The Tattered Notebook: EverQuest II's year in review

EverQuest II may be the ripe old age of six, but it certainly isn't showing signs of slowing down. With 2010 coming to a close, it's time to look back on the past year, which was marked with several major changes to the game.

Read on for The Tattered Notebook's year in review, and then share your memories of the past year in EverQuest II.

As we ushered in 2010, EverQuest II players were enduring their own mini-cataclysm. Deathknell Citadel in Freeport had been destroyed, and both cities were facing mysterious threats to their existence.

But hope remained, and City Festivals made their inaugural appearance in-game at the beginning of the year. Players could take refuge from the looming threats in Freeport and Qeynos to decorate their own private oasis, complete with new tiles, columns, and several fancy outfits.

Later that winter, EverQuest II launched its sixth expansion, Sentinel's Fate. Players saw the return of Odus, including familiar landmarks such as Paineel and The Hole. This expansion also marked a renewed focus on PvP instances, with the launch of Battlegrounds. These were a nice improvement over the Arenas that had been introduced during the Desert of Flames expansion. And among the many new features and changes that came with the expansion, one of the best was the addition of the guild rally banner, which allows a guild member to plant a flag in the overland and have the rest of the guild teleport to that location. It's hard to remember what EverQuest II was like before this addition.

The spring saw the introduction of one of the best in-game items ever -- The Stone of Gygax. EQII paid tribute to Gary Gygax, the father of Dungeons & Dragons, who passed away in 2008. The stone is 20-sided, with a bright red 20, and it slowly rolls around your home or guildhall.

But spring also marked the sudden departure of Alan "Brenlo" Crosby from SOE. Brenlo had been with SOE for several years, working his way up through the Community Relations team, and he was the Senior Producer of EverQuest II when he left. His replacement was Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson, who had previously worked on such games as Planetside, zOMG! and Tribes 2.

In-game, players also noted the departure of the starter isles -- The Isle of Refuge and the Outpost of the Overlord. These were the original starting points for players, as they entered the world of Norrath with nothing but a set of ragged clothes and a foggy memory of what happened to them. Over time, EQII added several other starting areas, and the team felt that the starter islands simply did not age well. Players appealed for them to remain and lamented their departure in one of the longest forum threads that year.

Around the same time, EQII players saw the arrival of Prowler mounts on the Marketplace. For 2500 Station Cash, players could now purchase one of the fastest in-game mounts in a variety of colors. "Sparklecat," as it was nicknamed by players, was met with mixed reviews but seemed to be successful overall. Over the course of the year, several other mounts were added to the Marketplace, including clouds, horses, and wargs.

In May, Update 56 arrived, and with it came new content, including the discovery of starter area New Halas and the launch of two new raid instances -- Underfoot Depths and the Icy Keep.

As the hot summer weather arrived, players' thoughts had turned to the snow, ice, and frost of Velious. Rumors had been swirling for a while that the next expansion would finally mark the return of some fondly remembered content, and players were excitedly preparing for the announcement at Fan Faire in Vegas.

There was another major announcement that caught them off guard, though -- EverQuest II Extended. Just before Fan Faire, the news arrived that EverQuest II would add a new server, which would be free-to-play and include a robust Marketplace. The timing of the announcement was awkward at best, and it overshadowed much of the festivity of Fan Faire.

Despite the concerns about a new free-to-play server, EQII fans flocked to Vegas for Fan Faire. The event will always be remembered as the one where Billy ruled the stage, Snickers finally got the girl, and some poor girl was trapped in a bubble during the pool party. (Does anyone know if she ever got out?) The big news for EQII was, of course, the official confirmation that the next expansion would be Destiny of Velious. Even more exciting was the news that flying mounts would be part of the expansion. Players were thrilled at the idea of exploring the overland zones by air, and the trailer that debuted looked fantastic.

As fall arrived, so did Update 58, which included the new group instance, Zraxth's Unseen Arcanum, and the addition of new rare mobs in some of the other Sentinel's Fate instances. Housing also got some nice additions, as players found that their homes now had extra rooms and outdoor balconies. There were also some nice smaller changes, such as the addition of appearance mounts and the currency window. But the biggest change was with the betrayal system, as players now could betray back and forth without losing their master spells. This somewhat controversial change provided flexibility to players, as they could now switch back and forth between the good and evil versions of their respective classes.

With Frostfell and Velious, you'd think that winter would be dominated by thoughts of snow and ice. But instead, all players seem to be talking about is blood-sucking, although it's not always in reference to the new Vampire race. The news of the Freeblood race has been a hot topic, not only because it's an odd fit with the upcoming Velious expansion, but also because of how it's been introduced. Players raised questions about its arrival on the Marketplace right now, in light of the fact that it's supposed to be a reward in February. The Vampire racial ability also raised some eyebrows, as players wondered why a purchased race should be allowed to have a special ability to lifetap.

As the year comes to a close, there are many questions about EverQuest II's future. Will Velious meet expectations of former EverQuest players who long for nostalgia? What will we see from the Marketplace next year? Will the mergers breathe new life to the live servers? Will Gnomes finally just go away, never to be seen again?

Despite these questions, EQII certainly had a busy year in 2010, and with a new expansion on the horizon, the game isn't showing any signs of slowing down any time soon. Let's hope that 2011 will be as productive as this past year!

From the snow-capped mountains of New Halas to the mysterious waters of the Vasty Deep, Karen Bryan explores the lands of Norrath to share her tales of adventure. Armed with just a scimitar, a quill, and a dented iron stein, she reports on all the latest news from EverQuest II in her weekly column, The Tattered Notebook. You can send feedback or elven spirits to
This article was originally published on Massively.