ESO – Criminal Life 1

ESO takes after the Elder Scrolls single player games and offers thievery and assassination content – Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood. I decided to make my alt my “criminal” character, so my stamina warden is also my werewolf, and joined both the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood.

Joining the Thieves Guild is easy: just talk to Quen in any Outlaws Refuge, who will appear if you have the Thieves Guild DLC. She’ll start you on the way to Abah’s Landing. Or you can port to the Hew’s Bane wayshrine, and Quen will be there waiting to talk to you.

If you have the Thieves Guild DLC you can also open up a Thieves Trove anywhere you happen to see one. The skill line will appear and you’ll get the “Finders Keepers” passive for free. This won’t start the actual storyline, for that you need to speak to Quen to start.

Outlaws Refuges feature various useful services. There are banks (moneylenders), fences (merchants that will buy your stolen loot, or launder it in case it is something you want to keep; plus they can clear your bounty if you really want), regular merchants, and perhaps quests. The Outlaw Refuge in Abah’s Landing is larger than most, because it also houses the Thieves Guild with multiple quest givers offering storyline/zone quests, daily quests, NPC quests as you level up in the Guild, and other repeatable quests (guild jobs, reacquisitions, heists). There is also a list of museum pieces to steal called Kari’s Hit List.

Where is the Outlaw Refuge in your major city? Pay attention to the map symbols – there are two entrances – usually one inside and one outside the city. This makes it easier to move in and out of the city without going through the city gate where a guard might spot you.

If you have a bounty due to previous criminal activities, and you get close enough to the guard (they have an awareness radius but some city entrances are too small to sneak by them) they will notice and try to catch you.

You’ll be offered some choices: pay a fee (don’t do that, it cuts into your profit margin and you’ll lose all stolen items you’re carrying!), clemency (a passive skill you can get at rank 4 in the Thieves Guild), or run away.

I recommend… running away. It isn’t too hard to escape. Just be ready to roll-dodge or break free from crowd control, and keep sprinting away. The guards give up after a bit. Another escape tip is to jump in water and swim away – guards don’t swim. Also, you can jump down to help break their pathing – for example run up ramps/stairs and jump off, repeating if they are still after you. I’ve done loops in Abah’s Landing, running up a flight or two, jumping down, running to another stairs and doing the same thing. They’ll give up, but try to avoid aggroing another guard.

The worst case is getting caught indoors by a guard (they are more or less unkillable). You can’t open doors when aggroed so you are stuck… unless you have the Clemency passive mentioned above. That will let you walk away with your loot intact without paying. I highly recommend spending the skill point and picking up Clemency!

If the guard kills you, your bounty is set to zero so that’s some comfort.

I’m midway through the Thieves Guild storyline, investigating why the previous guild job went wrong. So far I’ve had to spy and gather information, slink through areas where I’m a trespasser, and take on some side quests to help other NPC Thieves Guild members. Ranking up opens various daily quests: committing crimes in various cities; doing heists, which are instanced locations with a time limit, list of objectives, and enemies to stealth around; doing various guild jobs which involve stealing or pickpocketing in multiple zones.

The stealth gameplay is basic but serviceable – it isn’t as tuned as it would be in actual stealth games. It’s fun enough for me and I enjoy trying out some different activities and content than what’s usually offered in an MMO.

Pick pocketing involves crouching and then creeping up on a target. The game will show the chance of success, based on target awareness, target difficulty (simple vs named NPC), your spending on various passives, and probably some other stuff. I’ve noticed the success windows is very brief and seems to peak quite early. So if you are going to have the best chance, it will occur soon into your attempt… waiting around just lowers the chances. The target may become aware of your presence and you’ll lose your best chance.

It’s convenient for me to split my criminal activities to an alt. For one, there is less skill point pressure on my main. Werewolf, Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood, Legerdemain… all need some skill points to make them more effective or gain useful passives. For another, if my bounty gets too high, I can log off and let it slowly decay while I play my main!

