Sunday, February 27, 2011

Velious is here!

(Warning: may contains some small spoilers.)

It's been too long since I last posted, in my defense I can only point to our fantastic new expansion Destiny of Velious which shipped last week to huge success! It kept us very busy making it, but I've seen almost nothing but positive comments about pretty much all aspects of the expansion, and everybody with fond memories of Velious from EQ1 days has been both eager and excited to see what's happened to the continent some 500 or so years later.

What's happened is a lot! While Velious has been isolated from the rest of Norrath its inhabitants continued their battles; in particular the centuries-long cycle of battles (known to some as the Ring Wars) between the giants of Kael Drakkel and the dwarves of Thurgadin continued for some time, finally coming to an abrupt and icy end when the coldain defenders used their last-ditch defense of desperation and set loose the waterfall that concealed the entrance to Thurgadin, flooding the battle plain including those fighting on it. Suffering terrible losses and believing that Thurgadin had been destroyed, the giants withdrew and turned their attention elsewhere, and the dwarves have been steadily rebuilding Thurgadin since then.  Unfortunately, a new enemy has also appeared on the horizon in the form of Kraytoc's forces of the Rime, who are now attacking Thurgadin from within Storm Gorge...

Meanwhile the events of the past centuries and the shattering of Luclin resulted in some areas of Velious melting and shifting around. A great wall of ice now divides the continent in two, cutting off the region formerly known as the Western Wastes from the eastern side. The cliff seems impassable, so it's not clear what has happened to those who were left on the far side, if indeed anything remains alive.

The othmir, those peaceful otter-like inhabitants of the western side of the continent, managed to flee just in time and have established a new home on the ice floes where the gnomish pirates of iceclad used to have their igloo camp. The gnomes, meanwhile, had allied with the dwarves to fight against the giants and relocated closer to Thurgadin, where they have lately started to take advantage of the harbour to reconstruct their mechanical ships. As for the giants ... they've been keeping busy also, needless to say, and Kael Drakkel is an area adventurers will be exploring to learn more.  Tradeskillers will find quests to help the othmir, the gnome pirates, and the coldain; not to mention a reclusive group of goahmari whose hidden home high in the mountains has only recently become accessible to the casual traveler.

The Tower of Frozen Shadows is still standing, although as the ice has melted and shifted the tower's foundations have settled and the tower is now leaning at a distinct angle. Personally, I'm very excited to visit the tower again, as it was one of the zones and stories that interested me most in EQ1 and I still have strong memories of guild adventures running through it.  I haven't had time to get a group in there yet but what I've seen of the tower looks like a great rendition of the tower I remember.

There are so many great stories to learn in the new Velious that I certainly won't try to describe them here, I can only say that if you have fond memories of Velious in EQ1 you won't be disappointed about how much information there is to be gathered about what's happened since then until now. And there are lots of people to see and places to visit, from Thurgadin and the coldain to the gnome pirates and othmir, what's become of Tserrina's frozen tower and Velketor's Labyrinth and Kael Drakkel, and much more.

This was my fourth expansion working on EQ2, which seems hard to believe; I'm not sure where those years have vanished to. Time seems to have flown by and I'm always learning new things, so there hasn't been a dull moment. As always I've been putting everything I have learned towards making tradeskills fun in this expansion, and I think there are more than a few very nice rewards that tradeskillers will enjoy.  In this expansion the part that stands out in my mind as the most significant piece I worked on was the Coldain Prayer Shawl heritage quest.  For those who don't play EQ2 or have forgotten, a heritage quest is our term for a special type of quest that specifically rewards an item that was famous from the original EQ1. These quests are often quite lore-heavy and have unusually nice rewards.  So, heritage quests include rewards such as the journeyman's boots, the bone-bladed claymore, the paw of opolla, the greater light stone, the flowing black silk sash, and many more.  The Coldain Prayer Shawl heritage quest is slightly different from previous ones however, as it's the first purely tradeskill heritage quest we have done. (Many have a small crafting component, but none require high level tradeskilling and give tradeskill rewards until now.)

To create this quest I relied heavily on the story and requirements of the EQ1 version (and as always the detailed notes and accessible organization of the information on Niami's EQTraders fan site made this so much easier for me than it would have been otherwise).  While creating the new quest, I accepted that neither the mechanics of the EQ1 version nor the requirements would translate directly into EQ2, which is a very different game. Also, many centuries have passed since players first assisted the coldain and learned how to obtain the blessed coldain prayer shawl, so many things might have changed since then.  Rather than try to duplicate the original quest, I used it as an opportunity to allow players to learn what had happened to the coldain (and the shawl) from then until now; and most importantly, to put them in the position of being the main character in the quest, the protagonist of the story. Nobody has progressed far on the quest yet - it has a fairly lengthy faction requirement - but I certainly hope that when people finally do finish it, they'll be left with the feeling that they were the hero, they did a great thing, and they have done a great service to the coldain.

So, Velious is back!  Hurray!  If you haven't seen it yet, check out our launch video:

And also watch out for the fun launch week events which will be wrapping up next week.  In particular, the gnome flying races on March 1st are great (we've been having lots of fun testing them internally already) and will be accessible to all players of all levels whether or not you've bought the expansion.  You don't even need to subscribe or pay a penny, now we have a free to play option, so there's no excuse not to check out the crazy gnome fun.  Designer Windslasher did a a fabulous job on these and I couldn't be more impressed; you will be too!

Anyway, I'd keep on writing about all the things I'm excited for in this new expansion, but that would be more time away from actually logging in and playing it myself, so that's all from me for now! Come check it out, if you aren't already; maybe I'll see you there.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Recent G.I.R.L. blogs

Some of what I've been writing while I wasn't here ...

Making Mother-Friendly Games
G.I.R.L. Talk With Abby Watt
The Ghost of Christmas Presents
Rescuing the Princess.... From Stereotyping

Got several more Q&As coming up over the next month on the G.I.R.L. blog too, so watch out for those!