EQ2 Extended… Next?

Like many a curious MMO gamer, I saw the words “free” and I sauntered up to the install button and casually pressed it.  No skin off my nose if EverQuest 2 Extended sucks, after all, since I’ve got my plate full of excellent fantasy MMOs and more on the way.  Yet still I’m always intrigued when friends recall their favorite parts of EQ2, and I realize that as experienced as I may be in some titles, I’m a virgin in many others.

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the beta-slash-soft launch of EQ2X, but it’s occupied an hour here or there.  Initially, my impressions were positive — fast install (it kind of keeps downloading in the background once you’re in the newbie zone), enough race/class choices that I had some variety, the UI is a lot cleaner than last time I checked out EQ2, and hey, it’s free!  Sort of!

And yet I’ve got this uneasy feeling every time I look at SOE’s plan for the game that it makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy it.  Every freemium/F2P title approaches moneymaking a bit differently, and SOE’s is to apparently make me feel like I’ve been given a “gift” by a charity but haven’t put in my donation to cleanse my conscience.

Their membership matrix for EQ2X is just about one of the most obtusely confusing charts I’ve ever seen, and at no point could I identify what SOE wants from me.  Do they want me to buy station points and purchase content a la carte?  Then why is there a lot of content (classes, advanced spells) that are never unlockable as a F2P player?  Do they want me to just subscribe?  Then why bother with the F2P pretense and make the EQ2X servers’ subscriptions worse than live servers — and give me no way to transfer to live?

I mean, hey, I probably wouldn’t mind dropping a few bucks now and then, but I’ll still be confined left and right with no clear way out of it unless I shuck the F2P bonds and head over to the older servers.

While I obviously like LOTRO a lot, what I’m going to say isn’t an attempt to go “ha ha, LOTRO F2P is better, EQ2 sucks”, but instead I just want to express puzzlement.  It just seems that SOE didn’t think this through, didn’t test this model enough, and they’re charging ahead without considering how confusing they’re making this for brand-new folks.

LOTRO’s F2P model is similar in some aspects, particularly in its tiered membership chart, yet there are a few key differences:

  • LOTRO’s F2P players and subscribers will be on the same servers; EQ2 is segregating their players
  • LOTRO isn’t selling stat items in the store (just stats, but that’s another issue); EQ2 is gung-ho for people buying great items instead of earning them
  • LOTRO offers players a way to earn free points and content; EQ2 doesn’t
  • LOTRO will let non-subscribers buy all of the content and abilities that subscribers have; EQ2’s non-subscribers will eventually hit a wall no matter how much they spend a la carte

Now, EQ2X does have a couple great things going for it.  The first is that there is simply a mountain of free content available — no zone restrictions or quest restrictions up to the last expansion pack.  And I did get 600 Station Cash for nothing, which is kind of nice.

But game preference aside, my gut isn’t going wild over EQ2X.  I’d love to be able to play it casually now and then, but seeing the immovable boundaries of content, I don’t know if I could enjoy it for the long haul.

Other bloggers weigh in:

20 thoughts on “EQ2 Extended… Next?

  1. I have a feeling that SOE DID think it through, but they haven’t articulated their intent.

    The live/free server split was explained: they didn’t want to piss off their existing base by bringing in the “noob” leeches. Personally, I think this is a bad idea, mainly for the same reasons people have mentioned: it splits the population to the point where new players will gravitate towards EQ2X’s free model, and should they decide to sub, WILL NOT sub to the premium servers…they’ll simply sub to Gold status on the X servers where their characters are.

    Is it SOE’s intent to populate the X servers with new players, thereby forcing existing players into a ghetto until they decide that they’ll need to migrate their existing characters to the X servers to enjoy a robust population? I dunno. If you sub to the premium server, you ALSO get Gold on the X servers…but not the other way around, as I understand it.

    I’m going to assume that there’s a method to the madness here, but that it’s potentially damning should it be fully articulated to the community, which is why we haven’t heard about it.

