ESO – Guild and Other Activities

ESO continues to be a ton of fun – this past week brought some new activities into the mix.

Guild

I was blind invited to a guild a few weeks ago. There was a discord site so I signed up, and started to lurk in various channels. I’m one of those quiet members that doesn’t speak too much, but I’m willing to do some activities.

Most days there is a blanket call for people interested in a group activity. One showed up that I wanted to try out – dragon event in Elsweyr. The idea was to group up, ride around Elwseyr and tackle the various dragon world bosses. Along the way there would be grabbing wayshrines, a nearby delve, and a few other quests.

The logistics were great: easy to sign up (just type in chat and a plugin would auto-invite your char to the group), once grouped the game offers to move you to the same instance as the group leader (no travel needed), the leader had a handful of quests to share, and there was a discord voice channel set up to join. I usually don’t get out my headset/mic setup, so I wasn’t able to talk, be being able to listen is what’s really important.

We set off and one dragon was ready to fight. It was total chaos – world bosses on steroids with dozens of players fighting. But it was super fun at the same time!

Our fight orders were to light attack, which I suppose helps with graphics lag, except if you were a healer in which case also use healing skills. I had a few heals and protective skills on my bar so I wove those in between running around and also light attacking.

Our guild event went well and we broke after ~90 mins or so. I’ll definitely look for other events to join.

Dungeoneering

My friend and I tackled a few more Dungeons, mostly sticking to what the Undaunted Pledges were offering. That’s because those count as daily quests during this Anniversary Festival, which means in addition to the normal rewards there is an Anniversary Box. Might as well take advantage of that.

We did Crypt of Hearts 2 and Fungal Grotto 2 (again). Both are challenging for us, especially as a duo. We had several deaths along the way but soul gems are plentiful and it’s fun to overcome a seemingly impossible fight.

Like the last boss in Crypt of Hearts 2, Nerien’eth. We eventually noticed his big attack had a pattern – he’d teleport away, summon 2 wraiths, they would move towards us, then he would teleport and start winding up (red circle AoE) that more or less one-shot us.

So when he teleported away to summon 2 wraiths, we started to separate from each other. When he’d teleport and wind up his attack, we’d starting running away to make it easy to dodge-roll the rest.

It took us 3-4 tries but we eventually downed him, and it was a great feeling!

We’re enjoying this enough to start looking into dungeons to farm for better gear. I’m wearing War Maiden’s and Winter’s Respite, my friend is wearing some combo of Defilers and Leviathan. We’re better off than new level 50 cp 160s with random stuff, but at this point we can starting planning ahead. I’ll get into what I researched as items sets I want to farm another time.

Werewolf

My main, Mayzib, is a magicka templar. This is the char I’m completing zones with, as much as possible. So that means checking off what’s listed in the zone guide – except leaving the public dungeons for later and being OK with not finding ALL the lorebooks. Mayzib is also my crafter and more recently, antiquarian/scryer, so skill points are tight. Since each zone has about 5 skill points between skyshards and delves, I might break from my usual routine and just go skill point collecting for a bit. Having another 10 or 15 to spend would tide me over for a while!

I’m also playing a stamina warden, Sarroc. I’ve got more skill points to work with because I’m not planning to spend any on crafting or scrying. But I’m interested in trying out the Werewolf skill line… which works well since Sarroc is already a stamina build.

Actually if I’m going into “criminal acts” I might as well have Sarroc handle the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood quests and skill lines. That way I can play that content and not be so throttled on skill points. And if it’s awesome, I can spend into those later, after Mayzib is done bumping crafting and scrying etc and of course I collect lots more skill points.

The first step is to get bitten. You can ask in zone chat, in guild chat, buy the starter quest in the store, or find rare NPCs and have them bite you. I decided to try the last option, at least for a bit before asking in guild or zone.

So my friend and I went to Reaper’s March, during in-game nighttime, and rode up and down the east road looking for werewolves. We weren’t actually sure what we were looking for (enemy werewolf? friendly werewolf? NPCs that became werewolves after attacking them?) so after in-game dawn we stopped. No point since they don’t show in daytime.

Since it is near the full-moon right now in-game, I wanted to try more. I’m pretty sure they only appear at night around the full-moon, which is what makes them rare. This morning I logged in, noticed it was nighttime in-game, and went right back to Reaper’s March to search. (Each alliance has one zone where werewolves spawn; since Sarroc is a Wood Elf, the Aldmeri Dominion zone with werewolves is Reaper’s March. If I were another alliance I’d search in Bangkorai or The Rift. Not sure that matters but I thought it definitely wouldn’t hurt to search in your alliance zone first).

