Choose My Adventure: Taking EverQuest by the reins

Another week, another wild Choose My Adventure ride through EverQuest. And this time, I have a better understanding of this beast I am riding and feel more confident and in control! Contrary to my experiences in newer games where things feel familiar from the outset, it has taken me a little longer to start getting comfortable in my Norrathian skin. That total-newb-outsider feeling has been slowly diminishing so that I feel like a real citizen. Between knowing where to find things in the world and just getting the hang of the controls, I can now start relying on my gaming muscle memory to guide me instead of actively searching for everything.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the world is now a piece of cake and that there is nothing left to learn! Far from it: There are still many new experiences to be had, some of which you will be selecting for me for this week's adventure. But before we get into that, let's take a look at this past week in EQ.
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Choose My Adventure: EverQuest

I am the power!

Although you instructed me to not power-level, that didn't mean that I lacked in powerful experiences over the last week. And you didn't say anything about not power-leveling someone else! That's exactly what grouping felt like whenever my greatsword procced. Because of the number of mobs my all-powerful mighty twink sword of doom pulled when it procced, my groupmate felt that she was being power-leveled even though we were the same level. In fact, levels seemed to come relatively quickly for both of us, but that is expected during the initial stages of a game.

I know some have expressed concern or even disappointment about my using a twinked sword. And I can respect that. But the sword did not give me an instant I WIN button that catapulted me to the endgame. Granted, it did one-shot things with regularity at the tutorial levels, but the proc is a set 350 HP damage, meaning that as soon as I got to mobs that had more than that amount, there were no longer any one-shots going on. And that proc often caused as much trouble as it may have solved; that AoE was massive, it was random, and it pulled groups of adds down upon us whether we wanted them or not. As a Shadow Knight, I figured I would learn to manage large groups, and as a fledgling tank class, I thought that this was actually decent -- albeit intense -- practice. You only have to watch Battle of the Badgers to see what I mean.

I don't think the sword really gave any significant advantage at all, but it did alleviate the drudgery of one of the worst parts of games for me: mindless grinding. It's not that I believe that the idea of grinding mobs should be done away with, just that there needs to be something more to it than just moving from one target to the next with a perfect rotation of skill deployment. Honestly, that gets very tedious. What the sword brought to the battlefield was some unexpected experiences that I looked forward to. I found it fun to watch the proc go off and then enjoyed the challenge of trying to manage the consequences. I would continue grinding mobs with no other purpose than just trying to get that fleeting proc experience again. That is quite different than my usual modus operandi of just going out and killing the mobs needed for a quest and then moving on.

I'll be quite honest here: I don't think I'd be enjoying the game a fraction as much if I didn't have that little hook that pulled me in and made me want to stay logged in, giving me a chance to experience even more of the game. Was that really too high of a price to pay to get a player to want to play more? I think not.

The lay of the land

As much as I completely and totally love exploring, there comes a time when not being able to find my way around becomes frustrating. I had that experience when trying to get to my trainer for a few levels' worth of skills. After a time, I accepted that my random wanderings wouldn't net me my goal in time to enjoy some actual gaming during that session, so I broke down and tried visually following the map. (Yes, I know there is a Find feature, but I wanted to avoid that if I could.) Since I really love the pen-and-paper feel of the maps, I didn't mind this part too much. I still couldn't find my trainer, but I apparently accidentally activated the glowy waypoint path. What an adventure that was!

Initially, I had no idea how I got those sparkly ribbons of pathfinding; I didn't, after all, break down and use the Find feature on the map yet. It turns out that just right-clicking on a place or name on the map marks the waypoint and gives you the path. I just knew that suddenly I feel like Billy in The Family Circus cartoon as I hopped all over leaving a funky trail of sparkles behind me. After much amusement on my part, I finally opened the map to continue my journey and noticed that there was a red line leading to my trainer. Hot diggity froglok! Not caring how it got there (I figured it out shortly), I set off to follow my red-line road. However, this also led to frustration, as the wonder trail actually tried repeatedly to take me through the ground, so I gave up and went about working on other quests, already composing some kind of rant in my mind for this CMA.

