Saturday, February 17, 2018

Can I Click It? : Ashes of Creation

When Intrepid Studios released their latest video this week I didn't take much notice. Yes, I backed the successful Ashes of Creation Kickstarter but my attitude to crowdfunded projects tends towards fire and forget, with the emphasis on forget.

I probably should be paying more attention. After all, I didn't just back AoC once, I backed it twice - firstly in my name and then again on behalf of Mrs Bhagpuss. She didn't ask me to do that, it just looked to be one of the only two possible post-GW2 MMOs we might end up playing together (the other being Pantheon).

I thought I might as well get both our names down early in case the beta turned out to be fun. The last time we tested something together was probably Landmark and that worked out pretty well - for a while.

There is a connection between Landmark and Ashes of Creation, of course. The "Companies our team has worked with previously" section on the Intrepid website has Daybreak's glaring eye front and center. Even more tellingly, of the nine listed titles members of the team worked on before joining Intrepid no fewer than seven are SOE/DBG MMOs. Landmark doesn't get a mention but EQNext does. Is that a healthy MMO lineage or does it suggest a worrying degree of inbreeding?

Mrs Bhagpuss was never sold on the voxel aspect of Landmark and I became quickly and increasingly skeptical about almost everything planned for EQNext. Whether either of us  would want to see any of those ideas carried on by a new studio is uncertain.

Nice dungeon.

While Landmark ended up being a fun toy that I would have gone on fiddling around with for years, I can't say I suffered even the slightest pang of sadness or loss when DBG shut it down. It was a directionless mess that never came close even to working out what it wanted to be, far less being that thing.

As for EQNext, what began as an exciting new direction fast turned into a vanity project that looked set to rival Star Citizen for hubris. I was positively relieved when someone at Columbus Nova finally had the gumption to pull the plug.

Looking at the design brief and some of the concept art for Ashes of Creation, I can't help but think that there's some carry-over from the doomed Landmark/EQN project. That might be concerning but the proposal for Ashes of Creation does look less insane overwrought. It still strikes me as over-ambitious in some respects but then so do the feature lists of almost all in-development MMOs. At least this time the suspicion is only that some features may have to be cut rather than that the entire underpinnings of the project are so far beyond the technical grasp of the people involved that the game will never even manifest a working prototype.

Obviously I think Ashes of Creation has potential as an MMO I'd one day enjoy. If not I wouldn't have backed it. Even so, I don't spend much time speculating about how it may turn out. I don't expect to be using my guaranteed beta invite until 2020 or so. These things always take much longer than the promises and pledges would have you believe.

Nice woodland.

Consequently I have barely been skimming the odd flecks of PR that drift into view. I took a very quick glance at the recent video when Massively OP featured it but I saw nothing to comment on and I'd already blanked it from my thoughts - until I read UltrViolet's brief observation:

My first draft of this post had a whole lot more negative words here, but I’m editing it way down to just this: I didn’t think the game looked very good, and I’m shocked that they released that video.

 Was it really that bad? What did I miss?

So I took another look at it. I still skimmed, but this time I dipped in and out of the whole thing, watching thirty seconds here, thirty seconds there.

And it looks pretty good to me. In fact, it looks remarkably similar to the footage from that other would-be MMO on my watch-list, Pantheon. Two upcoming MMOs, each heavily influenced by the design ethos of SOE/DBG, looking not unlike each other. Who'd have thought it?

Mouse pointer clearly in shot there - appeared to be used to target.

The characters look like fantasy rpg types. The world looks like a fantasy rpg world (western variant). The spell effects look like spell effects and the combat looks like combat. There's a lot of running around, the animation looks decent, movement seems smooth, even the cloaks ripple in the breeze. No-one gets stuck on scenery or falls through the world - at least in the bits I watched.

What more do you want from a "pre-alpha"? Performance-wise, in my testing days that would have exceeded the brief for what we called mid-beta. I think Pantheon looks the better of the two on all counts so far but I'd happily play either of them right now on the evidence I've seen.

Most importantly to me I spotted something in the recent AoC video that I've looked for in earlier footage and failed to see - evidence that the game uses standard MMORPG controls. I hadn't until now been able to ascertain for certain whether the game was going to go with old school, tab-targeting and hotbars or the supposedly more widely accepted ARPG route.

