Thursday, September 30, 2010

LOTRO, EQ2X, and The Matrix

When two major non-subscription MMO's go "free to play" inside of a month, players are bound to compare the two.  This appears to tick EQ2 Producer David Georgeson off.  
"I really like our subscription matrix. People have compared it favorably or unfavorably to LOTRO...
...

I think they have some mechanisms in their matrix that look attractive at first glance but after people play it for awhile, they may realize it's not as attractive as they think it is. We've designed our matrix to be upfront as far as what the limitations are.
...
I think the biggest differences are in content. They lock a lot of content and make you pay for it as you go; we leave ours wide open.  I'm not really sure why people are complaining, because the more I do an analysis of it, I can't see anything that's more restrictive about our matrix than a lot of people's, and in a lot of ways it seems less restrictive. You can play for 30 or 40 levels in the current game without feeling massively restricted. The stuff like spell tiers and legendary equipment, the people that griping about stuff like that are the experienced EQII players. "
- EQ2 Producer David Georgeson, in an interview with Massively
For reference, here is the LOTRO Matrix, and here is the EQ2X Matrix.  What do we make of all this talk of Matrices?

You see, Mister Georgeson, I was there when the strength of men failed, when Isildur... wait, sorry, wrong Hugo Weaving rant.  Let me start again.

You see, Mis-ter Georgeson, the Matrix is a construct, created by marketing as a distraction from the true nature of these games; from the horrible truth that these "free to play" games are not actually free.  /gasp

Behind the Matrix
The truth is that LOTRO F2P is effectively an option to pay as you go for content.  You may or may not pay earlier and you may or may not pay more often.  However, other than Monster Play (which cannot be free to play because there is only one PVMP zone), you can access everything in the game and people who are willing to pay will be able to access all the content they pay for "without feeling massively restricted".

By contrast, EQ2X is effectively an extended free trial.  The one thing that has been non-negotiable from day one is that there will be restrictions that prevent players from reaching all of the content (including paid expansion content) that cannot be lifted without switching over to the subscription.  Time and time again, EQ2X devs have stated clearly that allowing players to buy out all of the restrictions for one-time fees and then drop their subscriptions "doesn't seem like a good long-term business plan".  Turbine apparently disagrees.  


Finally, the argument that the EQ2X matrix is somehow "more upfront" about its limitations is outright disingenuous.  By Georgeson's own admission, players will not "feel massively restricted" until they have played for "30 or 40 levels".  Personally, I would have given him until level 68 (the start of the Kunark expansion, and the first solo quest and rep reward gear that non-subscribers cannot equip).  Wherever the cutoff level is, EQ2X is designed to force players to subscribe at some point later on in the level progression.  

You may pay less for EQ2X if you solo to 80 and then quit, but you will end up paying far more in the long term if you end up locked into the $15/monthly fee - a year of EQ2X subscription fees costs more than permanently unlocking all the content in LOTRO.  Having the game conceal this reality for the first 40+ levels is actually the exact opposite of "more upfront".  

9 comments:

Yeebo said...

Have to agree with you there. For someone that doesn't care about endgame content and is perfectly happy using crafted gear, EQ II is arguably the better financial value.

However, saying that a game where you won't notice your FtP account is crippled for endgame content until you are 70 levels in is more "upfront" about its FtP restrictions than one where you have to start buying content after your second zone is pretty ridiculous.

Stabs said...

I think a very important concept in free to play games is relative value.

When WoW announced a horse for $25 I thought that's better value than Runes of Magic $10 horse. Because $25 for a horse in a game you'll probably play on and off for 5 years is better value than $10 for a game most people would give a couple of months to. (approx 40 cents/month vs $5/month for the horse). Relative value. The same item in WoW is worth more than it would be in RoM if WoW is a game you will play more of.

In the same way these matrices are close enough that what really matters is not the literal value but the relative value.

Will it cost me more to play EQ2E than I would have spent had I picked Lotro? Yup. But I much prefer EQ2E.

While literal value will have repercussions for the success of the F2P launches I think people are getting distracted by the shiny matrices. Play the game you like more and you'll be getting better value.

Jayedub said...

This need to continue ranting about EQ2X is getting boring. I get that you don't like it and that you prefer Turbine's method instead, in fact anyone who has read your blog lately knows you don't like EQ2X.

Fuan said...

I took a look at The EQ2X Matrix and I can't seem to figure out what benefit the Gold membership has for new players over simply purchasing Sentinal's Fate from Amazon for $8, getting the first month free, and playing $14.99 there after. Maybe I'm missing something..

Xaxziminrax II said...

@Jayedub

Everyone is biased, but that doesn't mean you can't be objective. I like Mr Armadillo's coverage of comparable systems, since system theory is my game.

--

But wait, EQ2X offers subscriptions to pay-as-you-go players? I thought there was a fiasco about certain servers for subscribers and others for free-loaders? Or am I just getting confused?

Green Armadillo said...

@Fuan: The primary advantage to EQ2X if you know you are going to be subscribing in the short term is that, if you later stop paying the subscription, you can continue to access the world. Your good gear will be unequipped, but you can talk to your guildies, do world events, level alts, etc that you would not have access to as a lapsed EQ2 Live subscriber.

@Xaz: EQ2X is a separate server (currently just the one, a selling point in that you can actually play with everyone who is playing EQ2X). Live players can pay to copy their characters over to EQ2X (the original stays put), and there is currently no way to copy/move from EQ2X to live (though this may be allowed later). If you subscribe to EQ2X, you still remain on the EQ2X server.

Fuan said...

That's a good point and I hadn't thought about that.

silvertemplar said...

I dumped $50 on DDO this past month, this is basically like paying upfront for a 3 month sub. What did i do with this $50? I unlocked all the restrictions [races,classes, 32-point builds, shared bank, character slots] . Why am i still a happy chappy knowing i am essentially spending the same?

It is permanent, it's unlocked and if a stop playing now and come back in 6 months, it will still be there. It FEELS like a "future investment" , whether i play or not. Psychological thing you see.

Now with EQ2, having to subscribe -eventually- just do not FEEL right. I don't want to dump $50 on the game and feel i will need to pay monthly if i reach a certain stage.

Put another way, a monthly sub NEVER feel like a "future investment". If the month is over you FEEL the money was used and there's nothing to show [other than past gametime]. Paying up front for unlocking content/races you feel it will be with you forever....very subtle difference.

Even if i don't play DDO for 3 months, i would still feel my $50 was the type of purchase that will be "useful" into the future.

You can' say the same about a sub...

Paul D. said...

I'd be interested in playing LotRO if it thing would download and install properly. Annoying a potential customer right off the bat with arcane and buggy installation procedures is simply stupid, and explains why Turbine is such a minor league MMO provider.