I can’t believe its been a full three months since posting. Summer can be cruel.
Please Meet the New Eden, Same as the Old Eden
When last reported, I was hell bent on colonizing a wormhole in Eve which would be populated by my two accounts and a corp mate or two. After an audacious start which involved lots of skill training and planning, I ended up with my entire POS staged and ready to deploy in that ideal wormhole system.
Despite my best efforts, that wormhole system just never showed up. After weeks of searching nightly for an unpopulated Class 2 (even a Class 1, would have done) I was never able to find a suitable system at a time of day that would allow me to deploy the POS and get situated. Nightly, I would surf about 10-20 systems in an ever increasing radius from my usual home system in Amarr only to find most were quite occupado.
Needless to say, it took some of the wind out of my sails, and being summer and all, I had a feeling that I started my assault on this personal Everest too late in the season for a bona fide summit attempt. Eve it seems lends itself to the inclement and inhospitable weather of winter. The long cold nights being a natural fit for the harsh realities in New Eden.
Somehow, fan on, windows open and the smell of barbeque wafting in is anathema to spending time in New Eden. No doubt I’ll rekindle my interest AGAIN this winter. I have a history of ramping up in winter/spring only to park Eve in the summer.
As Wilhelm has been reporting, RL events disrupted our horde-side instance group work just as we were confronting the possibility of having to slog through Burning Crusade. Divine Intervention it might have been, but I’m glad for the break which gave us a chance to return to…
Middle Earth, I Hardly Knew Ye
Yes, several of us returned to Lotro, partly in response to the announcement that it was going Free to Play in early September. Wil has again been the scrivener and documented our exploits there.
Several things struck me about Lotro that I now realize that I had been missing badly in Azeroth. Despite the convenience of the dungeon finder (particularly for old hacks like us who’ve been playing since release), Middle Earth is first and foremost a place. It first struck me in beta that Turbine had indeed taken a vastly different approach to creating Middle Earth than most developers.
Middle Earth is very much a place and I find myself wandering quite a bit just to see what I can see and yes, there are things to see well off the beaten track. With the expansiveness of Middle Earth, however, come some drawbacks. ME, like much off our real worlds, is quite a bit filled up with bits that aren’t that interesting in a footstep by footstep way.
In previous lives, I recall several Vanishing Point quality road trips from California through the high desert of Nevada, over the Rockies and across the Great Plains. And in a not entirely un-Kowalski like state, those journeys and the experiences of traveling those lands were best experienced “caffeinated” and through the windshield occasionally punctuated by bouts of extreme wierdness on a local level.
Middle Earth of course has yet to experience its Eisenhower and build its network of highspeed interstate highways. Thus while I am continously enthralled by the feeling of place pervading Middle Earth, I find myself chafing a bit at having to travel quite so much.
I’ve long argued that sensible travel time is critical to creating both a sense of place and an opportunity for emergent gameplay. However, what makes that travel interesting is the potential for interesting unpredictable outcomes. Where that doesn’t exist yet the time factors does, you end up with something more akin to a time tax rather than the opportunity to reinforce the notion that you are resident in a vast untamed world.
Still, this time around I’m generally having a good time and even with our group of four, I’m looking forward to the advent of the F2P system with skirmishes available at level 20 to facilitate easy group play.
Return to Norrath
I might even be jumping the gun for Wilhelm’s annual Norrath Nostalgia fest that tends to arrive in the fall. Exactly unlike Eve, the deepening golden twilight of shortening summer nights and the increasingly cooler winds which carry that slightly sweet sense of decay beckons to return to Norrath for perhaps, yes, one more turn on the nostalgia carousel.
Unlike many others, EQ2 has never been my “main” MMO. Not that I don’t like it– au contraire. In another universe, I could easily have spent the last 6 years in EQ2 rather than WoW. Like Lotro, I’ve longed for the F2P option for EQ2. This fall, they’ve decided to deliver. Sort of.
This weekend (double xp weekend no less), I decided to drop into the EQ2 Extended “beta” (as Wil says, in a post-Google world, v 1.0 is “beta”– by that criteria, most of my life has been a beta– which is good because I can then think that I’ll correct all those mistakes on “release”….).
