Tuesday, May 9, 2023

If You Want Something Done...

Tempting though it is to make every day at Inventory Full an AI or a music day - and believe me, I could - it's probably about time I got back to what both Bard and ChatGPT know me for, namely writing about video games. 

One day I'm going to sit back and ask myself how it came to this. It certainly would surprise my adolescent, twenty- and thirty-something selves to find me here, spending two or three hours every day spouting off about computer games but I guess I've been playing, talking and writing about the things for long enough now I'd look a bit precious pretending I'm better suited to doing anything else.

It's all about the games, then. And the game I'm mostly playing right now is EverQuest II. Again. How did that happen? Admittedly, getting into the beta for EQII back in 2004 was one of the more exciting things that had happened to me up to then but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been expecting still to playing the same damn game twenty years later.

Eliot at Massively OP wrote an opinion piece earlier this week about how, as gamers - and particularly as mmorpg gamers - we're all getting older and yet we don't talk about it. I dropped a comment to say I disagreed. Not that we're getting older. I'm not that disassociated from reality... yet. I just don't agree that it's something we don't talk about. 

On the contrary, it seems like we talk about it a lot around here. It's hardly surprising. Most of us have been playing mmorpgs for a decade or two and computer games for longer than that. Age is going to come up in conversation whether we want it to or not, if not about us then about the games we're playing. Which is aging more badly - the games or the players - is another question.

Eithr way, we still keep on playing them, some of us probably more than we should. It's like experience has taught us nothing. I'd like to be able to say I've gained enough wisdom over the years not to see a morning spent organizing storage in a video game as time well spent but I'd have too much trouble keeping a straight face to pull it off convincingly.  

That, of course, is what I spent several hours doing yesterday: moving little icons from one slot to another so I could hoard even more imaginary bric-a-brac I'll never use, in a game I've been playing, on and off, for more than a third of my life. And I enjoyed myself doing it, dammit!

EQII probably has the most storage of any mmoprg ever created but even that brings its own problems. It's just like what happens where I work - as soon as someone tidies up a corner somewhere and creates some space, next day someone else has come along and dumped something in it. Clutter expands to fill the space available, which I'm sure is somebody or other's Law.

Darkpaw haven't been making things any easier lately. After that peculiar debacle earlier this year, where they changed something about how boss drops are handled and everyone threatened to quit so they rolled it back (I wasn't paying attention at the time so I can't give details.) the devs said fine but we have to do something. Probably as a result, a whole lot of items that used to be treadeable now seem to be Heirloom and some stackables now have this weird timer attached to them, meaning the game identifies them as unique, so they don't stack until the timer runs down to zero.

According to today's patch notes, at least some of the problems are unintentional: "Corrected a bug that prevented Di'Zok Minion's Runes from being stackable". Those aren't the ones with the timers, though, so I don't know what's going on.

Anyway, as I said, if there's one thing I'm not short of in EQII it's storage. The only drawback to hoarding stuff there is remembering where I put it. Yesterday I was reduced to taking notes. I may have to go so far as to craft an in-game book where I can record the details of who's looking after what, which is one of the more amazing things you can do in the game.

That Artificing score tells you I haven't
actually been making much lately.

All of this is on Skyfire. On Isle of Refuge, where I'm spending most of my time at the moment, I have no such problems. When you only have one character, it's easy to remember where you put your stuff. If there's a problem with stuff there it's getting some.

Seriously, it's somewhere on the far side of ironic now. Let me give you an example.

When I renamed Lana "Mitsu" and transferred her to IoR, I decided she'd focus on crafting over adventuring. I've been steadily working on both her main tradeskill, Jewellerycraft, ever since and also diligently completing each of the three dailies for Transmuting, Tinkering and Adorning, all of which has turned this once-minor character into one of my most rounded crafters ever.

As a tip for anyone wanting to level a crafter in EQII but who's not in a tearing rush to get it done, just doing those three quests as often as they become available will not just give you decent skills in the three minor disciplines but also get you several levels of your main crafting profession every day, too. 

