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    dkirschner's Everquest 2 (PC)

    [October 9, 2010 09:43:30 AM]
    With the f2p subscription model altering a couple highly visible MMOs lately, I am taking it upon myself to scout some of these games. I want to see how free f2p really is, meaning what types of constraints are placed upon the free player and how that player is induced to fork over money, in addition to wanting to try them out anyway to see what else is going on in the wide world of MMOs.

    First up is Everquest 2, which has a dedicated f2p server (or more?). Everyone on this server is signed up under the f2p model. EQ2's model is a tiered subscription service: bronze is totally free, silver is a one-time $10 payment, gold is the typical $14.99 monthly, and then there's even a platinum for $200/year. In addition to this, there's now an in-game store where you can pay Earth money for Station Cash, EQ2's store tokens, which you use to purchase items, character slots, bag space, expansions, just about everything. So just by looking at their subscription chart, you see that bronze is restricted in some way on most variables, whereas platinum is the whole buffet. You can see that these f2p models with tiers and microtransactions are all based around getting people to play bronze, and then having them feel the need to make microtransactions with Station Cash and/or (devs hope it's the 'and' more often than not) upgrade their subscription. Some of those prices are steep: $10 for a 44-slot bag, the same price as just upgrading the whole game to silver; $3, $4, $5 here and there. It will quickly add up to over a month's gold subscription fee, and if you actually purchase with Station Cash all the things you get just for paying $14.99/mo, you are being ripped off immensely. It only, only, only makes sense to subscribe to gold unless you really don't plan on playing the game far. So that's my question. How far can I and people like me legitimately play before feeling like they're playing at a big enough disadvantage to question why they're even bothering.

    I'll just go down the list of the "Membership Matrix" (sounds like fun already!) and comment on what I experienced over the course of the day. I started playing last night, sunk in a good few hours, and then played most of the day today. I'd guesstimate 15 hours play time. I wound up dinging 17 before stopping.

    1. Races & Classes - You can choose among 8 classes and 4 races (out of 24 and 19 total), a fraction of the whole. I chose a Barbarian Berserker for simplicity's sake. Armored melee classes are usually very player-friendly. I don't think this would make or break the f2p deal for most people.

    2. Character Slots - You get 2. Not much of a problem for me since I don't even want 2. If I were to invest lots and lots of time in the game, I would probably use my 2 for an alt, and far into the future I would probably want another alt to see how some of the different characters worked. This would be a 'pay $10 for silver or $x to purchase another character slot' kind of decision. I played EQ1 for a month years ago and made one character only, played Guild Wars years ago for a month and only made one character, and only had one character in WoW for about a year before I actually played any meaningful amount of time on an alt. Altaholics though would take serious issue with this restriction.

    3. Spell Tiers - Spells and abilities in EQ2 have rank and tier. Rank is numbered and increases automatically as you level. There are 5 or 6 tiers, from Journeyman to Grandmaster or something equally impressive-sounding. Free players can only learn up to Adept, the 3rd (I think) tier. This to me is a hampering condition. I've already learned Adept for several skills, meaning I know as a level 17 that these skills will only increase with my level and will never increase anymore up the tier tree. I know my skills will be much weaker than they could be, meaning my character will be weak. Not cool. That means I can't do the same things as normal paying players of my level, I'm not as strong a group player, I am that much worse at PvP, and so on. Spell tiers can't be bought either with Station Cash. The only way to increase available spell tiers is to upgrade your membership.

    4. Equipment Grades - Similar to spell tiers, this one really cuts the legs out from underneath free players. You aren't allowed to wear Legendary or Fabled equipment. I didn't know what this was, but I ended up doing a dungeon and found out. Level 17 dungeon drops? Nope, can't wear that. This is the equivalent of not even being able to wear blues in WoW. All you can wear are greens, your standard uncommon item. The same issues as above follow. My skills and my armor are weak. But what impact does this have? Besides the psychological one of feeling inferior, this kills my motivation to try and experience dungeons. One of the main reasons players run dungeons, and that they exist in MMOs, is for rare loot. If I can't even use the loot from dungeons, why am I going to use them much? Maybe for challenge, but who cares if I know that I'm only bringing my team down. Maybe for socializing, but from my experience today, dungeons are pretty silent. Maybe just to see them. I'll buy that one. But equipment grade restrictions are no good.

