EQ2 – Ch-ch-ch-changes*

MMO players don’t like change. Actually, people aren’t fond of change much, unless it’s change they’ve initiated and therefore welcome at least in part. But MMO players really don’t like change.

So when you yank out EQ2’s most hallowed and ancient (keyword: old) starting cities, there’s going to be a little outcry. The forum thread on it is already 15 pages long after 36 hours — which, while it’s not the 150+ pages such controversy would generate on the WoW boards, is s sign of pretty heated debate among the EQ2 community. Arkenor has weighed in on his blog with a pretty reasoned “gah! no!” — and even got a dev response from Greg Spence, lead programmer for EQ2. (Rawr Ark!)

Note — the cities aren’t going away. Just the Islands associated with them as newbie experience, and hence the opportunity to start in either of those two cities.

A quick comparison:

— Any of the newer starting zones (Timorous Deep especially but also Darklight Wood and to some extent Greater Feydark) provides better and more class-appropriate loot, more money, and more in the way of ongoing global storyline.

— The newer starting cities aren’t segmented into separate-zone compartments the way Qeynos and Freeport are. Now, while this can actually make it a pain in the ass to move around in the newer cities (or craft, for instance, when there are 85 other people in the zone with you) it does provide a much more connected feeling. I’m IN Kelethin or IN Gorowyn, and not just in some village or outlying quarter that’s norminally part of the town it’s in.

Admittedly this is a contentious issue. The Freeport and Qeynos “villages” — basically racial ghettoes, call em what you will — were part of those cities’ charm. They were also part of why moving around in those cities was a pain in the ass, but the charm thing was undeniable. You’d get funnelled to where your racial buddies lived and could settle there if you liked, or move to another village if you didn’t like. There are tons of EQ2 players who love the Willow Wood (the Wood Elf village) with a passion I’ll never understand. I think that place is twee and ridiculous to navigate. Personally, I’m fond of Castleview Hamlet. Point being, each village had character (or a slightly different shade of browny-grey muck on the walls, for Freeport). The newer cities are much more homogeneous.

Aye, and there’s the rub. We don’t like homogeneous. We want to stand out.

Even more fundamentally, as MMO players, we feel hugely threatened when stuff is taken out of our games. Putting stuff in — fine, that’s what we pay you guys for. Taking stuff out — whoa, what? No!

Doesn’t really matter what it is. But when it’s something that deeply affects the in-game identities of a bunch of players (especially the older (read: more committed to the game?) players), you can expect some pretty heated debate and WTFs.

I’m going to be on the fence on this one. I’ve gone through the Island newbie experience at least a dozen times in the last year, and I’ve been through the other cities’ newbie experience even more times (with the exception of Greater Faydark — I really dislike that starting area though detailing why would take a whole ‘nother post). I even have the pix to prove it:

Alas poor Ysh - this one didn't live to see level 20

The stories on the newbie islands are fun, and the experience did get streamlined a few years ago. There’s something appealing — to me, anyway — about being in a “safe zone” before you head out into the wider game world, though I suspect that’s actually a minority view. (“Sheeeit, just drop me into the action already. Make me start at level 20 too while you’re at it, m’kay? The game only starts at the level cap, right?”) On the downside, the money and items and general “this is how I fit into this freaking GINORMOUS game world” are kinda lacking.

Sure, you could fix that. Update the loot, update the money. But that takes time and real resources, which are at a premium in every single MMO team I’ve ever seen. And for all we know, maybe they’re doing just that but they don’t like to talk about it (kind of like working for charidee).

So while I’m not sure I like this change, because I’m an MMO player and I too dislike seeing stuff taken out, I kind of see why it’s being done. As I mentioned in the comments on Ark’s post, a lot of people that I’ve induced to try EQ2 over the last year have eventually given up at least partly because they couldn’t find a foothold, a direction to go in, an idea of what to do in a world that’s not quite a sandbox but still so damn huge people aren’t quite sure what to do with it when they first get there. A few more guidelines might result in a few more retained players — and EQ2 is really good enough that it deserves to retain some new players, even if it is getting a little long in the tooth here and there.

Now, on to the other change. Oh yes – not just one major thing, but two. I can imagine the EQ2 team getting out the asbestos knickers when they patched those things into the test server.

No more mounted combat.

That’s it.

Course, it’s never that simple. My gut reaction is “WTF? I’m going to be hopping on and off my damn horse every time I have a fight?!” Actually, I have a vague memory of that being exactly how it worked in some game or other (WAR? EQ2 in the old days?) and it was a pain in the visual ass. Seriously. Clip-clop, clip-clop, swing-sword, *poof horse*, kill mob, *unpoof (repoof?) horse*, clip-clop.

It’s about as ungainly, visually, as that was to read.

Then again, if it’s done smoothly and doesn’t have all the stupid little issues of which I could name 5 or 10 right off the bat — the main one being it happening when you really don’t want it to, repeatedly — maybe I can live with it. Many of the classes have some really cool combat animations (eg Monks, Bruisers) that just don’t show well off the back of a horse. (Hovering mounts are another matter, but NONE of my chars use those. I hateses them. They makeses me seasick.)

