I died and went to MMO heaven…

… at least for a month or two; after that, the way I’ve been game hopping, who knows.

But for now, I’ve been firmly grabbed by the crafting jibblies by EQ2, and by the sheer coolness of finding a guild that’s just like the ones Mort and I used to make, only with more — and more active — people. (This is the guild leader’s graphics site, by the way. And her blog. A little plugging never hurt anyone!) 

I waxed lyrical about guild halls last week, but this week I actually got to be part of a working one and to discover some of the stuff that’s been added to EQ2 in the years I’ve been away. In an MMO-purist way, some of these changes are tantamount to heresy… but the less time I have on my hands, the more I’m starting to appreciate that there’s a point past which purism just becomes dogma. 

The original, heavily interdependent, very heavily subcomponent-dependent EQ2 crafting system has been almost totally overhauled. That shocked me a little at first, and it’s weird to be able to make a bow without first having to make staves, strings, dowels, and lord knows what all else first — but on the other hand, it means you can actually get something done without pulling your hair out over the million little details. Note that I’m not saying interdependency is bad, but that it requires a fully-fledged support system including, at the very least, a way to place purchase orders.

If I can have some jobbing crafter make my bow-subs that’s fine; if I can request 1,000 masticated oils to use in woodworking, for which I’m willing to pay X amount, that’s good too. Waiting on people to be online, trying to haggle with folks who have plenty of other crap to be getting on with, and trying to do business via in-game mail when you have 18 million subs made by 9 different tradeskills is just stupid. So much so, in fact, that most “serious” crafters in most games that have “serious” crafting end up making crafting alts because it’s a damn sight easier to log in an alt to get what you need than to wait who knows how long for someone to show up who can make it for you. And no, I don’t mean auction houses — that’s supply. What I’m talking about is being able to set a demand. There’s a differece, and it’s essential to a real crafting system — but I’ll get off my soap-box for now since interdependency and player-crafted economies aren’t really what I want to talk about here.

Yes, EQ2 crafting is now most grossly independent — shame, heresy, burn the witches. On the bright side, it’s a lot more fun. 

Another thing that was added in my absence was “timed writs.” Writs are like crafting orders given by NPCS — get the writ, make the stuff, turn it in for some money, xp, status and faction points. Back in 2006, writs were mostly something you did to help level up your guild or get personal status points (for shiny stuff like fancy houses, clothes, etc); one thing you didn’t really do them for was to make a living, because they barely paid enough to cover the cost of making the item (each recipe requires a certain amount of a certain kind of fuel, and fuel gets more expensive as you level up). Now, especially with timed writs, you not only get your fuel costs back — about damn time! — but you also get a reasonable chunk of change: my 70-ish provisioner (chef) is making 6 gold or so per writ, and since they’re timed they’re guaranteed to take 8 minutes or less. Sure, there’s the cost of the resources, but when you’re a harvesting ho like me it’s actually quite nice to have something to do with all those resources; there’s only so much Exploding Head Iced Tea any server population can buy. Which is another eternal crafting problem: crafters usually love making stuff, but there’s generally far less demand than what I like to make. Writs keep me busy, suck up resources — always a good idea in an MMO — and make me feel productive on both a personal (xp & money) and a social (guild xp) level. What'[s not to like?

But wait, there’s more! Now, if I craft in the guild hall, I don’t have to cart all my resources around on me, oh no! The guild has a marvellous “harvesting depot” which can hold quite large amounts of resources, and if you’ve got the doohickey enabled, recipes you make using the guild hall crafting stations just grab what they need from the stores in the depot. I’ve already dumped a bunch of stuff in there to somewhat make up for all the stuff I sucked up today levelling from 70 to 73, and I think the whole “resource dump box” idea is brilliant in all respects. (Yes, you have to trust your guild members, but that’s nothing new.)

Have I mentioned that this Halasian Empire guild hall has a full-service basement with bank, broker, merchant, writ-NPCs, and even a pet badger called — what else? — Mushroom wandering around upstairs? There’s a piano lounge, a practice area with target dummies you can practice your skills on (and I don’t mean me), an ice room, an indoor garden, and a Hall of Phat Teleportation that can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go in EQ2. This would be another of those heresies: the removal of tedious travel. Meaningful travel I’m all for, but I don’t think it’s possible in a non-scripted, non-tabletop type game — what we’ve been doing for a decade instead has been tedious travel, for various reasons I’ve explored before. So now I say hurrah for 15-minute guild recall timers, and hurrah for magic doors that can take me from my house straight into the guild hall (especially in a game like EQ2 that’s nothing but zones, zones, zones — anything that cuts down on the number of loading screens I have to see is A Good Thing).

The only real downside to these guild halls, as far as I’ve seen, is that they are so cool I can’t see why most people would ever bother leaving them. That said, the addition of a couple or three new capital cities probably doesn’t help as far as diluting the player pool goes, and the weird partitioned design of Qeynos and Freeport ends up making both cities feel pretty fragmented anyway. On the other hand, I’ve never been a fan of Ironforge-like crushes of people strutting, swearing, spitting, scratching, shouting, spamming, and doing whatever else crushes of people do in WoW.

There are a host of other little changes that have had me going NOWAI!!! at regular intervals in the past few days, but I’m desperately trying to keep my post wordage under 1000 (y’all have stupidly short attention spans, according to the internetz) and I’m already over by several hundred more. Maybe for the next post I’ll remember to take some more pictures, and I plan to fess up on how my “no alts! one focus!” vows held up for all of about 5 seconds and how I reactivated my old account when I said I almost certainly wouldn’t (which is how I have a level 70 crafter — nobody unbotted levels that fast in under a week).