The Tattered Notebook: Fan Faire knowns and unknowns

As we inch closer to Fan Faire, speculation begins to mount about what news EverQuest II fans will finally get to hear. Last year, players were smarting from the announcement of EQII Extended, the free-to-play server, and it seemed to deflate the mood among EQII Fan Faire attendees. This year, EQII is full of knowns and unknowns, to borrow a phrase from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. We have known knowns, which are things that we know we know. And then there are known unknowns, or things that we know but we actually don't know. Lastly, there are unknown unknowns, which are things that we don't know we don't know. That's where things are in EQII currently. Confused? Me too! This week's Tattered Notebook will look at what we know and what we hope to find out more about at this year's Fan Faire.

Who's in charge?

There was a somewhat quiet change last month, as Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson was promoted to become Executive Producer of EverQuest, and Emily "Domino" Taylor is now Associate Producer of EverQuest II. Georgeson is still an active part of EQII's development, as seen in his many forum replies, but going forward, his focus will be on "the game's quality and business direction."

It might be a subtle change, but how will it affect the game going forward? Taylor has always been popular with tradeskillers, and she's been successful in making that system one of the most robust in any MMO. Tradeskilling is a completely independent area of content, with tradeskill epic quests, faction-based content, daily quests, and work orders. It will be interesting to see what ideas Taylor has for the game as a whole now that she's helping steer the ship.

Freeport extreme makeover

One of the big items to come out of Fan Faire will be details on the Freeport revamp. We've had some hints about what changes we'll see but few specifics. The panel on content and zone design should finally give us some answers. Personally, I'm still hoping for some reduced urban sprawl, but I'm even more curious about the plans to transform Freeport (and later Qeynos) into cities that offer multi-level content. Both cities have turned into ghost towns over the past few years, as players tended to loiter in their guild halls rather than in town. Will the revamp bring us out of our halls once again? And will the Freeport Citadel rise once again? (Hopefully not!)

That 25th class?

Will it be the class that cannot be named on the official forums? Kiara's legendary bstlrd thread is no longer stickied; does that mean something? Also, SmokeJumper has been leveling up a Beastlord in EverQuest -- coincidence?

If we really do get Beastlords as the 25th class, how will that affect the already-crowded field? There are a lot of unknowns regarding this new class, and most of them revolve around the impact the class will have on the class system as a whole. Will this new class start at level 1, or will it be similar to World of Warcraft's Death Knight, which starts at a higher level? Will there be changes to the other classes in order to balance things out? What about the issue of having 24 raid slots and now 25 classes? When it comes to known unknowns, this one takes the cake.

Itemization be damned

I've talked about this in a previous Tattered Notebook, but itemization has to be a major topic at Fan Faire. What players are seeing right now with items is the result of years and years of band-aids stacked on top of the issue along with a lack of consistency when it comes to item progression. The most recent item revamp for Velious resulted in better consistency when it comes to high-end items, but the move away from unique procs and toward base stats has made items feel bland and cookie-cutter. On top of that, lower-level items that did not get adjusted have mismatched stats that don't fit the classes they're meant for.

We know from recent posts that itemization is undergoing a revamp, and that will include items from levels 20-80. But what changes will players see on Velious gear? And will fans ever see a balance between stat consistency versus that feeling of uniqueness from certain rare drops? There's bound to be some lively discussion at this year's EQII mechanics panel.

EQ Next?

Last year, players got a peek at some concept art and in-game shots of EverQuest Next. With a year under its belt, what will the team have to show fans this time around? And as we get closer to the eventual launch, how will that affect EverQuest II? The quick answer is that it won't, and the proof is the co-existence of EverQuest and EverQuest II over the past seven years. Both games share common lore and content but appeal to very different types of players. But in last year's panels on EQ Next, Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley sought out player feedback on what people wanted to see in the game. If the team at SOE is really designing a game that appeals to EQ and EQII fans as its target base, it's inevitable that both titles will suffer when the game goes live. What's unknown is how much the two titles will be affected.

Break it down

At recent Fan Faires, the biggest news has been the announcement of the next expansion. Two years ago, EQII fans were surprised with the news that it would be Odus, not Velious, that was the setting for Sentinel's Fate. Last year, fans finally got their Velious wish, highlighted by the video of flying mounts. This year, we're promised a sneak peek into the next expansion, but what exactly will we get in that expansion, and when will it be released? We already know that content will be released in smaller chunks through game updates, and we know that the expansion is supposed to be more about features than about content. What we really need to know is the overall plan and schedule so we can get a better idea of what to expect both in the short term and over the long haul. We know about certain zones that are coming, like Western Wastes, but will they be part of a game update or part of the new expansion? Also, what sorts of features are coming with the expansion? Will we see an increase in the level cap, perhaps to level 100? What about older features that deserve a revamp, such as the heroic opportunity or deity systems?

In about a week, we should start to see some answers to these questions, as the unknown becomes known. In the meantime, the one thing I do know is that I need to pay a visit to the Gigglegibber Goblins to get some tips for Vegas. These multiple houses are costing me an arm and a leg!

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.