A Weekend in EverQuest II Extended

I did not know it was going to be a free “gold level” weekend in EverQuest II Extended this past weekend.

Not that it would have mattered.  I opted in for a month of Station Access which, it turns out, also gives me a Gold Level membership in EQ2X, as I think I shall refer to it.

I figured that, as I had just done the level 1 to 20 jaunt in old, subscription style EQ2, that it might be an opportune time to compare that with extended.

I thought I was actually going in as a bronze level player when I grabbed the EQ2X client on Thursday.  However, I quickly noticed that I had a lot more bag slots than I was supposed to get as a bronzie.  I also did not have the option to upgrade to silver, which you can do for a one-time, 1,000 Station Cash transaction.

When I went to check my SOE account information, it showed me as a gold member by virtue of Station Access.

The current (as of this date) EQ2X membership chart will show you what the differences are (I have the previous one here, if you want to note minor changes):

The account level matrix

Still, even if I wasn’t a bronze, I figured that the comparison was still worthwhile.

I decided to repeat my experience as closely as I could.

I rolled up another barbarian berserker.  I started him in Halas.  I even named him Sigwerd.

Sigwerd (the second) is now level 22 on the Freeport server, the EQ2X server.  Here are things I noted on the way to that level.

Population

I saw a lot more people playing on EQ2X compared to my adventures on the Crushbone server, which is no slouch when it comes to population on the old servers.  It isn’t Antonia Bayle, but they are not going to merge it with another server either.

The Freeport server always shows a heavy load because it is the only EQ2X server available.  SOE appears to be ready to try out that single fantasy world idea I was speculating about roughly two years back.

Because EQ2 uses multiple versions of the same zone when a zone becomes heavily populated, I was not seeing anything like all of the people running around in the New Halas area.

Many versions of the Frostfang Sea

Because you end up doing a couple of solo instance events as part of the New Halas 1-20 quest line, you can tell when there are a lot of people about.  On Crushbone, on a Saturday afternoon, I never had to choose which version of the zone I wanted to enter.  But I saw as many as 7 versions of the Frostfang Sea on Freeport.

Of course, there is a downside to this.  If your main argument against WoW is that people are there are idiots, then EQ2X is proof that idiots are a fixed percentage of any population.  With everybody allowed access to all channels for the weekend, the idiots made themselves known.  I think the main purpose of the levels 1-9 channel is to force new players to learn how to turn off a chat channel.

And even if we vary on definition of who is a idiot, certainly the masses on EQ2X show a very WoW-like attitude towards what messages are appropriate on the Auction channel.

Still, I can put up with a bit of that to have a world that feels occupied and in use.  Or at least in a world where parts of it do.

Certainly New Halas is a vibrant and active location.  But it is the hot new zone with the fancy new housing.  Everybody wants to be there.

Meanwhile, a trip through Qeynos was a trip through an almost empty city.  A couple of people were running around, but it was about as active as the Crushbone version, which is to say not very active at all.  But then, what is there to bring people to Qeynos these days?

Buy Stuff, Sell Stuff

I was interested to see that on the EQ2X server that you could buy your way through the equipment rat race.  A set of master crafted armor, for example, runs 600 SC, or $6.00 US.

One suit, made to order

And the equipment grind is even more of a rat race these days since SOE has made old equipment lose its effectiveness as you out level it.


Sorry, that master crafted armor you bought 10 levels ago, it isn’t just 10 levels out of date on mitigation stats, it doesn’t give you any at all.

I am not sure what this is doing to the in-game market.  You are forced to buy new equipment every 10 levels, but SOE will happily let you buy your way out of that worry.  Is that good or bad for people who, say, craft armor?

The broker seemed pretty vibrant for things like collection quest items.   I made over a plat with those, mostly because I was being a bit obsessive about finishing off the butterfly collections.  But this was a weekend when everybody had access to it.

Most of the time, bronze players have no access, and silver players can buy but not sell on the broker unless they buy special credits.


Those 10 credits run $1.50, so you basically have to pay 15 cents to sell something on the broker.  That seems a bit steep.

I realize that it has been said that there is a hope that we’ll go back to the Commonlands Tunnel method of commerce.  The problem is, SOE will sell you all the important equipment, which leaves commodities like trade skill materials (which SOE will also sell you directly, btw) which are best handled via the broker.  I mean, there is a reason they put a broker in every trade skill instance, right?

