Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mid-level Crafting Grind in EQ2

It's been almost three weeks since my last update on my EQ2 progress, simply because I haven't spent much time in EQ2 during that stretch. I had hit a wall - Lyriana literally does not have the money to upgrade her spells if she can't craft them for herself, and I had run out of the crafting rested-exp needed to take the edge off of the grind.

The solution to the problem was simple, if unsatisfying - don't play EQ2 for two weeks, other than to consume rested exp as it accumulated, so that I could get enough of a headstart to be able to level without worrying about my crafting falling behind. The plan seems to have worked out; it coincided nicely with a pair of world events in WoW, and I've been able to gain nine tradeskill levels, leaving Lyriana at 52 Dirge/59 Jeweler, though time will tell how long that lead holds up. But how did things get to this point?

The crafting mini-game

Above is a picture of the EQ2 crafting interface (using ProfitUI, but the panel on the right is basically unchanged. You'll see a variety of colored bars and six hotbuttons. The only one of these that actually matters is the bottom-most green bar (half-empty in the picture). Green designates the item's durability; if that bottom most bar runs out, and I'm not able to repair it in time, the crafting attempt fails.

In principle, crafting is supposed to be a careful process of using the buttons to speed the item's progress without damaging it. In practice, I spam the buttons that make the item get done faster when the green bar is doing well, and I spam the buttons that repair the green bar when the bar starts doing poorly. There are "events", which pop up in the box above the buttons and require you to push the correct button, but, in my experience, failure to respond correctly very very rarely causes me to fail to complete the item.

That's basically the crafting game. I collect a "rush order" from the NPC in our guild hall, and have 8.5 minutes to craft 6 or so items. When the crucial green bar is full, I spam 2, 3, and 5 as often as the cooldowns allow. When it's okay, I push 1, 2, and 3, and, if things really start going poorly, I switch to 1, 4, and 6. In general, I finish the order with a minute or two to spare, turn in the quest for 10-15% of a level total. This, and the size-able bonus for completing each new recipe for the first time, is how I get my crafting exp.

Perhaps now it will make sense why I chose to park my character on a shelf for weeks to avoid having to do this process at something like 2/3 the rate of exp gain after running out of rested exp.

Something for the pain...
I didn't have any of these complaints really until the late 40's level-wise, so my guess is that this entire situation arises in part because of recent changes to the game's exp curve. Similar complaints have been leveled against the game's Alternate Advancement curve, which is apparently going to get some long-demanded changes in the next patch.

The perceptive reader might also note that I did not make any mention of harvesting materials in this discussion. Basically, I end up borrowing the non-rare materials out of the guild harvesting depot, which I eventually pay back by harvesting down the line (slacking on this is NOT in my best interest, since selling rare harvests is my main source of income). In addition to helping its members out, the guild gets experience towards its next level (which raise the amenity cap in the guild hall) from completed rush orders, so everyone wins.

(If I was NOT in a guild with a depot, crafting stations, and rush order NPC, I would need to be harvesting as I went, and hoping to sell the harvests I don't use. EQ2 characters can harvest everything, even the stuff that their crafting class does not want, and are required to do so as all harvest types share spawns - if you don't pick veggies, no ore will respawn. Players apparently put up with that for almost four years before the launch of guild halls; personally, I suspect that I would have given up long ago if you added harvest grinding into the equation.)

There are some new crafting missions from the most recent expansion, which I should be eligible to work on. These do not contribute experience to the guild, though, and they're tied to a different faction than the one for my homecity. Also, I'm told that there is a reaction event that gives the player loot, so I would actually have to start paying attention to using the correct buttons. Then again, I'm told that the instances are not timed, which removes the small amount of pressure that I have when working on writs. Overall, it's still the same minigame, whether or not I'm doing the crafting in the comfort of the guild hall.

Overall, the increasingly grindy feeling of crafting is taking a big bite out of my enjoyment of EQ2. I don't feel that I can really give it up (I'd just end up spending the time grinding harvests to sell so that I could purchase my spells instead), and it just doesn't seem feasible to keep pace without either shelving the character repeatedly or spending more and more time on a minigame that is getting less and less interesting. Now the question, with world events out of the way in WoW for another month or so, is what I'll do to occupy the time when Lyriana has to stop questing again.

Puzzled Lyriana is Puzzled. Why can't SOE make crafting more fun?
(This was an attempt at a profile picture for the EQplayers site gone horrible wrong.)


Loredena said...

I actually like the crafting mini-game, and find it very zen as I develop a rhythm, but obviously that doesn't apply to everyone.

A few recommendations: Make sure you are doing the x0 quests from the grandmaster in your city as you hit that level -- each gives you tradeskill experience upon completion, and some of them have you craft items that you would not otherwise have recipes for, so a bit of bonus crafting experience.

Pick up A Gathering Obsession in Mara -- now that you can do each tier as you level, it is really worth it to do so. You'll get crafting experience for completing each quest, and you're keeping your harvesting up, and you won't have to go back and do tier 1 -8 in one blow at 80....

As soon as you hit 50, go to Mara for the quest line that gives you a harvesting bag and a charm. Again, crafting experience, plus useful items and coin.

Also at 50 go to TSO and do the ship out line, then do the three individual faction lines. Experience, and mega-coin. The tradeskill missions ARE worth it, at least do each of them once (you don't use any of your own raws or fuel, you get the first-time crafting experience for each item, and you have a chance at some really nice drops).

All of these are options for when you are out of vitality!

Green Armadillo said...

Thanks Loredena! I actually have been doing Gathering Obsession and the x0 quests, and I'll probably be tackling Mara and the start of the TSO stuff this week.

I'll probably still want some crafting vitality available, at least for the new combines in the TSO instances. I'm not 100% certain if the pristine bonus eats vitality or not, but I'm inclined to believe that it does based on how far the vitality meter drops for a first pristine combine versus how far it goes for a normal combine. Still, it shouldn't be more than a day or two's worth of vitality.