EverQuest's Veil of Alaris - An Interview with EQ's Producer and Executive Producer

We sat down with style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest
Producer, Thom Terrazas and Executive Producer, David Georgeson, to
discuss the future of style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest
and its newest expansion due to launch in November, Veil of Alaris.

With the new Veil of Alaris expansion, we understand that
there’s going to be a new guild housing. Where will the guild
housing be placed?

We’re trying to make the neighborhoods a viable place for
guilds so they can have a little bit more creativity within the zones
or if they want to buy their own zone. We’re going to have
one or two spots in the neighborhood where they can place the new guild
hall. The new lots as well as the current one currently take place in
the neighborhood zones.

Obviously, the social aspect of PoK is huge, and we don’t
want to take that away so we’re looking at putting the
entrance to the new guild halls in the same location where everybody
hangs out. We want people to come together.

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We did a little experiment with allowing guilds to buy their own
neighborhoods and it was fairly popular at first, but, like everything,
it had a spike of interest then trailed off. So I think that
it’s not as big a draw to players as we thought it would be.
It could just be more additions we that need to look at inside the
neighborhood and the tools that we create. In the neighborhood zones,
right now, you can place objects in your yard. You’ll also be
able to get guild halls that are in one or two specific places, kind of
on a cliff side, so it kind of stands out. But we also want to look at
doing events and allowing them to decorate the zone and give them tools
where they might be able to place trees, different kinds of foliage
that we have, and different points of interest that they like to use
throughout the zone. You know, just to have parties within their own

So it's basically the same kind of housing concept in HoT?

As far as the functionality and the tools go. Guild halls are probably
what we wanted to do first, but we couldn’t do that without
creating all the tools for the houses. We knew that we had to do the
one before the other, so we were marching towards that starting last
year with these tools and functionality for the guild halls; we had to
do the houses first. We didn’t have the time to focus on the
guild halls and get them created at that point.

The level cap is being increased to 95. When that was announced at the
Opening Ceremonies at Fan Faire it sounded like that there were quite a
few people who were unhappy with it. That surprised me.

Yeah, it didn’t get as big a “RAH” that I
thought it would.

I actually understand this--why they would get depressed.

It seems like they would be excited because there’s all this
new stuff to explore and new skills to get and more power and all that
stuff. But people have climbed the level 90 mountain and they get to
the top of Everest and they’re all: “Yeah! We made
it to the top of the mountain!” And then the mountain grows!
And that’s the reaction we got, which is perfectly natural.
They’ll get used to the idea, but right now it’s,
“Dammit! I just got here! I don’t have any more
oxygen bottles!”

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Two years ago when we launched Underfoot, we didn’t have a
level increase and we announced that at Fan Faire. I got cornered right
after the announcement, basically just as I was coming off the panel,
and a player asked, “You guys aren’t raising the
level cap?” I started to cringe and get into my defensive
stance, so I said that’s correct and he went, “Hell
yeah!” They really wanted to focus on getting to the top of
the mountain and now expanding on that…their AAs and all
their spells and abilities. I think you’re right. Once you
start to elongate the entire experience…the playing
population feels the social network of staying together slipping away
when we raise it.

It’s also very interesting when you don’t raise the
level cap. The cool thing is that all the content you make at the level
cap never grays out. So with the Velious stuff [in style="font-style: italic;">EQ2],
honestly the loot does make you more powerful so eventually you do
squish the stuff towards the beginning, but it’s all still
white, yellow, and orange. It’s still all valid combat
terrain. It’s pretty cool. But eventually you do want to
increase the level range.

Tell us about the new hot bar.

You can resize it. It’s kind of like the bags now. You can
make it thin all the way across if you want, up and down, any size you
want. We’re also allowing you to have more hotbars and
we’re increasing the number of buttons you have within the
hotbars. We’re going to give you right-click menus on the
hotbars so you can manage it really easily right from there.

How was the reaction of the Fan Faire panel when you gave the details?

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There was clapping. The biggest thing is being able to click on items
in your hotbar from your inventory. Items that were in your bags that
you always had to grab, swap out with an item in your hand slot to cast
a spell or get the clickable action or effect…now no more
hotswapping. Just drag it into your hotbar and you’re done.

That’s pretty sweet.

