Last night’s SOE Community Webcast talked about EverQuest II’s Freeport Revamp.
Present were Linda “Brasse” Carlson, Akil “Lyndro” Hooper (EQ2 Lead Designer), Nathan “Kaitheel” McCall (Designer), Jonathan “Prathun” Caraker (Designer), with Dave “SmokeJumper” Georgeson (EverQuest franchise Executive Producer).
And here’s a transcript of most of the Webcast:
Brasse: Why were the changes to Freeport made? Why did you want to change this?
SmokeJumper: No answer.
Brasse: None of them knows. *laughter* Well it seemed like a good idea at the time!
SmokeJumper: (jokingly) We didn’t have anything else to do. (shocked looks from the devs)
Kaitheel: Oh that’s so not true.
SmokeJumper: Freeport and Qeynos are the darling cities of the franchise, the pivotal elements of the game. And quite honestly, nobody was there. They were backwaters, they had been obsoleted. There wasn’t a lot of really cool stuff going on. That’s wrong for both cities. We’re doing Freeport first because, well, we like evil. And after we’re done with Freeport, next summer we’ll do Qeynos.
Brasse: How many man hours have you invested in this Freeport revamp?
Team: An awful lot. Oh man. *bedraggled looks* Months.
Brasse: God the pain (in their faces).
SmokeJumper: Most of the design team, about 1/3 of the art team. Hundreds.
Lyndro: If not, over a thousand.
Kaitheel: And many more to go.
SmokeJumper: We’ve been working on the revamp of the artwork full-time for four months. The designers have been working on it for the same amount of time.
Brasse: And yet we’re providing it as free content to the players.
SmokeJumper: That’s right. We really think highly of Freeport and Qeynos. We want them to be amazing content. We’re revamping this and — I’m not making commitments on the future but — we want the cities to become more and more alive, with more and more stuff going on so people want to come back to the cities. It’s cool to have gathering hubs for the population for players to get together and see each other, especially at many different levels of content. If they keep coming back and mixing, the community gets better.
Brasse: So are you putting in new quests as well?
Team: Oh yes. Absolutely. That’s what we’ve been doing.
Brasse: You say that with an evil grin. Does that mean you had a lot of fun with them?
Prathun: I think we did. We really evaluated what we wanted to get out of the city, what we thought evil was, and what we thought Freeport’s evil would be. We put a lot of thought into the different groups that would be there, what they would be after, and how their goals would further Freeport, but be oppressive to the people within and without the city.
Kaitheel: There are quests that are race-specific, ones that are class-specific. So you’re going to get a lot of different experiences as you play through it with different characters.
Lyndro: I think you guys did a really good job being evil without being very trite evil. Not like “Oh yeah, kick a puppy!” I think you guys did a really good job of making people make some really hard choices and do some really difficult things.
Kaitheel: Using souls as fuel for clockworks. It’s evil.
Brasse: I can think of some real world applications for that.
Brasse: So what level ranges are these for? I mean I know you want to bring everyone back to the cities to experience them again. Is there something there for my high level characters to do as well as the low levels?
Lyndro: Yeah the goal here is to get you to come back to Freeport a few times as you’re leveling up. So you come in your first time at level 20, and your last time at 80, and a couple times in the middle there. You’ll have a few different quests to do and some quest series to do that’ll take you into the ‘hoods and tell you some of the stories of what’s going on in Freeport. As you level up you’ll return, do new stuff, and learn new stories, and continue some of your old stories.
Prathun: Also the quests all scale to your level if you’re above the level of the content. So if you’re 90 you can do the entire level range all at once.
Kaitheel: The quest feathers will be there to point you to all the new quests.
SmokeJumper: They put a lot of effort into personalities too. I think the quests are very memorable.
Brasse: Are you already thinking ahead to Qeynos?
Lyndro: We are thinking ahead to Qeynos. (chaos) We aren’t focusing yet on Qeynos as there’s still a lot of Freeport between now and Qeynos.
