Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024 20/25

Yesterday I forced myself to play EverQuest II. It wasn't, you understand, that I didn't want to. It's just that I wanted to play Once Human more. Really, quite a lot more.

For the reasons given in yesterday's post, however, I'm increasingly of a mind that spending every available play-hour in a beta that's going to close down and wipe in about three weeks' time (Presumably, although who knows? Hard information on the beta itself is ridiculously hard to find.) isn't the greatest idea I ever had.

Anyway, I'm starting to wean myself off the ephemeral and onto the eternal, which certainly seems like a fair description of EQII these days. The old warhorse is closing in on twenty years' service, which still leaves it lumbering along behind its better-known, more successful elder sibling, EverQuest itself. 

The original will reach a quarter of a century of continuous operation in just a few months. EQII has to wait a while longer but the two landmark (Oops! I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it...) anniversaries landing in the same calendar year has prompted Daybreak Games to declare 2024 The Year of Darkpaw

Based on the information they've released so far, I suspect it's going to be hard for anyone other than the faithful to keep up with the details of everything happening in both games but fortunately we have The EverQuest Show to do that for us. I'm hoping I can get away with linking to their coverage, rather than doing any original research, like I just did. That's my plan, anyway.

Realistically, I'm only going to involve myself directly with the EQII celebrations, anyway. A while back I would have tried to do something in both games but these days it's as much as I can do to play one MMORPG at a time. 

The other reason is that, somewhat atypically, I suspect, I'm finding that the older I get, the more I want to see, hear and play new things rather than revisit old favorites. I swear I was more nostalgic about the pleasures of my youth when I started playing EverQuest in 1999 than I am now.

So far, Darkpaw are being understandably cagey about what they have in store for the franchise in this momentous, celebratory year. For EQII, there's a framework but not so much in the way of detail. One thing we do know is that the Gods are coming to play. 

Okay, not the actual Gods. As far as I can recall, we never get to kill the real pantheon. It's always their Avatars, those quasi-autonomous, self-aware constructs the true Gods like to send out to take a kicking for them. Or something. Honestly, who pays attention to this stuff?

Raiders, that's who. Avatar battles were a big thing for them in EQII at one time so I imagine the news that 2024 is going to be All Avatars All The Time comes as great news to a certain demographic.

It doesn't mean an awful lot to me. I read the official press release with interest but very little understanding. It seems this time we don't even get to interact with the Avatars right away. First, we have to go through the Heralds. It's a bit like talking to a receptionist to make an appointment to see a  PA, with a view to setting up a meeting with the General Manager, all while the mysterious, never-to-be-seen CEO watches the whole thing on a screen in the C-Suite, stroking a white cat and chuckling. Sinisterly.

It seems we'll be meeting and beating some godly Avatars we've fought before, along with some new ones we've yet to crush. The Norrathian pantheon is stacked with deities so there are plenty to choose from. I imagine they're lining up for the privelige.

First up is Tarew Marr, aka the Fathom Lord. He's quite senior as these things go, being "the first member of the Triumvirate of Water, the third creation of The Nameless". I could go into a lot more detail but I won't. If you're interested I recommend following the link.

Tarew Marr's Herald, a louche-looking nereid with scales in a fetching shade of blue, can be found lounging on the banks of an island at the heart of Mystic Lake, the second zone in the Fallen Dynasty, the long-forgotten Adventure Pack from 2006. It's somewhere most players probably haven't seen in a decade and change, if ever. Fortunately, I go there not that infrequently - for reasons - so I had no trouble finding her.

Since I was on my Level 126 Berserker, I got the high-level version of her quest, the one she gives to everyone over Level 125. According to The EverQuest Show's write-up "The Herald has a rotation of 6 different quests which can be completed every three hours." I got the one that asks you to "Assist in gathering energy rerserves for the avatar's summoning rituals", which seems to mean killing Named mobs in the current expansion.

That sounds like the short straw to me. Apparently there are six quests and you can do one every three hours. I might try taking them and deleting them to see what they all are, then cherry-picking whichever looks easiest. I'm pretty sure the gathering one is going to be quicker - and certainly easier - than killing a bunch of bosses.

There's no rush. The thing to remember is... this is going on all year. I'm assuming the Avatars are going to be sequential, with each new Herald replacing the previous one, but maybe they'll stack. Once they're up, perhaps they're up for good, or at least until the Miraculous Year is over. I guess we'll find out soon enough. I wasn't really planning on fighting any of them anyway, at least not if it requires a formal raid. If it turns out they're Public Quests, then I'm in.

The whole event looks to be tailored to meet the requirements of both very committed players and casuals alike. With each episode operating independently, you can obviously drop in and out as and when you find the time. On the other hand, with the whole cavalcade going on non-stop for twelve months, there should be enough to keep the hardcore logging in and grinding until they're begging for it all to end.

It's not just an event for high levels, either. If you turn up in Mystic Lake with your low-level character, the Herald will still find you something to do. There's a big "Book of Deeds" on a pedestal you can click on. It has multiple, straightforward tasks that anyone can do. 

