough for me to get to level 8 and it is highly likely that I will keep leveling for a bit just to see how the experience expands once I leave the newbie cave.

 

 

Project Gorgon

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I am not entirely sure why, but this weekend I decided to buy into Project Gorgon on Steam.  Now in theory I could have been playing it for free all of this time given that based on the titles I have…  I played both in Pre-Alpha and Alpha.  I remember picking up the game in the past and finding it undeniably charming… but also very raw and unpolished…  which was not something I was looking for at that time.  However with several games either out or on the horizon that seem to be vying for the “Everquest Nostalgia” demographic…  I thought I should probably give it another shot.  Knowing how shoestring of a budget the game has been lead me to just go ahead and purchase it on Steam even though in theory I could have still logged in via my original account that I linked to while setting the game up.

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Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.  This can be a bit maddening if you are not in the right mindset, but in doing so the “newbie island” helps to set your focus on how this game works.  There are clues and directions out there…  but you need to spend time pouring over quest text and scribbling down notes as you go.  Which is handy because they do in fact give you an in game notepad to do so with.  One of the sequences on the island involves going around and scribbling down coordinates that you will ultimately need later on, and not writing down the correct coordinates could have dire consequences.

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I am extremely late to the game, because I know that some of my friends have been playing for ages.  However I still felt like I needed to talk a bit about it this morning to try and explain why it is so damned charming.  Compared to modern MMORPGs this is going to feel extremely spartan but I believe that is in large part the point.  This is a game where everything has an equivalent skill that can be raised, including death…  and a game where you have no classes or true levels to speak of.  You go out into the world and do things, and those things ultimately give you skills…  which you then blend together into something resembling your own personal “class”.

For example everyone can have a primary and a secondary combat skill.  I’ve chosen sword for my primary and bow for my secondary allowing me to play a EQ ranger sort of flavored character starting combat off with ranged attacks and finishing it up close and person with sword slashes.  I could have gone with other options which would have had their own leveling system and their own sets of attacks.  I’ve not actually encountered anything that would come across as traditional magic in the game, but I am certain it is in there…  just has to be discovered and unlocked like everything else seems to be.

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I am currently in a mode where I am just not sure what is useful and what is not.  It seems like everything that drops can in theory have a use…  but I may not be able to discover it yet because I lack the skill to do anything with it.  I spent a large amount of time yesterday learning how to cook and garden so that I could ultimately create some hashbrowns…   to gain favor with an NPC to be able to do something else.  Similarly there are half a dozen combat quests that I am slowly chipping away at as I go out into the world and take down mobs.  There is a significant amount of learning the lay of the land going on…  which of course has its own skill associated with it called Cartography… that increases as you clear the fog from various areas of the map.

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Like I said literally everything seems to have a skill associated with it that can be raised and that will ultimately unlock abilities if you get them high enough.  Combat right now can be extremely challenging because there is no formal “con” system like Everquest or DAoC had to guide you.  In theory you need to fight something… before you can really determine if you are strong enough to be able to hunt them regularly.  Since Death is its own skill…  dying over and over to something eventually makes you heartier and raises your maximum health and in theory doesn’t seem to have much in the way of negative effects.  There is some sort of a hardcore mode that acts more like Everquest or a similar game…  but that is not a thing I will ever be enabling.  What makes it even more entertaining is that you gain “Bonus Death Experience” for dying in new and interesting ways…  turning it into a bit of a mini-game to see if you can figure out new ways that you can shed the mortal coil.

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Anyone who played Everquest during the Shadows of Luclin expansion will recognize this scene…  with lots of vendors lined up in an area that looks very reminiscent of The Nexus.  The positive here is that each of these stalls is an NPC that can be rented by the players allowing for a much better shopping experience than players having to AFK all day to sell their wares.  One of the things you are going to need to get used to in playing Project Gorgon… is that it is a much slower paced game hearkening back to an era where there was plenty of time to throw out chat messages in between attacks in combat.  As a result from what I hear there is an amazing community that has grown up in the game and based on the forums at least… I would say they are more than willing to help new players get started.

There are certain aspects of the game that really lend to this…  for example it uses an EQ item drop system allowing players to just throw something on the ground that anyone else can pick up.  As a result there are often tons of viable items just laying around in town that high progressed players have discarded because they are not actually worth trying to sell.  One of the concepts that is hard to get used to is the fact that vendors have a limited amount of gold on them, and each of them will only buy certain items.  There is one vendor in town that will buy pretty much anything…  but you are going to run her out of gold very quickly and have to wait seven days real world time for her funds to regenerate.  This means that you need to get to know which vendors are the best options for buying which items…  either that or just drop it on the ground for someone else to use.

