As the Heroes Festival returned to Norrath, players were speculating on the future of the game. Server mergers were right on the horizon, and players were full of questions about bank space, house items, and whether they'd lose their names (an issue that still gets brought up regularly on the forums). On top of that, there was a new expansion on the way, Destiny of Velious. You would have expected that players would be talking about snow, giants, coldain dwarves, and ring wars, but instead, the topic that took over was about vampires. The Freeblood race created a stir on the forums when it was revealed that initially it was only going to be offered on the Marketplace, purchased with Station Cash. In the end, it was also given out as a promotion, but players questioned whether racial options should be purchasable on the Marketplace at all. The year ended with the usual Frostfell festivities (my favorite in-game holiday), but the slow pace of server mergers and the continued controversy over Freebloods put a little damper on the holiday.
2011, however, began on a positive note. The server mergers were nearly complete, and the rough spots were mostly smoothed out. In addition, beta had opened for Velious, giving players the chance to focus their attention on all of the new content that was on the way. The expansion launched with lots of big changes, and one of the biggest was Kael Drakkel, a contested group zone that was the largest ever built. EQII also saw its first two public quests, the Battle of Storm Gorge and the Ring War, and players got to celebrate the arrival of Velious with a 12-day series of rewards, including the Othmir illusion. In addition, the team seemed to respond to the players' concerns about lack of new and challenging endgame content. The previous summer, updates had seemed to focus on lower-level zone revamps, UI tune-ups, and changes aimed toward newer players. Velious was a dramatic shift from that, and the updates that followed brought even more high-level content to EQII fans.
The Velious launch was not without controversy, though. In an ongoing attempt to make itemization more consistent and cut down on gearflation, the team had plans to streamline stats and put a "gearscore" in place. That was eventually scrapped, but itemization in Velious has gone through a series of tweaks and adjustments, amplified most recently by the game-wide item revamp, which created even more problems and inconsistencies.
The early spring saw even more new game changes. EverQuest II celebrated EverQuest's 12th anniversary with the Chronoportal event, bringing some of the classic mobs and memorable moments to EQII's Norrath. And the Gnomes launched the Aether Races, which allowed players to navigate through hovering race courses on tinkered flying machines. On the way was Update 60, which would bring a new raid zone, a new solo zone, and lots of improvements to battlegrounds and itemization.
But just as things seemed to be clicking, Sony Online Entertainment's game services were brought down by an "external intrusion," and the downtime lasted weeks. It was probably the worst time for SOE, just weeks after a round of layoffs and restructuring. The company relaunched with a "make-good" program, offering players free game time, a free identity protection plan, and a series of in-game perks and rewards for all of its games. And while it was frustrating for both fans and the team, Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson immediately outlined a detailed plan for EQII, indicating that the team had made use of the downtime to ramp up production on new content and features.
While the summer seemed to be full of optimism, the fall became a reality check of sorts. The much-anticipated itemization revamp and the arrival of the dungeon finder both came with lots of rough spots that are still being smoothed out. Some players also question whether the next expansion, due in just a few more weeks, will be ready, given the issues with recently released features. At the same time, this past year has seen a lot of change come to EQII, and if the new changes end up launching smoothly, the upcoming year could be a blast. Either way, we better buckle up!
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 email@example.com.