Posts Tagged ‘Free-to-Play’

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I’m So Gonna Pay For This…

July 1, 2011

There’s a new buzzword making its rounds in the MMO world these days, and it is “Freemium”. A portmanteau of “free” and “premium”, this business model is like a hybrid of the F2P and P2P payment models, brought together into one neat little package. A freemium game is free and there is no monthly fee, but if you want the whole shebang like extra character slots, more travel options, or bigger bag space, etc. you have the option to sub.

As for whether or not it’s a good model, well, that’s all a matter of opinion. Personally, I like the freemium model because of the choices it gives me — I can either play for free, purchase content piecemeal whenever I feel like it, or straight up subscribe to get all the benefits. Factoring time and effort, sometimes going that last route is even considered to be the most economical.

Still, I know plenty of people who play freemium games long-term and still manage to enjoy themselves by paying just the bare minimum, or not a cent at all. Just because you think you’ll be spending a lot of time in a game, doesn’t automatically mean you have to shell out for the premium VIP package. The beauty of the freemium model is the “free” option. FREE! is a powerful marketing technique that few can ignore, FREE! is always awesome.

My brain, however, works in funny ways sometimes. I think some perverse part of my mind still convinces myself that if I don’t pay I won’t play.

It’s not about the restrictions I wish to avoid, or about gaining the upper hand. It also has nothing to do with being suspicious of anything I don’t have to pay for, because I don’t buy the whole “free”-must-equal-“crappy” myth at all. I see freemium games and F2P games the same way I see any other MMO — if it looks good and I happen to be looking for something new to play, then count me in; I could care less about the business model.

Except it does kinda matter, but not in the way one would expect. I’ve looked back at my gaming history and seen that I’ve had a really bad track record of staying committed to “true” F2P games. Why that is the case has nothing to do with perceived quality, but has everything to do with the fact that little motivation comes from little investment. In other words, it’s not the games. It’s me. When an MMO is free, I put things off guilt-free and say to myself things like “I can always just play later” and “Hey, it’ll still be free tomorrow!” I say that again and again and again, and end up never playing at all.

This might sound strange, but I like P2P models sometimes…because knowing I paid $15 this month is a huge motivator. When I pay, I know I will play, as I am compelled to make the most out of my sub. It’s like my great desire to someday learn Latin. As much as I’d love to take the initiative and start on my own, uhhhhhh, it’s not gonna happen. I think the only way I’d ever get off my ass and do it is if I enrolled into and paid for a class. An MMO sub is sort of like that; just a little reminder each day that I should stop whatever work or messing around I’m doing to pay a little visit to my favorite virtual worlds, because I paid for it after all. Yes, I’m ever the procrastinator, apparently even with the hobbies I enjoy.

Anyway, games that offer the freemium model let me do that, but with considerably more choices. Despite what I said about P2P vs. F2P games, I’m definitely not an all-or-nothing kinda girl, and I still get excited when yet another MMO goes the freemium route. For the reasons I gave, most are games I’ll likely still fork over a sub to if/when I jump back in (like Age of Conan: Unchained), but sometimes simply dabbling is enough for me, and there are more than a few MMOs that I’d be happy to log in to for just a couple times a month. At least the freemium model allows me the flexibility to find a balance.

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My Champions Online Superhero Character: A Creative Endeavor

February 2, 2011

It might be all the same for some, but because roleplaying is such an important aspect in my MMO gaming, creating a character in a superhero game can mean going through a much different and more convoluted process. After all, besides having to sport a skintight costume that defies all laws of gravity and wedgies, one can argue the most important trait that separates your friendly neighborhood superhero from your typical fantasy or sci-fi MMO character is having an alter ego.

Essentially, I’m creating two personalities — I have my superheroine, and then I have her secret identity that protects her friends and family from being murdered in their beds by her arch enemies, a second mild-mannered persona with which shes uses to disguise herself for the purposes of fighting crime. Along with that, I need a kick-ass origin story. The more traumatic, and the more freak accidents or tragic events involved the better.

At least, that’s how it should work in theory. However, I created my Champions Online character Red Gazelle waaaaaay before I had the chance to really ponder the nature of this duality, or read this post on Blue Kae’s blog that made me consider the many ways a character can take shape in a player’s mind. For him, it happens one of two ways: 1) either he has an idea for a name before building a costume and powers around it, or 2) he has a costume in mind that suggests a certain power build and a name.