Good scheduling is key. Say I take each of the available dailies: a heist, a guild job (pickpocket or safebox looting), and a reacquisition – and I start with no bounty. Then I should do the guild job first, because the bounty won’t matter for the heist or the reacquisition – no city guards to deal with! Whatever bounty I gain from the guild job, I can let decay while I do the heist and the reacquisition; the reverse situation is much less desirable – gaining bounty from the heist makes even the initial guild job a bit tougher. It gets a bit more complicated weaving in Dark Brotherhood questing as well, but that’s the subject for another post. 🙂

I’ve started finishing off my play sessions with some crime. After all, after I log out for the night and do something else or go to sleep, my bounty will decay and I’ll be a law-abiding citizen ready to start the next crime spree.

Thieving is profitable as well, as along as you don’t pay when you get caught. Remember: run away! However if making money is your main goal you can probably do better crafting or gather materials and selling them. But it’s fun to pick a lock to a house, find a safebox and pick that as well, looting everything and then making your escape.

I’ve received motifs, antiquity leads, decent gear, etc… but mostly small treasures I fence for extra cash. As for hitting a jackpot – my friend managed to steal Shivering Cheese. Which sounds silly but sells for 1 million+ gold!

ESO – Pledges and Dungeons

Well I’ve been slacking with blogging. Part of that is selfishness – I don’t have unlimited time so I can either play, or write a blog entry about playing. Actually… that’s all of it; it comes down to balancing these two demands on time.

I’m not sure how the other bloggers like Syp or Wilhelm do it – they write a very consistent ~5 entries a week! Meanwhile, my play vs. write decision only comes up once a week.

Anyway, before the holiday weekend I have a bit of extra time and I’m in the mood the jot some notes down.

My friend and I are still having a lot of fun playing. We’ve got a nice pattern going: warm up with either a delve or two, or more recently a public dungeon or two. When we do a public dungeon, we grab the quests and finish them, look for and defeat all the bosses, do the group event for a skill point, and find the skyshard. This dovetails nicely with Mage Guild daily quests because all of those are to find and retrieve one of Sheogorath’s Artifacts inside a public dungeon.

After that, we’ll do an Undaunted Pledge or two. We’re comfortable doing, or at least trying, the ones from Maj and Glirion. We’ve found a few we never did, generally Part 2 of something, but there are some we had never stepped into, such as Selene’s Web, Blessed Crucible, etc. So we’re going through and being sure to grab the Undaunted Daily when it appears, saving it for the weekend.

We’ve also gotten stronger. Incrementally better gear/weapons, plus a few more CP into offense/defense. Before we had trouble with High Kinlord Rilis in Banished Cells 2? Well we dispatched him and danced on his corpse. Ok not really but it was a rush to win that fight.

Our new roadblock is the Engine Guardian at the end of Darkshade Caverns 2:

He looks pretty cool – a robot spider! – but has a really tough Poison attack we can’t deal with too well. Basically he has three attack phases, and two of them are fine.

However, the poison attack requires the group to pull levers in the middle of the room to stop the AoE damage, which is tough since we are only 2 players so we need to get 2 levers each and there is barely enough time to do it. Any delay in running from a fight to pull a lever ends up being fatal (and sometimes adds that follow you and keep attacking mess up pulling the lever).

General advice online is to skip doing the lever pulls and heal through the poison AoE instead. Especially in a PUG – it is essentially impossible to get randoms to pull one lever each in time.

We tried that and I could heal us just fine but… he summons adds too. Basically, dealing with the poison takes us both out of the fight long enough to end up with +1 or +2 enemies to fight when we return. Getting two poison phases in a row is really bad; besides there is a thin margin of error for the grouping-to-heal timing so this fight just a bit too tough for us right now.

We can come back when we are a bit stronger again (more CP into reducing damage, improved gear and glpyhs, etc.) and hopefully take him down.

It does feel good to finally down a boss after failing a few times!

I cashed in more Undaunted keys and finally got the armor piece in the correct weight I was looking for: Sentinel of Rkugamz light shoulders. Someday “The Golden” will have the helmet for sale (it drops in Veteran Mode, and I don’t think we’re strong enough to duo a vet mode dungeon) and I’ll buy it up, which will be a very nice healing buff for me.

EDIT: It is there this weekend! Woot!! I’m 100K poorer now but that is money very well spent. My longer term goal is to get monster sets for healing, offense, and defense to give myself more options for mixing and matching gear; now I can check the healing box off that list. (Sentinel of Rkugamz for healing; Stormfist for offense; Iceheart for defense).

