Everquest 2 reveals EQ2 Extended

The big reveal has taken place. You’ve probably already read the details, but just in case, here’s Smokejumper’s announcement:

Hi there, Norrathians,

As they say, the one thing that’s always true about the world is that it changes. That’s true of the world in general, the game industry, and it’s always been true with “EverQuest II”.

The very nature of an MMO is change. We listen, we adapt, and the game grows in features, content, and fun factor as the months and years pass. Now, the expectations of gamers and the industry itself are changing around us, and it’s time for “EverQuest II” to spring forward so it can continue to expand and be successful.

Many of you are aware of the free-to-play model that’s being embraced by many of the big game developers out there. We’re not the first folks to entertain the idea for an MMO, but we do have the biggest and best virtual world to offer in such a model and we firmly believe that we can expose thousands and thousands of new players to the world of Norrath if we embrace that concept.

However, before going any further, I’d like to stop and say that we’re tied into what you, the community of EQII players, have said about selling items with stats and how they affect a game where you traditionally earn your way forward. We completely understand there’s a solid core of you that want nothing at all to do with that. We respect your wishes and, as I’ve personally stated previously, we’re not planning any changes to the current subscription worlds at all. Those servers, that subscription service and that gameplay will continue as normal. We’ll continue to support the existing Live service with content, expansions, features, and events…just as we’ve always done. In fact, we’re upping the ante by providing subscription rewards packages for active users that buy multi-month subscriptions, giving them rewards like cool, unique, exclusive items and Station Cash.

But the free-to-play concept is a strong way to expose the world of Norrath to hordes of new players. Think of it as a huge new way to run a “free trial” like we’ve always done, but without the “14-day” limit, and with a lot more content available to try before you decide whether you want to commit to the game or not. We’ve had over eight years to grow this game, its content and its features, and there’s simply nothing else like it out there.

So, we’re about to launch a bold new service named “EverQuest II Extended” (EQ2X). This is a completely separate service from the standard EQII Live subscription service (EQII). It’s aims are simply to attract new players to the world of “EverQuest II” and let them try it out before deciding if and how they want to pay for it.

“EverQuest II Extended” shares all the content and features of Live EQII. It plays the same. It looks the same. It *is* the same, with two obvious exceptions: a) it’s free-to-play, and b) it has a more robust marketplace.

What does “free-to-play” mean? It means that you can download the game and play all of it (except the most recent expansion) all the way up to level 80. Your character is restricted in a bunch of different ways (limited class selection, limited races, limited coin, etc.) and to unlock those features fully, you’ll need to subscribe to Gold level membership. Which, coincidentally, is $15/month. Sound familiar?

What is a “robust marketplace”? It’s exactly the same marketplace that you see on the EQII service, but it also adds lots of “convenience” items. Can’t find a good shield in-game? We sell one appropriate to your level and class. Want a healing potion to use in a pinch? Need an emergency buff? Want to shortcut your research time? Items like that are all available in the marketplace. Do we sell the very best items and equipment? Nope. Legendary and Fabled gear are better than what you can buy in the marketplace. Has the game been rebalanced so that you *need* to buy these “convenience” items? Nope. EQ2X is exactly the same game that you’re playing currently on the EQII servers. Those items are just there if you want them. They are true “convenience” items.

There’s lots more details about all of this (and you can find the FAQ at http://eq2players.station.sony.com/…ay/extended_faq), but remember…this only affects you if you want it to affect you. If you ignore EQ2X completely, then your existing subscription, game, and support are unchanged.

If you’re a current subscriber, and you’d like to take a peek at “EverQuest II Extended” on its new Test server, you can jump into the game at the Free membership level by clicking here and streaming down the game client you’ll need. (http://launch.soe.com/eq2x/) This is the Alpha version of the service and its currently only available to existing subscribers so you can see it for yourselves before the public sees it later. The beta launch of the EQ2X service will occur in mid-August.

Whether you check out the new stuff as a Live subscription player, or as an Extended player, you’ll see examples of how we upgrade the content simultaneously across both services. We’ve significantly improved the UI, skill progressions, new user quest content, tutorials, created the “Regions of Interest” system so you can see where your quests are located, and much more.


It is not what I expected at all. It is going to be a completely separate game, with its own servers and forums. That’ll be good for some people, as it means we can pretty much ignore it going forward. Or we could if game design decisions made to benefit EQ2 Extended were not also going to affect EQ2 Live, which they blatantly will and probably have been for a while in the run up to this. I strongly suspect GU 57’s decision to make a bunch of classes neutral, and thus playable on both sides, has a lot to do with EQ2 Extended’s need to have it’s free classes available everywhere, but as it happens I think it’s a good change anyway.

By making this a separate service, the chance that it will bring life back to the EQ2 Live servers is limited. In many ways, it feels like a missed opportunity. I don’t see it repeating DDO’s success, for a variety of reasons.

If you want to play for free, you’re going to be restricted in a number of ways.

Free Races: Humans, Erudites, Barbarians, and Half-Elves.

Free Classes: Swashbuckler, Brigand, Wizard, Warlock, Guardian, Berserker, Templar, and Inquisitor.

That’s fine. Obviously a F2Per needs to have things to purchase, and additional classes and races are perfect for that. The classes available are ample, though I think including halflings or dwarves in the free races might have been a good thing.

