Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Day Seven

Los Lobos - Christmas And You

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Lost In The Mists


I started a post where I was going to ramble on about how ridiculously much there is to do right now, what with every blasted mmorpg in creation either dropping an expansion or a holiday event or in some cases both at once and all at the same time we all have a million extra things to do in real life, what with it being the busiest time of year commercially, culturally socially and every other which way...

And I was going to hang that post on the news I saw today that Iron Crown finally pushed out the Mistlands update for Valheim, which, when I read the patch notes, seemed to be even more interesting than expected, what with a new magic system I'd somehow not heard about before on top of everything else.

I'd knocked out a couple of paragraphs but then I had stop and take Beryl for a walk and when I came back I had the bright idea of logging in to Valheim to take a few screenshots. There's been a lot of talk about having to start a fresh world because the new biome will only trigger in places you haven't yet visited but I have a ton of unexplored land in my original world, including a bunch of places where I found patches of Mistland and chose not to explore them.

I figured I'd find the nearest portal to one of those and take a look to see what was there. Of course, I haven't played Valheim in any meaningful way in over a year but it's like riding a viking bike, right? What could go wrong?

Obviously, everything. And it did. Only someone who'd completely forgotten what it's like to play Valheim would have imagined otherwise.

It all started well enough. I opened the map and found a nice patch of Mistlands to the far south. I was already in very good health and fully equipped so all I needed to do was find a portal. Back when I was playing regularly, I'd chosen to give all my portals gnomic names that now mean absolutely nothing to me but by miraculous chance the very first portal I tried went exactly to the spot.

I should have realised that wasn't a good thing. It meant I was even more woefully unprepared than I might have been, had I had to make my way there slowly. To give some scale to my rustiness, it was only after I'd left the portal building that I realised I wasn't only not holding a weapon, I couldn't remember how to equip one.

After a few minutes re-familiarising myself with the controls, I set off down the coast, hatchet in hand. It was daytime and visiibility was good, meaning I saw the troll long before he saw me. I edged round him, even though from memory trolls didn't seem to be much of a threat any more, when last I played. Better safe than sorry. (That's irony, in case you missed it.)

It only took me a couple of minutes to hit the first spider webs. I climbed up a rock to get a look beyond the veil and the first thing I saw was a cross between a zeppelin and a giant tick floating towards me. I got a shot of it and ran.

It didn't follow me so I went back for a better angle. This time it spotted me and spat something and next thing I knew I was on fire and so was the forest. Amazingly, I didn't die. I scrambled back down the water and turned round to see the thing was following me, almost always a fatal mistake but not this time. The monstrosity had drifted back into the mists.

I think it was that encounter that made me overconfident, leading to my inevitable, hubristic demise. I pushed on down the shoreline, taking a few snapshots as I went, then I struck inland to see what I could see. 

What I mostly saw was blood. Mine. Something came at me out of the gloom and hacked away half my health in a shrieking flurry. I made no attempt to respond. I just ran. This time the creature came after me.

I woke up back in my distant bed. It was dark. Being an idiot, I stumbled out into the darkness, found a spare set of armor and some food and headed straight back. I won't go into the ugly details but it went about as badly as you'd expect. Actually, worse.

Not only did I fail to recover my corpse and all that was on it, I managed to die a second time, directly on top of my gravestone. As any Valheim player knows,the very last place you want a corpse is on top of another corpse, especially when it's the one on the bottom that's wearing the better gear. Now I have to empty the first one before I can get to the one I really want, except while wearing even less protection.

Skipping over the next part, where I managed somehow to trap myself in my own basement and then get lost while travelling through my own labyrinthine portal network, eventually I dressed myself in trollhide and went back for another try. At which point, finally, I came to my senses.

Thanks to this series of unfortunate, if entirely self-inflicted, events, I have come to realise a couple of things about Valheim. One is that any sense of urgency you feel while trying to recover a corpse is entirely imaginary.

I think it goes back to other games, like EverQuest, where corpses used to rot if left unrecovered. That doesn't happen in Valheim. You can happily leave your corpse until tomorrow or next week or next year and it will still be there, along with everything it contains, whenever you have the time and feel the inclination to do something about it. There's absolutely no need to do amything about it until you're ready.

The other thing is purely personal. While today proves to me that Valheim still has the power to grip me like it always has, I don't think I want to be gripped like that any more. Rather than feeling excited, immersed and thrilled, mostly I felt irritated, annoyed and, surprisngly, a little bored.

Once I got a hold of myself, I found I didn't much care whether I got my stuff back or not. There's was absolutely no hint of that sick feeling that comes from knowing you've taken a massive step back. For a start, it's mostly just crafted stuff. I could make it all again if I wanted. Even the things that aren't so easy to replace, I probably won't miss. At this point I can't even remember what they were. 

If I was keen on playing Valheim again I could easily just set up again from where I am or I could do as Iron Crown would like and start over from the beginning. Only I'm not keen. I'm curious to see the new biome and try out the new magic system and all the rest of the innovations that come with the Mistlands update, but really not curious enough to put in the hours that would take. I feel as though I've been there and done that, even though as far as Mistlands goes, I categorically have not.

