Expansions are feeling a little bit pricey

I’m going to talk about SOE’s Sentinel’s Fate expansion for EQ2, but what I’m saying applies to pretty much every ‘boxed’ expansion (even if that box is virtual) for MMOs. Try to keep that in mind.

Yesterday I went to Best Buy and bought Sentinel’s Fate. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision. I had been rolling the idea of returning to WoW around in my head, and Petter convinced me not to, but the ‘new MMO in my life’ seed had been planted. Not that I’m new to EQ2; I’ve played it on and off since it launched. But I haven’t played it for nearly a year at this point, and hey! New expansion. So why not?

There was a standard edition for $40 and a collector’s edition for $70. As far as I could tell, the difference was that the $70 version came with a mount. There were some physical gee-gaws too, but Angela has the collector’s edition so I figured I could play with her figurine if I really felt the need to do so. $30 for a mount sounded insane; maybe there were other differences that I didn’t pick up on. Frankly $70 was out of my price range so I didn’t look too closely.

So I pay my $40+ tax and get home. Don’t really need the disks, I’m told. I can just patch in Sentinel’s Fate once I activate it on my account. To do that I have to re-subscribe of course. $15 for a month. I start the patcher expecting it’ll run overnight or something. About 15 minutes later it was done.

And it struck me that I’d spent $55 to play this new content for a month. That seems steep to me; I could’ve bought a brand new MMO I’d never played for that much. Most new games cost $50 and give you a month to play for free. By deciding to return to EQ2 I’m actually paying $5 more than I would to play a game I’ve never played before.

And, from an emotional point of view, the fact that it could be patched in very quickly made it *feel* like a small expansion. I know that’s silly… basically I’m faulting a really efficient patcher and that’s no honest reflection of how big the content is. Or maybe something is fubar’d; I haven’t patched my client since maybe last summer at some point. How could it patch so quickly!? Is the new streaming technology built into Sentinel’s Fate?

But I digress. I think $55 is a lot to ask of people who’re returning to your game, and who represent potential sustained increased income if your content hooks them.

I was fine paying $40 to see what was new in EQ2, and this isn’t a case of bait-and-switch or anything. Sony is very above-board in letting you know you’ll need a sub and all that. But for some reason this time it just ‘clicked’ that I was paying $55, not $40, to try the new content, and that’s sort of soured the experience for me before I’ve even logged in.

The solution? Give a 30-day time credit with the purchase of a boxed expansion. When you activate that expansion, activate the account for 30 days (or extend the duration for already active accounts). Sure, that’s going to be a big dip in subscription income for a month, but think of the goodwill you’d generate and potential long-term increase in revenue. Alternatively, give the 30-day credit only to accounts that have been inactive for 3-months; then you’d just be covering people newly returned to the game (though that could be a real PR nightmare).

Anyway, I think next time an extension for an MMO I’m not currently playing comes out, I’ll wait for a sale or a price drop.

EQ2…so very, very lost

I spent most of my gaming time this weekend playing EQ2. Now I played this game at launch and I’ve gone back to it intermittently since then, but since launch Sony has released 5 expansions for the game.

And I find I just have no idea what’s out there any more. And the only reason I realize how much I don’t know is because I look over at Angela’s screen and say “Where is that?” and she’ll rattle off a zone name that I’ve never even heard of. Turns out I’m unaware of huge swatches of the gameworld.

This leads me to wonder how much I’m missing in other MMOs. LOTRO has had a series of free expansions since launch and honestly I’m never sure if I’m in an original area or an expansion area, so I have no idea if I’ve explored everything there is to explore.

I guess the only way to really keep track of an MMO is to be active in their *shudder* forums. But my experience is that after about a day surfing the official forums of any MMO, I’m ready to delete that MMO from my hard drive and snap the CDs in half; forums tend to attract the real bottom feeders of online society, and it only takes a few of these wretches to drown out all the well-meaning people who are saintly enough to endure the environment and stay around to help people. I come out of these places thinking “I do not want to associate with these people EVER AGAIN” and logging into the game means associating with them, so I just go off the game altogether (even though in-game experiences tend to be much, much more positive than forum experiences — this is an emotional reaction on my part, not a logical one).

Upgrades and patches and crashes, oh my!

