Bro, Do You Even F2P?

Man, these F2P titles are killing it! What a great weekend we have lined up! All except one.

SWTOR is doing a double XP weekend – well, not even that, a whole week! With the announcement that next week they will bring back the popular bounty hunting for another week as well. All this along with their usual weekly sales.

And TERA? Also a double XP weekend! And they also are running a cross promotion with ZMR for some silly outfits and also free loot boxes.

World of Tanks is celebrating their gaming league and their 4 year anniversary, last weekend handing out x5 XP bonuses and huge sales on premium tanks and in game gear, and more stuff anticipated this weekend. And War Thunder is running their popular Chronicles series allowing you to reenact popular battles from WW2, as well as running a contest to help fill out their Wiki with good articles. All this in addition to the usual daily random boost and standard weekly contests.

STO continues to run their Delta Recruitment promotion with various skill boosts. NWN has a Wonders of Gond event with free items to collect and such. Uncharted Waters Online (I know, none of you play it) is celebrating a new Chapter of their story and a big game update along with a 50% boost to skill proficiency gain!

And the newest F2P contender, Elder Scrolls Online, they are doing a Welcome Back Weekend, trying to get people to come in and give the game a shot! With a live stream! And … um … yeah. That’s about it. No bonuses. No sales. No boosts. No free stuff – well, unless you enter the costume contest or the orienteering race and try to win a prize. You could buy an exclusive mount this weekend only, for $20. But that’s about it.

Bethesda has a long way to go if they want to succeed at this F2P thing. I know they are trying to be generous in their model, and I appreciate that, but right now they are the one restaurant on the boulevard that doesn’t have a sign out front or a coupon in the newspaper. It looks like its going to be a bumpy road for that team for awhile.

#mmo, #2015, #elderscrollsonline, #theweekend

Weekend Gaming Hops Dimensions

Over the summer my little family gaming group – my brother and sister-in-law and myself, have been working out way through LotRO.   Granted there has been a lot of travel and busy time, but whenever we could, we would log in and tackle some content together.  LotRO has its flaws, but it is a solid game, and for anyone who grew up reading Tolkien, simply being “in” Middle Earth is a bit of a treat.   We also did some unholy trinity swapping.   My brother normally tanks while I heal, but we traded places this time around and I was tanking and him healing.   Or at least that was the plan.  As it turns out, in Soviet LotRO, Minstrel Healers out-DPS everyone and Warden Tanks don’t actually have an taunts.   None the less, we have had a good time.


But, with LotRO’s model being what it was, we eventually ran out of free content.  And while I don’t think any of us were opposed to dropping the $5-$7 to open up a new section of the quests in the game world, it did give us a pause in our playing that led to the question – stay here?  Or try something else?


Game hoppers that we are, we decided to duck into Rift and see how the F2P transition had gone (turns out we aren’t the only ones who have done this).   We all have fond memories of the game, and truth be told, we only let go of our subs there to embrace the world of The Old Republic in all its grandeur.   That worked out so well, we had to do a little gaming cleansing before we were ready to commit to anything else.   So after some discussion, we decided to try out the Guardian side of things and rolled some new characters.   And we kept the same role-swapping.   Of course you have more leeway in Rift, so I could tank as Warrior, Rogue, or even pet tank with a Mage, since we tend to be content with the regular content (though I have heard that pets don’t perform all that badly in normal level dungeons).   But after the frustrating experience of not being able to hold aggro with the Warden,  I just decided to belly up to Warrior and give it a shot.    So far I haven’t regretted it, and in fact have come to realize that one reason I hadn’t looked at the Warrior too seriously before was because there weren’t just one or two souls therein that I was interested in – I wanted to play them all.   This could cause a problem – since I am at level 10 and haven’t spent a single soul point.   But I’m sure I will eventually settle in on something.


The last time we were in game, I was able to behold the beauty of needing a new graphics card.  Badly.
The last time we were in game, I was able to behold the beauty of needing a new graphics card. Badly.


My brother meanwhile seemed to be having fun with his cleric.   In the one hour we got to play this weekend, I think I saw him with hurling fire and armed with a staff, and then beating people with a two-handed hammer.  The only hitch was that Rift, in all its joy to cater to the weak-minded, managed to enable a button somewhere that spent all your soul points for you, without giving you a “hey you sure you want us to do this for you?”  Yes/No confirmation.    Not that its bad, but we are very much “make your own build” people.   And one thing that has not had the “make it terribly convenient” makeover is the ability to respec your spending (oddly enough).


Still, overall we had a good time.  We have a nice stash of credits for all of us and some fun loyalty rewards to play with.   And the Defiant/Guardian divide means we have a new storyline and leveling content to play with.    And if things do get frustrating or we just want to tackle some higher content, well – we always have those 50’s sitting around ready to take a stroll.

