Category Archives: everquest 2

Beast, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Beast, said he.

The Beastlord class has been announced for EverQuestII. I’ve been hooked by LotRO recently, and have decided to focus on that one game rather than flit from MMO to MMO as I have done in the past. Both forms of play have suited me, the flitting helps to avoid burnout on any one game, which itself often leads to a malaise with the genre as a whole; concentrating on one game allows me to gain a greater sense of achievement by exploring all there is to do in that one world and fleshing out a character to the best of my ability.

The description of the Beastlord has me intrigued, however. A melee DPS class of the Scout archetype, it is a Monk-like brawler which is also a pet class. As I never played EQ back in the day I haven’t experienced the class before, but as a concept I can only declare that SOE, your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to make a microtransaction payment in order to receive each Beastlord issue of your newsletter.

Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings.

Much like most things at this time of year, my gaming is coming in fits and starts of gluttonous excess followed by periods of pale-faced abstention where the slightest mention of the thing is at best likely to cause me to curl up into a ball, suck my thumb and whimper, and where running up the street screaming while wearing nothing but underpants and a wild-eyed unshaven expression of hair-tearing horror is a distinct possibility. I imagine it’s as much to do with the weird cocktail of choices, much like my festive eating habits where breakfast can consist of Christmas pudding and cold turkey one morning with a nice glass of port to wash things down, and then be followed the next day by the far more sensible choice of porridge and ice cream, my gaming has been, shall we say, eclectic.

In recognition of this, I thought I’d jot down some quick-fire thoughts over the next few days on various games that have been bumping around inside my head (the thoughts that is, not the games) and threatening to form an impromptu raid group and kill important memories such as my PIN, or whether zebras are white with black stripes or black with white stripes.

World of Warcraft has been fun enough, but I can’t see myself getting back into it in a major way. The world has changed, there are new things to see and do, but all of it so much like that which has gone before; for me WoW is becoming too much of a parody of WoW, the in-jokes have gone so far that WoW is now creating self-referential in-jokes about other in-jokes, and it feels as though that is what the whole world of Azeroth has become. It’s all a bit South Park or Simpsons, which is fine, but only if you weren’t hoping for something a little more serious. The curious thing is that the use of phasing and cut-scenes seems to imply that Blizzard are also trying to do the ‘adult storytelling’ thing at the same time, and for me it seems to run counter to the more general cartoon-like comedic nature of the rest of the game. What I would hope for is something akin to an interactive fable, with far-fetched magical events being balanced against a sagacious moral lesson, but what we get is something more like a Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown trying to explain War and Peace using suggestive sock puppets and one too many poo jokes.

There are also the standard MMO restrictions that make a mockery of Blizzard’s attempts at serious storytelling, and so the game leaves you confused and unsure whether you’re supposed to laugh or cry, like a clown delivering a eulogy at the state funeral of a king. Towards the end of the Worgen starter area there is a moment where your character and the leader of the Worgen confront the opposing faction – the last remnants of uninfected humans. On seeing your inevitable victory, their leader (and your main detractor/antagonist throughout the starter area) vows never to follow a Worgen leader, and runs off and throws himself from a nearby cliff. Poignant. I must admit I was caught in the seriousness of the moment, I looked to my Worgen leader and to the remaining human leaders, wondering what they would say. Nothing was forthcoming in the end, so I decided it was probably time to think about moving on.

At which point the chap who had just thrown himself from the cliff respawned in his original position in the midst of everyone.

Me: “D… didn’t you just throw yourself from that cliff yonder? D.. didn’t he just throw himself from that cliff? How have you returned, what sorcery is this?”

Human Leader: “What? Oh, that. No, it’s a water flume. We’ve built a giant water slide down the side there. Lord Godfrey likes to go for a quick slide when he gets bad news. Here, Godfrey, these poor Worgen thought you’d jumped to your death!”

Lord Vincent Godfrey: “Jump to my death? Oh good grief, no! Just a quick go on the water slide to calm my nerves. You don’t remember the water slides? Hmmm. You see, men? Their transformation has robbed them of their memories of Gilneas yet! They forget the ancient and noble history of water flume creation that our society was founded upon!”

