Mobhunter: October 2004 Fan Faire Report

The following article was written for both Mobhunter and Caster's Realm.

I return from the Bayou, black notebook laden with facts, details, rumors and the philosophies from the silver temple of the west. SOE put on a fine event, as entertaining as it was informative. SOE developers and staff made themselves available throughout the three-night event, happy to discuss anything the fans could bring up.

If you care not to hear of the festivities, skip down right into the juicy morsels of goodness below. If you have not been to a Fan Faire, however, it is quite a treat. There's always a bit of nervousness going to such an event. We all know each other in-game but to meet face to face can be a bit daunting. Non stop contests, presentations, late-night gatherings, and panels filled out three days perfectly. It wasn't uncommon to see three fellows walking down Burbon Street, hurricanes high, shouting "hail" at everyone they saw. "Train to Zone" they'd shout as a pack of bikers drives by with grim looks on their bearded faces.

Your head swims with after-images as you fly back home. Brenlo hurls sharp-edged boxes at the heads of players in the manifestation of his ultimate Community Relations dream. Vannoth teaches players how to train zones ("OMGZ RUN") and Cyb3r barbarian females in Everquest 2 ("OMGZ YUO USED ME!"). The costumes, the contests, the dialog, the tales of adventure, the personalities; they all add up to a weekend packed with enough memories to last six months. If you ever get a chance to go to a Fan Faire, take it.

Ok, now on to the juicy morsels of goodness.

A large amount of the Fan Faire focused on Everquest 2. By now most people have heard of the November 8 release date. SOE had planned on this date for some time; it was not a knee jerk reaction to the rumored simultaneous release date of World of Warcraft. Who really believes those EBGames dates anyway? Shame on you.

Everquest 2 showed up everywhere. A 24 hour Everquest 2 contest awarded an Alienware PC to the player with the highest level and experience. Over 30 machines were open for Fan Faire attendees to play. Every Fan Faire attendee earned an EQ2 beta account upon registration. I will leave it to other reviewers to discuss the details of Everquest 2 but I will discuss a few interesting tidbits.

I finally met my predecessor, Moorgard. During our discussion he mentioned that EQ2 went through a series of focus tests and usability tests for both new and veteran players. I hope Everquest goes through such tests if it has not done so already. Making the game easy to start and play is a key to bringing in new customers.

SOE demonstrated the new Station Players website for Everquest 2 players. The website offers a wide range of excellent features including guild website tools, Magelo-like player profiles, web-based guild chat, and server community forums. There's a lot to like and demonstrations are available on the EQ2 website. SOE intends to implement these features for all SOE games including EQLive in the next six to eight months.

Now let us dig into EQLive news.

In the next patch or two, the task system will gain over one thousand new tasks including tasks up to level 70. Tasks will include a variety of new actions such as foraging and fishing on top of the existing kill 10, collect 4, talk to an NPC, or visit a location. SOE plans to balance many old tasks as well. Kaikachi, the task developer, reinforced that he uses bug reports and feedback to balance tasks so make sure to /bug or /feedback them if you find a task that doesn't work.

Backflagging came up more than once this event and SOE appears to have a viable solution in the works. SOE will extend the 85-15 flagging rule, the rule that allows 15% of a raid to enter a flagged zone without the flag, to Time and many Gates zones. Raid mobs within flagged zones will drop one or two quest items that let unflagged members begin a quest to receive a permanent flag for that zone. Flags achieved this way will not backflag characters for previous zones. A Time flag quest, for example, will not award a Fire flag.

Rashere, the primary Alternate Ability developer, has a list of AAs to review. He already wrote a spreadsheet of point cost reductions for Gates AAs. A piece of code will soon let players receive AA refunds without losing AAs over 30 should they zone. It will not let players store more than 30 new AAs, however. Players who already purchased AAs at the higher cost will receive the difference; they will not get a full refund for abilities unless the ability itself changes.

During the "Maintain a Living World" panel a pompous jackass of a moderator brought up the Everquest's Economy. According to Lyndro, tributes helped take money out of the economy but targeted the wrong players. High-end players hold most of the money in Norrath but rarely use tributes. Items like horses only take money out of the economy once. SOE designed systems like trade skills to take money out of the economy but SOE always considers new solutions.

SOE does not plan to add new LDON loot. Like Kunark and Velious, SOE intends players who get through the content of LDON to travel onwards to expansions like Omens and Gates. LDON is not intended to offer progression through the entire range of the game. Now that Omens offers fine equipment to single-group hunters, I agree with their assessment.

SOE plans to continue changing hot-zones to get players traveling out to old world zones. From time to time they may add Fabled-like items to old-world content like they did with the fifth anniversary. These changes, on top of epic quests and tasks, help get new players to older world zones.

Rogue's Hour, the first in a series of four planned Everquest-based novels, hit the shelves a couple of weeks ago and Scott Ciencin signed books and discussed future publishing plans. Each of the next three books will come out every three months including one by Elane Cunningham, the author of many fine Forgotten Realms books. These books help add new depth to our world and I look forward to their continued release.

Class tuning came up many times and SOE has plans to address class issues. SOE will release class descriptions, not full class definitions, which contain a lot of SOE internal statistics. SOE community relations folk meet often with developers to help make sure the class issues get discussed and to make sure each class has a clear group role and is fun to play.

I spent a time far shorter than I would have liked speaking with Vahlar regarding lore and story progression. I mentioned my desire to see the Muramites invading Norrath and she assured me that some big changes would hit Norrath in coming weeks. SOE heard the player's cry for a more cohesive storyline, one built from original EQ lore and plans to improve this. The return of Firiona Vie and the Lifeguide to the storyline begins this return to older lore.

SOE already began the design of a new EQLive expansion but details are scarce. Lyndro stated clearly that expansions will follow the Kunark, Velious, and Omens trend for one single locked zone, not a series of progressive locked zones such as those we faced in Planes of Power and Gates of Discord. SOE rebuilt much of Omens, far more than I expected, after the guild summit in June. SOE hears what players ask for and they heard us very well with Omens. I have high hopes and look forward to January's announcement.

The future looks bright. We see many exciting changes on the way and every SOE employee I spoke to said many of the things I wanted to hear. EQ2 presents a huge unknown variable but it is clear that no SOE employee on either team wants EQ players quitting one for the other. I do not see EQ2 affecting EQLive's future in any way but for the better.

Loral Ciriclight
2 November 2004