In Episode 17, Fading sits down with Jennifer Chan, head of Darkpaw Games.
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
The following is a full transcript from Episode 17 of The EverQuest Show
Another anniversary of EverQuest arrives, and I’m sitting down with Jenn Chan, head of Darkpaw Games, for a state of the games address.
We discuss the 2023 roadmap, EQ’s 24th anniversary, the upcoming TLE and TLP servers, and what’s ahead beyond 2023.
The EverQuest Show starts right now.
From the EverQuest Show Studios, I’m Fading, and I want to welcome you to a very special Episode 17 of The EverQuest Show.
In the last several episodes, I’ve told you the story of the PAST of EverQuest, how the game was made and bringing you interviews with original developers who put their mark on the game.
And there are still many stories that I want to continue to tell you. But now it’s time to focus on the PRESENT and maybe get a sneak peak of the future of both EverQuest and EverQuest 2.
And who better to address the state of both games, than Jenn Chan, the head of Darkpaw Games.
If you recall, before the pandemic I had a chance to visit Daybreak Games, just before Darkpaw was created and I interviewed Jenn Chan. You can check out that interview in Episode 8 of The EverQuest Show.
But it had been a while since we chatted on camera, and I had a lot of questions.
PLAYING CATCH UP
So kinda catch me up, what’s the adventure been like since you’ve been there in this new role? And how’s that going?
So certainly the last time we spoke, a lot of things have happened. Definitely the transition to Working-From-Home. That was a big one.
Additionally since then, we’ve launched 6 expansions, 3 on EverQuest and 3 on EverQuest 2. And an additional 6 game updates on EverQuest 2. It’s been crazy.
Additionally, we released two different sets of vinyls. The first being those super rare limited editions ones, which I know you have and you have definitely highlighted on your show before.
And then we also did release a nice black set, for the true audiophiles to get that nice rich vinyl sound that you can’t really get anywhere else.
Additionally, we were bought out by EG7. That was a huge thing. And with that buyout it’s really allowed us to reinvest back into the games.
One of the big reinvestments from that buyout was being able to go 64-bit for EQ1 and EQ2. That was definitely a thing that we’ve been wanting to do for a very long time.
But the math never worked out until EG7 came in and said Hey what do you want to do to really reinvest back into the games.
So that was one of our short list items.
So what is that 64-bit going to allow you to do?
So it’s a very technical change, right? 64-Bit. Originally, we were in 32 Bit processes.
So that really limited us to about 3 gigs of memory on each client. So with the 64 bit, we’re now pretty much unbound from any memory limitations. So we can now have higher quality textures, higher quality models. And just being able to use a lot more memory on people’s machines instead of being bound by that 3 gig limit.
So will that mean less lag for the players?
It can be. It can be, but lag is always a really tricky thing right? Because it’s always a combination of so many different things. So it’s not a direct “It will immediately help lag” but it can help with it.
UI ENGINE UPDATE
You guys have a pretty ambitious 2023 ahead of you. You’ve laid out the roadmap. You’ve talked a little bit about what that is. One of the things that I think sparked the most interest from players was the UI Engine update. Not only interest, but maybe you guys having to make a clarification on exactly what that means. Can you speak to that a little bit?
So with the UI Engine update. So currently the UI Engine for EverQuest runs on a custom engine that we have slowly built and improved upon over the years. But as any custom UI modder will tell you, it’s a tricky engine to work with. It’s a bit temperamental.
So with this new UI Engine, making changes should be much easier. It should be more standard, and more in line with how people develop UI and websites today.
Plus with the engine, it comes out of the box with native scaling and window docking support. So for those of you running those 4k monitors, you should be able to just scale the UI without having to go and get a custom UI to get larger things on your screen.
And to be clear on that, this is not a UI that you’re going to redevelop, this is just the back end engine, correct?
Correct. So this is the engine changing, and not the actual UX (User Experience). So this is a multi year plan where it’s first we get everything into the new UI Engine.
We’re trying to do a one for one translation, so how things look, how things work in the default UI, we want it to be very similar in the port.
And then once that’s all converted, once everything is using the new engine and we’re able to more easily make changes, then we’ll actually do the hard work of ok, how do we streamline this interface. What things can we remove that aren’t needed? And what things can we add or smooth out to make it easier to use our UI?
DIRECT X 11 PORT
There’s a lot of backend work that seems to be going on for both games, in the Direct X 11 port is something that’s on the roadmaps. Can you talk about what the goal is there?
So for EverQuest 1 the last Direct X port was in 2006. So this is really allowing us to upgrade our engines. Because Direct X is what sits underneath our custom built engine. So that really allows us to use the more modern features of a newer Direct X.
I don’t want to go down too technical into that. But anybody can look up features of Direct X 11 and look at the comparisons and say Oh, now they have access to all these things.
It is an aging game. You guys are working in code that has been mangled, massaged and nestled in and amongst itself for the last 20 to 25 years, but there seems to be a lot of work recently on getting the backend of the game working at optimum efficiency.
How has that been as far as dedicating the resources to that but then also trying to balance out with content?
