EQ2: public dungeoneering

Although I was expecting to spend my next EQ2 session crafting, in the end it was a return to the cat and mouse duo started during the summer. When the opportunity to play them again came around I was inspired to try a public dungeon – the characters are level 15 so the Wailing Caves (level range 10-20) seemed a good bet.

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Playing low-level characters in almost any MMORPG these days is a bit of a cakewalk, as a game expands upwards in levels the difficulty curve tends to get stretched or distorted by revamps to stats and gear, usually with the result that early content is a snooze-fest of ease. Even duoing such a dungeon (max group size is six in EQ2), didn’t seem like it was going to prove any real challenge as the mobs in the early rooms fell very quickly to our character’s combined onslaught.

Now, these are a bit tougher.

Now, these are a bit tougher.

Heading in deeper though and the difficulty quickly ramped up, not only were the orc skeletons and assorted cave critters nearer our level but they were increasingly elite mobs with a lot more health. This slowed us down but not by too much, we’re a tank+healer duo after all, plus I have a vicious wolf familiar! We’d skipped some of the early room critters as they were so easy to kill, we even discovered you could quickly ‘leash‘ monsters by running down a corridor or slope – I thought monsters were more persistent than that in EQ2, at least in the open world.

A fateful door...

A fateful door…

That was when Norrath decided our naive arrogance had gone on long enough and as we opened a door were surprised by a ^^^ orc boss and four assistants, I believe we may even have had some extras from the corridor as well. In any case cat and mouse experienced their first party wipe of their young adventuring lives.

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Releasing and running back in we were very glad of the short leash on these creatures – the majority of what we had fought coming in were back already and it would have been a bit disheartening to have to start from scratch. We run almost all the way back to the door and with foresight and coordination, we managed to slay the Weaponsmith and his goons. Early dungeon experiences can be a lot of fun, especially when we’re clueless about what lies ahead!

 

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EQ2: progress and delay

I’ve made some good progress in Everquest 2 since I last posted on the game. Most of my time with the game has been focused on leveling my Inquisitor to 100 and attuning him for the Kunark Ascending expansion. There’s a handy web tool, the Adventure Report at EQ2U, that gives a snapshot of how well prepared a given character is. I finally dinged him 100, appropriately enough, within the familiar confines of Karnor’s Castle.

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So he is finally at the cap and has now done all of the necessary attunements and pre-requisite quests to enter the new expansion. Since then I’ve had a really busy week and know that the upcoming weeks are likely to be rather busy too. It’s that time of year, with Christmas rushing closer, and the attendant whirl of parties and preparations. It’s also a bad time of year to be treating myself to an expansion, it feels rather churlish to be buying myself a treat so soon to Christmas. So I’m going to hold off on buying the expansion for now, I’ll have some money from family for sure, so I can always grab it after the 25th.

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This all means I have a pause before launching into, and having my EQ2 gaming time dominated by, the new expansion’s content. In this pause in my character’s onwards adventures, I’m considering focusing on some crafting. The game has a more involved crafting system than most of the MMORPGs that I play – crafting is a separate level to your character’s adventuring class. I’ve not really committed to leveling a crafting class properly so far in EQ2, so this self-imposed delay in getting the expansion may give me just the time and motivation I need to get his woodworking nearer 100.

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Vendor gear and gear choice criteria

I was thinking recently while messing around on low-level characters in World of Warcraft (a new pandaran Monk) and Lord of the Rings Online (a dwarven Rune-keeper) that MMORPGs are full of items that, presumably, no-one uses.

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When was the last time you stopped at a vendor in a game and thought: “oh, that looks really good, I’ll buy that [insert item name]?”. Those countless vendors who have their hard crafted armour, arms or equipment, who stand vigilantly at their stall day after day,¬† only to always see adventures walking past with their positively glowing magical arms and armour. There are exceptions of course, special vendors who barter tokens or trophies for very powerful gear – that’s a feature of more accessible end-game gearing in modern MMOs – but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I don't think this will sell well...

I don’t think this will sell well…

Seeing the same situation in both games spun of a couple of thoughts for me, firstly was it always so in the genre? Back in early WoW years, I seem to remember white quality gear being good upgrades for early level characters – heck even grey quality was useful if you had bad luck on finding new items.

