On April 28th, EverQuest II launched its level 100 content release “The Siege of Zek“. The update takes us back to Zek, the Orcish Wastes and a lot has changed in 12 years. While the original level 35-appropriate zone can still be accessed, players may now choose to travel to the new level 100 Scourge Wastes. The update contains updated versions of classic Zek zones in Advanced Solo, Heroic, Event Heroic, and Heroic Contested versions as well as a Raid zone. Rather than a simple up-tiering of existing zones, the Designers and Art Team have put a lot into this All Access-only update with totally redone Orc models and many other touches that make this content feel fresh.
As it had been a couple of weeks since the release of the Siege of Zek, we had an opportunity to peruse the official EQ2 forums for player questions and concerns. The EQ2 team are already working flat out on EverQuest II’s thirteenth expansion slated for later this year, so our interview focuses on the few questions that I submitted about itemization and some of the new systems in the update including Heartbound, which is an in-game celebration of the real-life bonds that players have developed, and the new progression-tied Resolve stat.
After the jump, our interview!
Q: GU100 brings us back to Zek and the Deathfist Citadel. What was it like revisiting a story from the launch of the game, while tying it into more recent events such as the Plane of War and beyond?
EQ2: We are in the process of telling a long term story about certain big characters in the game. We needed to tell a specific story here about the unrest between the Hounds of War. Returning to a place called Zek just seemed a fitting place to tell it. There are also some other things happening in the back ground here that are preparing for expansion 13 for those who may pick up on them.
Q: What can you tell us about Collections in GU100?
EQ2: Collections are probably one of our most popular systems and we try to add a good amount of them to each content update. This time around we split them up to encourage people taking a look at all the content we are offering, instead of a focused few. The new Heritage collections are just tributes to the two major heritage quests that originated in Zek, they are endline and provide some fabled rewards of the Shiny Brass Shield and the Shortsword of Ykesha.
Q: GU100 continues the timed Treasure Hunt quests which award keys which have a rare chance at a chest with powerful items. Ethereal weapons and Ethereal runes are also super rare items that require luck and repeat gameplay to acquire. How have players responded to this approach?
EQ2: The popularity of the key chests has been very large. We are still experimenting on what sort of rewards they are offering. Some players do not like the fact that there are some best in slot items in this content direction, but we feel biS items should be available to all play styles in very limited quantities, obviously.
Q: GU100 introduced a new stat called Resolve, which I understand to be a kinder, gentler, and easier-to-understand form of Critical Mitigation. It’s not required for any of the Solo or Group content thus far, but will be used in the next expansion. What can you tell me about it?
EQ2: Resolve is a flat contested stat. The reason this is better than crit mit, was with crit mit, if you were 1 point under the amount needed, you just had a very high chance of being one shotted. Resolve is much more forgiving and rewards those who have the suggested numbers. This is also a direct path for us to item increases and reduce some of the stat-flation in future content releases. This stat will matter in Heroic content for the expansion, but it shouldn’t be a serious road block that isn’t solved by doing the content.
Q: Why do different classes provide a different amount of Resolve to the raid force?
EQ2: For the same reason different classes provide differing amounts of DPS or buffs to the raid force. Some classes focus more on raid support then they do on pure DPS, pure healing, or pure damage mitigation. It is up to each individual group or raid to decide if bringing another pure DPS outweighs the gains of bringing a support role that increases the resolve of the entire raid.
Q: Can you talk about the Itemization in GU100 and what areas players are focusing on this time around?
EQ2: A major development goal was to start the process of moving away from item effects that degraded server performance, which meant moving the entirety of the stats gained from an effect onto the base item, as well as the reintroduction of tiered effects for weapons procs.
Q: With GU100, EQ2 added a feature called Heartbound which allows players to bind two characters together and receive a buff while they are both logged in. Some have equated it with an in-game marriage system. How long have you wanted to add this?
EQ2: This was a passion project of Kaitheel’s for the spirit of the Heartbound idea. Something he has wanted to do for a while. The basest part of it was to give those who desire it a viable way to show a joining between two characters. Obviously, if you want to put more effort into it you can get more out of it. The buffs are meant to be future proof and wont be increasing much with future content, yet desirable.
Q: Is it a safe guess that you are already working full-tilt on the expansion?
EQ2: We are in full-tilt on the expansion, yes. We are finishing up some fabled content for this summer and then all expansion all the time. We have a massive amount to do for this one, we should have more info on what’s in store coming soon.
Thank you to the EQ2 team for their response to the interview. I’d also like to thank the EQ2 team for the continued support of Census which makes sites like Dragon’s Armory and EQ2U possible. Players use these sites on the order of 10,000 characters looked up daily. We really appreciate the continued updates and additions which have allowed us to stay up-to-date for GU100.
Commentary: The Virtue of a Progression Stat
When Critical Mitigation was introduced in the 2009 Destiny of Velious expansion, it worked reasonably well, as players short on the stat could be kept alive through exceptional healing. A stat like Critical Mitigation allows for more content at the same level to remain relevant without hyperinflation of other stats such as Health and Critical Chance. The addition of a red warning message when zoning helped demystify things as well. However things started to go off the rails with the Drunder release as suddenly, even being one point short on the vital Critical Mitigation stat guaranteed death. Item progression at the time was so tight that raid guilds were forced to spend months re-running old zones to gear up recruits. It was EQ Planes of Power back-flagging all over again. After a year of player feedback, the Critical Mitigation stat was abolished from the game by EQ2 producer Holly Longdale.
There will always be objections to any kind of “you must be this tall to ride” progression stat, and the introduction of the Resolve stat has been no exception, spawning numerous impassioned threads on the official forums. Chief among these concerns has been the new Raid buff which awards a different amount of Resolve based on class — either 5, 10, or 15 points. The numbers seem to favor less popular classes. Further, if more than one of the same class attends a raid, the raid only benefits once from the Resolve buff. A raid consisting of three dirges will only gain +10 Resolve from the three characters, while a Swashbuckler, Wizard, and Illusionist would each increase the raid’s Resolve by 15 points. The design of this buff is putting pressure on raid leaders to consider alternate rosters and raid makeup. After all these years, players ask, is “24 raid slots = 24 classes” being enforced?
EQ2 Senior Designer Gninja responded to these concerns today in one of the many threads:
The resolve values are nowhere near balanced with the expectation that you have 24 different classes in raids.
When asked for clarification, he added:
The current numbers are balanced around having 12-14 unique classes in a raid.
If we proceed on the basis of 14 buffs in a raid, that’s 140 Resolve. Add the current maximum of +7 Resolve x 21 equipment slots and that yields 287 Resolve, giving players just enough of this stat to attempt the Zek raid zone. The Resolve stat was added to to certain content to prepare players for the upcoming expansion (which will require Resolve for most if not all content) and to allow for balancing and developer feedback.
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