Yes, I've been thinking about the EQ2 Extended free-to-play/real money transaction service that SOE is going to implement soon. I've been attempting to read the player feedback thread on the EQ2 forums and I may have permanently scarred myself emotionally in the attempt. Gordon at We Fly Spitfires echoes some of the sentiment that SOE is attempting to rip-off the new incoming players. Both Tipa on West Karana and Karen on Journeys with Jaye (and co-host of Shut Up We're Talking) are both concerned with the deliberate split in the EQ2 community the proposal will create. Wilhelm on The Ancient Gaming Noob sees the Bronze plan as an opportunity for some hard mode play and the ability to make a run at the level cap with some restrictive rules.
The thing is, almost no one commenting on EQ2 Extended has actually logged onto the alpha servers to take a peek. One person who has is Blagpuss, a frequent commenter on several MMO blogs. I'm going to take the liberty of combining what he has said in a couple of places because he just makes sense.
First, Blagpuss posted on West Karana on Thursday:
"Bronze level players won’t have a particularly “challenging” experience, in my opinion. They’ll have a lot of fun.
"Gearwise, they can make and use Mastercrafted. Right up to the level cap they have (80th), Mastercrafted is already the preferred option for most players. It’s better than most of the Legendary they are ever likely to see and most of the older Fabled that drops outside of raids.(For that matter, even the Treasured gear in recently revamped zones like Lavastorm is better than most old Legendary).
"Bag space sounds like an issue until you realise that it is easy in EQ2 to get bags that hold in excess of 40 items. The basic starting allocation of two of those already gives you more potential free bag space than some F2P games give AFTER you spend money on bags from the cash shop. With two slots in the bank that’s pushing 100 storage slots, and that’s not counting your House vault which could more than double that.
"I’ve spent a brief time in the Alpha, playing as a Bronze account (you get the option in Alpha to upgrade but I waned to see how Bronze might play when the thing goes Live). I haven’t had time to check what housing is available for Bronze players but I’ve read nothing about restrictions so presumably you can live in a mansion if you choose, which gives you the best part of the entire game for free!
"I was a little dubious about the Bronze and Silver schemes when I saw them on the comparison chart, but once you get into the game and see what they mean in practice, both look hugely attractive. For the average casual player who will never raid, there’s pretty much nothing beyond Silver that they’ll ever need."
"Oh, and on the topic of races, its a cheap cash shop unlock for packs of three races at a time. I don’t see that as a problem. The more I think about it, the more I prefer the EQ2X option to my current sub."
Okay, a first hand account that makes this sound attractive. Bronze accounts can make and use mastercrafted? What's the problem? Blagpuss continued with his analysis on The Ancient Gaming Noob on Saturday:
"Your bullet point list covers most of the reasons Mrs Bhagpuss and I will be making a free Bronze account when this thing goes Live, even though as Station Access subbers we get Gold on our existing accounts. We do indeed see most of those things as positive benefits, not restrictions. Like all elderly MMOs, EQ2 is getting a tad bloated and the restrictions offer a chance at some refreshing, cleaner gameplay.
"As I posted before, though, the Bronze and especially the Silver deal are actually MUCH more generous and much less restricted than that comparison chart suggests. Greem Armadillo covers some of that above.
"On your point that “The tale I have been told is that solo content from Kunark onward is balanced for people with raid level gear and master skills, since those are the people who were in the beta for the expansions”, this is nonsense. I’ve levelled several characters into and through the Kunark/Ykesha/Odus solo content and it’s all very easy. You don’t need raid gear to do it. You don’t even need group dungeon drops. You don’t even need Legendary or Mastercrafted.
"All the solo content in the whole of EQ2, from 1 to 90 is tuned to be comfortably achievable using the quest rewards obtained by doing it. There is a very slight bump occasionally when you move from one expansion to the next when you need to use the top quest gear from the last expansion to get the entry-level quest gear from the next, but that generally lasts maybe one play-session, if that before you’re rolling again.
"The issues of bag storage are also completely misleading. Yes, you only get two bag slots, but tradeable, player-made bags and boxes in EQ2 go up to 44 slots and have no level restrictions on use. That gives a basic Bronze account nearly 200 storage slots just in the Inventory and Bank alone, way more than most F2P games offer and more than some offer even AFTER you’ve paid for all the available space in the cash shop.
"But wait, that’s nowhere near all! Two hundred slots not enough space? Don’t forget your house vault. Basic Inn roooms, weekly rent 5 silver, come with two house vault slots (or is it three now since they added the third room?) and you can get a house with up to 6. That’s potentially another 250 or so storage slots. And of course you can place quite a few things into your house itself. And you can increase your space with crafted Vault Extenders. Etc etc.
"As for the gear issue, the prime gear for levelling is player-made Mastercrafted. It’s better than almost all Legendary in the 1 – 80 level range and better than a lot of the Fabled too. (In fact, the level 40ish Treasured drops in the recently revamped Lavastorm and Everfrost are better than most Legendary. I have characters who couldn’t upgrade those until they were in the 70s).
"People playing EQ2 on the Bronze plan who aren’t hung up on what other people are using (most soloers, in other words) are going to have an absolute blast in EQ2X just on the Bronze plan alone. The Silver plan, for the one-time $10 fee, which gives you access to the one element that you might miss, crafted “Expert” spells and abilities (the spell equivalent of Mastercrafted gear, in fact, so that’s one thing I think should have been included in the Bronze plan).
"Mrs Bhagpuss and I reckon EQ2X is going to cost us $16.50 each, or around one month’s regular sub, to get everything we’ll need. That’s $10 to upgrade to Silver and $6.50 to buy the Ratonga/Iksar/Ogre race pack. From there on its all gravy."
On Sunday, Blagpuss concluded with a comment on We Fly Spitfires:
"Very long thread and I’m late to it, so I’ll keep this short. I’ve posted enough about this elsewhere, anyway.
"I am absolutely thrilled about the new EQ2X service. I’m currently finding it quite hard to concentrate on other MMOs I’m playing because I can’t wait to get started on my new EQ2X characters. Ardwulf near the top of the thread about covers most of my reasons for being so excited.
"I have a Station Access account that I’ve held since they were invented. I betae’d EQ2 and have played it ever since. I’m logged into it as I type this. I could have the Gold version of EQ2X as a SA subber, but I am going to start a new, Bronze account and upgrade it to Silver, buy the Ratonga race and play EQ2 the way I think it should have been from launch – less bloated, more streamlined, on servers heaving with people having fun.
"I am not going to cancel my SA account. I will be keeping that and playing my regular characters too. With EQ2X I feel that there’s a good chance I will be able to play EQ2 for the foreseeable future. Without it, the only prospect was a slow, inevitable decline."
I'm not really sure the etiquette behind posting someone's comments on other blogs. But as Blagpuss is the most articulate voice in favor of EQ2 Extended, as well as one of the few I have found who have actually logged onto the alpha servers, I thought combining his thoughts into a post was worthwhile.
If Blagpuss reads this, I just have one question for him. When are you going to get your own blog? Because you've got me wanting to get into the beta for this.