Sunday, March 15, 2020

Return Of The Overseer : EverQuest

Until Wilhelm asked me what I thought of it, I'd forgotten all about Darkpaw's plans to bring the Overseer system to EverQuest. Once my memory was jogged I thought I'd better log in and take a look. The tl:dr is this: I was very impressed.

Also a little bit worried. I like EverQuest II's version a little too much already. I spend an hour or so every day fiddling about with it. Possibly more. For what's currently supposed to be a bit of fire-and-forget fun it's amazing how much time it eats up.

There are plans afoot to bring more complexity to the EQII Overseer experience. From what I've seen of EQ's opening gambit the older game may have stolen a march on its young offspring. EQII already has a way to go to catch up.

I'm not going to go into the details - not too closely, anyway. Anyone who plays EQ regularly will have to come to terms with the system's quirks and complexities for themselves. For the confused, there doesn't yet seem to be a wiki guide yet but there's a helpful forum thread.

Getting to grips with the Overseer feature in EverQuest is about the same as it was in EQII. You could flounder at the very beginnning if you don't do a tiny bit of preparation but it's very straightforward once you're in. I couldn't immediately see a hot key or UI element to fire the Overseer interface up but I'm woefully out of practice with EQ so that might just be me. Fortunately I had read that all you need to do is type "/overseer" so I did that and in I went.

There's a tutorial very similar to the one in EQII, a series of super-fast quests (they're called "quests"
rather than "missions" here), which take just five seconds, down from EQII's sluggardly ten. These introduce you to the basics and give you your starter agents. You get ten in total, a big increase on EQII's starting duo, but every quest requires two agents so you need all ten to complete the daily maximum allowance of five quests.

There are a lot of quests on offer from the start. I was able to choose from a total of seventeen. As I discovered this morning, when I logged in to collect my rewards and see what  came next, unlike EQ2, which rapidly switched from offering a random subset to letting you choose from all your available missions every day, the EQ system still controls which ones you get to see.

Either way, there's plenty of choice. The quests come with a number of durations - six, twelve and twenty-four hours being the ones I have so far. They each require agents with various traits, some of which can also be counter-indicated. Pretty much the same as EQII, in other words.

There's also a "recruitment" quest, duration thirty-six hours, which results in a new agent and there are three "quests" right at the end of the list which, I think, are always present. They're called "conversion" quests and they allow you to trade in three agents of a lower quality to receive one of a higher quality in their place. It looks to me as though that's the main mechanism for getting new agents, unlike EQII, where you get them in the form of random drops but it may only be an alternative for all I know at this point.

You can see the rewards you'll get for each mission, although, as in EQII, there is also an element of rng in exactly what will drop from a range. Unlike EQII, however, each mission has a guaranteed reward in the form of experience towards leveling up your agents and you can always take the option of guaranteed xp to level up your own character.

Pausing here for a second, this is the aspect of the whole thing that I find most exciting. At Level 85, the minimum level required to access the Overseer feature, the six, twelve and twenty-four hour quests give approximately 0.2%, 0.5% and 0.9% of the level respectively.

That may not sound a lot, but assuming you were able to complete of the full day quests each day, and keep those in rotation, and that the percentage xp reward remains consistent, you could add a level to your character every three weeks, give or take. If you were to combine that with doing the daily Franklin Teek mission while runing your daily Veteran double xp lesson, you could probably, reliably, make 10% of a level in an hour every day.

A level in ten days for the most casual solo play is a lot for EverQuest, even now. It might even be enough to tempt me to start logging in every day - if it wasn't for the fact that the character I want to level is on the account that no longer has All Access membership and you don't get the Overseer unless you're a member. Still, whose fault is that?

I'm quite glad things have worked out that way, to be honest. Otherwise I could very easily imagine a future in which my daily routine after work consisted of thirty minutes doing Guild Wars 2 dailies, two hours doing EQII Overseer, Public Research and Familiar missions and an hour on EverQuest Overseer quests and Teek dailies. And then it would be time for bed.

Moving away from my personal problems and back to the general overview, the rewards other than xp appear to consist of a choice of expansion-specific crafting materials and special items or a currency to be spent at a designated vendor in Plane of Knowledge. I haven't crafted in EQ since sometime around the Depths of Darkhollow expansion in 2005 so most of it means nothing to me but a skim through the threads about it on the forum suggest that the only people who don't approve are those who were making a killing selling some of the rarer mats in The Bazaar.

Ngreth, EverQuest's veteran crafting dev and house ogre to EQII Traders' Naimi Denmother, has apparently indicated he intends to start slowly and ramp up with the things you can buy with the currency. It certainly offers a potential route for all kinds of good stuff if the system proves popular, which I suspect it will.

