Archive for the ‘F2P MMOs’ Tag

Pointless offers   Leave a comment

Last week, the recently F2P MMO Crimecraft: Bleedout had a special offer on that was typical of special offers on the F2P sections of Steam: join, try it now and you’ll get in-game advances and items for which you normally pay. These offers work because it gives an incentive to try a F2P game out of the bunch that you wouldn’t normally pick up.

I play a few F2P games, I generally aim to be cost-effective when it comes to gaming, a hangover from bygone unemployed days and F2P games give a lot of room to try before cash changes hands. This is good and I generally find the games that I pay into are not ones I feel I need to pay into to get ahead, they are games like League of Legends that end up making pay cash almost as a ‘thank you’ to the developers. That’s the attitude I’ve stuck by, games that feel like they are wrangling cash from me fall by the wayside.

Now, this sort of offer on Steam is great because I can’t download and try every F2P, nor would I want to. My games catalogue is massive on PC alone, not adding in the catalogues of my retro home computer and console gaming or the tabletop gaming I do. I will never run out of what I already have to play unless I moved into my dad’s attic and quit my job and all social contact. Further, I would need to wade through as much rubbish as my current catalogues to find the League of Legendses or Lord of the Rings Onlines. These offers are a great way to tapping the flow, as it were, and offering up the F2P buffet in manageable plate-loads.

The problem is when a game company seems to want more players than it is willing to reasonably support. So this offer on Crimecraft was up until the 29th and I made several attempts to get in there, create a character and play. I download the game via Steam, create my account, login. There are two servers. The first (Exeter) is full and the other has a population of high (Euricho). So I try Euricho first and I’m put in a queue of nearly 700 people. I estimated by the drop rate that it would take me about half an hour to forty-five minutes to get in, so I try later.

Later does not work. The same problem in both servers. They are stretched beyond what they can reasonably support. I don’t mind the game supporting such a limited userbase, it’s ultimately up to the game publishers, but why have a special offer trying to draw more players in when the special offer will only be accessible to a remote portion of those players?

Sure, it will potentially increase the player base and, therefore, income for the game. I tried logging in today and neither server was a problem this time, so it was short-term, but it doesn’t say much for the game’s attitude to its players. Imagine logging on to the game as a loyal player who’d been playing that game before the offer. Suddenly, you cannot play or are forced to wait up to an hour because they want to cram their servers full with potential cash-giving players.

Vogster (the developers) have a more than healthy sized community playing their game for the resources they allot it, unless their servers report false stats about player numbers. If they want to increase their base beyond what they currently have, they need an extra server.

The bigger problem is that this is indicative of some of the bad thinking behind F2P models. Players aren’t there to sell a set product to or build relationships with, they are cash pumps and you fit as many of them as you can in your game. Crimecraft isn’t necessarily advocating this outlook, but it would seem it given they made a drive to get more players than they can support comfortably. People need to be very sceptical of F2P games and I think they really need to know the sorts of business models being used before they feel comfortable investing.

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Dreamlords: Resurrection (PC review)   1 comment

Developed by: Lockpick Entertainment
Published by: Paradox Interactive
Out now
Reviewed on: 22nd March, 2011.

Presentation: The graphics look a bit dated compared to what else is out there, but it is nothing too awful. The interface has been updated since Paradox picked up the game and is quite intuitive upon first appearance, I didn’t have too much difficulty finding my way around. The sounds likewise are basic, although the music is good background for the theme and setting.

Atmosphere: The game combines aspects of two genres, MMORPGs and RTS elements with some out of battle 4X for good measure. There is a sense in which a lot of these aspects are still quite embryonic and hardcore fans of a single one of those genres might be pulled away by the lack of depth. However, what it does have from those genres is very solid and well-integrated. It does seem very slow-paced compared to some RTS games though.

Control and Mechanics: Controls use only a mouse with some light keyboard use being mostly optional. No one should have any great difficulty mastering the controls here. The mechanics are moderately simple and not too difficult to grasp quickly and the standard MMO divisions of PvE and PvP are there, as well as trading and item shop purchases.

Who should buy this: Given that it’s a free-to-play game, anyone who finds the concepts appealing, but specifically: those who prefer slower-paced RTS games with more tactical thought in later play. Those who like combinations of RTS and 4X games, with the emphasis more on RTS play.

