Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Level Locking: Being a Real WoW (or EQ2) Tourist

In The Instance #150, Scott Johnson and Randy Jordan talked about Blizzard’s plans to allow players in World of Warcraft to stop gaining experience so they can remain at a level. In EverQuest 2 we call that level-locking and is a practice I used when I felt I did not have the appropriate number of alternate achievement experience points when I was leveling my ranger. But in WoW, would anyone besides a low-level twink want to level-lock? After all, the game begins in Northwind and level 80, right?

Looking back at my time in WoW, the 4 month journey to 60 (the level cap at the time) was a wonderful time and level 60 was the end of the game for me. I’ve heard that with Wrath of the Lich King, the leveling in the original and Burning Crusade zones is much faster in order to get players up to “the game” faster. To me, that is pushing players past the best part of the game.

If I were to return to World of Warcraft, I would definitely level lock. I would roll a Horde-side hunter and visit all the cities I couldn’t visit on my Alliance paladin. I would go through and do as many of the quests as I could. Well, I’d race through Stranglethorn Vale, but who in their right mind wouldn’t? I’d also see what pets I could train. Would I have to level lock to do this? From everything I’ve heard and read the answer is yes.

In EverQuest 2 we have a small but growing community of players who once their first toon reaches the level cap will then create another character and use level-locking to experience and enjoy all the content they missed the first time through. EQ2 players are actually rewarded for this style of play as the players amass AA points which makes their characters much more powerful and better able to handle the more difficult content in the old world zones than those who just race through the game to level 80.

Would such a play style catch on in WoW? I don’t know. Blizzard just doesn’t give their players the benefits when engaging in that kind of play style that SOE does. Scott and Randy estimated that 5% of WoW players would use level-locking. If only half of those players were engaged in a explorer type play style, that would still be more players than are currently playing EQ2. Maybe that is a small number to WoW players, but that is a rather significant number of players to the rest of the MMO world.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: June 21-27, 2009

Once again big news came out of Las Vegas, this time because of SOE's Fan Faire 2009. But that news hasn't made the podcasts yet so that is something to look forward to over the next week or two. In the meantime there is a lot of podcast goodness out there. I'm behind in my podcast listening and I listened to 13 1/2 hours of podcasts last week.

If you are looking for a good place to start listening to podcasts about MMORPGs, head on over to the Virgin Worlds Podcast Collective. Brent has done a wonderful job of putting together a stable of podcasts that form up the bulk of the podcasts I listen to each week.

First Time Listen

The Drone Bay #22 (Hosts: Crovan, CrazyKinux & Alsedrech) - After a 7-8 month hiatus, The Drone Bay is coming back. This Eve Online podcast is pretty well-known but I never had a fresh episode with all three hosts to listen to until now. The hosts said that they are reconsidering some things they have done in the past going forward and may begin bringing in experts to help explain some of the new features, like wormholes. The hosts also spent a lot of time apologizing about the length of time they were away.

The hosts themselves said that the good was pretty good until about show 16, so I might go back and listen to the earlier episodes before I try entering Eve. I'm going to give this podcast a listen to in the future just to see where this podcast goes. Length: 40 minutes.

Old Friends

Virgin Worlds #145 (Host: Brent Darren) - Darren Love from The Common Sense Gamer and Shut Up We're Talking podcast hosts VW for the second week in a row and clearly became more comfortable as a solo performer in this episode. Topics included closed beta news, Star Trek and ship combat, Warhammer Online's top 5 priorities, gamers playing more but paying less, Massively.com's beta watch, bridging the East/West divide, and PS3 news. Length: 25 minutes.

Van Hemlock #56 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - In an episode advertised as their least prepared ever, Tim & Jon showed that even without a great deal of preparation they still are better than most podcasters out there. The Twitter question, what MMO mechanic annoys you the most, turned into the main topic of the podcast. For Van Hemlock's take on the show, click here. Length: 82 minutes.

Van Hemlock #57 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - The podcast was a news & "what I've played" show with Van Hemlock returning to Planetside in the wake of SOE's announced closing of The Matrix Online. For Van Hemlock's take on the show, click here. Length: 105 minutes.

No Prisoners, No Mercy #36 (Hosts: Sister Julie and Sister Fran) - Wow! Just wow! They work on about 3 shows at the same time and this time produced a gem, no matter what number episode it is. Where to start? How about with their announcement that they will be doing an interview with Warhammer Online's Paul Barnett in a future episode? Maybe the interview the sister's did with Keen from Keen and Graev's Gaming Blog about WAR's Land of the Dead expansion and other things WAR? How about the sisters dragging Keen into a segment of "Mad as Hell?" Or how about the second hour (yes, second hour) of the podcast and the interview with Saylah from Mystic Worlds about Runes of Magic? With the split in the podcast, I was able to listen to the first part on the train ride to work and the second part on the train ride home.

One further thing about the podcast. As regular listeners know, the sisters stop the recording of the podcasts at frequent intervals in order to save their work and not have an epic loss of content. Sister Julie took the opportunity of the breaks during the second hour to insert some old music with a magic theme to it. I may be showing my age once you listen to it, but I found it very enjoyable collection of musical snippets. Length: 118 minutes.

The Instance #150 (Hosts: Scott Johnson & Randy Jordan) - Life (i.e. change) goes on in World of Warcaft as the hosts discuss the changes upcoming in patch 3.2. I listen to the podcast from the perspective of an EverQuest 2 player who reached level 60 in Vanilla WoW and I have to say listening to this podcast does make me feel good. Having copied dual-spec from EQ2, Blizzard is going to introduce the level-locking mechanic in the next patch. If WoW is still copying features from EQ2, then my favorite game can't be that bad. Level-locking makes sense in EQ2, but I don't know about WoW. I think Scott and Randy did a good job during that discussion. And of course, don't forget to listen to the end to hear the content from the regular contributors. Length: 114 minutes.

Channel Massive #92 (Hosts: Noah, Jason & Mark) - Jason returns to the podcast as the M Team discussed FreeRealms and E3. Noah shares some of his experiences from the conference during the one-hour "E3 round table of death." And of course, much discussion about the people protesting the making of Left 4 Dead 2. Length: 116 minutes.

