Crafting gear for alts

I picked up a Ratonga Ranger alt in Everquest 2 recently, I can’t even remember why I created him but noticed him on the login screen and thought it was time to play him. One thing I’ve not done before is actually play a good chunk of the low-level content near either major city (Qeynos or Freeport). The game places new characters in one of four starter zones (New Halas, Kelethin, etc) and by the time your done there your character is level 20 or so and past that content.

So I had a level 4 Ranger sat in Qeynos and no idea what to do with him. A quick wiki lookup revealed that there is in fact a Ratonga racial quest line in Qeynos, so that had to be the number one priority.

After a while though my character found himself seemingly out of his depth, even resulting in a death – not what you expect to be facing at such a low-level! I sometimes forget that I’m playing EQ2 and that I shouldn’t take a quest’s difficulty (or lack thereof) for granted. That was when I looked at his gear and realised it was mostly level 1 starter stuff. Oops!

Before

Thankfully in EQ2 I have a load of alts doing various crafts, mostly not that high level but high enough to equip a new character with anything he or she might need. So I then spend half a session jumping between characters to craft a full suit of armour and weapons. That alone jumped my character’s health and stats up by a wide margin. Plus the new weapons do a lot more damage than the rubbish he was fighting with before. Suddenly the fights that my poor character could barely survive was easy.

Now I fear no ambush

This is probably the aspect of crafting I enjoy the most, making stuff for my own alt characters or those of friends. Although I do like to engage in the player economy in any MMO that I play, having a good measure of self-sufficiency is important to me. I’ve ended up doing the same in Elder Scrolls Online as well, both my characters wear heavy armour and one is training to be a blacksmith so I can keep them equipped. It’s really nice to have a purpose for crafting while leveling and not just at endgame.

Posted in EQ2, ESO, Gaming | 2 Comments

WoW: a quest-free jaunt through Draenor

Bhagpuss’ post about a leveling in LOTRO with minimal questing came to mind recently when my husband and I reached Draenor on our pair of Deathknights in World of Warcraft. My character had languished for years at level 78, my husband had been leveling one on-and-off for some time. So with them in sync we decided to get them to Legion to be able to see another class story. The end of Wrath (levels 78-80) were dealt with quickly enough in the Storm Peaks zone. Then we powered through Pandaria questing in Jade Forest, Kunlai and some of Townlong Steppes.

Questing in Townlong

Finally reaching Draenor and we were both faced with the problem of not wanting to repeat all that content/questing that was recent enough to be all too familiar. At least with Pandaria’s zones it had been an extra two more years since that was current content. The Draenor expansion raised the bar significantly on directed story-telling in WoW, which is great when you play through the first few times, but can get very repetitive on replays. It’s memorable enough, to me at least, to not want to quest through it again for some years.

Garrison time, again…

However Draenor was the first expansion that introduced multiple sources of alternative experience to the game. In Draenor (and in Legion) there are treasures to be found in all zones. They give a lump of experience and some form of material reward – whether gold, an item, a ‘toy’ or garrison resources. The experience reward is pretty good and, with an add-on map, it’s possible to hoover up almost all of the treasures in a zone with efficiency. We’re using our usual flying dragon mount cheat to zip around as a pair, though we often remember the trials of trying to get these treasures from the ground by jumping, climbing, falling or whatever – that shows how much we still remember this expansion!

We could remember jumping to get this treasure.

The other source of bonus experience for the Draenor expansion is the “bonus objective” areas marked on every zone’s map. These are simple “kill X/click Y” type quests that give a very decent lump of experience when completed. In some ways they’re like a static precursor to the World Quest system in Legion (you can only do them once on any character).

Edging into Talador, bonus objective found already.

So after a couple of sessions of this, both characters are part way through 95 and we’ve so far done Shadowmoon Valley, Gogrond and now Talador. We skipped the bonus objectives in Gogrond and will probably have to go back to do those to reach level 96 and be ready for the next zone of Spires of Arak. It’s a very different way to play this expansion with very minimalist engagement with the Garrison (it’s still useful as a place to log off). It’s the most thorough I’ve explored this expansion on any character – we’re still finding the odd treasure that we never collected before as proof of this. Overall it makes for a very different leveling experience for this expansion: I wonder in future if we’ll use a similar tactic to bypass Legion’s leveling/questing?

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 3 Comments

Developer appreciation week 2017

One of the annual blogosphere activities is the Developer Appreciation Week, where bloggers take a break from critique and negativity to actually praise the vast amounts of unsung effort that the continued development of MMORPGs must require.

