Category Archives: everquest ii extended

Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.

I decided to give the housing system in EverQuest II a bit of a test drive this past weekend, having related my bemusement at the game’s apparent determination to increase the levelling time of my character by burying them beneath a pile of furniture from which they then have to hack their way free, like an American GI fighting their way through the undergrowth of a Vietnamese jungle; the military imagery constantly reinforced by the fact that I keep wanting to say NORAD when I mean to say Norrath. Unfortunately I was quickly pulled over by a surly mounted guard who told me that driving a house around was irresponsible and quite frankly ludicrous, and that I should take it back to where I found it post haste; not entirely a problem since I’d been threatening the kids for the past hour to stop fighting in the back or ‘so help me I’ll turn this home around and take us all back to where our home would be if we weren’t currently driving it around the countryside’.

Thus I rented myself a room in an inn and went off adventuring, this time with a mind to hanging on to the various furnishings I was offered, and so each small hub of quest-givers suddenly looked less like an expeditionary force of stalwart adventures in need of assistance, and more like a car boot sale with rows of tables of old household objects for sale at bargain prices.

“How much for the lamp?”
“Oooo, um, fifteen orc ears?”
“Hhhffffff. Will you take ten?”
“I really can’t go lower than fifteen…”
“How about ten orc ears, and I’ll collect five random glowing objects from the landscape near them?”
“Oh go on then, but I want Crushbone orc ears, none of your foreign grobin rubbish, I can’t do anything with that.”

After a few hours of Boot Fair Adventuring – as opposed to Boot Foul Adventuring, where someone just kicks you in the pants if you don’t do what they say – I found myself with an inventory packed with old bric-Ă -brac: rugs, tables, stools, book cases, lamps, mirrors, pictures, various heraldic banners (George R.R. Martin would be pleased), beds and fireplaces, although no hat stands yet, much to m’colleague’s disappointment I imagine. No urinal yet either, although my character did sit down and mistakenly try to use what turned out to be an alchemical workbench, such that she now has fluorescent pubic hair the colour of aching despair, which bursts into a rousing rendition of O Fortuna when exposed to moonlight.

Back in my acorn-shaped room in the inn at Kelethin I dumped my boot fair bargains in a heap in the middle of the floor, then stood back to marvel with hands on hips at the amassed pile of junk which looked not entirely unlike the resultant mess left by the stink spirit in Spirited Away. After a short session of sifting and sorting, I began to experiment with setting up the house.

I have to confess, EQII’s housing is fabulous. A sort of limp wristed, ruffle collared, pink trousered, mane haired, interior-design-lovey fabulous, where a game such as LotRO is of a more subdued and sombre instructional DIY bent. Double-clicking a housing item in your inventory allows you to place the item anywhere within the house in the X and Y dimensions of three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate space. A roll of the mouse wheel lets you rotate the item about the Z axis centred on the object, such that a table can be spun so as to align it to any wall surface, for example; holding the ALT key down while using the mouse wheel gives a finer granularity to the movement, to really allow for precise orientation of objects. Holding the CTRL key down, on the other hand (On my other hand? There’s no CTRL on my other hand, sir!), allows the mouse wheel to move the item up and down the Z axis, thus allowing tables and chairs to be floated somewhat surreally in mid air, but also allowing items to be placed ‘on top’ of other items where they otherwise wouldn’t naturally be assumed to fit. Finally, using the SHIFT key performs the operation which surprised me most, in that it allows you to scale objects to be bigger or smaller than their default size, which really allows for a level of customisation and flexibility that should keep most avid virtual homemakers happy. I haven’t explored the system in-depth, merely flung a few items at random around my otherwise barren room while experimenting with the basic placement mechanics, such that the interior of my house currently looks like an antiques shop lost a fight with a centrifuge, but I have read of the various failings of the system for those who want to arrange and place items ‘just so’; books seem to be a particular sticking point here, although I was mightily impressed with the way the system understood my wanting to place a book on a table or bookshelf, without the need for me to manually change its vertical orientation.

LotRO’s interior housing design suddenly seems admirable yet painfully restrictive by comparison; a theme which is recurring with regularity as I continue my adventures in both games, having also recently discovered the joy of EQII’s cosmetic weapon slots, where LotRO still stubbornly forces you to use the irritatingly glowy and otherwise blandly designed legendary item skin, all for a weapon which you’re only using because it randomly happened to have the right set of stats to make your character competent at end-game content.

So yes, I’m slowly converting to the interior decoration method of questing: ignoring all armour and weapon rewards and focussing on whether the quest giver can offer me that perfect something for the wall above my cast iron antique fireplace with art deco tile surround. My greatest adventure for an evening will sometimes consist of resolving the bitter internecine struggle between the clashing furniture in my kitchen-diner. Soon it will be ‘Sorry chaps, I can’t make tonight’s dungeon run because I need to grout the tiles around my newly installed matching Kor-sha bathroom suite’, at which point I hope I’ll have the strength of will to pack the whole lot into boxes and drop them into the Shard of Fear, where such mind-bending character-warping horrors belong.

On apologies.

SOE has given players of Everquest II Extended a gift of Gold membership for a month as part of their apology for the fact that Van Hemlock, by taking out a Station Pass, cursed their MMO network into several weeks of hiatus. Don’t believe me? He checked out Champions Online for the first time recently too. I warned you all back in 2008, but did you listen?

Anyway, to an altoholic and hay fever sufferer such as myself, this is equivalent to someone coming round and apologising by injecting my tear ducts with pollen. What SOE actually did was open up all the classes I didn’t otherwise have access to, and thus hadn’t concerned myself with. Thanks to this, my altitus flared-up so much that it has swollen and bloated my character selection screen to the point that I can barely see the ‘play’ button any more, and I find my game time in danger of being suffocated by my chronically puffy indecision. More excellently, if I do find a class that I really like, it will be taken away in a month and I’ll have to decide whether I like it enough to actually purchase it, or stick with the original class that I was playing.

Don’t even get me started on the ridiculous amount of bag space to which I now have access. Vast savannahs of storage, where animals roam wild and free, and the remnants of lost civilisations, forgotten by time, wait in their vegetative tombs to be discovered again; bugger the dungeon running, I’ll just go for a wander through my inventory. I just need to be out by the end of the month before it disappears and I’m trapped in my own bag space like General Zod in the Phantom Zone portal.

Don’t get me wrong, none of this is a complaint or a rant but simply bemused observation, because I found the situation to be excellently strange, in a “I’m sorry I took your methadone away for a while, here’s some crack cocaine by way of apology” kind of way.

It is only one’s thoughts that fill a room with something more than furniture.

Shortly before the supertanker SOE revealed that it had been torpedoed below the waterline and was leaking its lucrative cargo of detailed customer information into the Sea of Iniquity, I was enjoying a fresh start in EverQuest II Extended. The unfortunate but necessary blockade on all ships entering or leaving Sony waters meant that my journey was temporarily cut short, but this past weekend I, like many others, was once again able to sally forth into SOE’s various venues for those venatorious of virtual voxels.

Thus, Melboo the Shaman continued with her adventuring through Greater Faydark’s starter hub, the Nursery, and quickly moved on to the city of Kelethin and its surrounding area. One interesting thing that struck me so far is in the nature of quest rewards. As the owner of a free-to-play account with no credit to its name, initial bag space is at a premium, and so I’ve become a little bemused that every quest which rewards an item seems to come with an added bonus.

“Thank you sir, so much, for rescuing my girdle from that vicious planetarium.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome, I’ve got nothing better to do, really”.
“Here is the piece of armour that I promised you, and if sir would be so kind as to accept a further little token of my appreciation.”
“What’s that?”
“What does sir think it might be?”
“I know what it is. What I’m implying is, why are you giving it to me?”
“Sir does not like his reward? I can assure you it is of not inconsiderable value”
“But it’s a…”
“It’s a…”
“It’s a fucking bed!”
“It could be a sleeping bed, a book-reading bed, or a breakfast-on-a-tray bed. What sir chooses to do in sir’s own bed is entirely up to sir, and frankly no concern of mine”
“Well, what’s of concern to me, you great twit, is where in the Seven Hells of Luclin you think I’m going to put it? I’m an adventurer! Mad Ethel over there wants me to go and fight my way through an encampment of orcs and kill their leader because she’s convinced they stole her false teeth. How the hell am I going to do that with a four-poster strapped to my back? Even if I took the mattress off! And the… are those curtains?”
“Naturally sir, I don’t just hand out any old boudoir berth as a reward.”
“Even if I took all of that off, it’s a solid pine four-poster that I’d have to…”
“Sir! I am offended…”
“You may well be, but I’m the one who’s got to strap it…”
“It’s solid oak”
“It is not pine, sir. It is oak; sturdy, weighty, solid, back-crippling, oak. Not pine, sir. I would only offer a pine bed as a punishment, and I won’t have it said otherwise.”
“Look I… just… can… what?! FINE! I’ll take it.”
“Very good sir. And could I interest sir in the partaking of an additional errand for me? There is a very nice set of matching bedside cabinets as a reward…”

Honestly, it’s like adventuring, as sponsored by Ikea.

