EverQuest 2: The Next Generation - A Q&A with David Georgeson

Exec Producer David Georgeson discusses the upcoming EQ expansion, Age of Discovery, but also some of the content players can look forward to in Game Updates coming very soon.

During Fan Faire of 2011 Ten Ton Hammer just had to get together with
Executive Producer David Georgeson to talk about the upcoming style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest 2: Age of
Discovery expansion. As it turns out, David had a lot to say about it.
He gave us the inside scoop with all the juicy info not just for Age of
Discovery but also some of the content players can look forward to in
Game Updates very soon.

TTH: Let's start by
talking about mercenaries in Age of Discovery. Will they function like
the mercenaries of  EQ1?

I liked the EQ1 mercenaries a lot. So, the basic core functionality is
very similar. If you go to different cities, you get different mercs
with different roles... melee DPS, ranged DPS, healer and tank. Then
they follow you around. You can only have one at a time and they take a
player slot out of your group. If you want all players in your group,
then you’ll need to disband your mercenaries, but you can resummon your
mercenary after five or ten minutes.

That's where EQ1 went, and we’re moving beyond that.

alt="An Ogre Mercenary in EverQuest 2" width="250">

What we’re going to do is to tinker with the AI brains of the
mercenaries depending upon which city you get them from. So if you get
a healer in Neriak versus a healer in Qeynos, they will act
differently. They will use different skills, different spells; they
actually have different AI so they might retreat at different points so
that we can give them a racial personality to each of the different
merc types that you can get.

In addition to that, if you have any spare cosmetic gear, you can throw
it on the merc and they will equip it. If you get rid of them
permanently, they’ll give it all back.

You can name the mercs, of course. If they hang out with you for a
while, you can train them to say things. It will be amusing to see what
people train their mercenaries to say. You can even use them in raids
if you want to. I think the real beauty of it is if you and a couple of
friends want to go into a heroic dungeon and you can’t find enough
people to go, you can all get mercs and you’ll have a full group.

You can collect all the different mercs, but you can only use them one
at a time. We hope to have it so that the ones you aren’t using will
wait at your house smoking and drinking.

TTH: That would be so

David: It'd
be awesome. We’ll see if we can pull it off.

TTH: Do they have
confidence levels like in EQ1?
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David: I
want that, yeah. I think that that’s a really good mechanic. It makes
them completely different than pets. You commonly just throw a pet into
the middle of the biggest mob of stuff that you can get and hope that
it gets all the aggro. You can’t do that with a merc. In EQ1, they’ll
just turn tail and run. I like that mechanic a lot because it makes you
pay attention to what’s happening to your merc.

TTH: How do the
Apprentice Tradeskillers work?
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David: This
is the probably the softest design we presented at the show; the most
in transition. We’re making it up right now.  Two days before
the show, we decided to kill the idea we had because of all the
complexities that we were running into. Then we asked ourselves what
else we wanted to do. We then had this idea already halfway done.

One of the designers that we have who's in charge of tradeskills right
now, just in his own spare time, was putting together the Tradeskill
Apprentice idea which puts an apprentice NPC in your house who you can
work with.

He can do offline crafting, and he can also make special items that you
can’t normally craft or get anywhere else. As you work with him, he’ll
eventually level up and he gets to the point where you can work with
him to create grandmaster level types of items that are top-in-slot
kind of things. But it will likely be heirloom so only you can use it
or pass it to your other characters.

The advantage of having that Tradeskill Apprentice is to be able to
craft some really good items. They’re like high quality raid items, but
you’re able to get them from a different approach through the
tradeskill method. But you have to level your apprentice up and grow
him over time to be able to do that.

And like everything else we’re doing, you can dress your apprentice and
rename him and all that other stuff. It’s really neat and I think the
tradeskillers will like it because it gives them access to items that
they can totally brag about.

The readers jumped us a little bit right away. “Is this going to be
more powerful than the raiding stuff?” And our answer was that if it
requires items that you can only collect the mats in a high-end raid,
then yes, it will be more powerful than the raid gear because it takes
more effort to get.

I think we’ll see a lot of renewed interest in tradeskilling once we
throw this in there.

alt="Another look at an Ogre Mercenary" width="600">

Another look at an Ogre Mercenary

TTH: So, we heard a rumor
that the eagerly anticipated Beastlord is finally making its way into

Da-da-da! Yep, it is. It’s really righteously cool.

