The announcement that the latest Legends of Norrath expansion, Travelers, would include a loot card for EQ and EQII that will give an in-game quest for access to a limited zone caused quite a stir. Alan "Brenlo" Crosby, EQII Senior Producer and Christie "Kiara" Renzetti, EQII Community Manager, were quick to try and assuage everyone's fears that this heralded the beginnings of "Pay to Play" content above and beyond subscriptions, but the overwhelming question has been "what's the loot like?"
Well, the expansion launched yesterday and the loot has been seen. The loot card itself seems to be quite rare. One player reports having spent $200 on LoN cards thus far and not gotten the key. But it's out there, and the reports on the zone and loot are starting to trickle in.
Seems a lot of players are unhappy. Some are heralding the beginning of the end as the loot from the EQII zone is comparable to higher-end x2 raid loot. Others feel that the zone is a rip-off, being a copy of the last room of Obelisk of Ahkzul with four nameds and a boss, and it requires a group. Still others feel the loot is Legendary junk and not worth all the hype. Over at EQ2Wire, Feldon feels this precedent legitimizes the purchase of gear with real money, and is concerned that the slippery RMT slope so many players worried about with the introduction of Live Gamer servers, LoN, and Station Cash has indeed become significantly steeper.
I think there are a couple of important questions here, and your answer may depend on your playstyle:
In the overall scheme, is this particular loot game-breaking? No. It's a bit advantageous for people who play LoN and their friends, but all by itself this particular loot is not a detriment to the game. You can't gear out your character completely with this zone, and most of the gear will be abandoned by the hard core raider, although solo players like me might hang on to it for a while.
Is this type of LoN loot a precedent, or a one-shot experiment? When asked this at the October 8 Developer Chat, Alan Crosby responded, "Well we are not sure. We will see what the reaction is like once it is in people’s hands and they understand what it actually IS rather than the conjecture. It is for the moment an experiment."
How far will SOE take it? Players are whipping out John Smedley quotes on RMT and theorizing on What It All Means. Is Feldon right, and we will one day (if so inclined) be able to power-level and gear our characters via credit card? How much content should our subscription pay for? Will we one day see the Free Realms model (free with purchased bonus content) come to Norrath?
It does seem that things, they are a-changing. How far is SOE and the MMO industry willing to take the grand RMT experiement? Will we see the pay models for older games changing? At what point, if ever, will it become detrimental to the game population? I don't know, and the answers that players would find satisfying probably aren't forth coming. I think the game is not dead (nor dying), and that for now, I'm content to continue to wait and see what happens before I throw in my subscription.