5

Khek in Steamfont. I also hate pugs.

Another adventure log on Khek the Shadowknight’s progress! Today I dinged 36 and began my adventures in Steamfont for the very first time. This is definitely a step in the right direction in my efforts to get myself as far away from the EQ2 “old world” as possible. Like I said yesterday I’m downright sick of EL and Zek. I’ll say this as nicely as possible…. they suck so much they need to dedicate resources to revamping them. Spend a little time and make the old world zones up to par with the expansion content.

Khek in Steamfont

In Steamfont Khek found the Gnomeland Security outpost (heh heh, nice name) and picked up about 8 or so quests. I’m currently working on completing the white and yellow con quests and spending a little time grinding to fill out the exp. I definitely do not want these quests to run out nor do I want to out level the content too quickly because I’m horrified of where I might be sent next. I think that until I reach 40+ I run the risk of being forced into old world content. Perhaps Lesser Faydark and the desert locations will last until 50 or 60 and then I’ll get to explore the sky expansion, etc. As you can tell I am very much looking to the future. In fact, more so than ever before. This is the first time I have ever had a true urge to reach the higher levels in an older game. It’s something that should make the SoE team proud.

On another note my dislike for pick up groups (pugs) has increased by (10)! But really, what else is new?

Here’s a picture where I am telling the gnomes of Steamfont a story.

4

Gorowyn is nice and all…

But I do wish the Kunark experience could have lasted a bit longer for a new/returning player like myself.  The quality of Timorous Deep exceeds any other MMO experience for me yet so why stop there?  There was obviously a group or team or quality designers at work here.  Yeah I’m moping and borderline whining but couldn’t it have continued?  The old world is simply lack luster (Old world meaning Enchanted Lands, not the EoF stuff) and reminds me why I used to stop playing EQ2 or why some people would never be interested in EQ2 to begin with.  Sure it’s nice and these days you will spend less time in the old world than the new but let’s face it… late 20’s to late 30’s sucks.  I can’t wait to get out of EL/Zek and in to Steamfont.  From there I am seriously tempted to grind until I can go to Sinking Sands or Lesser Fay.

So really now, why include the 1-20 experience at all then?  Some players think it is a cruel attempt to entice new or returning players.  I agree.  Some players think it simply looks good on paper to say that Kunark can accommodate a level 1.  I agree.  But I don’t think it was a waste (for the reasons I originally stated).  All of this does however raise a few questions: If you don’t like Gorowyn itself for what it is then why would you ever lay down roots there?  Also, what makes Sarnak so evil?  I give Gorowyn credit for the bird to BB docks but I really don’t see it being much more convenient than Neriak which has instant teleportation right to the docks of TS or Nek.  I’m also not convinced why the Sarnak are evil.  There really was no evil doing in my 1-20 quests aside from trying to massacre an already tainted tribe of aviaks.  I was an honorable newbie.

It’s an interesting fact that had I not been able to create a Sarnak and enjoy a Sarnak newbie experience then I would have likely never resubbed.  Score one for the EQ2 marketing team.  I also have a reason to keep playing now so that I can return to Kunark at level 65-80 and enjoy what is hopefully an equally fantastic experience.  Score two for EQ2 marketing team.

I’m now level 34 and making my way back to Kunark.  That’s my goal and I do not want to fall short of it.  But dang if I’m not disappointed that I have to endure some crap on the way.

3

Khek in Faydwer: Butcherblock and Crushbone

khekbbI’m not in the mood to get deep or controversial tonight so how about another Khek adventure?

Khek the Shadowknight is becoming famous in Norrath! I was recently highlighted on the SOE EQ2 Players article section for my Khek in Kunark blog entry.

Khek, the name that will be on the beaks of all beach-strolling parrots for times to come… If you want to know more about this legendary adventurer, venture over to keenandgraev.com!

Yay for Khek and all that stuff. Now on to the adventure log!

