The buzz in the Hate-O-Sphere is currently all about a post made by EverQuest II senior developer Dave (“Smokejumper”) Georgeson over on the EQ2 forums. Go there and read the whole post, because there’s more there than I’m going to quote. Then come back here, and then and only then, if you dare, wade into the morass of bile that is the EQ2 forum. The gist of the post, pitched as “just an idea,” is:
What would you think about a winback campaign that lets people return to the game, and if they purchase DoV while playing during that winback period, they also get a level 90 character of their choice? (Assume mastercraft-level kit, modest AA amounts, and a modest coin amount.)
The reaction is… well, it’s predictable. I’m not slow to accuse the EQ2 forum community (the community in-game strikes a somewhat different tone) of excessive whining, and there’s a lot of it happening here. In this case, however, I agree that this is a monumentally stupid idea.
On the one hand, the issue that such a measure is meant to address is a real one, endemic to all MMOs that combine fundamentally unlimited play, ladder-style progression that only arrives in discrete bundles, and finite content that gets released in slower bundles. Nobody in charge of such a game has dealt with it in a really satisfactory way – Blizzard, for example, keeps making WoW’s leveling faster, to the extent of doing a complete overhaul that replaced old content with much slicker and more efficient level-dispensers. The least you can say about Georgeson’s idea is that it’s not the same thing WoW did. That’s worth something.
On the other hand, an MMO, and indeed an RPG in general, is to a large extent about the progression. The focus on endgame stuff is just a diversion from that, made a necessity by developers’ reliance on scripted content that players churn through faster than it can be released. This whole “the real game begins at the level cap” stuff is all a bunch of bullshit meant to plaster a hole in the game design. It’s the Holy Trinity all over again – a bug, not a feature, which has been embraced at the cost of trying something new.
So no, I don’t think you should just hand out max-level characters. Progression should be slower than it is, if anything, but more importantly its rate should be stable. While World of Warcraft may have sped up its leveling by a lot, at least it’s still there. This would… well, I don’t want to trot out the old canard about undercutting people’s “sense of accomplishment,” because that makes it sound like they’re taking this too seriously. But it will, I think, reinforce the opposite – that the progression is pointless, since some people can just get handed a level 90 anyway. It would, I think, forever cripple EQ2’s ability to get legitimately new players, because it’s a more blatant band-aid than just ramping up leveling speed. I have to think that the bright, creative bunch at SOE can come up with something better than this.
And on the gripping hand, Georgeson also says, in the original post:
It’s definitely going to make a few of you think about wearing a troll costume, but if so, please keep in mind that this is just an idea. It’s a discussion. That’s all. I am serious that I’m asking for feedback.
Now, see… that has to come off as a little bit disingenuous at best, because somebody far less smart than Dave Georgeson could have foreseen exactly what the reaction was going to be – spastic, seething rage from a bunch who is all “sky is falling” in the best of times. So then why bother? Is it an earnest solicitation of fan reactions when you already knew what the answer would be? Or is it an attempt to divert the rage from an actual, planned change that will seem more palatable in comparison?