Gaming Budgets and Spending Money

I mentioned previously that I was a little short on spending money.  You see, I was doing a little money upkeeping, budget work, etc.  You know, all that stuff you have to do when someone starts using your apparently stolen card numbers for nefarious purposes.   (On the bright side, there are lots of safety nets for that sort of thing, and in this case I can safely say that this was not my fault!)


Anyway, that along with the summer sales has led me to doing something I hadn’t done in a while, which is seeing how much I spend on games this year.  Years ago it was a pretty set amount – I’d ask for whatever new games I wanted as Christmas or birthday gifts, and just paid out 1 or 2 subs a month for a year.   Back in those days when F2P was not an option.   And I never really got a discount because I could only bounce around month to month and there was always some shiny new game to check out, all of which required a sub.    Throw in some scratch money for the occasional clearance game, and it was a pretty easy number to conjure with.


So I was both shocked and also relieved when I totaled my “fun” spending for this year and encountered about the same number.


*rough estimate.


On the one hand, shocked because the only real sub I am running these days is for Xbox Live and its a bit cheaper than your plain old run-of-the-mill MMO sub.   Not to mention we are only halfway through the year!   And that there is some money not counted there because of gift cards that offset.


On the other hand, our life and job situation is better, and there are some one-time purchases in there (I had to break down and buy a bigger hard drive for Xbox because of my daughter’s purchase and obsession with Minecraft, for example).    And since that money is not only games but also includes books I’ve bought for pleasure and my soccer league fees, I guess its not too bad (though fantasy football season approached with alarming speed).   Part of me is convinced that is a far cheaper hobby total than what some of my peers are involved with.   Like, say, owning a boat – which involves gas and maintenance and such.  Then again, as my wife is quick to point out, at least in that hobby the rest of the family gets to enjoy the spent money in some way (time on the lake), whereas my hobby is cheaper but in not way contributes back to the family.


It would be easy to turn this into a tale of how F2P can rake in more money than sub games, but that’s not the case really.   On the one hand, as I mentioned, that’s a mixed bag of hobbies up there, and the spending on F2P games actually accounts for very little of the overall total (about a quarter of it actually).  So it would be easier to say that in the last couple of years, with the advent of F2P, it has not only allowed me to jump into several different games, but its also allowed me to spread my hobby money around into other areas.   I appear to be slightly less obsessed with games in general and MMO’s in particular.   On the other hand, after looking at the totals, I understand why my wife has threatened to ban me from Kickstarter.


So what about you?  Are you spending the same as you did back in the days of subs only?  More? Less?


And, most importantly, please tell me that some of you are spending about the same as me.   Otherwise I’m going to lose a discussion with my wife…


Help me bloggers…you’re my only hope!

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

We all figured this was coming right?  After the numbers didn’t end up where FunCom wanted them?  For me, I’m a happy camper, I’ve been itching to get back in.  For others, it may not be as welcome a change.


I can’t see too much to complain about.  FunCom is being more generous than any other developer to date with their benefits, particularly from the perspective of the Lifetime (“Grandmaster”) Members..

  • Time Accelerator (Clickable item which increases experience gain for defeating monsters by 100% for 1 hour, 16 hour cool-down – only usable by Members and Grand Masters)
  • $10 worth of Bonus Points (given out every month)
  • Item-of-the-month gift (given out every month)
  • 20% discount to everything in the in-game store

No word yet on character slots and things like that, but then those were things that were already included in the upgrade packs and from the in game store.  It seems like this game, unlike some others, built themselves from the ground up in anticipation of this transition.

Good for them.

Counting My Cartel Coins

So, I have 100 of them.  I was fairly interested when TOR released the calculations for initials amounts of coins.  Being a Collector’s Edition person and a Six Month Subscriber mean I was going to get a slew of them.  Turns out the 1900 I was promised I only get if I subscribe again.


Still…I could sub up for $15, which would net me those 1900, plus 500 more complimentary with the sub.  Which is a nice bonus – 2400 coins normally costs $20, not $15.  So that’s not too bad, basically that boils down to in my case is: if you buy coins you get a one time disctount and a complimentary sub for a month as a thank you for being with us in the beginning.  I can live with that.  I also have 100 coins for my security fob – which I won’t complain about any more apparently…


Yet, this is TOR we are talking about here.  Bioware.  EA.  You know they have to have screwed it up somehow right?  I quickly realized there was no price list.  What am I going to get for my money?  Fortunately for Bioware, others have done the dirty work for them.   Assuming those prices are correct (the list is, what, six weeks old at this point)…I tried to figure out what would be on my shopping list:


