With the soft launch of
style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest 2
many new players began to pour into Norrath to begin their adventures.
As that Ten Ton Hammer loves all things style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest,
our own Benjamin J. de la Durantaye talked to Dave Georgeson, Producer
2, about the state of the
game, Freeport sewers, and many other topics.
Ton Hammer: The style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;"> soft launch seems to
going very well. Has the response been in-line with what you expected?
very happy, especially in the fact that we did just the one press
release. We’ve had a really good response and the population
increase has been great. It’s what we were hoping for. When
you do a regular subscription-based service, people go in, play up, and
work themselves towards 90, so you tend to end up with a lot of empty
newbie zones and stuff. One of the beauties of a free-to-play service
is that you always have new people coming in and trying it out. Now,
there are always people in those early stages and it’s worked
out very well. It’s very easy to get into groups;
it’s easy to find like-minded folks that are trying to do the
sort of things that you’re trying to do, whether
you’re exploring, grinding through stuff, or pressing to 90.
It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve gotten a lot of
good feedback from it.
Ton Hammer: We know that you can’t talk numbers, but can you
give us an idea of how many new players you’ve seen coming in
or coming over from style="font-style: italic;">Live?
Georgeson: I can give you a
percentage. Out of the people who are playing style="font-style: italic;">EQ2X,
fully half of them are completely new to the game. They’ve
never registered a credit card; they’ve never made a
character before; they have never played style="font-style: italic;">EQ2
as far as we can find out. So that’s cool. We’re
getting some fresh blood into the mix. As far as people who are
transferring over from style="font-style: italic;">EQ2 Live,
the numbers have actually been very low. That was expected because
people have so many ties to the existing server, with their friend
circles and guilds. The numbers have been pretty low. There has been
some transferring over, but not a significant percentage.
Ton Hammer: So that seems to work out for both sides of the population
then. The style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Live style="font-weight: bold;"> side doesn’t
seem to be suffering too much from it, and you’re getting a
bunch of new people in from one press release.
We’re very happy with the end results so far. The kid gloves
come off in a little bit. Not too long now, we’ll take the
beta tag off of it and we’ll start spending some marketing
money. We hope to see some good effects on both sides of the fence.
Ton Hammer: Can you give us a hint on what you’re planning
with your marketing?
Georgeson: I really
don’t know all the details yet. In fact, I have some emails
pertaining to that in my inbox right now. (laughs) I do know that
we’re pretty serious in getting the word out there. Like I
said, we’ve done really well with just the one simple press
release, so we have high hopes for what could happen for the franchise
if we go ahead and spend some cash to let people know.
Ton Hammer: With the success of the server, every time that I log in to
create a new character, I’m seeing big red letters saying
that the server is full. Which is good because that means tons of
people are playing. What the community wants to know is do you have
plans to add another server?
Georgeson: Actually, the red
letters are kind of an error. I’m actually going to talk to
one of the programmers to see if we adjusted it. We have more robust
hardware than in the past and the population limits have not been
raised from the old hardware. So, we’re not maxed out on
people yet. It’s probably more of a yellow light, and
I’m going to get them to change the number and
we’ll see. We know what our max population is, and before we
see any performance issues, we’ll open a new server. But
until we get enough people to warrant spinning a new server, we
don’t want to do that because one of the good things about style="font-style: italic;">EQ2X
is the population density. If we spread people out too thin, we
won’t get that effect, and people won’t be having
that same fun experience. That’s one of the reasons why we
want to do mergers on the style="font-style: italic;">Live
side. We’re working to get better hardware before we do the
mergers, but we want to merge some of that stuff down because when
there are more people around, the game is more fun.
Ton Hammer: Absolutely. Even though, as you stated, those red letters
are an error, having all those people are good. It doesn’t
feel overcrowded, but there are always plenty of people around. It
Georgeson: Yeah. The dungeons
are actually contested!
Ton Hammer: Imagine that. It’s great stuff. Now,
it’s not over yet. I hear the official launch of style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;"> is coming up. You
soft launch with just that one press release and no big marketing
campaign. What happens when the official launch comes around then?
Georgeson: Well, not a lot
except that we’ll start spending the marketing money.
We’ll take the beta tag off so it doesn’t say beta
anymore. People can then stop worrying about if we’re going
to do a data wipe, which we’re not going to do. As far as the
game itself, it has effectively been launched since we put it out with
the beta tag on it. It’s just that we were reserving the
right to make changes. As that it is an MMOG, we’ll still
make changes, but we’re confident enough that the model works
and so we’ll take the beta tag off.
Ton Hammer: Since you had the soft launch, how much have you adjusted
the game? For instance, I was doing a lot of crafting and there
weren’t a lot of resources out there. So I went into town and
bought the resources and spent a lot of money. Now, I’ve
noticed that the prices have really come down, which is awesome. Is
that something you’ve been tweaking in beta? Are there other
things you’ve been doing as well?
been watching the prices really carefully, and I’ve talked to
a lot of people in-game about what they did and what they
didn’t do. We talked to a bunch of people that were serious
crafters, and they said that they would spend money on the marketplace,
but it’s costing us x to craft these items and recipes, and
that’s too much for them to consider. We went back and looked
at the model and that’s why we changed that. We’ve
lowered some of the housing set prices. We’ve lowered prices
on some of the stuff that people may not care about, such as pets in
the house. We’ve changed prices back and forth based on
feedback. We may end up occasionally raising a price here or there, but
in general, the model we had before, except for things like broker
credits, we haven’t changed it a huge amount. We’re
very seriously considering selling character slots soon.
We’ve also added the ability to buy classes, which were
formerly restricted to just gold. We’ve listened to the
players a lot. We’ve seen what works and what
doesn’t work in the game. We’re looking at data
every single day figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Ton Hammer: What about bank slots? I think that for bronze members,
it’s two slots, and for silver, it’s three slots.
Are you thinking of adding additional bank slots for purchase for these
Georgeson: Yeah, we might do
that. We restricted a few things intentionally because the original
game allowed so much stuff to be stored, that it was creating these
huge gluts on the highly populated servers. It was actually slowing
down performance for all players because so much stuff had to be sifted
through on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why we
have a charge for a guild charter right now. That’s one of
the reasons why we have restrictions on bank slots and a couple of
other things. We’re not intending to take that stuff off
right now, but it’s something that we’ll consider
in the future.
Ton Hammer: Getting back to the official launch, one of the questions
on everybody’s mind is EverQuest 2 Players for style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;">. Are there any plans
that sort of website?
less a matter of having plans and more of a matter of having resources.
Our marketing department is not a gigantic department. Because we
always have so many games going on and projects going on at SOE,
let’s just say that they’re extraordinarily busy
folks. So, expanding out the style="font-style: italic;">EQ2
players site would require them to invest considerable effort into that
and I don’t think it’s in their budget right now.
Ton Hammer: Just to clarify, we’re talking about the
leaderboards and other things on the EQ2 Players site. The free server
isn’t represented there.
Georgeson: Right. We just
don’t have it yet. If it was up to me, I would build that
stuff in-game because it would be easier to access and more people
would see. If more people see it, it’s cooler. However, we
don’t have that scheduled right now.
Ton Hammer: Another piece of feedback that I’ve been seeing
in the community is chat restrictions. We understand why there are chat
restrictions there. When you have a free-to-play game where it
doesn’t cost a person anything to make accounts,
there’s nothing to stop the bots from spamming the heck out
of everything. The question is, are you happy with the current system?
Are there considerations to make the chat restrictions level based or
something different from what is in place now?
Georgeson: There is no
intention to change the chat restriction right now. To be honest, a ten
dollar purchase to go up to silver membership is a permanent thing, and
if chat is worthwhile to you and it makes a big difference in your
experience, we would like you to go ahead and make that step.
I’m personally very strongly against allowing trolls to come
in and spam because it’s free accounts. We can’t
ban them fast enough to keep them from doing stuff. I’ve run
a free-to-play MMOG before, and I know what can happen. It’s
extremely negative if you don’t have restrictions.
That’s why we have it in place the way it is right now.
