EverQuest II Extended

Another one bites the dust… sorta.  It’s the snowball effect in action.  One company takes their game “Free to play” (cough BS cough) and others follow because they don’t want to miss out.  We’re seeing that here with SoE creating a “Free to play” option for EQ2 called “Everquest II Extended”.   You know that I hate this F2P garbage, so overall my opinion on this decision will be negative.  However, there are a few things to point out which SoE does differently from Turbine.

SoE is opening up entirely new servers for this “experiment”.

“Think of it as a completely separate product offering. If you had a Station Pass… EQII Extended is another game in our portfolio, kind of. Even though it’s the same content, for all intents and purposes you play one or the other (or you could play both if you wanted to).” – Dave Georgeson [Source]

This is absolutely the biggest difference.  Turbine turned their entire game upside down in order to bring their game to a new market.  SoE is at least respecting their players somewhat by leaving them be with what they’ve spent 6 years working on.  I’ll tip my hat to the idea that they’re wanting to make this come off as an entirely different game.

Looking at their Membership Matrix, it’s clearly outlined what you do and do not have access to.  Where they’ve confused me though is with the gold membership.  It’s the same price as a subscription to the regular game yet you have to pay for more races and a level cap increase.  Maybe they’re thinking that you save some money not buying the software or something?  Still doesn’t make sense to me because if you’re willing to pay $14.99 per month then why not just play the regular game?  It’s cheaper to play the normal game!

Clearly the “Extended” servers will be ones where the rich get richer.  I don’t expect their communities to be anything like the normal EQ2 community either because of how fragmented the players will be.  Yet, at the same time, this is a “new” server and that brings with it popularity. I really do expect this “experiment”, as Dave Georgeson calls it, to fail over time and it all comes down to that membership matrix.

It needs to be “more free”.  If you’re going to cash shop people, and they are since they say “You can’t buy the best items, but you can buy good items…” and even mention “self-rez potions”, then you might as well open the flood gates.  As it stands, players get to buy power.  They’ll dance around saying it in their FAQ and interviews but it’s there for anyone who knows the game to see.

Bad idea.  Decent execution of a bad idea though.  I don’t like F2P because 1) it’s a scam and 2) it’s bad for the ‘game’ part of the game but if there were ever a more widely acceptable way of creating “Free to play” games it would be to release a F2P option alongside the real thing.  Yeah, it’ll fragment the crap out of your community but oh well.  That’s the price you pay to  keep the dogs and bay and still have a game.

One of the key questions to ask right now is just how much that Bronze membership for “Free” will get you.  If it’s like LotRo you’ll get about an hour of play time before you have to start paying.   It already looks like a rip off to me since you’ll be paying more to play for “Free” than if you actually played the real game.

  • I wish we could stop using this term “free to play”. What Turbine and SOE are doing is not F2P. There are some F2P games out there, that are entirely free, with the option to buy stuff if you don’t want to put in the time. They are true F2P.

    Turbine and SOE are offering hybrid payment models, yet they want to pretend to be F2P. They aren’t.

    Offering options is good! Not all of us want to spend $15 a month for a game we can only play now and then; because we just don’t have the time or also play other games (and not just MMOs). Turbine will be letting me pay as I go with LotRO. I’ve already bought the CE boxed edition of Mines of Moria, and am having a fun time exploring the world. It won’t ever be my main game, especially with Guild Wars 2 on the way, but I will spend some money on LotRO as I go through the content. Win for me, win for Turbine, win for the game, as I’ll be helping with the population and paying towards future content for everyone. Also, just want to add the people on Landroval (haven’t tried any of the other servers) are a great community, really enjoying it there.

    SOE’s EQ2X pricing is screwed up. I was interested at first, until I read the details. No thanks, you can only play 4 races, are totally gimped on gear, and really have to pay a full subscription to have a decent experience. Makes no sense, but then this is SOE. It also looks like this will harm the regular players by removing the trickle of new players they would normally see, as they are ending the free trials. No thanks SOE, I won’t help you screw over your existing players. They need to rethink their pricing and limits (take a lesson from DDO) and, if they must keep them separate (which is a bad idea, IMO), at least have something in place to feed the new players into the regular servers. Oh wait, looks like they are going to sell anything and everything in the cash shop… ah, that explains everything. Fail!

  • Wow! Yet another game going F2P. At this rate, soon WOW will be the only sub game left. F2P seems to be the future whether we like it or not.