    5. Bag Slots - You get 2 bag slots. This also sucks. Your backpack comes standard with maybe 16 or so slots, then you get a 4-slot bag on top. 20 slots does not go far in MMOs. This game especially seems to have a lot of items. Granted, most of those are crafting items from harvesting, and I learned to just forget about doing that to speed the pace of the game and to save bag space, but still. You will have to empty your bags every time you spot a vendor, which is irritating. When I went into the dungeon, I deleted I don't know how many items because you get a lot of stuff in dungeons. Like I said earlier, a 44-slot bag, the biggest there is, is $10. You can get smaller ones for a few bucks, but why bother? You also get 2 bank slots, and I had an early quest to get a nice big storage box for my bank, so you can store about as much as you can carry. Again, anyone who has experience with MMOs knows this is not much space. A typical level 80 in WoW for reference will have something like 250 bag slots on average. 40 isn't anything. This isn't a deal-breaker; it's just really annoying. I would prefer not to level all the way in a game with 2 bag slots.

    6. Coin Limitations - You can have 5 gold per level. Some people may find issue with this, but I haven't so far. I have like 7 gold at level 17, so quite a bit of room to meet this limit.

    7. Shared Bank Slots - You get zero. I'm not even really sure what this is, so I won't comment.

    8. Active Journal Quests - Your journal can hold 20 quests. I've come close a few times, but haven't passed 20. I think if you're the type of person who does quests when you get them and cleans out your log of low-level quests, this won't be an issue, at least for a while. But the fact that a full access player can have 75 kind of makes me wonder if 20 will be a limitation later on.

    9. Chat Ability - This one is killer. MMOs all have some kind of general chat, whether it's a city-wide chat, a trade channel, zone-wide, or within a level range. In EQ2 f2p, you cannot speak in these general channels. How stupid is that? MMOs are supposed to highlight the social side of gaming, but you can't talk to anyone here. I am pretty baffled. I would guess it was done to prevent currency spammers, but still. Ouch. So what if I want to talk to someone? I can hope they'll respond to my 'say,' but in my experience, people tend to ignore players who type in 'say.' You can also whisper people. I personally decided I'd get around this by joining a guild. There I could have people to ask questions and chat about the game with. But when I opened the guild pane and selected a guild emissary to speak with, I wasn't allowed to do that either! So new f2p players aren't allowed to talk to the people in general chat, nor are they allowed to respond to open guild invites. Social indeed! How am I supposed to get into this game if I've never played an MMO before and didn't know about whispering or /say or the chat norms and all this? Luckily whispering does work, and I just whispered a guild emissary to get invited. You can read the general chat by the way, just not participate in the conversation. This one was irritating for me at first, but once I went down different roads to chat, it was alright, but I could see it being just a really bad choice for new players to get into the game.

    10. In-Game Pop-Up Advertising - Yikes. "Upgrade to Silver! Get this, this, this, this, this!" Upgrade windows pop up about once an hour and then game opens your web browser to the upgrade screen when you exit. Mildly annoying, but I don't blame them for this one.

    11. Oh one more thing that isn't on that list that I remembered near the end of this post: f2p bronze subscribers can't use the market! You can't sell things to other players; only to vendors. So have fun being eternally broke. Although if you can't buy anything either, then maybe who cares. Still, no auctioning? Lame.

    That's the EQ2 f2p round-up. The deal-breakers for me are not being able to upgrade skills and equipment and having such restricted bag space. Why would I want to play a game where I couldn't maximize my character's potential? And the bag thing, while doable, makes playing tedious. That's one reason I've been bored of Oblivion is that I have a thief character who has no strength. So I can steal anything I want, but I can't carry any of it. I need to be able to carry a lot of stuff in my RPGs. Next I'll discuss some of my experiences and thoughts on the game in and of itself.

