Toldain Talks

Because reading me sure beats working!


Toldain started as an Everquest character. I've played him in EQ2, WoW, Vanguard, LOTRO, and Zork Online. And then EVE Online, where I'm 3 million years old, rather than my usual 3000. Currently I'm mostly playing DDO. But I still have fabulous red hair. In RL, I am a software developer who has worked on networked games, but not MMORPGS.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

More DPS is better?

Most hardcore MMORPG types focus on maximizing damabe per second (DPS). Of themselves, and of their group. They will calculate DPS for different weapon configurations, and buffs, and mana efficiency for dots, direct damage and area effect spells. I don't really have a problem with that. I like players who try to understand the game and play it well.

But this focus on DPS leads folks to focus on groups where the strategy is to maximize DPS. The question is whether this in fact leads to maximum experience gain. We leave aside entirely the question of whether this leads to maximum fun.

More DPS means you kill mobs faster, so they have less time to hurt you. Killing mobs faster also means that you gather the experience from killing them that much faster too. Of course, you have to factor in recovery time between fights into the equation.

Of course, everyone wants a healer in their group, and healers generally don't have good DPS. But they keep you alive, which means no debt, and no downtime recovering from dying. So maybe absolutely maximizing DPS isn't the path to success.

I'm an enchanter. I live for those moments when you just got trained, or there was a bad pull, or a spawn on top of you. One moment it looks like you're going to wipe, and 30 seconds later, the situation is completely under control. Fahfrd, my shaman has been in groups with a chanter and something like this happened. We got trained, I looked up and saw the enchanter losing HP fast. I tossed him a ward and then healed him once. When I looked again, the mobs on him were staring into space, and were killed easily in turn. I was sure glad to have an enchanter then.

Downtime costs a lot, in missed opportunity. You could take things a bit slower, but give yourself a much more robust way of dealing with bad stuff that could happen. Most of the dungeons in EQ2 are set up to make bad stuff happen from time to time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Recession Blues

The economy on my server is in a bit of recession. Last night I found perhaps 30 upgrades to one of my spells, 20 of which were Adept I upgrades, and many were at very reasonable prices. Other commodities have dropped in price as well. It also appears that enough people have grasped the notion that wholesaler quests can be fulfilled through buying items that the prices of harvestables are where they ought to be.

But the real problem is that the server population is down somewhat. The first free month is over, World of Warcraft is out, and it's a week before Christmas. Folks have a lot of things to do other than participate in the EQ2 economy. And that means less coin earned from quests and mob drops, and fewer buyers.

I think things will improve after Christmas, and also when the free month of WoW wears off. But I'll be in and around Qeynos anyway until then.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Ruffled Feathers

I've been reading a discussion of ettiquette on the EQII chat boards. So I thought I'd try and put my thoughts together on a few topics.

The source of manners

Ettiquette, manners, honor. They came into existence to reduce the friction of everyday life. They are trained into individuals through consequences. If you were unmannerly, you were treated like a boor. If you were dishonorable, you might find yourself in a duel. In Everquest 2, there is no way to end up in a duel, so the consequences are less. The game rules prevent some of the more offensive behavior, like kill-stealing. But the lack of PvP also takes away some of the consequences for bad behavior.

I won't bemoan the lack of PvP, I've never really played it. But law came into being only because there was power to enforce it. Most of us have internalized that law, but there will always be some who will see that as a weakness in us and try to exploit it.

Anyway, the only real consequence to bad behavior is being shunned. There is a possibility for other sorts of griefing and dirty tricks, but it isn't worth the possibility of being banned for me to do them. I can and I will shun someone who behaves in a manner incompatible with my own sense of honor.

Shunning is pretty effective, by the way. Many groups on that far-off world know as Earth use it. But to be effective, the person being shunned must know why he is being shunned. And just to be clear, when I say shun, I mean shun -- no chat, no buying, no respecting of the normal rules I set for myself.

Nodes for the win!

How to deal with gathering nodes is a controversial topic. Some folks, me included, will not gather at a node where someone else is already gathering. Others feel that, if the game permits it, then it's ok. Some insist that trying to keep a node to oneself is hoarding, and ungenerous. Since this is EQ2, we can't have duels over it.

My personal rule is that I won't be the first to jump in on a node someone else is harvesting. But if they do it to me, that's their ethic, and I'll use it. I'm such a flip-flopper!

There was a lot of pressure on the tier one zones a couple weeks back, but two things have happened to ease that pressure. First, they lowered the skill level needed to harvest in the tier 2 zones, like Antonica and Commonlands. Second, the game seems less populated now, with the first free month expiring, and WoW and other new games coming out. So I think this issue will become less contentious.

Group Inviting

It is unnecessary to target someone to invite them to a group, thus the long-range, unexpected group invite is now possible. I don't like it. Send a tell first, most people do that. Honestly, the ninja invitation to me is a mark of a not-very-good player, and a poor communicator. Communication is vital to good group play, so a ninja invitation gives a bad first impression to me. I'll likely not accept.


