It appears fairly clear that Praetoria – being released in the City of Heroes / Villains’ Going Rogue expansion – is going to serve as the ‘new and improved’ starter area for CoH/V. (Older zones won’t be revamped until it is “an event for the game as a whole” according to the same interview). Going Rogue is releasing with four new zones (Nova Praetoria, Imperial City, Neutropolis, and The Underground), covering lvl 1 – 20 (maybe beyond; maybe it is 3 zones for lvl 1 – 20 and 1 zone for lvl 50 Incarnates) are going to be offering the latest and greatest CoH/V experience.
This would indicate they’d also be the best zones for those new to CoH/V to start their trial accounts. After all, it will be the best introduction to CoH/V and the one most likely to get triallists subscribing.
However, for a triallist to start out trialling GoRo is problematic, because if they want to keep that GoRo character they’ll have to pay double for the CoH/V GoRo Complete box over a standard CoH/V box. It becomes very easy to ask if GoRo is really worth paying extra for when you see the prices lined up on screen. Or even when a triallist buys the CoH/V box, thinking it gives them access to Praetoria, only to find out they’ll need to shell out extra to buy that area. You can claim, “caveat emptor, noob!”, but ultimately it is a bad idea to irritate new players who you want to keep collecting revenue from.
Either trial players are going to get to look at GoRo and then pay double the ‘normal’ price to continue playing it, or be excluded from the best new content CoH/V has to offer. Neither strikes me as a flawless offer.
… which is why I think GoRo is going to remain a more expensive purchase option for a very short period of time post-launch. Once all those pre-purchase and launch sales are collected, it would make sense to no longer treat GoRo as a separate entity (as CoH/V also did with CoV’s launch – something widely seen as a mistake) and rather make it the ‘standard’ offering. Sure, GoRo is an expansion that could be considered optional, but it contains things that are focused at new players, not just hard-core CoH/V completists. Although you don’t need GoRo to play CoH/V, it’s got all the cool new stuff that players have (potentially – let’s see what actually comes out) been asking for, especially in terms of new power sets.
The CoH/V devs have already seen enough, “The devs hate villains / heroes” chatter that occurs every time new content is released that favours only one side. It would seem that they haven’t been listening if they start developing GoRo-only content, especially since that content is going to be limited to levels 1 to 20 at the start – it isn’t going to take players long to run all that content, side switching or not.
Now, it might be that 2 months post-release that suddenly the Praetoria zones are unlocked for everyone but the new powersets – definitely Dual Pistols and Demon Summoning, maybe Kinetic Melee and Electricity Control – still require the box purchase. That’s feasible and allows for Issue 19 to add in additional story content to GoRo. The initial indication is that GoRo only going to have a storyline for levels 1 – 20, then will ‘pause’ until more Praetorian content comes out. (In reality, that ‘pause’ means ‘benching your character’ or risk outlevelling the new 21 – 50 content by the time it is released). Side-switching gives every player extra things to do with their character, so making this free will remove any excuse about, “There is no new content for non-GoRo players to do!”.
But bringing it back to trial players… I’ve been critical of how CoH/V deals with its trial players for a while now. CoH/V has an a continuous free-trial offer going, but also have a range of trial account restrictions that limit the efficacy of that trial. Trial players don’t need access to the full game, but they also don’t need to play while bound and gagged either (unless they choose to, which is a whole different story). Not implementing Going Rogue correctly from a trial account perspective will see CoH/V to blow off a lot of new player interest, which is the last thing Paragon Studios will want to do.
Hopefully these are all things that have been considered properly and the devs just haven’t released the detail (not that they’ve released much detail about Going Rogue, with even the recent PAX 2010 comments looking like some things are still up in the air). But then things like the changes to PvP that came in I13 and the obvious issues that the mission architect system launched with in I14 that then required some fairly quick and dramatic adjustments keep me aware that sometimes the CoH/V devs may overlook an issue because they are too close to it, or adopt a ‘wait and see‘ attitude that doesn’t pan out. It’s very possible that how trial accounts and Going Rogue are going to intersect isn’t something that been considered yet, or has been glossed over. But it is a critical issue to the short-term success of Going Rogue and the longer-term success of CoH/V. It is also an issue that is going to impact on how players return to / arrive in CoH/V – if they can play the full title from a trial account, including the new areas, they’ll do so without worrying about putting money down. However, if they can’t play in Praetoria without buying the box, there may be players willing to buy-before-they-try, as well as players who will be turned off at having to pay anything to see the new areas.
As an issue it isn’t nearly as exciting as if Kinetic Melee is going to finally let you create a Dragonball-Z character in CoH/V, but it is important about how all the players tempted into trying CoH/V in July are going to be encouraged to stay.
UPDATED 26 October 2011: To fix some broken links / images.