How do you think it would feel if ten years from now, your EverQuest character was on the cover of one of the most successful games of all time? For Tony Garcia, the scenario posed by this question is a reality. Better known in the community as Vhalen, one of his characters from his childhood D&D campaign was Lucan D’Lere himself. What’s more, many locations from the world we call Norrath, was directly inspired by that same campaign.
We sat down to talk with Tony “Vhalen” Garcia about his work on EverQuest, EverQuest II and all the things in between. Join us as we explore the unknown inspiration, of the world of EverQuest.
ZAM: Hey Tony! It’s a great pleasure to be talking with you again about EverQuest. You’re definitely missed in the EQ/EQ2 community. How are things going for you on your new project?
Tony Garcia: Hey Tamat! Things are going great on my new project. I am the Senior Content Designer for Trion World Network. I am busy doing what I do best, dreaming up worlds. I work alongside some of the most talented people in the video game industry, some of whom are also old friends. One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that it will see life as a video game and a SyFy Channel television project. Unfortunately, I can’t comment further about it, but stay tuned. It’s going to be great!
I can say that I miss the EQ community a lot. The EverQuest franchise has always had a strong lore community. These lore enthusiasts were always a pleasure to interact with on the boards, in-person and even in-game. They can often have a rivalry between projects, such as EQ lore vs. EQ2 lore, but they have all displayed investigative skills that could challenge Sherlock Holmes, Batman and even the devs who created the lore.
ZAM: Let me start by asking you to give everyone some background information on how you got your start in the industry. When did you start working on EverQuest and what is the earliest piece of lore you remember working on?
Tony: Back in the days when 989 Studios controlled the EQ project, my good friend Bill Trost was looking for someone who could create more lore and quests for the game. Having known my fantasy work from our many years of D&D and a few never released games, Mr. Trost invited me to join the team. After speaking with him and Brad McQuaid, I began my long affair with the wonderful world of EverQuest. I was not sure if it would be a long relationship and ironically, one of the first pieces of lore that I began to craft would be one of my last touched upon- Soulfire.
ZAM: Interesting. Did you have to get creative with Soulfire when it came to EverQuest II? Or did you have the details planned out all along?
Tony: I actually had most of the story plotted out back in EQ. Things got too busy with RoK and then EQ2 planning to complete those plans. Fortunately, EQ2 was the perfect launching pad for the Swords of Destiny. It still has yet to be completed, but most of the plot rests within those tomes I left behind.
ZAM: I’ve actually heard quite a bit about this tome that you left behind. Basically it has all the inner workings of Norrathian lore, both known and unknown if I’m not mistaken. Are there any juicy nuggets of information in there that you can hint at?
Tony: To be honest, it’s not a single tome, but rather, a large collection of documents that have been compiled over the ages. Some documents were lost and I had to track down the information from original devs. Original lore such as the origins of the Combine Empire or the meanings of symbols found throughout Norrath, were some of that lost lore. Someone over there at SOE has those documents now. I’m always around to assist if they have any questions because just owning the documents does not grant the reader full understanding of the EQ universe. There are a few things that always need to be explained.
ZAM: You’ve mentioned that Bill Trost was original architect of EverQuest lore. Can you go over his contributions that helped create the core of Norrath? Also, what was your role in this?
Tony: When I came on board, Bill Trost had already crafted the amazing foundation of the lore with the EQ cosmology and much of the Norrathian geography. My role was to build quests and expand on the existing foundation. Of course, as always, there were other developers who contributed to the lore, but my work was global and not confined to any single location. Having touched upon every corner of the globe, I made it my duty to try and integrate all lore into a cohesive entity and create the larger stories of the Norrathian Empires. That task has never been, and I doubt it will ever be, an easy one. My lore role eventually expanded and I would grow to write the future history of Norrath while working on EverQuest 2.
ZAM: So then did he also work to create the Gods and their genealogy? Did you have anything to do with that?
Tony: The primary gods of the Inner and Outer planes were designed before I got to the universe. When it came time to detail the mechanics of the universe, the cosmology of it all and how they relate to each other, I created that. However, not all projects followed this cosmology, but it was made available to them. All the projects roughly follow the mechanics, but they diverge when it comes to such things as Dimensions, which the Void is one of. EQ2 follows the Unified Timeline and Cosmology created by me with initial assistance with Bill Trost.