TTH: That’s awesome. It’s
been a request for how many years now?
style="font-weight: bold;">

David: I
know! In the panel yesterday the fans were saying, “We’ve been asking
for this for years and you made it to the level where we couldn’t even
say the word on the forum because it was outlawed" (and it was!) "Why
did you finally turn around?” My answer was, "You’ve asked for it for
years. It seems that we should give it to you. That’s why we’re giving
it to you."

It should be really cool. Of course, it’s based on the EQ1 concept of
the Beastlord, but we’re going to push gameplay in different directions
with this class. We don’t want to add just a 25th class and have him
just like all the other classes. That didn’t seem worthwhile at all. So
because the Beastlords have the warders, we’re going to take that
gameplay and run with it.

I don’t know how many warders we’re going to have or what types of
warders we’ll eventually have, but there will be quite a few. You’ll be
able to collect them, and once you begin working with them, you’re
basically forming a bond with this animal in the true spirit kind of
sense, and the bond matures over time.

Your warder has an AA tree and you build those AAs over time. Your
warder also has a skill hotbar separate from yours. The Beastlord in
EQ2 has fewer skills normally than a regular class would. It’s actually
quite a few less, but your warders have their own AA trees and hotbars
and there is interactivity between those. So when you use a warder
ability, it’s going to open up an opportunity for you to do something
with your character, and vice-versa. If your warder gets stunned, you
can do something about it.

You build "synergy" during combat. (We're still trying to think of a
better word). It can fill up several times. The more you let it fill
up, the more active and powerful abilities become available. So, if you
have patience, you can get all the way up to a level 5 synergy ability
and you’ll be able to fire those off to have really impressive effects.

We think it will be very fun. It’s very active; it’s not one-button
macroable, which is always a plus in my opinion. If people want to play
one button macro, then there’s 24 other classes they can use. But the
Beastlord is designed to be very active.

That’s cool. I really like that idea of having an interdependency. It’s
not like just another pet.

alt="The long-awaited Beastlord comes to EQ2" width="250">

David: Yeah,
it’s very different from a pet. We’re already having questions about
other classes' pets.  Those are summoned, they’re like a
magical spell. They’re not smart, they’re not sentient. They don’t have
the intelligence to adapt and learn tactics. They do what they do. It’s
kind of like having a robot, in a way. Whereas warders are totally
different. That’s a partner you’re building. So when you interact with
your warders, and summon different warders, you’re really changing the
way your class plays. It should be very, very interesting for people, I

TTH: Are they aligned as
evil or good, or both?

David: I
really don’t remember the conversation well enough to be sure, but I
don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be neutral, to be on whatever
side they wanted to be on. We’ll have warders available that will
definitely be evil or good aligned. So you’ll have to choose what you

TTH: In regards to the
rest of the expansion, are we looking at new zones as well?
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David: For
the box?

TTH: Yes. style="font-weight: bold;">

David: No.
We’re giving away all of the zone content for just the regular
subscription price.

TTH: Ok. style="font-weight: bold;">

David: We
are cranking out content. Just so you’re aware, Velious came out, and
Game Update 60, GU 61, GU 63, 64, 66, and 67 are all Velious content.
We will be building Velious content until 2013. One low price, big ass
content! It’ll be the biggest expansion pack ever made by the time
we’re done with it. It’s gigantic. You know all the stuff in EQ1 where
half the continent was all dragons? Well, you haven’t seen a dragon
yet, have you? We have a lot to do! Plus, we’re doing that whole
Freeport, which is going to be fantastic. Did you hear any of the
details on that?

TTH: No. style="font-weight: bold;">

David: Then
I have to tell you some of that. Next summer, we’ll redo Qeynos with
the same kind of treatment that we’re giving Freeport.

alt="The EQ2 Tradeskill Apprentice in action" width="250">

Freeport is getting turned into a massive multi-level quest hub with
all kinds of exploratory content in it. We’re taking the whole city and
turning it into a single zone, so there’s no more zoning between areas,
although all of the neighborhoods and sewers are still going to be
instances. The reason why we’re making the neighborhoods instances is
so we can actually do predicated content so when you go in, your
actions will affect the way the neighborhood reacts to you.