My take on this debate is simple: if possible, I’d like to have a choice in the matter. Let me turn that on or off. I understand that’s not likely to happen, but that’s how I’d like it. Hell, make mount-visible combat be off by default, but give me the chance to turn it back on if a) it won’t impact general resources too much (I gather it’s an issue in raids?) and b) I don’t care about seeing my monk do genuine crane kicks.

I’ll be interested to see what the upshot of the howling debates is, though I suspect it’ll be something like this: Qeynos and Freeport as starting cities will go away, because the initial experience they provide just doesn’t match up to the other places and you end up in a city that’s made up of a million little villages… and you end up wondering where the hell all the people in the game are. This is not good for a game in terms of first impressions. As for the mount thing… if the howling is loud enough it may get postponed, but if there’s some real graphical impact from doing this then it’ll get done. Maybe we’ll get the on/off switch somewhere down the road if the performance gains aren’t as noticeable as they’d hoped.

EDIT — The above fence-sitting notwithstanding, if they start removing some of the (admittedly myriad, but each unique and snowflakey!) classes, I’ll be at the front with my pitchfork and my torch. Just sayin’.

~ ~ ~ ~

*And if you know the Wonderstuff song this title came from, good for you. You must be almost my age. If it made you think of David Bowie instead, you’re even older. Suck it up.

EQ2 – Bonus XP Weekend April 23-25

Title says it all, really. If you play EQ2 and you adventure, you’ll be getting more xp from Friday (today) 3PM Pacific to Sunday 11:59PM.

I’m not linking to the wallet thingy – find your own!

No mention is made of crafting xp and although I want to say that usually bonus xp weekends include crafting, I won’t, because this would be the time I’d be wrong. I’ll be able to confirm later on today when it kicks off. I have a crafter or two, don’tcha know.

EQ2 – Even more things come to pass

A year ago — when I came back to EQ2 and picked Fairuza back up at level 36 or so — I’d have laughed if someone told me I’d be max level someday. I’ve done it before, though admittedly rarely, but it’s just not something that’s all that important to me. At least as far as adventuring goes. Crafting, now that’s another matter, and if you know me you already know maxing crafters is one of the things I do.

But adventuring — not so much. I just don’t care enough about it to work at it very hard. If it happens as I’m doing other stuff then fine, it’s not like I’m going to throw the level fish back in the pond, but I don’t particularly go out just to level.

And then when Fair hit the mid 70s she sort of ground to a halt adventuring-xp wise anyway, as I’ve already griped about previously, so I was more or less resigned to not hitting the (old) level cap. Then the expansion came out and raised that to 90.

Then, a few days ago, I had an epiphany. A minor one, anyway, since it’s something I tell others to do regularly and yet that somehow didn’t occur to me for several months. Here it is: If you’re having a horrible time in a particular zone, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE. Not exactly rocket science, is it? Well apparently for Fairuza it is, and it took forever before she said “Sod you for a game of darts” to the Fens of Nathsar and got her ass up to the Moors of Ykesha.

I like the Moors — it’s wide open (albeit a bit brown or — depending where you are — a bit bluegrey), it’s really easy to navigate and the mobs, while plentiful, aren’t so damn thick on the ground that you have to be an Olympic Slalom expert to be able to get from A to B. So I putzed about in the Moors a bit, enjoying the fact that it wasn’t the Fracking Fens of Freaking Nathsar. When my guildies told me that if I could handle Ykesha I could certainly handle the new Sentinel’s Fate content, I hopped up to Paineel, took some anti-nausea tablets, and went about racking up some questy goodness.

Long story short, there is a LOT of questy goodness up there. I don’t actually feel like I had to d anything particularly fighty — and certainly nothing grindy — and yet here I am, level 80 for the first time in my adventuring life. I know, it’s not the max anymore, but it was not too long ago and for me it’s a great achievement. I’m proud of myself.

Now I can go back to slacking off and getting my crafter epic weapon of evaccy goodness.

Things do come to pass

Almost a year ago I was wondering whether people would pay less for a game if it meant they got less playtime — rather than paying $15 a month for unlimited access. This is one such post, and here’s another, though there were others and I’m just too lazy to go look for them.

Well anyway, it’s happened. I just got this in the mail from the Everquest II team:

It’s not perfect, because it’s not X amount of time over a 30 day period, but rather 3 consecutive days, but it’s a first step. I know tons of people who’d make use of something like this — pay your 5 bucks, get a weekend’s worth of being able to check in on a game, hook up with old friends, and see what’s new.

It’s also not a bad way of trying before you buy back in.

If more games start offering this kind of thing, I can actually see myself playing more than one game. I don’t want to buy a whole sub to EVE because I don’t think I’d play it enough — granted, $15 a month really isn’t much but when it’s $15 a month for 4 games it does start to add up. 5$ a month for 4 games, on the other hand, is only a little more than one monthly sub and should provide plenty of game time.