SmokeJumper: *laughing* They’re not thinking about Qeynos at all. The only people who are thinking about Qeynos are the Art Team. They have a huge amount of work to do before they can make that a zone.
Kaitheel: Yeah I was just going to say I think some people are dreading it, but I was referring to the Art Team.
SmokeJumper: Our Art Director is like ‘Oh my God there are so many zones in that city it’s going to be crazy trying to make it zoneless.’
Brasse: It’s going to be interesting.
SmokeJumper: Almost impossible to be honest. But it will be so much better than it is currently. Like Freeport right now is a unified city. North, South, East, West it’s all unified.
Brasse: Well let’s go right into the player questions because some of them deal with this sort of thing.
Carla K (Facebook): When you say no more zoning do you mean West Freeport, East Freeport, etc. will all be one zone now, and what about the hovels?
Kaitheel: Yes it’s all one zone now. Those 4 parts are now one zone. And then the hoods are separate instances for questing and hunting.
SmokeJumper: We did that specifically for a very good reason. When you go into the different hoods, they’re context-sensitive. So what you’re doing is, it can be an instance where you go in, people can react in different ways based upon your situation at that point, instead of having everything be a static instance. I don’t think we did this, but for example, if you went into one of these hoods and you stole something, the entire zone could chase you. I know we didn’t do that.
Kaitheel: No. *laughter*
Brasse: Julia K asked — “Will the outlying villages be changed as well? Are they substantive changes that you’ve made to the villages?” the hovels? the neighborhoods? the hoods? The hoods! Is that the official name for it?
Brasse: Wow! So EQ2 has gone hip-hop. We’re real gangsta’ now. So are they substantively changed? Are they physically changed a lot as well as the content?
Kaitheel: I wouldn’t say physically changed a lot. But you’re going to notice a huge difference in some of them. The ecology, the creatures, the people that are now actually living in there. You’re going to see quite the difference. It’s going to be very obvious.
Lyndro: Also the stories being told in there are very different. Some of them… you used to live in them and now some of them are… I don’t want to give anything fun away. But there are some significant things going on.
Kaitheel: They’re frightening a little.
Prathun: There were some art changes that were made to reflect the changes in Freeport proper. Just some minor things to make it consistent. You can see Lucan’s death knell tower in the sky now from the instances.
Brasse: What is with the baby tower? (pointing at the screenshot in the background) I mean, did he have a child?
SmokeJumper: No no, we’re not calling it the baby tower. What is the official name for it?
Brasse: It’s baby tower now!
SmokeJumper: *laughing* No, shut up!
Brasse: *laughing* We’re gonna do a feature on the baby tower.
SmokeJumper: Shut up! *team laughing* You’re making it worse. Well you go ahead.
Brasse: *to Kaitheel* Does it have a name?
Kaitheel: Actually, at this point in time, we hadn’t named it yet…
Brasse: *cutting in* We all call it baby tower.
SmokeJumper: Yeah yeah, well basically everywhere you look that Lucan owns the area, there’s one of these. *pointing at the floating tower*
Kaitheel: Maybe we would call it *instinguishable*
Lyndro: Nathan, you handled that wrong man. Next time it’s like ‘we’ve named it but we want you to find that out…’
Kaitheel: Ohhhhh!! Smooth.
Lyndro: Yeah I’ve been doing this for a while.
Brasse: Alexander S. asks ‘Will Freeport once again be a starting choice during character creation?’ When I made my first ratonga, that’s where I started out.
SmokeJumper: You’re gonna get emotional, but the answer’s No.
Brasse: Awww… No but… is that a No? It’s too scary?
SmokeJumper: It’s a No for now.
