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Category Archives: Free to Play

A Brief Revisit to Middle Earth

It’s been quite sometime since I’ve spent any appreciable time in LotRO for any number of reasons.  I tend to keep it patched so I can hop in whenever the spirit moves me, but the last few times I’ve logged in I’ve sat paralyzed and logged out five minutes later.  Re-immersing oneself into a game can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel like you’re likely to stay a while.

I haven’t really be a regular festival goer in LotRO’s past events and really hadn’t planned on taking part in this year’s 5th Anniversary Event.  It had all but passed me by when I saw that it had been extended, so for no particular reason, I decided to drop on in, so drop in I did.

The festival was in full swing this weekend with lots of player activity in the main hubs.  This time, however, rather than attempting to pick up where I’d last left off, I ventured into Bree to see what all fun was to be had with the festival.  Thanks to Casual Stroll to Mordor’s festival guide, I quickly had things sussed out and to my surprise, it appeared that both festival mounts could be earned in relatively short order with little grind.

Quite cleverly, several of the quests send you hither and yon across Eriador conveying gifts to NPCs, retrieving lost invitations, setting off fireworks and talking with our old friend Gandalf, participating in horse races in Bree and the Shire and getting into the odd drunken beer brawl at Thorin’s halls.  With just a little forethought, several nice loops can be done taking you to many familiar and iconic landmarks.  Deliciously insidious.

For those of us prone to nostalgia (and LotRO is in many ways nostalgia squared– reminiscences of the game reminiscent of the experience of the books), this is almost dirty pool.  In many ways, LotRO to me has been more of a world in search of a game, but a wonderful and beautiful world and always a visual feast to visit.

Shire Race Grounds Bridge

So after a few of the quests and traipsing over familiar territory, the nostalgia gene kicked in.  So much so, that at least for this weekend, I managed to earn enough anniversary tokens to obtain the Fireworks Laden Steed on my Captain and nearly so on my Runekeeper.  An altogether silly mount that, as the name suggests, is laden with fireworks (which feature prominently in the festival and are quite nicely done), and from time to time lets one loose while riding along.

Two race tokens, 1 mount ownership document (purchasable from an NPC) and 40 Anniversary Tokens later, goal attained.

LotRO 5th Anniversary Festival Fireworks Laden Steed

For me LotRO is one of those games where its just satisfying to be in the world.  Toggling off floating names and just running around enjoying the world isn’t such a bad way to spend a few hours of the weekend.  Yes, I think I’ll be back sooner than later next time.

A trot across the Northern Bree Fields

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Free to Play, LotRO

 

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Pictures on Radio

So, I was sitting there Saturday morning catching up on game blogs and what not while patching Everquest which has now gone free to play.  Part of me felt excited as if it were the next highly anticipated new release and the snarky part of me thought “how exciting, a new ‘release’ of a thirteen year old game”.  I can only imagine how disappointed the uninitiated might be when they finally log in and see how much the old girl lacks by way of modern conveniences and shiny graphics.

That, coupled with reading through Wilhelm’s long but delicious dive through the nostalgia of Air Warrior, got me thinking about why those games held/hold such sway.  In the mindset of the time, it was certainly the excitement of the possible embodied in a new medium.  The fact that you could do anything on through 1200 baud modem was exciting enough.

Immediately the old quote that “the pictures are better on radio” came to mind.  Limitations of the available medium meant that developers of yore were limited in what they could put into the game.  Indeed, in the earliest computer games, barely anything more than the core elements of the game could be represented, let alone a fully rendered three dimensional world.  Sometimes all you got were a few pixels and a line of text.

Of course that left the rest of the game space to be depicted in the mind of the player or at least to use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  Not that this is any shocking discovery or revelation.  Checkers and Chess are just abstracted turn-based military strategy games after all.  D&D begat MUDS which begat 3D RPGS which begat MMORPGs as we know them today (and all the myriad branches of that tree along the way).  With each step of evolution, a bit more of the player’s imagination was no longer required as the world was more fully rendered.

But having revisted some of the early games this last year (TorilMUD, EQ, etc.), I found myself having quite a bit of fun with them and not simply because of the nostalgia factor.  Indeed, living vicariously through Tobold’s and Tipa’s recent pen and paper adventures even has me considering rediscovering D&D.

So I’m left with the question of how much (developer created) environment is needed or desirable to make a game enjoyable?  How much immersion do you gain or lose by rendering more and more of the game environment for the player?  At what point does more become less?  If you make the player do too much work, they’ll disengage, but if you do everything for them, they’ll have no “ownership” of the game environment and they’ll just change channels.

How much is too much?

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Everquest, Free to Play, TorilMUD

 

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Obtaining the Odyssey

This weekend is Star Trek Online’s Second Anniversary Event.  As part of the event, STO is giving away the new Odyssey class Starship for free.

Having returned to STO since it went free to play, it was an opportunity not to pass up.  Although the Odyssey requires Vice Admiral (currently Level 50, the top rank), players that have reached at least level 5 can obtain one.

STO ranks have 10 grades, so for example, my current main Lieutenant Commander Hardinian Skronk Gaz (aka Skronk) is currently LC (18), or 8 ranks into Lieutentant Commander.  Initially you start the game as an Ensign and then almost immediately become Lieutenant.  To complicate things, the Ensign/Lieutenant tier is combined into one tier.  Suffice it to say, you need to be LT(5) to be able to access the quest for the Odyssey.

To obtain the quest, go see Engineer Kani by the fountain (next to the door to Admiral Quinn’s office) on Earth Spacedock.  Kani will send you on the quest to take the new Odyssey on its shakedown cruise out of its spacedock.

