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Interviews: Condensed Chat Summary

By Laura Genender on November 16, 2007

Condensed Chat Summary

Last night in our chat room, and hosted a live developer chat with the makers of EverQuest. Over 100 chatters joined us to ask questions and interact with the developers. The main topic of choice for the evening was their latest expansion Secrets of Faydwer, launched only four days ago. 


Joining us for the chat were eight Sony developers: Zatozia, the Community Relations Manager; Jason “Maddoc” Mash, Assistant Design Lead; Rytan Barker, Assistant Design Lead; David “Nodyin” Ford, AA and content designer; Adam “Ngreth” Bell, crafting designer; Keith “Merlock” Turkowski, items, factions, systems and content designer; Jonathan “Prathun” Caraker, spells designer; and Travis “Rashere” McGeathy, lead designer.
Future Plans
Even though an expansion just released, players are endlessly curious about the future of the game! Several questions concerned graphic and zone revamps, such as the ones we’ve seen on Freeport, Desert of Ro, and most recently Steamfont Mountains. “We’ve been slowly updating the graphics in old world zones and plan to continue doing so,” said Rashere. “It’s just a long process… We haven’t finalized our plans for the coming year yet, but it’s likely that we’ll be able to do a significant amount of work on the live game including things like more zone revamps and tackling outstanding balance concerns.”
Another concern among the users was interaction between lower level/new players with the max level veterans. While EverQuest II uses a mentoring system to bridge this gap, Rashere stated that a mentoring system would not work for EverQuest. “Unfortunately, EQ doesn’t handle advancement the same way EQ2 does so scaling down a character to a lower level isn’t really viable without some extensive rework. We introduced shrouds partly as an alternate way to achieve a similar effect.” Shrouds currently only go up to level 70, but the developers hope to add higher level shrouds when they have the time.
The EverQuest anniversary is rolling around again this March/April. Originating in 2004, this event lasts for a month and includes special quests and Fabled monsters which drop special Fabled gear. Each year a new quest is added and another expansion is turned Fabled; last year was Luclin, and this year should be Planes of Power. However, there has been some speculation that the world is not yet ready for a Fabled Quarm. According to Rashere, “We’ll be evaluating that in the next month or two and will make a decision on the feasibility of doing a Fabled Planes of Power at that time. It’s just going to depend on whether we can tap into the scripted content without too high of a risk of breaking it. If we decide to go down that road, it will almost assuredly include a Fabled Plane of Time.”
And finally, players were curious about a special server ruleset. “We don’t have an ETA on a new rules server yet,” answered Rashere. “We’re still wrapping up the expansion and will likely begin discussions on what it will be soon. The ETA will be based off that.”
Hands-down one of the most popular topics of the night, many users had questions about EverQuest spells, spell effects, or skills. Prathun shared a ton of good information about how new skills and spells are designed. “So, here are my options: [I can] upgrade existing spell lines by a predetermined percentage amount. Expected upgrades in healing, damage, buffing, and debuffing. Some things aren't infinitely scalable, unfortunately, like % bonus effects such as on the Defensive discipline. Some spells have multiple effects, some of which can be easily upgraded and have opposing mechanics that balance them out, so I tend to boost what I can while leaving the unmodifiable aspects alone.
“The Dragonscale Aquifer, upgrade to Sunderock Springwater, is a good example of that. I can't bump up the cure counters on that without causing curing class imbalances, so I bump up the heal.  The other alternative would be to not upgrade it at all. Which tends to generate a different kind of feedback – ‘why didn't you upgrade X, Y, or Z? I liked those spells!’ Even spells which players promised me they hated in the last expansion cycle. Which I suppose comes down to not being able to please everyone!
“Another option is to add additional effects to existing spells when I upgrade them. Which, depending on the effect, can be interesting, or it can also cause class envy (like the annihilate slow effect on annihilate the unnatural), or it can cause stacking nightmares when new effects don't stack well. And I'd rather not add complexity simply for the sake of adding complexity. EQ's already difficult enough to comprehend without having each spell do 135 different things.”
Crafting & Items
The last six months have seen many changes in the EverQuest crafting system, from the Dragons of Norrath cultural armor overhaul to the more recent jewelry overhaul to the upcoming spell research overhaul! One of the hot topics of the night was spell research.
First off: what is the spell research system? Our resident crafting expert Ngreth answers, “The “Systematic Spell Research" system, is a set of rules that can be followed in order to make spell scrolls using the spell research tradeskill.  The very short summary is that each spell scroll is comprised of a type of "stationary", that represents the level of the scroll, a quill that represents the class that can use the spell, an additive that represents how the spell is resisted, a thickener that represents the general nature of the spell, and one to six inks that represent details of the spell. These items have a definite systematic pattern, and you can use this pattern to decide what is needed in order to make the spell. There are books in game that describe the system, and will go in much more detail than we can in this chat.”
This expansion removes some of the old components in the spell research system, such as runes and words. “Typically people make some of the sub-components for making spells in the systematic spell research system, and then make spells. There is a very smooth path from skill of 0 to 300 within the systematic spell research system,” says Ngreth.
And for those of you curious, 300 is the current cap on tradeskills – but not the cap on recipe trivials. Some recipes are non-trivial up to 400 skill. Says Ngreth, “The current skill cap will stay where it is for a while. The higher difficulty on the item just means that I intend for you to have more than a 5% chance to fail on making the item, and I am not artificially doing it by putting in a success cap. This will allow people with trophies and the Mastery AA's to gain more benefit from them.”
The goal of crafting in EverQuest – and of raiding in EverQuest! – is the acquisition of items and gear to improve your character. The recent update introduced gear with hundreds of mana on them, quite a shock to the original EQ player who drooled over +9 wisdom Golden Efreeti Boots. One of our users last night wanted Nodyin’s thoughts on concerning Flowing Thought (mana regeneration). While out of combat regeneration has made regen much faster, in-combat mana regeneration has only quadrupled in size since Luclin while manapools have increased by nearly 700%. “In fairness a lot of ways to gain mana have been introduced since Luclin that are above and beyond meditation skill increases or Flowing Thought. The Paragon lines, the various versions of Harvest for Wizards, etc, all add ways to gain mana back. Still we've discussed the role of mana regeneration in a post-OOC EverQuest recently. Those discussions led to some larger-than-normal increases to various mana regeneration abilities but we can continue to look into the state of mana regen in EQ going forward.”
Another user was curious about some of the Focus Effects and Combat Effects found on the new SoF items. “For example Bejeweled Parrypoint has a stun effect that only goes up to lvl 65, Gorget of Ferocity has a heal focus but classes are WAR RNG MNK BRD ROG BST BER -- not really healing classes,” stated Skottee. Merloc answered, “If you have feedback to submit on items, you can post on the forums or send me a PM... looking at those two examples, I don't think they are as strange as you seem to think. The stun proc is level capped, but the aggro generation and damage are still effective... and just because an item has a healing focus on it, doesn't mean that it will automatically be usable by all healing classes.” Not to mention, rangers, bards, and beastlords do have some heals!

Talking with the EQ developers was a blast – but what about becoming one of them? User Surreal took the opportunity to ask what it takes to get on the dev team. Says Rashere, “The standard offering is cheesecake and beer, but we’ve been known to accept cash bribes from time to time as well. Seriously, though, I tend to look for candidates who have prior experience with game development and extensive experience with EverQuest. All job opening with SOE can be found here if you’re interested.”

Want more information?  To read the full chat logs, click here.