When anyone hears the words “free-to-play”, it’s either a death sentence or a phrase of elation. For me, it is a death sentence, so yes, I might be a bias but I am open to free-to-play, if it is done right and embraced by the community.
I’ve played a few MMOs here and there, including EverQuest II and Star Wars Galaxies. Both MMOs did not draw me into the world and I found myself bored of it after a while. It wasn’t until City of Heroes that I really started to get into this genre. I rather play solo and get lost in a good story. Yes, I am aware that MMOs are suppose to bring people together to experience a game together, however I rather not unless I’m in the mood to group or if it is needed. Nothing better than getting into a party only to have an unbalanced team and failing at the end of the arc/mission. This is when guilds and online friends come in, which I did meet a few of while playing City of Heroes. If you can’t find a great group of people to play with, the MMO experience can be frustrating. What I’ve noticed with free to play, is that it attracts the less dedicated type of player. If finding a good group was hard before, free to play makes it that much harder. Having free to play implemented into a game does change the feel to it. Once City of Heroes finally went free to play, I stopped playing, cold turkey. I’ve thought about going back but it is not the same as it was before, and I am not the only one that feels this way.
Now with Star Wars: The Old Republic going free to play soon, I am worried. I feel that it is needed, but it was needed too early. I deeply feel that Bioware should have gone with Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic III instead of an MMO. I’ve said this before playing SWTOR and I am saying it now.
Since I feel this way about MMOs, it was very important for me to get into the Free to Play Games: Brilliant, Evil or Brilliantly Evil panel at PAX Prime. At the panel we had Nik Davidosn, James Ernest, and James Portnow.
The panel went more in the direction of “evil” mainly because a free to play game needs to be done right or it will be abused. It is the direction that most games will head towards, but if it is not done right, it will be doomed to fail. In some games where it is free to play but you can buy items to improve your character, this will give you the advantage against someone who does not wish to pay extra money for a better gun or armor. How can this be an enjoyable experiences, when it is more one sided if you are willing to spend the extra money? The free to play market is one giant variable that will never please everyone.
How do you think free to play should go? Should it be subscription based, giving those who want to pay the advantage?