Wednesday, 12 December 2012

It costs nothing to ruin a game

I have come to a conclusion about free to play mmo's. That there is one word that sums them up more than any other,  it's compromise.  Developers want to make a great game,  all of them do.  Of course it doesn't always work out that way,  but the intention is usually there.  So if a developer creates a great mmo,  but then,  either before release or after,  the choice is made to make the game free to play.  This is where the compromise comes in.  

The developer (probably with some heavy handed assistance from any publisher involved), has to look at their lovingly crafted game,  and decide what to cut out. They need to cut stuff out in order to charge people for it.  Essentially they are compromising their vision of the game,  so that they can make money off it.  Of course there are always scale to this,  but generally the pay monthly games (of which there are fewer and fewer now), haven't had to compromise in this way (this is not to say that all pay monthly games are great,  just that they are closer to the way developers wanted them to be). Nothing made me realise this more than going from trying the free to play The Old Republic, which had been amended significantly from the pay monthly version, to WoW which is as intact as it always has been.

Of course there are always scales.  Guild Wars 2 is a great example of an almost complete lack of compromise to put in free to play, to the extent that they could cut out the store entirely and there would be practically no noticeable difference. Lord of the Rings Online sits in the middle ground,  charging for quest packs and allowing you short cuts in game such as buying mounts.  So essentially impossible to play long term for free but nothing to objectionable being charged for. And The Old Republic sitting at the far end of compromise,  charging for quest rewards and UI options,  as well as actual gear. Heh it is not difficult to see why Guild Wars 2 sold so well,  though I do question their ability to make money off the item store long term.  Though I suppose Team Fortress 2 has done well selling hats, so I don't see why Guild Wars won't.

I guess my point is, aside from the very few exceptions,  if you are playing a free to play game,  you are playing the, well, corrupted version,  and this still applies even if you subscribe to a free to play game.  Hell from my point of view if you subscribe to a game like LOTRO or TOR,  you should be able to buy whatever you want from the store for free, regardless of what it,  after all you are giving them guaranteed money,  rather than a chance of money.

So should you just play pay monthly mmo's? No, there can be good free to play games, both LOTRO and TOR are very solid games, just don't expect to be able to play them in the way the creators intended.

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