While its not quite classic Star Trek Enterporn, once the mission starts, you’re treated to a brief cinematic pan of the new ship which is quite impressive.

Without giving away any spoilers, the mission isn’t terribly long or difficult, but it does give you a chance to pilot the new beast.

Take her out Mr. Saavik

Mind the curb feelers

Odyssey, the Galaxie 500 of Starships

Onward to Destiny! or at least the end of the test drive...

Finally, mission accomplished, you are rewarded with an item in your inventory which can be redeemed for the ship.  Of course, if you’re not Vice Admiral yet, you can pack it away in your bank until that happy day.  The event ends at 10 am PST on Monday, February 6, so get them while they’re available.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Free to Play, Star Trek Online

 

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Time is Money

Tobold asks the question when will WoW go free to play and how that might be implemented. Blizzard has certainly learned the lesson all good gym owners know– the neglected subscription is the ticket to success. Who among us hasn’t joined a gym or health club with a monthly fee and ahem how shall we say… neglected to make full use of it?

I have no idea what the average is, but it must be a significant percentage of members continue to pay but, even with the best of intentions, stop going to the gym regularly or at all. Call it guilt, call it taking a wee break, call it preserving your access should you want to play, it’s still recurring income.

Blizz may get there, but I don’t think they’ve lost enough people to justify going F2P yet.

For other games that, in Tobold’s words, don’t justify a subscription when compared to many players’ level of interest or commitment, F2P is just the ticket. DDO, LotRO and now STO are three that have come back on my radar specifically because they went free to play. Being able to match my spend with my level of enthusiasm and or time commitment is a boon to me.

Even with a traditional sub though, in theory I could maximize my return on the sub by consuming as much content as my time budget would permit. If I were only interested in the leveling game in SWTOR, and played obsessively since launch, I might have consumed all the storylines for all the classes/factions by now. I could see SWTOR going free to play at some point following the path others have taken– pay for fluff, utility items, progress enhances and or access to content areas/modules for progression.

Eve however remains the anomaly. One can legally buy characters, and effectively in game currency as well, but one cannot buy progression. Eve progression is skill based and skill training is time based. The only way to continue to progress is to continue to subscribe.

So why doesn’t Eve just sell time?

If I really want to spend the next year working through a skill training plan (not an unheard of amount of time) why not let me buy the time now, apply it to those skills I want to train and be done with it? If I’m going to spend $180 to learn to fly a Titan, why spend it over twelve months?

One of Eve’s major barriers for new comers is never being able to catch up skillpoint wise to friends who have played much longer. Granted that progression can go in any number of directions, but to switch from a hardcore miner industrialist to a 0.0 capital ship pilot would take a very long time.

Seems like a natural progression for Eve. Eliminate subscriptions, sell a time equivalent for skill training, or just skill points out right to be applied to skills of a players choice, make that freely tradeable like PLEX and you would have the most flexible model in the universe. Players could truly exchange time for money in whatever proportion they wish.

Earn isk by playing, purchase training and it’s truly free to play. Buy isk or training and your time budget is preserved. Of course the one element that likely prevents this from upsetting the games balance is that to survive in Eve, you still need to learn how to be a good pilot. Something that you just can’t buy.

 

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Glitch Thoughts

Not a review, not really even full impressions.  Just some thoughts after pokeing around a bit in the new browser-based MMO Glitch from Tiny Speck.

The trailer is an amazing piece of work.  I’m a bit less enamored of the game.  Rather than recount the backstory of the game, which I think is truly innovative, just go watch the trailer.

Everything is really cute (e.g., petting and nibbling cute piggies).  And a bit snarky.  And that is good.  But after a few levels, I’m sort of left with the impression that a) the core gameplay is too similar to the facebook click fest games to grab me and b) most of the game is a throwback to the side scrolling jumping games that I never really enjoyed that much.

At least not since Loderunner.

I want to really like this game.  Its extremely creative.  Its extremely well polished.  Every piece of dialog or user information provided by the game is on message and totally consistent with their idiom.  And I hate to say it, but that bugs me a bit.  Too stylized almost.  Too its-what-the-cool-kids-think-is-cool (as decided by a specific god squad focus group, that is).

Maybe I’m too much of a curmudgeon to “get” Glitch.  I do really want to, but at the end of the first 45 minutes, I’m kind of left with a bit of a meh feeling.  Someone tell me I’m nuts and why.  I think Tiny Speck has done a tremendous job of delivering a high quality product.  I’m just not sure that its a product I want to buy.  I’d buy the idea of the product, but not the product.  How meta of me.  Still I’m not sold.  Someone sell me.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Free to Play

 

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PotD: My NFSW Pimp Rig

Totally Custom

Did a little customization of my otherwise slightly boring Mazda 3 rig in Need for Speed World.  Rally stripes ftw.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Free to Play, Picture of the Day

 

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Sunday Drivers

Following Wilhelm’s lead, I’ve been dabbling in Need for Speed World a bit.  Like moth to flame, I suspect all middle aged American men are drawn to relive their misspent suburban auto-youth.  Most times the world seems to have a decent population (and quite international by the chat).  It never takes too long to fill up a multiplayer race and the free roaming world part seems to be reasonably well populated so I’ve assumed that the free to play world version of the game is doing ok.

I guess its doing a bit more OK than I thought…

Metering lights are on...

(Of course, I’m assuming its actual load rather than a craven marketing trick but then again, it is EA…)

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Free to Play

 

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