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EverQuest's senior producer and designer on SOE's Living Legacy

Michael Zenke

Last week we sat down with EverQuest lead designer Ryan Barker, and senior producer Clint Worley. They were both very enthused to talk about the Living Legacy program, the just-announced initiative to bring adventurers back to Norrath. With the game's amazing tenth anniversary just about a year away, it was very interesting to speak with these industry veterans on what the team has in store for us this summer.

Join us as we chat about the game's future, the special competition raid encounters slated for the Legacy event, and even how these events are rolling along in the direction of the mysterious next expansion!

Broadly, the program sounds like a big initiative for the game. What does it mean for you folks?

Clint Worley: It's sort of a chance for us to reach out to some of the players that have played before. We're doing some content for current players too, but you know it's like a lot of live games. When you launch there's a certain standard that you set. Some games set a better standard than others. Players respond to that, they make up their minds, they get an impression. With EQ a lot of people are like "ah, I've heard about that game, it's been around for a long time, I know exactly what it is."

Even some players that haven't played it have made up their mind based on secondhand descriptions. This is a chance for us to bring some people in that haven't played and bring some old players back into the fold to see the new updates. It's the same with EverQuest II, right? The game is dramatically different than when it launched. Players could have a different impression now vs. when the game first came out.

It's interesting you talk about bringing in new players, because I was under the impression that the program was aimed at bringing back old players.

Clint: Anytime we do a promotion we get an influx of new players, it's actually kind of interesting. There are still quite a few players that log into EQ for the first time even today. We have generally a focus on retention instead of acquisition. We offer live content all the time for our new players just the same. The focus on content for our new players is unique raid content. The Living Legacy event will feature unique raid content that's only available for a limited amount of time. Players that haven't played in a while, that are coming back, will find we have a bunch of cool new armor and loot that will give them a leg up into the endgame ... where most of our current players are.

I find it really interesting that with the 10th anniversary just next year, this seems like a really ambitious event. How do you top yourselves?

Clint: We're all trying to wrap our heads around the anniversary. It's strange, I was involved in the project at the beginning. We were planning bandwidth and servers space to last us six months. Even though we work with the game on a day-to-day basis we are still blown away we're talking about the 10th anniversary. The 9th anniversary is just as important.

The players we have right now we want to focus on those players. Marketing and PR have some initiatives already in place for next year, but now's as good a time as any for this Living Legacy offering. There's more competition in the marketplace, not only with WoW but with Conan. There are a lot more options out there than when EQ first came out. We're trying to reach out to players that have never tried us, or folks that took some time off from the game.

As far as the actual event goes, there are some evocative statements in the release. What are the nostalgia NPCs?

Ryan Barker: We've got a few older NPCs that are being brought back with a higher challenge and some better loot. Lower Guk and Blackburrow will be definitely seeing some of these updates. Blackburrow will see Fippy's brother, the old Gnoll Tactician, guys like that will see new versions of old loot and a tougher challenge.

Clint: The idea there is to harken back to the legacy part of Living Legacy. Take some zones that are fan-favorites and places of player glory, places they still speak fondly of, and raise the level to make them more appropriate to higher-level players. Lets them go back and re-experience those areas with a purpose.

There's new raid-level content as well?

Ryan: Yeah, we have four new raids coming out that are short-term. They're actually competitions, and there's a different win condition for each one. Depending on how far a guild gets in each raid dictates what kind of reward they get. It's graded on a curve, so you see the best players getting the best reward, the next one down getting a slightly worse reward, etc. They're on a short-term timer, I think about two weeks for all of them.

Are there going to be individual ladders for each server?

Ryan: It is by server, so whoever is on the top on each server gets rewarded. Everyone else is graded by how close they were to the top group. It's a per server, per raid kind of thing.

Can you give us a sense of what the raids are like?

Ryan: We've got four different raids. Two are variations on a theme. You've got Marathon raid, he's a giant clockwork. He keeps respawning and you get points for the number of waves you get through. Then there's a sprint raid, that's how many waves you can make it through in an hour. The endurance raid is under Desert of Ro, and in that one the creature has captured someone.

You need to hold off an overwhelming force that will eventually kill you. You're scored based on how long you last. The last raid is basically a DPS raid. You have to aim for as much damage you can do to this guy in a set amount of time, about an hour. It'll all be tracked on the EQ Players site. We'll have the leaderboards, the raid groups, how you're doing compared to everybody else.

It seems like this is something of a lead-up to the next expansion. Certainly we see that with the EverQuest II event. Is there a reason this expansion is getting so much of a lead-up?

Clint: One of the things we've done this year is increasing our Live support. In the past we focused more on the actual expansions. We'd do bug fixes and the occasional hotfix throughout the year, but mostly we were looking at the expansions. This year we've had about an event a month, with most cracking into three different events a month. This follows that philosophy. Players get this for free, just another incentive to keep players interested in what's going on in Norrath. It bridges the gap between content.

There were a lot of players that were frustrated back when we were doing expansions every six months. The year between expansions now is great for those players, but there were some folks that did consume the content at the rate we were producing it. They're past the six-month mark, and so they want to know what we have for them now.

Interesting stuff, gentlemen. Thanks for your time.

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