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News & Features Discussion  » General: A Sub-Genre?

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 15669

OP  4/21/11 10:19:10 AM#1

In the MMO-universe, there is an ever-growing library of games that neither fit the traditional MMORPG genre, nor do they fit into the "normal" subscription-based game. In today's column, Lead Writer Bill Murphy takes a look at today's MMOGs and ponders the expanding number of sub-genres. Let us know what you think in the comments.

I don’t play a lot of F2P games. As a rule, I usually find the subscription based titles to be far superior in most every way. This held true enough until Turbine started toying with the model, and converting their games to a hybrid sort of model. Like it or not, Lord of the Rings Online is one of the most well-rounded theme park games on the market. And now? I can play it for free for as long as I’d like. And with that, the way in which I view most F2P games was forever changed. I mean of course there was Guild Wars before that, but I suppose I never really considered the original GW in the same canon as the DIKU MMOs of my adolescence. But I think there’s a whole different kind of F2P game out there, one that I tend to view on a completely different scale than games like LotRO, Champions, or DDO which have made a switch from subscription.

Read more of Bill Murphy's column, A Sub-Genre?

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Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Novice Member

Joined: 1/27/10
Posts: 2782

4/21/11 10:37:03 AM#2

Personally, I don't think a separate scale is necessary, nor do I think that an F2P game can't be compared against a P2P game. When I look at games (all games, not just mmos), I look for a game that is fun. Nothing more, nothing less. Granted, if I'm going to be asked to pay monthly for the privilege of playing a certiain game, I will thoroughly disect it to make sure I'm going to have fun; whereas, with free games, I have the opportunity to play while making that determination.

I may be alone in this, but I don't see a difference in games just because they have differing payment methods. All MMOs have a grind of some sort that is designed to get you to pony up. "Asian grinders" are designed to make leveling nearly unbearable without paying for help. Western MMOs tend to stretch out the leveling curve or have various carrots on sticks that can't be achieved without mult-month sub fees.

Point out the Pros, point out the cons, put on the arbitrary ##. Seems simple enough to me. But then again, I dont' review games, so what do I know. /shrug

I want a mmorpg where people have gone through misery, have gone through school stuff and actually have had sex even. -sagil


Advanced Member

Joined: 4/16/04
Posts: 1467

4/21/11 10:39:23 AM#3

I think it depends on the game.  Something like DDO is in a whole different class than your typical Korean grinder...which tend to be the majority of F2P.  Honestly I'm pretty sure most people think "Korean Grinder" when you say F2P.  But what about games that were subscription, and have either fallen to the wayside or switched pay models, like DDO and LOTRO.  They are a different kind of MMO.  

I think you should judge an eastern game compared to other eastern games, and western games to western games.  Maybe after that break them down into subscription models.  Pay to Play is generally held to a higher standard, because you are shelling out money every month for them....and this is rightfully so.  If a free to play're not paying for it.

What if something like DAOC got a facelift and went free to play? It would still kick the crud out of most of the Korean grinders.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 2/15/04
Posts: 1056

"" "" "" ""

4/21/11 10:49:31 AM#4

I think that using a seperate scale could be a good thing. I use seperate standards for F2P games when I decide if I am going to give them a try. This is why I bought the original GW and have recently started LOTRO. If they were not free I wouldn't have played them, but since they are, they get enough bonus points to get me to try them.

Likewise Rift looks like it could be a good game but it doesn't look good enough for me to buy the box and pay a subscription, so I haven't.

So if I, as a player, use seperate standards for whether or not I try a game at all I think it's justifiable for you to use a seperate scale when you do your revue.


Advanced Member

Joined: 3/24/09
Posts: 1835

4/21/11 11:06:57 AM#5

I think you basicaly review each game on what it advertises it intends to deliver. You wouldn't review McDonalds on the same scale as you do the Ritz Carlton, because McDonalds doesn't try to portray itself as anything other then a fast food resturaunt.

So a F2P that's open about the experience it's trying to deliver (or for that matter a small indie project as well) is fine to review on a different scale. However ANY game (this goes for AAA titles too) that hypes itself to high heaven....deserves to be reviewed on the scale it attempts to portray itself on.

In other words, as a reviewer, I would hope that as part of your review for any title (AAA, F2P, Sub based, browser based, etc) that you would attempt to puncture whatever marketing hype the game spews about itself with a healthy dose of realism about what it actualy delivers.


Novice Member

Joined: 4/04/07
Posts: 381

4/21/11 11:08:13 AM#6

I think different scales are justifiable.  

