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Station Cash Take Back January 3, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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6 comments

I might have picked the wrong company in my 2014 predictions.

As reported over at the EQ2Wire, SOE has announced that they will no longer be handing out a 500 station cash stipend every month to Gold or SOE All Access subscribers.

Once known as Station Access...

Once known as Station Access…

Instead, SOE All Access subscribers will be allowed to purchase a single item in the station cash store, with a value of up to 2,000 station cash. (Some items may be excluded from this option.)  If I read the notice correctly, SOE All Access subscribers will be allowed to do so for each game they play.

So, on the one side, you will, technically, be able to buy more with your single monthly stipend.

On the other hand, you will no long be able to accumulate station cash for a big purchase over several months, instead being granted a monthly “use it or lose it” purchase.  And there are quite a few items in the store over that threshold.  This is, no doubt, SOE continuing to get their station cash house in order after flooding the market with double and triple point deals and store discounts that ended up with people being able to pay as little as $1.25 for their $14.99 monthly subscription at one point.  The joys of the free to play cash shop.

This will go into effect with all subscription renewals on or after February 3, 2014.

As for my 2014 predictions, I guessed that Turbine would make a similar take back move against lifetime subscribers.  I still believe that will come to pass given that the growling forum mob sees lifetime subscribers as freeloaders who are not carrying their weight.  We shall see over the next 11 months.

Addendum: SOE followed up with a “please don’t unsubscribe” offer of other shiny non-Station Cash things they will give you.

Heroic in Norrath – Straight to Level 85 October 2, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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12 comments

I took a little time away from fretting over the logistics of getting myself and some ships down to Curse to look at SOE’s new idea for EverQuest II.

The SOE plan is to sell level 85 “heroic” characters for the low, low price of 3,500 Station Cash. (~$35 at the normal cost of SC, but as little as ~$12 if you wait for one of those Triple SC sales.)  They are selling them right now.  And, for the moment, they are also giving away free samples.  Between now and at least October 15th you can test drive a heroic character for free.

EverQuest II Heroic Offer

In some ways this is both a dream come true for some players and an out for SOE who has a game where the current cap is level 95.  If you want to join your hard core EverQuest II pals, you no longer have to grind through a lot of lonely levels to see the newest (and presumably the best) content and play with your friends.

According to the SOE Heroic Character FAQ:

In response to both former and current player feedback, we wanted to provide an opportunity for players to return to EQII without worrying about an overwhelming level gap.  We’ve also been asked by all kinds of players for a way to try out high-level classes before committing valuable time to leveling one.

Being an old and extremely lapsed EQII player… I have a few characters in the 50s and one up in the 60s… I had to try this out.

The first question was how to take SOE up on the offer.  You can either try this as a fresh character, or you can apply the jump to level 85 option on one of your current characters.

Being a long time SOE customer, I was pretty sure that if I applied this to any current character that the whole thing would be irreversible or that it would forever taint that character.  And while I am not overly enamored of my characters… nor am I likely to ever really play them again except to show up in the game once in a while to remind myself again why I stopped playing…  I figured the safest option was just to get a fresh heroic character.

(I do find it amusing that, according to the FAQ, if you upgrade a character, you get a potion renaming.  Presumably this is to hide the shame of having created a store bought character or some similar perceived stigma.)

I hit the button and created a freshly minted heroic dwarven berserker.  And he was indeed in possession of heroic stats and equipment, certainly relative to any other character I have.

Fresh Heroic Dwarf

Fresh Heroic Dwarf

He got the full set of supplies as outlined in the FAQ, which include.

  • A set of Level 85 weapons
  • Level 85 jewelry
  • Level 85 armor
  • 20 Food and Drink
  • Ammunition for Fighter and Scount Ranged Weapons
  • 6 24-slot bags
  • Variety of Potions
  • A Pegasus Mount

I do not think any of my EQII character ever, at any level, have been so lavishly equipped.  You also get 280 AA points, pre-populated for your convenience.  (If you want to set them yourself, you have to pay the 3,500 SC.)

I was particularly happy with the abundant bag space.  And there was a flying mount, which was a nice touch.

Flying about

Flying about

Of course the flying mount also represents the same mixed blessing that it does in every game.  It is super nifty cool to be able to fly around and explore, but it completely takes the wind out of any concept of space or travel in the open world.  And SOE’s latest stay mounted compromise, where your mount disappears as you enter combat and shows up as soon as it is over is… odd.  I am sure I would get used to it in time, but I feel strange having the frilly Pegasus mount show up under me just after I finish my latest murders.

Ah well.

