AFK, prep and mobile-tie ins

This weekend has been dominated, in part, by gaming preparations for an AFK break – we’re off on holiday from tomorrow. For the MMO player that means certain specific tasks are probably due: like checking for almost expired mails on all your characters, sending off all the  research-type tasks that you can, saying “au revoir” to guildmates so they know why you’ll be absent, etc.

I was playing Everquest 2 anyway to level my woodworking; so checking skill research was easy enough on the three characters I have high enough to be eligible for these free skill quality upgrades. Four characters have housing that needs regular rent payments too, though you can pay up to just over a month in advance, so a short holiday is easily covered.

Long research times can be a bonus

In Elder Scrolls Online, I have research tasks on my blacksmith to manage, but they take a day at most so that character will be idle for pretty much all of the time I’m away. I still have plenty of items gathered from the last couple of sessions to feed into my trait research, but given the long times needed (12-24 hours mostly), it’s going to take a couple of weeks of casual play to clear them all.

A dozen items = over a week of research time

For World of Warcraft there is the Companion App to manage class hall tasks while we’re away. That’s a whole other post probably; as there’s a danger of not unplugging from gaming, as part of normal life, if I use the app too much while away.  Still it is very nice to have the app as an option. In preparation for going away we spent a good chunk of time running the weekly “20 world quests” task to get 5000 hall resources, I managed it on three characters in the time I had free. That chunk of resources is more than enough to feed class hall missions for the time we are away.

The Companion App covers a lot of class hall functions

This then shows an advantage that World of Warcraft has over the other games I play, it allows me to manage certain “busy work” tasks that might only take 5 minutes to arrange from the phone app. If I’m at the library or on a lunch break at work I can still engage with the game without needing the full client. Likewise when travelling for leisure or business, I can still keep my characters ticking over. I’d like some kind of crafting app for ESO as many of the crafting professions need a similar amount of daily attention as do WoW’s class halls. Indeed, I’d even like a remote way of managing my Everquest 2 character’s skill research although a full-blown app would be overkill, perhaps via a website interface like WoW’s armoury?

As an aside I will be afk for just over a week. I have a couple of further posts scheduled, but will not be able to respond to comments straight away. Happy gaming in the meantime!

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ESO: weapon set dilemmas

We’re still playing Elder Scrolls Online as a trio, although this is juggled somewhat with playing World of Warcraft with a wider group of friends so progress has slowed. My personal goals in-game remain to gradually explore this version of Tamriel and to dig a little deeper into the crafting system.

On my solo Dragonknight, I’ve now reached level 18, and having unlocked weapon-swapping finally, had a plan to go for a combination of  two-handed axe for his main damage focused build and a tanky sword & shield secondary with survival-focused skills. I’m will work towards more specialised builds, one very focused on survival and threat, and the second mostly on damage output and interrupts. At the moment both have overlapping skills, but that’s because I haven’t unlocked much for sword and shield yet.

My current solo two-handed skill bar

This character is my “do all the useful stuff” character too, as he is learning provisioning and alchemy so I can be self-sufficient to a degree and make buff food and potions for him and eventually for my other character in the trio group. Gotta love that shared bank space for the ease of trading stuff between alts…

My Templar for the group has just reached level 15 and has also unlocked weapon swapping but here I’m a bit undecided on which weapons to develop longer term. Currently he has sword & shield as his main and a two-handed mace, but in ESO all two-handed weapons are the same skill-wise, so he’s in danger of becoming a clone of my survival-focused solo character. I want him to be the tank for group play, but he needs something more contrasting I think as a complementary set.

Sword & board Templar

Despite the accidental overlap of weapons the two characters do feel rather different to play: the Dragonknight is up-close and like a damage sponge, the Templar is more effective at ranged attacks and takes the damage only to heal it himself. I might consider a frost staff tanking build for him when Morrowind comes out, it’d make his tanking skillset totally different to my Dragonknight’s and allow for something radically different like a dual staff approach – frost to tank and healing for quick recovery and support skills. That’d mean all his current weapon skill point choices are a bit of a waste (sword & shield, two-handed), but perhaps a skill reset would be justified. In any case I can wait before making that drastic a choice. In the meantime I do want to try something different as a secondary weapon for him, perhaps a healing staff secondary focused on heals that also buff the party like Combat Prayer.

