2018 in review

My only gaming-related resolution for this year was to stop playing stuff when it isn’t fun anymore, and I adhered to that. Looking back I can say that, yes, I indeed had more fun and less headaches with gaming overall due to that, so mission accomplished.

One consequence was that I alternated between games even more than I did in the past. While that’s not an inherently bad thing it means that I still haven’t found a proper home game.

That being said, for the last two and a half weeks I’ve played the heck out of Black Desert Online again after shelving it in April, and I’m having tremendous fun right now.

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To boldly go…where I hadn’t gone before. More on that soonish.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

From January to April I played mostly Black Desert and EVE Online. In BDO I was very excited about the adventures that I had, and also about gathering, cooking and crafting. In EVE we had some great fights and participated in moon mining for the first time.

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But mostly we just kept shooting stuff

I also mused about randomness, player made music  and non-consensual PvP in MMOs.

In April I started to play Path of Exile again, which absolutely dominated my playtime until mid-August. I talked about how much fun I have playing summoner characters, playing the Incursion challenge league and things that I love about the game in general.

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I also killed Queen Atziri for the first time…only 4 1/2 years late

In June I celebrated my blog’s first birthday.

In August two things happened. One: the venerable Belghast revived Blaugust, and I signed up intending to reach the goal of posting every day during that month, which I managed to do. Two: I returned to Everquest II after a break of almost seven years. I fell in love with it again and wrote quite a bunch of posts about it since then.

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The terrific ‘Crafting Epic 2.0’ netted me this sweet mount a couple weeks ago

During Blaugust I also talked about playing American Football, our participation in EVE’s Alliance Tournament and some more MMO-related stuff like level scaling, soloing and faction grinds.

In November International Picture Posting Month came along, and I posted a couple of themed screenshot collections.

During the year I also expanded my fledgeling columns Memorable Moments, where I share gaming related adventures I had that are special to me, and Stay awhile and listen, thoughts about music that I like.

As I said in the beginning I recently picked up Black Desert again, but I also still play EQII and EVE regularly.

The gaming industry in general and MMO industry in particular gave us a crapton of headscratchers and serious fuckups this year, I think more so than in any other year before. I don’t want to talk about that though, this is supposed to be a positive post after all.

Ok, well, I’ll just say this: yes, Blizzard, I indeed do have a phone, but that’s none of your goddamn business because in my opinion quality games and fucking phones don’t have anything to do with each other!

Anyway. I don’t really have any resolutions for 2019 except continuing to have fun doing what I love, and I feel exceptionally blessed that, barring any disasters happening to me, I’ll be able to do just that.

I wish you all a happy and above all healthy year 2019!

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Let it snow, MMO!

Sorry about the title, I just couldn’t resist. I’m not even sure if that’s a proper rhyme. Ahem, moving on.

It hardly ever snows where I live, so when I crave some proper winter weather I need to either travel a good bit in real life, or get my fix in one of the virtual worlds I also inhabit.

While the latter obviously isn’t as good as the real deal it has the benefit of not actually being, you know, cold. MMO developers are well aware of that appeal, and most titles have at least one zone where there’s always winter. Those that have weather systems also tend to let it snow regularly during winter months.

Here are some places to savour virtual winter should you ever feel like it.

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Black Desert Online is one of the best looking MMOs out there, and it’s especially spectacular during winter. A screenshot doesn’t do it justice really, in motion it’s downright stunning. When it starts to snow the world doesn’t just turn white from one moment to the next, instead the snow blanket gets more dense over time. Later it starts to melt and turns to mud or water, depending on the surface, before it finally dissipates.

It’s not just a feast for the eyes either. Walking over snow sounds very realistic, and I could swear all ambient sounds are a bit muffled. I might be imagining that last bit, but it shows that the whole experience just feels right and is probably as close to the real thing as it can be.

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ArcheAge has a similar approach, but falls short in comparison. Still, it too looks pretty great. During sunshine you can see Marianople, the city in the background, clearly and with many details from this distance, so the snow’s effect on long range visibility seems to be even a bit more realistic here.

Now we move on to ‘eternal winter’ territory.

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The Coerthas Highland zones are among my favourites in Final Fantasy XIV. The architecture and mood fit perfectly to a region where it’s always cold. I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to discover Winterfell just around the corner. Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here!

