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Fan Site VIP Event (Part IV)

Richard Cox Posted:
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Content, Guilds & Audio

EQ2 handles content in varying levels and in sort of varying paths. Obviously there is the Adventuring content where you're going out and killing things and taking its items. That would be what you're most familiar with from EQ Live. In EQ Live the tradeskill system has recently been updated, but in EQ2 it's a completely separate progression path, including tradeskill social structures that players can join. For example a Blacksmith's shop which you can join and level up in, it would basically be the same as a non-player guild essentially. It's not run by players but players all contribute together to it, giving it a team like atmosphere. Players can go in, use tradeskill devices together, swap supplies; basically use those interdependencies that the tradeskills build up. It's a whole separate path of progression in the game because the Artisan doesn't necessarily have to go out and do any of those Adventuring roles. They have 50 levels of experience, their own class and subclass tree, and while it is a mechanics heavy system, it's a whole separate set of content that's not frequently used or at least not used as a separate progression path in Everquest 1.

The Adventuring content of course goes up to level 50 and it has all sorts of different levels to it. First off are the Base levels, which are prolly the quests you'll do when you first hit the villages or districts in the city. Those are just meant to introduce you to a zone and where everything in it is; the cool monsters, the zone connections, the points of interest, etc. On top of that we have sort of the Reinforcement level, which you get with your exploration points. As you wander around you gain experience for finding different areas. There is also a Collection level. There are different items spawning throughout the world and you have to collect sets of these to complete your "Butterfly Collection" or the "Coins of the Fallen Empires Collection". There are a variety of different collections, I think at this point we have somewhere around 25 different collections across all of the various levels. It's something you'll do per zone and across the various levels.

On top of that even we still have the "regular" quests. The standard ones like you'd find in EQ Live. These are more like tasks, little FedEx missions, mainly to introduce you to an area. The other quests are more extensive and really tie the world together. The quest designers use these to explain the world, to set the context, to say why something is important, to explain what the lore behind it is or the reason for it being there. These types of quests you'll find less often than the task type quests but they're there to really explain and flush out the story behind the zone and world.

Beyond that even we have the Access Quests and Epic Encounters. These are the instanced adventuring encounters you'll find in the game. One example is in Bloodskull Valley. Freeport and Orcs goes together very well. So the Orcs are still trying to take over Freeport. And at the center of all of this is this place called Bloodskull Valley. But you can't just go into the instanced area; you have to succeed at the Access quest, or the lead-in quest which will allow you to access the area. This quest will take you through the situation and the lore and builds up, explaining what is happening and why it is happening. Once you've completed the Access Quest once you'll be able to enter Bloodskull Valley and take on the Bloodskull Orcs and try to destroy them. And that instanced encounter will refresh on a daily, weekly or multi-weekly rate depending on what kind of epic encounter it is. It may just be a relatively minor Boss and he's up every three days, or it could be up one a week. In the specific case of Bloodskull Valley it's a weekly raid setup for up to 24 players. It's a non-contested instanced raid that anyone who has completed the Access Quest and who hasn't been through it in the last week can do.

We also have the normal competitive type content such as existed in EQ Live. For example a Dragon out in a zone which might only show up once a week. Whoever gets to him and kills him first gets his loot for that week. We also have very large scale quests, we call them heritage quests. Through them you may recover a lot of the famous items from Everquest 1. I don't want to go into a lot of details about them, but needless to say if it's made it into the Top 10 items from EQ then there is prolly a Heritage Quest for it in EQ2. This provides some nostalgia from EQ1 and also explains some of the things that have happened between the two times. They are however very long and extensive quests. Those are basically the levels of Adventure content that we have.

The third branch of content that we offer is the player guilds. These are a different type of social structure that players control, just like EQ1 guilds except these have levels attached to them which represent their influence and status in the city. Player members of Guilds can do Writs, which are special forms of quests which you don't get experience for, but you do earn money and status for your guild and yourself. Any prestige items in our game go through this status system. Essentially it's a currency you can earn for doing things for your city. For example I go out, I kill some Orcs for Freeport with a Writ, I earn status and my Guild earns status. Status for a Guild works sort of like Guild experience. The Guild levels up based on the actions of the members in it. While I may not be getting experience from the Orcs because they're grey to me now, I can still go out and kill them because Freeport has enemies, and one of these enemies are the Orcs. I would get status and coin as a reward for doing the Writ. That status then can be used at a Freeport Prestige merchant towards things like a better house, a mount or any of the other Prestige items, including Titles.