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Another really interesting system in the game is that you can “Hang out” with certain NPCs while offline, allowing you to do some measure of progression while not logged into the game.  You can only have one of these activities selected at a time and as far as I can tell you don’t need to be anywhere near the actual NPC when you log out to make it happen.  For example in the first image of this post there is a little note at the bottom the screen saying that I finished hunting Myconids with Mushroom Jack, which was a 4 hour long Hangout I chose before logging out for the evening.  Generally speaking you need to get to a certain faction level before these start opening up with NPCs, but doing so gives you an interesting way to push up their favor and also potentially gain items.

It took me awhile to figure this out, and in my sluggishness at arriving at this conclusion…  it lead me to miss out in a very important item on the newbie island that I am deeply wishing I had.  In fact I am starting a second character just to try and get said item…  and in theory will swap it over via the extremely expensive shared account storage.  The only problem I see with the game right now is that since I seem to be able to eventually learn how to do everything…  I question the need for alts.  At some point during my play through I decided to drop unarmed combat as my secondary attack and pick up a bow…  and even though it was grossly behind in skill I seemed to be able to catch it up quickly.  If you have the time and money… you seem to be able to do every possible tradeskill…  so I question what the hook is for running up additional characters?

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Over the course of the weekend I played eight hours of the game, and in doing so have become hooked.  While doing this Tam was apparently playing Shroud of the Avatar, which I myself booted up last night to see how the two compared.  They are both vying for that 90s era early MMO nostalgia… and quite honestly Project Gorgon scratches the right itches for me personally.  Shroud was extremely well funded and had a relatively large development crew to create…  but comes off as this extremely janky product.  Project Gorgon however has at its core a husband and wife development team, and a composer…  and a relatively low funded kickstarter…. and comes off as this completely charming and competent version of that Everquest era game that ultimately FEELS better to play.

Sure it needs more work, for example the game consumes a ton of system resources… far more than it should for the level of graphical fidelity.  However client optimization will come in time, and based on the little note you see before logging in the team realizes that is a problem.  However what is there is extremely sticky, and extremely impressive for such a small development team.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the game because each time I play I figure out something new.  Hell there are entire areas of the first major zone that I have not explored…  and with it likely NPCs that I have not talked to or encountered.  Ultimately this game is not going to be for everyone…  but if you ever wanted to see what playing Everquest felt like back during the early days Project Gorgon is a great starting place.

Fixing Everquest 2

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Tale of Two Games

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Last week we had the somewhat bittersweet news that Everquest Next was officially being cancelled.  For those who were utterly confused about what Landmark,  Next and the rest of the EQ games actually are… here is a quick rundown.  Everquest of course is the granddaddy of the big hit MMOs.  Then mere days before the launch of World of Warcraft…. Everquest II came out as an attempt at rebooting the world.  Everything in that setting happened after a huge calamity that saw Luclin the moon shattering and sending shards to earth.  The world was changed, the land fractured, and in many ways it allowed for a much larger scale game world than the original.  Everquest Next was the concept for what was ultimately going to be the third Everquest MMO… so in truth you can just think of it as Everquest III.  Landmark on the other hand is ultimately the tool that they were using to build the world of Everquest Next.  After playing around with it the folks decided that this was actually a really fun thing to play with in itself, in the Minecraft style.  Landmark was really never a fully fleshed out game, but more of a sandbox toy that players could fiddle with.  Since its launch they have made it more “game-like” but it still is missing a lot of the core features folks expect in an MMO.

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Now in the above paragraph I mentioned a key fact… that Everquest II launched on November 8th of 2004… and then was completely overshadowed by the launch of World of Warcraft on November 24th of that same year.  The two games took significantly different paths, and produced really different results.  Everquest II was this rich tapestry of cultures and game systems that provided a really deep game play experience that worked on so many levels.  World of Warcraft was a much more streamlined experience that asked less of the player, but ultimately became easier to pick up and play without an excessive amount of research.  We all know how the tales goes… that WoW becomes the juggernaut of MMO gaming and EQ2 becomes this sheltered garden with an excellent community and lots of great content…  but always treated as a second tier experience.  Right now Everquest II feels extremely dated, like an artifact of a different era whereas World of Warcraft feels somewhat evergreen.  The major difference there is that each time WoW releases an expansion they do significant systems overhauls that cause some sweeping changes to not only the fidelity of the game client itself, but also the back end systems.  Everquest II on the other hand has been this “Weasley House” of MMOs with content constantly being tacked on top of the older foundation.  The new content feels like modern content, but you experience a sort of whiplash as you shift between the different layers of the content and see just how drastic and inequitable the improvements have been.

