Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A Test Of Patience : EQ2

See that up there? That's what you get for not logging in for five years, that is. A screen full of pop-ups and a cacophony of alarms and sirens. Oh, I get the message: everything's changed. Don't expect to just pick up where you left off, fairweather friend. There's plenty of work to be done before you'll be having any fun here again.

It's unavoidable, I guess. It would be irresponsible to let us just charge off, all unprepared, in our ancient, outdated gear, flinging our superannuated spells and clicking away at a cluster of icons that no longer connect to anything. An awful lot changes in most MMORPGs just in six months leave alone five years.

Still, it's offputting. How many potential returning customers take one look at the splurge of demands, instructions and warnings spilling across the screen, think "sod this for a game of soldiers" and log off for another few years? I know I've done it a few times.

This morning I logged onto EQ2's Test server. It was the the first time I'd been back since we left, supposedly just for a few weeks, when SoE began their Grand Experiment with the launch of the original F2P beta. We liked it so much on Freeport that we never went back. I still play there even now although Mrs Bhagpuss, despite maintaining an All Access account, hasn't really played anything other than GW2 for the last three years.

Before that Test had been our home for about half a decade. We both had multiple max-level characters and we'd had a long and often intense relationship with the tight-knit, idiosyncratic and frequently fractious Test community. It was a very different experience from playing on a "Live" server, what with the tiny population where, almost literally, everyone knew everyone else, something that often resulted in the server-wide equivalent of guild drama. Oh, the eternal politics!

And then there were the endless bugs, the broken content, the regular, direct contact with the developers, the permanent 50% xp bonus and the complete absence of customer service. It was a unique environment to be leveling up in, that's for sure.

Playing on Freeport felt almost like playing the game on easy mode after all that and I think we were about ready for some normality. Also, on Freeport we had our own guild. For most of our time on Test we were the only two active players in a guild we had helped to found but didn't own. The leader left fairly soon after we joined and before long so did everyone else. We did try to get the guild transferred to our leadership but at that time there was no mechanism for doing so.

Well, there is now. That was one reason I logged in today. I thought I'd start the ball rolling and get the guild switched to my leadership. Only, wouldn't you know it, in the five years since we left it, as I thought, in stasis the original leader has returned! It would seem she was playing pretty actively for a while until about six months ago. No-one else has been on and she's demoted the entire roster other than her characters to "inactive" status so I'm not even an officer any more, which means I couldn't even begin the leadership transfer process now if she takes another break for a few years.

As it happens, she logged in for the first time since February just three days ago. I thought about sending her an in-game mail asking to be re-officered but do I really care? I think that in the extremely unlikely event I was to go back and play regularly on Test I'd rather just make a branch of our own guild, move into that and start over. Maybe I'll sleep on it.

In the meantime I had plenty of busy work to occupy my morning. I only logged in two characters, Bruiser and Necromancer, both level 90. Naturally, even though I'd been actively playing them right up to the move to Freeport, they both had full bags. Completely full. Every slot.

My overflow filled up with discontinued or revamped items the game was throwing at me so I
needed to make space fast. A quick squint at the contents of the bags showed a lot of house items. That looked like an easy fix - go to my houses, dump the furniture, clear overflow and work from there.

Except I'd completely forgotten how nicely decorated my houses on Test are. How much time and effort and care and attention I'd put into them. How cosy and welcoming and familiar they looked and felt. So I couldn't just plonk crap down anywhere. I had to spend time looking at it all and placing it properly.

A watched gnome trap never springs
That would have been all well and good only, in the Bruiser's three-room Freeport apartment, nothing could be placed at all. I couldn't figure out why but luckily I found a couple of 36 slot boxes in my bags and free spaces for them in my House Vault so I shoved everything in there and slammed the door. Kicking the can down the road I think they call it.

It's not this bright and cheerful in game, believe me. I tweaked it in paint.net.
It turned out the problem with item placement was because I'd left the Bruiser's house "Published" under the viewing system so that people could come visit it. He has a Gnome Trap set up in there and he'd published the house under the name "Gnomes Welcome" hoping to catch a few. Sadly his little plan didn't work because he hasn't paid any rent since 2010 so no-one, gnome or otherwise, has been able to get in since then.

The Necro had no such issues. She put all her miscellaneous house items down thoughtfully and carefully although in the indigo gloom that passes for lighting in Neriak you could hardly tell. That gave me two characters with about 15% of their inventory available, rather above the average for characters played by me.