While I can and do play MMOs that hide the cursor and lock the mouse for combat only, it's very much not my preference. I find it awkward and cumbersome even when, as in DCUO or Black Desert, it's done well. Mrs Bhagpuss, who can also use that system if she has to, dislikes it more than I do. She would have to be incredibly interested in a particular game to make the necessary effort.

Watching the developers playing their own game this time there were plenty of moments where I could clearly see the mouse cursor moving purposefully across the screen while the characters were traveling. Several times I thought I saw someone select an enemy with the mouse pointer and that enemy's nameplate window appear on screen as a result.

I don't think you can see the pointer in this shot but he did just use it to target that flower.

That was reassuring indeed but the best part was a moment late in the video when I clearly saw the mouse pointer move to one of the icons on the hotbar and click it to fire off an attack. It had long been my hope that the visual presence of the hotbar indicated it had a use in combat but naturally no developer is going to be a clicker like me. Except this one time, so thanks for that, GM Steven!

Of course, it may be that there's an invisible GM/Dev overlay in use - it looks that way quite often in the video. Also this is pre-alpha - anything can change and most things probably will. Nothing is proven until I can actually play it myself.

In an attempt to nail this one down I went and did a bit of research. Unsurprisingly at this stage everything is still somewhat vague. There's also a good deal of the familiar hand-waving you always get in conversations with developers of MMOs that almost no player can actually play yet, wherein everything is going to be amazing and all the systems will be innovative and nothing like anything you may ever have played before.

With those caveats, the basic plan appears to be a form of tab-targeting with control of the mouse left open. There will be telegraphs and dodging and it all sounds a lot like GW2, which would be wonderful.

We'll see. Eventually. I remain hopeful that Ashes of Creation might end up an MMORPG in the grand tradition, not just yet another ARPG with pretensions. I hope so, anyway.

And with that I think I'll forget about it for another year or two.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Everything Is Everything Else

As David Byrne once said, well... how did I get here?

I remember I was doing what I do most nights, right before I go to sleep. Typing semi-random words into YouTube. Following whichever link looks interesting. The name of a band. A song title. Something I've never heard. Or heard of.

Nothing like Transvision Vamp. I have heard of Transvision Vamp. I have heard Transvision Vamp. Of course I have. I remember them very well. Early 90s outfit. Fronted by shockheaded blonde Wendy James. Made a thinnish glam racket. Had a couple of minor hits. Media loved to love to hate them.

I never thought much of them at the time. Hadn't thought about them at all in at least twenty years. Still, I clicked, out of some dim nostalgic curiosity.

A couple of things happened.

They were a lot better than I remembered. That thin sound had filled out. It aged well. I watched a few live performances. Wendy James seemed fierce and funny. A good deal more self-aware than I imagined. And then, among the titles that filtered down the right of the screen, one leaped right out and smacked me in the heart.  

Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything
There is, sadly, no live take of Hanging Out With Halo Jones on YouTube or anywhere else. As others have said, this will have to do.

Halo Jones is possibly my favorite British comic series of all time. If it's not Alan Moore's best work ever it's damn close and Ian Gibson certainly never drew better. I have the originals in my piles of 2000AD up in the loft and I have the three graphic novels somewhere closer to hand. I'm going to read the whole sequence again although it scares me a little to think about doing it.

So, anyway, here I am at Halo Jones via Transvision Vamp and I'm reading the comments because yes, I am one of the people who not only reads the comments on YouTube but finds them interesting and often revealing.

There aren't many but in the last one someone says "There was a Halo Jones play too." There was? Did I know that? The faintest bell chiming somewhere far away...

Which is how I came across this piece of pure magic:

Eight and a half minutes of utter genius. When I saw it was a fringe performance I didn't expect much. How wrong I was. I just wish someone would post the entire thing. I just wish I'd been there.

I looked for more but that's all there is. Oh, and a few scraps of another production at the Leeds Thought Bubble. They don't have anything of the power of this performance.

And what does this have to do with MMORPGs, anyone still reading may well be asking themselves? Patience. I'm getting there.