And I certainly was not alone aboard a frilly Pegasus mount.  Once I rolled up my character I was dropped into the Great Divide zone (third instance) with a dozen or so similarly mounted characters around me.  Heroic characters were quite the thing according to reports.

Now, of course, the question is how much of this is novelty, with people like me showing up to kick the metaphorical tires, and how much of this represents people eager to return to playing (and paying) in Norrath?

So there I was in a zone… a snow zone, which meant it looked like pretty much every other snow zone in the game… seriously, I though I was outside of New Halas at first… and wondering what to do next.

There is something of a tutorial going on as you wander around, but it seems aimed at people who are either new to the game (but not MMOs) or who have forgotten a lot more about the game than I have at this point.  So I started ignoring those and went off to grab a quest to see how heroic this new guy really was.

And the answer was, “Pretty darn heroic indeed.”  Look at this shot of him absolutely destroying a level 89 mob with one of his attacks.

Die gnoll, die!

Die gnoll, die!

Clearly, basic survival in the field was not going to be an issue.  I actually had to walk up to a mob to get that picture, as I was one-shotting everything with my bow if I tried to pull mobs at range.  And, if I this whole heroic character thing became suddenly super engaging to me, I had the post from Karen Bryan, perhaps the most serious correspondent Massively has, about what to do with your new heroic character bookmarked.

How to do it though… that was the key.  What I most feared came to pass.

One of my complaints about EverQuest II is that SOE apparently cribbed their underlying philosophy from my mother-in-law, going with the idea that “Too much is never enough” or “Nothing exceeds like excess!”

So you have, in my opinion, too many races, too many classes, too many cities, too many crafting recipes, too many crafting ingredients, too many chat channels, too many AA trees, and, far and away worst of all, too many damn player skills.

And the skill thing has actually gotten better over time.  There was a point when not only were there too many skills, but they had too many different names as upgrades to skills were called something completely different and even, at times, had different icons which was often shared by another unrelated skill.

But there are still way too many skills.  And this is the reason I went with the berserker class.  I have four other berserkers in the game, so it was my hope that some mild familiarity with the class would help.  I also, hoping against hope, thought that maybe SOE would have a plan to deal with this.

And SOE does have a plan.  It just isn’t a very good one.

When you start off you have only one hot bar exposed with some of your combat skills on it.  Given how quickly I was killing stuff, I probably could have made due with one hot key.  All of your other skills are on additional, but still hidden, hot bars, which get mentioned as you progress.  Your skills are pre-populated in… an order of some sort.  Not the one I would have chosen, but I think in this I was handicapped by having played the game, but not recently.

So I ended up exposing a pile of hot bars to figure out my skills and ended up being annoyed when I couldn’t find certain things either in the hot bars or in the skill book.  For example, what happened to that skill that starts the heroic opportunity cycle?  I could not find it.  Did they kill that feature?

Anyway, it was the morass of skills that took the wind out of my sails.  There is a reason that, every time I come back to EverQuest II, I create a new character.  It is simply easier to get back into the game that way, picking up skills in a somewhat organic fashion rather than trying to decipher the huge set of skills you left off with last time and which have been changed since.

Well, that and the fact that my UI seemed to be having issues.  I had to kill off the old EQ Maps addon because it was using an incompatible version of the map xml.  And then my experience bar seemed to have expanded itself off the right side of the screen, pushing some of the controls off the edge with it.  I don’t think this was related to EQ Maps, as it was fine last week when I patched up and got into game in anticipation of this update.

So, all in all, I wasn’t sold on the idea.  I was certainly done with it in about an hour.

But I am, by my own admission, hardly the ideal target audience.

Borrowing a term from EVE Online, if there is a “bitter vet” class of SOE customers, I am pretty sure I fall into it.  I started playing EverQuest on day one and EverQuest II on day four if I recall right. (November 13, 2004)  I have many fond memories and consider myself a fan of both games, and yet I have trouble finding any joy in playing either game at this point.  When overcome by nostalgia, I can get a quick fix by starting a fresh character and running through some older zones.  But by level 20 or so the novelty wears off and the weight of the years and all the changes and updates and compromises begins to take its toll.  And somewhere after level 40 I feel lost in the world and tired of the game, which starts to become an alien place to me.

In EverQuest II, the game starts to fall off for me at Desert of Flames, so punting me up another 30 levels and dropping me into the very generic looking Great Divide was never going to be a winning proposition to start with.  All of the rest was just icing on this cake of woe.  Even the changes to equipment unlocks haven’t helped all that much.

But for people without such a history with the game, this might be an opportunity.  If they have some friends playing and can sink their teeth into the path to level cap and spend the time deciphering the myriad skills that come with the level, this could be a winner.

