Emily “Domino” Taylor gets back to work with two more entries in her series of journals that focus on her role on the design of EQII’s tradeskills. The game is rapidly nearly the deployment of its next expansion, Rise of Kunark.

A special note to the entire SOE San Diego team whose office and homes are close to the California wildfires. Our thoughts are with you.


EverQuest II Dev Diary: Tradekills #3
Written by Emily “Domino” Taylor (Game Designer, EQII Tradeskills)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Got that “eat your brains” song Rijacki sent yesterday stuck in my head this morning — possibly appropriately inspirational for populating a zone like “Shard of Fear” but unfortunately I was planning out tradeskill reaction arts, so it was just slightly disturbing. There seem to be a few different ways technically to get the arts upgrading automatically, and Aeralik was very helpful in suggesting a few alternatives, but when I tested it out on a few the examine text didn’t seem to display in an ideal manner. It may be an artifact of the way I was structuring them using a system designed to work off adventure level, but forcing it to look at tradeskill level instead. Aeralik was busy for most of the afternoon so I’ll check in with him tomorrow and see if he has any other suggestions that might display better; if not, it may be possible to submit a code request to get it to work the way I want.

Today being Wednesday (how did that happen already, I ask myself) we had a design team lunch, at a Thai place this time. We placed our orders and they asked us how hot we wanted them, on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 was the hottest. I picked pad thai at what I thought was a safe rating of 3, but it turned out to be definitely borderline. I’m such a wimp when it comes to spicy food, but I wasn’t the only one who’d ordered a 3 and was struggling a bit! Except MissDoomCookie, who ordered 6 and said she could have happily gone hotter. Next time I think I’m going for a 1!

After lunch I checked my bug queue to see whether anything was urgent and was horrified to discover that from yesterday’s 40 bugs, I was up to 115. I spent the afternoon bug fixing – some were urgent-ish but most were fairly minor things such as rare recipes returning a few common harvests as a byproduct if you failed to make pristine, which shouldn’t happen but is hardly going to kill anyone or seriously imbalance anything. Because of the way QA had done the testing, however, every recipe book that had this problem was logged as a separate bug, so instead of 1 bug saying “alchemist advanced level 70-79 recipes are returning ferrite as a byproduct and should not” I had 10 separate bugs, one for each book — so it wasn’t quite as bad as it initially looked. I managed to get the bug list down to 70, which is still lots, but a good start. Things like typos I’m really not that worried about right now. That took me well through the afternoon however and into the evening and I was feeling a bit cross-eyed by the time I headed home. I really don’t know how it got to be Wednesday already, and still so much to do in the week and in the expansion!

Tonight a friend’s been shooting me all sorts of old ’80s videos on YouTube while I’ve been trying to work, so tonight’s contemplation of tradeskill reaction arts has been set to the music of The Pet Shop Boys, A-Ha, Culture Club, and other people with very big hair. Hmmm, brain-eating zombies in the morning and ’80s icons in the evening, it remains to be seen what effect this will have on the overall outcome of the reaction arts! Woodworker art “Rhyme & Reason”: +15 durability, -10 progress, and +10% hair size… maybe not.

Friday, October 5, 2007
I’m not quite sure what happened to the week, I swear it should only be about Tuesday, maybe Wednesday at the latest. Feels like I blinked and missed a week. It’s been incredibly hectic this week, and I thought I was busy before! But with just a couple of weeks to go till we have to finalize all the content, everyone is flat out busy. There are so many things I need to be doing at the moment that I don’t even know where to start sometimes. I’ll get started on one thing, discover something else that needs doing before I can finish the first thing, then discover something else that needs doing before I can finish the second thing, and so on recursively until it ends up time to go home and I have 1,397 changed files to check in but still haven’t managed to complete the thing I started doing first thing in the morning!

Yesterday we had a lunch time playtest, which means that instead of us hunting down our own lunch, they ordered in sandwiches for us and we spent lunch playing certain zones. Most people were in Kylong Plains testing out the new expansion content, but one group which included me did another run-through of the Shard of Fear which is due out with the next Game Update. I have to say the zone looks fantastic, graphically, and people who were familiar with the Plane of Fear in EQ1 will definitely have some reminiscent moments when they see the place. After we finished our playtest, we all had to write a summary of what we did, what we liked, what we thought could be improved, and any bugs we came across. This helps the designers actually working on those zones to identify possible problem areas, and I also find it just generally interesting to read everyone’s comments. It lets me see how different designers approach a zone and what features they look for and highlight. It’s particularly interesting seeing what some people spot that I completely missed, or maybe didn’t miss but didn’t find worth commenting on, and vice versa. As tradeskill designer, I haven’t actually designed any zones myself nor do I expect to be doing so in the near future, so it’s also kind of a glimpse into a new area of design from what I’m used to. (If I can really claim to be “used to” anything, having only been here 6 months and still quite the noob.)

Theoretically this week I’ve been looking at the tradeskill reaction arts, and I have got a good start on them, but I got sidetracked into fixing a bunch of bugs and also getting a start on the tradeskill writs for level 70-80. So far this has involved filling out a gigantic spreadsheet full of item file names and recipe file names. I have all the basic recipes and items in there now but I still need to lay them out to match into the writs, and then figure out how to get the script to magically generate them. This will probably take a while longer still. I finished up the basic lists this evening at least so it’s a good start.

Tomorrow is Saturday and in the morning I play a RPG called Traveller with a bunch of people via an online client specially designed for RPGs. The GM is a guy I met years and years ago in EQ1, we were in the same guild together (along with 2 other of the players in the group) and have kept in contact ever since. Traveller’s a space-based futuristic game and we’ve been playing it on and off for about a year now. In the evening, I’ve been invited to join a Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign that’s just starting up (an in-person game this one). Should be interesting, I haven’t played that before but the rules look interesting, and definitely different from Traveller! In between I hope to get a bit more progress done on the tradeskill writs. If I can get those mostly done over the weekend then next week I can aim to finish up the reaction arts. Once those two things are done, I need to create some new items for the weaponsmiths, and add some more faction quests to Kunark, and create a couple more recipe books for special recipes, finish tweaking the tradeskill tutorial, add some fuel merchants into the Danak area of Jarsath Wastes, and then I hope … and pray … I will just need to focus on bug fixing. Hm … all that in about 3 weeks. Ambitious … but we shall see!

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