A New Freeport: Art Q & A with Timothy Heydelaar
It was talked about with much enthusiasm at Fan Faire 2011: the re-design of Freeport. With the Everquest II: Age of Discovery expansion just around the corner, it was the perfect time to give players the inside scoop on what exactly is going on with the re-design. EverQuest II Community Relations Manager, Jennifer "Isulith" Bridges got the chance to sit down with Timothy "Haohmaru" Heydelaar, Art Director for EverQuest II. He was able to give a great overview of what to expect and why the changes to Freeport were made.
Q. Why was it decided to make changes to Freeport?
A. Lucan had disappeared and his mighty citadel fell, crashing into the city demolishing all around it. Now that Lucan has returned, he has exercised his power by turning Freeport into a proud, magnificent city in a bid to attract more followers and to show off his renewed power. This brought about the need for the art changes and coincided with a lot of work the Design team was going to do. We also wanted to remove zoning, like players have asked for as well. Inner city travel needed to be improved while we were doing this.
Q. What sorts of things went into the revamp of the new Freeport?
A. We got together with the Design team, went through Freeport and came up with a list of what needed to stay, go or be replaced. Some buildings just didn't have a reason to be there anymore or weren't really being used - we had some better ideas for those areas that fit more with the new direction. For example, we transformed West Freeport to be more military focused with training grounds taking up the area where the bar and inn were. East Freeport was focused on the markets and opening up the communal space due to the content being added and the docks serving as a transportation hub.
Q. How long does something like this take to complete?
A. I should first mention that at the helm of this renovation was Michael Bacon, with Amanda McNair riding shotgun lately. This sort of massive overhaul will have taken about 7 months to complete from concept to completion. While new Freeport was built on top of the initial layout of Freeport (which was very sound and already laid out to be zoneless long ago), pretty much everything within was reworked and retextured to better fit the new lore and theme we were establishing. We also added a few quality of life improvements like a shortcut from the docks in East Freeport up to the Jade Tiger area in North Freeport and more ways out of the ocean should you fall in.
Q. The atmosphere looks really cool. Can you tell us more about it?
A. Everything's really polished up. We wanted to make it look less pale and desaturated because Freeport was somewhat depressing overall. Too muted and didn't speak of Lucan's power anymore – more so after the Citadel fell! It felt like he ruled up in his Citadel not caring too much about the city beneath him and that has definitely changed. Lucan may be evil, but we wanted to convey that in a ruling and proud sense that has permeated his city properly now that he's returned.
Q. Overall, the colors look vastly different than before. Can you tell us a bit about why these changes were made?
A. Originally, the city was primarily tans and reds with off accents here and there. Lots of broken stucco and plaster and unruly denizens littering freely to play on that "everyone does what they want" sense. The dusty plains of neighboring Commonlands also had an influence on Freeport back then. It was more oppressive than strong, which was part of the original intent back then. Some may remember the less-than-friendly voice overs many inhabitants had! So, we reworked most everything. We imagined a player approaching Freeport in Commonlands and the impact that needs to have. It had to be something you wanted to be a part of simply based on the look. We added a lot of rich golds to replace the rusty metals throughout and replaced a lot of brick with pattern work instead. Lucan's presence is now plastered everywhere in wall designs and decor. He wants everyone to know Freeport is Lucan's city. He's showing off his power quite a bit here now. Plus, he wants to attract new talent.
Q. What sorts of architectural changes can players expect to see?
A. We kept the familiar city layout and revised anything that looked out of date. The retaining walls and towers have been reshaped but still kept the heavy bracing and pronged top feel that we felt established Freeport's original design. Some of the older buildings that didn't fit were taken out and replaced with features like fountains, greenery and open plazas. The shapes of most player housing and merchant buildings were updated and re-textured to be less shanty. There's also a central courtyard in the city, directly under Lucan's floating citadel, which also acts as the direct connection between Freeport East, North and West.
Q. Everything looks fantastic! The changes make Freeport seem like a whole new city. Do you have anything else you would like to share with players?
A. Most of all, we hope that everyone like the changes as much as we do. The removal of zone lines is something we're very proud of as well – it really does help the feel of the city. We want Freeport to be a city players are proud to be aligned with and call home.