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Archive for January, 2011

Fungus Among Us

So one of the nice things about stepping into the leveling game in this era is that one player never has to be alone, and two players can make a small army, especially if one of those two players can summon a combat-ready pet as well as a hireling. This opens up a lot of options for play. As I noted a few days ago, the selection of mercenaries seems fairly creative, which leaves some room to be cute. And boy did I ever get cute about my hiring decision.

a hired fungus

My merc, he's a real fun guy!

…I couldn’t resist. I adore mushrooms and especially mushroom people. The fungus man walks kind of slowly and makes weird snuffling noises like he’s about to sneeze at any moment — all the time — but he knows how to bring some serious pain when it’s time to get down to business. Fungus man and I are BFFs, for sure.

So where is my little magician at in her career? The world has treated her very well since leaving the kobold-infested mines of tutorialville. I’ve explored the offerings of Crescent Reach a little bit, but mostly I’ve been spending my time in the “old world,” the various low-level zones of Antonica and Faydwer. For a while it was fun to take direction from the armor quests that are available in the Plane of Knowledge, but after several play sessions of latter-day MMO questing, it was fun to take a day to play the old way — picking a spot and camping stuff.

Left 4 Dead...?

That’s the face-lifted zone of North Ro pictured above. I’d guess that maybe not quite half of the original world zones I’ve been to so far have been graphically revamped. The game engine is very definitely showing its age but I have to say these improved zones are very well done. With the exception of Freeport, the zone revamps all seem to maintain the flavor and geography of the original, but with higher quality textures and ground flora and trees that don’t look like they’re on loan from an elementary school play. That said, there is something really charming and familiar about going back to the zones that remain just as they were twelve years ago. Well… most of them, anyway. I chose to Gate out of the city of Kaladim rather than try and find my way back out through the narrow twists and turns of the streets.

On a final note, EQ2 almost never reminded me of original EQ, but the revamped zones remind me of EQ2, in an odd way. After spending enough time roaming the desert looking for tarantulas that it started to seem like home (don’t ask), I wound up feeling like I would have enjoyed EQ2 more if it looked more like revamped EQ1.

Next: rediscovering the lost dungeons of Norrath… maybe?

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It’s All Mines

Firstly, The Ancient Gaming Noob weighs in with a bit of EverQuest nostalgia too. Clearly I am not the only vet who read about the progression server set to debut in March and started pining for the old days. (Correction: Wilhelm of TAGN popped in to point out the linked post is pretty old. Causal relationship: busted!)

Secondly, I have been busy. Busy slaying kobolds.

Action Shot in Gloomingdeep MinesGone are the days when a level 1 character was sent out into the world with little more than a small supply of hard tack and water and a note encouraging (but not insisting upon) a visit to the guildmaster. I began my adventure with a weapon, a stack of bandages, a free backpack (and another in my bank vault!), biscuits and milk, a lantern, the aforementioned guild note, and maybe a few other things. A handy tutorial guides the player through gameplay basics and provides a bit more starting equipment as well. It’s a kinder, gentler Norrath these days, really.

One of the biggest changes, to me, is the inclusion of not only an overhead map but also a compass. In the days of yore, each character had a skill called Sense Heading, which would relay a message about which direction the player was headed… if you had practiced the skill enough. Practicing meant binding the skill to a hotkey and hitting it over and over and over and over and over and over. I notice that Sense Heading still appears on my skills list, maxed out, an artifact of an earlier time.

Light sources were absolutely not free in the old days. Different races had different levels of visual acuity, which was reflected in the game engine by how brightly lit your surroundings could be at maximum. Certain races were basically blind at night without some kind of torch. I can remember struggling to scrape together enough coin to buy a glowstone from another player.

There is a small dungeon of sorts in the tutorial area, filled with your standard low-level RPG opponents: bats, rats, spiders, kobolds, and goblins. And there are quests. These are not the old-fashioned type of newbie quests which encouraged killing one type of enemy over and over until you were ready to pass out from boredom in order to collect a random drop; they are the new-fangled type where you kill ten foozles and then move on. It’s arguably a small difference, but to me, the latter type is more interesting, as it rewards moving around and doing/seeing different things.

