Friday, March 21, 2014

What Shall We Play Next?

It's shaping up to be a very busy Spring and early Summer in MMOland. No, strike that - a busy year. Leaving aside the plethora of Kickstarters and indies we have The Elder Scrolls Online debuting in just over two weeks time on April 4th, followed by WildStar two months later on the third of June.  

EQN Landmark hasn't announced an official launch date but it goes into closed beta next Wednesday. One would imagine that open beta, which will to all intents and purposes be the launch, should come no more than two or three months after that.

No-one seems to have made a firm booking for midsummer yet but there are  couple of heavyweights eyeing the sand and flapping their towels meaningfully. There's UbiSoft's The Crew, originally scheduled for the Spring  but put back until "Summer 2014" with no exact date, while Funcom's Lego Minifigures Online is flagged "coming Summer 2014".

As the nights start to draw in Bungie have early Autumn covered with a September 9th launch pegged for their is-it-or-isn't-it MMOlike Destiny. Blizzard haven't nailed down an exact date (and Warlords of Draenor is "only" an expansion not a brand-new MMO) but they're taking pre-orders for "Fall 2014".

Finally, at least in this shortlist of MMOs I'm vaguely paying attention to, Trion promise that by the end of 2014 we'll get our hands on the year-before-last's Next Big Thing - ArcheAge. And that's just takes us up to Christmas. Let's not even think about Star Citizen and EQNext waiting in the wings.

So, with all this multiplicity of choice and glistening newness to slaver over, which MMO have I found myself most excited by these last few days? Everquest, of course. A fifteen-year old MMO that doesn't even have a new expansion out right now. Turns out all they needed to do was dangle the carrot of a free high-level character (not even max level you notice) and there I am, pushing my head back through the harness and taking up the strain.

Most of yesterday was spent getting to grips with my newly-85 Magician. Getting the hang of the spells (Not difficult. Mostly "Burn it! Blast it! Burn them! Burn them some more!") and the AAs (going to need a free afternoon and a manual for those). Re-learning old skills (Pulling. Crowd-control. Handling adds. Finding my corpse).

To get back into the swing of things first we went somewhere familiar. I say we: three of us - Magician, Mercenary and Pet. Dragonscale Hills didn't require the Merc but she came in handy when I stopped to read the map after a long run and the half-dozen clockwork beetles that had been chasing us caught up. Paying attention to your surroundings as you travel - there's another rusty skill I need to buff...

...something I hadn't managed to do by the time we moved up a notch to Loping Plains.  The four zombies I tagged while taking an ill-advised short-cut to the bottom of the long ramp down gave us a good work-out but standing on the grizzly bear conveyor belt outside Bloodmoon Keep proved to be too much. Talk about Bears! Bears! Bears!

That's another skill to be re-learned, right there - choose your ground for a fight carefully, don't just stand somewhere random and start killing. That kind of slack behavior might cut it in Tyria or Azeroth but this is Norrath.

So, the pet died valiantly while the other two bravely ran away and the mage gated and back we all were (well, two of us and a new Kabobn) in the Guild Lobby, ready to go again. Boy, was the Guild Lobby busy, too. And Plane of Knowledge. And Hills of Shade, where we went to try and finish Franklin Teek's Hot Zone task. Everquest is heaving right now.

At last we all felt confident and practiced enough to try somewhere our own level, so off we toddled to try Feerrott: The Dream. Over the past few years SOE have saved themselves a lot of trouble and kept a lot of long-time players reasonably happy by re-skinning existing zones as new, high-level content. They leave the old zones as they were and add timeslipped or dreamtouched versions alongside. It works really well and presumably saves a ton of design time. Oh look - isn't that Blizzard over there, taking notes?

I haven't been keeping up with Everquest lore (when did I ever) so I don't know whose Dream we're in but Kaozz mentioned a quest just for Heroic 85s there so off we went. It was fun. It was profitable. It was quite hard. We all died. Twice.

The first time I just paid the 500 plat to the NPC gouger  Disciple in the Guild Lobby, gave the stone to the Priest, had her summon my corpse and let the Merc rez. The second time I was too mean to pay again plus I was confident I could get back to my body safely, not least because I'd spotted that Magicians get an AA for permanent unbreakable invisibility these days (okay, I hadn't spotted it so much as SOE had kindly slotted it onto the "Would like us to hold your hand for a bit?" hot bar they thoughtfully provide along with your free levels. I think they know what you're going to be using it for, too).

Well, I couldn't find my corpse. Being a tiny gnome dressed entirely in green in an all-green swamp that maunders in perpetual twilight might have had something to do with it. That and forgetting you should always take a /loc when you die. I went and bought a Chipped Bone Rod in Plane of Knowledge but three charges of Find Corpse weren't sufficient to triangulate, at least not once I'd finished running from the Lizardman shaman who'd though to buff himself with See Invisible.

