EQII quest types if wish every MMO had

Ever since WoW set lots of genre standards quests have become the de facto means for progressing your character in most themepark-MMOs and even some sandboxes. You don’t just go forth and kill Orcs, gather shrubs or whatever because you want to, but because some NPC tells you to.

Players are supposed to be busy for as long as possible, so lots and lots of quests are needed. Quantity often trumps quality in terms of quest design due to this. It’s become so bad over time that there’s a well known trope for boring busywork-quests: ‘Kill 10 rats’.

10Rats
In case you don’t know The Noob yet, it’s hilarious!

Fortunately not all quests are like this. Everquest II has a lot of variety, and also some types of quests I haven’t seen in any other MMO yet. Which is a shame because I think these are pretty great, although they, too, are mainly meant to keep you busy.

Here are some examples.

Lore and Legend quests

For nearly every creature type in EQII there’s a corresponding L&L quest. They require to collect body parts of said creatures to learn more about them.

What’s great about them?

You have to kill all those mobs for other quests anyway (see above), and it’s nice to get not one but at least two pings every now and then as well as extra XP at the end. Some of those pings come in the form of tradable items that need to be consumed for the quest, so even if you have already finished yours you can still benefit from looting duplicates by passing them to your alts or selling them.

The rewards other than XP are what make these quests stand out though. Every class has some kind of spell or ability that you can only use against creatures whose L&L quest you have completed. It’s not insanely powerful, but it’s still nice to have another damaging ability at your disposal.

You also get a wall mounted trophy and an actually readable book containing a short story about that creature type for your house.

EQ2_LL
Yes, I’ve studied that brain very thoroughly, thanks for asking.

When a quest manages to make mindlessly killing mobs much more rewarding and fun it’s doing something right in my book.

Language quests

The EQII Wiki lists 43 languages, only two or three of which player characters can speak from the start. Some can be bought, but most have to be learned by doing a quest.

What’s great about them?

The basic ones again require simple drops coming from the corresponding mob types, so they give you yet another reason to go on a killing spree.

More elaborate languages, like the Dragon language, have equally sophisticated quests. The main step of this one asks you to “find 26 translated runes of Elder Dragon”. Doesn’t sound too hard until you realize that those runes are spread out all over the game world and you have no exact idea where they might be hidden. If anyone has found all these without using coordinates from a walkthrough: hats off to you! Even with outside help it’s really cool though because it makes you revisit all these zones and kind of see them with different eyes while you examine every nook and cranny.

Learning the languages serves the purpose to actually be able to understand and talk to those people and creatures. If you don’t know the language yet you will see only gibberish in chat, and consequentially can’t properly interact with them to get or progress quests. This makes the world feel more real to me and gives a sense of achievement the more my characters learn.

EQ2_Language
Ha, you say that now!

Heritage quests

These aren’t exactly applicable for every MMO because they send you on a quest to rediscover ‘relics of old’, namely famous items from the game’s predecessor Everquest. Still, even without the nostalgia factor (which I don’t have either because I’ve never played EQ) these are very cool quests.

What’s great about them?

In a word, they’re epic. When done at the appropriate level they’re much longer and harder than your average quest and always tell an interesting story. Some are sad, some are hilarious, some are plain silly. Whatever they are, I never skip the quest text because I’d do myself a disservice.

Granted, the items they reward aren’t always worth the effort, at least not for their stats. Often you’ll find that you can’t even use it because it’s not for your class. After all the legendary Shiny Brass Halberd, for example, won’t magically turn into a wand just because you’re a spellcaster. This doesn’t bother me though because these too can be used as a housing decoration, and I often sit in my library, drink mead from the Stein of Moggok and read a book about lore and legends while admiring the sight of my Glowing Black Stone and Greater Lightstone upon my shelf.

EQ2_Heritage
Well, not really, but you get the idea.
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Farewell to Wildstar and other MMO news

So I come home from a 12-day vacation and the MMO-gaming world has pretty much turned on it’s head. Huh.

