I have really mixed feelings about this expansion pack. It sounds like it will have lots of great stuff, and I really appreciate the thoughtful realism in Derek's post above. However, I'm a little confused and disappointed by the fact that this will be a separate product.
I feel that the stuff which is planned for the expansion is all stuff which ought to have been in the original game. A living world? Heck yeah! But why is it coming in an expansion, instead of a patch/fix to the original game? Elemental ought to be a living world. We shouldn't have to exit Elemental and emigrate to FE in order to find a living world.
Just to beat this into the ground, I want to recall Frogboy's words on these fora (Sep 2, 2010). He pledged that there would be no new game next year (meaning 2011), and that he would make things right. Even though FE is a branch of Elemental, it is not Elemental, and FE sounds dangerously close to a new game.
Frogboy and folks, please be careful. If you want to branch off ... well ... that's your choice. But please don't forget your commitment to Elemental. Don't rush off too fast. Don't let your visions of the future get in the way of what Elemental could be.
I think most everyone can agree that there are some deep rooted flaws with E:WoM. This has been readily state by frogboy on numerous occasions, and the good people at SD have done an amazing job in their attempts to address the technical shortcomings that many members of the community have run into. They have put out numerous patch designed to address these flaws and make Elemental a lot more fun to play. Yet, the point of a patch is not really to implement design changes or major changes to the core of a game. This is most definitely the realm of a good expansion, which the SD team is working to provide in the form of FE.
While FE is a stand-alone expansion, and in the most broad terms, comes "dangerously close" to a new game, it is the proper forum for the type of significant design changes that the community has hoped for. In fact, since a good portion of players will get the expansion for free and the rest should get a price reduction for owning E:WoM, I can easily say that any arguments, insinuating that frogboy might break his world, feel hollow. Honestly, FE not only sounds like a step in the right direction for a game with massive potential, but also is backed by team who have taken the time and effort to listen to and keep open lines of communication with the community.
As it stands now, Elemental does not appear to be abandoned, nor have the developers stopped producing meaningful patches to address community concerns. I, for one, can easily attest to the hard work of the mod community in continuing to produce meaningful additions to the game. In fact, no one is saying to simply migrate from E:WoM to FE, and no one has even begun to show any attitude with that directly in mind. Yet, it seems odd for one to claim that a game is lacking in one area or another and then moderately protest the creation of an expansion for attempting to address those concerns beyond the scope of the original game. It would appear that these protestations are not because FE is an expansion, but are due to the fact that it will be a separate entity altogether, which one believes will result in the original product stagnating and dying off. Since we as members of the community can only speculate as to the future of a given product, let us do so based on the information which has been readily given by the developers and not based on our worst fears. E:WoM is still getting patched and they have stated that FE will not be the end of E:WoM. Therefore, it is beyond reason to expose wild fears concerning the future of E:WoM several months in advance. This type of fear mongering only hurts that unique connection that our community has with SD.