I'm getting there but I can't tell you how. All I know is that somehow, from  Transvision Vamp and Halo Jones I found my way to what was lost, by way of the  latest Game Archeologist piece on MassivelyOP. Although it turns out I could just have checked my own back pages...

Syp's piece has absolutely nothing to do with any of this except as a catalyst. It's all about BBS gaming. I never saw a Bulletin Board in my life, much less played a game on one. As I read, though, my mind slipped to which forgotten MMOs might still be out there, waiting for Syp to (dis)cover them.

My list of most fondly-rememberd MMOs includes several that are no longer running. Vanguard and Free Realms, obviously. Rubies of Eventide, which I often mention. Endless Ages, which was there so early on and broke so much ground (and which appears still to exist in some form or another...I'm on that right now...but one thing at a time).

There's also one that Mrs Bhagpuss and I played in beta and liked a lot for no very good reason. I was under the impression that it never launched. I seem to remember the client just stopped connecting to the server one day and I thought I'd read that whoever was behind it decided not to release it in the West after all.

I haven't been able to come up with the name for a long time. I don't have it in my old log-in records. No-one ever mentions it anywhere to jog my memory. And this is where the chain breaks yet holds.

Somewhere along the way, reading about BBS games, listening to Transvision Vamp, watching Halo Jones, all the  while thinking about dead MMOs and googling all of it, I came across a mention of the Ferengi, those gnomelike aliens from Star Trek. It wasn't even anything about them, really. Just a play or a song that used their name.

I have no clue where or what it was even though it was only a day or two ago. Whatever it was triggered a flash of insight that blanked everything else. The name of the forgotten MMO was Ferentus

All the many other times I've seen the Ferengi mentioned, that never happened. It took that particular set of circumstances to create the necessary neural connections. So it seems.

It turns out that Ferentus never did launch but it lived long enough in open beta to develop quite a following all the same. It was known under three different names. Ferentus in North America, Herrcot in Germany and Xiones in South Korea. Even now there are people hoping for an emulator. That's never going to happen but someone has come up with a text-based homage. I played it. It works.

All of which just proves what a wonderful new world it is that we all live in. Any day we can wake up and ask ourselves how we got here and have no idea and it's still all good. As Rodice says, "No matter how far you get, they'll fetch you back here and bust you to pieces".

Pieces are all we're made of. But what pieces!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Love In A Cold Climate : DCUO

Until I picked up playing again last year I had no idea DCUO had so many special events. There seems to be a new one every few weeks. This month there are two!

February puts rings around a couple of dates on the Earth-1 calendar. As a close analog of our own world, naturally Valentine's Day falls on the 14th but I was unaware that the 11th is also Flash Appreciation Day. Yes, really.

No, seriously, it is! I googled it and it's an actual thing! Look, if you'd been at the Cahuenga Library on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles at lunchtime yesterday you could have celebrated Flash Appreciation Day with a screening of the animated film "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox" and some coloring-in. If that doesn't make it a genuine real-world holiday then I don't what to say.

As the website Nothing But Comics explains, the celebration originated in a 2006 episode of Justice League Unlimited. The idea was taken up by fans and has been running ever since - much like The Flash himself. You do have to wonder if some people have too much time on their hands...

There's not a lot to the event in-game this year but it does come with a free Enhanced Speed-Force Spectrum Suit, which in my opinion makes you look like some kind of unholy don't-cross-the-streams hybrid of Flash and Iron Man. Still, free stuff...

Flash Appreciation Day is today but the freebie and the Flash Sale (see what they did there?) run (see, I already did that joke) until the 14th. You might think it would be leaving to make way for the Valentine's event, Love Conquers All, but that's already begun.

A considerably more substantial affair (see what...oh, never mind), Love Conquers All comes with the usual trimmings. There's an open world event with quests and a four person Alert. You can earn another unique currency (Hearts, of course) to spend at a special vendor.

I jumped straight in after I'd grabbed my Flash suit. The message from... hang on, it'll come to me..oh yes, the Hal Jordan version of Green Lantern (always the real GL for those of us of a certain age, I think) gave clear directions for once. I headed to the East Gotham Police Station and it was a matter of moments before I was talking to...Mera.