The term MMORPG is really a catch all concept for any game that can be played by a massive number of people online that also has an rpg element.  While that sounds pretty specific we as gamers in the genre know it not to be.  Just look at the forums on here. There are so many threads about what is and what isn't an MMO.  Then there is the arguement over F2P, P2P, hybrid models and the ever present arguement of what is P2W (pay to win). 

I think its fair to say that you can review them soley as games and give them all ratings based on that aspect alone, but for a more detailed approach maybe they should be kept sepperate.  Maybe even to the point of making different pages for F2P vs. P2P games.  


Advanced Member

Joined: 7/18/10
Posts: 3213

Veni, Vidi, Converti

4/21/11 11:11:54 AM#7

I think the developer's intention should factor in. What I mean is that a game is designed around a business model. The question is does that business model interfere with the game's design and game play for players or does it actually complement it?


Novice Member

Joined: 5/10/09
Posts: 148

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin

4/21/11 12:50:19 PM#8

I tried a few F2P games.  They seem to have a different attitude towards the player.  Like, most of them  use psycology and peer pressure and the like to get you to spend money in the "shop".  I get a sort of disingenuous feeling right from the get go about them.  It is like they asked themselves "What can we do to squeeze money out of these folks?" rather than "How can we build the greatest game possible?"  Note: I have not played LOTRO since the free trial before it was .....ahem.... Free to play.


As to reviewing them I think they all have to be reviewed using the same standard.  Games are not like restaurants.  That is why there are no "Free to Eat" ones around.   Games are played for the fun factor, the value, the beauty, the ability to hold interest, and yes by some to establish their EPeen.   Since F2P games and Pay to Play games are really all played for the same reasons ... then they should be looked at with the same set of  "glasses".  I mean that is how i pick one to play.  The payment style/amount is secondary.


Just my humble opinion.

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin


Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/23/08
Posts: 704

4/21/11 1:58:10 PM#9
I my opinion I believe that both f2p and p2p mmos should be rated on the same scale. I believe that when you play a game you want to exprience all that the game has to offer. In this case f2p mmos are not really free, you would have to pay in order to experience the game to it's fullest, so I rank them both on the same scale.
  User Deleted
4/21/11 2:05:16 PM#10

I play f2p MMORPG when i dnt have p2p ones that catch my interest. In fact atm im playing Forsaken World waiting for GW2 or Tera online to come out. The point is my point of wiew for the f2p ones is very low, to have a decent online game you have to pay a fee; or at least the game itself (see GW).


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Joined: 10/24/10
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4/21/11 2:06:54 PM#11

I think they should be rated on the same scale.  Some F2p games only cost 10$ a month for all the perks while others cost upwards to 50$.  It would be best to mension that for F2p games so that if people wanted to spend money, theyll have a good idea on how much would be enough to play the game fully. 

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  User Deleted
4/21/11 2:12:53 PM#12
Originally posted by Castillle

I think they should be rated on the same scale.  Some F2p games only cost 10$ a month for all the perks while others cost upwards to 50$.  It would be best to mension that for F2p games so that if people wanted to spend money, theyll have a good idea on how much would be enough to play the game fully. 

That's not fully true, if you play a f2p game casually then its ok but if you play it spending real money in ingame shop then where is the point on playing a crappy game for free? Of coure if you really enjoy it then it's pretty normal wanting to improve your char.


Elite Member

Joined: 5/06/07
Posts: 4454

4/21/11 2:23:03 PM#13

I don't believe that the revenue model should require a different review scale any more than paying by gamecard, credit card or paypal.  A game should be graded on it's success as a game.  If the game has a significant varience from the norm regarding content cost (ie you can play 90% of the game for free... or to keep up in game will cost you $40 a month) it should be mentioned in the review but it should still be graded on it's success as a game not as a marketting mechanism.

"I should point out that no other company has shipped out a beta on a disc before this." - Official Mortal Online Lead Community Moderator

Starvault's reponse to criticism related to having a handful of players as the official "test" team for a supposed MMO: "We've just have another 10ish folk kind enough to voulenteer added tot the test team" (SIC) This explains much about the state of the game :-)


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Joined: 10/12/04
Posts: 871

Make worlds not stories

4/21/11 2:40:58 PM#14

F2P is not free, but more like free to try until you want to play the game for real.

Anyway, as much as I currently view F2P as either failed game or subquality game, it is not a rule I would use to categorize a game with. F2P is just another way of making a game profitable, by shops, commercials or just plain player numbers for publicity.


To the point.. I would argue that a new genre is emerging from mmorpg.

A genre that is leaving the roleplaing aspect, and focusing more on action driven gameplay, still in a massive multiplayer world. WoW Seem to be going in that direction, GW2 probably the same ?.

