That's a really interesting point. In EQ2's current state, I'm not sure that it's really a subtraction of content, though.
I'm basing that opinion on the way the population of the world is laid out right now in terms of the split between group-required vs group-not-required content -- Feel free to tell me if I'm completely insane. :)
To begin with, what I wrote comes from previous considerations I made more extensively here
What you say makes sense, of course. There isn't an objective erosion of content if the content is soloable. The fact that you can solo means that there isn't a barrier between the content you want to see and the actual possibility to do so. The world is open and will remain open forever.
But that's just one aspect of the problem because way more important is the *function* of the content, not only its accessibility. It may be true that the solo content is always accessible, but will it preserve an actual role in the gameplay? The "carrots" you have as goals in the game are in a finished quantity and type. This means that a quest offering a +5 sword will mudflate a quest that will offer a +3 sword. This second quest will vanish from the world even if you didn't remove it directly.
From my point of view even the PvE should be balanced in a similar way to what happens to the PvP. The content, the zones, the various Points of Interest, the quests, the rewards etc... Everything should have a precise *role* in the gameplay without having content continuously developed to "replace" what was there before. If the plan is to actually replace obsolete content, you'd obtain better results by replanning and restructuring the zones and the quests *already* in the game, keeping the game world fresh and cohesive (and healthy) instead of expanding its borders while the core is aging and decaying.
Before adding more content at will there should be a consideration of the actual needs of the game. "More content" is good for demagogy but it won't make the game better if that content doesn't have a specific purpose that isn't just a replacement of something else.
The split used to be around 90/10, where 90% required a group, and now it's about 40/60. (We've added quite a few instances for soloists and small groups, and changed the entire overland population to more accurately reflect people's desired playstyles. New quest paths, and all of that as well.)
In the old 90/10 world - Absolutely. Each addition distributes the potential LFG pool farther and farther.
Yet you are a few months after release. What will happen in a few years? How long this model will hold? And, especially, there could be a better, more efficient, model?
I read you plan for 200 levels. This is obviously an excuse to develop the game in this direction. Stealing a post from another forum (from the same 'El Gallo' we have here):
Content is king. They need to keep pumping out new content that renders the old content obsolete. That's the challenge of making a diku-EQ style game, and why EQ devolved into such a shitty cockblock-fest despite SoE's willingness to crap out unfinished expansions like a lactose intolerant in the Baskin Robbins' restroom. 90% of the stuff Blizzard spent 2+ years producing is now utterly irrelevant to the real game. That trend will continue. It's the nature of the beast. If Blizzard can keep up with a sizeable portion of their player base without resorting to any more timesinks than those players will tolerate, everything is kosher. If they can't, it isn't.
That's the most direct definition of the development. Producing content that will become completely irrelevant after the novelty wears off. Disposable. It's work finishing in a black hole.
Now, in EQ2, this will be excused by a constant rise of the level cap. Instead of adding more content uniformly along the whole level range, the content is progressively added to build a new margin. But we also know that this is an illusion, after some months there will be a serious need to design "shortcuts" in order to keep constant the gap between new and old players (like Rob Humble explains in this post
), so that the treadmill will remain tolerable.
The fact that this level cap will keep shifing up, becomes just an illusion. The "career" of a new players will have to remain constant, so a new player will have to "jump" a large quantity of content that was needed for a previous generation of players and now became completely *useless*.
Now, where is all that content gone?
The fact that the game has "lots of content" is again just illusion because the content is *reduced*. What is happening is just a rehash of the most common of the tricks:
Right now, maybe, the content is well balanced, easily accessible and also with a specific role within the gameplay. But what will happen in some time with two retail expansions and four adventures packs each year? Where is this game heading (along with all the resources to develop all that)?
The increasing level cap is just a trick to push the dirt under the carpet. The fact is that this type of development is unexcused, isn't leading anywhere if not trying to keep the players hooked in an infinite, repetitive race. An illusory production of content because what happens concretely is just the stretch of the same stuff, till it breaks up or till EverQuest 3.
The possibility to solo and better LFG tools can be useful workarounds to address the issues (consequences of a bigger problem) but all this doesn't hint that, maybe, there's something wrong in the model?
There are two basic points that are way more important to consider:
1- The *role* of the content in the gameplay. Both as its function in the formal system, and as functional considerations (variety of zones and places to hunt, replay value, ease of travel, popular meeting points and so on).
2- The possibility to add depth and breadth to the game instead of eroding itself. To simulate other aspects of the game world instead of just the combat, integrate more systems together and add more possibilities of interaction that make the world something more than just a background.
Maybe a less superficial approach in the creation and planning of the content will bring to the production of a game that is able to remain healthy, cohesive and strong in the long run, instead of being exploited and squeezed till its limit and instead of heaping content just for the sake of it.
You see, I can reduce all these considerations even more to find what's the real point:
The development of "more content" should be the *consequence* of a need. What is happening at SOE is that, firstly there's the absolute, unquestioned principle to "produce more". THEN you create the needs in order to excuse that production. The logical sense is reverted.
Anyway, it's good to see that at least this problem seems at least acknowledged.