Like I said, the only downside I can see to this is that the days have to be consecutive. I expect it’s probably easier to keep track of (start now, expire now +3 days) but it’s not like it’s hard to keep track of playtime either. I’m sure it wouldn’t buy you 72 hours of playtime (yeesh! I’d be all over that!), but they could have done $5 buys you 5, 10, or 15 hours.

Still, it’s a start. Thumbs up to the EQ2 peeps!

EQ2: The Provisioner That Ate Sheboygan

Typically, I didn’t find my screenshot key in time and missed out on the “You are now level BlahBlah” popup message and pretty light show, though I expect I’ll live. So, obligatory bragging screenie:

Aside from the bragging, I wanted to share with the other EQ2 crafting types out there that the 80-90 road wasn’t nearly as awfully grindy as I expected it to be — though it’s possible I have a different definition of “grind” than some when it comes to crafting.

It is worth noting that I would never have been able to level Fair this quickly (quick for me) if it hadn’t been for Halasian Empire’s spiffy guild harvesting NPCs: if I’d had to harvest all the stuff I needed myself it would have involved a lot more time and a great many more deaths, though I was glad to notice that Tier 9 harvesting isn’t impossible even if one isn’t max adventuring level. It just requires a bit more patience and a lot more cunning with respect to aggro ranges, and I saw several spots where harvesting was entirely safe.

While I ran out of crafting vitality (think rest xp) rather quickly, and don’t yet have access to the lovely lovely 6-year veteran reward that refills one’s crafting vitality once a week per char, I did still have a bunch of veteran-reward xp potions which gave Fair +55% xp for an hour each. I think I sucked down 6 or 8 of them in the course of getting to 90, mostly because I’m a slacker and keep running off AFK only to remember 15 minutes later that the precious potion is busily ticking down.

The first couple of levels came from doing crafting quests in and around Paineel — I haven’t finished those quest lines, since I haven’t even met the Panda People (aka Hua Mein) yet, but I got tired of having to ride those little platforms over great gulphing nothingness as I went from pillar to post, so eventually I stopped doing those and just went home to the guild hall to do crafting writs. That had two benefits: 1) A lot less crafting lag than I was experiencing in the new zones, and 2) a fair bit of guild xp, which is always nice to get.

It might interest other provisioners to know that the expansion is nicer to us than previous tiers have been. For one thing we get a dozen recipes each level rather than the measly 4 or so we used to get — that adds up nicely over the course of 10 levels, and it’s just plain better to have more stuff to make when you level up. Secondly, provisioner crafting has been fixed to bring it in line with other professions: flubbing an event counter now hurts (somewhat), but countering correctly also restores power, which it never used to do and which was a pain in my crafting backside in the lower levels. Sure, you can palliate that with power regen items like totems, but it always irked me that we weren’t coherent with other professions, with the exception of alchemists who (I think) are still shafted in the power-returning events department.

So all in all, getting Fairuza to 90 wasn’t nearly as painful as I was expecting. Like I said though, I don’t particularly mind doing a crapton (27 this morning, for instance) crafting writs; they provide enough xp, guild xp and personal status to keep me entertained and feeling like I’m being rewarded. Other people’s mileage may vary — I know I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how awful provisioning is, though I’ve never seen it myself. (Obviously, or I wouldn’t have levelled 2 of them on different accounts.)

The best thing of all — and the main reason I was prepared to chain all those writs like a maniac — is that my other characters on that account now have their xp bonus back for having a max-level character. It’s only 10% right now, but it all adds up; the next person I get to 90 will raise that bonus to 20%, and so on up to a max of 50% which really does make those levels fly by. It’s like free t-shirts — no gamer can refuse an xp bonus.

Good luck to anyone else out there levelling crafters in the expansion. And if you’re levelling adventurers, more power to you. I doubt any of mine will ever get to 90 adventuring before the next expansion comes out!

EQ2: Travels with my frying pan

There’s something pathetic about having early access to a game  expansion and not being able to make use of it. My EQ2 Sentinel’s Fate CE box gazed sadly at me each time I opened the drawer to which I’d consigned it until we could get our internet access sorted out (and our computers here & unpacked). Then, as Sod’s Law* will have it, when the internet & computer thing happened I got real work that chewed up a couple more days.

WTS Conscience. Must offer enough to pay the bills.

But finally, after a weekend spent hearing about people’s experiences in shiny new zones with shiny new quests and shiny new crafting recipes, I got to try it out for myself.

Yea, and it was pretty. And lo, there was lag.

Actually, it was more packet loss than lag, but the net result w-w-w-was v-v-very h-h-h-hitchy gaming. A frame rate of 8-15 will do that to ya.

