Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can't Judge a Book

Sometimes even Bo gets it wrong. Every novel has an author. There's the name on the spine. Movies have credits that seem to last longer than the film. Even journalists get a byline. Most of us pay at least some attention to who wrote, directed or performed what we read and watch. It helps us decide how to spend our time and money in the future.

I've done a lot of questing this week. Last weekend was double everything in EQ2 and I popped in to visit and ended up staying. I bought the Destiny of Velious expansion pack and asked the Othmirs to let me ride their giant turtle to the land of ice and snow.

We're going to need a bigger tureen!
I'm playing on EQ2X's Freeport server and my highest character there is a level 80 berserker. There is pretty much nothing you can do in Velious until your level hits 85, so after I'd looked around the docks and chatted to some more Othmirs I was stumped for a moment.

Then I remembered my Berserker was also a level 82 weaponsmith. And I recalled reading that there's a whole line of crafting quests in Velious that leads to you getting your very own flying griffin mount. And it's much, much faster to raise your crafting level in EQ2 than your adventure level. With double xp and full vitality it took me no time to make 85 and begin making myself useful to the Far Seas Supply Division and sundry indigenous othmir, coldain and snowfang gnolls.

Oh Ruffin, if only the other gnolls were as clever as you!

The quests came thick and fast and were a joy both to do and to read. The prose was crisp and clean, the dialog sharp and witty, the plots were amusing and engaging, the tasks were interesting and absorbing. Mrs Bhagpuss and I spent most of Sunday and Monday doing the entire flying mount quest-line, and the pack pony quest-line.  The whole experience was exemplary. Everything that's good about questing was here and there was little or nothing of the old nonsense that's given MMO questing such bad press of late.

With my young griffin trailing along behind, still growing to the size needed to carry the weight of a ratonga in full plate armor, I returned somewhat reluctantly to Paineel and the previous expansion to resume the long, slow journey to level 85 in adventuring. And trust me, on a silver account with the xp/aaxp pegged at 50/50 it really is a plod.

By last night I was halfway through 84th, my griffin was ready to fly and I really wanted a break from the perpetual yellow palette  of Odus. It occurred to me that I'd not yet done the newish beastlord prequel questline, so I took the spires back to The Commonlands and picked up the starter quest.

Does the marketing department know about this?

What a contrast. Everything I'd enjoyed about the griffin and pony quests, all vanished. Instead I plowed through speech after speech of overblown, overwritten, pompous twaddle. Terrible leaden prose, complete absence of any form of wit, elan, spark or interest. An incomprehensible "plot" utterly devoid of amusement or entertainment. Utter rubbish, in fact. The only saving grace of this horrible farrago of amateurish drivel was that it was soon over.

Don't know. Don't care.

Now I understand that people have different tastes. Some people probably like this sort of thing. I also understand that you can't have your best people on every part of every project all the time. I've read enough Gerry Conway fill-ins, after all. No, the problem with quests in MMOs is you have no way of knowing before you begin whether the new line was written by the person who wrote that great quest you did last week, the one that had you laughing so hard you snorted coffee all over your keyboard, or by the twerp who wrote that numbingly tedious, po-faced saga you ended up tabbing through the month before.

Credits. Let's have credits. I want to know who to follow and who to avoid. Whose work to look forward to and whose to dread. Mrs Bhagpuss had a great idea. Let's have an in-game review system for quests, like the new Housing Leaderboard. I'd give five stars to those Velious craft quests and half a star to the beastlord one. And really it doesn't deserve half.

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