Ton Hammer: One of the bugs that has come up and I think it’s
been addressed, but I bring it up because it goes into my next point
here. There was a bug if the players had an account on style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Live style="font-weight: bold;"> and if that account
expired, their gold account on style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Extended style="font-weight: bold;"> got canceled as well and
they had to go through customer service to get that fixed. This brings
up the point that non-gold members have no way to petition for customer
assistance. Do you have any thoughts about getting guides in there,
such as the guide programs in style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest style="font-weight: bold;"> and style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 style="font-weight: bold;">, where you had volunteers
to act as a relay to find the real problems?
been talking about it. It’s not concrete at all. One of the
devs, Domino, came into the office the other day, and she pitched it at
me, saying we should really do this. The real answer is that we
don’t have the plans yet, but we are seriously considering
it. Also, technically, it’s silver members and above that
have customer service. It’s only bronze that do not.
Ton Hammer: Let’s turn to future content. Are there any plans
to update some of the older zones, such as Freeport sewers, where
nothing is going on and the population is about zero, to add some spice
Georgeson: Yes, we do. After
Velious, we’re hoping to, and I don’t want us to
commit to hard here, but let’s just say that we’ve
been talking about Freeport and Qeynos a lot. It’s funny that
you mention the Freeport sewers because just yesterday, I was talking
to one of the designers about the fact that it is such a chore to do
the level 20 armor quests because you have to slog all through this
gray stuff and navigate through mazes of sewers to get down to the
point where you’re actually at the place where you do the
quest. We were talking about making the manhole covers access points so
you can just leap to different levels. There are a lot of different
things that we’re discussing, but Qeynos and Freeport are
very big, much loved iconic things in our game. We would like to make
them special places to be, and we’re going to be spending
serious effort on those.
Ton Hammer: So this is in addition to all of the Velious stuff?
Georgeson: That would be
after Velious. Velious has got us more than busy enough right now!
We’re putting a lot of effort into it so that even the
overlands should be fantastic when we’re done.
We’re going to bring back some stuff that was well loved in
previous times and make them a lot more adventurous. Interesting places
to go with both solo and group content, so it’s not one of
those rip-through, grind kind of areas. We’re putting special
attention and care into the dungeons to make sure that
there’s a review process during the creation of the dungeon
and not waiting until the end. The quality level should be really high.
We’re very committed to making this expansion phenomenal.
Ton Hammer: It’s interesting that you bring that up with
Velious. With Velious, two things come to mind. I think of huge dragon
raids, and I think of Tower of Frozen Shadows. Both of those aspects of
Velious I absolutely loved. Speaking specifically of Tower of Frozen
Shadows, the zone was unique in that it was progressional. You played
on the first level and you got the key to the second level. You played
on the second level, fighting different mobs and different monsters,
and got the key to the third level. I loved the progression in there. I
was having a discussion last night with a guild mate about progression
within games, and specifically style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EQ2 style="font-weight: bold;">. In the early days,
everything followed a progression. You had to do an access quest to
leave the Thundering Steppes to visit the Enchanted Lands. You had to
do an access quest for everything. Over time, all that was removed. As
producer, what is your take on progression? Do you envision any of the
progression-style stuff coming back in with Velious?
letting the designers make a lot of decisions on the Velious stuff. I
personally don’t have any issues with progression locks. I
think that they can be extremely useful. I’m not going to say
how much or how little they’re used in the current Velious
stuff until after we have more time to get feedback and tweak it. Heck,
I’m one of those guys who liked corpse runs because it made
you really worry about if you were really going to die or not, but the
world is a little bit different than it used to be. So we’re
re-evaluating all the mechanisms that we use in the game or have used.
We’re trying to determine what’s still good and fun
to use today, and we’re bringing some of it back.
Ton Hammer: What about the Sleeper?
Georgeson: Not in part one.
Ton Hammer: Oh! So is there going to be a part two to Velious?
Georgeson: What I can tell
you is that this is part one.
Ton Hammer: Going back to updating old zones with new content, one of
the beloved things and traditions of style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 style="font-weight: bold;"> were the newbie islands.
Granted, they did get a little bit tiresome because every character you
made had to go through them. They’ve been recently removed
because you have new, cool newbie experiences all over Norrath now. Do
you have any plans on bringing back the newbie isles in any shape or
Georgeson: I know that we
have a storyline that we want to pursue with the far seas trader stuff.
