Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The new EQ2 expansion added another chapter to the famous "Gathering Obsession" questline, in which players are tasked with harvesting large quantities of everything that isn't nailed down for a kid named Qho Augren. The reward is your very own, developer-sanctioned harvesting bot.
The new chapter
I'm told that once upon a time, the Gathering Obsession line could only be started at max crafting level, and was at least partially designed to get players to harvest some of the less desirable resources just to get them out of the world. I could see how this might get irritating. Fortunately, the modern version of the quest can be worked on as you level, advancing harvest skills that you already want anyway. (Ironically, I now intentionally don't harvest bushes and dens after I complete my quest updates, to leave them for people who need them for the quest.)
The new update has the kid sending the player an in-game mail asking for a harvest pass through the content from last expansion. This is much easier than the mid-level versions, because modern zones are designed with specific types of harvestables concentrated in specific subzones. When you finish the mining updates, you leave the mountains and head to the forest, where there are fewer rocks. So, despite the high numbers (50 of each resource, with 2-4 resources from each type of node), the harvesting portion of the quest goes by quickly.
I snagged two rare harvests while I was out gathering, one of which I crafted into an upgrade for one of my key buffs. The rest is an amusing sight-seeing tour, that ends with the player receiving one of the Augren family pack mules. The mule, like a previous guild hall amenity, can be tasked to harvest for you in any zone from 1-90 every two hours.
Two design points
There are two things that I take away from this exercise. The first is the somewhat odd quirk that EQ2 harvesting is in a place where it is perfectly acceptable to task it out to an NPC. The real money is in rare harvests, which the NPC's do not find (or perhaps keep for themselves ;)), so apparently it's just assumed that the basic materials for leveling and quest recipes are going to fall into your lap. Most of the current tier materials aren't even found on Velious with the new expansion content. It's an interesting case study in NPC-automation, as, for example, SWTOR plans to task out the actual crafting to NPC companions.
The other thing is that a seemingly odd task - getting players to clear out unwanted harvesting nodes (rather than, say, not having the bush of berries no one needs share a spawn with the node of ore that everyone does) - becomes more entertaining when you do weave a story that comes back to the player level after level. MMO's have always had significant NPC's, but it feels like there is a growing recognition that relationships with NPC's matter. Qho - the somewhat notorious kid that people alternately tolerate or love to hate - literally makes the new chapter of the quest, which would have been pretty pointless (gather some stuff from zones you've outleveled, run around, pay some money for a final reward).
As an added bonus, now I don't need to loot my guild harvest box for low level materials if/when I go back to do some of the new low-mid level tradeskill quests. :)