My “real” work has kept me overwhelmingly busy in the last few weeks, and it’s made me notice something: the less I can play, the more I want to play. That’s always been the case, and I actually enjoy it: there’s nothing quite like the anticipation of playing and sometimes – especially when one is a little bored with MMOs, as I seem to be right now – it’s better than actually playing. I’ve been so snowed under that I haven’t kept up with gaming news, apart from my usual sifting for The Secret World crumbs; and by the way, Ragnar, I’m still waiting for my beta spot!
In any case, as I said a little while back, there’s no game that really grabs my attention right now. I’m eking out the leaving-WoW process, though I’m logging in so infrequently it’s really about time I gave up on my subs and either saved the money or found somewhere else to spend it.
Or maybe I don’t need to spend it at all, what with all the old games going F2P lately. I’ve been thinking about the F2P model, because of a number of comments I’ve read recently on various forums that pretty much boil down to one thing. Person 1 will say “Well, I may try [insert game] if it’s F2P” and Person 2 instantly replies, with a shudder, “Ugh, no! I hope it never goes F2P!”
I don’t know if this is a general MMO-gamer thing or a specifically Western MMO-gamer thing. F2P has been around a lot longer in the Far Eastern MMO market and, from where I’m standing, appears to be relatively well accepted. But here in the West, those of us who were brought up on a steady diet of monthly subs still seem to have a strong resistance to that payment model. It’s made me wonder if F2P will ever make the transition to serious respectability here, or whether we’re always going to think that paying for something means you’re getting more.
There’s some truth to that. Most F2P games I’ve seen (some of which I’ve even tried, briefly) tended to be a) clones of existing subs games and b) desperate to nickel and dime me for everything from abilities to mounts to bag space. However, I don’t think that’s a flaw inherent in the F2P model; there are a few games out there that have always been F2P to some degree and that do it very well – Guild Wars and Wizard 101 to name but two. Both those games have revenue options and real-money shops, but neither of them bashes you over the head with the need to pay anything if you don’t really want to.
What both those games have in common is that they were designed to be free to play, at least to some degree. It’s the sub-based games that have gone F2P that have left a sour taste in my mouth when I tried them. EQ2 and LOTRO, for instance, because you’re currently disadvantaged in those games if you don’t subscribe (or were; to be fair, it’s been a year since I played either). It’s as though sub-based games moving to an F2P model feel a desperate need to make up for the subs they’re losing (which may well be the case), and in the process you end up with several tiers of player experience. I remember F2P players being snarked at in chat when it launched on LOTRO, and I can’t imagine that second-class citizen atmosphere has changed much in the last year.
Nonetheless, since there doesn’t seem to be a game out there that’s screaming for me to play it, I think I’m going to do the rounds of some of the F2P offerings. It might be fun to go back to Fallen Earth, which always had a somewhat unique charm, and I may finally try out Champions Online or STO, two games I avoided at launch but may take a look at now. I never did try Atlantica, though Runes of Magic just made my hackles rise for some reason. Too cutesey, I think, with its chunky text and big arrows telling me what to do in the tutorial; I tried it for two play sessions and gave up with relief.
In the meantime I’ve been playing single-player games, because those are a little easier to just pick up and put down. I went back to Sims 3 after a 2-year absence, but I find that game paradoxically both relaxing and stressful; relaxing because, well, it’s just a game; and stressful because, well, I’m a control-freak and can’t bear to just let my Sims do their own thing. It’s not an MMO so I won’t bore you with an off-topic review, but I will say that while I can run one, maybe two Sims at once, having more in my household would end up making me pull a HAL 9000. I could probably use that game as an exercise in allowing my creations a little free will, but so far free will ranks a distant second to making sure my Sims are always doing exactly what I want them to do.
I also fired up a couple of old Heroes of Might & Magic games, but they suffer from the same issues most turn-based strategy games have: they’re a hoot at the start and in the middle, but by the end of the game (especially on large maps) you’re controlling a zillion heroes and several dozen towns and it becomes an exercise in repetition. It was interesting, however, to note the differences between the last two versions (IV and V), especially with VI coming out in a week: V was done by a different studio, was a great deal prettier, but in many cases preferred eye-candy over playability. Eye-candy is actually a good thing, as I saw when comparing one with the other, but when it comes at the expense of actual substance, or when the interface or mechanics are muddy because insufficient resources were spent on them then it’s a double-edged sword.
Which is another thing I wonder about now and then. I say graphics and eye-candy don’t matter to me, but in practice that’s not entirely true. One of the reasons I’m not going back to Asheron’s Call, regardless of how much fun I had there, is that it looks and feels so dated; I had the same feeling when I went back to Vanguard, though that was more down to the atrocious character models than to the landscapes, which are still pretty awesome. Yes, I prefer good gameplay to pretty graphics, but the lack of pretty graphics is still something I notice, whether I’m consciously aware of it or not.
So your commenting challenge for the week is to find me a F2P game that I haven’t yet mentioned here and that you particularly enjoy. I’m resistant to the idea of going back to either EQ2 or LOTRO, but if things have changed in the last year for either of those games I may well consider them too. Alternately, you can get me a TSW beta spot, though I’ll be nice and not mention the debacle of The Secret War that never has begun. Either way I’m about ready to sink my teeth into something new, assuming I can find enough time from work to log in.