Big Tradeskilling Changes

Along with many other changes, these notes showed up on the test servers today:

  • Four new crafting abilities have been discovered: apothecary, weaving, timbercraft, and geomancy. These skills allow all artisans to refine the materials and components needed to make final products. New recipe books can be found on merchants or scattered throughout Norrath which teach you how to use these skills. Artisans automatically gain 5 points per level in these skills.
  • New events and reaction arts have been created for apothecary, weaving, timbercraft, and geomancy. Reaction arts for these skills are based on thaumaturgy, binding, woodcraft, and geocraft. These skills increase through use. The higher your skill level, the better your chances of creating higher-quality items.
  • All tradeskill recipes now require a new type of fuel at each tier. Fuel cost increases with level.
  • A bug causing certain artisan-related skills to be 5 points too high has been corrected.
  • The Advanced Scholar 15 book has been added to the appropriate loot drops.
  • The biggest and most controversial change is that washes, oils, resins, and tempers (WORT) will no longer be the exclusive province of the alchemist. All classes that need them will be able to make them, using new abilities and reaction arts. This implies that the are different recipes, as well.

    I haven’t seen definitive data on this yet, but I’d like to know whether all tradeskillers can make WORTs in the same volumes that alchemists can. I can easily imagine a recipe that only produced in quantities of 2 or 3 at the highest quality tier. So while you can produce your own, the alchemist can do it more cheaply, which gives a reason for trade to occur. I hope that’s what happens. If I find out more, I’ll post about it. Word is that the changes to interdependence don’t affect everything you expect to get from other tradeskillers, just the basic refines. So perhaps everyone who needs lumber can make it. And everyone who needs to refine carbonite can make it. Inks will still be exclusive to alchemists beyond tier 2. I’m not sure where this leaves sages. Will they be able to make paper? I hope so.

    This is fairly disappointing to those like me who recently decided not to become a sage based on the difficulty we saw the sage class would have in leveling. Of course, that also means it was probably a good idea to fix it. I’d love to see some statistics on the numbers of different classes. It seems that alchemists clearly had too much to do.

    Another major change has to do with the new fuel requirements. This seems aimed at a tradeskilling technique known we’ll call cancellation. If a combine is stopped before the first progress bar is completed, only the fuel is lost, and no combine is produced. If you are attempting a difficult combine with expensive primary or secondary components, this is an invaluable technique. Whenever you get less than satisfactory results at the beginning of a combine, cancel it and try again. At the moment, this costs 6 copper. So you go for it. It might even make sense to hold out for a complete string of successes in the first tier, cancelling at the first -50 to durability.

    But now the cost of fuel is level dependent. Cancellation just became a lot more expensive. Whether you will do it or not depends on how valuable your primary components are in comparison, and how important it is to get to pristine. If you are making stuff for a secondary slot, where quality doesn’t matter, then you probably won’t bother. If you are making an item from a rare drop, you most certainly WILL bother, even when you are consuming 3 fuel per try.

    There are a few store-bought components for poisons and essences; the prices on these have been reduced, probably to rebalance the costs of poisons and essences. The message is clear, alchemists should be focusing on making potions, poisons, and essences, not WORT. If they aren’t, it’s a sign that game design goals are not being met, and adjustment is needed. But nobody likes being the ball being hit by the nerf bat.

    No More Camping

    Deep in the bowels of Lower Guk stood a minotaur. A monk sits quietly, contemplating the minotaur. After many hours, the minotaur leaves and in his place is a human monk, Raster of Guk. Our hero quickly rises and challenges him, defeating him, and bringing back the fruit of his patience, Raster’s headband. This item is essential to completing the monk’s epic quest, a hallmark of player skill and accomplishment.

    Defeating Raster requires that you be there when he spawns, and be capable of defeating him. Since many monks report an accumulation of 30 or more hours spent waiting for Raster to spawn, that means that you either need to be able to defeat him in single combat, or be able to persuade a group to put up with that much boredom for your sake. Especially since as the game was expanded, few players ever ventured into Lower Guk, as better zones to gain loot and experience entered the game.

    Camping. What a pain.

