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EQ2 Producer's letter E-mail
Monday, 12 June 2006
We wanted to publish the full text of the latest Scott Hartsman letter to its players. In my opinion he IS right when he says that in the last two months thay have accomplished an incredible number of succesful changes, and this is probaly why we can expect more for the incoming days.

EverQuest II Producer's Letter
Another new season is upon us.  This summer is shaping up to be a great one in EverQuest II.

Since E3 concluded a few weeks back, there’s already a lot of information and news out there about both The Fallen Dynasty and Echoes of Faydwer, and we're very happy to see that our players are just as excited about venturing to these new lands as we are about bringing them to you.  Since we've already spilled the beans on our upcoming releases, I will focus more on some of the overall themes you can expect to see out of EQ2 in the coming months.

SOE: We Know Drama

There’s a lot of excitement going around about The Fallen Dynasty and Update #24, with both coming out next week.

The past couple of weeks of the adventure pack's open beta on Test Server have really been fantastic.  To those of you who make your home on our Test Server, as well as those who’ve taken their valuable time away from your normal play servers, we thank you all. 

The stories that begin with The Fallen Dynasty set the stage for a series of exciting in-game live events you’ll be seeing over the summer, and those stories continue through Echoes of Faydwer this winter.

If you’re already someone who’s into EQ2 for the stories, or you’re someone who’d like to be, now would be a good time to start getting caught up with everything that’s taking place.  Take a look at the beginnings of the lore that’s now arriving over on the official TFD site, and feel free to join the conversations already in progress on the History and Lore forums!

In order to feel alive, a fantasy world needs iconic figures such as gods to play a significant role in lore of a given era, and the Norrath of EverQuest II is no different.  With all the information out there about Echoes of Faydwer and the news that Religion and Beliefs will be making their way back into the game, it’s no secret that the gods are returning.  We’ve got some great events planned for the summer and fall to herald their return.

A Time of Reflection

About a year ago, there was this list.  On this list was a collection of improvements that we wanted to accomplish in EverQuest II.  Things such as:

"Combat”
“Starting as Final Classes”
"Good and Evil Islands”
“New Village Content”
“New Adventure Yards”
“New Itemization”
“PvP”
“Revitalize Dungeons”
“Meaningful Factions”
…and a couple dozen more, both large and small…

Fast forward to a couple months ago.  That list made its way back into the mailbox of Dymus, our Lead Designer, with a tongue-in-cheek comment from one of our fearless design apprentices:
 
 “So.  Next?”

Just thinking about the changes that have gone on in the past year, the rate at which they’ve occurred, and how well most of them have been executed.  It was really astounding to see it all right there in one place and realize how quickly it all came to pass. Further, how well you, our customers, have largely supported the vast majority of things that have been going on.

I know that by now it must seem like I say this every few months, but whenever I think about things like this, this sentiment always comes back to me and I can’t help but say it again.  This really is the best team, with the best set of players, and the best time to be playing EverQuest II. 

So.  What IS next?

No matter how much we get done in EverQuest II, it’s no secret that there’s always more to come.  No “to-do” list on an MMO is ever truly complete.  New projects are always arriving to take the place of the ones that get checked off. 

As always, we keep a full plate of things that we’d like to get done in the world, and that plate represents projects (both live updates and expansions) that extend a couple years into the future.

This past year has seen major improvements to EQ2's gameplay, including the relaxing of many systems we felt were restricting player freedoms.  We're happy to report that the most drastic changes are behind us.  What we’re focusing on for the foreseeable future is incremental improvements and additions, as opposed to wholesale systemic changes, to the game. 

Much of what’s going on this year will involve the new content in our live updates – New quests and creatures for players of all levels.  And much like we’re doing with The Fallen Dynasty, we’re making sure they flow naturally into the overall story of the world of Norrath.

- One of the big things that you’ll see in the next update is that Nektulos Forest and The Commonlands are going through a time of transition.  As time goes on, the stories being told evolve as well.  That evolution will continue over the next couple Live Updates.  Following that, look for advancements in our ongoing storyline to come to other parts of the world as well! 

- Soon after that, you’ll be hearing about the next chapter in the story behind the Everling family of Nektropos castle. 

- A lot of people enjoyed the NPC Voices that helped make the population of EQ2 feel so alive and distinct from other games.  Another big addition that’s coming up is a large amount of new NPC voices will be heard across Norrath this summer.  This is another area we’ll be continuing to improve as we go forward.

