Monday, December 9, 2019

Only Collect

I don't suppose EverQuest II was the first MMORPG to include Collections as a form of content, although it was almost certainly where I first ran into the idea. I've seen it in a few games since, most notably Rift, where Trion appeared to have lifted the system almost wholesale from EQII. It's a staple of the genre but one that's far from universal.

If there's an MMO that's taken it further than EQ2 I'd be interested to hear about it. In Norrath collections are everywhere. Every zone has them, every game mode, every expansion and holiday event. The wiki has a comprehensive list that has to be seen to be believed.

Wilhelm was satirizing Blizzard for asset re-use among its plethora of collectible pets but think of the icons EQII artists have to come up with! It's lucky there are a lot of bones and pages in there.

I couldn't summon up the willpower to count the current total number of Collections, each comprising anything up to a couple of dozen items. I'm guessing there must be more than a thousand by now.

Looking at my Berserker, probably my most-played character, I see he's Discovered 573 Collections so far. I'm hoping that's over half of everything that's out there but the goalposts keep moving. There are three new Collects for Frostfell, which starts tomorrow. Blood of Luclin, the upcoming expansion, will doubtless bring dozens more.

Of the 573 he's started, my Berserker has completed only 167. That's not even a third. But he's close on plenty more. Of the remaining four hundred and some Collections in his journal, eighty-four need just one more shiny to complete.

I could buy those from the Broker any time I wanted because in EQ2 collection items are tangible and tradeable. When you stoop to scoop up a shiny it doesn't trigger an update automatically, it puts an object into your packs. You can set a checkbox to trigger a pop-up window inviting you to add the shiny to the relevant collection (sometimes they can go in more than one) but you get to decide whether to use it, sell it or pass it on.

For a ha'porth of tar. Hang on - I think I've got one of those in the bank...

Collect items can sell for very, very large sums on the Broker. Seven figure sums, assuming anyone buys at those prices. I know people pay five figures because they've paid me that much, on occasion.

The value comes from the hand-ins. Every Collection in EQ2 comes with a reward and some of those rewards are highly sought-after. Completed collections can also lead to meta-collections, where the reward for completing the collection is another item that can be collected as you work towards an even bigger reward. There are even house pets you can feed to produce random collectibles (probably best not to think about how that happens). The food they consume, dropped by mobs, sells for good money too.

Collecting also used to be a very popular means of leveling. Each completed collection doesn't just reward an item, it gives level-appropriate xp, as would a quest. Only, unlike most quests, anyone of any level can hand in a Collection. A level ten can buy all the items for a collection that takes place in a Level 100 zone, hand it in to a Collector in the safety of their home city and gain several levels instantly.

These days not so many people level up the old-fashioned way and those that do are likely not in any kind of hurry. Even so,collecting remains a whole game mode on its own - or something very close to it.

Over the years I have bought a few items from the Broker to round out Collections, usually to nudge a character over a line so I could get some spell or ability I wanted or go to a zone that was just out of my level range. I've also made a great deal of platinum by selling my surplus finds to other people.

One thing I never really have done in fifteen years, though, is to go to a specific zone to hunt shinies for a particular colllection. That is a thing people do and always have done, just not me. All I do is pick up every shiny I see and let serendipity do the rest. Which, I guess, is why I have completed less than a third of all the collections I've started, on a character that was created nearly ten years ago.

No Neriak Necromancer's Lair is complete without a Vampire Piano.

Before last night, I can only remember one single occasion when I went somewhere with the specific intent of not coming back until I'd completed a Collection. That was for the once-famous Mistmoore Piano.

The collection was correctly called "Candles", the name it appears under in the Journal, although at the time everyone called it "The Piano" because a piano was what you got for finishing it. Every decorator wanted a piano. As I remember, the collection in Mistmoore was one of only two ways you could get one. The other was to do the Crafter Epic questline to the point where you received the Earring of the Solstice, which lets you see red shinies (shinies are like Kryptonite- they come in all kinds of shades). There was another collect for those.