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This Everquest II zone is fittingly called Everfrost. It dates all the way back to the game’s release, and it shows. From a distance it still looks quite good though, and I can’t help but feel a little bit chilly when I see it.

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Another one from EQII. These are the docks and the entrance to Thurgadin, city of the Coldain dwarves. It’s an impressive and majestic place, and it’s huge. A player character would fit a couple of times into the head of one of those statues. The winter theme fits very well here I think.

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If you want to freeze your butt off in The Secret World the Carpathians have got you covered. I hope you don’t mind that vampires are all over the place though. Definitely bring your collection of stakes along. Or Buffy Summers.

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I can’t remember the name of this zone in TERA, nor why my horse is hovering a foot above the ground. Maybe it didn’t want its hooves to get cold…

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I didn’t mind the stylized look of Star Wars: The Old Republic in general. Some places, like Tatooine for example, actually looked really great. Somehow the ice planet Hoth didn’t feel right though. The above mentioned effect of feeling cold just by looking at it just wasn’t there for me. Still, this list wouldn’t be complete without Hoth, would it?

I wish you all a merry and hopefully white Christmas.

Happy Frostfell to all!

I have to correct myself. Back in October I said that Nights of the Dead is my favourite Everquest II holiday. Now I was reminded that I actually love Frostfell even more. I guess if you manage to get me in a nice and cozy Christmas-mood you’ve already hit the jackpot.

Since I had last visited Frostfell Wonderland Village there’s been a quite drastic graphical overhaul of the zone, so I was in for a big surprise.

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It’s almost unrecognizable, and looks especially great at night

Fortunately ice skating and hurling snowballs at one another are still in, and just as fun as ever. Most quests I already knew are also still there, and they added a bunch of new ones in my absence. Of course I played through them all.

Some of the newer quests revolve around a ‘secret’ workshop where the Gigglegibber Goblins actually manufacture all those presents Santa Glug distributes.

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If this was available as prestige housing I’d buy it! *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Them being Goblins lots of things go awry of course, as usual, but thanks to my help all the good kids will be getting presents this year after all.

Of the old quests I always liked EQII’s version of the Christmas Carol the most. You’re tasked to take the place of one Mr. McScroogle who’s an irredeemable asshat (surprise) and sick of being reminded of that fact over and over again come Frostfell. So this time it’s you who is visited by three well known ghosts and are shown his/your wrongdoings.

Although I’ve done this quest a couple of years in a row back when it was introduced some of the dialogues still make me crack up really hard.

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I’ve faced pre-nerf Venril Sathir, mate. THAT guy was scary!

I’ve always loved EQII’s humor and there’s much more of that spread all over Frostfell content.

As is tradition new crafting recipes have also been added every year, so I had lots of new goodies to look forward to. In contrast to Halloween-craftables the Frostfell stuff can only be made using the workbenches in the Wonderland Village, which means that you have to craft everything you like while the event lasts or wait until next year.

So I quickly let my pack ponies gather some Frostfell ingredients and started hammering, sewing and, of course, cooking.

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Who says Christmas is only about sweets? It’s also about a nice roast!

This gave me the perfect opportunity to tend to an unfinished project in my Bruiser’s home. I had started to furnish a dining room when he moved into his Qeynos manor many years ago, but until now I’d never put food on the table, literally.

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Now I can feed an army and then some

The room isn’t finished yet, but I’m quite pleased with the centerpiece now.

There’s also new armorsets and weapons. These aren’t really suited to be worn all year like the Halloween stuff is – they’re a bit too colorful for that I feel – but until January Lakisa and I will both be sporting the cheerful plate armor.

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Only complete with the matching cheerful scarf…and I normally hate scarves

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you like nothing more than holiday events you just have to play EQII. There are so many that you can play them pretty much all year round, and they’re all great.

Frostfell will be around until January 3rd, so there’s still time to take a look. I know I can’t get enough of it and will enjoy it while it lasts.

IntPiPoMo – Marvelous mounts

Mounts are a staple feature of the MMO genre, almost on par with levels or quests. Most of the time their main purpose is to carry you around, letting you reach your destination faster. Some have additional abilities like gliding, flying, having their own inventory or being able to carry two players at once. Then there are those really hard to get ones, which above all else serve as a status symbol once you have them.