It’s definitely an interesting balance. Like I said with the EG7 purchase, we were actually able to outsource a lot of the very heavy lifting for the major backend changes.
So the core team working on the game, they’re all still here focusing primarily on the content and making the game, but we were able to outsource quite a bit for the 64 bit port and now with Direct X 11 and the initial heavy lifting for the UI port.
The actual windows will be ported by the game team itself. So they’re able to concentrate primarily on the game with a little bit of management and testing with our outsource team.
TLP AND TLE SERVER UPDATES
One of the things in the roadmap that people got excited for, they get excited every year around May or June, is the progression servers.
You have progression servers slated for both games. Talk about what we know so far and what you can tell me.
So for the PVP TLE for EQ2 coming in April, it will be a similar experience to Tarinax on Day 1, but with the PVP writs and server specific rewards. So it will be starting from fresh, we’re going back to classic to the Shattered Lands era. Going back to the height of PVP there.
And for EQ1 the TLP for EQ in May, it’s going to be an experimental year.
We’re trying something that we’ve never really done before, and if it works out, we may introduce some of it to live servers.
But that’s all I’m going to tell you right now until we released the big article with all the details.
We will be announcing the ruleset for the EQ TLP server in early April. , so definitely keep an eye out on our website, the forums, Discord, our social media channel.
But be sure to subscribe to The EverQuest Show, because in addition to those avenues for information you know that the EverQuest Show is going to be here to bring you any additional information that Darkpaw throws our way.
But this is the anniversary episode, so I had to ask about the 24th anniversary, and looking ahead to next year big milestones in the 25th and 20th anniversary.
This year is going to be a big year. We’re celebrating the 24th anniversary of EvetQuest, what type of celebration are we expecting? What type of things can we look forward to?
So for this year , the 24th anniversary, brand new, we have new quests and a mission. So for this year with the quest, you’ll be finding the origin of some mysterious standing stones that have been in the game for a while.
Helping out a gnome with an identity crisis and even building a band.
And for the mission, you’ll get to experience the story of the famed great war hero Reetuk, from the lineage of the Nokk ogres tome. And this tome was dropped in the Serpent’s Spine expansion. So definitely a callback to quite a while ago.
And for everyone, we are giving away some free items, so get all your characters, log in, and be sure to get those free items.
2024 WILL HAVE BIG PLANS
We talked about the 24th anniversary of EverQuest, but heading into 2024, it’s going to be a big year.
You’ll have launched the 30th expansion for EverQuest, the 20th expansion for EQ2, you’ll be in the 25th anniversary of EverQuest, approaching the 20th annviersary for EverQuest 2.
That’s a big year. Are you guys planning to celebrate this big milestone?
That’s all you’re going to give me?
That’s all I’m going to give you for now.
Is it a big plan or a little plan?
There are big plans.
Ok. That’s a good answer.
Now like the rest of you, I’m dying to know what “Big Plans” means. I have my suspicions. I also have my wildest dreams of what I want the future of EverQuest to look like.
And in coming episodes I’m going to elaborate and maybe editorialize on that a little bit.
But for now, Jenn Chan was pretty tight lipped about much of the information that I wanted to get from Darkpaw.
As fans, we have pretty high expectations for EQ. And I asked her if the weight of those expectations weighed on her shoulders and the head of the studio.
HARDEST PART OF BEING HEAD OF STUDIO
I would say the toughest is being so close to seeing the community.
Absolutely I knew of all the stories before. How people had gotten married through the game. How people have found their communities through our games. For some people it has literally saved their life.
And being so close to that….because before I would hear the stories through the grape vine. Right?
But being so close to that and actually getting those message directly, and seeing such an impact. I believe that was the most surprising. To get those stories first hand, instead of through our community manager or one of the producers.
Being so close to the players. That is probably the most surprising. And sometimes more difficult aspects that I don’t think I was quite prepared for.
EQ2 SWAG STORE
You mentioned EQ2, for a while we’ve talked about swag. You and I have had these conversations about people want to buy things. The vinyls sold out very quickly. The shirts sold out quickly. I know we’ve had plans for a swag tore. What can you tell me about the swag store?
We’re making good progress. We were kind of stalled for a bit last year due to manufacturing issues. But we found a new vendor and we’re getting very close.
I don’t have an exact date for when we’ll be able to release it, but let’s just say that everyone who plays will have something for them.
No hints on exactly what will be included in it?
So we are planning on having T-shirts. And we’ll give you a hint with a little image in a little bit.
NEXT EQ2 GAME UPDATE
I’m pleased to announce for EverQuest 2 that our next game updates name is officially “Empires of Antiquity” and beta for that will start on March 27th.
Any additional information as to what that might allude to?
It will definitely be a surprise when you get there. It will be a transformative change from what people are used to.
FUTURE OF EVERQUEST
The question always comes up, and when I pose this to the players “What would you ask of Darkpaw?” and they always say “What are the plans to expand the franchise?” Can you give me any information that you may have?
So we’re definitely always talking about expanding the franchise, expanding the IP. But we’re just not ready to announce anything just yet. But definitely some serious conversations going on right now.
Would you say that the future of EverQuest is bright?
Oh yes. It is bright and shiny.