Spouse Aggro #80 (Hosts: Beau and Leala Turkey) - The Turkey's visit an Italian restaurant and talk about Beau's experience in Darkfall and Aion.. The Turkey's had strong views about Darkfall before. I don't think those have changed even though Beau did say some nice things about the game. Oh, and they talked about a movie about LARPers. Length: 47 minutes.

Through the Aftermath #12 (Hosts: Shawn Schuster and Jonathan Morris) - The hosts go through their email in a far-ranging show about the post-apocolypic genre. Length: 85 minutes.

Trying to Catch Up

EQ2's-day Originally Broadcast on June 2, 2009 (Hosts: Dellmon and Zanadi) - Dellmon posted 3 shows in a week and I'm a little behind listening to the show. In this show, Dellmon goes off on Free Realms (he's addicted) and Zanadi discusses the differences between her monk and assassin now that Zanadi's assassin has beaten Dellmon's sorry troubadour to level 80. Length: 83 minutes.

Thoughts on John Smedley's Address at Fan Faire 2009

Last night SOE President John Smedley gave the 3rd annual Community Address at SOE's Fan Faire 2009 in Las Vegas. Tipa's coverage over at West Karana of the news coming out of that speech is very good, although I don't recall anyone saying that "auto-mentoring" was coming to EverQuest 2. I can believe its coming as a way to keep the content required to get mythical weapons non-trivial; I just don't recall hearing it. What I heard was similar to what Feldon is reporting on The EQ2 Wire, that you can self-mentor. I'm giving Feldon's coverage of this issue a bit more credibility only because his post on the subject came before Smedley's presentation and it sounds like he actually either sat in on a panel or personally talked to a dev about the feature.

Now that I've had a little time to think about what I saw, here are my thoughts.

Sentinal's Fate - The next expansion will be the island of Odus and not Velious. I never played EverQuest, so those zones mean nothing to me. I guess that means as long as I don't pay too much attention to the forums, I'll be able to at least start the expansion content with an open mind. Well, at least an open mind about the story line.

A rise in the level cap to 90 - That had to happen. While AA points are nice, I really like to hear the levelling ding. The fact that I think a lot of my guildies will be near or at level 80 when the expansion goes live helps me think good thoughts about the level cap rise also.

Release date of Sentinal's Fate is February 2010 - When I first heard Brenlo say this, I groaned. EQ2 expansions traditionally come out in November. But then I thought about it and started to smile. I've now got 8 months to get those last 15 AA points so I can have a max'ed out character? Before I felt a little rushed about getting to 200 AA points by November, although I was going to be able to do it. Now I can relax. More importantly, all of my guildies who are just now hitting level 80 with 90-120 AA points will have time to improve their toons for the next expansion.

I will say one thing about the delay. With the recent changes made in GU 52 (research assistants, higher conversion rate of combat xp to AA xp for max level characters) and some of the changes I'll write about later in this post, expect the starting content in Sentinal's Fate to be a bit more challenging than in the past. In other words, if you are not raid-geared, you better do some homework (i.e. read the forums; play on test, etc.) or you're going to get pwned!

Auto-mentoring/self-mentoring - This seems like a good thing. The mechanic that Tipa described is actually in the game right now, although I only know of one place it is used. In the heritage quest Casualties of the War of the Fay, any player over level 70 was reduced to level 70 for the final boss fight. The reason is that the quest prize, the Rain Caller bow, is required to get the ranger's mythical weapon.

If I can use the mentoring NPC that Feldon describes to do grey content in order to complete my quest of getting 200 AA points, I will. I hate going back and doing grey quests and I really would like to go back and do them when there is a chance of dying.

I can see this mechanic being abused. Can you imaging higher level characters getting all geared up and then self-mentoring to a lower level to farm named mobs? I can. But that's a thought for another day.

Achievements - When I played Warhammer Online, the Tome of Knowledge didn't really appeal to me, although I thought the map feature was really cool. What Brenlo described sounded more like Blizzard's rip-off of the Tome of Knowledge rather than the actual ToK. For me, putting in an achievement system into EQ2 is *yawn*.

Putting in that type of achievement system into EQ2 should be a lot easier for SOE than putting the system into WoW was for Blizzard since EQ2 was already giving out titles for how many mobs you had killed, completing a certain number of heritage quests, etc. Not only that, but the game also keeps track of certain server and game firsts (I have one game first and about 40 server firsts, all related to crafting) that get you listed on EQ2 Players.

I guess WoW's achievement system is so popular with its player base and is so successful in helping in player retention that every game is going to have some sort of achievement system going into the future. But just remember, EQ2 had the system first. It's just that EQ2 used titles (which is a feature coming soon to WoW!) to reward players instead of something called "achievements". And if you don't want to credit EQ2, then you need to credit Warhammer Online and the Tome of Knowledge.

Halas - I'm not really excited about new cities. I get lost a lot, although seeing parts of the cities for the first time when I'm lost has been interesting. I'm really going to have to visit Halas. With self-mentoring, I'll actually be able to do the newbie quests and experience the city instead of just wander around aimlessly. I like doing new things. And if I still need AA experience when it comes out, you can bet Halas will receive a long visit from my ranger.

Shard of Love - This zone promises to introduce another god into EQ2. Since the Plane of Love never existed in EverQuest, I think everyone will be interested in at least visiting the area at least once.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

EQ2 Video: Jethal Silverwing's I Want That Rock

Fighting for resources happens in MMOs. Whether the game is a free-to-play title like Runes of Magic, an indy sci-fi game like Eve Online, or the giant of them all, World of Warcraft, sooner or later players find themself harvesting resources. Jethal Silverwing of Online Gaming Radio's Jethal Silverwing Show is a master of the EQ & EQ2 parody song and wrote a song based on Twisted Sister's I Wanna Rock about mining that his wife Elquinjena made into a video. The video was shot on location in the Thundering Steppes, a location where I've spent hours harvesting and looking for that elusive rock myself.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reading Dialog: EQ2's Mushroom Rings

One of the reasons I like to solo quests in MMORPGs is so I can take my time and read the quest text. If you are in a group, there is bound to be at least one person who tries to rush you and gets annoyed when you don’t simply click through the dialog boxes. That’s a shame because the developers spend a lot of time developing stories and some of them are quite good. For example, here is my experience in EverQuest 2 the first time I encountered one of the mushroom rings that was introduced in GU52.