And I will, at some appropriate time, rant about EQ2’s increasingly huge zones, which I am pretty sure contribute to things running more slowly. But I’m not a developer so I could be talking out of my arse. All the same, when you have a more than reasonable computer with a more than reasonable gfx card, 8 FPS not at max settings is a bit of a pisser. EQ2 has always had this issue, and it’s one of my biggest complaints about the game. A decent computer should be able to run this damn game well all the time, not just some of the time in some places, and with the damned shadows turned on. Maybe Blizzard can give them some tips on how it’s done.

But today is not the day for that rant; the previous paragraph was just foreshadowing. Instead, I’ll post a couple of screenies. Arkenor beat me to it, but have PrtScrn, will snap. First up: Fairuza’s shiny new Collector’s Edition Not-He-Man’s-Tiger-Really cat mount:

They come in two flavours, armoured or not, and each character on the account can pick one. They’ve got a 65% movement bonus, more yay! And they don’t move nearly as stupidly as some of the old-world cats (or character cat-forms), so  triple yay!

Next up a view of the, er, viewer at the Observatory of Dartain’s Eye, just because it was pretty neat. I’d turned my gfx settings down a little by then and you can tell. Well, I can tell, so bummer and mutter mumble whine whinge.

Problem is, Odus is another one of those damned zones that’s been built floating in the sky and I have this perfectly reasonable fear of l-l-lag riding my way over the edge and to certain death. Doesn’t matter that death is pretty meaningless in EQ2 these days, it’s the principle of the thing. I do so hate dying for a lag-missed step. Enough already! Pleeeeease! It’s possible to make perfectly fun zones that are firmly planted on, you know, the ground! My acrophobia hates you all. (Muttley grumbling.)

Sadly there’s some fairly good lore about how this place got to be where it is and how it got to be so blasted. So damn you again, designers. I’ll just have to switch out to my email each time I’m taking one of those little floaty platforms from A to B. And you can totally forget about me taking stupid little rope bridges between stupid little floaty islands with nothing under my feet, m’kay. So there’d better not be any quests that take me there. Or Mort had better be in the house to take over the Fairuza-steering.

Oh, er, sorry — are some of you waiting for a review? I haven’t really seen that much of it. The crafting questline is a lot of fun, at least I thought it was, but then I’m the type of player to enjoy crafting quests. The Paineel part of it (Paineel is the zone’s central city-type place) alone, assuming I’ve even finished it, took Fairuza from 80 to 81, and then doing her new recipes and a couple of crafting writs took her well into 82, all in the space of 3-4 hours of actual play. And I’m not hurrying. The place was crowded with 90s already, who I’m sure were there on Day 2 of the early access, but when levelling is a primary activity in a game it seems a little counterproductive to do it as fast as you possibly can.

Then again, I’ve never held with the idea that the game only becomes interesting when you’re max level, but that is also a (repeated) rant for another day. Regardless, I’ll take my own sweet time getting my wimmin to 90 crafting, especially since the lovely lovely xp bonus for having max characters went poof when the level cap went up. D’oh!

~ ~

In the interests of full disclosure I should note that I now have some characters on Antonia Bayle, too. I cracked and got the Station Pass to get those 5 extra character slots, so now I just have to hold myself in check and not use all those extra slots until Halas goes live, so I can experience the new starting areas.

The main reason I’m server-adultering is that I have some very good friends in Rome– oh wait, I have a very good friend here in NM who’s taken up playing EQ2 and who is far enough down the early levelling road that it would be a pain in the ass for her to start over, at least right now. So what the hell — I’m an altoholic, what’s one more character, eh?

Now where’s my notebook so I can remember what they’re all called and what account they’re all on?

Oh yeah, and here’s the frying pan. It’s on the stove. In case some of you were going to be anal about my title choices.

-_-_-_-

* Sod is Murphy’s English cousin. I suspect he’s from the East End and he’s much less friendly. He’ll nut you just as soon as look at you. And oh, he watches over us all.

EQ2: Eye of the levelling beholder

Excuse me while I laugh hysterically.

{EQ2} Patch Notes
Posted on: January 20, 2010
GENERAL
We have taken a look at the experience required to gain levels and made some adjustments. Leveling from 1-65 will still require the same overall amount of experience, but the experience required at certain levels has changed.  There were certain levels that required much more experience than others, but now the progression should be much steadier. Leveling to 65-75 should be a bit faster now for two reasons.  The first is that required experience was lowered some.  The second is that quests should give slightly more experience in this range now.

Fairuza hit 75 a couple of days ago. Hee hee, ho ho.

In any case, I’ve decided I cannot be arsed to actually, actively get 0.1% of level per kill and 1.8% per quest turn-in — and that with vitality, which doubles kill xp — so Fairuza’s adventuring days are more or less over. I’ll bimble around as usual, and if that means questing a bit and killing a bit of stuff, fine, but I’m not going to tie myself into knots thinking I should work to get to 80 just because it’s there and everyone else does it.

I don’t need any of my characters to be max level (adventuring, anyway), and I shouldn’t do something in a game if it feels more like work than fun. That’s basic MMO and game in general philosophy. Why pay for fun that isn’t? So, do what’s fun!

