Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Purchasable Character Slots Coming to EQ2X

Today SOE announced that we will be able to buy character slots in starting October 5th in both EQ II and EQ2X. In EQ2X slots can be purchased at any account level (Gold, Silver, Bronze) and will be in addition to whatever slots you have at your current level by default. For example, if you buy two slots at Bronze and switch to Silver, you will have a grand total of five slots. Slots will be ten dollars apiece.

This makes a heck of a lot of sense for SOE financially. With the 1-80 leveling game being free, there isn't really a whole lot worth spending money on right now on a Bronze or Silver account after you have your current character slots filled. Plus the character slots will have a snowball effect for many players, where they will buy a slot and a new race and class to fill it. I will have to think long and hard about whether I want to roll my traditional Troll Shadow Knight in addition to the three toons I have now. In any case, this is definitely a "Yipee!" from where I stand (the land of hopeless altoholics).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

World of Tanks: a Very Brief Impression

Massively was giving away beta keys to World of Tanks yesterday, and I decided to give it a shot. On paper a MMO focused strictly on tank combat sounds...well insane to be honest. I was motivated to try it mainly out of morbid curiosity. To my shock I actually came away fairly impressed.

As near as I can tell the NDA is still in force, so unfortunately I can't go into a lot of detail. I will say that the tech behind the game is impressive, with a speedy install and convincing graphics. The open beta game is a fairly simple PvP match game. However, there are some deep advancement mechanics on hand which could potentially be pretty addictive. I expect that match options will be expanded as the game develops.

Unfortunately, the current newbie experience is a lot like putting on a suit made of bacon and jumping into a cage filled with ravening wolves. I was dead within less than a minute in the matches I played. I assume this will get smoothed out by the open beta. As long as a few common sense changes are made to the introductory experience, I will definitely be giving this game another look in a few weeks or months. Color me surprised.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Played Lately: LoTRO and EQ2X

I finally got around to trying the new zone in LoTRO (Enedwaith) last weekend, and intend to head back there this weekend. It’s a surprisingly pretty zone with some neat areas to explore. I really didn’t get that impression from screenshots I’ve seen. It’s also fairly challenging, aimed squarely at level 65 solo players or parties of players in their low 60s. It’s a lot tougher than Mirkwood, and I doubt it would be a viable alternate solo path from 60 to 65 for most characters.

I’m also still having a lot of fun in EQ2x. My main is up to the ripe old age of 28, which is further than I’ve made it in the past. I believe my old record in EQ II Live is around 24, maybe higher as a crafter. Likely due to that fact that my AA slider is locked at 50% (i.e., only half the XP I bring in goes towards leveling, the rest go into a system that unlocks specialization points) I’ve found that there is a bit of a gap in the solo quests of Butcherblock Mountains. The only quests I have left involve mobs of around level 32, and in most cases I would need to be able to take them down in groups of three at a time to make any progress. To plug the gap I have headed to Nektulos Forest and starting doing quests there. How someone completely new to EQ II would know that this is even an option I can’t say. I can’t help but wonder how many Bronze and Silver players have hit the same wall I have and simply left.

The thing that I’m really digging about EQIIX is the depth of it. I’m a lot further down my AA trees than I ever have been before (the upside of not being able to move my AA slider). Now that I’m seeing the system in full I’d say that the character customization system in EQ II offers a very nice blend of flexibility and user friendliness. It’s a bit more flexible than WoW or LoTRO, while much harder to screw up than something like DDO. And if you do screw up, it’s extremely inexpensive to respecialize at first. As little as 4 silver the first time (which is practically nothing) for a full respec.