Wait...what? How did she get into this? I was just about following the plot with the Star Sapphires and Mr Freeze and then out of the blue I'm chatting with Aquaman's wife?

It turns out she's come ashore to offer up her own romance with Aquaman (I'm sorry, I just can't call him "Arthur" and keep a straight face) as a paradigm of the perfect relationship. By way of a scavenger hunt. Naturally.

It's a very good scavenger hunt, too. I originally started looking riverside, using the logic that that's where Mera would have been most comfortable. I did find a couple of updates there but I would have struggled without the wiki. The seahorse statues you have to find don't light up until you get quite close and some of them are on ledges and roofs high above the river. I guess Mera called on one of her many flying friends to put them up there for her.

Each statue comes with a rather good voiceover by either Mera or Aquaman, highlighting aspects of their relationship and incidents from their life together. The vignettes are decently written and the voice acting is solid. I particularly enjoyed the way the anecdotes sometimes presented the same event first from one partner's perspective, then the other. I have a soft spot for Aquaman and Mera anyway, ever since the great Nick Cardy issues of the 60s.

Before I eavesdropped on the Aqua-couple I did the Alert. It was extremely simple for which I was very grateful. I barely know what I'm doing in DCUO at the best of times. A round of straight-up baddie punching is just about my speed.

So forgiving was this particular Alert that the four of us were able to complete it by battering Mr Freeze from the get-go. I think we were supposed to disable two of his machines first but one of them was still untouched when he fell down and the loot pinata popped. A couple of us stayed on and wrecked the remaining machine for a little extra xp but it was very much after the Lord Mayor's Show by then.

As well as the holiday content the new update also brings a revamp of the Leaderboard that pops when you finish an instance. I like to look at that to see just how badly I've done and how much of a dead weight I've been. This time I seemed to be fairly solidly in the middle so I can only assume no-one else was a regular either.

The new leaderboard is an improvement, even if my sound placing on it may be a fluke. There's also a useful auto-sort addition to the inventory that I tried and approved.

All in all a jolly good update. I must find time to go see what the valentine's vendor sells. I can always use more furniture for my base - although whether I want to come home after a hard day's crimefighting to a statue of Aquaman and Mera canoodling in the corner I'm not so sure.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Where Do We Go From Here?

As I slog through the grim, last days of Winter, eyes fixed yearningly on the slender promise of Spring, it would be nice to sense some stirring of excitement for the future. After all, everyone else seems to be enjoying some kind of frisson.

My Feedly and blog roll are alive with the thrill of the new as people lay out their plans or share their adventures in fresh worlds, hunting monsters or saving the world. Me, I'm just not feeling it.

I had all week off work. I had a few gaming plans but none of them involved anything I hadn't done before. There wasn't a single new title I could think of that I wanted to try, although there are plenty of them out there, in Early Access, alpha or beta, unfinished but available.

Looking sideways, I was going to re-subscribe to WoW because apparently all it takes to get me back is a bit of extra free time and the hint of something just a little more solid and satisfying in the leveling game. Then there was Rift. I had some idea of poking around Telon so I could get my disappointment in early before the rush.

I considered a return to LotRO or FFXIV, since I have established characters in both that i can play for nothing and I like the early levels in each of them. There's Project: Gorgon, flirting with that Steam launch yet again. I believe still haven't sorted out my account to register my Kickstarter credentials. I thought I might do that but it seems like work and I'm not at all sure I'm interested enough in P:G any more to make the effort.

Every time anyone mentions Black Desert I remember how much I enjoyed my time there. I'd give it another go but it's somewhere on a hard drive I took out of my old PC and I'd have to find which one and put it in an enclosure. Same applies to Blade and Soul and Dragon's Nest and...oh I just can't be bothered.

And on it goes. I could list a dozen more MMORPGs that flit through my mind most days, a brief flurry of curiosity that fades to gray the moment I consider what I'd need to do just to log in. All those usernames and passwords to find, the updates to install, and for what?

Disorientation, confusion, a sense of rising panic. That's what. An apprehension that none of these "games" are pick up and play. A growing understanding that each and every one of them has a learning curve that's not dissimilar to learning a new language or starting a new job.

