Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Everquest 2, Now More Free To Play

Posted by Stropp on November 11, 2011

There’s a bit of buzz today over the announcement by SOE that Everquest 2 is going to go completely free to play. (See the producers letter for details.)

SOE have been testing the waters of freeness with EQ2 for a while now, with EQ2 Extended. That must have been a successful enough test to encourage SOE to go all the way with free to play. At least with EQ2. (I wonder if they’ll go the same way with other titles like Vanguard?)

My first thought was that I’ll now be able to get back to EQ2 and spend some time adventuring with my characters. But after seeing how the FTP works, I’m not so sure how this all is going to work with existing characters.

Have a look at the price chart for EQ2. (Click for a bigger version)

You notice a couple of things about the free option, and the silver for that matter.

Spell Tiers

If you pay for the Gold membership, you’ll have access to all spell tiers. That means you can upgrade your spells and combat abilities to the maximum allowed, that’s master level now I think. However, with the free sub you can only upgrade to the adept level.

Now that’s okay for a new character. I have no problem with SOE encouraging players to subscribe with better character progression, after all they’re in the business to make some money. However, I’m not sure how this works with existing characters.

If I log in free with Bargears, my close to max level Troll Shadowknight, what happens to the many abilities and spells I have upgraded beyond Adept?

Do I lose them completely, or am I just temporarily downgraded to Adept until I purchase the appropriate subscription?

Shared Bank Slots

This is another concern. Over the years I have collected a bunch of items that I have put into the bank, and when I’ve run out of room, into the shared bank slots.

With a free account, not only does the number of bags I can have get reduced from six to two, my shared bank slots go down to zero. What happens to all the gear and items I have in those slots? Gone forever, held in escrow, or something else?

Active Journal Quests

Everquest 2 has perhaps one of the most generous allowances of active quests I have seen anywhere. For a long time WoW only had 25 or so, not sure what it is now, and Fallen Earth only has 20. Even so I found myself bumping my head on the quest limit, and when I departed the game over a year ago now, I reckon I was close to the limit too.

Free accounts now only have room for 20 quests in the quest journal. Again, not a big deal if starting fresh. SOE has to make some money to keep the game running. But again I find myself wondering what happens to those quests above the limit when a player logs in for the first time.

These questions may have already been answered. I haven’t gone looking for a FAQ yet. But there was no mention of the consequences for long established players who have let their accounts lapse and then log in after the game has gone free to play in the producers letter. If they haven’t already addressed these issues, then SOE needs to do so before the FTP goes live. Otherwise there may be some very unpleasant surprises waiting for players.

And that won’t be good for anyone.

One Thing I’d Like To See In Rift

Posted by Stropp on June 10, 2011

I’m still playing Rift, and enjoying it. My Pyro/Elem Mage, Vroomfondel, is slowly running through the content having just entered the Moonshade Highlands.

The reason my progress has been so slow is that I’m spending a lot of time working on my business these days, and actually feel a little guilty when I put aside any time for gaming. So I tend to limit gaming to the weekend.

Rift tends to lend itself to solo play, even with other players around. I often find myself in a situation where I’ve grouped up and once the goal has been completed, I leave the group and head on to the next challenge. The rift and invasion systems invite this kind of play.

Consquently, I’ve found myself outleveling some of the content, and going back later to complete some quests and acheivements. Unfortunately, by the time I do that, the quests and mobs are often gray and provide no experience or challenge.

It occurred to me last weekend when I was in Freemarch, that I’d love to see the mentoring system that Everquest 2 so cleverly implemented.

EQ2 allows players to match a lower level player’s level. This allows the high level player to adventure with lower level players in  a group without simply overwhelming the other players.

Players can also visit a Chronomage and pay some gold to drop their levels for a while to some desired level. The game then scales the players gear and skills down to the appropriate level. Taking into account AA’s and other factors, the character is still pretty powerful, but not massively overpowered.

This is great for exactly the situation I am in with Rift, it allows the player to experience the area as intended, and in the case of Rift some of the daily quests actually require a kill that gives experience. This feature would allow players to go back and build up their reputation after they’ve already grown out of a zone.


Did SOE Really CopyCat Blizzard?

Posted by Stropp on May 21, 2010

By now you’ve probably heard of SOEs introduction of a $25 mount that bloggers are affectionality calling the Copy Cat.

