Shocked, not

This just landed in my inbox:

We’ve just made a major change to the business model of The Secret World in that we no longer require a subscription to play, and have instead introduced an optional Membership. As a lifetime subscriber this will only affect you in a positive way, read on for all the changes to our game!

The Grandmaster Pack continues as a powerful and lifelong commitment to the game for those with true dedication, and contains all the benefits given to members and more [etc etc.]

I doubt anyone else in the blogosphere will be surprised. I’m not disappointed, bothered or offended either – when I bought my lifetime sub it was as much to support the idea of the game as to get a lifetime sub, and I was well aware the game would be free-to-play fairly quickly (though I’ll admit, I didn’t think it would be this quickly).

I’ll get a bunch of goodies points and whatnot, which is fine by me since I like fluff and goodies. In fact, that one email was enough to make me bust out the launcher and start the (long and stupidly laborious, with my internet connection) process of getting the game patched and up to date. It’s probably been about 3 months since I last did that, so I should be ready to play around Christmas.

The shiny new feeling of Pandaclysm is wearing off, too, though I’m still having fun there when I have time to play, so maybe I’ll poke my head back into creepy-land and take on a bit more challenge than WoW offers a non-raider.

It’ll go well with the insanely creepy-scary nightmare I had a couple of days ago, about which I will say nothing except “lunch truck full of cannibal kids”. You can imagine the rest for yourself; it was more Stephen King than SAW, but it was still scary enough to make me extremely relieved when I woke myself up from it.

There you go, a little personal anecdote for free. Now back to work for me!

August: as with July

I’ve gone from being MMOnogamous to being an MMO-ho. With frickin’ laser beams!

In the last couple of days I’ve been granted access to the LOTRO F2P beta (thanks to Mordor or Bust), spent more time in EVE than I expected (and then, again, less, as my Planetary Installations rot unworking and useless), and tried Age of Conan on their Endless Free Tortage (that’s Tohr-TAAAAJ by the way) Trial.

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Mordor or Bust LOTRO F2P beta key giveaway

It’s probably not news to anyone, but we’ll headline it anyway.


I am a beta whore


There. Now it’s out in the open I can consider looking for a support group.

In the meantime, check out Mordor or Bust: they haz podcast. They haz twitter. And — o hai! — they haz LOTRO free to play beta keys. I’m still looking for the free T-shirts, because nobody can resist a free T-shirt.

I’m not actually sure what a F2P beta is — as in, what might actually need to be tested — but I am an ignorant peon and I don’t actually care. It’d be a good way to take a look at LOTRO again without shelling out, especially now that I haz better computer. LOTRO still stands in my memory as the MMO with the best landscapes ever, and maybe I’ll be kinder on the gameplay with a few years’ distance. The last time I played LOTRO in any meaningful way was during the beta (the pre-launch kind, since we now have post-launch kinds), and I was planning on checking out the F2P model when it came out.

Assuming I get a key, I can check it out early. Pick me! Pick me!

With thanks to Dickie (or rather, his twitter-version) for the original info! Plus, you’re one of my four readers. That free T-shirt is in the mail*

*insert really small disclaimer text about Acts of God, strikes, and other reasons other than sheer mendacity why you might actually not ever get said free T-shirt

While I was sleeping

News? What news? I’ve been too busy working then playing then working then playing. I don’t need no stinkin’ news!

For the click challenged, EQ2 is going Free to Play. Note that this is NOT the current live-server incarnation — it’s almost an entirely separate game. See:

2. What will happen to the EverQuest II live subscription service?

Nothing! The game will persist with no expected changes for its subscribers. SOE will continue to support its loyal EQII customers on the live subscription service with new and exciting game updates as well as expansions. EQII Extended will be managed as a separate game and should not impact the live subscription game.

(Linkage: announcement and FAQ.)

Just as well because until I saw that — and while I still thought this was going to affect the EQ2 game I play — I was more or less frothing at the mouth. Why? Because the “gold” sub at $14.99 offers less than the current live-EQ2 sub of the same price. It’s only a small difference in level cap — which might not bother someone like me, but probably would bother people who actually care about levels.