And, I found some! Near the S’ren-Ja wayshrine. Yes it’s a dark screenshot but… they only appear at night.

I walked right up, they attacked, and I just healed through it for a minute. I checked my character sheet and noticed “Sanies Lupines” as an effect – YES! Afterwards I went to the nearby major town of Rawl’kha and… nothing. Nobody approached me, I had to search for the NPC quest giver. She wasn’t hard to find, leaning against the town’s Wayshrine. After a conversation I had a new quest: seek the pack leader (YAY!) or get cured at a priest (BOOOOO).

I haven’t followed up that quest yet but I am eager too!

Scrying

So I took up scrying on Mayzib. It took a few attempts to click, and now I like it. Thumbs up to any MMO content that provides something other than killing stuff (well, you might have to fight on your way to the dig sites). Combat is fun but I’m glad to see some puzzle solving in the game.

Anyway, I’ll write more on this later. Right now, I’m following leads for green and blue relics in all zones. No I don’t want to grind in Artaeum, good lord that sounds terrible. I figure if I’m going to level this skill I might as well go ahead and work on the existing leads that are basically all over the world. So far so good.

I use the Antiquarian Eye to help point the way to digs. What I usually do I ride towards the narrowed down area, and once in, immediately use the Eye while dismounting and running on foot to find it. I do this and sometimes don’t even look first before using the Eye and dismounting.

Sometimes, I ride in, pop the Eye and dismount, look where it is pointing, only to discover I just happened to come in where the dig site is. Basically I use the finder when standing right next to the dig site, as shown below (dig site is the mound of brown dirt with yellow sparkles, Eye is the comet-looking thing with its tail pointed in the direction of the dig site. Here, it is basically adjacent. Doh!)

Now, when I arrive, I take a quick look first, before using the Eye. So I don’t feel silly if I happen to be standing right next to it. 🙂

ESO – DPS Check

My friend and I resumed our weekend dungeon running.

We warm up doing some Undaunted Delve Pledges, the ones that start by talking to Bolgrul. He gives out a quest a day, and they are shareable, so what we do is each grab some random pledge during the week to save up for when we are together. This way, we can do up to 3 pledges: mine, my friend’s, and whatever the current quest is when we meet up.

Then, we move on to the Undaunted Dungeon Pledges, the easier ones from Maj al-Ragath or lately a few from Glirion. These quests are not shareable, so when we made a plan to tackle Fungal Grotto 2, we both grabbed it when it came up and then waited until the weekend.

We had never done a “part 2” dungeon before and wasn’t sure what to expect. At the end of Fungal Grotto 1 was a door that couldn’t be opened, so we guessed part 2 started there. As it turned out, part 2 starts exactly where part 1 did, and used the same basic layout with graphics/texture modifications.

We fought our way through without too much trouble, except at Gamyne Bandu, due to the boss combo attacks “torture session” and followup “shadow execution”. Basically this attack incapacitates one player and the other player must kill at least one of the Shadow Tormentors that spawns, before too long. It took one death each before we figured out what to do.

The rest went well, and after killing Spawn of Mephala, the door I mentioned earlier (that couldn’t be opened in Part 1) led to another room with the quest item to retrieve. So we grabbed that and headed back to a fight or two.

But rather than run all the way back through the dungeon, a friendly NPC (some of the fighters we rescued along the way) directed us to jump in a stream and take a shortcut through a cave.

After getting back to the start and talking to our quest giver, the final fight began, against Vila Theran, who was a friendly NPC in part 1. Betrayed! Sort of. 😉 It went well for us and Fungal Grotto is the first dungeon we completed parts 1 and 2 of, woohoo.

Next up we tried Crypt of Hearts 1, a dungeon we hadn’t been to before. It wasn’t the daily Pledge either, we just wanted to check it out.

This was loaded with undead, necromancers, all that stuff, so it had some cool looking decorations like skull doorways:

This was fun and we finished with no major problems. My friend got excited because after we finished and checked our loot, we saw various drops from the Leviathan dungeon set, a gear set she wants to complement the Hunding’s Rage crafted set. We got 4 pieces of the gear so we’ll be sure to revisit and “farm” more pieces.