Pearl Abyss is buying CCP Games. Since I play EVE Online and intend to continue to do so I hope this will be good for the game. There’s much doom and gloom going round of course. I prefer to share Wilhelm’s more upbeat view. Also, in my opinion Black Desert’s cash shop isn’t as P2W-heavy as many people claim it to be. I didn’t aim for being competitive in PVP though, so what do I know. We’ll see.

A billionaire doctor has invested in Daybreak. Any news concerning Everquest II that’s not decidedly good news makes me very nervous right now. I just fell in love with the game again and would very much like to make up for lost time as long as I can. A shutdown announcement would be heartbreaking. Bhagpuss is cautiously optimistic, and I hope he’s right.

Speaking of shutdowns, the time has come for Wildstar. Unlike others who said their farewells I’ve never played it, but it makes me sad nonetheless.

The game was on my radar since I first saw it’s brilliant gamescom ’11 trailer. It’s funny, it’s action-packed, it has Sci-Fi and Western style…it’s basically Firefly. What’s not to like?

Wildstar
Well, ok, Firefly with WoW-sized shoulderpads

Obviously a render trailer like that doesn’t tell you anything about how a game actually plays. Once details about the general gameplay direction became known I started to doubt if this was going to be a game for me: a themepark with action combat and ‘hardcore endgame’. This is what the devs themselves said about their raids:

How hardcore are our raids? So hardcore that they floss with BARBED WIRE!!!

Okaaaay.

Despite my fondness of playing solo I do like raids. The more people the better. I went from 24-man raids in EQII to 8-man raids in SWTOR and was like ‘this is no raid, this is a group with two extra people’.

My EQII raiding days have taught me one thing though: it’s hard to find enough players of compatible playstyles, skill levels, goals and schedules for raid groups that big. Even if you do find those people, keeping them all engaged and happy for a period of time isn’t just hard…it’s fricking impossible.

So how does the prospect of 40-man raids with super high difficulty sound? Awesome in theory if you do like that sort of thing, but very much at odds with reality.

Once I had read about ‘attunement‘ I definitely knew Wildstar was not for me.

It’s a shame, because I would have very much liked to at least check out it’s player housing. More than a few call it the best they’ve experienced.

Which makes me wonder, again, who exactly the game was meant for.

I have never, ever, met a player whom I’d call at least semi-hardcore who was into housing and other kinds of ‘fluff’. Those people want their game’s devs to do one thing only: design more dungeons and raids. Everything else is deemed a waste of time and resources. From their point of view it’s understandable.

Statistics show that they are a minority though. A vocal minority for sure, but still a minority. Enough to pay the bills for a AAA MMO? Apparently not.

And so it goes. It’s sad because the game has a lot going for it. I think I’d have liked the setting, style, music and non-hardcore features very much.

Farewell Wildstar.

Blaugust Reborn comes to an end

BlaugustReborn

Today is the last day of Blaugust Reborn and assuming that nothing went wrong with scheduling I’ve met the goal of publishing a post every day. Yay!

It was a very interesting, fun and also challenging experience. Until July 31st I had published one post every 9,5 days on average. Going from there to one per day was a steep slope, and I had to leave my comfort zone in more than one regard.

I once said that I deem most things happening to me not worthy to be written about. This hasn’t really changed, so I had to overcome the fear of writing something completely trivial that’s just wasting my and any potential reader’s time more than once. When I look back at those 31 posts I luckily can’t find one that I feel wasted at least my time. I don’t know about yours of course. Not all posts quite meet my standards though (had I had the time I’d thought of a better title for some posts for example), so the pressure of having to meet the deadlines was indeed noticable.

Another thing I had to learn was to refrain from writing until I’m ’empty’, cramming everything I have to say about a certain topic into one post.

In this post of his Bhagpuss said “This is what Blaugust does to you. I’m already wishing I’d split the Bless First Impressions posts into four chapters instead of just two.”

