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Interviews: Progression Server Q&A, Part 2

By Carolyn Koh on July 06, 2006

Chris Lena answers more on EverQuest's retro server

EverQuest Producer Chris Lena returns to answer another set of five questions about the Progression Server. This retro-EQ server lets players play through the game's rich history and unlock expansions as they move forward through the glory years.

MMORPG.com:What is the toughest thing about programming the Progression Server you have encountered so far?
Chris Lena:

The biggest challenge that we have encountered so far would be the sheer amount of work that's needed to get this server up, running, and handling all of the little things that come up along the way. There's a lot that went into this server, everything from designing and implementing the expansion-locking mechanism, to evaluating the 7+ years worth of content that exists all over Norrath. We have to be mindful of all of the new content, how it could possibly interact with the old content, create balance problems, and then make adjustments to handle all of those problems.

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MMORPG.com:Were there any tough balance issues you needed to address? Give us an example.
Chris Lena:

One of the biggest balance issues we are running into is that over the past several years of EverQuest's development content has been added in all expansions all over the world. That content is generally tuned for the era it was introduced in and not necessarily the era that it exists in. This creates a very real balance issue because these new items, spells, or abilities are generally extremely powerful in comparison to everything else that may be available in that era.

MMORPG.com:What features did you leave in the Progression that were not part of EverQuest Classic but were not actually implemented until some later expansion? Why?
Chris Lena:

We've kept several features in that were originally released as an expansion feature, the most prominent of which would be the additional bank slots, shared bank slots, and the map window. In most cases, we decided to leave these features in due to the convenience that they added for the average player.

Transferring gear was always problematic in the original game. It was always risky to lose a corpse in the original game. It was always hilarious to watch people (like me) run around for an hour in Greater Faydark completely lost because they had no sense of direction whatsoever. The benefits of keeping these features around were far too great to even consider removing them, especially for the newer players.

MMORPG.com:Are there any expansions (such as Lost Dungeons of Norrath) you expect that can be unlocked out of sequence?
Chris Lena:

We will have a website that will track the progress of the unlocking of expansions. Even at day one this timeline will give you some hints but we are not revealing exactly how the unlocking will work.

MMORPG.com:There must be something you are particularly proud of in the roll-out of the Progression Server. Tell us about it.
Chris Lena:

That's a tough one to answer, really... I would have to say that the event mechanism we designed for this server would be the thing I'm most proud of since it just turned out to be a very elegant and simple system overall.

The event system is comprised of a list of unique event identifiers, event types, and event triggers. The unique event ID is essentially an arbitrary number that I give to the event for tracking purposes. The event types are anything from gaining a level to killing an NPC, from completing a quest to discovering an item. Really, there's no limit to the event types that we have at our disposal which will make for a lot of fun gameplay. The event trigger is the number that's associated for the event type. For instance, if we wanted an event to occur that was related to a player's level, we can now easily make something happen when the player reaches level 50.

What we do when that event is triggered is really only limited by our imaginations. These events can handle all the things we can currently do in the game right now and will only get more diverse as more features and design tools are added to the game. The true beauty behind this system, besides doing everything that I needed for the Progression Server, is that it was designed in a manner that does not require it to be server specific, meaning that players may reap the benefits of this system on other servers as well.

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Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.

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