We went behind the scenes and asked the studio what we can expect in the winter expansion and what we can look forward to in the future. The developers were pretty open about what was coming soon, which -- like Mt. Hua -- is chock-full of new features.
Changes to existing content?
If you're one of those people who would like to see iteration or adjustments on content that already exists, then you're probably going to be disappointed. Most disappointing to me is that we won't be seeing much in the way of new guild content or adjustments to existing guild mechanics that are in heavy need of polish (such as guild surprise attacks, since there is no reason to ever do them).
What did surprise me are the changes to the criminal and constable system. Snail wouldn't tell me what is being changed, only that we should "expect changes in the next expansion." The existing system, while it does do its job, has some flaws in it, so as a career criminal I'm pretty excited to see any changes to the system. Hopefully criminals will get more incentive to be bad, with a corresponding increase in constable incentive to catch them.
We'll also see the implementation of a new alignment system (or perhaps adjustments to the old one). The old alignment system is extremely flawed, so any change to it is welcome. Unfortunately, the new system seems to give players titles and/or rewards based on escalating values of alignment points. I am not sure whether it will change the way those points are earned, which is the main issue -- it's easier to get evil points by grinding PvE rather than actually doing evil things like kidnapping or murdering.
I asked about latency issues, especially the enormous advantages given to low-latency players, and I was told about server upgrades to help combat lag, which is obviously not going to help people with poor internet connections or fix the underlying issue of low ping being a massive advantage.
Unfortunately, there won't be much iteration on existing features in this expansion.
The marriage system will work similar to the way it works in other regions. Players can register eligibility for marriage at a matchmaker NPC. Couples also register for marriage at the matchmaker; the male character proposes, while the female character can accept or reject.
Once two characters are engaged, they can set a wedding date and time and determine what kind of wedding they want to have. There will be a ceremony and reception according to the tastes of the couple, along with a "Matrimonial Chamber" feature that wasn't elaborated on.
In order to get married, both players must be VIP. Snail wasn't clear whether the couple will have to remain VIP in order to stay married or what benefits the couple will have. The official page hints at players being able to crash a wedding, but I assume this will be done in the typical way: by turning on the world PvP flag and causing mayhem rather than via a special system for crashing weddings.
The meat of the expansion
The majority of the expansion will focus on school instances. These will be new, high-powered instances for high-level players. They will be aimed at characters who have hit Peak of Power or higher martial prowess, which basically means that we'll need stacked meridians to survive.
Inside the instances, a few new things will be dropped. New workbenches and "tier 5 equipment" will be available, as will the most frightening thing of all: Inner 4 skill books. The power ceiling is rising once again, so be ready to fight for internal skill upgrades!
We'll also be getting the new fourth martial arts sets, the titular Ultimate Scrolls of the expansion. I'm not sure whether these will come as quest rewards or if they'll be instance drops; I'm guessing the former since the school instances will be adding new storyline to the game.
I asked about school array formations, but Snail declined to answer. I would assume that school arrays will be in the same expansion as school instances. However, they could be coming in a different update, too.
Aside from the new character advancement, there is another kind of ultimate scroll: the new Jianghu internal skills "Helianthus Codex" and "Devour the Stars." While Snail was not very clear on what the skills were or how to obtain them, I am a bit fortunate to have some knowledge in that regard already.
The Sunflower Manual and Star Absorbing Skill are the two ultimate internal arts learned by various characters in the wuxia novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. I'm not sure why Snail chose to rename the Sunflower Manual, since the skill is extremely iconic.
In the Chinese version of the game, the unlock items for these skills randomly drop from world chests, with a finite number existing on one server at any one time. A player with one of these scrolls drops that scroll if he is slain, and it can be looted by other players. Moreover, certain NPCs will give hints or advice to players about where people with scrolls might be found.
Players accumulate points to learn the skill by killing other players within a certain time window. Additionally, players lose points every 10 minutes while logged in. In other words, going for these skills means virtually dedicating all of your online time on that character to getting it. In order to get the skill, players will need to accumulate a massive 300 points, and it's possible to kill the same person only twice per day.
Once the skill is obtained, players will need to kill more people to level it up. Finally, if that isn't crazy enough for you, just unleashing the skill costs tons of cultivation points (I'm told upwards of 20k cultivation points every 15 seconds), making it a skill exclusively for emergencies or duels on Mt. Hua.
Those are the main features that Snail told me about in the winter expansion. Of course, there might be other features (especially iteration on existing features) that weren't covered.
Age of Wushu is a wonderous place, full of hidden secrets, incredible vistas and fearsome martial arts. Join Patrick as he journeys through China, revealing the many secrets of this ancient land. The Ming Dynasty may be a tumultuous time, but studying The Art of Wushu will give you the techniques you need to prevail.