What Lies Behind the Veil of Alaris?
While at SOE Fan Faire earlier this month, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with EverQuest Producer, Thom Terrazas to discuss the just-announced expansion pack for EverQuest, The Veil of Alaris. Thom was excited to talk about the content and to help expand on anything that we learned in the opening address. We already knew that the expansion would be bringing us twelve new zones, more raids, and quests so what else was Thom able to shine a light on?
Thom was eager to dive in when asked about the new continent and the lore behind it. The continent is essentially another planet where there's a tie-in between the gods of Norrath and where they got their powers. The Velarian gods didn't necessarily obtain their powers through some sort of big event, they simply performed extraordinary deeds. The EQ team hopes to bring over forty pages of lore out for player consumption in time for launch. He was hesitant to reveal too many details about the lore itself, saying that it's more for the player to unlock and discover as they proceed through the new content. But Thom did say that the lore does tie rather heavily into the previous expansion, The House of Thule, and players can find out who is behind the death of Cazic-Thule. Naturally, this is about as far as Thom could take us into this aspect of the lore. I did probe a bit farther, asking why the desire was there to immediately follow up House of Thule with Veil of Alaris since the lore of the two are so thoroughly intertwined. “It really did just seem natural”, he explained, latching on to the desire of the team to continue the Thule storyline and to keep the audience focused on the subject at hand. This seems to hint that perhaps it could continue even further than Veil.
The level cap will be going from 90 to 95 with Veil of Alaris so I had to ask if the temptation of going straight to 100 was there. The level cap increase is, according to the team, a natural part of an expansion pack for the game and it provides them an opportunity to continue the lore. Thom also said that the quests provide the player with the chase and “I think some players really like that. The number 100 was discussed, because if you're doing five, why not just do 10?” But the implication came across that the increase to 100 will be saved for a later date.
The hotbar revamp that will be coming into the game with the new expansion is going to see available slots increased from 10 items to 12 as well as the addition up to “more than four” hotbars. Thom indicated that they're “shooting for up to 10”. The size limitations of the screen do limit this somewhat, but Thom did dive into the idea of the personal customization of the players' UI as well, “you can resize this, any way you'd like to”. Inventory bags, for example, can now be resized, so you're no longer stuck with the default size. With the sliders, you can make bags longer, wider, etc. The buttons on the hotbar(s) themselves can be made smaller or bigger as well. Right-click functionality is also being brought to the player: “No diving in, looking in the settings, wondering ‘How do I adjust this?’ It will all be there. We're trying to build that flexibility and functionality right there to make it easier especially for new players coming in. If someone wants to check out the game, we want to make sure they can get over the hump”.
Thom was very excited to dive into the next feature of the hotbar change as well; “If I have a right-clickable item in my inventory, in a bag, I'd have to pull up my inventory, look for it in my bag, grab it, put it in my hand slot, swapping with the item that's already there, click it to cast the effect, replace it, put it back in the bag and close everything up. Now? We're linking it to your hotbar.” These features are the prime motivation for the move from ten to twelve hotbar slots.
Guild halls are another popular addition coming in with the expansion. We got a quick peek at these during the opening address. The guild halls have been approached in baby steps with housing coming in first. This “allowed us to work on all the tools: Ownership, tracking, and a new inventory layout system for the housing. We're actually able to use that, change it and adapt to guild halls”. Alaris will allow guild leaders to set up permissions for what guild members can do within the guild hall by rank. “If you're going to be one of my officers, I'm going to allow officers to place items in the guild hall and gift me items by placing them in the guild hall”. Item tracking will also be integrated into EQ1's treatment of Guild Halls, with Thom's example being “Let's say that you drop a no-drop item in there. You can place it now and it'll remember who placed it, and you can kick it back. Say you don't play anymore and it's clogging up our entrance way or something. Then I can mail it back to you”. Two brand new guild halls, interiors and exteriors, are also being added.
A new parcel delivery system is coming into the game (as mentioned briefly above), “every game's got a way for me to mail my buddy an item. I looted something, I don't have to wait for you to long in, I can mail it to you. Now we can mail items or coin to our buddies.”
So what's coming in the very near future for Everquest? “Well, we just launched the recruit a friend” where a recruited friend can start at level 51, allowing the recruiter much more ease in mentoring. The recruiters themselves are going to be getting a free month of the game (providing your friend subscribes for at least a month) as a reward. Mounts, vanity items and other aesthetic items are also available to recruiters. Experience bonuses will also come out of this for both parties. The trial of the game is now available on any server to let you play with your buddies too.
As Everquest moves forward, fans and players have a lot to look forward to. With Veil of Alaris, the team is throwing down a gauntlet to say just how capable they still are after all of these years in providing their players with content and innovation that continue to keep on par with the newer games on the market. The implication is there: EQ isn't close to lying down and becoming complacent.