    There were other types of camping. Since mana regeneration was faster sitting rather than standing, there was a big advantage to parking the group somewhere close to mobs, but out of the path of wanderers and having the casters stay seated. Except while casting.

    Under such conditions groups often became territorial. Most players followed a first-come, first-serve policy, and if they saw you parked by a Dervish Cuthroat camp, they would ask if you had space or move on. But some would set up in competition. The concept of a camp was never endorsed by the GM’s, and was probably unenforceable anyway.

    In order to advance quests, certain drops from certain mobs were necessary, perhaps in number. Also certain good items dropped off of certain rare mobs.

    Camping is pretty much dead in Everquest 2. May it rest in peace.

    In the first place, sitting confers no advantage to standing in regenerating health or power. So there’s no reason not to move.

    In the second place, power and health regenerate so fast after a battle that groups are ready to fight again long before the encounter they just killed will respawn. And since in-combat movement is never really any faster than the mob’s movement speed, long pulls are much more of a problem. So there is a reason to move on.

    Finally, groups and raids share quest credit. With the quest system, if two players both need to kill Sabertooth oracles, and are grouped together when one drops, they both get credit for it. The quest system also has a notion of a quest drop, such as a note from a Bloodsaber. This item doesn’t take up inventory space, and again, everyone who needs it in the group or raid that killed the Bloodsaber gets credit for the drop when it drops.

    This gives a huge incentive to cooperate. I recommend that when you find yourself in competition for a spawn, you tell the others, “Hey, if we group up (or form a raid) we’ll both get credit for it on our quests when we kill the Sabertooth Captain. How about it?”

    I find this works a lot better than asking the other group if they need help. To some people this is an indirect method of asking to join. But others take the question at face value, and are miffed that there’s somebody else there competing for the spawn I need for this quest, grrrr…

    But both groups can get credit for the quest drop. Problem solved. No standing in line.

    There are a few things that are actual drops that are needed to advance quests. And loot doesn’t suddenly duplicate itself for every member of the group. However, I believe that chests drop more often as a group takes on harder mobs.

    Add to this the instancing of popular dungeons that alleviates crowding and camping is a thing of the past. And that makes us all happy campers.

    I’ve heard some complaints that some of the armor quests involve killing rare spawns, for which there is excessive demand. But I can’t tell whether those who complained are aware of the raid option and its consequences for quest kills and drops. If someone knows better, please leave a comment.

    Please and Thank You.

    Well, we high elves are the final arbiters of all things genteel, so I thought I’d spend a few minutes on a topic near and dear to my pansyboy elf heart — ettiquette.

    This is my personal take on social situations that come up in the game. I’m not into telling other people what to do, regardless of what my real-life children might think.

    Joining Groups

    I don’t ever invite someone to a group without sending a tell first. I dislike it when the invitation window pops up unnanounced, but I try not to get too excited by it. After all, the command is called “/invite”. Isn’t that an invitation? What are you, some kind of pansy elf boy? Ahem. Let’s call these “ogre” invitations, rather than “ninja” invitations, shall we?

    However, if I get an “ogre” invitation from someone I don’t know, I will have some questions for them: Where are you? What level are you? What are you planning on doing? These seem relevant.

    “What color is your armor?”, while of great interest to those fashonistas among us, is not particularly relevant to grouping. Let’s face it, when you’re killing stuff you’re gonna get dirty, so the fact that my outfit and the Iksar necromancer’s pet clash is just not gonna be all that relevant. Let’s hope nobody takes a screenshot, though.

    Next, I strive not to accept invitations to groups until I am on site with the rest of the group members. If I group with them and then generate aggro on my way to where they are, I risk giving them all some experience debt, without giving them the ability to try and keep me alive. It’s also possible that they might give ME some debt. Given that I can’t share in any experience or loot until I get there it seems a poor tradeoff.

    Mind you, I do it sometimes anyway, but mostly with guildies and friends and in places where I have little trouble with aggro. Furthermore, one can use a waypoint to find group members only when grouped, and you get the benefit of the group chat channel when grouped. But I’m very conservative in these uses of groups.

    Likewise, when a group has completed its goals and is breaking up, I leave the group. Sometimes if a buddy and I are both using call and going to tradeskill for a while, we will keep the group channel open. But especially if there are others who are going to do something else adventuresome, I disband immediately as a courtesy.

