EQ2 (et al): Top 10 questions answered

My blog gets its share of people looking for llama sex videos and stuff, but most of the people who come here seem to be looking to have specific questions answered. So, I’ll do my best.

10. Playing Rock Band on Xbox Live I assume you already have an Xbox Live account, and can connect to it. Rock Band has many, many ways to play online. The one you’ll want to try first is the one where you form a band with people all over the world. From the main menu, choose Multiplayer > Quick Match and then log in with your instrument. The person whose Xbox Live account it is must log in first, then any other people locally, then you may invite friends over Xbox Live, and finally search for more players over Xbox Live. If a band is looking for the instruments you have in your band, you may be pulled into someone else’s band. Regardless, only one person will be able to select the songs, and everyone must have the downloadable songs before they will be selectable from the menu. All instruments for the Xbox 360 version of Rock Band support the headset, so make sure you’re wearing it, especially for the full band mode, so you can discuss which songs you’d like to play. I personally prefer doing random ranked Tug of War or Score Duels with people. Rock Band by yourself is only half a game.

9. The Mirror of Reflected Achievements This crafted item lets you store one achievement profile and switch between it and another at will, as long as it and you are both in your house. It can be crafted by any crafter of level 75 or better, with at least 40,000 faction (ally) with their tradeskill society. The only way to build faction with your tradeskill society is by doing writs — you will need to do a total of 267 writs, if you’re starting from nothing, to get the necessary faction. The recipe is sold at each city’s tradeskill faction merchant; in Freeport, it is in the Coalition of Tradesfolk crafting instance in West Freeport. The rare component is the Smoldering Reflective Shard, which drops in the non-instanced portion of Rise of Kunark dungeons, and reportedly in the Court of Korocust instance, though I have not seen it there. It is tradeable and sells for anywhere from 25p to 100p on my server. If you are on the Befallen server and need one made, my jeweler, Dorah, can do it for you. It has to be commissioned, as the mirror, when made, is not tradeable.

8. The Weighted Companion Cube model Lots of 3D modelers were inspired to make models of the Weighted Companion Cube from Portal. Why? I don’t know! But I get a lot of people coming by asking about the one I made. I modeled mine with a freeware 3D modeler that produces files that run on the Persistence of Vision ray tracer (POVRay), of which I have been a devotee for at least a dozen years. I had to do a lot of hand tweaking to make it look right, and I could do it better. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it in Blender. I had this idea that I would start putting the WCC in various MMO scenes, just for fun. Anyway, not sure how much help it will be if you are not a POVRay modeler, but follow the link or go to the top of the main page of this blog and choose POVRay models and you’ll see it there.

7. The Crypt of Agony This is the Rise of Kunark’s easy “loot” instance. It has a bunch of nameds, most of them can drop masters and legendary set armor, and the final boss can drop all that plus some very nice items like the Carotid Cutter and the Nathsar Shortblade. You get to it by first going to the City of Sebilis, fighting in and taking the center path. There are two potential nameds outside the crypt; a wandering golem who will either be the named or a placeholder; and a static named in front of the instance itself. The second named drops bard pants and bard bracers so… bring a bard! The most notable thing about the instance, aside from the sheer number of mobs, is that each one can cast a group debuff called Curse of the Crypt (I believe) which makes all spells and combat arts consume twice as much power. This can be cured with any elemental cure, and it can be interrupted, which makes inquisitors with their group elemental cure combined with their stunning/knockbacking/interrupting melee attacks uniquely well suited for the Crypt. The last mob randomly strips buffs from people and has a fairly damaging AE at 50%, so healers and nukers should stay well out of range, and the fight will be no problem.