Who should avoid it: Those who prefer faster pacing in RTS games, those who prefer more complexity in their RTS or 4X games. Those who don’t want a slow build-up to later gameplay. Those who don’t like players being able to pay to get an in-game edge over other players.

If I have to give a score: An interesting game with a lot of potential for growth. There’s some innovation, but nothing to really make it stand out yet. 2.5/4

Review

Dreamlords: Resurrection is the third iteration of this game, picked up by Paradox Interactive after the original publishers abandoned the project. It’s quite an interesting experience because at first I didn’t really see the game as having any strong pull to it, despite the considerable number of players on at any given time. I’m not entirely sure how much that has shifted, but there certainly is something to the game to recommend it. It’s a F2P MMO and so is in a rather crowded market filled with games like the entertaining and unique Champions Online all the way to the very banal Shaiya (a game which, as far as I can tell, seems to be entirely about two goddesses in a lesbian BDSM relationship).

The plot is nothing special, many years ago a race known as the Thul appeared, horrid beastmen who hungrily attacked everything in sight. The humans divided into the Covenant, a group of theocratic warrior-knights and the Nihilim, a group of magic users who disagreed with the religion of their fellows. An act of magic designed to stop the Thul instead ripped the world apart and it now exists as collections of floating islands. New threats emerge as nightmares from the dreams of previous eras come to life and threaten the survivors.

The player begins by creating his character, known as a dreamlord. Each dreamlord is a born leader, composed of the souls of long dead defenders and leaders from times past and each must take control of his or her own island, known as a patria. Character creation is very basic and involves choosing your character’s gender and colour (each character looks like a glowing mass of light formed into a humanoid shape) and then his affiliation between the Thul, Covenant or Nihilim. This bit is important as each faction has its own strengths and there is no going back once the selection is made.

I mean that bit too, each account is allowed one character and you won’t get to change your allegiance until the end of the era (or delete the character). This is unusual given that many players in MMOs like to test the waters with different races, classes and factions before making a permanent choice and often have more than one character anyway. It’s a factor of the game that’s not made as clear during character generation as it could be, so be warned if you are going to give it a go.

Once you have done character generation, you are thrown into the tutorials and I found the tutorial system (along with the optional advisor system) very well thought out and constructed, and there were not many situations where I felt the interface to be alien. All in all, I was able to grasp the controls and mechanics very quickly.

What you do notice is that the graphics look a little dated, but this is largely because the game’s graphics have not seen many updates since the first release back in 2006. The game is still frequently updated and now sports many improvements, both in functionality and bug-fixing. The game traditional has been a more single-player orientated affair, alongside the PvP battles. What this new game has is the ability for co-operative PvE missions later on, something that was truly lacking from the original game.

It mixes elements of RTS, RPG and 4X gaming very well. While it is the case that it does not go too deeply into any of these elements, it does make the transition and interaction between the genres seamless. The 4X, for example, is largely about unlocking new technologies in tech trees for each building. These technologies cover everything from the weapons which with you can equip your troops to the expansion and growth of your cities.

Levelling up is interesting, you have a level system based on generally how tough you and your army are as well as a ranking based on the number of followers you have. As you collect more soul power from gems and items, your influence expands and so does your worker-base and your power. This of course affects the size and power of your army in RTS battles, which often yield items themselves useful to your city’s power and growth.

The game does have a very slow pace, however. This will scare off many RTS fans who love more of a rush into combat. Later levels can get very hard and require more thinking as the troops you start with are often all you are going to get and the game becomes more cerebral than simply overrunning enemies with vast numbers of troops. It will be a while into the game before you will even field enough support to have two units of troops assisting your dreamlord and it’s fairly far into the tech tree that you get improved elite versions of the basic infantry, assault and ranged troops you are given.

Overall, I would say that if you are a fan of more careful, plotted gameplay and want a bit more direct activity than what a classic like Europa Universalis 3 will give you then you should really give this game a try. It certainly has a lot of potential that, with a steady stream of development, will turn into something that rises above the more mundane MMO offerings out there. I’m not sure it pulled me in enough that I’d still be playing it six months from now, but I have to salute the fact that it is clearly trying to go somewhere new and make a new concept in MMO gaming work, let’s hope it succeeds.

Dreamlords: Resurrection is out now, client download and registration is available via their website.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* PCGA continues to oppose naysayers with news that the PC market has grown 20% to $16.2bn in 2010 with no decline in any region.