I had to wait until I was significantly over-level for Castle Mistmoore to get the candles because it's a Heroic dungeon full of vampires. I ended up doing it on the Test server with my Necromancer, when when the mobs were still very tough for a solo player but not one-shot tough. Feign death made it possible but it was still a long afternoon.

Last night's enterprise was infinitely less challenging but almost as satisfying. It all began when I was browsing the Broker looking for something to wear.

For most of his nearly ten years, as hundreds of screenshots on this blog stand witness, my Berserker has dressed either as a Gaucho or a Pirate. I don't like to change the look of my chaacters too often but when I decide to do it I can get quite excited about the possibilities.

It was the Dragon Attack event that started it. If you spend that many hours standing around in huge crowds, waiting for time to pass, you inevitably end up looking at what people are wearing. And, as we all know, that sort of behavior leads to envy and discontent.

The red version. I'll be getting that as well.
So many people looked so amazing/impressive/ridiculous I began to think my Berserker a little drab. Time for a change of outfit. I'd been clearing my bags and bank vaults and piling stuff into EQ2's excellent Wardrobe feature, so I started my search for a new look there.

As a Plate Armor wearer, though, most of what I'd acquired seemed to be variations on a theme. It's one thing to play the role of a tank, another to look like one. Especially an old water tank that's somehow on fire.

I'm not a fan of the heavy metal look in gaming at the best of times. I wanted something lighter, fluffier, funnier. I ran through some of the many craftable options I could make for myself but they're all quite bland. Also many of them make you look like a disgraced 1970s children's TV presenter. Not exactly the look I was going for.

I moved to the Broker and began going through the options there, which was when I began to notice a number of outfits with a "Vesspyr" prefix. They were all Appearance items any class could wear, and they all had a clothlike texture. They mostly reminded me of fancy silk pajamas. I tried some on. They looked pretty spiffy on a ratonga. Trust me, not everything does.

The prices weren't outrageous but even with nearly a million plat in the bank I wasn't too keen on forking over a thousand just for the chest piece. I wondered where the clothes might have come from and if I could go get my own for free. "Vesspyr" suggested the Tears of Veeshan expansion. I thought they might be drops or, more likely, quest rewards but when I checked it they turned out to be rewards from completed collections.

I discovered that by way of one of the top results from a Google search: a table of Collections, yes, from the Tears of Veeshan expansion. The source was unexpected. Bizarre, even. It seems to be an FTP file associated with a website apparently entirely unrelated to gaming - The Viking Answer Lady Webpage, a serious website devoted to real-life Viking history. There's no mention of EQ2 or gaming on the website itself - I wonder if the table was even supposed to be publicly visible? Nothing, it seems, is invisible to Google.

In its zone of origin the pajamas are distinctly blue. And plush.

Whatever the provenance, it was just what I needed to get started. I scanned the list and decided to go for the Vesspyr Citizen's Elaborate Blue Tunic, a reward from the Withered Away collection. A quick map hop to Vesspyr Isles, a short flight to the sky island of Sothshae and there I was, hoovering up shinies and pages while my Merc despatched any wildlife foolish enough to butt in.

The mobs were green, which, thanks to EQII's insane power creep (more like power-sprint) these days means one-shot kills. I left a trail of death behind me as I circumnavigated the island scanning for shinies. As a max-level Weaponsmith my Berserker has the Track Harvestables skill, meaning I could see every ? and ! that popped. It made the whole process very manageable and considerably less random than I'm used to.

It took a couple of very relaxing and enjoyable hours to get all seven items. When I arrived I'd found ten or so spots on track. Some turned out to be pages for a book, the rest either items for the Collection I was there for or any one of half a dozen others. By the time I'd finished the collect I wanted I'd also completed one of the others, made significant inroads on all the rest and acquired a dozen or so duplicates to sell or pass on to my other characters.

