"Public Quests is a ripoff homage to Rifts and Warhammer and lets you wander into a field of Giants and Dwarves fighting and contribute to the battle. The events scale depending on how many people are in the area of the event. If you’re solo, you get solo rewards. If you are several players, even if you’re not grouped, you get a group reward. This is the OPPOSITE of contested mobs. Everyone gets to loot the chest, whether you are grouped or not. If 24 players show up, the raid loot starts dropping. Now, this loot doesn’t have all the effects and adornment slots on it you might be hoping for, but it could be a good stepping stone if you are behind on gearing up."As a bit of background, contested open world raid content was the most prestigious content in EQ2 up until relatively recently. In general, this content would be locked down by one or two top guilds - the nature of the beast is that guilds that might have the requisite skill to beat the content will never get the opportunity because they're not online at the random hours when the mob happens to respawn.
Much as EQ1 veterans may like the old school contested approach, the fact is that the content - and associated rewards - might as well not have been in the game for the overwhelming majority of the server population. The result is that the majority of players had no reason to waste their time trying, which made the non-instanced content no longer worth the development resources required to maintain it.
After a year plus of this situation, SOE appears to have come up with a plan to reverse the trend. While the Public Quest may not be an entirely original idea, the implementation is interesting. Warhammer public quests dropped a greater quantity of loot when more players were present, but the content was relatively static - with too few players, it was more difficult, and with too many it could become too easy, but the highest quality of loot was constant in either case. The result was relatively little incentive for players to congregate at any one public quest site.
By contrast, the EQ2 version is, as Feldon says, the opposite of contested, but rather cooperative. When players see a PQ up and running, they have an incentive to participate, and bring their friends in the hopes of getting otherwise unattainable loot. Rather than being exclusive to a tiny minority, the goal is to be inclusive of a large enough population to actually justify its existence.
I don't know whether the system will live up to its design in practice, but it's definitely a different perspective. Players have complained that modern EQ2 offers too little content in the open world and too little reason for solo players to group up. On paper, their take on the PQ might help address both issues. Unfortunately for the EQ2 team's efforts, the feature arrives on the day that Rift launches with an entire game focused on this concept. Somehow, I suspect that SOE's seeming rush to have Velious boxes in stores a week earlier (as Rift players happily log into their pre-order access) may be too little too late.