is going to offer a free-to-play option along with several new
subscription plans. At Ten Ton Hammer, we've always felt this title has
been one of the most full, enjoyable MMOG experiences available in
today's market and the news that it will now be more accessible means
exciting times ahead with EverQuest
II Extended (see the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/everquest-2/news/eq2-goes-free-to-play">press
release for the official announcement).
Entertainment recognizes the power of their game and as Dave Georgeson
steps up to bat as the game's producer, the future is looking brighter
still. We got on the phone with Dave to discuss the new revenue model
and what, if any, changes this means for the current subscribers. Dave
was happy to answer our questions and give us a bit of insight as to
their choice for another industry first: offering free-to-play services
on completely different servers than those of the current live game
Ten Ton Hammer: With the
introduction of EverQuest 2 Extended, what are some of the changes
going into the game?
We've done a ton of stuff to the game. There's an improved UI; we've
changed a lot of the new user experiences; we fixed some of the skill
progressions at the lower levels so that you get more useful spells,
and less of the stuff you don't need. For example, you don't need four
versions of taunt before you're level 15. We've also made the tutorials
a lot easier to understand; used a lot more pictures, making it a lot
more intuitive for players.
When I first took over the game I very quickly realized that the game
was fantastic. There was a lot of depth, a huge feature set, and a lot
of different things you could do. There are a lot of MMOs that only
dream of having all the stuff that is in this game. But, a lot of it
was really hard to learn. The learning curve was pretty fierce. We were
asking a lot from the players. We wanted to change a lot of that so
people could get into the game and enjoy it easily. I think we've made
pretty good strides towards that.
The free-to-play stuff is separate from that. It's not coincidental
that it's coming out at the same time, but we would have done the
changes that we're doing now anyway. The game needed those changes to
attract new blood.
Cragged Spine in EverQuest
Ten Ton Hammer: So the
changes in the game are also going to happen on Live?
That's kind of a given for all the future stuff that we do.
There is a subsection of stuff in the marketplace that is free-to-play
specific--it only shows up on the extended service, but other than
that, everything is the same between the two services. When we put out
the expansion this coming winter it will be available on both services
at the same time. Whenever we do a game update it will be available at
the same time on both services.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you
give us an example of the kinds of things that will be available on the
marketplace in Extended but not on Live?
The Extended marketplace has a lot of convenience items in it. They are
not items that you have to have. We're not balancing the game so you
will feel you need to purchase anything.
For instance, if you have a lot of good gear but don't have a great
shield you can buy one from the marketplace that has good stats. It
won't be the best stats. There will always be better fabled and
legendary items than you'll be able to get in the marketplace but you
can get a solid piece of equipment for you level and class. There are
hundreds of items available but for each class there are maybe 25 items
you can choose from.
Then there are potions. There is a self-rez item, a heal potion, a buff
potion, attack potions--things like that so that when you don't have a
group they will be very convenient items to have. They don't change the
way you have to play the game but if you want to play it more casually
and substitute some of your cash for time you will have that option.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there
anything that will be available on the Live server marketplace and not
will be items available on both Extended and Live, but stat items will
be on Extended only.
One of the cool new things we'll be adding to both marketplaces is
Heritage armor appearance items. One of the sets coming up real soon is
a Dark Elf set. That will be available on both services. But anything
that will directly affect the game as far as being able to get you
ahead faster or purchasing stats, those are only available on the
This is mostly because our players told us that they definitely do not
want those types of items on the subscription service servers, so we're
not putting it there.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do you
feel the introduction of the Extended service will affect the
population of the Live servers?
many ways, it's a bit of an experiment. We know what our players have
told us, and have told us repeatedly, is that they do not want the
things offered in the Extended service on the Live servers. They don't
want to have anything to do with that. They like the way they are
playing and they want to continue playing in the game where they have
to have earned the really cool stuff, and not have purchased it.
We believe them, and that's why we set up a completely separate
service. Now we'll see. The fact of the matter is that on the
subscription side people have a lot of friends already. They've got
guilds, they've invested months of time making really great guild halls
and ranking up their guilds. There are a lot of reasons for them not to
be attracted to move over to the new service where that stuff wouldn't
be in existence. I'm sure there will be some that will want to go over
to the new service simply because it's a wild new world. I remember
back in EverQuest
1 when they would open a new world and it would be a
huge Oklahoma Land Rush trying to be the first kids on the block to
reach the max level.
