Norrathian Notebook: EverQuest Next Round Table roundup, round three

Quick on the heels of our second Round Table roundup for EverQuest Next and EQN Landmark comes the third, filled with the next bushel of questions! In these (lucky) seven queries, devs asked players to give their opinions on starter zones, modding the UI, length of the day and night cycle, grouping, preferred Landmark building styles, and the role of NPC merchants. And of course, devs also offered their personal opinions on these topics.

Did you participate in all the polls the first time through? If not, we've got them all right here for you. Go ahead and join in the discussions; it is never too late to voice your opinions! You never know when your comment might be the one that turns the tide of thinking or offers a new solution no one had considered before.

17. What are your thoughts on a moddable UI?

Here's a question I'd answer differently at various points of my gaming career. For the purposes of the poll, however, I have to settle on just one answer for the here and now. So moddable UIs -- yea or nay?
  • I want to find the UI that is best for me, whether it's a player-creation, what SOE provides, or a mix of the two.
  • I want to have customization options in the SOE UI, but I don't usually use third party creations.
  • I would be open to using a third-party mod, as long as SOE had approved it in some fashion.
  • Third-party mods should not be allowed at all by SOE.
While one-fifth of the crowd wants third-party mods to be approved by SOE, a full half want the option to use whatever works best personally, whether it be player or studio-made. And as the Round Table Response tells us, the UI will be moddable (though not at launch).

The devs: Senior Producer Terry Michaels posed the question, "In a game where everything can be changed, why should the UI be any different?" Director Dave Georgeson admitted to some ulterior motives for community involvement, saying, "I like games that have great default UIs. On the flip side, allowing community to mod so we can glom is smart."


18. How long should one full day/night cycle be in EverQuest Next?

Following up on question 16 covered in the last roundup, this next one just asks how long each day/night cycle should last in real-world time.
  • Short, so I can experience both daytime and nighttime, no matter when I log in or how much time I have to play.
  • Similar to the current cycle in EverQuest and EverQuest II, where a full day lasts 72 minutes.
  • Slightly longer day/night cycles would be preferred, so that you can enjoy the passing of time.
  • Much longer day/night cycles, even if it means I might never see certain times of day while I'm playing.
Surprisingly (to me), nearly half of the folks prefer a longer cycle than is currently experienced in the current franchise games. Well, if the night is to be meaningful, then there should be plenty of time to experience it. And that's precisely the direction the devs are heading.

The devs: Creative Director Jeff Butler expressed his thoughts succinctly: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it." Senior Art Director Rosie Rappaport, however, elaborated a bit more, saying, "I like to have a longer sunset/twilight and pre-dawn/sunrise, since those are more dramatic... call me Crepuscular."


19. For EQN Landmark, which of the following styles would you be most likely to build in?

Last week, in a look at Landmark and player-generated content, I discussed the concern some have of people building things in EQN Landmark that don't fit the world of Norrath. But how much of a worry is that, really? How do current fans plan on utilizing the building tools? Who would you?
  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi/Futuristic
  • Real World
  • Historical Genres
  • Pop Culture/Fan Fiction
It's no contest -- Over 81% plan to focus on fantasy in their building plans. Interestingly, it's the devs who seem to embrace the variety more!

The devs: Butler declared, "I am building a gingerbread Neuschwanstein Castle atop a mountain-sized Pikachu in the holodeck of my starship. #gobigorgohome," and Lead Building and UI designer Jake Sones answered, "All of the above. I'm probably going to spend a fair amount of time re-interpreting some classic games."

20. If a player sells an item to an NPC merchant, should other players be able to buy that item from the merchant?

Player economy. When you talk about building a sandbox game, many players immediately start questioning how the economy will be handled. And the devs are seeking input on how to go about that. This question focuses on the use of NPC merchants.
  • Yes! In fact, merchants should only sell things that other players have sold directly to them.
  • Yes, social buyback options are fine, as long as the merchant also has a static list of purchasable items.
  • Merchants should be able to sell items sold directly to them, but only if the original player has a time window in which to buy his stuff back first.
  • No, merchants should only have a list of static items. If players have a way of selling items, it shouldn't be through NPCs.
The middle choices seem to have the monopoly on votes, with more players wanting merchants to have standard sales inventory as well.

The devs: Technical Director Steve Klug sided with second-place, noting, "Merchant diving can be a minigame in itself-I'm for it. There should also be a period of buy-back." Georgeson, however, shares the least popular view, saying, "No. If you want to buy from players, then do so. The game should encourage player-to-player action whenever possible."


21. For content that requires multiple players to complete, such as a dungeon, how would you like to group up?

When group content demands a group, how do you come by that group? I know some folks who have a hard-and-fast rule that they will only ever go into a dungeon with a pre-made group of friends, while others are happy to just pop in with whoever happens to be around. What are your thoughts on the issue?
  • I only want to complete small group content with pre-formed groups.
  • I want the option to complete small group content with pre-formed groups or to be randomly matched up with other players.
  • The game should create groups based on matched user preferences or content needs.
  • I don't have a preference.
While I do love doing group content with friends, I have also met some of my greatest online friends by randomly grouping with strangers, so I'd have to go with a mixture of the two. And it appears that well over half of those who responded want the same choice.

The devs: Lead Combat Designer Michael Mann's opinion agreed with the crowd: "In this area, options are best. I want to play with family and friends or group up with random strangers. It's how you make friends... or so my family has told me." Georgeson took a different view, saying, "I haven't had much fun with matching systems. Players tend to play dungeon and disperse. No connections. Prefer friends."


22. Which large races are you most thankful for?

For fun, devs tossed out a second poll on the same day as #21. Since the team already querying players' favorite small races, the focus this time was on the big guys. Do you have a favorite behemoth?
  • Iksar (Lizard People)
  • Ogres
  • Ice Giants & Fire Giants
  • Trolls
In a very close race, Ice and Fire Giants beat out Iksar by only 2% of the vote. The response video is quick to point out that the poll also included NPCs, so don't your hopes up that you could play a Fire Giant in EQN.

The devs: Georgeson really got into the spirit of things with his accent when he said, "Trollz, becuz udderwize we no lurn to tok gud like dis." Lead Game Designer Darrin McPherson seemed to be thinking with his stomach, answering "Hard to pass up Iksar stuffed in an ogre stuffed in a troll. Triksorg with a side of deviled Sarnak is a Talisker family fav!"


23. Should there be multiple starting areas?

Personally, I found this question trickier to answer than most. For one, I love the deep and rich story lines that race specific starting areas can bring, but I have also experienced major hassle when my gaming partner and I had to play different races (due to class restrictions) and had to fight across a massive continent just to play together.
  • Yes, but the areas should be limited based on factors like race or class.
  • Yes! There should be multiple options, and I should be able to choose any of them.
  • Yes, there should be multiple starting areas, but I should be placed in the world based on population or other game needs.
  • No. Everyone should start in one area.
Almost two-thirds of the fans who have voted called for multiple areas that are limited by class or race or some such. While I don't necessarily disagree, I can't help but worry about the repercussions of such a restriction; will this force people to play races they don't want to (and therefore not enjoy the game much) just to be with friends? I think that concern needs to be considered.

The devs: Michaels mirrored the sentiments of the majority, saying, "I like the idea of having unique-feeling starting areas. Gives me a sense of who I am when I join the world." Butler expressed his thoughts simply as, "I will take a great story and solid execution over quantity."

The EverQuest realm is so big that sometimes MJ Guthrie gets lost in it all! Join her as she explores the franchise's nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!

This article was originally published on Massively.