What you see happening in these zones is representative of the types of changes that the coming year will bring:  More improvements in content, quests, and storytelling.  The emphasis for our systems will involve a lot less reinvention than the past year, as the primarily focus is on ensuring they’re all working as well as they can be. 

In the meanwhile, please feel free to stop by the forums and let us know what kinds of things you’re most looking forward to seeing in the future of EverQuest II.

Here in the Present

I’ve just mentioned that we’re focusing more on improvements in content over the coming months, but there are some changes in Update #24 that merit addressing.  Most notably, the changes that are coming to the control abilities (stuns, mezzes, stifles, and the like) and the damage caused in groups by pets belonging to Conjurors and Necromancers.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of the people here at SOE play this game too.  We’ve been going out of our way to ask people who have a lot of play experience get on Test Server, take an early look, and give us their thoughts.  We’ve been planning out these changes and asking for feedback both internally and externally every step of the way. By now you’ve hopefully seen that we’ve been acting on that feedback.

The goals with these changes are pretty simple, and we’ve been talking about them in much greater detail on the forums.  To briefly summarize here:

Problem: Mesmerize and Stun spells that have different break conditions are more difficult to understand than they need to be.  That added difficulty doesn’t provide much in terms of play benefit.
Solution: In the EverQuest tradition, Mesmerize spells now always break on damage.  Stun spells never do, making them more reliable tools in your arsenal.  As such, some stun durations have been reduced given that they will no longer break.  Spells that you can rely on are important tools of character development, letting you focus more on the encounter itself and what’s going on in the areas you’re playing, not micromanaging unreliable abilities.

Problem: Coercers and Illusionists are unable to use many of their primary (control) abilities vs. Epic targets, rendering their raid gameplay less interesting than it otherwise could be.
Solution: Implement a system by which those abilities can be used to affect Epic targets that should provide satisfying gameplay and be a positive addition overall, but not an increase in power to the extent that Epic encounters become no challenge (and therefore no fun) when these abilities are used.

Problem: Some classes and combinations of classes were able to render active targets completely helpless, going far beyond what “Crowd Control” can mean to have the game remain fun and challenging.  It’s one thing to Mez a target and take it out of the fight for a while.  It’s another thing to Stun-lock a creature to where it can do no damage to you the entire time its being defeated.
Solution: The tweaks that you’ve seen to some of the control abilities, altering durations of some and control types of others, to prevent Stun-lock, while ensuring that all classes continue to have an active, interesting role in EQ2.

Problem: Taken as a whole, Conjurers, and Necromancers, in groups, are regularly showing up as the best damage in EQ2.
Solution: It’s not a bad thing that these classes are top-tier damage. If they’re a little higher than we had originally intended and no new extents are being set, nothing breaks.  It becomes a balance problem that needs to be addressed when these two classes are setting new heights in terms of character power.  After the changes, their damage in groups will remain top-tier, but they should no longer be way out ahead of the pack.

Whenever change comes, uncertainty and doubt cause a lot of rumors to fly around.  Please do keep in mind that we’re right there playing these classes as well.  We’re not going to do anything that’s going remove the fun from any of them, and we’ll be keeping an eye out on feedback even after these changes arrive to be seen by the much larger Live audience.

A Postscript About The Fallen Dynasty

As most of you know, we like to include a couple extra surprises as a way of saying thanks whenever someone picks up a new adventure pack or expansion.  We’re happy to say that The Fallen Dynasty is no exception.

First, for everyone who buys TFD, each of your characters will be able to claim one of two bonsai trees for your house: A Tranquil Bonsai or a Harmonious Bonsai.  Once you get in game after TFD goes live, you can take a look at the descriptions and make your choice from there. 

Second, for those of you who’ve not picked up any of the expansions to date and are still level 50, when you pick up TFD, you’ll be able to advance to level 55 in both your Adventure and Tradeskill levels. 

It’s not a huge thing, and it isn’t really meant to be, but it’ll let you see a bit more of the land, enjoy a few more levels of spells, and hopefully inspire you to continue on exploring all that our Norrath has to offer.

We hope you enjoy The Fallen Dynasty as much as we’ve all enjoyed bringing it to you.

Good hunting.

- Scott Hartsman
Senior Producer, EverQuest II
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