I’m not entirely sure I get the idea of this other than jumping on the F2P-2010 bandwagon. But hey, if it works, then good for them. The more games we have and the more these games find different ways in which to survive and thrive, the better it’ll be for the gaming community as a whole. There’s a whole possible continuum between Farmville and WoW; let’s find ways to exploit it and get some good games.

To Be Or Not To Be… an MMO

When is an MMO not an MMO? (Note that I’m going to leave the whole “RPG” suffix out of the present discussion as a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish. Note also that I’m not going to discuss this exhaustively or we’ll still be here in October.)

Guild Wars is an odd beast. It is an MMO, because it’s massive and has lots of players online all at once, and yet in many ways it doesn’t feel like the other MMOs I’ve been playing in the last, ahem, half-decade. Ironically though, it’s been reminding me more of the games I played in the half-decade before that  — Asheron’s Call in particular — than a lot of the other MMOs I’ve played more recently.

Asheron’s Call was, on the surface, utterly unlike Guild Wars. Nothing was instanced, for one, at least not in the way it’s done in GW; there were a lot of dungeons and other areas accessed through portals that were effectively instances, but none of them were private. Anyone who met the portal requirements could go in and would end up with everyone else who was also in there. Let’s call them public versus private instances. (It’s interesting that I never once thought of them as instances while I was playing AC — they were just a part of the greater world you had to use a whirly-purple portal to reach.)

And yet, in the last few days, I’ve been reminded of nothing so much as Asheron’s Call when I play Guild Wars. Part of it is the “town/outpost” system which, in Guild Wars, are the only public places where you can meet people who aren’t in your party; the only places, in effect, where you can interact freely with the rest of the player base. Asheron’s Call wasn’t like that at all but it did have several towns that served as player hubs; people would come out of the wilds or wherever they’d been and congregate in Glenden Woods, Eastham, Qala’bar and other places. The “in” town varied depending on fashion, player level and focus (PvP players tended to congregate elsewhere), but they were there and they were where you went to see other people.

I was no exception. I’d go off and do my thing, alone or with friends, and when I was laden down with stuff I wanted to sell or just wanted a dose of other people, I’d head off to whatever town was my base and hang for a while. In that sense, AC and GW aren’t that different at all. Even the landscapes are somehow reminding me of each other, though the Guild Wars graphics are a few light-years ahead of poor AC’s.

Post-Searing Ascalon

Compared with other big-name MMOs, Guild Wars stands out by being different in so many ways it’s understandable that many don’t think it’s an MMO at all. Let me count the ways…

There aren’t that many kill 10 rats quests. You’re not forever striving after some insanely powerful item that will only be useful until the next expansion comes out and you have to strive after the new insanely powerful item. It’s more instanced than many players — myself most certainly included — are comfortable with, and while the world certainly is huge, the instancing makes it feel somewhat disjointed (especially at first glance). And worst of all, when you go off adventuring you’re in your own little world — meaning you’re not competing with 27 other players for those foozle tails, and if you’re not competing over scarce drops for mediocre rewards, how can it be a real MMO?

Even more heretically, Guild Wars doesn’t lock you into skills or builds. The only thing you’re locked into is your primary profession choice — after that, you can moosh your stats, skills and even secondary profession around as much as you like, as often as you like.

Doesn’t that sound weird? It certainly sounded weird and a little suspicious to me a week ago.  But you know what? It works.

Guild Wars doesn’t try to appeal to the hardcore raider/achiever type. I’m not quite sure what their core player profile is, but I do know that it makes a nice change from the endless (if varied) standard-MMO treadmills; including, believe it or not, the crafting treadmills. I do love my crafting, but not having to harvest stuff and not wanting to make stuff I’ll have to figure out how to sell… it’s a nice change of pace.