Number 2) probably best describes the way I came up with Red Gazelle, but what is probably closer to reality is that I blundered around the character creator messing about with the myriad options before I settled on a look I liked. Anyway, I don’t have an alter ego and I don’t have a backstory, but I am slowly trying to remedy that. I want to gradually build up the RP elements and add depth to my character, and sometimes you just have to do it as you go along.

I ran into a challenge almost right away. When it came to choosing a fast travel power, I saw what was available to me at the time and immediately chose Flight. What can I say? I like being able to travel up vertically as I please and to fly down from great heights without hurting myself. And it doesn’t matter if it’s slower; being able to float over obstacles instead of having to go around is very psychologically gratifying for me. It was working out quite well, until the guilt started chafing me at the back of my mind.

You see, in wanting to develop a good RP background and story for the Red Gazelle, I also wanted to do a good job of it. I wanted the whole picture, and I knew I couldn’t achieve this by throwing a bunch of costume pieces and random powers together, even when it’s a convenient one like Flight. I’m a “I-want-a-travel-power-to-match-the-kind-of-hero-I-am” kind of player, and so you see the reason behind my bad conscience — gazelles don’t freaking fly.

In the end, I replaced Flight with Super Speed which suited my character better, even though it’s a little less efficient especially in the urban jungle that is Millennium City with its many looming buildings and twisting alleyways. It’s strange, though; while I did sacrifice some convenience for the sake of roleplay, at the same time there is just something so wonderful about having that choice to make in the first place. It was strangely encouraging, and somehow increased my appreciation for CO. There is great fun and pride in seeing your character and his or her story evolve over time, and I look forward to discovering more of this game.

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Champions Online: Free Ass-Kicking For All In Millennium City

January 26, 2011

This week, I return to the world of MMO gaming with a vengeance — I know I said I was going to play the crap out of Rift beta 5, but still I found some time last night to download the new Champions Online free-to-play client.

I was pleasantly surprised to see my old character still there, waiting for me at the character screen. It’s been a little more than a year since I created her, but I can still remember the process clear as day. I’m a huge Marvel fangirl, so not surprisingly, I drew a lot of inspiration from the comics. Jessica Drew the Spider-Woman is one of my personal favorites, so giving my character her good looks and long beautiful black hair was a no-brainer. Combat-wise, I couldn’t stop thinking about Elektra, but instead of a couple of sai I’d opted to let her wield a Samurai sword instead.

If you’ve ever played a Cryptic game, you’d know that creating a character is always fun as hell, and Champions is no exception. I can’t say I remember exactly how it all happened, but my character ended up with a banded red skintight jumpsuit and a couple of horns. Now, Matt Murdock might be able to get away with running around town looking like the devil, but um, how should I put this? For my heroine, I wanted something a little less…demonic?

Hey, nothing like slapping a cutesy animal name on her can’t fix. Meet the Red Gazelle:

Not long after I logged in, I met up with my good friend Blue Kae who was also checking out CO at the time. He came up to greet Red Gazelle with his character — get this — named Blue Ram. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

We partnered up to form, um…Team Ungulates? The Bovidae Duo? Something tells me even if I brush up on my mammalian taxonomic classifications ’til the cows come home (oh my God, I slay myself sometimes), I’ll still never be able to come up with a good-sounding name for these two.

I’ve played CO in the past, but I didn’t stay with it very long — that decision didn’t really have anything to do with the actual gameplay, mind you…just, you know, it gets a little hard to play when the client crashes your computer every five minutes. Not really the game’s fault, but I never did get the chance to go back even after I bought a new PC last year.

Kae was a good teacher, and I happily played Robin to his Batman while he took me around Millennium City and helped get me reacquainted with the game again. It’s clearly a fun MMO, and depending on how it goes, I may decide to sub for the month of February just to get my hands on all the good stuff Gold members get. I’d hate to miss out on the chance to fully customize my powers and abilities, which has been touted as one of the best features of the game, even if it’s just for a little while.

For the remainder of the night, Blue Ram and the Red Gazelle brought their own brand of justice to the streets of Millennium City — both above and below. Our cloven heroes even took to the sewers, rudely interrupting an evil crime syndicate meeting that was taking place in its smelly dark depths. I’m proud to say I did my part by getting in the way and making myself dead while Kae fought to kill the bad guys and save my useless ass. In other words, I was the perfect sidekick!

