Single-Player Holidays

The last thing I mentioned playing was Divinity: Original Sin. I sort of gave up on it. It’s a great game and all, but it’s just too exhausting. I went through two boss fights in a row (SparkMaster 5000 and Radagoth) and both times, luck was the determining factor for success. That’s just not fun. I don’t know how all the people who play tabletop games do it. :)

I last logged into FFXIV on December 22nd, when I got the Christmas bear mount in about twenty minutes in the FFXIV Starlight celebration (I also got the Bard Perform skill, which was underwhelming).

I installed EverQuest II and started a new Conjurer, which seems to be one of the few classes in that game that I like (Warden and Necromancer are the only other two classes I’ve played more than like 5 levels). I had a lot of fun with it until I bought Divinity: Original Sin. I haven’t logged in since.

On January 6th, I finally re-installed ESO after my big SSD crash. This time, I realized that the breadcrumbs I thought had been leading me to Morrowind back in June of last year were not that at all, and I had been following some random quest that was totally unrelated to the expansion. My mistake I guess for thinking that the NPC who ran up to me after I logged in the first time after installing the expansion would actually be giving me a quest related to the expansion. It explained why it felt like it was taking such a long time to get to Vvardenfell. :) This time, I just waypointed right to Seyda Neen and looked around for a bit. It didn’t make much of an impression on me. I didn’t even take a screenshot. The most memorable part was an NPC guard telling me that her talents were being wasted guarding an empty building.

Right before I logged out I noticed that I had mail which had an attachment which I had to consume in order to finally start the quest that led me to Morrowind. It was a pretty convoluted set of steps hidden in a place I rarely look. I read my mail in MMORPGs about as much as I read my mail in real life–not very often. Mail is not a great way to deliver story content to me. I wish they would just put the new quest in my log without me having to do anything.

Anyway, I played ESO for about a half hour and felt like I had seen enough for the forseeable future. Maybe when they launch the new wardrobe system I will log in for another half hour to change my outfit. I don’t know what it is about ESO but I always feel like I’ve already done all of the new and interesting stuff way back in the months around launch time, so there’s never much of a “hook” to draw me into the game. It’s always just … more of the same.

Other than that I have been playing Morrowind (the old one) and Oblivion. I also installed the Skyrim Special Edition (the only other game I bought in the Steam winter sale) but I just can’t play three games simultaneously. It’s hard enough with just two.

Finally, the entire reason I’m writing this post is to test out a new Corsair K55 keyboard I bought to replace my 10+ year-old dying Logitech G110 keyboard. It was still mostly fine for playing games, but anytime I tried to use it to actually type words, for example, into a blog post, the keys would stick and it was just too frustrating to deal with. I got the K55 largely on a recommendation I saw on Keen and Grav–his criteria matched mine pretty closely. Non-mechanical, quiet, full-sized, etc. It “feels” different (the keys feel very tall to me) so it’s going to take a while to get used to, but overall it works fine. The “RGB” flashing disco lights thing is just ridiculous to me, but I was able to set it to a solid color by installing the “manager” tool. It still does a disco strobe thing every time you reboot though. I’m not sure this keyboard feels like it’s really designed for longevity, but we’ll see. (It does not feel any more solid than the old, dead Logitech it replaced.)

Incidentally, the best keyboard I’ve ever used for typing is the MacBook Air chicklet keyboard. My fingers fly across those keys at light speed with almost no effort. This Corsair K55 is a pale shadow of that, but at least it works without the keys sticking.

EQ2 Status Report, 43 Warden

I thought it would be fun to write a series of posts talking about where my characters are in various games. Lately I have been bouncing back and forth between MMOs, so I’ve touched base with a lot of them recently.

At the time of this writing, my main character in EQ2 is a level 43 Wood Elf Warden (one of the many classes of healer, if you don’t know). After a recent spate of playing, he moved from the clockwork-kobold-infested Steamfont Mountains to the icy island of Everfrost.

I’m not really following the story of what’s going on with these quests. When I arrived in Everfrost, it seemed that people on the dock were rather disgruntled about having made the trip there. (Understandably, because being a solid ice field, it did not look like a great place to live.)

Yes, this looks like the perfect place to build a settlement.
Yes, this looks like the perfect place to build a settlement.

One woman’s poor husband had been eaten by sharks and had her luggage scattered everywhere in the ocean. Of course I cheerfully volunteered to swim around the freezing water among the gigantic sharks to pick up her missing stuff. After dealing with the sharks, I moved inland a little bit to some sort of camp. There I discovered that the NPCs on Everfrost will actually attack me if I accidentally hit them with an AoE. Not far from there, on the Jagged Plains, is a dragon broodmother and a bunch of ice maidens who will kill you dead if you make a wrong turn. It’s not a nice place overall.

My main goal with these newest playing sessions has to find a matching set of armor. Somehow I have ended up with a bright white helmet and boots, but brown leather chest and legs. I don’t normally care a great deal about the way my character looks but this is just ridiculous.

How could you let me out looking like this?
How could you let me out looking like this?

