Thursday, January 16, 2020

Please Be Seated: EQII

Yesterday evening, after I'd finished running a Blood of Luclin solo instance on my Necromancer for the sheer fun of it (something I find it hard to imagine saying about many previous expansions just a month after release) I was sorting my bags, when I noticed there seemed to be an unprecedented amount of sitting and reading going on all around.

I was in Sanctus Seru, a decent-sized city set on two levels, replete with most facilities including banking, brokerage, crafting and entry points to cap-level instances. Despite all of that there rarely seem to be many players there, probably because, unlike most expansions in recent years, Luclin has quite a few potential gathering and service points, not just Sanctus Seru but Grieg's Landing and Recuso Tor in The Blinding and a couple more in Aurelian Coast.

Even without players, Sanctus Seru feels very lived-in. Someone has gone to a significant amount of trouble to make it that way. The EverQuest II art and design team have always been strong on atmospheric detail but they seem to have come up with a few new ideas this time around.

One thing they seem very pleased with is the ability of NPCs to sit on seats. I'm not sure whether this has always been a thing. I really should know after fifteen years but I don't, not without logging in to wander around some older zones and check.

I don't remember noticing it before, but in Sanctus Seru it's very hard to miss. There are citizens sitting on every available flat surface, although that pretty much comes down to benches and walls. There are also two points during the crafting questline when the player character has to sit down, which strongly suggests to me that someone has a new dev tool to show off.

The humans sit very convincingly but the dwarves have an unfortunate tendency to let their feet clip. I'd be very interested to see how some of the other races look, sitting down. I wonder what happens to the tail on an Iksar?

As well as enjoying a good sit down, the Seruvians do like to get stuck into a book. Once again, I'm not sure I can remember seeing anyone in Norrath actually holding a book before, although whether it's the kind of thing you'd notice is another matter. But then, I'm noticing it now, which suggests it's unusual.

Sitting on chairs is a thing in lots of MMORPGs. Some, like World of Warcraft, just have it and don't make a fuss about it. Other developers go into a big song and dance when they add it to the game and, in the case of Guild Wars 2, turn it into yet another revenue stream. I haven't felt the need to buy a chair in Tyria but I'd pay a decent sum in Daybreak Cash for my characters to learn how to sit properly. Even more if they could hold objects in their hands. imagine the tea parties!

Performing musicians have been around EQII for a good while, to my certain knowledge. I wrote about the band in Maldura, hub city of the Terrors of Thalumbra expansion back in 2015. There are some very similar musicians dotted around Sanctus Seru, playing the same highly distinctive, minor-key, hauntingly off-kilter jazz-folk.

How this particular musical style has taken off so successfully in two entirely separate communities, isolated as they have been for half a millennium, both from each other and from the central culture, is likely to remain one of the eternal mysteries of Norrath.

One thing we've seen often is NPCs practicing archery. I believe there was someone doing it in Qeynos back at launch. I can't remember seeing anyone having arrows stuck in the ground around their feet and pulling them out to shoot before, though.

Sanctus Seru is a heavily martial culture and also very religious. There are altars in the street in a couple of places, which is a lot more blatant than I'm used to seeing. EQII has had craftable altars for every major god in the pantheon for a very long time, going back to the days when choosing a god and sacrificing to him, her or it was a meaningful part of gameplay. Actually, I think it still is, only you don't need an altar to do it any more.

Once again, I really ought to be able to name the god by looking at the altar but I'm not sure I can. It looks like the Rallos Zek one to me but I definitely wouldn't put any money on it. Maybe it's Mithaniel Marr. He gets a mention in one of the quests but it slips my mind which. Might have been that one with the ghost who likes fruit in Recuso Tor. It's not that I don't pay attention - more that nothing much sticks. I'd blame it on my age but I've always been this way.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Sanctus Seru's streetlife are the Affirmations. I have no idea what these are and I wouldn't even know what they were called if it wasn't for one particular Boss in the first instance. He's a musician and to make him attackable you first have to hail, then kill, the half-dozen people in his audience.

All of them berate you for interrupting their Affirmation. In the peaceful city itself, the musicians don't seem to be Affirming anyone but there are a scattering of orators who look to be very much in the Affirmation business.

They stand there, waving their arms and glowing, with a blue ball of light hovering nearby. Passing citizens stop and listen and once in a while the blue ball will swoop down on the watcher and light them up. The satisfied customer then leaves.

I believe this to be Affirmation in action. I think I heard someone mention it. Maybe. What it means, I have no idea but I know this much: wondering about it is a big part of why I play these games in the first place.

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