Although I’m probably not the first to write about either of the two companies I will mention this year, I do have two particular studios whose efforts I greatly appreciate; even when I’m not blogging about their games.

Daybreak Game Company

Firstly I wish to praise the continued efforts of Daybreak Game Company, my only consistent engagement with their varying stable of games has been with Everquest 2. But this game alone is such a unique, deeply characterful, parts surprising and parts hilarious masterpiece of MMORPG development. The depth and rich textures of this version of Norrath and its cast of ever-so-colourful characters is a place I always return to.

What just happened?

So thanks to all the developers, artists, technical and admin staff who keep the studio and their games running and growing!

Zenimax Online Studios

Although my involvement with Elder Scrolls Online has been more recent and, like many games, somewhat intermittent, I have to express my admiration for the developers (and all others involved) who produce this now thriving MMORPG. With shades of my post on Square Enix from 2015, I think it’s fair to say that ESO had a troubled early period, but that the game has really turned around now. The world design is as beautiful as it is expansive, the storytelling is also very much a strong point.

Busy Dolmen…

Perhaps I am most thankful to Zenimax for giving me, finally, an Elder Scrolls game that I can truly enjoy. I played but never really got into Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim – I wanted to like the franchise but something always nagged. I think the earlier games lacked something vital, that ESO has – a very lively world, populated not just by programmed patrolling NPC, but also by happy, zergy and unpredictable player characters.

Posted in EQ2, ESO, Gaming | 4 Comments

ESO: anniversary bake-off

It’s the third anniversary of Elder Scrolls Online launching and the game celebrates this with a baking-themed quest. I wasn’t playing on previous anniversaries so it’s the first time I’ve seen Donolon, the “Wizard of Whisking”.

Celebrity chefs get everywhere thesedays…

The quest is simple enough, although it requires you to gather some simple provisioning (ESO’s name for cooking) ingredients. My chef/Dragonknight had one of the two lots of honey, but he was completely out of flour and hasn’t even seen a banana in-game. My first thought was to trust in luck and go ransack a delve for ingredients – the nearest to my character was the Inner Sea Armature.

So after travel time and the time to clear the delve to hunt through all those pots and sacks, I managed to find one honey. A result but hardly a time-efficient way to get this quest done. This is where ESO can be a bit tricksy, at least compared to other MMORPGs. There is no global auction house, so finding stuff even if you are near a Guild Trader (the localised equivalent), isn’t always a sure thing. I looked on the trader in Davon’s Watch and there was no flour to hand, bananas were pricey as well at 250G.

Practically hiding, she is!

Thankfully I then did some research as I might have wasted a good amount of gold or a lot of time had I not looked into this. Firstly the flour for the quest is right there next to the quest-giver and for free! Normally any container in a city is marked so if you take stuff you are stealing. The three flour sacks right by Donolon are not so-marked and so you get the flour without any effort! Secondly there are also barrels that may contain honey, I found two but one was empty when I looked, in any case they’re not marked as stealing either. Thirdly bananas are sold by grocers, a type of merchant I’d thus far never noticed or subconsciously ignored. So I got the final ingredient, the bananas, for a cool 150G.

Free flour!

Having found this out with some trial and error I felt motivated to sit around the docks for a while in Davon’s Watch answering the stream of questions and requests for flour and the NPC’s location. Sometimes it’s good to pass on helpful info! Beyond the baking challenge for the anniversary; there are also bonus gift boxes for completing daily and weekly quests,

I’d not encountered that type of content, but the event was prompt enough to go find out more. So I took the boat from Davon’s Watch to Mournhold, a bit ahead of my character’s journey but the location of the main Fighter’s Guild for my faction. Lo and behold I could grab a daily quest to close Dark Anchors from there, my kind of quest!

The bonus reward for handing in a completed daily during the event is a chest of crafting materials, a nice little extra reward for a fun activity!

 

Posted in ESO, Gaming | 2 Comments

Sounds that motivate gameplay

I was playing Elder Scrolls Online yesterday on my solo Dragonknight character and I was struck by just how effective and siren-like the sound and visual designs are for Dark Anchors (a k a Dolmen). These public events are regular occurences spread across the leveling zones for players to dive into as they see fit – you slay a few waves of creatures and get a reward from the chest that spawns at the end.

Dark Anchor event underway

They are visually distinctive of course, given it’s a giant glowing ring and chains reaching down to the ground, if you’re facing even vaguely the right way you’ll see a Dark Anchor appear or when in place from a long way away. The sound of these events is even more evocative than the distant visuals, the echoing horns and clanking chains that herald the events arrival are unmistakable. The crackling background hum of the lightning that plays along those chains is also audible from a good distance and has alerted me to an active event just as often.