Of course you have to get to the island first. It's in the middle of Mystic Lake, a zone in which flying doesn't work, a zone that's full of aggressive mobs, all in the mid fifties and sixties. Added to that, the the island is only accessible by way of a single path that goes directly through a disorienting maze of tunnels, filled with vivious mobs, some of them Heroics. There are even a couple of Nameds in there. Good luck doing that on your level 20.

There's no instant map travel there, either, although, if you do make it, you can at least buy a teleport ability from the vendor that means you'll never have to do it again. I should have done that last night but I forgot. Now I'll have to walk!

The main reason I forgot was that I rushed off to take a look at the other new event already in place for the celebrations. Someone was asking about it in general chat and I thought it sounded interesting. 

It's a scavenger hunt or a rather a Collection. A series of Collections, in fact. I do like a Collection in EQII, which is just as well because there are many hundreds of them by now. Thousands, probably.

The new ones they've added for the Year of Darkpaw (They get their own category in the Collection tab under that name.) are cut&pastes of old ones that have been arbitrarily ramped up to Fabled quality. I imagine that saved a lot of time although it certainly doesn't make them any quicker to do. 

I started off flying around Antonica and in a few minutes I'd picked up random examples of four out of the five available collections. It's always great at the start, when everything you find fills a slot, but pretty soon it's going to be a dozen "Gots" for every "Want".

Luckily, the shinies are tradable. I didn't check but I imagine there's already a booming market for swaps. Might be a good money-making opportunity. These things often are.

The reward for all the quests and collections is an event currency to spend at the event vendor. When I have some Year of Darkpaw Doubloons to spend, I'll go check out what I can get for them. I'm in no hurry. 

While I was on, I also checked out the new Frostfell quest. I'd heard there was one and I didn't want to miss it. I found it easily enough. Then it took me about two minutes to finish it.

Well, it was actually more like ten but nearly all of that was clearing out my bags so I'd have space to pick up all the presents. In keeping with most holiday "quests" of the last year or two, this one's actually a Collection. 

As you gather the presents that lie scattered all across Frostfell's Wonderland Village, all of them filled with crafting mats as usual, you might occasionally come across an unusual and highly unseasonal Empty Gallows Reed Basket. This is your starter.

With that duly clicked, a quest installs itself in your journal and as you carry on gathering presents, several more unpleasant artifacts appear among the ribbons and glitter. When you have them all, it's off to the Feerrott where the Ogre who the gifts are for (His name's on them.) is happy to take them and give you back the basket.

Frostfell ends a little early this year, on the 6th of January, so if you'd like a wicker basket filled with skulls and candy canes, you still have a few days. Then you have the rest of the month to collect what promises to be the first in a year-long series of cash shop giveaways. This month it's a cute vanity pet, Maxembert the Feisty, who does look a lot cuter in game than in the pictures. 

It's all in the animations, for which I imagine we have EQII's star animator Ttobey to thank. Ttobey is the GOAT as the kids probably don't say any more.

That was all I managed to get done last night but now I've re-introduced myself to the game I was happily invested in just a few weeks ago, I'll most definitely be back, hopefully every day. Novelty is great but there's a lot to be said for familiarity and this Year of Darkpaw promises to combine the two.


  1. For the reasons given in yesterday's post, however, I'm increasingly of a mind that spending every available play-hour in a beta that's going to close down and wipe in about three weeks' time (Presumably, although who knows? Hard information on the beta itself is ridiculously hard to find.) isn't the greatest idea I ever had.

    That's one of the problems with open betas and/or early access to video games: you play them until the release, and then suddenly those toons you'd created vanish into thin air. So you go ahead and recreate them, only to redo everything you'd previously done, and maybe that doesn't excite you as much as it originally did. There's more than one blog post out there --pretty sure you've seen one of them around-- about having to redo "old content" when the full release of Baldur's Gate 3 came out. To me, those complaints are specious at best, because the bloggers in question knew what they were getting into when they signed up for the early release content.

    Since you're doing what you can to keep from falling into that trap, so much the better.

    1. If I'm enjoying a beta but I'm pretty sure I won't play the game seriously when it goes live, then I'm happy to go all-in. I am of the persuasion that genuinely believes beta can be a game's most interesting moment and I think there are some rational reasons for that.

      If I do plan on playing the game on release in any kind of organised or serious fashion, though, I think it's more likely to be counter-productive to go at it too hard in testing. It's easier advice to give than follow, though. Once Human is the most enjoyable new game I've played since Dawnlands, which was the most enjoyable sinve Valheim, and I suspect OH is going to end up being better than either of those, so it's very tempting to have fun with it now - especially in case the developers make it worse when they try to tune it for a Live audience, as so often happens.

      Something of a lose/lose scenario, really but on balance I think I'm going to cut back now and wait to see how the game develops. It looks pretty close to being ready to me - I think we're talking months, not years, before it goes Live. I ought to be able to hold out!


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