The crafting system also has very nice depth. Common recipes can be bought from vendors and come in books of many recipes rather than as individual recipes like most MMOs. There are also rare recipes that let you make superior items from rare materials, much like shard items in LoTRO. Every time you go up a level as a crafter, a new set of books (one common, one rare) opens up, which means that you might be learning as many as a few dozen recipes every time you advance as crafter. It really makes a crafting “ding” much more exciting than most MMOs. Books with rare recipes drop off monsters, can be bought on the AH, or obtained through a series of crafting quests. The discovery of the latter method of obtaining recipes is what has really made the game pop for me I think. It’s nice to take a break from adventuring to do quests that focus on crafting items and gathering resources for an evening or two.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pirates of the Burning Sea going FtP

Via MMO crunch, Pirates of the Burning Sea is gearing up to go FtP. A bit of research reveals that PotBS is not nearly as mainstream in it's design as other recent sub-based games to make the switch, less so than even DDO. In fact, according to reviews, it plays a lot like a EVE Online with a pirate theme. Not a game I'd be willing to try if the purchase of a client was involved, but for free? Yeah sure. Why not? It will be really interesting to see how they decide to monetize the game. PoTBS is also targeted at a somewhat niche audience (the Pirate Sim crowd?), which could work for or against it competing against LoTRO and EQ2X.

I personally hope that it does well because I have the attention span of a humming bird (at least by MMO gaming standards). The more full featured MMOs I can mess around with that don't require an entry fee, the better from where I stand. Regardless, it looks to be a really unique entry into the FtP MMO market.

Edit: Ethic over at KTR, My moment of zen, and Jaydub over at Dub's Diatribe all also have posts up. It also occurs to be that PoTBS is a SOE game. Does this mean that EQ2X is doing well?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The great FtP experiment is upon us

With Lord of the Rings FtP going live this weekend, we now have three major MMOs (LoTRO, along with Dungeons and Dragons Online and Everquest II extended) that have switched from sub based to FtP. Besides those of us that obsess on MMOs as a hobby, I imagine a lot of industry folks are going to be watching these games closely.

I suspect that the success or failure of LoTRO and EQ2X in particular will have a big impact on the pricing structure of future and current MMOs. To be sure, DDO seems to have been an unqualified success. But it hardly counts because the game was in dire straights before. Any change of fortune that let Turbine justify keeping the servers running would have been deemed a success.

In contrast, if EQ II and LoTRO, two already modestly successful sub based MMOs, also manage to permanently double or triple their revenue just by "turning on the [FtP] newbie fire-hose" (as Ian put it when we were chatting last night), I think a lot of existing sub based MMOs are going to try it as well. For example, why wouldn't Age of Conan, Star Wars Galaxies, Dark Age of Camelot, or Vanguard try the same thing? On the other hand, if either EQ II or LoTRO experience a brief spurt of attention, but then go back down to normal revenue levels in the next few months, I don't think much is going to change.

A month in EQ2X does not seem to be slowing down. At the very least the newbie channel had such a huge volume of chat last night at ridiculously-late-o'clock a.m. that it was spamming half the chat from my guild away before I could read it. If SOE figures out sooner rather than later that most of the FtP players will never-ever sub and gives silver and bronze accounts more options, I suspect they will see a big jump in revenue.

I also bopped briefly in to LoTRO last night, and it seemed to be hopping. It took me a good long while to log in to my server, and I don't play on one of the more popular ones. I had 4500 free Turbine points, and relatively little worth spending them on. But then I'm a lifer, I already have all the quests, classes, bag slots, and such. About all the points are good for to me is expanding my bank (which is not to be sneezed at I will allow), at least for the time being. As an aside, I also noticed that Captains have gotten a major overhaul. They are a heck of lot more fun at low levels now.

