Travis McGeathy, the Lead Designer of EQ, answers five more of our questions as our bi-weekly Wednesday Q&A series continues on. Every two weeks, Carolyn Koh gets to ask five more questions of the people behind this legendary MMORPG.
EQ is a 7 year-old game at this point in time. Are there any plans to improve or change the Crafting system? What is the focus of the Crafting community and your tradeskills lead designer these days?
We have had a number of discussions on how to improve the crafting system, incorporating what we've learned from our game, other games, and what the players enjoy the most.
As you might imagine, any change is bound to be surrounded by controversy, and since these changes would be rather dramatic, we are taking time to plan them carefully. We want to ensure that they are an enhancement to the system, that the changes are fun and exciting, and that they will be enjoyed by the tradeskill community.
Our current focus with Tradeskills is to make the system more consistent and viable to players of all levels and skillsets. The Cultural armor and the new Spell Research system were both adventures in this direction and have proved to be popular with the players. It's a direction that we plan to continue.
Tradeskill recipes are getting more and more complicated. The build list for Ambleshift's Amazing Automated Amalgamator for example, is oh… about 4 pages long. Is that all there is to the end-game tradeskills? More and more complex recipes?
As designers, we have a number of things that we need to keep in mind when making new recipes, such as how common an item will become over time, how powerful that item is, and how easy it is to obtain. As you might imagine, we also have a number of tools that allow us to ensure that an appropriate amount of effort is expended comparative to the result.
In the case of the Amalgamator, our direction for this recipe was very clear -- We wanted to create a way for players to upgrade their cultural armor, bringing it up to various raiding-quality levels, without restricting the recipe to raiding-tradeskillers only. This was achieved by making the entirety of the Amalgamator recipe obtainable by a single group of players while making the main component obtainable by completing an appropriately difficult raid.
This allowed us to create an interdependency between the average tradeskiller and the raider, without excluding the average tradeskiller from the recipe entirely and likewise without excluding the raider from being able to complete the combine himself. Overall, it seems to have worked well. The items aren't too common, are highly desired, and have proven to be very popular with the tradeskill community.
Now, as you may imagine, the complexity needed to craft an Amalgamator is not something that will be translated to every tradeskill recipe -- In fact, it's quite the opposite, as most recipes are fairly consistent and straight-forward. With Prophecies of Ro, you will see a host of new recipes that are more consistent and, in some ways, easier to learn. Once you have understand the pattern of the recipe and what each of the components actually mean, you will find the new recipes will be just as easy to understand.
What’s happening with cultural differences and those tradeskills? We had a rash of cultural recipes but their impact quickly faded with new expansions and better crafted items. Will cultural tradeskills make a comeback?
Cultural differences, at face value, are a great thing to have, however... It's also a balancing act that can be very difficult to maintain, not so unlike class-balance in some respects. If we're not careful, we can introduce imbalances and unfair advantages for one race, causing others to feel left out or ignored.
We are very interested in continuing with the cultural system and plan to move forward with it, though our current plans are still being discussed and not ready for announcement yet.
What is the focus of the Community team? How much of a focus is there on “live” events?
The main focus of the Community team is to encourage a healthy community. They act as the public face of the Dev team and serve as a key source of information, facilitating communication between our developers and player community. Their goal is to enhance the gaming experience of the community.
The days of GM spontaneity are at an end but tell us how you run live events in EQ these days. What did they do for the 6th Anniversary?
Many of the live events we run these days are large scripted events rather than being run by GMs. These events typically tie into the ongoing story for the world. The most recent example was the Retake of Grobb. That had events that spanned nearly all of the old world zones and lead up to a massive war to retake Grobb for the Trolls. Previous to that, a series of events lead up to Lanys' assault on Firiona Vie and the fall of that city into the hands of her evil forces.
The anniversary events tend to be less story driven and more about celebrating the history of EverQuest. Starting with the 5th anniversary, we introduced Fabled NPCs. These are new versions of old favorites who have been upgraded to today's stats and drop gear appropriate to today's game. They've been hugely popular and while the original ones only existed in the old world, for the 6th anniversary we expanded them out to NPC in Kunark as well.
Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh 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.