With Rise Of Kunark for EverQuest II finally launching, I find myself with enough time to consider writing in my blog here!
This has been an interesting and challenging project from the get go. People have alot of expectations of what "Kunark" is to them, being a very nostalgic place for them in their early EverQuest careers. I myself, spent alot of time in Kunark, in fact I probably did more leveling in the Dreadlands around and in Karnor's than anywhere else.
I would say that, it's because of those expectations, that we worked so hard to make this as good as I think it turned out. The zones still seem astonishingly large to me, and I've had quite a bit of time to get used to them. Timorous Deep for example is extremely big for a new player experience, but feels right because of the way it's laid out and the way the progression pans out. To think there were at least 3 more islands planned out in my maps, that eventually got sunk, because it just was getting too big! Had we kept all of those islands in there, people probably wouldn't leave till level 30 or 40 by the time they got through the quest lines at the pace that we currently put people through.
It's a relief that we pared it down to what it was, because the development time for Timorous was quite a bit longer than how we go about making most zones. There was quite a bit of experimentation with how the look of the zone was going to pan out, and it was a challenge for the artists to make the zone run well despite the fact that you are surrounded by water on all sides, which is totally visible from the right vistas.
There were also changes that happened during development on the design side. Srukin and I decided that we didn't like the way the flow was going and had caves "caved" in, changed the order in which you visit the islands, and everything to try and make it more fun, which took some re-work on our planning side of things.
The main goal of all of these changes were to make the game accessible for a new player, yet epic at the same time. I think we pulled it off. I'm very proud of Timorous Deep.
Karnor's proved to be another whole new set of challenges for me. I knew alot of people used to play in there, including myself, but there was also the fact that the zone was the first accessible dungeon from when people arrive in Kylong Plains. With the general expectation that there would need to be a degree of strong familiarity when people enter the zone, I decided to take the original zone layout and make that my template when designing the layout for the newly renovated Karnors. The general philosophy behind the changes I made was to widen things and make it more comfortable for groups of people to play, and get rid of the super tiny and rooms that were in general purposeless in the EQ version. Most of this work, wasn't too difficult, the difficulty came with the tuning of the zone once I had it base popped.
It proved to be a tough order to get the balance of making the zone not too hard, but not too easy, especially in the undiscovered country of level 72-76. With equipment changes, new spells, and mob scaling in terms of HP and damage, it was a tough job for both Lyndro and myself to get things to a point where the zone wasn't a breeze like it was in it's first iteration. We went from one extreme to the other until we eventually settled on something that was pretty fun, then I went back to the population and started adding mobs here and there in certain rooms to provide challenging pulls and what not. Even up to the last week of development, I was tuning this zone. Based on a playtest with some other designers, I ended up adjusting the respawn rates of all of the pathing mobs to make room for people as they work through the zone.
In the end, I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out on my end, and I'm looking forward to playing everything as soon as the servers go live. *patching*