What if you have Guild members in Qeynos and the Guild is based in Freeport? What will they be able to do to help the guild?

Well first off we're a very city-centric game, so there will tend to be more homogenous guilds as far as cities go. But Writs are actual item quests, so while the Qeynos member couldn't actually go get the Writ, someone in the guild could go get it for him, and then they could activate it. It would still play into the "Freeport has a bounty out on Orcs" set, me being the loyal Freeport citizen can go get the bounty and you being my buddy can go do it. The step is still being completed so it's still pragmatic on that level. They however wouldn't be able to interact with the NPCs themselves or use any of the Prestige merchants because they're not a citizen of Freeport. Overall it makes it more difficult but it is possible and feasible to be a citizen of one city and a member of a guild based in the other city.

When you say the Guild rises in level, what does that mean or entail?

It allows them access to different areas and access to different quests. It also allows them access to more prestigious merchants. Basically think of it as you have to have a certain amount of status to buy something from the Prestige merchants, and you also have to have a guild at a certain level. This isn't set in stone but let's say there's a mount that you want to get and it costs X amount of status and your guild has to be level 30. In other words, this is a pure prestige item and that prestige is represented both by what you're willing to spend individually and by your guild's status. They don't just give these things out to everybody.

Do you automatically have access to a Guild's status when you join the Guild if they've already built up a couple levels?

Well there is a level of distinction here; you actually have two kinds of guild members beyond the normal "Member", "Officer", "Leader" and "Applicant" status. That's what is inherent in our guild structure. You have on top of that "Patrons" and "Followers". Patrons are contributing members, think of it like a football team. There are only so many people who are on the field and everyone else is on the bench. The team itself is of a larger size, but what's actually out there playing and effective is a smaller group. So the Patrons are the people who contribute their status to the guild. Right now it's set at being between 12 and 36 for the ideal number of Patrons. These are the people who contribute the most, the hardcore guys who are out there doing the Writs and earning the status for the Guild. But the guild size itself, as far as Follower size is unlimited. This way you can have your Alts in there, still have access to the guild channels, etc but they're not going to contribute to the actual status earned for the guild. The reason for that is because it's a level based system; we had to have some sort of efficiency restriction. Otherwise people would just tend to zerg it, you know, you'd end up with a 500 member guild, it would level up the fastest and it would be the only one anyone would want to join.

We definitely want smaller guilds intentionally, because we find that they fit better with our whole theme of smaller, more intimate and immersive content; smaller raid sizes, etc. Patrons will be chosen by the Officers and Leaders of the guild. However there is a Cost of Change cost associated with switching them out. Think of it this way, I have my Patrons, all of the status they've ever earned adds up to make my Guild's level. If I switch one of them out, I'm losing his total that added into the Guild's total. If someone leaves the guild all of his contribution goes away with him, but he does not get to take it to his next guild with him. You only count what you earn while you're a patron in that guild. The Followers still enjoy the benefit of being in the guild of that level tho, so if they want to buy a mount that requires a level 30 guild and even if they're not a Patron, they are still a member of a level 30+ guild and therefore are able to buy it.

What if someone likes to fly solo basically? Will he be able to get enough Status himself to access that Prestige merchant?

Well there is some content that you can only attain via the aforementioned status methods. You can get a mount, and a mount is prestigious, but it would be far more difficult and expensive because it wouldn't just be status, it'd be status and coin as well. And you would have fewer options, for example the really cool titles and really cool mounts and the best house layouts are only going to be available through the guilds and will be awarded as social structures. It's very similar to the other side of the house in the Adventuring path, the really cool loot isn't generally something you can solo; it's going to be on that Raid encounter dragon or something along those lines. The other thing to note though is you might want those solo type players in your guild, if they really crank on the Writs and do the status because realize they can go out and do that on their own and make a valuable contribution to the guild without raiding and doing other guild activities.

Guild vaults, is there any plan to have guild vaults where you can put in items, recipes and everything then the Guild Master can set permissions on who can remove items from the vault?

Not at release. The idea has been tossed around; part of the problem is we want to put the right logging and accountability structure in that, because it can't just be a bank, it has to be "who did what with what" and we're even talking about the idea of guild items, which are marked as guild property, and if someone takes the item and leaves the guild, the item is returned to the vault. There are a lot of things that we want to put in there, and we want the system done the right way before we put it in. All of this is speculative and subject to change of course.

The big mansion guild houses that everyone has been hearing about; are those going to be instanced mansions or mansions exclusive to a zone?