Human Leader: “Oh the humanity!”

Lord Vincent Godfrey: “Come, let us leave them to the horror of their existence. I’m having another go on that most excellent water slide, and then I might go and relax in the jacuzzi for a while. Who’s with me?!”

Human Leaders: “Aye!”

[They all throw themselves off the nearby cliff in unison]

Meanwhile, EverQuest II released the most pointless playable race for an MMO yet: Vampires.

“What are you supposed to be then?”

“I am a Vampire! I am one of the undead! The ever-living! You cannot kill me!”

“Have you played an MMO before?”

“I… ah…”

“Have you ever known anyone to actually die, like, permanently?”

“Well, no but…”

“So you cannot die in a world where nobody dies? Is that, like, double death immunity? Y’know, just in case one of your ‘impossibilities of death’ doesn’t work? Genius.”

“I am still undead! That’s got to mean something, though, right?”

“Well, it means our cleric can turn you, or make you spontaneously combust, at will.”

What is ‘turning’ anyway? “I am a cleric, I can turn undead! Yes, left, right; name your direction, and I can make an undead go that way!” So undead are essentially the radio controlled cars of the Cleric world? Do Clerics set-up tracks and race undead around and around? Perhaps that’s why you get different speed zombies! Some have been upgraded with better motors to run on the A-spec undead race tracks, while the slower ones are more B-spec types.

Hmm, I think I’m on to something; a little more Christmas cake with Stilton should help me to maintain this train of thought into the next post.

Resisting the reduction of pyschological phenomena to a physical state

Having entirely failed to get into Everquest 2 last year when it was a fiver on Steam, I thought I might as well have a quick poke around the beta of the new subscription-less Extended version. Grabbed the client easily enough thanks to the streaming technology is uses to keep the initial size down, got it installed and fired up, picked Swashbuckler as a class (how could you not want to buckle some swashes?) and human as race, then proceeded to spend a while making him look as Errol Flynn-y as possible, helped by a suitable pencil moustache option named “The Rugged Warrior” (“rugged”, of course, being the first adjective a pencil moustache suggests). Hairstyles offered options like “The Scoundrel”, “The Mercenary” and “The Temple Wiseman”, though from the industrial quantities of styling product employed “The Male Model”, “The Hairdresser” and “The Indie Band Guitarist In Seventh Place On The NME’s Cool List” might be more appropriate. Trying to name my character “Errol” caused the client to spend several minutes in deep contemplation as to whether the name was valid, eventually coming back and saying no, there was already an Errol (probably a hamster). At the same time the Flynn-alike on screen mysteriously transformed into some randomized entirely un-Flynn-y creature, so I flipped back, re-Flynn-ed, tried “Zoso” as a name, many minutes later… no, can’t have Zoso either (probably another hamster). And the face once more transformed into something random. Sticking in a random selection of characters, the brave Swashbuckler “Qfnizxcawet” (either a hamster, or possibly an Aztec god) strode forth to adventure with yet another random appearance, this one involving some peculiar comb-over hairstyle I don’t even remember from the list (which should’ve been filed under “The Geography Teacher”). Still, who cares about character appearance in MMOGs, it’s not something any of us obsess over to a frankly worrying degree or anything, is it? Oh, wait…

Melmoth pointed out there’s an option to save appearance settings, so I fired the client up again, redesigned the character, saved it, then proceeded to try a bunch of names, most of them taken (popular beta, obviously), but without such a long pause for checking, and with the appearance remaining mercifully unchanged. Perhaps the fact that it was streaming more data the first time around had thrown it for a bit of a loop. The saved character appearance proved handy as well, when I suddenly remembered a better name a couple of seconds after hitting “Play” whipping up a replacement was very quick.

