EverQuest 2 added a mechanic today that will allow players to become a level 85 badass instantly. Through Heroic Characters, players can either create a new character at level 85, or promote an existing one. If you’ve ever wanted to experience what the EQ2 end game has to offer, but you don’t have the time or the inclination to level your character to get there, for $35 you can buy your way to glory. Or, you can test out a Heroic Character for free from October 1-15.
We talked to Dave Georgeson, Director of Development for the EverQuest franchise, and Holly Longdale, EverQuest 2 Senior Producer, about the new feature and its implications for EverQuest 2.
One of the criticisms of Heroic Characters from the EQ player base is that giving a character an 85 level bump at a cost feels like a pay-to-win scenario. I relayed a comment from one of our community members, Wulf9, who said “There may be a case that pay-to-win Heroic Characters are justified at this stage of the game's life. But, it's the same as arguing that the game's pre-85 leveling process and content is now meaningless and might as well be removed. Unless you wanted to choose not to pay to reach level 85, in which case you still have it all to do, but that lonely low level existence just got a whole lot lonelier.”
Dave Georgeson explained that he doesn’t believe Heroic Characters are a pay-to-win feature.
“I just don’t feel like a Heroic Character is pay-to-win, or even pay-for-power. It’s all in how you define things, but to me, pay-to-win is buying something that gives you an advantage against other players. This just isn’t like that. A level 85 character is still 10 levels from max level cap. They still have many AA to gain, and despite starting with decent gear when created, they still have a long way to go to gear up for end-game raids and big events."To me, a Heroic Character basically just gives new or returning players more options. The world of EQII is just gigantic. No amount of players can fill it up. It’s just not possible. So players tend to congregate at the higher levels. It’s just natural. That’s where all their favorite characters are located, because those are the ones they play the most."By allowing Heroic Characters, we let the player decide what part of the game they want as a beginning or returning experience. If they like solo or small-group experiences, they can start at level 1 and adventure through all of Norrath, for as long as they desire. On the other hand, if they want to play in the latest content, and hang out where a majority of the game’s players are located, we allow that now also. That’s why we’re giving one away for free to everyone during the “Hero’s Call” promotion. It’s good for the game."I’ve also been asked why we chose Level 85 as a starting point. The simple answer is that it takes 10 levels of progression to get to max cap that way, and that’s typically enough time for people to learn to play that new character well, gearing it up to quality levels, before they reach the true end-game experience. We feel that’s pretty important. More choice and more players. Those feel pretty positive to us.”
SOE announced that players would have the ability to test "one free heroic character" per household, which makes it sound as though that character is going to be tied to an IP address. We wondered if this would hinder those sharing a single IP address from testing heroic characters on multiple accounts.
Holly Londgdale explained that the restriction would be in place during the free testing event, October 1st through the 15th. During that time, Heroic Characters will be limited to one per household. (Get ready to fight your significant other for that character slot!) But that’s only if you’re just starting out in EQ2. Dave Georgeson pointed out that the one-per-household restriction during the free event is only for new accounts. “If people have existing accounts,” he said, “It doesn’t apply to them at all.”
“If an entire family had accounts and had been playing before the [Heroic Character] announcement on the 22nd,” Holly explained, “The entire family can each try one free heroic character on all their existing accounts.”
Heroic Characters will feature Heroic Hotbars, a sort of easy-mode solution to help ease new and returning players into the game without overwhelming them with a mountain of choices. Given that this mechanic is so new-player friendly, one might assume that SOE is hoping to lure a few newbies into the EQ2 fold.
“We certainly hope so,” Holly said. “We’d love to get new players into the game. But I think we expect a certain level of familiarity with MMOs at least, if not our game specifically. We’ve simplified it a lot because we knew there would be a healthy number of existing and returning players using it.”
She explained that players begin with one hotbar of fairly basic abilities designed to give you everything that you need for starters. Then, halfway through level 85, you get a full panel of all the common abilities, grouped by type. You can opt to stick with the pre-built UI or customize it at any point as soon as you move any icon on your hotbar.
“We really felt making the level jump was overwhelming,” Holly said, “even for existing players coming back, or those wanting to try a new class.”
“You play EQ2, right?” Dave asked me. I answered yes, of course. “Well, then you have a bunch of alts, because we all do. And when you haven’t played an alt in three or four months, and you go back to it, you can barely remember what its skills are.”
“I’ve rerolled some characters for that reason,” I said.
“Yeah! Well, imagine coming back to the game after 5 or 6 years. We put this stuff in so basically people can learn their way up to speed very quickly.”
“And our code team has pre-cast some of those general beneficial spells you have,” Holly added. “So we removed a lot of those from the hotbar. You can really get in and button mash, and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a really cool experience.”
At this point, Ben Conrad, SOE’s PR Manager, who’d been hosting the interview, jumped in. “I just want to say that from my perspective, if I’m into MMOs at all...at all...there’s no way that I don’t want to go and try to create, for free, a high level character in one of the most respected MMOs of all time. That sounds like a lot of fun.”
“But you’re right,” Holly said. “The focus [of Heroic Characters] is on existing or returning players, but man, would we love to get new players. That’d be awesome.”
“Or hordes of old players,” Dave added. “One of the really cool things about the EverQuest Next announcements and stuff is boy have we seen people coming back to EQ and EQ2. A lot of nostalgia has resurfaced from that, and it’s been really cool.”
Playing EverQuest 2 is a great way to reconnect with the franchise while we’re all waiting for Landmark and EverQuest Next, and Heroic Characters add extra incentive for returning players to get into Norrath and experience some exciting content. Even better, SOE has lifted item restrictions for free and Silver level players, allowing players to dig in and get the full experience.
Have you returned to EverQuest or EverQuest 2 while waiting for EQN? What’s your opinion of the new Heroic Characters feature? Share your thoughts below.
Karen became hopelessly hooked on EverQuest when she wandered into Norrath for the first time, immediately fell off one of the Kelethin platforms, and had to ask a Bard to find her mangled corpse. She's gained a few skills since, and logged more hours than she cares to count playing all kinds of MMOs. The EverQuest franchise remains her favorite. Relying on her druidic wisdom, she pens a weekly column, Ask the Druid, every Thursday. Send your questions to her at shayalyn [at] tentonhammer.com.
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