After release, one of the common gripes people raised when comparing EQ2 and WoW was the slow level grind of EQ2 and the difficulty in playing “catch up” to buddies who’d gotten ahead. If you played with a group and took a few nights off, it was very difficult to catch the group by soloing or other measures.
Eventually, Sony added “Vitality”, which is like a trust fund for experience. Once an hour, the game adds a little vitality to everyone’s balance (online or not). While you have vitality, every NPC kill draws bonus experience from your vitality pool – in short, as long as you have vitality, you get double experience.
There’s an upper limit on vitality, but if you don’t play a character for a while you can build up a couple of levels worth of vitality, allowing you to play catchup really quickly. And you’ll have a few hours of vitality after logging for the night and playing your next day’s session.
EverQuest2 is a complex system of time and resource sinks: experience, achievements, status points, tradeskills, housing, decorating your housing. Many of these loops are well designed to be self-perpetuating – your decorations will lead you to buy a bigger house which will lead you to want more decoration to reduce the cost of the housing.
This gave it a vigorous and healthy economy in the early days, the economy was a truly vital part of the game’s immersiveness.
Admittedly, some of that has been ruined by farmers and by SoEs attempts to hurt the farmers (c’mon guys, just bite the bullet and sell the gold yourself; don’t go all Brad on us, telling us how rich or poor our character should be).
But Vitality changed gameplay rather drastically. One of our first time players is nearing level 50 after just slightly less than 4 weeks. I wouldn’t exactly call the way he plays “power-levelling” either.
So these days levels fly by. And that reshapes the economy. A year ago people might have spent gold on making a +1 stat change at level 35 – but not today. It’s hard to sell “adept 1” spells and even harder to sell masters, because until people break 60, they’re just not worth the investment.
I suspect Sony are currently working on a Planar expansion (I hope they are working on some world events to open up more druid rings) and introducing more varietous content is good, the game drinks up content. But I hope it will be accompanied by an, and I hate to say it, “audit” of the existing pre-existing pricings and money sinks.
For instance: the cost of changing house decor – especially since you can’t see it in advance; the layouts and prices of the accomodations in the cities, perhaps adding brokers to each Qeynos/Freeport zone and making it cheaper to buy from a broker in the same zone as the merchant without the hassle of finding the right doorway.
I can’t help but wonder if vitality doesn’t make EQ2 too fast, while its been a blessing trying to get our group co-levelled, its also been a bit of a curse because we just can’t “do” a level bracket before we’ve greyed out all of the quests we’ve picked up.
. We’re going too fast to tend to the spectrum of quests neccessary to equip 5 different classes (plate/cloth/armor/chain/leather)
. 80%+ of the loot we receive is irrelevant to us
. Most of that loot is difficult to sell because other players are ‘making do’ as they warp thru too
. The ‘good stuff’ (masters, etc) hasn’t red-shifted yet, there still being enough old-money in the system that they remain largely the domain of twinks.