Tuesday, July 28, 2020

More Than One Membership : EverQuest

In retrospect it seems like a strange decision but I'll say up front I'm very glad I made it. There I was in the Guild Lobby, looking at my raid-buffed pet, feeling like it was a waste to dismiss him just because he was a few levels off his game and I had a better option waiting on the bench. I mean, in the context of conservation of resources, one outgrown pet with a few replaceable buffs scarcely signifies. If I canned him, who'd care?

Well, I would, apparently. Last time I got to this point I'd been able to pocket the pet, pop out the new one and carry on. It miffed me that I couldn't do it again. I still had the old-old one, even though I really didn't want him any more, but the problem was, I couldn't call him to tell him his services were no longer required without first sacking the new-old pet that I wanted to keep because the game wouldn't let me have two pets at once even for that nano-second of transition. So, until I got past that impasse, I couldn't summon the new-new pet, the one I was actually going to use unless I was willing to destroy the one standing next to me.

Catch 22 and then some.

Here's how it breaks down. You might need to take notes. The ability to pack a pet away for a rainy day is an Alternative Advancement ability (henceforth referred to as an "AA"). The specific AA in question is called Companion's Suspension and it comes in eight grades. I had seven of them, which meant I could suspend a pet with full buffs then log out and still have it available to recall at some future time, most likely during some dire emergency my active pet had failed to contain.

I could then summon a second pet to have with me in the world. What I couldn't do was swap the suspended pet for the active pet. To do that I needed to spend that final point. (Actually, from memory I think it cost five points for the final grade).

I had the points. I had over two hundred and fifty, unspent, just waiting to be assigned. Unfortunately, assigning AA points is one of the key perks of All Access Membership.

As a free player in EverQuest, each of your characters is capped at 250AA points. To give that some context, filling out all the AAs available to a single character costs tens of thousands of points. I've heard it said, more than once, that an end-game player, particularly a melee class, should expect to spend over 30,000 AA points to become viable in capped content.

As a "Silver" account, a type of account that no longer exists but to which I was fortunate enough to be grandfathered in, I'm entitled to a thousand AA points per character. Since accounts that unsubscribe also get to keep whatever AAs they bought before they cancelled, my counter read something like 4900/1000.

I didn't grind those out, or not all of them. Another huge benefit of membership is something called Auto-Grant. It's a feature on a toggle. If you switch it on, every time that character levels the game will automagically grant whatever AA points as a character of that level "should" have and also spend them on the appropriate AAs.

That carries on until the character reaches the level cap from a specified previous expansion that runs a fair way behind the current one. Currently it's 2015's The Broken Mirror, for which the level cap was 105. All of which is fine and dandy and a great benefit for subscribers but I just wanted to spend one frickin' point! Okay, five points, but let's not split hairs.

So I sat around and thought about it for a while longer. Did I seriously want to subscribe for a month just to buy one grade of one AA, just so I could swap out two pets, just so I could keep a bunch of buffs, buffs I could most likely replace by letting the game idle in the background for a few hours while I played something else? Is that the action of a rational adult?

Maybe there was another way. I have a lot of Daybreak Cash, after all. Could I maybe buy some kind of extension to my AA cap on the Marketplace? That way I at least wouldn't be spending real money.

I looked in the store. There was indeed something there that looked like it might do the job. I'd tell you what it was called but I didn't take a screenshot and now I can't see it any more. (Can you guess why? There's a clue there, somewhere). Whatever it was, it cost 250DBC, it applied per character (not per account) and it increased the cap on AAs by one hundred.

It didn't look like such a great deal but I wasn't bothered about that. What concerned me was whether it would work. Reading the small print I was pretty sure it wouldn't. What I reckoned it would do would be to change my cap of 1000 points to a cap of 1100. Since I was already the best part of four thousand points over my cap anyway, what good would that do me?

Still, I had all that DBC just sitting there and I was curious to see if I was right. Curious enough to pay 250DBC to find out? You betcha! And guess what? I was right!

So that was 250DBC down the imaginary drain and there I was, back where I started. I had another think.

I've been incredibly impressed with the speed of levelling via Overseer quests. Sticking at them diligently, I've been making a guaranteed ten per cent of a level a day, for weeks. If I get critical successes, and especially if there's a server xp bonus, that can go to fifteen per cent or even twenty. By contrast, if I can get one per cent of a level in an hour's hunting I think things are going pretty well.

When I dinged 106, though, that changed. Overseer xp per quest dropped by about half. That's clearly intentional. At 106 a character is becoming very viable for groups (albeit as a junior partner) in something approximating current content and Daybreak are very canny about protecting the integrity of the population bubble.

That said, even at five to ten per cent a day rather than ten to twenty, Overseer quests are an excellent addition to solo levelling rates. It does make the prospect of hunting more attractive than it might have been, though. But not as attractive as the prospect of grinding AAXP!

Where it takes days, or more likely weeks, of soloing to grind one level in the hundreds, AAs take no more than a few minutes. Killing comfortable, safe, light blue mobs in a Hot Zone nets five to seven per cent of an AA point per kill. I can rack up a couple of AAs in an hour that way. And quests reward several AAs at a go.

And how do I know that? It's obvious, isn't it? I subbed, didn't I? Yes, on my second account, because my main account is already frickin' subbed, isn't it? Because I play EverQuest II on that one! If I could only stop and start again...

Ah, I'm just play-acting. I'm fine with subbing two accounts for a while. And it's cheaper than I expected. When I went to check how much it would be for a single month the on-screen information said $14.99. With the pound sterling currently tanking in preparation for the UK's grim walk into the north Atlantic's cold and lonely embrace next January, $14.99 is worth £11.63 but, much like our own dear government, Daybreak don't seem to have caught up to economic reality. They're still charging UK customers just £8.99.

Which I happily paid. I'm subbed until late August, which should give me plenty of time to grind some AA points. I made more than twenty yesterday. I also spent most of what I had banked, which may have been a mistake, because when I zoned Auto-Grant kicked in and the game funded me at least as many again. If I'd not just bought a bunch of AAs, I'd most likely have been given those, too.

Even with a few minor errors of judgment it's feeling like a very good decision. I was decorating the kitchen last week and I spent more than the cost of a month's sub on a tin of wax to seal the surfaces. I know which I'm going to get the most pleasure from, that's for sure. You have to keep these things in perspective. Although I do like my wax...

With the added incentive of being able to see my xp (okay, my AAxp) move without the aid of an electron microscope, I spent most of yesterday hunting. I travelled to a bunch of zones I'd never even seen before, found a great spot with good light and plenty of space, killed a bunch of new-to-me mobs and had a great time.

Money well spent, I think. Now I just have to make some in-game money so I can upgrade all my gear and kill things even faster for even more AAXP so I can kill things faster still....

I could be at this a while.

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