Let's jump right in, shall we? First up on Morrison's list of upcoming 2.1 features is the long-awaited DreamWorld Technology Integration. Much has been written about Age of Conan's graphical prowess (and the resulting headaches it causes for mid- to low-end computers). Rather than licensing a third-party tool such as Unreal or the CryEngine like many MMO development teams, Funcom opted to keep everything in-house and expand the engine originally used to power Anarchy Online.
The result was a game that sets the visual standard for MMORPGs, but also gates its content behind a technical and cost barrier that many gamers have difficulty crossing. Morrison only touches on the engine improvements briefly in the most recent development update letter, as many of finer points were discussed previously. That said, the engine tweaks are clearly at the top of the list for the fall update schedule.
In addition to the DreamWorld upgrade, 2.1 looks to bring a fair amount of new PvE content to Hyboria. Not only are new zones opening up in the imperial capital city of Pai Kang, but new Tier 4 raid encounters will also be added. Morrison's letter mentions "a whole new instance with the next three encounters. There is also a final instance with the last climactic set of encounters for Khitai planned," though the latter may end up being delayed until 2.2.
Also falling under the PvE banner are updates to social and guild-specific content. Guild cities will feature new NPCs that can jump-start various events including treasure hunts, demon hunts, and storytelling competitions. There's also an interesting aside in the form of a Tarantia horse-racing track coming down the pipe. Our hope here at The Anvil of Crom is twofold: one, we'd really like these guild additions to be available at the lower end of the renown scale. As it stands in the current game, only the hundred-member mega-guilds get to experience much beyond the basics of the extensive renown rewards system, and Age of Conan's player community features many smaller groups that would likely get a lot of mileage out of accessible new social content. Secondly -- and this is pure fantasy on our part -- we'd love to see the "storytelling competitions" morph into an actual player-GM mechanic, much like Star Wars Galaxies' storyteller system. Morrison doesn't go into details on any of these new mechanics in the development letter, but rest assured that we'll be pressing him for details in the weeks to come.