One weapons that would be nice to get is the Bonehammer, which drops off Death’s Leviathan, and giant skeleton who is surprisingly mobile:

With another dungeon completed (well, half a dungeon, we’ll come back for Crypt of Hearts 2), we decided to try an available Undaunted Pledge, Banished Cells 2.

This went great up until the end. We defeated the mini-bosses along the way, and setup for the final fight against High Kinlord Rilis XII. He’s got the usual boss mechanics, add summons, throws a bubble spell that takes you out of combat for a few seconds, gets healing spheres to watch for and kill, tosses a blue or red curse you can cure by running over some runes…

…our problem was with the adds. He summons daedroth faster than we can kill them. Between avoiding damage, fighting daedroth, clearing the curse (my Cleansing Ritual did not clear the effect) by running across the runes, we could only do a bit of damage to him; meanwhile the daedroth is about 25% health and another appears.

We tried two or three times and realized afterwards, when there were 3 or 4 daedroth at varying levels of health running around, with Rilis about 2/3rds health, that we were not passing this encounter’s DPS check. To beat it we need to kill the daedroth much faster in order to only deal with one at a time, and also free more time to attack Rilis.

Since we are two-manning the dungeon I don’t feel too bad about that – if the design is for 4 players then us not outputting 200% each isn’t bad.

So we abandoned the quest with the idea of coming back when we were stronger. My friend is wearing Defiler’s and random pieces, and looking into Hunding’s Rage and Leviathan sets as upgrades; I am currently wearing War Maiden and Winter’s Respite. The healing effect of Winter’s Respite is nice, but perhaps for our duo project a stronger choice would be something else like Law of Julianos or Mother’s Sorrow. I need to research this by looking at build write-ups from Alcast, Xynode, Hack the Minotaur, to get some ideas and make my own tweaks based on what we can get to.

Plus, we are essentially newbies on the CP scale – nearing 400 and 300 points respectively. With more CP we’ll be stronger as well.

In the meantime, between the Jester festival and then Anniversary event, we’ll have 3 weeks of double xp, plus whatever else you can stack on top of that. I plan to play my Warden as well and take advantage of this time to level up an alt.

ESO – Crafting

Over the years, I’ve lost my interest in crafting in MMOs. A few games make it a bit more interesting, the best example I can think of is the Gravity quest in Secret World, but most of the time crafting is busy work. Gather materials, craft identical pieces that wind up getting trashed, all to mostly be irrelevant as dungeon gear eventually surpasses it all.

But, I’ve gotten into crafting in ESO!

The overall system is more complex than typical. Crafters can control the look of an item (different style appearances learned through motif books), what inherent bonus the item has (via traits, learned when you research other gear with that trait), additional enchantments to apply (via glyphs), plus the usual stuff like level (character level needed to use) and quality (white, green, blue, etc).

There are also crafting sites out in the wild which allow a crafter of suitable skill level and trait research craft special sets of armor. For example, if I were interested in crafting Hunding’s Rage for my friend, I would need to show up at one of the 3 crafting sites, with the materials and so forth, and I’d need to be far enough along trait search to know 6 traits for each piece I wanted to craft.

What blew my mind was this system allows a crafter to improve quest items. I received a blue staff from a quest and wondered if I could improve it to purple. I figured I could walk through the crafting UI and back out if it looked like that would destroy my item, and I didn’t even expect to get that far – I thought I wouldn’t be allowed to select a quest item.

But I could, and I did upgrade my quest staff to be even better! That was amazing.

The other fun thing about crafting is writs, which are basically daily quests… for crafting. That may sound dull but it isn’t.

First, daily writs only take a few minutes to do.

Second, the rewards are more resources – not quite enough to be the only source of materials you need – and inspiration, which is crafting experience points.

Third, sometimes you get a “resource survey”, which will direct you to a spot in the world with 6 extra good resource nodes.

For example, I received this resource survey when completing a woodworking writ:

And traveling to the area, searching a bit, I found the wood – those are the 6 red and white logs surrounding me:

Once you loot the nodes, the survey disappears from your inventory, and these nodes don’t regenerate (unless you get another survey).

I look forward to my daily writs! They are nice xp, a bundle of resources, and sometimes include a fun treasure hunt for high quality resource nodes.

ESO – Alt Plans

One problem with planning too far ahead are unknowns – “unforseen circumstances” that change everything up. Six months ago I was playing FF14 on PC and dabbling in ESO on PS4; today I’m playing ESO on PC and Stadia and dabbling in LoTRO.

