Friday, December 11, 2020

Last Year's Model

I wasn't playing World of Warcraft when Warlords of Draenor was current content so I have no personal experience of what must surely go down in Azerothian history as the Garrison Era. I certainly read plenty about it at the time, though, from blow by blow accounts of construction to guides on how to make your fortune to complaints of burnout and ennui.  Judging by what I was reading, for a couple of years it seemed that piece of real estate all but defined gameplay for many.

Years later, as I pick through the confusing mess of outdated, confusing and just plain wrong garrison guides, I keep coming across apologies and  excuses for even suggesting anyone might still need to know about this embarrassing period in the game's life. I could have sworn I remembered a time when garrisons were almost popular. I guess the novelty wore off.

A year after the Overseer systems were introduced to EverQuest and EverQuest II I can't say I sense the same level of hostility. That's certainly not because players have come around to the mechanic over time. More that no-one really mentions it at all any more. 

If there was ever a moment when Overseer content was what you could genuinely call "popular" I think I missed it. Oh, wait, no, there was that one week right at the start when the EQ version was giving out rewards players thought were pretty good. People liked that, alright. Then there was a patch that toned things down, which set off a few days of uproar, and then everyone seemed to forget Overseer existed.

In EQII I don't recall the system getting even that brief flurry of controversy. There was that one time they changed the icons...

Both systems received some quite extensive tweaking and tuning through the year, entirely to the good. Compared with how they were at launch, both are slicker, sleeker and simpler to use. In EQII we got a series of fresh Overseer missions for most of the significant holidays and there was a "Season" update that doubled the levels and added a ton of new rewards. 

There was talk in podcasts and forum posts about the Overseer systems having been developed as a faster, less resource-intesive means of adding questlike content to both games. The developers seemed a lot more excited about that than the players, for reasons that are all too obvious but, like it or not, it seemed as though we'd all have to get used to seeing quests happen offstage.

My detailed knowledge of how WoW works could be handily etched onto the head of a brass thumb tack but I have an idea the only concept introduced to the game with garrisons that Blizzard saw fit to develop and evolve once WoD became old news was the "table" thing. It's an oddly tactile rendition of an application you'd normally expect to find embedded in the UI, if not in a separate mobile app, whereby you send agents on missions that play out with no further involvement on your part. It would actually fit better in EQII, where you can at least put your tables where you want them.

I was expecting something similar from Daybreak (as was). I thought there'd be some attempt to incorporate the Overseer feature into each of this year's expansions. I imagined the most likely way being by means of another "Season". So far we've only had the one. And come to think of it, that might only have been in EQII.

There was no mention of Overseer content in any of the promotional material for either of the expansions. I found that surprising but then the pre-launch information we were getting was barebones at best so I didn't read too much into it. There'd be something, I was sure.


There still might be something for EQII. Reign of Shadows doesn't drop until next week. But Claws of Veeshan is already up and running in EverQuest and if it incudes any new Overseer content, I can't see it. 

Of course, I don't own CoV. There's no level cap increase and all I do in EQ is level, so there's no point buying it for me. Overseer, though, is not tied to expansion ownership in EQ, nor even to membership. It's available to all accounts including F2P. In fact, as I've previously mentioned, for historical reasons I play EQ mostly on my unsubscribed account despite having another that I'm paying for. Most of my Overseer gameplay is outside of membership. If there was new content for Overseer I'd be seeing it. There's none.

I'd take a bet that the majority of players in both games would prefer it that way. Just as I'd guess most WoW players would rather forget they ever had a garrison. A lot of people disliked the basic premise, others the implementation and as for the rewards...

Ah, now we're getting to it. Here's the problem with dissociated game systems in mmorpgs. If the rewards are deemed to be insignificant, players ignore the system completely other than to complain about the resources being wasted on it. If the rewards are thought to be worth having, players feel they have no option but to use the system, even though they don't enjoy and maybe even disapprove of it. 

As I understand it, at WoD's peak a lot of WoW players felt they had no choice over whether or not they upgraded and used their garrison. The rewards were too good to miss. In Norrath, old and new, the pointer is nearer the other end of the scale. 

Which is strange, because for casual players the rewards are fantastic! I've been making out like a bandit with Overseer in both EverQuest games. I used Overseer in EQII to equip and upgrade most of the gear on six max level characters. I leveled up mounts and mercenaries with Overseer-sourced time-reducers. I filled my bank vaults with more rare tradeskill materials from Overseer missions than I've ever had, let alone in the opening stages of an expansion cycle. 

I needed those rares because Overseer also gave me all my important crafting recipes, which I used not only to give all my 120s expert quality abilities but also to make a relative fortune by making and selling spells, combat arts and augments to others who hadn't had the same rng luck or, more likely, who weren't taking Overseer as seriously as I was. By the summer I was both richer and better-equipped than I'd ever been and all  thanks to Overseer missions. 

I'm richer yet in EverQuest. For much of the year I concentrated on using Overseer to level up my magician. She went from 93 to 115 and although she did quite a lot of proper soloing, I'd estimate twenty of those twenty-two levels came exclusively from Overseer xp.

Once there was no more need for xp I swapped to making money. I've made almost three million platinum in a couple of months, more than I've made in the last fifteen years put together. I run craft and research missions every day then, a couple of times a week, I swap the crafting mats I get from doing them onto my Bazaar trader and collect what he's made so far. 

