The Tattered Notebook: Exec. Producer Dave Georgeson on EverQuest II and EverQuest Next

If there's one thing that came out of Fan Faire about EQ Next, it's that no one will talk about EQ Next. No matter who you talked to, any time the subject came up, the answer was always, "I can't talk about that." However, Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson sat down with Massively during Fan Faire to talk more about EverQuest II, and during that interview, he did give a tiny glimpse into what that game would be like.

In this week's Tattered Notebook, Massively gets the scoop on Beastlords, the dungeon builder, Freeport's revamp, and much more.

First off, Georgeson said that the only thing he could say about EverQuest Next is that "there's no MMO like it, not even close." Their intent from a business perspective is to not have the titles cannibalize each other at all. He said they feel that all three titles will continue to stand on their own even after the release of EQ Next. He went on to say that they have something they think is completely original, that works well in the high-fantasy setting, and has a feature set that no one else has. It will use the same engine for PlanetSide 2, meaning that the game will run on both low-end systems as well as top-of-the-line computers. There is no release date yet, however.

Switching gears, he spoke more about EverQuest II and the new Beastlord class. He said that a lot of the new stuff that the team is doing is with the idea of giving fans what they've been asking for a long time. When Georgeson first came on, his hands were tied, because the Velious content was already being developed. Now that they've released that content, they have the freedom to explore new directions and ways to differentiate themselves from other games. They're trying completely new types of features for the game, like the ability to design your own dungeon, and they're also trying to address the things that fans want like the Beastlord class.

As for details on the class, he stressed that things are still being worked out, and are subject to change. It will be available with the expansion pack, and is a scout class with leather armor who uses brawler weapons. But what sets the Beastlord apart is his warder pet, which has its own AA tree and special abilities. The Beastlord develops a rapport with his pet through the use of particular combat abilities, and as he builds up that power, he and his warder are able to use special, more powerful abilities. It's a very active class, and it requires people to participate more in the battles than with some of the other classes.

He then discussed itemization and the large-scale effort to revamp items from levels 20-90. He explained that they wanted to make sure that items were consistent in their stats and worth wearing before they made any other other big sweeping changes. The team knew that with the Freeport revamp and the addition of the Beastlord, many players would be leveling up new characters. They wanted to make sure that people would use the items that dropped and that the experience would be fun for everyone.

The subject of Freeport came up next. Georgeson said the revamp was one of his favorite things on which they're working. Players who begin in Darklight or Timorous and are evil characters will no longer go to Butcherblock. Instead they'll go to Freeport, where Lucan is working on retaking the city and is clashing with several evil factions that have become active while he was kidnapped. When asked about the racial hamlets, Georgeson said they're "kinda gone." Many of the neighborhoods are barren, so they're focused on making the persistent area of Freeport a really cool city with opportunities to quest and explore. He described how a player might come across a bag of money on a counter in a building, and it's up to that person to decide whether to take it and risk the consequences of that action or leave it there.

The neighborhoods will become instanced adventuring areas that will change depending on what choices a player has made. They want to give the neighborhoods their own unique charm and personality based on the different races and factions that are interacting. And as for the question of what happens to the housing instances, Georgeson said not to worry -- the doors will remain in game, and they'll probably focus on making more convenient ways to get to the houses.

He spoke about the quest content, and the fact that it's multilevel. Starting characters in Darklight or Timorous will come across race- and class-specific quests, so that those that create alts (which is a vast majority of players) will have different content to play each time. Also, the neighborhoods will scale in level, so they won't grey out to those that are higher in level.

As he described the Freeport revamp, he touched on the lore of EQII, and compared it to Game of Thrones. In the books, there are a thousand characters in the story, but you only follow a small portion of them, and they're the ones that are pivotal to the storyline. With EQII, they want to do the same thing, drawing up quests and content around a few pivotal NPCs in the city. And yes, the Citadel will be repaired, and it has cousins.

The dungeon designer came up next, and Georgeson said it's built to be expanded upon depending on how it's received by players. Players will get the components -- like maps, monster spawners, layouts, traps and adventures -- from running instances. Players select the template, are teleported to that dungeon, and then use the interface to design the layout of the dungeon. He added that the interface is such an improvement over the current housing interface that it will actually replace it at some point in the future. He went on to say that the design your own dungeon content has been the team's "NASA moon shot," and has led to a ripple effect of change in other areas of the game.

Players will be able to test out their dungeon, run NPCs through it, see the challenge rating, and, once they're satisfied, they can publish it. You can choose to publish it only to friends or you can make it public. If made public, everyone can play through it, rate it and possibly put it on the leaderboard.

As for loot, the mobs are not itemized, so there are no chests that drop as you work through the dungeon. But if players complete the instance, they get a payout of currency that is used to purchase items. If you make a really easy dungeon, the rewards are scaled down because it will have a lower challenge rating. Builders will also get tokens, based on quality ratings, and they can use them to buy more unique items to build future dungeons. Quality ratings are based on a few factors, such as player votes and the number of times players run the dungeon.

Players who run these dungeons will go through as the role of adventurers. Players can collect different adventurers out in the world, so someone who kills an Orc warlock in Crushbone might unlock that adventure type for use in player-created dungeons. It's similar to a pack of playing cards, because each adventurer you collect has a different set of abilities from which to choose. When you finish the dungeon, you can spend the tokens on any of your adventurers. You can play solo, with a group or even with a PUG through the dungeon finder. They're even considering adding the ability to bring a raid in the future.

Georgeson explained that builders will level up as they continue to build and create dungeons, and the team wants to give builders the ability to build bigger and better dungeons as they go. They're also exploring the area of object interaction with spawners. He stressed that this is still up in the air and is not final, but he said that they'd love to put in items that change the way monster spawners interact. So if a player puts an alert near a monster spawner, those NPCs would call for help when attacked. Or if a player put a monster spawner near a fire, those NPCs might spawn with fire-based weapons.

Mercenaries came up next, which Georgeson said are available at all levels, but they take a cut of the coin and the experience. Players will talk to merchants in cities, and each city will have their own unique mercenaries, with different AI, skillsets, abilities, even differences as to when they choose to run or not. There is no limit to the number of mercenaries you can own, but you can only use one at a time and they count as a player slot. The nice thing about mercenaries is that a small group can use them to fill out the empty slots, and if they come across another player to join the group, they can easily swap them in for a mercenary.

Lastly, he gave an update on some new and recent staff changes to the EQII team. Rich Waters, the Creative Director for EQII, has left and is being replaced by Akil Hooper. He will be the new Lead Designer for the game, and has worked on both EverQuest and EQII in the past. And he explained that Emily "Domino" Taylor is working with Georgeson on large-scale areas of development, such as business strategy and features. Georgeson is wearing two hats for the short term, as both Creative Director and Executive Producer, but once Hooper begins, he'll be focused on his job as Executive Producer of all three EQ titles.

Thanks to Dave Georgeson for talking with Massively!

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 karen@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.