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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Window on the (game) world

As everyone knows — well okay, the three or four people who have heard me rant about it before — I’m a UI Nazi. Seriously. I’m not just concerned with UIs, or mildly interested in them, or even rabidly interested in them. If I can’t make the UI do what I want in a game, chances are I’ll eventually stop playing that game. That’s a hard theory to test though, since the games I’ve played that have had awful UIs were also pretty awful games generally.

Even when they’re reasonably well designed, UIs come out of the box looking pretty crap because they have to suit the lowest common denominator, or in this case screen resolution. And one thing even the best-designed UIs out there love to do (and I can’t name any good UIs off the top of my head, just a few decent ones) is waste visual space with unnecessary scrollwork, decoration, or just plain empty UI-element space.

EQ2 is no exception. When I saw Werit’s otherwise very entertaining video of his EQ2 heritage quest experiences, I couldn’t help cringeing at his UI. It’s not his fault, of course, it’s how the game presents it to you — and that’s after some customisation on Werit’s part. But now I understand that whenever I thought he was intentionally ignoring me in game, he was just probably not seeing the chat, because 17 million other chats were spamming to one chat window. (Which also kept fading — what is it with fading windows? Is it an FPS thing? I detest that with a passion. The last window I will ever want fading away is chat, because 99% of the game’s information — let alone the minor aspect of its bloody social side — is echoed in chat.)

And now Syp is also trying EQ2. My prediction is that it won’t stick for him — the game is too huge to adequately try out in a few weeks, which may sound like a good thing but has actually become a rather large barrier to getting any kind of new players. It can take several tries to find your EQ2 legs, and in my opinion the freaky, highly uncanny-valley, brown-dominated art style really doesn’t help there. (There are some gorgeous views and great textures in EQ2, but the art style is still weird no matter how you spin it.)

Part of what puts players off, I’m sure, is the yucketty (technical term), unwieldy, and apparently intractable UI. When you first log in, there are boxes and hotbars and crap knows what else all over the place — you’d think at the very least that, by now, there might be some kind of a default layout that loads based on the screen rez you’ve chosen in the game. Well, a better default layout, I mean. One where all the windows aren’t squished together in the middle. Some of the windows are opaque, some are not, and some fade when you’re not looking. It’s a mess, and it’s unusable until you’ve at least dragged a few elements here and there on your screen. That’s bad: you should have something usable right out of the box, even if it’s fugly; this is fugly and useless.

Fortunately, as Syp points out, you can load UI settings from other characters. They’re just text files, so you can even load settings from other people’s characters if they let you have that file. For my Test server characters, who occupy an EQ2 folder of their own, I just copied over my main character’s settings from the live EQ2 folder. Easy as pie — once it’s set up.

The first thing I do in any game is mess with the UI, and I’m constantly tweaking and messing some more. I’m using a couple dozen UI mods (all sourced from EQ2interface), and 90% of those are designed to replace basic UI elements like bag windows, hotbars, equipment windows and the quest journal. A couple of them extent the functionality of elements like the broker. I only have one mod that actually does anything in the strictest sense of the word, and all it does is allow me to cast heals and cures on groupmates without having to untarget, target them, then retarget whatever it was; given the number of debuffs that get flung around in EQ2, this is really handy though it’s not actually essential.

As I said I’m always tinkering with my layout, trying to find the perfect balance between being able to see lots of game info when I need it while still keeping as much screen space free as I can. When I see WoW-screenies that show a teeny-tiny visible window surrounded by scads of group info, raid info, DPS meters and crap knows what else people need to see in WoW I always shudder and wonder how people manage. Yes, I need my UI elements, but I also need to see the game. Most of them are worth looking at.

So here’s Fairuza’s more-or-less current UI layout. If you click through you can see it full-size, which for me is 1920×1200. After years of cramped screens, being able to have loads of stuff showing and still see lots of the game is a wonderful luxury.

Fair’s hotbars are in a constant state of flux, because the higher she levels the more stuff she has to throw on there, and I’m still looking for the most intuitive arrangement for me. The one where in the heat of battle I’m not going “OcrapOcrap where’s my healing spells argh!” but can still access her damage spells because nuking is what Fair does (yeah, she’s a healer, but a nuking healer. Best of both worlds, right?!) And because I craft and harvest a lot, I’ve also got hotbars with recipes (for doing crafting writs), hotbars with bag shortcuts, hotbars with gear-swapping macros, hotbars with pets, etc. etc. etc.

Targeting stuff is as close to the middle of the screen as I can get it without them being on top of the character. Lots of people like having stuff on top of (or very near) the character, but I can’t stand that, so this is my compromise. Remember, I don’t raid — I don’t usually see particularly urgent combat situations, so this works for me.

And most of my UI is taken up with chat windows. EQ2 spams a LOT of chat and I like to be able to catch up on stuff without having to scroll for 18 miles to see it. So on one side I have main chat, showing xp stuff, guild chat, tells and the crafting channel, with tabs for combat, sub-channels and narrative spam (e.g. “You successfully counter Burn Your Eyebrows Off crafting event!”). On the other I have tabs for NPC tells — quest conversation logs, basically — loot (mostly to see what I’ve been harvesting) and skill increases. Some of those tabs are a bit redundant and I could probably mush skill increases in with other stuff, but I’ve got it set up that way because it makes things easy for me and because I can. It just takes a while to get everything juuuust right.

The main point of this post is that although the default UI in most MMOs is poo, you don’t have to put up it. Taking the time to set up an interface you’re happy with and can navigate rapidly will be amply repaid every time you log in.

And yes — if people want, I can set up a default 1920×1200 UI for people to use in EQ2. Because I’m a giving UI nazi. 😉