Vanguard’s Freemium Model Announced

Today SOE announced the details of the plan under which Vanguard will operate under its new f2p model. So we have a new producer’s letter, the obligatory free to play benefits matrix and an accompanying FAQ. No launch date for the new model has yet been announced, but the aforementioned producer’s letter says we’re “approaching the final stretch.” I expect that means 2-3 more months, giving us a release in August or September, likely coming in before the end of the announced “Summer” date.

The membership matrix is shown above, but let’s dig in and take a closer look at the plan and the details we know — and don’t — so far.

  • Membership Levels: One interesting aspect is the lack of an intermediate tier of membership between free and subscription (“Gold”) accounts. Looking over the details and comparing the Vanguard f2p matrix with those of EQ and EQ2. This is a little bit of a surprise, but it shouldn’t be; EQ2’s plan in particular is a bit confusing for the newcomer, although that’s probably less true today than it was when EQ2 went free. Some of the benefits one might have otherwise expected under a “Silver” plan have been rolled into the free package, while others have been kept for Gold players.
  • Available Races: Those available for free are Halflings, Half Elves and the Thestran, Qaliathari and Mordebi Humans, with the rest purchasable in the store. This is not surprising; if anything, it could have been one race per contiennt, so I’m not entirely displeased with the options that will be available to free players. But then, I tend to favor human characters anyway.
  • Available Classes: Those available for free are the Warrior, Rogue, Cleric, Sorcerer, Disciple, Necromancer and Monk. One fear I had going into this was that the free plan would sequester all of Vanguard’s great and novel classes behind the paywall, leaving us with the straight and relatively conventional Warrior, Rogue, Cleric and Sorcerer. While those classes do have some interesting twists in Vanguard, Classes like the Bard and Necromancer are more interesting and unique. So it looks like they met me halfway on this: the Necro and Disciple are unique and desirable classes with great underlying mechanics, and the Monk is interesting as well.
  • Currency Cap: Even at the Silver level, the currency cap in EQ2 is low enough to cause problems in the upper level ranges. Vanguard’s cap of 1 plat seems pretty high, in contrast; Ardwulf is level 30 and has seldom exceeded 10 gold, let alone approached a plat.
  • Gearing Limits: Free players are restricted to “Common” items. This one is the big variable; if by “common” we mean only the very lowest level of gear above vendor trash, then it’s nearly a game-busting limitation anywhere north of level 10. I would guess that there will be some kind of purchasable token (probably cheap if EQ2’s method is anything to go by) that will let you equip higher tiers of items.
  • Quest Journal: Subscribers will get the current limit of 50 quests, while free players will be capped at 15. Given that this covers all three spheres and the quests therefrom, free players will need to manage their quest log very carefully.
  • Miscellaneous Restrictions: Free players cannot form (but van join) guilds, can receive (but not send) in-game mail, have a limited set of social commands (/say, /tell, /group and /guild) and are barred from Caravans, Brotherhoods, Fishing and Housing. Only the last is significant, and since Vanguard’s housing is open-world, it’s really kind of neccessary for it to be limited to subscribers. One open question is what happens when a subscriber lapses to a free account. Does their house just vanish? Or is it locked until they can re-subscribe?
  • Existing Players: Former subscribers get full access to their existing characters made prior to the f2p conversion, without having to unlock anything. Good call; anything else would have been met with great umbrage.
  • There are, as of now, no known restrictions on crafting, diplomacy, harvesting or boats. Although gear is a question, and some crafting is dependent on dropped mats that will be hard to impossible to get without doing raids that may be off-limits depending on how the gearing limit shakes out. Otherwise, free players will enjoy open access to the huge open world and all the game’s content and can level straight up to the cap of 55 in all three spheres.

There are no huge surprises either way, based on these details. The model is closely akin to those of EQ and EQ2, with more of the range of classes and races available to free players and with the currency cap less of a thumb-in-the-eye issue. We still need a date, of course, and more details need to be made clear. And we also need to see the cash shop in action to find out what kind of stuff is available there. But I am tentatively happy with what I see so far, and relieved that f2p is finally, finally on the horizon for Vanguard.


5 responses to “Vanguard’s Freemium Model Announced

  1. There is something hidden in the text about housing: houses will stay when you switch off from gold, but you can’t pay the upkeep.

  2. Pingback: Thanks to SoE for making my choice easier | GamingSF

  3. Killed my interest in playing this game completely, same with all my friends that were looking into Vanguard. I’d put this down at the bottom of F2P attempts along with Allods and some of the very worst Asian luck box type schemes. Nothing but limited this and limited that. This is more a crippled trial than F2P in many respects, with huge chunks off limits to ‘free’ players and no way to unlock them. And I don’t do subscriptions any more, SOE, so no thanks. I had collected quite a bit of station cash to spend on Vanguard, now I guess I’ll spend it on DC Universe (meh) or Free Realms. On the upside, I’ll use that play time to finally start exploring the L2 world.

  4. The model appears to work like this: broken tokens (stupid mechanism), otherwise no broker/auction house access; no means to resell items, scratch crafting or participating in the economy. I bought a lot of Diplomacy items last time I played — from the auction house, which I would now not be able to use, save by paying out the nose for tokens (assuming they put such a system in place).
    They’ve gutted the flavor of the game by getting rid of the racial starting areas, making Vanguard look like Eq2 (which, coincidentally or not, was also gimped down to 4 starting areas). So, F2P players would be pointless vis-a-vis crafting, can’t get housing at all, brotherhoods, gimped via diplomacy, gimped on items even worse than Eq2’s item restrictions…
    Here’s the thing: EQ2 had plenty of people who were already paying, who in all likelihood kept paying a sub. They could afford to set up an F2P model around the idea of causing pain — if you don’t like the pain, pay for a sub.
    Vanguard DOESN’T have that base of players, otherwise it would already be doing better than it is. Vanguard F2P needed to ENTICE people to play. There is no enticement to play here — just pain. Just restrictions. Your taste of Vanguard, ala F2P, is now “here’s a drop of vanilla, if you want anything else or more, pay up”. It does nothing to attract people — while it changes the game significantly. I subbed to Vanguard for 2 years. I was looking forward to returning — but I won’t be coming back anyway as I really, intensely dislike, if not hate, how they got rid of the racial starting areas (whatever the reason). I feel the flavor of Vanguard, that which makes it something distinct from the other MMOs out there, is being sacrificed unnecessarily. And that’s a shame. They should have crafted a model that acted as an incentive rather than a penalty — per-character one-time payments to lift the “plat limit”, per-character “buy the right to buy a house”, etc. Leave people access to the systems of the game without restricting their access – but create a model that makes them want to pay for the things that would enhance their gameplay. So, no broker tokens — one box slot or its equivalent as F2P with unlockers to get more access. That sort of incentive — rather than restriction. That would let people participate in the economy — and realise how much fun they might have with those functions, making them more likely to WANT to spend money to enhance their play. But that appears to have gone over SOE’s head…

  5. Terrible matrix. Much worse than EQ2 on a first glance. Just about killed the interest I had in spending more time in Telon.

    I have and will be keeping my Station Access account, so I can already play Vanguard whenever I want to. Problem is, now I want to play it less than I did before I read this.