* Gaijin Games founder Chris Osbourne has left the company behind the Bit.Trip games to found a new indie games company, Tracer. Fortunately, he chose a company name that doesn’t use the word for foreigners in the language of a deeply xenophobic culture.

* No surprises in that Australia has banned the latest Mortal Kombat game. I do wonder where this slack, laid-back stereotype of them came about because all I ever see is near-fascistic levels of censorship and state interference.

* Ubisoft has pleaded with the fans of the first game to “keep the faith” for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

* THQ Australia has announced job cuts. Fourteen members of staff were let go after THQ axed two projects and re-evaluated its kids license business.

* Harmonix pleased that Dance Central has managed to outsell Rock Band 3. This comes after a glut of problems for the musical game genre.

* Minecraft developer Mojang have announced a smaller-scale project, Scrolls. So all those fans annoyed at so little has been done with the Minecraft Beta can now get hating all over again.

* Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions has announced a new game, Trenched. The setting seems a fairly standard mech affair so far so it’ll be interesting to see what Schafer does to make the setting his own.

* Blizzard celebrate their twentieth anniversary yesterday and sent fans a thank you message for all the support over the years.

* Stardock’s Brad Wardell explains why Elemental failed and how they are making it up to fans. Personally, I think a little more polish could make Elemental a good game and Stardock have been great designers in the past, bringing us classics.

Main news

MMO fans get a lot of good news this week, first of all there is the fact that Bungie confirmed its new MMO game at GDC. Sphira: Warrior’s Dawn, a promising-looking browser-based MMO, will be coming up in 2011 and is already looking good. Frogster Interactive, who brought Runes of Magic to European audiences, also announced an ambitious new fantasy MMO for 2012 being developed. On the other hand, Panasonic cancelled their recent attempt to get into the gaming market and so we won’t be seeing an MMO-based handheld any time soon. Also, here’s a link to the documentary Gamers, which is available on Hulu and concentrates of the history of MMOs.

Social games were the targets of criticism in GDC 2011. Reports came back of the debates and both sides of the argument and the responses from both sides got a little heated and possibly even irrational. I was particularly impressed by Brenda Braithwaite’s rant and find those, like Jonathan Blow of Braid fame, who rally against the so-called manipulative nature of social games similar to those on the political right who talk as if the working class cannot really be trusted with their own resources. Still, social games must be doing something right as developer Kabam announced 150 new this week.

A good weekend to all. See you next week.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* Richard Garriott returns with his latest offering Portalarium and talks about the costs and distribution model of social games. On the other side, Braid designer, Jonathen Blow, criticised social games for the way they treat consumers.

* Civilization IV became the first game to win a Grammy award for the song Baba Yetu. It took the “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” in the 53rd annual award (incidentally, both it and the sequel, Civilization V are in the Steam deals as of the time of writing).

* Dragon Age II has gone gold, with a demo coming out in the next few days (the 22nd, to be exact). The completion of this demo unlocks a special dwarven weapon for use in the full version of this game upon release.

* Microsoft have been teasing people about a potential new Halo game, in a demonstration of the Kinect, they briefly displayed an image showing “Halo 5” for a second or so. What happened to Halo 4, anyway?

* Magicka, the new indie hit with its innovative magic system, has hit 200K in sales. Certainly, with a lot of the bugs patched, it is a much more solid, enjoyable game and with only a few more minor tweaks, proper online play is viable. DLC is forthcoming.

* Activision Blizzard has been in the news a lot recently, with Blizzard announcing that its upcoming Starcraft II expansion, Heart of the Swarm, will likely not see a 2011 release.

* On the same front and despite its recent redundancies and the closing of a studio, rumours abound that Activision are interested in acquiring Take-Two Interactive. The rumour comes from British gaming magazine MCV and, for those not in the know about European media, the tendency to be as vague as possible about your sources here leads me to take this rumour with a pinch of salt.

* The open beta of the F2P MMO APB: Reloaded has attracted over 100k sign-ups. With a beta program set to begin on the 28th of this month, there is hope to revive what was one of the biggest flops in video gaming history.

* In other F2P news, Champions Online’s switch to a F2P model seems to have propped up Atari’s failing boxed retail sales and there is more news on Paradox Interactive’s Salem popping up, confirming perma-death.

