The Passion of the Overseer

The Overseer feature came into EverQuest II as part of the Blood of Luclin expansion back in November and I have been trying to pin down its raison d’etre ever since.

Snakes. Moon snakes.

My introduction to the Overseer feature involved the typical SOE/Daybreak muddled experience.  I had purchased the  collector’s edition of the expansion, which entitled me to three special Overseer agents.

The agents are available through the /claim interface, where EverQuest II keeps all the special goodies you have been awarded over the years… bonus expansion content and veteran rewards and the like… and fifteen years down the road with the game I have quite a bit of junk hanging out in that interface.

Account age as I started writing this

They used to give bonus age to your account for buying expansion, which meant they had to be a year ahead on veteran rewards, back when they were still doing those.  Veteran rewards died out at year twelve.

Anyway, I went to the /claim interface and went to the Blood of Luclin tab, because where else would I go, and saw my bonus agents.

Here they are…

They come in a box, which you unpack into three boxes, which you unpack in their turn.  Each of the three boxes lets you choose one agent.

Who to pick?

There isn’t a lot of guidance as to whom to pick.  Two of the packs contain agents with a single trait, while the third has agents with two traits.  The traits are things like “agile” or “noble” or “lucky,” but there isn’t any real guidance as to how those might work.  The agents have little descriptions as well, but those are meaningless as well.

So I picked one from each pack.  They end up in your inventory where you can right click on them to add them to your collection.  After that I went to the Overseer window from the main menu and… couldn’t figure out what to do.  I had three agents and no missions and nothing seemed to be going on.

As it turns out, in order to get started you need to pick up the starter pack which is in the Promotions tab of the /claim interface.

Start here

That gives you a starter agent and a starter mission.  When you add those to your collection then open up the Overseer interface, if gives you a quick tutorial mission, then sends you on your way.  At that point things worked.

I have, on a few occasions, compare this to the mission interface in the garrisons of the Warlords of Draenor expansion for World of Warcraft.  This is very unfair… to WoW.

Love them or hate them, the missions and minions in Warlords of Draenor were a big deal, a very deep system, and fully integrated into the expansion.

You could have dozens of minions, but had pick a select set for your active group.  Minions had to be leveled up, and then geared up, which made them more effective on missions.  Minions could also be used in your various garrison buildings.  Some minions could even be drafted to come adventure with you out in the game.  Even getting them was a “gotta catch em all!” game.  Some you could recruit, others came from quests, and more still from dungeons and raids.

And the missions… there were many missions, and picking the right minions was critical to mission success.  Mission availability ebbed and flowed.  Some missions lasted from couple of hours to a couple of days.  And eventually you even unlocked naval missions.  It was crazy complex, such that somebody built a huge addon (Masterplan) just to help you keep track of what was going on without needing to keep a spreadsheet.

If you want a metaphor, garrison missions were to the Warlords of Draenor expansion as the plumbing is to your house.  You could still live in your house without it, but you really get used to having it and come to depend on it… which was one of the problems of that expansion.

Even the pared down version of missions and minions that came with Legion and Battle for Azeroth were still heavily connected with the game and the story.  They were integral to those expansions.

When we speak of the Overseer feature and EverQuest II, the metaphor is probably different.  It is more like somebody attached a tube and a funnel to the side of your outhouse.  It is a nice little addition and adds a bit of convince, but it is a cheap, nailed on feature, and if fell off you’d just go back to going into the outhouse to take a piss.  You might miss it, but it didn’t change the basic functionality of things.  It isn’t an integrated part of the outhouse system, such that it is.

Okay, the outhouse metaphor probably sounds worse than I intended, but the point remains; Overseer is its own system pretty much independent of the game.  As I saw suggested elsewhere, it could have been a mobile app and maintained the same functionality.

While the Overseer functionality has gone through some functional gyrations since launch, it has remained mostly the same basic premise.  You open up the interface and you see your agents and your missions.

Welcome to the Overseer

You have a list of your agents on the left, with icons to indicate their special traits.  Most agents do not have traits.  To the right, in the main part of the UI, is a list of missions at the top, with details of the highlighted mission below.  Missions have a “Mishap Chance,” which is a failure, or 5% or 10%, which means the success rate is 90-95%.  That can be mitigated by a percent or two by assigning your familiar to the mission.

There is also a bonus chance, which stands at 5% by default, but which can be improved by assigning agents that have traits that match the mission, and further by assigning your mercenary to go along on the mission.

A mission with the odds changed

Neither your mercenary nor your familiar actually “go” anywhere.  They are still with you, so there you might as well click on the plus sign above the chance options and add them to a mission every day.

Missions vary in duration, running from one to three hours so far as I have seen.  The only exception is a rescue mission.  If you hit the mishap roll, you then have an opportunity to go rescue your agent.  Those missions run six hours or so and offer some special rewards if you hit the bonus, so maybe you don’t want to put your familiar in the mix just to get some more mishaps.

Missions themselves reference places in the game, like the Fool’s Gold Tavern, which I rob daily, but otherwise have no depth to them.

You are limited to 10 missions a day.  A real world 24 day, not a game day.  That 10 mission limit is account wide, so you’ll probably end up concentrating on one character to run missions.  There won’t be any need to log in all of your alts daily, which was one of the Warlords of Draenor grinds.

The mission list, which was per character for a while, are now account wide.  For a long stretch missions would come and go and I rarely had more than six on my list.  With the account wide change, I now have more than 10 missions to choose from on any given day.

Agents, however, are per character.  So, once again, you will probably want to concentrate on a single character to run missions.  I found that I could trade my special collector’s edition characters through the shared bank boxes, so some of my alts handed over better quality agents to my main mission runner.

The rewards vary.  You can get crafting materials, both common and rare, advanced crafting recipe books (which are so common that the market for those books has crashed), gear, collectables, and additional agents and missions.  The gear you get is better than basic crafted, worse than master crafted, and not always better than gear you might pick up on quests.  None of it was better than gear I got on the signature quest line.  But since you can salvage or sell the gear on the market, or just vendor it, it won’t go to waste.

I think the collectables are my favorite reward, though I say that now that my bank is overflowing with advanced crafting recipe books.

Overall, not a bad little feature.  I log on to play with it a couple times a week.  My crafters now all have their advanced skill books in hand.  But, as I noted, not exactly connected to the game in any meaningful way that I have noticed.  More of a mini-game with some rewards.

So I was a bit surprised to see the Overseer described as a “passion project” in the EverQuest producer’s letter I mentioned last week.  It isn’t bad, but it isn’t something that would keep me subscribed to the game either.  It is a little too simple and a little too limited to be a big deal to me.

But apparently it is a big enough deal that it will be coming to EverQuest this month as part of the game’s 21st anniversary.  I will still be subscribed at that point, my current three month cycle being good into April, so I will no doubt give it a try there.  I might even find it more useful in old Norrath than new, but we shall see.

Bhagpuss has been posting about the Overseer feature for a while now, and his takes are more complete, so visit his posts for a better look at it.

6 thoughts on “The Passion of the Overseer

  1. bhagpuss

    The rewards from the Overseer missions can be a lot better than the ones you list. For a start it’s one of the very few ways to get the real Advanced Crafting books and those will make you rich(ish). The ones that are called “Advanced”, with which as you say the market is glutted, only make Adepts. Useful, especially because in recvent expansions Adepts themselves have been rare and highly overpriced, but the ones everyone really wants are the Shadowed books for the Scholar classes. Those are the ones that make Experts.

    I’ve so far had quite a few Shadowed books from Missions; Level 111 and 115 for both Sage and Alchemist, which I can use, plus a Jeweller one and an Armorer one I can’t. I’ve made around four million plat selling the Experts I’ve made and I only make a few. Plus all my characters that use those spells/CAs now have all Experts in those levels, which many more millions of plat in value if I’d had to buy them.

    As well as that I have about five or six of the books to make Adornments. Those are limited use and some cost a lot. The adornments you can make are potentially worth several million plat each although the mats aren’t cheap or easy to come by. Again, I’m not sure if there’s any other way to get those books – Overseer missions are certainly the main pipe for them.

    Even with gear I have had upgrades to the Signature line quest gear. The Level 118 and 120 gear is better and I’ve had several pieces. It sounds from your post as though you’ve had a lot less luck with rng than I have. Also, I’m very surprised to hear your longest missions are the three hour ones. I’ve got three ten hour missions now and those have (potentially) the best of all rewards. Most of the Shadowed books came from those.

    Reading your description of Garrisons I’m really glad the Overseer system is hugely less complex. It already takes me more time every day than I would prefer – if it was like the Garrison system there would literally be no time to do anything else!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – On the garrison comparison, a lot of people got sick of garrison missions because they were integrated with the expansion and felt that they HAD to do them with every alt. This was not helped along by the fact that WoD was a bit like BoL in that it was a good expansion to level alts up. I had six or more at level cap.

    But they were part of the expansion, and you could forget about them once the next one came out. And with Legion the missions were not nearly as time consuming (less so that the Overseer I would say), but were still integrated into the expansion, so doing them had benefits elsewhere, unlocked content, and awarded achievements. You also had to go out in the world and earn resources to fund your agent missions.

    I am kind of surprised that there are no achievements for Overseer accomplishments. They didn’t even bother with that low level of integration with the rest of the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Quin

    When low-effort pseudo-mobile games tacked onto the actual game are the “passion project” of a once-reputable developer.. :S

    Like

  4. Telwyn

    Admittedly I’ve drifted somewhat away from EQ2 due to Neverwinter of late, but I’ve had very little luck with the system’s RNG. Running it a few times maybe 3 or 4 days a week, I’ve still only got 4 characters on my main character and, ignoring the temporary Erollisi ones, about 5 missions tops. I did get one new character early on, and then got that same character twice more. I do set off missions when I remember to log in, but I’d say there’s way too much RNG. I have made some good plat off of selling crafting books mind.

    Like

  5. Telwyn

    Oh and I should have said, the best aspect of WoDs garrisons compared to later systems was the Pokemon-like aspect of collecting companions by various means, *and* out in the world. It’s too big an ask for a passion project. But a few quest chains that reward a specific NPC as a new character would be a great future addition to this system.

    Like

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Telwyn – Having been watching the Yahtzee Crowshaw “12 games in 12 months” video series (I recommend it. you can find it over on The Escapist YouTube channel.), the Overseer feature seems to be just a primary game play loop.

    The primary game play loop is the main thing you do in a game, like shoot things/mobs/people in an FPS or kill monsters in a fantasy MMORPG. The secondary and tertiary game play loops are what get added around the primary to give it context and meaning. So quests, levels, crafting, story, dungeons, raids, and all of that, those are the bits that go around the primary game play loop in a fantasy MMORPG.

    The Overseer is just a primary game play loop, as it has no context around it. It is like a slot machine Darkpaw stuck in the corner of the game. You can play it if you want, and it can pay off pretty well, but you can’t do anything with it but start missions and collect rewards. And the rewards are good. But your minions don’t grow or gain xp or get some of those traits over time. You get a new mission now and then, or a minion as a reward, but it is otherwise static. Just press button, wait, collect random reward.

    Like

Voice your opinion... but be nice about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s