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EverQuest 2 sucks me back in…

I’ve been playing less and less of EQ2 during the past year or so. Other than logging in for our regular Saturday session with my Sister Judy and her husband Bryan, my Nephew Shane and his wife Monique, and of course my wife Irene, I really haven’t been playing at all.

I’ve been playing massively multiplayer RPGs for over a decade now: I have a collectors edition version of Ultima Online 🙂 So I could easily chalk it up to just being “bored” or tired of such games in general, and that’s what I did. I even tried a couple of other games. Vanguard was one, but it didn’t appeal, and ultimately the game itself sort of “died out”. More recently I re-activated my World of Warcraft account- that was fun, but more importantly I started to figure out myself and my disinterest a bit more.

Then my Nephew called up and suggested I get out of that WoW crap and create a new character in EQ2- that might be just the thing. Once I started playing that “new” character (actually one I created a year or so ago- a Kerran Paladin), the final piece explaining my ennui fell into place. I’m back to playing a couple of hours several days each week in addition to our Saturday session. And I’ll likely cancel my WoW account again shortly.

I identified two primary reasons why I was not “enthusiastic” about EQ2:

  • lack of UI “toys”: World of Warcraft has a massively customizable user interface. It is basically a programming platform unto itself: UI developers can build databases, add completely new stats and timers, and generally completely re-vamp the information presented to the user in a customizable fashion. EQ2 limits UI changes almost entirely to “cosmetics”. A UI developer can change the graphics, but can not access or add new data to the interface easily. So most EQ2 UI add ins are not much more than window dressing: changing where things appear or what shape the window frame is, but not actually altering the content. I apparently like the extra “gee whiz” add ins
  • dislike of my character: My original character in EQ2 was a Kerran cleric. I liked him- he fit my personality both in terms of play mechanics and in terms of role playing considerations. But ultimately he became redundant as other folks started playing characters of a closely related class. I won’t go into the game mechanics, but a big part of my enjoyment in playing comes from feeling “useful”, and my Templar no longer felt useful. So I created a wizard: on a whim, I made him a froglok. I enjoy the “artillery” role, but I had an increasingly hard time caring about my character as a froglok. I was also somewhat redundant- at one point, we had three wizards in our group

Of the two reasons noted above, I think disliking my character has had more of an impact on my interest in playing EQ2 than anything else. There are a bunch of considerations that feed in to the “dislike”: I’ve touched on a few above, but I can expand on that a bit.

I have to be able to imagine the character and respect them, for one thing: that probably comes from my years steeped in fiction based around strong characters. It also has very little if anything to do with the game mechanics- it is all about factors like the race, the backstory of the world, the class characteristics, and my own imagination. At the root of things in this particular case is the fact that I have a hard time taking a giant bipedal frog seriously. So choosing the froglok race was a mistake: I knew from the outset that I didn’t really like the race, but I thought it would grow on me, and it was “different”. I guess it was a bit too different.

Another consideration regarding liking my character relates to game mechanics and group interaction. I need to feel that my character is contributing something “special” or unique to the group. Exactly what that means is somewhat hard to quantify, but generally it includes things like having a particular role, some abilities that other people don’t have, something that makes people go “Wow, that was kind of neat”. Any character can become unique in EQ2 based on how you select your achievements and so forth, but the easiest thing is if your character actually is a different class.

That deals with my second (and more important) “dislike of character” point: what about the UI extensions and add ins? Well, I found a few new toys to add to EQ2 of interest. They are all slightly more than purely cosmetic: pushing the limited abilities Sony has granted to the UI developers about as far as they can go:

  • EQ2Map: I’ve had this add in forever- it is an absolute must have. So although this add in didn’t really have anything to do with my renewed interest, I feel it is important to call out
  • Advanced Combat Tracker: this is an external log parser for EQ2. It reads the logs and calculates combat statistics: how much damage you did, how much damage the monster did, how much damage the other members of your party did. It splits these numbers out in all sorts of interesting ways. It even has some hacks to allow the the graphs to be viewed within EQ2 itself. My solution, however, is to run the full-fledged ACT client on my MacBook under VMWare Fusion (I.E.: PC emulation). It works like a charm
  • Infocenter and SageUI side by side journal: adds some extra tabs to the Quest journal to give guides to writs and major quests directly within EQ2
  • Othesus Active Quest Helper: adds a “history” of your most recently updated quests to your “quest helper” window
  • Othesus Four Tabbed Browser: adds tabs and several “bookmarks” to the built in web browser in EQ2

None of these UI add ins is earth shattering in and of itself, but together they help improve the experience of playing the game. I spend a bit less time trying to figure out what to do next, and get a few nice bells and whistles as well.
At the end of the day, games like EQ2 are no different than other past-times or hobbies. They are exactly what you make of them. For me, playing 8-12 hours a week enjoying pretty much every hour I spend makes for a good hobby. Thanks to my nephew and some digging around on my part, I’ve re-invigorated my hobby successfully 🙂

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