The Inevitable LOTRO Comparison

Content is an obvious area of comparison with Lord of the Rings Online.

EQ2X gives you all the content in the game up to level 80.  If you want the Sentinal’s Fate content, which is 81-90, you’ll have to buy the expansion.  This is a big selling point over the LOTRO system where they want to sell you content past level 20 or so.

I was a bit surprised at how many restrictions I could not buy myself out of in EQ2X though.

Again, comparing with LOTRO, I like that they allow you to get past the bag slot restriction with cash.  More bag slots, more bank slots, more shared slots, all yours for some Turbine Points.  In EQ2X, these items are not available for Station Cash.  No, you have to move up to a higher access level.  The only exception seems to be character slots, on which I have given my opinion already, an opinion I heard echoed a few times in-game.

Then there is the currency question, Station Cash versus Turbine Points.  I like that Station Cash seems have a set value versus real world currency, so no matter how you buy it, it is 100 SC to the US Dollar. (In the US at least.)  Turbine Points can run anywhere from $0.60 to $2.00 per 100, depending on how and where you purchase it.

Station Cash also seems to have more options for purchasing.  For example, if I want some Station Cash, I will probably buy it via my cell phone, which is on a pre-paid plan that I barely use.  So there is more than $200 sitting there that I have already “spent” once, by putting $20 on the phone every 90 days to keep it active, that I could turn around and “spend” again on Station Cash.

On the flip side, I do really like that you can earn Turbine Points in game.  Played right, and not too far off the most efficient path, you can earn enough points to get a few zones past the initial level 20 cap.  Station Cash, as far as I can tell, is a cash-only situation, barring the 600 Station Cash I seemed to have accumulated by just being subscribed off and on over the last couple of years.

Conclusions?

Well, aside from the lack of that “Knight of Bayle” quest for new players, EQ2 and EQ2X are the same basic game.

EQ2X’s main draw, for those already play EQ2, is the fact that the server is well populated.  It is very nice to see the game feeling alive again.  It am glad that SOE is holding firm on keeping this to a single server, even if it does mean more disconnects when zoning. (On Sunday, every attempt to enter my house ended up with me at the character select screen.)

That said, it is kind of a pain that for EQ2 vets the option to play on a well populated server seems to require moving to a place where your $15 a month doesn’t buy you nearly as much.  I wonder if SOE should pursue a more aggressive plan towards server consolidation for EQ2 Live.

Then again, part of the liveliness of the Freeport server is that new people are joining the game.  You could crush all the EQ2 Live servers into a single server and still not get any new blood since the only trial for the game is EQ2X, and once you make characters there you cannot move them to EQ2 Live.

So it looks like EverQuest II Extended is the wave of the future.

What do you think?  Is a more vibrant and varied population worth the restrictions that hit even Gold level accounts?  Is there a way to save EQII Live, or will it be non-stop server consolidation from now on, until we’re all playing on the Antonia Bayle server?

And should SOE try this with EverQuest as well?

6 thoughts on “A Weekend in EverQuest II Extended

  1. Sharon

    Some friends decided to give EQ2X a shot, so I paid to copy my 90 brigand from AB over to the Freeport server, to help them out.

    While the EQ2X server is certainly bustling at the lower levels, the population dramatically decreases at higher levels. Paineel (in Sundered Frontier) is a ghost town. I’ve never seen it completely empty before, since it’s the main Sentinel’s Fate hub. But over the course of a week, I saw maybe five people there, and never all at once. When I wandered back through zones, it looked like the population thins out at Sinking Sands, or just before.

    My frame of reference is AB, but even so, the impression I got is that people are trying EQ2X, but not necessarily sticking around much past about 40.

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  2. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    An interesting observation. A whole server that plays EQ2 like me. I saw several high level players offering to mentor down and join groups just for something to do.

    The character copy, while interesting, probably isn’t for me. I already have a pile of characters between 48-60 that I stopped playing for one reason or another.

    I did find a whole pile of people from Crushbone running around last night. So the EQ2 vets are out there, but just re-rolling I guess.

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  3. Tom

    “For example, if I want some Station Cash, I will probably buy it via my cell phone, which is on a pre-paid plan that I barely use. So there is more than $200 sitting there that I have already “spent” once, by putting $20 on the phone every 90 days to keep it active, that I could turn around and “spend” again on Station Cash.”

