As usual, a ton of information was presented at Fan Faire about upcoming features and changes to the game. This is a summary of information gleaned from four panels and the Annual Address. We will be reporting on specific panels througout the week.
The next EQII expansion, as most folks know by now, is Sentinel's Fate, and is planned for release in February 2010. This is planned to be a level 80 - 90 expansion. It will take place in Odus, known to EverQuest players as the home of the Erudite and Kerra. It will include level cap raises to level 90 across the board and 50 more AA points. There will also be new Guild Hall Amenities.
We will start to see lore for the expansion right after Fan Faire. Keep an eye on EQII Players and the official forums - forum quests were mentioned. The Void storyline will conclude. Amongst other things we will learn:
- what happened to Erudites
- the fate of Al'Kabor
- Ratonga lore
- more about the Prophecy of Shissar, and the End of Days storylilne
- the fate of Odus, which could very well determine the fate of the whole world.
There will be two overland zones and a small group contested zone (The Hole) and at last count 12 new group instances. More x2 zones are planned, with varying difficulty. There will be new Heritage Quests in the expansion.
There will be no new epic weapons with the expansion, but the developers are looking for a way to ensure that the unique effects of the epics will remain useful, usable, and desirable. There are many new armor sets coming in, more than currently exist in the whole game. There will be a new mount, but we got no details.
The expansion will feature instances with selectable difficulty. You won't just walk up to the zone-in and select a difficulty: you might speak to an NPC to choose your level of difficulty or encounter something in the zone that allows you to make the decision. While all the details are still being worked out, we got the impression that that this won't be a single mechanic applied cookie-cutter style to every instance, but will be implemented in different and creative ways. Loot will not scale, but the bosses of the hardest difficulty will have unique loot. Part of the design concept is that players will be able to experience a full zone and at least see the end boss, rather than getting stuck after a couple of nameds and having to go elsewhere. At this time it's not planned to take this retroactive to older zones.
There will be no new spell lines, but replacements for older spells which are already quite powerful may have additional effects added to make them desirable. The class and subclass AA trees will expand downward. Deity abilities and miracles will also be looked at for the expansion.
For crafters, there will be a new Odus tradeskill quest line (no, it's not a new epic). Domino is planning a lot more questing and less faction grinding. Tier 9 will see a change in raws due to the loam-ore imbalance: starting with the expansion content there will be no loams. Ore will be used in armor, weapons, and jewelery. Gem nodes will still give two rares. Recipes that traditionally use loam will use another resource. If this works well the change may be implemented in lower tiers later.
New Starting City
Released at the same time as Sentinel's Fate but as additional free content will be New Halas. As Halas was completely destroyed, this is a completely new area that may bear little resemblance to the Halas many of us remember. It will be a good-aligned city, but the starting races are as yet undetermined. Like all starting cities, there will be housing and one could move there if one wished. When asked where it would be, we were told it's "closest to Everfrost".
Game Update 53
EQII Game Updates are now on a three month cycle, so by my count we should be seeing Game Update 53 mid-September.
GU53 will feature a new raid zone with the selective difficulty mentioned above. We will also get another legacy zone, Stonebrunt Mountains. We were treated to a peek at the animations for the pandas (remember the pandas?!).
One of the hottest features for the next Game Update is Auto-Mentoring. This allows a player to mentor their level down without having to mentor another player. You'll be able to reduce your level in 5 level increments and experience gray content at the appropriate level for experience and AA. There will be new Missions introduced into the game to take advantage of Auto-Mentoring and encourage players to take advantage of the feature in older zones. This will not affect the existing mentoring system at all.
The quest journal is getting a complete work-over, to make it a one-stop information source on your goals and achievements in game. We won't get more journal space, but we were shown a side-by-side display much like Profit. The new journal has more tabs and better usability, and we were asked if we'd like to be able to display more than one quest at a time. Quest Journal changes are being discussed here on the Official Forums.
Another big feature is Achievements. This is a new system and has nothing to do with Achievement Points which are being renamed "Alternate Advancement". They're a leader board style set of bragging rights not unlike the current Slayer Title system. The system will be account based, so you can brag you've killed 25,000 gnolls or harvested 1,982,345 rares. Players will get points for Achievements, and some Achievements will have tangible fluff rewards. Some of these will be retroactive (like the mob count for your Slayer Titles), but most will be this-point-forward. Achievements are being discussed here on the Official Forums.
Other Upcoming Goodies
EQII is getting an improved look, thanks to Shader 3.0 (we're on 1.0 right now). Without changing anything but the shaders, the world will be richer and more vibrant. I can't describe to you how fantastic the game will look. We were treated to a lot of "before and after" pictures, and the panel attendees were stunned.
When asked about Adornments, Domino said that she would like to take a hard look and maybe revamp them for the expansion.
Fyreflyte is looking at ways to make it easier to upgrade your gear without sacrificing set bonuses, probably by allowing pieces from different sets to mix-and-match for the bonuses.
We're probably not going to see race changes made available to us through Station Cash or any other means, as there restrictions to races such as starting city (and therefore class) and racial traits which makes that mechanically very tricky. We were told no final decision has been made, but it would take a lot of work so it's still under discussion. Similarly, due to data restrictions we will probably not be able to buy extra character slots with Station Cash.
There are class changes coming. The focus is to rebalance similar classes to make all classes desirable to a group or raid. For Priests this means balancing classes and making heals more in balance with gains in maximum health. Summoners will see changes to pets and work more in tandem with scout classes where buffs and debuffs are concerned. Bards and Enchanters will see drastic improvements to buffs. Fighters will see sweeping changes in hate gain and damage. We'll have more details on this later this week when we report the Mechanically Speaking panel.