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Happy Being A Part Of It

September 21, 2010

Some people like to avoid crowds, but not me. I love them. Maybe it’s a preference I developed from living in big cities practically all my life. From Bangkok to Hong Kong, Toronto to Shanghai, these places were always crawling with humanity no matter the time of day, and I find myself feeling a little awkward and out-of-place now in the tranquil quiet of suburbia. Not surprisingly, I am the same way with my games. There’s only one thing worse for me than having to live with the belligerent riffraff of a bad community, and that is having no community to live with at all. The thought of going out into an MMO world encountering next to nobody is a depressing thought, and I’ve stopped playing games before on the sole basis of having no one to play with.

So while some were staying away from Lord of the Rings Online hoping to wait out the flow of F2P players, I braved the server queues (which thankfully weren’t all that bad even at peak times) and couldn’t wait to jump right in to try and take advantage of the population increase.

I’ve only experienced benefits, much to my pleasant surprise. In the last week, I’ve had no problems finding groups, and not a single encounter that made me cringe. People are still spontaneously role-playing and making music and all that good stuff for no reward but the experiences’ sake. In all areas and especially the early zones, I see helpful answers in the Advice chat. In other words, nothing’s really changed. If anything, more people on the Landroval server have meant good things for my little Hobbit Minstrel, who has gained so much experience from all the group quests.

I’ve always thought of an online gaming community as a fragile thing, difficult to cultivate but extremely easy to destroy, not something you can fine-tune. Perhaps that’s why most MMO communities today are utter crap. But LOTRO has surprised me with the way its adapted to the influx of people so swimmingly. When it comes down to it, I truly believe the players shoulder the bigger responsibility. Developers can only do so much to provide the tools to encourage a good community, and maybe intervene occasionally to weed out the unwanted behaviors. The problem is, there are tons of ways to punish the bad but not enough ways to reward the good, especially when it’s those good behaviors that are the grassroots of a great community.

That’s where I think the players come in. Apathy is what erodes away a community’s foundation, people pointing fingers or counting on someone else to take care of the problem. Too many are also quick to call someone an asshole or do unsavory things, and then turn right around and wonder why the community is so piss-poor when someone else decides to call them names or act like a jackass. On the other hand, you can definitely see a difference when enough people  take the time to care. One of the reasons the community on Landroval is such a good one is because its members take such great pride in it. You can read it in the forums and you can feel it in the game. There’s a sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline without being overly prudish or stuffy, and I think it’s an awareness that spreads to everyone who comes on board.

In the end, what we have around us is what we make of it. I’m looking forward to spending more time in-game and in my new kinship, going forward with F2P LOTRO.

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LOTRO: Forth We Go

September 8, 2010

I haven’t been following up with news about Lord of the Rings Online for a while so I’ve been pretty clueless, taking for granted that free-to-play was going to come one day and subsequently, swept all thoughts about the game onto the back burner. I didn’t realize that day was coming up so soon, this Friday the 10th to be exact, but even sooner for current subscribers and F2P beta players. It took me a second to even remember that I am on a multi-month plan, so even though I haven’t played for a couple weeks, I still currently have an active subscription.

I also realized I shouldn’t be surprised if the next time I log in to find my Hobbit homeless. I’ve been so neglectful of paying upkeep on my player house.

Anyway, I suppose I qualify for the headstart, which some part of my muddled brain just remembered last minute that it was today, hence the reason for dragging myself up at this late hour to start the launcher and get the update started (crappy internet being slow and all, even then it probably wouldn’t be done until early afternoon). I am suddenly contemplating my original idea of downgrading my account to premium immediately or soon after F2P. This probably isn’t the best thing to do at 2am in the morning, because trying to figure this out is hard enough as it is. I won’t have to worry about a thing if I maintain my VIP status which I actually would prefer if it’ll make my life easier as I continue to play. But since I have a) bought the main game and the expansions, b) have already bought my riding skill, and c) will be logging in mostly to play only my one character, will maintaining a sub will even be all that different from premium? I am thoroughly confused, and not just because I need the sleep.

I’m looking forward to rejoining the Landroval community; despite reservations in the past, I’m actually feeling quite optimistic now that F2P will bring good changes. Perhaps it’s also time to find a new kinship because I was only stagnating in my quiet old one, when a little inspiration and a fresh perspective is probably a little more apropos for entering a new era of LOTRO.

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Going With The Flow In The LOTRO Community

June 8, 2010

I logged in to Lord of the Rings Online yesterday, the first time I’ve done so since the news on Friday that the game was going free-to-play this fall. I was curious to see if the announcement and all the buzz would have brought some renewed interest to the game, and well, it could have been my imagination but the Landroval server did seem a little busier than normal last night. Still, discussion on the matter was sparse, and for the most part it was business as usual.