Ride on over…?

I find these sounds to be a real temptation, especially the start sound as you know if you hear that you have a good chance of getting to the anchor before it ends. If I hear it and am not already engaged in something hard to drop, I will race across to the anchor to join in. This reminds me, unsurprisingly, of similar content in Rift – the sound design of both rifts and invasions in that game had a the same effect on gameplay.

Water rift emerging

Always the sound of a rift opening nearby was a positive thing: a temptation to go check out what was going to emerge. Invasions are larger and more time-consuming than either rifts or ESO’s dark anchors, but when I was playing Rift recently I still found myself caught up often in these zone-wide dynamic events. Hearing the sound effects that heralded the invasion start, often followed by some otherworldly voice declaring our doom, I have always found to be a motivator to get involved.

Invasions always make their presence known…

The frequency of such content does play a factor, if you’re constantly hearing Dark Anchors drop or the tell-tale noise of a rift opening then it becomes easier to ignore them. It’s all too easy to get too railroaded into questing and to ignore the world around you to a larger extent in quest-focused games. So I normally welcome the interruption of these types of events, announced by familiar and evocative sounds, as a welcome change of pace.

Do you ever find sounds motivate gameplay in MMOs, especially something you’re not already doing?

Posted in ESO, Gaming, Rift | 3 Comments

WoW: 7.2 is golden

So patch 7.2 has landed and we have some new open world content in the form of the Broken Shore zone. It’s a mix of new world quests, world bosses inspired by those in last summer’s invasion event and an eleven week quest campaign. The latter seems to be something akin to the Operation:Shieldwall of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, which I see as a good thing as I rather enjoyed that model of content delivery.

Back to communal efforts for the Broken Shore content.

In other news I’ve switched to the Blessing of Ancients talent on my Balance druid and am loving the visuals. Golden Boomkin!

Spreading the blessing to a friend…

I’ve unlocked the new artifact weapon traits (available when your weapon has 35) on this character and am ready to do so on my Paladin as well. I’m ok with this kind of progression as a background activity but do not want trait grinding to be my main focus in game. I have another two 110’s that haven’t reached the 35 point investment yet to start on this, and if they do it’ll be as a background to running world quests for gear and order resources for them.

New traits unlocked (diamond shape at bottom)

The story of the expansion is keeping me interested still, much more so than Draenor’s, although I wonder just what Argus will bring to the game when we eventually get 7.3.  Beyond that are we looking at another long content gap since no talk of a 7.4 or 7.5 has surfaced? Part of me wouldn’t mind that, I have other goals in other games and WoW tends to trample over my gaming time because of friends and family playing it. It seems like Blizzard are aiming for a pretty big finale to this expansion, with us taking on one of the biggest threats to the Warcraft universe, how can the next expansion top that?

Posted in Gaming, WoW

Secret World Legends

So I was planning to do a first-impressions piece on patch 7.2 for World of Warcraft as my next post, then I saw that Funcom has released details of the announced relaunch of The Secret World: it’s being rebooted as a “shared-world action RPG“.

So as expected the relaunch includes a free-to-play conversion for the game, and all content will be free. Major changes to the combat and character customisation are happening – characters will have levels for instance. It sounds like gear will play more of a role in our character’s growing power also – so more stats on equipment?

In the Q&A linked above there’s also a commitment to making coop play more seamless, fewer solo missions would be a nice improvement in my opinion. But the game is moving away from the MMO space, so I imagine world bosses and related events will not survive the transition. We play this game mostly as a trio for the story so the transition should represent an almost ideal situation for me and my two friends playing. The MMO aspects haven’t really engaged us that much in TSW since we joined years after launch; we really only interacted with other players for those boss fights.

The big negative so far of this announcement is that this relaunch is just that, a separate game. TSW will be left open in maintenance mode with no new content, just like Guild Wars 1. Most importantly for many players, everyone will have to create a new character for this new game. That’s a really big issue for me, all that play time, all those missions and character progression – gone. If it were a new game with mostly or many new missions then I might be more willing to consider that. As far as it seems we’ll need to play through all or most of the old content just to then be able to see any new content released in future (i.e. whatever follows on from Tokyo). That’s too big an ask for me at the moment, I dislike repeating stuff, it’s actually a potential negative of the game having such strong story-content – I remember what happened too well!

Never say never and all that, TSW does have amazing world-building and story. But I will be sitting on the fence until I see what other reviewers say about the reboot, at launch; I may even wait until the first of the new content has been released to get an opinion on the quality of what comes after the relaunch before I start climbing that mountain once more…

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 4 Comments