For release they will all be instanced. The ability to have one for zones is definitely there, but the problem comes down to the amount of resource hits for us for designing a layout that only one section of players are going to use. Right now they're working on the five room layout, which are sort of the starting guild houses. They have a basement, they have an extensive garden area, they have all sorts of things. What they do not have however at this point is storage. Part of the reason is that we like players to go to banks. Players meet each other, they find things, they do things, banks are a social gathering point. There are enough of them, there's one in each village and district and one in each of the main city centers.

Are there going to be external manifestations of the larger guild houses?

Right now there are larger external manifestations, but multiple guilds would "share" that building. Basically if you went in it would be the standard five room layout, but a set number of guild's would share that same entrance point, each being taken to their own instanced interior when they entered. But in the future definite, we will be going for some form of static one for one. It's just more of a resource question at this point.

Are there going to be precautions in place in case a Guild Leader just decides one day to up and dissolve the guild to prevent everyone in the guild from losing everything they've worked hard for just because this guy has decided to have a nutzo day?

Well there are certain inherent liabilities in a guild that just have to be there. The Guild House can be anybody's house; it doesn't have to be the Guild Leader's. Each player only gets one instanced house regardless, so you couldn't have your Guild House plus your personal house. Whoever that person is can then set other people as Trustees. The trustees can pay the rent on the place, add, remove and reposition furniture etc. They basically have every right in the house that the owner does except they can't sell the house. That's also another reason we're going with smaller guilds, not only to support our content but because they also tend to be more accountable and stable. They tend to be friendlier etc. Our minimum guild size is six, which is basically a full group. If you can fill a group you can form a guild. But dissolving the guild is still based solely on Leader control for us at this point.

Can you have more than one Leader? I know our guild structure and a lot of others out there use the two guild leader or three guild leader setup. That helps keep that very thing from happening, if one of them walks away, you don't lose everything.

That's a good question, I'd have to check on it, but I think at this point it's only one leader and officers. That's something that we'll be looking into, like I said, we're taking guilds very seriously, we're making them an autonomous entity that has it's own level and everything, so definitely look forward to us not only listening to your feedback but also putting our own ideas into place to make these things into stable, long term sort of shared characters.

What's the guild structure like, how do you set the guild up?

There's a guild registrar in each city and you just have to do a quest actually to start it. You have to prove that you're a viable set of people to run a guild.

Are there a set number of officer slots? Or a set rank system or is it something that we can manufacture a rank system and the privileges that go with them?

There is actually a set rank system; it is Leader, Officer, Member then Applicant. And the Member/Applicant distinction is more for just internally than anything else. We find that it's just an obvious choice. We also feel that Members will probably equal Patrons and Applicants will end up equaling Followers. We don't have arbitrary sets of systems though.

Will we be able to customize the names of those ranks or anything? A lot of guilds have their own ranking system, where if you've been in the guild this long, and done this, then you are one of These.

One of the things to recognize is that the MMO genre has matured so much that there is so much depth in any given area, and a lot of it has been player generated, such as what you're saying with the guild ranks. Going after that depth ingame is pretty hard to do, so what we've decided to do is focus on Adventuring and Tradeskills and start off our social structure, start off our housing, etc and go from there. It's not that those are things we wouldn't ever want to include it's just a matter of how much can you do at any given time? So like I said, all of those are good ideas, and we even have other ideas that we want to stick in, but we don't want to sacrifice the others at this point to do guilds that far. So we're stepping back from them for the time being and just giving you a place to start with for now.

Can we talk about character appearance/customization at all? As far as creation and changing it ingame later on?

Right now it's what you select at creation is what's staying, but we do have plans down the road for you to be able to change it ingame. It would be customization changes but nothing drastic. Hair and such would be changeable but not cheekbones for example.

The character creation CD that went out recently, is that a finalized product?

There may be stuff added to it and we are addressing some of the feedback we've received about it internally. There will be some additional content provided for that but it's not a priority.

Can we talk about the consignment system?

