Updated Fri, Jan 02, 2009 by Ethec
TTH: With regards to expansions, various MMOs have been criticized for catering too heavily to the high-level game while failing to keep the low-level game fresh and compelling for newcomers. While "Desert of Flames" is primarily geared to level 45-60 players, could you comment on what's in store for lower-level players in this expansion?
Ryan "Blackguard" Shwayder: Players of all levels will be able to participate in Arena Champions, our scenario-based PvP system that is part of Desert of Flames. All players in guilds will have access to guild vaults, which are a feature of Desert of Flames but will be accessible even to those without the expansion.
Not all of our expansions and adventure packs have been or will be catered only to high level players. Take the Splitpaw Saga, for example, which scales in difficulty between levels 20 and 50. The Bloodline Chronicles, our first adventure pack, was geared toward levels 30-45 (which you might consider the mid levels).
In future expansions, you will likely see focus on more broad level ranges mixed in there, at least with some features as we've done with Arena Champions.
TTH: An Everquest 2 trademark has historically been an emphasis on cooperative play. Is the enhanced PvP action a step towards more competitive play, or is the ability to compete in effigy (by using purchased and controlled "champions") meant to keep the effect light and casual?
Ryan: "The PvP found in Arena Champions is a step in the direction of allowing more options for players who desire that type of competition. This mode of play is separate from the normal game and does involve competition, but it also features cooperative play in the various scenarios (deathmatch, capture the flag, and destroy the idol) in the form of group vs. group battles.
We are also introducing dueling, along with the ability to wager coin and items in duels for those who enjoy a good one-on-one fight. Look for these forms of competitive play in Live Update #13 and Desert of Flames."
TTH: It seems that adventuring in Maj Dul, the DoF city locked in strife between 3 major NPC factions, will require serious attention to faction gains and losses. Will there be a way to check on your faction standing without conning the target, like a status window of some sort?
Ryan: "Absolutely. In the revamped Persona window, there is now a Factions tab that will allow you to check on your faction standing with anyone you have gained or lost standing with. This includes, of course, the Courts of Maj'Dul."
TTH: Are there any concerns with coupling the Combat Changes and the DoF launch so closely together? Are there any mechanisms in place to prevent quality feedback from getting lost in the shuffle?
Ryan: "The combat changes and Desert of Flames are independent of each other. That said, we decided to release the combat changes at the same time as Desert of Flames so we can get combat polished before hitting Live servers. That has the side-effect of Desert of Flames potentially feeling like a whole new game experience to some, but we don't think that is necessarily a bad thing with how fun the combat changes are turning out.
We also have several mechanisms to ensure we see the quality feedback that comes in from Beta. We have Apprentice Designers assigned specifically to gather feedback from Beta as well as the forums. They send reports on a daily basis and get a lot of issues addressed this way.
The bug and feedback reports on Beta come directly to our email boxes on a daily basis and are great for direct scanning.
Additionally, we have specific members of our Quality Assurance staff assigned to talk to players on Beta and gather the biggest issues of the day (for both Combat Changes and general issues) in yet another daily report.
Other than the direct attention we pay ourselves, we have automated reports that tell us things like how many times a quest has been acquired and completed so we know exactly what quests might be broken.
In short (is that a valid phrase after all that?), we feel we've covered our bases with the launch of Live Update #13 and Desert of Flames."
TTH: Are the Desert of Ro spectres (the ones that gave my EQLive characters nightmares) back in a big way with DoF? :)
Ryan: "Oh, they're back. Just how much of a part they play in the expansion is something I'd rather let you discover than spoil here. ;) "
TTH: Everquest II has established itself as the most prolific game in the industry; no one can match EQ2's output of quality new content. Can you comment broadly on what we might see after DoF? Perhaps something to mark EQ2's first anniversary in November?
Ryan: "That's a rather difficult question to answer. There is a lot to come in EverQuest II, and we will continue to improve the game after Desert of Flames launches. There are big things coming, and I don't think you'll be disappointed at all to see what we're doing with the game.
One quick teaser that I know a lot of you would like to know about: We're looking at getting the SOGA models into one of the next few major updates after Live Update #13 and the launch of Desert of Flames."
[Ed. Note: SOGA is a derivation of SOE, Inc. and Gamania, a Taiwanese company charged with localizing Everquest 2 for Asian markets. You can view a side-by-side comparison of US and SOGA character models by scrolling down the page at PCGames.com (China).]
TTH's fondest thanks go out to Ryan "Blackguard" Shwayder for his participation in this interview!