Everquest 2: Exclusive Interview with Scott Hartsman

Kendricke recently took a chance to interview EverQuest II’s Senior Producer and Creative Director Scott Hartsman about the game. The interview covers a range of topics that are important to players.

WarCry Q&A: EverQuest II
Answers by Scott Hartsman, Senior Producer/Creative Director
Questions by Kendricke

WarCry: There have been a lot of changes to the Shattered Lands over the past three expansions. With the latest expansion, Echoes of Faydwer, we’ve heard that the subscription numbers are on the rise again. Obviously this is always a good thing from a developer’s standpoint, but in this particular case, what specifically do you think has helped? [/I]


WarCry: A lot of the original design concepts have been removed from the game over the past couple years, such as the Archetype system, the Guild Patron system or shared experience debt. Based on these and other ideas that have been reworked since release, what insights would you say have been gained along the way?

Scott Hartsman: Both of these questions really share the same answer.

We’ve learned a lot about expectations.

It’s no secret that even before the game launched, there was some level of internal debate as to whether or not that we should have been calling our game “EverQuest II.” It was a fantasy game set in Norrath, and a reasonably good group-based one at that.

However, the audience that arrived was expecting something that had more of an EverQuest feel, both in the world and in the systems, than EQII originally provided. It’s no coincidence that, since then, much of our steering of the game has been in that direction. We’ve always attempted to do so in ways that minimize the potential for upset for the current subscribers who already were enjoying the game, and the game system that EQII launched on provided an excellent platform for us to make those changes.

These days, people still do get a unique Norrathian experience by coming to play EverQuest II, but if they have a fondness for EverQuest, the experience is even better.

WarCry: Two words: Guild halls?

Scott Hartsman: Guild halls have remained an open issue that we’d like to address properly as a part of our live updates. This past summer, when we’d hoped to be working on them, the epic scope of doing Faydwer as a level 1-70 expansion prevented us from going down both roads at once. Suffice it to say, they’re still on the live list, and we expect to be able to reveal more details this year.

WarCry: Speaking of guilds, are there plans to refine the guild recruiting tool to allow more customized search tools?

Scott Hartsman: Possibly. We know there’s contention over what the guild recruiting tool “should” be. While it was never a part of the intent to have a full guild-search tool, it wasn’t supposed to be quite as gameable as it currently is. I think that in this kind of community-building tool especially, we have to be able to react to what people want out of a tool and less tied to what we had originally intended. Somewhere between the two, lies a happy medium of both usefulness and usability.

WarCry: Inquiring minds want to know: Any hints on what new lands or familiar faces might be rediscovered next?

Scott Hartsman: For now, all I can say is: Interesting ones that are connected landmasses that provide the high fantasy experience people are coming to expect from EverQuest II.

WarCry: Are there plans to expand upon the deity system?

Scott Hartsman: Plans, absolutely! Nothing we can comment about just yet….

WarCry: Recently, there have been some fairly dramatic changes from the art team, such as the female running animations or the complete overhaul of the horse models. Are there other plans in the works to rework other models or animations?

Scott Hartsman: Yes. We’ve had a character project going for the past year or so. The goal is to reduce the number of distinct times that we need to re-create and re-fit armor whenever it gets created.

Between the US and SOGA models, each piece of wearable armor that we create needs to be fitted 40+ times. This makes wearable production exceptionally painful.

In the current character model system, it is no exaggeration to say that wearable production is a logical impossibility to be done on a reasonable time scale. The most obvious evidence of this is what you’ve seen with the class hats and why they’ve been taking so long to get done. With four new class hats coming out in the next update (Furies, Necromancers, Wardens, and Warlocks), we’re getting there.

We’ll have more details about this project as it gets a little closer to fruition.

Meanwhile, while that longer scale project gets worked on, we continue tweaking mount and character animations, as well as illusion and other-form animations as well. Expect interim improvements there over the next few live updates.

WarCry: What about racial or cultural armors? Is there any chance for kilts or tinkered armor sets?

Scott Hartsman: Once we get beyond the project I just described above, expect our ability to create new wearables to improve significantly.

WarCry:[i] If you had to sum up your plans for EverQuest II’s development during the coming year, what would it be?

Scott Hartsman: As briefly as I can be: Offer interesting and entertaining live updates, that periodically including new zones and increases in the world space, while continuing down the path of exciting, high-fantasy high-quality expansions. Faydwer raised the bar for us, and now we have to continue to live up to, and hopefully surpass, that level of quality in the future.

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