I generally enjoy EQ2, but it’s a very strange animal. There is a substantial learning curve because many of its features are just not "normal." One of the most basic things in an MMO–interacting with NPCs–is done differently in EQ2. In most of the universe, you right-click on things to initiate actions. But not in EQ2. When you right-click on things in EQ2, you get a context menu. You have to left-click on things to initiate actions like you’re used to. That was a huge turn-off to me when I first played. I’ve scoured the (incredibly numerous) options a hundred times trying to find a way to change that, but I’ve never been able to find one. It’s almost as bad as a game without an "invert mouse" option.

(I realize that the EQ2 model is technically more "correct" when you consider operating system standards, but you can’t just ignore years of industry standards like that.) (I also realize EQ2 came out before there were years of industry standards, but still, they could have added an option by now, right?)

EQ2 is not easy to pick up after a long absence either. When I came back to my Warden after over a year, I was completely overwhelmed and unable to function. At level 38, I had literally four action bars completely filled with abilities and I had no clue what was what. I didn’t even know what my main abilities were. (To make things worse, I was on a different computer from the last time I played, and all my keybinds were gone.) I ended up deleting every single action bar and starting over, pouring over my abilities until I distilled out a basic set of about ten actions and buffs.

That’s another thing about EQ2. You don’t just have a "heal" ability. You have five (or more) heal abilities, each subtley different from the others. One is a small heal that is quick to cast. One is a big heal that is slower to cast. One is a super heal that is instantaneous, but has a 15-minute cooldown. One heal looks just like the first heal but uses a different "school of magic" or something. And so on. I tried to pick out one or two that seemed like the most general-purpose that would work on myself or others.

EQ2 has a lot of options for character customization. As if there weren’t enough variety in the twenty or so classes, there is also this "Alternate Advancement" system which seems to let you change the basic function of your class. For example, the "alternate" Warden abilities are more melee-based instead of spell-based, which is actually quite cool. But in addition to the regular set of a thousand abilities you get with normal advancement, there is a whole other set of a thousand "alternate" abilities you can add into your action bars.

I guess the theme of this post is that EQ2 is complicated, and you have to work for your rewards. I would definitely not recommend this game to a casual player new to the MMO genre. But once you get past the learning curve, the game is pretty relaxing and enjoyable.

I’ve done exactly zero group content, though. To be honest, I hardly ever see anyone else in the mid-40s level range. I guess everyone else is already at the level cap.

What Is EQLandmark?

I read on Inventory Full (still an awesome blog name) about this thing coming out called EQLandmark. I do not know what it is, but it sounds like some kind of new game in the EQ universe.

Bhagpuss then mentioned something about making a Heroic character in EQ2, and I got sidetracked. Because I have some EQ2 characters too, and I figured I’d better log in and make my own Heroic characters, too. Because everyone’s doing it apparently. Well, one person is. I don’t know why I needed one, because I haven’t played EQ2 in years, and found it only a fair game while playing it, and I don’t even know what a Heroic character even is, but if somebody else is doing something in an MMO, obviously there must be something cool going on there that needs to be checked out. MMO players have a herd mentality, and they are perpetually looking for “the next new thing.”

So I went to click on the EQ2 icon and get patched up, except I hadn’t played it in so long I didn’t even have it installed. A couple of hours later, I was looking at my character selection screen.

I saw where I could make a Heroic level 85 character from scratch or “upgrade” any of my existing characters to 85, at a cost of a bunch of SoE currency. I didn’t have nearly enough. (I probably still have the default amount you that you got at the beginning.) It was not at all clear why I would want to have a Heroic character, except I assume to get right to the level 85 content. Seeing as how I haven’t seen anything above around 40, I don’t see why I need to zoom ahead to 85.

Then I looked closer at my characters. What happened to them?

Dohashio, the weird-faced

I do not remember Dohashio looking so weird in the face. I never would have picked that face. Did somebody punch my dude? Did he fall in an acid vat like the Joker? Is it a mask? Did the game models change? I have no idea. Anyway. While I was there, I logged in, and found myself standing in a wooded area that was completely unfamiliar to me.

Some Woods

I mean, I remember spending a lot of time in a wooded area similar to that, but not that exact place. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I had some stuff in my quest log, but I didn’t feel comfortable risking death just then. Besides, I had to invert my mouse again–who knows what other input challenges I would have had to face to beat a monster.

So instead of moving, I marveled at how bad EQ2 looked. Sorry. Maybe I need to adjust my settings, but it was like logging into the year 2000 again. I was never keen on EQ2’s sort of washed-out watercolor look to begin with, but at least it was tolerable. But now, having just come from FFXIV, it looked awful. The ground looked like a pixelated 8-bit Minecraft thing.

So I logged back out.

Then I got back to that EQLandmark thing, which I probably should have done first instead of wasting all that time logging into EQ2. I see what it is now. It’s a way for SOE to crowdsource building their EQNext game world. :) It sounds a bit like Minecraft, except you build pieces for an MMO game world. Some people are probably drooling about the prospect of doing that, but to me it just sounds like a ploy to exploit gamers for free labor.

Naturally, I signed up for the beta.

I’ve thought for a long time that any MMO that finds a way to allow players to add things to the world will be wildly successful, because most games that allow gameplay mods or addons usually have a lot of longevity (like, say, Counterstrike). And MMO players are always ravenous for new content. Neverwinter made an attempt to do this with their player-made modules, but I thought it fell a bit flat. EQNext looks to be trying to do something along the lines of a player-alterable world, and EQLandmark looks to be their first step in that process.