Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Free Everquest

Due to a combination of too much work and general MMO burnout I haven't been playing all that much lately. And when I've been playing, I've been mostly exploring a beta I'm in. So right now I'm paying for a subscription to World of Warcraft, and for a subscription to Age of Conan, and I'm not using either enough to really justify the expense. I'm not playing Lord of the Rings Online either, although I have a lifetime subscription. Not a financial problem, just a problem of too many games to play, and not enough time or motivation. So I can't say I'm terribly thrilled by SOE's offer to let everyone who ever played EQ or EQ2 to come back and play for free until end of July.

I do think MMORPGs should have a free trial mode, where you can play the game for a week or two before buying it. "Come back!" offers are somewhat less effective, because the person stopped playing for a reason, and unless a game has changed a lot, the reason is probably still there. Two free months for coming back not only smacks of desperation, but is also too long to be effective. The only good reason to go back to a really old game like Everquest (and EQ2 isn't a spring chicken any more either) is nostalgia. Two months is more than enough for people to notice that while revisiting fond memories is cool, revisiting old frustrations is not. MMOs have evolved a lot since EQ, and I don't just mean graphically.

I do believe that the original Everquest had a superior community and social structure than modern MMOs. Unfortunately that isn't something you can get back by simply re-installing the game on your computer. Chances are your friends are long gone elsewhere. And while I think that World of Warcraft and subsequent games went too far with players not needing each other any more, the forced grouping of Everquest is hardly optimal either. I'd rather play a new game, somewhat more group-centric and social than WoW, than go back to Everquest.

Everquest 2 I tried twice, and never really got into it. The game has a lot of strong points, but also a lot of weaknesses. My biggest complaint is that I constantly feel confused and befuddled when playing EQ2; this is not a game that tells you what to do next or where to go next or how to achieve what you want to achieve. As a result the whole experience feels a bit incoherent and random, not like being part of one big world with consistent lore. So I really don't feel like giving the game a third chance.

So I'm not planning to take up SOE on their generous offer. There is a list of things I'd like to do in Age of Conan before unsubscribing from that again: see how the level 30+ destiny quest is, play the level 1-20 destiny quest line with other characters to see the story in a different angle, and see whether the guild housing features are fun. With WoW I'm pretty certain I'll be back for WotLK, I don't know whether I'll get an urge to play it a bit more during my holidays in July, and so I don't really want to cancel my subscription. The two Everquests are so low on my list of priorities that I'm not even going to play them for free.
tobold are you bitter at all about buying that lifetime subscription to lotro? Do you feel like you fell into a clever trap by turbine or do you have no regrets at throwing $200 to a game that would have only costed $30 for the amount of time you played? Turbine has reopened the deal for the $200 lifetime subscription and I am consistently surprised to hear my kinmates saying that they plan on buying it or already have. I am perfectly content to pay my less-than-WoW $10/month. I also have to wonder with all of the new content and features they have added recently, what could possible entice you to come back to a game that is entirely free. Sure you may be short on time, but putting in only 30 minutes a day prolongs the fun.
Nostalgia won't work if half the zones look different. A new Progression server would have been a better solution.

Tobold, maybe you should consider not playing anything until WAR is released - not even WotLK. Just a clean cold break. It might make WAR more fun.

Just call me Dr. =##=
"...and unless a game has changed a lot, the reason is probably still there."

Good point, well made, but unless an MMO does the occassional 'Come back!' thing every now and then, you'll never really know. I like, admire and respect MMO bloggers in general, but do prefer to see these claims of improvement and change for myself. Two weeks can be a but on the rushed side for one of these things, I find.

I would have credit EQ2 as being one of the more frequently tweaked titles out there, and the game I'm seeing just now seems a great deal different to the one the launched, mostly in many subtle ways.

Still, if you didn't like it, that's fair enough. I wish I had your resolve!
I only played the EQ2 trial, and it was too limited to make a good impression on me. When I saw the offer to play free for 2 months with all content enabled on my old trial account, I decided to take Sony up on it.