Also mixing of genres, like mmorpg with rts, minigames in mmorpg environments seem to be comming.

Besides maybe new genres comming,  we might also need to put attributes on games so that players will be able to find a game suiting their tastes. An attribute describing if it is for casual, medium or hardcore player types ? Still inside the game genre.

"I am my connectome"



Joined: 12/11/08
Posts: 14463

4/21/11 6:30:29 PM#15

The problem is that you couldn't break it up into two neat categories if you tried.  You cite Champions Online as a free to play game, but its business model is still closer to a traditional subscription game like WoW than to a stereotypical Korean item mall grinder.  Champions Online has had three different free trials in its existence, and while the latest, marketed as "Free For All" is the most generous, at what point does it switch from being classified as a pay game to a free game? 

"Free For All" isn't the first free trial for the game that let you play forever, either; the previous merely capped you at level 15 and meant you were stuck in the Millennium City crisis.  If the former doesn't count as free to play and the latter does, then where do you draw the line?  What if the previous free trial had let you into the Canada and Desert crisis zones, too?  What if they let you into Canada, Desert, and Millennium City proper, but still capped you at level 15?  What if they capped you at level 20?  30?  Let you go all the way to the cap, but without access to Monster Island, Lemuria, or Vibora Bay?

The problem is that there are not two business models, but dozens.  If you're going to give each business model its own grading scale, then some will be the only game on its grading scale, so there is nothing to compare.

  User Deleted
4/21/11 7:44:36 PM#16

Do we need reviews of free stuff? Pondering a new sub genre to save people time?

Maybe just tell the readers if it's pay to win yet or if there's still time left.

Maybe just review free2play games that are unique.

I thought people went straight to user comments for reviews anyways hehe.


Novice Member

Joined: 5/10/09
Posts: 148

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin

4/21/11 8:23:28 PM#17
Originally posted by kjempff

Besides maybe new genres comming,  we might also need to put attributes on games so that players will be able to find a game suiting their tastes. An attribute describing if it is for casual, medium or hardcore player types ? Still inside the game genre.


This would be a subjective nightmare.  Most folks (eapecialy those who don't play it) for instance put WoW in the casual category, while those who working for world firsts on the new heroic raids and dungeons would call it a hardcore game.   Probably people like me who play a lot and try to solo group quests as they go would call it medium.   The heads of the big alliances and their corps would probably call eve hardcore, while those who just do low sec pirating or mining or Hi sec waring might call it medium.  Those who play for a time waster doing lvl3 missions and trading on the market would call it casual. 

We all tend to put things in neat easy to understand compartments.  I think all reviews are subjective, so labels put on games reviewed would  not convey much useful information.  Just tell us about the game, how it plays, what about it is fun  and what is lacking.  How it reacts to different hardware levels,  what in game "systems" does it have and how much fun or how well done are these systems.  And always end a review with the line below.

Remember folks this is all just my opinion (except where obvious facts ... like price / min requirement and the like are included).

If Ya Ain't Dyin, Ya Ain't Tryin


Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/01/08
Posts: 170

Anyone can act, just be yourself -aTaaka

4/21/11 9:10:20 PM#18

F2P is a grand idea/model. Having a place to pass time without spending a dollar is a good thing for our world communities. Everyone can't afford subscriptions, and guess what?, F2P allowed many gamers a chance to logon and try full version games without the penalty of risk.

Risk is a small word that carries a huge amount of disappointment, hidden anagramically between the letter's 'R' and 'K'. Well... not exactly, but you get my point. Gamers of all kinds want games that take them away from the world around them, provide a feeling of accomplishment, and perhaps to have a place ot interact with other people. But then, people like myself, who tend to play on the cutting edge of the gaming evolution, I spend a lot of cash for subscription launched games.

F2P is wonderful and the communities that play and enjoy that model are not so different from and other gamer. You may argue about content, storylines, features, graphics, game-play, or whatever you feel but there have been few games that launched without a hand full of bugs (players finding ways to improve the I.Q.s of developers).

I like F2P when I just can't immerse on my main sub-account, I can 875meg DL a F2P and continue my neverending pursuit of the next better time-sink.

Life is good, enjoy it.


Novice Member

Joined: 1/31/11
Posts: 108

4/21/11 10:48:47 PM#19

Not having read all of the comments, I would have to say NO to F2P titles being rated separately from subs.  My cousin, when I went to talk him into playing LotRO, and he's been an Everquest and WoW player for over a decade now, told me he didn't expect much, though he'd never seen anything about the game.  He said, "It's F2P, so don't be disappointed".  Well, the problem I have with that is LotRO was released as a sub title and, since I had played in the Beta for the game and found it to be quite well done, I tried to kick against the proverbial goads.  He eventually came to the game, but anytime anything in our Kinship was said about the game, he would freely express the same comment, "It's an F2P game, what did you expect?"


I have since come to understand he was correct; I had a level 46 Loremaster and a level 47 Hunter (my favorite), and there were, simply, certain quests that could not be done by one that the other could do easily, and vice-versa.  After the eventuality of hitting a brick wall, and not being able to level with either character, I decided I had no plans to begin a third character, and left the game.  I've not looked back since.


At present, I'm playing Champions, which also began as a sub title and is now F2P, and I am disappointed with the fact that, regardless of what character type I make, I have to do the same crap over and over and over again, to get anywhere.  Now, let me qualify what I've just explained with this: The quests are the same ash and trash things you find in other MMOs, but at least they have a story to go with each of the quests that is not, at least not always, tripe.


Okay, having said all that, I get back to the original question: should F2P titles be graded differently than sub titles?  NO.  If a game has gone F2P when, originally, it was a sub title, then it was an F2P title to begin with and people simply got ripped off for the cover; this holds true for F2P titles that begin F2P.  There are some F2P games out there, I'm certain, that are far more than F2P-limited, and could easily make it as a sub title, but their staff decided to leave it free, and perhaps go with a micro-trans model, instead.  The micro-trans models are capable of making more money and, as with LotRO, have, as opposed to sub models.


That being said, to judge an MMO on a different scale because it's an F2P model is a mistake; the feet of developers must be held securely to the fire.  Therefore, rather than separating the games by the models, why not separate them by whether their true MMO type?  MMORPG, MMOFPS, MMOCG, MMOSG, etc., ad nauseum?  Why not delve into the quality of an MMO based on the aims and environmental goals of the developers; for example, Champions is meant to LOOK and FEEL like a comic book brought to life.  They even have the comic book black outline for everything in the game, including your character.  On a 1 to 10 scale, Cryptic has succeeded magnificently in this way, because I do feel, even with the shortages my present video card limits me to, that I am in a living comic book.  This is why I am still playing the game; I don't even let my friends hold me in a game, which is why I am not likely to d/l and play DDO with two of my longest lived friends.


Why not gauge an MMO based on the type, levels, and amount of content within the game.  For me, Champions is a mostly massive failure in this department.  In playing three characters, I have played through every single quest -and you can't advance wholly if you don't, and if you don't take some repeatable quests as well- in the game appropriate to the levels they're meant for, and sometimes behind because a mission is too hard for certain character types at levels equal to, or even slightly higher, than that of a character I'm playing.


Look, when you build a business plan, a real-world business design, there are several things you have to look at and account for in order to even remotely attempt to gain funding for the venture, and one of those is the need for the business.  You ask yourself questions about who needs the product, how portable is it, how useful is it, how many other people have built the same product, what sets you apart from others, etc., etc., and you assign between 1 and 10 points to each of these questions.  You have to be frank about these things, and not just overly optimistic, either. 


When you total your scores, if you don't have a score equal to [(number of questions x 10) x .65] or more, you should probably look into another business.  If that multiplier is above .80, you're likely going to come off fairly well, with a decent market share.  Above .85, you're likely to attract quite a few customers more than you expected, and expansion should be fairly rapid.  This is with the most frank assessment you can give yourself, mind.


Now, figure out the more important aspects of MMOs and apply this process to them, fairly, frankly, and you'll get a better estimate of what they are, rather than differentiating between sub models and F2P/Mx models.


Novice Member

Joined: 11/15/08
Posts: 2

4/22/11 12:54:53 AM#20

I think F2P games and P2P games shouldn't be rated seperately, but rather I think that games should be rated seperately based on origin and setting.


Western - Fantasy

Western - SciFi

Western - Super Hero

Western - FPS

Western - Whatever other theme would arise

Eastern - Fantasy

Eastern - ... etc


First of all the differences between east and west are vast, comparing them is slowly no longer becoming a matter of comparing apples and oranges, but comparing grapes and bricks.

Second of all setting really should be split up as well. You don't compare a Deus Ex preview with a Skyrim preview for example, it makes little sense. Nor do you compare it to a Duke Nukem Forever or a Battlefield 3 preview. However within the MMO genre both reviewers and gamers tend to stick by throwing it all onto one big pile. Comparing a game like DCUO to a game like WoW, or comparing a game like Rift to a game like EVE online. The most bizarre comparissons are made by some, whilst if you would take out the MMO part what is it really what we're comparing here in those said examples? Right, a super hero game vs a fantasy RPG, and a fantasy RPG vs a sci-fi strategical rpg.

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