A second thought is on the dizzying verticality of gear in most MMOs – the decision on whether to keep an item is almost always about more power, more stats etc. Either the game has a clear indicator for this, an item level rating or score, or the raw stats are used to judge whether to replace your current sword with that new one you just found. Ironically in WoW’s latest expansion this near-standard method has been complicated by secondary stats being, or seeming to be, more important than item level – it feels weird¬† to be passing on items that are higher level because the random combo of haste, critical, versatility or whatever is not optimal for your class & spec. It appears Blizzard will be nerfing secondary stats soon to ensure that higher item level = item upgrade once more.

The only exception to this common standard that I know of is Dungeons & Dragons Online. The game has extra criteria beyond an item’s raw power (as measured by its ‘plus’ value or dps output) – this is especially true for weapons. You need certain types of weapons against certain opponents – e.g. blunt weapons to efficiently kill skeletons or skeletal monsters. Some weapons are especially effective against certain foes: a ice-damage weapon will do wonders against fire elementals or their kin. When I’ve played the game on various characters it has encourage quite a different attitude to gear and upgrades – even finding an obvious upgrade does not mean you automatically vendor what you were using before. In most MMOs it seems that gear upgrades are usually clear and absolute replacements.

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Obligations, skill upgrades and motivation

Two posts caught my eyes yesterday that had me thinking about my own motivations in playing MMORPGs.

Firstly Syp at Bio Break compared upgraded skill systems in World of Warcraft and Rift. It’s an interesting comparison and I’d agree with the conclusion: the amount of RNG in the current legendaries system in WoW is not my idea of fun, I rather like the sound, and certainty, of receiving legendary points, as a character levels, to spend as you wish instead of rare item drops. It seems slightly confused that Blizzard have on the one hand eased some of the harsher elements of RNG for rewards: dungeons now have personal loot, with the option to share items; however, they’ve also re-introduced a new form of RNG, this time tied to one aspect of character development and customisation.

First legendary, on an alt character after 3 months of Legion

First legendary, on an alt character after 3 months of Legion

Then ChaosConstant at Occasional Hero wrote about MMO Obligations saying that, although they would prefer to be playing other games (MMO or otherwise), they stuck with playing SWTOR’s because of the rewards of the time limited Dark vs Light event. Dark vs Light was way to grindy for me to commit to seriously, clearly different things will keep players engaged with an MMO, even past the point where they might otherwise take a break or play something else.

ChaosConstant goes on to talk about how obligations can be stressful, that’s certainly my view – I get very quickly fed up with a ‘needy’ MMO that places too much emphasis on dailies or grindy play. I’m starting to tire already of the World Quest system in Legion: it’s a nice enough concept but is very alt unfriendly. This is at best ironic in an expansion that encourages you to play alts with its class/spec specific quest lines. I want to play through my stable of alt characters to focus on one at time to explore said stories. But the rewards from World Quests, especially the emissary reward chests, are so good that there’s a nagging sense that I should be doing them on all my level 110s or I’ll miss out – until recently a part of that was the complete lack of legendaries on any of my characters.

There are other expansions coming out now, so my declining motivation to play repetitive content in WoW may have more to do with the new content I could be doing elsewhere. But I do feel the mix of new systems that Legion has introduced (world quests, artifact weapons, class halls and legendaries) is lacking coherence in terms of motivating longer-term engagement.

Posted in Gaming, Rift, SWTOR, WoW | 2 Comments

WoW: hotfix for Kirin Tor emissary and legendary success

Yesterday we were playing WoW when we released something was amiss with the Kirin Tor emissary reward – there were only three Kirin Tor world quests showing in the whole of the Broken Isles and not enough time left for more to spawn.

Not my favourite quest...

Not my favourite quest…

I was annoyed by the buggy, oversensitive nature of the Like the Wind quest; so to realise that we couldn’t do enough quests to get the reward put me in a rather dour mood. So to receive the news this morning that it’s been resolved was very gratifying.

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Turns out it wasn’t just us, Blizzard have responded to a flurry of complaints on the forums with a hotfix. You can log into today (Monday 28th) to receive auto-completion of the Kirin Tor emissary and get your emissary chest and the selection of a rep reward as normal. As I was cycling through the three characters I have with world quests unlocked, I was joking to myself about the complaints Blizzard might get next, that handing out an automatic completion to this emissary was akin to handing out “welfare legendaries”, when this little item popped out of my druid’s emissary chest.

Finally!

Finally!

Oh the irony! I’ve been waiting for weeks: watching guildmates and friends getting multiple legendaries with nothing to show for it on any of my characters, and then within days I get two (my Paladin had his first on Saturday)!