The neighborhoods are like segregated neighborhoods, like when you go
to San Jose. There’s a Vietnamese block, a Korean block, and so on and
so forth. That’s the way the neighborhoods are going to be in Freeport.

An example that I’ve been using is that you go into a shop and on the
back counter, you can see a bag of gold and it’s just sitting there
glowing and you can click on it. What do you do? Do you take it? If you
take it, maybe the neighborhood will go, “Hey Rube!” and start chasing
your ass all over the neighborhood. “Thief! Thief!” “Kill him!” and all
that kind of stuff. Or you could just leave it alone. We’ll go through
and put in all of this exploratory content that isn’t just chase
feather, do quests. Of course, we’ll still have that too.

We’re also going to have all kinds of race and class specific quest
lines, which is something we normally shy away from because we want
everybody to be able to do the content. That seems efficient. But we
know our players are alt-aholics, and they keep going through and
through and through, so we want to give them something so that when
they do change race and class, they get some different content along
the way.

So when you play in Darklight Woods or Timorous Deep as an evil
character, you will no longer go on the Golden Path to Butcher Block to
help the dwarfs for some reason. Instead, you’ll go to Freeport and get
involved in Lucan D'Lere's march for power.

We’re focusing on personalities. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones. I’ve
always been a fan of ensemble books or ensemble characters where
there’s really key characters and the plots always revolve around
those, so we’re going to be doing a lot of that with Freeport. We’ll
build personalities that have connections and you’ll be able to
understand the kinds of things that they’re interested in after you’ve
worked with them for a while and you’ll get to know them as
personalities, which we don’t have enough  of in EQ2. We just
don’t. We’re doing a lot to really seriously change the feel of the
game without messing with the mechanics too much.

Tell us about the player created dungeons.
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David: I
think I’d like to come up with a better name than Design Your Own
Dungeon, but I don’t know what it is yet. DYOD?

We call them Builders right now. We have builders and players, and we
wanted to make sure that both ways to interact with the dungeons are
fun. So with the collectable mentality, everything you need to build a
dungeon is out there in the world. It can be crafted, it can be gained
as loot in special quests, maybe there is some high-end raid stuff to
collect... But basically to get a map layout to customize you have to
go and defeat that area. So if you want the Crushbone Keep map, go beat
Crushbone Keep. That sort of thing, but we’re still working out the
mechanics on that.

alt="Design Your Own Dungeon in EverQuest 2" width="600">

Design Your Own Dungeon in EverQuest 2

You go out and collect the map layouts, the spawners, the traps, the
different kinds of decorations and things that you want for the
dungeon, and then when you have all the pieces that you want, you push
a button and…bam! You’re inside the dungeon and now you’re basically at
the level of laying stuff out like in your house. We’re vastly
improving the housing interface, too.

Lots of things that we’re building for that are helping the rest of the
game. We’re getting dungeon finder, improved housing interface, better
leader boards. There are all these features coming out in GU 61 in
August that are useful for the game already that are being constructed
so we can do Design Your Own Dungeon.

You build your dungeon. If you want to test it ahead of time, you can
run a party of invaders through your dungeon and watch them get
slaughtered. For bonus points, I want you to be able to name them will
all of your friends’ names so you can watch your friends get murdered.

So you run through those tests and when you’re ready, you just publish
it. Once you publish it, you take a screen shot and it asks you for a
little blurb, and all that goes automatically into these dungeon
leaderboards. Your dungeon will show up on the most recently created
list. Once people start playing it, they can actually rate your dungeon
after they’ve played it. When you go to the leader board pages as a
player, you can sort by the different ways that people can rate and
find a dungeon that’s cool for you. You click it and you’re in! If
you’re with a group, then you double-click it and you’re in right away.
If you really want to wait for a pick-up group, then you can register
for a queue, and bam! When the dungeon finder fills your group, you go
into that dungeon.

