I've been thinking about this a bit, and here's a summary of everything I've either thought of or come across so far...
But first my opinions on Epic (if I don't do this now I'll probably forget).
First, I don't want to see Epic shut down for any reason whatsoever. If it can't be fixed, just leave it like it is. There will always be some die-hards and lunatics out there on the frontier, and Epic is the frontier of Wurm.
Second, I want to see Epic restored to its former glory. This will probably not come to pass, in which case I want to get as close to it as possible.
So here's a list of all the things I think might work (without much expanded detail; it's the general direction I want to focus on):
1) Keep Epic a separate cluster. No item transfers, and no boat travel either way. Portal remains the only way in/out, and nothing bar your skills (and points - see later) travel with you. [Apart from perhaps sleep powder. Why, if I have to premium on Epic, do I lose the powder on Freedom? Sometimes there is no choice, like you have to premium to physically move. And same with spyglass, but whatever].
Because if big changes regarding Epic involve "stuff" then those changes could contaminate Freedom. Too risky. Better to keep the cluster permanently separate and minimise any unintended risks to Freedom.
2) Enable accounts from NFI to portal to Epic in the same way accounts from SFI can now.
Greater access potentially means more players either visiting or staying on Epic.
Thus Defiance (is it?) is the noob PvP zone, only accessible by relatively new accounts. Chaos is the "Freedom Rules" PvP zone. And Epic has it's own set of rules, primarily revolving around faster skilling, faster building, and faster replacement of gear.
3) Get rid of token draining on Epic.
a) This would encourage more players to set up deeds on Epic. Losing gear, statues, boats, horses, etc, is one thing. Losing cash and getting milked into oblivion is quite another. No one wants to be a cow. Other players should never be able to tap your bank account directly, which is what token draining effectively does. Moreover, no one in their right mind goes raiding for a handful of silver; it just encourages trollish behaviour.
b) Knowing tokens can't be drained would encourage players to be a bit more creative regarding building on Epic. When I build on Epic the first thing I think is "Where am I gonna put the steel mine doors and the absolutely necessary 300 to 600 high dirtbox?"
I work it out, and start building.
Then I realise I haven't actually got time to spend two years doing this and bail.
Except now we need to players to stay and commit to Epic. Small farmsteads and mines would actually be more viable if the enemy can't drain your token, which ought to encourage more players to stay and commit.
c) With more smaller settlements alongside the traditional Epic "wardeeds" there would be more opportunities for less able, less advanced, or smaller groups to go raiding, and encourage raiding overall especially on a smaller scale. This a good thing on a PvP cluster.
And if it doesn't actually work as intended, so what? No harm done. Simply re-enable token draining.
4) Bring back Valeiri mob spawns (but fix the border thing, if that's still a thing).
Because everyone misses them, and everyone wants them back. Epic was never supposed to be safe. Even a middling account can deal with these things if necessary, so bring it on.
But no terraforming events. They can screw up deeds, and will inevitably mangle servers eventually.
5) Bring back player gods.
Because everyone wants this.
Allow players to ascend as before. Create a few new spells/abilities, even if only cosmetic (like the ability to glow, see in the dark, whatever), and give a player an rng spell from the list every time they ascend.
Give a CR bonus for ascension. Decide what the cap is, and then work to a limit on that cap. For example, if it's decided that the maximum CR bonus for all ascensions combined should be 2, then +2 CR is the cap. Thus the first ascension gives +1 CR, 2nd ascension gives +0.5 CR, 3rd ascension gives +0.25 CR, etc. Or whatever other mechanism is appropriate. And give the player a title equivalent to Deity rank 1, 2, 3, etc (like meditation ranks/titles). Have these titles, and these titles alone transfer back to Freedom, so other players start asking "How did you do that?" - actually perhaps have the spells transfer back to Freedom too (assuming they are primarily cosmetic).
Give ascenders 3 random sorcery items (as before?) but only for the first ascension.
6) Moon metal veins/meteors.
Because why not?!
Epic is supposed to be...epic. Either spawn these things naturally, and keep respawning them, or spawn them after a scenario is won. Do a few moon-metal meteors too, along with some fancy lightshow (but no terraforming).
If Epic is dead anyway, and is never directly connected to the rest of Wurm, is imbalance really an issue?
Uh, probably. So keep it reasonable, like meteors 20 hits and veins 50 hits, or meteors 50 hits and veins 100 hits. Or whatever. Monitor the prevalence of moon metals over time and tweak these settings accordingly to find the right balance.
7) Revamp Sorcery.
Because it's crap.
Have two tiers of sorcery. The first tier can be as it curently stands (although perhaps a few tweaks here and there wouldn't go amiss if it's being adjusted anyway).
Tier 2 sorcery should be unique to Epic and focus on PvP abilities/spells.
How are tier 2 items obtained? Dunno. Maybe through scenarios won, maybe through points (see later); I'm sure the devs can decide an appropriate way.