Renovation Is Due

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The above image has been floating around for a few weeks now and represents some work that the Everquest II team is doing to update the orc model.  It seems that the newest expansion content that they are working on heavily focus on orcs, and as a result they are just updating the base model to bring them up to modern standards.  Seeing this however made me realize just how bad the old models look.  I mean it has always been one of those things in the back of my mind, but when you see what the team is capable of producing today… placed against something that has existed since 2004 it is staggering.  Now that Everquest Next is no longer a thing… I would love to see them pour some of those resources into producing a graphical upgrade to Everquest II.  The big problem with the game are just how dated the models and the animations look, and going back there is always an adjustment period and largely just hand waving off a bunch of details that get under my skin because the content itself is so amazingly rich.  I realize this is a massive undertaking, and it is the sort of thing that could be rolled in over time.  If you remember the original Everquest went through the same problems and with the release of Luclin they released new and updated character models.  Unfortunately in the case of EQ2… we need a lot more than just characters.  I would love to see this great game get a second life, because for so many of my friends that I have tried to get to play this game…  the ugliness of the assets was a barrier they simply could not get past.

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Now fixing the graphics isn’t going to fix the game entirely… but it would go a long way into making it feel more playable.  Next up however we really need to talk about the user interface, that has always felt a bit cludgy.  I’ve not played the game in the last decade without first installing some sort of third party addon user interface.  For years I played with Fetish Nightfall, and within the last six years or so I switched over to being a Drums UI guy.  With these UI extensions the game becomes rather good, but the whole process of acquiring a UI and keeping it updated… feels needlessly arcane in a manner I have not experience in any other game save for maybe Dark Age of Camelot where they had no official support for addons.  So the entire User Interface could use a bit of a facelift.  Finally we have to talk about the way combat works in this game.  I feel like this is the step that would actually cause rioting in the streets by diehard Everquest II fans…  but I also feel like it is the point that is the most needed.  The game really really needs to simplify combat in a way that does not require me to use 30+ abilities in a combat rotation.  The above picture is of my Shadowknight, and at least 30 of this abilities are ones that I pretty much used in every single round of combat.  It was even worse on my Dirge and I had these super complex patterns memorized… that even today I can sit down at the keyboard and automatically cycle through them.

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The problem is…  it doesn’t really feel fun.  I feel like I am playing some sort of a musical instrument instead of actually experience reactive combat in a video game.  Now I am not saying water it down to the level that single hotbar games have done… or simplify it to the point of an action MMO.  I just would love to be able to have one primary hotbar of abilities that get used every round… and then a bunch of optional abilities that throw in for flavor or when special conditions are met.  The cooldown of EQ2 abilities is so long that you need something… anything… to fill in the gaps so you quite often are simply mashing the next button that is off cool down.  Please understand that I am a huge fan of Everquest II… but every time I leave it is the cludgy combat system that eventually drives me away.  For several months I can overlook it and just blend back into the rich and vast game world… but I always reach this point where I need to play combat that simply “works better”.  I think maybe this is a ship that has already sailed, and after doing several combat passes early in the game…  I am not sure if they have the intestinal fortitude to attempt another.  All of this aid… simply making the game look better would go a long way into making this a more attractive experience to new players, but in doing this post I am talking about all of the things that I wish were different.  Combat will always be a huge part of that.

MMOs Worth Playing – Everquest II

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Perforated Week

mmosworthplayingThis week was a strange one, because it essentially consisted of two Mondays and two Fridays since I was off Wednesday due to Veterans day.  This week also pretty much was completely lost to Fallout 4.  So I contemplated just doing another post about that and skipping the MWP feature for a week.  That said I decided to fall back on an “oldie but goodie” that I could write about without much prep work.  Once again the MMOs Worth Playing section by intent is to highlight some of the awesome games out there, that maybe don’t get as much love as I feel they should.  This has been the pattern other than last week when I did a special BlizzCon edition, and this week we are continuing that pattern with some talk about Everquest 2.