Oddly enough my experience of levels 65-72 was that they went really quickly — I actually did some quests that were my level, discovered new zones and funky new monsters, had fun, and *poof* there they were. At 72 someone pulled the emergency brake when I wasn’t looking, and 72-75 have been an incredible — and increasingly boring — slog. Which leads me to conclude that it may not be the pacing so much as my own mental state, which in any case informs one’s gaming experience far more than we usually give it credit for.

Yes, there are things I could do to speed things up a little. I’ve got some adventuring potions which I’ve never used, so I have a fair few of them. But meh, that’s like bonus xp weekends with a shorter gogogo! deadline (they last an hour). I could get into some groups — even our smallish guild has some pretty leet adventuring types — and get help. That feels a little like charity though, and I don’t care enough about it to impose on people for it. Similarly, I don’t care enough for dungeons to do that for its own sake or for its entertainment value, especially since the latter is very low for me.

So if you can’t change the situation, change how you react to it. Who needs to level anyway? I’ve said elsewhere that I can do just about anything I want to do in EQ2 as I am — and I’ve been able to for 40-odd levels, provided I don’t mind the occasional sudden death.

It’s not what happens, it’s what you do about it. (Occasional venting for the sake of blog material allowed.)

EQ2: monky love

I’ve been following Victor Stillwater’s EQ2-trial experiences with interest these last two weeks, and I’m glad to see he seems to have caught the bug.  Check out some of his posts for an EQ2-newbie player experience!

His latest post prompted me to comment in my usual excessive detail, and it occurred to me that most of what I wrote sort of fits under EQ2-newbie helpful things to know. So I’m going to be cheap and copy and paste a bit of it here, especially since my EQ2: 10 handy things to know post seems to have attracted a few readers. Hello, new readers!

I don’t actually have a single screenshot of my poor little monk (subject of most of this post), so have a pretty screenie of Kelethin with the bloom effect turned on instead. Bloom doesn’t work well everywhere in EQ2 — in some zones, especially at night, it just makes your monitor look foggy — but when it works well it works really well. Ain’t it cute? Uh, yeah, moving on.

Some classes need help to shine

In terms of playing fun, some classes are wheee! right out of the box and some are more meh — though granted a part of that will also depend on playstyle. Certainly in my case I’ve found that EQ2 fighter classes take some getting used to and some learning in order to play to their strengths and potential. This might be because I generally lean towards scout classes where you try to do lots of damage very fast, which in EQ2 usually means mashing combat arts in whatever sequence is most appropriate for the mob, then repeating if said mob isn’t dead yet.

Fighter classes play a little more slowly, even the less tank-up-front! ones like the brawlers (monk, bruiser) and the berserker. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all capable of tanking, but monks and bruisers especially take a slightly different slant since they only wear light armour and are more evasion- than soak-based.

Anyway, /begin cut and paste job.

As for the monk — your experience is very similar to mine a few years back. As a result, my monk was stuck at 17 from 2005 to 2009. However, when I picked her up again last year I started having more fun with her, and I’m not sure what changed. A couple of guesses though:

1. I learned to use auto-attack damage. For the fighter classes (and scouts) it’s VERY important. Hence the auto-attack bar mod that I use, so that I can space my combat arts out.

2. You can’t spam combat arts like you can on some other classes (like bards), because of the way the various timers are set up. However, you also don’t need to. I’ve learned to use them more slowly and to chain them more intelligently (debuffs and DOTs, then DD) and to make constant use of heroic opportunities. People think those are only for groups but they’re actually a great help in providing extra damage when solo too — and they’re easy, or can be. The standard fighter HO is {damage attack} + {taunt} for {extra damage} — and since that’s pretty much stuff you’re doing already in fights, it’s easy to integrate. Try it with the SK, too.

3. I learned to keep her fighting skills at max. That actually applies for all skills in EQ2 — if you’re not at max for your level, you’re going to be penalised. VERY important thing to know. (For example, just look how many more bad tick results you get when crafting when you level, until your skill points hit that max again.) If you’re a fighter you don’t want to be missing, even moreso if you’re one of the lighter-armoured brawlers.

4. Keep your combat arts upgraded as much as possible. You don’t have to get everything at master, but apprentice-level combat arts are as weak as they come. Doing more damage and having bigger buffs always helps. This is actually valid for all classes. Finding Journeyman versions of CAs/Spells on the broker is easy and usually very cheap. Adepts are a little more expensive, and Experts are rares-crafted and thus not cheap. However, journeyman and adept will be fine until you reach much higher levels.

5. Make use of your AAs. I’m coming to the conclusion that by 30 I should have at least 30 AA (and I’m sure others will say it should be more), and probably 75-100 by 50. Needless to say, that’s not the case for any of my chars. It doesn’t *hurt* you per se to not have them, but it sure helps if you do.

