July 28, 2010
Yesterday, Senior Producer Dave Georgeson made the major announcement that Everquest 2 is adding a free to play, microtransaction server, called Everquest Extended. The long and short is that the current servers will remain unchanged, and a new free to play server will be added that includes a larger marketplace and a greater variety of pricing plans to choose from than on live servers. I believe this is the first time we’ve seen a game decide to make the jump to free to play, but not do it on established servers.
So what are the pros and cons?
The Good: The Free to Play server with the robust marketplace will probably generate a nice lump of revenue, which helps the game overall (if, of course, it goes back into the EQ2 kitty and not into some other project). The current marketplace on live servers seems to be used quite a bit, and I often come across players sporting the appearance armor and mounts. There have been a lot of great art resources added into the game over the past couple of years, and if it can be used to generate more revenue for the game, that’s always a good thing.
Second, this is a great game, with a lot of fun content. Everquest 2 often gets overlooked in the mass sea of MMOs, but it’s well worth playing. Players I come across in game are usually impressed with the game features that have been added over the years, and they often remark that when they move to another game they realize how much they miss certain things in Everquest 2. It’s nice that more people will get to experience that through this plan.
The Bad: I can’t overstate how big of a downside there could be from adding the Extended server. Everquest Extended turns the idea of community on its head, because the new players on the Free to Play server will never be able to transfer their characters to the regular servers. Once a character is created on an Everquest Extended server, that’s where it remains, even if the person ends up subscribing.
Above: Last years tepid turnout at the Guild Faire in Antonica. A glimpse of the future?
And there’s the root of the problem. New players will undoubtedly go to the F2P servers, which will lack the onramp to socialization that older servers with well established guilds can offer. This is huge, because guilds are a key part of enticing a player to stick with a game over the long term. I’d go as far as saying that the high turnover rate of free to play populations might even discourage potential subscribers from making that jump and investing themselves in the game.
Meanwhile, old servers will be faced with the slow evaporation of the playerbase that naturally occurs. Everquest 2′s population is very guild centric (and I say that as a good thing). Without a stream of new players, these guilds will have a very hard time recruiting new members and maintaining healthy rosters. Community will slowly dry up, and the incentive for the remaining players to stay will slowly diminish.
I understand the desire to keep store bought items away from the classic servers, but in an attempt to do so, EQ2 is going to end up undermining the whole concept of community that’s been such an important part of the game. I really hope they continue to examine how much this will affect the future of the game on current servers. If they stick with this plan, there are two things I’d like to see:
1. Let players transfer from Everquest Extended to live servers. I’m going to face up to a big taboo and ask, why not let players with purchased gear transfer over? There need to be two stipulations though – one, the purchased gear should not be better than raid or rare heroic dropped gear, and two, it should be no trade. But if that’s the case, why not? And yes, I’m posing that question as much to the EQ2 playerbase as to the development team.
There’s another reason I’d like to see transfers. When you step back and look at the larger picture, you need to consider the small portion of players that do opt to create characters on live servers – primarily, friends of those that are already playing on live servers. These new players are important, because they’re much more likely to subscribe and stick with the game. But they’re essentially penalized, because they can’t do anything meaningful with their friends until they do the level grind, which is largely solo. While Extended players will be able to shorten up that climb on the level ladder with purchasable gear and potions, friends on regular servers won’t have that chance. Sadly, the Recruit-A-Friend perks don’t do much to balance those scales.
2. Take a serious look at ways to keep the community strong in Everquest 2. Ideally, new players should look at the live servers and want to be there, even if they’re starting out on the Extended Servers. Rewards can’t just be limited to fluff rewards and cutesy incentives like appearance armor and titles. People who have made a loyal and longterm should feel like they’re the VIPs of the game.
Veteran players and guilds are immensely important to the game, because they are the ones that make it easier for new players to feel a part of the larger community on the server. So while I think that loyal subscribers should be rewarded, I also think they should be given more tools to help them be the game’s ambassadors, and they should be nudged into taking a much more active role in that process of bringing new players into the fold. (And I’m talking about more than grooming someone to raid at the endgame).
Finally, while we debate the effects of an Extended server on both revenue and community, I think it’s worth asking why the Senior Producer would so publicly and so loudly brush off rumors that EQ2 is going Free to Play, just a few weeks before this announcement? We can get into a Clintonesque quibble about the meaning of the word “your,” but what purpose does that serve in the long run? MMO players are extremely cynical. If you’re trying to win over their trust, being coy isn’t the way to do it. Hit them with brutal honesty and sincerity, and you’re much more likely to have players meet you half way on sensitive game changes like Everquest Extended.
Overall, I am taking a wait and see approach to the new Extended server. I think it’s still to early to break out either the pitchforks or the pom poms. And to some extent, yesterday’s news about the future of the live servers will have an effect on things. I’ll blog more about that announcement later today, and there’s a lot in there that I’m very excited to see.
Posted by jayernh under Archive | Comments (10)
July 13, 2010
Try as we might, Adam and I could not evade the pile of listener questions that the mail bag dumped on us. As usual, we got lots of terrific questions, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
You can listen to A View From the Top Here
- What qualities make guild leaders so memorable, and who are the leaders we recall most fondly?
