Wednesday’s sprawling two hour Critical Hit podcast with Nathan “Kaitheel” McCall is absolutely worth listening to, as Nathan goes into the best uses of design hours, what it takes to revamp zones such as Qeynos and Freeport, why the starting islands were removed, the importance of storytelling, and more.
But if you are a raider or otherwise into the mechanics and itemization of EQ2, and you listen to only one EQ2 podcast this month, it should be EQ2Talk Episode #63 with Kyle “Kander” Vallee. He goes into a lot of the thinking behind the upcoming update (and this fall’s expansion), has some refreshing vision towards the future of EQ2, itemization and content design, and is very candid about some of the missteps in Chains of Eternity as well as other past changes.
All comments below are paraphrased from Kander’s comments in the 1 hour 40 min podcast. Any errors in meaning are the fault of the editor.
- If there is one thing Kander could go back and change about EQ2, he would never have gone along with Stat Consolidation (where each class has just one primary stat and then Stamina for increasing health). The different benefits you got from each stat were some of the “meat and bones” of EQ2 and chasing different stats and having to make choices on which gear you equip added a lot of depth. We had a lot more choice itemization-wise. For example, building up Intelligence to increase poison damage for scouts.
- As far as Stat Consolidation, we’re actually planning to head back in that direction as far as the next expansion to provide more choices. Right now, itemization feels a little bit stale. Players should need to think about their gear.
More after the jump…
- One thing he wants to do is always provide Melee/Caster gear so that priests who want to be battlepriests and furies that want to wear mage gear can have options. It’s a big undertaking. At the high level of raiding, everyone is meleeing these days. Eventually we’d like to get where there are a lot of choices for different play styles.
- He knows that itemization seems a little cookie-cutter at this point, but it is easy to balance. We have a lot of plans for itemization. We want to add a lot of cool stuff not just this year but next year. We have a lot of stuff we want to do next year. If we made all these colossal changes all at once and said “this is the way it is now”, it would be disruptive.
Quality of Life
- EQ2 is going to be 10 years old and we have an incredible playerbase. We have some serious players out there who are very passionate about the game. We’re not out to make overwhelming changes. We’re on a quest to find Quality of Life stuff for our players to make things a little bit less tedious and a little bit less frustrating.
- In February, Xelgad posted threads asking Classes for their feedback on changes they’d like to see.
- Everyone wants to be the “Alpha” class, the best class. This update is not about Balance but more about Quality of Life, taking out some of the Frustration of certain classes, and fixing abilities that aren’t really used. For example, why do certain rezzes require you to be just 1 meter away? We threw that into the “dumb” bucket and changed it. We looked at things that were frustrating that people have been asking for a very long time. We want to keep each class feeling unique and that they have their own flavor. We wish we could give a reason for every single change.
- We have to look at the role that we’ve set for each class. If we get heavy-handed on our changes, then next year, raids will have just four classes.
- This is EQ2. There are a lot of aspects of EQ2 that are the reason people play it. We’re not looking at dumbing down the game so we can get new players. Kander uses six hotbars. He’s very familiar with his combat art progression and setup and has a lot of pride in knowing how to play his class. He did admit we’re probably to the point where we shouldn’t be adding more buttons though. Instead of adding more buttons to people’s hotbars, we’ve gone down the road with Prestige abilities of replacing abilities with better ones.
- Over this summer, as well as in the expansion, we’re taking some steps to take the overwhelming aspects out of the way. (Now before anyone freaks out!) We’re not going to change anything as far as if you are a min/maxer and you want to do everything yourself, but we have a plan to take out some of the tedium for people.
Wurmbone’s End x2
- There was some miscommunication about this zone. It was never designed for group-style players. It was designed for raiders who have some raid gear. We hoped that some people would be able to do pickup groups. They’re real raid bosses, not group zone bosses.
- Surprisingly, the normal mode version is very popular. Every day it’s in the top 10 zones being used. The challenge mode, not so much. There are some carrots in there that people are going after.
- Expansions will always have lots of solo and group contents. We are moving towards progression zones that are more difficult in interim Game Updates. Siren’s Grotto raid is going to surprise some people on the difficulty.
Mercenaries & Advanced Solo
- Advanced Solo will continue to be a gameplay choice, although it was a mistake to reward Raid gear in Chains of Eternity Advanced Solo zones. Things weren’t as Rare as they should have been. Advanced Solo should not have been the “new hot playstyle” that everyone needs to do instead of grouping.
- Going forward, Advanced Solo, either with a merc or a second player, will be assigned its own gear just for that play style. The Chains of Eternity fabled from Advanced Solo (and CoE raid trash) will be made redundant in GU66.
- The goal of Advanced Solo zones was that you could play with two players or with mercs. Mercs might be a little powerful but they don’t replace a player. Mercs were never intended to replace players.
- Actually, Duo zones will have a part to play in something very special for Raiders in the expansion.
Selling Loot Rights
- Kander is personally not a fan of Selling Loot Rights, as it diminishes the accomplishment of earning items, and the coolness factor. But it’s too late in the game to make a major change like that.
- That said, there will be a new item in Game Update 66 that can be acquired by raiders that will be very difficult to get via Selling Loot Rights because of how it’s earned.
- Skyshrine was very good for us (having an Open Beta). We got a lot of feedback and a lot of people playing. Kander thinks it was because we had new abilities and levels.
- For Cobalt Scar, it wasn’t quite as good. We didn’t have as many people testing.
- It’s part of our plans going forward for Testing to provide some rewards for it. For instance if you complete the expansion questlines, then you get some kind of awesome reward that you can /claim on your live server.
