With the past week filled with PAX East and then an avalanche of PAX write-ups, I felt myself playing a bit of catch-up in EverQuest II. The playerbase is well into Velious content, so we're starting to hear lots of feedback and see lots of fine-tuning. With two updates this past week and Game Update 60 right around the corner, it's time to do a little spot check on what's going on in EverQuest II.

Read on for a closer look at changes to public quests, primal velium shards, and a new daily shard quest. Also, find out how you can help with Japan disaster relief through a new in-game fundraiser.

Japan relief fundraiser: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami, I kept watching for news of a fundraiser from SOE. In the past, the company has done a good job of organizing in-game opportunities for players to donate to charity, and it looks like it's getting ready for a major fundraising campaign across all its titles. In the EQII Marketplace, there is now a house item that you can purchase called A Memory of Spring. It's a statue with a cherry blossom particle effect; proceeds go to relief for the disaster in Japan. As of the time this was written, there has not been a formal post on the forums, but according to Community Manager Amnerys, that's actually because the team is formalizing a bigger announcement of ways to donate through several SOE titles, so if keep an eye out if you play one or more SOE games.

Public quests and lag: If you caught my livestream from a couple of weeks ago, you probably noticed how laggy the Storm Gorge public quest was. Players have been flocking to the public quests because they're the easiest way to play catch-up after the big Velious gear reset. But all too often, the public quests are so laggy that players aren't able to complete them at the highest difficulty level, and this is particularly true of the Battle of Storm Gorge. There seem to be several reasons for the lag -- with Storm Gorge, lag spikes tremendously when swarms of unlinked cavalry come charging in. Other players have pointed out that the Great Divide is a massive zone, and when you include all the players who are there to solo quest, the total number of players in the zone might account for some of the lag.

Fortunately, Windslasher has posted a few times on the issue and has started putting in changes that should help smooth out the gameplay. I'm looking forward to the improvements, partially because it's a fun battle and I'd like to fend off the Rime on an even playing field. But I also want to see public quests lag-free because it's the best way for a casual raider like I am to gear up for the harder group instances and X4 raid content.

Daily shard quest soon to arrive: Another issue that players have brought up has been the fact that A) primal velium shards are hard to come by for the non-hardcore players, and B) the number of shards needed to purchase gear is frustratingly high. Primal Velium Shards are the new currency in Velious, and they are needed to purchase faction gear. The good news is that there are several faction vendors and lots of choices for gear upgrades and adornments. The bad news is that some of them cost up to 300 shards, and for players who are having a tough time running instances and getting into raids, that is a frustratingly high number.

As a result, it looks like EQII players will soon see a new daily shard quest in game. The real question will be, what will this quest look like? EQII vets will probably recall that the last time a solo shard quest was added in game (during The Shadow Odyssey), players were temporarily turned into void creatures and were tasked with killing 12 void mobs. That mundane task was made even more mindless by the fact that players' hotbars were wiped of abilities and everyone was given the same three void abilities with which to fight mobs. That daily shard quest was probably the most-used content in EQII, but only because it was an easy way for players to chip away at shard farming. Hopefully, this time around, EQII players will have an opportunity to solo for shards that is a little more enjoyable, especially since we're all going to be doing it hundreds of times.

Crystalline breaks: Some love for the solo dungeon crawler. As I was reading through posts asking for a daily shard quest, a few players asked about putting it in a zone called Crystalline Breaks. This is a solo instance in Eastern Wastes, and since EQII players haven't seen a decent solo instance since the original release, I figured I should check it out.

It definitely lives up to its billing. There are a few pre-quests that you need to complete, but they are easily soloable and don't take long to knock out. Once you have access, there are a series of solo quests that involve updates within the zone, and with a future update, it will be a persistent instance that you can enter even after you complete all the quests. It's a very nice-looking zone, and if you play on the lowest settings, I highly recommend turning them up just a bit to see the effects of light on the crystals and zone walls.

In the original EQ expansion, Scars of Velious, Crystal Caverns was a terrific low-level group zone in an otherwise high-level expansion. Crystalline Breaks is EQII's version of Crystal Caverns -- it's a terrific solo and small group instance in a sea of hardcore group and raid content. So count me in on the petition to add the solo shard quest to Crystalline Breaks. Yes, we might get tired of looking at purple glowing crystals after the first hundred runs, but I'd much prefer that to the thumbtack-under-my-fingernails pain of turning myself into a void mob and killing 12 void blobs in a foregone conclusion. Yes, players will always take the path of least resistance to get upgrades and make progress, but hopefully we can engage in some semi-quality gameplay along the way.

One final reminder to EQII fans -- I always make a point of reminding myself to pop into the hidden grottos around Norrath for the once-a-month event, and I always end up missing it. This time, I refuse to miss it. Whether you're brand-new to EQII or you're a seasoned vet, Moonlight Enchantment events are well worth doing. They provide good experience and AA for all players, plus the tokens earned can be used to buy some nice house items that are in high-demand on the broker. As usual, EQ2i has a great rundown of where all the hidden grottoes are located as well as details on the special collection quest related to this event. For a library of images of all the items you can buy with tokens, visit EQ2 Traders Corner. The grottoes will disappear after today, and you'll have to wait another month before they reappear.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to karen@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.
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