8 ) Revamp missions.
Because some of them are just...just...just like trying to mine a sandstone vein with your teeth.
Fewer "make 50 benches" or "make 150 copper frying pan" missions, and more seek and destroy missions. Get players out and about, running around. Put optional missions for any given Epic home server with targets on Elevation, or even an enemy home server. Big risk, big reward.
9) Keep HotA and make more cool statues (like the lady of the lake or dragon statues, everyone loves them).
New cool statues should be unique to Epic. You want them? Gotta go to Epic to get that deathcrawler statue. Make mini-Mag/Vyn/Fo/Lib statues the same size as the lady of the lake ones, because it's cool and we want them. Lots of them. Make a bunch of new statues because we want them too.
10) Significantly increased yields from uniques.
Because increasing the prevalence of drake/scale items, and all the other stuff, makes players' loot better in general, and gives other players more motivation to go hunting them down. "Them" applying to both other players and uniques.
11) A fair and balanced two-way skill transfer system between Epic and SFI/NFI.
Because everyone wants this.
Alone, it might not necessarily encourage players to come to Epic, but it's less likely to put them off coming, which is certainly the case now. Given what the devs have already said about the difficulty involved with implementing such a system, I do hope that some two-way skill transfer can be devised which if not able to calculate precisely what gains should be (likely impossible), then at least calculates gains as fairly as possible based on time/effort spent skilling. So skilling on Freedom would add to your base skills, and skilling on Epic would also add to your base skills, fairly. Nothing wrong with being approximate and getting it a "little bit wrong" (within reason)...
For example, say players realise that it's faster to go to Epic to grind prospecting, then return to Freedom, than to stay on Freedom and grind prospecting there. So they start doing that. Is there anything inherently wrong with this? Well if so dial it back a bit until the right balance is found. Monitor the system/gains over time and keep fiddling with it until the system works "quite well" and most players are happy with the balance. There are some smart players out there, who really do get down and dirty with the numbers, and I hope they'd be able to help and advise the devs regarding this (admittedly gnarly) issue.
12) Expanded meditation system.
Because players are always after more abilities.
Exactly how this is expanded, well...? The current system could be condensed a bit (on Epic), and then new (PvP-related) abilities added from ranks 11 and above? Or the current system retained with new (PvP-related) abilities being given here and there? Or simply add new abilities to ranks 14 and above (although this might put them out of reach of most, which could be a problem)? Either way, extend the system giving new (PvP-related) abilities up to very high ranks (i.e., at least as high as any player has ever gone).
Obviously keep all new (PvP-related) abilities unique to Epic.
And don't take any current abilities away!
13) Significantly improved rarity/supreme/fantastic frequency.
Because players love this stuff, they covet this stuff, and if there's a lot more of this stuff on Epic then it might help attract players to Epic. Given Epic is not connected to any other cluster directly, and items can't leave Epic, where's the harm?
I'm not talking about doubling the frequency, I mean really crank it up. Maybe guarantee a rare on a succesful imp during the window (instead of a 20% chance). Obviously you wouldn't want fantastics everywhere, or such items just lose any meaning, so the prevalence would have to be monitored and an appropriate balance struck. But making them far more common improves loot generally, makes players more likely to risk carrying that loot, and hence more likely to get out there and look for trouble.
14) Uncap +10%ql gathering runes regarding mining/woodcutting on Epic, like they were before the nerf.
You can probably guess by now, no need to type it out again
15) Epic only Journal expansion.
Because it might attract more players, etc. See above.
This Journal expansion would be Epic only, apply to crafters and priests alike, be PvP-oriented, and if done properly/carefully could encourage players to get out there and PvP/raid.
Once complete then a no-drop item should be awarded, like the cloak, but more epic, with some PvP-related ability (chosen from a selection, which could be changed by spending points? - see later). Maybe we could also choose the skin from a selection, and change it by spending points. Reserve the tiny cloak for Freedom, and give Epic a big epic cloak?
16) Fix Mag and Fo not fighting on the Valrei map.
Because there's no reason why they should not fight, and it's really annoying having them not fight.
17) Get rid of the meditation ability nerfs on Elevation.
Because we earned these abilities, and we want to use them when it counts! I'm not interested in some "noob-friendly" version of Epic. I'd like to see the direction of Epic change to cater for more advanced players, reward more advanced players, and provide a genuine challenge for more advanced players. Noobs ought to be starting on the home servers and not going to Elevation before they're ready.
But keep stuff like the rapid horse breeding, that's handy. This is Epic after all, where the life-expectancy of horses is short
18) Conjunction of the Spheres.
I had this idea after reading Elentari's post, although Wilczan used the phrase above. I'm not sure the devs could use this phrase for copyright reasons, but it's the general concept that counts.
And this is where an Epic rework could get genuinely interesting, if handled correctly.
