Alts For Freemium and the Demise of Randolph

I made another handful of characters in Vanguard, in preparation for the transition to freemium. The consensus as to how things will shake out is that SOE will grandfather in existing character races, classes and character slots, much as they did for EQ2 (after considerable and justified bitching.) So the strategy is to make those characters now, so when f2p goes up you’ll be able to play them without necessarily having to pay out of pocket for whatever it is you’d ordinarily have to unlock. There is, of course, no guarantee things will work this way, and the grandfather date could be set to or before March 21, when the announcement was made. But this will irk some people, including myself.

Despite this variable I would not be terribly surprised if SOE’s implementation of the freemium model in Vanguard ends up being a bit more liberal than it is in EQ2. I don’t expect any radical departures, mind you, but it seems to me a great shame to lock such a variety of races and classes behind a transaction. Vanguard’s class design is unique, and I think it’d be wise not to lock those great designs behind a paywall. I won’t say that the Warrior, Rogue, Cleric and Sorcerer are entirely uninteresting, but all of the game’s great classes — the Bard, Blood Mage, Disciple and Necromancer, and all those that are almost as neat, like the Psionicist, Ranger, Dread Knight, Shaman and Monk — would be unavailable to free players if the EQ2 model is ported over verbatim. But SOE has a lot less to lose now, and Vanguard has more to gain. It would be very good strategy, in my judgement, to limit the game as little as possible while still building the infrastructure needed for robust microtransaction sales.

With this in mind, though, one of the reasons I resubscribed almost immediately after the announcement was to get character made with an eye to them being grandfathered in if possible. Since I had lost a lot of characters to the server merge purge (all under adventuring level 10, and a bunch under 5,) and only had four characters on my account, three of which I created when I came back last year, I set about figuring out everything that I would realistically want to play and filed all twelve existing character slots. I’ll be happy to buy unlocks should the need come up, but there’s no sense spending more money than I have to — the SOE f2p model is not alt-friendly, and I am. Particularly in a game with as much variety in races and classes as Vanguard.

One buried but big change with this week’s update (updates which are coming noticable more rapidly now,) is that Randolph the Reindeer, the flying holiday mount that was given out several Christmases ago and subsequently made a year-round flying mount, was stripped of his flying ability. Some people are upset about this, and Randolph was incredibly handy, but more people are relieved to finally see the change made. I, personally, am in the latter camp.

The problem is that Randolph, in addition to being kind of silly, broke the game in some minor but non-trivial ways. You could use him to fly in and out of outdoor dungeons, for example, despite the fact that these tend to nominally be no-fly zones. Granted that this points to a problem with the underlying no-fly mechanic rather than being an issue specific to Randolph himself, but still. As an odd goodie during the holiday event I don’t mind it, but year-round flying was a bit too much, and additionally eroded the value of Vanguard’s other flying mounts, which take rather a lot of effort to get.

Now, the thing is, flying is one of the great beauties of Vanguard. Anything you can see, you can get to if you can fly. I am all for a flying mount at some accessible level and with a reasonable effort that doesn’t break the lore. Word is that there’s a level 20 questline in the works that will grant one, and I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with (as I expect) flying mounts bought through the store, as long as the best ones (currently the Griffin, the most spectacular mount in all MMOs as far as I’m concerned) remain things that you have to get through play.

6 responses to “Alts For Freemium and the Demise of Randolph

  1. I’m really glad they’ve finally done something about randolph too. Though I don’t see the need of a low level flying mount though when the 5min rent-able ones get you where you need to go perfectly fine.

  2. Randolph does look a bit odd, but his functionality is impeccable. I strongly question the need to ground him now, before the putative level 20 questline is in. What harm was he doing to a game where he’s been a presence for several years? Do they think people coming back as subscribers prior to the F2P transition will see Randolph flying by and immediately unsubscribe?

    I think it’s a mean-minded, change that bodes badly for the future direction Vanguard might take. It smacks very much of the kind of high-handed, score-settling actions some new bosses take to establish that now things are going to be done THEIR way as they should have been all along if only they’d been given the job in the first place.

    This has soured me on playing Vanguard for the time being. Pretty much the main reason I’ve logged in over the last two years and more has been to fly around and take screen shots. Having to hire a flying mount to do that just adds a pointless extra nuisance that mitigates against me wanting to log in in the first place.

    Oh well, at least now I know what I’m going to blog about today. There’s always a silver lining.

  3. The new guy in charge is the same as the old guy in charge. I look at its as something that they’d meant to do before everyone got pulled away to other teams. As someone who has spent a lot of time sightseeing on Randy I do understand where you’re coming from, I just think it was done now to adjust expectations before the transition hits. Besides, a new person coming in wouldn’t have access to the free flying mount.

  4. I calmed down after my rant above as you might see from my blog post about it😛

    That said, Silius is the guy responsible for Slappy The Cool so I don’t think he has a leg to stand on when it comes to appropriate content!

  5. I do hope they implement the lower level flying mount quest soon. I was pretty excited when I heard about it. Even if it is slow it would be nice to be able to fly to some areas. I am also hoping that they do the grandfather deal with VG too, have a ton of characters I’d love to keep access to.