Heading toward its 16th year, EverQuest's graphics might seem a bit dated to gamers who have always been attracted to the newer shinies and larger polygon counts in the game world. When queried on this and what SOE planned to do to ensure relevance, Terrazas reassured us by stating that they were intending to push the limits of their engine to deliver a better graphics experience. He added that they had to be creative in some of their designwork to overcome some of the technical limitations.
Like several other SOE properties, EverQuest has ties to the Player Studio, and they announced that there will be a new category of item for players to submit: player robes. Now players will be able to create custom patterns for these cosmetic robes, and an immediate use for them would be guild designs. Terrazas was quick to point out that there would of course be a vetting process to ensure that no one posted inappropriate designs, but added that unlike the basic appropriate/inappropriate judgment call being a player-assisted process like in Landmark, EQ's vetting process was all internal to SOE. SOE would also have an artist on-hand to review the items who could tweak things to make the new robes look a bit better or to ensure that minor design flaws could be readily corrected. This would also impact on designs that are declined, as feedback for 'almost there' robes could help the creator tweak it themselves and resubmit it.
Turning to another new option for the game, Terrazus spoke on the Advanced Looting system. It's intended to help alleviate the problem of ninja looters and also to enhance the looting experience. Described as a hybrid between a master looter system and random rolling, players can also create custom lists saved on a client PC where they can block an item from ever showing up in their loot rules or setting it to 'always show'. Thom Terrazas stated that a player could begin building their list on the test server and then import that to live to help them test the system and provide feedback on its functionality. Within the system, the person designated as master looter could set some of the items to randomly roll and others can be specifically assigned to individual players. The always show/always ignore lists will be in effect regardless of whether the player is out playing solo, in a group, or in a proper raid setting.
Like EQ2, EverQuest will also be adding a new expansion this year, this one called The Darkened Sea. In it, players will revisit some of the ideas and concepts that made up an earlier expansion called The Buried Sea, but it won't simply be a rehash of the old terrain. It will feature eight zones at launch, a number of quests, missions, and raids. The game's level cap will rise to 105. Terrazas said that while most of the new content in the expansion was set up for higher-leveled players, a brand new player to the game could get a heroic character, an instant level 85, and that it wouldn't be that much of a jump to get to where they could be playing this new content from the get-go. They were also going to include a mount keyring, so players wouldn't have to keep mounts in their current inventory. Terrazas added that they're going to introduce cosmetic mounts, so a player could paste a preferred mount's appearance over their statted mount's appearance.
In the keynote, System Designer Akil Hooper went over some of the lore that will be included in the expansion. EverQuest iconic heroine Firiona Vie would be going to heal an emperor in the new zones, and the story will focus on finding him after the emperor is kidnapped. We saw the Tempest Temple, an area that was an island paradise with a volcano and coral forests and floating rocks created by the tumultuous environment. There was an area called the Caverns of Endless Song, featuring Sirens and their sailor victims. A dwarven castle can be discovered under the sea in a museum setting, and apparently the dev team's favorite critters, dinosaurs, appear on an island with a bit of a Land of the Lost vibe.
Naturally, there are bad guys (and girls) in the expansion, with a Combine appearance at their Dredge, and there were a series of islands connected by magical conduits. A flying fortress also showed up, giving us a bit of a futuristic feel without stepping too far out of the fantasy setting. The Darkened Sea is due to launch for All Access members on October 8th, with full launch due on the anniversary date, November 11th, 2014.