Monday, May 2, 2016

Are You Experienced? : EQ2

The centenary game update for EQ2 has arrived and as promised it's 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!

However you cut it, there are a lot of possibilities, especially once you factor in the Level 90 boost you can buy in the cash shop. As someone who enjoys leveling for its own sake I may be more interested in selling the juices of my labor than swigging them. Then again, if I'm going to level in EQ2 just for the fun of leveling I'm most likely to go do it on the Time Limited Expansion server, where the vials are not available.

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?


  1. Ah, thanks for that level chart, even if it might not be completely up to date. I was wondering how EQII exp vials were going to work in a game that doesn't flat out tell you how many exp points are needed for what you may want. That is the thing with EVE Online and its skill injectors, the skill point numbers are all visible.

    So, if that chart is right, I need to have at least a level 39 character to think about draining it for XP. Well, I won't be simply deleting any unwanted alts any more I guess. I have enough station cash that I could extract some value from them. I have a monk I might do in just to try it out.

    1. Hmmm.... it sounds as though you're imagining a system whereby using the vial siphons the characters existing xp. A kind of vampiric draining that leaves the donor a dry husk on the Freeport flagstones. It doesn't work like that - or at least I don't *think* it does.

      As I understand it, what it does is re-direct all the xp you are currently earning into a flask. When you switch it on, the character that has it equipped will cease to gain any xp at all as the flask fills. You can un-equip the flask before it fills but in doing so you lose any xp stored in it and just get an empty flask back. Once it is full you can unequip it and sell or trade it. Nothing bad happens to the donor-character beyond having done a lot of work for no personal gain.

      Thinking about this, I can see other interesting possibilities. You could effectively level-lock your character without having to use the option to switch off xp entirely. I have used that option several times over the years but it would clearly be better to store and sell the xp than just not get it in the first place...

      Need to think about this a little more.

    2. I have drastically misunderstood the nature of these vials. I was hoping to suck the life from some unused characters. But now it seems I have to actually work to fill the darn things through *effort*? I am shocked!

  2. I was hoping they would store a little more xp than the 200k. I will test some out some of my lower level characters. I am enjoying the new solo quests. I am not sold on the new Resolve stat but I have not jumped into a heroic content yet since it has been introduced. I just dislike adding another stat in an already overly complicated system.

    1. Yes, I think 200k is a bit low. They could have a range of flasks I guess, say 200k, 500k, 1mk. And Resolve is just crit mit with a different hat on, isn't it? Apparently the reason is to try and reduce the number of proc-based items because the servers can't handle the lag they cause. Typical SOE/DBG bodging in other words.

    2. It is definitely very similar to crit mit which did not work out well. I think they came up with Resolve to further push away from the F2P model. I think we will see more and more content/items that require a subscription. I just with they would come out and say that is their plan rather skirt the issue.

      They have said that they want to decrease the amount of procs to just weapon items. That is why you can see huge amounts of potencty or ability mod and no procs on the newer items.

  3. The XP-vials seem like a very clever system, I am not that familliar with EQ2 end-game but if I understand it correctly you can now turn basically every activity that garners XP into profit. Cool :)

    I'd love to have this sort of system for Eldevin as, like you said, it works as a good (better?) alternative to XP-Lock systems, which Eldevin sadly doesn't have (nor afaik an AH, yet) though should.

    Regarding Boosts: pretty much all lapsed WoW accounts that a) lapsed since last August and b) hadn't been upgraded yet to WoD have last week been upgraded to WoD with 7 days playtime (under Referrals on the Tab) - including giving the lvl 90 Boost. You do need to have purchased a box in the past to apply, though.

    1. I think the xp vial system has enormous potential. I know that if EQ2 was my main MMO I'd be using it a lot, both for my own characters and to make money. Not sure I'll make the most of it with my sporadic sessions but I'm sure I'll get some use out of it.

      As for the free Draenor trial I did see that and I'd like to give it a go if I qualify, which i think I should. I didn't think I'd have time but I had a small operation today and I've been signed off work for longer than I was expecting so that might be a window of opportunity.

    2. Hope the operation went okay & nothing really major !


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