I've been playing for 2 days now, and so far I'm enjoying it moderately. I started in the latest Karnak area on the Splitpaw EU server. The progression is swift and is facilitated by lots of quests. When I run out of quests in one area, I get a pointer quest to another area where more quests are available.

The combat feels much more dynamic than in WoW or LotRO. I have lots of buttons to push even at the lower levels, the fights are resolved much faster, the special effects are generous, and the combos provide immediate mini-goals for using my abilities during the fight. So far I'm much stronger than my opposition, being able to take on several opponents a couple of levels above mine and still win.

The graphics are good but not great. Player chracters are wonderfully detailed, but many monsters are lackluster and lack personality. The environments are likewise generic, and some common textures are very bland. Overall, Sony's artistic talent is clearly inferior to Blizzard's, and it shows.

The technical performance is poor, and has emerged as a major obstacle for me. There seems to be a memory leak that manifests itself when I go into a city or another highly detailed zone that causes my computer to go into disk-swapping fits, eventually spiraling down to the game being unplayable.

I haven't grouped yet, because soloing has been so easy. Despite the free play offer, there aren't many people around, and the world feels empty. It really seems that EQ2 is way past its prime.

A couple more observations: I enjoyed not having to make a trip to a trainer upon gaining a level and being able to use my new abilities right away. The mini-game based crafting system seems somewhat interesting. The choice of classes is truly impressive.
Monthly subscription is a very effective method to keep your customer away from other MMOs. Even if it isn't a money issue, it's a time issue.

Very few people with life can spare enough time in 2 or more MMOs. Once you have picked your poison, there is a threshold in switching to another one. I think this is killing some of the competition and making it harder for new titles to successfully enter the market.
I'm currently subscribed to WoW and AoC, but AoC is still on the free month for me. Despite my negative view of AoC initially, I'm starting to really like it(PoM level 24). Thanks to adding a gig of ram and a 9800gtx video card. The game was close to unplayable on my prior 2 gigs of ram & 7900gtx card(thats the recomended specs). I'm still a little pissed about that.

I don't believe in spending $15x2 per month for two different MMO's. I just don't have enough time to play two MMO's with all the single player games I have as well. Also come War, I won't be spending $45 for three MMO's and only playing one. WoW is on a 6 month renew and that won't expire for a couple months, but if I'm digging AoC when my WoW script is about to roll over I'll probably cancel WoW, atleast until WotLK.

In reality it isn't about the money, like tobold said. It is about the time. I can't play them all.
I am doing the 2 MMO's for a bit to see how it feels. I have never done this, but I enjoyed EQ2 when I started it, and feel like I want to see endgame.
But, AoC is still a major blast. I play it every night, and have even skipped a few days in EQ2 (like this morning...I wanted to go harvesting in EQ2 to gather some more cash...yet started on AoC and played til I left for just kept me enthralled..)
But, here is the kicker. SOE enabled all the old accounts and then disabled mine..
Yup, I was still active, and tried to log in, and got a "You need a subscription"
I re-enabled it...but, almost I have always been a one MMO guy...and was overly ticked off SOE did this. I still need to go through my old credit card bill to make sure when my month was up (I had switched to monthly when AoC hit, in case I did want to eventually leave..and started thinking my month was not even up yet..)

As to LOTRO, I was in Closed Beta, Open Beta, launch, was a Founder...and saw from my time that the game just would not have enough to hold me. I never took the lifetime, and I am glad I did many issues were overlooked that was complained about again and again...and no content at the later levels was a thorn..
And I went back for the year return for free thing they did..I lasted maybe an hour or two...and was done..
The game is very uninteresting..

As to EQ2...your comment about direction is right on. I noted after a time that no matter what the quest was ...90% of the time I needed to resort to wiki, or ask in local has become irritating as I do not want to constantly ask for help and feel like a newb after a year...yet, I still must as I have not done all the content..ARGH.
Anyways...sorry for the wall of text
Oddly enough that is pretty much how I feel about WoW. AoC hasn't really been groundbreaking for me but it's kept me busy enough I've cancelled WoW for the third (and hopefully final) time. Between WAR and AoC, I think WotLK will have to do something pretty amazing to bring me back.

