And, to push the metaphor from my last EverQuest post way too far, while the teen whose parents fronted him the free beer might not be popular or even somebody you’d normally hang out with under any circumstances… dude, there is a party with free beer! For a short period, everybody is an old friend.
EverQuest went free to play yesterday on its 13th birthday and among the presents it got was a brand new server. And, offered a fresh beginning, many people took advantage of that opportunity.
Personally I think that launching a new server now and again… and not allowing players to transfer in from other servers for some decent interval, say 6-12 months… is a good idea. Everybody at low level and starting fresh in the world with no twink gear or huge reserves of coinage to hand is one of the few great opportunities for building the bonds of community. Plus, if you have an economy wracked by inflation, it is better to start fresh. Some market prices on older servers look like the values should be in ISK and not platinum coins.
I also got an email telling me that my account had been automatically upgraded to Silver level. Everybody who had an account got that I think. And that means about the same as it does in EverQuest II… a couple more slots here and there, ability to use all the chat channels, but there is still plenty left to pay for when it comes to classes and races. (See the subscription matrix.)
Rolling up a character showed me the 4 raced and 4 classes available for free.
Races are barbarian, human, gnome, and erudite, while classes are warrior, rogue, cleric, and wizard. Additional races are 300 Station Cash, while classes are 750 Station Cash. And since Station Cash is sold at about a penny per (unless it is on sale, like it is this weekend) you can do the math.
Fortunately I nearly always make a barbarian and warrior seemed good for the moment, so I went with that. And, because of the new server, I was able to get the name Wilhelm. Go me! Character creation is about the same as it has been for the last seven years or so. Granted, I did spot a couple of issues, like the fact that in playing with a human cleric, I was only allowed the face with the eyepatch, though I could play with eye colors with interesting results.
Anyway, I made my character and went off to the tutorial zone… where I ran into a few more problems.
You cannot start old-school in Freeport, Qeynos, or any of the other home towns. You are limited to Crescent Reach, the home town with the “solo all the way to 80″ zones around it that went in with The Serpent’s Spine.
You are also forced to listen to an awkwardly scripted voice over before you enter the tutorial, during with the EQ client shows that it is in the “Not Responding” state. I hope we have a bug open on that. Impatient people might force-quit the app at that point.
In one big change, it appears that WASD is now available as the default control.
The tutorial is the same as it has been for ages. However, once I got through the initial stage and went to join the shared area of the tutorial, the Mines of Gloomingdeep, I ran into a blip.
Early in the day, when the game was finally up, the tutorial just stopped for me at this point. I was not able to get into the party.
Well, first day glitches. I logged off and did other things… such as going to see the Cirque du Soliel show Totem. (Best girls on unicycles catching bowls on their heads performance ever!)
Later I deleted Wilhelm and started him again, got the name back and this time the tutorial offered to send me one of three instances of the Mines of Gloomingdeep. See, lots of people rolling new characters.
And while I was looking at the choices, the 10 second timer on that window ran down and it went away.
Because clearly, if you cannot make that choice in 10 seconds, you are some kind of slacker and not worthy of the game!
I was a little worried at that point. The event is triggered by you giving Arias a key you just took from the corpse of the jailer, and once you do that, the key is gone. Fortunately, just hailing Arias again seemed to put me back on track.
Once in the actual mines, the place was full of characters… and mercenaries. You get a free, low level mercenary right away. As a warrior, I was pretty happy to get a healer to tow along with me.
You can also see on my shoulders some of the new armor they hand out as part of the tutorial. It is the sort of stuff that gets better as you level up and is darn good stuff for noob armor. Unfortunately, that new armor is now part of all the tutorials, including the Fippy Darkpaw and Vulak time locked progression servers. There is, of course, an outcry on the forums, as this armor ends up being a lot better than anything you are likely to find in the game short of raiding.
But in a free to play game with so many levels, throwing out some choice bits of armor is probably okay. It will keep people from dying right away.
I didn’t get too far in the tutorial. The place was crowded by a lot of new players.
In the classic “what community?” way of things, most people were just trying to punch their quest tickets without regard to others. I did see some groups forming up, but when you give people content they can solo, they will solo it.
Still, things looked lively. The tutorial zone was never empty on any server I saw in the past, but I never saw it this crowded before, and not three times over. It will be interesting to see how popular EQ remains after the first blush of free wears off. Will the “oh, you’ve been idle for a minute, here is a “go gold” ad for you!” get on people’s nerves?
Will getting stuck in Crescent Reach suck the spirit of adventure out of the experience? Will too much good equipment up front take the edge off things?
Time will tell.