Friday, March 27, 2020

Tell Me Something I Don't Know : EverQuest II

As I was logging in to set my Overseer missions in EverQuest II this morning I noticed a news item on the launcher. Hard to miss, really. There it was, twice for some reason, right at the top of the list: Kander's Candor Podcast Launch.

I don't generally listen to gaming podcasts. People who sit at desks coding or framing quest trees all day tend not to be the most scintillating of speakers, or such has been my impression. Kander, though, has long had a reputation as a good egg so I thought I'd give it a go.

Even dark elves follow government health advice.
And I'm very glad I did. I'd strongly recommend anyone who plays EQII or retains an interest in how the game's doing to have a listen.

There are two episodes so far. You can access them directly from the website or via Anchor or Spotify. I used Anchor, a service I'd not heard of before. No sign up or registration needed - just click the button and it plays.

The format is very simple: community manager Dreamweaver hosts and Creative Director Kyle "Kander" Vallee dishes the dirt. They make a good duo. Dreaweaver has proven to be one of the more affable community reps and Kander is refreshingly unguarded, as befits the name of the podcast.

Among other things, we learn, to no-one's surprise, that the most recent expansion was produced under straightened circumstances, with neither sufficient time or resources for the polish the team would have liked. The only material evidence offered as to why is the sudden departure of an artist but it's clear a lot more than that must have been going on at Daybreak Towers back in the autumn.

Coco, the cupcake fairy.
(Anyone who gets that joke better have a six year old child 
or work in a bookshop)
It's also apparent that things are a lot better now. Kander sounds convincingly upbeat about how the situation has improved. He also sounds genuinely contrite about the errors and omissions that were made, something that appears to be going down well on the forums.

I don't raid so it had passed me by but apparently raiding was completely borked in Blood of Luclin. This is admitted and will be fixed. Crafting, which also got the short end in BoL, is going to get some attention too, including the return of level ranges to the tool tips on mats, (already been patched in) and the much-requested addition of writs for the new levels.

Personally I liked most of the changes to crafting introduced in BoL. I've done more crafting and especially more gathering this time than in any expansion for many years. I realize it's a minority opinion.

Looking ahead, Kander promises the same mistakes won't be repeated in this year's expansion, which is already two months ahead of schedule. He's not giving much away about the theme but I think we can assume it will be Luclin Part 2.

You talkin' to me, bub?
Beyond that, the team would like to do something original, or at least original to EQII. He  raises the tantalizing prospect of a Ravenloft style expansion with vampires and werewolves, something I would one hundred per cent love to see, although we kind of already had that back in Echoes of Faydwer, so maybe it's not as original an idea as all that, even for EQII...

Something that undoubtedly is new to the game is what we're getting in the first of this year's two Game Updates, coming in April. Cowboy ogres, a spaghetti western soundtrack and tumbleweed. Yee haw! I can't wait!

I'm somewhat more apprehensive for the big theme of the year, which is class balance. Words to stir the loins of hardcore raiders everywhere - and to strike dread into the heart of every dirty casual. Seriously, when did "balance" in any MMORPG ever take casual gameplay into account?

Class balance! RUN!!
As Kander says, though, it has been one of the big demands of the community for a while now. As indeed it has been in every MMORPG I've ever played, all the time. I exaggerate but not by much. Like it or not, class balance is coming, as is a major revamp for the Alternative Advancement (AA) system. The latter is going to be part of the 2020 expansion, though, so I'll save my fretting for later.

We learn more about the Overseer feature, most tellingly that, as I suspected, its great appeal to the team is the speed at which it can be used to deploy quest-like content. Where it takes months to produce a traditional Signature quest line, an Overseer quest for a holiday event can be put together in days. Figured as much.

The other big positive for the team is the way the Overseer feature has allowed them to re-use art assets from the defunct card game Legends of Norrath. I hadn't noticed it in EQII but it certainly explains where those gorgeous ilustrations in EverQuest's Overseer come from. There's a bit of a make do and mend attitude at Daybreak these days. I notice even the podcast header seems to have been recycled from the fifteenth anniversary.

Feedback? I'll give you feedback!
The system itself gets a major upgrade with "seasons" themed around expansions arriving in chronological order. Agents will get levels and the whole system will get fleshed out. No-one mentioned EQ but it certainly sounds like what the elder game has now, EQII will get next.

There's also going to be a new Community Council. I forget the exact name but it's one of those things where a select group of players acts as a focus group, sounding board and conduit between the playerbase and the developers. Apparently EQII used to have one. Can't say I remember it and I'm not a big fan of the concept but if it helps to take some of the heat off the devs that's to be welcomed.

There was probably more but that's what I can remember a couple of hours after listening to the two pods. It's instructive that at least two of these initiatives - the podcast itself and the Community Council - are revivals of things that used to happen. I can't help wondering how much of this was already in the planning stages and how much reflects a new approach, if not a new direction, following the recent, sudden change of leadership.

Whatever the reason, these are good and welcome changes. I wasn't worried about the future of the game before but having listened to Dreamweaver and Kander talk I feel positively enthusiastic.

Bring on the cowboy ogres!

1 comment:

  1. Great first step for communication. I do plan on listening to these podcasts. Hopefully we see some follow through.


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide