Gordon \’e2\’80\’9cAbashi\’e2\’80\’9d Wrinn (shows two new Luclin models, a human and a troll, with a kerran (\’e2\’80\’9cVah\’e2\’80\’99Shir\’e2\’80\’9d) guard standing in the background.

Abashi: \’e2\’80\’a6and here the troll has his huge two-handed weapon (the idle animation shows the troll pounding the ground with his hammer using an overhanded swing every five seconds). Because of that animation they don\’e2\’80\’99t scratch their butts anymore\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: I heard you put in a BUTT-SCRATCHING EMOTE.

Abashi: Um, it\’e2\’80\’99s amazing how rumors start. I told one guy yesterday\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: I heard that Brad was bragging about it! \’e2\’80\’9cYeah, we can\’e2\’80\’99t have them scratch their butts when idling, so now they do it on command.\’e2\’80\’9d So we won\’e2\’80\’99t see legions of butt-scratchers marching across the landscape?

Abashi: Hopefully not. Of course, that pounding the ground every ten seconds can get annoying too. OK, here\’e2\’80\’99s the same guy with his armor on. When we talk about the new detachable armor, that lets us do things like visible shoulderpads. We can use different textures, show pieces of armor that wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t show before, these shoulderpads being one of them, we\’e2\’80\’99ll probably have cloaks assuming we can get the polys under control\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: I know you probably don\’e2\’80\’99t know yet, but would they be flowing as you run or remain static?

Abashi: That\’e2\’80\’99s the thing, cloaks look like crap unless you can make them flow correctly. To make them flow correctly takes a ton of polys. So we\’e2\’80\’99re really looking for a new way to do the cloaks. And what form that takes, it\’e2\’80\’99s hard to say.

Lum: So is that the troll\’e2\’80\’99s new idle animation? I mean, that would get REALLY OLD. He\’e2\’80\’99s pounding his stick all day!

Abashi: That\’e2\’80\’99s his new form of butt scratching.

Lum: Oh god. That can\’e2\’80\’99t stay. (laughing)

Abashi: It\’e2\’80\’99s fun for the first five minutes. Maybe the first five seconds.

Lum: It\’e2\’80\’99s like we now have trolls with raging attention deficit disorder.

Abashi: Let\’e2\’80\’99s see if he can sit down correctly here. (He makes the troll sit; showing a new animation with the troll visibly setting his hammer down beside him.) Yeah, it still penetrates the ground. (gets up and moves). Programmers have some strange things every once in a while. Right now, to sit you type /sit and to stand up is /sit off.

Lum: You\’e2\’80\’99re lucky it isn\’e2\’80\’99t /sit 0.

(The troll moves to some flatter ground and sits, where the weapon now smoothly aligns with the ground as he sets it down.)

Abashi: OK, that works. It gets a little ornery when you have a larger weapon that always penetrates the ground right now. Let\’e2\’80\’99s go look at the world now. We\’e2\’80\’99re upping the poly count in the world. Probably the biggest thing that we\’e2\’80\’99re doing is fading in a detail texture, which fades in in a radius around you. We have much more realistic looking grass. We also have grass that stands up in a radius around you.

Lum: Is that configurable from the client?

Abashi: We will make each setting configurable completely. You\’e2\’80\’99ll be able to turn it off completely, or change the distance that goes out. It\’e2\’80\’99s just an immersion thing, it won\’e2\’80\’99t have any impact on gameplay. We may even make them sway in the wind. (laughs) But we won\’e2\’80\’99t make the wind change direction.(Reference to the Star Wars Galaxies demo \’e2\’80\ldblquote ed.)

Lum: You gotta admit, that was impressive.

Abashi: Yeah. Those guys are just amazing, they really are. OK, at higher elevations, the grass is shorter then at lower ones. So you go down into a swamp area and the grass gets pretty tall. Up over here, an example of one of the new NPCs. We\’e2\’80\’99ve got new model designers and texture designers for Luclin. The other guys went on to different projects. This is an \’e2\’80\’9cunderhulk\’e2\’80\’9d, not to be confused with an umber hulk.