I was wandering though Archer’s Wood in the old lands of Antonica just out of sight of the Claymore monument when I encountered it. A purplish haze in the air over a small circle of mushrooms. With signs of the Timberclaw clan roaming the area, I decided to check the area for traps. I figured that an experienced ranger like me could defeat anything those gnolls could come up with to entrap the unwary. So I edged closer to the mushroom ring and then … darkness.

When I woke up, I found myself in a lush green grotto. I was relieved, because no gnoll trap would have sent me to a place as beautiful as this. But where was I? The only way to answer was to move ahead and explore. As I walked down the path, I passed air spirits until I came upon a rare sight; dryads. I continued on until I met an elder tree spirit surrounded by her attendants.

"Greetings, trotter," said the Elder. "We rarely see your type here."

I blurted out, "What is this place?"

"This is our hidden haven," she replied, "a pocket of safety outside the realms your kind normally inhabits."

The trip through the mushroom ring must have taken more out of me than I thought, because all I could reply with was, "How did I get here?"

The Elder explained, "When the constellations align correctly, which is about once a month by your system of reckoning, it is possible to slip between our realms if you find a place where the realms touch."

"I think I remember a mushroom ring in the forest... that must have been it," I responded, my wits finally coming back to me. "Are there other places like this?"

"No others containing my kind. However, I have heard rumors of another similar weakness between realms that may sometimes occur in the area you would know as Nektulos Forest," she replied.

I then asked the obvious question any wood elf ranger would ask when confronted with a tree spirit elder, "Can I assist in any way?"

I was in luck! "We do actually have a recurring problem at present," she began. "Pollution from your realm is slowly seeping into ours, and aggregating in the lower levels here, where it's making some of us ill. If you could investigate the problem, it would be a help."

"I would be happy to assist," I told the Elder. And with a wave goodby, I followed the path down to the pool at the bottom of the grotto. I found sickened tree spirits surrounding the pool and ugly brown manifestations of pollution both on the shore and in the water. I destroyed all the manifestations I could find and then worried about how to save the pollution-tainted dryads. Maybe if I could collect water from the water spirits of the pool the purity of their being would counteract the filth affecting the tree spirits.

I started to collect drops of water from the water spirits along the edge of the pool, but I could tell it wasn’t enough. So I put on the old fishbone earring that grants me water-breathing and dove under the water to find more water spirits. After collecting what I hoped was enough water, I started back to the dryads. I placed a drop on the forehead of the first tainted tree-spirit and watched as the water purified the dryad. Excited that the solution worked, I quickly went to the rest of the dryads and cured them of the taint. My work done, I quickly walked back up the trail to the Elder to tell her the good news.

"I believe I have cleaned up all the pollution for now," I told the Elder.

"Thank you for your assistance," the dryad Elder told me. "Please accept this small token of appreciation." I reached out and took the elemental token she gave me. Receiving an item from such an august personage was almost as big an honor as having the chance to serve her.

I retraced my steps back to where I woke up and found another small mushroom ring with a purplish haze over it. Now knowing what the ring was for, I stepped into the ring and was transported back to Archer’s Wood. Armed with the knowledge that another such ring existed in Nek, I began a trip to that forest to see where that mushroom ring would take me.

All of the dialog in the story above came from the quest. The clues to find the next mushroom ring came from reading what the Tree spirit Elder told me. For those who are interested, a total of five mushroom rings exist. They are located in:

  • Archer's Wood in Antonica
  • The broken mage spire in Nektulos Forest
  • Near the spire in the Enchanted Lands. Take a right off the docks and if you get to the spire you've gone to far.
  • Near the Sullian faries in Darklight Woods.
  • Near the nursery in Greater Faydwar.

According to the notes I found, they will appear in the game around the 20th of each month. If anyone knows how to tell when they appear in game without having to make a visit to Archer’s Wood every day, please let me know.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: June 14-20, 2009

Last week saw the launch of EverQuest 2's Game Update 52. The sad fact is that aside from doing the quests to get access to Kurn's Tower and the new live event involving mushroom rings, I haven't done any of the new content. At least I made it to the research assistant to start upgrading my combat arts.

A look at my site traffic shows that people using the search term "eq2 research assistant" are driving high amounts of traffic to the blog. Okay, not Tobold-type traffic, but high traffic for me. And while I haven't played EQ2 as much as I would like, I've still been able to blog and listen to podcasts.

Here is what I listened to last week.

First Time Listen

In-Game Chat, The No Balls Episode
- Last week I wrote that I'm not really into podcasts about console games, and I think the In-Game Chat podcast just confirmed that view. The podcast is a weekly (I think) podcast about console games. I really couldn't get into the podcast because unlike the other podcasts I listen to, I didn't hear any talk about MMOs. To be fair, I stopped listening to the podcast after the first hour, so the podcast could have gotten better during the second hour.

The In-Game Chat podcast is a long-running podcast dating back to January 2006 that should have an adult rating due to language. It tends to run long (The No Balls Episode ran almost 2 hours). If you like console games, you might want to at least listen to an episode and come to your own conclusions. But if you are looking for a strictly MMO podcast, this is not a podcast for you.

Old Friends

Virgin Worlds #144 (Host: Not Brent) - Darren Love from Shut Up We're Talking and The Common Sense Gamer is the substitute host for this short edition of the Virgin Worlds podcast. I liked his point that EverQuest 2's research assistant sounds so much like Eve Online's time-based skill system. I've thought that, but Darren plays Eve, so his opinion counts for more.

Shut Up We're Talking #49 (Hosts: Darren and Karen) - The guests for this episode were Marty from Bullet Points Blog and Gary (Ardwulf) from Ardwulf's Lair. The two topics for the podcast were Dungeon & Dragons Online going to a free-to-play model and Gary's analysis of the player numbers on XFire. A very interesting podcast for those interested in the near term future of MMOs.

Van Hemlock #55 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - Episode 55 is the E3 special, with the news segment dominated by E3 news. After reading all the major announcements, Tim & Jon came to the sad conclusion that the lack of MMORPG news means that MMO's, despite the recent success of Free Realms, are not mainstream.

If you find the E3 news boring, don't worry, because the normal format follows. If you really want to, just fast forward until you hear Tim & Jon read listener email. Yes, this week there is a listener email segment, and both emails concerned Eve Online. For Van Hemlock's take on the show, click here.