6. PS3 vs Xbox 360 I struggled over this, too. The PS3 has dropped precipitously in price recently, includes wireless or wired internet connections, connects seamlessly to the PSP, can be used as a standalone supercomputer or as a fairly high quality Blu-Ray HD DVD player. It doesn’t have many exclusive “must-have” games, but it has some. The Xbox 360 is prone to hardware malfunctions, is noisy, does not come standard with a HD DVD player or a wireless internet connection, but it DOES connect fairly seamlessly to home computers running Vista or Windows Media Center, and of course, has a superior selection of games. Its Xbox Live is by far the most popular online console match-making service, so what it comes down to, is superior hardware (PS3) or superior games (Xbox 360, for now). If gaming is all you want to do with the console, Xbox is likely the best choice.

5. Pawbuster Pawbuster is one of the three Tier 1 RoK raids. He’s a nasty drolvarg in an epic raid instance at the bottom of Karnor’s Castle. CoS probably doesn’t want their strats listed here, but I will say that he carries a huge hammer and he better watch out where he smashes it, because he just might break something if he does it in the wrong place.

4. The Overking Before you see the Overking, one of the two Tier 2 raids, you’ll have to fight through his legion of followers. The nameds drop fairly decent loot. I couldn’t even begin to describe the fight against the Overking himself. Well, I could, and it probably wouldn’t do any good because it’s all about shifting with the various tides and currents of the fight. It is exhilarating when it all goes well, though. The Overking lives in the Throne of Kor-Sha at the bottom of Chardok.

3. The Fate of Norrath This is the quest that takes you through the keying to Veeshan’s Peak. It’s widely thought that you need this quest to become keyed for VP, and that is not the case. In fact, if all you did was the bare minimum to progress the quest, you would not end up able to enter Veeshan’s Peak, as it only requires one of Venril Sathir or the Overking, but the keying requires them both. The Fate of Norrath can be gotten by examining some corpses behind the City of Mist in Kunzar Jungle. It is NOT needed to become keyed for VP, but you might as well do it at the same time, right? After you kill Leviathon — the Tier 3 raid — you’ll be attacked when you talk to the quest NPC. Bring friends.

2. Mythos Beta Invites Occasionally, Flagship gives all members of the beta more beta invites. They only give a couple out, and I always give them away here on this blog, and they always get snapped up almost immediately. I don’t currently have any beta invites. Flagship doesn’t know me from anyone, so I don’t get big bunches to give away (though if someone from Flagship WANTS me to give bunches away, just toss them in my account and they shall be given). Mythos is a fun but ultimately repetitive game without any particular plot other than to go to some randomly generated dungeon and put the hurt on all you find. If you only have fifteen minutes to spare, you could do worse than to spend it on a quick Mythos dungeon run. Emphasizing: I don’t have any beta invites. I had to close comments to my posts about Mythos because of this.

1. Venril Sathir My number one search term for the past month: Venril Sathir. He lives at the very back of the basement of the City of Sebilis, in an instance guarded by Warlord Kotiz or something like that. The Warlord is a level 84 single group encounter needed for at least one Outer Sebilis quest and drops fairly nice loot, so definitely break off a group from the raid and kill him for the loot if he’s up. Like the other raid mobs, it’s not my place to explain how Clan of Shadows kills him. He is a fun fight. Most Rise of Kunark raids are fairly fun — some are quite reminiscent of EQ1 raids, but few people, I imagine, have done those.

Well, that’s it for tonight, I think. If the info about these search terms helped you at all, then I’m happy. That’s what I want them to do.

Mythos Beta Invites

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If you’ve been wanting to try Flagship Studios’ Diablo II-like MMO Mythos and somehow have managed to avoid getting a beta key, well, your wait may be over. Flagship has given every beta tester two keys to give away, and I already had one so that’s three old-school MMO fans who could be playing

All I need is your email address — so post a comment here, make sure you use a real email address in the field where you put it, I’ll send the first three beta invites. Don’t post your email address in the comment itself unless you like getting spam. Trust me, this blog gets harvested by spam bots several times a day (as do all web sites, I imagine).

My apologies, but I only had three invites and I gave them away in a couple of hours. Last time I checked, Mythos hadn’t given me any more. However, there are a couple of suggestions in the comments on how you might be able to get in touch with people who might still have some to give.

