Part 1 of the EverQuest Next Q&A Panel, Including Transcription

For the full transcription of PART 1 of the Q&A session, hit the "Read More" button. For the transcription of PART 2, head on over to this post.

Will we be restricted to one starting city or will we have racial starting cities like in the other games?
We just can't commit to that answer yet. The history and lore that we have right now leans towards one direction, but we haven't finalized that answer and it has been one of those things that we constantly debate inside. And so when we have a final answer, we'll let you know. Sorry about that.

Will our European friends have a chance to get into the betas?
Yes.

There's some kind of disconnect I have between the two games, Landmark and EverQuest Next. I was just wondering why the design decision to name it EverQuest Next: Landmark rather than have it just be Landmark and EverQuest Next because Landmark feels so much more free than EQN because of the design aesthetic in EQN, but you can build anything in Landmark. So, why?
That's strictly a business decision. We wanted people to be absolutely aware that EQN Landmark was the gateway to EQN. That it was going to be a vehicle by which we could allow the community to help us build that new Norrath. You can do a lot more with it, but we wanted everyone to darn well know that that's what it was for: that we really wanted to build that Norrath together and that this was the vehicle. <guy mumbles something, Dave answers:> Yeah, you can build anything you want to, but you can also help.

This is the lore question that I wanted to ask during the Lore panel, but wasn't able to. The focal point, would you say it's a new re-envisioning kind of like JJ Abrams' new Star Trek movies and all that? You can really see the difference in EQ2, there is no moon, Luclin has been blown up; in EQ, Luclin is full of moon kitties and whatnot. But I was wondering from a lore perspective, I know we've seen from the demos the Kerrans, but the only continent that we haven't heard from at all, in any of the discussions, is Odis. Are the Kerrans still from the Kerra Islands or can you go into any of the history behind them meeting the elves?
The short answer is no. We can't talk specifically about how that goes on, but you're going to be seeing a lot more of that stuff that you're used to. Names like Odis and some of the other cities and whatnot, are going to start coming up as we dive more into the stories. We'll be putting articles and stuff up on the website that will describe a lot of that stuff. You'll know a lot more of that going forward.

Why question is on mechanical transparency. When EQ launched, there wasn't even numerical mana. There's been a trend in newer MMO's of giving the players as little information as possible on how exactly what they have works, which is kind of an attempt to stop min/maxing, but the problem is that players figure out that stuff anyway so it just creates a have and have-not situation. The people know know how things really work get the benefit. So to what extent are you planning on showing how everything works behind the scenes to the players?
Transparency is in many things. It's one of the things that we strive for, so you can certainly expect to see those things in combat. It would be because you're right. People figure that out, there will be a mod out there somewhere that points to these things, or you can modify your UI or whatever. So we'll just give you the information that's pertinent to combat.

If you choose not to look at it, if it's your preferred style of gaming, we don't force it down your throat. But honestly, many of us are those min/maxers. We have an entirely transparent philosophy for reasons that you will learn more about in months to come.

I really thought that SWG had some great aspects to it, non-combat things, and one of the things about that game that I thought was very unique, and I'm hoping, perhaps, in EQN, was that every object had a 3D spacial representation. So like, your weapon... you take it from your inventory and drop it in your house, bam there it is. Or is it just an icon in the bag? I'm hoping a little more representation on objects and items.
We loved Galaxy. Expect to see stuff in the world. I want to hang my sword on the wall, and then some.

I have a fairly general question. We keep hearing the term "tiers" and I am wondering is tiers kind of like EQ2 where you need tier 1 nodes to get crafting at X locations or are we talking the tiers of the world? Like, you know, you're on the ground, that's tier 1, and then you drop down?
We use it to refer to a number of things. One of which is certainly the tiers of content underground or above ground.

It's not necessarily indicative to one area. The area outside of Qeynos might be Tier 1 on the surface and get higher as you go down, but the area in Lavastorm might start at Tier 3 on the surface.

The other thing that's really important is that character advancement also refers to tiers and those two have an intimate relationship. If Darrin and I are going to be adventuring together in a Tier 3 area, in general, we should be Tier 3 or better in terms of our character advancement to be appropriate for that particular area. So the two match up in general.

In EQ, night and day was a real big thing. If you were a Barbarian and couldn't see at night, you literally needed a torch to get anywhere. Also, obviously, mobs changed in the world. You've shown off Forgelight, we've seen how nice it is, you've shown us the night and day [cycle]. Can we expect races to have different provisions and that kind of stuff or is it going to be...
You touch upon a really interesting subject, and that's the pitch darkness of the original EverQuest game. I can tell you straight away that that sort of thing - the pitch darkness - is a bit of denial of service. People who absolutely couldn't see and couldn't play, couldn't continue. You will not see it in our game. Starting, entering the game, not being able to move around, not being able to see anything... <shakes head> No. However, the use of darkness to exploit mood, situations, to bring out emotionality and fear... effectively a changing day/night cycle that is absolutely real where you can adventure in the darkness, you can go underground and it is extremely dark, maybe pitch dark in places you go... but not in places that you start. Hugely important to us, the need to carry a torch and a light source - hugely important to us, but not to the level where you are not going to be able to play the game in the areas where you expect to be able to.

