Scott Hartsman kicks off this new bi-weekly interview series
Staff Writer Rob Hinman asked SOE Senior Producer Scott Hartsman about the upcoming expansion to EverQuest II: Kingdom of the Sky. In the first installment of this bi-weekly Q&A series, Scott talks about PvP, Bayle and D'Lere and the lack of veriety in the game's armor.
For many months players have asked a lingering question: will there be any direct involvement with Antonia Bayle and Lucan D’Lere? Do you anticipate this to happen in the near future or in Kingdom of Sky?
You bet. When it comes to notable personalities in the world, we usually add specific interactions to support the current place in the world’s storyline.
In this case, Kingdom of Sky is an extension of a storyline first presented in Desert of Flames, where the Overrealm was first alluded to by the efreeti and djinn. It turns out that it’s a real place, not just legend.
This story involves power struggles between the dragons who currently rule the part of the Overrealm that Kingdom of Sky takes place in. (“The Dragon Isles.”)
Without spoiling too much of what we’d like people to discover: Following the theft of an extremely important Qeynosian artifact, the leaders of both cities have their own agendas on what role they’d like their citizens to play.
Many magic users often complain about the lack of design and color to their robes. Their argument is that many of these robes have the same exact design, saved for a few different looks; and by level 40 every mage is wearing purple and gold robes. Will the new expansion bring forth any new and exciting designs that are different from the common look and how will they look class specific (example: A Necromancer robe and an Illusionist robe should look differently)?
This is something we feel strongly about too. So much so, that we’re not only adding them in the expansion. We have been, and will continue to be, adding them to the live game as well.
New robes with new appearances have already made their way in to the game via our dungeon improvements over the past weeks, most notably in Ruins of Varsoon, Runnyeye, and the Temple of Cazic-Thule.
Even more new appearances will arrive in the coming updates to starting classes (as all casters now start out looking unique) and the dungeon improvements continue in Solusek’s Eye with at least one new robe there that the folks on the beta server thought looked amazing.
The news that EverQuest II will be introducing Player vs. Player (PvP) combat into the game has excited many and has worried others. Can you inform us how PvP will be added to the game? Will there be new servers for this? Will it be integrated into the existing servers? Will it be pure PvP or will it be consensual?
PvP will be introduced on five brand new EverQuest II worlds, so everyone ends up starting out from the same place and “growing up” as it were under the same ruleset. There will be two for the US-English locale, and three additional ones for our European locales.
We’re not looking at integrating PvP into existing live worlds. For many people, part of the attraction of EverQuest II was that there wouldn’t be widespread PvP on the standard ruleset servers at launch, and we’re not interested in having this new ruleset anger existing customers.
On the PvP servers, it is open PvP action within level ranges, out in the wild. In this case, “consent” occurs when a person chooses to play on a PvP server.
We’re taking things that we’ve learned by watching PvP develop in other games and trying to make sure our ruleset addresses the biggest concerns.
For instance, the largest fear for some folks have is that we will alter PvE abilities due to imbalances in the PvP game. Our strategy has been to avoid that. If an ability causes a problem in PvP, it can be altered in just that ruleset without impacting PvE at all.
Damage and healing abilities scale differently in PvP since players usually have a lot less health than creatures. Invisibility works differently on PvP servers. There are a host of ability changes already in place on our PvP beta server, with the goal of ensuring that PvP and PvE cannot adversely affect each other.
Some other Sony Online Entertainment games as well as other companies introduce new races to their game through expansion packs. The Froglok was a nice addition in an earlier publish, however, does the EverQuest 2 team have any future plans for adding a race to the EverQuest 2 universe?
It’s something we’re willing to consider, but it won’t be happening this time around. =)
Was there anything that your team learned from the Desert of Flames (good and bad) and how will that effect what you will or will not add to Kingdom of Sky?
As it was our first major expansion as a team, we learned a lot from Desert of Flames in pretty much every area.
Just as Desert of Flames was a graphical step up from the original areas we launched with, the environments of Kingdom of Sky are the most breathtaking and engaging yet.
The reaction to the new environments and equipment visuals on the beta server has been phenomenal. I mean, seriously surprising. I was expecting people to enjoy the work that our artists did, absolutely, but I wasn’t expecting to hear raves the instant I logged in. Usually the only things that travel that quickly are the rants. ;)
Also, as many people who have been playing in our improved dungeons have seen, we’ve also redone the way that treasure is created in the world. People are finding that item rewards in EQ2 are a much more interesting and consistently themed part of their gameplay than ever before.
Further yet, the addition of Achievements in Kingdom of Sky fill a gap that was present in Desert of Flames. Whenever we release an expansion, most people want there to be something new that applies to them. Everyone wants to feel a part of the latest thing that’s going on. That can be rough if a person isn’t in the level range of the new zones that a given expansion provides.
Achievements, a new means of gaining abilities, are available to everyone who is level 20 and above, allowing us to include a lot more people in the Kingdom of Sky excitement. =)
Thank you to Scott and everyone at SOE for making this series happen.
Each Friday, we'll also have exclusive images from the expansion - including screenshots and renders - for you to enjoy. You can see the first batch here.