Sunday, January 28, 2018

All Roads Lead To Gnome : EverQuest, WoW

If there's one thing I don't need it's a new character in EverQuest. I have no idea how many I've left behind over the years, idling in banks or inn rooms or camped out in the wilds somewhere. For the longest time I tried to keep most of them ticking along, logging them in now and then, adding a level here and there. Now, though, as the years pile up like autumn leaves and my characters and I approach winter together, for many it seems less and less likely we will hunt together again.

Like Telwyn, who alluded to it in two consecutive posts this week, I believe strongly in character permanence. I, too, like to check in once in a while and touch base with my imaginary friends and alter egos. But nearly two decades and a hundred and fifty MMOs makes for an awful lot of characters. Some I'll never see again, far less play.

So why start another? And why a gnome? As Mrs Bhagpuss said, when I told her what I'd done, "Haven't you got enough gnomes?".

Well, no, apparently I don't. And you can't ever have too many gnomes, can you? As for why now, I think there were two proximate causes. First there was something Syp said in an offhand comment at Bio Break. When he described the first dozen levels in WoW as "slow and boring" it triggered a burst of nostalgic desire in me for some good old-fashioned low level gaming.

I couldn't disagree more strongly with that sentiment, finding as I do the very low levels in WoW to be the best part of the game that I've seen. Indeed, the very low levels of most MMORPgs are among the best for some very good and well-known reasons.

The lowest levels represent the game's shop-window, so they tend to be designed to please. They are also usually the content that most closely represents the original vision for the game and as such are more coherent, consistent and convincing than most of what follows. Finally, staring zones have usually been around the longest so they have been repeatedly polished until they positively glow.

In terms of core RPG gameplay the hook never sets so deep and firm as in those first few levels, when every upgrade makes a substantial and noticeable difference to gameplay. Not only does your characters increase in power and capability almost with every item that drops but the way they look changes too.

The low levels are the most playful part of almost any MMO. There's room to experiment, to find out who your character wants to be. The time will come when decisions have to be made, points have to be spent, rotations have to be set. Eventually your "role" will have little to do with roleplay and much to do with learning your dance steps but in those first, few levels you're still free to move to whatever music you hear in your head.

So, that's why I made a new character. I wanted some of that. As for why a gnome, well I blame Isey for prompting me to realize that I really should have saved the title of the previous post for one about gnomes. And once I start thinking about gnomes it's only a short step to making one.

Given where I began, with that quip from Syp, I might have made a gnome in WoW. I'm currently playing WoW a little most days, pottering around on my endless free trial, exploring and evaluating the implications of the new level scaling.

Mostly I've been leveling up my Worgen Druid, spending almost all my time in cat form. It's been fun. The level scaling seems fine. Everything takes three or four casts or hits to kill, which is still ridiculously fast by any standards other than WoW's recent own.

I already have a level one Gnome there, ready to go, but he's a Rogue and I really don't want to play a Rogue. I have no idea why I made him. There were probably reasons.

When it came to it, though, there was no point fooling myself. I wanted to make an EQ gnome, start in Ak Anon and level up in Steamfont for a bit. So I did. Ah, the whirring and ticking of clockwork. There's nothing like it.

I'd actually managed to forget that Steamfont was one of the few Faydwer zones (the only one?) to get a visual makeover many years ago. Which is surprising considering I must have crossed it literally hundreds of times in the past few years, taking my highest level character to Dragonscale Hills and the rest of the zones in 2007's excellent Secrets of Faydwer expansion.

Even so, the new Steamfont has itself now been around so long and I've leveled up so many characters there (all of them gnomes) that it has its own nostalgia. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I can really remember what it looked like before. I might need to log in to P2002 and remind myself.

As in WoW, leveling in EQ is not the uphill slog it once was. Even so, it's hardly a downhill sprint, either. It took me about forty minutes to get to level two. It would have been faster but I had to run back to Ak Anon to zone a mountain lion and I died when I pulled a Krag Chick. They are still the same insane undercon they were in 1999.

When I dinged (that sound still so satisfying) I took the book to Plane of knowledge. I was very happy to see that well outside of U.S. primetime, on one of the less-popular servers, there were still over 70 players in PoK and a couple of hundred vendors trading in The Bazaar. Life in the old game yet.

After a visit to the bank, where my new gnome helped herself to a few hundred platinum from the shared vault, thereby bypassing about a year's gameplay from the  good old days, I logged out. Will I ever log her in again?

Who knows? What I do know is that one gnome leads to another. And if you can't find a gnome then a dwarf will do. Or any anthropomorphic animal that walks on its hind legs.

I have all next week off. I wonder how many new characters I could make in how many MMOs?


  1. You and I share the love of gnomes. Also I am Using voice to text to write this so there may be some spelling and punctuation errors. I know we recently spoke about that as well.

    The eq2 starting experience is so much fun. You get so many skills so fast it just is a funnel of "keeping you going". This changes in the mid twenties as your rotation ends up being hit everything off on cool down but still the first 20 levels is so much fun I can actually see myself doing most characters to that point.

    I know Mom was my first character in EQ beta. Ever Ever since then there has been a very cool spot for them in my gaming. This post made Th made me laugh a bit because I recently leveled another enchanter to level 8 through Steam font. I I start started him off in the new starter Zone in EQ because I had never done that but then it was straight to steamfont to relive the Old kobold Camp breaks.

    That was 3 months ago and I haven't touched him since although I have a feeling it might not be too long before I go back and try again.

    I left all the spelling errors as the voice to text did it just so you can see the quality capable with good old Google keyboard and a Samsung Galaxy S8.

    1. That's impressive voice recognition, although I can't even work out what you meant to say when you apparently said " Mom was my first character in EQ beta". Also, were you actually in the original EQ beta? I can't recall any bloggers writing about it. I reckon you could probably risk breaking the NDA now!

      The weird thing about EQ2 is that, for all the criticism there is of the vast number of skills and hot keys, I really love having all those hot bars and buttons to press. My "rotation" consists mainly of hitting 25 abilities as they come off cooldown!

    2. Mom was my first.... was supposed to say GNOME was my first. I hope they aren't suggesting my mom is a Gnome.

      Yes, I was in the old beta proper, so long ago hard to remember exactly how it went. But I did archive all of those old emails... wonder if I have some information there...

      HRm. I will go digging!

  2. Heh, I had the same reaction to Syp's comment. How is getting to choose between a dozen different starter zones the boring bit?

    It isn't the same everywhere though. Neverwinter's first few levels for example have you go through an unskippable tutorial every time, and while it's fairly short, this design choice still means that the early levels become an annoying obstacle on alts instead of being part of the fun of rerolling.

    1. Oh, don't get me started on compulsory tutorials. I totally agree. One of the most annoying things in EQ is the way it defaults to the Gloomingdeep tutorial zone, which was added so long ago the wiki includes it in the "original zones" category, even though it came about four or five years after launch. I managed to remember to unset the default option at character create this time and at least there IS an option, even though it's hard to spot.


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