* Finally, it seems Bungie are working on a new MMO FPS, possibly titled Destiny. Rumours abound about this ambitious project, which will be Bungie’s first post-Halo offering.

Main news

The big story today is that Crysis 2 and Killzone 3 have both been leaked onto the internet by pirates. The PS3 Killzone 3 leak comes after the Sony’s failed attempts to subpoena Google and Twitter in relation to PS3 hacks. In a joint statement, EA and Crytek lamented the leak of Crysis 2 and encouraged players to buy the game.

What this has lead to is two rather undesirable groups emerging: on the one hand we have the pirates themselves who use all sorts of justifications for their illegal activity and on the other PC gamers who run to levels of self-depreciation that would make Opus Dei members pause. What is needed, in my opinion, is a middle ground between these ultimately unhelpful extremes.

As an example of a better middle ground, l would present the reactions of people like Ice-Pick Lodge in response to the piracy of The Void and that of Gratuitous Space Battles creator Cliff Harris. They spoke with and tried to understand why pirates pirated games, Ice Pick even made a torrent of bonus content available. They were not sympathetic to pirates, as Cliff Harris wrote in his summary of events, but they tried to tackle the problem without useless recourse to DRM or talking about pirates while using the noun “fuck” or the adjective “fucking” every five seconds. As to The Void and GSB, I encourage everyone to look at and buy those excellent games.

Our second story is about the fate of Mirror’s Edge 2. EA rejected the pitch given by Swedish developer DICE after what was acknowledged to be less than expected sales of the first game. Despite excellent reviews, the game only entered UK charts at 20. While people at DICE have moved on to Battlefield 3, EA commented to 1UP claiming that the game was still in the background, refusing to confirm the game’s cancellation, and that it was “an important franchise” to EA. Further news on the future of the game as it comes. I personally find it telling that EA thinks of it as “IP” and a franchise rather than as a game, but that is inevitable given they are a large publisher who think in terms of what sells or does not rather than the innovation, beauty and grace of a game.

That’s all for the second week in gaming. Have a good weekend.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* The Battlestar Galactica Online beta is open.

* LittleBigPlanet shoes auctioned for Child’s Play, but you wouldn’t find that out via Fox News (see below).

* A new Dungeon Siege III trailer, as well as a preview for Dragon Age II.

* For fans of F2P games, Eurogamer reviewed Bloodline Champions, giving it a respectable 8/10. Also, Paradox Interactive announced the F2P MMORPG Salem, set in the early days of American colonialism.

Main news

It’s been a very interesting week for the first of my blog’s existence. The first item is that EA has closed three Warhammer Online servers, two American and one European, it is offering free character transfers off the closing servers.

In the PC v. console wars, there was talk of the effect console porting might have on Dragon Age II. On the other hand, despite not being a PC exclusive, Crysis 2 will be superior on the PC in every way according to Crytek. Quite frankly, if they can make the game stand out from the crowd in something other than its graphics, like perhaps gameplay, they will have made a superior product to the original as far as I’m concerned. There’s also a rumour that Battlefield 3 will be supporting extra features on the PC as well as the higher player limit.

Of the two big pieces of news, first we have the whole nonsense from Fox News. In service to their dark gods of hyperbole, Fox has attacked Bulletstorm on the grounds that it “ties the ugly, graphic violence into explicit sex acts: ‘topless’ means cutting a player in half, while a ‘gang bang’ means killing multiple enemies.” The fact that people at Fox think being topless is an explicit sex act almost worries me more than the fact that they won’t listen to the more rational arguments, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone; these are the people who think Bill O’Reilly is a journalist. The good news is that, apparently, if you pre-order Bulletstorm (made by People Can Fly, the makers of the excellent Painkiller) from the EA Store, you’ll get Shank for free. Fox have nothing to say on whether Shank will increase the likelihood of rape, so be careful.

Activision has cut quite a lot recently. There was news of job cuts at Vicarious Visions and FreeStyleGames as well as the killing off of Guitar Hero. This got expanded when the 2009 acquisition, 7 Studios, was closed down. This prompted Harmonix to encourage GH fans over to Rock Band. Not that Harmonix has had the best time of it, either. Activision Blizzard’s share price dropped 8% after reporting 2010 financial results on Wednesday.

That’s all for this week. A good weekend to all.