Indeed it does, and it’s actually a good thing. Not only does it leave something to write about for another time, I feel it also makes for posts that are much easier to read and digest (I wish I had already known this when I wrote this 3,400 word extravaganza).

Now, where do I go from here?

I know that I’ll continue to write, and of course I’ll also continue to read the blogs of many fellow Blaugustans, some of which I probably wouldn’t have discovered without this event.

I won’t keep posting every day though. While it obviously isn’t impossible it was quite a strain sometimes, and writing is supposed to relax and not stress me out.

I will start to post with some kind of regularity, something I didn’t do before Blaugust, so that readers will know what to expect. I’ll make it my goal to post at least once a week, twice if I have more to talk about.

The first post after this one will appear on September 10th at the earliest though, because we’re still on internet-free vacation until the 9th.

In closing I’d like to say Thank You to all of you once more. Thank you for reading my stuff, for commenting, liking and for coming back. Thank you for writing so many wonderful, insightful, delightful and awesome(ful) posts.

Above all thank you Belghast for reviving this great event and doing the heavy lifting for all of us.

See you folks around.

EQ2_SeeYou

The beauty of gaming

While good gameplay is always much more important to me than fancy graphics I too like eye candy. Who doesn’t?

I also like to have mementos of my adventures so I can revel in nostalgia later.

Combine the two and it’s no wonder that I take lots and lots of screenshots. Today I’d like to share some highlights. As always, click to enlarge.

Screens_BD

This is the city of Calpheon in Black Desert Online. It’s the most realistic depiction of a medieval town (as I imagine it) I’ve seen in a video game to date, and it’s especially beautiful at dawn.

Screens_Destiny2

Destiny 2 is a good looking game for sure. This was my favourite vista.

Screens_EQ2

Another shot of Everquest II’s Obol Plains. Not bad for a 6-year-old zone in an almost 14-year-old game.

Screens_EVE

Multiple fleets are fighting here in EVE Online, with Lakisa and myself right in the middle. Doesn’t look like death and destruction from afar, does it?

Screens_Arkham

The Scarecrow levels in Batman: Arkham Asylum were really special, gameplay- as well as graphics-wise. Damn, now I’d really like to play it again.

Screens_GTAV

And what could be a more fitting shot to end this post than Trevor’s supercool Unflinching Walk from GTA V?

The times they are a-changin’

Long running online games have a problem franchises like Call of Duty or Gran Turismo don’t: they can’t as easily re-release themselves with a new graphics engine every couple of years.

This leads to these games becoming less and less likely to draw in new players because in addition to not being the new hotness they also look more and more dated in comparison.

Developers try to tackle this with little tweaks and upgrades to their graphics that make the games look slightly better without needing a whole new engine.

WoW has done this for example, and the difference between vanilla (2004) and Legion (2016) is quite noticable.

wow-vanilla-legion

Noticable, but not groundshattering – at least not on screenshots, and I haven’t seen it ingame.

What I do have experienced myself are the changes to EVE Online over the years, and those are pretty huge. I didn’t actually realize how huge until recently. It’s funny how quickly you get used to the new state of affairs after something changes, and soon you’d swear it had always been this way.

When I browsed my old EVE screenshots in search for a picture I needed for the blog I stumbled across a shot of an old PvE ship of mine, the Raven Navy Issue. I almost fell off my chair. First, here’s how the Navy Raven looks today:

EVE CNR1

My Golem, which uses almost the same model as the Raven, looked like this in 2009:

EVE CNR2

That’s not such a big change over nine years, is it? Well, strap yourselves in, because this was my Navy Raven in 2007:

EVE CNR3
Holy crap, what the hell is THAT?

Seriously, I had no idea anymore that the game looked like this when I started to play. In fact I was already playing for almost two years when I made that picture.

And I clearly remember thinking that the game looked pretty great back then. That’s how much our perception changes with the times and everything we see and experience.

Kudos to CCP for putting in the effort, and thanks for another reminder that not everything was, in fact, better in the old days.