    There’s kind of a potential awkward moment there when you are disbanding a group with folks you know, such as guildies. One thing you might do is disband, and then continue a conversation in tells or guild chat, where appropriate. There are times when keeping the group open is ok, but I’m naturally conservative (after all, I’m 742 years old!) on this line.

    If you are forming a group, try to have a specific purpose. “Who wants to go to TS with me to do guild writs?” is a fine way to form groups. “Who wants to do something with me?”, seems a tad forlorn, really. It might be true, but it’s not perhaps the most attractive.

    If I’m interested in joining up with someone or an existing group, I usually offer to help them. This plays a lot better than, “Hey Fred, let’s group! You can come help me kill these mobs that are gray to you and for which you have no quest! It’ll be fun!”

    On the other hand, I really have no problem with “I could really use some help with this.” I’ve done it on occasion.

    Loot

    Some folks have the belief that if they can use a drop, and you can’t, then they should automatically get it, as a matter of custom. This is usually described as “Need before greed”, or simply NBG.

    I’m all in favor of folks being generous and considerate. But value is value. Let’s say I’m grouping with some friends and an Adept I skill upgrade drops. I can’t use it, but another group member can. While I can’t use it directly, chances are I can sell it for sufficient money to upgrade one of my skills to Adept I. As long as the distribution method is fair, why does your need take priority over my need?

    When you are in a pickup group, with people you don’t really need, this goes double. There are a few bad apples out there who might say they can use something, but there’s no way to verify it. In a group of guildies or friends there is more of an expectation that you will be grouped with these people again, so having them have better gear and skills will work in your favor. And they’d be less likely to try to deceive you about whether they “need” stuff.

    Even when I am in the context of a group of friends or guildies, I like to let the giver be a giver. If I get an upgrade or armor piece that isn’t useful to me, I might ask, “Can anyone use this?” and offer it as a present. If someone wins a drop that I want, and such a question isn’t forthcoming, I might offer to trade something for it. A gift is not a gift unless it is freely given. I am not entitled to something of yours simply by virtue of the fact that I need it.

    Tradeskilling

    The same goes for stuff that other folks tradeskill. I have been the recipient of some VERY generous gifts, but I never ask for them. The leading tradeskiller in my guild, Imhotep, has set a very generous policy: Guild members may buy anything he has in stock at cost. I like this policy and will be adopting it for my own tradeskilling. I’m also more than happy to do swaps with other tradeskillers.

    One of the things that works great here is to hand a big stack of ingredients to a tradeskiller who is a friend. Usually you will get some finished product back. Whether it’s raw foodstuffs to a provisioner, or washes, tempers, oils, and resins to a jeweler.

    Those are the main points I wanted to cover. I’m not the sort of elf who likes to go around telling other folks what to do; I just wanted to discuss my take on the whole manners thing.

    Adventure Camps

    There is a featured article on eq2players.com about something they call adventure camps. These come in many forms, but the most typical is the little group of tents that make up a gnoll camp. Each of these camps will spawn a number of encounters, and if those encounters are all cleared by a group of players, something “interesting” will happen.

    Typically, a group of more challenging gnolls spawns, and when they are defeated, the camp disappears, and something more appears. some other reward appears. In one case, we’ve seen this be a merchant who sold a book quest that I had not otherwise seen. Maybe this book appears elsewhere, who knows? The story he told was that he had been captured by the gnolls. The merchant would also let you sell. After a period of time, he disappeared, running off back to town.

    The article specifically mentions another sort of reward. A chest, that when opened, casts some sort of beneficial spell on those nearby. This happened to a couple of my guildies, Phritz and Imhotep, once. I was there, but not as close, and so I think I was unaffected. We are still stumped as to what this magic spell might have done.

    Adventure camps solve one of the problems of creating a large outdoor zone. Mobs which are placed with static spawn points and respawn timers produce play that tends to be repetitive. Camping, we call it. There’s no story to it other than a grim relentless grind. No beginning, middle or end.