I was in the Down Below the other night, trying to help some friends and some new acquaintances finish a quest. This particular quest required them to kill a fallen noble, I think it was. Well, we were in the right room for the pop, and were killing the spawn downstairs. There is a balcony in that room, where the Fallen Prince and his bodyguard spawn. We could handle the Prince, but not easily, so we stayed downstairs to avoid trouble. Unfortunately, the balcony was where the quest spawn was, as well.

Some time into our camp, a higher level warrior came in. He had AFK turned on, and walked upstairs without a word. Soon, we heard the noises of him fighting the very mob we were there to kill! Quite annoying, really.

We should have known more about where to find our spawn, true. So he took advantage. Would he have tried to take aggro on the fallen noble if we were upstairs? We'll never know, but that would be a candidate for shunning, though it probably wouldn't have bothered him any, since he didn't seem interested in anything we had to say about his behavior.

So we moved upstairs, some time later, a fighter not in our group wandered up to look, just as our mob popped again, and as fate would have it, the mob aggroed the newcomer. Lucky for us, he decided not to engage the encounter, and let us take it. To him, I throw bouquets, though it might have been self-preservation at work, rather than any sense of honor.

But, ultimately, this was a case of "we snooze, we lose". I recognize that simply saying, "I'm gonna kill that mob" stakes no durable claim, if I can't back it up. Still, I'm not gonna be favorably disposed toward helping someone on a corpse run should they get into trouble while aggro poaching.

Need before need?

I don't recommend trying to use need before greed looting for anything but the most friendly of groups, or for stated goals. You may need the Adept I upgrade to your spell, but I need the money I could get for selling it just as much. All drops represent wealth, whether you can use them or not, except for no-trade items. So we'll lotto, and maybe we can work something out. But it's awkward, especially if there are relative strangers in your group.

Why not use straight lotto (don't ever decline unless you are full inventory, or it's a no-trade item) and then sort things out between you and your spouse after?

Yes, it's frustrating to see your upgrade go to someone who can't use it. Make an offer, maybe you can make a deal. And rest assured, the shoe will be on the other foot one day.

That's enough about manners for today.

Friday, December 10, 2004

No Guarantee of Success

It seems that one of the design goals of EQ2 is that there be no guarantee of success. Let me give you some examples of what I mean.

You can probably solo greens for a long time and level up without much risk. Though I have run into group greens that gave me a taste of mud, or sewer water, as the case may be. However, this will leave you money poor, and is slow going.

There seems to be a huge difference in your groups effectiveness based on tactics. Does the tank keep aggro? Do the scout and and tank cooperate efficiently to expose the mobs back to the scout? Does the healer get the timing on heals right to avoid aggro but keep folks alive. Do the mages ration their power expenditure correctly? Does the group manage to pull off HO's, kill mobs one at a time.

Likewise, the recent patch(as an emergency measure) stopped NPC vendors from buying any crafted item. This has now been changed; NPC vendors will buy crafted items, but slightly below cost. I'm not yet sure that the "below cost" description means below the cost of the last combine to make the item, or below the cost of making all the subcombines too. It also isn't stated whether this only accounts for the cost of non-gathered items, although I expect that they are accounted for at zero cost.

This reinforces the "no guarantee of success" design principle. If I can get to the point where each turn of the wheel makes me even 10cp, I have a guaranteed income, which I can use to fund my leveling up, and purchase of new books, etc. All solo, and very mechanical. Not what I'd call fun.

I want to be rewarded for using my wits, and adapting to the situation. It's why I'm an enchanter. In the old world of EQ, enchanters had a variety of styles and strategies they could use to deal with situations and hunt with. The skill came in knowing which one to use. In EQ2, all classes have skills that they can use in combat, and it's deciding which ones TO use, and when that makes the game fun. It's also what gives you another taste of sewer water, but that makes the lesson that much easier to remember.

On the tradeskill side, if you really want to be a tradesman, then you have to figure out where the need is, and fill it. Which of the dozens of things that you CAN make, SHOULD you make? If you're a Woodworker, and want money, right now you should be making those boxes to put in bank slots. They sell well, from what I can tell. On the other hand, furniture in general doesn't sell worth a darn, because no one can afford it.

But I think in time, they will want to buy stuff, especially if you can make furniture that is status-enhancing.

And by the way, adventuring is no guarantee of income either. If you end up with a sewage cocktail, you obviously didn't get a drop from the mob. But even if you managed to beat them, you still have to pay for repairs, food, and drink. And for your reward you might get saliva or maggots, which sell for a little bit of coin, but not that much. Sometimes cool stuff drops in chests, but to really get the value out of that stuff, it must be sold to other players, not to vendors, just as with crafted items.

In my view this is all to the good.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Firemyst Gully

I've been hearing about this place quite a bit, and it sounds like fun. This is an instanced, storyline zone. What that means is that you and your group have the place to yourself, I think it can be raided, too. And if you leave the zone, you won't be able to come back for several hours.

In the gully, there is a chain of quests you can do. I've heard rumors that it might involve digging up graves and killing the undead therein, to avoid having them all summoned up against you when you fight a boss.

There is quest you need to do to get access to Firemyst Gully, and you need to be at least level 15 to go there. The access quest begins with a dwarf at the Claymore in Antonica, and the entrance to the Gully is near the entrance to Blackburrow.