Is that fun? It used to be fun. It guess it still would be - if I thought I was going to commit. It's clear from all the neophyte Monster Hunters turning journeymen out there that once those claws catch they hook. I could be caught that way again, I'm sure, only by what?

Looking ahead I have a desultory interest in Crowfall. I'm guessing it will be a disaster but an interesting one. I'm very far from sure I want to pay $50 to be there when it happens but I don't rule it out. They hope to make Soft Launch "as early in 2018 as we can". I have another week off work in March...

Oh, who am I kidding? Crowfall isn't going to launch in March this year, "soft" or otherwise. Neither is anything else that interests me. I'll be here in a month doing just the same thing I'm doing now - shuttling between three or four MMOs I've played for five, ten, fifteen or twenty years already.

If I somehow find any extra energy and manage to make the effort I might throw in a few more of similar vintage. If I do, all it will be is a quick nostalgia trip followed by a swift retreat as the prospect of the sheer commitment required to make  meaningful progress sinks in.

All of which sounds like I'm in something of a gaming funk, that I'm suffering from the notorious MMO malaise, but really I'm not. I spent most of my week off playing MMOs, just as I planned and wanted - it's just that the only MMOs I played were the same MMOs I'd have played had I been working.

I'm writing this almost as an apology to myself, some kind of penance for sins of omission. I feel kinda sorta guilty that I didn't use the time "better", somehow. But what, really, would "better" look like? If I'd dabbled around in a dozen different games, would I have had anything much to show for it? Anything more than I have?

Well, I'd have a few more blog posts, for sure. Maybe less introspective and solipsistic ones, at that. A bunch of screenshots and some memories. But isn't that a tail wagging a dog? Best hope, I'd have some fresh ideas, a new gaming crush.

Didn't happen. Not going to happen.

Instead I played many, many hours of GW2. I added a whole bunch of ranks to my main account as I spent hours and hours in World vs World, pointlessly trying to defend or recapture doomed keeps against overwhelming opposition in an utterly meaningless match, which our team wanted to lose anyway.

I ran race after race around Divinity's Reach for no better reason than an NPC announced there were races to be run. I did The Maw and Claw of Jormag for the ten thousandth time for loot I don't need or want. I opened Lucky Envelopes and set off fireworks and generally hung out with the crowds, wherever the crowds were, doing whatever the crowds were doing.

And when I wasn't doing that I was in EQ2, adding more homes to my housing network and more materials to my storage depots. I spent most of a session ferrying in house pets and setting up a duck pond.

Then for a change of pace I put ten levels on my Bruiser in Sinking Sands, a zone where I have probably spent more time than all my holidays from the last five years added together and I enjoyed every minute of all of it. I still have three days left before I go back to work and I'm going to spend much of it doing more of what I already did. And then when I'm back at work I'm going to do it some more again.

Does the WHO maybe have a point, d'you think? Or maybe it's just that I'm very, very lazy and very easily amused?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Everything But The Kill : EQ2

As Telwyn posted yesterday, the signature crafting questline that wasn't ready for prime time when the Planes of Prophecy expansion launched last year is coming to EQ2 next week as the center-piece of GU105. With Domino long gone back to Canada and Daybreak evidently operating on reduced resources all round, I wouldn't presume to comment on the overlap between what you might argue would once have been discrete expansion and live content. I'm just glad we're getting a full tradeskill questline at all.

The quest is currently available on Test, where the invaluable and astonishingly dedicated Naimi Denmother of EQ2Traders is among the selfless players slogging through buggy, undocumented content so the rest of us can whine and complain when we coast along on their coat-tails in a week or two. That she's doing so while quite seriously unwell says volumes. Thanks, Mom!

I read her first post on the work in progress with some fascination. What she says is revealing; what I read between the lines even more so.

It's likely that when most people think of crafting they imagine a rather staid, static activity with characters standing at crafting stations performing the same rote actions over and over. Indeed, in many MMORPGs, crafting consists of little more than making sure you have all the correct materials then pressing a single key and watching a progress bar fill.

Tradeskilling in EQ2 has always required a very great deal more interaction and attention than that but under Domino's influence questing for crafters became indistinguishable from questing for adventurers. Perhaps the only difference was that crafters weren't required to fight anything.

