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SOE Fan Faire 2011: Community address highlights

Karen Bryan

As the lights dimmed and a certain familiar bearded dwarf took the stage, SOE's Fan Faire officially got underway. After a hearty welcome from SOE Community Manager Linda "The Brasse" Carlson, fans were treated to some highlights of what to expect from the panels and events of the coming weekend through a keynote address by SOE President John Smedley.

But before all the fancy trailers and big announcements, Smedley made a personal apology to fans for the security breach this past spring. In addition, he unveiled a new tool to protect player accounts -- the Vasco Data Security key fob. He said it's an extra layer of security that will protect against hacking, and it will go live in all SOE games as of tomorrow. All Fan Faire participants get a free key fob, and there will be iPhone and Android versions on the way as well.

Read on for a look at all of the highlights from the community address!

Next, after going through a quick rundown of the past decade of title releases, there was a look towards what's coming up down the road. In DCUO, Smedley alluded to the next update, and showed the E3 trailer of Brainiac's attack on the Fortress of Solitude.

In Clone Wars Adventures, there is a new update that will provide a transition between seasons three and four of the TV show. SOE is adding new content as part of the Battle for Iceberg Three, and unveiled a new trailer showing gameplay footage of jedi sword fights and Republic Defender. In addition, Smedley announced that starting today, fans can go to McDonalds and get a Happy Meal with a special Clone Wars Adventures code on the box.

After a brief mention of Free Realms, and the high level of user-generated content in housing, it was time for EverQuest and EverQuest II news. Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson took the stage to give a rundown of all the news.

In EverQuest, the next expansion will be Veil of Alaris. It will provide a new continent, and players will be tasked with finding out who orchestrated the demise of Cazic-Thule. Guild halls will have exteriors, so players can put guild halls in neighborhoods, and that will be part of a larger revamp of the guild hall models. In addition, the level cap is raised to 95. Surprisingly, it will go live in November of 2011.

EQII news was met with a rousing wave of cheers, and the news didn't disappoint. The first news was the announcement of the next expansion, titled Age of Discovery. It includes several new features, such as tradeskill apprentices, a new reforging skill that, among other things, allows you to customize the particle effect of your weapon, and an increased AA limit. Also, players will be able to hire NPC mercenaries to join them in dungeons and help fill out groups. And there's a new feature called "Design your own dungeon," where players can build and publish their own designed dungeons, and collect some nice loot in the process. But the big news was the official announcement of the new player class -- the Beastlord.

The expansion is due in November, and will include all of these features as well as the big Freeport Revamp.

After Georgeson wrapped up, Smedley returned to reveal what everyone had been waiting for -- Planetside 2. He introduced it by talking about Forge Light, the engine that they're using for both Planetside 2 and EverQuest Next. Unfortunately, beyond an impressive character screenshot, the EverQuest Next news was non-existent.

But this new Forge Light engine will allow for massive seamless worlds, advanced atmospheric effects such as moving lights and shadows, volumetric fog, and even sun filtering through clouds. It's designed from the ground up to scale, meaning that it will work on old systems as well as future ones. Combined with NVIDIA's PhysX real time physics system, SOE believes it has the ability to make some of the most amazing looking characters and environments.

After a sneak peek trailer for the game, Creative Director Matt Higby took the stage. He said they would deliver on the promise of massive warfare. Players will be able to have the most epic and memorable battles in any MMO. Planetside 2 can accommodate thousands of players in open world combat, with massive conflicts.

There is a brand new conquest map, and everything is contestable, valuable real estate. The topography will change as you conquer spots, so fights can take place at physical structures, but they can also happen along volcano ridges or river banks.

The fight is over resources, and as empires control areas, they also control those resources, which are needed to upgrade weapons, armor, vehicles, etc.

All three empires are back, and each comes with different tools and different tactics. In addition, there are now new combat roles and a very extensive skill tree that allows for upgrades not only to your class, but also your outfit as well as yourself. Lastly, he added that they are putting in an offline, time-based unlock system similar to EVE's system. It allows players to advance while offline, so they can keep up with friends if they can't be in game as much.

More details are soon to follow, so check back with Massively for panel updates and more specifics on some of these features!

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