Thursday, May 20, 2021

I Believe In Progress

When I logged into EverQuest today I noticed there'd been an update. Nothing unusual in that. I think we get one every month or so. Maybe more.

I tend not to pay too much attention. It's fairly unlikely that most of the changes are going to affect me even when I'm actively traveling around Norrath and environs, leveling up or otherwise engaging in something that might loosely be called gameplay. Generally it's tweaks and fixes to content I'm not going to engage with or new quests and activities I'm never going to do. EverQuest is a huge, huge game now and even when I play semi-regularly, as I did for a good part of 2019 and 2020, the vast majority of it remains opaque to me.

There's got to be a trick to it...
These days, when almost the entirety of my EQ gameplay consists of setting and completing Overseer quests and once a week, usually on a Friday, swapping the rewards from my magician to my trader so he can take advantage of the weekend sales rush, it seems even less urgent that I pay close attention to things that are changing. I probably didn't know what they were like before, so if I happen to run into them after, it'll be just as though that's how they always were.

Even so, I do tend to read the patch notes. It's a habit of very longstanding, going back to the early days, when the game was much smaller and everything was much more likely to matter. In those days the first you'd know about most changes would be when you ran into them in game and since bumping into something unfamiliar in Norrath can frequently lead to sudden death, reading the notes was a matter of simple self-preservation.

Today's notes contained some interesting information. There was a lot of detail about something called "Hunter Achievements", about which I kind of thought I remembered hearing before although I couldn't remember what they were. A long section of the patch notes gave details of the rewards you could get for completing these achievements, all of which seemed to be bags of various sizes, all of them substantial already and all of them now bigger still. 

Those bags sounded yummy. I thought I ought to go look up just exactly what you needed to do to get them. I had a momentary fantasy that maybe it was like Lord of the Rings Online or Final Fantasy XIV, where you just go around killing certain kinds of creatures until you've killed some arbitrary number and magically become an expert in hunting whatever it happens to be. I like those.

I didn't really think it would be that simple. Not for those bags.  And I was right. Naturally, it turned out to be both more complicated and tougher than I expected. It pretty much means killing every named in each zone in each tier in each expansion. Kind of a bigger project than I was imagining. Something to think about for the future, maybe.

Arguably more urgent, although only for a very lax definition of "urgency", would be the Fabled creatures currently running around Norrath. I've done my share of Fabled hunting but not for quite a few years. It was compelling content when the ones I could kill also dropped things I could use but those lines diverged long ago. 

I didn't even know it was Fabled season again. I just happened to notice this entry in the update:

Infinite, one-hundred per cent regen. That's some "issue". Nice use of the conditional, too. Someone's written patch notes before.

Those two items made me think about taking the Mage out for a spin. She's max level, well-geared for solo content, raid-buffed to the eyeballs and she even has that new pet-summoning focus she hasn't had the chance to try out yet. It would not be a tragedy if her current, also raid-buffed, pet got himself killed, trying to take down some Fabled mob out of his weight class.

Do I really want to get sucked into playing EQ again just now, though? The list of mmorpgs I'm mentally juggling is begining to get out of hand. If it gets any longer there's going to be a waitlist just to get on the bench.

Off with the hot pants, on with the cool pants.

Let's shelve that one for now. The main item in the patch notes, the one that got me writing about them for today's post, was something I could test without leaving the Bazaar. In many ways, the EverQuest of 2021 somehow manages to remain true to the original spirit, even the Vision, of the game but for many years now the developers have been performing miracles to keep it as up-to-date and user-friendly as something so archaic could ever hope to be.

We've seen countless quality of life changes over the years, from in-game maps and quest journals through achievements and collections to massive increases in inventory space. Long gone are the days when EQ players only had to think about eight spells at a time. My magician has a dozen spells now but she also has four dozen active hot keys, most of which trigger other spells or spell-like abilities. 

The looting system in EQ is now, in my opinion, the best in the genre. It was past time EQ matched that convenience in picking stuff up with a quick way to decide what might be worth putting on. Just about every modern mmorpg comes with some form of auto-comparison for gear and now EverQuest does too.

What? This old thing? Oh, it's only fit for the trash, now!
I read the notes on how it works. It seemed simple enough and it was, once I'd remembered how to inspect things (it's alt-lmb). As far as I could tell from my brief experiments you have to be wearing one of the items for the comparison option to appear, so no comparing two items in your bags.

That makes it great for making comparisons on the fly when something good drops but more importantly for me, the function works through the Bazaar window, too. There have been times when I've spent whole afternoons meticulously and laboriously comparing stats between items by opening a bunch of inspect windows and staring at them until my vision blurs. Sometimes I've even taken screenshots and compared those.

This will save me a ton of time when the new expansion arrives at the end of the year, bringing with it a level cap increase and a slew of potential wardrobe improvements. Always assuming we're getting a new expansion, that is, and always assuming it's going to come with a level increase.

I wonder what other features and mechanics EverQuest can look forward to receiving, years after all the cool, new games got them. I'm sure there must be a few left to add although nothing comes immediately to mind.

Much though I enjoy the occasional romp around Steamfont or Qeynos Hills when a new progression server spins up, I have to say I much prefer my EQ to come with all mod cons. What's more, I'm pretty sure few would have been complaining back in 1999 if these kinds of features had been listed as highlights in patches back then.

Or maybe they would. Who cares? Too late now! I get to rank my pants and no-one can stop me. And it only took a couple of decades. You can keep your progression servers. I'll take my progress as it comes and be grateful for it.


  1. That sounds like a nice addition. I still dabble in EQ now and again. It really is vastly improved compared to the launch era game to my tastes. I have been meaning to get my Necromancer up high enough to use the overseer system, you make it sound like a lot of fun. I just wish there was a clearer path through the 50-80 game (besides using a level boost).

    1. I think the whole game is set up now in the expectation that no-one who doesn't actually enjoy the 1-80 leveling process for its own sake will just boost to 85 and start in the high-level version of The Feerrott. That whole expansion is basically set up as a starting zone for new characters. I think it's also why they haven't yet added any boosts higher than 85 - if they did they'd need to make another zone into a starter zone at 100 or whatever.

      From 85 onwards, Overseer does so much of the heavy lifting of leveling solo (assuming you don't mind going at a very slow and steady pace) that the actual hunting turns into something you can do just for fun. I think it works very well but it only suits me because I'm happy to take most of the year doing the last 30 levels. Other people just grind until they can get groups so they can get from 85 to cap in a week or two, which, of course, is the traditional way to do it.


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