Choices? Choices!

There’s a lot going on in my game and MMO world right now, and in the next couple of weeks.

There’s The Secret World’s Halloween event, which I’ve mentioned with a few screenshots; I did a few related bits and pieces but they’re intended for more powerful characters (or characters with help), and I’ll get to them next time. I don’t want to get into the ‘must do everything right this second’ craze, because for me that inevitably leads to burnout. The events will be available next year.

There’s my Sims 4 legacy challenge family, which I’m playing a little less these days and which therefore has only just reached the point of conceiving generation 4. I suspect the double whammy of twins in gen 2 and triplets in gen 3 burned me out on that a bit too – it was just a LOT of Sims to keep track of, especially for a control-freak like me.

Then there’s the EverQuest 2 expansion, Altar of Malice, that launches tomorrow for super-special (i.e. subscription) people like me. I haven’t logged in to EQ2 in a couple of weeks, what with TSW and WoW and everything else. I should log in and claim my monthly Station Cash, however. And I will log in for the expansion, if not necessarily tomorrow, because the Isle of Refuge is back and anyone who played EQ2 in the early days knows what that means. I think I’m a few months off getting it as housing from the veteran reward, though buying expansions usually adds some time to one’s account, but it’s going to be awesome! (Meaning I’ll get it, plonk my research assistants down and never do any decorating, even though I’ll plan to decorate every time I log on. I predict this with absolute certainty.)

Speaking of World of Warcrack, Warlords of Draenor launches on Thursday (the 13th) — and while I’m not much of one for WoW’s endgame content, their levelling content is usually a lot of fun. It’ll give me a chance to hook up with guildies I’ve hung out with for 10 years now (and more if you count the original Asheron’s Call lot who went to WoW), and I’m also looking forward to the new garrisons. If it walks like a house and talks like a house, it’s a really laboured metaphor – but still, it’s housing.

And THEN there’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, which launches on the 18th. We’d originally splurged for 2 collector’s editions of Dragon Age: Origins, 5 years ago (man, that long already?!) but those got lost in one of the 3 moves we’ve done since then, so when the game was offered for free on Origin I went ahead and downloaded it. I’ve been playing it here and there for the last few days, just to see if I want to get DA:I when it comes out, and I think I do. I had forgotten how good some of the cut-scenes are, and how funny a lot of the dialog between Alistair and Morrigan is; Steve Valentine was truly inspired casting. I recreated Antimony, the mage I played through the Origin story back when the game launched, and although it’s not my favourite class to be playing (rogues and rangers 4 eva!), I’m enjoying the replay. Plus I think her Sinnead look is boss.

DAO Banter

It’s a good thing work is relatively light at the moment, so that I may fully appreciate the quandary of having too many fun and interesting games to play. Now if only I could stay awake enough to play in the evenings, I could get some truly epic sessions in (long story, boring, suffice to say I tend to wilt pretty much right after dinner and am good only for Netflix binge-watching). Sadly it is not to be, and I’ll have to content myself with what I can cram in during the day. Yes, it truly sucks to have so many choices and so many good games to look forward to. Life is tough.

Happy 2011!

In a few hours, anyway – or, depending where you may be, happy 2011 already.

Let us hope the crop of games is good! Aside from that I wouldn’t mind a pony, great health, pots of cash and undying love. You know, the easy stuff, and not necessarily in that order (though the pony ALWAYS comes first).

Was pondering doing a recap of 2010 but really, my gaming year was pretty boring. I don’t own a console right now (can’t decide between Xbox and PS3), so I didn’t play any of those. I didn’t play any of the Dragon Age expansion thingies either. I did briefly play Assassin’s Creed in preparation for buying and playing AC2, but not for long and I never did buy the new game.

MMO-wise, I started the year with EQ2 in the firm belief (isn’t it always?) that I wouldn’t be playing anything else for positively aeons. Predictably, I got sucked into Fallen Earth in May-ish, partly because of a free offer that was too good to pass up and partly to show solidarity for what appeared to be a struggling studio with not a bad little MMO.

That lasted all of two months, I think. I then hopped into the LOTRO F2P beta and thence into LOTRO paid-up non-beta, which I’m technically still subscribed to (I think). We played that for a few months and then, a few weeks ago, somehow got sucked back in to WoW, where I’ve been having far more fun than I ever expected. The excellent company of friends I’ve recovered there doesn’t hurt one bit, either — it’s been half a decade and then some since I played with some of those people, and it’s been great to catch up over a drink or seven.

Side note: good tequila apparently does not give you hangovers.

Side note 2: good tequila seems to evaporate out of the bottle really fast. I’ll have to make sure the cap’s on tight. *cough*

While I was sleeping

News? What news? I’ve been too busy working then playing then working then playing. I don’t need no stinkin’ news!

For the click challenged, EQ2 is going Free to Play. Note that this is NOT the current live-server incarnation — it’s almost an entirely separate game. See:

2. What will happen to the EverQuest II live subscription service?

Nothing! The game will persist with no expected changes for its subscribers. SOE will continue to support its loyal EQII customers on the live subscription service with new and exciting game updates as well as expansions. EQII Extended will be managed as a separate game and should not impact the live subscription game.

