First, let me apologize for the long delay in responding to this thread. I've been heads-down the last couple of days working on the token system for week three, as well as the surprise for week four. I was made aware of the thread late last night and would have responded sooner but I was in meetings most of the day today. In any case, thank you for your patience.
Second, I'd like to thank you all for a mostly constructive conversation in a mostly civil tone. The topic of a game being pay-to-win is a touchy one, so I commend you all on being able to have that conversation without devolving into personal attacks.
With that said, I've read over a lot - but not all of the posts in this topic. And I must say, good god people. I'm going to need to start getting your forum posts on audio book.
In any case, I believe I've read enough to get an idea of peoples' overall concerns. So let me address those concerns individually, and then address the real purpose for this topic - one which I think many people may have missed, and one I ultimately agree with.
The first topic I wanted to address was legendary items. We had a conversation about this last week in Discord in the 10k backers channel however due to the NDA people were blocked from talking about it. Straight up, calling them legendary was a misnomer. They're not really legendary in most MMO senses. Our intention was that if we provided EP items in the store that were marked as 'Mystical' they would be relics, 'Legendary' items would be artifacts, and 'Peerless' items would be heirlooms.
As you know, relics are typically ancient items that have some mystical properties. However, activating those properties first requires you to determine how to do so. The idea was that if people purchased one of the 'mystical' items it would be provided with a collection of non-relics, with no indication of which item was the relic, and no information about what the relic actually did. The receiver would be forced to go on a quest - or a series of quests - to discover which was the relic, and how to activate it. Much like we do with the custom relic design experiences. This process was intended to take months to accomplish. So it wasn't an immediate insta-relic.
As for artifacts, these items have a passive bonus that are always applied to them as a result of having been used to achieve some past previous achievement. Remember, CoE doesn't scale with items. There's no +100 STR swords. We subscribe to an older idea of equipment in RPG's where the differences between quality of items - even large quality differences are relatively small, and are even then very situational. When you think of artifacts in CoE don't think of Epics or Legendary items in most games - think of Sting from the Lord of The Rings; an elven blade feared by goblins which glows blue in the presence of orc-kind.
The point I'm making is that items in CoE - not matter their rarity are never game-breaking. They're unique, provide new and interesting opportunities for story, but generally aren't significant character-building tools. That's what PC and player skill is for.
Another hot-topic was blueprints. As you may recall from my EP Items FAQ, I said that blueprints tended to be more complex and interesting as they increased in rarity and quality. Complex and interesting doesn't mean more powerful.
Our goal has always been, and remains to be, about creating a launch experience where players fulfill many of the roles as NPCs in other games. That includes skill trainers. In some cases there will be skill trainers who have slightly more advanced skills than others, but in general the idea is to distribute the skills around the world so that would-be adventurers must travel between distant lands and biomes in order to learn the necessary skills to achieve mastery.
Our intention is not to create individuals who are grand-masters at everything before the game begins. Mastering a single individual pattern or technique before launch? Sure. That gives them the ability to train others. But mastery of a single technique or pattern does not make someone a master or grandmaster over-all. This shouldn't be a concern for anyone.
The Perception of Power and Pay-to-Win
Those quick PSA's out of the way, I don't believe Adam's topic post was about either legendary items, blueprints, or any other item available in the EP store. I think the point Adam was trying to make was whether we're "Pay-to-Win" or not, what matters is the perception people have. And he's right.
When we sit down with someone and explain to them how there is an option to "Pay to Build," and then go through and talk about why it's not pay-to-win, most people get it eventually. But in a market where people make decisions quickly and first impressions matter more than we like, it's imperative that the topic of conversation isn't about whether we're P2W or not. If that becomes the conversation, we've likely already lost the battle - regardless of whether it's true or not.
So the goal going forward can't be about trying to convince people we’re not P2W, the focus going forward needs to be on changing the conversation. The fact that the conversation is P2W right now is our fault.
Consider this: If we're able to reach our minimum goal of 200,000 players, then the couple thousand gentry, aristocracy, and nobility that exists across all our servers is as little as 5% of our total player-base. That means those people at launch who care about exposition or our EP store is extremely small!
And yet, out focus on Domain and Settlement Selection, settlement merging, our Pledge Packages, and even Exposition has lead people to believe that EP and Exposition has, or will have, a significant impact on the overall player experience. But it won't. To 190,000 people, the fact that Exposition even existed is irrelevant. They're never going to know, and never going to care. They're entering a world which was built and customized by players and that's all they should care about.
When 190,000 players buy a spark of life to play the game, the game is simply Buy-to-play. The only reason people feel differently is because of the attention we're giving to something that applies to only 5% of the population - at most.
So being cognizant of that, we're going to make a concerted effort as we go forward to change the conversation and focus on what really matters most - what happens after launch.
As we make forward progress expect to see less and less about things that affect only the gentry, aristocracy, and nobility, and more about things that effect everyone. When our focus is on what the player experience is going to be like for the other 90%, the question of whether we're P2W becomes significantly less impactful, and the perception will gradually change.
Pledged to the continued advancement of the Soulborn Engine and the chronicling of Elyria,