The Dilution of the F2P Market

So Age of Conan has tossed its hat into the ring around the Free to Play paradigm.   And yes, I would like to play it for free, thank you very much.  But…

The Age of Free To Play

I am struck all at once by a peculiar sort of conundrum.  Eighteen months ago I was bouncing subs like nobody’s business.  I had two subs running concurrently and those often changed from month to month based on what I wanted to play.  So in general, my annual MMO subscription budget is $360 a year.  That seems like a lot, but since its pretty much my only form of entertainment (and since at least $160 of that each year comes from birthday/Christmas money), I guess its not too bad.   Still, it is a lot when my wife looks at the bills, and so that was my cap, and indeed, my limiting factor.

Now though, I enjoy what we all do – the ability to play a game for less than $15 a month.  Indeed, when I boot up the compy tonight, I could play Everquest 2, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Lord of the Rings Online, or Champions Online…all for free.   And that doesn’t include other already F2P favorites of mine like World of Tank or The Reincarnation or Minecraft.  All of a sudden, my limiting factor has shifted.  Before it was money, and now, it is time.

You see, with two subs a month, and changing each month, I played only two games at a time, for at least a month in duration.   And this was okay, because MMO’s require some continuity.  Now though, I can play anything anytime.  And continuity is my problem, not theirs.

Long story short, all this lead me to a thought…

Does this mean that the more high profile MMO’s go F2P, the less successful they all will be?  Or more poignantly,  does this mean that those “lesser” games that enjoyed a new lease on life as F2P creations will now hit a back burner as other, formerly “greater” games turn F2P.  Granted, this designation may not apply to Conan – YMMV.  But the question remains.  I guess time will tell.  But my hope is that the many virtual worlds I have explored and come to love will have long lives ahead of them for years to come.  And if the pool gets to crowded, some of them may get pushed under to make room for the new guys.

Coming Soon to an F2P Market Near You!
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So Where Have You Been Lately?

Me?  I’ve been away from MMO land, that virtual universe that we all know and love so much.  Not to worry, it was a temporary reprieve.  My trip out of town, my brother, both of these things took my time, and on top of that I’ve been battling illness.  I had a headache that lasted for 48 hours and wouldn’t let up no matter what dosage of Advil/Aleve/Tylenol I used.   I journeyed to the doc.  They ruled out all the big stuff (enclosed MRI’s suck btw)  but saw that I did have “a severe infection” in the sinus cavities that are hard to get to (the ones in the middle of your head).  Severe enough that if I get to the end of the antibiotics and there is no improvement  they will repeat the antibiotics, only this time through an IV drip as I relax in the unquestionable luxury of a hospital room.  I’m hoping to avoid that.  It has cut my playing time though as I get exhausted pretty easily and have had to take a few days off of work to literally do nothing.   I went to bed at 6 last night even – missed NBA finals, World Cup soccer, and MMO’s all three!

With the step back from online time, I let my EVE account lapse.   I would have done the same with the EQ2 one as well, just to save the money, but I didn’t get to it in time.  So at this point I’m not playing anything.   I did collect an APB key, but to be honest, shooters usually aren’t my thing so I don’t expect that to go very far.   I’ll probably diddle around with EQ2 a little more this week.  A big shout out to the lovely people over at The Halasian Empire, who have made my last couple of weeks in the game much more entertaining and welcoming.

I’ll probably also attempt to finish out my run through Tortage and the Age of Conan unlimited trial.  I really have enjoyed the game this time around, and found all the leveling bumps and annoyances from before to have been worked out a great deal.

EVE remains something of a dilemma for me.  I enjoy reading the blogs on the game, I enjoy playing with the fitter, but to be honest, its been nearly three months since I’ve taken a ship out of a hanger to do anything other than transfer some modules or scout war targets.  I’m just kinda waiting for some inspiration and motivation I guess.  I hate it that my character is not training, but in truth, part of letting my account lapse was to force me to deal with that.  I get nervous if something seems to have too great a hold on me, yaknow?

But with all that piddling, I don’t have a main game right now, and I am not really angling for one either.  I just seem to be content to float for an hour here or there as I have time and energy.   Speaking of, I’m about out right now as well.   So I’m going to go turn in.  May grand adventure and heroic stories await you in whatever realm you are journeying in as you read this.

Narrowing It Down

So when I was last in Hyperborea, I had a hard time deciding on a class.  I was enamored with the melee combo system, and to some extent I still am.  But I also like my ranged action.  The solution last time was to go with the Ranger.  Nice solo elements, but also useful in a group.

Ranger Crossing

This time around though, it wasn’t really doing it for me.  I had already tried the Dark Templar (too blah) and the Assassin (too squishy) the last time around.  My alt had been a Necromancer, which I had liked.  I had also had an inkling, looking at the skill list, that the Demonologist would be a familiar class to me (much like the pet classes I play in the EQ series).   Beyond that lay the Herald (originally the Lich class btw, I still think they made a mistake there), which looked fun but I had passed on in deference to my brother, who was playing one last time around.  So I decided to play through the Mage archetype and see what I could see.