Authorization: Crew Member Appearance – 325 Coins
Unlock: Additional Quickbar – 250 Coins
Unlock: Additional Quickbar – 250 Coins  (maxes my quickbars)
Customization Control: Hide Head Slot – 350 Coins
Customization Control: Unify Colors – 350 Coins
Customization Control: Display Legacy Name – 100 Coins


For those of you who aren’t math junkies, that comes to 1,625 Cartel Coins.  Not bad.  Especially since those Customization unlocks are one-time deals.  I assume that’s because of coding problems, or any sane F2P program would have made those per character and not per account.  Oh the irony, that the same hackneyed coding that caused this games downfall may also force choke its ability to generate F2P revenue!


Anyway, that would leave me 875 coins.   So then I look at my list of wants but don’t needs:

Major Experience Boost – 120 Coins for 1, 480 Coins for 5
Armor Pieces – 150 Coins each (Level 15), 325 Coins each (level 43)
Authorization: Artifact Equipment – 1200 Coins


The last one may not be necessary, I’d have to log in and check.  And then of course, I have to decide which two characters I’ll be using.  And in yet another fail, I don’t see that you can buy character slots yet.  That would be next on the agenda.


And then there are the things that I have no idea why you would buy:


Customization Control: Display Titles – 100 Coins
Legacy Perk: Improved Speeder Piloting – I/475, II/225, III/225
Weekly Pass: Warzone/Flashpoints/SpaceMissions/Operations – 240 Coins
Authorization: Event Equipment Requisition


The titles in the game were supbar, and since you could only get them by completing missions that everyone was completing – they weren’t really all that rare or unique.  The speeder thing is funny in that its a trap – sure it lets you unlock the speeder earlier – but do you have enough money for that?  I zeroed my cash balance out when I was finally high enough level to buy Piloting I, and I knew I would not hit the cash requirement for II by the required level.  Unless you have ways of making cash hand over fist….waste of money.  Same with the event equipment.  The one and only event I remember took so much pain and effort and awarded you only one piece of armor, which you may or may not have been able to use.  Gee thanks.  And the passes…well, if you want to do those on an unlimited basis, the sub is your ticket, and if not, you probably aren’t running dungeons five nights a week.


Overall, the one impressive money sink they did have was the medical droid.  Rezzing on the spot is a huge time saver, particularly if you are a solo player and don’t have someone to revive you.  At 100 coins a pop though…well, let’s just say its probably the best incentive to not die since corpse and item recovery circa 1999.


The real question here though, for me is this:  do I really want to dump another $20 into this game?  On the one hand, that will pretty much ensure that I can do what I want to do in TOR forever as I please, remaining F2P from here on out.  On the other hand…it wasn’t really a great game for me to begin with.  Maybe I should just take the 100 free Coins a month from my fob and call it even.



Lifetime Sub Sale Is Enticing

STO is rapidly approaching the 1000 veteran reward mark for its lifetime subscribers, and had been promising a new ship to go with it.  But they did one better.  Not only are there new ships (a new Heavy Destroyer for each side, more on that below), but they put up a sale on lifetime subs and went one better – anyone with a lifetime sub will now instantly receive all the veteran rewards, regardless of join date.


The sale itself is for $200 instead of $300 – which knocks it down to what is pretty much the industry standard these days.  So in that sense, its not too much of a deal.  But the game seems to be in good shape, with no danger of going anywhere anytime soon, and to be honest, dropping a lifetime sub any lower than that almost defeats the purpose of the monthly sub.  At $200 you really only need 13 months to get your money’s worth out of it.   Given that I’ve been playing the game regularly for the last 8 months, and haven’t hit any sort of ennui or dissipation of interest yet, and am in fact on the verge of getting a second character to 50, with a third on the way…it still seems like a great deal to me.


There has been some blowback on the Veteran Rewards going out instantly.    From a business perspective, it is certainly the way to go – nobody is going to buy a lifetime sub now only to wait 1000 to get their hands on the new ships.  So it kind of had to be done.  Still, I can understand the angst there.


Beautiful! From Jason “Vektor” Lee. The image hotlinks to his website.


As for the ships…boy are they sweet.  A cruiser/escort hybrid, they both look great.  The Starfleet one is actually one of the runner ups from the “design the new Enterprise” contest.  Its gotten mixed reviews but I absolutely love it.  I’m not wild about the “modes” – a little too Transformer-ish to me (I had the same problem with the Voyager’s variable sweep nacelles), but the overall design is great.  Its a fresh take on the elements while looking aggressive and sharp at the same time.   And to be honest, its the real sell for me.


