Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Craft Your Way To The Skies In Ballads Of Zimara

As an addendum to yesterday's post, I thought I ought to add a little more detail to my account of the Crafting Signature Questline in EverQuest II's latest expansion, Ballads of Zimara, now I've finished it. Yep, already.

I didn't put a stopwatch on it but I'd be surprised if the whole thing took ninety minutes and that would include a lot of faffing about on my part. I'm going to do it with my Berserker/Weaponsmith next and I'm guessing if I don't read the quest dialog for a second time I'll be done in less than an hour.

I understand that for some people reading that's going to make it sound as though Darkpaw have really skimped on the crafting content this expansion. You can do the entire questline in a couple of hours, tops? When it probably takes an adventure five times that? At least. Scandal!

That's an Adventurer talking, that is. Most crafters will probably be happy to have the whole thing over with as soon as possible. 

By and large, it's always been my impression that what most Crafters want to do is craft. In the olden days, that's all you could do if you wanted to level up a craft skill. You stood at the crafting station and made stuff. 

You got big experience for making new things for the first time and a lot less for making the same things again, so you made everything in your Recipe books once and then picked the easiest or cheapest thing and made it over and over until you dinged and got a new Recipe Book so you could start all over again. Obviously, you also made stuff to sell on the broker and stuff for your guildmates and friends but basically you just ground out crap no-one wanted and sold it back to the vendor at something close to cost, hoping to break even if you were lucky.

Over time, all of that changed. Crafters got Tradeskill Writs - repeatable orders from NPCs that gave better XP than making random stuff. They got quests and then whole questlines. There were NPC factions to work on and gear to upgrade. Crafters even got "raids".

During the reign of Domino, Queen of the Crafting Devs, Tradeskilling became a fully-fledged, genuinely complete, wholly discrete playstyle. She added enough questlines to cover the entire level range so you could make a character and go out into the world and adventure as a crafter. You could level all the way to the cap without ever having to kill anything, do writs or make stuff to sell or give to other players.

In retrospect it was all a bit strange but Domino was so good at what she did I think everyone just bought into her vision. And then she left. 

After that, various developers did their best to keep to the plan. Every expansion came with a new, detailed, lengthy Tradeskill Signature Questline. Or it did if the resources permitted it. At least once the quests weren't ready by launch and we didn't get the Signature line until well into the New Year. 

There was clearly an effort being made to keep Crafting in line with Adventuring but as a Crafter and an Adventurer I'd have to say it was always significantly easier to level to the new cap as a the former. On characters who did both, I got into the habit of doing the Crafting timeline first. 

There were some definite advantages in doing it that way, the biggest of which being flight. It's been a very long time since flying mounts have been able to take to the skies on Day One of a new expansion. How long it's taken has varied a little but the rule of thumb is for the final Sig Line quest in a zone to grant the ability to fly in that zone.

It can feel like a bit of a pyrrhic victory sometimes. You can fly in a zone you're about to leave. You'll be grounded again as soon as you take the next quest.

If you do the craft line first, though, you'll be able to fly in all the zones as soon as you begin adventuring. The Tradeskill Sig Line follows the same pattern, letting you fly as soon as you complete each zonal set of quests. Since that typically takes a fraction of the time it would take to complete the same zone as an Adventurer... well, as they say, you do the math.

For some reason, in last year's expansion, Renewal of Ro, this policy was reversed. Crafters didn't get to get to fly at the end of each zone. They didn't even get to fly at the end of the whole Sig line. They had to do all of that and then also complete fifteen research missions - and the missions were on two-hour timers.

As I remember, the effect of all of that was to make it faster to do the Adventure line to get flight for once. Since I was going to be doing both anyway it didn't make much difference to me but I imagine it must have annoyed the heck out of pure crafters.

This year, the finely-crafted boot is very firmly back on the other foot. And then some. As I mentioned yesterday, while Adventurers have had their XP rates trimmed back to levels not seen for many years, crafters are still getting half a level per turn-in. 

Added to that, the questline itself is much shorter than usual. As Naimi Denmother, who designed it, confirms in a forum post, it comprises just eight quests and as I can confirm, having done them, some of the eighte pretty much involve walking ten feet, making a combine that takes a few seconds, then walking back. 

So why isn't the Tradeskill forum full of threads complaining about crafters being stiffed on content in BoZ?  Because crafters mostly just want to craft is my guess. Even as Domino strived to bring the entire profession into equivalance with Adventuring, there was always a vocal demographic that just wanted to stand at the crafting station and grind out writs. Not everyone likes quests. Or going outdoors.

And of course, for both Adventurers and Crafters, getting to max level is just the start. Adventurers have to run dungeons for gear if they want to be truly endgame; Crafters have to get all of their recipes. In this expansion they do it through Research Missions, which unlock once the Signature questline is complete. Since those are time-gated, that should keep everyone busy for a while.

Having seen how it works and how long it takes - or should that be how short? - my own plans have changed. I'm going to take the Berserker through his Weaponsmith levels before I go back to adventuring with him. Not only will that allow him to fly in all the new zones, the mount he'll get is a huge upgrade on the free one he got only a few days ago. And it has both Adventuring and Tradeskill stats. 

And most importantly, it looks amazing!

After that, I'll most likely take my Warlock/Sage through the craft line so he can make spells for himself, my Necromancer and my Wizard. Neither of them crafts, so they'll have to do the Adventure line, which is going to put them at the back of the line.

Since they'll both have the advantage of flight, the Warlock/Sage and the Bruiser/Alchemist will go through the Adventure line second and third, although not necessarily in that order. There's a 20% bonus to XP for each max level Adventurer and Crafter, calculated separately, so it'll get faster each time. By the time the Necro gets to go, she should have at least a 60% bonus, which I hope will make up for not being able to fly.

The wild card in all of this is my Inquisitor/Carpenter. I'll probably slip her in before the Necro, just because of the crafting and the flight, even though it's always the Necro I really want to play. Or maybe I'll just succumb to the call of Necrotic fun and leave the Inquisitor as a max-level furniture maker for now.

All of which, I think, explains why the expansion not having enough content isn't likely to be a problem for me. It never has been before and I certainly don't think it will be now. I'm very happy to have a quick and easy route to flight for almost everyone. In fact, maybe I ought to think about getting those slacker casters into a crafting training program.

I could always use a Jeweller, for the scout skills. And a Provisioner. Everyone has to eat!

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