Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard something or other about Everquest II Extended. Hey, I like rocks as living quarters, but the internet connection for them is a little shaky.
It can be maddeningly difficult to sort out what it means for me, the long-time player, with multiple characters above level 80. There are multiple subscription plans, and upgrades for races and classes. I note that Illusionist is a premium class, which you would have to pay extra to get under the new scheme. And High Elf is a premium race. Which is as it should be. I didn’t see where they charged extra for a fabulous hairstyle and color like mine, but if they don’t they are missing a bet.
This was all put into perspective by an interview IGN did with the games executive producer David Georgeson.
There will be new servers for the new free-to-play model. It is possible to copy your characters from the old servers to the new, on a one-time basis, but not possible to copy the other way, at least for now.
First off, why did they do this. Well, to get new customers, stupid! David puts it more diplomatically, though.
[EQ2 is] a really good game, but getting gamers to look at something that’s been around for a while is a difficult task so the Extended service is aimed at breaking down walls and setting it up so you don’t have to buy a retail box or pony up for a monthly subscription. So they can come in and find out that holy crap, this is really a good game! EQ2 really does stand head and shoulders above all MMOs and it’s a shame that the only people that know about it are the ones that are playing it currently.
Ok, it’s a bit of hype to say that it “stands head and shoulders above all MMO’s” but the game really is of high quality. The development/release cycle is executed faster and more consistently than anyone else I’ve seen. The latest expansion does things with quests, crafting, instances and storytelling that are highly original and fun.
The world is rich in lore and location. Why not open it up to new players to play for free, so they can get a taste? Well, there’s always the question of how the existing player base will feel.
Here’s what David had to say about the impact on the existing game:
We have an existing player base of folks that like the game exactly the way it is. They don’t want that to change. They were very resistant to the idea of microtransactions and stat-based items or power items to get you ahead. They don’t want to see that stuff in their game because basically they wanted to feel proud about having achieved level 90 with all this great gear and they wanted to be able to show it off. And we respect that. We get that. We set up the separate servers so that when the new people come in, it will be a normal experience for them, and the existing customers who like it the way it is will not be impacted.
Yeah, I get it. When I look at the FTP plan options I see myself having to spend money all over the place to get what I have now for my 15 bucks a month. At 15 bucks per month over on the Extended servers, I would have to pay extra for my class, my race, my level, the latest expansion, to carry the amount of cash I have, and to keep the master spells that I have.
For some, the taint of “buy your way ahead” will ruin it for them, though David says that the best gear will remain as drops, as well as the best-looking gear. (Though that sounds kind of subjective). This doesn’t bother me so much personally, not as much as it did once.
What worries me, though, along with a lot of other folks, is that there will be a migration away from the classic servers to the FTP servers. People won’t have to keep their subscriptions up, and will haul out the characters and pay for upgrades when it seems useful and appropriate to them. And when it isn’t, they don’t have to pay anything at all.
Furthermore, if EQ II Extended is successful, it will bring in lots of new players. And we will likely never see those players on our servers. I think that in the long term, that likely means slow death. Here’s what David says:
I think this is a natural fear that the players have right now. I’m not certain how much of that will really happen. People have existing friend circles. They have established guilds. They have guilds that they’ve leveled up for months and months. They spent countless hours outfitting their guilds. It’s not something to just easily wad up and throw away. There will certainly be people that transfer over because some people would really like to play that way. But I really think that the majority of players, and especially the ones that have been so vocal on the forums about what they do and don’t want in the game – I really can’t see them transferring. The populations should stay fairly stable on the existing servers, and we’ll figure out ways to keep them alive and thriving as we go forward.
Ways like server merges, I presume, should it come to that. But what the heck, we get to keep playing the game we love in the way that we have played it, how could we possibly complain?
Somehow it reminds me of the idea that one of the greatest curses that can be laid upon someone is “May your every wish be granted”.