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Sell Max Level Characters? As Long As You Do It Right! April 25, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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The small fraction of the EverQuest II community that reads the forums or follow news about the game is rather predictably up in arms about EverQuest II Senior Producer Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson’s trial balloon about making available max level characters.

On the surface, selling max level characters sounds like a dumb idea.  Sell people a way to skip most of the game?  Not a recipe to keep people in the game long term.

But there are three things which players do that cause MMO companies like SOE a lot of grief.  These things are:

  • Buying Gold
  • Selling Accounts
  • Using Power Leveling Services

Buying gold we know all about.  Game companies hate it, but in the case of SOE they have thrown in the towel and simply look the other way when you buy currency in their games.

Selling you account is against the terms of services of most games.  In EVE you can transfer characters to other people for ISK, but they are a rare exception.  Most companies, SOE included, view the person who originally opened the account as the sole and final owner of that account.  You cannot transfer the account to another person.

And yet, people buy and sell MMO accounts.  There are a number of sites devoted to this.  I see ads on Facebook for them often enough.  This leads to grief for the MMO company.  The person who sold the account can simply call up SOE and ask for the password and secret question to be reset and reclaim the account.  This has happened.

The process of selling the account also leave it open to exploit down the road.  The sites that sell the accounts require the password and secret question from the person selling the account.  They then transfer this information to the buyer.  However, the buyer has no standing to reset the secret question, so the site can wait a bit then drain or reclaim the account.  The buyer can do nothing, but I am sure some call up SOE to complain.

And then there are power leveling services.  Again, hand over your account to some strangers and hope they don’t take advantage of you while they level up your character by using it as a mule for gold selling advertising and services.

As I said, all of these hurt companies like SOE.

SOE has simply washed its hands of the first.

The second two are still an issue, but if you could just buy a max level character, they would fade away.

Buying a max level character wouldn’t be something to tempt me, but I am the type who feels the game is pretty much done when you hit max level.  I’m not much for end game.  But some people are all about the end game.  Some people want to skip the 90 levels between creating a character and hitting the cap.  And if they want to buy a max level character, that does not bother me.

Unfortunately, what Smokejumper was suggesting was not the selling of max level characters to anyone who was willing to pony up the money.  He was suggesting giving away a level 90 character to anybody not currently subscribed who buys a copy of the latest EverQuest II expansion.

This is what they call a “win back” program, and Smokejumper says that SOE has been very successful with such programs in the past.  And part of the reason for that success has been how generous they have been to non-subscribers during these programs.

Recall the Living Legacy program from mid-2008.  Any past subscriber was able to play EverQuest or EverQuest II all summer long for free.  Further, players who came back and played for free were offered some very generous incentives to purchase the upcoming expansions for these games, incentives that were not extended to current subscribers.  A very generous program indeed.

The current subscribers, those who paid to play all summer, who missed out on these offers, felt a bit cheated.  Loyalty was not rewarded. (Is playing the game reward enough?)

And now we see SOE suggesting something like it again.  They are willing to give out level 90 characters, but not to current subscribers.

Scewsville for the loyal subscriber base yet again.

I think if SOE wants to go down that path, they should just open up max level characters to anybody who wants to buy one.  Create a package, say a level 90 character with 150 AA points to spend and a set of level 82 master crafted equipment, price it right (say $50?), and let those who want a character at level cap buy their way in if they want.

The arguments against selling max level characters I have seen are that getting to level 90 isn’t that difficult (in which case, who cares if somebody buys in?), that getting to level 90 is a difficult accomplishment that shouldn’t be trivialized (you know what you’ve accomplished and so do your friends, somebody buying in at level 90 won’t change that), that you’ll end up with a bunch of level 90 noobs who won’t be able to play their class (which doesn’t hurt anybody really, since raiding guilds don’t just take anybody off the street do they?), and that it is simply not playing the game right (we should all grind through the old content before we get to see the shiny new stuff).

So I am fine with SOE making max level characters available, so long as they do it right.  It would even solve a couple of their account issues along the way.

But what was being proposed does not seem right to me.

Comments»

1. p@tsh@t - April 25, 2011

I want to be the first to inject “a slap in the face” into the discussion.

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2. Go straight to max level, do not pass GO « Welcome to Spinksville! - April 25, 2011

[...] in the MMO blogs this week is an idea that was thrown out by devs in the EQ2 forum, which is to allow returning players to create a max level character. Note: They aren’t actually doing this (yet), just discussing the [...]

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3. Bhagpuss - April 25, 2011

I thought Smokejumper’s piece was more of a “Modest Proposal”. He seems to be setting a bar that he knows is much to high for EQ2’s vocal playerbase to jump. Then when the real proposition is unveiled it will seem more acceptable by comparison.

