Friday, April 30, 2021

Maybe Do The Work

I want to say a little more about EverQuest 2's Overseer feature but not too much more. Reading about arcane systems in games you don't play is not inherently compelling. Not for most people. I know my mind starts to wander after a couple of sentences if I try to read posts about guns in Destiny  or Seasons in Diablo, for example.

With Overseer it's arguably worse than that. There's no guarantee even people who play EQII will sit still for a lengthy discussion of its ins and outs. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's been an unpopular addition to the game but from most of the comments I've heard it's not held in any great esteem, either.

Which is a pity. And a mistake. 

Of course, I would say that. I love it. It's my favorite addition since Mercenaries (something else that some players would happily see excised from the game, even now). I find Overseer to be compelling content in and of itself, what with its strong collection elements, the pick-a-team conceit and the often-gorgeous art. The interface is slick and a pleasure to use, too, which helps no end.

Green chests don't just have the best items.
They have the best missions and the best agents, too.
The thing that I think players most obviously seem to miss about the Overseer system, though, is how useful it can be if you put in the time. I get the impression that many who dislike it or dismiss it do so on the principle that if it's not combat or crafting it must be fluff and fluff should be quick, easy and rewarding, as most of the holiday content in EQII usually is.

Except Overseer isn't fluff stuff or holiday fun. It's an alternative progression path for your fighting and crafting characters. For casual players, particularly soloists, I'd argue it's now probably the primary progression path.

The thing is, just like leveling or crafting, getting to the point where you begin to see rewards that feel useful takes time. At the start of each season you have few missions and they aren't good ones. Your old agents, assuming you have some, don't have the right skills. You can probably only do a few of your ten permitted daily missions and what comes out of the chests you get for doing those is mostly stuff you neither need nor want.

At this point I imagine plenty of people lose interest. Unlike me they probably don't find the process pleasurable in its own right so if they're not getting rewarded they aren't going to do the work. Only you need to do the work. In mmorpgs you always need to do the work.

When Overseer Season 3 began, about all I seemed to get were consumables. Instead of last season's endless supply of potions, this time it was temporary adornments. They do look useful. Mor so than the endless potions we got in Season Two. I haven't used any yet,but that's mostly because I haven't done much in the way of combat for a few weeks. 

I re-organized my bank to make space for the new items and kept at it. Slowly, really quite slowly, I began to acquire more missions and more agents. It's a bootstrapping process. New missions and new agents drop from the missions you're already doing. Keep doing missions and after a while you have more. Keep doing those and eventually you have more than the ten you need to fill your daily quota.

The trouble is, most of those missions are probably still blue quality, requiring only one or two agents, taking no more than a couple of hours to complete. With those missions the loot table you're pulling from is full of armor and weapons no better than solo quest rewards, more missions no better than the ones you already have and new agents who mostly don't have any skills at all. And, of course, a whole load of low-end consumables.

Those blue missions also have a low chance of popping a bonus chest and even if you get lucky it's not a very good bonus chest. It's easy to get the impression the whole thing's a waste of time. It's not. You just haven't spent enough time on it, yet.

Here's the thing. You need to do all the missions but you need to make sure you do all the best ones you have, as many times as the game allows. If you have three yellow quality missions you can do six yellow missions in a day because the cooldown allows you do them twice. Maybe even three times. I'm not suggesting you set an alarm so you can wake up in the middle of the night to catch them as they come off cooldown but you can easily do a set in the morning and a set in the evening.

You won't need to do that for long. The better missions drop more better missions. Soon you'll have plenty of yellow missions and some purple and green ones, too. The better the mission, the better the rewards. Now, if you're a casual player, you'll be starting to see a few things drop that are better than what you have, even if you've been diligent in doing your signature questlines.

At this point I was going to say something about crafting and how deeply important Overseer has become for that side of the game. Thinking about it, though, it's too broad (and deep) a topic to shoehorn in here. I have another post in mind about how crafting has changed in EQII but for now, to keep it simple, just take it as read that casual and solo crafters will benefit strongly from keeping up with their Overseer missions.

The problem with doing that effectively and productively is having the right agents. If you stick to one character as your Overseer Guy, you won't. You can do all ten missions every day on a single character, sure, but you'll end up using a lot of agents with the wrong traits or no traits at all because the agent cooldowns get long when the missions do. 

Using inappropriate or unskilled agents us better than not doing the missions at all but nowhere near as good as doing them with the right people. The more agents with the right traits you can slot in, the higher your chance for those bonus chests. And the bonus chests are where the good stuff is.

It's an easy problem to solve but once again it takes time and work. All you need to do is farm your excess agents out to your other characters, I have six characters actively engaged in Overseer missions and they acquire their agents in a strict heierarchy. I stick all the spare agents in the shared bank as I get them, no matter who acquires them, then I log everyone in in the right order and each gets to hoover up any agents they don't have before the next character gets to pick.

I imagine other people would make a spreadsheet. Whatever floats your point.

The upshot of all this is that once momentum builds, the rewards come in almost too thick and fast to manage. There are still plenty of consumables but at least they're better quality. Most days there are some strong upgrades, items as good as or better than the things you get from the ends of solo quest chains. Depending on how many characters you like to run, it makes a very appealing alternative to taking each of them through the same questing content to gear up.

The pace of progression is dictated by the ten-a-day limit. Events like the recent Appreciation Weekend, which included Double Overseer Missions as one of the thank-yous, speed that up somewhat but over the first two seasons I found it took months before I decided it was no longer worth runing all the missions every day.

None of this is to say you couldn't get the same results faster in other ways. Heroic dungeons would give better gear than the best you're going to get from Overseer. Crafted gear is (once again) as good as or better than most of the things you'll get from running missions, so you could just buy the pieces you need from a crafter. Neither of those is exactly solo play, though. Or even, in my opinion, casual.

My point, to reiterate, is that Overseer is a well-designed, well-integrated feature, which appropriately rewards the effort taken to learn and master it. It may not look like it at first sight but that's what it is.


  1. "I know my mind starts to wander after a couple of sentences if I try to read posts about guns in Destiny or Seasons in Diablo, for example."

    Belghast is out here catching strays.

    I don't have time in my life for EQ2 at the moment, but your descriptions of the Overseer system seem up my alley. It's like the gameplay of a mobile game without the monetization tactics that ultimately ruin them.

    1. Heh. I did have Bel in mind but not only him by any means. And I do read his Diablo posts - I just don't understand them. I don't understand anyone's Diablo posts but at least I know what the game is. Destiny, on the other hand, I have never really figured out at all. Every post about it, ever, by anyone, seems to be pictures of guns. I gave up trying to make sense of any of them log ago and now I just skip them altogether.


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