    Using probably similar mechanics to harvesting nodes, camps can spawn anywhere in designated areas. They in turn spawn their first-line encounters. Then they sit there waiting for someone to take them on. Even while you are fighting them, they will respawn first-line encounters, so you have to be able to defeat them rapidly enough to get the camp boss to spawn. This will only happen if you clear the camp, although I’m not sure that all camps have bosses.

    And when the camp boss is cleared, the camp despawns. You could think of it as an encouragement to move on and do something else, since the camp will definitely not respawn in exactly the same place. Your adventure had a beginning, a climax, and a reward. That’s a big improvement over the way things used to be. You feel more like you’re having an adventure than attempting genocide.

    Adventure camps might be a very good way to slyly introduce some interesting lore, or quests into the game. It might be wise to check into them more thoroughly.

    Trappers, Totems and Guildies

    In the Feb 3 and Feb 4 updates were some changes to the way experience is calculated. First, from Feb 3:

  • We have increased the XP awarded to groups of 1 to 3 players for defeating advanced solo/small group encounters.
  • The amount of XP awarded to groups of 2 or more players for defeating normal solo encounters has been slightly reduced.
  • This allows soloers and small groups taking on challenging encounters to be rewarded with more XP than they would have previously earned.


  • There used to be a sort of hole in the experience/encounter system that made a group of 3 characters the worst possible experience group. At 3 characters experience from “Solo”-rated mobs was reduced. But the “Group”-rated mobs were often too difficult for a group of 3 to tackle at a level beyond green or perhaps blue. So SOE added the “Advanced Solo” category. Tougher mobs, and now more experience for up to 3 characters.

    Before this change, the “Solo”-rated mobs gave full experience to a duo, because there wasn’t anything else that a duo could reliably tackle. The introduction of “Advanced Solo” mobs

    has allowed SOE to back off on the experience granted to 2 players fighting normal “Solo”-rated mobs, since they can now take on the new mobs for good experience. To continue getting good experience, you will have to change what you’re fighting, though. Doing quests for the Trapper in Thundering Steppes with a duo isn’t going to be as effective as it used to be, for example.

    So, if you are in a duo or a trio, the best experience ought to be found fighting the Advanced Solo mobs. Of course, if you can handle “Group”-rated encounters at blue, more power to you!

    And in today’s update:

  • Higher level group members will no longer take a disproportionately large share of group experience splits. Previously, when one or two group members were higher level than the group’s average, they gained a much larger share of the XP than they were supposed to.
  • The blue/green range has been expanded for groups whose members are not all the same level. Depending on your group’s level range, even in groups as small as two, you now have more targets to choose from. Some encounters that were grey will now be green or even blue.
  • Since encounter con is based on the group’s level, it is conceivable that an encounter may be grey to a player while solo, but turn green when they join a group with an average level that is lower than their own.
  • The blue/green range for players in their low 20s is now significantly larger, allowing them to hunt in some of their favorite spots for longer.


  • This is good news for guildies. I’ve often seen it happen that a level 22 can come into a group made of high teens and turn their entire zone gray. Folks want to group with their friends, but don’t like it when they cost their friends experience and chest drops.

    EQ2 is designed to make the difference of a few levels mean a lot. This means that the content is somewhat compressed. The ability to gain loot and experience in one place fighting one set of mobs goes away pretty fast. I am of the opinion that this is purposeful, intended to get players to move around more, and experience more of the game.

    However, they may have overdone it. It’s very common that a mob will gray out before a quest involving rare drops from that mob can be completed. So, the changes listed above will make it possible to group with your guildies with greater difference in levels, while still encouraging you to move on by reducing the experience gain for the higher level character.

    There’s something to watch out for, though. Grouping with a lower-level character can turn gray mobs into green ones now, instead of vice-versa, as it used to do. This is probably a good thing as well. We’ve all seen that one higher-level character join a group, gray out a zone, and make everyone’s quest to see the chessboard in Stormhold easy. That trick will not work so well now.

    Instead, there’s a whole new trap for the unwary. That gray wolf standing next to you could turn green and start chewing when you accept an invitation, so be careful out there!

