Norrathian Spotlight — The EQ2 Guide Program Brings Life and Lore to Norrath

Written by Feldon on . Posted in Commentary, EQ2, Grouping

On March 16, 1999, EverQuest launched, and with it, a volunteer Guide Program. They would “act as basic customer service/support via ‘petitions’. Issues could be forwarded to the Game Master assigned to the server or resolved by the volunteer. Other guides would serve in administrative functions within the program or assisting the Quest Troupe with dynamic and persistent live events throughout the individual servers. Volunteers were compensated with free subscription and expansions to the game.

In 2003 the program changed for these volunteers, shifting them away from a customer service focus and instead placing them into their current roles as roving ‘persistent characters’ role-playing with the players.” (wikipedia) There’s always been confusion within the player community at large about whether the Guide Program was a part of Daybreak Games, a completely separate entity, or something in-between. We asked for clarification from the Guides and got this answer from Elder Guide Rynara:

The Guide program works side by side with Daybreak, they always have. The Program was never “run” by SOE. Since we are volunteers we are separate and do not work under them in any way but along with them to support the players of EQ and EQII. [While] Kander does not run the Guide program, he does support us as acting liaison to Daybreak. He is our contact.

The leaders of the Guide program back when it started at the beginning of EQ wrote a policy and procedure manual that we follow today. It has been updated and tweaked along the years however the fundamentals still apply today.

While the earlier Guide quests were of a “milk and cookies” nature, in recent years, more dynamic and complex quests have been added. None has gained more visibility than the Nebulous Newsies quest. The reward is millions of status and one of the largest inventory bags available in the game. Players line up by the hundreds to pickup the quest from a Guide (it cannot be acquired by any other means) when word breaks that they will be seeking player help on a server. A new Terrors of Thalumbra guide quest was just added to the Guides’ repertoire this month and it will be interesting to see how frequently it is made available.

From the beginning, Guides coordinated with GMs (Customer Service reps) as well as Community and the game teams to provide a varied and colorful experience for players, as well as addressing “stuck” characters and other in-game issues.  These GM responsibilities fell by the wayside in 2003 and nowadays, the program focuses on in-game Roleplaying, handing out Quests, conducting Weddings, and the occasional NPC appearance.

In order to prevent any chance of ne’er-do-wells, and as an official group managed by Daybreak Games, the Guide Program adheres to strict guidelines and responsibilities enshrined within a colossal Guide Practices & Procedures Manual, putting new recruits through a thorough vetting process. The rules are exhaustive — for instance, Guides are not allowed to have their Guide character or account on the same server as their Live character/account. Nor are they are not allowed to accept items from players.

All this said, the Guides provide an invaluable service for players and make Norrath feel a bit more alive. For those who stick with the program, Guiding seems to be a rewarding experience as people tend to stay within the program for many years, eventually working their way up to Senior and eventually Elder Guides. We are extremely thankful for these players who volunteer their time to help enrich the experience of other players. Thank you!

Now we’re thrilled to include three interviews which Suka conducted with two Senior Guides, Elyshka and Miriele and Elder Guide Rynara.

Suka’s Interview of Senior Guide Elyshka

Why did you join the Guide program?
It’s kind of a long story, actually. *grins*

How long have you been part of the Program?
I’ve been a member of the Guide Program since August 2009.

What is your favorite quest?
Well, as Team Chair of the Quest Team, I’m rather biased — I love them all! If you withheld all snacks from me, forcing me to pick only one, I would be very hungry for a while. Honestly, I really like the ones that encourage Guides to really dig in and roleplay, challenging players to come up with solutions to a problem, rather than the ones that give players a concrete task of things to do (a.k.a. the “Kill 10 Rats” type quests.)

