Sunday, August 09, 2009

Away in a manger...

One of the great aspects of Fan Faire each year is the opportunity to meet the folks who play our games, and to talk to them about what aspects of the games make them passionate. And we have a lot of very passionate players! And one of the things the EverQuest II team has done for a couple of years now is take away a list of top requests from Fan Faire, address them (where appropriate), and call out these changes in a special game update not long afterwards. The in-person discussions at Fan Faire help us to identify which issues folks are really passionate about, and help us make a list of key things that will really be appreciated if we prioritize them for a fix.

There were many things announced in the fan faire update patch this year, and most of them were not done by me, but one of the things that came up on numerous "wish lists" was the ability to put your mount in your home. This may seem like a fairly minor request, and gameplay-wise it is indeed not going to make you more or less effective at killing monsters. However, we have a huge variety of mounts that players can ride, from horses to flying carpets to wargs, rhinos, and dire bears, and many of them are very unique and attractive in appearance. We could all agree that it's disappointing, when you upgrade a mount to a newer, faster one, that you never use the old one again. So, wouldn't it be nice to be able to "stable" your old mounts in your home? Definitely!

There are approximately 190 mounts in EverQuest II at the moment, and allowing them to be converted into (and out of) house item form required creating 570 new files, in addition to editing the 190 original files. I volunteered to take this particular request on board, since I've got more experience creating perl scripts than many, and more experience creating house items than anybody else on the team. It still took a couple of days, but once the scripts were made and all the mounts located it wasn't too difficult a job. QA did a stellar job of testing out each one to make sure that it converted properly back and forth and -- quite importantly -- looked the same both ways. And so, when the patch went live, players were surprised and delighted to discover that suddenly that old nag they hadn't ridden for a year could now be put out to pasture -- literally put out, as a house item.

As I write this, it's not even been 2 weeks since the change, but already folks are putting together a selection of other, already existing house items to make stables, mangers, and pastures for their favorite retired mounts. Here are some screenshots of the first examples that have already been posted on the official EQII forums!

Eldra's Merry-Go-Round
Kilaelya's (and others') stables
Churche's stable

...I suspect I may soon need to add some feed/drinking trough and hitching post house items to help the horse-loving home decorating community. The merry go round is particularly clever! (Merry-go-rounds had been created previously using other animal house items that were already available, but the new pillar in the middle of this one from the previous game update patch, and the mounts with saddles, make this one look particularly believeable.)

I find it very satisfying -- we all do -- to see so many people embrace a small change like this with such enthusiasm, and have so much fun with it. It may not be killing dragons or getting uber loot upgrades, but it's no less rewarding in its way; in fact, at least for some portion of our player base, it may actually provide greater and longer-lasting satisfaction than a one-off raid kill. At any rate, it's great to see the things that folks are coming up with, and no doubt there will be many more screenshot posts coming in the next few months too. =)

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