Lum: Looks like a big crab.

Abashi: Here we have a gromling, we\’e2\’80\’99re not happy with him yet at all.

Lum: Looks like an evil Halfling or something.

Abashi: Nah, those are more like the orcs of Luclin.

(another NPC flies past, a bright blue, um, flying thing.)

Lum: That looked almost too colorful.

Abashi: Too saturated. It\’e2\’80\’99s not quite what you\’e2\’80\’99re used to seeing in Everquest. We\’e2\’80\’99re not sure if we\’e2\’80\’99re happy with that or not, being that it\’e2\’80\’99s set on the moon\’e2\’80\’a6

(the NPC flies right through a nearby tree)

Lum: That\’e2\’80\’99s a good question there, are we going to see any better collision detection?

Abashi: The tree\’e2\’80\’99s an object, and that\’e2\’80\’99s what they do in Everquest. The objects are not considered even there.

Lum: I understand that, I was just wondering if it was going to change.

Abashi: Were that world geometry, he probably would have been standing on its side. Probably not, no, we don\’e2\’80\’99t plan to put in anything for collision detection with objects. So much of the world is objects, the CPU load would be hell for us at this point.

Lum: What kind of system requirements are you shooting for?

Abashi: We know they\’e2\’80\’99re going up. We don\’e2\’80\’99t know how far up yet. We won\’e2\’80\’99t know how far up until we get all of our performance enhancements in. They\’e2\’80\’99re not really in yet. We\’e2\’80\’99ve added hardware T&L, high level DirectX support. We\’e2\’80\’99re even playing with, although that\’e2\’80\’99s more an aesthetics thing than a performance thing, N-patching\’e2\’80\’a6 basically that\’e2\’80\’99s a way you can offload the tessellation of the world geometry to the video card. You can take a peak, which is like a triangle, and round it off for you in displaying it. I personally don\’e2\’80\’99t know if I like the rounded off thing we\’e2\’80\’99re seeing everywhere. The engine/art displays everything very smoothly, or displays everything sharply. We probably need more of a middle ground.

(He zooms the landscape out, showing a huge vista of smoothly rolling hills.)

Abashi: Before, the textures would be applied individually to each polygon. What we\’e2\’80\’99re doing now is one huge texture\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: Yeah, it looks a lot smoother, there\’e2\’80\’99s no more tiling.

Abashi: With some of the higher contrast texures we occasionally see some tiling\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: It\’e2\’80\’99s a lot harder to see, though.

Abashi: Yeah, it doesn\’e2\’80\’99t go on forever.

Lum: Let\’e2\’80\’99s talk a little about the gameplay enhancements coming with the expansion. I know you\’e2\’80\’99ve been talking some already about the new class coming, the Kerran Beastmaster, what else do we have coming?

Abashi: In addition to the new class, we have the new race, the class will be able to..

Lum: Are they a hybrid shaman, like shadowknights were hybrid necromancers?

Abashi: That\’e2\’80\’99s not really one hundred percent accurate. They\’e2\’80\’99re going to have components of several different classes. They\’e2\’80\’99ll be primarily shamanistic, but they\’e2\’80\’99ll have a host of their own spells.

Lum: Are they going to be much more of a tank-mage then a hybrid?

Abashi: No, because their combat skills, they will be higher than a shaman but not as high as a shadowknight or a paladin. They\’e2\’80\’99ll be skilled in unarmed combat, so they\’e2\’80\’99ll be a little monkish that way. They are a leather armor class, and they will be fairly dependent on their pet.

Lum: So shamen actually get better armor than beastmasters then.

Abashi: Yeah.

Lum: What would you see their role as in a higher level group?

Abashi: That\’e2\’80\’99s really hard to say right now. Probably more variety overall.

Lum: Kind of a generalist, like a druid, then?

Abashi: Yeah. I certainly wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t want to call them \’e2\’80\’9cThe Masters Of\’e2\’80\’9d anything.

Lum: My monk is the master of dying!

Abashi: We no longer want to call any class the master of anything, because we just get SLAPPED. \’e2\’80\’9cWe\’e2\’80\’99re no longer the master of this!\’e2\’80\’9d

Lum: Do they have a\’e2\’80\’a6 like, shamen are really, at higher levels, sought out for their slow line. They can buff and heal to a degree, but really, they are popular in groups because of their slow line of spells. Do they have something that would make a group say \’e2\’80\’9chey, let\’e2\’80\’99s get this guy\’e2\’80\’9d?

Abashi: I, I\’e2\’80\’99d hate to say right now\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: OK

Abashi: I think the actual answer is \’e2\’80\’9cno more than most of the other classes out there\’e2\’80\’9d. The ones that have something like that, I really tend to consider an oversight, where we make a class a be-all and end-all requirement. I don\’e2\’80\’99t necessarily agree that we should have required classes. There\’e2\’80\’99s other people who disagree.

Lum: Like clerics.

Abashi: Right. They [beastmasters] will be soloable.

Lum: How soloable compared to necromancers or druids?

Abashi: I wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t compare them to a druid, more so to a shadowknight. I wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t say as soloable as a shadowknight, because they don\’e2\’80\’99t have fear, and reverse-kiting is part of what a shadowknight does. But they will have several other things that they can do. They will be able to buff their pets up quite a bit.

Lum: Are their pets going to be more powerful than shamen pets?

Abashi: Yes. Their pets will actually be more powerful than shadowknight pets, which is the tradeoff for less armor. We still need to balance the class out. We have a list of things that we want to give them. We have to balance them, see how it ends up. Something specific, like \’e2\’80\’9cWe gotta have a beastlord, because if we don\’e2\’80\’99t have a beastlord we can\’e2\’80\’99t do\’e2\’80\’a6!\’e2\’80\’9d? No. Not unless we put in some content specifically for that purpose. Which we\’e2\’80\’99ve been known to do. We\’e2\’80\’99ll see what happens. As far as other content \’e2\’80\ldblquote non-level based advancement.

Lum: What does that mean.

Abashi: It describes something subtle enough so that people don\’e2\’80\’99t say \’e2\’80\’9cyou need to be 63 to be in this group, you need to be 68 to be in this group\’e2\’80\’9d. But we wanted to add some way for people to advance their characters without it being seen as a necessity that they do so. That\’e2\’80\’99s what happened when we raised the level cap with Kunark. People were perfectly happy running around at level 50, having all kinds of fun, and all of a sudden we forced them to level. So we want to do something that gives people the option to further advance their character, without being required to do so. Some of the mechanisms we\’e2\’80\’99re working on include trading in experience. So that you trade in some of your experience in 60th level for something special, maybe an increase to a base stat or a percentage decrease in casting time. They will be relatively small percentages, not so much that you would absolutely say that \’e2\’80\’9cwe won\’e2\’80\’99t take someone in a group unless they\’e2\’80\’99ve traded in ten bars of 60.\’e2\’80\’9d But it will be something that makes you a bit better out there. Maybe you\’e2\’80\’99re a slightly faster damage dealer. Maybe your spells do slightly less hate. Whatever we come up with for that.

Lum: That will be something easily quantifiable, that characters can see what benefits they have for doing that?

Abashi: Yeah. We put one of the designers to work on this, and he came up with a ton of ideas, and we frankly like them all. We could basically do them all without making the character a ton more powerful. What we want to do is avoid making characters more powerful, because then we would have to make everything else more powerful to compensate. And then you\’e2\’80\’99d have people complaining that \’e2\’80\’9cyou need forty people to do anything in this expansion\’e2\’80\’9d.

Lum: Like Sleeper\’e2\’80\’99s Tomb in Velious.

Abashi: Well, that one we actually intended to require forty people to do that. And we failed, because there are groups of six farming the protectors now. What can you do?

Lum: Never underestimate the players!

Abashi: We\’e2\’80\’99re doing some UI changes. Nothing really special. (calls up the old default non-full screen display) We\’e2\’80\’99ll be getting rid of this wonderful thing.