How did you choose your guide name?
Well, like many people who apply for the Guide Program, I originally signed up with the name of one of my play characters. When I realized that wasn’t permitted (just a heads up to those of you who are considering applying), I had to scramble to come up with something and landed on Elyshka (sounds like ee-LISH-kuh). Looking back on it now, had I realized that I would eventually just be known as “Ely” (sounds like Ellie), I probably would have come up with a different variant… but, it works for me. Besides, how else would I have known that I was in trouble with my Mam if she didn’t have something really formal-sounding to yell out the door? *grins*

What is your favorite roleplay toon?
Oh, gosh! That’s actually a tough question. It’s difficult to choose a favorite, because they all have their different personalities and goals. I’d have to say that, on the whole, I prefer roleplaying characters that are unusual combinations of race and profession, or ones who defy expected stereotypes (the well-educated and fashion-conscious ogress, the ill-tempered halfling, the noble troll, etc.) The challenge is finding an organic and logical reason why these characters are who they are, rather than just being contrary for the sake of being unique.

What do you love most about being a guide?
I love talking to people. I enjoy hearing about their day, their plans for both in and out of game, and just getting to know them a little better. There is an amazing wealth of personalities to be found in Norrath, and it is a real privilege to be able to “meet” so many people during my travels, even when they don’t realize that it’s me behind whatever mask I happen to be wearing at the time.

As a Guide, I have had the great honor of being invited into the lives of the people who play EverQuest and EverQuest II. So many of the most vivid memories about my time with the Guide Program involve ‘Big Life Events’ for people. I’ve conducted and attended numerous weddings, rededication ceremonies, welcomed new babies, celebrated graduations, and been there to say farewell to the fallen heroes whose paths have sadly ended too soon.

Do you have any stories to share with us about being a guide?
This one time, at bard camp… wait, I probably shouldn’t mention that. *grins*

Actually, I’d have to say that one of my fondest memories that I can recall in the Guide Program was back on Crushbone. It was a really hot summer that year, and I just had this overwhelming urge to go dip my feet into some cool water and relax. Since doing anything fun is twice as good when you share it with friends, I packed some snacks and shinies and headed to the Butcherblock Mountains. A few adventuring gals stopped by to join me, and we all took off our boots and sat along the steps by the docks, just splashing away and carrying on. We joked and laughed together, just having a glorious time and not at all worried by the disapproving looks that we were getting from the guards pacing back and forth behind us. We stayed out there so long that our feet turned to prunes and we’d run out of things to talk about, which only made us laugh some more. That was a really great day.

Have you had disappointments along the way?
Sure, but everything in life has its ups and downs. I’d have to say that any situation where players are upset about something and I am unable to help in a measurable way would rank pretty high on my scale of disappointment. It’s also disheartening when someone gets frustrated because they don’t understand what we’re asking or feel that what we do isn’t worth their effort, but that’s okay, too! What we do isn’t for everyone, but it is HERE for everyone, if and when they want to give it a try.

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
Honestly, I wish I’d heard of the Guide Program long before I did! I would have signed up sooner!

Is there anything else you want to share about you and your role in the guide program?
Well, I am a member of the Senior Management Team on the Halls of Fate server for EverQuest II, along with my fellow Senior Guides, Feliciti and Gediva. A Senior Guide is responsible for administering the Guide Program on their assigned server, on behalf of Daybreak Games and the Elder Guides. We ensure that our teams are meeting their weekly requirements, and are responsible for mentoring and training new Apprentices to the Program, in addition to completing our own weekly requirements.

Do you have advice for people attending events?
I realize that not everyone is a roleplayer, but everyone does have the potential to put their mind to something and be really creative, and that’s what I find to be very satisfying about what we do — encouraging people to think outside of the box.

Keep in mind that not all of our tasks are something that we write down in your journal; in fact, a good number of our quests are like this. Getting tools that give you a task in your journal requires development time, and since the Devs are always hard at work creating and maintain the games, there just isn’t a lot of spare time in the day for doing that. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re supposed to have something written down in your journal to follow, please speak up! We will usually tell you when we give you the task, but if we’re speaking to several people at once, it might be overlooked. It’s never a problem to repeat instructions or offer them in a different way so that they’re easier to understand, so feel free to ask if there’s ever any confusion or something just plain doesn’t make sense.

