Last week I had the opportunity to talk with EverQuest II's Producer, Bruce Ferguson, about all the different ways that EverQuest II has evolved over the years. With "The Shadow Odyssey " right around the corner, I found this to be a great topic to share with the community. In the Interview, Bruce shares his thoughts on class balance, tradeskills and how the team continues to keep the game fresh for players. Enjoy the interview and stay tuned for our exclusive expansion coverage, later in the week.
Allakhazam : Hey Bruce, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to sit down with us to talk about the Evolution of EverQuest II. I know everyone on the team is frantically putting the finishing touches on The Shadow Odyssey, so we appreciate it all the more.
Bruce : It's honestly a pleasure. We certainly enjoy the support we get from you guys, and it seems like many of our players do as well!
Allakhazam : It’s been nearly four years since EverQuest II launched. The game has changed a lot. What are some of the most important changes or evolutions to EverQuest II in your mind?
Bruce : There are so many, it’s really hard to call out just one. From gameplay changes like climbing and PvP, to new starting areas, and intense raid situations, to incredibly stunning zones and beautiful armor, improved crafting and collections, there’s just so much to satisfy any particular interest. And of course the team has learned so much from providing all of the content and getting the feedback from our players, so the quality continues to go up.
Allakhazam : In which ways has the all encompassing concept of EverQuest II evolved since the first time you were a Producer?
Bruce : There are more things to worry about. Back in the beginning, we had a vision, and a scope in mind. The game has expanded significantly since then, and there are new systems, new expansions, new zones, and a continuing bar of quality that we work hard at raising on a continual basis. The team has reduced in size slightly, so with the expanding world that we deal with on a daily basis has us even more focused, and working diligently to feed the desire of our players for more and better content.
Allakhazam : Class revamps are something that most players dread. That said, they’ve been very necessary to push EQII forward into the matured state it’s currently in. Are you happy about where classes are in terms of balance and overall design?
Bruce : Now that’s a loaded question! In my mind, class balance is a constantly evolving process, Rather than a steady state. As we add new game systems, the dynamics continually change, requiring us to spend large amounts of time evaluating, tweaking, and then doing more evaluation. I know that it’s the number one topic of many players, both on our boards and on others such as yours, and we pay attention to what people are saying about it. Sometimes, the information we get from a player post is extremely useful in showing us something we hadn’t thought about, sometimes it only points us in a direction, and we use the tools we have at our disposal to investigate to determine if there is a valid issue or not, but we continue to look at this as an ongoing project.
Allakhazam : Let’s talk a little bit about how dungeons have matured. How do dungeons in The Shadow Odyssey compare to those in Rise of Kunark and Echoes of Faydwer?
Bruce : We’ve been watching and listening to the players, looking at what they want, what they enjoy, and what challenges they don’t like, and we’re building on the foundation of what has come before. I think that those who enjoy dungeons in general will find a lot of things they like a lot, and some things that they hadn’t thought of before to provide the fun and engaging experience that will keep them amused. I know we’ve been having fun play-testing and tweaking them, and while they’re still up on our Beta server, we’re continuing to make tweaks as we get feedback both internally and externally.
Allakhazam : In-game maps are getting quite the make-over and this certainly isn’t the first time. Are you now at this point satisfied with the new system going into place?
Bruce : I would definitely say we’ve leveled up in our maps. That being said, there’s still some tweaking going on, and there are some things that we continue to discuss about how we can make them even more useful, and features that we have not yet implemented. They are indeed beautiful, and I’m pleased with the way they’ve turned out. Does that mean we’ll never touch them again? Probably not, and I’m sure we’ll be getting feedback that we’ll feel is significant enough to implement, but we always enjoy that process as well.
Allakhazam : What challenges exist maintaining continuity in EQII as producers and developers come and go?
Bruce : Keeping the vision of the game going strong. While originally, the vision of the game was held by the team, it has evolved beyond that, to include the community of players, who have significant impact in what we think about, how we plan and develop. Fortunately, that’s actually a help in keeping the vision, as that the team and the community are strong groups, and help keep the path ahead focused. And I’m certainly fortunate to have both groups of people as partners in this endeavour.
Allakhazam : Tradeskills have certainly overcome many challenges since launch. What are your feelings about the current state of Crafting? Is anything in the works to change it further?
Bruce : I’m certainly pleased with the state of crafting at this point. I think it’s more polished and fun than ever, and enjoy doing it myself. We pay attention to what the players want, and figure out ways to provide it, and have one of our designers who has chosen to be the face of the team for crafter specialists. With some of the nifty content coming out in The Shadow Odyssey, I’m expecting tradeskillers to be even more excited.
Allakhazam : With the expansion release on the horizon the players are close to getting a brand new taste of EverQuest II. Can you disclose any major goals that you have for new content or features in the future?
Bruce : Laugh. No, it’s really too early for us to be leaking any information about upcoming releases. We’re certainly talking about a plethora of ideas, but until the team has a chance to get the current plate of items out the door, and settled in, we’d prefer not to speculate. One of the interesting things about game design is that early on, you have the opportunity to have lots and lots of crazy ideas (Hey, what if we made legs removable!) and throw them against the wall to see not only if they stick, but if they look good while there. But we really need to have the opportunity to discuss those crazy ideas and shape them into something that will be much more fun before we share them. I mean, who really wants to remove the legs from their character? But we’ve had similarly crazy ideas that get honed down and refined into seriously fun gameplay concepts. Once we have something we feel is discussable, I’m sure we’ll be letting you know, so that everyone can have their opportunity to try sticking pins into the balloon (to mix the metaphors even more grossly).
Allakhazam : Thanks again for talking about EverQuest II with us! Is that Pie I smell?
Bruce : There is no pie. At least, not after I've gotten to it....
Allakhazam : The pie, is a lie…. :(
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle