The Tattered Notebook: SmokeJumper talks GU60

The past week has certainly been difficult, both for Sony Online Entertainment and EverQuest II fans. The attack and the downtime has certainly been on players' minds as they wonder when the game will go live again and how much of their personal information was compromised.

But while these seem like dark days for EQII, there will be lots to look forward to in-game once things are back to normal. A few weeks ago, Senior Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson took time to answer some questions for Massively about Game Update 60, The Children of War. And he met again for a roundtable interview just before news of the attack on SOE broke.

Read on for highlights of the interview and a look at what's on the horizon once services are restored.

First off, as we covered in the previous interview, Game Update 60 will continue the storyline from the Ages End Prophecy and ushers in lots of new content for high-level players. Players will get to visit Drunder, Fortress of Zek, where they'll experience three new instances and three new raids. There's also a new PvP battleground, called Vanquish, and the return of Crystal Caverns, a high-level heroic zone that longtime EverQuest players will certainly recognize. In addition, the devs are continuing to improve on current features, like adding a clearer adornment interface, offering new daily shard missions for solo players, and continuing to refine itemization.

When asked about the update and what will bring players back to the game, Georgeson said that what the team is doing right now is focusing on the quality of the current content as well as continuing to add more content. He also brought up the fact that, in the past, the lore of EQII was pretty well hidden. The devs are focused on ways to make the storyline more accessible to players, so that as you play through the content, you have a better understanding of the events that are taking place around you.

He added that Velious content would continue to be released as Game Updates, something that he discussed in our earlier interview. But he added that there will be an expansion for EQII, and it will have nothing to do with Velious.

He then gave some more details about the upcoming battleground, Vanquish. It includes a new map, The Frozen Tundra, and has different objectives than previous battleground instances. It's a three-group instance, but it also includes Dwarf and Giant NPCs that fight for control of two towers located on opposite ends of the map. As he put it, there will be lots of opportunity for both capture and hold as well as control and hold, and players will need to make use of choke points as well as the NPCs that are battling it out. He was very impressed with the new map as well, saying it looked fantastic and included some nice details like ground fog.

In addition, there will be some nice improvements to the PvP system, some of which will launch with the next update. The team has had a chance to go back and work on a few areas that should make the overall experience more enjoyable, like adding a lobby, revamping the fame system, and adjusting some armor stats.

Next, SmokeJumper discussed the robust discussion that came from his suggested level 90 winback program. When asked if he was surprised at the reaction, he said he was mainly surprised at the measured tone of the discussion as well as the good ideas that came from it. He found the overall conversation to be productive, and he said SOE will be looking closely at a lot of the player feedback as it continues to work on ways to bring in new players as well as returning players.

When asked about whether there would ever be a possibility of merging live servers with the Extended server, he said nothing is ever off the table, but he stressed that what will determine that will be the players. He said that right now the issue is that players on the live servers earn what they own, and they feel that their experience in game would be cheapened if they were playing with others who could use their wallet to earn their gear. While he would personally love to allow players to transfer back and forth between servers, he understands the feelings of the players and would not make that change unless the players want it.

The subject of veteran rewards came up, and Georgeson said that while the team is still working on details, it's excited about some new rewards and new ways that players can earn them. He said one idea he's looking at is a new token system by which players will earn tokens the longer they're subscribed and can purchase rewards from an item catalog.

Next, he talked about itemization and changes going forward. He said the team realized that players didn't care for single stats on items, so it's going back to adding secondary stats. He said everyone's focused on making items easier to understand and making things more fun overall. He added that the new adornment interface should also help, because it makes the adornment system easier to understand and give players a lot of flexibility in how they want to upgrade their gear.

The discussion shifted to talk of lower-level content, and Georgeson answered questions about flying mounts and public quests. Regarding the issue of flying mounts at the lower levels (an issue that actually initiated the level 90 winback discussion), Georgeson said there was a reason SOE didn't put flying mounts in game earlier. Earning a flying mount is a big achievement, and it's really been a hook for level 90 players. But the ability to fly is such a game-changing experience that players end up not wanting to play their lower-level alts. Going forward, there are plans to add in hooks at level 30 and level 60 and some travel mechanisms that will make the leveling experience more enjoyable for players leveling up. He wouldn't go into detail, but he said players would see them in game update 60 and 61.

When asked if there are any plans to add in more public quests and whether any would be added at lower levels, his short answer was, "yes, and yes." But he added that the team has a pretty full plate right now with its work on current Velious content, the Freeport and Qeynos revamps, and continued tweaking of current game mechanisms and features. So it's in the works, but it's probably not going live for a while.

Overall, Senior Producer Dave Georgeson discussed lots of new changes that are coming to EQII, and as he put it, SOE has plans for some big things over the next year that are not seen in any other MMO. Thanks to Dave Georgeson for taking the time once again to answer our questions about the Children of War Update. Here's to hoping that EQII comes back soon.

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to
This article was originally published on Massively.