Ardwulf Plays: EverQuest II

My current front-burner project (in my copious free time ha ha) is a Let’s Play run at EverQuest II. I’d been waiting for ages for character slots to go on sale, and they finally did (all September.) So I bought several and finally got to start a new character.

The new character is a Wood Elf Fury, starting in the Greater Faydark zone. The plan is to get that zone finished and then move on to the next zone, but with a different character. I have the first two episodes up, embedded below. After various rendering and uploading difficulties. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Fixed the embed on the second vid. Byproduct of a failed upload.

Capping Guild Wars 2

300px-Normal_gw2logoI’m a great tryer of MMORPGs. I tend to move between games frequently, often sticking around only for a week or two, only to come back in three months of two years or whatever. It’s easy to do especially in these days when freee to play ios the rule rather than the exception, and I can play for even just a day or two before moving on or becoming tied up with real-life things.

On top of that, I tend to play with alts a lot, usually quickly filling all of the available character slots, and sometimes more if you can buy them separately. In EQ2, for example, I have crafting alts in every tradeskill, plus a couple of extra characters in classes that I just wanted to play. For the last three years or so, EQ2 has been my primary game during summer and winter breaks, and I’ve been making a conscious effort to level my main there.

Even in EQ2, though — a game I have put hundreds of hours into — I don’t have a character at the level cap in either adventuring or crafting. The only game to date that I’ve capped a character is WoW, in which I managed a sustained run of about 8 months in the WotLK era. Even there, I only capped my main, although I came close with a couple of other characters before the cap shifted further out of reach.

Yesterday I hit the level cap in Guild Wars 2, which took (as a guess) maybe 110 hours. There’s still a lot left undone there, of course — offhand, my gear is shit and I still have about 45% of the world left to explore, to say nothing of the running series of events that GW2 has been rolling out pretty regularly since its launch. I have also done little — very little — PvP despite this being one of the game’s strong points. I may have another try at that in the limited time I have left (just one week) before school starts again.

Over on the MMORPG.com forums, the running narrative among the nitwit set seems to be that GW2 is a big faceplant. Personally, I don’t see how that’s the case unless the metric of success is causing the downfall of World of Warcraft — which frankly no game except World of Warcraft is going to do (although it is managing it.) Sales were strong (over 3 million copies sold as of this past January,) and there’s still plenty of people in game; every North American server is at at least High population even at obscene hours.

Granted, it’s not a flawless game and we know sales have started to flatten, but at this point it’s fair to say that it’s aging fairly gracefully. Its trinity-less combat model hasn’t turned out as well as we all hoped; I think it works fine for play in the open world but in dungeons and against bosses it’s both screwy and dull. Too, the “living” world works well enough for the most part, but it’s not as organic as it sounded before launch, and frankly after 80 levels of it everything seems pretty stagy. Although I have been nominally leveling by exploring, and GW2′s open objectives are indeed a novel alternative to strictly linear quests, I haven’t felt like I was really discovering anything new for at least 40 levels.

It is also in some respects a frustrating game… although not nearly as frustrating as its predecessor, in which I tried (I really did) to finish all three campaigns, multiple times, only to eventually get stuck. It’s odd how similar the two games are, and yet how different, with GW being a true departure from the MMORPGs of its day and GW2 bringing the series much closer to the mainstream, but both sharing similar support models and art direction.

GW2 is getting good support but I wonder how wise ArenaNet was in opting for the current scheme of live support and regular updates instead of a dedicated (and marketable) expansion. I can see playing quite a bit more of it myself, but I’ll get shunted away into schoolwork in a matter of days… and I think we can already see some dwindling of interest that would be rekindled by an expansion.

Ireland Unified

Yesterday I “completed” another game of Crusader Kings II, this time playing as the Count of Dublin. By “completed” I mean that I made my in-game goal, the unification of Ireland. I still need considerable practice at realm management, however, as Ireland promptly fell apart upon my death. Next time I may play a nation like France and work on that.

Then again, there is so much to Crusader Kings 2 that I could play forever and basically never be done exploring all it has to offer, even without the new expansion The Old Gods (which I will grab when it goes on sale, likely this summer) or the next two years of additional DLC that have recently been announced.

