EQII: Rise of Kunark Developer Diaries – Tradeskills, Part II

Emily “Domino” Taylor returns with her second installment of her EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark developer diary series. Every Tuesday, we bring you chronological focused behind the scenes diaries on a specific aspect of the expansion pack. This wee and last have focused on Taylor and Tradeskills.

EverQuest II: Rise of Kunark Developer Journals
“Tradeskills” by Emily “Domino” Taylor (Designer)

Monday, October 1, 2007
Had a surprisingly fabulous weekend, as my ex-boyfriend surprised me for my birthday by arranging to fly my best friend from university, who lives up near Toronto, down to spend the weekend with me. I hadn’t seen her in 4 years, so we had a great time playing tourist and catching up. Of course, I made her try out EverQuest II while she was with me — she created a Fae fury and played around in the Nursery area for a while. She’s not an MMO player, but I always like to stick the word “yet” on the end of sentences like that …

After I dropped her back off at the airport on Sunday, I checked in to see how beta testing was going and discovered that a couple of the recipe books that were causing a crash to login screen last week, had (a) escaped the fixes I did last week — thought I caught them all, but grr, a couple slipped through! And (b), were not just crashing the character to the login screen, they were in fact crashing the ZONE. Since I’d placed the tradeskill beta buffer in Kylong Plains to sell the books, thinking the crashing was fixed, this was unfortunately resulting in Kylong Plains being a bit unstable as eager crafting beta testers bought all the books they could and attempted to scribe them. Zoltaroth happened to be online and was kind enough to kill the beta buffer on Sunday afternoon as a short term preventative.

Monday morning was therefore devoted to tracking down the couple of renegade books that were causing the issue, and ensuring they are fixed! In the process I discovered a couple of other inconsistencies that needed fixing (mainly books scribing at the wrong skill level) and fixed those also. Then it was time to look at some of the more irritating beta bugs that may be preventing the community that’s slowly developing on beta from testing things – in particular, recipes weren’t recognizing a couple of the harvested materials properly. This turned out to be because (a) I forgot to check one file in, and (b) in another case, because I can’t spell. All fixed and checked in now, but due to the schedule of updating the beta server, today’s fixes won’t be updated to beta server till Wednesday morning. I feel bad about all the bugs that everyone’s suffering, though I guess it’s a normal part of being in the early beta testing process, and the player community is being very helpful and supportive in testing things and submitting /bugs and posting information on the forums. Still! Wouldn’t it be nice if everything were perfect the first time around?

In Monday afternoon’s design team meeting it was announced we’re going back into crunch hours (mandatory 10-hour days Monday through Thursday) starting today. I’ve actually been crunching already to get the recipe books done, so no big change in routine — tonight I’m watching Bridget Jones Diary on DVD with the French soundtrack while looking over tradeskill reaction arts. (I don’t like the voice they chose for Bridget Jones in French, it sounds a bit too old; but the guy dubbing Hugh Grant’s voice is really good, almost the same as his real voice.) It’s nice to be able to do some work from home when work needs to be done late; in my previous job as an IT manager, there wasn’t that much I could do from home, so I spent a lot of late hours in the office, and even a couple of complete nights. I remember one night I spent setting up a new email server in Buenos Aires, where the operations manager and I stayed working long past when all the other staff went home, and were rather concerned that we had no idea how to call for a taxi when we needed one, since neither of us spoke Spanish. Fortunately as it turned out, we ended up working so late it was 7am by the time we left and the early morning taxis were out and easily available on the streets outside.

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I was looking through some old letters I wrote to family while I was in that position and I came across the following anecdote from work. Completely true, I swear — not a “friend of a friend” urban myth, I genuinely had this happen and have actually held the laptop in question. What I wrote in the letter is as follows:

So this guy, one of our sales reps, had his house burgled. Being naturally somewhat paranoid for the next few weeks, he took extra care to hide anything valuable out of sight when he left the house. The next Friday evening, rather than leaving his laptop out on the table when he went down to the pub, he decided to tuck it out of sight. The first place that came to mind (god knows what was going through that mind) was …. the oven.

So, he slides the laptop into the oven and heads down to the pub for Friday night drinks. Comes back some time after midnight, feeling rather hungry as you do, and decides to make himself a snack before going to bed. Turns on the oven to preheat it so he can put in a meat pie. Of course, he forgot the oven was not empty ….

By the time he opened the oven to put the pie in, the laptop’s bottom was pretty melted, and the plastic came away from laptop onto the oven shelf like cheesy pizza strings. In the morning he cut away all the bits of melted plastic and, amazingly, the laptop still actually worked – so he didn’t mention it to anybody but kept using it. The catch that held the battery in was melted too, so the battery kept falling out, and the laptop wouldn’t latch closed either, and it was naked metal on the bottom of the laptop where the plastic had stuck to the oven, but it worked.