Because there are always questions that come up about the Nebulous Newsies, I wrote a little post on that subject a while back.

Finally, the biggest suggestion that I could give to anyone who attends a Guide event is to just talk with us. We’re not NPCs, we’re players just like you! Instead of just hailing us, getting a task, then running off to do it, spend a little time getting to know the character that is asking for your help. It doesn’t have to be some long, drawn-out, dramatic roleplay-type speech filled with ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s. Quite the contrary, most of these folks who need a hand with a task are just regular people: the fae who is nervous about a romantic dinner with her beau and mistakenly misplaces something important; the halfling baker who will be cooking for someone special but has trouble coming up with dinner ideas; the tourists looking for someone to show them around an exciting vacation spot. These are all relatable scenarios, and by getting to know these characters even a little bit, you may find that not only are you better capable of helping the characters, they might be extra grateful for your efforts and find additional ways of thanking you for it. *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Do you have advice for people wanting guides to attend events?
We love parties, and would welcome your invitations! You can contact your server’s Guide team on the Guide Forums (EverQuestEverQuest II) by leaving a message on your server’s designated thread. It’s best to provide as much detail as possible, including the day, time (including time zone), anticipated duration of the event, and what sort of Guide support you are seeking (to come as guests, to perform a wedding/memorial ceremony, etc.) We will do our best to accommodate your needs within our permitted abilities.

Do you have advice for people wanting to join the guide program?
Take your time filling out your application and really put some thought into your answers, particularly the roleplay scenarios. Since all communication by Guides is done via text, and generally of a roleplaying nature, these scenarios are your best bet for really making a positive first impression.

While it cannot be said that being a member of the Guide Program is easy, it is definitely rewarding. You have to go into this with a sincere love of the game and your fellow community of players. You will be expected to undergo training, which will be challenging and may even be frustrating at times as you learn to see Norrath from a different perspective, but with determination and an open mind, you will be amazed at how much broader your horizons will become, both as a Guide and as a player.

What teams do you run and can you please say a little about them?
The Guide Program Quest Team is responsible for writing, testing, and maintaining the scripts for the quests that we run. It is made up of Guides and Senior Guides from both EverQuest and EverQuest II. Our primary function is to monitor feedback provided by Guides and players about our quests, in an effort to improve the enjoyment had by all. Additionally, we also compile a weekly report for all servers in both games to submit to Daybreak Games, which helps us track which quests are being run often and which quests are not, so we have a better idea of which scripts need some special attention.

We are given specific tools and rewards by Daybreak Games, and the Quest Team comes up with scenarios around what we are given, so that the tasks and rewards for those tasks relate in some way. (That’s why not all of our quests have an entry in your journal — the development time for that alone would be astronomical!)

If you do attend a Guide quest and want to let us know that you enjoyed it or if you felt that there was something wrong with it in some way, please feel free to speak with the Guide running the quest (since this will be out-of-character, you may wish to just send them a tell with your feedback). They will note your comments when they complete their daily report, and I can guarantee you that it will be seen and considered (I read every single Guide’s report each week on Sundays!) Do keep in mind that requests to have something written in your journal will probably not be possible, but we do keep a list of those types of requests anyway, in case we’re asked by Daybreak for a wish list.

Is there anything else you can think of that we would like to know?
You guys are amazing. Sincerely! I can’t even count the number of times that you’ve made me laugh so hard that I’ve cried, given me an entirely new perspective that I’d never have come up with on my own, and just generally made my life a far more richer experience, simply by being yourselves. Being a member of the Guide Program has enriched my life in so many ways, and I’ve met so many wonderful people through and because of the Program, whom I can now count as some of my closest friends. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the privilege to spend time with you in Norrath, and I hope to cross paths with you all soon!