Great Expectations: 2008

2007 opened with me splitting my time between EQ1 and EQ2. Through brief flings with LotRO, Dungeon Runners and Mythos, and even briefer flings with a half dozen more I played just once, I ended the year in pretty much the same place — playing EQ2 exclusively.

There’s these incredibly massive hype/PR machines and all they want to do is build up expectations for their ground-breaking, world-shaking title, or book, or movie, and then when it finally arrives, you go “meh” and wait for the next big thing. And the hype machine worked overtime this year. Burning Crusade, Vanguard, Warhammer, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Hellgate: London, Tabula Rasa; all have (or had) the hype machine promissing so much that almost anything that came (or will come) can only disappoint.

Not to say there aren’t some excellent games in the past year and coming soon. I just hope they can survive their hype machines. If you promise a carnival and bring only a pony ride, well, people are going to be disappointed, even if it’s a really good pony ride. Promise a walk in the park and it’s “Hey! They have a PONY RIDE!” Underpromise, overdeliver.

2008 will be a year of great expectations and diminished realities.

Personally, I expect to have EQ2 as my main game through the entire year. Because everyone needs a steady game to call home. You may wander, but you always come home. For a lot of people, this is WoW. For me, it’s EQ2.

It’s going to be hard for EQ2 to raise expectations, though. Out of all the games I’ll mention, it has the toughest road. The last couple of expansions have ridden on EQ1’s coattails, but I don’t know if they’ve noticed, but EQ1 no longer has such long coattails. Drawing from a subscriber base that has fond memories of EQ1 but doesn’t play that game, but want something both new and familiar to them… well, that doesn’t bring many new players in. EQ2 gets most of its new players from WoW, who appreciate EQ2 for its technical innovations but have nothing invested in EQ1 nostalgia.

Prediction #1: EQ2 will reinvent itself by the end of the year, either through some innovative new setting or a game mechanic that lets players have an impact on the world. I’m fairly confident about this one, because otherwise, the hits it will take when WoW’s next expansion and Warhammer come out will probably kill it. It has to respond strongly, and “Velious, EQ2’s Fourth Expansion!” or whatever won’t bring anyone new into the fold. Chasing EQ1 is a stupid strategy.

Prediction #2: Pirates of the Burning Sea will launch strongly, and settle into a role of being about massive clan-based fleet vs fleet battles. I don’t think people will do much solo PvPing, and the economic game will be used to fund the massive fleet battles. Ladder rankings will be an obsession with the players. I’ll try PotBS. I’m not that excited about it, but I think massive fleet battles will be the killer app for PotBS, and it seems from all signs that Flying Labs is positioning it precisely for that. Soloers and non-combatant types interested in the trading game, I think, will not be its final audience.

Prediction #3: Age of Conan will launch and sink without a trace. Come on. PvP with sex and boobies and lots of blood in an election year? The first politician who sees this game will tear it to shreds. ‘Sinking without a trace’ would be the best outcome. ‘Being used as a reason to crack down on MMOs’ would be the worst. Luckily, the teenage boys who make up its natural audience will balk at the subscription fees. Plus, who the heck even knows who Conan is? If the average player even remembers the old Schwarzenegger flick, that’d be amazing — the people who would want to play this game weren’t even born then.

Prediction #4: Warhammer: Age of Reckoning will sell two million boxes and take its place as the #2 MMO in North America. I think this is a slam dunk, being basically World of Warcraft with even more arena games. Those people who love the battlegrounds and arena battles in WoW will flock to the new shiny. This will be a relief to Blizzard, who can cede the battlegrounds market to EA-Mythic and focus more on their excellent PvE and raid experience.

Prediction #5: If WoW’s second expansion, Wrath of the Liche King. comes out this year, it will be disappointing. Given the presence of two and probably soon to be more WoW-alikes in 2008 (LotRO and WAR), almost anything Blizzard can come up with can only be thought of as ‘more of the same’.