It was only when he left the company and had to return the laptop that the true story came out, and I received a rather sad looking laptop with a melted hole in the bottom.

Yes, tradeskills certainly represents a new set of problems and a new set of challenges … but sometimes as they say, a change is as good as a holiday!

Monday morning also brought with it the traditional Monday morning tradeskill cookies for the EQII team – every couple of weeks I bake up a batch on the weekend and bring them in. At first, it was a great way to lure people into my office to meet them, since sometimes it’s hard to get to know all the faces when people stay in their offices or cubicles focused entirely on their work. By now, I’ve met most people on the team — or at least, all the ones who can be enticed by cookies — but it is still nice to bring them in and help people de-stress a little. Gallenite made at least 4 visits and consumed at leats half a dozen cookies today; Ilucide, who is feeling particularly overworked at the moment, had 4 or 5; and Lotus, still hard at work finishing up the character art, took some back to his desk to last the afternoon. It does occur to me that if I ever get a bad egg or something, I could wipe out the entire dev team with accidental food poisoning in just one day — let’s hope that never happens…

Of course, if we believe today’s xkcd comic (link: http://xkcd.com/323/) (and I always believe what xkcd comics tells me) I should possibly be providing alcoholic cookies. But that’s probably not appropriate in the workplace … or at least not till closer to the deadline!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Today was supposed to be reaction art redesign day; however, I was only able to spend a couple hours looking at them (mostly spent making a spreadsheet of what they are now, and trying to get my head around the best solution for what they should be). Around mid morning Haohmaru, aka Tim our lead environment artist, stopped by to let me know that I should browse through the placeable objects art has now completed for the Kunark zones and assemble a list of what I’d like to have globalized so they will be available as house items.

The objects haven’t been available for long and the zone designers have only just started placing them out there in the world, so I hadn’t seen most of them yet. Some of them are pretty cool looking and will certainly make desirable house items. He told me to pick about 30; but of course, by the time I had gone through all the folders, I had a list of closer to 60. Then I had to make the tough decisions and try and thin that list down, and put them in order of priority. I’m very keen to avoid the situation where a house item carpenters make ends up looking the same as a collection quest reward (as has occasionally happened in the past), so I have checked with Kander, the dev who is doing this expansion’s collection quests, and will be making his quest rewards for him at the same time as I make the Kunark furniture. I’ve picked out some pretty cool looking stuff for his collections and I hope we’ll be able to get them all globalized, plus plenty cool stuff for the carpenters too.

Rijacki popped up on my instant messenger this afternoon to send me a link which turned out to be the “eat your brains” song from Shaun of the Dead — she thought I might need some light relief. Since I was a reasonably vocal part of the tradeskill community as a player before I was hired here, several of the other tradeskill-focused players including Rijacki, Calthine, and Niami already had my instant messenger address as we used to discuss tradeskill changes and happenings, and they’ve all been very supportive since I took the position. And of course, I know that if I start doing something silly, there are three members of the player tradeskill community who know exactly where to reach me and will not hesitate to give me a sanity check!

Back on the beta forums, I noticed Slippery, one of the beta community, had spotted that somehow sages didn’t have any inquisitor spell recipes from 70-80. This was a bit mysterious, but further investigation revealed that somehow inquisitors had been left out entirely when the sage recipes were created. So, another good portion of my afternoon was spent tracking down that problem, creating those recipes, and adding them in to the books. QA are hard at work testing out the recipes also, but they hadn’t reached the sage books yet so that was a good catch. They have, however, been working through the other books and in between the time I left the office (about 6:30) and the time I logged back in from home (about 7) I was horrified to find I had over 30 new bug notifications in my email.

My tradeskill apprentice, Olihin, has been hugely helpful in getting things like the quests finished up, and I’ve passed about half the bugs on to him also to start looking at. It’s hard to imagine how I’d be getting through a lot of this stuff without the extra help from him, not to mention all the stuff QA does for us! When I think back to old computer games I enjoyed as a kid, and realize only one or a small handful of people made the games, I’m amazed at how they managed to do it. Admittedly they were far less complex than EverQuest II but I’m still pretty impressed. I feel a bit overwhelmed when I just consider the amount of care and attention tradeskills alone need to have. When I was just a player, I didn’t appreciate just how much work went into making every little aspect of a game. I definitely have a much healthier respect for the quantity and quality of work done by everyone in the game industry now, whether or not I happen to like the particular game they’re making.

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