Dark anchors are good for finding spare armour to research

He is also my blacksmith: being able to craft armour for himself and my Dragonknight is rather handy. It’s slow going doing all the research to unlock traits per armour slot, but running dark anchors and delves whenever we play really helps as both activities give armour drops as rewards with some frequency. It’s also handy, and rather unusual, that we can trade quest reward items between the three of us. Since they are specific items, invariably any armour pieces are only of use  to one of us. That means I can benefit from a duplicate heavy piece to study, my husband’s Sorceror can equally benefit from researching duplicate cloth items. I’ve tentatively started working on enchanting as well, but to be honest the hand and bank space implications of leveling blacksmithing and enchanting at the same time are positively headache-inducing.

If only there were an ESO app to manage crafting research…

So despite slow progress, I am really enjoying my time in the game. The world is opening up now that my characters are getting past the early zones and have access to a bigger city as a base for further exploring. The characters themselves are also opening up now, I have weapon swapping to work with, and any dilemmas over what they should develop weapon-wise I consider to be a good thing; it’s always nice to have meaningful choices to make as my characters grow in experience.

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EQ2: bonus XP week

I found out yesterday, via EQ2’s Twitter feed (@everquestii), that there’s a bonus XP week coming for this MMO’s subscribers, starting later today (April 21st).

Crafting writs

I’m pretty busy at the moment with study and I have a full enough gaming plate, what with the grind for flying for Legion zones in WoW and trio sessions in Elder Scrolls Online. But this kind of XP bonus event can be a good excuse to get on with long-term goals that have lain dormant for a while. I’ve been meaning to finally level a crafting profession to the cap in Everquest 2 for quite some time.

New Halas crafting hall is like his second home

I’ll only have the weekend for any bonus sessions in EQ2 for non-gaming reasons, so getting my Inquisitor’s woodworking profession from its current level 80 to 100 is a tall order indeed, but any levels I can get towards that goal will be welcome progress.

Enjoy the XP deluge if you’re planning on playing EQ2 over the next week!

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WoW: flying unlocked, though not in Legion

Last night I finally unlocked flying in Warlords of Draenor. It’s not something I’ve actively been working on, but on our recent Deathknight tour through the zone I managed to tick off a number of sub-achievements and suddenly it seemed to be within reach.

The main stumbling block, back when Draenor was current content, was the Securing Draenor sub-component. That required my character to complete a list of twelve daily assault areas. These all require going to a level 100 to kill things, destroy things and occasionally rescue other beings. I hadn’t done a single one of these when I started on this, the problem being my compressed and late experience of this expansion – by the time I hit level 100, the max level Tanaan zone was out so I could jump straight to there to get better rewards. Doing dailies in already outdated areas of the original zones wasn’t that appealing.

Having to wait for the right daily among a larger set (not all count towards the achievement), also put a dampener on doing this since I wasn’t in the mood to login daily just on the off-chance one I hadn’t already done was available in my garrison town hall.

However, at some point after Draenor’s launch a catchup mechanism was introduced by buying ‘missives’ to start each of the daily quests from a NPC in my garrison with garrison resources. I didn’t play enough to be swimming in resources, while I was actively playing the expansion I had better things to be doing with them (e.g. gearing up followers with work orders). Now that it is old content the daily free allotment of resources easily funded me ticking of all twelve assault quests in short order.

Finally, flying unlocked on all characters in Draenor. Now for the real challenge, making that reputation level to unlock it in Legion!

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NPCs and the replayability issue

Shintar has a post over at Going Commando about non-player characters (NPCs). I was reminded of this topic while playing WoW with my husband yesterday. We were doing Broken Shore world quests for the daily reputation boost hand-in. Repeating the same quests I had the already habitual ‘eye roll’ reaction to Khadgar’s obligatory sarcastic/humorous response to our completing a task – always some mix of “oh so that didn’t get you killed?” or “oh so the plan worked, how unexpected?” in so many words. Honestly I’m getting seriously bored with Khadgar now, he has been given so much prominence as a NPC in Legion’s storytelling that his once witty dialogue seems stale and rather out of place given the dire circumstances.