/end cut and paste job

Note that I’m not very knowledgeable about classes in EQ2, certainly not for dungeons and higher level stuff, but I do fine for most solo content and almost all my characters can take on at least green-con ^^^ heroic mobs. So even if I’m not doing everything right I’m doing some things right. And I keep learning as I go — which for me is one of the biggest elements in making an MMO fun. Once you’ve learned it all, been everywhere, and done everything, what’s left?

Fack off I’m stuffed

“Guests are like fish: after three days, they both begin to stink.”

I have no idea where that comes from, since it could be attributed to just about any culture anywhere, but it’s very true. As I’m discovering, it also holds true for game events, though I’d say the decomp rate is a little slower.

EQ2 currently has 3? 4? — a lot of events running. There’s the Frostfell event, where you can go get a present every single day with every single character, make a ton of fun stuff that can only be made in the Frostfell area while it lasts, as well as do a relatively entertaining little dungeon and earn tokens to buy cool ice-themed furniture and armour. Then there’s the City Festival event, which made its debut in Kelethin a few days ago — that’s much smaller, but it still boasts a nice selection of housing items and clothing to obtain — which you won’t be able to access for several months once the festival leaves, since it’ll be touring other cities at the rate of one a month in the meantime. It makes use of the city tokens that were introduced a few weeks ago as rewards for doing writs (adventure or crafting). Then there’s the Will of the Tyrant event, which is a prequel to the upcoming Sentinel’s Fate expansion and includes a relatively short quest that can be done on either side for a title and some story info.

I think that’s all the events right now, but I might be missing one. Or two. At any rate, Frostfell and the Kelethin festival both bog off today, and — as I finally get to the point of my post — I’m rather glad to be seeing the back of them. There really is such a thing as partying too much.

I know, I know, I could log on and just ignore them, and to some extent in the last week I have. But knowing there are furniture and deco and clothing items to be got, and harvesting to be done… it’s like a constant tiny goad to me. I enjoy those things, see, but I have done. so. much. of them in the last few weeks that I feel like Mr Creosote being offered one more wafer thin mint.

It’ll be nice to go back to just randomly bimbling about. And EQ2 is such a great game to randombly bimble about in.

EQ2: 10 handy things to know

(EDIT – we’re talking a baker’s half-score here. Blogging’s not an exact science, you know! Thanks to all who have made suggestions for additions.)

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1. EQ2 has a dizzying number of classes…

but it’s not as confusing as it seems. There are 4 basic class archetypes and three paired subclasses per type. Most pairs are good/evil alignment, but one pair for each archtetype is neutral. Paired classes play sort of like each other, but aren’t just alignment-mirrored versions; there are some substantial differences even though the class basics will remain the same.

Note that the descriptions below are heavily circumscribed by my own lack of experience with several of them — but it should be enough to at least give you an idea of the basic differences.

Every single class in the game has buffs, whether they’re self-buffs or ally buffs or group/raid buffs.

G = Good, E = Evil, N = Neutral

FIGHTER archetype

Guardian (N) / Berzerker (N) — G is slightly more geared to soaking lots of damage, B slightly more to dishing it.

Monk (G) / Bruiser (E) — light-armored tankish types. Bruiser a little more offensive than Monk and a little more multi-target (I think).

Paladin (G) / Shadowknight (E) — heal/harm tank combo. Paladins heal more, SKs have damage soaks and many tasty AOEs.

SCOUT archetype (all types can wear chain)

Troubador (N) / Dirge (N) — happy bard, sad bard. One mostly buffs, one does lots of debuffs. Happy happy high runspeeds.

Ranger (G) / Assassin (E) — Ranger very range biased, Assassin very stealth biased.

Swashbuckler (G) / Bandit (E) — positional classes both. High DPS, some tankability with shield equipped and the right AAs.

PRIEST archetype

Fury (N) / Warden (N) — Druid classes. Fury is more nukey, Warden is more melee(ish). Many HOTs, many buffs. Leather armor.

Templar (G) / Inquisitor (E) — Templars are the plate-wearing, low-damage healing heavy-hitters. I don’t know much about Inquis except that they deal a little more damage.

Mystic (G) / Defiler (E) — Shamans who see dead people and bend them to their will. Or something like that. Damage soak spells, direct healing a little weaker than the other priests. PET class (if desired), though the pet is relatively weak unless AA-boosted.

MAGE archetype

There’s a reason I put these guys last, since I don’t play them much and have never got one past 30. Take these comments with a grain of salt.

Wizard (N) / Warlock (N) — Wiz is more direct damage, root & nuke, Warlock is more encounter-based (linked group of mobs). No idea what buffs they have.

Conjuror (G) / Necromancer (E) — fairly standard pet-wielding mage classes. Forgiving for newbies since the pet can cover a multitude of newbie sins.

Illusionist (G) / Coercer (E) — kinda-sorta pet classes. The illy can create a duplicate of herself, while the coercer can (temporarily) charm enemies. Both classes are said to become extremely powerful when played well, but can be hard to master, especially the coercer.

