Hello again, Norrathians!
It gives me great pleasure to raise the curtain on a new chapter in our game's history.
Today, we stop requiring any sort of payment. There are no upfront download costs and memberships are no longer required. Everything is voluntary now. If we're doing a good job of entertaining you, then you can help support the game you love with purchases or memberships, spending as much or as little as you choose to spend as you play.
We have a fired-up dev team. We believe that EQII is the best MMORPG in existence and we intend to keep making it better so that everyone else has to admit it. What we're doing today keeps us on that path.
This is your world, and we're committed to making it more and more your world as we keep growing.
Today, every one of you can walk into "Freeport Reborn." Lucan D'Lere has returned to kick his city into gear and reassert his dominance across the map. And to show how much his desire for power has affected the city, Freeport has been given a huge aesthetic facelift, combining North, South, East, and West Freeport into a single city without zones, and retexturing and improving the impressiveness of the city.
Although we've preserved much of the original content and quests in Freeport, we have also added a large amount of completely new content also. The approach on these new quests is unique for this game. For the first time, we've focused on race- and archetype-specific quest lines throughout the city so that each time you run an alt through the game, you can experience new content in Freeport. Also, the quest lines added to Freeport dynamically scale in level so that regardless of what level you come into the city, chances are that some of the new quests there will work for your character. With a greater focus on stories and better NPC personas, the city is coming alive like it never has before.
So go be evil. Enjoy Freeport. Revel in the moment of glory that is the beginning of greatness! We bring you to the city via the Golden Path naturally at level 20 (from Butcherblock), but you can go there at any age and a good chunk of the content will scale to your level.
And that's just the beginning of what we're bringing you today!
Age of Discovery
Today is also the day we launch the standalone, level-agnostic expansion pack, the "Age of Discovery". This expansion is designed to be available to you at any time during your adventure as an EverQuest II player. It's a box of entirely new gameplay that opens up wide vistas for players that have experienced much of the original game and want to enhance their adventures beyond the standard game features.
The "Age of Discovery" is aptly named. We focused on customization, collectability, and allowing players to unlock countless hours of new gameplay.
Let's start with Beastlords. This new player class feels fresh the moment you begin to tame new Warders. The world of Norrath is full of creatures, and Beastlords can tame a huge chunk of them, in 16 different families of Warders, with their own unique abilities and specialization trees (yes, your Warders have their own "AA trees"). Add to that a more active gameplay style where your Warder looks for weaknesses so that you can take advantage of them, and a new charge-up mechanic as your successful use of advantages gives you power to trigger powerful Primal effects. What you end up with is a hugely varied, insanely tweakable, fun-to-play character class that you use to explore throughout all of Norrath.
This alone gets a lot of folks excited, but there's an incredible amount in this expansion even beyond Beastlords.
We are also bringing Mercenaries to the game. Each mercenary in the world is unique, with abilities and AI traits that are theirs and theirs alone. (A Dark Elf healer may have entirely different skills than a Halfling healer, for example.) You pick the merc you like, hire them on, and the two of you journey out into the world together (as long as you keep paying gold to the merc, that is). You can customize their appearance, change their name, give them tactical commands, and there are even rare-spawn mercs out there in Norrath that you may stumble upon one day…and they are impressively powerful.
Mercenaries have a huge impact on the solo and small-group play experiences. Content that was impossible to achieve without 6-12 players (heroic dungeons and X2 raids) is now entirely possible to explore with only 3-6 players instead. This opens up the world of Norrath to the new player and veteran alike, as even just a few friends can get a group together. Essentially, your potential gaming space in Norrath expands enormously in size once you have a Mercenary at your disposal.
Not done yet. There's still more. A lot more.
The third of our main features in AoD is Dungeon Maker! Almost every one of us has played a paper RPG in the past. Probably most of us have been a gamemaster in one game or another. Haven't you always wanted to be able to create content within an MMO for your friends and guildmates? And do it without having to learn some insane scripting language so that it's actually *fun* to build a dungeon?
That's what this feature is all about.
You start with a handful of small maps and a decent list of monster spawners and effect objects, but most of the really cool stuff you can use to build a dungeon is "out there" in the world of Norrath. As you explore and defeat the challenges of Norrath, you'll also find things for Dungeon Maker.