I’ve been eyeing zone achievements and want to start working on world bosses. Most are roughly the same health as dungeon bosses, and we can duo many of them, so the world bosses should also be doable by us. Plus, some random folks might jump in as well. We’d get some loot, make progress on zone achievements, and have a chance at antiquity leads. My friend is very interested in some of the mythic items that you can find via antiquities.

ESO – Antiquities

There are so many things to do in Elder Scrolls Online…

I received a lead for the ultimate difficulty Stained Glass of Lunar Phases by fighting dragons in Elsweyr with my guild. The timer was ticking down so I worked on scrying and excavating as much as possible to dig up this antiquity. My method was to choose a zone, scry the green leads and followup anything else (prioritizing the zone based on the lead expiring the soonest).

This worked very well – I reached 10 in scrying and excavation without “grinding” Artaeum like some guides would have you do. I was able to dig up my Stain Glass of Lunar Phases, as well as another ultimate difficulty lead I had: Blessed Dias of Almalexia.

Here they are side by side in my courtyard:

My new problem is my house is too meager to properly show off these relics. 😉

But there is a great solution for this – the free manor you can get by doing the Elsweyr zone questline – the Hall of the Lunar Champion!

As soon as I’m done with my faction storyline (I’m 80% done with The Rift, and I’ve already completed Soul Shriven in Coldharbour) I’m zipping over the Elsweyr to get the manor.

I’ve also spent some points into crafting. Until recently I did my daily writs for crafting inspiration, thus leveling my crafting but not spending skill points. Since I’m 50 crafting in everything except jewelry and enchanting, which are not far away at 48 and 49 respectively, it is time to go from crafting entry level stuff to crafting CP 160 stuff. Which also grants better leveled rewards such as repair kits… and master writs.

I maxed out Clothing and Provisioning and so far have received 1 master clothing writ, that I unfortunately can’t do, I’m missing the style. So I didn’t start the quest and am saving it for later when I might be able to do it.

One skill point I did spend was for a passive in Excavation: Keen-Eye: Treasure Chests. This skill makes chests burn with a blue/green flame and helps me spot stuff in dungeons, delves, the overland, heck anywhere there is a chest I can pick. But it is very nice in dark dungeons, or any place where something obscures the chests. For example I did a public dungeon in Grahtwood where every chest was wrapped up in foliage or tree roots… I would have missed half the chests if it weren’t for the flames.

A screenshot doesn’t do the skill justice because the blue/green flames move like the item is on fire. So it definitely catches my eye. In this screenshot I was showing my friend the range of the skill – I was at the edge of the range where the chest lit up for me (20m with 1 skill point invested).

ESO – Housing

I’ve never been that into housing in an MMO. I know Wildstar had a super fancy system; I have a house in LoTRO but didn’t use it that much. Actually I let my house in the Shire expire and bought a Premium House in Belfelas because there isn’t monthly upkeep for VIPs. If that weren’t that case, I wouldn’t have that house either. I’ve got plenty of gold, it’s more upkeep is just another thing to think about/remember to do. I had a garrison thing in WoW and never got enough gold together in FF14 to get a house. Maybe I could afford one but I didn’t look into it.

Over in ESO there is a quest to get a free house (room in a tavern) which I did but then mostly ignored. Except… I stumbled on the fact I could recall to the house, for free, from anywhere, with minor restrictions like you can’t be in combat.

So housing in ESO serves an additional purpose – free travel – and that is huge. Say I just finished a delve and don’t want to battle my way out and then ride to a wayshrine… just pop up the house menu and recall.

As a result, I bought the Flaming Nix in Mournhold, since I have to travel there frequently to see Undaunted quest givers. There are also Fighters and Mage dailies available, the usual crafting – except I find the layout of the crafting area in Vivec to be superior since all the crafts are right there in a semi-circle surrounding two bankers! Handy for depositing extra goodies from writs like survey reports, collecting items for deconstruction, etc.

I also bought a few cheap homes that are near wayshrines, as hop off points for more travel options. And for various reasons (close to a wayshrine; close to a Dolmen for some handy quick battles; has a decent sized courtyard relative to how expensive the house is) I’ve made the Cyrodilic Jungle House my main house.

