The Call of Free Trade in Norrath

Daybreak put up a new EverQuest II server yesterday.  Named “Isle of Refuge” after the original new player starting area, Daybreak is billing this as a “Free Trade” server.

Obligatory Isle of Refuge screen shot stolen from Daybreak

Obligatory Isle of Refuge screen shot stolen from Daybreak

Back when the intention to launch this server was announced, I wasn’t sure I got the appeal of the”free trade” idea.  And now that it has gone live, I’m still not sure.

It isn’t like the concept is difficult or subtle.  I am pretty sure I get what they mean from their description:

Isle of Refuge is what we call a “Free Trade Server.” This means that almost all items can be traded freely between players. There are a few exceptions – Heirloom items purchased via a merchant or in the marketplace, granted from repeatable quests, or received via /claims will remain Heirloom.

Basically, what we might call “bind on pick up” items in the context of WoW will mostly be “bind on equip” when it comes to this server.  Yes, I know that in EQII the flags “attuned,” “no trade,” and “heirloom” are used, but I think WoW’s descriptions are better.  So you can sell or trade your epic raid gear, or twink alts with it, or whatever.

I am just not sure I get WHY this is seen as a significant enough differentiation from other normal live servers to justify rolling up a new server.  Is there a huge demand for free trade?  Have people been agitating for it in the forums for ages?  It certainly doesn’t seem to justify the Daybreak tag line for it:

Get ready to journey to a Norrath like you’ve never experienced before.

Because it will otherwise be a live server.  It won’t be content locked or involve progression or have steeper experience tables or harsher death penalties or any of those things.  I don’t even think the Isle of Refuge will appear on a server named “Isle of Refuge.”  Daybreak, like SOE before it, seems to have no sense and/or fear of irony.

The only restrictions will be that you won’t be able to transfer a character to or from another server (but you can buy a level 90 if you want), some “/claim” items won’t be available, there won’t be battlegrounds, and you will have to be a subscriber in order to play, which was the experience they used to offer back before EverQuest II Extended launched the free to play idea at SOE.

Basically all stuff I have, in fact, experienced before.  I’ll even count transfers, given how prohibitively expensive they were back in the day.

Of course, I think it is the last bit, the All Access requirement, is the real key to the situation.

After ages of the SOE “Free to Play, Your Way!” mantra, which admittedly meant trying to get you to subscribe via a variety of sticks and carrots, Daybreak has bought into the idea of special servers for subscribers.  We saw progression servers on the Daybreak road map almost immediately after they were free from SOE.

However, my guess is that they couldn’t quite bring themselves to put up a new, subscriber-only server where the big draw was “No Freep Scum Allowed!”  So “Free Trade” became the MacGuffin here.  It is all about that.

Not that their plan lacks its appealing aspects.

New server smell, with no transfers from the rest of the game, does mean building a new community.  It will be a fresh start on a new server with new markets and new guilds, all in the current content package; same expansions, same events, same specials, same cash shop, just about the same everything.  So you can leave behind your old, overstuffed bank and those offending freeloaders and come play on a server for people who have some skin in the game!  Also, free trade!

I do sort of wish that the level 90 buy-in option wasn’t available, but I am sure it will be popular and help soak up the remains of the giant pool of Station Cash that I bet is still left over from the foolhardy sales during the dark ages of SOE’s failure to understand economics, an era which led to people paying as little as $5.00 for expansions and $1.25 a month for a Gold subscription.

So there it is.  A chance to play on a fresh server with some minor rules variations.

Now the question is, after Daybreak built it, will they come?  Will people… subscribers… flock to this new opportunity?  Does new server smell, with a side order of free trade, have the draw?  And if it is successful, will it simply draw off the paying membership from the recently consolidated live servers, fragmenting populations and leaving live in something of a bind?

Finally, if it does have some success, will it be headed to EverQuest next… erm, I mean headed next to EverQuest?

We shall see.  The new server isn’t up on the Daybreak status page yet, so I cannot tell if it is bursting at the seams or a ghost town.

Hat Tip to EQ2 Wire for reminding me yet again that this server was a thing.

3 thoughts on “The Call of Free Trade in Norrath

  1. bhagpuss

    Well, if it heads to EQ it will be making a return, not a first appearance. Isle of Refuge is basically the old Firiona Vie server from EQ, minus the awkward “roleplaying” ruleset that SOE dropped not all that long after it launched.

    FV, where almost all items were tradable and on which I played for a while when it was brand new and had rules such as “no Common Language” that made it an unusual experience to say the least, ended its life as a hideous swamp of hyper-inflation and, by some accounts, depravity. It was not counted generally counted as a success although it had its apologists.

    I’m surprised DBG are willing to repeat the experiment because the problem they are storing up is the same one SOE had with Firiona Vie – what do you do with customers who end up trapped on your dead server when you have stated categorically that they can never transfer off? Although as I check, FV is still up and running so maybe my memory of their desperate population problems is faulty…

    Also, as someone mentions on a thread about FV on Reddit, it became “the RMT capital of Norrath” for obvious reasons. Don’t think that won’t happen again.

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  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – As I noted, I am not sure you can really count not having transfers available as an issue until we get to the Station Cash era and the server transfer token. Before then it was $50 a character, required a tech support ticket, a call to tech support to get it actually done, and it seemed likely to get screwed up along the way.

    I checked in on the status page and, at mid-week off peak time, Phinigel had a “high” population, FV was at “medium,” and every other server was at “low.” Given that “low” seems to be the default for most of the servers even at peak times, FV doesn’t seem to be doing that bad.

    Anyway, it wouldn’t exactly be out of character for the company that was once SOE to make an ill-considered decision like this. At least they aren’t selling the server to some Germans or letting UbiSoft run it.

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  3. Reinh-Eri (@ausj3w3l)

    I still find it interesting how Daybreak experiment with different rulesets and yeh this has been done beofre but I think there has to be differences based on the current mmo climate and playerbase.

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