    However, it has it’s merits: a friend of mine who is cash-strapped but played a lot of EQ1 back in the day has taken to EQ2X like a fish to water. He even dropped the $10 to upgrade to Silver status. I’ll bet there’s a lot of folks out there who are jumping for joy over this because they can’t (not necessaily WON’T) afford a monthly sub, but really want to play a AAA MMO. In that regard, I think this is a good thing.

  2. I was having this same conversation on twitter the other day. It just seems like they want to push us into subpar subscriptions. If I wanted to subscribe, I’d play the regular game. But I don’t. I want to roll a froglock shaman, but I can’t because they aren’t selling any class packs. I can buy the Froglock… but I don’t think I want to without being able to make him a Shaman as well (I know, that may be a weird class/race combo, but it sounds coold to me).

    Subscribers in EQ2X also don’t get a monthly allotment of points, unless they pay the $200/year path, which makes me even less inclined to subscribe to the game… I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like they really *get* this pricing model.

  3. I’m really enjoying EQ2X. I always feel I need disclaimers these days, when speaking about F2P.

    I am actually really impartial to any payment model. Vanguard looks great, bring it on(I’m opening my wallet now). Runes of Magic is my favorite MMO right now(I’m opening my wallet right now). I’ve tried DDO and didn’t like it, but I loved the beta of LotRO(and will probably open my wallet for it). There’s also a handful of Eastern imports that I really like and feel are burring into cultural differences more than payment-model differences. A simple example for that would be that road blocks and systems are built to get you to pay micro-transactions, but if we look at games like Ragnarok(was sub-based), Lineage 2, and even Aion that underwent some westernization by mostly reducing grind, I see the games sharing quite a bit of the same features that I’ve seen people point to as a “F2P roadblock”.

    F2P, sub, hybrid, if I like it I’ll play it.

    Having said that, I find it very interesting to explore and compare the different possibilities of different payment models, and also play devil’s advocate for any of them

    Well, everyday my disclaimer gets large. I think I need to just toss it out 😛

    Anyway… To me, EQ2X feels more like an extended trial than anything. I also thought it felt farther removed from traditional F2P and Turbine’s hybrid model.

    I need to play it more to more tempting parts. I’m not even in New Halas yet and haven’t felt a need to use mail, the broker, or anything beyond questing right now.

  4. When I tried it out a few years back, EQ2 seemed to be a great game that, unfortunately, had only spotty support from Sony. I was glad to be able to go back and play it again under the EQ2X model, but when it comes to payments, I saw all the problems you mention above. I have little or no incentive to spend money because it will always feel like I’m missing out on large parts of the game unless I subscribe gold (and even then, I don’t unlock all the races without purchasing them separately).

    I do hope they take some of the great feedback they have been getting from players who are enthusiastic about the game, but who think the pricing model needs lots of help.

    P.S. “And I did get 600 Station Cash for nothing, which is kind of nice”

    o.O How you did that? 🙂

  5. What makes the stat tomes in Lotro okay with me is that there is a hard cap on a character’s stats, and I’d expect a fully raid geared character to be close to those caps in their desired, most useful stats. So I see them as more a stop-gap solution, but in using them to make up for a deficiency in some stats that are harder to find on a classes gear/sets, then that’s a bit of a grey area (blame the devs for poor itemization!). It’s still buying stats, but the existence of the caps do make a difference in my mind anyways.

  6. I think SOE is concerned that they are losing the Fantasy MMO market and in particular lose too much with their flagship IP in this area, Everquest/Norrath.

    Their Station Cahs attempts so far has probably not provided the returns on investment that they expected. So I think they feel forced to follow suit with Turbine, but are still scared that they might scare old players away. They do not really know how far they can go with changes, so the do something halfway and then will probably try to adapt.

  7. It seems to me like Sony simply rushed out F2P EQ2 to try to steal some thunder from Turbine. F2P is the cool thing to do this days.