I’ve been working on digging up Antiquities – I find the system to be quite fun: solve some mini puzzles, dig up loot and get decent gold and maybe some housing decorations. That’s where the courtyard comes in – I’ve been placing my ancient treasures in the courtyard.

On display are:

  • Beacon of tower zero
  • Greensong gathering circle
  • Daedric pillar of torment
  • Noble knight’s rest
  • Ashen infernace gate
  • Hollowbone wind chimes
  • Void crystal anomaly

The wind chimes and void crystal are animated, which I like.

I’ll switch stuff around and get closer screenshots next time. 🙂

ESO – Gear

My alt stamina warden reached level 50 so now I have two characters contributing to Champion Points. I really like that those are shared across an account; it makes having alts fairly reasonable.

Other things are shared, such as housing, the bank, mounts (but not mount training, that is per-character) and probably some other stuff I’m not looking too closely for. Zone completion is also per-char but that seems fair to me.

I’ve been “shopping” for gear, meaning checking out pages on ESO Sets, UESP (overland, dungeon), and reading over suggested builds on Alcast and Hack the Minotaur. Here is what I’ve come up with:

Templar

I’d like my magicka templar to have dps and healing sets: for dps I want Mother’s Sorrow and Medusa; for healing I’d like Worm’s Raiment and Winter’s Respite.

Medusa and Worm’s Raiment are from dungeons (Arx Corinium and Vault of Madness), so I’ll run dungeons for those gear drops (a.k.a. “farming”). 🙂

Mother’s Sorrow is an overland set, and I leveled through Deshaan so I already got the zone/quest rewards from there… unfortunately when I was leveling so all those drops are fodder for deconstruction (and already have been used as such).

But my alt is CP 160 and hasn’t done anything in Deshaan. Many pieces of Mother’s Sorrow are zone/quest rewards, so I get the shortcut of farming Mother’s Sorrow for one character using another character! Otherwise I’d be stuck with random drops from dolmens, delves, treasure chests, and public dungeons (options remain, even if they are RNG based).

Winter’s Respite is… already obtained! First thing I did on my templar after reaching CP 160 is drop everything and go to Western Skyrim and do all the zone quests and overland quests.

Warden

My stamina warden is currently wearing Defiler’s and Spriggan’s Thorns. These are decent (the Hunger is fun!) and to double down on that (he spawns on a critical hit) another set that has an effect on a critical hit is Venomous Spite, and overland set from Western Skyrim.

The possible downside is any mob that is immune to poison – that essentially nullifies the 5 piece bonus of poison infliction, but of course all the other set buffs remain. Poison immunity is spotty, many undead and dwarf robot it seems… but also most dungeon bosses. And that’s an annoying time to have your damage buff go away.

Briarheart is another set that looks quite nice, overland from Wrothgar. The downside is this overland set is harder to get (??) which I think boils down to the pieces are mostly from random drops with comparatively fewer pieces available as quest rewards.

Nevertheless, I think I’ll make a goal of obtaining Briarheart. For one thing, it is in a zone I haven’t really been to, where Venomous Spite is from Western Skyrim which I’ve adventured through (and unfortunately did not keep any pieces of Venomous Spite received).

So, for variety I’ll head to Wrothgar and if I’m lucky I’ll get 5 pieces of Briarheart along the way!

Misc

Lastly, I caught this note from Syp about long leveling curves in WoW classic –

I can get a lot of other stuff done — podcasts, audio books, movie watching — while I level.

I get it, I was there too and hit the combination of leveling slowdown plus dungeon gap and decided to go back to LoTRO and ESO (see how that worked out!) To be fair to WoW, 2 friends had stopped and my 3rd friend, a leveling monster that locusts content, was also nearing a break because evening classes were ramping up and demanding more time. So in another few weeks I’d be soloing in my last choice of games to solo in. Not throwing WoW under the bus but if I were playing solo, I’d pick ESO, LoTRO, FF14, heck Secret World Legends, Guild Wars 2, DDO – all these games before WoW.

It isn’t my time or subscription money, but if WoW leveling were so dull and un-engaging that I needed to supplement with movies and podcasts while doing it (wtf ?!), I’d unsub.

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.