The strangest thing isn't how well and consistently the rewards I'm getting from Overseer sell to other players. It's that you can do these missions on a F2P account. I'm amazed people aren't setting up farms of dozens of free accounts and pumping this stuff into the tradeskill economy until it tanks. It's not as though I haven't thought of doing it myself, only I don't really have anything to spend the money on. All I do is stand in the Bazaar next to the bank setting these quests once or twice a day.

Over in WoW I've spent an inordinate amount of time this week trying to get my garrison ready to make thirty slot Hexweave bags. I'm not planning on selling them, although they go for 200g a pop on my server and I should be able to make them for well under a tenth of that. No, I just want to give them to all my characters.

The prep to get to the point where I can begin grinding them out is significant, although nothing I've had to do in game has come close to the sheer amount of research I've had to do online before I could work out how to do it. I think I've finally got it figured out. 

I have my garrison and my tailoring shop at tier two. The character who owns them has retrained as a tailor. He's bought and learned Draenor tailoring. I've done the quest to get the follower with the Tailoring trait and I've assigned him to the tailor shop. I've farmed a lot of sumptuous fur and stockpiled hexweave cloth. All I have to do now is the five time-gated missions to get the tokens to buy the Hexweave bag recipe and I'm in business. 

I hope. So far, every time I thought I'd done what what I needed to do I found I needed to do something else. I'll get there in the end but I can already see why people found garrisons... annoying. Nothing like spending half an hour soloing old raids to make gold to buy a training manual off the trainer in your garrison only to get the same damn book as a drop from a quest someone else in your garrison sends you on an hour later. You'd think they could at least talk to each other.

If DBG/EG7 let Overseer wither on the vine I'll be disappointed. I like it. Compared to the vastly more complex and detailed garrison feature both Overseer versions seem clean, simple and straightforward. Yes, there's a strong rng component in the EQII edition but my experience suggests that if you just keep at it you'll eventually get pretty much everything you could want or need. Okay, there is still that one augment recipe...

On the other hand, as a dedicated but casual solo player, it's not all that much of an exaggeration to say that in both games Overseer rewards have largely rendered going out and killing stuff unecessary. I've mostly been doing that because either I just felt like it or because there was new narrative and scenery to enjoy. 

Which is a very valid reason to do content - once or twice. That whole mechanic mmorpgs rely on, though? The running dungeons until your fingers bleed to get gear or grinding them until you hate yourself to level up? Yeah, Overseer has kind of replaced both of those treadmills with a daily routine that takes five or ten minutes.  And you can get rich while you're at it.

Gear and levels get periodic resets but the thing about money is it never goes out of style. If EQII's Overseer system doesn't get an update I'll probably drift out of the habit of using it. I'm already skipping days. In EQ, though, why would I stop the presses from printing out platinum? I might not need the money right now but it's not going to spoil and I might need it later.

As for my garrison, I imagine it has a future as a bag factory. At least until my sub lapses. I won't be able to use it after that. Oh, except, I can just make another, like this commenter on the still-inaccurate-even-after-being-updated-for-Shadowlands guide to what you can and can't do on a Starter account did.

I guess I'm going to be sending those agents and followers out on missions for a while to come. The developers' focus may have moved elsewhere but there's money and bags still to be made. And bags of money, come to that.


  1. I still use my garrison regularly. It is a start point for a Draenor circuit to level up battle pets and has a weekly quest that gives out upgrade stones for pets. I also have a tailor that cranks out 30 slot bags for any alt I end up making.

    Garrisons were not horrible, but they were not housing and they did exactly what Blizz said housing would do, which was pull people out of the game into their own little spaces. It was basically a "worst of all options" choice. My conspiracy theory has been that Blizz did this on purpose to prove they could ignore requests that they implement "real" housing in the game.

    1. I agree it looks like that. Also, the way the garrison changes as you upgrade it to become harder and more awkward to navigate makes me think someone wasn't really feeling the whole "this is your personal space" vibe. More like "this is what we think you ought to have and if you don't like it, tough!".

  2. I still check my garrison mission tables. The rare rep token (Medallion of the Legion) stills for server thousand gold, which is still a nice amount. The mount and the bulging barrel of oil/huge ogre cache (garrison resources) can go for several hundred gold depending on the AH conditions. Not a huge amount, but it helps fund things for alts.

    The big issue with the Draenor garrisons is that they tied all the systems into that expansion. Once the expansion was done most of the buildings were useless. If you had put together the Auction House construct or were making bags there really wasn't much reason to revisit the place for most people. Some still did for the transmog or mount farming, but Blizzard really pushed folks to be elsewhere.

    Sadly, I think if Blizzard would break away from their obsession of expansion-locked features and built a housing system designed to be supported long term, as they have with transmog and pet battles, for example, they would find it would keep more people invested in the game. A least, a different group than endgame focused raiders.

    1. For some incomprehensible reason both Blizzard and ArenaNet seem hell-bent on making sure they never add real housing to their games. In both cases it goes far beyond a simple disinterest - someone or some faction at or near the top clearly has a personal agenda about it. I've been around long enough to remember when there were gender politics assocviated with the inclusion of housing in mmorpgs. It wouldn't surprise me to find there was ome of that going on, acknowledged or otherwise. For some, decorating may not seem macho enough to fit the heroic backdrop, although with the mounts in both WoW and GW2 these days I'd say that would be a difficult line to hold.


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