I flew back to the hub village, Falinpol, where they have most facilities including an NPC who takes in Collections. He gave me my new tunic and I put it on.

It looked great. Just what I wanted. It also acted as a robe, covering the Chest, Shoulder and Leg slots. With the addition of my Circlet of Frost and Withering Hopes Cloak I had pretty much the look I was going for. Only Feet, Hands and Weapon to go.

Elsewhere they take on a grey/blue tone. It's like when you look at clothes under strip-lighting.

My usual selection of comedy weapons - Shovel, Anchor, Rubber Cockatrice - didn't seem to fit the mood so I looked at the flashier end of my rack. I picked the Blessed Aethersteel Greatsword for its blueness and sparkles.

Hands were a bit more of a problem. I didn't really have anything that matched but the closest was either the Fabricator's Gloves or the Frostfell Wonderland Plate Gauntlets. Decision-making wasn't helped by the fact that, as can be seen in the screenshots, the color of the outfit changes depending on the lighting of the zone.

As for the Feet slot, there the decision was taken for me. Not one pair of shoes or boots in my wardrobe would show up at all. It's the barefoot look for now until I can get a pair of Vesspyr Citizen's Blue Boots, which I'm hoping will play nicely with the tunic.

That means another trip to Vesspyr Isles and another session picking stuff up off the ground. Which is more than fine by me. After fifteen years I feel as though I've just opened a door onto a whole new way to play.

Going out and finding the missing items for a collect - or setting out to begin a new collection entirely - is a lot more fun than buying the same things off the Broker. Not that I'm above buying the odd item, when the rng gods aren't favoring me, but I don't intend to make a habit of it.

It amazes me that I've never taken shiny hunting seriously in EQ before this2. I  took it more seriously in Rift but perhaps that says more about how much - or rather little - there is to do in Telon, compared to Norrath, than it does about any inconsistency of approach on my part.

Whatever the reason for my late arrival at the Collectors Ball, I'm ready for the dance at last. Bring on the shinies! I've got a lot of catching up to do.


  1. Well the SOE/Daybreak artists only have to make 2D images, and their level of re-use is huge. Remember all those shard and bone collections?

    My biggest collection memory was back at launch when the quest journal only had room for 20 quests, and collections counted as quests. I kept having to delete collections with only one item in them to play, thereby losing the item. It took SOE a bit to see the light and make collections their own category.

    My first generation characters have a huge number of collections done. My second generation, started with EQII Extended, less so. I will run to and scarf up any shiny I see... I got a lot of old school ones doing To Speak as a Dragon... but I tend to list them on the market to make some plat rather than collecting them all. The benefits tend to be small, and my mercenary wants a plat every 30 mins, which still seems like a lot of money to me. (I remember when I first accumulated a whole platinum coin, which was a task back around launch.)

    1. I'd totally forgoten about the collections sharing space with quests in the journal. Who ever thought that was a good idea?

      If you're short of cash one quick option is the "small bag of platinum coins" you can get for five loyalty tokens, the ones you get for the extremely quick and easy "Daily Objectives" quest. The bag contains 500p, which is nothing by EQ2's hyper-inflationary standards but quite a lot as far as paying NPCs goes, since they haven't updated their prices in forever.

      I could have sworn that bag used to be in the "Loyalty" section of the Cash Shop but it's not there now - I just checked. It is, however, still available from the Loyalty Merchants in Qeynos and Freeport. I checked that too.

  2. Oh, how much time I've spent hunting for shinies.

    Especially during Rise of Kunark, once I had the earring you mentioned and the gnomish glasses (don't remember where you got these from) which let me see red and blue shinies not everyone couild see yet. Made quite a fortune selling the duplicates I had.

    I always wondered why other MMOs didn't copy this system in its entirety, it's so simple yet addicting.


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