The passing of the mantle from a tradeskill specialist to the shoulders of developers more used to making content for adventurers has narrowed the gap yet further. You still don't need to equip a weapon but you can forget any ideas you had about relaxing with something light and fluffy.

You have no idea what you're in for, do you?

Reading Naimi Denmother's detailed first quest walkthrough just about brought me out in a cold sweat. Fortunately, I know from long experience that most EQ2 quests look more daunting on paper than they turn out to be in game. Even so...

A timed instance that boots you if you fail to complete your tasks in time. Epic mobs that have to be avoided or stunned with crafted bombs - and lots of them. Multiple stages. Puzzles. And as for the crafting itself, many combines that take a skilled crafter using a progress potion over two minutes each to finish...

That is not for the faint-hearted. And it's only the opening quest in a run of five. What have they saved for the finale? I'd say I'm looking forward to finding out but I'm not sure I want to know!

So much for the content. There's also the timescale involved in bringing it to us. Naimi says that devs Gninja, Caith and the rest are "swamped" and that "It is beyond insane right now and we have such a tiny window of time to test this in that it is already stressful." It would seem that DBG's diminished resources are stretched almost to breaking point trying to get this done in time to include it in the Update.

All of which makes it even more impressive that they're doing it anyway. Yes, there will be bitter complaints when everything doesn't work perfectly. Yes, there have been moans for months that the questline should have been in the expansion in the first place. But it was ever thus.

In the entire time I've played EQ2, which is as long as there's been an EQ2, nothing the devs have done has ever been good enough for some people and too often those people have the loudest voices. Back when they had Sony's money to throw around and the dev team was who knows how many sizes larger, the forums still rang with complaints - too late, too little, too buggy.

We'll have none of this kind of behavior, thank you!

What's more, much of the ire will spill over to the volunteers on Test, who are clearly all just lazy moochers only there for the easy ride and the accelerated xp. People who would never spare a moment of their own exceptionally valuable time to test anything at all seem to have no trouble finding hours to spend on the forums blasting those who did. Even the few who pop in for just long enough to find out it requires some effort before logging out in a huff are more interested in telling DBG how they could organize their testing better than, y'know, doing some testing.

Not that I'm selfless enough these days to test much myself but at least I'm not about to slap the hand that's trying to help make my life easier. Especially when someone who's working the hardest to make my live experience as good as it could be is doing it while she's "sick, stressed, sleep-impaired, and upset."

I promise right here and right now not to complain about the implementation of the PoP Signature Crafting Questline; not to moan if it's buggy or whine that it should have been here months ago. I do reserve the right to critique its content and approach, to say what I do and don't like about it and to make suggestions about how it could be improved.

I'm not giving DBG a pass on the quality, style or appropriateness of the content they produce but I am cutting them some slack on when and how it makes it into the game because I am just happy they're still in there pitching. And honestly, I feel they're doing a fantastic job. When there were more of them with more money it wasn't always any better than this. Sometimes it was a lot worse.

And as for Niami Denmother - look after yourself! We don't have Domino any more - we can hardly afford to lose you too! If I see you online I'll be sure not to say hi!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Get Lucky : GW2

Today's update in GW2 took me somewhat by surprise. I was expecting the much-heralded Balance changes but I thought we still had a couple of weeks to go before Lunar New Year, since the Chinese New Year on which it's modeled doesn't end until until February 15th.

Apparently Chinese and Lunar years are more than a year long. The last one started on January 28th 2017 and it's still going strong. We seem to have a bit of overlap.

As I think I've commented a few times before, holidays in Tyria can be underwhelming. There aren't all that many of them and they tend not to change very much. Lunar New Year is a slight exception in that we're at least guaranteed to get a different animal every time. This time it's the Dog's turn.

Lunar New Year might be my favorite Tyrian holiday although that phrase could go into the dictionary under "damning with faint praise". Still, it does at least manage a couple of features that I look forward to more than anything we get at Halloween or Wintersday.

For a start, there's Dragon Ball. I'm a small-time fan of instanced battleground PvP in other MMOs but GW2's standard offering takes itself far too seriously for my taste. Dragon Ball is cheerfully anarchic by comparison and I always enjoy its short visit.