As discussed in the post linked above, forced companion choices in the Knights of the Eternal Empire expansion of SWTOR also presented me with a similar sense of being tired of certain NPCs. It seemed that Lana or Theron were so often our companion because of story reasons. In a game where choosing between companions and developing reputation with them is a mechanic, being forced to use one or another on a regular basis is not only annoying, but it actually interferes with your characters progression to a certain degree (you can’t concentrate on any other companion to raise their influence rating and therefore their effectiveness in combat). I know it was for me as I’d chosen to use Koth as much as possible in KOTFE and then barely got to use him at all in KOTET as, at least it seemed, I was often forced to use one or another companion by the needs of the plot.

Companion choice as a function of storytelling – Senya was not even in my Shadow-tank’s top 5

This highlights a broader point Shintar makes in her post between storytelling that is overt and directed and an earlier form (the example given is early WoW), where story was found and pieced together more with less emphasis placed on strong leading NPCs. I wonder if this is part of why I find newer MMORPG content, in WoW and elsewhere, less appealing to repeat? I really struggle at the thought of replaying Draenor‘s content and I’m not overjoyed to be replaying the Broken Islands content for the 7th time on my Deathknight.

Oh, this is going to be ‘fun’

A large part of the problem is the linear and highly evocative storytelling, it’s so memorable that it irks my personal dislike or repeating content all the more. But I hadn’t previously contemplated the amount that leading, even overbearing, NPCs might contribute to this problem. Being hounded by NPCs, constantly told what to do and where, may be functionally the same as following quests around a zone – but it does feel more overt when NPCs are forcing their way into our gaming sessions on a regular basis. Having just played the Deathknight Class Hall intro quests I could have happily dumped one temporary companion (Baron Sliver) into the nearest pit of Legion fire; I’m just glad that it’s not as regular an occurence in WoW!

NPCs have an important role to play in storytelling in MMORPGs, but they are also increasingly used as companions to our hero. In that regard I think it is important we retain some agency to choose who joins us in our journeys, at least for the majority of them.

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EQ2: the Eggcellent Adventurer

Alerted by Bhagpuss’ recent post I popped back into Everquest 2 for two brief sessions of Easter Egg hunting over the last two days. Easter doesn’t normally feature in my MMO gaming calendar at all, there’s not that much to do that interests me usually.  So news of a new mini-event in Everquest 2, a game I’m just getting back into after a break, was welcome indeed. To avoid my screenshots accidentally spoiling your own hunt, I’ll put in a read-more for the rest of the post.

Continue reading

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WoW: progress and alts

The Broken Shore content from patch 7.2 has focused my thoughts and playtime in WoW around which characters to progress and in what order. There’s plenty of grinding to be done in this expansion: artifact power first and foremost, but also order hall resources for upgrades, plus a double dose on the Broken Shore with the return of Nethershards as a currency and the need for reputation as part of the unlock for flying.

7.2 changes to artifact traits cap

Unlike Draenor, the barrier for flying is looking pretty low now as Blizzard have made another adjustment recently to take out the requirement for doing all the Broken Isles invasion events; probably a good thing, I’ve only seen two of the four zones’ events so far. That said on my main character I’ve only just hit honored reputation so it’s going to take me quite a while to get there – grinding for rep isn’t my thing in WoW or any game, I have too many games to be bothered about that.

The invasion events do not, to me personally, have the same attraction as the pre-Legion invasions. These events are quite linear and scripted, 4*world quests, then an intermediate task or animation and finally a three person scenario. Worth doing them all at least once to see them, naturally, but I’m not finding them particularly compelling- perhaps the awkward timing is a factor?

Our Deathknights are now at level 97, so maybe a zone and a half of treasure-seeking to go before they too join the stable of alts in Legion. I’m actually rather interested in seeing the DK class hall storyline as my next goal in-game. I didn’t want to have to maintain two artifact weapons on my paladin as the expansion progressed, so he’s sticking to Holy for now. Having a Blood DK in my character mix means I can more easily take on tanking duties for dungeon runs. Guildmates are focused on the release of the next raid, but that’s not so interesting to me and, in all likelihood, I’ll have to wait a long time for it to fully unlock on LFR-difficulty.

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