It already comes with monetization built in, something EQII's version curently lacks. You can opt to pay Daybreak Cash to speed up the completion of your Overseer quests, something entirely consistent with Darkpaw's existing methodology of selling progress. In the interests of science I tried to do just that to find out how much it might cost but the store doesn't seem to have been set up to take my money yet, an unusual oversight, ironically.

There is very obviously a lot more that could be said about EverQuest's Overseer feature. I feel as though I've barely scratched the surface. It's hugely more "finished" than EQII's, which now looks somewhat threadbare in comparison, and I can't claim to understand much of the complexity yet. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the things I've said here about the basics turned out to be misunderstandings or just plain wrong.

One thing I'm absolutely sure about, though, is that EverQuest's Overseer feature is visually sumptuous. In contrast to EQII's thumbnail character portraits and eyestrainingly tiny icons, every agent in EQ comes with their own beautifully illustrated portrait, presented in rich, glowing color at a size and definition the allows for full appreciation of the artist's work.

Each quest also comes with a luxurious title panel that does a great job of giving atmosphere to what is, in the end, an entirely notional adventure. The text accompanying each quest is also a tad richer and more detailed than its EQII equivalent.

 While it may be a matter of taste, I also strongly prefer EverQuest's UI to EQII's. It's more flexible, clearer and more precise and in the Overseer feature its strengths are used to great effect. I found it immediately comfortable and intuitive to use. EQII's is perfectly fine but for ease of use I would take the EQ version every time.

And that's probably enough for now.  The system will inevitably change and develop over time. It has some idiosyncracies that may or may not be bugs - the incidence of quest failure is widely reported to be significantly higher than the percentage chances given, for example and the penalties for failing seem harsh - but it's a very solid start.

In both games I feel the Overseer feature offers a firm platform on which to build. What's more, it's perhaps the most promising feature added to either of the games for several years.

I'm aware that not everyone agrees and it's true that it indicates a move in a direction that's arguably alien to the underlying concept of the games, namely open world and dungeon adventuring, be that solo or with friends.

I'm comfortable with that, though. Times change and MMORPGs are going to have to change with them or slowly fade away. There are some changes I don't welcome but this I do. Better these mini games than a drift towards survivalism, for me at least.

Whether it's enough to bring me back to EverQuest as a regular logger-in I doubt. For that I think I'd need a wholesale boost in rate of gain for character xp or an option to buy a near-max level characte. That's just me, though.

If this is the thinking we're going to see under the new regime then I like it. Of course, the Overseer system is a product of the Windstalker era, so who knows whither from here?


  1. Thanks for the post. I am almost tempted to update and log in to EQ. It's probably been a year as I logged in for last year's anniversary events.

    There are supposed to be changes coming for EQ2's overseer system. I have not followed it that closely as I just look as the system as a decent add on. Nothing great but still fun to do as a side quest.

    1. There's a free heroic character for this year's anniversary, if you're an All Access member. Only level 85 still, sadly. I'm looking forward to seeing how the EQII Overseer system expands but I know there's already negative sentiment building up that it will be yet another time-gated monetization channel.

  2. Wow, I just LOVE the art and lore pieces! That alone is great.

    1. The art took me by surprise but thinking about it, it's a great way to get some visual flair into a game that, much though we love it, has to make do with graphics that weren't exactly cutting edge twenty years ago.

  3. I still find the fact that you have to go to the Rewards window, which doesn't open up automatically, to claim when an overseer quest is done to be odd. Also, I haven't had a recruiting quest on my standard list of quests so far. I wonder if I did something wrong yet again? Also, I am wondering what tetradachms can be spent on. Should I accumulate them?

    1. I haven't been to check the vendor for the tetradachms but I did read that he's in PoK and so far what he sells isn't amazing. But that's where my comment about Ngreth comes from - apparently he wants to start slow and build up with what you can buy rather than overdo it at the start and have to nerf things. So, yes, probably worth saving them for now... always assuming you think a time will ever come when you're playing regularly enough for it to make a difference.

      On that last topic, I managed to make a level 85 halfling ranger with the free Heroic yesterday instead of the Druid I thought I was making. I wondered why she had all her points in Dexterity and I actually changed them to Wisdom and still didn't spot I was on the wrong class! Since it can't be changed I would be very cross... except there's zero chance I'll ever play the character no matter what class it is so it really doesn't matter.

    2. I think they fixed the problem with the rewards not coming up automatically with a patch today. Yesterday I had to go track them down, today they presented themselves on finish.


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