Back From Break While I’m On Break

Over the last several weeks the stress has been grinding on me to the point where I’ve been incredibly on edge and have not held it together 100% of the time. There are about a dozen sources of this stress that I won’t go into, but one of the big ones — the mounting pressure as finals loom — is now over with, and I have a couple of weeks of only full time plus work in which to unwind. It’ll feel like a vacation in Hawaii.

That’s more or less the reason there’s been so little in this space for the last two months; I have gotten a little writing done but almost no gaming, and thus just haven’t had much to talk about on what is still predominantly a blog about MMOs.

Traditionally my main game during any extended break has been EverQuest II. This time around I’ve been fooling with Guild Wars 2 and Vanguard, plus I may hit the Age of Wushu Beta that opens up to basically everybody on the 20th. And more Planetside 2 is always a possibility.

I was tempted by the shocking news that Turbine has resurrected Asheron’s Call 2 on a single server, but trying that would be subbing to AC1, and watching a couple of videos of the revived game cured me of the impulse. It’s an interesting artifact and I wish it well (and wonder about Turbine’s motives) but I can do without it.

So yeah, I’m back for the time being.

Well, That Only Took Like Five Years

So it appears, with some encouragement from the massive Triple Station Cash sale from a couple of weekends ago and the fact that I am in fact still subscribed, I’ve been spending my limited free time in EverQuest II, working my way up in the levels, finally getting my glider mount (which takes some getting used to, lemme tell you,) and settling into new digs in Freeport. I have not felt terribly motivated to blog about any of this stuff, partly because it’s all old hat, but also because of the limited time available.

While I’m at it, though, I may as well pimp the latest Ardwulf Presents, which has been up for a couple of days now. I do have some plans for more videos and over the holiday break may actually get time to make them. Enjoy!

Goals At All Times

So after five years in EVE Online — off and on, of course — I find myself with just north of 9 million skill points and 8 million ISK. Which is not bad as a starting point, as we may as well regard this. I do have a decent established infrastructure, with about ten ships mostly kitted out to work with including a couple of cruisers, an Industrial, a BC and some frigates, a station hold full of stuff including ammo and modules and a few blueprints and such should I elect to pursue that line of work.

No corp, and that’s a big minus that I will attempt to remedy at some point; previous attempts at landing somewhere active and helpful yet tolerant of my disappointing habit of disappearing for a year at a time have not worked out, so it’s something to look for. As far as goal setting, it’s on the list. Speaking of Lists:

Short Term Goals (Days Away)

  • Run missions (primarily L2s) to build up enough ISK to be able to fly, outfit and — most importantly — replace my baddest ship, the Hurricane.
  • On the way, it would be nice to build up enough standings with corps other than the Brutor Tribe to run Level 3s.
  • Meanwhile, keep skilling up in various areas but centered on cruiser/battlecruiser fighting. My skills in such areas as Industry, Social and that kind of stuff are adequate for the moment; I don’t intend to do any non-mission mining right now.
  • Get EVE Fitting Tool and EVEMon up and running again, assuming those are still the go-to tools.

Mid-Term Goals (Weeks Away)

  • The short-term goals are moving in the direction of being able to run Level 3 missions effectively. L3s are where they money starts to get better, and level 4s are where you can start to make so serious cash.
  • Start fishing for a decent corp. I’m not sure where I would like to go with that right now; nullsec or wormhole corps are things I’m considering. My volume of playtime is a factor against that kind of thing, but even then there are options. If I want to stay in Empire the options are slightly wider.
  • Continue to build up my repertoire of ships without buying anything terribly expensive, so likely some of the Tech 2 frigates are options for this.

Long-Term Goals (Months Away)

  • Be able to afford an effectively-fitted battleship (I have my eye on the Maelstrom) and fly it decently well. This might fit into the medium term goals, but I’m not in a tremendous hurry on that; I would rather wait and do it well. I do have the skills to fly Battleships now but only at the most rudimentary level, like take it out of stations and shoot the guns, as long as they aren’t good guns. Lots of skills need work in this department.
  • Level 4 missions. PLEX and such. To make paying for your sub with PLEX a viable option, you need to make about 400 million ISK above whatever you need to pay for whatever else it is you want to do. So such a thing is a ways off and not worth getting hung up on at this point.
  • Get back into mining, eventually. Hulk mining, most probably, and I’m a decent distance from that, although I could fly a Mining Barge fairly shortly if I wanted to.
  • Get out to nullsec. Depending on how the effort of finding a corp goes, this could potentially happen a lot sooner, but we’ll see.

