As the game approaches its launch date of September 18th, the development team at SOE took some time this past weekend to give a progress report of how the game is coming together and show off some big changes and additions that are sure to please fans. And if that isn't enough, the team unveiled a new dragon that EverQuest fans will surely appreciate!
Our first stop on the tour brought us to Wintertide, the newest area of the Dragon's Prophet world. The team took us through a dungeon, showing off the fast-paced attacks of both the player and her summoned dragon. The devs also said they have been working on challenge modes in the dungeons, including "survival mode," which puts you back at the beginning every time you die. The final boss of the dungeon rode of out in a chariot, and players who attempt him will have to grab and throw spears to do damage to his chariot and force him to dismount and fight. The dungeons are tailored to groups of five; the bosses feature a variety of attacks that players will need to react to and work through together. In fact, the development team has added some of the fun mechanics in the newer dungeons back into some of the lower-level dungeons that were already in the game. So players who have been in beta will be in for a surprise as they revisit certain dungeons.
Dragon's Prophet has been a collaborative project between the Runewaker team and the SOE team. But during the development process in beta, the SOE team has also incorporated a lot of player feedback into design decisions and game improvements. One change recently added was spiral gates in dungeons; players can get past the gates only by completing the content in the dungeon. That prevents players from running through the dungeon and skipping past all the mobs to go straight to the end. The devs have also added a hotbar of icons and alt keys that allow players to summon and switch their dragons without having to stop what they're doing and root around in their interface to do it. And they've worked hard to translate text into English and redo game text and mob names to make them a little more unique than in their original language.
For launch, they are also making the experience from level 1-30 a little easier. They wanted to get the new player experience just right before they launched the game, and they're happy with the changes they've made. The devs have also added a couple of major features: Players can now collect and keep up to 108 dragons, thanks to the dragon chamber. Originally, players could keep only 12 dragons, but now the dragon chamber is a storage unit for players to drop off and store an additional 96 dragons. SOE also added dragon achievements for various accomplishments in game, like number of dragons collected, types of dragons, etc. And player feedback drove the decision to expand character customization options, which give players the chance to unlock colors to use on appearance features like armor and hair.
In addition, the team has also recently added the Dragon Sanctuary. Each guild can access the Sanctuary, an instanced area where players can meet and help level the guild by completing various daily objectives. As the guild levels up, it can unlock special guild abilities. Eventually, guilds can even summon an altar that takes donations from members. Based on the quality of the items that players sacrifice, the guild could summon various raid bosses to fight. The bosses give out experience and drop loot. Another neat aspect of the Sanctuary are Draconic Flutes, which players collect out in the world and use to summon an ancient or lair dragon that they would normally find out in the world. Once it's summoned, the guild has the opportunity to try to capture that dragon. The Sanctuary also makes it easier for players to meet up with one another because players in the same guild can play on any of the servers at any time. And as members practice against the summoned dragons, they'll hone some needed skills for the post-launch addition of raid dungeons.
At SOE Live, the team was excited to reveal a Nagafen dragon that all attendees will receive. The Runewaker team created a Naggy that stayed true to the original in EQ and EQII, and he comes with a special ability called Treasure Hunter's Satchel. When you're using Naggy, you have a 3% increase in all loot drops while you're out adventuring. While the dragon is limited to SOE Live attendees, the team did say it will consider making him available at some point down the road to the rest of the playerbase, perhaps through the Marketplace.
The last big addition highlighted was a series of floating islands, each with hundreds of player housing plots and a castle. Guilds can form alliances and take control of the citadel on each floating island through the Frontier System. Once they capture a citadel, players will then be in control and have to defend the island from other players. Some perks include controlling a tax rate that they collect from players on the island and the ability to fortify the citadel with defenses to better protect it when the guilds are offline.
Finally, Producer Todd Carson hinted that mounted aerial combat is in the works. There is already an ability hotbar visible when flying, and SOE is working on the mechanics of how that would work for a future update.
With the game being completely free to play, players might wonder how SOE will monetize the game and whether it might end up being a "pay to win" system. The team stressed that the Marketplace will feature cosmetics and convenience, so there will be purchasable items that might speed up experience or give a little boost, but there won't be anything that drastically gives one player with deep pockets a large advantage over other players.
With September 18th's launch date just a few weeks away, Dragon's Prophet is roaring toward the finish with lots of new changes -- and lots of #supermetal!
What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas, at least where SOE Live is concerned! Massively sent intrepid reporters MJ Guthrie and Karen Bryan to this year's SOE Live, from which they'll be transmitting all the best fan news on EverQuest Next, EverQuest II, DC Universe Online, and the other MMOs on SOE's roster.