    I created my barbarian berserker and chose to start in the 'evil' city. Like most MMOs, you go to a noob starter area, which in this game seemed larger than usual. I wanted very much to get to the evil city, but decided to be guided by quests and do the usual first.

    Quests are quite fast to accomplish. Most of them involve collecting items, but most of the items automatically drop and are looted just by killing enemies. Even though you aren't actually picking things up, it feels like you're being asked to play fetch about 80% of the time. I heard that EQ2 redesigned starting zones to be very noob friendly, kind of like what WoW is doing with Cataclysm and has done with the last expansions. NPCs are nice and clustered with close quests. Things are very easy to follow and there's a lot of tutorial-style NPCs offering orientation quests and help with the UI. Quests all have dialogue trees, something I found interesting. While not true dialogue trees (you say 'yes' or 'no,' or sometimes two variations of 'yes' and none of it matters), it was neat to feel more like you were in a conversation with the NPC rather than just taking requests. Quest dialogue also can be quite long, with 4 or 5 turns back and forth. I read almost all the ones I did and found the substance to be very generic, which is fine. I don't expect EQ2's quests to be anything particularly interesting, and they weren't. There's just a little more traditional RPG feel to the dialogue, and that's the main difference I noticed versus what I'm used to. Every now and then I'd find a laugh tucked away. The only one I remember was right at the end of my long session today getting a quest from a shady merchant type who wanted me to help with some "murders and executions." When you respond, "What?!" he says "Oh, wait I mean mergers and acquisitions." I thought it was funny. I laughed.

    The voice acting, I love. I remember a long time ago hearing about EQ2's voice talent, and it shines. I rarely even hear voice this good in single-player games, so listening to full on quest requests and conversations by good voice actors is very cool. It definitely made me want to follow the quest stories, and made the NPCs seem that much more believable. I'm sure there are a lot more gems along this line later in the game, especially having to do with overarching story characters.

    EQ2 is aging and it shows it. Almost 6 years old, the graphics are unimpressive. I did like some of the spell effects, but that was all I ooohed at. It looks something like a crappy mix of EQ1 and the Neverwinter Nights games. Landscapes are boring and flat. Character models just lack any kind of flare. This was all with settings on max. I did a dungeon at the end of the day, and the cave and stone interior just looked like, well, PC gaming 6 years ago. Patrick came in this afternoon and logged on WoW right next to me. WoW came out the exact same time, but looks infinitely better. The colors, the artwork, the landscapes, all in my opinion are infinitely superior, and WoW isn't the prettiest thing around either. EQ2 = ugly. Sorry.

    Of course I clicked through every option and menu available. I noticed a looking for group tool and a battleground queue system, and I wonder where those ideas originated. It seems like those features are becoming standard. I don't know if it was WoW in 3.0 or some other game or what. I'm definitely glad to see those features, although I was never a high enough level to join PvP. That's one reason I would like to level up to 20. 20 seems like a magical number, maybe a PvP number. I'm sure it'll just be capture the flag. Capture the flag is always the first one.

    EQ2 has about 8 billion special slots to point a type of skill point in. They're called achievement points or something like this, and I was getting them constantly. Every nth or so level, you can place a point in like major character skills, then there are more skill trees that seem to have to do more with specializing your play style, but really, a whole whole lot of skills. I like the choice! I imagine players could spend a hell of a long time playing with skill trees, and I also imagine there's great variation among character builds, especially with 24 classes.

    Collections I found very cool. You'll see a sparkle on the ground with a question mark. Dig it up and you get an item that's part of a collection. Examine it and it counts toward that collection. No idea what happens when you collect 'em all, but I think having that kind of random collectible element was exciting. Another cool thing are these Lore & Legend quests. If you're killing skeletons, you might get a Skeleton Rib or some other body part. Examine it to start a Lore & Legend quest for that enemy type. You get a list of body parts or things related to it that that type of enemy will drop. You collect the whole list and unlock a special ability that can be used against that type of enemy! After ignoring those quests because they looked like boring farming, I finally completed one in the natural course of some other questing, and then saw what happened. I grouped with a guy about this time who said that when you complete another Lore & Legend quest, that enemy type is just added onto the list for that one ability. So it'll end up that you have this powerful attack for all the enemy types that you've learned about through collecting their parts.