(Linkage: announcement and FAQ.)

Just as well because until I saw that — and while I still thought this was going to affect the EQ2 game I play — I was more or less frothing at the mouth. Why? Because the “gold” sub at $14.99 offers less than the current live-EQ2 sub of the same price. It’s only a small difference in level cap — which might not bother someone like me, but probably would bother people who actually care about levels.

I’m not entirely sure I get the idea of this other than jumping on the F2P-2010 bandwagon. But hey, if it works, then good for them. The more games we have and the more these games find different ways in which to survive and thrive, the better it’ll be for the gaming community as a whole. There’s a whole possible continuum between Farmville and WoW; let’s find ways to exploit it and get some good games.

EQ2 MountGate – Options R Us

Last week I reported (mostly via Ark’s Ark) that the Powers That Be had decided that mounts wouldn’t — be that is, at least in combat. This caused quite a furore on the forums and in the blogosphere (torches! pitchforks!) and the decision was reversed amended improved to give us all more options, which is always a good thing in MMOs. Can’t have too many options. Except maybe when it comes to boob sliders — I really only accept those when they’re paired with “package sliders” and I have yet to see one of those in any game (Age of Conan maybe?). And what about {expletive deleted} jiggle physics? Why does that only apply to breasts? I demand equality of jiggle!

Uhh, where was I? Oh yes, mounts.

So anyway, one of the recent patchlets on the Test server added some options to the animations section of the, er, options screen. Here it is:

It’s easy. See your mount Always/Never/Not in Combat. Piece of cake. Lovely job on the part of the EQ2 team and it should make everyone happy except Whiny Rage-Bastard who’s never happy about anything anyway and would find a way to complain even on Christmas morning.

The default setting is to hide mounts during combat, and for my money that is extreeeeeeemely irritating. Seriously. Draw weapon, *poof*, fight-fight-fight, run towards next opponent and the mount re-*poof*s under you only to *poof* again the second you draw your sword. The added 5-second post-combat delay actually only makes things even more irksome, at least to me. However, I’m sure that some people will be delighted with this option and therefore it’s a good thing.

Different horses for different courses, right?

(See whut I did thar?)

In other news, happy Cinco de Mayo for those of you living — as I am — in an area where it’s celebrated. Being French, I am extremely conflicted about this one. Part of me is tempted to drive down into the middle of Albuquerque and loudly yell “Allons enfants de la Patrie! A la Bastille!” but I doubt it would go over well. Assuming anyone understood it.

The other part of me just thinks I should get myself a beer and a party sombrero and keep my evil French revolutionary leanings to myself.

EQ2 Travel Revamp

I must say this in very bold letters to make sure people actually read it:

The travel revamp is NOT on the Live servers yet. It’s on the TEST server, being TESTED. The system may change. It may make it to live as is. It may never make it to live at all. Or it may be spindled, folded or mutilated before it makes it to live. You Have Been Warned. Do not whine about how it impacts your gaming on live, because it doesn’t. Yet.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the skinny according to the original patch notes (see below for TL;DR or read the blue bits):

  • Traveling to different locations uses a new interface.
  • Now when selecting a travel location via teleportation, bell, or sokokar/horse/griffon etc. you will do so through a travel map.
  • Simply double click your choice, or select it and then press OK to be whisked away.
  • Mousing over a location when using world teleportation displays a level range and some background information on the area.
  • Bell/carpet zone travel has been consolidated. Bells on the different continents have all been linked together. This means the bells that were in Nektulos are no longer limited to 6 locations. These bells have been reduced to one bell that is linked to other bells across Norrath. Bells used to travel within Qeynos and Freeport have not been changed except that they now use the travel map allowing for more direct connections to where you wish to go.
  • Druid portals no longer require the player to have harvested a Blessed Shrubbery. Blessed Shrubberies have been imbued by Tunare with the power to transport players to any of the other druid rings! {However when you do harvest a shrubbery, you now have to yell Ni! really loudly, or it won’t work.}
  • Translocate no longer requires a planar symbol.
  • Translocate portals were transporting players to incorrect spots in the Bonemire and The Barren Sky. This has been corrected.
  • Planar symbols have been removed from vendor lists.
  • Sokokar posts no longer require the Sokokar item. They now check that you have completed either the tradeskill or adventuring version of the quest.
  • The following zones no longer require you to do a quest or go to a location before accessing the inner zone travel option. The quests that were there previously have been reworked so that players can still do them optionally. [Nektulos, Thundering Steppes, Sinking Sands, Pillars of Flame]
  • The following zones now have inner zone travel options or have had new locations added to them: Steamfont, Zek, Feerott, Enchanted Lands, Everfrost, Greater Faydark, Nektulos
  • All spires that can be reached through wizard teleportation should now have a static teleporter and they should all now link to the entire network. {Yes, the Greater Faydark spires now have a wizard portal in the middle. Bet you don’t even know where the spires are!} This affects the following zones: Greater Faydark, Moors of Ykesha, Kylong Plains, Tenebrous Tangle, Bonemire, Barren Sky
  • All call spells have had their cast times reduced to 10 seconds. {That includes all City call spells, Call of Ro, and Call to Guild Hall}
  • Guild hall bell amenities have been changed: Since all bells are the same now we have given each one a different look. The sinking sands carpet now acts like a bell but will retain the carpet look for those who like it.

