Sunday, 19 June 2016

What's Old Is New Again : EverQuest

As a rule, I don't find all that much to complain about in EverQuest these days. Over the long years since I began playing, back at the death of the 20th Century, many of the wrinkles have been smoothed out and I like that. As much as I enjoyed the "up hill both ways in the snow" gameplay of 1999, I prefer the modern version. Coming back yet again after another break of six months or so I noticed a couple of improvements that had slipped under my radar.

Time Stands Still In Plane of Knowledge

Ever since the Guild Lobby was introduced with the Dragons of Norrath expansion in 2005 players have gathered there by the score because that's where time stands still.  If you go afk in the Lobby all your buffs will be in exactly that the same state of decay when you return as when you left. What's more, if you stand around running your idling animations for long enough you can guarantee some generous max-levels will spray MGBs all over you - and that's a good thing.

MGB means Mass Group Buffs - and retinal scarring.

The huge conglomeration of players, pets and mercs huddled in the center of the Lobby has long been known as the Lag pile for obvious reasons. As this thread suggests its not seen as a social activity by everyone but I've always appreciated it.

One thing I hadn't noticed until yesterday is that the temporal stasis effect now extends to both Plane of Knowledge and The Bazaar. I don't know when this change happened but it's incredibly convenient and most welcome. Being able to wander around PoK and go shopping in The Bazaar without having to worry about losing buffage or needing to swap to a "shopping" character is wonderful.

Tunes For A New Moon 

Zoning into The Bazaar yesterday afternoon I was immediately aware of something whose wonderfulness was somewhat less certain: the new zone music. It was so striking that I tabbed out right away to google what had happened.

It seems that when the Shadows of Luclin expansion was released SOE simply forgot to include most of the music files. I know, right? You'd think someone might have noticed but I must have played for many hundreds of hours all across Norrath's ill-fated moon and I can't honestly say it ever occured to me to wonder why there was no orchestra accompanying my adventures.

You'd think she'd notice the lack of music with ears like that...



Dev Dzarn explains on the forums
Previously unreleased music for every Shadows of Luclin zone was recently unearthed from a dangerous trek through the studio archives. These musical pieces will now play when adventuring on Norrath's most cat-filled Moon.

So far I've only heard the music in The Bazaar, which the OP of the thread describes as "elevator music". That's a tad harsh but it certainly is on the jazz-lite end of the musical spectrum. I think whoever composed it might have been taking the "shopping mall" aspect of the zone somewhat too much to heart.

I look forward to exploring the new lunar musical assets at some future date. Right now I have a much more important discovery to unpick.


Gateway to adventure.


Get 'Em While They're Hot Zones

In another unexpected and very welcome evolution for this venerable game, DBG have revamped the way Hot Zones work. This happened back in April but news about EQ is hard to come by when you're not actively playing and I missed it.

It would have been sufficient news in itself to get me to log in again had I known but instead it came as a very pleasant surprise when I spoke to Franklin Teek a few days ago. I took his daily tasks for Levels 75, 80 and 85 and for the first time in many years he didn't ask me to go to Bloodfields or Oceangreen Hills.

Being a little out of practice I decided to start at the easy end with the Level 75 task. That turned out to be a great choice. Not only is Jewel of Atiiki a lovely zone to spend time in - light, airy, relaxing - but the mobs there are perfectly spaced for soloing and exactly the right difficulty level. What's more, with the Hot Zone bonus the xp ticks over nicely, at least by the standards of the late 80s.

I do like a nice, wide corridor.
 
 The Hollow World

Of my few complaints concerning latter-day EQ, near the top of the list would be overly dark zones. I am just about fed up of hunting in gloomy, overcast areas where it always rains and everything is green and brown. My favorite memories of Norrath are of the bright blue waters and glowing yellow sands of Oasis and the Deserts of Ro or the wide open plains and endless skies of the Karanas, not the murky hollows of Hills of Shade.