Lum: Just losing it entirely?

Abashi: Yeah. We couldn\’e2\’80\’99t make it bigger, or prettier. But we\’e2\’80\’99re really getting to like the idea of a very unobtrusive interface. My only hope is that we make it easier for a new user to get into and understand.

Lum: What about meditation? Are you getting rid of that completely, or having some other method of obscuring the screen, or what?

Abashi: With the spellbook coming up and covering the screen?

Lum: Yeah.

Abashi: What we\’e2\’80\’99re looking into is a.. and this is something we\’e2\’80\’99re looking into for the whole game, not just as part of Luclin, but we\’e2\’80\’99re considering making a way of restricting view that doesn\’e2\’80\’99t restrict the whole view. So that you would call up the spellbook and it would come 2/3rds of the way up the screen. So you can peer over the top of the book.

Lum: Like a gnome? Nice visual image there! (laughs)

Abashi: We decided to leave the spellbook thing in, for lower levels, because it\’e2\’80\’99s been seen as like a rite of passage. I finally get to the point where I don\’e2\’80\’99t have to look at this goddamned spellbook.

Lum: I think that\’e2\’80\’99s a direct quote from my wife.

Abashi: And it also helps a character to learn how to play. Casters learn to back up against a wall and not to leave their backs unprotected. It also encourages them to get into groups, grouping, because it\’e2\’80\’99s better to have someone to protect you. We\’e2\’80\’99re looking at reducing the impact of it though. Like you can glance over the top of your book and see straight ahead, but that\’e2\’80\’99s it.

Lum: What kind of PvP stuff do you have going in with this? I remember reading that you basically have two factions with this world, have you done any development on that yet?

Abashi: Uh, the PvP stuff that\’e2\’80\’99s been mentioned with Luclin was actually a misunderstanding.

Lum: Well, I remember the rumor that the whole thing would be arena-type free PvP zones. But I mean aside from that, are there going to be any PvP enhancements?

Abashi: Not as part of Luclin. We are doing a new PvP server in the near future. It will probably come out in two to three weeks, maybe a bit longer. I can give you the skinny on that new rule set, it hasn\’e2\’80\’99t been announced yet.

Lum: Sure.

Abashi: There\’e2\’80\’99s still a couple of aspects that are a little bit tentative, but this is the general direction that we\’e2\’80\’99re going for. A Deity-teams server. It will be based on your religion. We\’e2\’80\’99ll have good, neutral and evil as the split. Which team they\’e2\’80\’99ll apply to, we\’e2\’80\’99ll release that later. We\’e2\’80\’99re going with full PvP. You can kill anyone at any level. A level 60 could kill a level 1 if he wanted to, or a whole slew of level ones could\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: What\’e2\’80\’99s going to keep a level 60 warrior from harvesting the newbie spawn?

Abashi: The question would be, what would be the point?

Lum: That\’e2\’80\’99s a good question with a lot of things about PvP!

Abashi: Loot rights will apply still for plus or minus five levels.

Lum: So you can attack someone, just not loot them.

Abashi: Right. We\’e2\’80\’99re leaning towards coin-only for that loot for right now. There will be experience loss when dying to someone plus or minus 5 levels. It was the only way we could think of to address the naked mage syndrome. There has to be some way of inflicting loss.

Lum: Would there be some timer on that, to prevent corpse camping?

Abashi: No, players will have to learn when that occurs, and learn how to get out of that situation. In the case of the level 60 camping the newbie spawn, sooner or later word will get out and other 60s will come and get him. We will have ways of promoting PvP. I haven\’e2\’80\’99t talked yet about any of the advantages we\’e2\’80\’99re adding, which I\’e2\’80\’99m about to get to. Also, as part of this, by the way, we\’e2\’80\’99re getting rid of all the customer service rules associated with PvP. So training, rules against training, rules against bind point camping, zone camping, all of that will go away.

Lum: So those become strategies, basically.

