SOE Live 2012: EverQuest II interviews highlight focus on crafting, player stories

MJ Guthrie
M. Guthrie|10.24.12

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SOE Live 2012: EverQuest II interviews highlight focus on crafting, player stories
SOE Live 2012 EverQuest II interviews highlight focus on crafting, player stories
It is undeniable: Between panels, keynote addresses, and interviews, SOE Live offered fans a smorgasbord of information this year. Even as we reported on some information, more came our way. Such is the case with EverQuest II and its upcoming Chains of Eternity expansion; no sooner had I shared the new tradeskill AA and prestige lines than I was able to sit down developers to gain more insights into the new features. And of course, another panel came along offering even more tidbits about the expansion and beyond!

Did previous announcements leave you wondering whether crafters will be required to grind their own AA tree up from 0? How many crafted items can actually be mass produced at one time? And what's in store for the Dungeon Maker and SOEmote? These questions and more were answered as I sat down with Brain Ferguson (PvP and tradeskill game designer), Holly Longdale, (Producer), and Dave Georgeson (Director of the EQ franchise).

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Clarifying crafting

While the new tradeskill announcements left people whooping and dancing in the aisles (literally!), only so much could be discussed in one hour. As excited as I was for the upcoming changes, I had some lingering questions. Luckily, I had Ferguson to set my mind at ease.

First and foremost, I hope I spoke for many crafters everywhere when I asked whether a new separate AA line means that crafters have to start at zero AA and grind themselves up. The regular AA grind is enough to chase some folks out of game, so starting from the bottom is simple too horrifying to contemplate. The answer is no! There will be no AA grind to reacquire the skills that have been removed from the adventuring. Ferguson explained,
"We have tradeskill specialization and tradeskill prestige. Tradeskill specialization is what the current AA pool is transferring over to; you are going to get the same number of points -- 40 points total -- and they are going to be auto-granted from tradeskill level 10 to tradeskill level 18. Tradeskill prestige is for level 90+ crafters. You get one prestige point every 20% of a level just like regular prestige, and they will be automatically, retroactively granted."
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Crafters, feel free to do a little dance! Crafters currently capped at 92 will have 10 prestige points to spend in one of the their specializations as soon as the expansion launches next month. And any crafter over level 18 will have the specialization points to spend.

Ferguson also offered some more details about these. For mass production, players will be able to make items in multiple lots, with the lot sizes increasing in size as more points are spent in this specialization. Want to make five, 10, 25, or 50 items at a time? Even 100 are possible if you spend enough prestige points.

"We didn't want you to have to go out and adventure to be a proper crafter... which you had to before." - Brian Ferguson

This feature was designed with consumable production in mind (think of Rangers whose game lives consist only of raiding or making arrows), but any items can be mass-produced. The idea was to allow crafters to, as Ferguson put it, "Step away from [their] crafting stations sometimes and experience more of the game. All materials will be needed for that many items, from rares to fuel. If you are worried about failing, your best bet is to not mass-produce -- you will lose everything you would in a normal combine."

Wondering about the portable crafting stations you can summon? They are basically the same portable stations that are player-made right now, but they'll be accessible to any crafter who spends the points in this prestige line. Does someone need a few potions while you are out and about? Pop out your alchemy table and mix up a few! And since it is a prestige ability, there will be nothing to clog up your inventory.

EverQuest II screenshotThere will also be a full 10-level complement of tradeskill recipes introduced with Chains of Eternity. Certain crafters received a boatload for levels 90-92, but 93-95 will introduce everything that would normally be reserved through 99; in other words, all of tier 10 will be in game. (And yes, that means boxes and bags with more slots!). My next question was what on earth will you do when it's time to fill out those levels 96-99? Ferguson noted he has some awesome and crazy ideas, but they aren't anything he has shared even with the team, so he couldn't share them with me... yet.

The premise behind the changes was articulated by Ferguson: "We didn't want you to have to go out and adventure to be a proper crafter... which you had to before." Is this all she wrote for tradeskilling for a while? Not at all, Ferguson assured me. He said,
"This is an overall feeling that we have on the team... we need tradeskill items to be meaningful and powerful, and make it so people actually go out and seek them out because they are impactful: impactful equipment items, awesome-looking house items, super-cool consumables. The reward has to be there for it to be a truly awesome system, so going forward, there will be more and more awesome tradeskill items."
Can you feel the crafter love?

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Chains of Eternity

There is so much information about the new expansion that it was impossible to contain it in just one panel. So besides the prestige panel, SOE hosted another one titled Chains of Eternity and Beyond. There, more details were provided about the upcoming expansion and what things players could look forward to. The battlecry of this panel was we have content!