  • Well, It’s all about choice. Looking at the matrix, there are a TON of people I know personally who would do EQ2 Extended Bronze. Looking at it, its basically the full game but no sending mail, cant get the greatest of the great gear (which you can do fine without), the greatest of the great spell level (which you can do fine with). Unlike Lotro which basically cuts off your quests this just is EQ2 “Lite”.

    For alot of people who dont want to do trials, or buy the game or are turned off by sub fees. This is a great alternative.

    I view it as a casual SKU of EQ2. The only way they get you is indeed with gold tier, you mind as well get the real game; but thats kind of the intent. From a business perspective I find it interesting and has the potential to be a great complementary income for them.

    The diehards will stay in EQ2, and the window shopper MMO’ers and the casuals will settle for Extended and be quite content.

  • @Alchemda: Is it the full game though? Turbine claimed LotRO was but the fine print and unspoken details have you paying for every bit of content past the starting area.

    If it is the full game (All content up to whatever level they said) then I think it’s a respectable option. Stupid as all get out beyond Bronze… but as respectable as a F2P option can be.

    That said, buying power is BS and I’m just glad they’re being funneled into their own servers.

  • It’s the full game up to 80th (of 90 levels), basically everything from the last 6 years bar the current expansion.

    Alchemeda is completely correct in saying that a casual player will be perfectly fine with the free, “bronze” content. I’ve been playing EQ2 since beta and I can categorically say that the quality of the gear on my characters has had next to no relationship to the fun I’ve had.

    The class/race restrictions are offputting to me, since I prefer to play really short races and there aren’t any free ones, but that’s a very minor quibble.

    As a Station Access subscriber of very long standing, I think the EQ2X move is fantastic. I will be keeping my SA sub and playing on the new servers as well (time permitting – so many great F2P MMOs vying for attention now).

  • The EQ2X model is utterly awful and a deceptive attempt by SOE to extract more cash from players.

    The big issues are basically that it’s not possible to play competitively on the Bronze or Silver plans (c’mon, no access to the broker or ability to equip legendary items!) and there is no way to buy those necessary upgrades individually. In fact, the only way to do it is to pay the $14.99 monthly subscription which is the same as currently on Live but actually get’s you less content because there’s still a level cap and a restriction to 4 races!! It’s a complete mess.

    The real kicker is that EQ2X players can’t transfer onto the Live servers either so once you start playing there, you’re stuck there and are forced to either upgrade to Gold or Platinum, at a far higher cost than the normal servers, in order to play the full game.

    Very, very bad implementation and a real shame for the current, loyal EQ2 commmunity.

  • Have to give them props for at least not being as stupid as Turbine who are converting their entire game.

  • @Keen: Yes because it’s really smart to split the playerbase down the middle and create a massive divide.

  • No, that’s a terrible idea. Sure beats the heck out of destroying both halves though.

    Hence why I say turning games into “Free to play” is a terrible idea.

  • I fail to see how LOTRO’s community will be destroyed. Beyond the newbie zones and possibly the teen/20 zones the only people playing will be the ones willing to spend money, who by all accounts aren’t necessarily any better anyway, leaving the unwashed masses of f2p below them. Indeed, if people want to get high and mighty about their community being closed to people then quite frankly I don’t give a rat’s arse whether they get it destroyed or not.

  • I’m a big fan of free to play, generally. But what they’re doing with EQ2 here just confuses me.

    Going F2P is a great way to revitalize a dwindling community, but this just fragments it and sends the F2Pers off into a gaming ghetto, with no (currently known) way to move into the real game if they want to later. I much prefer the Turbine model, which gates content but still leaves everybody on the same shard.

    I do agree with Keen on one point: the pricing here is wack. They really need to fix that, or nobody’s going to give this a second glance.

    It almost seems like they’re trying to make this “experiment” fail.

  • Well, you better enjoy them while you can Keen. The world ends in two and a half years, you know.

  • @We Fly Spitfires

    I’ve just been on the Alpha server for the last couple of hours. The Bronze and Silver plans make much more sense when you see them in situ. I’ve only just started to scratch the surface but honestly, what look like serious restrictions from the outside are almost benefits when considered in the round.

    Take the “No Legendary Items” restriction, for a start. That means Legendary, NOT Mastercrafted. If you go on the EQ2 forums and search for advice on the best gear for characters up to 80th, the usual recommendation is “just get full MC”.

    Crafted armor and weapons are the default option for experienced players levelling up alts in EQ2 and the dream of newbies. You can make and use those with a Bronze sub.