Getting that ship, which I would already be paying $25 for, means I’m really looking at less than a year to recoup my loss.  Not to mention there are a couple of things in the C-Store I still want, and since Gold Sub status pays out $5 a month in store credit, I will save that money in Game Cards over the next year as well.


On the other hand…there is a tiny part of my brain wondering if this is a good idea.  I mean, it looks great to me, but pull back the camera a little and I’m paying out $200 for a F2P game that is two and a half years old.  They say the devil is in the details, but this time I’m thinking its the other way around.

Nefarious Payment Schemes

There has been much angst recently over what we might can call “Lockbox Syndrome” among F2P titles lately.   Everquest II has jumped on the bandwagon.  There are clearly moral, if not legal, evils at work in the Syndrome.  And unless the sample size for the stats wasn’t big enough, the investment cost for the end game prize in such a scheme is fairly daunting.  I don’t disagree with any of that.  I’m not a fan of lockboxes or prize wheels or anything else that takes me back to that horrific childhood moment at Showbiz Pizza or the local arcade where I came flush from victory at the SkeeBall lanes to the prize counter…only to realize that my cash and hard work had combined to buy me a few plastic army men.
7000 tickets? Yeah, you can get any thing from those first 3 boxes on the top left.

But there is a scheme that is even more nefarious than that.  Even worse, its used not just by Free To Play games, but full bore Subscription games too.

It requires deep investment by the players.  So deep that it can often lead to those life problems that have been tied time and again to gambling, including throwing around that “A” word – addiction.

It is random, and sometimes you get nothing out of it.  You can save up your investment and go all in if you want to, but even volume investments may not net you any results.  That end game prize will continue to elude you.

Likewise, it is in the best interest of an MMO to have this scheme in place, because it nets them money and subscriptions.  Yep, that’s right, when the game is working off a subscription model, players have no way to say no to this scheme.  It is built into the game, and they are being charged for it whether they intend to participate or not. It takes chunks of developer time and energy in updates, and is a money generating hamster wheel.

Even worse, players that do not want to participate will be at a disadvantage in their stats and ability to engage in some of the games activities!  Its the most disgusting form of “Pay to Win” around, but nobody to date has had the guts to blow the whistle on it.

Well I do.  So lets just get it out in the open:  where is the angst and rage and protest around hardcore endgame raiding?  You know, the kind that requires hours of investment so that you can get a chance at winning a piece of gear that will make your character measurably better.  The kind that many players will never see and may or may not have interest in participating in.   The kind that provides the best of the best in the game, with no other possible way to get those same prizes or ones that are comparable to them for their game time?   The kind that brings out the worst in people – causing fights, racial and ethnic slurs, discrimination, and generally turns the part of the population involved into either a cesspool of brats or a flock of arrogant twits?

Where’s the angst over that?  Because compared to that, if Perfect World or Sony or whoever the hell else wants to sell lockboxes at a $1 a pop for items that aren’t any better than similar items already in the game that you can attain for free, and that I can choose not to pay for, I’m not sure what the problem is.

The Apocalypse is Upon Us!

Yeah, I said it.  First it was Brad McQuaid re-emerging as a developer with Sony.

Now, this, from Dan Stahl, executive producer of Star Trek Online:


The key decision to move STO to F2P over the last year was crucial to our current success and while it was painful along the way, ultimately sets us up for the future. It really makes me wonder if other games such as SWTOR wished they would have launched F2P as well, because converting all the systems over to a new business is a huge challenge.


Yes, that’s right ladies and gents, you heard that right:  Cryptic (the studio that got sold off) and Star Trek Online (the MMO that flopped like the left ear of the Easter Bunny) are concerned about the long term survivability of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  If anyone had told me a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  But today it not only sounds less than insane, it actually sounds right on the money.


Truly, this is 2012 kinda stuff happening around here lately.

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!

Turns out, its not so F2P after all.

Yeah, I guess I didn’t understand that whole quest pack unlocking mechanic.  My brother tells me that without shelling out, everything in our level range becomes a grind alone.  Basically at this point, to continue playing Lord of the Rings Online, I would have to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-$20 dollars.  For the next half dozen levels – and then I’d have to shell out more.  Rinse and repeat. And if I were to start from scratch, I could play to level 20 or so, and then I would have to start paying just as I would if I kept my current characters.

Maybe I’m a bit jaded by EQ2X’s system and the way it parses things.  If I wanted to keep my character there – it would be a $35 flat fee.  If I elected to start from scratch, as I have, it will cost me nothing.  I know this is in some way apples to oranges.  But I don’t think quests are an optional component of the game these days, as much as I wish they were, or were at least reduced in quantity and magnified largely in quality.   Bag size, number of character or storage slots – thats helpful but not necessary.