Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Spot The Difference - Or Not.

Last night I surprised myself by spending an hour or so running through a number of older Frostfell quests in EverQuest II. It all started when I noticed MassivelyOP's MJ was "eager to see the new changes" Darkpaw supposedly made to the festival this year.

Changes? What changes? Did I miss a memo? "Frostfell is different this year! The questline starting off EQII’s major holiday event for the past few years is gone!" began the over-excitable piece. "Join us live at 3:00 p.m. to grab gifts from Santa Glug and check out the Deepice differences."

The stream is live today at three in the afternoon, EST. That's eight in the evening, my time, so I could easily tune in. I'd be very interested to find out what's supposed to have changed because whatever it is, I can't see it.

I had a quick google and a glance at the EQ2 forums yesterday, to see if I could work out what it might be. I checked the Update Notes but there are none. Frostfell doesn't require a separate patch. It just flicks on and off like a switch. 

I had a look at the Quests and Seasonal Events section but I couldn't see anything there. Finally I went to EQ2i to see if there were any amendments to the walkthrough. I found the "New in 2021" section but the only things it mentions are the new Overseer quest and the three new crafting books.

The section that tells you all about the many quests that can be repeated  every year still warns "there is one quest required to unlock almost all of the other quests within the Wonderland Village!" That quest, added in 2013, is called A Deepice Mystery and "Players must complete this quest once in order to free several Frostfell quest-givers."

You can learn an awful lot by reading and I place a very high value on proper research but in the end there's no substitute for personal experience. After I'd finished doing the Vetrovian crafting daily on my Weaponsmith, Alchemist and Sage (Still haven't taken the Carpenter through the Signature line. Must do that soon.) I emptied my pack pony's packs, checked both my plants and did a few other chores. Then I picked someone out of the line to go check out Frostfell and see what, if anything, had changed.

As far as I can see, nothing has. I found Jingle, the hand-wringing elf, standing on an ice flow and shivering as usual. I ran through his quest until I'd solved the Deepice Mystery, something that used to take a significant amount of time to finish.

These days it takes a fraction of the time it once did. Or it does if you have Members' access to the Instant Travel system and a 300% flying speed mount. This is something that applies to just about all retro-questing in the game now. I was thinking about it as I zipped around, checking off boxes. 

I can remember doing this quest for the first time, back when it was added. As with most quests, it was a lot of fun when it was new. I can also remember doing it several times since, when it was less fun. I'm not a huge fan of access quests for holiday content. I can't entirely see the point of them. I can easily see why someone might have felt it was about time it was retired but nope, there it still is, unchanged.

I have to say it's a lot more acceptable now it takes me about a fifth of the time but I'd still be happy enough to see it go. For now, though, it's still there and it's still required, if you want to do any of the other major quests it unlocks.

Those are the quests given by the five figures frozen in ice you first free and then interrogate as you try to solve the mystery. Candice Cheriweth, Gardy Ex-Giftgiver, Mr. McScroogle, Queen Bunny and Snarf Frostfoot all have major questlines involving instanced content. A lot of work must have gone into all of them and I can see why the devs are keen to make sure they don't fall out of use. I'm just not sure that keeping them locked until you solve the mystery is the best way to go about it.

Let's be honest here. Almost no-one who's going to do any of these quests will be doing them for the first time. Keenest will be the bunch of people for whom the seasonal and holiday events are the most important content in the game. You can hear them gushing about how great it is in chat sometimes. I used to be in a guild with a couple of them. 

Then there's everyone who wants one or more of the rewards, to which new things are added most years. That could be almost anyone other than the real hardcore combat types, who think anything other that doesn't involve getting hit in the head is a complete waste of their and the developers' time.

And finally there will be people doing what I was doing last night, taking one more ride on the merry-go-round for old time's sake. I haven't done any of these quests for a few years but as I was melting the ice off of old McScroogle I started to think about how we used to do his quest every year and how much I enjoyed it.

I still do. I cantered through the whole thing, dressing up as an extremely unconvincing version of the young grump, swapping insults and one-liners with goblins and girlfriends and generally making a mockery of the classics. 

While I was doing all that a couple of things occured to me. The first was how genuinely smart, witty and funny the writing is. I remember laughing a lot when the quest was first introduced and even now, when I know all the jokes, it still makes me smile. The other was just how much work had gone into the whole thing. 

The writing isn't just good, there's a lot of it but the quest isn't all reading. There's a large cast of characters, several locations and a number of things to do along the way. Like many of the holiday quests that have been added over the years, it's a little mini-adventure all of its own.

After I was done standing in for McScroogle, I still fancied some more old school holiday fun so I picked up Gardy Ex-Giftgiver's quest and did that too. It's even longer and involves even more travelling. It would most likely have filled an entire play session back in the days of ground mounts and world bells. 

The quests were very much as I remembered them but the rewards were new. As I said, extra rewards get added to old holiday quests most years and I haven't done any of these for quite a while. There were plenty of goodies I hadn't seen and didn't know existed. Quite a few of them were really nice, too.

I had such an enjoyable time, going through the old storylines and re-acquainting myself with some familiar faces, I'm planning on going back for more. [Edit: I just did Candice Cheriweth's quest to get screenshots for the post and had a great time once again.] 

Before Frostfell finishes next week I'd at least like to do the rest of the quests I unlocked by solving the Deepice Mystery. A couple I might even want to do more than once, for the rewards, since each character can do them separately and choose different things.

As for what's supposedly changed about the introductory requirements this year, I'm still none the wiser. It all looks just as I remember it. If anyone knows, don't keep it to yourself. I'll probably forget to watch the stream so I may never find out.

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