Stay awhile and listen: Forces of the Northern Night

DimmuBorgir_Forces

I’m not a huge fan of live albums in general. Being an extreme creature of habit, once I’m accustomed to a piece of music I like it just the way it is and don’t want it any different. Live music is by nature almost always different, and when it isn’t there’s no real point to it unless you’re there when it happens and it’s all about savouring the performance.

There are exceptions though, and this is one of them.

While Dimmu Borgir were always frowned upon by many ‘true’ black metal believers I instantly became a fan of theirs when I listened to their album StormblĂ„st in ’96. What really blew me away was their next release, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, which remains one of my most beloved albums to this day. My favourite music genres have always been metal and classical (symphonic) music. To me Enthrone was, at the time, the best and most sophisticated symbiosis of those two. For that to work a great sound is needed, and it didn’t disappoint in this regard either.

Since then they’ve constantly refined their style, which I would call Symphonic Black Metal. For the recording of their album Death Cult Armageddon they used a real orchestra, the Prague Philharmonics, for the first time. This again elevated their compositions and sound to a whole new level.

In 2011 they collaborated with Kringkastingsorkestret, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Choir, for a live show in Oslo. With Forces of the Northern Night they released the recording of that concert as well as the same show with different orchestra and choir at Wacken Open Air 2012. I highly recommend the earbook, which consists of two Blu-rays, two DVDs, four Audio CDs and lots of large format pictures. At Nuclear Blast Germany it’s heavily discounted, I assume that the Blu-rays and DVDs aren’t region free though.

The CDs are fine, with great sound and a good song selection. The video discs are where it’s at though. Watching them is obviously not as great as it would have been to see it live in Oslo or at Wacken, but it’s pretty close. The picture quality is superb, as is the 5.1 audio mix. They didn’t make the mistake (as is sadly often the case with surround mixes of rock and metal music) to route bassdrum, snare drum and vocals to the center speaker. Everything that’s ‘metal’ comes from the much more powerful main stereo speakers here, orchestra and choir are spread out over all front speakers and the crowd ambiance comes from behind. Perfect!

The stage setting is well thought out and I’m very pleased that neither camera work nor editing are as hectic as many other metal releases I’ve seen.

I’ve not watched the Wacken gig yet, but the Oslo show is already enough for me to rate this release 10/10.

Song recommendations: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse (I’d buy it again for this song alone), Vredesbyrd, Gateways.

Incursion League – final tally

My participation in Path of Exile’s current challenge league, which ends today, can be broken up into three parts.

A pretty active first month, a considerably slower second month, and a third and last month where I played just a little bit and then quit mainly in favor of Everquest II.

It’s not that I didn’t like the new league mechanics. In fact I think they’re pretty great and I’m glad that they’ll add it to the core game. My only wish would be that they dial back the RNG aspect of it, because as it is you don’t really have that much influence over how the finished temple turns out.

As for progression, not much has changed since last time obviously.

PoE_Queen
Still, level 87 in 2 1/2 months is my record by far

I’ve completed one more challenge, that’s it.

PoE_14Challenges

That’s ok though, since I wasn’t going to get the portal effect anyway.

So this was Incursion. In merely four days the next challenge league will already start: Delve. This looks very promising too, and they’ll also release a ton of other improvements alongside it.

I’ll pass though. Everquest II demands my full attention right now, but even if it weren’t I’d not be willing to start PoE from scratch yet again so soon. I’m sure these mechanics will end up being added to the base game too in the end.

I’ll return to PoE, that much is certain. It’s an outstanding game and I like to play it very much. This is no farewell, I’m just taking a break.

Actually I’ll be taking a little break from all kinds of online gaming starting tomorrow, as we’re going on an internet-free vacation. I’ll have posts scheduled for the rest of Blaugust of course, but after that there’ll be radio silence until at least September 10th. Sorry in advance that I’ll not respond to any comments until then. See you soon.