Whatever the case, they are our pride and joy, are they not?

Many have accompanied me over the years, and here are some of my favourites.

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Sunset over Antonica

This is my first Everquest II mount. You didn’t get one for free or as a quest reward back then (as far as I know), and it had taken me quite a while to accumulate the status points needed. As a result I was very happy with it and rode it for a pretty long time, all the way until leapers and flyers were introduced.

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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Speaking of leapers, I’ve never had so much fun with another mount in any game than I had and still have with these. At the time they let me see all those old zones with new eyes because they jump really fricking high (and I couldn’t use flyers yet), but it’s also pure joy mechanically. Barely making the jump over a wide ravine or landing at the exact spot I aim at feels great and obviously isn’t half as fun with a flying mount.

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Doesn’t look like it, but I swear I’m moving fast

Star Wars Galaxies had no mounts at release, but pretty large planets. My characters must’ve worn out quite a lot of boots during the first months. I didn’t mind too much because the large distances added to the game’s adventurous, sandboxy feel, but it’s safe to say that pretty much everybody cheered a lot when mounts were finally added. Or…not. The first mounts were rideable beasts and just barely faster than running, so most of us were quite underwhelmed. A while later the mounts everyone was waiting for finally came: gliders and speeder bikes. The perceived size of the game world shrank a good bit due to that, but I don’t think anyone would’ve seriously wanted to go back.

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These are the suns you’re looking for

While we’re in the Star Wars universe, here I’m zipping around Tatooine on my collector’s edition mount in SWTOR. I liked this game’s version of the planet very much, I think it has just the right feel to it. Plus, the side quests for the Jawas are hilarious. But I digress. The mount wasn’t anything special, but at least I had one to use right away.

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Light cycle ready, where’s the arena?

This is my all time favourite SWTOR mount. I didn’t like doing dailies in that game much, but I ground the Gree event diligently until I had reached the needed reputation rank for this because it just looks awesome and fits my Jedi Guardian’s look perfectly.

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Why yes, it’s very comfy

Final Fantasy XIV has a great many cool mounts, this being one of my most used flyers. It always reminds me of the Goblin beast tribe quests that reward this, which I liked doing because they are just hilarious.

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I can’t think of anything to say that would make this any more ridiculous

Lakisa and I had just finished the Moogle beast tribe quests, so naturally we took off on our brand new dandelion mounts and spread the love…err…pollen.

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Trick or treat

This last one from FFXIV could be earned while doing the Halloween quests a couple years back. I didn’t use it very long though; an over seven feet tall Au Ra looks a bit weird on it after all…

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I don’t need no helmet, officer, I’m immortal. No, really!

The Secret World didn’t have mounts for a long time, and technically it didn’t need any because you could unlock several substantial boosts to your running speed. With those you made Usain Bolt look very old.

But, again, players like mounts, so they were finally added. This motorbike was the first, unlockable by doing a quest. It wasn’t any faster than the normal speed boosts and had pretty clunky animations for turning and such, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

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Yet another TRON reference. I’m not complaining though.

Zipping around Tokyo on my…shoes?

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Yes, there actually is more than one horse in this post

This is my trusty steed in Black Desert Online. It’s fast and reliable, but man, it eats me out of house and home. So. Many. Carrots.

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Is there a horse under all this…stuff?

No. No there’s not. It’s dead, Jim. Well, at least it doesn’t need any carrots. Which is a good thing because I haven’t seen a single carrot anywhere in TERA.

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Death from above

Not only are the gliders in ArcheAge very fun to ride, they’re also instruments to be used to your tactical advantage in PvP. Here we’re coming down hard on the enemy faction’s Grimghast raid.

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Who says this isn’t a mount? I’m riding on it, am I not?

Another one from ArcheAge. Our guild did a huge cooperative trade run across the sea for a hefty profit. Until we reached the shore we used farm carts to speed up the journey. Now, I could’ve stored my tradepack into the cart and rode on my horse, but why? Sitting in the front seat (actually that’s the hose for watering your fields, but bear with me here) was much more relaxing and less bumpy than riding on horseback.

What’s your favourite mount?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 14 (this post); 50 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Bugs, glitches and other funnies

If you’ve played video games, especially MMOs, for any lenght of time you’ve probably encountered your fair share of things that didn’t work as intended. Getting stuck, falling through the world, physics going crazy, wrong or missing translation, what have you.