The Norrathian Resignation

Steinbeck lured me back in for one last mission. I was tempted, blast it, damn tempted by the offer he put on the table, and I couldn’t say no. It went pretty well at first, we cleared the beach without too much trouble, accomplished the initial tasks, but when I reported in to Secondary Terkenil Niba’Xi like they told me, and he wanted yet another ten Haoaerans taken out, something snapped. I threw Mak`tu’s Mending Staff down on his desk and told him it was his own damn soufflé, he could use his own damn eggwhisk. It was over. Finished. Done with. Over and finished. Done over and finished with. Over. You understand? Finished over with. Done. I’m out. Finished out and overdone.

I can’t say I won’t miss anything from the old days: creating a new identity, the camaraderie, the Tesco clubcard points, but you can’t eat camaraderie and clubcard points when you’re stuck on a beach in Chrykori and Tykor Gi’Lok is busting your arse to take down a patrol of Haoaerans and haul a bunch of gravel around the place. Unless you cashed in the clubcard points for some groceries.

So. Yes. Steam suggestively waggled its cheap EverQuest 2 at me and I couldn’t resist, but playing up to level ten or so has confirmed I’m burnt out on MMOGs for a while. It’s not you, EQ2, it’s me; character creation offered a wealth of options, albeit something of a curate’s egg (excellent in parts), the starter zone introduces everything nicely, there’s much to look forward to, but… it’s an MMOG. There’s a red bar, and a blue bar, and skills and abilities that cause or heal damage, and I can’t muster much enthusiasm for killing ten bird-things or collecting five bits of rock or reporting to some NPC somewhere. I haven’t logged into Warhammer Online for any of the Land of the Dead stuff, or City of Heroes for even longer than that, so I guess it’s time for the annual MMOG break. On with the most excellent Empire: Total War, where Britannia are (in some regions) ruling the waves, and I’m hoping the delicate network of protectorates and trade agreements in Central Europe will hold while I continue taking more territory in the Americas.

The sparkling waves are calling you to touch their white laced lips

I’ve been cruising towards an MMOG break for a while now. Although the server move in Warhammer Online seems to have perked things up greatly on the RvR front I’ve scarcely logged in the last few weeks, and the prospect of the Land of the Dead doesn’t excite me greatly, though I should probably give it a try before dismissing it entirely. It’s been a good run, though. After getting a bit sick of it all almost exactly a year ago I wasn’t sure if I’d stick with another MMOG for more than a month, but I’ve been fairly active in WAR for six months or so, popped in and out for another three, and managed my first level capped character since hitting level 70 in The Burning Crusade. Time for a bit of a break, then, to recharge the massively multiplayer online batteries for Champions Online, or APB, or The Agency, or whatever next catches the eye.

Away from MMOGs, Grand Theft Auto IV is still fun to pop into now and again for a few missions, or a race, or just to cruise around the city looking for shiny cars to purloin. Empire: Total War is also excellent, I’ve been paying more attention to the naval battles which are quite manageable with a fleet of up to four ships (more than that and I find it tricky to micromanage them for optimal broadside-delivery). I’ve got half the setlist to go in Guitar Hero: Metallica, getting the hang of heavy strumming (Shortest Straw and Disposable Heroes passed), but the longer solos still need work. I’ve finally got around to playing Left 4 Dead’s Survival Mode with a few friends, and would like to try some more. For quick pick-up-and-play fun there’s Plants vs Zombies (I say “quick”, inevitably a five minute game somehow stretches out to a couple of hours…) Summer is traditionally a quiet time for game releases, which is good, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with. I really don’t need any new games.

Naturally, then, I’ve been buying stuff from Steam. First, it popped up the news that the two Freedom Force games were available for a fiver, just as I’d been reminiscing a bit during a podcast invasion, so I stuck the double pack in the shopping cart (after all, if you get one you might as well get the other… even though the boxed game of Freedom Force vs the Third Reich was sitting on a shelf not four feet away). And seeing as I was in the Steam store, sorting the options in ascending price order to see what else could be had for under a fiver… While doing my series of articles looking back at old PC magazines and thinking back to early gaming I’d remembered how much I’d enjoyed the original Civilisation but totally neglected the rest of the series, and the complete Civ III was on Steam for about £3.99. Two Freedom Force games and a boatload of Civilisation for less than a tenner, lovely! About the same price as a cinema ticket, and many more hours of fun.

