Many a MMOG has hit the street looking to take a piece of the pie away from EverQuest,Ã‚Â but EQ continues to draw new uses every day. Ã‚Â With a staggering 6 previous expansions (Ruins of Kunark, Scars of Velious, Shadows of Luclin, Legacy of Ykesha, Planes of Power, and Lost Dungeons of Norrath) already available for the faithful, EQ is in many ways already as complete an MMORPG as can be imagined. With EverQuest 2 deep into development, one might imagine that Sony Online might be willing to let the sun set on its prodigal son. Not so.
The latest EQ expansion,, Gates of Discord, is nearly ready for relase containing a new playable class, an all new continent to explore, a new type of experience, and a new tribute system. We had an opportunity to talk with EQ Community Relations Manager, Alan Crosby about the upcoming expansion.
GWJ: In a very general sense, what do you think it is about EverQuest that keeps people playing and keeps the game at the forefront of the growing MMORPG genre?
AC: The amazing EverQuest Community! The EverQuest community is an awesome thing to behold. There are so many people, with different backgrounds from all over the world coming together in this world of Norrath. EverQuest is more than a game, it is a social outlet much like a local cafÃƒÂ©. People find that they can enjoy themselves in this vast world as a warrior or magician, but that they also get interaction with friends and acquaintances. The huge amount of content in EQ is also a big draw. There is always something to do and chances are, even if you have played for the full 5 years EQ has been around, you have not been everywhere and done everything.
GWJ: What inspires an expansion to EverQuest? Do you brainstorm additions to the game you'd like to implement until you reach some critical mass, or do you begin with the kernel or theme of the expansion and go from there?
AC: We have a lot of creative folks on the EQlive team and they often do brainstorm to come up with storyline ideas that they think will further Norrath and interest our customers, but it usually starts with a seed from one of these talented folks. They start with a "Hey, what if . . .?" and then the project takes on a mind of its own. I have worked with EQ for 4 years now. This is my first time being on the inside of the expansion, working with the team and I am truly impressed at the way they work.
GWJ: How did the new Berserker class come about, and what will define its role?
AC: The berserker came about from team discussions and really is the brainchild of all of the designers. Its role will be whatever you folks want it to be. We wanted to add a little more diversity and some choice and we thought this would be a good addition to the EQ class line-up. There really was no weakness or lapse in the current character classes that we were trying to fill.
GWJ: It sounds initially like the Berserker is a pure melee class, will it use existing melee abilities - Parry, Dodge, Double Attack, Dual Wield, Disarm etc. - and will it have some class specific abilities we haven't seen before? And what separates a Berserker from a Warrior?
AC: Berserkers will use some existing abilities as well as having some new battle skills of their own. They use two-handed weapons predominately which they can hurl into combat or swing away with. They will not use heavy armor so they can't take a blow as well as a warrior, but they sure will hit as hard as one.
GWJ: When creating an entirely new class, is it difficult to balance that class from lower level up through a mid-level range into the end game. Do you feel like the Berserker has a role to play throughout the game that is unmet by other classes?
AC: It is a difficult challenge to balance a class through the whole range of EQ levels and encounters. The team here had the help of some very dedicated beta testers and they are working hard to make sure the class enters the game balanced. As I mentioned above, its role will be defined by you, the players. It is not here to fix a hole in the system, rather it is here to add some new experiences to game play.
GWJ: You guys already have a ton of Alternate Advancement options, and now you guys are ready to add 100 more. Can you give us an idea of what percentage of these are extensions or higher progressions of existing ones, and how many are truly 'new'?
AC: Most of the Alternate Advancement abilities are upgrades, but there are some new abilities tossed in as well. Each class will find at least one, new, fun ability to use.
GWJ: A new continent to explore is always a good way to go. Since most of the EQ population seems to be higher level, did you skew the continent toward advanced players, and if so will there be a good newbie zone for those young Berserkers to enjoy?
AC: A lot of the content is geared for higher level characters, although we did add some new things for everyone. One of those is the berserker. Berserkers will use the existing starting areas as they are being introduced to existing races. Currently no player race will start in the new lands of Taelosia. Leadership and the Tribute system are also available to characters of all levels.
GWJ: Can you talk a bit about leadership experience, how it is gained, and how it benefits players?
AC: Leadership will open up a whole new set of skills to the aspiring group or raid leader. You gain the experience and points by leading groups or raids. You can then spend the points in the leadership interface to buy the abilities you would like, very similar to the Alternate Advancement interface. As for benefits, imagine being able to mark monsters in the order you would like the group to attack them, or to be able to track down a wayward group member. I know that I would liked to have had these abilities when my Wife gets lost in a dungeon. Overall, it will allow better control over raid and group attacks.
GWJ: Travel is always an issue in EverQuest, one you guys have thankfully made increasingly accessible over the years. Will travel to the new lands be limited, or will porting spells, druid rings, spires, and even a nexus stone or two be available to players?
AC: Initially the travel will be limited to traveling by foot (Or horse or drogmar), although I am sure that our crafty designers have some others ways to travel hidden in the new lands somewhere.
GWJ: This expansion seems very much story driven, perhaps more so than previous expansions. The teaser even hints that the new continent holds the 'secret of Norrath's future'. It sounds like you guys are building up to something. What can you tell us?
AC: It is very story driven. It opens up a whole new direction for EverQuest and the storyline will not end with the Gates of Discord. The team has many ideas based upon this new story that they want to present to the players.
GWJ: What is the tribute system, and what kind of rewards can one gain from its use? Is it level limited?
AC: Characters can now gain favor in their home towns by turning in items to their tribute masters. Favor can be used to grant buff like abilities to the character, which drain favor from a pool upon use. A new interface will allow characters to see their accrued favor as well as any favor buffs they can activate. Any character of any level can gain favor and use these abilities. Of course the better the item given to the Tribute Master, the better the boon of favor he returns.
GWJ: Finally, as EverQuest 2 approaches, do you foresee more expansions in EverQuest's future?
AC: I assure you that we are not going away when EQ2 arrives. We will continue to support the game and make sure that EverQuest continues to grow.