Rather than bore you with several pages of what I did in Las Vegas during the EQ Fan Faire, I’m going to only spend a paragraph or two. Everyone knows me as Blackguard from EQII.com or simply Ryan Shwayder (though, I’ll admit, very few actually know my real name). Sony Online Entertainment invited me out to the 2004 Las Vegas Fan Faire because I founded and run EQII.com, a.k.a. the world’s greatest and least egotistical EverQuest 2 fansite (along with my buddies OnyxRaven, anyuzer, and Hannar of course). The following ramblings are my experiences at the EverQuest Fan Faire, along with a preview of EverQuest 2 based on several hours of hands-on fun.
The trip there got off to a rough start – I got two flat tires about a mile out from the airport parking place and had to walk the rest of the way with luggage and OnyxRaven at my side. We arrived in Las Vegas on time and went to the hotel, where we planned to check in and wait for anyuzer to show up. Then, we got the fateful call: anyuzer got stopped by immigration. Ian “anyuzer” Reid is from Vancouver (that’s in Canada), and was apparently kept from entering the United States because he is considered press and did not have a journalistic visa. Obviously, this was quite discouraging. I really looked forward to hanging out with our little Canadian. After mourning the absence of anyuzer for a few seconds, we went to start the celebration!
We met Moorgard, John Blakely, Andy Sites, Chris Cao, John Smedley, and a few other developers early on and had a good time. Andy Sites took the opportunity to show us EverQuest 2 for an hour or so, which got us all excited and ready to play on Saturday. We also got to see the EQII install discs (and failed at stealing them). The next day brought us to an EverQuest 2 panel discussion, where they covered all the basics that most of us already know about the game (although there was a large projector with EQII on it… yay). We learned that the Gnome in the introduction sequence is played by their very own Scott Hartmann. The poor guy gets made fun of constantly for being the voice of a Gnome, probably because he’s a lot shorter than most of the team (I think the average height of the EverQuest 2 team is somewhere around 6’3”).
That afternoon we saw the EverQuest NGE (New Graphics Engine or Next Generation Engine… I think). It looks great. They’re really putting a lot of effort into keeping EverQuest alive for all of the rabid fanbois. We saw that in the PR Suite, where I had my first four beers. We proceeded to go to Quark’s Bar & Restaurant to eat and drink with some developers and other media. I had 2 big beers and a margarita here. From the restaurant, we walked over to The Beach, a nice club across the street from the Hilton. We spent most of our time there in the VIP area drinking more than I’d like to remember (or could remember for that matter). Sloshed, we went to the hotel to get a few hours of shut-eye before our EverQuest 2 hands-on experience.
Ah, waking up 15 minutes before the EQII hands-on with a wonderful hangover. We got down to the Fan Faire area and took our seats in the roped off EverQuest 2 demo section. After a small fire started from something to do with the power, they delayed the hands-on for about 15 minutes… then they deemed it time for a 30 minute lunch break to fix all the problems and to make sure we didn’t spontaneously combust. After the hands-on got truly under way, I started having fun.
Being the highly predictable person that I am, I made a Human named Blackguard. He was tall, square jawed, bald and had a big goatee (also completely standard for me). I like to think he looked somewhat like a pirate. I journeyed on a boat (YARR!!!) toward the Isle of Refuge, where I would meet up with my fellow players. After some close encounters including a dragon, a goblin, and a pair of rats, I stepped foot on the Isle that was to be my home for the next few hours. I talked to some guy on a beach and became a Scout, embarking on my path toward Swashbuckling and swarthiness. This is where the fun began. I was instantly provided with a quest to seek out a Ratonga in the main area of town. Ignoring the request, I tested my combat skills against several crabs and even a shark, and then proceeded to sun tan for a few minutes.
I decided it was time to seek out this Ratonga and find out what he wanted me to do. After calling him Master Splinter, he told me to kill some goblins outside of town. I did so with more vengeance than I should have (I probably killed about 40 of them before going back… I think I had to kill 3). Scouts are given the ability to Sneak, Hide, Backstab (or Sneak Attack), and do some special Pathfinder of the something ability (bad memory, whatever) that makes you attack really fast. The Sneak Attacks really inflicted some good damage, and I easily dispensed of the newbie goblins outside of town. My next quest was very pleasing. I had to Sneak through a goblin camp and scout out the area. This may seem simplistic, but I didn’t have to grab an item or anything – As soon as I had scouted out enough of the camp, my Quest Journal was updated and I went back to talk to “Master Splinter”.
Speaking of the Quest Journal, I really like it. It shows a list of Quests that you have accepted as well as the steps you have already taken and even what the NPC said to you. In the top right corner of the screen it briefly describes what you are supposed to do for your active quest (which you can choose). Rather than continue on the Isle’s quest progression, I decided to harvest money and gain experience so I could buy some l33t armor and weapons. Shortly after I hit level 7, Chris Cao (Lead Content Designer) decided that I would be able to help him kill the big baddie of the island (an Orc). I dispensed of a couple tough goblins for him, then informed him that I wasn’t on the quest, did a quick /rude, and swam back to get more loot.