Here is a chart of the different capabilities of the various membership levels for EQ2 extended. It’s ridiculously wide, so you’ll probably need to click on the image to expand it to make it readable:

EQ2 Extended Membership Levels 550x675

Everquest 2 Extended Membership Levels.

There’s a lot to take in, and I’ll probably revisit this once I’ve had a chance to mull things over. I have one major problem with it as it stands though.

In DDO, a F2Per is restricted in class and race choice, and also in available content, but within those parameters they can be exactly as effective as a subscriber. EQ2 is taking a very different road, and Bronze members will be restricted to the Adept version of any spell or ability, putting them at a great disadvantage to subscribers. Silver members will be restricted to Expert. They are also prevented from using any Legendary or Fabled gear. This will lead to behaviour very similar to Gearscore causes in WoW, where people will be unwilling to take the less shiny sorts of members along on raids and the like.

To be utterly blunt, Bronze and Silver players are going to be gimped. With their inferior spells, and Treasured level gear you would have to be either masochistic, or of exceptionally generous spirit, to want to take them along on anything remotely strenuous. While I can see that SOE would want to put as much pressure on people to upgrade as they can, I think they’ve missed the lessons that DDO taught. People buy extra content in DDO because they’re having fun and want more, not because they have to do it to be able to be on a level playing field. May Rodcet have mercy on the souls of any Bronze members who try to take part in Battlegrounds or other PvP.

If you want to use Master Level spells, and legendary/fabled gear, you have to be at least a Gold Member, which costs as much as an EQ2 Live Subscription does anyway!

It’s also a little peculiar how a Platinum membership costs more than a regular EQ2 live subscription, and they’re still restricted to only 4 races! Who is this for? Surely almost everyone willing to pay subscription level prices would rather play on the EQ2 Live servers? The whole thing seems weird, and I’m uncomfortable with it. This is not an F2P system like DDO or LOTRO’s where you can just buy little bits and pieces here and there as you choose, on a living server that you share with all the different sorts of player, and where being a Premium player (Basically an F2Per who occasionally buys things) is a perfectly viable choice for the long-term. It’s a glorified trial, designed to push people into subscribing.

If you’re willing to put up with being that badly inferior, then you’re probably never going to pay SOE any money for anything anyway. Everybody else would be far better off on a regular server. So again, I ask, who is this for?

However, I dwell on a regular server, where the effects of EQ2 Extended will hopefully be minor, though I fear they may not be if EQ2 Extended proves to be more profitable. Maybe it’ll garner us a few more players, once they get tired of dwelling in the odd Norrathian ghetto that EQ2 Extended is promising to be.

Update. I just noticed this in the FAQ:

Once Extended launches, the 14-day trial will no longer be available to the general public. New players can try the Extended free adventure service instead. However, 14-day trial passes for the EQII subscription service will still be distributed by active players on the live subscription service via the Recruit-a-Friend program. This way, friends can play together on the same server and still enjoy free time. The RAF program will be updated at a later point in time to include Extended invitations and rewards.

This is terrible news for EQ2 Live servers. Our gentle stream of new players coming in from the trial is going to dry up, with them being shunted over to the probably more profitable EQ2 Extended instead. EQ2 Live is going to be cannibalised by its younger sibling. The long-term effect of this could be dire.

The product new players are sent into will cost them more, requiring them to subscribe AND buy races and classes. Sadly, I fear that’s what this is all about. Rather than Turbine’s idea of getting less money per player, but having vastly more players and so making more profit, this EQ2 Extended scheme seems designed to just charge more for the same content.

So, there’s the first big effect EQ2 Extended will have upon the original game.

Update: I’ve followed this up with a look at what the EQ2X shop sells.

11 comments to Everquest 2 reveals EQ2 Extended

  • The way I see it, this will ONLY appeal to those who have never played EQ2 in the past, or those who do/have, but have friends who have not and want to play on the F2P servers. Those who have established characters aren’t going to pay one last hurrah of $35 to handicap themselves. Can you be a paying player AND play on the F2P servers? If so, great. If not, then a choice must be made, and I will be willing to bet that F2P loses out.

    That being said, I don’t think the F2P servers will end up as a ghetto. Instead, they’ll be populated by a different breed of player. I’m still undecided about the decision to wall off F2P from standard players. On one hand, I think it’s a good idea, if they truly were listening to the community in making that choice. On the other hand, the implicit division of the community seems just WRONG on some subsconscious level.

  • ananamoose

    While I see that this could be the death of the live servers, a small sliver of hope is that people could realize that the EQ2X servers are rediculous and end up going to the Live servers instead. That would take a lot of smart people though, and humanity is not always that smart. But there have been surprises. I think all we can do is wait and see what happens. I really hope it doesn’t kill of the Live servers. While I don’t have time or money to play anymore, I still eventually get on and play around. I love EQ2, but if this turns out badly, I’m going to have to find another gaming addiction. GuildWars 2 looks mighty promising. I just wish Sony was smarter than this, but if history has shown us anything, they aren’t.

  • ananamoose

    Bah! Sorry for the spelling errors. I meant to correct them but was so fired up over this, I forgot. I’m not usually that terrible of a speller :)

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