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EverQuest Interviews: Depths of Darkhollow Q&A

By Darren Bridle on September 12, 2005

We probe for gold on the upcoming expansion pack: Depths of Darkhollow

Craig Knapp is a Producer on EverQuest, and recently our own Darren Bridle had some time to pick his brain about the upcoming expansion to the legendary game.

MMORPG.com:For all the veteran EQ'ers, could you sum up what makes this expansion different from the others?
Craig Knapp:

When we started working on Depths of Darkhollow we wanted to stay true to what made EverQuest so unique in the first place, innovation. We wanted to make sure that each feature was something that hadn’t been done in the MMO industry and I think we’ve done that exceptionally well. In addition, I’m particularly proud that each of these features appeals to players of all level ranges and players of any play-style. As anyone in the gaming industry will tell you, that’s not easy to do.

MMORPG.com:Does the expansion fit into the continuing storyline of EverQuest, or is this a purely content driven expansion?
Craig Knapp:

Absolutely. The Age of War is still raging on Norrath as shown by the recent upheaval of the Frogloks in the Retake of Grobb. This era is going to continue for at least the next 6-8 months on Norrath and you’ll see some new participants with Depths of Darkhollow that tie this theme together very nicely.

MMORPG.com:What kind of new technologies are you using in the expansion?
Craig Knapp:

There are actually a number of new technologies for this expansion that had to be created to support our ambitious features. Most of them are back end, but this is a good time for me to provide a quick description of the features:

Spirit Shrouds allow players to don the form of another character and even play a different archetype. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played a caster for years because players can now embody a minotaur melee and gain experience on their main. I running around on beta with my group as a pack of werewolves and it was simply a blast!

Evolving items give players the opportunity to progress an item beyond its initial state. Through adventuring and questing an evolving item can turn from a lowly club into an extremely powerful hammer. A set number of these evolving items are also available for trade which will create a nice secondary market. A rare sub-set of the items have an intelligence of their own that will communicate to surrounding players based on their owner’s play-style.

Monster Missions allow players to live out some of the more legendary events in Norrath’s history through the eyes of the participants and experience new lore from the perspective of their adversaries. Players have loved the Mission system since its introduction and this is really taking this system to the next level.

MMORPG.com:Looking at the list of features, I don’t see any new interface changes, enhancements to guild's etc, will we be seeing anything like this?
Craig Knapp:

We added a number of enhancements to guilds in Dragons of Norrath and we wanted to broaden the target of the features to a much wider audience. Each feature is accessible to players of all level ranges and it doesn’t matter if a player is in a guild, if they’re a hard core raider, or a casual player because the feature appeals to each group.

In terms of interface changes, it’s interesting you bring that up because we haven’t mentioned it publicly yet. We’ve been working very hard on a revamp of the interface that will be out shortly after the Depths of Darkhollow release. This is not only a revamp of the art that is currently used, but it we will also be consolidating windows and adding a Menu button that will be much more newbie friendly. The revamp is still in the early stages of development, but it will be a significant improvement and we’re really looking forward to getting it out there to everyone.

MMORPG.com:WIll the spirit shrouds be available in every zone?
Craig Knapp:

Players will be able to use spirit shrouds in any zone that they currently have access to. There will be several locations where players can find a Spirit Shroud Master in order to transform their character, specifically the Plane of Knowledge among other zones.

MMORPG.com:What will the quality of items be like in DoD, as far as HP/Mana, will it continue the trend of expansions and push the boundaries of 150/150 items from single group mobs?
Craig Knapp:

I don’t like to go into specifics as we’re still doing audits and tuning based on player feedback, but the items will be a significant upgrade in power increase compared to previous expansions.

MMORPG.com:Spell Acquisition: Omens of War made it very hard to get level 70 spells, they just didn’t drop from group encounters on a regular enough basis. The don system was quite nice allowing everyone to get one spell right away and work a bit for another. How are new spells going to be distributed in DoD?
Craig Knapp:

We’ll be using a mechanic similar to what was seen in Omens of War with spell drops happening more frequently. As I’m sure you saw in the live updates that followed Omens of War, we were off a little bit after Omens release in that spell tomes weren’t dropping frequently enough. The risk should equal the reward and we feel that appropriate adjustments have been made and that players are satisfied. In addition to the Depths of Darkhollow spells, the Omens of War spells will be available in several areas as well.

MMORPG.com:Continuing with items, there still seems to be some disparity between focus effects, with certain effects missing, for example poison increasing effects. Will DoD continue to add to and diversify the focus of items?
Craig Knapp:

Combined with previous expansions the availability of focus effects will increase. There have been more items created than both DoN and Omens so there is a higher likelihood that focus effects will appear more often.

MMORPG.com:Will class re-envisioning play a role in the expansion?
Craig Knapp:

The re-envisioning of classes is something we are constantly evaluating and it will play a role in the expansion. Our goal is that we make sure that all of the new items, spells, and AAs are in-line with our view of each class’s role so think of using class re-envisioning as a benchmark as opposed to making any significant changes to class roles with DoD.

MMORPG.com:Can you talk a little bit about the raid content, how it's structured?
Craig Knapp:

There is significant number of raids with Depths of Darkhollow with over a dozen raids at the Anguish level or higher. We thought this provided a nice balance with all the single group encounters in DoD (over 60 missions).

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MMORPG.com:How is progression dealt with through the expansion?
Craig Knapp:

The zones are open to any player that has the expansion except for the final zone, Dreadspire, which requires the completion of a quest to gain access. The features target players at all level ranges, but the content (starting with Corathus Creep) begin at level 45 and move up to level 70. While the zones increase in difficulty, any player can go take a look at the zones to get a sneak peak, we just can’t guarantee them that they’ll survive very long. :)

MMORPG.com:Any hints on the alternate advancement? In terms of number of abilities and spells, how does it compare to other expansions?
Craig Knapp:

For the expansion AAs, we're looking to introduce some new concepts to the game, particularly ones aimed at those players who have managed to already get all of the more than one thousand points they can currently spend per class.

MMORPG.com:Will DoD introduce the loot all from corpse feature?
Craig Knapp:

The loot all from corpse feature is something planned for this fall and will go out to all players, but it is not tied to any expansion.

MMORPG.com:Whats the deal with the mushroom guys??
Craig Knapp:

They’re great, aren’t they. :)

As always, we appreciate the hard work of the folks at SOE who help make this coverage possible.

Now, let us know what you think, in this comment thread.

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