The Instance #149 (Hosts: Scott Johnson & Randy Jordan) - In this episode, travel takes center stage as not only is Blizzard making travel easier for lower level toons but Gerp now has a hog. In addition to the quick fire question segment and the content from the regular contributors, Scott and Randy discussed WoW's servers getting their own Twitter accounts, the upcoming new battleground, a site designed to help keep players healthy, and more reaction about the use of the Recount mod.

Channel Massive #90 (Hosts: Noah, Jason & Mark) - Jason is absent as Noah and Mark are joined by Phil, a restro druid from World of Warcraft to speak about the state of WoW and other things.

Channel Massive #91 (Hosts: Noah, Jason & Mark) - Jason is absent for a second show as Mark and Noah talked about Jumpgate, Free Realms, and Age of Conan. The podcast is still funny without Jason, but I can't wait until Jason's vision quest is over.

Spouse Aggro #79 (Hosts: Beau and Leala Turkey) - In this episode the Turkeys go to a Cracker Barrel and examine the question about adults playing MMOs. For me, the subject doesn't matter so much as long as its Beau and Leala talking.

Through the Aftermath #12 (Hosts: Shawn Schuster & Jonathan Morris) - Shawn and Jonathan have their second email show as they try to catch up on their email.

Trying To Catch Up With

PODDED Podcast Season 2 Episode 5 (Hosts: Dillon Arklight and War Childe) - I don't want to jump ahead of the podcasts, so I'm taking them in order. Topics include the upcoming Alliance Tournament, factional warfare, and Dillon's lesson that flying a stealth bomber doesn't mean you can't use TeamSpeak.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

EQ2 Research Assistants: The Reality

I've received a lot of traffic from people visiting my post on how I think EverQuest 2's new research assistant mechanic should have been set up. Now that GU 52 is out, here is how SOE actually implemented the idea from the update notes.

Research Assistants have moved into many cities in Norrath. These hardworking men and women will do the research to upgrade a spell or combat art from journeyman to adept or from expert to master. They will only assist one character per account at a time and only help those level 20 or higher. Research Assistants can be found in each of the six hoods and villages of Freeport and Qeynos, Neriak, Haven, Gorowyn and Kelethin. You can ask any guard in those areas to point you in the direction of a Research Assistant if you can’t find them.

Now, if you have a expert level spell (formerly known as adept III) already scribed, you don't have to go out and buy another expert level spell to get it turned into a master. When you go to the research assistant, you will be presented with a list of spells and combat arts that you are eligible to have researched. That means you cannot start researching a spell when you are a lower level and then have master version waiting for you when you reach that level. Just be careful, because with the new spell names you might select researching a spell for a level below the one you really want. But the positive side is that once you have an expert level spell, go ahead and scribe it, because you can't get your master until you do.

Having actually visited a research assistant and seen exactly how the mechanic works, I still maintain I want one for my house. I don't like the fact that you don't have to give the research assistant the expert level spell in order to get a master, but doing that would have had serious consequences for the game's economy, so I fully understand why they did not make that a requirement.

Am I going to use the research assistant? Of course I am. I may be a bit crazy (and with 6 master craftsmen on my account, some say I'm a lot crazy) but I'm not stupid. I'm actually not going to start getting the tier 8 combat arts masters for my ranger first, however. I'm going to get those CAs from the lower levels that never have upgrades available on the broker. For example, I'm currently researching Primal Reflexes (20 days to gain 27% hate reduction), then will move on to Honed Reflexes (7 days to gain an increase in attack speed of 42 for 1 minute 20 seconds). I have 2 reasons for doing this. The first is that I can get 2 useful master-level CAs in the time it will take me to gain 1 tier 8 master. The second is that during this time I might either see a tier 8 master drop or the prices on the broker might drop far enough so that I can pick one up cheap.

Update: You can stop a research assistant from researching a spell. When you do, you apply 1/3 of the time the research assistant spent researching the first upgrade to the next upgrade you want to research.

Related Post: EQ2 Research Assistants My Way

Thursday, June 18, 2009

GU 52: Poison Loss and AAXP Gain

Patch day in any game is a time of wonder and dread and Tuesday’s launch of GU 52 in EverQuest 2 was no exception. I logged into my woodworker and racked up server discoveries by making the new bows until work called. An hour and a half later I was able to return to the game but a quick search of the broker told me someone else had had the same idea I had so I switched to my main character to do a little adventuring.

I decided that with the limited time I had left I would forgo battling the invasion in Kunark and just do the faction crafting quests in the Moors of Ykesha. I discovered two things. The first is that all my poison damage proc’d for 1200 damage. No more, no less. Given what I read on the forums, that worked as expected. I wasn’t pleased, but it was expected. The reason I was not pleased is that during my testing before Tuesday, my average poison damage was 1316 a proc. Why the loss? Was it the change to Toxic Expertise or did intelligence no longer affect poison? I had heard whispers that intelligence would no longer be a valuable stat for rangers, and I was beginning to suspect why.

But I needed to do the crafting quests, so I continued on and completed the Survivor Accord and Tupta quests and picked up the Grobb quest to do Wednesday. I was pleasantly surprised at my AAXP gain. On Monday I received about 2% of an AA point gain (I’m at 183 AA points) for completing each faction crafting quest. With GU 52, I received about 3.5%. I had heard that the conversion rate for combat experience to alternate achievement experience was really boosted, but I didn’t know that the crafting quests would receive such a boost.

Inspired by the amount of AA I received for the crafting quests, I decided to stay up past my bedtime and test the combat xp to achievement xp conversion. My test was doing the four Qeynos city writs in Jarsath Wastes. As I posted Tuesday, before the game update I received 1.5% AA gain by doing the quests as a level 80 character with 183 AA points. On Tuesday night, I received between 4.5% - 5% of AA experience gain. So from my little test, I think I received 3 times the AA experience gain for killing mobs after the game update went live than before. With this change I think gaining the Bellywumper faction to get into Kurn's Tower won't be so painful after all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

EQ2's GU52 - Toxic Expertise and XP Conversion

I heard it from a halfling that EverQuest 2's new game update, Monument and Might (aka GU52) is coming out today. I've already discussed the item proc nerf and research assistants so instead I'll look at two other subjects I'm interested in: Toxic Expertise and the XP conversion to AAXP for level 80 characters.