I took Khek over to Butcherblock immediately after finishing up in Timorous Deep. Having done much of Butcherblock twice already on Delbert (Ratonga Brigand) and Gnobby (Gnome Conjuror) the place was fairly fresh in my mind. Something I wasn’t prepared for though was the great additions made to the zone to accomodate the flow of Sarnaks coming in from across the ocean. You see, in Gorowyn there is a gryphon that will take you directly to the dock area in Butcherblock Mountains. Upon arrival you are greeted with about 4 quests and a few Gorowyn writs to kill x mobs. Grabbing them all I headed straight for the docks where I found an additional few new quests from a Sarnak who starts an enormous chain of quests leading you all over BB. Let me tell you now – complete them all and you will be rewarded with an amazing item.

khekbb2I’ve spent the past 2 or 3 days (I’ve lost track of time) completing quests at a very casual pace. I’m not really in a hurry to burn through content because I really do have a long way to go before I reach a level where I can start grouping more often with guildies and pugs. So at this comfortable pace it has taken me a few days but I have finally completed all the quests at the docks, west outpost, east outpost, and near the Lesser Faydark area. Finishing up the last remaining quests should land me at around 31 where I will make my way either into a dungeon or to Enchanted Lands…. ohh how I loathe Halflings.

Worth mentioning is my trip to Crushbone last night. I was invited to join with some other guild’s group to go on a killing spree and slaughter all the orcs we could muster in an hour’s time. I maed an entire level and completed two quests so overall it was a great trip and confirmed what I already knew: Crushbone is the best instance I’ve been through yet in EQ2. If at all possible I want to avoid Ruins of Varsoon because as a Sarnak I just can’t handle the roof scraping my skull as I run around – ugh.

I expect that my adventures will have a bit more flare once I reach an area I have not been before such as Steamfont. Until then Khek wishes you all a fair weekend!

6

Mudflation

mudflationI just like saying that word… mudflation. From Wikipedia: Mudflation, a portmanteau of MUD and inflation, is an economic issue that exists only in massively multiplayer online games. Mudflation occurs when a more recently acquired or introduced item makes an existing item lose significant value. This is most common when a game releases a new expansion, which tend to introduce better items.

Hated by raiders and loved by the rest. The practice of introducing items that completely make the previous gear in the game look like a cracked staff is an interesting topic. Should an expansion make the months of hard work raiding nearly worthless? In Kunark SOE introduced many (maaany) new quests for the level 70s. These quests, even the starting ones, offer gear that is equal to or much better than the gear they (the raiders) just spent a year trying to obtain. A treasured solo quested item being better than a raid item that took 24 people months to obtain… that might sting a little. The reactions are a mixed bag as some are simply excited to see a new item on their character and others are having fits of rage over their now run of the mill bottom of the barrel equipment.

I see this as a good thing. Why? Because it places less emphasis on the gear and more on the experience of raiding (at least until everyone reaches max level again). Imagine if no gear dropped in a raid and you were simply going for the enjoyment of slaying the dragon. Would you still do it? Now that players know, or should know, that after an expansion their previous gear means little perhaps they will focus more on the enjoyment of the experience and less on the stress of gear. An enormous responsibility falls upon the developers to make the content really something to behold or else players will feel as I did when LOTRO introduced the concept of raid gear being equal to crafting gear but leaving their raids to be horribly dull experiences – wtf is the point?

Top end gear should be something to behold though. If you’re going to put in the time to complete objectives or raid an instance (and it really should require effort… not the assembly line approach WoW took) then the reward should be fitting. When an expansion comes out realize that your gear may be lackluster now but it represents accomplishment and something you’re hopefully proud to own. I like how in EQ2 they give the option to hang some armor on the walls of your home or display them in trunks or other methods. This allows for players to still showcase their stuff.

A major downside though to all of this is that even though a level 60-70 raid was fun it may no longer be run by anyone. EQ2 has done such a fine job of creating leveling content that there really is little purpose to stop what you’re doing and try to obtain a full set of raid gear. You might as well just continue enjoying the content and move on to the top level stuff. However, I personally encourage and hop when I am in the 60-70 range people will run these raids for fun and if you get an item then great but if not you at least got the see and challenge yourself to the experience. To me what was once the premier content now becomes additional content – not old content.