I was getting frustrated doing that all the time and I said that we
have to change that. We were trying to come up with features for the
expansion and wondering what to do, what do the players want?

It’s a good step for us to gradually change the UI as well.
We might not have the new beautiful UI for the hotbars, but
we’re getting there. It’s another first step.
We’re going to get the functionality down before we start
changing the look and feel.

You can also resize all the buttons, so if you don’t want
this size, you can shrink down even more.

What's the level range for the expansion's content?

It ties in to 80. I think 80 is the low side. It’s 80 to 95.
Obviously, there’s room to grow after 95, within the zone as

Lots of new AAs?


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Realizing that there are 12 new zones, how many raid zones?

We have 6.


Some of them are and some them aren’t. What we’ve
learned from a lot of events recently is that having chokepoints and
spawncamping didn’t work out. With the Crushbone event, we
just redid as an instance, which made sense. We hate having players
come to the front door and realize that there’s a party
there, but they weren’t invited. There’s plenty
more instancing.

At one point in time, I would have said no to instances. The community
today that plays games, and MMOGs in general, is so different from what
it was back in the day.

Fundamentally different.

Yeah. It used to be handled very well by the community. On the regular
servers, there is a lot of communication. It’s something that
we really have nothing to do with. They work together.

Players have changed. Travel time used to be a cool thing. Prepping two
hours for a raid used to be…well, we still do that. People
really want to log in and, in 15 or 20 minutes, be able to log out and
have done something cool and have really enjoyed themselves.
That’s fundamentally different from the expectations of
twelve years ago. MMOs are not really instant gratification all the
time, but we are starting to steer them towards what the customers
want. That’s the beauty of MMOs: we can continuously morph

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It’s part of the challenge too because when you take a look
at stuff like style="font-style: italic;">EQ Next
and where you want to take it, you have a decision to make. Do you make
it more sandbox or do you make it more of just an "Online Game?"
There’s a challenge there.

It's no secret that I love sandboxes. It’s weird making these
games because the customers change.

to Terazzas, jokingly)
ok, yours don't.

I’m not arguing that point at all. But they do want change.

Of course they do.

Things that make sense, like the hotbars. Functionality. Marketing the
game…that was a big point yesterday. They asked, "Why
aren’t you doing more?"

That's a tough one to explain too, without getting into the details of
ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

It was a hot topic for them. We talked about Recruit-A-Friend. I said,
“Hey! You’re a great marketing tool for us as well.
Reach out to your friends.” They said that they’ve
done that. They want more. They want easier functionality in the game.
When they bring somebody into the game who hasn’t played
before, they don’t lose them within 2-3 weeks because
they’re not on to hand-hold them through it. Once
they’re over the hump, it’s easy sailing.

They open the door for you.


It seems that everybody has played style="font-style: italic;">WoW,
so everybody draws from that interaction and how a game works for them.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a climb for them to get used to style="font-style: italic;">EQ.
We have to erase that.

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I played like crazy for the first two weeks of launch, then I
didn’t play again at all until I took over the Executive
Producer position. Once I started playing again, I realized how much
had changed. There’s a lot of fun in that game that you
don’t get any more from anywhere else. I didn’t
have any trouble at all getting up to level 50. Ok, the interface is a
little bit intimidating to start with, but that’s the kind of
stuff that Thom is talking about fixing.

You know what worked really well in the marketing discussion for style="font-style: italic;">EQ2?
That we had applause for? That we were putting in that video recording
and posting to YouTube, and the fans saw that as a way for them to
self-promote the game. Now they feel that they can promote it. We might
want to consider putting that into style="font-style: italic;">EQ.

Well, we haven’t announced that, but we’re actually
doing that, I think, right after the expansion. December?

So the final question would be…I’m guessing that
there’s going to be new armor sets?

Yep. And there’s a new cultural armor tier. We got applause
on that too.

When was the last time that there was a cultural update?

I don’t think it was last year. I think it was two years ago.
I think it was with the Underfoot expansion.


Thank you to both Thom Terrazas and David Georgeson for taking the time
to speak to us at Fan Faire to talk about the Veil of Alaris. The
interview continued from there, though, and we started talking more
about EQ2's
expansion: Age of Discovery. Check back at Ten Ton Hammer a bit later
to hear all the juicy details.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest Game Page.

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