Although Sleeper's tomb is out now, the expansion includes more new raid zones, including a new Cazic Thule, and there will be content for every level of raider. The devs emphasized that although you do not need to be level 95 for these raid zones, they suggest it. Currently, there are also access quests involved, but after discussion during the panel, it was unclear whether the quest will remain once the expansion goes live.

What about folks who don't raid? Every heroic region will have an advanced solo version, just as Skyshrine does now. So players will be able to duo these areas or run them with their mercenaries. In this way, even the non-raiders will get to see and experience the areas.

EverQuest II screenshotAnother change coming with the expansion is that the veteran bonus will be resetting to level 95. In other words, if you are enjoying lots of extra XP while leveling for having a number of level 90 characters, be prepared to level them all up to cap to retain that bonus.

Changes are also coming to the signature line of quests. No longer will players have to forgo reading these storylines because the groups are impatient and rushing through to get to things; the signature line is now soloable.

Artistically, what can players expect in the expansion? With the exception of areas around the harrowing horde, the colors in the afterlife are vivid and everything blends in. There is a focus on Ethemer being very immersive. Animations are new, and the lizardmen in Eilong Jungle even have eyes! And don't forget the natural denizens of Ethemere, the Wayward -- those are the Norrathians who have moved on.

A final point that had folks cheering is that there will be no additional faction grinds in CoE. Remarking on the lack of this type of grind, Longdale noted, "We've got story, not faction."

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Emphasizing player stories

While there is plenty of new adventuring content incoming with Chains of Eternity and even more scheduled for beyond, rest assured that the roleplay and player story part of the game is not off the radar. In fact, these areas are very much still a priority.

Longdale emphasized that the devs still support the Dungeon Maker and that some changes are in store for it. She stated, "Something we've considered doing is giving players a options for the actual avatars, so players can select class type ultimately with its various abilities." That means no more having to choose between skill types or look of the avatar. However, don't be expecting this change in the next expansion, as she further noted, "We're a ways away from that." She told us,
"We'll to continue add stuff [to Dungeon Maker] that brings more flavor to the zones... I think it's important to tell the story. Of course the mechanics are important, but I think it's important that players can build actual dungeons with stories. We're going to look at doing a style-touring mode, so you might be able to fly through someones dungeon without having to go into combat."
As much as a few naysayers have complained about resources on SOEmote, most folks who check it out (yours truly included) find it is a fun -- and even addicting -- addition to the game. SO the next question was, is there ever going to be anything beyond just the face in SOEmote? Longdale answered,
"Think of SOEmote as the first step. We have certainly imagined taking this to whole new heights. Because we love it, we'd love to see it go further, but we are hampered by technology... so until that technology catches up, we're going to wait. As a roleplaying game, that's our end goal -- we want you to be your character.
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Going forward

With so much emphasis on personalizing the game and playing it your way, I posed the following question to the devs: "Will we every have the opportunity to name player-crafted items?" Longdale's answer? "Not in an unmanaged way, but honestly, we should talk about it." She admitted that even having the best crafted armor in the game feels generic when it's the same thing everyone else has (could we dare hope dyes will make an appearance someday?) and continued to discuss whether it could be a reward for a certain level of item.

There are things to consider, like how to search for custom-named items on the broker, but Ferguson mentioned, "We can get around that maybe; if you still search for it by name it comes up with the custom-named ones as well. Maybe you could add custom prefixes or suffixes." Currently, crafters have "created by " on the items, so what about adding even a "created for" note? Longdale indicated that may be easy and stated, "We should look into that to make it more personal."

SOE Live 2012 EverQuest II interviews highlight focus on crafting, player stories
I also plugged my request for publishing guild halls on the housing leaderboards. Georgeson answered quite simply, "We should." He continued by mentioning that guilds keep running afoul of ownership issues like who can publish -- he agreed the guild leader would be the obvious answer. He ended his thoughts with, "Why haven't we done it?"

On the subject of guild halls, Georgeson offered hope for someday using Marketplace items in guild halls. He said, "We'd like to let you be able to place Marketplace items in the guild hall, but then who owns the item?" The team is still working on the best solution for this.

SOE Live 2012 EverQuest II picture At this point, Longdale shared an unexpected tidbit of information, stating, "We've been focusing a lot on prestige homes, so now we are looking into new guild halls." She also emphasized that SOE didn't want to pull people away from the cities more (reforgers and such were added to draw people back into the cities) but felt it was time to expand guild hall offerings, especially with the new guild level cap.

Some content players have to look forward to beyond CoE are the final chapter of Velious, Siren's Grotto, and Cobalt Scar (which are planned for next year), and the wrapping up of the entire Ages End arc.

In a nutshell, what does the future hold for EverQuest II? Dave Georgeson said it succinctly: "What it really boils down to is we need to provide great stories that are fun to play. That's what people want. And that's what we are doing now." And It sounds like the team is well on the way to meeting that goal!

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on PlanetSide 2, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.
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