Those islands were closed for a reason, and that reason we
haven’t revealed. When we get to the point where
we’re mucking around with the Ocean of Tears and some of that
stuff will get explained. I think what a lot of people are missing from
the newbie isles experience is leaving them to go to Freeport or
Qeynos, which are really cool zones. The cities were there and they
were very nostalgic, but they were honestly difficult to navigate. They
were kind of all over the place as far as content went, and a lot of
newbies got confused and they ended up quitting because it was so hard
to navigate and you couldn’t remember which one of the 7 or 8
different zones of Qeynos your quest giver was. That obviously needs to
be restructured. We’re restructuring them and making them
cool, iconic, and story hubs again, all the things that players miss
from the newbie isles. Right now, I’m talking six months to a
year, but if we get to do what we want to do in the future, and there
isn’t bigger and brighter ideas, then the newbie isles stuff
will fully get explained also.
Ton Hammer: So there is a purpose to it all then?
Georgeson: There is.
Ton Hammer: Going into the developing aspect of things, you have two
different projects going. You have style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Live style="font-weight: bold;"> and you have style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;">. I know that
they’re the same game, but you’re looking at
different target audiences. When you’re designing new content
and new expansions, how do you envision it? Do you focus mainly on that
doing this will make it good for style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Extended style="font-weight: bold;">, or do you focus on
making the style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Live style="font-weight: bold;"> gamers happy? How do you
find a middle road to suit both audiences?
Georgeson: How do I answer
this without making flamewars? (laughs) The business model we had
we were forced to continue the expansion pack model, which is, in
general, making end-game content and kind of ignoring the things that
we know are wrong with the game. We’re always racing to make
the next expansion pack; we’re always racing to make the next
expansion pack. It was the only way we could make money. It was the
only thing bringing in cash. By bringing in style="font-style: italic;">EQ2X
and allowing the microtransaction stuff to make money for us over time,
what it’s doing is effectively freeing up design concepts.
Now we can concentrate on Freeport and Qeynos. We can do things like
take care of the zones that we know are really bad and need to be
revamped and updated. I won’t name any
names…Thundering Steppes… (laughs).
There are a lot of things that need to be fixed in the game.
There’re a lot of mechanics that have gotten creaky or worse,
in my opinion, and are impossible for new players to understand. There
is a lot of functionality in the game that most players don’t
use because they don’t know that it exists, and that is
almost criminal. By taking off some of the burden of the expansion pack
model, we can address some of these other issues and make the game
better for just not one set of players, but for everybody. The more fun
the game is, well, the more fun the game is! If we can go in and create
new ways for people to play and be able to revisit content and have fun
with it, not just grind through it, if we can add more dynamic
capabilities to the game so that things aren’t exactly the
same every time you go through them, the game will be better for
I think that we’ll be addressing content that just
isn’t end-game, even though we’ll continue to push
that boundary, but we’ll be able to do it in a lot of other
ways. We’ll be able to do that more effectively because the
burden won’t be so heavy on the expansion pack model.
Ton Hammer: That makes sense, especially with style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;">. No longer is the
top heavy. My hats off to you.
already a good game. We can make it a great game. We just need to have
the time and resources to do it, and by increasing the success of the
game financially, we get that. We can go back and create the
entertainment that we want to create.
Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you wish to share about style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest
2 Extended style="font-weight: bold;"> or Velious?
concentrating on quality for Velious, not necessarily quantity, even
though there’s a lot of stuff we’re doing.
We’ve made a commitment not to cram in thousands of quests
just so we can say that there are thousands of quests. We’re
going through everything and trying to make it feel heroic, that there
are lots of gee-whiz moments, that there are lots of things to look
forward to, and that there’s pacing through the area. That
way, you’re not just doing one thing the whole time. I think
that we’re going to be successful on that frontier.
I can’t wait until we rip off the beta tag and get to spend
some of that marketing money. I’m looking forward to seeing
how that will impact the population on both sides. We’re
still experimental here, and I can’t wait until I get real
facts so that we can tweak it more to make it work.
Ton Hammer: Where do you see style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EQ2X style="font-weight: bold;"> in today’s
massive free-to-play marketplace?
Georgeson: This is going to
sound like pure ego (laughs), but honestly, at the top of the heap.
There isn’t anything better than style="font-style: italic;">EQ2
as a free-to-play model. There just isn’t. I’m
really looking forward to people finding out about it and checking it
out. If you want to include another competitor that comes close in
quality is LotR,
but I think that we’re better than them. I think as far as
other free-to-play games, their play isn’t as deep, their
graphics aren’t as cool, and they don’t have nearly
the depth of features. We’re at the top of the heap.
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