I have two new videos up this week. First up is this week’s Norrathian Odyssey, in which we delve into customizing the EQ2 User Interface. Not with UI mods, but with the relatively powerful tools built right into the client. The vid’s been up for a couple of days but I haven’t gotten around to posting about it until now.
Next up is the new Ardwulf Presents, the first in a couple of weeks. Here I talk in a very rambly fashion about the Vanguard f2p model, and explain a bit about why it doesn’t bother me very much. You may want to either watch the video for my opinion on the matter, or read the borderline rant below.
There seems to be a lot of anger about the details of Vanguard’s freemium model, which I find both disappointing and a bit strange, since it’s a mild variation of SOE’s established and well-understood EQ2/EQ f2p model. So I wonder what folks expected out of it, and the way I keep reading a lot of the comments is that people are unhappy with not getting the whole game for free. That’s not a terribly fair interpretation, but the Vanguard model doesn’t differ very much from what we’ve seen in the past from SOE, which is presumably working very well for them since they’re leaving the subscription model that they help pioneer in favor of the new thing.
The way I see it, as with EQ2, you’re either going to play casually, in which case the free limitations don’t offer any very serious restrictions, or you’re going to be a serious player, in which case you ought to have no problem subscribing, since $15 a month in general offers very good value to people playing, say, more then ten hours a week. Where the model falls down somewhat is, as I have pointed out before, for players who fall somewhere between the two extremes, or who (like myself) oscillate between periods of heavy play and periods of minimal investment. But there are tradeoffs. Namely, that the SOE model that will soon be in use with most of their titles with relatively minor variations offers basically unlimited access to actual content, or at least to the vast majority of it.
The standard retort to this is to compare the SOE model to Turbine’s, usually noting that while you have to pay for content above about level 25 in LotRO, you can earn the store points through play. Which is true, but doing so beyond about that point is a gigantic pain in the ass, such that buying more than about one zone takes a massive amount of grinding in a game that is very grindy in other respects as well. I’m not dissing LotRO, here — it’s on my short list of games worth playing, and I’m still doing so (though only dabbling at the moment.) My point is that while the SOE model is neither perfect nor necessarily my own ideal choice for this kind of thing, it’s far less clear to me than it is to many other commentators that SOE’s approach is obviously inferior to anybody else’s. You can get at least as much quality play out of (for example) EQ2 while paying a similarly nonexistent amount of money. The points-for-play in the Turbine model is not relevant to this argument, since if you’re playing enough to get the points to unlock even just the content you need to level, you’re playing far more than enough to make that subscription a phenomenal value.
SOE is not a charity. While I would like them to make the Vanguard free package as attractive as possible for obvious reasons, they have absolutely no obligation to provide anything for free, much less basically unrestricted access to all the content in a game that’s content rich even without any updates for the better part of two years. Nor need they, or even should they, make it easy to access absolutely everything in the game without paying a cent. I’ve been over the ins and outs of their model several times already so I’m disinclined to do so in depth again, but I’ve hit on the highlights in this post.
The bottom line is that if the thoroughly anticipated details of the f2p model has unsold you on playing Vanguard, you were unlikely to come back anyway for anything other than a look around. That’s totally a fair call for anybody to make, but let’s not lay out some bullshit line of “I love Vanguard, but SOE’s model is so terribad that I will never return” in so doing. Because either it is bullshit or you’re just a fucking cheapskate.