Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Here's One I Didn't Make Earlier : EQ2, EverQuest

Just when I thought I was almost ready for the arrival of Kunark Ascending Niami Denmother popped up a "quick warning" that the crafting questline in the forthcoming expansion presupposes you will have completed the erstwhile "crafter's epic", Earring of the Solstice.

This celebrated and somewhat feared quest was added to the game back in February 2008 and I can't say with any certainty whether I ever did it or not. You'd think with it being such a landmark in any EQ2 player's crafting career that I'd know but after all this time it's all a bit muddled and for good reason.

The EQ2 Solstice Earring was created as a call-back to the original EverQuest crafting "epic", the magnificently-named "Protection of the Cabbage". I very definitely did that one, which didn't in fact require any crafting at all, or at least not by the player who completed it, since every one of the nine required components is tradeable. I bought all of mine apart from the ones Mrs Bhagpuss made for me.

When the quest was re-imagined for EQ2 that shortcut was partially removed. All of the equivalent items are No Trade. Since any character in EQ2 can max out only a single tradeskill that would appear to make the quest an impossibility to complete, which is where the Commission System comes in.
Everything happens at once!

The Commission System allows a crafter to make an item and have it deposited on creation directly into the inventory of another player. You both have to be in the same virtual physical space, standing next to each other, with a UI window open between you. It's the very essence of MMO gameplay, condensed down to a mechanic.

When EQ2 was a busier game than it is today it was commonplace to hear people asking  on the trading or crafting or auction channels for crafters willing to make some (or often nearly all) of the required items "on commission". My Berserker, who has also always been a max-level Weaponsmith, has taken the Bell to Mara a few times in order to knock up a quick Mistletoe Cutting Sickle for someone.

I've also helped Mrs Bhagpuss get the earring on more than one character and helped guildmates to do the same, back in the day when there were other people in our guild who still played. Consequently I'm really not sure whether I ever did the whole thing myself or not. (Edit: I checked; I didn't.)

Spoiler Alert - The Necro didn't do it.

If I did, though, it would very definitely have been on my Necromancer and once-maxed Sage on Test, not on my Berserker on Skyfire (née Freeport). I know that for certain because she's the only character I have who ever ground her way through the lengthy and tedious process of gaining the required faction with the Sarnaks of Bathezid's Watch.

Whereas the original EQ version was gated only by EQ's arduous, time-consuming and nail-bitingly tense crafting process itself, something entirely avoidable if you had sufficient platinum pieces to spray around, the EQ2 quest is a genuine Epic. It comes in five parts, all of which require a daunting amount of running around, foraging, crafting, currying favor and generally fulfilling the kind of busywork requirements that put some people off MMOs for life.

Yesterday's post touched on the predilection of MMO developers to cater to a supposed "hardcore" of players willing to put in the time and effort, making them worthy of attention. EQ2 started with very much that attitude, only to be forced to row back from it when the hardcore audience failed to show up and the casuals jumped ship en masse for what was then seen as the very much more casual-friendly World of Warcraft.

I swear I'm gonna kill that kid...

From Scott Hartsman's appearance until John Smedley's departure the story of EQ2 has been one of a game continually trying to broaden its appeal by removing barriers to entry. From F2P to quest markers on the map, the direction of travel has always pointed towards inclusivity and ease of access.

With the consolidation of new ownership under Columbus Nova and new management under Russel Shanks, that longstanding trend has not just halted, it's been thrown into reverse. The coming expansion, like the last, will eschew quest markers. It also comes, for the first time I can remember, with a basket of pre-reqs for any character hoping to complete either of the Signature questlines, Adventure or Tradeskill.

DBG has clearly abandoned all hope of attracting any significant number of new players. They've been playing the nostalgia card for a while now and the imminent return to Kunark, along with the revisiting of the Epic adventure and crafting questlines that came with the first Kunark expansion is another expression of the belief that the future of Norrath lies in its past.

At this stage it surely makes commercial sense. If there are any new players curious to try EQ2 - and there's always a trickle of those - they are beyond amply served already by the generous F2P offer and the overwhelming breadth and depth of extremely casual-friendly content it contains. Those fresh players aren't going to need or want any paid-for expansions for a good while so it's entirely understandable that the focus on selling and selling up for the three tiers of digital download coming in a couple of weeks is on the committed, experienced core.

Donkey, donkey, don't you stop.


And in truth I'm in two minds about all this. I wasn't expecting to have to do pre-course reading let alone to take an exam but then I really have been meaning to do To Speak Like A Dragon for a decade now, yet I always found some excuse to dodge actually doing it. Ditto the final (so far) part of A Gathering Obsession, which I didn't have to do for Kunark Ascending but ended up doing anyway because all the prep-work put me in the right frame of mind.

My Berserker can now speak Draconic and has a pack pony that can gather rare and holiday harvests. That is undeniably satisfying and very materially contributes to his development as a character. I can't say I'm looking forward to doing the lengthy series of quests in Kunark that will eventually net him the Earing of the Solstice, but I am very sure that I'll be glad to have the earring in the end and to have the quest tucked neatly in the "Completed" chapter of my journal.

Perhaps the thing to remember is that this isn't a race. There's no timer running. The "pre" in pre-req doesn't mean pre-launch. This expansion is here to last us all a year at least. There's nothing that's needed that can't be picked away at, casually, over time.

So, my Weaponsmith will be starting out to do the crafting epic he probably should have finished years ago but he's going to take his time about it. First he has to finish the Greenmist Heritage Quest and that's going to take a while. One thing is for certain - I'm not about to find myself short of things to do this Autumn.

I guess, when you come down to it, there's a little hardcore in us all. It just takes more bringing out in some than others.

2 comments:

  1. I just finished up my earring quest. Quick thanks to Lynarra in Halls of Fate. She had an alt for every crafting profession and helped me with every update.

    I like how the Speak Like a Dragon quest is set up. Once you do it once, your alts are all set. I wish more of these quests are like that. I just do not have the time to do all of this prework on multiple alts. Like you said, they are not drawing in a lot of new players. It's a lot of alts and multiple accounts that play today. Requiring this much on every single character to progress in a new expansion is not a good idea, in my opinion.

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    1. After I wrote the post and having checked my Necro, who I thought would be the only character that might ever have done the Earring quest and found that she hadn't, I decided to buckle down and do it on my Berserker, since that's who I'll mostly be playing when the expansion arrives. I thought I'd start by checking if, by any chance, he might have at least done the initial faction requirement.

      To my great surprise I found he was max ally, +50k with Bathezid's Watch. At that point I began to wonder whether my vague memories of grinding writs were from playing him rather than the Necro. What if I'd actually started the Earring quest on the Berserker/Weaponsmith?

      So I started to look through the handy list of completed quests in his journal. At first I didn't find anything but I was looking in Tradeskill Quests. I thought to check the wiki and found that the whole Earring sequence is actually a Signature Questline. I looked there instead and found to my growing amazement that not only had my Weaponsmith started the Crafter's Epic he'd all but finished it!

      In fact, the only thing he hadn't done was acquire the nine items and give them to Neeta Cabbageleaf. Since between us Mrs Bhagpuss and I probably have all the necessary crafters at the required level, completing it should be a piece of cake. It's astounding, given how much effort it must have been, that I had no memory of doing it on this character but I'm very, very pleased that I did.

      All I need to do now is that and the final part of Greenmist and I'm set. Should have it all done by the time the expansion launches.

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