I’ve found I can’t really play 3 MMOs at the same time. So, while I did enjoy FF14 a huge amount, I’m putting it aside for now. The draw of playing ESO with a friend cannot be ignored, and LoTRO makes a great dabbling game – an hour here and there; I’m a lifetime subscriber after all so there is no monthly fee.

I have another friend who plays FF14 on PS4. We talked about it a bit – we were surprised each other played – and he mentioned that he is a huge FF fan and was a day 1 player on both FF11 (on PS2) and FF14 (PS3/PS4). In addition, unfortunately, the PS4 server he is on is full and isn’t allowing new chars or transfers. However, restrictions like that tend to come and go so there is a chance, perhaps small, that I might be drawn back to FF14 on PS4. I’d need to be able to join his server, buy all the stuff on PS4, and start from scratch… but that doesn’t faze me if I get to play a game with real life friends.

If that happens, I’ll wind up putting LoTRO aside, and also will have done a 180 in the last 6 months: from FF14 on PC and ESO on PS4, to ESO on PC/Stadia and FF14 on PS4. Haha!

LoTRO

So far in LoTRO on my new server, I’ve resisted this, but that’s a special case. In July I’ll have played 14 years (!!), all the classes to mid-levels (what used to be high levels but the level cap is now 130), through all of Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria content on at least 6 classes starting from level 1… I’m good with one char, my main on Arkenstone, a Beorning.

I like the Boerning, partly because shape changing is fun and partly because the Beorning is quite flexible. They can respec to serve capably as tank, healer, and dps in their blue, yellow, and red skill lines respectively. That class flexibility is a huge plus.

I’m also refocusing – skipping kill deeds while adventuring in various zones. This means my virtues will be lower than they otherwise would be, but I’ll worry about that when it’s a problem. For now, beeline the epic storyline, and pick the low hanging deed fruit – exploration based ones, and of course questing based ones.

ESO

Meanwhile over in ESO, I feel the draw of alts.

Some advice from reddit for new players wondering class to play is: create 6 chars, one of each class, all Dark Elf. Why Dark Elf? Because their racial bonuses are good for stamina or magicka, letting you benefit however you spec..

As it turns out, I like the Dark Elves – their character models, aesthetics, the wonderfully zany giant mushrooms across the colorful landscapes, their housing… I will admit a lot of this probably comes from massive nostalgia from TES 3: Morrowind.

I have 6 chars, one of each class: Dark Elf Templar, Argonian Sorcerer and Necromancer, Redguard Dragonknight, Wood Elf Warden, and Khajiit Nightblade. So I did make one of each class but with some variety in races/alliances.

I don’t plan to play all of them. My main is the Templar, so I’m covered if I want to try group healing and the dungeon finder.

I want to try out tanking, so I will poke along on my Dragonknight as well. I keep reading how tanks are so rare (aren’t they always, in every game??). Why not… worst case, it is terrible and I shelve it. I’m hoping for a better result of course – decent fun, not too difficult, great xp and loot, etc.

I’d also like to try a stamina DPS class. So… Nightblade or Warden. My char on PS4 is a Nightblade so I’m going to try Warden on PC. With the extra twist of picking up the Werewolf line. I’ll see if being a shape changer is fun here too (I’m sure it is), being a Werewolf will add some nice variety to the Warden, which is already has pets and class flexibility going for it. So that’s why a stamina warden – stamina is more useful to a Werewolf than magicka.

So that’s 3 chars: magicka DPS and healing on my Templar, stamina DPS and werewolf on my Warden, and tank on my Dragonknight. Plenty to do!

Stadia Thoughts

Google Stadia is in the news a bunch of places and MMO Fallout probably has it correct – the problem with Stadia is Google, not the underlying tech. Google seems to have corporate ADHD or very unrealistic timelines for success. They appear to half-heartedly launch product after product and then give up quickly. The joke is they’ll launch a product and also include its shutdown timeline in the same announcement. Or they’ll shutdown a product before it launches.

Stadia’s probable future is licensing the tech to game publishers that want to implement streaming without having to develop the tech (and data centers).

I have Stadia and enjoy it. I also have a gaming PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and haven’t thrown them away. I like Stadia because it fills a niche for me (gaming while traveling) and works really well. My friend likes it because it lets her access games that aren’t available for Nintendo systems.

