First off was a presentation on Game Update 61. It's entitled the "War of Zek," and it's due in late August. It will showcase the first ever dynamic dungeons in EQII, using new versions of Silent City and Djinn Master's Prison. When you enter, there will be different templates that allow for a variety of dungeon runs. They will scale from levels 60-90, and the loot will scale with level as well.
In addition, there will be new heroic dungeons and raids, with both normal and hard versions, so the end of each run will be different based on your choice. This will also complete the story behind the Ages End Prophecy.
Itemization was discussed next, and in the works is a revamp of the system, bringing auto attack increase for casters, and increasing the cap on certain older stats. All items from level 20-90 will be re-itemized, so that as players level, the gear they receive matches better with their class and level. There were about 50,000 items that had to be recreated, and it will have a huge impact on the game. In short, all of the content is legitimate again. There is also a big AA revamp coming, and there is also a class focus revision in the works.
In tradeskilling, crafters will now get their very own AA abilities. There will be three rows of abilities, 10 points each row, and each will improve crafting progress, durability, and success chance, based on how you spend your points.
Housing will have a renewed purpose as part of Game Update 61. Players can decorate their home, publish it, and then others can rate your house on a 5 star rating system. There will be a leaderboard and rewards for high-rated homes. If you stay on the leaderboard long enough and gain enough votes constantly to stay on top, you can eventually make it to the house hall of fame.
There's a new dungeon finder on the way as well. Any size group can queue up, and it will start out as single server only. The dungeon finder fills in gaps to make a balanced group. You can choose to play any dungeon or you can choose specific ones. Afterwards, you remain grouped so you can queue back up and instantly move on to another dungeon. The dungeon finder will start out as single-server only and eventually become cross-server.
There were some other tidbits to come with GU61. The Fae and Arasai will finally be able to fly. Players who are level 85 can complete a quest and have the ability to fly without the need for a mount. Also, the empty area in Eastern Wastes will become populated with content. And there is a prelude event coming that will provide some lore on the Beastlord and help to launch the new class.
After being freed from captivity (thanks to Queen Antonia Bayle), Lucan is raising a new army to control and dominate the city of Freeport. All evil players will head to Freeport after their starter cities, rather than head to Butcherblock as they have done in the past. The city will be a multi-level quest hub, with race and class-specific quest lines. The surrounding neighborhoods and sewers will become instances within the city. All of the hamlets will be brought into one zone in Freeport. The team restructured the walls and added some textures that improve the look of the city itself. In addition, there will be special guards patrolling the area outside Freeport, including Juggernauts, flying guards, and even some leaper and glider guard patrols. Also, there will be a new public quest added to the Commonlands.
All evil players will go to Freeport after their starter cities, instead of Butcherblock. You arrive to help Lucan. It's a multi level quest hub, with race and class specific quest lines. The hoods and sewers will become instances within the city.
The Age of Discovery
SmokeJumper shed some light on the next expansion coming in November, The Age of Discovery. First off, players will be able to get tradeskill apprentices. At level 30, you can complete a quest to get an apprentice, and you can choose which tasks you want them to work on. The apprentices are customizable, and will be able to make some special items both for you and for themselves, including some items that will be "best-in-slot." Apprentices can be trained, and the more challenging the task, the better the rewards at the end.
A new ability will be available to all players, regardless of tradeskill level, called reforging. You will be able to take powerful items and shift stats around. Also, if a weapon has a particle effect, you can use an editor to change it. In addition, the AA limit will be boosted with the upcoming expansion, and more choices will be added. There is no increase in the level cap however.
Mercenaries will be available with the new expansion as well. Players can hire help for small groups in the form of NPCs who join your group and help you fight. You have to pay them coin to convince them to help you, and they get a small cut of your coin and experience from the group. You can only summon one mercenary per character, but can store many different mercenaries in your bags. There are four combat types, but there are actually many different kinds of mercenaries from all of the different racial cities, each with a different set of spells and abilities. You'll be able to put appearance -- but not stat -- gear on your mercenary, and you'll be able to name them and even teach them to say things. They will level as you level.
Most mercenaries will be for sale on city merchants, but some are special "world lore" mercenaries. You'll come across them in the world, and they're major characters from the lore of Norrath, such as Lucan. But in order to get them to help you, you have to have the right faction and it will cost you a lot of coin. If you do, they will be an extremely valuable member of your group, but they will only stick around temporarily.
The big news, of course, was the addition of the Beastlord class to the game. In the prelude event, players will learn the lore of the class and help them make their return to the world. It will be a scout class that wears leather and wields brawler weapons. Beastlords are meant to be a melee dps class on par with other top tier dps classes, and they will have warder pets to aid them. The warders have their own AA tree, hotbars, and skills, and players can only summon one warder at a time. As players fight, they develop a synergy between themselves and their warders. As that builds, new abilities will get unlocked, so the class is designed to encourage thought and observation to maximize that power.
Next, the team discussed the new "Design your own Dungeon" feature. Players can collect things like dungeon maps, creature spawners, traps, and decorations via normal gameplay, such as quests and looting mobs. Builders can construct a dungeon and then watch players attempt to finish it, in real time. At the end, both the player and the builder earn special tokens that can be used to purchase unique items, and players can rank the dungeon as well. There will be a leaderboard that displays the top ranked, most challenging, and most active dungeons, and players will be able to use the dungeon finder system to select which ones they want to try out. You can do these dungeons solo or in groups, and perhaps down the road, even as a raid party. Players will enter the dungeon not as themselves, but as one of several different types of "Adventurers," each with a specific set of abilities. Players can collect them and then decide which role they want to play when they enter the dungeon, and then take on that form once inside.
Lastly, you might be wondering why SmokeJumper is sporting a kilt at Fan Faire. That's because kilts are finally going to be available in game! The team has worked hard to make character structures that allow for new types of outfits, including kilts and even bikinis. Also, keep an eye out for new mounts such as a flying squirrel and a flaming griffon.
Believe it or not, this was just the tip of the iceberg regarding EQII news. The panels on tradeskilling, mechanics, content, and, of course, the general Q & A brought even more announcements about what's coming down the road. Stay tuned for Massively's interview with Executive Producer Dave "SmokeJumper" Georgeson, who gave us more details on the game, and also provided a glimpse into EQNext. In addition, head to EQ2Wire for notes from each panel. Morgan's been typing non-stop for three days now and he's done a superb job of liveblogging anything and everything related to EverQuest II.