My new life in Butcherblock (happy new year everyone, by the way – usual story of holiday periods, office moves and lack of internet connections are to blame for the sparse blog updates lately, but at least I’ve breached the mental firewall of letting this thing slip prior to Christmas and seem eager to continue into ’08)… uh, where was I? Oh, right…

So, my new life in Butcherblock has been temporarily delayed as a few unearthed areas of Antonica still rang out to me (will I ever get to leave this green and moderately pleasant if somewhat overly spacious land?). Basically, in tying up the last few loose ends in my quest journal before packing up and shipping out, a few more final strands shot up so I’ve been knee deep in McQuibble Farm scarecrows (is it just me or does the sudden rushing of a gang of x3 Heroic mobs at the end of the quest chain seem like a slightly unfair difficulty upramp?), camping out gnoll captains down in Blackburrow, taking a sudden and strange interest in harvesting and crafting, and impersonating Seaman Stains (one for the fellow Brits reading this) on the good ship Smarmy Sprocket and its crew of workshy fops.

The other EQII resolution that I’d promised to myself last time we spoke, was to start grouping. My first foray into that since could hardly be said to be pushing back the boundaries of gaming excellence however. My quest journal has had a handful of Stormhold-based quests hanging around in it for ages, picked up in a mad fit of peak many levels ago, and just hanging around like a bad smell, waiting for the day I’d reached a level sufficiently powerful enough to not be killed just by the wind rush thrown up when the front doors open.

As luck would have it the ‘level 20-29’ channel threw up a promising-sounding “SH group looking for mid to high 20s.” Assuming they weren’t referring to some kinky sex game I’d hitherto been unaware of, I sent back a /tell and was promptly accepted. Despite being a monk.

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Eager to begin my epic afternoon of thrilling adventures and derring-do, I rushed towards the stony doorway, surprisingly didn’t die that much on the way, and leapt straight into the fray when I witnessed my party leader idly killing opening area goo things while waiting for the Avengers to Assemble.

And that’s about where it all fell apart for me and this is the indicative of my whole problem with grouping up in the game so far. This wasn’t the fault of the party itself, I hasten to add, but it’s just indicative of the typical grouping experience of the game. What happened from there on in was what can typically described as a madcap rush from one named mob to the next, barely stopping to catch breath and hardly even waiting for one corpse to hit the floor before we were speeding off to find the next.

Where was the thrill of adventure? Where was the exploration of (to me) an unknown environment? The tense advancement along unknown corridors, the glory and marvel on arriving in a beautifully dilapidated ballroom? We even seemed to just rush past the fabled glowing sword at the top of the spiral staircase that I heard was a major plot point but barely raised a flicker of interest from anyone here as we sped towards our next XP-boosting target. No one was speaking a word to anyone else other than to call out a target and debate on whether the drops would be any good. It was only once I’d finally had enough of this and called it a night, stepping back into the cool, evergreen air of Antonica at dusk, that I discovered I’d actually crossed off a couple of the Stormhold quests I’d been storing. Discovery quests mostly, but in all the non-stop running and slashing I hadn’t even noticed them dinging away.

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Anyone know what’s going on? Answers on a postcard to… 

I guess that’s why I’ve been all too keen to keep soloing to date. When I’m running a quest, I like to stop and smell the jumjum beans. I’m actually interested in the content of the world that’s been so lovingly designed by the good burghers at SOE. I like to read the background, listen to the quest givers and know what I’m doing. The problem is, there are too few grouping opportunities for people who are still fresh to things. I have no problem with XP/loot chasing groups, let me be clear on that, but at the level 20-40 stage, it’s not what I’m after. I’m still exploring. I’m still excited by seeing a new area. Surely I’m not the only one.

Hence a proposal. The chat channels are often home to group inviting calls, but rarely do us lore fiends get a chance to know what’s waiting for us if we sign up. So how about setting up a new chat channel solely dedicated to letting those with a taste for a slower-paced approach advertise for first-time quest running groups? If you see “Looking for Firemyst Gully group, levels 20-25 needed, esp Healers” you automatically know that you’ll be banding with like-minded souls looking to explore quests for the first time and who will have an interest in following the plot.

Chances are I’m just describing a role-playing server, but I doubt it somehow.

(P.S. Apologies for the lack of imagery with the recent postings. I’ve been shuttling from one dodgy internet connection to another just lately. Hopefully normal visual servcie will be resumed shortly.)

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