I am watching how other people respond to this new-ish initiative.  (*cough* Death Knights *cough*)

So far I have seen:

Have you given this a try?  What did you think?

SOE Tentatively Returns to Selling Content for Station Cash and Removes Equipment Unlocks September 27, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
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7 comments

One of SOE’s big EverQuest II free to play fiascoes was, in my opinion, getting themselves in a position where they had to stop selling expansions and subscription time because they had devalued their RMT currency, Station Cash, so badly.  As the big chart over at EQ2 Wire showed, if you timed things right you could have ended up paying as little as $1.25 a month for a Gold level subscription back in the day.

Likewise, expansions could be had for a pittance compared to their list price in the face of sales at both the Station Cash and the Station Cash Store ends of the business.

So all of that clearly had to go, leaving me with the big question about what to spend all my Station Cash on.

Well, there was a change on the expansion front today as a new Producer’s Letter announced that SOE would begin selling the Age of Discovery expansion for Station Cash.  You can buy it as one big bundle for 4,000 SC, or as individual pieces totaling up to 7,000 SC.

  • Beastlord: 2500 SC
  • Mercenaries: 1500 SC
  • Tradeskill Apprentice: 1000 SC
  • Reforging: 1000 SC
  • Dungeon Maker: 1000 SC

According to the Producer’s Letter, the Age of Discovery expansion will cease to be sold for anything besides Station Cash as of October 1, 2013.  However, The Chains of Eternity expansion, and the upcoming Tears of Veeshan expansion, however, will require some real world money to purchase.

Still, this is actually something of a big step for their cash shop as it gives players something substantial to purchase.  I know some people love mounts and cosmetic gear, but it is nice to have something with some “heft” to it in the shop.

Who you calling, "fuzzy?"

My only cosmetic purchase, a bunny hat

In addition to that, and something that might actually get me back into the game to spend some of my Station Cash, it was announced that both Free and Silver level accounts would no longer face gear restrictions.  So when I go back to take a look at EverQuest II, my first in-game alert won’t be about how my character can’t wear his currently equipped gear.

This seems to be part of an ongoing loosening of the free to play restrictions on the game.  Previously SOE removed the restrictions on races and classes (except for the Freeblood vampire race and, of course, the Beastlord class) and has tinkered with things like bag slots before.

Free and Silver accounts still face restrictions on skills, character slots, and in-game mail access.

In turn, in order to set Gold level accounts… the classic $15 a month subscription option… apart from their lesser brethren, SOE will be boosting coin loot by 15% and mount speeds by 10%.  The former sounds okay, but mount speeds are already almost terrifyingly fast at this point, does anybody really need another 10%?

All this goes in place on October 1, 2013, along with a new Station Cash item that will boost your character 280 AA points.  Add in the whole Try and Buy a Heroic Character option and it seems like the EverQuest II team has been busy stirring the pot to get more people back in game.

More Unspent Virtual Currency… February 5, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlayStation 3, Sony Online Entertainment.
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7 comments

I was just complaining about not having anything on which I wanted to spend Station Cash, and now Sony Computer Entertainment America sends me a note to remind me to… well… please spend some of the funds on my PlayStation 3 account.

Dear Wilhelm

Dear Wilhelm…

Yes, I know, the PlayStation people actually use standard monetary units.  But you cannot get it back out again, so your “funds” in whatever currency might as well be Play Station Doubloons.

It would be nice if the two piles of Sony funds were not segregated, but as we saw with DC Universe Online, SCEA wants to protect its users from any interaction with the unwashed PC masses.

I wonder how much unused virtual currency I have sitting around?  SOE Station Cash, Play Station Network Funds, Turbine Points, World of Tanks gold, Need for Speed World Speed Boost, EA Play 4 Free Funds, Turbine Points, Runes of Magic Diamonds, Star Trek Online C-Store whatevers…

There might be a virtual fortune out there.

How about you?  How much virtual currency do you have sitting around?

What The Hell Do You Spend Your Station Cash On? January 18, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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10 comments

As mentioned previously, in writing about eight years of EverQuest II last week, I got all nostalgic for the game and went back and played for a bit.  Such is the power of the blog.

And in going back I did go visit some places, added about 10 levels to a character, and generally did the tour.

And then the tour petered out, as these nostalgia ventures usually do, I unsubscribed and went off to other things.

But when not subscribed, SOE sends me a monthly Station Cash account balance message via email.  I am not sure why they don’t do this when I am subscribed.  Maybe they want me to stay subscribed and are afraid that bringing attention to themselves will remind me to unsubscribe?

Anyway, the last one I got said I had more that 9,000 Station Cash on my account.