All three give a hefty chunk of tradeskill xp on hand in, enough to ding a couple of times, always assuming, that is, that you have full tradeskill vitality as often as possible (Don't forget the weekly Veteran refresh.) and keep an xp potion running. Given that all three together take less than five minutes to do and the questgiver provides all of the mats, it's the slacker's way to level crafting. 

Until you hit Level 100, that is. As with adventuring, that's when everything changes. From getting most of a level for every hand-in, you'll suddenly find yourself getting so little xp for all three dailies you'll struggle to see your xp bar move at all. I'm not going to go over the whole thing again but the short of it is that from 100 onwards the only viable way to level either your combat or your crafting class is to do the appropriate Signature questlines from the Planes of Prophecy and later expansions.

Okay, there are other ways but I'm not here to talk about those. They're all slower and more tedious, anyway. You'd be ill-advised to try and avoid doing the Sigs, which will net you multiple levels at each stage. I'm currently waiting for full vitality to return before doing the first, which I'm hoping will jump me from 100 to 110 in a session.

How much?!
While I was focused on crafting, I was planning on ignoring adventuring for the time being. Mitsu drifted from the twenties to the fifties just on exploration and killing mobs while doing Qho Augren's harvesting quests and I was content to leave her there for now. Playing a high level crafter who isn't also a high level adventurer is a new experience for me and I was finding it quite exciting, all the sneaking and hiding and having to pay attention so as to avoid the many, aggressive, deep red-con mobs as I tried to harvest mats in zones supposedly far too dangerous for me to be in at all.

Unfortunately, that kind of laissez-faire attitude just won't wash on Isle of Refuge and I'll tell you why.

If Mitsu is going to be a proper crafter she's going to need personal storage depots for her home. On Skyfire, when I decided to set those up, all I had to do was go to the Broker and buy them. They weren't even all that expensive.

On IoR, the server where you can trade almost anything, that's not an option. For a start, they're not easy to come by at all. On the Broker there are just two pages of Depots on offer. And even if you can find the ones you want, there's the cost. Apart from a couple of not-so-useful ones like ammo and fuel, prices start at seven figures. Five million plat seems to be the going rate for the good ones.

On Skyfire, with its regular ruleset, there are six pages of Depots and prices begin around 20k. Even the biggest, the Personal Harvest Depot (Large), will only run you 500k, a tenth what you'd have to pay on IoR.

Buying what I needed was out of the question but all the depots are made with the Tinkering skill so, since Mitsu's Tinkering is coming along, I thought maybe I could make my own. All the recipes for Depots are in a single Blueprint and you can make them with a Tinkering skil of 445. Mitsu's skill is 378. She could easily raise it in an hour or less of grinding or just do the dailies for another couple of weeks and let it tick up to where it needs to be.

First, though, she'd need the recipes. Maybe she could buy them

1Kpp if you collect.
I checked the IoR broker, expecting the Blueprint to be out of my price range. It wasn't but only because it wasn't on sale at all. There were only a couple of pages of Blueprints of any kind. Granted, the few there were didn;t seem all that expensive, which was a surprise, but it didn't mean much since they also weren't any use to me.

On Skyfire, by contrast, there are seventeen pages of Blueprints for sale on the Broker right now. Prices
start at less than one platinum piece. The Personal Depot Blueprint can be had there for 1200 Plat. Even Mitsu could easily afford to pay that much. Pity she's on a different server.

This is the joy of low-pop. If you want something you pretty much have to go get it yourself. Even if you're willing and able to craft it, you have to go get the mats and the recipes. You can't rely on someone else doing the hard work for you.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can lead to adventures you weren't expecting.

I had no idea where the Blueprint for the Personal Depots might come from, so I looked it up. It's a drop, fairly common, from a lot of different mobs. Getting hold of one is a straightforward farming job. The only problem is the mobs that drop it are all around Level 85-90. Before Mitsu can even begin trying for one, she'll need to get another twenty-five or thirty Adventure levels. 

