Beyond Echoes of Faydwer
Carolyn Koh catches up with Scott Hartsman, the Senior Producer for EQII. The pair discuss the Estate of Unrest zone.
The Sony contingent was once again CES in Las Vegas – I think it has to be because it’s in Las Vegas – and I caught up with Scott Hartsman, Senior Producer of EverQuestII who was there to do the show and tell on Echoes of Faydwer.
Now, Scott… I think our readers here at MMORPG are pretty familiar with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion by now… what’s new? What’s hot? What’s to come? After a little joking around with Scott doing some flexing and me doing a little poking, we settled down for the goods.
Fools must seldom differ as he and I segued from catching up with each other, right into the Estate of Unrest zone that did not make it into the Echoes of Faydwer launch. “Wasn’t me! Someone must have gotten hold of an old zone list!” Happily enough, the Estate of Unrest will be a zone provided free in the next update scheduled for February, so we settled right into what’s there from the old EverQuest.
“The biggest hurdle we have to overcome in defining the old zones is how to re-introduce the zone in EverQuestII without copying EverQuest.” Scott said, launching into a description of the new zone.
“We had the designer of the hedge maze in EverQuest ascertain that it is the exact same hedge maze, turn for turn, that is in EverQuestII. Beyond that, there are similarities. The basement for example, is a full fledged dungeon.”
The mansion itself is also expanded – three floors worth. No longer maybe just one camp or two, it is a “big, big zone” capable of supporting many groups of players both inside, under and outside of the mansion.
The Estate of Unrest follows the theme of the first Adventure Pack in that it tells a story. The ghosts of the family that lived in the Estate tell their story and provide quests. Scott was very pleased with the integration of sound effects and music. “I love the sound effects in the abandoned nursery, the sound designers have managed to mingle hints of lullabies with stuff that really creates an eerie atmosphere.”
There are a number of mini-bosses in the Estate of Unrest and Scott promised trains, although not as epic in proportion as the old Unrest in EverQuest and also promised no more aggro through floors.
The Estate of Unrest is “not a zone for the faint of heart” according to Scott. It is an addition to the Echoes of Faydwer and with the amount of low and mid-level content already available, this will be a playground for levels 65 to 70.
How has the launch of Echoes of Faydwer and the progress gone so far? Scott expressed surprise at the rate which players got into the end raid content. “We threw everything at our beta testers and were pretty confident that the difficulty level would provide a good challenge.”
However, he was still satisfied that at one and a half months after launch, that some but not all raid content has been conquered. Oh… about a month ahead of schedule.
“What were some of the challenges of the expansion?” I asked. “Any boats scuttled and sunk?”
Scott laughed and was happy to report that boats are working fine, then detailed the challenges the team faced. With the capability of instanced zones, sometimes a single boat could be headed to two instanced land areas, and vice-versa, two boats carrying players from two instances could be headed toward a single land area. Happily enough, that was resolved and boats included in launch without major glitches.
I then went on to ask him if the game’s crafters are happy.
“Are crafters ever happy?” Scott asked with an attempt at a frown, but he broke into laughter at the last word. The state of the tradeskills at this time are as well as they could be. When asked what the team was working on, I was told about desired improvement in the progression of some skills as well as a greater diversity of harvests.
I asked what was in store for players this year, as surely… the Live team wouldn’t be resting on the laurels of EoF.
“There will be lots more Live work.” I was assured. The in-game holiday schedule will be doubled and the Live team plans for something big every month to keep things lively (pun intended) for players. A new zone, a holiday event… and this is an initiative driven by the Live team themselves with the blessing of Smed.
What, I asked were plans for more Adventure Packs and Game Expansions? No Adventure Packs in the near term, although he affirmed that something related to the Gods will be forthcoming soon in a game update. “Yes, we also have plans for Expansion four in the works.” Development will last a year or longer. “There’s no second chance.” Quoted Scott. “Taking enough time to properly develop and polish an expansion just makes a much, much better product. We’ve learned that much at least, over the years.”
“So, you are happy with the progress of EverQuestII?” I asked Scott.
“Yes! We got out a polished product before the holidays so we all could enjoy the holidays, subscriptions are growing, rabid SoE haters are actually grudgingly admitting that EoF is a well done expansion and…” at this point, Scott laughed and pointed at me. “You can’t twit me on anything! That’s a first!”
Well… there’s the matter of a really buff, manly-man drool-worthy Fae male… but when Scott puffs out his chest and tells me how buff his Fae is, how can I gainsay him?