Sometimes it’s funny when stuff like that happens, but it can also be a bit annoying if it impedes your ability to, say, progress a quest or even continue to play at all.

Fortunately you don’t have to deal with such consequences if you just look at screenshots of those things happening to me. Yes, I went through all kinds of hardships so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

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1998 called, it wants its graphics back

This happened to me regularly when I played longer stretches of ArcheAge. I don’t know if it was due to my graphics memory overflowing or whatever, but it looked funny. It kind of felt as if the game had spontaneously transformed into a retro version of itself.

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So this is what pushing up daisies actually looks like

Another one from ArcheAge, this time the old ‘falling through the world’ classic. After I’d dropped through an invisible hole in the ground I was treated to this rather surrealist view. I had to swim quite a stretch to reach solid ground again, but at least I could do so under my own power and didn’t need to wait until a GM got me out of there.

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Again…?

Different game, same drill. This time Everquest II didn’t want me to walk on firm ground anymore and had me literally sink into nothingness.

Over in Path of Exile I tried to complete a couple of league-specific challenges while playing its Incursion League. Whenever you manage to tick one off you get an on-screen notification informing you about it. One day though, I got this:

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Yes. No! Maybe… I don’t know. Can you repeat the question?

In 2010 my EVE Online client occasionally produced the weirdest glitches. The first time it happened I was convinced that my graphics card had just imploded.

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Proof that drugs and gaming don’t mix well after all

Whatever the problem was, it looked completely different every time. I can’t remember if I reinstalled the client or if a patch came out to fix it, but until then I was treated to some really strange sights.

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Holy crap, that’s Matrix code! I knew it!!!

I don’t remember the exact circumstances leading to the next one, but after some kind of teleport or other scripted movement in one of SWTOR’s operations (raid zones) my character remained in this pose. I had to /stuck myself to get out of it. Until then my guildmates had their laughs at my expense of course.

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Guys, lend me a hand, will ya? Guys???

Lastly I have two shots for you that technically don’t belong here because they don’t show a bug or something like that. I’m including them anyway because I think they’re just really funny.

Behold my Final Fantasy XIV Dire Wolf mount.

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If you can unhinge your jaw like that go see your orthodontist right away

I was taking screenshots of my surroundings while my guild assembled for a raid in Everquest II when our Necromancer’s pet suddenly decided to photobomb me without warning.

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OH HI THERE!!

I don’t know about you, but unscripted, hilarious stuff like that is the main reason why I love playing video games.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 36 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Housing edition

I love housing in all kinds of games, especially MMOs. To me it’s much more than just a ‘decorating-minigame’. I like to have a place to come back to after an exciting adventure, kick back and, if the game (hopefully) allows it, show off the spoils one way or another. If it also has functionality like crafting workbenches or items that provide buffs or teleports it’s even better.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the MMO housing I’ve had (or still have). As always, click to enlarge.

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Ultima Online was my first MMO, and this small tower near Yew my first virtual home. Even with its three stories it was tiny on the inside, but I was very happy to have it. It served as my safe haven and storehouse, but also as a place to chill, craft, dye my clothes and stuff like that. To me it wasn’t just one optional feature of many, but an integral part of my¬†gameplay and a proper home.

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This is the little concert hall I arranged inside my medium Naboo house in Star Wars Galaxies. Except for the speakers and the armor I crafted everything you see here by hand, including the house itself.

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This Everquest II rooftop garden in my Bruiser’s Qeynos manor is one of the coziest places I’ve yet managed to furnish. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any kind of functionality, so I rarely go up there. Still, I like it a lot.

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This was our first home in ArcheAge, a small house by the lake in Two Crowns, just after finishing it’s construction. As with my tower in UO it’s living space was tiny, but we were still very happy with it. The little field with the aspen was also ours, and we later managed to convince the grapevine field’s owner to surrender it to us. With those combined we had a sizeable crop area right next to our house, which was very handy.

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A couple months later I managed to fulfill my dream of having a large house right by the sea, which you can see here. The view and sounds from the patio were just amazing.

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I never managed to have a proper house in Final Fantasy XIV (and I still think it’s too damn hard to get one), but my little apartement turned out quite nice and cozy, especially around christmas time.