My overall assessment is positive. If EQ2 has the potential to captivate you, EQ2 Extended could easily scratch that itch. If you have deeper needs than that, you may run into what I call the EQ2/SOE dissonance, namely how can such a bunch of business asshats be responsible for the great game that is buried within EQ2?
I think Gordon from We Fly Spitfires has hit most of the issues and I can’t say I disagree with him. Frankly, I woke up Sunday on a three day weekend and said, hrm… maybe I should check out the EQ2 Extended beta… I tend to try to pretend that I’m just a somebody seeing what its all about and what the “everyperson” experience would be like.
After reading WFS and Saylah’s posts over at Mystic Worlds, I decided to see whether Bronze (aka free cheap bastard) level would allow me to enjoy myself in game. Races limited, classes limited, so I ended up with an Erudite Inquisitor to start.
Based on Saylah’s posts, I too decided to roll out in New Halas, mainly because I had never been there in any previous EQ2, but also because of the good things she said about the layout of the town and the housing.
With double XP weekend, I managed to rocket through to almost level 20 in a day, pick up the New Halas Courser noob mount and get to New Halas to start decorating my new apartment.
Man, housing in New Halas is WAY better than the ghettos of Qeynos. Thats a big plus. The basic noob apartment with the various bonus items from previous purchases and the many housing item quest rewards from the starting quests definitely had my new diggs looking fairly spiff. And the EQ2 housing seems pretty much quite a step up from Runes of Magic.
Of course, with Bronze level, there are some glaring omissions which may or may not be a complete pain in the ass. First, I was jazzed to get a Legendary quality cloak item as a quest reward. To bad that Bronze cheap bastards can’t equip anything north of mastercrafted.
Likewise, Bronze cheap bastards are limited to basically no storage. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it simply meant that I had to grind gold to buy bags/boxes/bankslots. But that would be too simple. Bronze, of course, can’t access the broker (aka auction house) without purchasing broker tokens in the cash shop.
Now that sucks. The kind of F2P model I like is agnostic as between time and dollars. In my world, everything in the cash shop should be available for some expenditure of gold. Eve, in my view, has got this figured out. Plex can be purchased for in game currency via the market or for cash. Players who have more time than money can choose accordingly and vice versa.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyway short of an upgrade to solve the access to the broker problem. And the truly unfettered access to the broker appears to only come at Gold (aka subscription minus) level access.
I think this is a huge mistake. Frankly, one of the thing that is a big draw to EQ2 is the depth of its crafting system. And, more importantly, its balance with the rest of the economy, i.e., crafted gear is quite desirable throughout much of the game.
At a MINIMUM, everyone should be able to participate in the consumptive economy. A game’s economy via the time shifted purchasing and selling of items is really the heart and soul of a virtual world. In it are buried the sum total of the populations varied and sundry activities, across experience levels, across time zones, etc.
Maybe I’m a noob, but quite often I’ll see something on the broker or auction house and wonder “holy crap, where did they get that?” and the pursuit of such an item then fuels further adventures in the wide world. By locking out Bronze and Silver, I think SOE is missing a huge hook to get players to commit.
On the plus side, I see that crafting raws are available via the cash shop. Whether the price is right is a matter of debate, but the concept is simply time versus money and with gathering, I tend to agree to that. I enjoy crafting as a progression game in itself and gathering time is often merely a tax in time or gold. This solves both. I was amazed briefly when as a wee member of Jaye’s Revelry and Honor they’re gathering bots in the vast guild hall was able to provide raws as needed (within reason) to allow people to play the game they wanted to play. Having mats in the cash shop is a reasonable subsitute IMHO. I can choose time or money as desired.
I’ve got to say, there is simply something about EQ2 that either grabs you or it doesn’t. What grabs you (me at least) tends to be something that doesn’t lend itself to lists like the many things that bug me or downright piss me off. Nonetheless, I’m pretty jazzed that there is a F2P way to play EQ2 now.
I’m sure we’ll reconvene as a group for Cataclysm whenever that arrives. In the mean time, I suspect our of time in investment in Lotro will keep us headed toward Moria. No promises whether we make it to Mordor.
A backup plan for the group might be to roll on F2P in EQ2 Extended. I know at least 3 of our 5 group would dig it, and the last two might be convinced particularly if the cash shop could smooth out some of our disparities in play time budgets, etc.
What I’m really looking forward to is Guildwars 2 though… but that’s another post.