ZAM attends a special SOE presentation on EQ's latest big update
For a game that celebrated its 14th anniversary within the past month, one might forgive the developers of EverQuest if they put their feet up for a bit. However, EQ’s 19th expansion, Rain of Fear, launched in November and the next part of the expansion’s story has hit the live servers. We've been eagerly waiting a good look at new content for EQ fans and now is the time to show it.
As part of a commitment to deliver regular content updates for EverQuest fans, the development team has been hard at work bringing players Shadow of Fear, available to play today.
With the launch of the new update to EQ, I attended a special presentation by Sony Online Entertainment’s Thom Terrazas, EverQuest’s Producer, Jonathan Caraker, Lead Designer, Julie Burness and Douglas Cronkhite, both Assistant Lead Game Designers.
The first of the two new zones that we were taken on a tour of was Chelsith Reborn. The zone harkens back to the Shadows of Luclin expansion; where I know I spent far too many hours to be deemed sane, slamming my paladin’s face into Emperor Ssraeshza.
Chelsith, the large Shissar city, appeared virtually overnight, with its sudden materialization posing a mystery for players. The Shissar, under the guidance of the utterly evil Vyzh'dra, are in the mood to completely eradicate anything they can get their scaly hands on, particularly the Iksar.
Players will begin their story upon arriving at the city, being arrested and sold to slavery. They will encounter rebels who wish to cast off the yoke of Vyzh'dra’s tyranny and implore the players to lend a hand. Plus, what else are you going to do? Work the mines?
We took a look at the central, purple hued pit around which various reptilian Egyptian-styled artwork decorates the walls, to build the sense of Chelsith being a place with a particular culture and atmosphere; the Shissar are in utter control here.
The zone, designed by Josh Augustine, is laid out in a U shape and is easy to navigate. That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges aplenty, with content available for solo adventurers all the way up to large groups.
For example, a gladiatorial style arena hosts different champions who stride out from its entrance doors to take up arms against groups of players with the nerve to try. The rewards via loot drops are commensurate with the higher difficulty rating of the encounter.
For those even braver, the training houses of the gladiators (mainly Iksar but of various races) are situated nearby. There groups can take on champions on their home turf with about 10 of them available to try to take down.
In the past year, as Thom Terrazas explained, there has been an effort to allow players to see raid content by moving those encounters into Missions for smaller groups to tackle. This way, players who do not raid can see that content; which is particularly important as much of the world’s story meets key junctions within raids. The tougher content in Chelsith Reborn will include those options.
Moving on, we were taken on a stroll through the imposing Plane of Shadow. At one point this was two planes, one of Dark and one of Light. The beings warred with each other for a long time until eventually they realized the futility of their conflict and merged to form the Plane of Shadow.
The energy expended in creating the new Plane weakened its inhabitants to the point that many of them are less sentient than they once were, adding to the danger for explorers. The zone is a large and contrasting region where those places touched by light will be pristine and even verdant at times. In contrast, those areas smothered in darkness are dank with weeds cracking through the stone floors.
Those who plundered the classic Vex Thal zone will see familiar architecture and NPCs but the main attraction will be the very first glimpse of Luclin herself.
Luclin has sent her minions out to collect all of the shards of Fear that have landed in the Plane of Shadow. Although at first it might seem unlikely, Luclin is genuinely trying to protect the realm by removing the shards from the grasp of those who could be corrupted by them.
Luclin has been content to stay concealed by the shadows all this time as she is a god who watches events while having the ability to see what is to come.
Julie Burness added that Luclin is the goddess with the most personality of any in the game. Players will get a true sense of who she is and her response to the players presence in her realm. In fact, this will be the most complex god reveal of all of the myriad deities to exist in EQ as Luclin will be the first goddess to have her own voice over.
This required new models to be created, as the previous ones were incapable of having sound cues attached and were not designed for the kind of animations that Luclin will have; hence the creation of different models to allow transitions between animations. You can see the fruits of the team’s labors in the new video below.
As well as the new zones there will be new AA abilities, spells and items for players to aim at and other tweaks have been made. Doug Cronkhite mentioned that class balance had been looked at for all 16 classes and those players who felt their favorite character had been lacking some love with the launch of the expansion might find pleasing changes in the new build.
The example Doug mentioned was the Monk class. It traditionally had one special attack that has been split and will now allow players more room to work with in regard to progression and depth of customization.
Improved communication across the board was cited as a large part of the new approach to EverQuest’s content. The design team had been involved in fruitful collaboration with the coders, allowing a much quicker turnaround on content realization to get it in the hands of the players. When combined with the feedback from the players (which the team noted had been excellent in a relatively short beta) this allowed the team to make adjustments and iterative choices through production that has spurred on their efforts to bring more content at a quicker pace.
To close, it was mentioned that there will soon be even more announcements on where the story of EverQuest will go next. Whatever that direction may be, it seems EQ fans have a lot more to look forward to sooner than they might have expected.
As previously mentioned, the Shadow of Fear update is now live and is free as part of the Rain of Fear expansion, available now for $39.99 USD. If you need some more convincing, check out our overview of the expansion on Allakhazam!