You have to give huge props to SOE for doing this though. 2 Free months to everyone and ingame stuff even current subscribers can't get?
You know, I took advantage of a similar EQ reactivation offer several months ago, and I'm glad I did. EQ really has changed a lot over time, and it's an interesting diversion to revisit some old haunts and see what's changed.

Of course, that's not to say the game itself is worth playing - I got enough EQ nostalgia last time, and I feel no desire to log back in now.

I'm amazed that so many people continue to subscribe to EQ, despite WoW being a clearly better game with virtually all of the same core elements. Basically, WoW is EQ with less pain - it's the clear migration path.

I know that people tend to view their characters as time investments, and they're reluctant to leave them behind... but still, at a certain point, you just have to let it go.
Both EQ and EQ2 are more complex and have more content than WoW has.

You cannot judge that content from the outside as your experience with EQ ended years ago and you played EQ2 only to level 20 something IIRC.

No offense to you Tobold, but the only game you are competent to cover fully is WoW as you played this to max level and probably know it inside out.

A lot of other games you wrote about you spent only a few weeks or months in.

Part of the "fun" of MMORPGs is learning to play (UI, mechanics, solo, group, raid), improving one´s character, discovering zones, mobs, items, completing quests, social interaction.

From the list of things above there is a time element to each. Some rewards are given out / earned in one game session, some take days, some weeks and months.

For people with a long term perspective EQ/EQ2 have a great offer: With your subscription you get several years of content to play through. IMHO they offer the best $$$/content ratio of all games out there. Even if you discount the stuff you won´t see because you do not get the group/raid together to do it.

SOE eased the EQ leveling process considerably with TSS, Hot Zones and now even more with that heritage pack of items every returning player gets. Look at Tipa and the Nostalgia Guild they are building - EQ is still a place one can play and have fun in. To me its a much better deal than throwing $$ at Funcom and find myself in a PVP-Game a few months later.
tobold are you bitter at all about buying that lifetime subscription to lotro?

No, not at all. I actually enjoy having the *option* of playing LotRO whenever I want, even if I don't use that option.

No offense to you Tobold, but the only game you are competent to cover fully is WoW as you played this to max level and probably know it inside out.

A lot of other games you wrote about you spent only a few weeks or months in.

Congratulations, you just dismissed every single game journalist and reviewer as incompetent. I totally disagree with what you are saying here. Just because MMORPGs are often made into endless grinds, one does not have to play all of that grind to judge a game. If you played a MMORPG for 100 hours, you've already seen a huge part of what the game has to offer, including most game mechanics, and have seen far enough to decide whether you like that game or not, and whether you think it is a good game or not. What's next? Somebody telling me that I can't say anything about WoW because I haven't slain Illidan?
You cannot judge that content from the outside as your experience with EQ ended years ago and you played EQ2 only to level 20 something IIRC.

I find this claim laughable - any game where you have to do something lame initially to get to something "fun" later on is horribly broken. Why on earth would you design a game that intentionally scares off new customers by giving them a horrible starting experience?

Most MMOs start you off with rapid initial progression and character advancement that belies the grind players will face later on. They actually start players off with the good stuff and ease them into the lame treadmill they'll find later. If you play an MMO for a few hours and hate it, it's really doubtful playing more will make any difference in your opinion.
I am currently playing WoW and LOTRO. My Main in LOTRO is a level 15 LoreMaster. I like the game, and the graphics, but something is missing.
For those who have played both LOTRO and AoC, would you suggest I switch, or stay with LOTRO because it gets better? I am a casual player at best.
derraven, if you haven't done so already i suggest that you focus on those epic questlines in lotro. They are quite immersive and solo/small fellowship instances are a lot of fun and a great way to progess the story. The ploy becomes quite good later on. I mean come on, who doesn't enjoy hunting black riders?
no way to edit =/, by ploy i meant plot
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