Sunday, January 19, 2020

Familiarity Breeds Confusion : EQII

You know how you can look at something every day and not really see it? Happens to me a lot. I like to think of myself as an observant sort of person but really, like most of us, I only see what I expect to see. I know we'd all like to believe we're the one who'd spot the gorilla but the whole point is that almost no-one does.

I like almost everything about EverQuest II's latest expansion, Blood of Luclin, but the thing that's really grabbed my attention is the new Overseer system. It's all the better because I never expected I'd be giving it any attention at all.

It's a fairly abstruse addition to a game that already feels gnomic. It's taken me a while to get to grips with it. I'm sure there's more to learn. I know there is.

Since I wrote about it I've been sending my Agents out on Missions every day, so I do have some practical experience. There's also a detailed entry on the wiki, which I've studied at some length.

Even so, it was only today that I got around to playing with the fine controls, the two Plus signs at the bottom of the window. One affects  Bonus, the other Mishap. You can use them to increase your chance of the former and reduce the risk of the latter, both things you'd very much like to do.

Unlike the system itself, there's a veneer of internal logic to this. To increase the chance of acquiring a bonus chest you can send one of your Mercenaries to accompany your agent. To help them avoid being captured you can lend them one of your familiars.

Okay, it's a very slim thread to hang a sense of reality on but it's something. You could imagine the Merc and the Familiar giving the Agent some kind of edge. I wouldn't say I'm feeling any immersion here but it at least has internal logic and a certain storybook charm. More pointedly, it's a mechanic with repercussions in the game proper.

To send a Mercenary to assist your Agent you must first have unlocked the "Hire Anywhere" option for that specific Merc. Some, the ones that come with expansions for example, are unlocked when you first hire them but you can unlock any by paying a small fee (currently 149 DBC which is about a dollar-fifty at the basic exchange rate).

That's a possible revenue stream for Daybreak, although I'd imagine it's more of a trickle. Most people who care probably have plenty of Mercs unlocked already. My Berserker has half a dozen on staff. Still, I'll probably spend a smidgeon of my triple-SC-sales savings on mercenary contract extensions for some other most-played characters.

Also, why are all my Mercs working pro bono now?
Although EQII may well have turned into a whaling operation at the difficulty levels above my ceiling, for me it's still nickel and dime stuff, if even that. At my level of involvement it's more a game of time-management than a wallet thrasher. As I've mentioned before, modern EQII comes with several offline training systems: mercenaries, mounts, abilities and familiars. There may well be others I've missed. I've been reasonably diligent in keeping up with the first three but I never really got going with Familiars.

That's because the only way I know to do upgrade them for free is to complete the daily Familiars Wild quest, the purpose of which is to catch a familiar to feed to one of your existing stable, thereby making that one stronger. Brutal.

I did the quest when it was introduced almost two years ago. I wrote about it at the time, praising it to the skies and saying I found it "very moreish indeed". Then I promptly forgot about it and never did it again.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I didn't blank the quest from my mind. It occured to me now and again that I should be doing it but I was well aware that if I did I'd just add every new familar to my stable rather than feeding any of them to the others. Not that I have a problem with that. It just never seemed to be the best use of my time.

Well, now things have changed. I could use a few more familiars to send out on missions. And the better quality the familiar - Legendary, Fabled, Mythical - the more it reduces the risk of the agent it accompanies getting captured.

With all that in mind, this morning I went to get the quest. I had a vague idea the NPCs were in Freeport and Qeynos but I couldn't remember where, so I went to the wiki, found the loc, cut and pasted it into my EQII Maps window in game and followed the glowing trail to... the exact spot I've passed by almost every day since the quest was added.

2019 was a good year for free familiars.
The three Conservators stand around under the gables on the street side of the East Freeport bank. That's the local branch most of my characters use. I'm in and out of there several times a day. Did I ever notice them? What do you think?

I was a bit confused as to why no-one was flying the feather to show they were open for business but my Berserker spoke to Steward Kres anyway. His reply? "I'll have more tasks for you tomorrow".

What? Why? I haven't seen you for two years! How can I still have a timer?

It occured to me that perhaps I still had the quest in my book. I have some stuff in there that goes back a lot longer than a couple of years. I opened my Journal to look but I couldn't find "Familiars Wild" anywhere. Off to the wiki to check what Category of quest it was.

"Mission", apparently, which I didn't know even was a category. But then, I could write a book on the things I don't know about EQII. If only I knew what they were...

Something else I didn't know until today is that the Quest Journal now has five tabs. If you'd asked me yesterday I'd have said there were three: Quests, Collections and Achievements. If I'm honest, I might have said two, because although Achievements have been in the game and the Journal for many years, I always forget about them.