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2. EQ2 alignments made simple

Here’s the really important part: Alignment DOES NOT affect a character’s ability to group with other people. It does not affect an account’s shared bank slots. It does not affect tells or mails or guild joining options — basically, it’s not the insurmountable dividing wall that Alliance/Horde is in WoW. In practical terms, alignment determines what cities you may become a citizen of without betraying, which determines where you can buy housing. It also determines which guards will try to kill you on sight. Other than that, alignment really only affects roleplaying.

Your choice of class and starting area is what determines your alignment in most cases. Shadowknights can’t be good and Paladins can’t be evil. EQ2 currently has five capital cities, three of which are very strongly aligned with one side or the other (you’ll get killed if you’re the wrong alignment and the guards can see you and aren’t grey to you) — Qeynos (G), Freeport (E) and Neriak (E). The remaining two cities — Kelethin and Gorowyn —  are somewhat good and somewhat evil aligned respectively but are happy to tolerate visitors from both sides provided you don’t stray into certain areas (like the Royal Platform in Kelethin, where the guards are good-aligned).

HOWEVER… You can “betray” your current city and, by gaining faction, eventually move over to the opposite alignment. This isn’t nearly as painful and grindy as it used to be (though it’s still a bit grindy). The important thing to note here is that if you are an aligned class, you will have to swap to your opposing class if your alignment changes. So if a Paladin betrays Qeynos for Freeport (or anywhere else), they will become a Shadowknight. Neutral classes can stay as they are, so a Fury can betray Qeynos for Freeport and still be a Fury at the end of the process.

It’s worth knowing that even neutral classes are presented with the class confirmation event when they betray, so it’s a way to turn a class into its paired class (e.g. Warden <–> Fury) if you discover you’re not entirely happy with the gameplay or want to try something different.

Note that even if you’re playing a “neutral” class, your character still has an alignment. A Fury living in Qeynos WILL get beaten up on by Freeport or Neriak guards.

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3. Bank slots — use them!

Each character has access to 12 personal bank slots that can be filled with bags that can, in turn, hold more stuff. (You can’t nest bags.) Each account has access to 8 shared bank slots that can be seen and used by all characters on that account, regardless of location or alignment. (The only exception to this is that betraying characters who are temporarily “In Exile” cannot access the shared bank.) This personal/shared bank arrangement also includes money — each character has their own savings account, and each account has a joint money area available also.

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4. Chat commands, EQ2 haz dem

Lots of things that can be clicked on can also be done via chat commands, which I much prefer. I don’t click the EQ2 button and then the Camp (or Logout) menu option — I just type /camp. Or /camp Charname, which will log my current char out and log in the one I just specified. Or /camp desktop, which cunningly enough will neatly log my current char out and then exit the client. (I’m not a fan of /exit in any game, because half the time it means any options you set up or UI changes you made don’t get saved. This may not be the case for EQ2, but it always pays to log out properly if you have time to do it.)

In the basic setup, hitting T will start a tell, R will reply, and G will open a group chat line. (Okay, those aren’t technically chat commands, but they’re handy.)

EQ2 also has an auto-complete type feature. If you think there’s a chat command for something, say inspecting another player, but you’re not sure what it is, you can start typing a command — such as /inspe — then hit TAB, and the game will list all possible commands starting with the string you just typed.

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5. Hotbars and bags can be resized

Right out of the default, unmodded UI that is. Right click on a hotbar and pick “Hotbar options” and you can set all manner of fun things. Right click on an open bag (not the bag icon in inventory or the bank, for some reason) and you’ll get an equally useful “Bag options” window. Default bag sizes are ludicrously huge, at least for me; mine are all mushed down to 29 pixels per bag “slot”, which is probably too small for new players unless you’ve got sharp eyes, but 34-ish pixels is more than big enough to see what you’ve got without handing over all your precious screen space.

At my 1920×1200 resolution I can have 12 (personal bank) + 8 (shared bank) + 6 (personal inventory) 36-slot bags all open at once on screen. And neat, too. I may be a messy slob in real life but I’m OCD about game inventories.

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6. Right-clicking is your friend

It’s amazing how many hidden interactions you’ll find when right-clicking on stuff in EQ2. A banker NPC will suddenly reveal their alternate Guild Banker identity (if you’re in a guild). UI elements will suddenly reveal customisation options. Creatures will spontaneously explode. (Okay, I made that one up.) You won’t be constantly right-clicking, at least I don’t, but it’s worth knowing that sometimes that’s what you need to do in order to access the game’s arcane optional underbelly.

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7. EQ2 has more options than you can shake a stick at

Srsly, I think EQ2 has more options than I’ve ever seen in any other game. You can customise the graphics to a pretty large extent (and can do even more if you’re willing to go in and mess with .ini files). You can customise how verbose the combat text is. You can customise whether you see floaty numbers in combat or not, and what colour your various chats are — if you want experience messages to be in red, you can do that. It is absolutely worth hitting ALT-O and poking around in the options; it’ll take a while, but there’s a treasure trove of customisations in there.

