Mobhunter: Breaking News: Dragons of Norrath

Early today rumors started spreading like wildfire of a new Everquest expansion. This evening we finally have more details. Most of your questions can be answered at the Official Dragons of Norrath Website. Lets dig right into the main features:

Everquest: The Dragons of Norrath, release on February 15th.

- New Zones, Creatures and Content - From Lavastorm to the Thundercrest Isles adventure in graphically enhanced zones with all new themes. Brave challenging new quests, discover new treasures, and battle new NPCs including drakes, goblins, and fierce dragons.

- New Interactive World Map - A full-color interactive map of the world allows players to point-and-click from a world view, to a continent view, to a zone view of the traditional line maps.

- Player Barter System - Allows players to set up their own method of giving platinum or items for other items. Players can now buy items!

- Potion Belt - Allows for quick use of consumable items, such as potions or food.

- Bandolier Equip - Lets your character have pre-arranged, multiple sets of weapons accessible by a single mouse click.

- New spells and Tradeskill Recipes

- All-New Guild Halls - Individual instanced Guild Halls for guild members to meet and prepare for playing. Includes the following features and benefits:

- Guild Bank - Bank slot for storage of items accessible by all (designated) members of a guild.

- Mana/health Regen Pool - Allows players to easily regenerate their mana and health in preparation for battle (available only at the Guild Hall).

- Mass Corpse Summoning Altar - Allows guilds to summon guild corpses en masse to the altar room after a wipe out.

- Guild Portal - Allows guild members to purchase the ability to have a persistent port to pre-determined areas around the world.

- Guild Tradeskill Objects - Various tradeskill tools are located in the guild hall for easy access by guild members.

- Guild 'Looking for Members' Tool - Allows guilds to recruit by placing persistent “ads” on bulletin boards, search for player characters who match guild criteria and send in-game emails to those members.

- Players 'Looking for Guild' Tool - Allows players to find guilds recruiting members.

- Buff Timers - In the Guild Halls buff times can be paused for Guild Members.

The front page also mentions a "In-game email system" when you highlight one of the crazy spires.

Loral's Comments:

The front page of the website mentions a release date of February 15th (Looks like I may owe Nanyea a drink). I didn't expect it this soon but the schedule fits inside of the traditional six month delivery of new expansions since PoP. While the boards already crawl with "but they haven't fixed all the doors in Freeport" comments already, and while many others feel that SOE is bringing this out too soon, history since PoP shows a six month delivery cycle. Personally, I enjoy seeing the world shift and change as often and as radically as it does. Change is growth and growth is good.

I love the mentioned guild features, however, I fear the associated in-game costs. Hopefully the guild costs scale well for non-high end raiding guilds. The mass summon corpse feature interests me the most. While I feel SOE should give this feature to every player of the game in the form of a Shadowrest NPC, even in a guild hall this feature will help many players. However, if the cost is scaled around guilds with 54 raiders of level 70, it won't scale well for a guild of 12 level 20 to 50 players. The costs of guildhall features should scale well for guilds of all sizes in order to be a truly great feature.

In-game email, a guild recruitment service, and a player search of recruiting guilds will help people get together and find groups of friends with similar goals and play-styles. I like that a lot. Now if only we would see a "recruit" guild status to streamline the guild recruitment process.

The UI elements look to be nice additions. One of these, the bandolier, was a feature asked for at the guild summit. The world map should help new players but many of us who have the zone maps permanently laid over the neural paths of our brains will find little use in them.

The beta signup appears and disappears on the front page of EQLive. If you don't blink at the wrong moment and you desire to betatest the expansion, keep watch the Everquest homepage.

In other news, John Smedley, president of SOE, posted an interesting note about Everquest 2 including this comment about a new form of $5 bit of content called "Adventure Packs":

"Adventure Packs are a new style of content that we are introducing to EverQuest II. You can think of them as being similar to "Modules" from traditional tabletop RPGs. They will be heavily story driven and themed adventuring areas. We will provide a part of each of these Adventure Packs, at no extra charge, to all of our players. This should give everyone the opportunity to see if a particular Adventure Pack is the kind of thing they are interested in. You'll be able to buy these at any time, since they will be delivered digitally. We plan on keeping the price point for these low... In fact, our first one will be just US$4.99."

Read the John Smedley's full EQ2 letter.

Adventure packs interest me. This is an opportunity for SOE to release mini-games or campaigns for EQ2 in a more traditional RPG sense. I imagine modules like Temple of Elemental Evil and Queen of the Demonweb Pits. I imagine single story lines that progress from beginning to end. Where typical EQ2 expansions will focus on large scale world-based content, these adventures will offer a specific and focused story, gameplay element, zone, and quests. So why not have this for EQ1? The idea of paying another $5 every three months will turn some people off, but considering the time we get for our dollar, $5 for twenty hours of content is a pretty good deal.

Earlier today, Everquest Executive Producer, Robert Pfister, posted The State of Everquest in 2005. In it he discusses many of the past and future points of interest for Everquest including possible server merges for the Zeks and a review of other servers after Dragons of Norrath, the class role review, and the release of Dragons of Norrath. It is unclear when we may first see class changes occurring and I would bet it won't be until after the release of Dragons of Norrath. That will surely vex some people. Minor class tweaks don't excite me like a new expansion does, however, and I bet I am not alone.

Yes, I get all googly eyed when I see the glossy propaganda for a new expansion. I know we still have class discussions ahead of us and new patches that update old-world content like the task system. I know there are still plenty of bugs. But I see a screenshot like this Frost Giant and I can't help but get giddy. I love Norrath and I love watching it grow. I look forward to the days ahead.

Loral Ciriclight
11 January 2005