Right now I have some fun classes (professions) to explore and try out, fancy-looking gear to obtain (note that it’s more for looks than uberness), and places to explore. Best of all, if I suddenly stop wanting to play next week I won’t have the nagging feeling that I’m paying for something I’m not using, since I’m not actually paying.

Baby necro -- too cool to be cold!

After a decade of worrying about getting the most bang for my subscription buck, that’s more of a relief than I had expected. So I’m going to stop worrying about whether GW is or isn’t an MMO and just get on with having fun. Strange concept, eh?

(In the meantime, I’m still playing EVE but on a much more casual level that doesn’t involve leaving the safety of my comfy station very much. I buy stuff, I resell stuff, and my planetary installation — just one for now, but a different one than the one I started with — is doing relatively well and has almost paid for itself in under a week. The whole all-PvP all the time deal in these world PvP games is just way too stressful for me, so this is working out very nicely. I’m not uber, but that’s never been what I was after, and EVE is one of those weird games where you can sometimes get more for your subscription buck by logging in less.)

Playing with the hoi polloi

This is where a bunch of you can say “I told you so!”

I don’t think I’m an MMO-snob, but for some reason I’ve never played a free to play MMO for any length of time. It’s not that I automatically think subscription-based games are better… or is it? If not automatically, then at least subconsciously?

There does seem to be a part of me that equates “paying” with “quality” which, as has been amply demonstrated by many sub-based games in the last few years, is in fact not as neat an equation as one might think. Or maybe I equate “not paying” with “lack of quality” — I’ve certainly spent a few years equating “not paying” with “being fleeced in different, micro-transaction ways, sometimes to the detriment of my gameplay”.

Which is a semi-valid point. But the fact remains that there are plenty of free or semi-free games out there that are a) as good as some of the AAA-sub-every-month-or-we-kill-your-lower-level-alts-cough-Conan-cough-cough and b) not entirely driven by the need to suck the financial marrow from your bones.

Then there was the n’Armadillo’s review of Runes of Magic, and the constant screaming pressure!! by a bunch people I know telling me to “try Guild Wars! You’ll like it!” for the last year or so. You know who you are.

All of which has led me to download RoM — though I haven’t tried it yet — and the trial version of Guild Wars. For some reason a year or so ago I couldn’t get RoM to install properly: I kept getting a corrupted download and after 2 or 3 tries I gave it a hearty “sod that” and moved on. This time around the download and install went fine.

Guild Wars was easy to install and I was playing very shortly thereafter — though anyone intending to do the trial should note that the background downloading causes a crapton of lag in some places. Another thing that bothers me a bit is that while the trial supposedly lasts 2 weeks, you only get 10 hours of play, and 10 hours can go pretty fast. Something to be aware of so that you don’t sit around AFK while you read up on classes and the like.

I managed a couple of hours of GW yesterday, and it sure is a pretty game. The graphics are old-fashioned in some way I can’t quite pin down, mostly the character models, but they’re perfectly acceptable, and the landscapes are pretty.

As for the gameplay and feel of it — this may sound weird, but it felt like a single-player RPG I just happened to be playing with other people around. It reminded me a bit of Dungeon Siege, which is not a bad thing. I haven’t experienced enough content to give any sort of review yet, but it certainly wasn’t un-fun. I’m already considering buying the game, which is the only investment I’ll have to make if I intend to keep playing.

Which is where these F2P or mostly-F2P games are suddenly more interesting to me than they were. I’m in a fickle-bitch phase but I don’t want to keep up a bunch of subs to games I’m going to play a few hours a month. In that respect, knowing that I can jump into whatever F2P game I want, play a bit, then not log in again for weeks is a real relief from thinking I need to wring every last cent of value from my subs-based games.

It’s not that I lack the disposable income — though we’re watching our budget like pretty much everyone else these days — it’s that I don’t like paying for something I’m not using, even if it doesn’t cost a lot.

So yeah — I may be late to the free-games party, but I’m here now. Get down with your bad selves!

Ysharros Shadowkeep the (what else) ranger. Rar!