As a returning player to EQ2 and almost to level 30 with my Sarnak SK I can’t help but get a little pleasure from knowing that I suddenly became a little less behind everyone else. God bless mudflation, imo.

9

Group vs Solo, the epic struggle continues

Inspiration to write on this topic should be credited to multiple sources ranging from message boards and fellow bloggers to in-game chat channel discussions.

We all have our preferred approach that we take when we sit down to play a massively multiplayer online game. There are those of us who prefer to solo and those of us who can not stand to play a multiplayer game without the multiple players. I do not need to establish this point any further; or do it? Recently it has become clear that the line is once again drawn in the sand between players. For a while this epic struggle of group vs solo play was taken off the burner and attentions turned to raiding vs, well, not raiding. I now return you to your regular scheduled debate.

There are a few recent cases where the aforementioned struggle comes into play. With the recent release of SOE’s latest EQ2 expansion, Rise of Kunark, players are faced with the blatantly obvious approach to befriending the solo gamer crowd. Kunark is comprised of an enormous collection of outdoor zones or “overland” areas and a decent number of underworld. If you’ve taken the time to explore or read about the overland areas in Kunark you would know that the majority of all the content seen to far has been incredibly aligned with the casual solo player. Solo quests are abundant and absolutely the best way to currently gain levels 70-80, there is no camping, and the quests all yield incredible loot. Those are just a taste of the solo friendly additions in Kunark. Tipa from West Karana feels that in EQ2 grouping should always be more rewarding than soloing – but is that fair? I can see the point of view from both sides. Those who group often feel that this is normal for them. Those that solo feel groups can be hard to obtain or unreliable. So who is responsible for mediating this debate? It falls to the developers of the game and players alike. The developers need to create the content for both and declare that it is how it is. Then it’s up to the players to either accept it and like it or not. As for EQ2 it’s unclear at the moment for everyone as to whether or not the solo play will grossly outweigh the group content but one thing is clear – it’s called EverQUEST for a reason.

Scott Hartsman (EQ2 producer) made a remarkably sensible statement about solo questing vs group grinding and racing to the end.

“Coincidentally, I got a few great IMs from raiders lastnight on the subject, whose guilds pride themselves on being among the first to max level so they can rush straight into raiding. One of them sums it up really well: “This is the first time I haven’t had to spend the first weeks of an expansion mindlessly sitting in the same 6×6 room grinding. I’m actually getting to enjoy it. This is fun.” Another was more brief: “quest xp = <3"

EverQuest II is not a game about sitting in one place and grinding. You find the activity that defines the core of your game, then you make sure it’s the part you polish the most, then you make damn sure it’s rewarding. That activity is questing.

Levelling is a transitory activity. Level 80, on the other hand, lasts a long time. Regardless of whether dungeon xp is tweaked or not, two months from now this entire conversation becomes moot, and people have had a blast in the meanwhile

I mentioned there were a few cases of the group vs solo struggle. Pirates of the Burning Sea, set for release in early 2008, has taken an interesting approach to how they will balance the content in their game. Instead of clearly drawing the line between group play and solo play they have created a difficulty slider that will allow players to either make the battles easier or harder depending on how they would like their gaming experience to taste. As of now this is simply a conjecture but I think it’s safe to assume that if you find the group content lacking it would be possible to ramp the single player content difficulty way up and go at it with some friends. Heck, why not? While this system doesn’t work for every MMORPG out there (especially those that fall under the current fantasy formula) it definitely raises the question as to whether or not we’ll be seeing more choices being handed off to the player giving them the opportunity to determine their own fate and in a sense their own fun.

I don’t think it’s fatalistic to say that this debate will never end. It’s healthy for mmo’s to be under a constant microscope. That will keep the ‘ever evolving and changing worlds’ just that. As for me, well, I’m going to enjoy EQ2’s vast variety of content and I look forward to challenging or under-challenging myself in PotBS.

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