My first impression of EverQuest II Extended (EQ2X) is very positive. The (Alpha, although it says Beta,) server is now up and running seemingly smoothly, and even though you need to install a new client for the new scheme, I was up and playing within about 5 minutes due to the new streaming client. This is not a browser client, by the way – it’s the existing EQ2 client delivered in a new form, in a new way (and the new UI is better, as well.)
I started a new character in Frostfang Sea and all was well. Gameplay was exactly what you’d expect. But you do get occasional popup ads for Silver-level membership. I don’t mind being reminded, but the first time that window opens during combat and a character gets killed because of it, I’d expect ragequits. Hopefully this will get turned into something more like the small infoboxes that periodically appear off to one side.
There’s considerable crying over on the EQ2 forums about what Lead Developer Dave Georgeson said a few weeks ago. The complaint runs, more or less, “but you said EQ2 wasn’t going free-to-play!” Only that’s not what he said in the original post.
…we will not be changing your subscription model. We’ve heard you folks loud and clear that you do not want items with stats introduced, you don’t want players buying their way to power, etc. Your world will stay the way it has been and we will continue to support it with new content, items, etc.
Which is, of course, the literal truth – the existing subscription model is not changing. What we’re actually seeing is the addition of a new server set on which microtransaction-based play will be enabled.
Now, you could say that he was just hedging his words against this decision, since this has doubtless been in the works for a while, certainly more than a few weeks. Georgeson had to have known about it when he made the statement. But think about what would have happened if he’d said that SOE was exploring a F2P scheme for EQ2, without him being able to go into all the details, and knowing full well what notorious whiners MMO players are.
Now, I think there are legitimate concerns over long-term subscription server viability with the demise of the 14-day free trial (justified in the context that EQ2X will amount to an unlimited trial.) What I do not foresee is a massive exodus of existing subscription players migrating over to the MT servers. Firstly because of the $35 character copy charge (and note that it’s a copy, not a transfer,) which doesn’t bring along your coin or potentially much of your gear, and secondly because the existing subscription service is just a little bit better than what you get with the $15 a month “Gold” EQ2X membership – Gold doesn’t give you every race in the game. You’d have to buy those separately.
I am personally provisionally happy with this plan, although there’s a lot of fine-tuning that needs to be done in various places ($10 for a XP potion? Really?) and there are many places where things will need to be tweaked just right. And something needs to be done to prop up subscription server viability, which may be as simple as allowing transfers from EQ2X servers… but it’ll probably take more serious incentives.