There might have been some kind of storyline about a prison break or something, too? I’m not sure. If there was a story it mostly sailed over my head. All I know is kobolds are bad… and full of sweet, sweet experience points.

I sailed right on up to level 11, which means my idyll in tutorial land is at an end. Incredibly enough, I am having a great time. Is it what I remember? No, but that’s a good thing, in this case. Next I will be exploring my home city of Crescent Reach and environs, and collecting some armor by doing a series of quests that will take me to a number of old-world locations.

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Gotta Work

First impressions of mercenaries: fun, at least once I figured out the easy way to get to the Plane of Knowledge from the tutorial zone. My expectations were pretty low but then I found this:

She will set you on FIRE

Three apples high!

No one who’s never had their ass set on fire by Thistle Underbrush could possibly understand how funny this is. Naturally I had to set her to work for the forces of good.

She is a rogue type, so alas, no immolation of my enemies ensued. Even so, I was pretty happy with her. She was occasionally a bit slow to respond, but aside from that, it seemed like she was making fairly good decisions about what to do in combat, even making sure to position herself behind the enemy so she could backstab with her eensy beensy dirks. She’s probably not a good choice for the long haul but for now she amuses me and that’s all that matters.

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Elf Yourself

At last, success! I had to make some modifications to my antivirus software in order to connect to the patch server, oddly enough.

I’m a bit of two minds about what I will play and on which server, but for now I have opted to go with a Magician character. Orginally I was going to make a character of the Erudite race but oh god are the character models uglier than I remembered. SERIOUS hammer face. I couldn’t do it. And anyway, it just doesn’t do to adventure in Elf Land if you are not an elf. So an elf I shall be. A HIGH ELF.

Not that kind of “high.”

Novaddari, Level 1 Magician, HELLS YEAH

Yes, this is the most attractive character I could make.

The magician is a caster type, reliant on a summoned pet and restricted to cloth armor; they’re apparently cake for soloing. Send in pet, stand back and toss out nukes, lather rinse repeat. I played a druid once upon a time, but I do not think I have the patience for kiting that I once did. Once upon a time I kind of shied away from magic-using characters in RPGs, assuming that they are more difficult to play, but I am older and more sophisticated now. Or something.

I’ve chosen for my character to worship the elven diety of Tunare, OF COURSIES, and her starting city is set to Crescent Reach. Where the heck is Crescent Reach and what’s there? I haven’t the foggiest but it has to be better than the old starting city of Felwithe. At any rate, I’ll be starting off my adventures in the tutorial zone so the point will be moot for a few levels.

Next time: spider killin’.

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Delayed Return

I know I promised character creation next, but there’s been a bit of a bump in the road.

Error 1015: ACCESS DENIED!

sad face.

So, I have a few ideas about how to troubleshoot this, but if my efforts don’t pan out, the project will be delayed until my new computer shows up later in the week. Curses!

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So for my first blog project (blogject?), I will be returning to EverQuest after ten years away, creating a brand new character and starting over from scratch. I hope to visit old haunts, consider the changes that have occurred during my decade away, and most importantly, have a grand adventure in magical elf land.

I originally began playing EverQuest in late 1999, leaving for Dark Age of Camelot when that game was released during the autumn of 2001. That’s just two short years, but given that it was my introduction to the genre, the impact those two years had on shaping my expectations and playstyle were immense.

The amount of content that was introduced to the game during that brief span of time was incredible by today’s standards. During those two years players saw the world expand from from the classic game (the lands of Antonica, Faydwer, and Odus) to Ruins of Kunark, Scars of Velious, and Shadows of Luclin. Sure a lot of stuff made it to release broken, untested, and unitemized, but hey, we were hardcore back then!