To digress for a moment, when did a cinema ticket become the benchmark for hobby cost/time ratio, why not something else? Say, books? A shiny new hardback can run to somewhere around £20, you might finish it in three or four hours if you’re a fast reader… comparable to the cinema ticket, I guess, maybe slightly better value. You’d probably get it at a discount from Amazon or somewhere, though, or maybe in a three for the price of two deal, and you could always sell the book after you finish it, or keep it to re-read, and who only gets brand new hardbacks anyway? Poke around the charity shops and jumble sales, you can pick up plenty of stuff for 50p or less, radically reducing the cost per hour. Why spend money at all, in fact, a bracing walk around our delightful countryside is entirely free (as in beer, not necessarily as in speech, depending on the right to roam etc.) Let’s not get the ramblers involved, though, and lack of cost plays havoc with divide by zero errors in the spreadsheet. Tell you what, Sherbet Dip Dabs. 39p (in the shop at the end of the road, at least), and, providing you don’t go crazy and start chewing the lolly straight away, you can get ten minutes out of a packet, giving £2.34 as an hourly cost benchmark. That’ll do.

So, two Freedom Force games and a boatload of Civilisation for the price of three and a half hours of Sherbet Dip Dabs, and they won’t make you sick if you play the whole lot at once. The money isn’t really an issue, though, that entire previous paragraph was just an excuse to crowbar Sherbet Dip Dabs into the post in a desperate attempt to secure some kind of sherbet-based sponsorship for the blog (not Sherbet Fountains, though; liquorice, eugh!). I’m hardly lighting cigars with twenty pound notes, but then I’m not so boracic[1] that buying a few games here and there means I need to forego other luxuries like food or rent in a month.

Except money *is* the issue, if the Steam update had popped up and said “Buy either Freedom Force game for £19.99, or £34.95 for the two!” I’m reasonably sure I wouldn’t have bothered. Civilisation IV was available, presumably a better game than III, but for the massive sum of about £12.99 instead of less than a fiver. To the immortal question of Mrs Non-Gorilla, “What d’you buy that for?”, I can but plead “Oooh! It was a bargain”, and I’m hardly alone. As the figures put out by Steam show, major price drops result in kersquillions percent sales increases, particularly when they’re for a limited time.

Anyway. The result of all that was more games than I could possibly play plus three extra, but that was it. Whatever the siren call of the Steam bargain of the week, I’d plug my ears with cheese and lash myself to the mast, even if it’s Cheap MMOG Weekend. What’s that you say, Narrative Inevitability? It’s Cheap MMOG Weekend on Steam? Well, it’s a good job I’m taking an MMOG break not about to go and buy something just ‘cos it’s cheap.

So. Yeah. I’ve got a level seven Inquisitor in EverQuest 2. Oh come on, it was a bargain!

[1] Fun fact, etymology fans: I’d assumed the word was ‘brassic’, and somehow related to cabbages, perhaps being so poor they were all you could afford to eat; it actually seems to be rhyming slang, ‘boracic lint’ for ‘skint’.

Yet in bold quest thereof, better to sink in boundless deeps, than float on vulgar shoals.

After regaining consciousness and finding myself lying on the floor of the lounge with my face bonded to the carpet by a tenuous glue of dried saliva, I spent a short while contemplating the sensibleness of spending a solid fours hours editing a podcast until two o’clock in the morning. My mind then drifted on to the health implications of heating one’s testicles to a somewhat alarming temperature through the unfortunate circumstance of them having happened to block the heat exhaust port on my Macbook as I collapsed comatose upon it. I would state for the record that I was still fully clothed and that this is not the prelude to some sort of strange Macbook mating fanfic, or a working draft of the explanation I plan to give to my doctor:

“ did I get first degree burns down there? You.. you wa..want to know how? Uh, well, it’s because I’m a part time podcaster you see; hazard of the occupation. Yes, I’m sure you want to take pictures. For some sort of medical journal I presume? Wait, what? Your blog?”.

