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The Tattered Notebook: Quips, quotes, and EQ Next tidbits from SOE Live

MJ Guthrie

It's official: I survived SOE Live! (I'd have included "with my sanity intact," but we all know I didn't have any going into it.) It's not that I seriously doubted this conclusion; I did successfully survive my inaugural visit after all. But with so much to see and hear and do, there was bound to be a casualty of some sort. In this case, it was sleep. Even sacrificing that, there was still no way to experience it all -- and I tried!

If you haven't been to SOE's annual "family reunion" in a while, you might not realize just how big it has grown. And adding EverQuest Next and EverQuest Next Landmark to the already expanded portfolio of games represented made for more news than could reasonably be condensed into nice little packages. That's where The Tattered Notebook comes in! I'm going to share an assortment of hidden gems and hilarious moments from the convention, including plenty of EQ Next intel from various developer interviews.

EQ Next screenshot
If you attended, you probably noticed that this year's convention was a little different, and I don't mean just champagne and sand art! Not only were more players there supporting the various games, with larger showings than previous years for the smaller titles, but there was more of a buzz in the air. And no, that wasn't from the aforementioned beverage! I'm talking about the buzz that's generated when something big and (literally) game-changing is about to happen.

I met a number of people who wouldn't have normally been inclined to attend SOE Live who did so just for the big reveal, but they came away with more than that. They came away with a sense of the community these games engender. And they came away with an appreciation of the studio. And like many of us, they came away with too much info to absorb all at once.

EQ Next artExcerpts from EverQuest Next

A number of news-bites gleaned from various developer interviews didn't quite fit into the conventional topics already covered, but they are still noteworthy. So here they are, in no particular order:

On starting areas: Where will people start in game? For EverQuest Next Landmark, Franchise Director Dave Georgeson explained, there will be different starting areas to help spread the population out. But for EQ Next, new players will be dropped in the area of the current Rallying Call. This is so new players can become a part of the action immediately, as well well as be among other players. Imagine if the game's first Rallying Call were to build Qeynos, but after a year we had moved along to Halas and Qeynos was populated by very angry dragons. Talk about the ultimate newbie trap! Dropping a new player there would not be very beneficial to retention.

On getting involved in the game: On top of starting where the action is, different systems allow and encourage you to participate, even from the get-go. Producer Terry Michaels stated, "One of the things that we really want is for players to contribute immediately." Georgeson noted that this includes participating in Rallying Calls regardless of where you are physically, or even knowing that you are actually contributing! Folks who chose to wander on the other side of the world instead of hang out at a particular event site (say, building Halas) can still be helping it along by a chain of events initiated by the choices they make. Rallying Call progression can also be triggered by a number of events, not just one. With different events triggering on each server, the history and story of how things came to be will definitely vary from world to world.

On the stylized graphics: Dave Georgeson said,
"I like the stylized [approach] because basically what it does is it set us up to have a 15- or 20-year-old game because we can just keep upping the graphics levels with better physics, better lighting, better all that stuff, but keep that look. It will last a long time that way. Plus, we can exploit the IP in different ways too. If somebody decided [he] wanted to do a comic book or animated series, or something like that, that look would really work with the other stuff."
In the lore panel, devs talked about using the lore in other medium, so could Georgeson have been hinting at specific plans in the works?

On EQ Next Landmark vs. EQ Next: While having two separate hit games would be great with Georgeson, he said, "We're serious about Landmark being the gateway to EverQuest Next. We really want it to be the vehicle by which everybody gets to help us build that next big virtual world."

On seafaring transportation: While sitting with Creative Director Jeff Butler, Sr. Art Director Rosie Rappaport, and Sr. Global Brand Manager Omeed Dariani, I posed a question they had not prepared for in all the upcoming panels: I asked about intercontinental travel, especially ships. Dariana commented, "Could we confirm ship battles?" "No." was the extremely swift reply from Butler, who did confirm that there are boats. Were they just pulling my leg with the battle comment in the spirit of the jovial mood, or did something slip out that shouldn't have? In time, we will know.