ZAM: Let’s jump into something that most players don’t know anything about: your D&D campaign growing up. We’ve been told, by an inside source, that it actually played a role in the creation of EverQuest and EverQuest II lore. Can you elaborate?
Tony: It was when I first started working at 989 that I delved through the foundation lore and found it quite interesting to discover that a number of the locations and personalities were quite familiar to me. Sprinkled all throughout the world were parts of a few D&D campaigns that we ran during Junior High and up. Notable names like Mayong, Lucan and Opal were there as well as more obscure ones such as Father Estle, Beek Guinders and Zazoo. They, along with numerous others, brought back great memories that could not ever be revisited. But here they were, immortalized in a new world where some would take prominent roles and have a chance to face the challenges of hundreds of thousands of pc gamers. Some of the relationships and events from our pen and paper days would inspire Norrathian events. Included among them was the never revealed link between _a_o_ ___t__o__ and __c__ ___e__.
ZAM: Oh another mystery! I’ll leave it to our readers to dig into that further.
Tony: And they do such a great job of it, but there are many buried treasures in the game that are still waiting to be “dug up.”
Bill Trost, Tony Garcia, Kevin Burns and Jeremy Albert in Las Vegas
ZAM: Speaking of mysteries I’m going to backtrack a bit. Veeshan has always been somewhat of an enigma to most players. Through the years, you’ve had plenty to do with the evolution of her story. Can you divulge the history of Veeshan and give us some new information?
Tony: Veeshan was one of the primary creations in the foundations of EQ lore. She is supposed to remain an enigma. As many can see, she has always been a mystery, even compared with the other deities that you would think are on the same hierarchy as she. She almost seems greater than those gods that most regard as her equal in the pantheon. Such a large personality could not be left out of the future history of Norrath. Was she truly the first to find Norrath? Did she ever mark other realms we haven’t heard of? Is she really big enough to swallow the moon? Where is she now? Will Norrathians ever meet her? All those things should be a mystery for quite some time, but there are a few I could definitely answer… but for the safety of the universe, I won’t.
ZAM: Do you have any funny stories about how characters, locations and events from the D&D campaigns bleed into the EQ/EQ2 lore?
Tony: Off hand, I can’t think of anything amusing, but there is one thing that always makes me happy when I see it in the EQ universe. That one thing is Sir Lucan of Freeport. That was my greatest D&D character rolled one night over a table filled with dice, maps, dungeon screens and Thirsty Two Ouncers from the local mini-mart. It is amazing to see how that one character has been immortalized. Imagine… your old D&D character gracing video game boxes, ads and even voiced by the great Christopher Lee! I never would have dreamed of such a thing way back when he was created. Amazing!
ZAM: What significance did characters like Mayong and Lucan have in the campaign? Additionally, what were some of the locations inspired from the campaign?
Tony: Mayong and Sir Lucan were in the same adventuring party. Great friends with a tragic ending! Along with Zazoo of the Sunless Sea, they were the longest lived characters and the focal point of an ever changing cast of NPCs.
I would have to say that the Loping Plains was inspired by one of our greatest adventures. I believe Cain Darkmoore was my avatar during that horrific campaign. Along with that, one of the main locations inspired by the campaign has been the homeland of Mayong, Mistmyr. Adventurers of EQ2 are just starting to learn about that place now. I hope they enjoy their visit within a remnant of that long forgotten place. It’s there waiting for all. Book your trip today!
ZAM: Well that wraps up all my questions. I’m sure the community will want more after they read this, but we’ll just have to wait to see what you’ve been working on over at Trion.
Tony: It been great chatting with you and the EQ community. It was a pleasure building worlds for all Norrathians to explore. Please stop by P.T. Irontoe once in a while and buy him some grog for me. I miss the little guy. But like I mentioned, there are more mysteries lurking in the shadows waiting to be uncovered. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on the forums of the past and those yet to be. To all those EQ lore junkies I say, Till Yonder and Beyond.