- There are a lot of players that don’t want to Beta test. They want it to be brand new and exciting. Then we have players that want to know everything. And then we have players that are just amazing and want to test everything and that’s what they enjoy. We have to find a way to reward these players.
- Keeping a list of who we reward is not really sensible, so we want to add a reward that people get for finishing questlines or doing all the heroic content on beta. It would unlock something on Live. The more people we get to play through content, the better.
- Right now, we’re invitation-only on raid testing for a few reasons.
- We don’t have the ability to test raids at their top potential internally, especially challenge content. So we have to get raid guilds in there to test. But to let everyone access the raid zones, we can’t sit with every raid guild and watch them raid.
- With our new(ish) Beta tool, we have the ability to tweak and change things on-the-fly during a raid (even during a pull, the mechanics of a fight can be changed in real time). It’s not like in the past with Kunark where if we found a bug, we’d have to stop the test and come back tomorrow.
- It’s important to us to pick a raid guild that is capable and in the skill level that we’re shooting for to tune the content, bring them through a raid zone, and change things as we go.
- One of the big problems that we’ve had is guilds that don’t want to give us their full effort. We want guilds that, if the find a bug to their advantage, they won’t keep it to themselves. We don’t want to get in the same rut with the same guilds either.
- For Siren’s Grotto, we used six or seven guilds help test it. They were really positive and gave good feedback. Exactly what we were looking for.
- We also want to keep things a surprise. We don’t want everything to be laid out before Beta is even over. So for Siren’s Grotto, no raid guilds did all of the content. Most guilds only got to test 2 mobs. No guild saw every boss. It’s hard to test without giving one guild out there a super advantage. We know that raiding is competitive. Guilds want to be recognized for being the best and that’s cool.
- A lot of this update was planned like 3 years ago. We’re really happy to be moving on with Velious. Chains of Eternity was a cool break for us to do something totally out of the storyline of Velious. Kander would like to say that this is the final chapter, but there’s a little more. We’re coming close to the final chapter of Velious. You’re here to help the Combine Army drive the final stake into the Army of the Awakened.
- There’s a lot of stuff that’s still Top Secret that he can’t give away.
- Dell asked if we’re getting close to the end of the Age’s End Prophecy, to which Kander paused, let out a deep sigh, and said “Sure.”
- The Age’s End Prophecy is complicated. Everyone involved, the Combine Army, Skyshrine, Kerafyrm’s Army, the Pantheon of Gods all have their own idea of what the prophecy entails. There are a lot of old school characters involved. When we do finally complete the Age’s End Prophecy, it may not be what everyone thinks.
- 2 Advanced Solo zones, 2 Group zones, 1 Group Challenge zone, and one x4 raid with 9 or 10 bosses. For challenge raiders, there are 3 challenge fights. Some of the easier stuff is also challenging. There’s also one fight that’s just for those raiders.
- In his opinion, it seems like the team have done a lot of Casual raid zones. We have a lot of casual raiders. But we’re going to get away from every guild can clear every zone. Some bosses, coming up, it just doesn’t make sense that a casual raid would be able to defeat. For all intents and purposes so that, if you are in a casual guild, you feel that you’ve completed the content, but there will be some optional content for diehard guilds.
- Some players like to replace their gear every update, while other players like to feel they’ve earned something and get to hang onto it.
- Game Update 66 is not a full gear reset but instead just 7-8 slots are being itemized. Advanced Solo, Group, Raid, and Tradeskill will each have a few “best in slot” items, although if you solely do one of these gameplay styles, you’ll still find upgrades from what you’re using now. Yes, that means Tradeskills will produce some best-in-slot items.
- We’re really trying to do some interesting things with itemization in the expansion. We did something really cool in Cobalt Scar which players will discover. There will be some end game items in the update that you might not replace for a very long time.
- We’re also looking at not just replacing items but upgrading them. Like maybe you got your Mythical cloak and might be able to upgrade it. This is just an example.
- We went back and flagged some 40,000 items that should have been Beastlord-equippable. We also added Beastlord to swords and bows. They can now use pretty much every weapon type.
- So on Beta, a few of the War Runes were moved to a merchant and we tried removing all the class requirements from a number of them. The reason for this was not to put war runes on a vendor. There are several war runes which would simply be too powerful to allow on all classes like stoneskins on Fighters.
- The reason we attempted this change was, if an item drops in a raid zone and it already has a Red Adornment on it that is limited to certain classes, then the item will show that it is only usable by those classes that the Adornment allows.
- Terrogaunt on the Code side stepped in and has solved the problem. He added something where, if an item drops that is Priest and Mage, and it has an adornment on it that is Priest-only, then the item will say:
- All Priests
- Some classes have been removed from this item due to augmentation:
- All Mages
Protector’s Realm and Plat
- It was really dumb that players had to go back to four year old content to get the Plat they need to play their game. There’s something wrong with having to go back and run old zones over and over to get the money you need.
- Also, Kander has wanted to do individual Coinpurses for a very long time. It’s a road for the future so that we can give players more coin if the amount of coin is decided by the number of players.
- We’ve boosted coin from Quests, Advanced Solo zones, Group zones. Raid zones give a lot of coin, probably more coin than Protector’s Realm or Shard of Hate ever did. Players should find that there’s more plat overall than before, especially in Chains of Eternity and Siren’s Grotto zones.
- He knows that raiding is expensive, there are a lot of expendables. You can spend 20 plat just on potions and other items.
- This had nothing to do with Selling Loot Rights or Krono. He was not trying to take Plat out of the game or rebalance or break the economy.