Updated Wed, Nov 30, 2011 by Ethec
While any of the thousands of house object featured in the game can be placed in dungeons - either for pure decoration or to (passively) help tell the story - Emily explained that "dungeon objects" will only be available as builder rewards or through EQ2's extant collection system. Dungeon objects imbue nearby enemies with special powers - a small campfire, for example, increases the range at which enemies will help each other in a fight. In addition to dungeon objects, players can place individual enemies and "spawners" such as the Orcish Oracle or Skeletal Coercer, and set them to wander, patrol between specified points, or stand still.
Another unique aspect of Dungeon Maker is that entrance and exit points can be placed anywhere in the layout. You could have an assassination mission that begins in the throne room and requires an action-packed escape through the sewers, or sneak in through the sewers to fight their way to the throne room. Or anything in between. To prevent potential "leveling corridor" style exploits, Georgeson noted that players will only gain xp and rewards based on their prior efforts when they click the exit portal.
The tour then moved into an already-created dungeon, The Orcs' Den, a dungeon of moderate difficulty based on the Crushbone Keep theme. Every player-created dungeon will garner a challenge rating, a measure of how many and what type of mobs players face in the dungeon. Georgeson explained that several features were still making their way into Dungeon Maker, such as changing the names of monsters and adding dialogue text on aggro and death. "If players love this, and I think they will," he commented, "we'll be building on it for years."
Building on it sounds like a good idea, because as much as Dungeon Maker is made for achievement-oriented players, its capacity for storytelling will be somewhat restricted, at least at launch. First, you're playing an avatar and not your character. That's fun in a LOTRO Monster Play, step-outside-the-norm-and-be-a-baddie kind of way, but it's hard to craft a story when you can't make basic assumptions about the protagonist. While Mission Architect allows branching dialogue trees to facilitate interaction Dungeon Maker is currently limited to on-aggro text (which is hard to focus on in the heat of battle) and death text.
Also, in a bid to prevent exploits, the setup of Dungeon Maker rewards kills only, and you'll only go to your reward when you click on the exit portal. The feature does not (and probably will not) allow multi-step, quest-like interactions and won't reward anything more than basic, kill-or-be-killed gameplay. If, for example, you want to design a Mass Effect 2: Kasumi - Stolen Memory type scenario - a dinner party where you have to use your guile to fit into the crowd, then sneak into the back chambers to steal an object - you'll have to do it with no dialogue, no item interaction, and very little reward. That's a real shame, since the Mistmoore layout seems perfectly suited to just that kind of thing.
Still, I'm as curious as anyone to see what budding level designers can come up with, and I'm happy to see a seven year-old game getting this complex and well-crafted a feature. Between its nuanced combat mechanics, myriad classes, best-in-genre housing and crafting systems and community tools, not to mention extensive ties to the original EverQuest, EQ2 has been my pick for most complete MMO experience for years. Now, with going free to play (the rest of the way) and the addition of features like Dungeon Maker and mercenaries, EQ2 takes another step on that respectable path.
Look for the EverQuest II: Age of Discovery expanion to arrive next Tuesday, December 6th, and thanks to the SOE crew for showing us around the new expansion.