We thought it might be a good idea to post the script from our Fiction/Lore panel at SOE Live 2014. It covers a number of topics that come up quite often, such as what our re-imagining of the franchise means and why we decided to go in this direction. The panel serves as an FAQ of sorts, which is kind of handy.
Hopefully it proves useful and sparks some conversation.
Story of a New Norrath
As we mentioned during the keynote, EQNext is not a sequel. It’s a re-imagining of Norrath that is not part of the chronology of other EQ games that have come before. We chose this direction for a few reasons.
First and foremost, EQNext represents a new direction for MMOs, so we thought it fitting that our storyline should represent a new direction as well.
Additionally, we didn’t want new players coming in to feel like they had to know fifteen years of back story in order to enjoy EQ Next—we wanted to give them a fresh start.
Finally, we’ve got new methods of storytelling in EQNext and wanted new stories to go along with them.
Put them together, and you have yourself a reboot!
Grounded in Tradition
All that said, we still want this to feel like a game firmly rooted in the EverQuest tradition.
Norrath is full of familiar races you’ve come to know and love over the years, and the world remains a place of charm and beauty that your characters will care about and fight for.
You’ll explore many familiar locations that have been re-imagined to fit the style of EQNext.
You’ll recognize characters with names familiar to fans, capturing the essence of what made them so memorable in previous games while taking them in new directions.
We’re even weaving in epic storylines that played out in previous games, though again we’re putting a different spin on them. If you come to our panel on the content of EQNext, you’ll get a sneak peak at one such event. [Spoilers – Bloody Kithicor!]
At the end of the day, we want to give fans of the franchise plenty of what they love, while giving them a wealth of new people, places, and stories to grow to love as well.
Focus on Fiction
Another question we get asked is why we decided to unveil the lore of EQNext through novellas and short stories rather than take a more traditional approach. Most of the time when a new game is announced, you get a very high level overview of the lore and gradually fill in more detail over time. That works great for a lot of games, but we realized we had a chance to take a different approach.
Since many of the broad strokes of the franchise would already be familiar to players, we realized we could dive straight in and explore depth rather than breadth. We showed you the world through the eyes of complex characters like Keramore Thex and Coralen Larkos. You come to care about their triumphs and failures just as you would any great characters from literature.
That touches on something crucial to our fiction program. We insisted these stories be executed at an extremely high level of quality. We’ve auditioned a number of writers and only chose the best stories for release.
So far we’ve released works by three exceptionally talented authors: Maxwell Alexander Drake, Robert Lassen, and R.T. Kaelin. We’ll have other new stories and writers coming on board down the road as well.
And by the way, we will release those broader looks at lore and history down the road as well, when we get closer to alpha for EQN.
Creating the Fiction
Before we delve into the lore itself, we thought it might be interesting to talk about the process of creating an EQNext novella.
It starts with talking to the writer, offering possible subjects for their stories. The lore team has crafted a massive timeline, and we generally have ideas for bits of history that could make really cool stories. After some back and forth, the writer finds an idea that resonates with them.
We send them an info packet filled with lore goodies—tone and style guidelines, an outline of the historical period they’re writing in, who the major players are, and if there are any bits set in stone that they can’t play around with (which side wins a battle, when someone dies, etc.).
The writer then comes back with a rough outline of the plot with details on main characters. We give them a lot of creative freedom to explore ideas that we on the lore team might not have considered, as that’s proven to be very useful in adding authentic detail to our lore.
Once we’re all on the same page, the author goes off to write their first draft. When working with a new writer we like to see a sample chapter first to make sure they’re getting the tone right, but when it’s someone like Drake or Lassen, we all have a high degree of comfort that they know the world and will hit the right tone.
After they deliver their first draft, we enter an intense period of editing. I’ll send them edits to their draft, then once those are hammered out, the story gets sent to Drake for an editing pass, and then to Lassen for additional polish. Usually there’s a bit more back and forth after that, as I’m a pretty nitpicky editor, but we feel the stories end up the better for it. When we have a near final draft, our art team puts together a cover and the story is sent around internally to get feedback from key members of the team.
When everything looks solid, we release the story via the everquestnext.com website! We’re all extremely proud of the work we’ve done, and the process of working with these writers has been fantastic.