As the most observant among you will already have noticed, this screenshot was taken nearly forty minutes after I finished writing the post. Blogging takes up a not inconsiderable portion of the day.

I had no idea there were tabs for Daily Objectives and Missions as well. When did they appear? I open that book almost every day and I swear I never saw them before. But then, I wasn't looking for them. Remember that gorilla?

It didn't help much. I found a "Familiar Daily Mission" on the astoundingly lengthy list. Seriously, there are pages and pages of Missions, almost none of which I ever do - or indeed ever have done. Every one said "No" under Completed but they still all had Reset Timers, including the Familiar. What that means I'm not entirely sure. At all sure. I don't have a clue.

To be on the safe side I logged into every character on the account and checked they didn't have the quest. No-one did. Then, because I'm nothing if not bloody-minded, I logged in the account formerly known as my main account (and even more formerly as Mrs Bhagpuss's account. Don't get me started...). My Necromancer there was also told to come back tomorrow.

I refer the author of the flavor text to Dorothy Parker's review of The House At Pooh Corner.
Also, could you please add a Merc or Familiar called Katy so I can use my "Katy On A Mission" gag? Oh, wait, I just did.

And that's where I'm at right now. Reset is in exactly five hours as I write this. That's seven in the evening where I am, midday in San Diego. I guess I'll have to wait and see what changes then, although since I haven't done the quest for two years I'm at a loss as to how the daily reset could affect things.

Always something new to learn. Always another puzzle to solve. I'm just hoping it's not some kind of bug. I could do without exploring the intricacies of Daybreak's Customer Service system. I'm all for exploration, discovery and lifelong learning but there are limits.

I'll come back and update this post when and if there's something to say. With luck, I'll have a picture of my new familiar to show off. Either that or a screenshot of my ticket number.

EDIT: Hmm. Reset made no difference at all. Steward Kres still says "Come back tomorrow". But... I made a new character and she was able to get the quest and complete it. Now Kres tells her to come back tomorrow as well. We'll see what happens then.


  1. I knew about the first three tabs as well, and I guess I could convince myself that Daily Objectives was there before, but mission timers?

    I'm still kind of mixed on the Overseer thing. It is so random and unconnected to other things in the game. Very much an SOE sort of feature. I won't turn up my nose at getting a few low effort items. I like the collectibles and the advanced trade skill books, but could do without the range of potions and tiny dabs of harvestables. And then, of course, there are the additional heroes and missions.

    I've been playing it daily... I have enough agents that I can run all the missions that pop up. I get a bonus reward every once in a while, but have yet to ever have a mishap, so have never had the need to use one of the rescue missions that are available now and again.

    It is all a bit odd, like it was supposed to be more or that there is something else hidden in it.

    1. It seems to be the main way to get Advanced crafting books. Not only the regular ones that now make Adepts but the new Shadowed ones that make Experts. Since those sell for 1-2m plat on Skyfire right now (for the spell/CA making crafts, at least) that's worth trying for.

      As far as I understand the only way you get tosee a Rescue mission IS if one of your Agents has been captured, i.e. a Mishap has occured. You have to put that agent in one slot and two more in the others to do the rescue. If you ignore it, the timer just ticks down and you get your agent back but no reward, so it would be very easy not to realize it had even happened. At least I think that's how it works.

      Also, the longer the Mission takes, the better the rewards can be. I only started with the one-hour missions, I think. I'm very keen to get the longer ones as rewards - my longest so far is 3.5 hours but they go up to ten hours. And since I only started with the two basic Agents I also want as many of them to "drop" as possible, too. There are a load of traits to get and the longer missions take more agents and use more traits.

      It's a surprisingly complex system. It makes no sense in context of the game lore-wise but I long ago gave up caring about that! It works and it's entertaining which will do well enough for now.

  2. I was only thinking on the weekend as I got real life/boring stuff done and almost zero gaming that I should at least log into EQ2 to check on character's mount and companion leveling busywork. I had *completely* forgotten about the Overseer thing after completing the first few missions - the UI obviously doesn't help here as I've logged back in on my main a half-dozen times and never received a "your mission is complete" type notification, or have I and I just didn't notice it? ;-)

    1. I'm not sure it does give you a reminder. Maybe a line in the chat log, but that scrolls pretty fast for me. Easy to miss. I think a lot depends on whether you enjoy these regular, predictable tasks or not. As someone who rarely imposes any structure on anything I do, I find them relaxing and fun. It saves me from having to come up with ideas of my own, which I never find very easy or entertaining.

      I suspect the people who find this sort of thing onerous are those who are already organized and log on with clear ideas about how they want to spend their time. Ironic, isn't it?


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