See it in Action!
By now, you've hopefully at least heard of the original EverQuest. The colorful 3D online role-playing game launched in 1999 and earned critical acclaim and thousands of loyal players around the world. These players have assumed the roles of elves and dwarves and wizards and knights and spent countless hours online completing quests, doing battle with powerful fantasy monsters, and searching for ancient treasure troves.
But Sony Online Entertainment is hard at work on the sequel, EverQuest II, a game that will, if nothing else, be powered by a very impressive graphics engine and will take place several centuries after the events in the original EverQuest. We caught up with Bill Trost, the lead game designer on the project, at a recent press event and got an update on this very promising sequel.
GameSpot: Thanks for taking the time to update us on EverQuest II, Bill. In our last interview, we asked about the prospects of keeping the original EverQuest around after launching the sequel. Now that some time has passed, and now that several competing next-generation games are coming out soon, do you think that the original EverQuest will still be something you'll want to continue supporting, or do you see most players migrating to EverQuest II?
Bill Trost: We are more convinced than ever that EverQuest is going to be a thriving and expanding game long after the release of EverQuest II. For as long as people want to play it, we plan on expanding and supporting it.
GS: We know that EverQuest II will take place in the land of Norrath, but centuries after the first EverQuest. What kind of familiar features, places, monsters, and characters can returning EverQuest players look forward to in EverQuest II?
BT: There will be a lot of stuff that is familiar to EverQuest players. Freeport, Qeynos, Befallen, Bixies, and so on. Our EverQuest II artists and designers have taken some real liberties on their interpretation of these things, though, so that even while some of the content will certainly have some nostalgic value to EverQuest players, it will all be new, surprising, and different.
GS: We discussed this briefly in our previous interview, but what sorts of measures are you taking to make sure new players can begin playing the game easily, without becoming confused or lost? Do you plan to implement any specific features to help players who have made bad decisions with their characters early on in their adventuring careers (like specializing in a skill they ultimately don't want or need)?
BT: We are definitely focusing on making EverQuest II an accessible game with a gradual learning curve relative to most computer RPGs. We plan on having a comprehensive help system within the game. We also have an entirely new quest system and plan on implementing quests that actually seek out the player rather than the other way around. The goal of our character creation and progression system is to always present the player with relevant options after they understand the long-term implications of those choices and have had the chance to try them out and see them in action.
GS: Are there any plans to enhance or modify EverQuest's skill system? How much of the high-level character specialization skills that we saw in Shadows of Luclin and Planes of Power can we expect to see in EverQuest II?
BT: The skill system in EverQuest II is entirely new. There will be some skills that have similar functions to those found in EverQuest, but the implementation and in most cases the actual use of those skills is different.
Building a Community
GS: As we've heard, the Norrath of EverQuest II will be substantially larger than it is in EverQuest. Yet with Planes of Power, you introduced teleporters that let people quickly travel to different parts of the gameworld. Are there any plans for teleporters, mounts, or other means of transportation in EverQuest II?
BT: We do plan on having various mounts in EverQuest II. We also will have ships and a teleportation network that all players will have access to.
GS: When we last spoke, we asked about making the game more accessible for players with limited schedules, and we discussed the idea of having less downtime so players won't need to rest as long between fights. What other plans do you have to make the game accessible for players who have only one or two hours (or less) of playtime available per session? Will there be any specific quests or other activities that players can complete in a relatively short time?
BT: We are designing the game to be played in two-hour chunks of time. Obviously this doesn't mean you are going to go from start to finish of an epic quest in two hours. But it does mean that each step of the quest should only take about that long. Two other goals of ours when we were designing the systems for EverQuest II were to reduce downtime and make it easier to find a group.
GS: A recent development we've seen in new and upcoming online RPGs is the emphasis on player communities. Do you plan to make players feel as though they're a part of a community, rather than just playing a game? If so, how do you plan to accomplish this, other than by implementing player guilds?
BT: It is our belief that by focusing on making a great game, a community (actually, many communities) will follow. To hop on my soapbox for a minute, I think that in a lot of cases developer involvement in player communities, no matter how well intentioned, disrupts and co-opts the community. These communities are for the players to design, not us. That being said, we pay close attention to the EverQuest communities that have developed, and the lessons learned there are being applied EverQuest II. We are designing the individual aspects of our game so they provide support and tools to support the player communities we are confident will form around them. Guilds are just one specific type of player community we plan on accommodating.
GS: Any plans to implement player housing at launch? If not at launch, possibly sometime afterward?
BT: It is our goal to have a full player housing system, including guild houses and inn rooms, available at launch. Time will tell if we meet that goal, but we did just complete a major milestone with the technology we need to support the system, so it is looking good.
GS: Any plans to develop trade skills past what they were in EverQuest? Will players be able to craft the best weapons and items in the game, or will they have to go on a quest for them? What sorts of things will skilled player craftsmen be able to make?
BT: Trade skills are a major focus of our design, and our system is very robust. Craftsmen will be able to make the most desired and powerful objects in the game.
GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add about EverQuest II?
BT: We are all very excited to get the chance to expand the concept of what an EverQuest game can be. We really want to play this game and think lots of other folks will too.
GS: Thanks again for your time, Bill.