As a ranger, the change that may most affect me is the change of the Toxic Expertise passive ability in the Predator's Intelligence line from being an increased chance to crit spell damage (and thus poison) to taking away poison being able to crit and just having the ability add a straight percentage increase to poison damage. As a test, I attacked training dummies in my guild's hall and using Expert's Caustic Poison my average poison damage for 420 poison procs was 1316. Once the GU goes live, I'll conduct a similar test and see what the rate is. Perhaps I should have done more testing, but Expert's poisons are kind of expensive even when I make them myself.

Now, I should add that the test was conducted with no items that increase my spell damage crit percentage. Unlike a lot of players, I only wore one piece of jewelry that increased my spell damage crit percentage on a regular basis, so I figure my dps is going to take less of a hit than most players who min/maxed their toons.

The other item I'm going to look closely at is the conversion of regular experience to alternate achievement experience for level 80 characters. Right now I am at 183 AA points and with approximately 20 weeks to go til the next expansion, I'm wondering if I will hit the 200 point cap before November. If the conversion rate is significantly increased, I may start grinding out the Qeynos writs in Jarsath Wastes. Believe it or not, after almost three years of playing the game I still need a lot of faction with the Qeynos city guilds. Doing those quests would give me three benefits: gaining Qeynos faction, status for the guild and decent AAXP. I don't mind grinding so much if I am accomplishing multiple goals.

To establish a baseline I completed all four of the Qeynos city writs yesterday and found that my AAXP gain was only 1.5%. I'll be interested to see what the gain is the next time I log into EQ2.

That's all for now. I'll probably post the results next Tuesday. I'll try for Thursday, but I have the feeling that real life is going to get in the way.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: June 7-13, 2009

Yikes! I only listened to 3 podcasts last week? No wonder I was in such a bad mood. Podcasts are one of those things that helps me take my mind away from work, along with reading and playing EverQuest 2. Looking back, I didn't do any podcast listening on the train going to and from work. Instead, I was thinking about what I was either going to do at work or what had happened at work during the day. Ugh!

But enough whining about wasted time. Here's what I did (or wanted to) listen to last week.

(Almost) First Time Listen

Gamers With Jobs Conference Call #139 - I was going to listen to this podcast not only because I have heard it referenced favorably in a couple of podcasts, but because Michael Zenke was making a return appearance. The fact that the discussion was about E3 was a bonus. I believe the GWJ Conference Call is usually focused on console and non-MMORPG PC games so it is something I normally wouldn't listen to. But the purpose of this segment is to force me to expand my horizons.

Old Friends

The Instance #148 (Hosts: Scott Johnson & Randy Jordan) - The premier World of Warcraft podcast covered the first kill of Algalon and the guilds who try to gain world and server firsts, druid skin changes, Activision/Blizzard's press conference at E3, and a gold seller's unique method of advertising. Don't forget all the additional content provided from contributors. I am really becoming a fan of Steve "Buxley" Pietrowicz.

Free Game Podcast #20 (Hosts: Riknas and Andras) - Riknas and Andras are back with lots of F2P news and a review of Crowns of Power.


Massively Speaking #56 (Host: Shawn Schuster) - In this episode Shawn is joined by WoW.com's Mike Schramm as they review their time at this year's E3 conference. Shawn gives Mike a lot of air time as Mike got a little excited about the upcoming games for this year and beyond. When a major game conference like E3 or GDC comes around, I usually try to listen to Massively Speaking before listening to the other podcasts, unless Brent comes out with a Virgin Worlds podcast first.

Partially Listened To

Van Hemlock #55 (Hosts: Tim Dale & Jon Shute) - A week go by without mentioning Van Hemlock? Like that would ever happen. I would have finished listening to this 1 hour 40 minute podcast but real life got in the way and I had to make some money instead.

Episode 55 is an E3 special with Jon informing Tim of all the events that Tim didn't hear about, which seems to be everything. That E3-proof bunker under the hills of England that Tim was hiding in was pretty effective.

Friday, June 12, 2009

GU 52 Coming Out Week of June 15

The new senior producer of EverQuest 2, Alan "Brenlo" Crosby, posted that the next game update, Monument and Might, will come out the week of June 15. Given that game updates, usually come out on Tuesday's, I'd plan on the game update being posted to the live servers on June 16. Here are some quotes from Brenlo from the forum thread.

When GU 52 will be released:

Game is doing well. Monument and Might comes next week with lots of goodies. I need coffee. PVP Server merge is coming *soon* (after Fan Faire sometime). Rangers are being nerfed (okay not really). All is right with the world other than those cats and dogs living together. . .


On the alt restrictions for research assistants. On this, I'm guessing that players don't like the fact that only 1 spell/combat art can be researched on an account at a time.


I will check on the reasoning behind the ALT restriction and if I get some good info, I will post it in one of the other threads that already exist on RA.


On Vox, the PvP server that is not being merged:

Vox is a tough situation for sure. What I would like to do is take some time to look at PVP rewards etc . . and see if we cannot make some improvements to the experience. THen we might see some growth on Vox. We have a designer currently going through the PVP items and finding the "suck" and working to see what we can do to beef em up, so to speak.

I do not see us allowing moves from Vox anytime soon though, nor forcing all PVP players to play on an Exchange enabled server.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

WoW Video - Taylor Swift and LightonRox

I've written before that I like country music. One of the up-and-coming artists that I like is a young lady named Taylor Swift. Not only do I like her music, but I like her story. How many other singers have ever released an album at the age of 16 on which she wrote or co-wrote every song and watched that album go triple-platnum? She was also the youngest writer to win the Nashville Songwriters Association International's Songwriter/Artist of the Year award and the youngest to win the Country Music Association's Album of the Year award.

Why do I bring up all of Taylor's accomplishments and stress her youth? Because of the young lady who's work I found when I was looking for Taylor Swift WoW videos. Her YouTube handle is LightonRox and according to her site she's only 14. Despite her age (or maybe because of it) she has produced some pretty good work. Being a Taylor Swift fan, I'll link two of LightonRox's videos, Love Story & You Belong With Me, here. Enjoy.



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Allure of Eve

In the world of MMORPGs, the fantasy setting, led by World of Warcraft, dominates the landscape. But a small independent company has bucked the trend of games losing players over time and now dominates the science fiction genre of MMOs, surpassing game studios like NCSoft (Tabula Rosa) and Sony Online Entertainment (Star Wars Galaxies) to a point that it now rivals fantasy MMOs like Warhammer Online in subscription numbers. That game, of course, is CCP’s Eve Online. Eve, famous for being a one-shard world, is on the verge of opening a second world for players from China. If projections are accurate, opening the game to China could make Eve one of the largest Western MMOs of any genre.

What is so special about Eve that leads players to want to play the game? I’m sure that people who have played the game can start ticking off all the features that keeps them playing or keeps them coming back. But what draws those people into the game? As one of those people looking at the game wondering if I should play, my perspective might shed some light on what makes Eve so attractive.

It’s Space! – I’m not saying I’m old, but I was 4 years old when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the Moon. At the same time I became a fan of a series called Star Trek and later on the Star Wars trilogy (the good one). From there I started reading authors like Asimov & Heinlein, Drake & Pournell, and love David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. How could I not be intrigued with a game like Eve?

The Challenge Starts At The BeginningEve has a reputation for having a steep learning curve. I’m not saying that the game is hard to learn (because I’ve never played) but players have set up a university in the game to help players learn to play once they get past the tutorial. Eve is not World of Warcraft, where for many players the game begins at level 80. The game is challenging from the first day, or so I’m told.

The Journey Is The Game – If you look over at my Bartell Gaming Profile, I rank extremely high as an explorer. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I really like the journey to the end game. I don’t like the end game. As far as I know, if Eve has no end game. At least that’s what Tim & Jon said on Van Hemlock #52.

The Economy – I’m a player who signed up for SOE’s Station Access so I could make an alt for each crafting class in EverQuest 2. As much as I like crafting and the broker in EQ2, Eve really intrigues me. CCP actually has a staff economist who is a PhD. The ability to move around from market to market is really attractive. I wonder if I could play with the big boys in Eve.

Skills, Not Classes – From what I’ve heard, Eve is all about gaining skills, whether it is mining, gunnery or ship handling. So I can be anything I want as long as I train properly. That is sort of the attraction of Runes of Magic, where you can be two adventure classes and various skills in all crafting classes, and Free Realms where you can be any class you want as long as you have a member account.

Space Ships Instead Of Avatars – I know that a lot of Eve players would like to have avatars that can leave their ships and wander around space stations. But the idea of being able to change your identity by changing your ship has an appeal to someone who has been playing MMOs for about 4 years now. In EQ2, you can go to the barber for superficial changes, while in both EQ2 and World of Warcraft you can spend real money to really make changes. In Eve, "just" train up and buy a different class of ship.

Now, I have a lot I still want to accomplish in EQ2 so I won’t be starting up Eve anytime soon. From what I’ve heard, I should take a week off of work to really get a good start. And some of what I’ve written above may be completely na├»ve. But I’ve never played; I’m just like the kid at the candy store window looking at all the goodies inside.

Update: Sometimes I really need to read closer. The post from the Eve forums (at least, I think it's from the Eve forums) I read about Eve's Serenity server was from last year, and the OP got some more things wrong. If I would have read the rest of the thread, I would have gotten some facts straight. But I've been interested on and off in China's space program since they put a man in orbit when I was writing my political blog over 5 years ago and I wonder if their space program fills China with the same fascination America felt back in the 60s.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

What I've Been Listening To: May 31 - June 6, 2009

I think I finally caught up with my podcast listening last week. I'm now encountering another problem. How do I keep everything straight? My memory is slipping and I'm not sure I captured everything correctly. I'm going to have to start carrying around a notebook in order to make sure I don't miss any of the highlights.

Here is what I listened to last week.

First Time Listen


PODDED Podcast Season 2 Episode 3 and Episode 4 (Hosts: Dillon Arklight and War Childe) - I heard that the Eve Online-based PODDED Podcast was back up and running after a long hiatus, so I headed over to the site to check it out. The lastest episode of the PODDED Podcast is episode 5, but I was intrigued by the show notes for episode 3. Five motherships destroyed in a single fleet action? I don't play Eve myself, but I've heard enough to know that is a lot of motherships.

I think the hosts are aiming for what I think of as the BBC-style of news presentation. I think that style works well when talking about game updates and dev blogs, but I don't like that style when talking about fleet actions. I liked the excitement that crept in when Dillon described the fleet action in which a first-time fleet commander made the decisions that led to the destruction of 5 enemy motherships and a carrier.

I liked episode 3 enough that I downloaded episode 4. In episode 4 the hosts talked about a major capital ship battle between the Northern Coalition vs. WTF involving up to 1000 pilots and a battle between corporations who just recently had been alliance mates.

I've been looking for a good Eve podcast to listen to and I think I've finally found it. The major difference between this podcast and others I've listened to is how the hosts describe the space combat. I think PODDED is geared toward a more general audience while a podcast like Fly Reckless is more geared toward Eve players.


Old Friends

Shut Up We're Talking #48 (Hosts: Darrin & Karen) - This episode came out a bit late, but that's about all I have bad to say about it. The guests were Jonathan from Through the Aftermath and Randolph from Grinding to Valhalla. The topics discussed were the demise of The Matrix Online and what it means for the Sony Station Access concept and a revisit of the avatar discussion from episode #47.

The show ended with Randolph asking questions of Darrin, Karen, and Jonathan somewhat similar to what he asks on his blog. After listening to Randolph's segment, I think podcasters should not only take part in the Valhalla project but invite him as a guest if it doesn't break the format of a podcast.

Van Hemlock #52 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - My favorite podcasters from across the pond produced another news/what we've played podcast, with the twitter question being "L44 in CoH and the end is in sight! Which MMOs, if any, have you level capped in and what happened next?" For Van Hemlock's take on the show, click here.

Van Hemlock #54 (Hosts: Tim Dale and Jon Shute) - The show begins with Tim proclaiming that the closing of The Matrix Online is not his fault since he never played the game. From there the hosts run through both console and MMO news, with an amusing detour to Goonswarm research in Eve Online. Episode #54 was a topic show, and the topic was SecureROM and other anti-piracy software that makes playing games harder for the honest gamer. The twitter question was "Which new MMOs are you waiting for and how patient are you?" For Van Hemlock's take on the show, click here.