I have the strangest nightmares.

Having regained my composure, and all feeling in my genitals, I moved swiftly on to the most important question of any day: what was I going to play? As I mentioned on the podcast, in a move which many would call madness but which I would propose is less mad than many of the things that occur inside my head cavity, I decided to have a nose around in Vanguard and see if the game is yet able to offer anything of interest to a jaded and cynical MMO veteran who is questing in their own right to find an MMO that restores that long lost sense of adventure and exploration that they once knew. Vanguard is known to be big. Really big. So with the offer of a fourteen day free trial I decided to brush the electronic dust from off of my Sony Station account. I then spent a good hour or so having an allergic reaction to its Fisher-Price front end and its bizarre configuration options nested away in window menus, until finally I got the game downloading. I’m not even going to venture a review, preview, first impression, call it what you will, because I really didn’t spend enough time in Vanguard to justify it. The races are varied and plentiful; the classes look interesting with some nice interpretations of the standard fare. When I entered the starter area and completed the first few quests up to level four or so it was surprisingly engaging, certainly compared to how I imagined it to be after reading various reports in the blogosphere and beyond upon its release, which left the impression that it was the MMO equivalent of Hannibal Lecter: something that teased and toyed with you, then utterly destroyed your will to live before serving you your own brain alongside a nice glass of Tuscan red.

The reason I stopped playing the tutorial was that everything was all so terribly familiar, I had played Vanguard before and in a far more accomplished form. I reactivated my subscription to Everquest 2.

I’ve never been an Everquester. I earned my MMO wings in Dark Age of Camelot, skipping Ultima, Everquest and several other MMOs that are generally accepted to be what Real Men (and Women; thanks Stan) played when MMOs were hard, computers were complicated, and blogging was something done by a martial artist with a bunged up nose. I did try Everquest 2 a year or so ago during one of my many bouts of MMO ennui and although I enjoyed pottering around in the character creator, I only managed to get one of the several hundred characters I created past the initial starter area and to a major city. I’m not sure why I didn’t get further, perhaps I was just generally burnt out, such that soloing another MMO – especially one as daunting as EQ2 is when you first stand at the base and peer neck-achingly up towards its summit which is hidden not in the midst of misty clouds as one would imagine, but somewhere behind the moon – was never going to do anything other than further the frustration felt.

I’m looking for an MMO that is impressive in scope and offers a sense of adventure and exploration, and Lord of the Rings online is impressive in graphical presentation and content, but is also greatly restricted by the IP. What’s more, every time Turbine attempts to add a third storey extension to the intellectual property in which they dwell, one pictures a giant eye staring down at them and all who would follow them; wreathed in flame, the lidless all-seeing eye of Tolkien, watching and waiting. So I have strapped on my backpack, taken my trusty walking stick in hand, and set out on my adventures in the lands of Norrath instead. I spent some time researching classes, and settled on one that was a little outside of my comfort zone in an attempt to spice things up yet further. Traditionally playing healer classes, more specifically hybrid healers, I decided to avoid them and instead picked from the DPS line. I couldn’t entirely resist the siren call of ‘group support’, the role I most enjoy playing but which does unfortunately have the – oft sadly unfulfilled – caveat of requiring a group. DPS to see me through solo content then, and tasty group buffs should I find myself in the strange and disorientating situation of participating in an amenable group in an MMO.

What with Champions Online being delayed, along with Jumpgate Evolution and I’m sure, as we mentioned on the podcast, soon to be every other MMO near release as they all frantically scramble to add the missing boars from their game in order to qualify as an MMO (hint to the sci-fi MMOs: Duke-Nukem-style boar headed mutants), I’ve got a few months to slowly wander my way through a few areas of EQ2. I’m not there for the levelling treadmill, the fact that it’s all new to me means that I want to explore this strange new world, seek out new life and new civilisations, and go boldly where only a few hundred thousand people have gone before.

If I can do all of that as a three foot tall man-rat with a penchant for singing, so much the better.