Long story short, I like the Demonologist alot, and I found the Necro to be less engaging this time around.  Probably because its really squishy as well, since the pets draw no aggro, and it seems to be missing the commensurate DPS to make up for it.  But I miss the awesome fatality combos.  So I moved on to the Herald, and added the Conqueror and Barbarian into the mix as well.  The Herald suffers a bit because of its lack of weapon variety (hey, what can I say? I get bored easy) next to the other two.  And if I’m going to roll out melee combos, having the tanking ability to go with it is a nice touch for grouping.

Hence:  A twofer.  I’m playing a Cimmerian Conqueror and a Stygian Demonologist.  This gives me two different playstyles, both of which are enjoyable. Now that that’s out of the way…its time to find out if they’ve ironed out the wrinkles in the leveling ramp known as Tortage.

Just Who Is This Godslayer Person Anyway?

Further proof that unlimited trials are a good thing:  some time after soundly berating FunCom for holding my characters hostage and deleting them, I am now playing through Tortage to see if its improved any. 

I would play EVE – but we’re in about our 8th consecutive week of War Decs, and this week, we got two of them.  So…I’m not doing much their but finishing T2 shield tanking skills in anticipation of owning my first ever Caldari ship – the totally wicked looking new Scorpian.

I would play Everquest 2 – but I have nobody to play with.  I’m in three different guilds on two different servers.  In two of the guilds, there is never more than one or two others on, and while terribly nice to me, they don’t have much interest in grouping with me.  In the third I joined a new guild (got a shiny plat for that too!) thinking that I would be able to play with others my level.  I signed off around midnight, and when I got back in the saddle 21 hours later – I was still level 9 and everyone else was in their 20’s.   …

So, I’ll take out my frustrations via decapitation and disembowelment.  That is all, carry on.

When approached by three beautiful women with weaponry, confusion is a natural response.

Free Levels for Everyone!

I’ve said before that as much as I hold a grudge against Funcom, they do incorporate some innovative ideas.  And now they are offering free offline levels for any post-level 30 character on accounts.  While they aren’t the first to offer this kind of thing  it is very intriguing.  DAoC has a similar system in place, but its not as rapid, and basically is there to help keep the game alive and keep old hands interested in staying around.

The pace is a bit bewildering too.  You get a free level every four days, which comes to 7 a month, or 15 in a 60 day cycle.  That’s very nice.

I’m of two minds here basically.  One is that I want free levels.  Two is that this shamefully encourages racing through content to reach end game.  Its like good angel/bad angel on my shoulders.  Hopefully this won’t ever hit EQ2, and then I won’t have to have the internal debate with myself.  (-:

H/T to Adventurer Historian for the link, who I also noticed for some reason, I don’t have on my blogroll.  Shame on me.  /fixed.

No, no, no, no, NO

Anyone else get this email?

Thank you for playing Age of Conan.

As part of our maintenance your account is now flagged to have your characters below level 20 deleted as part of maintenance. Please re-activate your account now to ensure that your characters progress and names stay intact.

As a welcome back offer we would like to give you a time-limited offer for 7 days of additional play time if you choose to re-subscribe now. Please click this link to use this special offer!

Thank you Funcom!  I enjoyed playing your game.  You cannot hold my characters hostage though.  Sorry.  If it means that little to you.  Perhaps if the seven days were free up-front time, I would be tempted.   But since they apparently are not…I’m not.

But wait, what’s this?

Here are just some of the some reasons why you should return to Age of Conan now:

Veteran Points Exclusive Subscription Rewards Free Level 50 Character
Tons of New Conent Enhanced Performanc Most improved
MMO of 2009

Gosh Funcom…you make it so tough.  I would enjoy a level 50 character free.  Lets see if I can find some information on that.

Nope.  Nothing on your forums.  Nothing.  Even your search feature can’t find anything.  And I can’t post to ask because…I don’t have an active account.  Great.

Lets see….Europe Forums…sure why not…Viola!

Correct, everyone who has a level 50 character already gets access to create a new level 50 character after 1.05.

__________________
Craig ‘Silirrion’ Morrison
Game Director

Hmm….guess that’s not me.  If it was, I wouldn’t have gotten the email about my lowbie characters being deleted in the first place, now would I?

Again, thank you Funcom, for showing everyone else in the MMO industry some important lessons:

1.  Never, ever, EVER, delete characters.  EVER.  Or the people who left…will never come back.  And lets face it AoC – there’s not alot of NEW blood out there to be had.

2.  Always be upfront about your free offers, always be upfront with your free time.  Your offer apparently is $15 for 37 days in stead of $15 for 30 days.  Big whoop.

3.  Do not lie.  I will not get a free level 50 character.  To tell me that I will get one is a lie.  Lieing to your customers, and to your potential customers, is not good business.  No matter how much you want to think it is.

Sorry about the CAPS, but haven’t we been down this road before?  Good luck Funcom.  I hope you go belly up ASAP.