One Bell to Rule Them All

The short version is as follows:

  • All Bells Are One Bell
  • All Druid Rings Lead To All Other Druid Rings
  • All Spires Are One
  • Oh, and you can putz about internally in some zones too.
  • You will no longer have time to take a shower, get coffee, and do your makeup while waiting for Call to Home to cast.

The good: the travel system was highly confusing for new players and did need to be rethought and reworked somewhat. This helps. Somewhat.

The less good: let’s call this what it is. It’s not a revamp, it’s a consolidation. More a spring-cleaning than a Flip My Travel System.

The really unwieldy: the travel map. It’s FREAKING HUGE!! and I’m playing at 1920×1200 on a 28″ monitor. On anything smaller and the map’ll probably bop you in the eye when it pops up. Here’s what the world-bell map looks like, with destinations:

In some cases, like the World Bells, travel has definitely been simplified. Now, if I want to get to the Enchanted Lands from Qeynos I no longer have to go to Antonica, then the Thundering Steppes, then Nektulos Forest, and finally to the Enchanted Lands. I understand the lore and RP reasons for that (travel by boat, boat routes), but puh-lease. I love RP, and I enjoy lore, but when they get in the damn way they should be reworked until they don’t. It’s that simple. If you want to make me travel for ages to get somewhere, do it on a tabletop campaign I’ll be sure to pass on.

(We’ll deal with meaningful travel some other day. I’m sure it’s been at least a year since I last ranted about “meaningful” travel where “meaningful” means “I just meaningfully wasted the 45 precious minutes you have to play. Now you have to make dinner/put the kids to bed/do the laundry/prep for work tomorrow. Isn’t it lovely that your play session was so full of meaningful travel? Have a nice day!”)

I’ve also heard a bunch of people say “Oh please, the newbs who can’t figure out what bell to hit in the guild hall don’t deserve any help, they’re too dumb!” So here’s a newsflash. Not everyone (gasp, I know!) is in a guild. Not everyone is in a large guild that has access to all the travel amenities. Not everyone who is in a guild even has a freaking clue how to get to the guild hall or that such amenities are available, depending on how helpful the guildies are. (Not any guilds I’m in, I hasten to add. But I did have to point someone else in the right direction after they joined Very Large Guild 0019 on Server X. They weren’t given any directions whatsoever regarding how to reach the hall, how to obtain their recall spell, and what the travel options are.) Not everyone comes into a game osmotically knowing what to do, so simpler is generally, you know, better.

This is an MMO rule, or should be. Just because you can make it complex doesn’t mean you should. Corollary: Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s stupid or bad.

So anyway, this is a step in the right direction. I did wonder how they were going to tie together the three entirely different travel systems that exist, and the short answer is: they didn’t. Savvy travellers will still have a little advantage over less savvy ones, not counting the people with freaking huge guild halls who can just click on the amenity they need. The bells/spires/rings don’t all land in the same places, so sometimes it can be more useful to hit the Commonlands druid ring (in the western part of the zone) than its travel bell, which is way the hell over on the eastern side.

There have been complaints that this isn’t far-reaching enough, but for the time being it’s enough for me. I think it’s probably enough in general. I kind of like the different systems — they just need to be made more obvious to new players and more available for use, which I think is the case now.

So far the only real downside of this, aside from the huge-ass world map that pops up, is the fact that intra-zone travel has been made really awkward. Before, you’d click on the NPC and pick from a list of 2 or 3 options. Click-click-done. Now when you click the NPC the Huge-Ass (TM) zone map shows up and you have to hover the mouse frantically while trying to figure out where your destination is, then click (double click the destination or click-and-click-ok). It’s silly. NPC dialog options were WAY simpler and considering how many people have commented on this in the test forum, I suspect it may not stay as it is. If it does, I guess we’ll just have to suck it up and get used to it.

Remember — this is NOT ON LIVE yet. Just sayin’.

(It’s expected to be in the Game Update (err… 55?) coming out sometime around the end of the month. I have no seekrit sauce info on that.)

EQ2 – Ode to New Halas Housing

EDIT May 4th — rawr, got a mention on the EQ2 Town Crier! (Well okay just a link, but I’m not proud!) Welcome new readers, whoever you are!

I fired up the Test server this week and took some pix of the houses available in New Halas. These are from the 4-room, 3g/week rent place, but the deco is of course similar in all of them.

Click on a pic to see it at 1920×1200

Bay window of main room as seen from entrance

Entranceway

Built-in shelving in side room, main floor

Cupboard for the people under the stairs. Or brooms. Or halflings.

Upstairs room (larger houses have 2 of these and the fireplaces connect)

View downstairs from the upper gallery

As far as I’m concerned these rock seven shades of win and I shall be moving my good chars there most skosh. I only wish my evil chars could live there too; even evil people like relaxing surroundings, built-in storage, and fireplaces!