It was with surprise and delight, then, that I arrived in one of the many zones I've never before visited, Jewel of Atiiki, to find myself in an analog of ancient Egypt. Pyramids, sphinxes, efreeti, palm trees and...gorillas?

The zone is part of The Buried Sea expansion, which is one I have dabbled in before but never fully explored. I had no idea it went from Pirates to Pharaohs. I spent a couple of very happy hours there exploring the pyramids before getting down to the job in hand - finding and killing my five gorillas.

Now that is indoors, I'll  grant you.

Ironically, given the bright sunlight and clear skies, the entire expansion takes place deep underground. It's magic, I expect, although it must be mostly illusion, because although it might look like the wide open spaces down there, apparently it still counts as indoors and you can't ride mounts "indoors".

It meant I couldn't use the new mount I got from opening Legends of Norrath packs, which in turn meant I occasionally needed to take an old school sit and med break. Never mind. That's a small price to pay for being able to see what I'm doing for once.

Onwards And Upwards

With this great new hunting ground I'm confident of reaching level 90 at last. I made over 10% of level 89 yesterday, which feels as good as finishing a full level in most other MMOs. Where to go after that I'm not sure but I expect Franklin Teek will tell me.

Given the age of the game it's very encouraging indeed to see just how much work is still being done on it. Those Hot Zones had languished under SOE for so long that most people probably thought they'd never change again. Of course, most of the commenters in the thread seem to wish they hadn't changed even now, but that's EQ players for you.

Look at me, Ma! Top of the pyramid!


New Blood, Old Blood

There's change afoot out of the game, too. The most prominently reported of the recent bout of hires at DBG was the recruitment of Cryptic's Jack Emmet to be CEO of Daybreak's Austin studio, responsible for DCUO. Of more interest to me was the re-hiring of Ngreth, husband of EQ2Traders' Niami Denmother and longtime tradeskill dev for EverQuest.

For once the forum response was almost entirely enthusiastic. Ngreth, like Domino over at EQ2, has long had the respect of the players, crafters and adventurers alike. As I was pondering yesterday, Columbus Nova's plans are hard to fathom but the signs and portents continue to read very favorably from where I'm looking at them.

So, I'm back in EverQuest for yet another run. I will get my Mage to 90, which will allow her to upgrade the gear she got as part of the level 85 boost, all of which she is still wearing. How much further I can take her, solo, I'm not sure. The level cap now stands at 105. With the added incentive of some attractive new maps to explore I just might be able to make a dent in that before it recedes even further out of reach.

As always it will be fun trying.

4 comments:

  1. That music is awful. Not would my computer be chugging at the time, but my ears would've believed. Still, gotta spend my Aqua Goblin coin on something for my lowbie dwarf.

    As for the rest, I'd really love to see VR support for the original EverQuest, even if it is just a walking simulator version of the world. I'd almost buy a Vive/Rift right now if that were an experience I'd be guaranteed to have.

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    1. The music grew on me after a while but the initial impact was jarring to say the least. I think EQ is extremely unlikely to get VR support but who knows? I guess if VR really takes off everything will be retro-fitted eventually. I'm holding out for 3D holograms.

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  2. It has probably been about a year since I logged in. I could not stand Oceangreen Hills anymore. I might have update my client and take a look at the new Franklin Teek quests. Thanks for posting this!

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    1. I went back for a couple of hours last night and did another 15% of level 89. It was really pleasant just to be grinding mobs the old fashioned way in a zone well designed for soloing and seeing an appreciable progression for my character. Inside the pyramids reminded me of happy times in Grieg's End or Skyshrine, outdoors was reminiscent of Oasis without the ever-present threat of Cazel or Spectres. I had the place to myself, too, which was nice.

      There's a quest I'm doing, which I recommend. It involves finding and hailing a dozen or so Sphinxes and then learning to say their names properly. Easy and amusing. There's a good walkthrough at

      Tribal Fury

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