The Tattered Notebook: Leapers, gliders, and Beastlords, oh my!

E3 has come and gone, but EverQuest II fans are left with more questions than answers. Children of War has just launched, and already, players are wondering what's coming down the road. We do know about some of the more immediate changes, such as the rebuilding of the Dragon Ring and Spires live event, new mounts, and the Freeport Revamp. But there were some hints at much bigger changes down the road -- and few details on how exactly it would change the game.

In this week's Tattered Notebook, we'll break out the crystal ball and speculate on whether EQII is growing closer to EQ2X and whether we might in fact see the arrival of Beastlords in game.

That 25th class and the bigger picture

As reported here at Massively, Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson let it slip that there would be a new class available for EverQuest II and that details would be available in a few weeks at Fan Faire. While that might generate some excitement for some, it raises some concerns over the fact that there are now more classes than spots on a full four-group raid. If you've played a raiding Monk or Brigand or Illusionist or Ranger, you've felt the pain of being the red-headed step-child class at some point in the game's history. So the addition of a new class to an already-full house might not be welcomed by all.

This raises the question of whether something's planned beyond just a simple addition of a new class. The only thing that Georgeson would say is that it won't be a Station Cash class. But what if it is the capstone to a larger revamp of the class system? After all, these 24 classes were originally mapped out to be part of an intricate class tree, and with the addition of two distinct city factions, we were only supposed to be grouping and raiding with 12 classes, not 24. Is there a possibility of some class consolidation coming our way?

Another thing to consider is the changes that came to the betrayal system recently. Players can now easily switch between their good and evil classes. What if that were expanded upon to allow players to play any class within their archetype, similar to the system in RIFT? It's not much more of a stretch from what's currently in game. Plus, it would take a whole lot of pressure off the team to balance classes because if a player felt her class had been overly nerfed, she could simply swap and play a different class. Frankly, if there's any game that could benefit from having a more flexible class system, it's EverQuest II.

Expansions and the velvet rope?

In all the buzz about the "25th class," the news about EQII's new approach to expansions got somewhat overshadowed. But it's actually a pretty big change, and it raises some questions not only about pricing changes but also about the wall between the live and Extended servers.

Shortly after launch, EverQuest II actually had a model similar to what's being described today, only it was the content that was being sold in chunks via the Adventure Packs. For a price, players had the chance to blow up caves (Bloodline Chronicles), stack boxes (Splitpaw Saga), or smash hundreds and hundreds of terracotta warriors (Fallen Dynasty). In the first year after launch, the team released two adventure packs in addition to the first expansion, Desert of Flames. Selling content was an idea that was either a little before its time or one that just put too much strain on the team, but it seems that the idea of launching small chunks of updates along with a larger expansion is one that Sony Online Entertainment is going to try again.

If the content is going to be free, that raises the question of what types of features people think would be worth the price of an expansion. The most obvious would be things like a level cap or AA increase. But what about things like increased guild levels, a revamped mentoring system, UI improvements, guild tools, improved deity blessings and miracles, or better heroic opportunities? It will be interesting to see what types of features, new or improved, would be worth the price of an expansion. Plus, some features are sure to be a sort of "velvet rope" that, while optional, would really make it hard for a player who hasn't purchased the expansion. Given the fact that expansions will focus on features rather than content, and with Georgeson seeing a day that expansions are done away with completely and features would be purchased individually, I can only wonder whether the live and Extended servers are growing closer and closer in what they offer and whether we'll ever see the two somehow merged together down the road.

Gliders and leapers and the old travel debate

For a while, Georgeson and others on the development team have been hinting at what's to come regarding mounts at the lower levels. On Massively, Georgeson emphasized that the devs had a good reason for not allowing players under level 86 to acquire a flying mount, and now we finally have an answer as to why. EQII will now have mounts that leap (which you can get at level 30) and glide (attainable at level 60). On the surface, it seems logical to allow bigger and better mounts as you level up, but in the process, it also brings up the age-old debate over the role of travel in MMOs.

The problem is that travel is a part of the leveling-up process, and for server communities that are top-heavy at the higher levels, anything that makes leveling unnecessarily tedious will contribute to players who don't stick around. In EQII, travel is really no longer dangerous; it's just time consuming. There are plenty of bells and portals to help shorten up distances, and the in-game flight masters and stablehands offer plenty of sleek, hands-free rides to certain checkpoints. But even with the travel revamp, there are many zones, particularly at the lower levels, that are so twisty and convoluted that they're a nightmare to traverse on the ground. Leapers and gliders will help a bit with scaling cliffs and getting over tangled roots and small barriers, but flying mounts at the lower levels would help tremendously with finding hubs and turning in quests. Again, it's not about danger -- it's about time and tedium.

While there was a lot of exciting news about EQII coming from E3, it seems like we'll have to wait a few more weeks until we get more details. In the meantime, I'm going to go dust off my 3-D glasses and practice my flying skills for the Aether tournaments at Fan Faire!

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 karen@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.