For now, at least, I'm going to let my corpses lie where they fell. They can keep each other company until I'm ready to go get them, if ever I am. Right now, I have other games to play that also have new content but which make it much easier to enjoy. Christmas is a stressful enough time of year without corpse runs.

Maybe in the New Year, when things are quieter, I'll try again. Or maybe not. It really doesn't matter much, either way. My corpses aren't going anywhere.

Day Six

 Milton DeLugg & The Little Eskimos - 

Hooray For Santa Claus

Monday, December 5, 2022

My Other Mount Is A Camel

One of the rarely-mentioned features of each new EverQuest II expansion is the intra-zone transportation. It always follows roughly the same format: a series of stations at which you can hop onto some kind of creature or device and find yourself being carried from one significant location to the next, quickly, safely and without having to dip into your pocket for so much as a copper piece. 

EQII has always offered the option of a safe ride anyone can afford. The addition to the game of the Griffins that served as flying taxis was one of the most memorable things that happened in beta. They were added close to launch and brought with them amazement and delight - when they worked. 

I was almost as amazed and delighted today, when I realised the on-rails rides in Renewal of Ro are provided by camels. I have no particular affection for camels in real life, although I did once ride one along a Turkish beach, an experience that lives with me still but in virtuality I think of camels with greart fondness. A camel is what what my Raki Disciple rode for most of the time I played Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.

As I remember, he chose a camel not for aesthetic or role-playing reasons but because it was cheaper to buy than a horse. It was also slower and more cumbersome but it suited him very well. Later, when every race was given the option of a different species of mount to ride, he stuck with his trusty two-humper, although I'm ashamed to say that once he got his hands on the free flying reindeer SOE handed out when they knew the game didn't have too much longer to run, he stabled the poor, old camel without a second thought.

I don't think I've ridden a camel on any character in any game since then, so it was a real nostalgia trip to see my Ratonga Berserker bouncing over the deser sands, clinging to the back of a galumphing Bactrian. It also set me thinking about all those other rides I've taken in expansions of years gone by and I started to wonder how many I could remember.

Let's see how I do. I promise this is all entirely from memory.

  • EQII Base Game: Griffins - You had to do a quest and find Griffin eggs to get access to them in some zones.
  • Desert of Flames: Flying Carpets
  • Kingdom of Sky: Clouds - You could get your own, independent Cloud mount through a lengthy quest, too, although the cloud didn't fly, or at least not yet.
  • Echoes of Faydwer - Horses, surprisingly.
  • Rise of Kunark - It started with the Sokokar - a weird thing whose species I never was quite sure of. There was a quest you had to do to for that one, which I remember being annoying but not why. What the other zones were I can't remember although the Iksar guards definitely rode rhinos.
  • The Shadow Odyssey - An all-dungeon expansion, except for the one open-world zone, Moors of Ykesha, which had gnomish cannons and hot air balloons. 
  • Sentinel's Fate: Hmm. Really should remember this one. I played it all the way through. It's another Islands in the Sky setting so it might have been something that flew. I suspect it might have been some form of magic teleport, though.
  • Age of Discovery - Feature expansions, so, once again, none.
  • Destiny of Velious - Introduced flying mounts but there were also fixed routes and I think those were serviced by Griffins again.
  • Chains of Eternity - Not the least idea, even though I've played it all the way through. I imagine I was on a flying mount throughout.
  • Tears of Veeshan - Ditto, although it was a dragoncentric expansion and I think it might have been wyverns?
  • Altar of Malice - Nope. I got nothing. And I've played through the whole thing once and much of it several times more. I only remember flying. Maybe there wasn't anything?
  • Terrors of Thalumbra - See Altar of Malice.
  • Kunark Ascending - This is getting embarassing. I think I'd better stop now...

Some of that vagueness is my terrible memory but it's pretty clear to me that, while the introduction of flying mounts may not have put a stop to in-zone, on rails ground transport, they did render them so redundant I never really used them again, until we reached the stage in EQII's development when the developers decided flying had rendered too much of the content trivial and started making us work for it in each zone of every new expansion.

Again, without looking it up, I'm not sure exactly when that started. I know Altar of Malice made you do a quest before you could use your flying mount but it only affected the beginning of the first zone. The first time I remember having to do a whole zonal Signature line to earn flying retrospectively for the rest of my account was probably Blood of Luclin, in which I mostly used a cloak with Featherfall to get around by controlled gliding but in which I also flew about on some trained Shiknar, which always seemed like an accident waiting to happen.

It seems to me that even knowing you're going to be flying under your own power eventually (Or, rather, the power of your own flying mount.) drains the significance of whatever interim ground-based option the game provides in the meantime. For most of those earlier expansions I can even remember some of the routes, not just the mounts, whereas I couldn't with any conviction tell you anything at all about what I was sitting on in almost any of the expansions after Velious.

Except for this one. I'm going to remember the camels.

Day Five


Thank God It's Not Christmas - Sparks

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Day Four

Alex the Astronaut - Christmas In July

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Day Three

It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas -
Half Man Half Biscuit

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