The Instance #147 (Hosts: Scott Johnson and Randy Jordan) - More news and entertainment from Scott & Randy. I just have to say I liked Scott and Randy's response to the listener who wrote in about wanting to use a power leveling service because leveling in World of Warcraft is too hard.

Spouse Aggro #77 (Hosts: Beau and Leala Turkey) - In episode 77 the Turkeys discuss Beau's return to Vanguard to play the free trial area. At the end, the discussion shifts to Leala's guild engaging in a little role play.

Channel Massive #88
(Hosts: Noah, Jason & Mark) - I hope the M Team doesn't take offense, but I haven't really noticed a difference in the format since the big format change introduced in episode #86. In other words, the show is amusing to downright funny with some adult language included. And of course, Blog-O-Steria remained! The M Team took aim at statements made by a forum moderator for Star Wars: The Old Republic stating that homosexuality does not exist in the Star Wars universe.

Channel Massive #89 (Hosts: Noah, Jason & Mark) - The M Team + Richard Garriott equals humor. Throw in a discussion of the Darkfall/EuroGamer fight and Tipa's associated rant and I had a podcast I enjoyed listening to.

EQ2's-day Show from May 19, 2009 (Hosts: Dellmon and Zanadai) - Dellmon returned from a work-induced absence to hear Zan tell him about her adventures while he was away. Also find out which character class in Free Realms is based on Dellmon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The New Player Race In Runes Of Magic Is Elves

With the number of people visiting my blog to find out what the new player race will be in Runes of Magic, I did a little investigating. The answer is ... elves.

Yes, my favorite race will hit Runes of Magic with the release of Chapter II of Runes of Magic - The Elven Prophecy. The announcement was made at E3, and here is what Frogster posted over at the the Runes of Magic site.

We are proud to announce Chapter II of Runes of Magic - The Elven Prophecy. Release of Chapter II is planned for September in 2009, and completely FREE! During the Electronic Entertainment Expo
(E3) in Los Angeles, we already showed parts of the first new content coming out in August, like the new region "Weeping Coast." With this first addition, the level cap will be raise to level 52. (and then raise to level 55 in September)


As the name already suggests, one of the main elements of "Chapter II - The Elven Prophecy" will be the introduction of the Elves as a playable race. Coming along with a huge new background story, new regions and many new quests.

According to the legends, demons of human origin - having degenerated into underworld beings under the influence of the runes - forged an alliance with the nagas in ancient times. Together, these evil forces brought war and devastation to the world of Taborea. An alliance of elves and humans succeeded in banishing the demons into the void and drove back the Nagas behind a magical wall. However, when elven prince 'Sig'aylas' removed the holy sword 'Arclight' from the wall to defend his human truelove, the wall
perished and the naga threat flared up once again.


You probably heard that there are two new character classes coming along with Chapter II, but here is more info: These two classes will add in as a perfectly addition to the already huge possibilities of the dual class system.


It looks like I'll have to make a visit back to RoM to see how the game has changed.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

EQ2 Research Assistants My Way

Research Assistant. Those two words are causing so much angst on the EverQuest 2 forums. A lot of players, mainly raiders, are upset with the ability of casual players to obtain tier 8 master-level spells and combat arts by purchasing or making the adept 3 version of the spell/combat art, giving the adept 3 to an NPC and receiving the master version after about 30 days. I’m upset because I cannot get one to put in my home.

If I were a developer, this is how I would implement Research Assistants.

You need a big home – If you need a home to put your AA mirror and altars in to use, then you need to put the RA in your home. But no self-respecting RA is going to settle for being stuffed into a corner. So I would require that in order to have an RA, a player must have at least a 3-room home. And you can’t just leave your rent unpaid for 3 weeks and then expect to get your spell. If you don’t pay your rent, the RA would stop working on your spell. It’s hard to work on something if the landlord has thrown you into the street.

You must equip your RA – If you really expect a research assistant to produce master-level spells, you must equip your RA to do the work. So a player would need to purchase either a work bench, engraved desk, or chemistry table in order to do the upgrade.

And don’t think you can get away with not feeding your research assistant! Players already feed and water their plants to get cool stuff, research assistants should be no different. So if your RA becomes hungry or thirsty, the research stops. And the food and drink must last for the actual real life time, not game played time. So if you load up your RA with 5 hour food & drink, you would only need to give your research assistant 144 food & 144 drink to last for 30 days. And to make the food and drink make sense, the tier of food & drink should the RA requires should match the tier of the spell the RA is researching. For example, if the RA is creating a tier 5 spell, the player would have to give the RA tier 5 or better food and drink. Since I’ve heard that a research assistant can make a tier 8 master spell in 27-29 days that means a player would only have to give their RA 7 stacks of food and 7 stacks of drink.

Is this proposal extreme? I don’t think so. I currently live in a 2-room apartment in the inn in North Qeynos and do not have any of the crafting stations and these requirements would lead me to expand into another area of EverQuest 2 that I’ve neglected in the past. I’m sure I’m missing a few problems that programmers would have implementing these features, but I really think my idea is really way better than what we will see in Game Update 52.

Related Post: EQ2 Research Assistants: The Reality

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on Test Notes for EQ2's GU52

Note: If you are looking for information on EQ2's GU53, I have a post here.

EverQuest 2's Test and Test Copy servers were updated last Tuesday with Game Update 52. Having thought about it for a week and read some of the arguments on the forums, here are some of my initial impressions on the upcoming content.

Kunark Overland Quests - So we get to fight a mysterious army, do we? I'm hoping these new solo quests are a prelude to the next expansion. Feldon over on EQ2 Wire says they are and has the pictures to prove it. Grouping is fun, but with my guild's schedule there is a lot of time we don't have enough players on to have a viable group to do the TSO instances. Plus, I need the alternate achievement experience.

Kurn's Tower - The exciting part of this news for me is that the instance has two difficulty settings; one set for a single group and one set for a 12-toon raid.

The Item Proc Nerf - As a going away present, former EQ2 Senior Producer dropped this little bombshell on the player community:

Fairly often the data confirms something that one of you has pointed out in a post, or in feedback, or a ticket with Customer Service, and we start looking at ways that we can correct whatever that issue is. There is not a one of us who enjoys putting something into the game that eventually needs to be "nerfed", but at times changes get in that end up doing something completely unexpected, despite our testing. Even the mostinnocuous item or change can make a significant difference in a game with the complexity of an MMO, especially with the size and scope of EQII.