One default setting I’ve always hated is the mob-naming. The default setting shows mob level in a pretty circle, along with some pretty curlicues that are supposed to give you an idea how tough the mob is. The alternate setting dispenses with showing the level (though it’ll be visible if you actually target the mob, and names are level-relative colour coded anyway) but also dispenses with the silly curlicues in favour of far more obvious down / or up ^ arrows. A triple-down mob, as they’re known in EQ2 parlance, will probably die if you cough on it. A ^^^ (or triple up) mob will probably kill you by coughing on you, especially if it’s also “heroic” (which means tougher than usual).

How to change this: Options –> User Interface –> Name and Chat Bubble –> NPC evaluation. Change that from Simple (frames) to Detailed (arrows). Tada!

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8. Alternate Advancement is your friend too

It’s certainly not as scary as it seems at first glance. For one thing, you don’t even have to think about it till you’re level 10, since you can’t start gaining AA xp till that level. For another, your choices there are not as final as they may appear. Each separate tab in the AA window can be respecced once for free just by clicking a button at the top of the window (which won’t appear till you first spend points in that tab). After that, there are NPCs you can talk to for respecs, though as with other games this process becomes progressively more expensive. You don’t want to be changing your mind every 5 seconds, but neither are you locked into a choice forever.

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9. EQ2 spells/combat arts upgrade automatically as you level

Unlike WoW, you don’t have to visit a trainer every couple of levels to get new versions of your stuff. HOWEVER — characters are only given the basic “potency” of any given spell or combat art, when in fact there are increasing levels of power. So if you get, say, Jalapeno Breath II at level 14, you’ll only get the “Apprentice” version of the spell; you can obtain improved versions from crafters, loot drops, Research Assistants, or specialisations you can select every few levels as you go. Jalapeno Breath II (apprentice) does less damage than Jalapeno Breath II (Journeyman) which does less than Jalapeno Breath II (Grandmaster).

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10. Not all starting areas are created equal

This was suggested by Spinks, though I would add the caveat that starting area quality will to some extent be dependent on player preferences. Fact is, however, that EQ2 has been added to and refined over the years, and some starting areas really are easier, more friendly, and generally more fun and flowy than others.

Playstyle caveats aside, I did find that the Darklight Wood and Timorous Deep starting areas are way more streamlined and organised than older starting areas; sadly, they’re both evil. The Greater Feydark (Kelethin) starting area, in contrast, I found to be really tedious, but I gather lots of people like it. Similarly lots of people hate the “Isle of Refuge” starting area (which is the oldest), but I’m sentimentally partial to it and it too has been somewhat streamlined over the years.

If you just want to get to grips with the game and don’t want to have to worry too much about what and where, I’d say start in Neriak or Gorowyn, where the new player experience isn’t too overloading. You can always start a good character somewhere else once that initial new-game-overload feeling is gone.

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11. Hit J and RTFQ

Most of the time quests are fairly self-explanatory… except when they’re not. Some of the older EQ2 quests, in particular, can be exceptionally opaque and can contain a lot of info that isn’t presented during the dialogue with the NPC. Be sure to check your quest journal (J) when confused. That same quest journal also contains tabs so you can see all the quests you’ve finished, all the collections you’re doing (or have done), and what achievements (not AA) you’ve completed or are working on.

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12. Learn the Way of the Shiney

If it’s on the ground and it’s shiney, whether it’s gold (the most common), purple, red or blue — or even green — pick it up. It’s a collection, and collections are fun. Collections reward xp, AA xp, and often some pretty nifty items too. Just remember, it’s a slippery slope; shineys are EQ2’s version of crack cocaine and they can severely inhibit your ability to get from A to B in reasonable amounts of time.

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13. You don’t have to get mods, but only a dummy doesn’t get EQ2Maps

Seriously, it’s what the EQ2 map should be. It’s got a wealth of information provided by other players and most of it is even accurate. And if you feel overly slapped with information, you can filter what shows — but still have decent maps if you need them. And believe me, you need good maps in Norrath sometimes. Get it right here.

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14. How to disable the welcome scream

Not so much for newbies, unless you’re comfortable editing .ini files. Not that it’s particularly arcane or anything. Here’s how. Open the “eq2.ini” file that lives in the top level of the Everquest 2 directory (notepad is best for this). Add the following line of text, minus the quotes: “cl_show_welcome_screen_on_startup 0” (that’s a zero at the end there, not a letter). Et voilà.

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Now that this post is done, I can admit that these weren’t the 10 things I wanted to post. Stuff keeps occurring to me, usually when I’m not at the keyboard, and then disoccurring because I have an awful memory and never think to write stuff down.

So we’ll consider this a post in progress. If folks want to suggest things they don’t know but want to know, things they discovered and wish they’d known sooner, and so on, please do so. I’ll amend the post accordingly.