Prediction #6: NCSoft will announce a Station Pass-like “pay one price, play all our games” payment plan. Because it’s about time they do that.

okay, those were the safe predictions. Now to get a little ‘out there’.

SOE: SOE will be bought out by a well-known games company, who will announce the development of a virtual world where players can take their characters from all SOE games and live and adventure together in a world they create. This brings hundreds of thousands of players back to SOE games as they take their Jedis and Code Jockeys and Rangers and Blood Mages out of cold storage and into an entirely new world that they create — sort of like Second Life for MMOs. This will be heralded as the birth of a new sort of MMO gaming, where your characters adventure in one world, but play in another.

Star Trek Online: After the new Star Trek movie loudly tanks, all development stops on the Star Trek Online license. EA then picks up Perpetual Entertainment (or what’s left of it) as a wholly owned division focusing on MMO middleware, its first internal customer being Bioware. Bioware in 2007 announced they were using PE’s middleware for their game, so this isn’t really all that out there. There’s a chance EA-Mythic may pick up the STO license along with the company.

MMOs and movies: At least one movie will launch day-and-date with a matching MMO. MMOs will be increasingly seen as commodities and part of the exploitation of a movie license. Tie-in figurines, pop-up picture books, props, Halloween costumes, video games… add an MMO to the list as something necessary to the launch of any new genre movie.

Guitar Hero: A MMO based on Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Memory of Whiteness” that lets musicians and musician wannabes play virtual instruments in player-created bands, quartets, symphonies — what have you — will be announced. Unlike Guitar Hero, players will be able to play both tunes available in the game, and tunes of their own composition. The MMO will usher in a revolution of musical creativity. Well, this is something I *want* to happen. And given the popularity of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, why not? I just threw in KSR because, you know, people should read his books.

Roleplaying & Machinima: An MMO that takes fan fiction and makes movies from it will be announced. Write a story and watch it acted out, or advance the plot in real time with friends. This will do for the craft of writing what the Guitar Hero MMO will do for the craft of composing: bring art to the masses at the cost of authenticity.

I want MMOs that make people SMARTER and INVITE CREATIVITY. And so I dream of a future where MMOs will open doors in your mind instead of seal them shut.

MMOs are still a young industry and there is still time to reinvent itself out of the circling spiral drain of cheap entertainment. Ten years on and they are still writing the same game. 2008 will be the year someone dares to show something truly new.

2007 in Review

2007 has been an amazingly full year, considering some of the major games we were hoping to play (Gods & Heroes, Age of Conan) were canceled or delayed.

In January, I was still living in San Diego, still hoping that Sigil or SOE would finally read one of my resumes… on the 8th, the company in Carlsbad where I worked downsized their IT department from two people to one, and I was on the street. I found nearly immediately that spammers have taken over the job search websites as well as everything else on the Internet, and learned some hard lessons about telling real opportunities from spam opportunities (which aren’t opportunities at all, of course). Gaming suffered, since I had to spend all my time preparing cover letters, arranging interviews and so on. I was very much getting into the Star Trek Online community, and looking forward to Lord of the Rings Online, which I had pre-ordered.

February: SOE released the Estate of Unrest, which was a wild success; it’s still not hard to get groups for this zone. Simply an amazing place. They also announced that their next expansion would be the Rise of Kunark. Vanguard had come out, but compared to Lord of the Rings Online, it was a distant second. I’d gotten into the LotRO Stress Test, and was very impressed.

March: SOE raised the price of their Station Pass from $25 to $30/month, which has led directly to me dropping two of the three Station Pass accounts I’d been paying for. If PotBS isn’t compelling, I’ll drop the last one as well. It was widely believed they did this to subsidize the loss they took when they took Vanguard on. My feeling was, if you played three or more of their MMOs, fine, that would save you money. I only played two, EQ1 and EQ2, and I was leaving EQ1. I spent most of March moving to my new job in Connecticut.