So I expect some of that to occur, but I also expect that after that
initial rush and after those people get onto the leaderboards, I expect
many will go back to the subscription service. Now will that happen? I
don't know. But whatever does happen basically boils down to the fact
that we are providing the opportunity that they want. If they end up
flocking to the free-to-play, it will be because they like it better.
If they want to stay on the subscription side, then that's great too.
The reason we're offering free-to-play is so that the people out there
who are unaware of EverQuest
II, or who are being dissuaded from even
trying it because they don't want to pay for a box copy and commit to a
subscription, this will let them get into it and try it for a while and
realize that it kicks ass.
alt="Moonlight Enchantments in EQ2"
One of EverQuest
II's monthly events
takes players into Moonlight Enchantments
Ten Ton Hammer: Were
there any other motivations to offer the game as a free-to-play service?
I first took over the game, one of the first things I noticed was that
this game kicks ass. But unfortunately gamers are of the attitude that
if it's not the newest thing then they don't look at it. So what we're
trying to do here is remove the obstacles to entry to reach the vast
majority of gamers out there who are not even MMO players. I know
they're interested in virtual worlds. I have set up worlds for
free-to-play players in the past. I know that they want something rich.
They want something deep. If we make it available to them, I hope they
come check it out.
So in doing this we'll be the biggest, baddest free-to-play opportunity
that exists in the world. There isn't anything better that's
free-to-play than what we can offer right now. I'm hoping that this
makes a big splash and a lot of people find out about it because it is
a damn good game.
Ten Ton Hammer: So both
services are exactly the same game, apart from some options in the
Effectively [EverQuest II Extended] is a big bold free trial that doesn't have a limit with
an item-based marketplace.
Ten Ton Hammer: How do
you plan on reaching out with the word of style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest II
now we're in Alpha, and focused on getting into the Beta phase. The
only people who can currently play it are existing subscribers. When
we come out of Alpha some time after Fan Faire we'll make it available
to the general public.
We think word-of-mouth will carry it quite a way, and then we'll spend
a little bit of time tweaking it before we start spending any marketing
money on it. But eventually you will see the marketing campaign.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will
veteran rewards be available in style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">EverQuest II
Dave: Not on
Extended. We'll keep them on the subscription side and, in fact, we're
adding a bunch of new incentives for multi-month subscriptions on the
Live service so there will be exclusive items that you can't get
anywhere else. We're also keeping the Recruit-a-Friend program going.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can you
move your character from Live to Extended and back again?
is no return trip right now. It's one of the things we're discussing
for later but for right now we're only allowing copies, not transfers,
from subscription to the Extended service.
The reason we're doing it that way is because we want people to be able
to try it with their high level characters if they want to, or they can
start a new character. But we don't want to totally sandbag the
economy. We want the structure of the new service to grow in its own
One of the reasons we're setting it up as a separate service is so the
free-to-play mentality doesn't change the way the subscription worlds
are set up. I think the subscription players right now would have
issues with characters getting copied over from the free-to-play
service if they felt those characters have bought their way to success.
Ten Ton Hammer: One of
the perks of silver and gold memberships is more chat options. What
does that entail?
sounds more mysterious than it really is. At free membership you
basically don't have any access to the broadcast channels. Shout,
auction, things like that you don't have access to. That's really just
troll prevention. At silver and gold it opens back up so you have all
those options again.
In fact, since you don't get the broker option until you're a gold
member, we kind of think we might see a return to the market methods of
EQ1 when people used the auction channel to sell to each
other. We like that idea, so we're anxious to see if it
actually occurs. It was very social.
Ten Ton Hammer: This all
sounds like great news--great news for new players to get a chance to
try the game out, and great news for existing players because it won't
affect their game at all. Is there anything else you'd like to tell the
personally very excited about this. This is a new thing for SOE.
Clearly free-to-play is the trend in which the industry is going. I
think that we can be really successful with it.
We had a great year last year. Our numbers are solid. We're doing well.
We still have great participation from the SOE community but if we can
make a lot of people aware of the game again... well, it's still one of
the best MMOGs in existence. It could be great. We'll see what happens.
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our EverQuest II Game Page.