And not just things to use when creating a dungeon, but also things to play when entering a dungeon! The creatures of Norrath (around 50 of them so far) can be possessed when entering a player-created dungeon, each player becoming an Adventurer character with its own abilities and techniques. You decide which Adventurer to play out of the ones you've collected every time you enter a dungeon.
Adventurers get XP for playing, of course, but both Builders and Adventurers get rewards when Adventurers finish the dungeon and the cool item and rewards you get can be used for any of your characters. Builders get a small reward the first time each player completes their dungeon, so the more popular your dungeon is, the better the rewards!
Building a dungeon is done with a new, improved housing interface, a cool new Toolbox window, and simple click-and-place mechanics. You can set wander and patrol behaviors, you can customize a ton of text that the monsters say (and even their names) and you can also use easy-to-place and use Effect Objects to change your monster powers and abilities.
It's an incredibly flexible system and players access it via a Dungeon Maker interface (look for it in the EQII menu!), similar in nature to the existing Housing Leaderboards. It's incredibly simple to check things out, have fun, rate the dungeon, and get rewards.
This community is fantastically creative. The EverQuest II housing community already makes some stunningly beautiful and inventive creations, so it's going to be incredibly exciting to see what the community creates when they can make something that's not only beautiful, but also has compelling gameplay! And did I mention that you can build a dungeon together cooperatively? As far as I know, we're the first game to *ever* allow that functionality.
I know, I know. This is a long letter. But seriously, that's how much stuff we have for you. It's a good thing that this is long. Really. ;)
EQII has one of the best and strongest crafting communities of any MMO, and they get a bright new feature this time with Tradeskill Apprentices. Contract your Apprentice from one of several races (you pick), and install your Apprentice in your home. He or she will get to work right away doing research to find new recipes for you that can make some majorly powerful stuff. During that research, your Apprentice will occasionally stumble upon quests that you can do to help him speed his research along. If you do those quests regularly, you can get rare drops and also decrease the amount of time your Apprentice needs. The Apprentice is, of course, appearance and name customizable, and we'll be releasing new Tradeskill Apprentices in the future, making each of them unique and interesting in their own right as they arrive.
This leads us to Reforging. Reforging is one of those features that is easy to explain, but adds more to the game than its deceptively simple description. Basically, you can change blue stats on a Legendary (or better) weapon and you can also find "decorations" out in the world (such as loot drops or NPC merchants, to start with) and add cool particle effects to your weapons. Simple, eh? But you'll be surprised how many times you'll sit at a Reforger contemplating your changes and deciding how you want your gear to look. If you like customization of items, this is good stuff.
More Alternate Advancement Points
And lastly, we're adding +20 to the AA cap for everyone that activates "Age of Discovery."
One of the press folks that toured these features in-game with us (from MMORPG) put it best when he said "The Age of Discovery introduces more gameplay as an expansion than many full games launch with originally." These are good features, folks, and there's a lot of replayability here.
But, as the late-night commercials say, "Wait! There's still more!"
Here's a list of stuff that we've kept quiet until now. Why? Because surprises are cool. Surprise!
- www.everquest2.com: Hugely overhauled with a better look and feel.
- Social networking : We already let you upload videos to YouTube from within the game, but now you can post to Facebook or Twitter from within the game also, and you can also turn on Achievements so that your Facebook page or Twitter feed gets updated with EQII achievements. NOTE: We only broadcast a tiny fraction of the game's achievements. We have no intent for this to be spam. And this can be toggled on/off per character! (But if you're proud of EQII, we'd love for you to show your colors. The more people hear about us, the more likely it is that your game will thrive!)
- The new Launchpad : Quicker, smarter, cooler-looking than before. And now Flash-less!
- (And it didn't *quite* make it in time for launch, but look for a stronger, faster, better version of EQ2Players to arrive in a week or so!)
So check out the update notes for details, and enjoy! There has never been a better time to play EverQuest II.
On a personal note, I'm tremendously excited to be working with this game at this time. The team is passionate and SOE is making smart business decisions to support all of its games here. Every company goes through peaks and valleys during its lifetime, but there's a strong feeling of a new renaissance happening here at SOE that's electrifying. Work just isn't a chore when you like what you're doing and where you're going.
Every single one of you got a new Welcome Pack of goodies today, so check your /claim windows. And have fun! That's what it's all about!
EverQuest II Executive Producer