Friday, October 15, 2004
Everquest 2 - How it works
As a private citizen and blogger I am under the NDA and can't say anything about EQ2. As writer at Grimwell.com I got special permission to post about EQ2, limited to the game below level 20. You can find the result here, at Grimwell Online.^
[Edit] NDA has been lifted, so for archiving purposes I copy to here what I wrote on Grimwell.com
Everquest is one of the most successful MMORPG of all times, going strong since 1999. But computer game graphics have considerably evolved since then, and there is only so much you can do to tweak a five-year-old graphics engine. So SOE is launching Everquest 2 at the end of this year, probably in November 2004. Since mid-September the staff of Grimwell.com is testing the EQ2 beta. Up to now we were under the NDA, not allowed to say anything, but we got special permission now to talk of the under level 20 game. As this is one of the great releases this year, and there is a lot to say, we are going to split it in several parts. This is part 1, in which I describe how EQ2 works, without judging it. Part 2 will then have the collected opinions of several of the Grimwell.com staff. Please be aware that we are talking about a beta version here, and some things are still likely to change.
Everquest 2 starts by you creating your character. First you chose your race and gender. There are 15 races already available, with the 16th race, Froglok, to be opened up later by actions of the players. The characters are depicted in photo-realistic detail, and you can modify their look with a great number of sliders to the smallest detail. Of course there are limits, you cannot make a really tall or fat gnome, or a small or thin ogre. At this point in time you cannot chose your character class yet, so no stats are shown.
When you are finished determining the look of your avatar, you start the game on the tutorial ship, The Far Journey. Here you are explained the basics of the game, how to control your character and the camera, how to interact with NPC, how to do quests, and how to fight.
The Far Journey then sets you up on the Island of Refuge, which is the newbie zone for all players up to level 6. This zone is instanced; meaning several identical copies of it can exist. Whenever all existing Islands of Refuge are crowded, the game simply creates a new one. You can travel from one instance to another, if you have friends starting at the same time as you and want to group with them.
The first thing to do on the island is to choose your basic character class, of which there are four: Fighter, Mage, Priest, and Scout. Fighters are the experts of melee combat. Mages cast offensive spells, while priests are more specialized in defensive and healing magic. Scouts are the experts of stealth and cunning. At level 10, each of these archetypes splits up into 3 classes, for example priests can become clerics, druids, or shamans, while scouts can become rogues, bards, or predators. At level 20 these classes split up even further, so a predator could become either assassin or ranger. Every race can become any class; there are no restrictions. It is up to you to ponder the wisdom of creating a gnome warrior or a troll mage.
Once you have chosen your archetype, you receive the first class specific spells or abilities. From then on, whenever you gain a level, you receive one or more additional spells or abilities. While you receive them for free, you only get the most basic level of the skill, called apprentice 1, and it is advisable to upgrade as soon as you can, although you probably need to wait until you left the Island of Refuge for that. Apprentice 2 skill upgrades are available from NPC merchants in the cities. Players with tradeskills craft apprentice 3 skill upgrades. Apprentice 4 skill upgrades can later be gained by special quests, but these aren't implemented in the beta yet. After the Apprentice series of skill upgrades comes the adept series: Adept 1 are dropped from monsters, while adept 3 skill upgrades are crafted using very rare components. At higher levels there will be master level skill upgrades.
You can get your first introduction into tradeskills on the Island of Refuge. You craft by learning recipes from artisan books, but you are limited to books with a volume number equal or lower to your artisan level. Crafting gives you artisan experience points, and then levels, in a career that is parallel and more or less independent of your adventuring career. Crafting consists of a mini-game, in which you have to react to unforeseen accidents by pressing the correct button. Some of these accidents can even hurt you, and if you aren't paying attention, you might even get killed.
On the Island of Refuge you can do quests and fight monsters until you gain experience level 6. The island is also the first opportunity of grouping with other players. Everquest 2 has a unique system in which when you click on a monster it not only tells you its relative level compared to yours, it also clearly states if this monster is designed to be soloed, or to be attacked in a group. This is just a recommendation, but attacking a "group" monster alone can be hazardous to your health, while "solo" monsters don't give much experience points for a group. Your stay on the island ends with you taking the boat to one of the two cities, Freeport or Qeynos.
Freeport is the city for people with evil alignment, while Qeynos is for the people with good alignment. While there is no PvP in EQ2 yet, it is expected to be added later. Good and evil players are separated after leaving the Island of Refuge, and cannot chat with each other, or be in the same group. Some races are considered good and can only start in Qeynos, other races are considered evil and start in Freeport, while neutral races have the choice. It is possible to change sides by doing a difficult betrayal quest, but only once. Some character classes are linked with alignment, e.g. only evil players can become assassins, and only good players can become rangers. So if you want to play a troll ranger, you have to start in Freeport, and then betray it and move to Qeynos.
Arrived at your starting city, you find yourself confined to the suburbs, until you do a simple citizenship quest. This quest introduces you to housing, furniture, the bank, and the instanced newbie zones. Once you have done it, you are free to roam all over the huge city with its many zones. Outside the cities are huge overland zones, Antonica around Qeynos, and Commonlands around Freeport, which then lead to further and more dangerous zones, with countless adventures still untold awaiting you.