But it will be a big enough difference?
Oh, we want that big difference. We want that emotionality. Several people have mentioned that darkness contributes to a feeling of adventure. Going underground without a light source - that should be scary. But walking through the forest where you spawn should not necessarily be something that you can't do.

We have a living, breathing world that is going to be created with these games. Things can happen with changes of day and night. NPC's that are out, like merchants, they may only be out during the day just like you'd expect a shop owner to be out during the day. So things can change from day to night based on what's going on in the world.

That's that emergent AI thing again. Shopkeepers don't like night.

Shady merchants might, though.

To expand on the European question before, I have been in a guild with mainly European players even though I am from the US. A lot of them are trying to sign up for the beta but are being redirected to the ProSieben website. They're wondering if it's something that is going to be regionally blocked, or are they going to have the ability to jump on the US servers and sign up for the beta of the game?
Somebody started a petition which is filling up my inbox with hundreds and hundreds of emails. I'd like to let them know that they can stop. I got the message. <laughter> We'll talk about it after we go back to the office.

You talk about a living, breathing world. Using the example of the Orcs finding the lonely road. What if you're fighting the Orc King? Is the AI good enough now that bosses aren't scripted but they learn to what's happening to them in the fight and they adjust their tactics based on what's happening to them?
Yes, absolutely. What you described is exactly what happens. To what extent we want it to, to what extent the difficulty of the encounter dictates. We can tune NPC intelligence up, so they always make really, really good choices so that's it's very difficult to beat them, or we could tune it down for the average content that we expect you to be fighting.

Watch out for those player character kiting NPC druids. <laughter, jokes about quad-kiting>

To expand on the previous question: How quick can we expect this change? I suspect that days of camping and placeholding for hours is long gone now.
Yes. That's not even how the content of the game even functions.

So in a raid situation, where we spoke about the boss figuring out who's doing the most damage and focusing on them, how fast can we expect that?
It's probably too early to be absolutely specific. It is a great question, but the point to take home is that the more difficult encounters will, in some cases, be characterized by more intelligent AI where the utility of their actions is more rapidly affected.

In his mea culpa last year when he gave us the bad news at the opening ceremonies, Mr. Smedley told us that not only would we see EQN at this event, that we would also be able to play it. So obviously that did not happen and has anyone given him grief over that, and when did that plan go out window?
Games take a long time to make. I don't know how else to answer that

Ample grief has been given.

When you're building something new, it's an undefined amount of time that it takes to actually build it. That's one of the reasons why we haven't announced a date for EQN. Part of that is because we are delving into the unknown and a large part of it is because when we do bring those new features into Landmark so that you guys can start experimenting with them, we really, really do want to listen to the feedback and be able to take what you have and the advice and the comments that you have to heart, which means we can't really put an end date on when EQN is going to launch, otherwise there's no way we can adapt, which would be the exact reverse of what we want to do.

Waiting and anticipation is horrible. We are working really hard to make sure that the product that we deliver to you is exactly what we promise and something that you are really going to enjoy and we appreciate your patience.

I was wondering about the mechanics of the deaths and the recovering of. What kind of consequences are we facing?
That one's really easy. We're not ready to talk about it yet.

Since the world is ever-changing, like with the new EQ expansion, Korana (sp?) is just changing overnight versus whenever the patch happens. Are you going to implement anything where, say, progressive patches where say, the world explodes while players are actually playing rather than at patch day, all of the zone is completely different?
That's one of the things that Dave talked about when he talked about the Rallying Calls. That's exactly the kind of things you're talking about. It's exactly what we expect to be happening in-game all of the time. Not just on every Tuesday or every Thursday, or whenever we do our patches. The world is constantly changing around you based on what you do and as the story progresses.

That is literally the on-going process of participation in the game.

And the voxel-based world opens up that possibility for us. We don't have to build new art.

So it doesn't just happen when the server goes down and the server comes back up and the world is now exploded. It happens over time.

You could watch as the front wall of Qeynos fell down.

In fact, probably the opposite is going to be similar to the truth. We're probably going to be updating the serves with stuff that will happen in the future, not right now.

I'm excited about the game. The destructibility of the world is awesome. My question is: Will there be environmental damage? Like if I go by Feerrott is there's a little temple thing, can I blow up the temple, and the top of the temple falls down on top of the mob that causes like a small stun or something?
So, environmental damage... that, yes, that is our intent. When something is destroyed or blows up, that might create additional damage for people nearby, like AoE.

I was just at the class panel a few hours ago and they were talking about how much you want people to be able to switch your classes, change what you're doing and not having to be stuck under one role. How is this going to affect end-game loot for people and how you distribute it?
Loot distribution mechanics are not something that we're ready to talk about, sorry. But we know that's potentially a problem and we have fixes for that. We know exactly what this could cause and we're addressing those things. I think you guys will be very happy with how loot works.

