Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Order of Rime With A Side of Grind

In EQ2 I am close to finishing the Order of Rime story line that was introduced in Game Update 52. I just have one regular quest, one heroic quest, and about six or seven repeatable quests that I have not done for the first time, then perhaps a short grind of repeatable quests before I have 50,000 faction with the Order of Rime. To everyone who has completed the quest line and been able to purchase one of the faction’s items from the faction merchant, I salute you. Why the respect? Because finishing that quest line involves a huge grind.

I understand that the grind is present for story reasons, but it is present in large chunks of time. I think that the biggest complaint is how the grind is implemented. In the beginning of the quest line, you are killing members of the Order of Rime for Teren’s Grasp before being asked to infiltrate the organization. To infiltrate the Order you are given an illusion form that is based on your adventuring archtype. For example, as a ranger my disguise turned me into a ratonga scout for the Order. For good measure, the illusion also grants the wearer +40,000 faction with the Order. That’s pretty cool, right? The only problem is that the illusion only grants the faction bonus when your toon’s actual faction is between -50,000 and -8,800 points.

So why is that important? Because each of the main quests in the story require a certain amount of faction with the Order before the quest giver will grant you the quest. The Order of Rime quest line is not like the Brokenskull Pirate quest line in which you just do quests that prove your loyalty. No, you have to do repeatable quests, filling up barrels with bones and scorpion parts and fish parts and poison sacks in order to raise your standings to get the quests. In my case, I was doing the quests in the Order of Rime camp in Jarsath Wastes when poof, no more quest givers would talk to me. I had too much actual status and had to grind over 30,000 in faction to get back to the level required to continue the quest line. That was a long, long grind with each repeatable quest only offering 800 faction.

I understand the story reason behind forcing the faction grind in the middle of the quests. The lower levels of the Order of Rime are a pretty stupid bunch and are fairly easy to fool, but as you progress the quest givers get smarter and smarter and a character’s uncommon competence and common sense can’t be cloaked. If you don’t have the actual faction, you’re not going to fool those quest givers into involving you in their plans. After all, they are on the lookout for spies, and YOU are a spy.

I even understand why the developers set up the quest line like they did in terms of rewards. Once you get 50,000 faction with the Order, characters can purchase items from the Order’s faction merchant. Most of these item run in the 7–9 platinum piece (that’s 700-900 gold pieces) price range with the mount running 40pp. I calculated that players will do at least 80 of the repeatable quests, which at 15 gold pieces per completed quest will net a player 12 plat. Add in 814 gold pieces for completing the regular quests in the quest line and a player will be able to buy 2 pieces of equipment plus the faction cloak from the faction merchant. If a player saved up all the money and item drops from the hundreds of mobs killed in addition to the quest rewards, buying that faction mount is less than 20 plat.

So why do I have a problem with the grind in the Order of Rime quest line? Because the sudden stop in the progression of the quests left me a bit disheartened. I can see getting knocked back in a quest line for failing to achieve something. But I felt like I was knocked back in the quest progression for succeeding. I know that I wasn’t really knocked back; after all I didn’t lose any faction at any time. But that’s how I felt, and oftentimes perception, especially in an MMO, turns into reality. And this reality didn’t feel like fun.

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