EverQuest II - Freeport
Earlier in the fall, Massively's EverQuest II column, The Tattered Notebook, took a look at the differences between the live servers and the free-to-play server and speculated on the possibility of making all servers free-to-play. As it turns out, we no longer need to speculate because SOE has officially announced that EverQuest II will make the full transition to free-to-play in early December. Just in time for the release of the newest expansion, Age of Discovery, all servers will now share the same subscription plans, Marketplace, and forums. Last week, Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson took time to share with us the details of the free-to-play transition as well as highlight some of the new features coming with the expansion. Read on for a look at what's to come for EQII.

EverQuest II will go fully free-to-play in early December. The team realized after long discussions and research with other SOE titles that it wanted to give players as many options as possible in whether and how they want to pay. Essentially, under this new plan, players will be able to pay as they go, and subscriptions will be reduced down to simplify and unify the brand once again. Dave Georgeson feels this will attract players who wouldn't normally play MMOs. He added that the market is changing and F2P has many upsides, but the developers need to keep a high quality of standards or they won't attract customers. Overall, players are getting a better game with the free-to-play model, which allows them to manage their budgets based on what they're willing to pay and what they want from the game. Smokejumper believes that players will appreciate the free-to-play model over the traditional "pay and hope" model of monthly subscriptions and expansions.

Live players will be happy with the changes because there's no change to what they currently get with their subscription. If you're an EQII live subscriber right now, you'll become part of the gold membership, but nothing changes in your plan. Gold membership will now offer all races and all classes and will basically become the standard subscription plan that players on live servers are used to. You can buy gold plans in chunks, meaning that for the first time, SOE is offering non-recurring membership plans of one, three, six, and 12 months (they can be re-upped if you choose to keep playing). The silver plan is now reduced to a flat fee of $5 (down from $10), but the team won't be promoting that as much as the gold membership, and players who purchased silver in the last 60 days before launch for the original $10 will be reimbursed the difference. SOE will also reimburse gold players who purchased race packs in the last 60 days; the devs want to make sure that things are as fair to the players as possible. The platinum plan will be discontinued, but players who currently are on the plan will continue to stay on it until their time runs out, and then they will have the option of renewing under a different plan if they choose. In addition, players will be able to transfer across all the servers.

The Marketplace will be consolidated and offer the same things across the board for all plans. That means the "power" items currently on the Extended server will be removed, including mastercrafted gear, health and power potions, tradeskill components, self-rez scrolls, runes of devastation, and the wand of obliteration. Georgeson noted that this doesn't mean those items will never come back to the Market; SOE will seek player input on that through polls and feedback threads before making any changes. He added that player feedback will be even more important to the team after the transition to free-to-play because if the team isn't "making what the players want, that's a really good way to lose [them]." Players who currently have "power" items will be able to keep them, and since most of them are consumable, they'll eventually be gone from the game.

Freeport Revamp
Shifiting gears, Georgeson went through the details of the Age of Discovery expansion pack, which is also due to launch in early December. Included with the update is the Freeport revamp, which should make the city as alive and vibrant as it once was. The expansion pack is focused more on features, rather than content, and will bring a new class (the Beastlord), plus mercenaries, reforging, and tradeskill apprentices. But the feature that has the potential to be the real hit of the expansion is the new dungeon maker system. Players will be able to collect items while adventuring and then build their own dungeons, publish them, and open them up for other players to visit and explore. Players will be rewarded for their dungeons based on player ratings as well as the number of times that others have run through the content.

We asked about Beastlords and how they go about getting their warders; Georgeson said the system is still being fine-tuned and might change a bit, but currently, Beastlords have an ability called Beastlord Sight, which is used to stare at animals and determine whether they're tame-able. And once you tame a creature, you unlock the ability to have that creature as a warder.

Beastlord combat is very active; it's based on using your abilities around what your warder does, and each creature you tame has unique abilities. You can easily change out your warder by dismissing one and summoning another. Beastlords have a savagery bar, and the more that you do with your warder, the higher that bar goes up. As it goes up, you gain the power to fire off different kinds of primals and damages. Your warder will see a weakness, and when it does, you then have a certain amount of time to fire off certain abilities. Primals are special abilities and are based on the type of warder you have up. The longer you build up savagery, the bigger the effects of your primals. As Georgeson put it, "It's an exercise in willpower -- how long can you keep from hitting that button?"

Georgeson hinted at plans for the future, referring to "phase twos." He said that every time the team works on updates and expansions, it generates extra ideas that don't make it to live but are added to a "phase two" list. He said it's finally time to tackle that list, and while part of the team will continue with regular updates and features, another part of the team will go back through the last year and a half of releases to make them even better.

If you have any questions for the team, be sure to check out the community webcast this week, during which the team will be discussing EQII and fielding player questions. With both the launch of the expansion and the transition to free-to-play looming ahead of us, it certainly looks like the month of December will be a busy one for EverQuest II!

This article was originally published on Massively.