Those of you who know me know that I can actually be pretty stubborn when it comes to gaming; I don't like things beating me. So after doing some banking (which I stumbled upon in my wanderings), upping a few skills, and visiting the Bazaar, I tried once again to find my trainer. This is where I figured out how I made the WP fairy work, and since I was coming from a totally different angle, the indicator actually led me through the best in-game library ever right to my personal gaggle of SK trainers. Yay! Apparently, the path to my trainer was just to the side of an NPC I kept talking to, but those two hallways behind her are so successfully camouflaged that I never noticed them, and the previous WP path never even brought me into that room (it was trying to make me go through the ground outside). Success at last!

Just a quick side-note on that library there in Planes of Knowledge: It's awesome! I hopped about and explored the entire place, just wishing I could actually read titles on all those tomes. Think of the little gems you could come across! Sadly, I was met with just blank bindings. Maybe if some dev gets a bit bored, s/he can go through and start adding random titles to the volumes. I wonder how long before anyone would notice they were there?

During my forced exploration for my trainer, I got to know the city area better, including the different portals to other realms. I also got stuck in a wall and couldn't get out for a while. I found a wedding coordinator (no, that service will not be a part of our polls!) and an assortment of other interesting characters, some who wanted to send me on shady jobs. Finally, more questing in my EverQuest! I hopped to it, heading out in search of even more adventures.

In all, it was these wanderings and my further exploits where I started to really learn the lay of the land and feel like a true denizen and not just a tourist. I was pretty proud of the fact that I could find my way back to the Planes of Knowledge by sight alone! I love the feeling you get when you recognize a place and it feels more effortless to get around using only visual cues instead of maps and waypoints. That's when it starts to feel like home. And when a game feels like home, it's somewhere you want to stay.

The guild

While I certainly would have found it interesting to find a group to play with that mirrored the characters of that show, I don't even have a clue as to what my guild is actually like (see below). This time around, I didn't let people know who I was when I was searching for a guild; I hoped for a more unbiased experience. Surprisingly, my inquiries about joining a guild did not produce a deluge of offers as I am accustomed to in other games (where I am always spammed with invites), so I went ahead and joined up with the first group that spoke with me. Turns out it is a raiding guild that has some casuals, and the requirements are only that you use Ventrilo and avoid drama. The first is doable and the second is a requirement for my personal gaming anyways, so I accepted the invite.

As for not knowing my guild, that is because I couldn't understand a single word anyone said in guild chat! The one who invited me sent me a tell suggesting I spam language on my merc in order to learn it so I could understand people, but it was a bit disappointing that none of the long-time vets really took the effort to communicate with me. I'll cut them some slack since I know a raid was impending that first night.

Luckily, my trusty groupmate joined with me and used a macro of constant speech to allow my poor little Froglok to learn the human tongue better. Honestly, I do like that languages must be heard in order to be learned, and normally I would rather take the time to learn things organically. But CMA is time-constrained, and I needed to know what my guild was saying, so I opted for the fast-track lessons. And you know what? It didn't work! Later, after becoming relatively proficient in the Elven tongue the same way, I discovered that it was Elvish the whole guild was speaking. Can you imagine trying to learn languages the slow way and still not having the one that would allow you to communicate with your compadres? Awesome for immersion; not so awesome for CMA.

The end is nigh

My CMA run is drawing to a close, but we have a final round of adventures ahead of us before the show is over. So this week we will explore some other systems besides hacking-and-slashing. Which non-combat activity should I delve into this week? Should I check out out housing, find some roleplay, or try my hand at crafting? If you choose crafting, which should I focus on? Be sure to make your pick by 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, February 21st, to help direct the weekend's adventures.%Poll-87169%%Poll-87173%
Strap yourself in for the ride of (six weeks of) your life! Where are you going? Well, that's entirely up to you, the Massively readers, to decide -- the where, the what, and the how are all directed by you. The who is MJ Guthrie! For the duration of Choose My Adventure, her virtual life is in your hands! Join MJ in-game, on-site, and live on Massively TV to be a part of the adventure and watch the story unfold.

This article was originally published on Massively.