User-generated content invades one of the oldest MMO properties.
EverQuest 2 launched in November 2004 and SOE has been steadily added 10 adventure packs and boxed expansions since then, but until now everything you can do in the game was made by the developers. Sure, players love the features that allow them to build their own guild halls and player housing, something that EQ2's biggest competitor has yet to implement. But with the expansion SOE announced at Fan Faire 2011, Age of Discovery, the designers are going even further by giving the players the chance to make their own content with Design Your Own Dungeon (DYOD). This huge feature, as well as more than 10 new zones in a brand new continent, the beastlord class and mercenary NPCs, will drop in November of this year.
"[DYOD] is kinda like housing," explained Dave Georgeson, the creative director of EQ2. "We have an improved interface that we've created so that people can do, very easily, the things they could do in housing but were kind of laborious."
An easy-to-use way to build the dungeons was paramount for Georgeson, who didn't want it to feel as complicated as similar features in games like Neverwinter Nights, for example. Georgeson is keeping DYOD simple, at first glance at least. When the feature launches with Age of Discovery, there will only be one type of dungeon to make: kill everything in your path to the boss. Georgeson believes the complexity will come not from a scripting language but from something he calls object interactivity.
"Where the real fun will come for builders is the object interactivity with the spawners," he said, referring to the dungeon addition that will spawn monsters for players to fight. "If I put an orc spawner down and I put a campfire next to it, now when the orcs spawn they have fire-based weapons. If I put an orc spawner down, and an orc spawner there, and another one there and put an alarm bell next to this group. Then when I attack that group, they will call for help from the other groups."
All of these dungeon building parts - the orc spawners, the campfire or the alarm bell - are loot drops from the dungeons currently in EQ2. "In order to get the really cool stuff for the dungeons, you need to go out into the world to collect them," he said. That way the DYOD feature won't impact the core game activities at all, and it might even draw players to dungeon content that might not get a lot of traffic right now.
An interesting facet to implementing a complicated feature like this is that it has led to advancement in all kinds of systems in EQ2. "Housing gets an improved interface, battlegrounds is going to get better leaderboards. We're going to have a housing rating system because we wanted to be able to rate the dungeons," said Georgeson. "And a lot of that stuff is coming out in August [in a free patch] so people will get the benefits right away even though DYOD isn't coming out until November."
Perhaps the most helpful addition due to DYOD is a dungeon finder tool, which will be available in August for all players. With the flood of new user-generated content, having a good way to search and sort for well-rated dungeons in different categories is invaluable, but the dungeon finder will also help you queue up to find groups to run the instanced dungeons already in the game.
"When people have rated your dungeon, or it's a new dungeon, it will show up on the appropriate lists. Then they can sort those lists, and there's a screenshot of your dungeon with the blurb that you wrote when you published it, as well as the star ratings from the users," he said. "When you see something interesting, you're like that's really cool, double click on it and you're in the dungeon. Or if you're in a group, double click on it and your whole group is in with you."
Georgeson has built DYOD to scale with the amount of players and their levels so you don't have to worry about content being too tough or too easy. There are also safeguards in place to make sure the loot you get from the dungeon is not exploitable - all drops from DYOD will be tokens that you can use to purchase gear from new merchants in the game.
Design Your Own Dungeon seems like a great way to breathe life into an aging property and tide EQ fans over until EverQuest Next.