Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Confessions of a Grey Shard Runner: Implementation

One of the more amusing memes that circulated through the official EverQuest 2 forums is that players doing grey shard runs are expending no effort and taking no risk to get their tier 1 and tier 2 shard armor. I will grant that players with good gear and have kept up their combat arts and spells will experience little risk in doing the missions with the zones set so the mobs are grey (level 69 and below if you’re party consists of level 80 toons). During the time I was gearing up, I only died in combat 5 times. But no effort?

I performed 3 major tasks to get my shard gear. The first task involved getting all 4 of the Far Seas Strategic Pricing Guides to get the recipes I wanted. The recipe books are only found as chest drops when completing a trade skill instance. My guild found through experimentation that 3 member parties are the optimum size to do the instances, when comparing drop rates vs. time spent in the instances. The instances can also be soloed, although you really need to be good or you’ll be in the instances for hours. My first time soloing a trade skill instance took me over 3 hours. My fastest time to solo a trade skill instance is 2 hours 6 minutes while two members of the guild were able to do the instances under 1 hour 45 minutes. I’m estimating that I spent 15-20 hours doing the trade skill instances.

The next step in the process was to run the shard missions with the instances set to level 50-66. To do this requires what my guild calls a mentor bot. A mentor bot is a character that stays in either The Commonlands or Everfrost and is available to join a group to set the zone to a low level and is usually an alt of someone in the party doing the grey shard run. The mechanics of using the mentor bot run something like this. The party goes to the quest giver and gets the shard missions. The player with the mentor bot logs onto the mentor bot while the other party members go to the entrance of the instance. The mentor bot is then invited to the group, mentored and the party then enters the zone, setting the zone to the level of the mentor bot. The player with the mentor bot then logs into the adventuring character and the shard run can begin. We only had one problem: no level 50 mentor bots.

Do you remember in an earlier post that I mentioned that I am in a crafting guild? Well, when players were allowed into the beta for The Shadow Odyssey, all of our attention was on all the cool crafting content coming out. So the guild didn’t have a level 50 alt we could mentor to. I did have a level 31 character that we discovered could set the Befallen instances to level 50, but the instances in Everfrost required characters that actually were 50. For a while we mentored someone who was nice enough to stay logged in with his level 60-something character, but that ended once he turned 66 or 67. So while most people were fighting level 52-53 mobs, a good portion of the time my guildie and I were duo’ing level 63-67 level mobs. Let me tell you, those mobs were severely under conned! We finally stopped when we fought the named beholder in Anathema when it was green. We beat it after only wiping once (and neither of us with a full set of tier one gear or epic weapons!), but that was the end of mentoring our kind-hearted tier 7 guildie.

So that led to the third task: creating a level 50 alt. Remember how we were using a level 31 character to set the zones in Befallen? He was my paladin, and I wasn’t about to try leveling him without betraying him to Freeport to become a shadowknight. So I started to work on a level 22 necromancer that I liked. Notice I said I liked the character. That meant not power-leveling my necromancer and trying to get a good amount of alternate achievement experience. After 28 days and probably 30 - 35 hours played I finally had a level 50 mentor bot. Once we had our mentor bot, we were able to do 2-4 shard runs a night instead of 1-2 shard runs. Also, the shard runs went a lot faster, since we were fighting toons 12-15 levels lower than before. Believe it or not, even though the mobs were still grey, it mattered, and we noticed the difference.

So how much effort did I put into obtaining my shard gear? Well, first I spent 15-20 hours of the effort obtaining the recipes to make the shard armor. And I spent 30-35 hours leveling a mentor bot. The big question is how long did it take to do an average shard mission? Well, right before Kiara made the announcement of grey shard runs being an exploit, our group had grown to 5 people and with two of us with fabled epics and three of us in tier 2 armor we averaged 10 minutes a mission. That time includes travel between the instances and doing the mentor bot dance. I’ll use that average for the period when I was duo’ing (and occasionally trio’ing near the end) the content to get my void shards for the gear. So let’s see. To craft all 6 pieces of the tier 2 armor took 150 shards. 150 x 10 minutes = 25 hours. Add in the full set of Trueshot jewelry, the Gem of Farseeing, and a minor piece of jewelry I made and that time goes up to 35 hours. So what was my total time acquiring my shard gear? I’m estimating 80-90 hours. Did someone say I spent no effort obtaining my gear? I’m not claiming to have faced a lot of risk, but I expended no effort? I supposed you have some ocean-front property in Arizona you’d like to sell me too.

Previous posts:
Confessions of a Grey Shard Runner: Justification
Confessions of a Grey Shard Runner: Motivation

Next post:
Confessions of a Grey Shard Runner: Epilogue

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