So last night, leaving work, I was like a kid the day before Christmas. Not one but TWO shiny new expansions awaited me at home. By the time I went to bed, I felt like a kid on Christmas afternoon who’d found that all those mysterious packages had held socks and underwear.

I first hit LOTRO to get Mines of Moria installed. I’d opted for the downloadable version of that, and had “pre-downloaded” and installed the expansion a few days earlier. When I got home, the servers were down for a hot fix, but I ran the client anyway and… it took two hours to convert the game to Moria! Urgh. Once that finished, I logged in (after sitting in a queue) and played “spot the differences” with the UI (which primarily seemed to surround traits). I’d read about the big combat changes but I didn’t really see anything markedly different, but then I’m no theorycrafter. I wanted to get EQ2 going so I logged out after a few moments.

Angela had run the updater for EQ2 for me in the afternoon, so no patching was necessary. I had to re-open my account, apply my key and off I went, back to Norrath. My Dire Bear was kind of cool, but not as cool as the higher level ones (my character is 38) and not as fast as my horse. And beyond that… nothing really. I can’t fault Sony; they’d made it clear that this expansion was for level 50+, but I figured I’d find *something* shiny and new to excite me, but not really. I did log in to find I had 153% of the experience I needed to level from some change made in the past. So as soon as I got a point of xp, I dinged to 39 and half-way to 40, so level 50 doesn’t seem out of reach.

But then I crashed. Silently and with no fanfare. The screen froze for a second and suddenly I was looking at my desktop. I rebooted the PC, just in case, and once Vista eventually lurched back to life I logged back in. Played for 20 or so minutes and bam! Another crash to desktop. No obvious cause…nothing that connected the two occurrences in my mind. When last I played EQ2 (this past summer) the game was rock-stable for me, so I dunno what’s up. I have updated my video drivers since then; maybe its the PhysX crap in the nVidia drivers? I started surfing the support forums, but by this time it was after 11 and I finally just said “To hell with it” and went to bed, dejected and rather cranky.

And woke up even crankier this morning. Tonight I get to check out the “New XBox Experience” which honestly doesn’t sound all that exciting, but we’ll see. I’m going to set EQ2 to use a totally default interface in case one/some of my mods are out of date and breaking that game. If that doesn’t fix it, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Probably let it set for a few days until I’m more in the mood to troubleshoot PC gaming. If it turns into a long-running diagnosis/fix attempt cycle I’ll just write off my return to the game as a bad idea and go back to Warhammer.

Ah well. At least its Ghost Hunters night!

Character Transfers incoming to Warhammer

Everyone else has blogged about this too, but when I was getting ready to write my daily lunch-hour post I was drawing a complete blank. So I’m taking the easy way out.

We are pleased to announce that in the coming days we will be offering Free Character Transfers from our servers with lower populations to a set of servers with higher populations. To help you better prepare for these transfers we have provided additional details below.


Casualties of War’s Destruction side is on one of the servers that is currently tagged as a ‘Source’ server, so they need to decide if they’re going to move. My Destruction characters are on one of the servers tagged as a “Destination” server, so that’s good news for me. More warm bodies to wreak havoc with. CoW won’t be moving to ‘my’ server though as they’re on a Core Server and I’m on an RP one.

I’m glad they’re not letting people cross server-type lines in the transfer. There actually is RP on my RP server…not big elaborate stuff, but on a small, on-going scale, and its fun.

I’m still on the fence about what to do at the end of this Warhammer Month (the 18th of November, iirc). I enjoy the game when I play it lightly. When I start playing it a lot, the frustration builds. But do I want to spend $15/month for an MMO I’m going to play lightly? On the other hand, I still am somewhat confident that Mythic will continue to improve things (slightly less so after results I’m hearing about this Witching Hour event). And on the third hand, I don’t want to break my ties with CoW.

A perfect solution for me would be a Lifetime Subscription offer. That I’d snap up and then be able to relax and enjoy Warhammer when I’m in the mood for it without that nagging feeling of “I *should* be playing this game more since I’m paying for it.” That’s the route I took with LOTRO and I’m really, really content with that decision.

I’ve got a few weeks to decide what to do. But I have both LOTRO and EQ2 expansions pre-ordered. Maybe I’ll let Moria languish for a while and play EQ2 and WAR together for a month or two, then dive into Moria.