    Finally, what does this have to do with Totems? Well, the Chirranite Threat Totem is a chest drop in Blackburrow that is necessary to examine in order to learn the Gnollish language. A fair portion of Blackburrow just turned from gray to green for a level 20 character, and lower level characters will be able to turn even more of the zone green to a level 20.

    Tradeskill Writs Given Time Limit

    In the latest set of patches, a time limit of 30 minutes was placed on tradeskill writs. Now you can not obtain more than one tradeskill writ per 30 minutes; at least 30 minutes must have expired since an artisan obtained a previous writ.

    Anytime the game imposes an arbitrary limit on something like this, it chafes a bit, to be sure.

    However, there is a natural limit on the speed you can do adventure writs. Travel time and spawn rate. This mostly counteracts the benefit of questing together, since multiple people can get credit for the same kill. A well-organized guild can crank 6 patrons through 4 writs and be back ready to get another writ in maybe 3 hours, if the writ is in Thundering Steppes. It might be less. It will be more as they level up and have more travel time. That’s 24 writs in 3 hours, or 8 per hour. If you can get it down to 2 hours, that’s 12 writs per hour.

    Under the NEW rules, 6 crafters can produce 12 writs per hour, if they are well organized. Because the final combines will likely only take 10 of the 30 mins, there is time left over each half hour to produce the subcombines that were used up, and to walk over and get a new writ.

    If adventurers can get their writ cycle time down to 2 hours, they will be doing about 12 writs per hour, too. This really doesn’t seem broken to me. But I think 2 hours is pretty optimistic.

    A single patron funnel can perhaps crank out final combines in 10 minutes, doing 6 per hour. That’s not as good for the guild as the scheme described above. However, there’s an issue with it. With only one patron doing the final combines for writs, the guild gets more benefit per writ than it would if there were 6 patrons. This is because the contribution to guild experience is divided by the total number of patrons. So each patron needs to be “pulling his weight”.

    So, it may be that this is the reason for this fix. But similar structures can be created outside of a guild, by use of money. When I’ve done a guild writ, it took a long time, preparing subcomponents. But I realized that if I wanted to spend less time, I could apply money to the problem, and just buy up subcomponents. I could keep an inventory of likely needs, and reel off the writs in basically the time needed to make the final combine. I’m not sure that using money to buy status really breaks the concept of status. But perhaps that’s an issue.

    In the end, I expect that the devs used statistical data that showed a few people cranking through tradeskills very fast, and they wanted to put a limit on it. However, most of the speed issues reported here are not an issue when the time spent preparing subcombines is amortized in. So a bit of reorganization of the work, and you will be able gain status at the same averaged rate.

    Feb 1 update: Heroic Opportunities

    Many, many revisions were made to Heroic Opportunities in the latest update of Everquest 2. The updates are described in SOE’s own words, with my comments in italics.

  • Using a spell or art other than one needed to advance a starter chain will no longer break it.
  • This is a major change. What this means is that the chain won’t be broken by high-priority actions. It also means that 5 people don’t have to stop what they are doing to allow the HO to go through. This is critical to making HO’s useful, since 2/3rds of all damage done to mobs is done via specials, not normal melee.

  • Once a chain has begun, it can be purposefully broken by using one of the archetype abilities that initiates a chain (Lucky Break, Arcane Augur, Divine Providence, and Fighting Chance).
  • I’ve often been in a scout/priest group, and ended up with a chain that needed a mage to advance. Dead end. It wasn’t a problem, because any other skill or spell would break the chain,

    and you could start again. But not with the new changes. A different way to break starter chains was needed.

  • You now have 10 seconds to complete the Heroic Opportunity wheel instead of 30 seconds.
  • They made it easier to complete starters, but raised the bar on completing the wheel very significantly. Since the HO does not advance if a spell is resisted, this makes things very tight. Smite has about a 5 second casting time. So, if the priest waits until the wheel is up, and the first Smite is resisted, you’ve used up all the time alloted. This puts the premium on thinking ahead. It also doesn’t hurt to have two characters from the same archetype trying to advance a starter chain, in fact it will probably help. Still, 10 seconds may be challenging.