TTH: That’s cool. How do
you limit that, though? Don’t you think that inevitably there’ll be a
billion crappy dungeons and just a few good ones?
style="font-weight: bold;">

David: The
rating boards do that for us. As the players rate them, they basically
self-police that. The highest rated ones are obviously going to be the
most visited ones. The leader boards ages out votes after 24 hours, so
your vote only counts on the leaderboard for 24 hours, and then it
falls off. The leaderboards are a great indicator of what’s hot right
now. If you stay on the leaderboard, at midnight we parse it and
everybody who’s on the leader board gets a gold star, or some other
kind of mark. It’s an award. When you accumulate enough gold stars, it
turns into a loving cup kind of thing. When you have enough loving
cups, your dungeon automatically goes to the Hall of Fame, and it’s
there forever. So your name can be up in lights and there’s perpetual
ratings and things like that, so eventually we’ll accumulate this list
of just kick-ass dungeons that players are making.

When you play in one of these dungeons, you don’t play as yourself. You
play as what we call an adventurer. The adventurers are, again,
collectables out there in the world. They can range anywhere from a
gnome to a dragon and any kind of monster in-between. What we do is
isolate those different adventurers and we give them three or four
skills that they can use. Each adventurer has a unique personality;
they don’t play the same.

TTH: Kind of like the
champions for the older PvP Arena.
style="font-weight: bold;">

David: Kind
of, yes. The interface will definitely be different and we’ll put more
effort into making their play distinctive.

alt="The DYOD Builder" width="250">

Once you have these adventurers and you go into these dungeons to play,
your group list has pictures of which adventurers are being played by
each person. You have a list of available adventurers that you’ve
collected. Whatever you want to play as, you just drag it over. Once
your group leaves that starting room in the dungeon, you’re locked in
and you play through the dungeon.

The number one reason why other games don’t do this is because of the
exploit potential: making a super-easy dungeon with high loot. Our
monsters in Design Your Own Dungeons don’t drop loot; you don’t get XP
for killing each individual monster. The objective is to finish the
dungeon, and the dungeons are built for 20-30 minutes of play.

Well, because we know that the objective is to get to the end and kill
the boss at the end, we can prevent exploits from doing some really
easy stuff. Every spawn, every trap, every object of interactivity
thing all add up points, so that room will have a certain number of
points in it called a challenge rating. We then measure every possible
path to get from A to B and we find the easiest path. Whatever the
easiest path challenge rating is becomes the challenge rating for the

When a group finishes that dungeon and get to the end, they’re going to
get DYOD tokens that reward them for their play and that’s scaled up or
down based on the challenge rating. So a super-easy dungeon, you don’t
get much for it. Super-challenging, you might get your ass handed to
you a few times, but the payoff will be really good.

There are the shopping areas where you use your tokens to buy items for
your real characters. There’s a special shop for builders too as
builders get tokens based upon how often players play their dungeon,
what their quality ratings are, that sort of thing. They have a
different sort of metrics. They can get these special builder-only
things like rare spawns or cool monsters or even really epic loot for
themselves. Kind of like the tradeskill epic loot.

TTH: That’s a really a
cool way to go about it.

David: Wait!
There’s one more thing and I’m really fired up about this. I think it’s

What we do is when we’re laying down spawners, people are always like,
“Can we script the spawners?” We really don’t want to set up a
scripting language. That’s Neverwinter Nights and I don’t want to go

What we’re going to do instead is that when you throw down a spawner,
it’ll watch around itself for objects that can interact with it. For
instance, if you threw down an orc spawner and put down a campfire next
to it, when the orcs spawn, they’ll have fire weapons. Or if you put
several groups of orcs in several areas, normally, you’d be able to
pull each camp separately, but if you put an alarm bell near one of
them, when you pull that camp it’ll ring the bell and all of them are
going to come. So there’s this object interactivity that the builders
can play with.  As they collect these different things and put
them next to spawners, they’ll be like, “Holy crap! I didn’t expect
that!” That will provide variety and eventually they’ll learn what
works well and they’ll be able to make really customized content
without having to learn a single thing about scripting.

That sounds like a lot of fun.
style="font-weight: bold;">

David: I was
a huge Dungeon Keeper fan. Then I worked as the Senior Producer for
Dungeon Overlord, the Facebook game. It’s just one of those things that
I’ve been picking at for a long time, and the team got solidly behind
it and we realized that we had a chance to do something that nobody had
ever done before..let’s do it.

We tried to figure out all the flaws that could be going in and tried
to nail them. I think it’s exploit-proof. We’ll know when we get to
beta. I think it’s exploit-proof!