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Suka’s Interview of Senior Guide Miriele

Thank you for the opportunity and for supporting us here in the Guide Program.

Why did you join the Guide program?
I have loved EQ since day one, and always made a point to attend Guide quests. After enjoying them so much as a player I decided to give back to the game I love and bring a little extra something special to the players the way so many Guides had done for me. Seeing how excited the players were as well as the Guides who were handing out Quests made me want to be part of something bigger with the game. 

How long have you been part of the Program?
I originally joined the Guide program back in January of 2001 for EQ, and then joined for EQII upon its release. /em takes out the walker. 

What is your favorite quest?
That is a hard question, only because any quest that makes the players happy would be my favorite. But, if I had to choose, it would still be not one single quest, but any holiday related ones. I know the players look for certain regular quests, but it is such a treat to be an actor during the holidays like Frostfell, or Nights of the Dead!

How did you choose your guide name?
I have always loved French names and wanted something to go along with a last name I had in mind as well as the class/race. So after much thought I found the best fit, with a High Elf Cleric, and thus, Miriele the Mischievous was born! ( A goodie with evil tendencies /grin)

What is your favorite roleplay toon?
I always preferred the good characters who act like they belong on the evil side. It gives a whole new perspective on telling stories when players think your story has a happy ending and then you twist it up to be the shocker of the century!!!

What do you love most about being a guide?
I love seeing the players happy, honestly. I know how excited I am to see Guides on my play server, and want to give that same feeling to all our players. I also love meeting the players to chat. Some players are regular visitors who always stop by to tell us how things are going in the world of Norrath. Others, have never seen a Guide and its nice to meet them for the first time, knowing they will soon become one of the regulars.

At the end of the day, just the conversations and getting to know the players is truly the best part of it. Its great to hear adventure stories, crafting ideas, character history and even how playing EQ and EQII brought people together in real life :) 

Do you have any stories to share with us about being a guide?
I remember the first in-game wedding I performed in EQ. The players had an elaborate set up and I was in awe of how much work they had put into it. They had every detail down from the location, to the clothes and even had their own vows written. It was beautiful and reminded me why I had joined the Guide Program in the first place. After performing this wedding, it became a regular happening and was always wonderful to see how the players would get together for these events.

Have you had disappointments along the way?
There are always disappointments, but mine was when I had to take time away due to moving and personal situations that came up. I was heartbroken that I had to leave my Guide and player families even for a moment, but I knew that I would return to bring joy to the players once again! 

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
I definitely would not have waited so long to join the Guide program!

Is there anything else you want to share about you and your role in the guide program?
I currently Guide on both platforms and belong to the wonderful teams for both Tunare (EQ) and Maj’Dul (EQII). I have held many different spots along the way for the Guide program, all of which have made my time here fun and exciting. I also Guide alongside some of the most wonderful people who give of themselves every day they log on.

Do you have advice for people attending events?
When attending any event, take the time to participate and interact with us. I know a lot of people do not like to get too involved and in some cases say they are even afraid to talk to us! The characters we play all have a real person running them, so we look forward to you chatting with us, and getting involved in the event. Keep in mind that we are players just like you who volunteer our time to bring these events to you and we love to see everyone join in on the fun.

Always remember to be patient and we will get your tasks assigned to you as quickly as we can. Since the server mergers were done in EQII, as an example, the player participation has increased to the point where a Quest can bring in over 1000 players just to one event!!! In most cases we have to target each individual player to assign them a task and this can take some time. Also, not all Quests can be repeated or will be listed in your journal, so if you have any concerns, let us know! It may take time to reply to you with so many players attending the event, but we WILL get you taken care of, I promise!

Do you have advice for people wanting guides to attend events?
Don’t be afraid to ask us to join in your fun! There are many events that our Guides would love to be a part of that if asked to join, we will do so in a heartbeat! Stop by the Guide forums that we have set up to announce events coming up that you would like us to join in, or to see what we have planned for you! Always make sure you include as many details as possible so we know when you would like us there (date/time and time zone), what kind of event it is and what we can do to make the event special for you! For EQ stop by Everquest Guide Events and for EQII stop by Everquest II Guide Events to let us know what is going on, or to plan for events we have set up for you!