I also think Stadia could have become a massive success. Maybe it still can but the window of opportunity is closing and a lot of time has been wasted. Amazon is probably a better steward for this tech – they have cloud computing, streaming knowledge, a game studio, and invest for the long term. I’d say Microsoft too but they are also trying to sell consoles and operating systems.

The reason why is: TV.

Yes, the humble TV. These days outside rounding errors, TVs can run apps and typically come with a few, like Netflix, an app that streams video over the internet. This is basically the same thing as Stadia, which streams game video over the internet to a Chrome browser tab. A TV that can run Netflix can also run Stadia. Yes bandwidth is an issue but if HD video streaming from Netflix renders acceptably, then so will a game. (This isn’t a battle to convert the 4K 120 Hz gamers).

That’s the key for Stadia. Screw battling for scraps of market share taken from PS4, Xbox, PC – instead, grow the potential market to everyone on the planet that has a TV, and capture a part of this much much larger pool.

Cut deals with TV manufacturers to include the Stadia app in future TV sales, sell Chromecasts and controllers for current TV owners… plant a massive amount of seeds that no other platform can touch. (Except the smartphone, but Stadia already can stream there too)! Answer the typical “who is this for, AAA gamers that don’t already have a PC or console?” question with “everyone on the planet that owns a TV”.

Expand the content library. It’s small but functional, it proves various high-graphics games can exist and run acceptably. So rather than getting more high resolution shooters, have the (now disbanded) SG&E division work on family friendly games, ones that don’t involve killing stuff non-stop. Games like Animal Crossing (not throwing AC under the bus but it isn’t my style game. However it does have large appeal). Games that don’t need cutting edge graphics so they stream well at lower bandwidth. License board games and develop Stadia implementations of them. Heck, buy Marvelous, get a deal with TenCent, somehow put Story of Season 2 on Stadia. Do the same with other studios.

This is all presentation – after all, who is to say that Pokemon isn’t a game that involves enslaving helpless animals to perform gladiator combat for you. But it isn’t presented that way and is instead seen as a kid-friendly collect-a-thon juggernaut of a franchise.

Ingress and Pokemon Go’s studio Niantic spun out of Google; get a deal with them for their AR engine and make a new game that also plays on Stadia (smartphones) with some hook to use Stadia on TV too.

Redo the subscription, lower it to $5/mo. Have a few staple free games always there (Destiny, PUBG, both are already there), throw in some kid-friendly games (board games, puzzles, etc), but save access to other games for a cheap subscription in order to encourage people to subscribe. Run specials, game X is free during the month so come check it out.

Get on sports licensing and add Stadia-specific hooks to games. Madden NFL 21 is already on Stadia, open the checkbook to get FIFA and some Formula 1 racing game there too. Baseball, basketball, hockey too, but football, soccer, formula 1 have a larger and worldwide appeal.

Sponsor these sports leagues, especially any form of playoff, at a level that lets Stadia run 2 minute ads after the game. During that ad, pull out a great feature of Stadia – State Share.

Kaylriene posted that State Share is only in beta for Cryta. I thought Hitman 3 was implemented with State Share working? I don’t own Hitman 3 on Stadia so I can’t verify.

Anyway, during the post-game show, State Share a scenario from the game that just aired, and let fans replay it themselves. Provide live real-time statistics on how it’s going.

Picture this: 5 years from now, Tom Brady is playing in his 15th Super Bowl, and completes a pass or gets intercepted. Doesn’t matter – post game, State Share the exact setup and make it easy for Stadia gamers to replay the situation RIGHT THEN. Can YOU do better than Brady, or can you defend against him?? Or the team goes for it on 4th down, or doesn’t go for it on 4th down – your turn! XYZ driver lost the race because he couldn’t pass on a tricky curve – can YOU do it? Your country just got eliminated from the World Cup, can you score the goal they needed?? Etc.

Basically issue a challenge and let fans play it IMMEDIATELY!

This won’t work as well for PC or console due to delays waking up devices, navigating the UI, starting the game, diverting attention, the classic “gotta wait for an update”, etc. But for Stadia you should be able to click a button and be dropped right into the game at the State Share point to play right on the same TV. Even better if you can also scan a QR code and pull it up on a smart phone, to get fans away from home in on the action too.