    As for spells, for the one-time $10 payment to upgrade to Silver you can craft and use your own Expert level spells. Again, for most players levelling up that is what they would be using on the current Live servers. Personally, I think even Journeyman is fine for levelling and I often forget to upgrade my spells beyond that for two or three tiers at a time, but Expert is good enough for anyone while levelling.

    As for the races, you don’t have to upgrade to Gold to get the race you want. You can buy the race you want as an item purchase in the store.

    The comparison chart that’s been published does the whole project no favors at all. It all makes so much more sense when you see how it all fits together. I really can’t see a downside.

  • “..if you’re willing to pay $14.99 per month then why not just play the regular game?”

    Because you didn’t decide that you were willing to pay $14.99 per month until you’d already spent a few months playing for free on the Extended servers.

    Now, you have a character that you’re attached to, you’ve got friends on that server, maybe you’re in a guild on that server.

    To play the regular game, you’ve got to leave your friends and guild behind, and also either start a fresh character, or spend another $35 (!!) to transfer your current one.

    Not saying it’s not a scam, but that’s who the target audience is for the gold membership.

  • Actually, Carson, the only way an “extended” player can play the regular game is to reroll. There are no transfers from the Extended servers to the regular ones. I rather doubt many people will choose to do that, especially if they’ve purchased things (bag slots, races, etc.).

    I hadn’t noticed until now that they were also doing away with the 14-day free trial for the regular game. While they’ll still be doing recruit-a-friend, that’s a bit of a high barrier for totally new players (as in, ones who don’t already know EQ2 players). It’s a shame; the free trial they have now is pretty decent — free game and four expansions once you sub.

  • @Nellie: So basically they’re killing off EQ2’s normal service? If you can’t transfer and there’s no trials anymore I just can’t see the population doing anything but dwindling.

  • Seems like a bad idea to remove the free trial to the regular version. I can see why they’re doing it since you can technically still play for free on the Extended servers but I really think that the regular and Extended servers will feel different.

  • @ WeFlySpitfires

    I’m pretty sure these F2P/CS model games aren’t intended for people who want to play “competitively”. That isn’t the market of these models nor should it be a factor when judging them. It’s goal is to get the casual gamer to spend a little money, who otherwise would have spend none.

  • I always wanted to play EQ1 back in the day, but my PC wouldn’t let me. So I think I will at least take a look at the F2P EQ2.

  • Because DDO is doing soooo badly (+500% revenues, +1mil users) since switching to F2P, right? Your logic is astounding.

    I’ll agree that calling it “free” may be a misnomer, but as Tobold’s latest blog post suggests, Turbine’s methodology (and that of others) really does fit the demand curve nicely, and serves all player types better across the board. Games on the scale of some of these MMOs (with 10s to 100s of millions of dollars spent in development) simply cannot afford to be catering solely to the hardcore, be they PVE raiders or PVPers. There just aren’t that many out three to support development costs.

    You’re being incredibly narrow-minded if you don’t see that Blizzard is pulling the exact same deal but calling it a cash shop. And you’re blind if you don’t see that this is where MMOs are headed in the next decade. It’s where the money is, whether you like it or not. Time to take the blinders off.

  • I never said it would be bad for business or make less money.

    What I said was that it’s bad for the GAME part of the game. I’ve been proven right every time.

  • So how long until Sony shuts down Everquest 2 and shuffles everyone over to the more successful Extended, citing “that’s what the community clearly wants?”

  • I don’t like the term “Free to Play”–it may not be an outright lie, but its definitely pushing it. I prefer to call ’em “No-Cover” games. They don’t charge you to walk in the door, but you pay extra for the booze, so to speak.

    As far as shutting down EQ2, I’d expect some long awaited server merges to start happening soon, but never underestimate MMO gamer inertia. I know people who only finally quit EQ1 when they pulled the plug on the TeamPvP servers a few years back.

    Now… if EQ2X does well, I think its more likely that a limited version of Extended will be offered on Live as the new Free Trial.

  • LOL, 6 months?
    You might not be aware, but the original Everquest is still going strong. EQ2 won’t be going anywhere. This is just another option for people. Will Sony make money from it? Of course. Regular subs will not be effected. People won’t leave their established guilds to transfer unless they’re unhappy and want a new server, which could happen anyway from any number of other reasons. It’s just another option for people. Quit being so dramatic about it. It’s pretty nice that you can literally play through 80 levels for free even if most won’t do it without spending something. It’s still possible.