Unfortunately, at my advancing age it gives me a lot of shoulder pain from the sudden changes of direction and the general tension. If I do the two-match daily on all three accounts that's about enough for me.

Then there's the financial element. Every day you can buy 16 Lucky Envelopes per account from the vendor in Divinity's Reach. They cost a gold each and you're guaranteed to get at least 88 silver of that back in every one you open. If you're lucky you can get something worth ten times as much.

There are other things in there that sell for a fair few silver too. On a good day I make 8-16g per account. On a bad day I just about break even. It's like gambling without the risk. I always enjoy it.

This year, as there was for Wintersday, there's also a race. It seems that now we have mounts ANet are determined we're going to use them. It's not particularly original but at least it is something new so I'm not complaining. Plus I really like races.

So, it seems, do a lot of other people, at least they do when they haven't got the achievements yet. There were over seventy riders in the race I did an hour ago.

It's a harder course than the Wintersday one and longer. Nevertheless, I was able to get the Mini Gourdog (don't ask) that comes with finishing in under three and a half minutes, even though on one run I was using the base model rented raptor that's your only choice if you haven't bought Path of Fire.

Speaking of minis, there's a great one for sale on the vendor for just under nine gold. It's a "horse" with a skritt rider. Tyria famously has no horses so I imagine the ANet devs responsible for holiday planning must have come out in a cold sweat when someone told them next year is The Year of the Horse. If this is the dry run for 2019 I foresee strong sales of tar and feathers in China.

There's also a new "adventure". Adventures in GW2 are one of the most inaccurately named additions to the game in five years. They came with Heart of Thorns, they were hated by almost everyone and they were conspicuously absent from Path of Fire.

I thought we'd seen the last of them but apparently I was counting my chickens to soon (and roosters were so last year). I haven't tried the new one yet but I probably will at some point. Can't say i'm looking forward to it.

Anyway, there's stuff to do that we haven't done to death yet, which is nice. Also, since you can't fight anything there, Divinity's Reach doesn't crash every five minutes like the rest of the game does right now. To no-one's surprise the vast raft of changes to skills and systems that came with today's patch have introduced some bugs that make all three modes, PvE, WvW and sPvP largely unplayable until they find out what they broke and get it fixed.

With a bit of luck that'll all be sorted out by the time I wake up tomorrow. I'll probably find out after I've bought my Lucky Envelopes and lost another few games of Dragon Ball.

Oh, wait - they fixed it while I was writing this. I guess my luck's in!

Stay lucky!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Please Let Me Come Mooch Round Your House : EQ2

It was this post at MassivelyOP that started it. I was nodding away in agreement with by M.J. for once as she listed EQ2's unparalleled storage options, when I came across the section on what she calls "stashes".

I've been aware of both Personal and Guild Depots for a very long time, all the way back to when they were first introduced to the game. I have a vague memory of them once being either ferociously expensive or extremely rare or more probably both.

That hasn't been the case for a long while. Mrs. Bhagpuss had some back when she was playing, half a decade ago and I vaguely remember buying one once myself. I'm fairly sure there were some in our Guild Hall for a while, although the glory days of the Guild Hall mostly happened while I was busy in Tyria.

Similarly, I was dimly aware of the existence and usage of Prestige Home Portals. I'd even installed one or two in some my own houses, although I couldn't tell you which.

Portal to Mara

What I had never done until this weekend was to put all of this together. As I read M.J.'s effusive description of the capacity of the Depots the full potential began to sink in. I decided to do a little research and the results were more than just surprising - they were quite literally game-changing.

  • The storage capacity of the Personal Harvest Depot (Large) is breathtaking. It holds one thousand unique items and each item can stack to 99,999.
  • You can set permissions on the house so that anyone with "Trustee" status can use the PHD(L).
  • If you place Crafting Stations the recipes will draw their required materials from the PHD(L) automagically.
  • A Prestige Home requires no rent and is always open and available.
  • An unlimited number of free Portals to the Prestige Home can be acquired at will and placed in any house, Prestige or Normal.
  • Once placed, these portals create a network. Any home on that network can be accessed from any other by means of the portal
This means you can create what is effectively a free equivalent to a guild hall, without needing to deal with upkeep or any of the usual guild issues, which you can use just for yourself or for any subset of friends to whom you wish to allocate permissions.

