Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Free Everquest

Due to a combination of too much work and general MMO burnout I haven't been playing all that much lately. And when I've been playing, I've been mostly exploring a beta I'm in. So right now I'm paying for a subscription to World of Warcraft, and for a subscription to Age of Conan, and I'm not using either enough to really justify the expense. I'm not playing Lord of the Rings Online either, although I have a lifetime subscription. Not a financial problem, just a problem of too many games to play, and not enough time or motivation. So I can't say I'm terribly thrilled by SOE's offer to let everyone who ever played EQ or EQ2 to come back and play for free until end of July.

I do think MMORPGs should have a free trial mode, where you can play the game for a week or two before buying it. "Come back!" offers are somewhat less effective, because the person stopped playing for a reason, and unless a game has changed a lot, the reason is probably still there. Two free months for coming back not only smacks of desperation, but is also too long to be effective. The only good reason to go back to a really old game like Everquest (and EQ2 isn't a spring chicken any more either) is nostalgia. Two months is more than enough for people to notice that while revisiting fond memories is cool, revisiting old frustrations is not. MMOs have evolved a lot since EQ, and I don't just mean graphically.

I do believe that the original Everquest had a superior community and social structure than modern MMOs. Unfortunately that isn't something you can get back by simply re-installing the game on your computer. Chances are your friends are long gone elsewhere. And while I think that World of Warcraft and subsequent games went too far with players not needing each other any more, the forced grouping of Everquest is hardly optimal either. I'd rather play a new game, somewhat more group-centric and social than WoW, than go back to Everquest.

Everquest 2 I tried twice, and never really got into it. The game has a lot of strong points, but also a lot of weaknesses. My biggest complaint is that I constantly feel confused and befuddled when playing EQ2; this is not a game that tells you what to do next or where to go next or how to achieve what you want to achieve. As a result the whole experience feels a bit incoherent and random, not like being part of one big world with consistent lore. So I really don't feel like giving the game a third chance.

So I'm not planning to take up SOE on their generous offer. There is a list of things I'd like to do in Age of Conan before unsubscribing from that again: see how the level 30+ destiny quest is, play the level 1-20 destiny quest line with other characters to see the story in a different angle, and see whether the guild housing features are fun. With WoW I'm pretty certain I'll be back for WotLK, I don't know whether I'll get an urge to play it a bit more during my holidays in July, and so I don't really want to cancel my subscription. The two Everquests are so low on my list of priorities that I'm not even going to play them for free.

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