Some of this was left over from a triple value event back when EverQuest II Extended was fresh and young, along with the 500 SC you get every month when you have Station Access, which I tend to subscribe to when playing SOE games.  (And then Station Access became SOE All Access, because if marketing can’t change the names of things every so often, they might as well just go home I guess.)

500 SC a month doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up when you never spend it.

And no matter how I got it, it seems like a lot of Station Cash to have hanging around.  Theoretically, that has a cash value of $90, though my actual out of pocket investment is probably $20 at the most.  Having that big of an asset sitting around seems wasteful, so I started to poke around in the to see if there was anything worth buying.

Well, you cannot buy expansions with Station Cash any more.

And you cannot buy a subscription with Station Cash.

You cannot buy any of those shiny Krono.

And you certainly cannot simply buy the in-game currency.  Not that I expected to be able to do so, but looking at my actual in-game currency balance, I might have gone that route had it been an option.

You cannot buy armor, or weapons, or crafting materials, all of which you could buy during the EverQuest II Extended experiment, when Smed was calling them “convenience” items.  I imagine a Wand of Obliteration would be very convenient to have around now and then.

One shot, one kill, no longer available

You can buy account services, but I think I have done my fill of transfers, renames, and the like.  And I have too many characters already, so I do not need any more character slots or race or class unlocks.

I might be tempted by experience boosting potions if I did not already have a giant stack of those sitting around on every character from veteran rewards.  And if I ever used them.  I don’t like the “timer” aspect of them, as they make me feel like I need to save them until I am going to be in an hour of constant combat or crafting… which is almost never.  I much prefer the way Turbine does some of there boosts, where it matches you gained exp for a given amount of exp over however much time it takes you to earn it.

Which sort of leaves cosmetic aspect of the game.  That includes cosmetic gear.

And I did buy a rabbit hat once.

Who you calling, "fuzzy?"

Who you calling, “fuzzy?”

But so far that is the only cosmetic appearance item that has appealed to me.

There is housing.   And while SOE has some stunning housing options, my housing needs are pretty simple.  I did buy that first player created housing item, the chest, just to support the person who made it.  And it looks good.  But it doesn’t do anything and it doesn’t have any particular meaning to me, so I doubt I will go down that path again.

And then there are mounts.

The setup to a "frog in a blender" joke

~sigh~

Let’s just skip over mounts before I start ranting on the many variations of ugly that SOE seems to have discovered.

Which leaves me with… what?

Well, there are bags.  I did buy one of those.  And I unlocked all the bag slots on Sigwerd so I could play him when not subscribed.  But with the removal of weight as an aspect of the game, he has that single 44 slot bag and some storage crates that give him more storage on his person that I think any three of my WoW characters have in total.

And I did that already and still have all that Station Cash.

There are some things I would pay for in Station Cash if I could.

I would pay the weekly Guild Hall fee now and again to have access to that.  That Guild Hall rent isn’t bad in currency… I think it is 4p a week… but it does eat up a lot of status, and I haven’t earned much of that in ages.

I might consider paying for access to the broker, though not via the current “per item” method SOE currently has.  Though since there is a back door way to sell without that, and selling is 99% of what I do with the broker, they could easily make that one over priced.  Still, I would be interested in buying broker access for a week as opposed to for 10 items.

One thing SOE has on its side is that you can use Station Cash in all of their games… or all of them that aren’t on FaceBook or on the PlayStation 3 at least.

So I could spend Station Cash in EverQuest… except that the choices are even more limited, the cosmetic items more grim, and the mounts even uglier.   Oh, and I am not actually playing EQ.  Details.

Likewise, PlanetSide 2 is an option.  I do log into that now and again, though my recent World of Tanks revival has eaten up all of my shooter mental bandwidth.  And I did buy an experience booster once… I think… when I was playing PlanetSide 2 early on.  It was hard to tell.  There were a lot of options and boosts and weapons and unlocks and other crap on screen which were difficult to distinguish or compare, all of which got me to skip the whole thing and just go out and die while trying to shoot at some people.

But given how freely I can spend gold at times in World of Tanks, PlanetSide 2 seems like it might be a place to spend my Station Cash some day, once they rationalize things a bit.

And, really, there are no other SOE games I play right now.  I said I might look into Vanguard at some point this year, but I suspect that the Station Cash store there will look like its EQ and EQII brethren.  So I am pretty “meh” on my Station Cash prospects.  Not that that is a big change.

Which makes me pretty much “not a customer” in SOE’s eyes, no matter how much Station Cash I have, since I do not spend it.  Idle currency has no influence.

So what should I do with 9,000 Station Cash?

(And no, I am not going to just give it to you.)

The Limited Time $25 EverQuest Bag April 3, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment.
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9 comments

I get the whole free to play thing, because I also get that every business model is a compromise.

So, for players, we lose the monthly subscription fee.  We can now drop into the game whenever we want.

On the flip side, of course, we now have to contend with a game that feels the need to hustle something out of us every day.  They won’t be getting that $15 at the end of the month, so how about a dollar now.  And how about we pile on things that people find popular… which in SOE games seems to be hideously ugly mounts… and dangle limited time specials?

Sure, fine, go ahead.  It is all part of the deal, along with the repeated pleas for us to subscribe, which don’t seem to mind popping up during combat.

Fighting for your life? Think about going Gold!

But once in a while I see something comes up in the cash shop that makes me double take… like this bag.  This $25 bag.

32 slots, 100% weight reduction, $25

This is one of the bags being offered up for a limited time as part of the EverQuest 13 year anniversary, and it is clearly an item targeted at the “whales,” the big spenders in free to play games.

More bags, more money

And it isn’t like this gets me angry or anything, it just makes me stop and stare and think, “Twenty five bucks for a virtual bag?”

And I know, I am somebody who bought a $25 sparkle pony in World of Warcraft, an item of no actual benefit really, as you have still have to buy the in-game riding skills with in-game currency.  But I get that mount on all of my WoW characters now and forever.  And the sparkle pony isn’t competing with any in-game crafted items.

The bag, on the other hand, does have utility… oh does it ever.  Bags and bag space are always an issue for me.  It also competes with the in-game economy and shows up on only one character.  The latter wouldn’t be an issue for me if I knew who my main character was, but I have three characters I am working on in EQ, and I am not buying that bag for all of them.

Frankly, I am not buying that bag for any of them.  It is twenty five bucks!

My brain keeps saying that, only in flashing red letters.

Of course, if you have to have that bag, you can get a price break if you buy four of them.

Buy four for the price of three!

Of course, this just makes my brain scream, “seventy five dollars worth of virtual bags?”

I am not even sure what sizes I can get in-game bags… I do not recall anything beyond 8 or 10 slots.  But I will stick with those.

How about you?  Are you ready to spend twenty five dollars for a 32 slot bag?

They are only available through April 15th, 2012.

SOE Station Access Returns to 2004… And Then Some June 10, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Gaming Industry Trends, Lord of the Rings Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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11 comments

I was going to wait until SOE posted something official on the SOE web site about the Station Access price reduction, but their community team seems to all be at E3 and unable to do anything besides post pictures to the SOE Facebook page.

I thought a bit of caution might be required, since the stories that announced this coming price reduction all seemed to lack an official original source to which they could link to, only linking to other similarly sparse reports on the subject.  Given how the press “misunderstood” and repeated certain stories during the Sony hacking fiasco, I thought a little care with SOE related stories would be a good thing.

Color me a cynic.  I want the deal in writing.

But I am also impatient, so let’s just treat this as if it is true, and that SOE is going to reduce the price of Station Access to $19.99 a month, down from its current $29.99 a month, at some date which we will refer to as “soon.”

I remember when Station Access was announced, way back in late 2004.  A mere $21.99 a month would cover your subscription fees for all of the Sony Online Entertainment MMOs. (I had to go back to my SOE billing history to get that number.)

For me, the fact that I could be subscribed to EverQuest II and still go tinker around in EverQuest was a decent draw at that price, but the clincher was the fact that, with Station Access you also got a couple more character slots in EQ2.

I will grouse to my dying day about SOE launching a game with 24 character classes that only allowed you to make four total characters.

The price went up to $24.99 later on, and then just a little over four years ago it jumped up to its current $29.99 a month.

The speculation at the time was that this was to help cover Vanguard being brought into the SOE family of MMOs, and there was worry that with each new game a future price increase would come.

Fortunately for those of us at the consumer end of things, the price did not rise any further with the addition of games like Pirates of the Burning Sea.  I would guess that the $29.99 price seemed to SOE to be perhaps the most the market would bear.

For those who are not familiar with Station Access, it is one of the SOE subscription plans.  It allows the subscriber to play any of SOE’s online games as though they have subscribed to that particular game.

In theory you must buy the game box before you can play any particular game.  In practice I was able to download and play Star Wars Galaxies, The Matrix Online, and Planet Side without paying for anything aside from my Station Access subscription.  And the games you play benefit, as your Station Access subscription is allocated out based on what game you play over the month.

At $21.99 it was a hell of a deal.

At $24.99 it was still a very good deal.

But at $29.99 the package deal lost some of its luster.

At that price it was a penny more expensive than simply having two month-to-month subscriptions for any given pair of SOE games.  Furthermore, with a standard subscription you can get a further discount by subscribing in 3, 6, or 12 month increments, something not available to Station Access subscribers who can only pay on a month-to-month basis.

This lead to a rather amusing, in my opinion, Station Access Savings Calculator that would tell you how you could “save” nearly $75 a month in subscription fees (if you otherwise subscribed individually to every SOE game), but could not explain why you should subscribe if you only played one or two SOE games.

So unless you were active in 3 or more SOE games on a regular basis (and there are some of you out there who have been at times… I’m looking at you Stargrace and Tipa… and speaking of Tipa, her comment on this post is worth noting just for context) or really needed one of the few other benefits that Station Access offered (like more character slots in EQ2… of that I am guilty), the value proposition for Station Access was not so hot.

But now, if the news is to be believed, Station Access is being reduced in price, back to a level below what seems like a good deal back in 2004.  At $19.99 a month I would subscribe to SOE games only via Station Access, if only to allow myself to peek into EverQuest now and again and keep myself going in both versions of EverQuest II.

Which leaves me with the usual question, “What does it mean?”

Certainly SOE has been a leader in subscription options.  Just looking at EverQuest II, does any other competing game offer as many ways to subscribe and play?  We have free (EQ2X only, granted), $10 forever (ibid), a 3 day a month plan (EQ2 Passport), a standard monthly subscription, and Station Access.  If there was a lifetime plan and an option to buy your subscription time with in-game currency I think they would have almost all the current options in the MMO sphere covered.

But with all of that, why upset things with a radical change in the price of Station Access?

My speculation, and that is all it is, is that the market has changed, both inside and outside of SOE.

Back when EQ2 launched, $15 a month was the defacto standard subscription fee.  (Remember how we scoffed, well I did, when Mark Jacobs suggested that Warhammer Online might charge more, positioning it as a premium game? And now the first 10 levels are free.)  $15 was the line, and the MMO companies held to that, because there were not a lot of options for your western fantasy MMO dollar.

But with the market now flooded with choices, price has become one of the points of competition.  With Lord of the Rings Online, for example, even before it went free to play if you couldn’t find a way to subscribe at $10 a month (basically a $5 discount off the list price) you were not trying hard enough.  And after going free to play, $10 a month became the standard monthly VIP price.

$15 a month has gone from being the standard to being something of the cap on MMO subscription pricing.  How can you charge MORE than WoW, the bestest MMO ever if we use subscribers as our sole metric like so many people do?

So for something like Station Access to “feel” like a deal, pricing it at double WoW is no longer really viable.

And SOE has changed as well.  When Station Access came out… and even when it went up to $30 a month… SOE games were all monthly subscription that, with the exception of Planet Side, were at the standard $15 a month.

Now, however, we have FreeRealms which is nominally free, as are EverQuest II Extended, Pirates of the Burning Sea, and Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures.  If that does not necessarily break the Station Access model, it certainly adds a new dynamic to it.

And you have Station Cash, which has been around for a while now and which was not met with enthusiasm. (And it still has the purists screaming. See race change potion on Fippy Darkpaw.)  Station Cash has become, over the last two and a half years, an increasingly bigger piece of SOE’s revenue pie.  And this, I am going to guess, is probably the key item.

While market changes certainly had no small influence, I am going to bet that somebody did the math, went through and figured out how much revenue there was in attracting each free to play player and how much that revenue changed… went up… when a free to play player converted to a subscription.

Those would be very interesting numbers to see, but I would guess that Station Cash purchases for a player that commits to a subscription are higher than for a free player.  And, I would additionally be willing to bet that somebody willing to spend Station Cash in one game is more likely to spend it in other SOE games.

And if that is the case, getting somebody to commit to all of your games probably nets out better in the long run if Station Access is less expensive because more people are likely to commit over all.

Or so goes my theory, which I will summarize as “market change and the increasing importance of Station Cash purchases to the SOE bottom line.”

Syp took a look at the value proposition of the change, which for a consumer can simply be said to be “better,” but I haven’t see much on the “Why” front.

What do you think is really driving this change?

Addendum: They posted the webcast to YouTube and mentioned the Station Access pricing change in their post on the Station Blog, so we now have something in writing.  Still no details… like an actual date.

When You’ve Given People a Reason Not to Hand You Their Credit Card… May 20, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment, Vanguard SOH.
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6 comments

It is probably a good time to highlight how potential customers can pay with cash.


During the US Memorial Day weekend, May 27th through 30th, SOE is having another bonus Station Cash event.

Yes indeed, a triple Station Cash event.

Unlike the previous double Station Cash offer, this one appears to only be good if you redeem an SOE game card.

$15 for 4,500 Station Cash is a good deal, if you were looking to buy some.  I might grab a card to finance copying a character over from live to EQ2X to give the guild another in-house crafter.

A pity it only applies to Station Cash.  Some of the cards can also be used to pay for your monthly subscription, and if Sony really wanted to move some cards off of store shelves, adding “Double Subscription Time” to “Triple Station Cash” would probably do it.

Will you be getting any Station Cash?

Would a double subscription time option tempt you?

What Would You Spend Station Cash On? April 27, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Sony Online Entertainment.
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9 comments

Sort of the flip side of the last post when I was wondering what we should commit ourselves to crafting as a group.  What do you think you is worth some money in the Station Cash Store?  What should we consider buying?

There are some choices.

The Categories

Appearance Items – A matter of taste I suppose.  Not sure I need a giant mushroom hat or a cosmetic pet.  But I did buy the bunny hat.

Bags – 44 slot bags are 550 to 750 SC and they actually show up on you character as backpacks.  Interesting if you want that look.  Standard bags are 50 SC for 16 slots to 150 SC for 24 slots.  A 24 slot bag is 4 gold on the broker at the moment, so I would probably buy from the broker.

Character Packs – If you want to play one of the races outside of humans, half-elves, barbarians, or erudites.  While I have played a dwarf, I generally go half-elf or barbarian.  And having a gold account at the moment, all the classes are open to me.

Consumables – Exp buffs, ability buffs, and the dreaded Wand of Obliteration.  Only 50 SC for that.

One shot, one kill

Expansions – If I want the Velious expansion, it is 4300 SC, or 9700 SC for the collector’s edition.  Seems a bit pricey, but I am a long way from needing that content, and if I wait long enough they might give me a free level 90 character.

Housing – Real money for virtual decor.  I’ll stick with in-game carpenters.

Legends of Norrath – I’ve never gotten into the game, so no draw there for me.

Mounts – I actually considered buying a fast mount for Station Case… until I saw them.  I do not feel the need to have a mount that screams “Everybody look at me!”  I’ll save up for a plain horse.

Services – Well, the guild charter came from there.  Not sure I’ll need the name/race change stuff any time soon.

Tradeskill Components – Buy a stack of 200 common harvestables for 50 SC or 5 rares for 250 SC.  I suppose, in a pinch.

Equipment – Saved for last, since these are the items that compete with trade skills.

A weapon is a possibility.  I wouldn’t invest at lower levels, where you might out grow it fast.

Sword for Sale - $1.00

But at high levels a master crafted sword for 100 SC might seem like a deal.  Shields run in the same price range, but for some reason I am not as enthusiastic about paying a buck for an in-game shield.

Armor is a little more expensive, 250 SC to 750 SC depending on the level, but again it is master crafted.

A selection of armor

And then there are arrows.  50 SC will get you 5 stacks of vendor quality arrows.

Crap arrows for you!

I’d level up a woodworker before I’d bother spending Station Cash on those.

On which items would you spend Station Cash?  Or would you spend any at all?

Planning a Division of Labors April 26, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Instance Group.
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With the transition of the instance group to a new game, everybody is in the process of establishing their role in the new order of things in EverQuest II.

We started with our characters, shaking out into the roles of tank, healer, and a variety of not necessarily DPS classes. (Okay, the wizard is totally DPS, but the troubadour and the swashbuckler have more tricks in their portfolio than a Swiss Army knife.)

After character classes, we started talking about trade skills.  Trade skills can be very useful in EQ2, and some of them feel almost indispensable to any regular group or guild.

Not all of us will pursue trade skills, given the variability of play time across the group.  But a couple of us will, and with Meclin joining us for the ride and an alt or two in play, we can probably count on covering at least 4 of the crafting trades in game.

But which ones should we go after in a serious way?  Which ones will benefit the team the most?

Which craft to choose?

There are nine major crafts in the game, and a character can learn only one.  So while Potshot muses about harvesting materials for trade skills, I am trying to figure out what we should be trying to make.

This is complicated by the Station Cash (SC) Store, something new in the mix of things in EverQuest II Extended.  Some of the crafts compete directly with the store while others have the market to themselves.

The trade skill choices are divided into three categories for reasons of symmetry I would guess.  A couple seem to overlap and one sticks out as different than the rest, but when you force things into groups you’re always going to end up with one of those “and everything that was left” categories.

