Norrathian Notebook: Talking EverQuest II's 10th anniversary with Holly Longdale

MJ Guthrie
M. Guthrie|11.09.14

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Norrathian Notebook:  Talking EverQuest II's 10th anniversary with Holly Longdale
The big 1-0. EverQuest II has just joined the ranks of games in their double digits; today marks the 10th anniversary for the fantasy game. And while that's a pretty impressive feat in itself, just growing older isn't all that has happened to EQII in the past year. There have been plenty of content updates (and a change in how those update occur), holiday celebrations, and major news happenings during the course of the past 12 months.

However, instead of just highlighting the major events and changes of the year in a standard retrospective piece, I'm going to do something a little different this year. On top of wandering down memory lane, I've pulled in Senior Producer Holly Longdale to answer a few questions and address some current concerns on the minds of players. Longdale talks about the high price of both the Altar of Malice Collector's Edition and the new Aerakyn race as well as shares some fun facts about who's been working on the game since the beginning.
The year at a glance

EverQuest II's 10th year started out with the release of Tears of Veeshan, its 10th expansion. The fall months were then filled with frolicking about the new zones and fights in the new dungeons. And who could resist checking out the newest class, the Channeler?

For the holidays, players were treated to a brand-new Frostfell experience, complete with a totally revamped -- and visually stunning -- zone. (Don't believe me? You can see it for yourself.)

January saw the kick off of the Year of EverQuest, and the month included new fabled dungeons, raids, and a heroic contested zone all in the Kingdom of Sky expansion areas on top of an increase in the Alternate Advancement cap. In February, the update routine got switched up, changing to weekly with one big addition each month. Come spring, the game had new Heritage Quests and a new High Keep contested zone. Updates continued rolling along, including for PvP, new prestige homes of popular starter zones (Oakmyst and Darklight Woods), new raids, and an achievement system for collections.

When summer rolled around, players saw more items in the status point merchants, special summer ethereal weapons, and a new instance. And now that fall has arrived, we are on the cusp of another major expansion as well as a new winged race.

Of course, throughout the year there were plenty of festivals and more holidays for players to partake in. And those who jump into the Hero's Festival live now for the anniversary are in for a surprise. There's a new twist to the adventure: You hunt down iconic EQII bosses that manifest in patchwork form and drop an all-new currency called Mischeva's Tribute.

News flashes

Perhaps two of the biggest bits of non-content related news from the past year were the parting of ways between SOE and ProSiebenSat.1 and the revamp of the All-Access membership plan. The former was met with universal cheers, but the latter generated quite the bit of controversy, which CEO John Smedley addressed fairly openly. Were the changes a benefit to EQII players? Many changes that players asked for in the system were implemented.

Another bit of controversy swirled up just recently, both involving game prices. Many players have expressed concern and dissatisfaction with the pricing of both AoM's Collector's Edition and the new Aerakyn race. To address these and chat about the game and its anniversary, we spoke with Longdale, below. We also got confirmation that yes, all attendees of SOE Live this year will get a standard edition of the expansion for free!

Massively: I know that sometimes roles move around in SOE, but is anyone working on the game currently who was also working on EQII in the very beginning? If so, who?

Holly Longdale: Yes, Maria Del Casino, Tim Heydelaar, and Brandon McDonald. Akil Hooper and I were both on the EverQuest team playing on EQII beta. Lots of my EQ coworkers moved to EQII, so we were well involved with the development in terms of knowledge, chats, ideas, etc.

Regarding the Aerakyn race: There seems to be some confusion about and quite a bit of dissatisfaction with the high price of the race, especially when you factor in that combat wing animations are only on the Noble version. Why was this race given this high price? And why was the combat animation stripped from being a standard feature, something many players say they were led to believe would be included at the race's announcement at SOE Live?

Actually, the standard Aerakyn still has a secondary flight attack animation when using a weapon. It also uses a spinning flight casting animation for area damage spells. The Nobles get a number of unique wing attacks, but the bulk of the price of the Noble version is the fact that it includes FOUR mounts. It includes a ground, leaping, gliding and flying mount. If you priced that out individually, it's at least a $60 value in mounts alone. And for every new Aerakyn you make, each will come with the four mounts.

Additionally, many players do not feel the cost of the Altar of Malice Collector's Edition is reasonable considering the offerings. Can you give us your thoughts on the price?

If players can take a second look at what we offer in the Collector's Edition, we feel the value is pretty self-evident. Comparing what we offer to any digital pack previously bears out a higher price. We wanted to make it very special. The flying mount with stats and the elite merc are special. The $40 worth of research potions. Armor upgrade gems (something we have NEVER done before). House Pet. Teleport item to the expansion. Just about everything is useful. The dinosaur house pet might not be, but how we could not?

As in previous years, do attendees of SOE Live get the basic version of the expansion for free and the CE for a discount? If so, are there any special instructions that players need to follow to obtain that?

SOE Live folks get the basic version and can upgrade to the Collector's Edition for $50.

Any advanced hints as to what the next big content update will include as we look forward to EQII's 11th year?

We have some crazy stuff planned. We are still sticking to the plans we announced at SOE Live, but we have some cool content plans. We don't want to talk about any of that just yet. Our brains are soggy with AoM!

What part of EQII would you like to see live on in EverQuest Next? Are there any features you'd love to see shared with your sister game? Personally, I hope some aspects of the housing system are incorporated, because no one does housing and decorating better than EQII!

I totally AGREE! Getting props/housing items as rewards is pretty fundamental for us. It's like a living trophy room in my house. It's like living through 10 years of memories when I see all the stuff in my house.

Other fun facts

SOE also shared some other fun facts related to the anniversary. For instance, did you know that Christopher Lee and Heather Graham lent their voices to the inaugural launch trailer? Or that more than 1,000 voice actors, including Wil Wheaton and Minnie Driver, have brought life to the many characters of EverQuest II? What about the fact that Emmy-award winning composer Laura Karpman composed the game's original score? And who can forget the first ever in-game food delivery command back in 2005! /pizza actually ordered pizza to be delivered to your door so you only had to stop playing long enough to answer the door (we hope you were decent!).

If you want to share your own EQII memories over the years, there's a special place to do so set up on the official forums.

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 biweekly on Thursdays, the Norrathian Notebook is your resource for all things EverQuest Next and EverQuest II. And keep an eye out for MJ's Massively TV adventures!
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