I Alpha tested EQ2X (Extended) Sony's free to play (F2P) model, which was fun shop the Marketplace with an unlimited wallet of Station Cash (SC). So, I bought a mount, appearance gear and ginormous bags - fun spending other people's money, even virtual money.
So, I jumped in the beta version, and have put a few hours in so far at the 'FREE' bronze membership level. I rolled a half elf Templar in New Halas, a class and zone I'm unfamiliar with so thought it would make it more of a 'new game' feel. I will admit it's great seeing the lowbie zones full of people. Having 7 to 14 instances open of New Halas, pretty cool! Will this taper off in the coming weeks? Good question.
The streaming seems to be quite good, as I've had very little stuttering or slowing of the game - watching the weird little dinosaur march is different. I've even upped my graphics to maximum quality (see photo below), which is like playing in slow motion at any time, but what a gorgeous world!
One of my complaints about EQ2X is the 'bronze membership' restriction on using the chat channels. For someone new to the game trying it for 'free', and not being able to join the channel to talk, make friends or ask questions - not a good first impression. My overall feel - it's like a world full of people all solo questing. Not that you need to group at that level, but trying to see this as someone new to EQ2, I imagine it would be difficult locating things, or understanding the hows/whys/whats of this very broad and deep game. I'm not sure how frustrated I might get and log out. Granted the start zones are pretty straight forward, but when you get in to the housing, deity, different types of questlines, all the zones. I don't know.
It's understandable that SOE wants to make money off the Marketplace, but I'm not sure they have the F2P model working well. From all I've seen and read online, the model that Turbine implemented with DDO and that will be rolling out for LoTRO seems to be better. I haven't played DDO - I get booted out right after the create a character screen, but I like the LoTRO model and will likely play that at some level of participation as I've had an on again off again sub for years.
SOE's membership matrix I find a bit convoluted and overly complicated, (click on the link for a full size pic), and haven't been tempted to up to even a silver membership ($10) yet, as I'm not sure I need or want to, as I already have an account on Live (two inactive ones too), and I'm not sure what exactly SOE is trying to accomplish with this parallel game to the Live version!
The new UI that SOE released with GU57, I do like - except for the broker interface. It's resizable, fairly sleek and not hard to use. This coming from a person that uses 30+ add ons in WoW, and is ever in search of the perfect UI. In EQ2, I've always used either Profit or Fetish, so glad to see they took much of those and made the former default UI better. Still could use a few tweaks but definitely better.
As this is still beta I'm hoping SOE will make a few more changes. The biggest change, which I still don't see being addressed - what's going to happen to the Live Servers? The 14 day trial is gone, so how are new people going to be convinced to join or how is new blood going to be funneled to existing servers? The natural attrition any game undergoes without new players coming in, the ghost towns we have now will get worse. Server mergers? Server transfers?
The anger the existing player base (forum link here) the major thread is over 240 pages long and is justified IMHO. None of us want to see our worlds die. I logged into Blackburrow server on Live after being on EQ2X and went through a couple of the starter zones. It was sad to see at the most one person, after having multiple instances of a zone open on Extended. Antonia Bale, the starter zones at least there were a few people roaming around and the level 1-9 chat was lively.
So, I'm torn. I love the idea of a 'new' EQ2 - everyone starting on a level playing field, the got-to-get-to-max level crowd zooming along, the new players seeing this wonderful world unfold. Leveling, and grouping while seeing people in the world, a healthy population, etc., but not at the expense of the Live Servers and the existing player base. It's too high a price to pay.