I was sent to ask about races. Iksar and Ratonga for EQN. Any word on them?
During the debut we announced six of the initial player races that are going to be available in EQN. That is not the complete list, but we are not talking about anything else but the six that we have put out there so far. We will be announcing them in the future, and we look forward to talking about how we're going to expand that list.

So last night during one of the panels, the question came up about disrupting a Rally Call if you wanted to be the bad guy. Team gave a definitive yes, that you would be able to do that. I would really like for you to elaborate on what kind of system you'll use to do that.Destruction probably comes in the form of not doing it. You can choose to not participate, but generally RC are not going to go in reverse. If the RC is to build up the city of Qeynos, it's not going to happen in reverse.

There are many ways in which RC's can be progressed and there are ways in which players can disrupt aspects of that progression. For instance, if there was part of a RC that required you to collect wood in the area, you could disrupt it by going in and cutting down every tree that you see and making sure that there is no wood that anybody else can get. But that doesn't mean that not getting wood is going to stop other avenues of progression.

We're not actually building a game that's set up so that you can grief.

I understand that you're not going to tell us what other races are going to be released, but can you tell us specifically what the trolls have been up to?
But that would be telling! <laughter>

With all the multi-classing going on, and moving away from having to have certain classes, is that going to decrease group and raid size requirements, as far as say, 24 players down to 20? Five in a group or whatever?
It's one of the things that we're not yet talking about.

But it's in discussion.

I really wish we could talk about all this raid stuff and everything like that, because I think that you guys are really going to like the answers. But it's just one of those things we're holding back. The line I keep using with everyone is that we did open the Black Box, but we are keeping a bunch of surprises for the future. This is a long road and we want to be able to talk about these things one at a time as we go through. That's why we gave a list of things that we were really proud of that would change the game because we want to talk about those a lot before we start getting into the other elements of the game. I hope that makes sense.

We basically chose our battles coming here.

That kind of superseded my question. I was wondering if you had an end goal for large-scale raids.
Yeah, that's definitely the same question.

So it hasn't come up yet, but I am going to tell you guys the same things I told the people in the class panel. We've decided as a group that every time somebody asks about a particular class, we randomly remove one from the game. Joking! But we're not going to talk about anything that we haven't already talked about as far as races and classes. So if that's your question, I apologize and hopefully you have time to think of another one before you get up to the front of the line.

We just removed the Heather race from the game. (#Heatherissupermetal \m/)

I'm very interested, as well as the community is interested in, building websites that help people look up their characters and improve their characters like what we've done with EQ2U, and I would like to know what if EQN and Landmark will have Census support on day one?
We will certainly have something similar, but not necessarily on day one. It may not be exactly Census, but there are plans to expose as much data as we can for the community.

I don't know if you talked membership fees, but will EQN be included as part of the all-access membership?
We haven't made that decision yet. But SOE has always supported all-access so I'd be really surprised if we don't have some version.

Would it have the same glitches as EQ2?
<laughter> We were intending to leave all glitches in, yes. But that's fair, we should have a discussion and go down that list and figure out what the issues are. But I just don't have an answer for you. We certainly don't want to leave glitches in and when we build new stuff for EQN and Landmark, of course we're not going to aim for that, so yeah, I would hope that they get removed.

You talked about some mob difficulty coming AI adapting to player tactics and so forth. How do you prevent mobs from doing things that are smart, you know advantageous for them but not... fun. For example, if a hypothetical smart mob in EQ, a smart thing for them to do would be to chase the clerics and ignore everyone else. How do you prevent them from doing things like that?
If that is a valuable thing for them to do, they'll do it. But I can't imagine that running around after a fleeing player, unless that player is the last player on the battlefield, would be advantageous to them, especially as other people are attacking it. When we can reveal how the combat AI works in detail, you'll see that that just doesn't happen.

It sounds like the obvious solution for your hypothetical EQ mobs would do that, but it's not really that advantageous for the monster. Because as soon as goes chasing after you, well guess what, everybody else just piles on him and can do damage for free. There's always pros and cons to tactics.

There's a lot of threat assessment.

At the lore panel we were told that every action will have some sort of consequence. So that if you play the game in certain ways, then other factions or something will interact with you differently. At the same time, there are examples in like Skyrim where if you steal something and nobody sees that, you don't get a faction hit. Did you consider that?
It's the question of global knowledge of the world.

That's an excellent question and I will repeat it for everyone just so that we're clear. Effectively, if I steal this hat <picks up Nagafen hat> while you're all faced away from me and you didn't know that it was gone, am I credited with being despicable in any way or a thief for factions, for the people in the hotel, for my team members, etc.? The answer is, if no one perceives what you have done, then they will not necessarily regard you negatively. It is theoretically possible that you will have statistics that might be attached to your actions that are global, but it's a little too early to be more specific than that. Certainly, the baker would not hate you if you stole his muffin and he didn't know it.

We still want you to be rewarded for things you do when no one's there.

Just carrying on too far, the muffin man example, he might though notice that the muffins are getting stolen so he stops putting them out.

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