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EverQuest Players Encouraged to Party

A recent change to the massively multiplayer RPG makes it significantly easier for groups of players to advance throughout the game.


Although Verant's extremely popular EverQuest has been available for almost two years and has consistently continued to grow in player population, yesterday the designers implemented a change that will have a significant impact on most of the game's players. This most recent change is the latest, and probably the most important, in a regular series of additions, modifications, and fixes that have been implemented by the EverQuest Live team, Verant's group of developers dedicated to constantly monitoring the status and progress of the game.

GameSpot spoke with Verant's associate producer of EverQuest Live, Gordon "Abashi" Wrinn, about what changes were made yesterday, why they were made, and how these and other improvements will affect EverQuest now and in the future.

GameSpot: Can you briefly summarize how most players' experience with the game will change as a result of yesterday's EverQuest patch?

Gordon Wrinn: Generally, most players will be able to advance their characters at a faster rate.

First, we are dynamically creating "experience," the advancement mechanism in EverQuest, to offset an additional "experience requirement" attached to certain character classes. Secondly, we are creating additional experience to further reward those who adventure in groups. Finally, we are increasing the experience rewards in some areas of the world.

The overall effect is that some players, depending on style, should be able to advance their characters up to nearly twice as fast as they once could.

GS: EverQuest has been criticized for being extremely inaccessible to players who don't make a serious effort to familiarize themselves with the game. Regardless of whether you agree, do you see this update as a step to help alleviate this criticism?

GW: I don't think that "inaccessible" is the right term here. EverQuest is a game, and all games require that players familiarize themselves with the game in order to excel or advance. That "effort" is, in fact, gameplay itself.

The question here is one of degree, and yes, we expect these changes will help. A common criticism has been that people have felt compelled to play certain character classes in certain ways based upon the need to advance at the fastest possible rate.

Our intention here is to make the majority's desired play style, that of grouping and adventuring with friends, the "fastest possible rate" to advancement, while leaving the less exciting play style of "solo camping" as rewarding as it was for those who prefer that route.

GS: Why did you decide to implement these changes at this time? Since EverQuest has been such a success for more than a year, doesn't that suggest a fundamental change of this sort isn't necessary?

GW: While I'm not announcing anything, between expansions we like to take the opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. How is the game doing overall? What can we do to make it better? What tweaks can we make to address gameplay issues that have come up since we were focused on the last project and before we focus on the next?

These are all questions that we, as good game designers, need to ask and answer to ensure that the game remains healthy and fun. EverQuest provides a living and changing world, and that change is greatly responsible for its success.

Whether we're adding new content or addressing gameplay mechanics, we need to continue molding the game in a direction that the players will enjoy.

GS: How have players responded to this update so far? Do you anticipate that some of your more dedicated players may be frustrated to find that it's significantly easier for less hard-core players to reach their high-level status?

GW: Overall, the vast majority of players have been very supportive of the changes. I imagine that support will grow as more people become aware of the changes and see their impact in game.

And of course, as with any game with such a diverse population, there are dissenters as well, and the complaints pretty much mirror that in your question. We certainly understand this point of view, and it was one of the major issues that we discussed when contemplating the change. While those players are certainly justified in their feelings, we are confident that the new experience system benefits, and will be enjoyed by, most EverQuest players.

GS: Since this new update technically makes it easier for players to reach the highest level of experience with their characters, do you think that this patch may cause a lot of players to cut down on the time they spend with the game or to quit playing altogether?

GW: We don't think so. In fact, it should increase EverQuest's longevity.

There's never been any data to indicate that players at the maximum level of advancement are more likely to quit than those at any other level. In fact, a common statement by those leaving EverQuest is that they would like to try another character class, but they don't have the time to level them up.

This change should make it easier for these players to try out more character classes and experience more of EverQuest's diversity.

GS: On a related topic, have you been pleased with the reception The Scars of Velious received? You've suggested before that you may decide to create another expansion for the game based on the success of Velious.

GW: We have been exceedingly pleased with the performance of EverQuest: The Scars of Velious. In less than a month, the majority of current EverQuest subscribers signed up, and we're still averaging about 1000 new registrations per day.

My only wish is that we would have done a better job of letting EverQuest subscribers know that Velious includes some stunning interface enhancements and optimizations, giving even those without mid-to-upper level characters tremendous value in the expansion.

In regard to another expansion, we'd love to do one; however, were we planning one, it would be too soon to make any announcements.

GS: Would you ever consider raising the maximum level cap above the current limit of 60?

GW: While we would like to come up with a way to allow character advancement for those who have maxed their characters out, we would not want to do so in a way that gives players the feeling that we are continually raising the bar, so to speak. Players develop a comfort zone, usually at max, and raising the level limit takes people out of their comfort zone and gives many the feeling that they are required to "go back to leveling," rather than just enjoying themselves.

It's not something that we'll rule out, but also not something that we would do without serious thought.

GS: What's next for EverQuest?

GW: The EverQuest Live team is currently working on brushing up content throughout the world, addressing player concerns that have been brought up over the past two years, as well as working on some brand-new zones, such as the Warrens, which was announced several months ago.

GS: What's next for Verant?

GW: Last time I checked, I believe we are working on our plan to monopolize the "GameSpot: Game of the Year" award for the next decade or so.

GS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

GW: Certainly! I'd like to extend our thanks to EverQuest players, past and present, for their continued support over the years. It's been an honor to provide you with such an exciting pastime, and we hope that we can continue to live up to your expectations for years to come.

GS: Thank you very much for your time.

GW: Thank you!

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