The trade skill divisions are:

Craftsmen – Workers of wood, makers of pastries

Carpenter – Makes house decorations, storage boxes, salesman’s racks, and altars

  • Plus – Everybody needs those boxes, the salesman’s racks are essential to any serious seller, and housing decorations sell surprising well on the market.
  • Minus – Nothing you make will kill an NPC directly, even if you drop that dresser on it.  Plus the altar thing makes me think of the first two commandments and that scene in Inferno when Alan Carpentier has to explain away making up religions in his books. Is creating a fake person and having them worship a fake god heresy?

Provisioner – Makes food and drink

  • Plus – No SC Store equivalent, player created food has bonuses far beyond NPC vendor food, has been a money making profession in the past.
  • Minus – A lot of people will just by NPC vendor food, while slot-machine like food harvest nodes have a habit of coming up with three lemons when all you needed were two cherries.  And did you keep your fishing skill up to level?

Woodworker – Makes totems, small shields, bows, arrows, other wooden weapons, and gets confused with the carpenter a lot.

  • Plus – Bows are nice and I have made more money selling arrows on the broker than I have via any other method.  And harvesting tools are appreciated by everyone.
  • Minus – Almost everything you make competes with the SC Store.

Outfitters – Makers of player equipment… unless it is made from wood… or is considered jewelry.

Armorer – Makes chain and plate armor plus shields

  • Plus – Very handy to have about when you need a new suit.  People need a whole suit of 10 pieces every 10 levels or so.
  • Minus – The SC store competes directly, with the demise of the first pristine exp bonus you end up having to make a lot of armor sets to level up.

Tailor – Makes cloth and leather armor, plus bags, quivers, and other ammo pouches for ranged weapons.

  • Plus – Like the armor crafter, people need a new suit of something every 10 levels or so, bags are really handy, and quivers and ammo pouches actually sell pretty well.
  • Minus – The SC store sells the same suits and better bags than you’ll be able to make for a long long time.

Weaponsmith – Makes all metal weapons like swords, daggers, and axes.

  • Plus – Handy to have about, not many people take this route, lots of strange and exotic weapons to be made
  • Minus – People generally just need 1 or 2 weapons every 10 levels so selling can be tough even when you don’t compete with the SC Store, and of course you compete directly with it.

Scholars – Makers of skill upgrades and shiny little things

Alchemist – Makes skill upgrades for fighters along with poisons, buffs, and the closest thing to a healing potion in EQ2, which frankly isn’t that close at all.

  • Plus – Lots and lots of recipes, no SC Store competition
  • Minus – Competition comes from the very, very common Adpet skill drops from NPCs which cut into the sale of journeyman skills while NPC vendors sell lesser versions of some of your potions.

Jeweler – Makes skill upgrades for scouts along with items for all of the non-armor spots including rings, necklaces, earrings, and, oddly enough, belts.

  • Plus – Plenty to make, little SC Store or NPC competition
  • Minus – The whole Adept drop competition plus you end up with so many recipes it can be tough to keep track of them and what they do.

Scribe – Makes skill upgrades for priests and mages

  • Plus – Lots of skills to make, no SC Store competition
  • Minus – Adpet level skill drops from NPCs tend to flood the market which kill off the sales of journeyman skills, and all you make are skills

So that is the list.

My temptation is to try and get people to cover all of the scholar professions to cover the making of player skills and spells.  It is easy to forget, coming from WoW, that skills have various quality levels.  The skill tiers have been renamed since I last crafted heavily in EQ2 (and what hasn’t been renamed or reworked heavily in EQ2 by now?), but they are now ranked:

  • Master (rare drop from named mobs)
  • Expert (crafted)
  • Adept (random, but common, drop)
  • Journeyman (crafted)
  • Apprentice (free)

The apprentice skill is what you get for free as you level up.  You don’t even have to visit a guild master or anything.  However, life starts getting tough with only apprentice skills somewhere in the mid-20s and I hear that beyond 70 or so life with such skills becomes near impossible.

So keeping the group out of the apprentice doldrums has an appeal.  On the other hand, I’ve been down the skill creation path before and the free flowing adept skills can crush you if you are not careful.

Still, having those skills upgrades on hand would be good.

At this point I have sent Campell down the path as a jeweler.  That will keep him and Cerredwyn good on skills as well as having all the jewelry slots covered.

Cerredwyn has expressed a desire to try carpentry, so we may have housing decor and boxes.

But what other trade skills should we try to pursue as a group?

I am also tempted to copy over one of my characters from Crushbone.  I have an alchemist and a woodworker that are both up in the 70s skill wise.  And with SOE having dropped the price of a copy by $10 and that half-price Station Cash I just bought, the price of copying one character seems fairly reasonable.

First though, we need to figure out what we want  to do and what we really need.