Launching Against a Juggernaut

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When it comes to underdog games… it would be near impossible to find one that more fits that title than Everquest II.  Back in 2004 there were two games vying for everyone’s attention… the sequel of sorts to the wildly popular Everquest and the newcomer with a strong pedigree World of Warcraft.  By the time we got to November of that year… there was quite literally one game on everyone’s minds…  and it wasn’t the return to a calamity stricken Norrath.  EQ2 had the misfortunate of launching sixteen days before the game that would for the most part change the landscape of MMOs.  I was pretty torn as to which game I would end up playing, and I even pre-ordered Everquest II and spent a good deal of time in the alpha and beta processes.  However when it came time to launch…  there were a few people from my EQ1 days that were going to be playing… but the vast majority of my friends were simply waiting for World of Warcraft.  So since money was very much a thing back then… I simply didn’t pick up my EQ2 pre-order and waited for the coming of Azeroth.

Roughly six months into that experience however I got a patch of wanderlust like I always do and drug a group of friends over into Norrath and found that I really liked the game.  Just as I know eventually I will be playing World of Warcraft again, I will also be doing the same for Everquest II.  The sort of experience it provides is just different than you would find in most games.  For me at least the magic is the setting.  Norrath is world I am deeply nostalgic of, and with it comes little references to the good times I had in Everquest.  I realize for many at launch this was a huge problem… because instead of continuing where Everquest left off they chose to reboot the world of sorts and bringing the players in after the moon Luclin had exploded raining down shards around the world.  This event sundered the world causing it to break apart into small islands, and much of the theme of Everquest 2 has been one of exploration and rediscovery.

Unearthing Greatness

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The players are helping to recover the lost grandeur of the past, and with that we are uncovering locations that I remember extremely well in the original Everquest.  The big thing that spoke to me about the game however was the epic scale.  These zones are huge… so huge that often times they are made up of several distinct sub zones that all exist together in one seamless area.  What makes them work so well is the fact that they are really content dense, with all sorts of hidden treasures and events stowed in between what would normally be something you simply rode past.  One of the things that made EQ interesting was their construct called a “Ring Event”, which involved fighting certain mobs… which would spawn other mobs… which would ultimately culminate in a boss.  So as you wander the world, you never quite know what thing you are killing might lead to something far more interesting spawning.  I remember one of these particular in Nektulos Forest, that ultimately lead to a rare named boss that was used for a quest.

Another aspect of the game that I have always loved that follows this exploration and recovery feeling, is the Heritage quest.  These are truly epic quest chains that tend to require twenty or so discreet steps to complete and often involve you spending a considerably about of time crawling through dungeons and catacombs to find bits.  Each of them represents the attempt to uncover an item of fabled power from the old world, and as a former Everquest player…  I know almost every single item referenced by heart.  What makes them even cooler is that they function dual fold when you complete one.  For starters you get a really nice piece of gear that at the level you can get it serves to be some of quite literally the best gear you can get.  However when you out level it, you can turn it into a trophy item that you can then put in your player housing to remember your journey.  So it feels really cool to walk into your house and see all of these past accomplishments displayed in physical form.  Each item you hang on your wall or stash on a shelf is a memory of an event that you did in game, which makes the whole thing feel more important than simply earning points or titles.

Rich Systems

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Everquest II is this impossible game, because quite literally I don’t think it could have ever been created in today’s climate.  So much time was spent on systems that feel casual and exploratory gameplay, that enrich the player…  but don’t really make up much of an “endgame” in the traditional sense.  I just mentioned housing and that is absolutely a crucial one.  Dark Age of Camelot was the first time I had experienced player housing, and I knew that I was absolutely hooked.  The problem there is it took up large tracts of physical real estate in the world.  That meant a limited number of players could ever have housing, because there were a limited number of deeds available.  EQ2 went in a completely different direction, and at first I was not terribly certain of it…  and later I have come to realize it was a stroke of genius.  Instead of making housing exclusive… they simply made it part of the base gameplay experience by giving you an Inn Room that serves as your first house while going through the early levels.  From there the player gets used to the notion of checking into their room periodically and quests giving them items that they might want to display there.