These are the kinds of strengths Stadia needs to capitalize on, not fight some war with pcmasterrace gamers over who the target audience of Stadia is. Answer that question with “every TV owner on the planet” and pull off gaming scenarios they can’t do as easily… leave them slightly annoyed their $5000 battlestation can’t do it as fast and convenient. (The point here is ease and immediacy; yes the PC will be able to since Stadia run there too, but going from watching TV to playing the scenario on their rig will take several steps and be delayed).

For all anybody knows, Google tried making deals which all fell through. So all we’re seeing is the slow wind down culminating in the tech being sold off to recoup costs. It’s sad, I think under better stewardship Stadia could have done so much better. Instead, I’m not even sure what the heck Google has done since it launched. Their reputation for killing off projects is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I get they are a 1.4 trillion dollar company and lots of stuff doesn’t move the needle enough. But games/entertainment could do it if they weren’t so half hearted about everything that isn’t directly feeding their ad business.

ESO – Champion Points

Well, I finally did it. Got to level 50 in ESO!

Now I switch over from gaining levels to gaining Champion Points instead. I’ve read about this system, and the UESP link has a lot of info, but there is nothing like experiencing it first hand. Next goal: CP 160. 🙂

I also got together with my friend – thanks to Stadia we could game together in-person – and we did a bunch of stuff on a dreary rainy day.

First, we did 3 Undaunted delve dailies. You can get one each day, but we found out that you can share them. We each had one from yesterday, so we did them one at a time (I shared my quest, my friend shared her quest) and then both got the current daily and did that too.

Then we did 3 more dungeons: City of Ash, Wayrest Sewers, and Spindleclutch. All went well and we got lots of loot and experience.

We went slowly and had a few deaths, but for us this is super fun just adventuring with each other and not adding others to the group. This accounts for some of the challenge – we are basically 2-manning this content which is set for a group of 4. So while we mostly had no problems, sometimes a particular boss or named NPC was surprisingly tough (but again, we’re a half-sized group).

I’m not opposed to pugging, I do that plenty in FF14, but it takes a bit to get comfortable playing a certain role (e.g. healing) and the first few times is a leap of faith and not-insignificant anxiety.

We found a list of dungeons in order of difficulty from Together We Delve, and started using this list to check them off. We’ll also check the Undaunted quest givers and look for dailies that look doable. This will obviously be challenging as we are a duo, but there’s some good room for gearing up our characters: I’m not CP 160 so I’m missing some power from the champion tree, and all my gear could be better!

LoTRO – A Bit of Evendim

Vol 1 Book 4 of the epic storyline is a level 37 quest, so after finishing up Book 3 in the North Downs, I journeyed west to Evendim. My plan was to adventure there and go to the Trollshaws for Book 4 once I reached level 37.

I’ve done Evendim before, and I figured it wouldn’t take too long. Plus, I was already level 35, so I didn’t need many levels at all. After helping the rangers at Tinnudir, helping (on behalf of the rangers) the people at Ost Forod, I was nearly level 37. It only took one sweep through the ruins on Rantost (i.e. doing the initial quests there) to level up!

I feel like I should press on and do the Rantost wrap-up quest instance, Thief-Taker’s Bane, rather than bail out on them. 😉

Until now I’ve been taking my time through each zone, stopping to work on kill-deeds. That was fine in the beginning area, where the numbers were something like 30/60… now in Evendim it is more like 90/180, and that makes for a lot of time just to get a bit of virtue xp plus a deed finished (which generally grants you a title). I fell off finishing kill deeds in the North Downs, since many of them are higher level and to the east of Esteldin. and I know from previous playthroughs that I’ll be back soon enough.

I can get accelerator scrolls, and it is decent xp since the fights are on-level… but I’m leaning towards advancing the storyline over doing the kill-deeds right now. Maybe compromise and make an effort to finish the quest-deeds and the exploration-deeds but defer the kill-deeds to another time. I do want to keep my virtues decently leveled so that’s the big dilemma.

I may switch up crafting. By and large the only kind of crafting I really think is worthwhile is making consumables. In LoTRO that’s mainly hope tokens, scrolls, and food… but I know from my other characters that food is really the only one I use in any kind of volume. Sure, for group content, tokens and scrolls are commonly used, but food is also commonly use solo too (although due to revamps of content over time, these days you don’t even need that since landscape fights are balanced on the easy side).