As always, I had quite a relaxing play session. Like I’d mentioned before, LOTRO is my virtual spa where I can de-stress and do things at my own pace, and I think this no-pressure feeling has a lot to do with the community. At least on Landroval, I get the general sense that the playerbase is serious and dedicated to the game, but not obsessive.

It’s hard to explain, but I contrast it to logging into World of Warcraft, a game where I feel like I’m hit in the face with a sense of urgency right from the get-go. The atmosphere is charged with it, because most of the people in WoW storm through the game world with only one thing on their minds: to get to end-game. I think about the implications of that. For instance, it’s quite possible that a person may be affected by the overall mood of a community, be swept up and carried along with its undercurrents. I know for a fact that when I log in to WoW on my main, I am immediately fighting with a sense of being left behind if I don’t get right back on that treadmill. Sometimes, when I find myself in a competitive mood, I actually like that…but WoW is certainly not the game I’d go to for a relaxing escape.

On the other hand, I get none of that urgency in LOTRO. In fact, most people on Landroval don’t seem in a hurry to get anywhere at all. I know this might have something to do with a significant role-playing population, but in general, the feeling I get from this community is that it’s okay to have goals, but it’s also totally cool to take a break every once in a while and smell the roses. Sometimes, I too get pulled into this lull without even realizing it, but when it happens I’m always glad for it.

I think about the many times I’ve charged into an inn armed with a determination to level and half a dozen quests to turn in, only to be distracted by someone playing a gorgeous little tune in the corner by the fireplace. Aaarrgh, player music gets me every time! And I’m sure I’m not the only one — invariably, a small gathering always forms around the musician, other people who have decided to take a few minutes out of their schedules to show their appreciation.

I’ve come to love that about LOTRO, the fact that people will spontaneously engage in social activities that offer no tangible reward or in-game achievements, or that they do things just for the experience’s sake and nothing else. And this is the aspect of the community that I really hope will remain intact once the game goes F2P. Most opinions I’ve read are generally optimistic, and I’d say I’m in that boat as well, despite my concerns. A game’s playerbase has a way of adapting and coping to big changes, and I have no doubt LOTRO’s will survive. Playing last night, however, made me ponder the fragile nature of a community, and how its quality goes beyond just player manners or content in zone chat.

Anyway, inspired to take a little break from the leveling grind myself, I took a good chunk of time off from questing last night to decorate my house. As you can see, it’s no longer just a bed in an empty room. I had enough money to afford all kinds of furniture for Kiskadee’s sleeping chambers, though the main room and the front yard is still quite bare. I think it’s time to start thinking about other ways to acquire furnishings for my little hobbit.

Green is my hobbit's color.

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LOTRO Going Free-To-Play…Thanks, I Guess

June 4, 2010

I don’t usually fly into a fury to post about the latest news, preferring to let other bloggers more passionate about the topic write about it instead, then say my piece in the comments. But the news of Lord of the Rings Online going free-to-play (amusing how big news is always dumped on us on Fridays) stirred in me more thoughts than usual. I went back and forth with myself until I finally decided that yes, I’m going to go ahead and write them out too, just to make it easier for me to wrap my head around this.

My first thought was admittedly very self-serving, and that was “Boy oh boy, by Frodo’s hairy left foot, this is going to solve my too-many-subscriptions problem!” accompanied by a a sigh of relief for my savings account. As it happens, I’m still running on free time in LOTRO until the end of summer, and depending on when these changes will go into effect “this fall” I may never have to pay for a LOTRO subscription again.

The game going F2P will also mesh well with my pattern of playing — LOTRO is my casual game, the “MMO spa” I go to for a nice breather and a thorough de-stressing. But it’s also the first subscription to go if something new and shiny comes along to grab my interest, and only after the new-game-smell of whatever I was obsessed with has worn off do I think about picking up LOTRO again. (And now, I feel a little guilty…if this was a relationship I’d be the cheating scumbag and LOTRO would be the patient, loyal partner that always welcomes me back with open arms when I come crawling back begging for forgiveness.) LOTRO going F2P will undoubtedly allow me more freedom with accessing its content; I’ll be able to play it whenever I want without having to worry about a subscription ever again, regardless of whether or not I’m between games.

So, I guess I can’t really hate the idea. Mind you, I’m not loving it either. My only concern with F2P is the quality of the community. It would be a shame to see LOTRO chat devolve into the kind of riff-raff I experienced in Allods Online, my only experience with F2P. But then, I’ve also heard great things about DDO’s community, so hopefully going F2P doesn’t automatically mean doom.

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