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As you progress you can keep getting cooler homes with significantly more expensive weekly upkeep costs.  While player housing is awesome… where the game really shines is the introduction of Guild Housing.  In each guild I have been in, the house became a hub of activity for its members.  Due to the ability to place crafting machines, bankers and brokers all in the hall… it means that there will be a constant flow of players coming in and out as they do their business around the game world.  While it might seem silly… because we already have an always on guild chat… but seeing players in their physical avatar form just feels different and almost magical.  There are tons of people in the game world that I might talk to on a nightly basis… but it could be weeks before I actually cross paths with their characters in game.  Having this nexus meant that the guilds were actually more communicative that they might have been were it just left to text only conversation.  There was also always the added benefit of having some shared goal that the guild as a whole could work towards.  I remember doing all sorts of things that could grant “status” in the guild, which then could be spent as a currency to help pay the expenses of owning the guild hall.  Contributing status made it feel like I was helping… even though what I was actually earning was just a drip in the bucket comparatively.

Overwhelming Content

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I could literally write one of these posts a week, for the next few months and not have scratched the surface of talking about everything in this game.  The game is nearing the launch of expansion number Twelve Terrors of Thalumbra.   In the same time World of Warcraft has had six expansions, and this is not counting the mini adventure packs, which I believe there have been four or five of at this point.  The amount of content of all types that is available is just completely mind boggling, and at any given level you usually have multiple paths that you can take to get to your goal.  My favorite part about the game is that they still have public dungeons.  This is the aspect that made the original Everquest feel so vibrant to me, was that you could go into these super dangerous areas with your friends… that were huge NPC warrens that felt like working areas.  If you went into the kitchen, then you found a chef… if you went into the dungeon… then you found a jailer or a warden.  It felt like we were actually raiding bases, rather than taking a theme park ride where at the end we got loot for our trouble.

These big public dungeons were places you could just go and hang out with your friends… where the difficulty level was enough to make bringing friends along for the fun worth while.  All of which made it all the more enjoyable when you finally reached a level of gear where you could actually go into these places and survive by yourself.  I remember the amazement the first time I saw a friend soloing Sebilis for example in Everquest… and then was shocked when I reached the point where I could solo tough mobs like the Sand Giants in the Oasis of Marr.  Everquest even in its more modern version is really good at setting up these goals that you want to go back and achieve later.  If you can’t take on this monster now… then you will likely go back later and get revenge on it when you can.  I’ve talked before about how fear is missing from games… and wandering these public dungeons brought it back.  That if you were able to keep up with the spawn rate, you could stay in there in a tentative state of safety… however if one thing went wrong…  you were running back in after a death.  That era in games seems to be all but extinct at this point.

Dated But Good

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At this point Everquest 2 is feeling its age, and with recent Daybreak mess… it is unlikely that this is going to change at any point in the near future.  The engine is old, and has not had the benefit of having frequent face lifts in the same fashion that World of Warcraft has.  As a result the model detail is a little off, and the world building itself can feel a little cludgy in the early zones.  There however is an amazing artistry as each time they release an expansion they push this old engine beyond its limits and find new ways to keep this game interesting.  This is absolutely a game that I would suggest everyone play at least once, but in doing so you have to go into it knowing that you are essentially playing an artifact of a bygone era.  They simply do not make games like this one any more, and to some extent I am regretful of this fact.  The amount of detail that can be found between its cracks is enough to drive you completely mad if you try and assimilate it all.  If you do start an new character I highly suggest you either roll in the Neriak/Darklight Woods starting zone or Kelethin/Greater Faydark… because as the game went on they got significantly better at doing the starter experience.  If you do end up trying the game, I would love to hear your own impressions.

 

Savior of Glenumbra

Awkward Ex-Coworkers

spicychicken We are having some minor issues with my wife’s vehicle, so as a result I had to get up crazy early yesterday morning to drive her into work.  Crazy early because I still wanted to be able to blog like normal, and she generally leaves when I am about halfway done with my morning post.  As a result it made the entire day feel sluggish.  After work we made plans to go eat at one of my favorite restaurants near her workplace so I could get cheese tots and spicy chicken.  The above shot is what the dish looks like… I snapped a photo some time ago to brag on her for bringing it home to me one night.  We hung out and ate with another teacher friend of hers and it was a pretty awesome time…  until something happened to taint it.

We had been there for a little bit, and our order had not arrived when I noticed someone walk in that looked vaguely familiar.  While trying to place him I saw his wife walk in and immediately the combination of the two faces together snapped in my memory.  These were some ex-coworkers and while they were nice enough…  they came from a period of time when I was at the worst place I have ever worked.  To make it worse they are both extremely good friends with what I considered to be the boss from hell.  So it is not exactly the situation where I want to go over and “catch up”.  Thankfully they were with what looked like parents and too busy with their own conversations to notice me much.