So many things have changed in the game since I stepped away. There were no ridable mounts in the game at the time I quit — it was a popular request but back in the day, always deemed too difficult to implement. Travel time (and attendant pain) was relaxed with the introduction of easy ports to and from the Plane of Knowledge. The boats which once provided passage between continents were disappeared at some point, replaced by teleporter NPCs and apparently never to return. AA points provide players a way to customize and advance their characters beyond simple leveling. I left the game around the time that “soulbinder” NPCs were introduced, allowing melee class characters to reset their own respawn points in cities without having to beg a bind from a bored caster-class. There are even hirelings now, which to be honest is the biggest factor in my return. The list goes on and on. Shared bank slots! Station cash! Housing! Housing?

I have changed too in that time, certainly. I’ve grown used to the niceties of modern games with their integrated maps, radar, quest journals, user-created UI mods, friendly theme-park design, non-attackable quest NPCs…

I wonder, can I really do this? Would I actually be better off starting with no prior knowledge of the game at all? Will I have the fortitude to really, truly start out with no coin, no equipment, not even a rusty sword? I’ll admit it, I’m excited but also nervous.

Coming next: character creation!

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It seems appropriate to begin with some background, doesn’t it? I’ll kick things off by talking a bit about the power of nostalgia. This blog was inspired by a few different things:

First, this lovely post by Tipa of West Karana about revisiting old haunts introduced in EverQuest’s Velious expansion. This was my favorite of the three expansions I saw during my tenure in that game (1999-2002-ish) and I have a lot of fond memories of those places as well.

Second, I had a delightful conversation with an old friend over the Christmas holiday that went something like this:

Him: So what do you remember best about Velious?

Me: (eyes wide) SHARK MEAT!

Let me explain: The Scars of Velious expansion for EverQuest introduced a city called Thurgadin, and inside this city there was a particular NPC, a butcher, who sold various types of meat. Most (if not all) of the meats he sold were items that were already available in the world, generally as drops off the appropriate type of monster (with the possible exception of halfling meat which could occasionally be found inside the bellies of giant spiders, but I digress). One type of meat sold by this butcher was shark meat.

Shark meat was the relevant item in a somewhat obscure quest offered far across the world in the elf newbie zone. The quest-giver offered an experience reward to adventurers who could bring him a certain number of portions of shark meat. At the time the quest was introduced, the only realistic way to obtain shark meat in the necessary quantity was to head out to the Ocean of Tears and fight sharks, a daunting task not only because it was difficult and time-consuming to travel so far away from the cities (missed the boat? Get comfy for fifteen minutes until the next one comes) but also because only a few classes had easy access to underwater breathing ability. It was a great deal of trouble and travel for the reward, so by and large few people did the quest.

Until Velious, when it suddenly became much easier to obtain the meat by simply buying it from the butcher in Thurgadin.

And that is what we did.

I remember loading my druid down with the most capacious containers I could find. Toolboxes had the most slots, but they were pretty heavy; I might have only been able to carry two or three. Then I ported over to the new continent, made my way to Thurgadin, filled my toolboxes with as much shark meat as I could carry (enough to exceed my carrying capacity by quite a lot), ported back to the druid ring in Butcherblock Mountains (as close as I could get to the quest giver), and then cra-a-a-a-a-wled back to Kelethin with my arms full of filthy lucre. Er, shark meat.

I love this memory, because it’s just so absurd, so characteristic to me of the wild and wooly days of gaming yore before “polish” became the gold standard. But I also wonder, laughs aside, was I having fun at the time? I mean, really?

In point of fact I recall passing off a bunch of the meat to a low-level alt to turn in for experience, repeating it until I was bored out of my skull, and finally logging out because I actually felt pretty guilty. As exploits go, this one was definitely small potatoes, but taking advantage of it still felt abusive. (Shark meat was later removed from the butcher’s wares.)

I can think of plenty other MMO memories (relic raids in Dark Age of Camelot, or slowly mastering the Uldaman dungeon in World of Warcraft with my guild group over the course of several weeks, to name two) that I would definitely not have described as fun at the time, but I can still look back on them fondly, or at least treasure some part of the experience. I don’t think this is exactly the rose-colored glasses experience. Maybe more like… brown-colored glasses, because I can admit to myself that there were some shitty parts.

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