Kaitheel: It’s not that it’s too scary. We can’t… When you start a new character in New Halas, if you start a new character in Greater Fay, if you start a new character in these locations, you have a certain path that you’re going to follow. What we found with the cities is that right when you got out of the island, and you got put into your city, all of these people you were playing with, now they’re in all these different ‘hoods. Now you don’t know where anybody is. There’s all this different level content sending you to Commonlands, sending you to Darklight Woods, all over the place. So we just wanted to make it cleaner and you can’t do that with Freeport as it stands.
Brasse: Fair enough.
SmokeJumper: Unless we added a tremendous amount of work to what we were doing in Freeport. What we tried to do was concentrate on making them multi-level quest hubs for the large bulk of the population. Everybody knows that getting from 1 to 20 doesn’t take very long. So adding a bunch of new content into Freeport where you were going to just burn through it very quickly or putting it in in the later levels where you’d chew on it a little bit longer, whereas we already had the newbie stuff in Darklight Woods and Timorous Deep. We just made the decision to go that direction. It doesn’t invalidate the future possibility of future years, but we’re not concentrating on that right now.
Kaitheel: Actually the racial quests were made for scaling from level 1 all the way up, so if in the future, at least that catches up.
Brasse: A lot of people actually live in Freeport right now. John W. wants to know ‘Will Freeport housing be changing o br updated? The larger homes now have outside areas and balconies. How will these be changed to reflect the updated Freeport?’ Other people have asked ‘Are you going to move where the housing is, or do they get to stay in Freeport where they used to be?’
Lyndro: They get to stay in Freeport. We’re going to move all the housing to the Jade Tiger. So all of your old ‘hood houses are going to be there. But we’re not going to do any changes to the interior. All of your current houses are going to stay the way they look now.
Brasse: Ok that’s for the smaller houses, the starter houses. What about the really big houses that used to be housed in different parts of Freeport?
Prathun: Some of those have been changed to reflect the changes to the exterior of Freeport. So when you’re in your house that’s got a balcony and you go out and look out, you will see Freeport as it is now, the changed Freeport. The interior won’t change. The exterior will look like new Freeport.
SmokeJumper: Lucan spent all his overhaul budget on the exteriors. *laughter*
Brasse: Claire B. wants to know ‘What date will the change take place?’
SmokeJumper: And the answer is we’re still working on it…
Brasse: When it’s ready — I hate that answer!
SmokeJumper: Marketing’s going to launch a real answer. I’m not exactly clear on what verbiage they’re using, so I’m not going to put words in their mouth.
Brasse: Way to pass the buck, Dave.
SmokeJumper: I’ll tell you the real answer. The announcement’s going out on Tuesday. All the real information will come out on Tuesday.
Kaitheel: That’s the GU as well. It’s going out with the next Game Update. (to SmokeJumper)
SmokeJumper: Yeah. There’s so much happening on that day.
Brasse: Next Tuesday, mark it on your calendar cause you’ll want to be tuned in.
[presumably November 8, 2011, probably 3-4pm PST]
Brasse: Justin R. wanted to add, “With Freeport going zone-free, when will Qeynos follow suit?” They’re looking for a date — Are we talking next Spring? next Summer?
SmokeJumper: Next summer.
Lyndro: Give us some time. Give us some space.
Brasse: Ann H. would like to know, “Will we be able to fly and leap and glide in Freeport?
Brasse: Zoning regulations, right?
Prathun: There’s a No Fly Zone around Freeport.
SmokeJumper: I’m gonna be totally open and above board. Basically, if we allowed you to leap, you could get up to an altitude where you could see too much of the city and your framerate would go in the toilet.
Brasse: (to Prathun) So what’s the role play version of that answer?
Prathun: It’s a No Fly Zone. *laughter*
SmokeJumper: It’s the drawback of getting rid of the zones. We made it at lot easier to move around, but if you get above where we’re culling (?) the portals, you can see too much stuff and it’ll wreck your game.
Kaitheel: The zone art team really tried to make it flyable. It was like No, this cannot happen.
SmokeJumper: And by the way, I did say a long time ago that it would be flyable. That was my fault. Nobody else told me it was flyable. I’m the one who said that. Tim, this is for you, buddy. It’s not your fault, man!
