Sunday, December 22, 2019

Let's Go Faster : EQII

This has been the craziest run-up to Christmas for a while. I keep complaining about not having enough time to play, blog and get stuff done and that's because it's true!

It hasn't helped that Daybreak dropped this year's expansions even later than usual. I remember when September was expansion month. That was perfect. Then for a long time it was November, which was also fine. Now it's December, which is about the most awkward time of the year for me.

I'm pretty sure it's not a commercial decision. As everyone knows, the company's not really in the major leagues any more. There's only a small (and extremely dedicated) team left to get each year's expansion out of the door. They do an absolutely brilliant job but it clearly gets harder every year. Which, I imagine, is why the deadline has slipped almost to Christmas.

That said, Blood of Luclin seems more polished and complete than the last few expansions. It's not perfect - no expansion for any MMORPG ever is - but it launched with pretty much everything in place and working. We've had the usual post-launch patches but nothing out of the ordinary.

Wilhelm commented on the extraordinarily fast xp gain we're getting this time around. It really is quite peculiar. I've become used to the bi-annual ten level step-up taking me a couple of weeks. This time it took a couple of sessions. I think when I take a second character through it might be more like a couple of hours.

This is weird, there's no two ways about it. I don't think I've ever played any MMORPG where leveling was this fast. Handing in a single quest literally gives a full level, sometimes two, and that's with no xp buffs running. By the time I get to my sixth Level 110, if I managed to time it right, on a double xp weekend, with full vitality, a potion running and the 100% cumaltive Veteran buff from the preceding five characters, I wonder if I could do the whole ten levels on the first quest.

I'm in two minds about whether this is a great design choice or total insanity.

It's certainly true that accelerated xp on this scale is fantastic for altaholics.  It took me two years to get six level-capped characters by the end of the last expansion. Mostly that was because I needed a good, long rest between them before I was ready to go through the same content once again. This time I'm positively looking forward to taking several characters into Luclin for what I know will be no more than a session or two of light questing before they ding 120.

Crafting xp also matches adventuring for pace for pace in Blood of Luclin. I'm really glad I made the effort during the Dragon Attack prequel events to get my Carpenter and Alchemist to 110. I now have four crafters ready to max out, which will be the first time in fifteen years I've had more than two trades at cap.

On the other hand, like Wilhelm, I don't just enjoy levelling, I find it motivating. I can't help but see the imaginary credits roll when that final ding sounds. It's all very well doing it over again several times but at this speed I'll have done every character I have by Easter.

Then there's the Signature Line. This is where it gets gnarly. In the past few expansions the xp from the solo Signature timeline has been calculated to land you there or thereabouts at the cap. As a solo player you needed to do the whole thing for that reason alone.

There were also some great perks for doing it - account-wide unlocks for solo instances, gear upgrades, house items, certain utilities like teleports and so on. Group players and raiders did the Sig Line for some of those.

All that remains true for Blood of Luclin, which has both Adventure and Tradeskill Signature questlines that look to be as lengthy and complex as any previous expansion. The difference is that you'll be already be max level for most of it. I was on Step Four of thirteen when I dinged 120.

That would be all well and good if all the quests offered were gear upgrades and fluff. There are other ways to get gear, after all, and fluff is..well, it's fluff, isn't it?

In the case of Blood of Luclin, though, there's something at the very end of the line that almost everyone's going to want: the right to fly in the new expansion. Yes, apparentlly taking a leaf out of Blizzard's playbook, Daybreak have chosen to ground everyone for the new content.

They've done this before, in the Withering Lands stage of the Velious expansion and in Altar of Malice's Tranquil Sea. In both cases the moratorium on flying mounts was localized and temporary. A few quests and it was back to the sky for everyone.

As far as I can ascertain - and I haven't yet been able to nail down the details so this might be wrong - flying mounts don't work on the Moon of Luclin until you do (or get) something right at the end of the Signature questline. That effectively makes finishing it every bit as compulsory as it was in previous expansions, when you needed it for the xp to level.

Worse, from what I understand it's only the Adventure line that comes with a pilot's licence. If you're a high level crafter with a low adventure level you're staying earthbound. That's a major change of policy for the game, which has held the two disciplines to be Different But Equal for more than a decade.

It doesn't affect me directly because any crafter I have ambitions for will already be a high level adventurer. I think it's an untenable position all the same. I fully expect the Tradeskill line to acquire flight permissions at some future point. Precedent suggests it will happen and I can't see any benefit to holding the arbitrary line that's been drawn.

On balance, I find the super-fast xp more exciting and exhillarating than worrying, which might seem odd considering my avowed preference for games with strong and meaningful leveling paths. In this case I think the advantage to my alts trumps that. It's also disturbingly satisfying to hand in a quest and get a whole level. Not sure that's going to get old any time soon.

I can't deny that it does take a bit of the momentum out of pushing through the questline. I know there are a lot of solo instances ahead and the one I've done so far took over two hours. It wasn't hard but it was long. If I had to do it to level I'd be on to the next one already but since I don't, I've been goofing around in Wracklands taking snapshots instead.

Is that a bad thing? Isn't it just freeing me up faster to play the game the way I want to play it? It's not like EQII is short of extra-curricular activities. I'm not about to run out of things to do just because I levelled too fast.

But... I do like levelling! Good thing I have half a dozen characters to do it with. Plus two more on the Antonia Bayle server. And I guess I could always roll some more...


  1. I haven't seen quite the speed with the trade skill quests as I did with the adventure quests. Oddly, I jumped pretty quickly from 100 to 110 with the Plane of Magic signature trade skill quests, but Luclin has seemed a bit more pokey. Also, I got hung up on a step where if you haven't done the main signature quest you cannot progress with trade skill side of things. Hrm.

    1. Historically, once I complain about something here the answer tends to show right up, but for me Hulda Flintbraid still won't speak to me on the Piercing the Darkness: A Very Fortunate Turn of Events Part I quest. Hrmmm...

    2. Hmm. I based my comments on the speed of tradeskill xp on the first two or three quest I did, which seemed equivalent to the adventure ones, but I haven't had time to go further. Maybe it slows down.

      As for Hulda, I know her from the Adventure quest, as mentioned in the walkthrough, but I haven't encountered her in the crafting line yet, so anything I say is guesswork. One thing that's caught me out before, though, is DBG's tendency to have multiple versions of the same character in different locations for different quests/stages. I've been stuck talking to the wrong iteration of an NPC before...

    3. I've now done the crafting quest up to the point where Hulda gives her test. I didn't have any problems talking to her although the bit where she says to wait for a message threw me a bit and i had to go back over some dialog.

      She was in the Fabrication Hall, which I had lost access to after I finished the first Adventure instance and the part where you talk to Hulda when she's hiding behind a tree. I tried to go in there to do some crafting and the door wouldn't open but it does now. It seems like a very complex quest chain so it wouldn't surprise me if doing something out of sequence would bug it.

      The thing is, in the adventure questline Hulda has done A Bad Thing and is in hiding whereas in the craft line she seems to be in good standing and back in the crafting area. I'm guessing it's what you do on the adventure line that allows her to appear in the right place for the crafting line - if you don't clear her name she can't be seen in the Fabrication Hall.

      I've never known them tie the adventure and craft lines together like this. It's clever but it it's asking for trouble. If you've done it in the right order and it doesn't work you might be bugged - and if you've done it in the wrong order you might be bugged! Time to petition.

    4. This is the part where I sheepishly say, "Oh, in the Fabrication Hall..." and realize I have been trying to speak to the wrong version of Hulda. Ah well, thanks for the hint!

  2. Leveling 100-110 did seem to go quickly but this is even faster. It does not really bother me either way. I just think it makes leveling pointless for the player if its that fast. Only reason I can guess is to force players to have to upgrade all of their spells again.

    1. Yes, I have a post brewing on the spell upgrade mechanic, which does indeed seem to exist only to milk hardcore players of cash. According to a comment I read by Feldon the other day it was invented by Smokejumper back when he was in charge for specifically that reason, which wouldn't surprise me.

      Luckily, as a casual/solo player you can totally ignore the paid aspect of it. On the current two-year cycle, just using the free upgrade system, I can have everything I need at Master or better by the time we get more levels, which is a pace that works for me.


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