The inference is that bigwigs at Sony Online HQ noticed how amazingly well Blizzards Celestial Steed performed in the WoW store and decided that they wanted a piece of that action. The lure of the cold hard was much too difficult to resist and they put the belt sander to the noses of their developers and cranked out a rideable kitty cat.

The problem I have with this scenario is that the timeframe is too short. It’s only a few short weeks ago that Blizzard released their sparkle pony.

Sure it’s possible to crank out a piece of content quickly, but that tends to shortcut all the development practices that are necessary to stop a game collapsing in a buggy heap. Something like a new mount should by all rights require a couple of months of development and testing, especially considering that this particular mount actually affects combat stats. That alone means there are balance issues to sort out.

What’s more likely is that SOE were already developing the Prowler mounts, possibly for addition to the in-game vendors, maybe even for the mount vendors in the new New Halas area. Perhaps the idea for the Prowler came from the Rise of the Godslayer expansion for Age of Conan. That expansion has some gorgeous tiger mounts available for players.

Blizzards success with the Celestial Steed may have redirected the mount to the Station Store, and prompted the high price, but I doubt it inspired the Prowler in the first place.

Everquest 2 Double XP Weekend

Posted by Stropp on April 24, 2010

I always find the Double XP weekends a decent incentive to hop back into Everquest 2. Especially these days when my gaming time is more and more limited. And since I’m busier and busier lately, the last few times SOE has souped up the XP multiplier for Everquest 2 I didn’t actually read about it until the event was almost over.

Thanks to @g33kg0dd3ss, the illustrious leader of The Halasian Empire who posted the news that SOE was doing a double XP weekend this weekend,I decided to take advantage of it and spend some R&R time in Everquest 2.

I reckon all up today I spent about 5 hours playing, and in that time added 2 adventure levels and 3 AA levels. I got a little help by handing in about 20 collections that I had been sitting on which not only gave me 68.75 to 69.75, but also a ton of house items with which to furnish my little 2 bedroom residence. After a little additonal grinding (I was attempting to get some lore and legend body parts) I dinged 70 and logged off for a little while. After coming back I did some exploring and a little questing and finished off a few minutes ago when the EQ2 client decided to crash on me.

Much of my time has been spent in the Kylong Plains, and I still have a few quests to go, perhaps enough to finish of level 70, but I’m starting to hanker for the next area. It feels like I’ve been in Kylong Plains for ages and in a way I have. It just hasn’t been in game hours.

The good thing is that I do have a bit of time to spare this weekend (even if I do have some business admin tasks to do) and with Monday being the ANZAC day holiday I don’t have to go out to the clients until Tuesday. Yay for public holidays!

That Crazy Little Thing Called Life

Posted by Stropp on January 21, 2010

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted all that much lately.

My contract concluded at the end of November last year, and a few weeks earlier I was thinking that I’d have a ton of time to make regular updates. I’d even made a bit of a resolution to myself to try and get a post out each day.

But as they say, the best laid plans of mice.

On the Friday, the week before the contract ended I recieved a call from a friend whom I’d worked with a few years prior and with whom I’d hadn’t seen for a couple of years. He, and a couple of partners, had formed a startup business about three years ago and had just come into some government grant money, and had found a new investor. He wanted to know what I had planned, which considering the contract was running out wasn’t very much at all. I was told that the funding was going to allow them to get some outside development help for the mundane tasks that needed doing on a day to day basis, and that this would free him to take the application to the next level.

I was asked if I wanted to work for them.

The catch was that they didn’t want to take on any full-time employees due to the on-going costs, insurance, taxes, superannuation, etc; that they’d face with a limited budget. This meant that I’d have to go beyond contracting and become a freelance software guy.

I thought about it for a couple of days and told my friend that I’d be in it, with the condition that I’d be free to take on other work. He was okay with that.

A few days later, I signed the papers to create my company.

So… I’m now a businessman with a Pty Ltd (kind of like a LLC I think.)

At the same time, after years of being past the all-my-friends-are-getting-married stage of life, two of them decided to tie the knot with their respective girlfriends. Five days apart. One in Sydney, the other here in Adelaide.

So on the first of January I took off with the other groomsman and drove to Sydney via Dubbo and the Western Plains Zoo to be best man on the 5th.

That done, we drove the long way down the coast to get back to Adelaide on the 9th (for a total distance of 4000 kilometers) and another wedding the next day. And of course, I started work on the Monday and have been pretty busy since.