I'm watching LoTRO with special interest, because I as much as I dig it personally I really don't think it's for everyone (as Jaydub has also pointed out). It remains a somewhat slow paced MMO with a very restrained feeling setting. There will never be more than four races or a class more flashy than a Runemaster. There are certainly a good number of Tolkien lore geeks out there, but I suspect the majority of those that were in to MMOs had already at least tried LoTRO. Who the legions of new players flooding the servers right now are and whether they will stick around, much less spend money, is hard to say.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Still obsessing on EQ2X

First off, I think the blogging community needs to decide what the abbreviation of Everquest II Extended is. Hell, even here you can find EQ2X, EQIIX, and EQII ex in various posts. There is also some movement towards EQ2E on some blogs. Forget unemployment, this is serious business ;-)

My new pixie death mage is definitely going to go tailor. After a bit of research, I realized that I was insane and tailoring is the crafting line that makes bags, not a separate crafting line. As a tailor you get cloth armor, leather armor, and bags. It seems like a solid production profession, and with all three of my silver characters being cloth wearers I think it will be a lot of fun to level it. I doubt I'll be wearing a lot of what I can make given how good quest drops are, but I'd be surprised if I can't fill in a slot here and there with some of the high end rare recipes.

The thing I always enjoy about the crafting in EQ II is everyone can gather everything. That means that one high level lead can gather enough mats for several alts to blow through their crafting tiers. If you gather everything in sight, you soon end up with more raw materials than you will ever be able to use, short of a crafter that makes consumables.

I was surprised to discover that the new auction house tokens are per character, not account wide. This is a bit of an annoyance, but ultimately not a big deal if you are silver and have a shared bank account. I have one character that almost never leaves the crafting hall in Neriak, he has become my designated auctioneer. After messing around with it for a night, I have to concur with Stabs that tokens aren’t worth using for anything but occasional single purchases. If you can’t sell drops and crafted products in bulk, it’s not worth the bother of selling anything. Certainly, it isn’t worth 15 cents a pop (the cost of a token) to list most items.

Finally, based on a tip from Green Armadillo and Stabs in the comments of my previous post, last night I hunted down the quest “A Gathering Obsession.” It led me to a continent I had never set foot on before, and the quest was so easy and rewarding that I ended up doing it on all three of my characters. 17-18 gold is a lot of cash for 20 minutes of work. I plan to do part II with all three of my characters eventually for another 17 gold each. To find the quest, hit a travel globe at any dock and choose “Island of Mara.” When you arrive cross the river nearby and look for Qho Augren, a little boy swimming around in a pond. He’ll be the only quest feather on your map at low levels, making him really easy to find.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Restricted classes and broker tokens now for sale in EQ2X

Today at around noon SOE released a small patch and an update to the item shop in Everquest II extended. Now silver and bronze players can buy access to restricted classes for $7.50 each, and can buy broker (auction house) tokens in stacks of ten for $1.50.

On the announcement I bought another $20 in station cash, bringing my total in EQ2X up to $45 since I started playing. I’m planning to buy access to the Arasai race and necromancer class, because I find the idea of playing an evil pixie delightful (along with half the players of EQ II it seems, based on what I remember from my days on the regular servers). That will still leave me with a bit to spend on AH..erm “broker” tokens. Each token allows you bid on or sell one item or stack of items.

At this point, unless more features are added it doesn’t look like I’ll be spending much more on EQ2X. I will soon own every race I like (I will have bought three packs after tonight), I own silver, and I won’t be buying any more classes unless more character slots become available. I’m also not going to get tricked into buying $6 worth of broker tokens every month, I’ll be using the broker sparingly. For what I’ve spent I have a heck of a lot of game in front of me, I feel like I’ve gotten a good value. However, if SOE doesn’t offer options like spell upgrade tokens, bag slot unlocks, or extra character slots I just don’t see anything else I’m going to want to buy. And even those options would have to be pretty inexpensive to lure me in.

As it stands, I plan to start leveling up a necro tonight who will focus on making bags. With the inventory restrictions in place currently, big bags is a huge priority. So far I haven’t had any other real issues with my silver account. Gear upgrades come in quickly from quests, and I’ve so far had more money than I need just from vendoring drops. Given the gold cap on silvers, it also doesn’t make a lot of sense to try and stockpile tons of cash.