TTH: Those are dangerous

David: We
even wanted to start using things like the ultravision and infravision
to be able to detect traps, which would be cool. Finally, a use for the
vision powers! Or maybe a use for the disarm trap skill!

TTH: And what about

David: Oh
right, reforging!

Well, it’s a relatively simple thing. Basically, you can have a
powerful item that has stats and you could shuffle some of the
secondary stats around if you reforge. Anybody can do it. It’s not a
tradeskill. That’s something that of course the power-gamers are
interested in because they want to maximize every little thing. If they
think they need something else, they can shift in that direction. The
primary stats can’t really be shifted around but it’s a nice thing for
them to self-police for what they think they need for their build.

In addition to that, just because we thought it was cool, if your
weapon had a particle effect on it, we’re also going to give you a
particle effect editor. So you’ll be able to change the particle
effects: the colors, maybe speed and rotation and that sort of thing
and be able to customize how your weapon looks to other players. And
that’s just sexy.

alt="Reforging is just sexy" width="600">

Reforging is just sexy

And we’re also going to raise the AA limit by….an undisclosed amount.
More than one!

GU 61 in August gets a lot of these things as benefits. We have the new
dynamic dungeons that we’ve never done before in EQ2. Basically, every
time you go in, we have basically 15 different templates that we can
pull from in these dungeons. Every time you go in, the rooms and
everything…the areas are populated differently. Hopefully, it’ll take
longer to chew through that dungeon. We’ll see how the players like it.
If they like it, great.

Also in GU 61, we have new raids and heroic dungeons, all with normal
and hard level versions.

Raids always used to be hard mode basically. By putting in normal
raids, what we’re doing is allowing players who are interested in raids
but weren’t hardcore enough about it to be in the hardcore raid groups.
They’re actually playing these normal raids already and they’re having
a good time with them. They’re designed to be beatable with a pick-up
group of 24 people. They’re learning how to play raids with these
normal raids. It’s already working.

We’re anecdotally getting all kinds of feedback where they’re like,
“We’re getting tired of doing the normal raids, so we just did our
first-ever hard raid and we kicked ass!” We’re like, “Dude, that’s
exactly what we’re hoping for.”

It used to be where you would ask somebody if you could go on theri
raid and they ask if you’ve ever been in a raid group before. “No.” So
they say, “No!” Or if you get in, it’s like, “Stand there, shut up, sit
down, and do exactly what I tell you!” This other way is much
friendlier and it’s fun.

There’s a bunch of other stuff too. The most important thing that’s
coming out in GU 61, and it sounds non-sexy but it has gigantic impact,
is that we’re re-itemizing everything from level 20 to 90, which is
over 50,000 items. We’re re-itemizing everything because when we
changed the stats for Velious, the progression screwed up. Plus, ever
since we put the Golden Path in, the only really legitimate way through
the world to get cool power items was to go down the Path, which
basically invalidated the rest of the world, which is insane with this
much content! By going through and re-itemizing 20 though 90, it’s all
validated. All of it.

And when we go back and do Freeport and the Beastlords come in and
people start doing alts and everything like that, they can explore
everywhere. It’s all good! The dungeon finder will be a blast because
you can hit any dungeon, and there will be dungeons…I promise you that
there’ll be dungeons that you haven’t ever been in. There are so many

Any dungeon setting is going to be a blast. Right now, you’ll only go
to dungeons that other people are in. But if you’re queuing up for a
pick-up group with the dungeon finder and you hit the "any dungeon"
button, it’ll take you to any dungeon. You can select specific ones if
you only want to play those ones, but you might end up with a longer
queue time. If you pick any dungeon, we’ll take the best six people,
put them together, and then you go! You’re going to see content that
you’ve never seen before.

Right now, we’re doing 125% rewards on the "any dungeon" button. So XP
and tokens, you’ll get 125% because we want people to click that
button. Shorter wait times are better for people. You’re going to see
more content.

TTH: That’s a lot of
really cool stuff.

David: Dude!
We’re going to be so busy until November! From November to Christmas,
we have nothing planned. We’re going to do R&D projects because
we’re going to need to de-stress after this.

We’re really excited to get this stuff done because we know that it is
the right stuff and the game is going to be so much better for it
afterwards. When we get to November, we’ll relax and do some pet
projects and passion projects and stuff for a while, which always ends
up with cool stuff to. I have no idea what that stuff will be yet.

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