I think he’s by far the best Producer EQ2 ha had since Scott Hartsman and I think he knows what he’s doing in a way that, quite apparently, some of his predecessors didn’t. On the other hand, with the EQ2 community he has some of the stubbornest, stick-in-the-mud conservatives of any game to win over. Tough job.

Like you, I tend to avoid end-games and see my characters as fully-baked once the level number stops changing, so I’m really not that bothered. I absolutely do think it’s a half-assed solution at best, though. The games are top-heavy enough already without piling even more players in at the level cap.

It’s a serious structural problem that most MMOs don’t seem to know how to handle. I’m loving Rift, but Mrs Bhagpuss and I were saying only last night that we can already see the writing on the wall. In six months, maybe less, Rift will be all about the end-game. That’s a short life for a world.

My feeling is that these types of gameplay need to be separated. The end-game, along with the expansions that feed it and bring in the money, should be hived off somehow into standalone games and the core game, the original world, should be maintained separately. Guild Wars sort of did that, and I hope GW2 cracks the problem and opens up a path for other MMOs to follow in the future.

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4. Ixliam - April 25, 2011

You do forget that SOE offers the Exchange servers, where you can buy/sell characters and platinum easily. There is an option for those who want that in their game.

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5. SynCaine - April 25, 2011

@Potshot: You forgot immersion breaking!

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6. smakendahed - April 25, 2011

Pay to buy our game, pay monthly (unless you’re F2P)to play, then pay us so you don’t actually have to play.

There’s a funny here.

Just give us money and we’ll say you bought the game and completed it, k? Thx!

Did I like it?

Yes, you did. Best game EVAR!

Sweet…

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7. Wilhelm Arcturus - April 25, 2011

@Potshot – I resisted using the term, but lavishing stuff on new subscribers does smack of some of the things we all hate about, say, mobile phone service providers.

@Ixliam – If you can move characters off of the Station Exchange servers to regular EQ2Live servers, problem solved. But I do not believe that to be the case, though you might be able to copy that character to EQ2X.

@Smakendahed – Indeed, for somebody like me who stops at the level cap, the idea is nonsensical. But I can imagine cases where having this option might be a boon.

For example, a smaller raiding guild loses their dirge (or some other class, if you don’t like dirges) and nobody else in the guild has one anywhere close to level cap. They can go recruit or they can start working on helping somebody level one up. But if there were an option for somebody to just step up and buy one so they can start getting the character/player integrated a playing with the raid group right away, or at least start getting the character outfitted.

Somebody handing SOE some money to not play the part of the game that I play, that is okay with me if it helps keeps the servers going.

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8. Bridging the gap « pOtshOt - April 25, 2011

[...] started as a comment to Wilhelm’s post but the tale grew in the [...]

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9. TheRemedy - April 25, 2011

I think buying a max level character is a great idea and should be an option in more older mmos. Is it by passing over content? Sure it is, but that content is often a barren wasteland and some of it (dungeons) are often inaccessible as no one is running that stuff anymore.

A way to instantly access the actual multiplayer part of an mmorpg? Sign me up.

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10. bluelinebasher - April 25, 2011

Why don’t MMOs just dedicate a server for insta max level characters? Could be the test server, could take the place of one of those RP-PVPs that no one plays on…it would give some insta-gratification, would confirm the spec you want to go for on your normal server, and might even do away with player character sales.

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11. Rue - April 26, 2011

I see no problem with level 90 sold characters, and whilst discussing the whole issue of EQ2 there are many things to consider.

Firstly. EQ2 has been trivialised and messed around with ever since a few months after launch. This has resulted in the loss of challenge and a race to endgame. Also it has resulted in quite a few unwanted additions to the game. Extended, Facebook-style micro-transactions, WoW-style gameplay, RAF super-easy levelling, Pay servers where you can buy other players’ gold/items/characters.

To me it is the next logical progression that smokejump is offering level 90 characters. He will start with a policy just for returning players, then it will be for sale on the marketplace.

I can’t see what difference it will make anyways, it is SO easy to make a level 90 toon. Any bumbler can sit on a friends account for 20 minutes and tank a raid – EQ2 is so dumbed down now. So all the sky-is-falling people that are ranting about ‘noobs on 90s’ are off their heads.

Cheapens the experience? Again, pathetic really. There is nothing rare, fabled, mythical or special in anyway in practically ALL of the content. Devs have seen to that over the years.

Bit of a half baked rant, so I do apologise – it’s late, and I find the reaction to this so funny…

The final progression for SoE going by there current model is max AA/90 toons, with a ton of plat and everything done. Just to pvp on. As a money maker.

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12. Name Withheld - April 26, 2011

I’ve actually sold two characters for a game for slightly over $600. And believe it or not, I’d buy them back today if I could. I have a lot of remorse about it and regretted it the moment I permitted it to happen.

But I suspect that I am the odd one, most characters being sold are ones the owner doesn’t care about and are in it to make a few dollars.
(Before you can ask…the game was EVE)

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