Pull up a chair and grab a cup of your favorite beverage as we delve into our semi-monthly look at what's turning heads and generating discussion in the EverQuest II community. As it turns out, nothing stirs the pot more than server merges (and maybe Station Cash), and in this week's edition we'll highlight a few noteworthy conversations you may have missed.
Turn the page for more.
The most recent 800-pound news gorilla is, of course, the official server merge announcement for EQII's Live service. It's no secret that EQII's traditional subscription-based population has been slowly dwindling over time, and SOE officially acknowledged the coming merges (first in an email blast that apparently went out prematurely, and later in a message from Dave "Smokejumper" Georgeson) on the game's official website.
The news has generated mostly positive press as well as a good reception from the game's various forum communities, though there are a few squeaky wheels clamoring to have additional servers added to the list. SOE has flatly nixed the possibility of the Live Gamer Vox and Bazaar servers joining the party on account of contractual obligations to the Live Gamer service provider.
SOE also elected to leave the subscription game's second roleplaying shard alone, despite some players asserting that Lucan D'Lere is a ghost-town (compared to its RP-counterpart Antonia Bayle) and in dire need of a population upgrade. A couple of interesting threads have sprung up regarding Lucan's perceived population woes, both of them featuring rather vehement arguments from the roleplayers who feel that a merger would spoil the small-town feel of the server and its stalwart community.
EQ2X is doing fantastic. Even with only moderate amounts of marketing, new [players] are coming in at a regular rate, [...] there is no chance EQ2X is going to fail at this point. None at all.
[Update]: EQII lead programmer Greg "Rothgar" Spence checked in on the official boards to let folks know that a Lucan D'Lere merge was considered. Ultimately, they decided against overloading Antonia Bayle (or merging an RP server with a non-RP one) for the time being. "This doesn't mean we won't consider something in the future, but we already have a large number of mergers on our hands to do before the expansion ships and we don't need to add more to our plate just yet," Spence wrote.
Get your arrows (on the Station Marketplace)
EQ2Wire brings an interesting thought to the table this week in the form of site founder Feldon's musings on the newly released Station Cash arrows. He concludes that the under-the-radar introduction is another in a calculated series of moves to bring higher levels of RMT to the Live servers, ostensibly to phase them out in favor of F2P shards down the road.
Regardless of whether you agree with Feldon or not, SOE is clearly engaging in a curious waltz with its long-time customer base. It seems like they desperately want to move to full on free-to-play but are unable to do so completely. As Feldon states, they're "working on" the Live servers bit by bit and one piece of RMT at a time. While the official SOE reasoning on separating EQ2X and EQII Live was out of respect for the anti-RMT wishes of the original playerbase, this doesn't jive with the continued introductions of new cash conveniences on Live.
Many people are trying EQ2X, of that there can be no doubt. Whether SOE is making as much money from it as they'd hoped is another question. Certainly the devs are dragging their feet on opening up a second F2P shard, which leads me to suspect that demand for the six-year old game simply isn't sustainable without at least some remnants of the devoted Live subscription folks. I could be wrong, and they could open up a slew of new F2P shards tomorrow, but until they do, signs point to Live continuing to be a factor in EQII's development going forward. That said, I suspect that SOE would completely abandon it in a heartbeat if it were financially feasible.
EQ2X - Hot or not?
A disgruntled poster fired up a few folks on the official EQ2X boards with his summation of the new F2P client's "failure." Misuse of the word failure aside, the thread is noteworthy both for the (mostly) reasoned community member responses and also the involvement of EQII producer Dave Georgeson. Though Smokejumper hasn't been as active on the o-boards as he'd been over the first couple of months of his tenure (a fact he alludes to in this thread), he makes no bones about the EQ2X experiment and its resounding success.
"EQ2X is doing fantastic. Even with only moderate amounts of marketing, new [players] are coming in at a regular rate. The lack of forum posting you're seeing is actually a good sign. The happier players are, the more they play instead of posting. That's a well-documented phenomenon in this genre of gaming," he writes. "There's no chance EQ2X is going to fail at this point. None at all. There are no guarantees on anything in the future, but for right now, it's going strong."
Aside from the boldness of that statement, Smokejumper also brings up an interesting point in regard to SOE's marketing for both EQII Live and EQ2X: namely that there hasn't been much of it. If SOE were to spend a little cash pimping EQ2X on television a la Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft, chances are the game would be doing more than coasting along on word of mouth. I suspect that much of SOE's marketing budget is going to be reserved for newer titles like DCUO and even EverQuest Next, as there's only so much interest you can generate in a title of EQII's age in today's highly competitive MMO market.
That's all the time I have for this week. Join me next time as I solve EQII's population problems, cure what ails its economy, and provide free cookies for every troll, elf, and ratonga in Norrath --- all before breakfast. Until then, keep the blue side up.
Jef Reahard may be an eternal EverQuest II newb, but he writes a weekly column about the game anyway, through the eyes of a Ratonga Wizard (or any one of 3,720 other alts). If it has to do with the huge and ever-expanding world of EQII, it's been jotted down in The Tattered Notebook. Send Ratonga fan mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.