And that's not hard, either. Levelling in EQII is easy enough. But it does mean I'll have to change my plans. If you play on a low-pop server, you end up doing a lot of that. 

There are shortcuts I could take. I could have her use one of my many Level Boosts. I have at least seven of them stashed away, ranging from Level 100 to 120. I'm very tempted to use the 100 on her. It would make farming the blueprint easy and also take a lot of the danger out of running around looking for mats in higher-level zones.

Then again, didn't I just say that was fun? And wouldn't it be more satisfying to get good xp from all those mobs I'll have to kill to get the blueprint to drop?

Such are the choices you have to make if you play on a low-pop server. Personally, I find it all adds a layer of complexity that makes the whole soloing-in-mmorpgs experience richer and more satisfying. It's obviously not for everyone, though.

As with many things we find ourselves doing in mmorpgs, it's fun until it's not. If wisdom comes from experience it shows itself in knowing when to stop. 

I haven't stopped yet.


  1. I read Eliot’s article on why we don’t talk about aging. What does it have to do with your gaming? Nothing. Your sex also doesn’t affect how you play, why you play, how much you play. Now if he thinks he’s outgrowing writing about games, for whatever reason, it’s easy to switch topics. Zzzzzzzzz. Atheren

    1. I don't want to dump on Eliot or MOP specifically, because I see it as a much broader phenomenon, but it can get a little wearing for the reader, when journalists coninue writing about the topics they loved in their youth and upon which they still rely for a portion of their income, long after the flame of their enthusiasm has dwindled to, at best, a dull glow. I can't really throw stones because I've had one foot in that glasshouse for years now but at least, as a completely independent and unpaid blogger, I've been able to temper my ennui by, as you say, switching topics. It's a bit different when you rely on something as an income stream, which is why I made a decision all the way back in the 1980s not to take paid work doing something I also relied upon for personal enjoyment.

  2. Yeah, I've had to confront my aging the hard way, and I don't mean my growing inability to react on video games like I could a decade ago. I'm actually due for another six month post, as I just went through my visits to my Cardiologist and primary doctor.

    It's something that kind of creeps up on you, until it slugs you in the face and you find yourself on your behind wondering what the hell just happened. That doesn't mean we ignore it, it's just that... Well, it's that we just grow used to aging, so we don't talk about it because it's just normal. You get used to creaky knees and having to get up in the middle of the night to hit the bathroom.

    1. Tell me about it, lol! Specifically in relation to gaming, though, the reaction-time thing can't be dismissed as easily as the "I've grown up and I can't take games as seriously any more" thing. Mmorpgs, though, don't really seem like a genre that's particularly susceptible to age-related reaction-time issues. Even those with the most active combat are surely still relatively sedate compared to platformers, bullet hells, FPS and the likes of the Elden Ring or Monster Hunter series. Even allowing for the way mmorpgs have changed over the years, there's still a huge amount of content in almost al lof them that doesn't require quick reactions or nimble fingers. At worst, an older player who's feeling the strain can shift their focus onto other aspects of the game and keep on playing with enjoyment.

    2. I would agree that MMOs aren't as demanding on the whole compared to other types of games, but the more active the button pressing in order to achieve certain activities --I'm looking at you, Mythic Plus and hardcore raiding-- the more noticeable it becomes. While I had to step away from raiding in TBC Classic because of my job changing, in reality I was also hitting a wall in my button mashing capability. I was just, well, slower than I used to be, and in the realm of hardcore raiding that becomes noticeable in that my output wasn't as good as other people who play the same class/spec. Sure, I'm able to change my focus in playing, and I have, but I've discovered that dopamine hit you get while raiding isn't something you can easily shake off.

      There's obviously a lot of other factors involved, and I'd be cheating myself if I said that I didn't miss the camaraderie of raiding, but physical skills do play a factor in modern MMO raiding and group content design.


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