  • Starter chains now properly report who broke the chain. It had been reporting that the last person to advance the chain was the one who broke it.
  • This isn’t that big of a deal, now that they are so much harder to break. But it was confusing and difficult before. Not sure how much this helps, given the other changes. Now if only they’d make a message about who or what broke mez…

  • Opportunity shift now has a much better chance of switching to a different opportunity.
  • Making HO’s more intentional. This puts a big premium on scouts who know the HO chains and

    can think strategically.

  • Heroic Opportunities have been given enhanced visual and sound effects.
  • Players will receive a visual cue when an opportunity has been successfully completed.
  • It’s always fun to see cool things happen on screen as a result of something you did. This will also encourage execution of HO’s, since with more feedback comes more learning.

  • The duration of buff effects has increased from 3 minutes to 6 minutes.
  • If only they would do this for Breeze and Alacrity.

  • Heroic Opportunity effects now stack with class spell effects.
  • The last two items seem to address the relative power of Heroic Opportunity non-damage spells.

    Clearly many players felt that, overall, HO’s weren’t good enough to attempt, especially if it meant stopping anything else you are doing. Now, I don’t see the downside to doing one. Stacking with other effects certainly makes sense, I’m not so sure about increased durations.

  • All Heroic Opportunities that hit more than one target now have an area of effect radius of 25 meters.
  • I don’t know how this changes things. How was it before? Did we increase the range, or limit it? More research is needed.

  • Removed the display ranking from Heroic Opportunity starters (Lucky Break, Arcane Augur, and Fighting Chance) since you can’t upgrade them.
  • In addition, a number of new starter chains and wheels have been added. I’ll go into them in another post.

    Overall, there’s been a big boost to Heroic Opportunities. In fact, even the casual pickup group will be pulling them off nearly nonstop. The only way to break a starter chain is to hit the starter again, and it’s easy to either designate one player as the starter, or define a starter rotation.

    Players, especially scouts, who want to play a superior game will find it profitable to learn what the different HO’s do, and think about which ones to go for. And how to complete wheels under significant time pressure.

    Weapon Choices

    Everquest 2 is a game designed to present interesting choices to players.

    There are three kinds of weapon damage in EQ2, crush, pierce, and slash. And there are three kinds of weapon configurations, one-handed, two-handed, and dual wield. Do they matter? What difference do they make?

    First of all, there are three types of damage mitigation in the game, crush mitigation, slash mitigation, and pierce mitigation. I expect that the different types of armor that characters can wear have different profiles with regard to these. But it isn’t reported to us, so we can’t be sure.

    Likewise, mobs will sometimes have differing levels of mitigation toward crushing, piercing and slashing. Some experimentation with weapons that are otherwise similar should reveal the difference. The difference could be large, but my expectation is that it will make a difference of about 10 percent to the DPS of a character. That’s nothing dramatic, but nothing to sniff at, either.

    This should provide knowledgeable melee characters with an edge. “Aha, that looks like chain mail, I’ll use my crushing weapons.”

    The second choice presented is to weapon setup. If you want a defensive setup, one chooses a one-handed weapon, and equips a shield in the other hand. Sheilds are quite nice; they can provide some nice stat buffs to start, and they provide a chance to block incoming melee attacks. This provides a viable defensive option. But less damage overall.

    Two-handed and dual wield do pretty much the same amount of damage for the same quality of weapons. But there are some significant difference based on what mob you are facing and what buffs you have.

    Some buffs provide a chance to “do something” whenever you hit. Poison is like this; whenever you hit, there is a chance of poisoning the mob. Sorcerors have buffs like this also. This is known in the game as a proc. Whenever the “do something” kicks in, we say the effect has proced (pronounced “procked”).

    Dual wielding results in more frequent procs. If you have a proc going, it’s a good idea to dual wield. Your poison, or fire effect, or whatever will affect the mob more often, resulting in more damage. According to developer statements, the effect has been tuned so that it won’t be twice as often however.

    On the other hand, there is another class of effects in the game known as damage shields. If a character has a damage shield up, then every time that character is hit by a mob, the mob takes some damage. Mobs can have damage shields, too. These are the bane of dual wielders.

    By hitting twice as often, the dual wielder takes twice as much damage from the damage shield. This is where a two-handed setup can shine.

    I love a game with interesting choices.