I hate that anyone associated with that workplace is immediately flagged as an enemy in my head, and I am not really sure how to get past it.  Every place I have ever worked I have been the group rockstar, and the current environment is no less true…  although in my present situation we have three rockstars working on the same team.  This workplace however, from day one there was nothing I could ever do right.  The boss would loosely stub things out in a project website, with roughly a single sentence describing what needed to be done.

If I asked questions as to what the hell he meant by that…  I would catch hell for not taking initiative.  If I figured things out on my own, and just got the job done… I would catch hell for not doing it exactly like he wanted it to be done.  There was seriously a no win situation, and the two people that walked in represented that time period in my life.  Every time I see someone associated with that period I just want to scream how much of an asshole that guy was and how he made my life complete and total crap.  But instead I smile and nod and try my damnedest to ignore them and hope they walk away.

Savior of Glenumbra

Screenshot_20140404_220811 Last night we got home fairly late from meeting the friend for dinner, so by the time I made it upstairs it was almost eight.  At that point folks had already paired up into dungeon runs, so I opted to simply focus on finishing up the rest of Glenumbra.  I feel like I am moving super slow, because I simply cannot chew through the Elder Scrolls content as fast as others seem to be able to.  I have friends who have been “finished” with Glenumbra for some time, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they are nowhere near 100% on the zone… and quite truthfully as much time as I have spent there I seriously doubt I have gotten everything either.  I do have all of the icons on the map turned from black to white, and have gotten 100% of the skyshards… so I feel like it is “good enough” for me to move on.  Last night after finishing Crosswych I got the “Savior of Glenumbra” achievement.

Screenshot_20140404_220734 I have to say… Stormhaven means serious business.  I managed to get to level 18 in Glenumbra before moving on, but when I moved into Stormhaven that is supposed to be a 15+ zone I noticed everything hit considerably harder.  Granted this could be in part to the fact that I am still mostly wearing level 14 gear, since I need High Iron which cannot be found in Glenumbra.  More so I think that they have just ratcheted up the difficulty.  Instead of fighting random bandits, you are now fighting random daedra.  While they might not have the hitpoint pool…  Clanfear are Clanfear…  they all seem to be just as hard to kill.  The new zone is just as lovely, if not slightly more damaged by the conflict.  The screenshots are from the first town, which is a lovely little port just a ways inside of the zone line.  I look forward to meandering my way across the zone like I did in glenumbra.

I swear this game was designed specifically for me, because it is littered with things to find and interesting things to kill.  I love that crafting can be leveled without having ever crafted a single item.  I am constantly bringing back bags full of gear that I got from killing baddies, and through doing nothing but deconstruction I have managed to get Woodworking to 10, and Clothing to 9.  While I have been making plenty of blacksmithing items, I still have gotten most of my levels from deconstructing “found” things.  This is the only game system I have ever played that supported leveling crafting through mass slaughter.  I have to say I love it though, it lets me play the game the way I want to play it, and limit my time hovering over the forge.

Visiting a Friend

Landmark64 2014-04-05 09-02-04-73 This morning I saw a tweet from Scopique thanking me for reminding him to feed his claim in Landmark… which in turn reminded me to log in and feed my own.  As much as it might annoy me that we can only store five days worth of copper in our claim banks, it is in the very least forcing me to log in every few days to make sure I have it fully stocked.  Right now I am in a weird place with my own claim.  I need to go on another massive stone harvesting run, but I have not been able to bring myself to do so… because I would rather be playing Elder Scrolls Online.  For a few days however my friend Syl has said that I should pop by her claim and see the progress.  As a result I ended up with a pretty cool screenshot of the pair of us overlooking her claim.

Landmark64 2014-04-05 08-55-26-26 I hope she won’t be cross with me for posting a picture of her Inn “in progress”.  I have to say the interior is coming along extremely well.  I love the fireplace and the basin, and on a rack behind me is a really cool lance that she made from scratch.  I love the way the house is wrapped around the tree.  Makes me realize just how much work I need to do on my own.  I am really good at roughing out massive structures, but I always lack the drive to go back in later and do the fine detail work.  She however seems to excel at it, putting the finishing touches on rooms as she builds them.  Super impressed with what she has done so far, and hopefully at some point this weekend I will get the drive to log in and go on another massive stone farming expedition.  If nothing else was cool to pop over and see her claim for a bit before logging to work on this here blog post.  Is that blogception?