Eventually, I headed off to Qeynos to see the sites. Oh, and sites to be seen are there (confused?). I bought myself a suit of armor that didn’t actually have any stats, but it was really sexy looking and silver. I then headed out to some bog outside of Qeynos and grouped up with several people. We killed a lot of critters and actually formed a raid party because there were so many of us in one place. We braved the depths of a dungeon, where most of us got pretty owned by skeletons (which, I was happy to find out, still laugh at you when they beat you down). I got to see magic, brute strength, and best of all, my quick dagger desolate some of our enemies. I believe I did more damage than pretty much anyone else because I was a higher level than most of them (and Scouts are meant to do damage. If something turned on me, though, I got cut down fast).
We got to see the Heroic Opportunity wheel (well, currently it is a wheel). Basically, someone from one of the four archetypes has to perform a specific type of skill/spell/ability in sequence to create a cool effect. For example: I saw one that required 3 different actions to be performed in the same combat sequence. A Fighter had to taunt, a Mage had to cast a certain spell, and I had to use my Dirty Tricks skill. After we all had performed those actions (in order), it did a group heal on us! It’s a pretty nifty little system. Currently, the skills show up in a wheel format and the action you need to perform blinks (the icon blinks). Apparently, Scouts get to mess with the wheel. I’m not exactly sure what they get to do, but I think you can shift the skills needed around or outright change them.
Anyway, we went down to Blackburrow, which happens to be way too hard for our level 6-7 group. We got annihilated many times over and got to see what happens when you die a lot. Basically, you equipment takes some quality damage and you lose spirit. If your equipment gets down to 0 quality, it becomes unwearable until repaired (Fighters get the ability to repair in the field, by the way). As you lose Spirit, you become a little less effective and gain experience a little slower. You must recover your corpse (or Spirit Shard) to gain Spirit back or wait for it to recover naturally (I think it takes something like 3 levels to get back to full naturally, so getting your corpse is a good idea). You don’t lose any items on death, which makes it so corpse runs in difficult areas aren’t absolutely necessary. As it stands now, you can either be resurrected at your place of death, or you can release and respawn at specific checkpoints in the zone (you can’t respawn at a checkpoint until you have reached it [you can’t literally see checkpoints]).
Our journey concluded in West Commons (or one of the Commons), where we got repeatedly punted off the top of a plateau by a big rock golem. Luckily, there was water on all four sides so we didn’t splat on the ground and die. I ended my day by creating a train of rhinos, elephants, emu things (can’t remember the name), and whatever else I was able to aggro. I did notice a few debug messages showing that the mobs should have stopped giving chase and gone back home, but they kept following me so I could seek out a noob to train. I found the noob, though it happened to be myself. I went down in a glorious death and logged out of EverQuest 2 until I play next, which will likely be at E3.
The overall impression I got of EQII was very good. I’m much more excited about the game now than I was going into Fan Faire, and it’s not just because they got me drunk and paid for me to hang out in Las Vegas. The game is faster paced combat-wise than EverQuest. Combat is more interesting, class progression is nice, the quest system rocks. There’s not a whole lot about the game I don’t like. The user interface I used at the Fan Faire was a letterbox style. It was okay, but if I had known F10 would let me go full screen I would have been playing that way the whole time. The feel of the game is great. The graphics and sound work nicely together. Even the voice-overs really pulled me into the game. I expect EverQuest 2 to do extremely well when it comes out, despite what all the WoW fanatics like to claim.
Before ending my Fan Faire escapade article, I may as well tell you what else we did. Saturday night, we went to the grand banquet thing. Lots of food and stuff. We sat with mostly PR and CS people. We acquired two cheerleaders: the beautiful Ari and KT. They are SOE PR babes who are, rather unfortunately, already married. Anyway, we finished eating and watched the costume contest, where the same person from the last Fan Faire won with the same outfit. Her costume/performance wasn’t nearly as good as the Priest of Discord and A_Newb_01, but apparently people like her. There was also a naked guy, but I won’t get into that. Later that night (sometime after midnight), we headed down to the PR suite and grabbed a few more drinks. We also got to check out EQII one last time before heading down to The Nightclub. We went there with the likes of Moorgard, Andy Sites, Ari, and KT, and ended up hooking up with Bill Trost and a few others once inside. I showed them my best dance moves while sipping (chugging) at some Long Beaches. Luckily, the SOE folks have a good sense of humor and were able to endure my shenanigans.
The final day started with a buffet and ended with us in a Mexican restaurant with Andy Sites and Steve Danuser (see, I knew if I used his real name nobody would know that he is Moorgard!). We joked around for a few hours then headed off to the airport. Nothing eventful went on there beyond our flight getting delayed for 45 minutes and the gate changing to the one next to us. Now, I’m back in Colorado. Fare thee well Las Vegas 2004 EverQuest Fan Faire. We shall meet again SOE dev team, deathstryker, Jonric, Sylvene, beautiful PR girls, that guy from GameInformer, Mysticlaw (or k, whatever), Nanyea, and whoever else I never mentioned. It was a great time, and I look forward to doing it again! Thanks go out to SOE for hooking us up and the EverQuest 2 community for making this site such a success. You guys rock!