The Progression Server, expansion plans and two developers
Jason Mash and Travis McGeathy both come along to answer our questions as the Progression Server Q&A series continues. This week, Carolyn Koh asks about the launch and finds out what is in store for EverQuest.
How was the launch of the Progression Servers? Any unexpected issues?
We couldn’t be happier about the launch. Both servers were packed and stable although a little bit crowded. One of our zones had over 550 people in it at one time. Since that time the servers have stayed extremely popular but the player population has spread out which has relieved the crowded feeling a bit.
Graphics aside, were any zones revamped for the Progression Servers?
Over the past few years of EverQuest’s development, there have been a number of zone revamps, in terms of both graphical quality and content.
On the content side of things, the content changes generally made the zones more challenging, and in some cases impossible to complete on the Progression Servers. We did revert a lot of those content changes specifically for the Progression Servers such that players would be able to experience that content as it was prior to the changes.
On the graphical side of things, we didn’t revamp any zones specifically for the Progression Servers, though a number of zones that had been revamped previously (the Desert of Ro, Nektulos Forest) will be in their new versions on these servers.
Why the removal of the newbie armor quests from the Progression servers all together instead of scaled back rewards?
There were a couple of reasons that removing the armor was the preferable course of action.
First, one of the design decisions made for this server was to do the best we could to make this server just like every other server, meaning that we didn’t have to maintain two separate sets of data (one for progression servers and one for normal servers).
Scaling back the rewards on progression servers only would have required that we create and maintain a separate set of data for these servers, which isn’t something we were interested in doing. Scaling back the rewards for all servers was also not something we were interested in, due to the fact that it would negatively impact every other server in the game.
Second, this server had limited resources devoted to it, consisting of one (sometimes two) designers and one programmer, who had to design, refactor, and implement the entirety of the systems needed to make this server operate.
We had to design and implement the trigger mechanism used to determine when an event has been completed. We had to modify the existing code that handles how expansions are processed to allow us to turn specific expansions on and off at any given time, and without having to bring the servers down. We had to design and implement the logistics on how and when the expansions, the tutorial, and the veteran rewards would be made available to the players.
We also had to sift through seven years worth of EverQuest data, evaluating it for imbalancing item drops, quest rewards, and tradeskill products, which is a rather daunting task.
As you can see, time also became a consideration, and the time needed to create new items appropriate for the combine servers, replace the old newbie armor with the new items, have it tested, and then get it out to Beta for tuning was far greater than disabling the NPC’s that give them out.
With the Progression Servers under your belt, what is the next big venture?
An expansion of the likes EverQuest has not seen in years. We have just announced The Serpent’s Spine which includes the first new player race in our latest graphics engine, an increase in the level cap to 75, and content for every single level in the entire game. The popularity of the Progression Servers and this new expansion is our way of telling people that EverQuest is still a leader in the MMO world. The team is extremely excited about The Serpent’s Spine and proud of what over seven years of refinement has honed EverQuest into. Now with a new race and path of content everyone can see modern EQ to its fullest.
Are there plans for level cap increases in the near future?
Why yes. We are going to push it to 75 with our expansion release in September.
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.