I played Everquest from the early years of Velious, through six more expansions. My exact departure is clouded, certainly around the release of Everquest II would be a good starting point for my evacuation. I returned a number of times as the game underwent its torturous and, as I see it, gradual decline from a challenging computer moderated role-playing game experience to something more of an open social platform.
In the early days most of the players were young kids thoroughly entrenched in role-playing and single player adventure games on the computer. Today the gamut of players is wide, both in age, experience, and expectations. With such a huge variety of players, it is no doubt that games have become impossible to appease the gamers — some want a hardcore rigorous game while others want to sit around placing daisies in their imaginary apartments. Some want to solo, while others gear up for 24 player raids. I often chuckle that some players have no qualms riding around on a flying multi-hued rabbits, with butterfly wings while others sneer at any sort of mount at all. Many players have no concept of what Dungeons & Dragons is, or even for that matter, what a role-playing game truly infers. Often so many new players were born into Xbox mentalities that statistics, armor class, mitigation, and spell points are just unknown baffling terms.
In the grand days of gaming there was a single business model: the $14.95 a month plus yearly expansions. That is the way it was. Over time the free model came into existence, with real money perks. For the good or bad of other such models, it opened up a gamut of other possible business models. I can only infer from DayBreak Games that the supposed free model must be very lucrative. Many players can just play the games for free, and supplement their hobby with occasional purchases of gear, potions, or vanity items.
One of the original arguments to using real money or purchasing an ingame currency with real money, such as Krono, was that it was meant to balance the time spent in the game versus the reality of players not having the resources to play the game. That is, if it takes 200 hours to camp a rare spawn, a couple of Krono could be used to mitigate the time and just give the player the item. At first, this ingame equalizer seemed to work! What has happened however is a bastardization of the time and Krono. Players who have time to spend in the game have augmented their existence with Krono — thus simply amplifying economies with harsh spiraling costs in both time and money.
Camps for rare loot is no longer camped by players needing the item, but by players looking to sell it for Krono. This ingame currency then can be converted into real cash through many sources or used to pay for long term subscriptions to the game. The player that does not have time to spend in the game now must not simply pay 1 krono for a piece of gear that required hundreds of hours of game play, but three, four….even five Krono to get.
Progression / Time lock servers are even worse since they are a premium game requiring players to pay the $15 a month and then force them into buying Kronos, to get basic magic items and equipment in the game. I for one have not bought a Krono in years but I can see the unhealthy allure of this item. Older (and even younger) players without the time to spend camping certain mobs can now spend a Krono and get the items they want. But even if they wished to spend the time in game to camp these items, they find it impossible with the way the system is set up.
Gamers with the idea of making real profit with Krono set up six-box legions of mages that simply steal any mob they want. Taking the item, they sell it for Krono and rinse and repeat the process. It wasn’t good enough to dual box, but now players are bringing in whole groups of botted characters to thwart the need to socialize — other than to sell their loot, buying Krono, and continue the process.
I used to dual box back in the day and the extra character meant I could solo a bit easier or even camp small sets of mobs. I am not saying that back in 2002ish years that there were not players who six-boxed but the percentage of players today that multi-box is probably closer to 50% of the total players, versus back in the day it was more like 10% — these are just raw figures without any basis of fact other than my observations. In the days gone by, you would see bots and multi-boxers now and then but today they are rampant. Back then it was far less profitable, other than a way for an egotistic player to do what they want in an imaginary world. Today it is business. It is big business! And the real players suffer.
I cannot blame DBG from making money, that is what a company is there to do. I do take offense that they try to play both sides though, telling gamers they care about the game and their customers. Make your money and tell your customers that Krono is there to make money. Don’t try to pretend that the games are free — they are not free.
As players we need to stop fighting with fanboys who use the constant argument that the games are free and that you don’t have to spend a dime — the game is multiplayer, thus becoming a competitive sport. Allowing unfair advantage of real world money combined with unlimited time makes many of the players with huge advantages in the competition of the game. Treating EQ like golf, you can play for free (assuming you are not doing Timelock / Progression) and still be competitive. EQ for me is not golf but more like baseball or football, in that guilds are other team members and other guilds are other teams — How would baseball fend for itself if a team player could spend money and redo throws, hits, or fouls?
My time in Lockjaw, the progression server for EQ, has been fun but not without regret. I am not buying Krono, so most of the real gear is out of my reach. Nor do I have unlimited time to camp mobs. The small amount of time I do have is spent racing around trying to find silk, pelts, and other reagents to sell to the guys who are making so much platinum and US dollars that they don’t have time. I am already paying $15 a month to play, and I know DBG wants me to fork over another $18 for a Krono, or hell why not buy three! Their arms get tired raking in the money, I think.
I am enjoying my time in the game, but more from a nostalgic point of view. You cannot go home because the world is a different place. Gone are the endless time spent at a camp, gone is the ingame platinum only — the new era is everything is for sale and no regards to the future.