- What are our thoughts about “Guild perks” like EQ2′s guild halls, amenities, DDO’s Airships, and WoW’s guild talent system? Are these benefits helpful for smaller and more casual guilds, or does it make it harder for them to survive alongside the larger and more active guilds?
- Why are many guild application forms so generic? Are there better ways to screen applicants besides questions about things like AA’s and gear?
- What do you do when a veteran member of the guild feels like exceptions to new rules should be made because of their longevity in the guild?
- What do you do about a veteran member of the guild who is upset over another veteran being an officer?
- How do you deal with a guild member when you move them from a desired spot in the raid to a less desired spot due to attendance and performance? How do you deal with them being upset about being moved without totally ticking them off?
Got a guild issue that’s driving you up a wall? We welcome any of your guild-related questions. You can contact us at email@example.com.
Also, on our next show, Adam and I will talk about the upcoming SOE Fan Faire. We’ll discuss helpful tips and suggestions on how to get the most from the event. We’ll also look at what to do, and what no to do, when meeting up with guildies! If you have any tips or questions related to Fan Faire, we’d love to hear from you!
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July 8, 2010
** UPDATE ** Talk about funny timing. The day I post this is the same day that 38 announces an upcoming trailer at Comic Con, for the Mercury project.
38 Studios might not be making glitzy CGI trailers right now. They aren’t even making the pip pip cheerio I love Life of Brian developer videos either. But they are still quietly generating buzz, albeit to very specific audiences. Let’s take a look!
First off, via the Darkfall forums, Curt Schilling posted a link to an interview of Joe Mirabello, one of the game artists. One of the images on the site is labeled “38 game:”
In addition, what I found revealing is Mirabello’s description of 38 Studios:
Well, making games in general is just a fun thing to do, but to be specific about 38, there’s quite a few things that makes the studio stand out. The team is pretty incredible. There’s an interesting blurring-of-the-lines between disciplines at 38 that has allowed me to work a lot with programmers, artists and designers, and I’ve learned a lot from them. As such, the culture has really grown into something cool at 38. I look forward to going to work each morning.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 38′s ‘Free-your-mind’ day. Basically, artists are allotted 8 hours a month to work on anything they want, so long as it’s related to the game. Have a cool idea for a crazy zone? Use your free-your-mind day for it and show it to designers! Thought up some cool new armor design? Spend your free-your-mind time on it and show it to the character guys. Not every idea gets used of course, but it gets us excited and thinking outside the box. It’s ended up working out so well that we extended the practice to the design and programming teams, which has already turned out some awesome results.
We’ve heard several times from the staff at 38 studios that the atmosphere is very tight, close knit, and focused, so it’s no surprise to hear Mirabello say how much he looks forward to each day at the studio. What’s interesting though is his revelation about the “Free-your-mind” day. It’s no secret that Schilling has lined up a “Dream Team,” so it’s exciting to hear that they’re encouraged to tap into their creative talent to help shape the game. Once a week, they get to tackle the question, “How cool would it be if…” I’m sure that’s yet another reason why the team sounds so passionate about Copernicus.
Before I move on to the next article, allow me to post up some reckless speculation on two of the other pictures from the interview:
Those two pictures look a whole lot like these downloadable wallpapers of concept art from Copernicus, don’t they?
Anyway, there was also some buzz from E3 recently. While 38 Studio’s didn’t have a formal presence there, they were actively meeting and chatting with MMO journalists. Here’s a nice article from GameBanshee.
Couple of thoughts on the article -
First, it’s nice to see that 38 Studios has secured the investment money they need to complete the project. Back in the spring, it sounded a little up in the air, but with EA publishing Mercury, and over $100 million now in the coffer, things look a lot brighter. There seems to still be a bit of a diceroll though, as it looks like Schilling is hoping to use profits from Mercury to fund the last stretch of production for Copernicus. Most of us are focused on Copernicus, but it seems that the real onus right now is on Mercury.
Second, it’s exciting to hear that over the next few months, we’ll finally get to see glimpses of what these games will be like. Who knows, maybe we’ll even learn their true titles!
Overall, the buzz is out there, even though it’s a bit under the radar. Schilling has been making the rounds on fansite forums like MMORPG.com, as well as MMO community forums like Fires of Heaven, and even ESPN. He seems to be taking his message directly to the audiences he’ll be trying to woo down the road, which is a nice change from the general broadcast announcements that other game companies have done in the past.
And from those forum posts, two tidbits caught my eye:
To be honest story is at the center of what we’re trying to achieve. A meaningful story, and by meaningful I mean, well, it has to matter. The world, the heroes, the villains, all of it has to truly matter to the player or else it actually is just a script.
As well as helping deliver this HUGE world with a HUGE history and Heroes, villains friends and cool stuff in something other than quest text, cut scenes and dialogue boxes…
Story is in fashion right now as we all know. But the type of story/world he’s describing is very different from what Bioware emphasises. I’m certainly looking forward to learning more about what’s planned for Copernicus.
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