April: Still pretty chilly in New England in April! Lord of the Rings Online came out, and I dropped every other game I was playing (EQ1, EQ2, FF12, everything) to throw myself into this wonderful game. I found a list of upcoming 2007 SF/Fantasy movies and did a snarky preview of them all and pretty much called them all, though “Sunshine” was supposedly a better movie than it sounded. I didn’t see it.

May: A chilly April became an absolutely glorious May in Connecticut. SOE released a new starter city, Neriak; the best newbie zone to date, Darklight Woods; and a new race, the evil Fae, Arasai. So much new stuff was happening in EQ2 that I was eager to finish up Lord of the Rings Online. A billing error canceled my LotRO account on me, so I returned to EQ2, found my guild had deguilded all my alts and demoted me while I’d been on LotRO, so I jumped ship to Eternal Chaos.

June: Raiding was fun again with Eternal Chaos, but I soon found I had joined the guild on a high point. I got into Neopets, specifically the Shapeshifter game. SOE announced that they would be publishing “Pirates of the Burning Sea”. and that it would become part of the Station Pass, which improved chances I would try it out. At the end of the month, my father passed away after a long fight with cancer. I’m glad I moved back to New England so I could be with him fairly often during his final months; I wish I’d come back sooner.

July: I realized that MMOs were wasting my life, so I resolved to spend less time playing them and more time doing other things, more productive things. Or at least, to make MMOs less repetitive and more challenging. I was still a little sore that LotRO had taken a beautiful newbie experience and turned it into a very standard grind down the line. Trying to find a better MMO experience, I tried the EvE 14 day free trial.

August: Perpetual confirms that SOE would not be publishing Gods & Heroes, no big surprise. Early reviews of G&H called it a subpar game, and with Vanguard draining the lifeblood from SOE, I can’t imagine they were too eager to take on another subpar MMO. My experiences playing DAoC, EvE and on the EQ2 PvP server Nagafen convinced me that PvP makes gaming more fun, even if you don’t do PvP. I saw Blue Oyster Cult for the first time in about ten years. Man, they got old.

September: The TV Fall Season starts off with a whimper. I started watching bunches of shows but ended up only watching Heroes. I should have taken my sister’s advice and gotten into Dancing With the Stars. SOE brought us Live Update 38, which brought the god Bristlebane back to Norrath, along with the “Appearance Tab”, the ability to have one set of armor for show, and another for stats, and more rumors of Kunark. RoK beta started, but I wasn’t in it. Curses!

October: Bildo tossed me a beta invite for Mythos! Take that, SOE! Syncaine ran a couple of articles complaining about how ugly EQ2 was. So I just had to respond to that. I have never considered EQ2 ugly, because it isn’t. Guitar Hero 3 came out, I caught the third Legendary Spirit on Pokemond Diamond, and fell into a Portal. At the end of the month, I had the joy of being a guest on “Shut Up, We’re Talking #12“.

November: Shady dealings at Perpetual had people wondering about the fate of Star Trek Online, a game which does not currently sound like the game people want to play. Rock Band came out, but everything else was swept away by the launching of EQ2’s third expansion, “Rise of Kunark”. My EQ2 guild pretty much died. I got into Dungeon Runners a little, but mostly I spent my gaming time working on leveling. I had some issues with how RoK was designed, which ended with his departure from SOE. Well, maybe these events weren’t *directly* related, but who knows?

December: Finally reached the level cap with a character! Once I stopped trying to get groups and stopped trying to solo, moved my cleric to her own account and swallowed the two-boxing Kool-ade, things went better. SOE buyout rumors turned out to be just rumors after all, but opened the door to speculation about what their price and future would be if they *were* to be let go by Sony. I bought a Sony Reader to bring back my joy of reading (with failing eyesight), and it has worked wonderfully (until I thought I had lost it; then I missed it terribly). I moved to the second half of my leveling curve and had a lot more fun with it.

2008 promises to be an even busier time for MMOs, with Pirates of the Burning Sea, Warhammer, Age of Conan and Chronicles of Spellborn all due to be released, plus an unannounced (yet) fourth expansion to EQ2 (my bet: Luclin).

See you on the battlefields :)