**Easter Egg about a line in a Gorowyn quest where the NPC says (in the style of the movie “300″) “This is Gorowyn!”**
Brasse: The other information that people want to know of course is, *hem* *hem* Beta… Do we have a date for that yet? You’re going to tell me to wait for Tuesday, aren’t you?
SmokeJumper: I am.
Brasse: Aw geez.
SmokeJumper: I’ll tell you this much. We hope to open it up to everyone on Tuesday. It’s going to depend on how well our internal playtest goes tomorrow (Friday Nov 4).
Brasse: We have a lot of people signed up for Beta. Do you have a number?
SmokeJumper: over 6,000 last time I checked.
Brasse: That’s a lot of people for testing Freeport.
Prathun: and Beastlords.
SmokeJumper: If it doesn’t happen Tuesday, my guess is it’ll open let’s say Thursday to the majority. We intend to open it next week.
Lyndro: It’s not just Freeport.We’ve got other stuff to test too.
Brasse: What I want to know is, when Beta opens up, because Beastlords are going to be accessible, of those 6,000, let’s take a bit of a poll here, what percentage are going to roll Beastlords on the first day of the beta?
Nathan: Oh boy.
Prathun: This is like the Price is Right.
Brasse: So I still think that if you make a halfling Beastlord, you should be allowed to have a hamster or a bunny pet.
SmokeJumper: You will be amazed at what you can tame in the game. I’m not kidding, there’s like… how many animals are there that you can tame?
Lyndro: Erm, um, more… There are…
Brasse: A lot? Aw geez. See these noncommittal professional answers…
Lyndro: It’s… I’d say over 50.
SmokeJumper: Like you can tame stuff you don’t think you can tame, that has no use. You can tame everything.
Brasse: That’s actually kind of awesome all on its own.
SmokeJumper: You can’t tame insects, you can’t tame named stuff, but there’s a lot you can tame.
* Contest to give away three 1,000SC cards to people who asked questions on Facebook. *
Corydon (?): Are the inns like Bloodhaze going to stay?
Kaitheel: Bloodhaze specifically, that one has been removed. There is some housing that’s associated with that that’s being relocated to the Jade Tiger.
Brasse: So what was wrong with the Bloodhaze? Health regulations?
SmokeJumper: Some stuff got removed because it didn’t look good. When we went through… oh I’m sorry, we didn’t make those decisions. Lucan made those decisions!
Brasse: Oh that’s awesome. We can blame him for everything now!
SmokeJumper: No no, he’s real!
Kaitheel: He needed some material for those other towers going up, the other guard towers.
SmokeJumper: We’ve gone through some of the buildings. A few of them have been retooled, a few of them have been removed. It’s been changed around somewhat. You’ll recognize that it’s Freeport.
Brasse: I can hardly wait to see it.
Question: Will we be able to go into Lucan’s Citadel?
SmokeJumper: Not at launch.
Brasse: That’s like one of those sequel things. It leaves it open.
SmokeJumper: Oh we know everybody wants to go in there. We know.
Brasse: Oh yeah. Because before that, the only chance you have to go into that or the palace in Qeynos is when you’re doing the Betrayal quests.
Kaitheel: Several of the Signature quest lines now send you in there. And there is one new one at least.
SmokeJumper: We’ve talked about some rather big ideas.
Question: Will Qeynosians be able to raid Freeport?
Brasse: How dangerous is it for a goody two-shoes character to wander into Freeport now?
Kaitheel: They can still sneak in just as much as they were able to previously. That is completely the goal. A couple of the guards got moved around by accident. They’re being shuffled back to where they were. We still want to facilitate any of those old questing habits that people have.
Brasse: Alright we’re a little over time so we’ve got to cut this off. You’ve heard it from Dave first, make sure that you are tuned into your PCs on Tuesday cause there’s a lotta stuff goin’ down in da ‘hood.
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