It's a player merchant system and essentially there are three markets in the game: the Black Market, the Freeport Market and the Qeynos Market. A player can go into their house and select the Market interface, which is very EQ Live Bazaar like, where you can place items, set them for sale, and then you become a merchant in your house. You can still wander around your house and do whatever you like, but people will need to come to your house to buy the item at the price you've set it at. That does not mean they HAVE to visit your house to buy the item however, the two other markets I mentioned have what are called Brokers. So in Freeport you have the Freeport Market Broker and also the Black Market Broker. The Black Market Broker is hidden tho and in a more nefarious part of town. If you go to the Freeport Market Broker you are able to see all the items for sale in Freeport only. The same applies for the Qeynos Market Broker and Qeynos. If you go to the Black Market Broker you can see every item for sale on the entire server. If you would like to buy the item directly from the broker you can, but there is a substantial fee involved. The Black Market fee is extremely expensive. The reason for this is we want to create regional markets. We want some things to be more common in Freeport than Qeynos etc. If you go to the Freeport Market Broker it would be less than the Black Market Broker but there would still be a fee for getting it right there. But it will definitely be very viable, for example someone puts the Sword of Uberness up, if you're willing to pay the consignment fee you get the item right then and there. If however you don't want to pay that fee you can use the Broker as a resource to find the merchant. Follow the directions you get from the broker, enter the person's house, see how they have it set up, etc and buy your item directly from them at the price they set with no fees or markup prices.

So if I have items up for sale am I stuck in my house?

You have to be logged in and in your house to have stuff up for sale yes. It works just like the Bazaar but in your house. There is no interaction on your part as the seller, you don't have to "accept" the sale or anything, so you could just get up and walk away. The broker interface is very much like EQ1 where you can sort by race, class, stats, slot, etc. The brokers are centrally located, for example in Qeynos the city brokers are in Qeynos Harbor in the big merchant area around the clock. When you places something for sale it appears on the markets automatically, both the city market for whichever city you are in and the Black market. Only the Buyer pays any consignment fees if they choose to buy directly from the broker, and the seller does not receive that money, basically it's a tax. Basically it's a convenience cost.

If I live in Qeynos, is the Black Market the only way I can get something from Freeport?

Either that or you can go meet the seller. In Thundering Steps and in Nectulos there is a village and a dock set up. I have a feeling that players who really want to trade high price items that are market limited will meet up in those areas and do that. However there is no Bank in either of these locations, intentionally, because we want Banks to be social places for people who appropriately should be socializing. The cities ARE at a cold war, but this doesn't mean you go play nice with the other people.

Before we run out of time can we move on to some of the sound aspects of the game?

Sure, one of the challenges for us is with all this wonderful content these guys are making, how do we bring it alive for all of you? Obviously one of the first things we did was the addition of Voice Overs. I'm sure all of you experienced some of that when you were playing today. We are trying to bring you quality actors. They are all Screen Actors Guild people who we've been contracting out, a little over 200 of them at this point. We take all of this and plug it into the game hoping it brings out some sort of cinematic feeling to you guys. We really want to immerse you in the game. Obviously with the graphics in the game we have to keep the sound up to par with that. Other ways we're doing that is with the ambiance in the zones. Our sound designers are awesome, I can tell you that right now. They have extreme attention to detail. If you're going around to every different zone, each one will have its own distinct feeling. If you walk into some place spooky, you're going to know something's wrong. Another way we're doing that is with the score. Depending on where you go in the game you won't always hear the same looping music. Right now we're not completely done with everything, but as you enter different areas the score will change, to bring a more ominous or lighter tone depending on the area you entered. And this is even evident in Freeport and Qeynos. One is very happy and the other is basically a dirge march. But I think without a doubt the most important thing we've done is to include the voiceovers on as many different characters as we could in the game. I mean in the cities you have your ecology, random NPCs will talk to you. It's a lot easier to feel like the cities are alive when you're not looking at something but hear a noise over you shoulder that sounds like someone talking to you. Turning around you see that someone was indeed calling out to you.

We're using the full surround support; 5.1 and even 7.1. We're also making use of EAX. One of the things we're building on from the EQ tradition is that we're really making the sound equitable to the graphics. You'll get environmental sound, reverb that changes depending your environment, etc. We also have things like combat voiceovers, so depending on the situation they might say something. They might point out that you have a healer in the group and call for his allies to attack the healer. So depending on the different situations your opponents will say things that are applicable to your group only. And it's tied in to what's going on in the battle, so if the healer is healing too much they'll say to get the healer, etc. And if they're Orcs for example they'll say it in Orcish. If you understand Orcish you'll hear it in English, if not then you'll hear gibberish.

Is there some way we can learn these languages? Like through a trainer or something?

All of the player race languages can be learned through tradeskill primers. But the monster languages; Gnollic, Orcish, Draconic and some of the more esoteric ones you have to do a quest to learn.

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Richard Cox