Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Two Years Wearing The Same Green Dress : EverQuest

It's one thing to come back to an MMORPG after a break. It's another entirely to pass a threshold that takes you into areas you've never reached before.

Today my magician finally dinged 90, which was her initial target back when she took SOE's Heroic shilling just over two years ago. It's been a long, slow climb, grinding up those five levels, most of it  in short sessions using the Veteran AA "Lesson of the Devoted", which doubles all sources of XP for thirty minutes.

Whenever possible I combined the Lesson with some of Franklin Teek's Hot Zone tasks and supplemented those with any simple xp-granting missions or quests the mage managed to pick up along the way. When I hit one of the frequent double XP weekends I sometimes managed as much as ten or even twelve percent of a level in one session.

It was slow going and since the Hot Zones didn't change for the entirety of the time I was playing it made for some very repetitive gameplay. What's more, because EverQuest is so huge and sprawling, getting that 30 minutes of bonus XP often meant an additional thirty minutes just traveling there and back.


Over the course of two years and five levels my magician rarely died but only because I was ultra-cautious. That slowed things down even more but anything faster just wasn't worth the risk. A couple of bad pulls would mean gate and reset and that would be a session, mostly wasted.

So I took a lot of care and few risks. I kept my Mercenary out even when I shouldn't really have been using one, just to be safe. Mercs in EQ take a full player's share of group XP, so that was another drag anchor on progress. It's no wonder I drifted out the habit of playing.

And then I came back last week and found everything changed. The new Hot Zones took me to places I'd never considered. I bound by the zoneline so getting going took seconds. The mobs were easy, both to kill and to pull, so I dispensed with the Mercenary. My XP rate skyrocketed - by EQ standards, at least.


In just a few sessions sessions I made most of a level. A good deal of that wasn't even on Lesson - although I did use a couple of XP potions. I did some new, fun quests, stood on a lot of Portals, talked to a lot of Sphinxes, moved a cadre of co-operative Efreetis around a game board. I went exploring.

I played the game the way I used to play it, to amuse myself, instead of like a chore, the way I'd let it become and my reward came quickly. Level 90 and with it not just new spells - those come every level - but a whole new gear tier.

The Magician hasn't had new gear since the Heroic upgrade granted a free item for every slot two years ago. It's a long time to go adventuring in the same green dress. Within minutes of the ding I was in The Bazaar, grooving to the mellow synth sounds, browsing the market for new duds.

There were none. That didn't seem right. I thought I might find everything out of my price range but I never thought there'd be nothing to buy at any price. Was 90 really such a dead spot that no-one had anything to offer?


I didn't believe it. Something was wrong and it was almost certainly my understanding of the situation. When in doubt, look it up, that's my motto. Off to Google.

One fairly reliable way to tell whether an MMO is still functioning is the quantity, quality and timeliness of the resources you can find for it on a google search. After seventeen years EverQuest still scores highly on that measure.

Even now, (Allakha)Zam remains the primary source. Unlike the EQ2 version, Zam for EQ still seems to be getting regular updates. The front page has news of the beta for the Quarm server and the recent closure of LoN. This is where you come first and often it's the only resource you need.

It's not the only option, though. Some of the class sites are still up and running. EQMagicians seems to have stopped updating its news, the latest entry being the closure of EQ Next, but the detailed information for mages is still extremely useful and largely up to date.

That's where I found out why there was no armor for me in The Bazaar. It seems I have to make it myself. Fortunately that doesn't mean leveling my Tailoring to 400+. If it did I'd be wearing the same gear for the next decade. No, it means buying components from both players and NPCs and combining them in a special box.


That's a thing I can do, so I did and it was an adventure in itself. The armor set for Level 90 turns out to be from an expansion where I have never set foot in a single zone - Veil of Alaris. I had no idea how to get there so I turned to google yet again.

What should come up but blogging friend Stargrace's 2011 account of her own first visit to Alaris on the day it opened. I read through that and set off to Steamfont. How did I miss that gigantic airship these last five years? Bear in mind I've been running through Steamfont almost every session, gating home to Ak'Anon with the Origin AA or heading out to Dragonscale Hills or Loping Plains. You only see what you're looking for, I guess.

A quick, thrilling flight and a safe disembarkation, thanks to Stargrace's warning about levitation not working in the zone, and there I was, at the vendor. After I'd used the Find function. New zones are confusing and I'm not proud. Anyway, no-one can see your sparkly trail. I hope.

I'd already bought the player-made patterns and tradeable dropped components needed to make a new hat in The Bazaar before I set off. I added the Reliquary of Refinement tradeskill container and the Consort Adorning Agent from Yuan, the helpful NPC vendor. Then I made space in inventory, opened the Reliqary, put the lot in the box and hit combine.

Bingo! New hat! That simple. I checked how big an upgrade it was. Big. So I bought six more Reliquaries and six Adorning Agents at a total cost of around 15k and gated back to The Bazaar to get one of each of all the Fantastic Silk patterns and Rustic dropped pieces before the server came down for scheduled maintenance and cleared out all the vendors.

There I ran into a slight problem. I bought a chest slot drop but no-one was selling the matching crafted pattern. All the other player-made parts were up at reasonable prices but the cost of the equivalent drops varied wildly. Some were more than I was willing to pay.

I've been making good money in Jewel of Atiiki. I put over 20k Platinum in the bank this weekend. Still, I only had around 80k in total and a couple of the dropped pieces were going for between 20-30k. On the other hand, the legs were only 900 while a couple of other pieces were just 2k or so.


Guessing at the reason for that, other than players being players, all the pieces drop from Named mobs in the VoA expansion so maybe some come from bosses that aren't killed very often these days or are particularly difficult. Probably need to google that. Maybe I can go kill my own and save some money.

In the end I bought all I could reasonably afford. I spent around 15k more to upgrade my Magician's head, legs, feet and one wrist, and of course I also have all the NPC components pre-purchased and ready to hand for when I can afford the rest of the drops.

The servers are down for the weekly maintenance and patch right now but when I get back in it'll be time to go round the spell vendors and update my spellbook. Then I might head back to Veil of Alaris. It looked like a very interesting place to explore and thanks to Brewall's EverQuest Maps, another new EQ resource I found today, I might even know where I'm going for once.

EverQuest: always something new to find. And if no-one wants to sell me a Fantastic Silk Robe Template I might be seeing it all still wearing that blasted green frock.


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