I've always enjoyed a good corpse run but after about an hour the novelty was beginning to wear off. Luckily I had a bright idea. For the only other Heroic 85 I'd managed to make (just one of our several Silver accounts turned out to be valid, for reasons still unclear) I'd chosen Necromancer, a class I've always wanted to have at high level but somehow never did.

Necros have always been able to track corpses and summon them and in this modern Norrath they no longer even need to go to the right zone or buy a coffin. Logged him in, grouped them up, summoned the corpse, Merc rezzed and the money-grubbing Priest and her creepy little disciple got nothing! Soooo satisfying.

Back we went to The Dream. I considered towing the Necro but in the end I couldn't be doing with all the zoning and re-applying /follow so we left him standing in the Guild Lobby in case he was needed. He wasn't. Lessons had at last been learned. With more thoughtful pulling, standing and traveling the Mage and her little crew finished off the quest and received the flag for the Journeyman 5 Mercenary that I'll probably be too penny-pinching to pay for but at least we have the option now.

The quest itself was pretty good. Simple to follow, sharply and amusingly written with good  characterization in the expected tradition of Norrathian stereotypes (devious magic users, dimwitted-but-loveable ogres, tightfisted dwarves with dodgy Scot-ish accents...). The tasks required snapped along nicely, travel between points required your attention not your time, the final fight was big, loud and scary - and we won. What more could you ask for an afternoon's entertainment?

So, it seems I'm back in Norrath, at least for part of the time. I never really leave, I just take extended holidays. It even turns out that the guild my mage joined way back in the dim, forgotten past (about 2007 I'd guess) is still up and running all these years later and although there's no-one left I recognize they seem a very friendly bunch. God forbid I might even end up doing some group content...

Either way, I'm guessing that I won't be spending Spring or Summer in Tamriel or Nexus. It'll be anything up to three flavors of Norrath. And Tyria, too. The Living Story may be on hiatus but there's The Tourney to come at the end of March and that crazy Feature Patch in April (of which more here in due course as more is revealed. I just can't wait to find out what "Friendly Play" is and why it takes three separate announcements to explain it...). GW2 is a mere snapper compared to Everquest or even EQ2 but it's coming along, coming along.

One thing's for sure. We're none of us going to have an excuse for being bored this year. If there's really nothing to take your fancy among that lot it might just be time to start thinking about a new hobby altogether. 


  1. Funny, I'm in the same boat. But I am doing it backwards.

    I took my 85 as an enchanter - I had one when I really played EQ and loved it. I know its isn't(wasn't?) one of the best solo classes.. but mercs.. everything.. so confusing!

    So with my 85 slotted I made my level 1 Mage. And put him in Ak'Anon - not the hand-holdy zone. Going to rough it old style. I find its far easier to learn a game at the low levels (at least the basics) and so I recreated my beta toon, and going to go see what happens.

    I fondly remember grinding out a certain clockwork below ak'anon for a mace drop.. was it a mace? Bah. Bad graphics, here I come!

    1. There was a point when Enchanters using charmed pets supposedly soloed fastest of any class. I tried it but it found it Charm too unpredictable and stressful to be either efficient or fun. I much preferred to group as an Enchanter although that wasn't always how the group felt about it!

      I love Ak'Anon. It's unchanged, too, although Steamfont got a make-over some years back. When I start from scratch these days (which I've done two or three times in the last five years) I always go to Qeynos because the whole of that side of Antonica is untouched by time.

  2. "One thing's for sure. We're none of us going to have an excuse for being bored this year. If there's really nothing to take your fancy among that lot it might just be time to start thinking about a new hobby altogether."

    That's the problem I face. Nothing is really striking my fancy any longer. I'm doubtful on EQN this year, so it's pretty much left to The Repopulation to appease my MMO hunger. I may yet consider going with WildStar, but I'm so weary ...

    1. I've always assumed that most MMO players, no matter how passionate they were about the hobby once, will need to give up playing MMOs eventually. So many seem to go on trying to rekindle the magic or just their own interest long after their genuine enthusiasm is spent. Forums and blogs are so full of bitter vets because it's hard to admit even to yourself that it's not the games, it's you.

      LIfe's just an endless sequence of things we used to do but don't do any longer, though. Why would MMOs be an exception? It doesn't mean you'll never do these things again but there are always more interests we're not pursuing than those we are. I'm a lapsed comics fan, lapsed cinema-goer, lapsed live-music fan, lapsed dancer (hmm...that doesn't sound right...) ... all of those things were, at various times, often the same time, central to my perception of who I was but I get on fine without them now. Even more importantly I know that if I want to go back they'll all still be there, carrying on just fine without me.

      Maybe one day I'll be a lapsed MMO-Player but if so that day's nowhere in sight. There's nothing wrong with taking a break, though, if the games aren't inspiring you any more. Indeed it would be much better to step away than to keep on dragging yourself back when you're just not feeling it. You certainly won't be alone. It's been very noticeable just in the short time I've been blogging how many MMO blogs have either gone dark or changed direction to focus on other things than MMOs.

      Life's too short to spend any of it doing things you neither have to do nor enjoy doing.


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