However, as a Beorning, I get a racial skill to bake honey cakes (!) so I can take the super lazy way out and just use that. In which case maybe Historian for Scholar would be more useful – I could make my own scrolls (battle lore, warding lore). My racial food buff doesn’t last long so if I eat it would only be preparing for a big fight. But it is free, quick (only a skill induction to create the food; no materials or cooking fire needed) and doesn’t take any time or money to grow/cook.

Right now I’m a Woodsman, which includes Forester and Woodworker (i.e. gathering wood and crafting wood). That felt thematic and appropriate for a Beorning… but I’m not using any of the stuff I’m crafting. It’s basically gather, gather, gather, then craft into the trash (i.e. sell everything). I just craft to raise a number, rather than actually use any of it.

Back on Landroval I had every class so I could use every craft. For woodworker I could make carvings for a warden and instruments for a minstrel. On Arkenstone I just want to stick to playing one character > 90% of the time! So the question is what crafting vocation would be most useful to a single character, and I think the answer is Yeoman – except for Beornings since that class can make morale/power regen food for free. So for Beornings I think it would be Historian (Scholar) to make offense/defense scrolls, and that’s what I’m going to change to.

ESO – Molag Bal

Rest easy, for I have defeated Molag Bal and ensured peaceful times in Tamriel. At least until I start the next storyline quest and a new threat is revealed… 😉

I put in extra time this week because the end of the original main quest, Soul Shriven in Coldharbour, was in sight. It felt good to finish up, even though years have passed since launch. Kind of like how I didn’t finish up the Guild Wars 2 original storyline until several years after launch. It’s never too late!

The final fight was long but very reasonable/fair. It mostly involved dodging and the right time, and periodic heavy attacks to help restore resources. I had a tougher time battling Molag Grunda, his daughter, than I did against Molag Bal – however the fight with Molag Grunda took a fraction of the time. Part of the reason, lorewise, was receiving Akatosh’s Blessing before fighting Molag Bal, through deeds performed in earlier quests.

Now I’m onto Cadwell’s Silver… but rather than immediately start up the zone quests for other alliances, I’ll work on some other DLC starter quests in my journal. For instance, Craglorn.

I also reached level 45, so I’m eligible for the Undaunted Pledges which I can do with my friend!

Before departing Hollow City to the north, I decided to revamp my build. I had been following the in-game “Templar Initiate” suggestions, subbing in new skills for ones that maxed out, and my build felt decent but I wanted to mix it up and see if it could be better. I found Hack the Minotaur has some great approachable builds and decided to try out his Magicka Templar Beginner build. It works… really well and I’m missing ~5 skill points (to complete the build) and don’t have the suggested armor set!

It took a bit of getting used to but soon enough I was cruising along. My previous build had several AoE attacks but not as much healing, so I would often have to back up and/or run a bit and frantically heal. This one flows better and offers a bump in survivability. Since I am missing a few skills, I replaced their spots with some other recommended buffs mentioned in an earlier post.

Hack the Minotaur recommends Winter’s Respite, an overland set available in Western Skyrim (i.e. Greymoor chapter). But I’m not going to rush over to work on attaining it, because I’m not level 50/CP 160 yet. So right now, any gear I get will be scaled down and ultimately be replaced, and that set looks like one I’d like to use long term, so I should wait to get it, rather than get it right now and wind up with downscaled pieces.

ESO – Friends and Wayshrines

Time was short this week but my friend and I did get together again, this time at her place. I packed up my Chromebook, brought my Stadia controller, and we played a few hours. The promise of cloud gaming might seem pie-in-the-sky or a bit abstract for most people, but for me… the ability to couch co-op game like this is awesome.

My friend was stuck on a Summerset zone story quest, one that I remember from the PS4. However, on PC/Steam/Stadia, I only opened up the very first quest in Summerset which plops you down on the island near Shimmerene. I was not at the same zone quest, had yet to open up Artaeum so I wasn’t sure I could help. I figured worst case I could advance to the same point in the zone story.

But, we found a nice work around. Even though the portal to Artaeum would not appear for me, if my friend took it and traveled there, I could find her character in my friends list and join them! Boom, travel to an area I haven’t yet opened up via questing.

Once we met up, I followed along. I noticed that I couldn’t use any doors/portals until my friend took it first. I think this is a fair mechanic to allow grouping and helping on a quest when one person doesn’t even have it. I can’t exactly wander freely into instanced/zoned content, but can get there if someone else in my party goes in.

Anyway, we were easily able to defeat the boss she was stuck on.