This is the situation we've run into now. We've discovered that with the items that we released with The Shadow Odyssey, that proc additional damage, the amount of damage being caused has grown considerably, and we need to adjust it. So, in the next game update, we're going to be adjusting to the way triggered procs on items work.

The first change of note is that we're removing critical damage from the item's base proc. This will help us even out damage from the items we've already released, and also assist us in maintaining a standard going forward.

The next thing you'll see in this update is that the values of the procs can no longer be modified, with a few notable exceptions like achievements or item set enhancements. Generic bonuses will no longer apply to triggered damage generated from items. This will allow us to move forward with creating items that can have higher damage item procs in the future.

Predators will see a change to Toxic Expertise, The spell will now improve the base damage of poisons. We're also making adjustments to the Death Mark and Inspired Daring spell lines so that they trigger melee attacks instead of spell based attacks. This is to refocus the combat art back to improved poison damage, rather than the spell crit damage it has been doing.

We recognize that these are substantial changes. We wouldn't be making them if we didn't feel that things were currently unbalanced, and becoming more so as the game continues to grow. These changes will bring the item procs and spells back to a reasonable standard.
I don't know what to think about this yet. As a ranger, will the change to Toxic Expertise mean I will not lose any dps? The math seems to indicate this. In that case, poison damage will be pretty steady and the lack of critical poison hits may actually help me manage aggro better. But since this also affects healers, I'm wondering if my small guild's 5-toon trips into some of the TSO instances is about to come to an end.

Research Assistants - If the item proc changes are not the most controversial item in GU 52, then that title belongs to the new Research Assistants. Here are the details as compiled by Arbreth on the EQ2 forums.

Answers below are from Kirstie (the lead game mechanics developer)...

Where this is at this time? GU52 will probably hit the test servers on the week of the 18th, and this feature is slated to be part of that. Once it goes to the test server we'll be looking for feedback again on the specifics of the implementation which should be fully spelled out then.

How to get it? The research assistants are going to be moving out into the world instead of staying in people's homes. You'll find them in many of the places where you would have previously bought App II's. There is
also a good chance that we'll be adding a research assistant as a guild hall amenity either in 52 or future update.

What if I get the spell as a drop before the RA is done? As it is implemented now, if you change what the researcher is working on you'll be refunded one third of the days he's been working on the spell. So if he's been
working 10 days on a spell you'll get 3 days back (it's rounded down) to apply to the next thing you want to research whether he's part way through the research or all finished.

How long for a spell? A level 80 upgrade from Adept III to Master I is set to take about 30 real life days to complete. Even if we don't get a full 30 days on test, there are a lot of other levels of upgrades I'm hoping people will try on test to help us make sure its working correctly (range is 1 to 30 days). The time spent researching a spell is based on the spell level, not the player level.

What are the requirements to get a spell? There were a few changes made between my initial post and now. The primary one is that we removed the tradeskilled versions of spells and combat arts from the progression of the research assistants. This means that in order to use the research assistant you will have to have scribed one of the tradeskilled versions (APP IV or Adept III) of the spell/ca you want to research.

How many can you get? Each account can have one character working with the research system at a time. The only exception is if you have characters on separate servers. Antonia Bayle researchers don't talk to Sebilis researchers so one account could have one character on each server researching.

Right now there is no limit on how many you can get other than the time investment. Getting all the spell upgrades for a full account of characters would take a long time.

What is the cost per spell? The only cost associated with the RA is acquiring the previous tier of the spell (Journeyman or Expert) and the time required by the Research Assistant to finish your upgrade.

One other thing alluded to was the veteran rewards system. Currently you only acquire time towards your veteran rewards while you have an active subscription. In the past it has had some problems, but the RAs are using the same logic to find out how far you are in researching your spell as we use in determining veteran reward time. In the process of implementing the RAs we've cleaned up some of the bugs that system had.

Does this mean we can upgrade "masters" to "grand masters"? Nope. The Master II system is not being touched right now. You'll get Master II's or "Grand Masters" as they will soon be called the same way as you did previously.

To tell you the truth, I'm really disappointed in the fact we will not have research assistants in our homes. Besides the fact that requiring a player to have to work to get a research assistant shouldn't be too much effort to ask of players who want to obtain their masters, I really wanted something new and cool to put in my apartment.

What I'm wondering about this new system is can it help players level? In particular, I'm thinking about the pet classes who get charged an arm, a leg, and their first born child for all of their pet spells. Getting master level spells for pets would make leveling much easier. But how about just the upgrades from apprentice IV to adept 1 spells while levelling? Due to the requirements of transmuters, adept I spells are rather expensive.

Shadow System - Yes, I know this isn't content, but the fact that shadows will be built on the computer's graphics card instead of the CPU should lead to not only better in-game graphics but better performance as well.

Spell Renaming - In a move to simplify the game, all the spells are being renamed. I'm pretty sure this will require all players to modify their macros. On the plus side, any bets crafters will get disco credit for making the first of the new spells?

User Books - Yawn.

TSO Faction Quests - The faction quests in Tupta, Grobb and Firmroot Moot will now award more faction. All I can say is it is about time.

Tradeskills - GU 52 once again proves that Domino loves us, and not just because she is working on getting us peacock feathers. From her sticky post in the Tradeskill Forums...

Stuff to look forward to, coming soon:

Level 50+ Sages will soon be able to make a set of notebooks, which can hold user-created content (see Rothgar's EQII blog post and the related forum thread for more information about this).

Carpenters may find it worthwhile to investigate -- or send their friends to investigate -- the Estate of Unrest a little more closely.

Tailors will see some changes to their hex dolls, which include a much reduced casting time, stat increase, and a set bonus for the mastercrafted ones.

Woodworkers and tailors will see their ranged weapons (bows, satchels, bandoliers, etc.) get a stat upgrade also!

Adventurers may find some small goodies in the new Charasis West wing, including perhaps a couple small
goodies for provisioners.

A few minor changes to the void tradeskill instance that folks have been asking for... including a slightly more satisfying ending, and more harvests per click.
For a good preview of the crafting changes (with lots of pretty pictures) visit Niami Denmother over at EQ2 Traders.