Do you have advice for people wanting to join the guide program?
Do you enjoy bringing a little bit more to others in game? Maybe you do that now with your friends or your Guild! Think about becoming part of something bigger with the games you play by filling out an application to be a part of the wonderful world of Guiding! Make sure you fill out the application in its’ entirety and don’t be shy about your answers! Take the time to be detailed and really put some thought behind what you say. Be creative when answering the roleplay scenarios as that is the basis for what we do as Guides everyday!

Guiding can be a lot of fun but it is also challenging and full of learning experiences! Being a Guide takes your knowledge and dedication of the game and brings that something extra to the players in an entirely new way. It is a chance to give happiness to others in the games that you enjoy playing in a way that only the Guide program can do. You will see things differently as a Guide, but it will carry over to you as a player when you realize how much we do and what joy a quest or a little roleplaying can bring to even one person you meet along the way!

What teams do you run and can you please say a little about them?
I am currently the Policy Team Chair and our team responsibility is to update and maintain the various Guide Program manuals used in our everyday functions. We work together with our Elder Guides to ensure that we have documents that meet the needs of both the Guide Program and Daybreak with clear guidelines on how and what we can/should do as Guides.

Our manuals, known as the P&P (Policy and Procedures) are documents that provide guidance and direction on Guide responsibilities. As the games evolve, so do our manuals in order to provide the best experiences we can to our players.

Is there anything else you can think of that we would like to know?
We always want the players to know that it is you who drive us to do what we do. Knowing we are players first, we made a decision to become Guides based on our own personal play experiences and interaction with Guides in order to be a part of something extraordinary.

Since becoming a Guide I have met so many wonderful players along the way and been a part of all aspects of their lives over the years. Many of my closest friends have come out of being in the Guide program and I would not want it any other way. So if you see a Guide event posted up, join in on the fun. If you see an announcement in chat that a Guide is on your server visiting, stop by and give them a hug and start a conversation! We are here for YOU and would love to have you stop by if even for a moment to say hi and let us know how things are in the world of Norrath!

Thank you to everyone who I have met over the years and to those I hope to meet soon. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here for you each and every day and I look forward to more time spent in Norrath with all of you! Also, thank you for allowing myself and other Guides to be a part of your play experiences. You will never know how much it means to all of us to be here for you and to bring a little extra fun into your EQ and EQII lives!!

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Suka Interviews Elder Guide Rynara

How hard is it to join the guides?

As long as the following criteria is met it is not difficult. I do suggest you spell check your application for spelling, grammar and role-play your answers where applicable…

  • You are 18 years of age or older.
  • You have an active EverQuest or EverQuest II Account.
  • You have reached the 20th level with at least two characters in the program that want to join.
  • You wish to volunteer your time to the Volunteer Guide Program.
  • Your account registration is up to date and includes a valid email address.
  • If accepted, you will abide by the Policies and Procedures set forth by Daybreak Games and the Volunteer Guide Program.
  • There is a small quiz as well as some questions to test your Role-playing ability. Each application is graded, and those with passing grades are then contacted to join the Guide Program at that time.

What special criteria do you look for?

  • See above

Is there anything special you want to share?

The volunteer Guides are a very special group of players. We all have one thing in common and that is to strive to make the EQ and EQII community better and more enjoyable for everyone.

We are not run by Daybreak Games though we do work closely with them and this is a misconception many players have. Guides are volunteers and what they do comes from the heart.

Do you have any particular advice for people out in Norrath?

If you see a Guide feel free to say hi, role-play, give a hug. We are here for you and will always try to strive to help where we can.

If you like our quests, keep an eye on our forums so you can get an idea when your favorites are run or even to request one.

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