One chap gave me a rug in addition to a piece of armour. Wha… why? Is it a magical rug? Does it fly? Do nubile virgins fall by the orgy-load from its confines when I unroll it? No? THEN WHY THE BLAZES WOULD I WANT TO STRAP IT TO MY BACK IN THE MIDDLE OF A QUEST LINE?! I mean, admittedly, sitting around the campfire of an evening has never been so luxurious, and if you don’t want to sit on the rug by the fire, then there’s the gorram four-poster bed replete with bedside cabinets next to that tree over there. Knock yourself out; the bidet is just around the corner next to the SODDING HEATED TOWEL RAIL.

It’s like every resident in Norrath is on permanent house sale, desperately trying to flog old furnishings to any old wanderer fool enough to accept them. Roads are full of adventurers hunched over with a comical tower of furniture strapped on their backs, up-ended tables tied to chairs, with wardrobes and grandfather clocks teetering where they balance on top. When the poor weary adventurer pauses to sit by the side of the road to rest, an NPC dashes up and whips a futon down underneath them, and then scarpers before the adventurer can protest that they don’t need any more furniture.

I mean, thankfully I managed to find space on my character to carry all this stuff. Yes, it turns out that throwing away one orc ear made enough room to store an entire four-poster bed. So either it’s a tiny bed, which is unlikely seeing as it can be placed and used in your house of residence WHICH I DON’T HAVE AT LEVEL SIX, or those orcs have bloody big ears; and you’re going to want to whisper that rumour, because with ears that big, those fellows are going to be able to hear you from half a continent away. And eyes too! I can throw away one wolf eye and suddenly have enough room to store a large nineteenth century French oak armoire with eight small men still inside!

“My, Mr Wolf, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to fill up an amount of inventory space equivalent to a large antique wardrobe with!”
“Hang on, isn’t this supposed to be an allegory of lost innocence, cannibalism and the more primal side of human-animal relations?”
“Oh was it? Was it? It was! You’re right, terribly sorry, I thought it was the one that warned about the dangers of messing with dimensional homogeneity.”
“Uh no. Duh.”
“Oh very well. So, where were we? Oh yes, ‘eyes’. Right, now, be a dear and take your clothes off, throw them in the fire, and then climb into bed with me would you?”
“Now you’re talking!”

Good grief, where was I? You see what happens when you mess with dimensional homogeneity, developers? Chaos!

So I’ve deleted most of the housing items I’ve been reward with thus far and, not having a house, it hasn’t really affected me greatly, except for the fact that I can pack in a few more orc ears and wolf eyes before I have to return to one of those poor gullible NPCs who likes to buy all this crap “Arleene! Come lookee ‘ere, I bin dun gone bought me some o’ them new-fangled orkee earholes!” I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to purchasing a property, at which point I’ll rue the fact that I no longer have that adorable antique regency flamed mahogany writing desk which would go perfectly underneath the window, but for the time being, with the limited bag space of a free-to-play account, I think I’m probably best not having my backpack resemble an outlet of Furniture Village.

The clearest way to the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

After a week of holiday pleasantness I’ve once more picked up my adventuring in otherly worlds. I’m definitely in a Good Place with respect to my MMO habit at the moment, finding myself able to go out and wander around a zoo or arboretum without that subtle cloying feeling tugging away at me, whispering serpent-tongued tales of the levels and loot on which I am missing out. What would happen to the rat let out of its operant conditioning chamber and released to the wild? Would it run around the woods desperately pulling at every plant branch and stem, hoping for a pellet of food to drop out? Does the rat adapt once more to the new world that surrounds it, or does the world take on the form and function of the Skinner Box to the rat’s heavily conditioned mind?

Thankfully my own operant conditioning machine was waiting for me when I returned home, and so it was that I found myself staring at a desktop full of icons and not knowing what to do. The rat, thoroughly confused to be back in the chamber after its brief sojourn into the wilds, is now overwhelmed by the choice of levers to pull. So I played a sort of Russian roulette and the icon which ended up being highlighted was that of Everquest II Extended. I’ve dabbled in the game a few times, but this time I resolved to actually get somewhere, rather than spending seven straight nights in the character creator and then getting to level five before burning out. It helps that EQIIe has a limited selection of races and classes to choose from, and based on the fact that you have to purchase the others from the store or subscribe to the game, I made the assumption that these are the runt races and crap classes, from a popularity point of view. Then again, you never know with SOE, they hardly seem to be the Kings of Common Sense based on current events, after the debacle of the PSN break-in, their website currently reads:

We have had to take the SOE service down temporarily. In the course of our investigation into the intrusion into our systems we have discovered an issue that warrants enough concern for us to take the service down effective immediately. We will provide an update later today (Monday).

If the intruders had any sense of humour they’d break into that page and change it to an Epic Fail demotivational poster.

I picked a Half Elf from the runt races because it was the only race where I could make a female who didn’t look as though she was suffering the anaphylactic aftershock of being attacked repeatedly in the face by a bunch of botox-injecting bees. I did however have some free Station Cash from when I, like the rest of the world, logged in and played the revolutionaryTM Free Realms for the seven and a half minutes it took to complete the first four mini-games and reach the inevitable interminable grind. So I thanked my past self for suffering yet another massively multiplayer disappointment in order to give my future self (my future self in the past that is, who is currently my present self. Well, I say currently, but of course the self of me that typed ‘currently my present self’ is now a past self and this is my current self. This is my current self. This is my current se… okay, this could take a while) some Station Cash, and I went ahead and plumped for a Mystic, a shaman class of the usual sort: melee, healing, buffs, a familiar, the usual sort of hybrid affair. It seemed like the sort of class I could get on with, and if all else failed I could spend my time pretending to be a member of the Board of Shaman, DJing with my familiar, and shouting at random passers-by that they know nothing of The Crunch.

The previous time I tried EQIIe I went for the new starter area, assuming that it would be the best of the lot, and so I found myself at Pilgrims’ Landing in New Halas, the winter wonderland. Of course, there’s a slight issue when it comes to wonderlands and the wintriness thereof: snow tends to make everything look a bit… bland. Adventuring in a land where everything is white and indistinct because all the white blends into all the other white, and the few landmarks are big white things, next to large expanses of flat whiteness, tends to get me down a bit, a snow-blinding of the soul. My dreams were of fields full of vivacious colour and dappled light over which a cackling God of Winter came and ejaculated his cold whiteness until it blanketed the land. I decided to stop playing. Not least of which because I was always expecting to find a chapter of the K.K.K. around the next corner, and I was worried that my character was going to look to them like she was their Grand Poobah.

This time around I settled on the Nursery in Greater Faydark. I’ve always enjoyed the myth and legend behind the Fae in their many incarnations, so I headed to their home in EQIIe to see how the fair folk fared there. I haven’t got terribly far yet, but that’s because I’m taking my time and enjoying the journey. The class is fine enough, I’m low level so I can’t expect too much from it, but there are perhaps too many buffs and heals at this stage, and not enough attacks; obviously it is a support class, and support it shall, but EQII is not EQ, and despite EQ requiring players to group up just to navigate themselves past the login screen, EQII is quite eminently soloable, and thus the developers could perhaps have better considered the need for the more useful soloing abilities to be lavished upon the player before the more group oriented abilities were revealed. Still, the class can solo quite well, albeit in a terribly repetitive 1-2-3, loot, rinse, repeat, fashion for the time being. The joy I’m getting at the moment is from the forest of Faydark, with its tree city of Kelethin, and the atmosphere that has been created there. It’s very much the same sense of awe and wonder that I remember feeling when I entered Ashenvale Forest for the first time as a lowly Tauren, having spent my time up to that point running around the dry and desolate Barrens. It’s a combination of many things, the reverent ethereal ambient music, the magnificent magnitude of the expanse of ancient groves, and the fact that I’m probably just a sucker for the abundant mythical allusions that can be drawn from ancient woodland.

Of course it all broke down fairly quickly, stunned out of my reverie by NPCs who wanted me to run curious errands for them. More on that in the next post, but suffice it to say: they know nothing of The Crunch.