Monday, January 10, 2011

Exciting week!

It's been an exciting week around here!

Not only is the Destiny of Velious beta getting underway for EverQuest II, but there's lots of other things happening too.  Last week saw the soft beta launch of "Dungeon Overlord", a facebook game that I've been playtesting in alpha for quite some time.  It's reminiscent of the old DungeonKeeper games (which I loved), in that you can build your underground dungeon lair, designate rooms, and attract creatures.  This is a social game, however, and besides attacking innocent NPC villages in the world above, you can also launch attacks on your fellow players, raid their dungeons, even destroy and steal things.  I've been enjoying the building aspect very much, but am not yet sure how much I will participate in the PvP side which I'm guessing may become quite competitive as the world fills up.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops, and in the mean time building up my hordes of evil minions ...  Check out the official page, watch the trailer, and give it a try on Facebook!

Edit to add an update: check out the great review from!  And tune into the Jethal Silverwing show on Online Gaming Radio Tuesday night to hear Jethal and SOE's own Linda "Brasse" Carlson talk more about Dungeon Overlord.

Also just launched is EverQuest II's Fortune League, a Facebook-based fantasy-football type of tournament where you join a league, assemble a group of 6 hardy adventurers, and try to complete a weekly quests.  Participants can earn rewards for their characters within EverQuest II, as well as fame and glory within their league, of course!  The interesting thing about this game is that you assemble your group from all the race/class combinations available within EverQuest II, and their performance during the quest is actually based on real data pulled from the EverQuest II game data. So as I understand it, if barbarian wizards have a particularly bad week within EverQuest II, it will affect the performance of your barbarian wizard in Fortune League.... and the reverse is also true. I have never in my life played a fantasy football game so I had to have a good read of the instructions and FAQ and no doubt there's still much to learn, but it looks potentially a lot of fun, particularly for folks who really do enjoy fantasy football type games.  This week's quest is called Siege at Kaladim: "Isolated and penned into the city you tried to liberate, you and your team defend ancient Kaladim against the hordes of screaming mad bugbears and goblins trying to rout you out. If you can endure and survive long enough, your hope is that help may arrive in time to push your foes back again."  My brave group of mostly short races is eagerly waiting to fight back the bugbears!

And of course, last but surely not least, January 11th will see the launch of SOE's latest MMO, DC Universe Online.  This is launching for both PC and Playstation, I believe the first MMO to ever do this, and I'm sure the team in Austin has been heroically overcoming unexpected technical challenges in the process make lesser beings tremble.  I took part in the early beta testing on PC, but haven't had a chance to check it out more recently since I've been so busy with EQII's own upcoming launch.  It was lots of fun when I did play it though, and from what I've heard it's improved by leaps and bounds.  Besides being a fun comic book themed game where you can actually play with various big-name superheroes you know and love, it's also so pretty!  I confess I found myself flying around taking huge numbers of screenshots, and some of the quest areas inside buildings made me sigh and wish we had that furniture for player housing in EQII. 

Of course we are all hoping it does brilliantly, and are on the edges of our seats waiting till the launch.  Follow the link above for more information!  And if you didn't already see the fantastic "who do you trust" trailer released last year, here is is again:
Which ones will you be playing - or will it be all of them?  =)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

It's beta time again, beta time again...

January, and it's that time of year again ... beta time for the upcoming EQII expansion, due to release in February!  This year's expansion is called Destiny of Velious.  If you haven't seen the teaser trailer we showed at Fan Faire yet, here it is.  I love the music, which sounds both epic and somehow nostalgic, and the video itself gives you a little teaser of what some of the zones will look like.  Can you guess which bits of the video are inside Thurgadin?  Did you spot the Tower of Frozen Shadow?  If you remember Velious fondly from EQ1, then you're probably looking forward to this expansion very much, as I am.

While many players are rushing to sign up for beta (secure link here) and impatiently saying they can't wait till it launches, the dev team of course are running around madly trying to make sure everything is as good as it can possibly be, and unable to believe how fast time is flying past.  As always, we tried to get everything done and ready before beta starts, but there are always a few things that don't get done quite on time, and other issues that may not become obvious until large numbers of people are running through the content.  So now is a time of much bug fixing and polish: polish being a catch-all term that means anything from "making it look prettier" to "explaining it better" to "improving the fun of it" and more.

Normally we all receive copies of nightly compilation reports from players on all our live servers who have used the in game /bug or /feedback commands to submit their comments.  If you've skimmed this blog in the past you may have seen some excerpts of the feedback reports that have caught my eye for one reason or another.  We also get regular reports from the customer service team highlighting problems they've come across through the live petition interactions, and of course there is always plenty of feedback posted on the official forums too.  All this is could be enough to keep a person busy all day just reading it; but during beta we add yet more reports on top of this.

During beta we compile and report the beta /feedback and /bug reports separately, so that they can be tracked separately, and these reports get the top priority for our attention.  We also have separate beta forums where people can leave feedback, and where we developers can post answers and information, or ask for specific feedback on areas we may want to get more information on.  Many of us log into the beta server itself as time permits, and either talk to people there, or perhaps just listen to the talk in the chat channels to see what people are talking about and whether there are any common themes.  We also get an additional report that we don't normally receive, which reports quests not completed.  This is a list of all quests that have been accepted by at least one player on the beta server but which have never been completed by anybody.  It's a good way of quickly highlighting a quest that might be broken: if 300 people accepted a quest but not a single person has managed to complete it, then chances are there's an issue that needs to be looked at.  Sometimes it's an easy reason - for example, maybe the quest requires entering a zone that isn't available yet on the beta server, or which is too hard thus far for anybody to have completed, or maybe there's a timing element that means you can't actually finish it for a couple of days.  But other times it may be that an NPC isn't spawning properly, or there's a bug in the quest causing it to actually not update, or similar.  We turned on these new reports about a week ago and they'll run till beta ends and the expansion launches, by which time of course we hope they will be completely empty.  So far no quests of mine are in the list, which makes me happy - but there are still several weeks of beta to go, and at least one rather important quest of mine that hasn't been tested yet, so neither I nor anyone else will truly relax until the last bug is closed and the launch date arrives.