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I’m a bit torn on Black Desert Online’s housing. The blend of instanced and open world housing is pretty clever and works well, and the abodes themselves range from ok to spectacular. The fact that almost all good looking furniture comes exclusively from the cash shop bugs me greatly though. Still, it’s quite good overall and I’d rather take this than no housing whatsoever.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 7

Double, double toil and trouble

Everquest II has no shortage of holiday events. I haven’t done the math, but saying there’s more days a year with an event active than days without one can’t be far from the truth.

Most of them are great, too. Some of my favourites are Tinkerfest (not based on a real holiday) and of course Frostfell, which is themed around Christmas and the winter solstice.

The one I’ve always been looking forward to the most is Nights of the Dead, the Halloween event. This year it went live on October 5th and will stay active until November 1st.

Since new content is added almost every year there’s an amazing wealth of stuff to do by now. When I left the game in 2011 there already were two haunted houses, one giant hedge maze and lots of smaller content. Since then a race, a whack-a-mole type minigame, new collections and another haunted house have been added, so I had some new stuff to look forward to in addition to replaying the bits I already knew.

I vaguely remembered that some or most Halloween stuff started in West Freeport back in the day, so that’s where I went first. On my way there I stumbled across some tombstones that aren’t normally there. As I looked closer I discovered a shovel lying in the grass. Equipping it turned some of the tombstones clicky, so click them I did.

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It’s technically not really whack-a-mole, but it sure looks like it

One of various things then spawns from the grave. A gift package that can contain either candy, a collectible or a housing item, a mob to fight or a ghost who gives you a quest. I took the quest of course, desecrated some more graves, then followed the lead the ghost had given me.

The quest ultimately leads into the (for me) new haunted house. Like the one in Loping Plains it’s mostly built out of assets from The Estate of Unrest, but with a different color scheme and of course new riddles and enemies. It’s not very long or elaborate, and the boss fight is pretty click-heavy. Overall I like the two other houses more, but new content and new rewards are still nice.

After that I finally made my way to West Freeport. Indeed the quest giver for the trek to Loping Plains as well as the entrance to the first ever haunted house are still there, so I did those two next.

I had completely forgotten the dancing challenge (seriously) in the Freeport/Qeynos house. I succeeded without a single fail, which I think was a first.

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Quick, call Norrath’s Got Talent!

I had read somewhere that there’s also a new (again, to me) race in the Commonlands and Antonica just out of town, so I went and had a look. It’s pretty straightforward, you have to collect as many ghosts as possible while riding a sickly green cloud mount during a limited time, and get rewards accordingly. I made it into the leaderboard in Antonica on my second try (I assume not many had done it yet this year though), and I got myself two copies of one of the appearance weapons because it supplements my Ratonga’s outfit and the Bruiser’s fighting style well.

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Are you talking to me!?

Saving the best for last I finally ventured to Nektulos Forest and entered Hedge Hollow, a giant hedge maze with a couple of quests and really cool rewards inside. I got the outfit seen above there long ago, and you can still get it.

Speaking of rewards, there are lots and lots. Every quest has it’s own selection, but most come from the event vendor in every major city and are paid for with candy corn. Every ‘spooky’ kind of monster (skeletons, bats, werewolves, spiders etc.) has a chance to drop some kind of candy, and all of those can be exchanged for candy corn. Some of the items, especially the mounts, are pretty expensive though, and the cost for my list of want-to-have items quickly amounted to well over 1,000 candy corn.

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Flying mounts for everyone (at level 85 crafter or adventurer)!

To be honest, the thought of having to farm that much candy the old fashioned way wasn’t something I was particularly thrilled about. Hence I was really happy to find out that my pack pony has the ability to fetch candy for me. Instead of asking it to gather a specific tier of resources I can tell it to bring me holiday harvests (so I assume this also works during Frostfell etc.), and after two hours it returns with about 90 assorted candies. I’m using two ponies non-stop for this now, so buying everything Lakisa and I want and then some before the event ends shouldn’t be a problem at all.

I kind of miss the old trick-or-treat minigame (which apparently was removed and replaced by the races when Freeport and Qeynos were revamped), but other than that the event is bigger and better than ever. It’s still plenty of time to do everything before November 1st, and I highly recommend giving it a go.