SOE Fan Faire 2007: Rise of Kunark
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
At Gamer's Day a few months back SOE announced it's upcoming EverQuest 2 expansion the Rise of Kunark. Based on the lore surrounding the first EverQuest 1 expansion they appear to be attempting to duplicate their success with Echoes of Faydwer by using a familiar area. While Ten Ton Hammer brought you a video interview of EverQuest 2 Producer Scott Hartsman showing the game during E3, there was an entire group of developers currently working on the expansion ready to field questions. Some of thos in attendance (and I apologize we were in the back of the room so I know I didn't see one or two) included Lead Designer Akil "Lyndro" Hooper, and Designers Steve "Saavedra" Kramer, and Liz "Feconix" Sigmund.
We moved into a demonstration by Saavedra who showed us exactly how he designed the Timorous Deep area. He stated they "took the original areas and made them 100 times cooler" using maps from EverQuest 1. He showed the general layout he set up, providing information on how progression works, what the art department did, and how his vision was added. We can expect this to be the Sarnak starting zone near the Sarnak city which was finally confirmed as an Evil aligned.
Liz "Feconix" Sigmund was up next with an entertaining presentation of what she was working on concerning raid content. Apparently Veeshan's Peak will make it into the game and provide a persistent four group raid instance of dragons, drakes, droag and more. She also mentioned we'd be seeing 3 new Avatars which will give raiders 3 more contested targets. Expect Bertoxx, Karana, and The Tribunal in the expansion and one unannounced deity before. The other Avatars will also rise in level as they are intended to be the end game contested raid content. She also mentioned you could expect linear raid progression in the form of 3 starter raids which will open others. Lyndro quickly added that raid progression difficulty could be subjective, and while they may plan certain raids to be harder than others players figuring out strategies could change that.
A question came up regarding the level progression of Rise of Kunark. Apparently other than level 1-20, the rest of it is a level 65-80 expansion. Scott Hartsman explained "As you saw with Echoes of Faydwer, we made a whole lot of great content but we also spread people out even further" acknowledging that the game might have gotten just a little too large. He also stated that "Given that we only have a fixed amount of time in which to make an expansion, we're able to focus more on the high end because we don't have to do a level 30-40 zone or 40-50 zone."
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Smedley Discusses Rise of Kunark
The session then focused on a battery of question surrounding contested raid content. Apparently people weren't satisfied with Lyndro's answer of "some" Scott Hartsman stepped in to clear up where SOE stood on the subject. He began "Contested raids are some of our biggest time sinks when it comes to dev time. We can do an entire dungeon in just the time it takes to develop just a few raids and with contested raids in particular when we're spending a disproportionately huge amount of time on content that 1% of 1% of our players experience we try and avoid that." This particular comment caused a little controversy on the local EQ2 Flames site which is still on going.
We moved on into a discussion of how the epic weapon quests would work. Basically the weapons are broken up in to two separate segments, one is group oriented (Legendary) and the other raid oriented (Fabled). You'll need to complete the Legendary quests before performing the fabled ones which will result in your epic. They also mentioned due to the work involved in creating 24 different epics, there would be no new Heritage Quests in the expansion disappointing those of us who liked to camp stuff.
Solo content came up shortly afterwards and Lyndro surprisingly stated all overland zones would be almost completely solo content. This is a fairly radical shift from previous development we've seen in other expansions. Perhaps bowing to market pressure or just looking to give the more hardcore players something to complain about this is sure to cause a little controversy. This actually makes sense if you think about it, because most groups you are in don't go to overland zones, they go to dungeons.
More controversy followed with the announcement there would be no new Achievement Points added to the 100 we already have available. Hartsman stepped up again to attempt to explain their reasoning behind it. He stated "It was a massive undertaking since we have such a gigantic number of classes. It isn't because we don't want to, we just don't want to screw it up." You have to give the man credit for being blunt and honest over it. It appears SOE is banking on 10 levels worth of new spells providing the proper motivation for advancement.
The last interesting point of the roundtable was actually a mechanic announcement that miraculously hadn't been leaked or previously discussed. While it is still unnamed, there will be a device you can place in your home which will allow you to switch to another Achievement Point spec meaning no more spending platinum after platinum just because you are going on a raid. The crowd was overwhelmingly impressed with this feature so it looks like they are on to something. As the session started to wind down there still seemed to be a myriad of questions involving zone layout, loot, and raiders always have questions. One thing we all left with was a little bit of excitement of what we'll see in November. Be sure to keep checking back to Ten Ton Hammer for more news regarding EverQuest 2's expansion Rise of Kunark.
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