#ElderScrollsOnline #Landmark #Glenumbra #Stormhaven #ESO

Trials of Ascension

Computer Crash

This morning I really don’t have the time to devote to a proper post as I got upstairs, ate my oatmeal, drank my coffee and then noticed one of my computers was stuck in a booting up loop.  As a result I spent most of my normal blogging time trying to resurrect it.  It appears to be gone now, and I will have to figure out what happened over the weekend.  But in the meantime as I play a somber rendition of taps for it… I need to get a post together today. 

Trials of Ascension

 

File this in the “Yet Another MMO Kickstarter” category.  Trials of Ascension came across my RSS feed this morning so I felt like I needed to check it out.  Their claim is that they plan to build a “truly innovative MMORPG” and some of the things they mention wanting would definitely be different.  The tech demo they posted looks pretty spartan, but then again so did the Pathfinder tech demo. Hopefully given resources they will clean that up a bit.  In it’s current state it reminds me quite a bit of the old Atari published MMO Horizons.  Some of the features they mention wanting are…

  • Perma Death – 100 deaths and the character stays dead
  • Random Everything – no static spawns or dungeons
  • Hardcore Gameplay – video talks about wanting to challenge the players a lot
  • No Fast Travel – feels it shrinks the world too much
  • No Global Chat – whisper and shout only work within a radius
  • No Names – can’t see character or npc names
  • Magic Difficult – magic is hard to acquire but extremely powerful
  • GM Team – live GM events and interaction
  • Cooperative Crafting – players have to work together to craft items
  • No Minimap – world map but no way to tell exactly where you are
  • No Con System – no way to determine the level range of a player or mob

Not For Me, But Maybe You

So what they propose is a drastically different game than what is available currently.  I am posting this on my blog because I figure there are several of my readers who would be excited to play something like this.  The problem is… I am not.  I read the list of features they want to implement, and I remember the fervor that was whipped up before Vanguard released about it being a return to hardcore gameplay.  The problem is… players will say they want this sort of a game but they never seem to show up with their pocket books when one is released.

Maybe Kickstarter is a viable vehicle for this sort of niche vision, and potentially it can get built and find a quiet following to keep the lights on.  Mostly I am just shining a light on this existing to let folks who might want to support it know about it.  Personally nothing they are describing sounds like “fun” to me.  I like my modern conveniences and I tend to rebel against the games that don’t have them.  However that is not to say that there are not players out there who have been craving this more hardcore and primitive gaming experience.  In that case support the hell out of this game and hope it makes it through to fruition.

WoW Remix

Gamer Nature

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One of the things I have learned while playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn… is that any player from 11 or 14 classic… really hates it when a player compares the game to World of Warcraft.  I’ve seen so many of these “classic” players fill with so much rage the first time someone mentions WoW.  Yesterday I encountered a small bit of it outside of the game in a G+ thread where myself and another tank were giving an up and coming Gladiator some advice on how best to deal with multi-mob threat.

Best advise I have to you is: don’t expect this game to have "WoW equivalents." This isn’t WoW. It’s not a WoW clone. It’s not trying to be WoW. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you take it as it is, rather than forcing it to fit some molded preconception you have for it. You’re trying to fit a circle peg into a square hole.

WoW Remix

So I found the above comment rather puzzling.  Especially coming from where this game did… the new version while not a “WoW Clone” is at the very least a WoW Remix.  Almost every ability I have has some simulacrum in World of Warcraft.  For example I think of my Warrior as a mix between a Druid tank and a Deathknight tank.  While it is in fact a unique beast… I still refer to the process of tabbing through mobs and applying Butchers Block as “Tab Sunder”.  Everything ultimately gets referred to more often than not by the wow name for it.  I don’t teleport back to my home location… I hearth.

Since most of the active MMO gamer pool has a relatively short memory… this is the way it has always been.  Before WoW claimed the crown as the most popular MMO… each new release got referred to by the terms we used in Everquest.  Damaging yourself to get back mana… was referred to as “Twitching” or “Cading” in reference to the Necromancer or Shaman spells.  Any form of a speed boost was often referred to as “SoW”, I can remember hearing people call the various speed powers “SoW” in City of Heroes.  To some extent listening to the FFXI diehards talk in FFXIV ARR has been a trip down memory lane… because those players carried with them terms from EQ into XI like DD for direct damage.

