Talking with Dave Georgeson
Dave Georgeson took over the reins of producer for Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest II in February of 2010. The expansion of Sentinel's Fate, the sixth since EQII launched in November 2004, was a title he inherited. However, since the time that he has sat in the producer's chain, Georgeson has brought some new mechanics to EQII, including EQII Extended. When it came down to the actual game, the seventh expansion - Destiny of Velious – is all his.
During a conversation with Georgeson, shortly after Destiny launched, he frankly admitted that some of what he inherited was a bit of a mess. "When you design an MMO and design systems to put into the game you have to be long-term forward thinking," he said. "The stuff they put into effect last time … there were so many procs going on, it was stacking up in horribly unbalanced ways, so we had to step back and say 'what's going on here?' "
So, what the dev team did was simple. "The system we have today in launch (of Destiny) is feedback from community."
Features, as has been mentioned in past articles, include:
- Flying mounts – Soar high above Norrath and explore EQII like never before
- New weapons and items to customize characters further
- More than 300 new quests, including four new Heritage Quests, a new Signature quest line, and 10 instanced dungeons
- Two new overland zones and six-raid instances, along with Velious-themed snowy battlegrounds
- New creatures spread out over the new lands.
When asked what the most challenging was, Georgeson quickly referred to putting "flying characters in Velious, because we knew the higher-level characters would be able to unlock them quickly." The nice element is that there are few restrictions with the flying mounts. "You can literally fly over every overland zone we have in the game," Georgeson said. "It really opens up the game."
In addition, he said that there will be some of the new regions that are only accessible with the flying mounts. But the mounts are specifically tailored for the upper-level players, those that have earned their stripes and made it up to level 80 or 90. "We wanted to make sure it wasn't easily achieved by low-level characters," Georgeson said, adding that having a flying mount was tantamount to proclaiming "look at me! I've done something very cool."
Perhaps because the EQII community, while loyal, is not as big as some other games, Georgeson said it was important to fine-tune the game and make it as inviting as possible, creating what he termed a 'sticky MMO' experience.
"The glue that makes people play one MMO over another is open to huge debate," he said. What is a sticky MMO? "Anyone who logs in more than three times is going to stick with the game. Ultimately is the fact that they made friends. If you make friends in any game it tends to become more fun. When you put out new expansion you give players a chance for their group of friends to do something new that is cool together. But content only goes so far, you constantly have to hone and change your game so it stays fresh. You have to keep adding new experiences. In this coming year, we'll be doing more and more things that let people do the same things in different ways. MMOs offer more facility for change than most games."
The dev team on Destiny created a lot of content that didn't show up in the retail release, but that does not mean it was swept under the table and forgotten. "We will be releasing new content a bit at a time," Georgeson said, "Stuff not in the box that is waiting. We are talking dynamic dungeons and maybe a true mentoring system. Most of what they wanted to put into Velious is in there. We have stuff that is tentatively slated out to the end of 2012, but we don't announce (what that stuff is) because we want the option of changing it."
Georgeson did mention that, so far, the expansion seems to be well received and has actually sold better than previous expansions. The conversation turned to the state of the MMO genre in general and Georgeson was quick to point out that the genre needs to think in new ways.
"If you want a model to follow, and you are not Blizzard, you outta pay attention to people like CCP and EVE Online. It's the only game of its kind anywhere. Analyze what the players want," he said. What he is certain they don't want is linearity in a game. "EQ II has been largely linear in the past. That is going to change.
"There is not a lack of ideas," he said, "pick a small market, do something new. People need to get off this 'I'm going to remake WoW,' or 'I'm going to remake EverQuest' and expect different results. Players already have EverQuest and EverQuest II and WoW, so make something else. It's the publishers fault; people need to take smaller initial bites and see what works and doesn't work."