Moreover, it provides immediate access via the housing system to every location with a house on the network, which is potentially more places than you can reach via the World Bell or Instant Travel. For example, due to the nominal existence of Good and Evil faction in EQ2, a Qeynosian can't use the travel system to enter Freeport - but she can arrive there by house portal and just step out of the door.

The more I thought about it, the more amazing it seemed. It occurred to me that not only could I set this up to benefit all the characters on my All Access account but that I could include every other character I have on my half a dozen unsubscribed accounts as well.

Everyone on every account could pool their resources. Instead of spending (literally) hours logging characters and accounts in and out and searching through dozens of boxes and bags on each for a specific resource I could just take anyone who needed something straight to the shared depot and there it would be!

It wouldn't just be for crafting, either. There are Depots for Collectibles, for Lore and Legend quest items, for Food, Drink, Potions... with a little effort (alright, quite a lot of effort) I could set all my characters up as a Collective, free hundreds of inventory slots and save myself countless hours of busywork. Does any other MMO have anything even remotely close to this?

I love the physicality of EQ2's storage. All those boxes are packed with stuff.

I spent a very happy and satisfying Saturday doing exactly that. I had several Prestige Homes available but I decided on The Isle Of Mara because of its long association in my mind as a crafting hub, going back to my days on Test.

First I checked the prices of the various Depots on the Broker and found them to be both plentifully available and (by modern EQ2 economic standards) very reasonably priced. I bought one of every kind there was and placed them in a convenient location.

Next I used the guild roster to set all my characters up with Trustee status. Then, with my All Access account up and running I signed into my former All Access account as well. EQ2 runs quite smoothly in multiple instances on my current PC. I spent several hours logging in every character on my two main accounts, going through all of their storage, stripping out every item that the depots would hold and piling them all in.

As I went along I placed House Portals in some of my homes to form the beginning of a travel network. That requires the owner of the Prestige Home to visit the other character's house to place the portal, which is a fun little project in itself.

These portals are annoyingly difficult to place and when you try and move them you often fall in.

It was only right at the end that I realized I could have saved myself a lot of running by paying a week's upkeep on our long-abandoned Guild Hall, slapping a portal in there and using it as a hub to get everyone to the new place.

I suppose I could just have revived the Guild Hall and run it for myself but there's something depressing about being in a once-bustling Guild Hall all on your own. Personal housing is somewhere that feels entirely natural to use solo - and as I said, if you use the Prestige version it's free, too!

I could do a whole post about how great EQ2's sort options are.
This is going to be a big project and for all its very obvious advantages there may be a few worrying downsides. Everything comes at a cost.

This morning I visited the City Merchant in Freeport and bought an Elegant Forge and Desk for status points, something I could have done years ago. The reason I never did is that I love crafting in areas where I can see and hear lots of other people crafting alongside me. I always try to find the busiest place to do my writs or make upgrades.

Crafting alone, in my own, personal crafting hub, risks missing out on that sense of community. I won't hear someone beside me ding loudly as they level or hear the rattle and scrape of the machines. It will be less like playing an MMO than I'd prefer.

And then there are my established houses. I've been in the habit of returning to at least two of them at the end of every session, my Berserker's and my Warlock's, because they have the plant from the Kunark Ascending questline that gives a daily rare and a bushel of mats.

Yesterday I moved both of those plants to the Mara Estate. It seems probable that, if the new hub establishes itself as I imagine it will, I'll gradually move all my housing amenities there so everyone can use them.

That will be a major increase in utility because currently and historically I haven't made much use of anything like that. I've tended to place the item in someone's house and forget about it. With all of those things in a readily accessible central location they will see far more use but will I end up with everyone living in the Mara Estate while their own homes go unvisited for months or even years on end?

I'm going to try and minimize that risk by getting every single one of my homes onto the new network. With a bit of luck that added convenience will act as a counterweight to the gravitational pull of the hub itself.

Either way, the decision's made now and with the Planes of Prophecy signature crafting line due sometime this month it couldn't have come at a better time.
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