  8. Syp,

    I just started EQ2X as well and agree with what you are saying. I too play Lotro and am looking forward to it’s F2P starting up soon. Anyway, their model seems totally weird. I’m okay with segregating free folks but it makes no sense for Gold Subscribers to not have the same thing as regular subscribers on the regular servers considering it is the same price. It would make more sense if the Gold price were $9.99 per month or something like that. And I totally have no idea why anyone would want to subscribe Platinum level as it offers nothing really except the level cap to 90 instead of 80, which is purchasable. Even platinum level is worse than what those on the live server subscribers get for less money.

  9. This was a great topic to bring up Syp.

    There’s also the issue of the business and genre still experimenting. I don’t know how much people consider this part of the issue, but even with F2P being around for at least a decade the Western part of the world seems to really be experimenting a lot.

    I don’t know if there’s any kind of real standard or baseline that has come out of any of these F2P, hybrid, or freemium models. Heck, I think the business has barely formed standards for each term.

    From that viewpoint, I think the idea that Sony Online Entertainment is experimenting deeply seems pretty plausible.

  10. While I am enjoying EQ2X when you said “And yet I’ve got this uneasy feeling every time I look at SOE’s plan for the game that it makes it hard for me to relax and enjoy it.”, that really hits home. I can’t enjoy it as much as I’d like to.

    Here I buy packs for races, some fluff goodies and a silver membership yet I still feel like it’s not enough to be considered a worthy. I spent more than a gold member yet I am treated as if I am less with the limitations. Sure I could have bought the membership but I wanted to be a certain race!

    It needs some tweaking to keep people playing seriously IMO.

  11. Part of it really seems a way to collect tons of marketing data.

    In F2P games many people might be surprised just how much some people will pay, and they don’t even try to reign in their wallets by comparing to what they get for the same price in other games.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some players are paying 100% more(or higher) within the free server.

    That’s why a lot of companies will try to appease their player-base, but if you look closely or listen closely they really try not to stray from their original marketing plans which usually target the 1% or less of their audience that they know will spend near unlimited sums of cash to play.

  12. I was very annoyed by the EQ2X subscription plan. If you do the maths you’ll find that it’s *always* – no matter what plan you subscribe to – less cost effective than just using their normal live subscription. It’s a deceptive attempt to get players into the game and then charge them more.

    Funny thing is, I love EQ2 and I would’ve been very happy to see a LotRO style F2P model. Why couldn’t they have just put it all on the same servers and let people “upgrade” to a normal subscription at the same current cost? It boggles my mind.

  13. I’m a long time EQ2 player, so I wanted to give you a different perspective on the game.

    First off, none of the ‘hardcore’ players would accept F2P players on the traditional servers because along with the F2P model comes gear on the marketplace that is considered too powerful to not be earned.

    Looking at the pricing matrix, the EQ2X platinum account is actually a better deal than the current subscription model on the traditional servers. That’s because you get 3 more character slots and when a new expansion comes out, you get it for free. Expansions generaly cost $40, so that’s like taking $40 off the platinum cost right there.

    BTW, individual classes have now become available to purchase. Also if you compare this game to LOTRO, the biggest thing people don’t realize is that not only is the EQ2 content all included for free (rather than purchased in chunks like in LOTRO) the world of EQ2 is absolutely massive and is probably the largest fantasy MMO world in any game (except maybe EQ1).

  14. Well, as a long-time (i.e., since beta) vet of EQ2, I don’t pretend to be unbiased about EQ2Extended. SOE is sticking it to its vets by cutting off all new players from our moldy, old servers (no free trials, no transfers allowed to our servers from extended ones, not even a link from the extended forums to our forums, though there is one the other way). I am glad some people are enjoying EQ2Extended – just keep in mind, SOE has zero loyalty to its playerbase. They proved that in SWG and now, again, in EQ2. When it is cost effective for them to do so, they will screw you as surely as they have screwed us.

  15. ok as someone who plays PWI a f2p or cash shop game, you can easily pay $40.00+ a month on the game, for fashions, charms, refining aids and mounts.
    so that is not bad for a game company.

  16. I think dark and light might be the largest game world. Its making a come back as a f2p model. DnL map is 15,000 square miles

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