Abashi: Those become strategies. People will engage in them as they see fit. Snaring the kiting druid, which right now could get you suspended or worse, will be a very legal strategy. The only thing that customer service will get involved in is real-world harassment situations. Common decency things. For advantages for PvP. We\’e2\’80\’99re not going to do experience gain. We\’e2\’80\’99ve ruled that out completely. We are talking about what we call an insignia based system. Where when you loot the coin off a fallen foe you will get an insignia of your deity. And we\’e2\’80\’99re talking about turning that in for a faction boost, and once you get past a certain point you get benefits, open up quests that were no longer available to you, that type of thing. The other thing that we\’e2\’80\’99re talking about doing, and actually working on implementing now, is logging all the PvP kills. And then we\’e2\’80\’99re going to parse that log and keep a leader board on the Station. People will be able to see where they stand in their guild, where their guild stands overall, where their team stands overall, that type of thing. So back to your original question, the level 60 guy harvesting the newbie log in Nektulos is going to sooner or later get some person on the opposing team to cap him, because that 60 guy is worth some good points.

Lum: Is there going to be any kind of story line, events that the GMs are going to run with this?

Abashi: I don\’e2\’80\’99t know. It\’e2\’80\’99s really.. this is being entirely driven by the development team right now, specific dynamic quests will become more of a reality. I can see us sending dynamic quest people on there\’e2\’80\’a6

Lum: Things like mass invasions, that type of thing.

Abashi: Yeah. I hope to see a lot of that. Basically what we\’e2\’80\’99re looking for is a way to encourage PvP in Everquest, and fix some of the problems that people are experiencing. By the way I want to mention that with the new server, the teams will be locked down. You will not be able to cast beneficial spells on opposing team members.

Lum: Can different teams group together, can they send /tells to each other?

Abashi: We\’e2\’80\’99re talking about completely eliminating cross-team grouping, but we aren\’e2\’80\’99t going to stop tells.

Lum: I\’e2\’80\’99ve heard one rumor that you were even thinking of getting rid of Common completely.

Abashi: That\’e2\’80\’99s what we\’e2\’80\’99re looking at for the next server down the line, we\’e2\’80\’99re calling it the RP server, for lack of a better term, which will probably involve the Deity Team model but without PvP.

Lum: So there would be no crossteaming but no PvP either.

Abashi: That would basically be the model, yes. We are using the new server as an experiment, to see what we can implement. I\’e2\’80\’99ve mentioned the rules to a number of people at the show, and even talking about experience loss and all of that, it\’e2\’80\’99s actually getting a good reception so far.

Lum: It sounds interesting so far.

Abashi: We sat down and talked about it, and one thing that Everquest really lacked is the way to inflict losses on one another. That might not be a politically correct thing for people to do, but that is one reason why people play PvP.

Lum: Behavior modification.

Abashi: Yeah. I hope to see this new server as kind of the ultimate RP server. Back to Luclin, here\’e2\’80\’99s a new indoor zone. We\’e2\’80\’99ve got a much higher polygon count, more curved surfaces. Polys that we used to do with textures. Gratuitous use of polygons, at least for this city.

Lum: It looks a lot bigger at least in terms of area.

Abashi: It\’e2\’80\’99s not really bigger, what it is is more grand, I think.

Lum: I don\’e2\’80\’99t know of any other city with those huge town squares.

Abashi: This city actually has several of those. The city right now is in three parts, three zones.

Lum: Another thing about Luclin is the bazaar zones, designed for trading\’e2\’80\’a6 how is that different from just using an auction channel?

Abashi: Really in functionality we\’e2\’80\’99re not talking about anything different. What we\’e2\’80\’99re talking about is creating a crossroads type of zone, that is easily reached by everybody. And is built for that purpose. The zone will be primarily a huge room, we\’e2\’80\’99ll have vendors there, bankers there, one zone away from the teleport into Luclin, and the teleport to Luclin is no farther away than 5 or 6 zones from anywhere in Norrath. East Commons right now is popular.

Lum: It\’e2\’80\’99s a safe zone for any faction.