Then I was able to do her the same favor. My character is at Coldharbour, nearing the end of the original main story quest. My friend is not near Coldharbour, but has some treasure maps and so on for that zone. So I traveled to the Hollow City wayshrine, and then my friend traveled to me… and voila, now she has access to Hollow City without getting there via questing.

I warned her that Hollow City is a bit unusual – as you complete Coldharbour zone story quests, the city fills in. As in, the Fighter’s Guild opens after questing to save them, the marketplace and crafting becomes available after more questing, etc.

I’m level 42 now, so just 3 more levels from being able to take Undaunted Pledges, so my friend and I can do those too!

ESO – Fungal Grotto

Elder Scrolls Online is the MMO I played the longest without ever grouping with anybody. Granted, there was a multi-year break when I didn’t play – about 3 years from mid-2015 to the Summerset release in mid-2018 (and sporadically since then) – but that ended yesterday when my friend and I grouped up to tackle the Fungal Grotto (part 1).

OK, not super epic, but we decided to do our own hard-mode by just grouping with each other: 2-manning this rather than PUGging a full group of 4.

Grouping intimidates me in this game, due to build and play mechanics. In other game, like FF14, all the level X whatever class players all have the same skills. That player may be pathologically bad and not actually use them ;), but that can happen anywhere. Group content can be tuned to know that Scholars at level 50 have access to Sacred Soil, Paladins at level 50 have access to Hallowed Ground, etc. However in ESO you have huge latitude in what skills you take into battle.

I did some research and found groups mostly expect healers to provide group buffs, some healing (of course, but not full-time as I felt was expected in WoW for example), and off-DPS. At least for regular dungeons, veteran difficulty, trials and so on will require higher performance. Recommended party buffs include Aggressive Horn, Energy Orb, Elemental Drain, Combat Prayer – these are from skill lines available to everyone, so I looked into skill morphs needed. Obviously class specific skills are great to bring along too.

My friend came over and we grouped by being in the same room, and thus could talk/shout/scream-in-panic to each other. She can only play ESO via Stadia, where I have it on PS4 (doesn’t help group with her because no cross-play) and PC (linked to Steam and Stadia). She used my Stadia controller and CCU to play on my TV, where I grabbed a PS4 controller and played on my PC. I tried mouse and keyboard but ugh movement felt terrible compared to using the left joystick. Being mobile is huge in this game, so back to a controller.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any screen shots of our adventure – didn’t think to map a key and the PS4 share button didn’t take screenshots (Stadia controller has a separate screenshot key).

We generally did OK, dying once or twice to each major fight: mini-bosses and the first boss Ozozai. The final boss Kra’gh the Dreugh King was a different story – we needed around a half-dozen attempts.

Each time we fought him down to ~20% health before something happened: a damage spike caught us, or he’d reset (one time I dodge rolled out of an AoE too close to the edge and fell off the platform into a river. On the way back I probably exceeded an anti-exploit range and that reset the encounter. Dang it!). One time we didn’t take care of the adds he dug up (swarm of mudcrabs) quickly enough and got overwhelmed.

The fight was tough but never felt impossible – each time we felt we were doing well enough to make another attempt. It’s one thing if we were dying and the boss was still at 80% health, at that point you pack up and come back with more people or higher level. But most attempts went well even if we had to kite like crazy, use all skill cooldowns, fire our ultimates as often as possible… finally we made no major errors and defeated the boss!

Afterwards we spent ~20 minutes turning in quests, selling and repairing, and managing inventory at the bank. Overall it was a lot of fun and we’re going to do this again. I need to level up to qualify for Pledges (need to be level 45, my friend is 50 and into the Champion Point system) and obviously having better gear, more skills, etc will make future Dungeons “easier” for us to duo. We can also group for trickier storyline or zone quests.

I’m having enough fun on the PC version of ESO I don’t mind mostly abandoning my PS4 account. That’s fine, the PC version has too many advantages because I/we play via Stadia – can play while traveling (works just fine on my chromebook) or when visiting each other (we might figure out some simple voice chat solution to use too; Discord might work for this). A minor advantage for me is Stadia saves my gaming PC ~100 GB of disk space.

Before this I hadn’t actually seen Stadia on my TV. I… kind of like playing on my PC because my other computer is next to it, and that is convenient for referring to other websites while playing. But ESO does look pretty nice playing on the TV via the Chromecast.