On crafting and economy: "We're really serious about making this an economy that matters for players," Georgeson emphasized to me. "We want to set up a system in which crafters are really important, that all the players will eventually come to crafters and talk to them." More details soon, please!

EQ Next screenshot
On the ramifications of personal choice: Here's another interesting tidbit about how personal choice affects the player. We already know that past actions can affect what's available to you, but the game will also guide you to those activities that you've demonstrated that you prefer to participate in. Georgeson revealed:
"We have this book called a Rohsong, and it has all kinds of tips and hints in it. We know what you've done in the past. We know that you've done a bunch of crafting or done a bunch of exploring or done a bunch of combat. And what we're going to do through the Rohsong is give you tips and hints on how to get to more of the stuff that you have already shown us that you like to play. We'll be guiding you into areas of the world where you might find that stuff."

So an in-game book that players access during their travels? There's so much that can be done with this!

On combat: Will combat be tab-targeting or what? There was no definitive answer, but Georgeson did say that if you swing a weapon, it will hit whatever is in the arc of the swing -- landscape included. He also said, "We're not going to build a game that supports one-button macroing."

On tiers: While trying to get a handle on the new concepts of EverQuest Next, some folks latched onto the term tiers as a substitute for levels. Georgeson, however, explained that the two are not just interchangeable terms for the same idea. Tier doesn't equate to power level -- it means capability. Higher tiers mean that players have a handle on how the game is played, from how to do combat to how to manipulate their skills to make various builds. It also means that they have a more robust selection of skills, giving them more flexibility to deal with situations. Unlocking tiers is a matter of demonstrating you know what's going on in the game. And moving up tiers is not going to be a laborious process: Georgeson stated, "Unlocking them is a matter of days and weeks, not years."

On the intelligence of AI: Storybricks Co-AI Lead Dave Mark noted that the AI can be turned up or down, making some mobs more intelligent and others less so. Along those same lines, during the Q&A sessions, devs emphasized that the really big boss fights are not necessarily going to be against stronger mobs, but they will be smarter mobs. The boss will be harder to fight because it will more rapidly react to the actions of players, who must then adjust their tactics mid-fight.

MJ's Naggy hatMemorable moments and quotable quips

This section is devoted to just a few of those comments and situations that made this years convention so memorable.

  • Brasse took the change theme to heart and wore TR armor... with lights (and flasks)!
  • Naggy hats!
  • "We just removed the Heather race from the game." - Georgeson (You had to be there! If you weren't, "Heather" became a running joke after the name appeared on the randomizer twice in quick succession.)
  • "MMOs: A giant petri dish for social stuff." - Georgeson
  • Players Got Talent rocked! Hope we hear more odes from Orennex.
  • "We're not actually building a game so you can grief." - Georgeson.
  • The top 10 reasons we changed hotels. (Among them -- #4. Cocktail servers didn't understand the Station Cash conversion rate.)
  • Georgeson stated leather will be used in Landmark, so combat?!
  • "Our villains are so much more than bags of loot in dungeons." Just love this quote!
  • An EverQuest II moment: In an amusing twist of irony, during the beginning of the EQII systems panel, the devs couldn't get their systems to work! Was this foreshadowing things to come? The devs joked, "This is how it works... get used to it."
5 of the top 10 reasons why we changed hotels
Even though SOE Live 2013 is in our rear view mirror, we can relive and reminisce about this gathering until it's time to prep for the next one. As for prepping, I am off to make myself a new T-shirt to proudly wear on the plane ride home next year: I survived SOE Live! Maybe I will even get a new hat to go along with it.

What are your memorable moments, from either the convention itself, the livestreamed reveal, or any of the news that came out? Share in the comments below.

EverQuest II is so big that it takes two authors to make sense of it all! Join Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie as they explore Norrathian nooks and crannies from the Overrealm to Timorous Deep. Running every Saturday, The Tattered Notebook is your resource for all things EQII and EQNext -- and catch MJ every 'EverQuest Two-sday' on Massively TV!

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