enormous. The content drop includes a level 100 overland zone complete with Signature quest line, new Advanced and Heroic dungeons, a new Raid and several "Fabled" dungeons.
It also adds a new stat - Resolve - which is already drawing controversy. There are new collections, some new armor to craft, something for roleplayers by way of the Heartbound system and, of course, a new kind of mount in the cash shop. Owls, in case you were wondering.
It's a lot to take in. I've bought expansions that had fewer features that interested me. And then there are Experience Vials.
The Experience Vial System appears, at first look, to be an extremely neat solution to the ever-receding end-game problem suffered by all aging MMORPGs. As the genre ages and it becomes clearer than ever that some of these games have a grip on their playerbase that would shame a bulldog with rigor mortis, developers have thrashed around trying to come up with a way to allow the trickle of new and returning players to catch up with the firmly established end-game core.
The main method so far seems to have been to sell Boosts that jump a character up to near-maximum level and/or to hand out a free level upgrade, or even a whole max level character, with new expansions. That once-controversial approach has become the industry standard. The only time a developer takes a PR hit these day is if the boost isn't deemed powerful enough or, heaven forfend, they don't provide one at all.
The XP vial system that DBG have come up with for EQ2 is more flexible and more elegant. And more profitable, both for the company and for players. From what I can gather, as someone who's never played EVE, it loosely resembles CCP's recent addition of tradeable skill injectors.
In both games the company makes real-world money by selling the empty container in the cash shop, while the player makes in-game money by selling the filled version in the virtual trading system. In EQ2 that means buying Experience Vials in the DBG Store for DBG Cash, filling them and then selling them on the Broker for platinum.
You can also, naturally, keep it within the family and eschew Mammon by trading the vials directly to friends, guildmates or your own stable of characters. It would, for example, allow a player to give a leg-up to a friend who'd never played before or a guild to bring a returning player quickly up to speed.
It also provides an excellent solution to the perennial max-level-max-AA "what do I do with all this xp that's going to waste?" problem. Turn it into a new income stream or make yourself really popular by handing it out for free. Your choice.
I have a lot of DBG cash saved up. On the account where I used to have All Access I have over 17,000 DBC. On my current All Access account I have more than 13k. Even though I find the EQ2 cash shop the most appealing and useful of any MMO I've played, I still don't spend very much there and I'm always looking for new things to buy.
The price for Experience Vials seemed quite reasonable: 500DBC for a pack of three, 800DBC for five, 1200DBC for eight. I bought a five-pack and started filling it as I began the new Signature Quest with my level 100 Berserker (of which, more another time).
I activated a flask by right-clicking it in Inventory and off we went. The Siphon function seems to be set to "On" by default. Examining the vial told me they will hold 200,000xp and that the conversion rate is 60%. That means I need to earn around 333kxp to fill one.
After an hour or two meandering through the opening few quests of the Signature storyline, taking things at a very gentle pace, the vial was almost full. That is a lot faster than I was expecting but then I was getting a boatload of discovery xp just from flying around the new zone. Still, it's apparent that filling these vials is going to be a trivial effort for a high-level character.
How will that translate for the lower level that's going to consume them? I'll tell you when I fill one. Oh alright, let's look at the numbers.
My Beastlord is Level 94. That level requires just over one million xp. I can say from mildly bitter experience that getting that one million takes a long time. Or, at least, it feels like a long time. A lot longer than it's going to feel to fill five vials derping about on my zerker at level 100, that's for sure.
Looking further down the food chain we come to my Necromancer, becalmed at level 73. One of my necromancers, I should say. I have a level 90 but she's on the Test server. Level 73 requires just over 100k xp. Hmm. So one filled vial will give a couple of levels in the 70s.
Staring down the wrong end of the telescope I see an enchanter waving at me from level 30. That level takes a mere 14k xp. Assuming the vial, when consumed, continues to fill levels until it empties, it very much looks as if one vial will see you through several tiers.
In fact, according to this chart (which hasn't been updated for a while so may not be entirely accurate) it takes a cumulative 11 million xp to get from character creation to the end of Level 95. That's 55 vials, which, at current broker prices, would run you around 440k platinum - although I doubt there are even that many for sale.
Bear in mind that you also need AAXP. You can use the vials for that as well but I'm not sure it would be a particularly efficient way of going about it. Someone else can crunh the numbers on that!
All in all, it seems like an interesting and well-designed addition. The EQ2 team may be small but the developers working on it really do seem to have a good grasp of what they can and should be doing for the long-term health of the game.
Not sure I would have been saying that a couple of years ago, even though it's largely the same individuals involved. Makes you think, doesn't it?