The other day I was whinging in Freedom chat about how I wanted to go "somewhere else" exploring, because going on adventures to kill stuff, and gaffle loot and skillgains, would be cool. So I asked where Jackal went and what was happening with it. The helpful response I got was (and don't quote me on this) something like "Devs don't want to waste time on temporary stuff."
Which is fair enough, I get that. But does this mean there are now a bunch of Jackal assets that are going unused? If so then this could be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (use them to help revive Epic, and therefore not waste them).
My thinking is that it would be a good idea to have a points-based system on Epic (similar to Jackal?) where players get "epic" points for doing things like killing other players, damaging enemy deeds, destroying enemy guard towers, killing Valrei mobs, winning scenarios (assuming participation), wining HotAs (assuming participation) - you get the idea.
These "epic" points could then be spent on chosen affinities (both on Epic and Freedom - this is important as it gives Freedomers a reason to come to Epic, if only occasionally, as they benefit on Freedom), skins (perhaps any skin currently in the game - Epic only), special items (Epic only), sorcery items (this could potentially be where tier 2 items come from - Epic only), the full range of HotA statues (Epic only), all the Jackal bits and pieces like shoulder pads (oops no that's Rifts - new epic shoulder pads then), etc (Epic only), and who knows what else? Make some cool new stuff too?
The more stuff that points can be spent on, the more players a points-based system will attract to Epic.
As for the "conjunction of the spheres" itself, this is where things get murkier...
I like the idea of "events". It goes without saying that at least some of them would have to be large-scale and require players to cooperate to resolve. A bit like Jackal?
Say something spawned at a place (could use the Jackal portal asset) for whatever reason, which in turn starts spawning large numbers of critters (Valrei mobs, Jackal mobs, whatever). The longer it's there then the more it corrupts the environment (which is where some Jackal assets - plants/trees and stuff? - could come into play), and the more it spreads this corruption further afield. Such changes would only be temporary, and would slowly fade after the event was resolved.
I like the idea of a full-scale invasions. Epic was always supposed to be dangerous, and it could be made a lot more dangerous, although not insanely so as this might deter newer and less advanced players. Then again, perhaps Epic should be designed with more advanced accounts in mind, something newer players can look forward and aspire to?
Herds of aggressive mobs, and swarms of roving mobs (assuming Wurm's systems can handle it) would be awesome, although probably best to keep them away from deeds, or at least have them not attack deeds (which would undoubtedly rub players up the wrong way).
I think a lot could be done with this so that when an event happens the response from most players might be something along the lines of "Omg ###### no no nooo! Ok, calm down - if we work together we're probably gonna survive this."
And what better time for the enemy to raid?
I'd like to see a dangerous environment as standard (from PvP, mostly), with occasional (yet inevitable) event-based spikes of madness, chaos, and mayhem, that would test even the most advanced and well-geared players out there. It's ok to get your ass creamed every now and then; after all it's a PvP cluster, and it's supposed to be dangerous.
Ramping up the lunacy like this would in turn justify the extra rares, extra meditation abilities, moon metal veins, increased yields from uniques, tier 2 sorcery items, and all the rest of it. Players would generally need to be better geared to handle it, which fits nicely with the faster skilling system that is already part of the core of Epic.
Regarding the events themselves, the devs would really need to look at what assets were available (from Jackal), how much time (if any) they would want to spend babysitting said events (ideally I guess they would be fully automated), what is actually possible using Wurm's mechanical systems, and what players found exciting (or traumatic, lol).
At which point it's worth mentioning that it appears (to me) that many players don't like grinding Rifts. I thought Rifts were a cool idea, but apparently not all players feel the same way. Maybe it's the repetition? I don't know. I'm just saying it would be wise to think about the "event" system carefully as it would be a shame if the devs spent time developing a system only for it to grate on, or even worse, antagonise players. It might be worth running a poll for those (and only those) players interested in playing on Epic about the kind of experience these events ought to provide exactly.
It might also be wise to scale the events to the number of currently active players on Epic (and/or even perhaps in a specific kingdom). Huge manic events would be fine (?) with a large number of players, but if the number of players attracted to these things was less than hoped for, we wouldn't want a situation where those players that were present got completely obliterated with no hope of resolving the event. Unless events eventually resolved themselves "naturally" if left unresolved by players?
I would also suggest that the events not be directly tied to the outcome of scenarios. If one (or more) kingdom(s) gets the upper hand regarding scenarios then it could lead to one (or more) kingdoms getting consistently reamed, which in turn could lead to systemic imbalance, which might ultimately break the system (even if scaling were applied regarding weak kingdoms). Use the scaling, which would mean the strongest kingdoms were getting hit hardest by the events, which itself helps to balance things out a bit, and prevent the strongest from becoming too strong.
Time to stop here as I haven't thought through the precise nature of these events, and the way in which they might work. I haven't got anything constructive left to add at this point, and this post is long enough already.