Of course it wasn’t all weddings and business.

I decided to take it easy in December and just play some games.

I mentioned in my last post I spent a session in STO before Christmas, but for the most part I played Everquest 2, and took my Shadowknight from level 25 to level 60 (achieved late on December 31st.)

That was pretty good because that was the goal I’d set. I was secretly hoping to get to 70, but really didn’t think was realistic. (I have no idea how Stargrace, or anyone else for that matter, can get to 80 as quick as they do.) I’m now hoping to reach 70, or even 75 before the expansion is released.

I’m not sure if that’s achievable due to the amount of work I need to do for the business, there’s so much to learn! but I’ll give it a decent try.

And of course that leads me to the major point of this rambling stream of consciousness that I’m calling a post.

That crazy little thing called life (with ap0logies to Freddy) has thrown a great opportunity my way. But it’s not one without cost.

Running a business, when it’s more than just an attempt at a work at home job, means that there’s a lot of stuff to do. I’ve been a software developer for over 25 years now and it’s something I understand (and do) pretty well. A business on the other hand means paperwork, accounting, marketing and sales, and perhaps most importantly, managing my time in order to give each their due. I’m learning now how much I don’t understand, even though I thought I had a lot of it figured out previously.

The cost I expect that I may have to pay is a severe reduction in the amount of time I have to play games, and along with that the time I have to blog about them. While I’m not quitting the game blogger scene — I’ll be squeezing in the gaming and writing whenever I have a chance — I won’t be fitting stuff in around this activity, it will be the other way around. Gaming, unfortunately, will have to be scaled back a tad.

So that one post a day resolution?

Just blame life.

Professor Syp’s Homework Assignment

Posted by Stropp on November 26, 2009

Professor Syp over at the Biobreak School of MMOGenomics and Appliance Repair has set all of us bloggers who also play Everquest 2 a little homework assignment. And just before the Thanksgiving holidays* too. Hrmph. What a killjoy!

The work he is asking us to do is to list five features of EQ2 that are better than those in World of Warcraft. Fortunately he didn’t set a word requirement.

  1. Housing. Everquest 2 has the best housing system in any MMORPG I’ve played. WoW doesn’t have housing.
  2. Guild Amenities. Guilds in WoW are simply a group of like minded players. It’s the same in EQ2 except that guilds can level up. At certain levels various amenities become available to the guild such as trade quest givers, guards, crafting component storage, and mail boxes. Not to mention at certain levels guilds can move into bigger and better guild halls.
  3. Crafting. I really don’t consider World of Warcraft’s crafting system to be a real crafting system. All you do is have the required components and hit a button. That’s not crafting, that’s mass production, Jetsons style. However, while EQ2 requires more involvement while crafting, it’s still not the best system I’ve seen. ATITD is the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, even if it does require a PHD to work out. Still EQ2 crafting beats WoW Crafting hands down. Not to mention crafting is not tied to adventure level. A player can just be a crafter if he wishes, and never step into the wilderness.
  4. Quest Variety. While EQ2 still has much of the same quest structure of WoW, they have a bigger variety of quest types. You can do heritage quests, epic quests, heroic quests, and a couple of other quest types as well. The rewards also include furniture and trophies that can be put in your house or guild hall.
  5. Collections. These are a kind of sub-quest where a player must find shiny objects around the world to complete collections. Completing these collections often offer a reward. Collections are not critical to the game, but they do offer a nice diversion.
  6. Alternate Achievement Points. Can I add a sixth point? WoW has Talents, but I like the way EQ2 uses AA points (which is a similar system), and how I can acumulate them faster than I level. It’s also optional to do this, so players can choose to race to the level cap, or to accumulate AAs for a stronger character before moving to the next level. Nice little feature.
  7. Flexibility in Appearance. Can I have Extra Credit, Professor Syp? In EQ2 you’re not restricted to the look of your armor. After a certain level, players can equip gear in appearance slots. These don’t provide stats, but only affect the look of your character.

So there you go. Not five, but seven features in Everquest 2 that I consider to be better that the equivalent features (if they exist) in World of Warcraft.

While I believe that WoW does parts of the MMORPG experience better than other games, and while the bits it does do better are the ones that count, it’s my opinion that Everquest 2 is a superior game to World of Warcraft. The points I listed above are only some of the reasons I believe that.

* BTW, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Australia, so Professor Syp hasn’t interrupted our vacation with this homework after all.