EverQuest, which will hit its 15th birthday next March, has launched their 20th game expansion today. It bears the title Call of the Forsaken.
And, in many ways it looks like a traditional MMO expansion from the game that set the bar for MMO expansions. More places and expanded features make up the bulk of the offering:
- Mercenary Alternate Advancements (AAs) — A specialized line of AAs that will enable players to customize the skills of mercenaries and make them even more powerful.
- Mercenary Gear — The ability for player to manage Mercenary equipment and provide them with powerful weapons and armor.
- Heroic Adventures — Mission style content that allow for unique experiences each time you play through them, including a chance at new loot, rares, and currency you can collect and spend at special merchants!
- Shared Bank Slots (2)
- More Spells, Alternate Advancements (AAs) and Gear
- New Raids
- New Tradeskill Recipes
- New Zones Including West Karana, Neriak 4th Gate, Bixie Warfront and the Deadhills!
So mercenaries are getting an expanded role, receiving alternate advancement and gear. Heroic Adventures sound like a sort of adventure on demand thing. More spells, AAs, gear, recipies, raids and zones are staples of any EverQuest expansion. I do wonder about what will happen to West Karana, a zone that very much frames many of my early EverQuest memories.
While I am glad that SOE is putting a bit of focus back on a zone that has pretty much lain fallow for most of the life of the game, I am hesitant to cheer on anything that might revamp the zone the way the Freeport and The Commonlands were redone. I suppose I had best log in and see what has happened. My selfish need for nostalgia has been well served by SOE ignoring the Qeynos end of Norrath, but I suppose even than must come to and end some day.
Not an expansion I am going to run out and buy… my days of keeping current with EverQuest have long passed… but an event worthy of note.
And it does bring up the meaning of expansions at a time when SOE is firmly in the free to play camp. How free is free really when there is a $40 price tag to see the latest content and who gets what with which expansion?
The former is a bit awkward in the light of SOE’s “Free to Play Your Way” motto and digs into my ongoing complaint about how the term gets thrown around so easily yet means something different in almost any two MMOs you compare. What is free to play really?
The latter is a long time problem for EverQuest. Expansions got quite out of hand after a few years, once they went to the “two expansions a year” mode of operation. If you took a break and came back, you could find yourself behind a couple of expansions and unable to find a copy on store shelves or unwilling to part with the money just to catch up. So there started to be expansion roll-up releases like EverQuest Platinum, EverQuest Titanium, and the EverQuest Anniversary Edition which, as you can see, started to proliferate as well.
So free to play was a way to get out from under that issue, at least for a while. The slate was wiped clean. And then expansions kept going. The desire to make some money from selling the content did not go away. So now we are in an odd in-between world, where the last couple of expansions… the newest stuff… is for sale, but everything before that is free. That really targets the loyal players, though they are the ones most willing to part with money for the game, while all the slackers… the freebs… those of us playing for free are given a reverse incentive along the lines of the Steam Summer sale. If we wait, will we get all of this at no additional cost?
And on we go and I wonder which way SOE should go. Should they try to be more like Lord of the Rings Online, which has diligently held onto the idea of selling expansions? You still have to buy Mines of Moria and everything thereafter if you want to go there. Or should they be more like CCP with EVE Online and admit to themselves that expansions are primarily there to keep the players engaged, so it might be better just to give them away and find other sources of revenue?
What is the optimum path for free?
And, of course, how many more expansions do you think EverQuest has in it? How long will people keep buying them in numbers large enough to make them worthwhile?