    In EQ2 you can buy (rent?) houses, but I'm unsure how to do this. I have a lot of items that are for decorating a potential house. I want to see someone else's or figure out how to acquire property. I'm sure f2p players can't buy houses anyway so it probably doesn't matter.

    I find the combat quite fun. My warrior has a lot of abilities it feels like for level 17. About 6 or 7 of them are buffs, then most of the others are attacks. EQ2 has this thing called a heroic opportunity or something, which is a chain attack you can trigger. These can be carried out with proper timing in groups as well, though I just used limited ones by myself. These made fighting less boring.

    I played mostly alone. At level 13, a player asked if I wanted help. I guess I was being obviously noobish. Actually I was, I remember. I was standing in the middle of a field of enemies I'd just killed, and he probably saved me from being killed upon their respawning. We quested together for a couple levels and chatted. He's been playing for 2 months, started out bronze and upgraded to gold, the monthly recurring. I should have asked him why he upgraded. Either way, he had some experience with the game and was good to talk to. He did help me out a lot with basic things like what I should sell and what was worth it to keep. He explained the Lore & Legend stuff to me, told me I could dual wield (sweeeet), and mostly succeeded in demonstrating why I wouldn't recommend playing on a bronze free subscription. He was totally badass because he had higher level gear than I would be allowed to get, and because he had higher level skills than I would be allowed to get. I will be that badass, but a few levels down the road. It's very depressing watching someone have things you want but will never have, or will have only after it's done being cool so to speak (check it out guys, i bought an iPod!).

    Later, I put myself in the looking for group tool. While the game was taking an abysmally long time to load in between zones, someone invited me to a dungeon group. It was called Wailing Caves, which is laughably similar in name to WoW's lowbie dungeon, Wailing Caverns. There were 5 of us in the group, and I had no idea where to go. I asked and only knew what Commonlands or something was because I remembered seeing an arrow pointing to it on a map. I finally made it and one of them came to the entrance to guide me inside. This place wasn't instanced, but was an underground cave/barracks with elite monsters and lots of bosses. Dungeons in EQ2 drop a whole lot of loot. Every boss drops like 2-4 things, equipment and skill books. Vendor trash drops constantly too. It was annoying though because apparently vendor trash has to be rolled on, so there was a constant stream of need and greed going on. My group didn't say much. All talk revolved around the task at hand, and I thought I knew what that task was, but then I got confused. We died once. When we came back, everything had respawned so we had to do the whole thing over. No one seemed to mind, and I thought this odd. When we finally killed the boss, we ran back toward the exit. I thought we were running out to leave, but they just ran back to the beginning to clear it again...and again...and I left before too long because I finally asked what we were doing, and they responded "farming nameds," which are named NPC bosses. Boring. Especially boring when I can't loot the nice gear that drops. Our group had a healer and like 1.5 tanks, and 2.5 dps. I think a lot of groups come with 2 tanks in this game. When I selected my role in the LFG tool, I had the option to choose 2nd tank. I guess this is like the off-tank.

    This game seems like a massive grind, way more so than any other MMO I've played besides the original Everquest. You grind quests, which is pretty common, and you grind dungeons. I didn't have any other options available that I saw. It would be one thing if the quests were varied, but from what I saw they really weren't. I saw 2 zones, my starting zone, which was kind of like mountain/forest area, and an African savannah type with elephants and lions. I probably will take the time to get up to 20 to see if I can try a battleground. Plus I want to explore the evil city I thought I was going to start at. I logged out right in front of it, so next time I'll get to check out an EQ2 city. Also, like any good MMO player, I really want to hit 20 because it's an even number and who knows what goodies there are at 20.

    And THAT is my EQ2 review. I hope to say something about AoC and WAR soon, and get a good f2p review of LotRO.
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    dkirschner's Everquest 2 (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Thursday 7 October, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 14 October, 2010

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Not that good, not that bad. Very middle of the road. Free-to-play is very limiting.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstar

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