Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Coffers, Coffins, Confidence

It's been a while since I did very much in EverQuest II. So much has happened in the first quarter of the year, what with several brand-new mmorpgs, a torrent of free single-player games and the long-awaited third expansion for Guild Wars 2, there's hardly been time. 

Before all that, I'd been playig the game pretty consistently. Through December and into January, after the last expansion, Visions of Vetrovia, arrived, I took three characters to the new level cap of 125 and completed the Tradeskill signature line three times as well. Not necessarily on the same characters.

As my posts about VoV suggested, I was very happy with the way things were going. It felt like a very solid entry in the canon, possibly even a step up - not that I'd had many complaints about any of the recent expansions. I was quite content to carry on playing. I had plans to level up three more characters and I wanted to finish the Adventure Signature line on at least one of them.

The only reasons it never happened were the aforementioned distractions that pulled me away in other directions, since when I've barely been back. I still haven't completed that Adventure questline, something which irks me a little. It's not the first time I've taken a break before getting to the end of the storyline but it's not my usual pattern.

Just because I let my attention drift doesn't mean to say nothing's been happening in Norrath. Very much the opposite, in fact. Virtual life goes on whether you're there to see it or not. 

In mid-January, Daybreak surprised everyone by publishing a detailed roadmap for the entire year. Then they surprised everyone even more by sticking to it.

Yesterday, Head of Studio, Jenn Chan, issued a Producer's Letter filling out some more detail on what EQII players can expect in the second quarter of 2022. Among other things, Jenn gave us the skinny on this month's Game Update 119, EQII's first major post-expansion content drop of the year. 

It's called "Coffers and Coffins", from which I infer... nothing, really. Undead, maybe? Vampires? It looks substantial, with "content for all playstyles", EQII-speak for solo, heroic, raid and tradeskill. There are "new heroic dungeons, new collections, raids and tradeskill content", which is what I just said, except for the pluralization of "dungeons" and "raids". If there really are more than one of each, that will be impressive.

There's an open beta already running so I went over to the beta forums to see what people were saying. I guess I could have made a beta character to go test the new stuff for myself but don't want the full spoiler experience and anyway, if I can't find the time to play the actual game...

There's not a lot of feedback yet. The update only went into beta yesterday. What I can confirm is that the one new dungeon up for testing is called Merchant's Den, that it begins with a quest from Forlorn Gist, the final open-world map in the current expansion, and that to get the quest you'll need to "have completed "Visions of Vetrovia: Vacrul Intentions" or have "VoV Flag: Castle Vacrul Dungeons Unlock".

Since this is the exact same step of the Adventure Signature line that stymied me back at the beginning of the year and which led to me concentrating on tradeskills instead, I'm going to have to get my act together and finish it. I had been entertaining some hopes of using the coming update to gear up before going back to try again but it looks like that's a non-starter.

Although maybe not. Also included in the update is the very hotly antiicipated (At least by me.) Overseer Season Four. The Overseer system, referred to by Jenn Chan, entirely accurately, as a "mini-game", isn't to everyone's taste but I really like it. What's more, I've done really well out of it, too. 

The new season comes with "some much-requested changes" but personally I'd be more than happy to get the same version as Season Three, only with rewards updated to match the current expansion and new level cap. Last year, Overseer rewards allowed me to upgrade pretty much all the gear my Berserker had equipped from the Signature Questline, some of it quite substantially. If that happens again this year maybe I will be able to clear that pesky instance without too much cursing after all.

As well as the update, there's another beta running right now, this one for the promised 64-bit upgrade. I took a look at the forums for that, too, and the feedback there seems very positive, with most commenters mentioning notable improvements in the way the game runs and some even saying it improves the graphics.

Going back to the Producer's Letter and the Roadmap it follows, we are indeed getting yet another special rules server, even though we only had one a few weeks ago. The new one's called Varsoon and it's going to use the now-familiar Time Limited Expansion format, only with the "Free Trade" ruleset, which I think means almost all No Drop flags have been removed and you can buy and sell just about anything. I might have got that wrong but the F.A.Q. that's coming "soon" will no doubt clear it up if I have.

Finally and perhaps most intriguingly of all, the Letter mentions an upcoming "new spin on live events", by which I think Jenn means what we normally call "holidays". She elaborates: "We are happy to announce that Tinkerfest, Scorched Sky Celebration, and Oceansfull Festival will be receiving some new updates, including some heroic dungeon content for each event, as well as new and exciting rewards that can be earned along the way." My emphasis.

When we got a full dungeon instance for this year's Chronoportal event I thoroughly enjoyed it but commented "It does seem like an awful lot of work for something that's only going to be available for two weeks a year." Well, apparently that's how we roll, now. 

A new heroic instance for each of the three summer festivals, presumably including a solo version too, although it's not specifically mentioned, is one heck of an impressive effort. I know I always talk up Daybreak's ability to add content despite having a relatively small team but this is taking it to new levels.

We'll have to wait and see a) if it actually happens and b) if it's any good when it does but on the evidence of the year so far I see no reason to doubt either of those things will turn out to be true. Al I have to do now is find the time to enjoy all this unexpected benifence. It's a nice problem to have.

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