SOE often rolls out bonus exp on major holidays, and July 4th was no exception in EQ2. I took Lyriana for a spin through the middle part of the Withered Lands, the game's latest high level solo content. I've used up about 2/3 of the content from this new zone - ONLY playing when double exp is active - but I'm only a quarter of the way to the new level cap.
Endgame EQ2 (not) for the Non-subscriber
That said, I'm not complaining about the quantity of solo content. The idea that leveling content needs to get you to the level cap matters when the player is trying to get to the cap as a prerequisite for doing something (notably group content). If your solo endgame is daily quests, there's no particular reason (until the next expansion arrives and gear resets wipe out all the rewards for the old dailies) why you can't have the player continue to gain exp and levels while doing the daily quests. Meanwhile, this lengthens the exp curve in a way that hopefully left some more room for groups to advance at rates that do not trivialize the cap increase.
Rather, my issue is with SOE's AA slider, which can only be adjusted by subscribers. If I did not happen to have a subscription to the game thanks to some poorly thought-out promotions (I paid about $20 for the expansion and 6 months game time due to Station Cash sales), I would be even further from the cap, with half of my exp going towards AA that barely offer anything to my character.
A non-subscriber in my shoes would also be struggling for the money to pay my mercenary (an "optional" feature from the "optional" expansion, though the new content seems suspiciously designed to make a mercenary highly beneficial) since nonsubscribers are barred from looting a single copper until they are just about broke -under 18 plat. For reference, hiring the merc costs 5 plat, and he takes a quarter of a plat every 30 minutes, and every time he needs to be resummoned due to death or dismissal.
Alternatives to the subscription, or just an extended trial?
Longtime readers will know that I'm not afraid to spend money on my MMO hobby - so far in 2012 alone I've spent money on five separate MMO's (not counting stuff unlocked using cash store currencies that I paid for last year). In fact, I am willing to pay MORE total dollars in exchange for greater flexibility in when and how I can play. Instead of flexibility, however, SOE requires the same old rigid billing cycle that they pretend to be working to change.
Indeed, with Vanguard's upcoming free-to-play change they're not even offering a premium non-subscription tier and the game's producer describes their philosophy as "offering more flexible options for every type of player". How are they offering more flexibility? By determining that it is "in the best interest of our players to eliminate the Silver membership and instead provide primarily a Gold membership offering". If I wanted the flexibility of paying a monthly fee to subscribe to Vanguard, I could have done so without SOE spending however much money on revamping the game.
Ironically, SOE lost this round because it took their accounting people six months to address a Station Cash pricing loophole that was immediately obvious to players the moment it was announced. With that issue fixed, SOE has unified its catalog under a model in which they give away most of their content but refuse to offer a viable non-subscription alternative for continuing to pay for their service. Perhaps this makes me a "content locust", but I'm not likely to pay people who don't offer what I want to purchase, no matter how much stuff they try to give away as an incentive.
P.S. In other news that is going on around the same time, see Wilhelm's commentary on the announcement that Brad McQuaid has been brought back to the Vanguard team.