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Craig McGregor Posted:
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Everquest II Demo

Our next and final stop was the grand office of John Blakely, who is the Senior Producer for Everquest II. We were also joined by Steve Danuser, the Community Manager for EQII. John began our tour by showing us the character creation process. He cycled through each of the 16 highly detailed races that will be featured in EQII. Because the entire face can be altered, players will be able to create millions of unique looks - giving you an original character that can truly be "one of a kind."

Let me stop right now to say on the "eye candy 10 point scale" (yes I made it up!) this game ranks at about a 12. The only time I have seen graphics on this level is on the 30 second demos that accompany the latest cutting-edge 3D adapters. The characters and the world look as close to lifelike as I believe technology will currently allow. In fact, we were informed that no system on today's market can come close to running EQII with all the visual settings maxed out (or at least with a tolerable frame rate)...so this will be a game to utilize future processor and video technologies not yet on the market.

Some exclusive concept art!

After creating our character we boarded the "noob" ship to Norrath. This ship voyage will serve as the tutorial for EQII and can be skipped by returning players. The view from the boat was breathtaking. The seas were rolling in 10+ foot waves and the boat was in full motion. Cruising around the deck we spoke with a few NPC's and completed a few quests. There are even a few battles while on the boat; however players are not allowed to die during this tutorial phase. During one point a huge dragon flew over the ship and engulfed the boat in fire, setting off the next quest where we had to chase down a pesky goblin and bring him swift justice! Players will leave the tutorial as a level 3 character, ready to explore the now ravished land of Norrath.

We toured many zones, including familiar places like Freeport, Qeynos and the Karan as well as forests, fields, mountains and dungeons filled with creepy spiders! We heard rumors of Lavastorm and Permafrost, but were not allowed to see those zones. The world in Everquest II is one that lives and breathes. The water is flowing, lapping on shores, and gushing down raging rivers. The trees and grass sway in the breeze, birds flutter over your head and critters are scurrying everywhere. Although I was outside of the "surround sound circle" that John was fortunate to be sitting in - I could hear the in-game audio was amazing as well. The zones in EQII will remain "seamed" as in EQ Live, but it is important to note that the zones are much, much larger that in the first game, so zoning should be quick and rare.

Some exclusive concept artwork for "Queynos"

One of the most memorable features in the game is how other characters in the game look at you. As you pass another NPC or monster it will follow you with not only its head but even with its eyes. Between this and the blinking eyelids, the effect can literally send shivers down your spine.

We were allowed to see the game for about 2 hours and were astonished at everything we saw. Some of the bits we gathered up while getting our demo were:

  • NPC chat appears in neat bubbles over their head, with options to click on your response directly (we did not see other players while online, so I don't know if this is how player to player communication will be done as well)
  • Quests will come to you, so you don't have to spend your time asking each of the 100+ NPC's in Freeport if they got a task for you!
  • Many different camera controls are supported, even one that exactly mimics the camera system in EQ Live
  • A built in buy & sell consignment system will be implemented
  • Players can duel in PvP battles for bets (for money and/or items)
  • There can be indirect guild competitions
  • There will be no PvP servers with the initial launch of EQII. These will likely come at a later time however.
  • Any race and class can pursue the path of an Artisan (crafter) - it will run separate from your main class skills
  • Engaging in Artisan skills will be much like combat. You will actually "engage" the forge when crafting armor and weapons so that crafting holds the same interest to players as fighting
  • Exploration is a large part of the game. There will not be much in the way of portals to get you around Norrath. There will be much walking and riding ships.
  • Some zones can only be unlocked by successfully completing quests

Steve informed us that EverQuest II will be shipping before the end of 2004, without a doubt. Then he informed us that beta testing will require a minimum timeframe of three months. So this leaves us with a beta test date around September-October at the latest. He also indicated that when the game enters beta it will be nearly feature complete and very playable and enjoyable. At this point the game has been tested only internally with a maximum of 300 players at one time.

John Blakely, Senior Producer for EQII
(hey, what web site is that?)

I would like to thank Sean Kauppinen, John Blakely and the entire SOE team for allowing us to spend a day with them and for showing us around their impressive complex. I would also like to thank my friend and colleague Ben Krueger for shooting pictures for me during the tour. We had a great time and look forward to attending the EQII Launch Event!

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Craig McGregor