Abashi: Yeah, and that\’e2\’80\’99s what we wanted to do here, a safe trading area. One of the things there where if they needed something and we didn\’e2\’80\’99t provide it, they created it on their own. East Commons. Hopefully we can create a better East Commons. The main factor is a banker in the same zone, bankers and vendors and the fact that it\’e2\’80\’99s closer to everywhere in the world than East Commons. Hopefully we can get people to use it. I don\’e2\’80\’99t know. We\’e2\’80\’99ll see.

Lum: Any trade skill enhancements planned for the expansion?

Abashi: Ah, your wife has been at work I see.

Lum: Well, I would be slaughtered if I didn\’e2\’80\’99t ask.

Abashi: Well, tradeskills have been expanded a lot lately, like the food-oriented stuff we did recently, which suddenly made baking a viable trade skill. There was absolutely no reason to do it before, there is to do it now.

Lum: Well, my wife did it just to give cakes and brownies to people.

Abashi: We\’e2\’80\’99ve put in a whole bunch of recipes for that stuff. Trade skills will be primarily an EQ Live component as we move along. I don\’e2\’80\’99t see anything specifically associated with Luclin, unless we have Luclin-only components.

Lum: But no new craftable armors like we saw with Velious?

Abashi: It would be premature to say that. There may be components in Luclin that allow you to build new items. There will no doubt be new trade skills that use Luclin components. But if I were putting out a bulleted list of Luclin features, I wouldn\’e2\’80\’99t want to see \’e2\’80\’9cTons of trade skills enhancements!\’e2\’80\’9d. That is something that falls more under constant development.

Lum: Any new really really high level zones like Sleepers?

Abashi: Oh, we\’e2\’80\’99ll have high level zones.

Lum: Is there going to be a new zone that everyone\’e2\’80\’99s going to die at?

Abashi (laughs) It\’e2\’80\’99s been kind of a tradition that the hardest zone in the world moves to whatever zone we\’e2\’80\’99re doing. That tradition will continue.

Lum: And will the tradition of Furor complaining about the loot continue? (laughs)

Abashi: Somebody will no doubt complain about the loot. (laughs) One of the thing we\’e2\’80\’99re focusing on item-wise\’e2\’80\’a6 we really can\’e2\’80\’99t make people more powerful. It really happened in Kunark. It made people way too powerful. It happened again in Velious. What we\’e2\’80\’99re focusing on with Velious is making new classes of items. Trying to really get into situational type stuff. Yeah this sword makes me immensely more powerful given a foe of this type, but it does not make me more powerful overall.

Lum: Are there any new spells going in for casters?

Abashi: We are going to do new spells for all casting classes.

Lum: Are they just enhancements, or entirely new lines of spells?

Abashi: We do have a developer that is working on new types of items, new types of spells. Right now we can do a lot with spells. We have, I believe, a hundred and thirty different effects that a spell can have on it. We have to kind of focus on things that don\’e2\’80\’99t make the player more powerful. As much as the player may want to be more powerful, if we make the player more powerful, then we have to make the zones more powerful. Then we\’e2\’80\’99re back to the complaints you see with Velious. I have to have forty people to do anything.

Lum: What about faction issues. Is there any possibility that due to faction choices that players made in the old world or Kunark, that they\’e2\’80\’99d have problems in Luclin?

Abashi: No. We\’e2\’80\’99re going to try to keep it so that only your actions in Luclin will affect your faction in Luclin. We could make it so that your actions in Luclin affect your real-world faction. Like if once the teleport opens up, the Vah\’e2\’80\’99Shir form a relationship with the Kerrans back on Odus, then you might have an issue there. But no choice you\’e2\’80\’99ve already made should affect your faction.

Lum: I know in game there\’e2\’80\’99s the ingame fiction of the conflict between the Erudites and the Kerrans. Are Erudites going to have a problem in Luclin?

Abashi: I don\’e2\’80\’99t want to answer that question. The reason I don\’e2\’80\’99t want to answer it is that we have dynamic events planned that will explain all of that between now and Luclin\’e2\’80\’99s release.