Leveling the Slightly Slower Way (But Still Kind of Fast)

Since the last play report I have been playing EverQuest II pretty steadily. I have done housekeeping on a bunch of characters, mostly to soak up excess collectables and ability tomes, and put five new levels on my Carpenter, leveling him to 35. Fairly soon we’ll be hitting that point where I’ll want to push all my primary tradeskillers out of Tier 3 and into Tier 4: that’s the aforementioned Carpenter, a Provisioner, Tailor, Weaponcrafter and Armorer. A fair amount of work, but it really shouldn’t soak up that much time; advancing through Tier 2 via tradeskilling writs is pretty fast and doesn’t consume a ridiculous amount of materials.

Most of my time, though, has gone into Iskaaron, with the broad goal of getting him to level 60 in some reasonable amount of time. I am now taking a different strategy, since I seemed to be outleveling zones pretty quickly with the AA slider set to 55%. So right around level 45, after finishing the first few rounds of quests in Lavastorm, I set the AA slider to 75% and went back to a couple of zones I’d finished up with, including Zek, the Enchanted Lands and Rivervale, and finally back to the Feerott. Employing a mercenary lets you readily solo any non-dungeon quests in these zones, and a leaper mount lets you get around them with negligible hassle, so I managed to wipe out just about every available quest.

I’m up to 80 AA now and am at level 48, and still working the Feerott, with no real end in sight. Instead of working a ton of quests in parallel at this point I’m working my way down a few notable chains. There’s a chance I’ll hit 49 by the time I’m finished, at which point it will be time to stray from the Golden Path yet again, this time to Everfrost — although I believe that got revamped a while back, so I’m not sure it’ll be level-suitable anymore. But it doesn’t really matter — even at 75% AA there’s more than I can do before I outlevel areas, even ignoring dunegons.

Introducing Norrathian Odyssey

The debut of Norrathian Odyssey, my new vidcast series focusing on EQ2, is now available on YouTube. It will, over the course of multiple episodes, present the game in detail, but aimed at the novice and at those with modest experience with EQ2. So check that out and enjoy, and don’t forget to subscribe!

EDIT: The following play report has nothing to do with the video other than happening in the same game. The video is about character creation.

In-game, I had a nice leveling target and was moving right along with it. Then SOE had to have a 50% off fire sale on everything in the cash shop in every game of theirs that has one. Vanguard doesn’t, yet, so that left EQ2 (I do have EQ installed but I’m not the kind of fan of it that would spend money there.) I also happen to be subscribed as well.

So I bought two new character slots. And made a Necromancer. Even though I already have a Conjurer… but High Elves look silly in black. And of course, right when you start there’s a quest to hit level 20 in 14 days. Normally not much of a problem at all, but I figure there’s no telling when my ability to play will be curtailed, so I’d better rush.

And there’s a minor issue. EQ2 now has a slider that lets you allocate part of your regular (Adventuring XP) to AA XP. This is normally a great thing, since not enough AAs can indeed gimp you. AA XP becomes available at level 10 and something like a 50/50 split is normally a solid strategy. So I went straight to 55% as soon as I hit level 10.

The small issue is that if you do this right away at level 10, like I did, there’s really not enough questing content in Darklight Wood and adjoining Neriak to get you to 20 smoothly. Someplace around level 16 you’ll find yourself fighting uncomfortable level 19 and 20 mobs, some of them with an up arrow. Add a mercenary and the fights are tough but beatable unless there are a lot of adds because you’re playing sloppy (which mercenaries encourage.) But there’s still not enough XP.

So I’m sitting at level 18, doing the last couple of level 20 quests, I have my mount and am about out of stuff to do. Not a huge problem in EQ2; I can always grind (which I don’t mind in moderation) and there are other zones I could go to to do quests. I could probably manage the first round of level 20 quests in Nek Forest now.

Now, while the progression in Darklight Wood could be tweaked, this is really my fault because I knew this happens from running two other characters through that zone. I should have caught it; about 20% on the AA slider is about right. Don’t let this happen to you; wait until 20 to start seriously pounding AA.