Top Dog Sets Rules

Awhile back there was a thread somewhere asking what games you would suggest to new players… and quite honestly despite my sordid relationship with the game, I have to say I would always suggest that someone play at least SOME World of Warcraft.  In my own guild we have a few players who have never played the game, and as a result they miss the references that are made in guild chat and mumble all of the time.  Thing is… this is not just a thing my guild does, this is a thing EVERY guild does in EVERY new game.  World of Warcraft had its own vocabulary that was grown out of the lingo that we used in Everquest.  Essentially as that game eclipsed the other games, its ability names started to take the place of the previous ones that were used.

Today going into any MMO for the first year at least… every single thing in game is going to be referred to by its WoW equivalent.  So the fact that as a seasoned MMO player… I can find immediate and direct WoW equivalents makes me think that the above statement is a little naïve.  FFXIV very much has wow equivalents, just like every game since the rise of wow has… and every game after will as well.  It is the fact that a game becomes the market leader that determines who dictates the vocabulary, because essentially there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we do in FFXIV also has a direct EQ vocabulary equivalent, as everything we see today is a remix of the things that came before it.  The comparisons will someday shift again, but only when a game has eclipsed the current leader.

Fighting Nostalgia

Familiar Itch

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Over the last few days I have been feeling immensely nostalgic about World of Warcraft.  This tends to happen to me as we near Blizzcon time, and I start to see twitter a buzz with people excited to be attending the convention.  Some of my tweeps have even resorted to Blizzcon countdown clocks, and yesterday they finally reached the 20 somethings in days left til the conference.  With this wave of nostalgia comes the all too familiar desire to re-up my account and play some of it.  It would not have been the first time I did so on a whim, and is more than likely not going to be the last.

However I am wise to this trickery, or at least have a contingency plan in place.  I have come to the realization that I like the idea of playing WoW a lot more than actually playing it.  As a result I keep a trial account at the ready for when of these urges strikes, and last night I patched up my client once more.  I figure if I make it through playing the trial account with the desire to play more WoW… then it is probably time to re-up.  I figure this is a decent litmus test to see whether or not the desire to play is real before I spent $15.

Fighting Nostalgia

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As a result I rolled a brand new Worgen Warrior on my trial account and proceeded to play.  Immediately the buzz of the nostalgia started to wane.  I had honestly forgotten just how spammy playing a low level warrior was, and by example EVERY World of Warcraft melee character.  The unpredictable nature of rage and to a lesser extent energy left me with a decision.  I either spent the entire time fighting watching my bars to optimize cooldowns… or I could just spam whatever basic attack I wanted to ALWAYS go off.  Being a relatively impatient player… I always chose the spam route.

After a few minutes of spamming Heroic Strike… I remembered just how much my fingers used to ache after a dungeon run, always banging on the key I wanted to fire next because I could not be bothered to actually watch my bars.  Basically my master plan of fighting the wave of nostalgia worked, all too well.  I made it to about level 5 on my baby Worgen, to the point at which the forsaken show up… at which point I was supremely bored and logged out of the game.  Having a taste of the gameplay reminded me that it really was not as fun as my mind had built it up to be.

Project Phoenix

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Sometimes a game is much more enjoyable to remember fondly, than to actually play it.  Right now there is a kickstarter going on called Project Phoenix.  The goal of it is to essentially recreate the magic that was City of Heroes/City of Villains.  I had so much fun playing these games, and regularly descend into bouts of nostalgia swapping with another friend of mine on mumble.  The problem is… I think CoH is another game that is much more enjoyable to talk about fondly than to actually play it.  I remember so much about the game, but every time I tried playing it again during its later free to play years the whole experience just felt lacking.

I wish this project the best of luck, but super hero games for me seem like they were a phase of a bygone era.  I have tried Champions Online and DC Universe Online and in both cases… I was carried into them on the nostalgia of City of Heroes but found both gaming experiences somehow unable to live up to my memories and as a result my expectations.  I think World of Warcraft and City of Heroes are both games for me like the original Everquest… extremely enjoyable to sit around and talk about the “good old days” but not really fun for me to play any longer.

Thing is… I think that is perfectly okay.  I think nostalgia works that way, it makes us romanticize things that would now be trivial.  For example I can remember being amazed at just how huge the sandbox that my father made for me was, and how I spent hours playing in it with my Tonka trucks.  However were I to evaluate it from adult eyes, I would likely find it tiny and boring… and be ready to stop in a few minutes.  Often times things we remember so fondly end up tarnished if we go back and re-experience them.  This has been the case for Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft and a long list of other games that I have moved on past… but tried to rekindle that flame.