Years after the initial launch the original Everquest still wears the MMORPG crown with the largest amount of subscribers inÃ‚Â North America.Ã‚Â That being the case it's noÃ‚Â surpriseÃ‚Â thatÃ‚Â a sequel has been in the works for quiteÃ‚Â some timeÃ‚Â now.Ã‚Â Following the coverageÃ‚Â at this year's E3 we had some questions about the game andÃ‚Â Everquest 2'sÃ‚Â Client LeadÃ‚Â Richard Baker was kind enough to answer them.
See that? I'm pandering to your most base and primal desires. On to the questions!
GWJ: Who might you be and what is your role in the development of Everquest 2?
Richard: IÃ‚'m Richard Baker, the client lead for EQ2.Ã‚Â
GWJ: What are the fundamental changes between Everquest and Everquest 2? For example, IÃ‚'ve noticed that there will be six classes with a ton of sub classes to choose from which is a bit of a departure from the current structure in EQ.
Richard: Like you mentioned, there is a new class tree in EQ2. The Rogue class tree will specialize in lock picking, and the Tradesman class tree will specialize in creating items. The advancement system and combat systems are complete new. There will be all new items, spells, and arts.Ã‚Â
GWJ: One of the biggest criticisms sometimes levied against Everquest is that people needed to spend extended periods camping a specific location to complete a quest or receive a certain item. Is EQ2 going to have a similar gameplay style or will there be greater randomization of drops and spawns? What are you doing to eliminate over-camping, if you believe such a problem exists?
Richard: In EQ2, we will have NPCÃ‚'s that know you are on a specific quest allowing specific items to drop only once per character and only if you are on a quest involving the specific item. We also will have the most of the better non-quest drops spread across multiple spawns throughout the world.
GWJ: Some grizzled veterans of MMORPGÃ‚'s view the slow crawl through levels with distaste after playing a few years worth of the genre. Will Everquest 2 offer a speedier level treadmill or will it stick closer to the standard set in Everquest?
Richard: There are going to be more options for advancement in EQ2 than just camping spawns. We will have many quests that give large amounts of experience. Players will be limited to doing these quests once per character. Also, tradesmen get experience for doing trade skills.
GWJ: Can you give us a rough idea of how much of the world from Norrath will be available at launch? We've seen some familiar places like Freeport in recent footage, but will we see many new locations?
Richard: The Norrath of EQ2 is completely different than the Norrath of EverQuest. There are many familiar names but most of the areas have been redesigned to take advantage of our improved rendering systems. There are many new locations and many of the old locations are much larger and more detailed.
GWJ: What have you kept from the original to keep Everquest 2 familiar? Do you envision EQ2 as an evolution from the original, or is this an entirely new game?
Richard: It is really an entirely new game. EverQuest will continue be refined and improved, but with EQ2, we are able to start with new assumptions from lessons we learned on EQLive. In the process, we can add new game mechanism that would be difficult into a live game. Also, given that everyone gets to start on an even ground from level 1, we can balance the combat without having to remove skills or items from high-level characters.
GWJ: Downtime, death penalties, and corpse recoveries were serious issues for some players in Everquest. Are these being handled differently?
Richard: This is significantly different in EQ2. You donÃ‚'t leave a corpse, but instead you stay dead until you are either resurrected or choose to return to your bind point with an experience debt and some monetary/item penalty. The experience debt will decay over real time, and a portion of the experience earned during that period will go toward reducing the experience debt.
GWJ: Will the EQ2 graphics engine, which looks to be fairly taxing, handle substantial number of players on screen? To that end, do you expect individual servers to handle a similar numbers of players as is currently acceptable in EQ? How customizable will the graphics settings be?
Richard: Our min spec is fairly hefty, but if you are in an area with a lot of characters, the graphics will scale to allow for a good frame rate. The servers will be able to handle a similar number of players and NPCÃ‚'s. The graphics settings are very customizable. You can disable many graphics options to allow a better frame rate with reduced graphics quality. Also, as future hardware is released you will be able to crank the graphics option even higher and see a considerable visual improvement.
GWJ: Obviously role playing is in the hands of the players themselves, what will EQ2 do to foster the role playing element of the game? Some things like the extensive gesture system and setting up stages for player events have been mentioned previously, what else can we expect?
Richard: We have a large number of emotes and very expressive facial animations. Also, we have a few zones and areas that are designed specifically for player events. Additionally, given that Tradesman class will be able to make the best items in the game, players will gather around them creating role playing opportunities. Evil characters will all start in Freeport and good characters will all start in Qeynos. This will give players a strong sense of good and evil. It will be very rare to see an evil character if you are a good character or a good race if you are an evil character. We also have a very sophisticated faction system that will allow interesting interaction with the NPCÃ‚'s.
GWJ: Finally, the question on a lot of minds is when the beta is expected to start and how gamers will be chosen. The benefit of doing a sequel is having a huge dedicated player base to draw from already, will current EQ players get first crack at the beta? How about the folks who run small but incredible influential gaming sites?
Richard: The main goal with the early beta will be to get feedback about the game play features so that we can make the EQ2 experience as fun as possible. It is a goal of ours to get a mix of players with less experience to test the earlier learning curve as well as getting more experienced players to test the higher level content. For details on beta, keep checking the EQ2 website.
Big thanks to Richard for taking the time to answer a few questions!