On Friday, 13 January 2007, Sony Online Entertainment announced the upcoming release of the thirteenth Everquest expansion, The Buried Sea. According to the Buried Sea Press Release, Everquest players can purchase the expansion for $30 and download it on 13 February 2007. It may be a bad Valentines day for a lot of significant others. Today we'll take a look at a few things we know from the press release and a few things we can uncover looking at the clues.
If the theme for this expansion can be summarized in a single word "Pirates" would be that word. Sea battles, lost cities, ship to ship combat; all point towards an expansion of sea faring voyages and exploration of lost lands.
This expansion appears to be a contrast to The Serpent's Spine. Instead of large static zones, The Buried Sea will include 60 instanced missions focused around particular adventures. Personally speaking, I always preferred the focused goals and time durations of instanced missions over the open static hunting of particular camps in large zones. Missions remind me of good pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons adventures, although most of my fond memories of Everquest take place in long static hunts in large populated zones. Both hunting styles have their place in Everquest and it's good to see them both continue forward.
The expansion includes a new inventory slot called a "Energeian", a power source that changes the properites of the rest of your worn armor. No details on these new items are yet known. Perhaps, and this is strictly speculation, these new inventory slots could bring raiders back into the grouping game by offering them as group-only rewards. We'll have to see how they turn out.
Guild Banners will exite the high-end raiding guilds. A few patches ago, World of Warcraft rebuilt how their Meeting Stones worked on dungeons. Three members of a group could go outside of a dungeon, click on a stone, and teleport the rest of a group to that dungeon's location. Guild Banners appear to do something similar for entire raid forces. Once so many members of a guild have reached a certain location, they can plant their own customized Guild Banner and let other members of their guild teleport to that location. It appears to be a handy mechanism for gathering guilds together quickly to a raid. It offers little advantage for multi-guild raiding organizations or pickup-raids, however. This may be an opportunity lost to support non-guild-based raids.
Fellowships do for groups what the Guild Banners do for raids. Fellowships are mini-guilds for groups of players. They include a custom chat channel (didn't we have those already?), and a guild camp site which allows members of a fellowship quick transportation to a hunting area. I love the idea behind fellowships in general but I think it will need more than teleportation to be a truely useful function.
Fellowships sound very similar to a feature of Vanguard. Vanguard includes something like a group caravan that actually gives experience to off-line members of a regular hunting party. This way players of a regular hunting group who aren't online for every hunt will still manage to keep up with their friends. I don't know if that is a good idea or not, but those lines of thinking are what is needed when addressing the regular hunting group.
Again, this feature doesn't seem to help pickup groups - a play style that could really use better support than it has in the past.
Beyond the press release we only have a handful of screenshots to tell us anything more. It appears the Shissar may return and the lands look quite nice. We have heard no official word on a new reward system for these new missions.
The cries of "too soon" will soon begin. Many players feel that the twice-yearly release of new expansions is SOE's way to maximize profit for a dwindling population of players. They may be right. This expansion isn't a required purchase, however. Players at the highest levels felt a lot more pressure to purchase The Serpent's Spine which included new levels and new baseline spells. The Buried Sea will most likely include many useful features and upgrades but people that don't want to support won't have to.
With only four weeks until its release, we are bound to hear more very soon. Until then, let our minds wander to the seas and the dangers lurking within.
13 January 2007