Are Heroic Characters in EverQuest 2 Pay-to-win?
Are Heroic Characters in EverQuest 2 Pay-to-win?
Submitted by shayalyn on Monday September 23, 2013 - 17:58
EverQuest 2 Senior Producer, Holly "Windstalker" Longdale, has released a new Producer's Letter outlining the game's upcoming feature, Heroic Characters. The mechanic allows players to purchase a level 85 character (or upgrade an existing character) through the Station store for 3500 SC ($35). Players will be able to test drive one free Heroic Character during EQ2's Hero's Call event Oct 1-Oct 15. Here are the details:
The goal is to provide a fun and easy option for existing and returning players to play or experiment with our characters and have immediate access to high-level content. And we think we’ve created a great program for everyone!
First, for a limited time, players can create a Heroic Character for free. Oct. 1 until Oct. 15 is our “Hero’s Call” event which invites new players to create one free new Heroic Character per household. Existing accounts can create or upgrade to a Heroic Character for free too!
Additionally, Heroic Characters can be purchased at any time from our store. The options include: Try Before You Buy, New Heroic Character, and Upgrade Existing Character.
1) Try Before You Buy: This option offers one full level of play from Level 85 to 86 – which takes a typical player several hours – with 100 Alternate Advancement (AA) points to test out a class of your choice at a high level. The Free Trial includes a flying mount, armor, consumables, and a few restrictions.
2) New Heroic Character: A full Heroic Character can be purchased at Character Select or while playing as a Free Trial character. It includes level 85, 280 AAs, all items included in the Free Trial, and is unrestricted.
3) Upgrade Existing Character: The Upgrade option allows you to select any existing character at any level and upgrade it to a Heroic Character. All upgraded characters receive level 85 and are increased to 280 AAs, but not beyond. If you are above level 85 and have more than 280 AAs, you won't receive additional levels or points, but will get a bundle of items that includes the flying mount, armor, and consumables.
For more details on each option, click here.
You can read the entire producer's letter on the official EverQuest II site.
Advancing the Cause, or Pay-to-win?
Longdale's announcement sparked an instant debate on the EverQuest 2 forums, with fans loudly declaring that any mechanic that allows players to effortlessly level up to 85 reeks of a pay-to-win scenario. One community member said:
Wait a minute... you mean you're letting people buy level 85? So you're saying this is no longer an RPG. Where players build up a character from the beginning of their adventuring lives and someday have a powerful champion who has experienced all the world has to offer. Seriously, why not just get rid of all levels except the max and call it an action game?
The reasons are plentiful. Although leveling in EQ2 is quick, in a game where the majority of the player base is at or near the level and AA cap (95 and 320, respectively), getting from level 1 to level 85 is mostly a solo grind, anyhow. Granted, if you haven't done it before, you might want whatever the experience has to offer. In that case, remember that buying a Heroic Character is entirely optional--you can still take the long way home if that's what you choose. Heroic Characters simply allow you to skip the preliminaries at your whim.
I'd say that buying a Heroic Character isn't so much paying to win but rather paying to get (mostly) caught up to the player base, which is a boon for returning players, and might also encourage some new players to give the game a whirl as they wait for EverQuest Next. I've recently returned to EverQuest 2, and I'm finding the early levels a lonely experience. There simply aren't a lot of players around to chat or group with. Would I pay to level my character to 85 so that I can get much closer to the action, and still have the satisfaction of having another 10 levels to gain before I'm at the cap? Yes, I would. (Although, the $35 price is a bit steep. I'd be a lot more sold on the idea at $25.) I've experienced a lot of the game already through various excursions through EQ2 and now, to quote the Little Mermaid, I wanna be where the people are.
For those concerned that Heroic Characters will create a flock of players similar to those laughably (and infuriatingly) inept eBayers we've all encountered in games like EQ and WoW over the years, SOE has built in an optional learning tool called Heroic Hotbars, which are designed to help returning players adjust to the number of combat arts/spells. They'll start with one hotbar of core abilities, with more added over time as the player progresses and learns his class. Is this a perfect solution? Not really--experienced players might not want to group with those who are still learning the ropes--but it's something. It remains to be seen how many new players will gravitate toward EQ2 and the Heroic Characters feature in the first place. I find it unlikely that existing players will encounter fresh hordes of level 85 noobs on October 1.
Must Be the Money
What may gnaw at players the most is not necessarily the idea of purchasing a toon that's 10 levels away from the cap, but the notion that this is being offered in a game that already applies an aggressive free-to-play strategy. Can you play EQ2 without spending any real life cash? Yes. Does SOE make it easy on you? No, not really. You'll need to spend money in order to gain access to a lot of convenience features, such as extra storage space and the ability to sell your materials and wares on the marketplace. You'll even have to drop some coin if you want access to many of the chat channels. This approach differs significantly from other current triple-A games (Guild Wars 2 comes to mind) where spending money can buy you certain conveniences (as well as fluff items), but you won't feel hobbled if you never spend a cent. In a game where players already feel nickel-and-dimed, another sales pitch could seem offensive.
Overall, though, I see the addition of Heroic Characters as a positive step for an aging game. It's likely to encourage players to return to EQ2, or even entice new players to give the game a whirl. In the scheme of things, buying a Heroic Character costs about the same as buying an expansion pac, and gives you immediate access to 10 levels of content that would have taken you many hours to reach organically.
What's your take on Heroic Characters? Are they truly pay-to-win, just a leg up, or something in between?