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Companions – IntPiPoMo 2016 (6)

This post is the last in a series this month for International Picture Posting Month, see this post for more details.

Various MMORPGs that I play have a system whereby you can have a companion character following you around as a helper, guardian, healer or whatever. Although their artificial intelligence is often lacking, I still do appreciate these systems; especially when questing away solo.

SWTOR – companions with story

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One of my abiding memories of my first long stretch in SWTOR was how much I loved the companionship of certain characters like Qyzen and M1-4X.

SWTOR – bring the companion not the role

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Originally the companions of SWTOR were locked to a specific trinity role – T7 here would be the same tank role as my Jedi Knight pictured here so not the best companion to use. Thankfully a later patch freed up companions to play any role with a simple menu choice, a real boon for those with companion favourites!

Everquest 2 – mercenaries

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EQ2 has a system of controllable mercenaries, paid for while active in gold, that can fill a specific trinity role for you. It enables canny players to ‘molo’ (solo + mercenary) content that is otherwise too hard to normally solo on some squishier classes.

Everquest 2 – healbot

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Playing my Shadowknight tank I often used this elite healer companion as my ‘healbot’. He can generally keep me alive through a lot of danger so long as I keep him protected from harm.

Neverwinter – collectible companions

Dread Warrior

Dread Warrior

Neverwinter’s collectable companion system is a boon to soloers and small groups. It’s also content for those who love to collect things in games.

Neverwinter – weird and wonderful

Lillend - healer angelic serpent

Lillend – healer angelic serpent

Neverwinter, with its rich RPG setting has some pretty weird and wacky companions. I think my favourite over all is the harp-playing celestial Lillend. Runner-up is probably the frost mimic from the game’s upcoming Winter festival.

Neverwinter – companion as achievement

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This summer I finally unlocked the Angel of Protection companion, a reward of having logged in and invoked on a given character 360 times.

World of Warcraft – Garrison buddy

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Although Garrison’s had their downsides, the companion characters that we could slot as a ‘bodyguard’ to adventure with us were a nice feature.

Lord of the Rings – skirmish soldier

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It’s kind of minor feature in LOTRO outside of skirmish instances but the soldier system in LOTRO added a layer of character development and even the chance to bring them out ‘on landscape’ for a fee. It’s proven useful a couple of times to beat a particularly challenging encounter.

Guild Wars – henchmen

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Guild Wars 1 had a pretty good system of NPC henchmen and later more capable heroes that you could bring along to fill slots. This allowed us, coming so late to the game, to do the Prophecies story content at our own pace at a time when most players were simply ‘farming’ speed runs of the most lucrative instances.

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LOTRO: a riding I will go – IntPiPoMo 2016 (5)

This post is the fifth in a series this month for International Picture Posting Month, see this post for more details.

Earlier in the week I had a free evening and decided to take a break from EQ2 to play some Lord of the Rings Online. I planned to continued with the epic storyline of Update 19 as per my last session and was soon swept up in the move north into a new region, North Ithilien.

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As per usual my attempts at driving onwards to follow the main storyline were somewhat hampered by wandering off the road to mine ore nodes. The land is beautiful and mostly peaceful, at least compared to the grim state of war-torn Pelennor. That’s not to say danger doesn’t lurk in the thickset trees, however…

I'm not getting any closer for a clearer screenshot!

Ugh! I’m not getting any closer for a clearer screenshot!

My pleasure in blazing my own trail through a new area, and the chance to be inquisitive and stick my nose into everything, did lead me away from what I was supposed to be doing – talking to heralds along the way. By the time I reached the hidden Ranger camp at Aelin Veren, having meandered far to either side of the road along the way, I realised I still had two heralds to talk to right back near where I started at Osgiliath.

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Thankfully, I had set a bind point back at the camp there so it was no trouble to return to the session’s starting point. Heralds were duly located and given their orders. The very next quest had me going, naturally, to the Ranger camp up north again. So more riding it was!

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It’s strange, I can distinctly remember getting annoyed with long back and forth travel in LOTRO, and in other MMOs, in the past. Travel seems to be less of a feature of our virtual adventures nowadays. Not that I want every session to be dominated by long horse-rides like this, but it made quite a refreshing change to be focused on the road and the passing scenery for once, rather than fight after fight.

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Back at Aelin Veren I explored the place from top to bottom, the epic storyline encouraged me to do so, and was rather taken aback at how striking this hidden Ranger post is. I left my character in this place of safety, ready for journeys further into the region another day.

A room with a view, indeed!

A room with a view, indeed!

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