Sony Online Entertainment will change free-to-play restrictions for its MMORPGs EverQuest and EverQuest 2 next week, offering more content to players with free-to-play and limited subscription accounts.
Sony currently offers two paid subscriptions, Silver and Gold, and a free-to-play option for both titles. Silver level members have restricted character customization choices, while Gold members have instant access to all content.
Beginning next week, EverQuest and EverQuest 2 Free and Silver account holders will have unobstructed access to all classes and races when building avatars — currently, the bottom two subscription options only grant access to four of the game's 16 races and four of its 16 classes (there are 20 total races and 25 total classes in EverQuest 2). Characters will also be given more bag slots for carrying items and can deliver items to other players for free, whereas previously that service was for paid members only.
In EverQuest 2, the only remaining restricted class in the Beastlord, accessible only by purchasing the Age of Discovery expansion pack. The Freeblood race is also still purchase-only.
According to EverQuest franchise director of development David Georgesen, after 14 years of service it was time to give players more free stuff.
"We felt we went in the right direction with free to play, but [in the beginning we were] paranoid about the results," he explained. "We made really a restrictive subscription matrix that was built to encourage people to upgrade. We wanted to make Silver and Free [accounts] much more attractive packages for people that wanted to just check out game. They can play for a longer period of time before making any purchase decisions.
"Silver and Free players are legitimate kinds of players and we don't want to make them do different things or change the way they are playing," he added.
Restrictions have also been lifted on shared bank slots, which allow players to share items between a user's characters, and journals will display all active quests instead of only a finite number.
"I don't remember the logic behind this, but we have been restricting the number of quests people can have displayed in their journal," Georgesen said. "We look back at that now and I don't know what we were thinking, that was just dumb. We're taking the cap off of that too."
Georgesen said that SOE has no plans to lift more restrictions in the future, as the company wants to keep certain features exclusive for Gold account holders. When asked if the new subscription changes would be implemented in upcoming title EverQuest Next, Georgesen said that discussion hasn't happened yet.
"There's been a lot of talking back and forth on how viable subscriptions are for the future," he said. "We're not finished with that debate, but if we do use a subscription model, I bet it will be some version of the matrix like this."
Last year SOE president John Smedley said EverQuest Next, the next installment in the franchise, would be the "largest sandbox-style MMO ever designed." The title currently has no release date.