One thing I really love about EQ2 is how everything, including simple UI service functions, have lore-appropriate animations and mechanics.
From there it was on to the eternal round of resets. Racial traits and AAs mostly. I've long since lost track of how many times SOE and now DBG have enforced a complete respec by returning all my hard-earned points and insisting I spend them all over again. There was a point where it was a real nuisance, back when there was no option but to do everything manually. That's something you still have to do for the racial choices but some time ago they added a bunch of templates for AAs that let you install a default spec with a single click.

It's an option I greatly prefer. I just hit "Leveling Solo" for both of them and what used to be an hour's fiddly, annoying tool-tip reading and button-clicking went by in less than a second (not including casting time). Should I ever set to playing those characters "seriously" I'll probably need to make some tweaks but for now they can at least venture out of their houses without the risk of being knocked down and trampled by rabbits.

Welcome to my parlor, said the ratonga to the gnome.
It does still leave the issue of hot bars. I copied the UI layout over from my Berserker on Freeport so that part's done but the bars themselves are in a shocking mess. Everything's in the wrong place and loads of things are duplicated or even quintuplicated. It really needs for them all to be emptied out and re-filled by hand, which will take more time than I'm willing to spend right now.

Maintenance aside, it was great to see those characters again. They were such a huge part of my life for such a long time it seems bizarre that I'd left them so easily and completely. Not without a second thought, because I do think of them quite often, but certainly without actually doing anything to check on them and make sure they were getting on alright.

Now, there's a funny story about how I captured this one...

Partly it was that it used to be a major enterprise to set up an account for the Test server. You used to need a full installation in a separate directory for one thing. Now, though, it's as easy as selecting "Public Test" from the drop-down menu at log-on. It took me less than five minutes, from deciding to do it on a whim, to stepping onto the surface of alternate Norrath once again.

I'd like to keep logging in to Test regularly now I've made the effort to come back. I'd like to wake up all my old characters and get them fighting fit even if I don't ever take them out of their home cities. I'd like to...but then I'd like to do a lot of things.

We'll see. At least it's a start.

5 comments:

  1. We're probably going to lose our Nov. 13, 2004 guild on Crushbone because the current leader did the same thing, demoted everybody and then left for parts unknown. Well, WoW, actually.

    I haven't been that long without logging in a character, but I do have a couple that have bank slots full of things that you can no longer find in the game. Remember all those horrible extracts and washes and what not from alchemy back during the original crafting vision? I have (or had, I haven't checked recently) a lot of that along with a number of other interim state crafting objects. Oh the baggage we collect.

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    1. Half my storage problem is keeping old stuff because I think it will never be in the game again. In GW2 I kept most of the interim quest items from Living Story 1 & 2 because of that. Somewhere in someone's bank on EQ I have a bunch of items from when Lesser Faydark was invaded by demons - at least I think I do. I spent a whole afternoon trying to find them once without success but I'm sure they're there somewhere...

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  2. I used to log in to EQ2 every 6-9 months just to run around, but each time I did all my AA's and traits and whatnot were reset. And for a while I was locked out of my own gear that I alreeady had equipped, so I was effectively naked and couldn't even solo easy overland stuff unless I wanted to pay something like $18 to unlock all my gear slots, so... I haven't been back in a while. TBH, I'm not even sure if I have the game installed anymore or not.

    Finding out from your post that they have AA templates now, though..... suddenly I'm feeling an urge to find out if I have it installed and if so, maybe pop on in.

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    1. All my characters - or the ones I play anyway - are either on All Access or grandfathered in under the old Silver membership level so I'm a bit vague on what a fully f2p player has to deal with these days. I think nothing you're wearing drops off because you're on a free account. They removed the items you used to make it equipable from the SC store long ago - I remember getting something in place of the ones I had banked. They also upped the quality you can wear to Legendary so you can wear most things you get now.

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  3. While I still hold an account, I don't think I've logged on in almost a year. My wife, however is an avid decorator and she is on all the time. It's her thing and I gotta give kudos for that. The one thing EQ2 did seriously right was their decorating mechanics. Almost anything can be made. She also does a lot of Test Server stuff which she enjoys as a solo player. For me, it's SWTOR and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Good points on all the crap you have to go through after 5 years of being away lol.

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