I also bought a ton of other stuff, by the way: mounts, cosmetic gear and the Arcane Academy prestige house for Iskaaron, which will eventually be used as a guild hall for our little family (me and Mrs. Ardwulf) guild. After everything I still have 8K+ Station Cash left. I did consider the 12-month non-recurring Gold membership, but passed on that as it would have eaten most of my banked points, and I’m saving a bunch for Vanguard.

A Full Resumption

The MMO of choice at the moment is EverQuest II. It’s another of those games that I have spent a substantial amount of time on but have never managed to get to the level cap. Or even close, really — my highest-level character in the game is a 50 Berserker (the current level cap is 90.)

There are several reasons for this. For one, I have a lot of characters: eleven on my main account, plus another (free) account just to fool around with on the side. For another, I have spent a substantial amount of time working on tradeskills — a major part of the reason I have so many characters in the first place. Given that tradeskills in EQ2 have their own levels on top of what you do as an adventurer, I’ve accumulated a staggering 544 total levels in the game!

Despite that, once all these characters were established (defined by me as reaching level 20 in tradeskill or adventuring class) I have generally managed to keep a single adventuring main. Right now that is my Warlock Iskaaron, who is progressing nicely. You can cheese the system in EQ2 to powerlevel very rapidly, but I’m not doing that, and I’m saving my XP potions for tradeskilling. Even so, I’m racking on the levels every hour or two just doing random adventuring stuff, and I’m not sticking to the so-called “Golden Path,” by which method I would have spent level 32-42 in the Steamfont Mountains, a zone I don’t really like all that much. So while I did visit Steamfont I also adventured in the Enchanted Lands, Rivervale and Feerott, and moved on to Lavastorm at level 44, two levels later than the “Golden Path” would suggest.

I have not done anything with tradeskilling since my full-time return; my highest crafter is a level 41 tailor, to whom I will probably try to add some levels soon, so I can make a set of tier 5 crafted gear for Iskaaron, plus bigger bags for assorted characters. You can buy much bigger bags than I can currently make pretty cheap on the Broker; I have a decent stockpile of 20+ plat set aside for such things, but I like to make my own stuff where possible. I’d also like to boost my Provisioner, currently level 35 (and only 12 adventuring, largely from exploration XP while doing tradeskill quests,) into tier 5… and it’s always nice to have a carpenter for house items and strongboxes.

At the current pace it should only take another week or so to reach level 60. That’ll let me claim my glider at long last and see zones like Lesser Faydark and Tenebrous Tangle for the first time. In fairness, I have stuck my head into both zones, but I have never really explored either place. And then we shall see; EQ2 is not a difficult game to level in these days, but I’ve chosen to stray substantially from the optimal path when I think there’s more interesting things to do elsewhere.

Questing for the Old Ones

Along with diversions into LotRO as time permits, I’m still playing Vanguard. At this moment, I have three characters who could readily get to a major hub to secure the May loyalty rewards, so it seems prudent to push a few other characters along to that point as well. At some point around level 10 most characters will find a riftstone somewhere reasonably nearby, and can jaunt to Khal or New Targonor or wherever from there.

One such character is Mrowwl, a Kurashasa Sorcerer of relatively recent vintage, currently at level 5. This seemed an ideal combination to me, as thematically the Vanguard Sorcerer is a wielder of chaos magic, and the Kurashasa starter area is… weird. You’re literally doing quests handed down directly or indirectly by various Elder Things, and at one point you “merge” with one, giving you an apparently permanent +10% damage buff as well as creepy voices in your head.

It’s all delightfully reminiscent of Lovecraft, and I can’t help but contrast it to the early experience in The Secret World, in which the typically Lovecraftian town of Kingsmouth is elaborately laid down only to be besieged not by strange and alien horrors but by dull and conventional zombies.

There is a Diplomacy questline as well, but I haven’t started it yet. If there is one for crafting I have not seen it, but if not that’s okay — at some point you get punted out to Lomshir and there is such a questline there.

While I intend Ardwulf to be my main in Vanguard for the foreseeable future, I’d like to get the loyalty rewards on as many characters as possible. I suspect that one of them, possibly in the last batch handed out before free to play goes live, is going to be a flying mount, which in Vanguard is both immensely valuable and at present very hard to get.