    What does this mean? I played EQ2 for a long time and never heard of buying station cash via cell phone. Spent once to turn around and spend again? I am confused.

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  4. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Tom – The first part is easy-ish. SOE lets you buy Station Cash and charge it to your cell phone. If you choose that option, you pick the increment of Station Cash you want to buy, the service SOE uses sends you a text with a PIN to verify the transaction. You enter that back on the web site an, hey presto, you have some Station Cash, SOE has some money, and your phone will show that amount as an additional charge on your next bill. There is a long, but not very well known, history of being able to charge things to your phone, at least in the US, stemming from the fact that it was easy to get a phone line but tough to get a credit card at one time. CompuServe used to be able to bill via your phone if I recall right, and our local paper used to have a bill via your phone account option as well.

    The second part is more about me. I have a VirginMobile pre-paid cell phone because it was, at one point, the cheapest way you could have a cell phone, at least in my service area. I need a cell phone for maybe 10 minutes a month, but for those 10 minutes I really need it. So a standard cell phone contract with a monthly bill for $30+ was way out of proportion for me. I was essentially paying $5-7 a minute for my air time each month.

    Enter pre-paid cell phones. If you know what these are, skip ahead. The concept here is you buy a phone, give the cell company some money. You pay for airtime, which is at most 25 cents a minute, out of the money you gave them. When you run out of money, you have to give them more or the phone will only make 911 calls. You generally also have to give them some money, $15-20 every so often if you’re not using the phone, just to keep it active. But that generally just goes into the pool of money you can use for your calls.

    With VirginMobile (now owned by Sprint) the money you give them every 90 days just accumulates if you don’t use it. It never goes away. (With some plans, your money is lost after a certain duration.) Having had this plan for years now, I have accumulated a couple hundred dollars that I can only spend by making calls (which I obviously don’t do) or buying ring tones and games for my phones.

    Or I can use it to buy virtual currency from a few companies. Runes of Magic lets you, though diamonds are a little more expensive that way. Zynga does at well, though at a “screw you, we don’t really want your business” rate of exchange compared to other methods. And now SOE does, only SOE isn’t hung up about the service charge, so if you spend $9.99 on Station Cash (which is the max per transaction that I saw) you get 999 units of Station Cash. Go SOE!

    Did I cover your question somewhere in all of that?

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  5. Tom

    Yeah, that clears it up. Thanks for elaborating. I’m glad to see that (at least in your case) those “pay or lose it” fees for a prepaid phone aren’t stuck there or cashed out with a heavy penalty. It’s very cool that SOE doesn’t gouge there.

    What really had me curious was the possibility that you were talking about some partnership deal where you paid for a service (cell phone time) and got station cash as a benefit. That would be wishing for too much. :)

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  6. Bhagpuss

    Nice write-up.

    It’s not just Frostfang that’s busy. All the four starter zones (Frostfang Sea, Darklight Woods, Greater Faydark and Timorous Deep) run multiple instances pretty much continuously. If I log in at 10am GMT on a weekday, the middle of the night in the USA, there will usually be two or three Frostfangs and a couple of DLWs up.

    I can’t speak for Sentinel’s Fate, but my Berserker on my Silver account dinged 80 this weekend and every non-instanced zone he has ever spent significant time in has had 30+ people in it, again in GMT hours. I’m a Freeportian, and South Freeport is always busy. My house is in Maj’Dul and there are always people there too.

    Norrath is just a very big world now, though. There are a lot of places people can be so few places are ever going to be really crowded, even if the server itself is.

    The real difference between SoE’s approach to “F2P” and Turbine’s is that SoE have designed their whole approach to lead people into subscribing. They explained that at some length during EQ2X beta. The recent “Gold” weekend is just another plank in this strategy. As a customer, I’d prefer more of a Turbine model where they sell you anything in the shop including all the perks you’d otherwise get by subbing, but it’s really swings and roundabouts.

    As for bag and vault space, I suspect you potentially get more in EQ2X as a Bronze player than you could get in LotRO if you bought all the slots avaiable. I’m certain you could as a Silver player. You’d have to either make or buy the best player-made bags/boxes and get a decent-sized house, but all that can be done at a cost only of your time.

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