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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:18PM FrostPaw said

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I think the industry needs to nail down some kind of standard for their wording to legislate against false advertising or misleading promotions.

Some games are definately more "free" than others and some games really shoudn't be allowed to include the word free in their games description.

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 4:00PM Ceridith said

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@FrostPaw

The whole purpose of the terminology is to create marketing spin based on false truths. "Free to play" sounds a lot more attractive than "unlimited free trial", even though WoW for example now claims to be "free to play". Free to play is rarely ever truly free, but it's all about spinning words to influence people. Long story short, ambiguity helps their marketing spin.
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:19PM Evilgm said

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I was wary of "Free-to-play" games, but on the recommendation of a friend I tried out Lord of the Rings. Whilst I found things like bag size and auction limits annoying, I felt they were a fair trade off, and if I continued to play the game I would have certainly looked into unlocking them.

Unfortunately I hit the "content wall", where you get to a point that you have to pay to unlock quests. That was exactly what I was wary about in the first place- it says it's free, but you have to pay to actually do anything. If even one zone per tier was free I would have stayed on, and likely would have spent money in the shop, but I felt like I had been lied to. That removed any willingness to spend any money on the game, and thus my experience was brought to a close.

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:40PM Lucidus said

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@Evilgm You can get them for free, just complete Deeds and you earn Turbine Points in game.
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 6:46PM DarkWalker said

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@Lucidus
Yep. there are guides about how to play the game while spending as little as possible.
BTW, if you make alts and fully evolve them, purchasing back the limitations is not hard.
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Posted: Sep 8th 2011 12:17AM Zenn said

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@Evilgm

This was similar to what Mabinogi used to have on their systems... you could do anything you wanted in the game, but if you wanted the mainstream storyline content or cool spirit weapons u needed to pay for the premium service.

However, thank god they wised up and have now removed all that and completely made it free.
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:25PM Ordegar said

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The free to play/freemium line is getting blurrier, too, as companies like Turbine adjust how they offer their games, and what they charge for.

For example, The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) used to limit your access to zones unless you unlocked them by paying; they got the idea from their Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) game. But DDO is a modular play style and it feels less limiting to charge for "modules" than to charge for zone access. So they changed LOTRO to allow a free player to go to all of the zones and let free players level all the way to cap, so now LOTRO has moved closer to what you describe as "Free-to-play"; you can reach the end of the game for free, but you still have to pay to unlock quests on the way up.

I think the biggest problem with the whole issue is using the term "free" at all. Developers never should have called it that. A la carte payment, or pay as you go, or saying, "Why pay for a whole game that you will never play all of? Pay for only what YOU want to play" is more accurate and doesn't make people think they can do everything for free. You can play DDO, and you don't have to pay anything, so it's free to play; that doesn't mean you can do everything in the game for free.

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:32PM alphaman00 said

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@Ordegar Plus, in Lotro you can EARN the points you use to buy areas/content in game (unlimited if you're willing to reroll characters). It might take some time, but it's definitely doable. This provides a further gray area - most f2p games have some sort of cash shop, but usually you can't actually get everything in that shop simply by earning the points/tokens/whatever in game. (though, there are about 2 or 3 things you can't get in the shop itself, but relies on the subscription in LOTRO, which is another matter on top of all of this)
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Posted: Sep 8th 2011 12:53PM madcartoonist said

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@Ordegar

I like the "pay for what you want" name. That was how I looked at LOTRO when it went F2P. I knew that I play slowly, that I don't need access to everything right away, and would rather buy the game in bits and pieces then the whole subscription.
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:26PM Seinaru said

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The way I see it is that "freemium" games are free but you can pay for premium things. Typically you can play through most of a game without paying a cent but it will be much less enjoyable. For example, DDO

Games where you play for free until a certain level are p2p and that's just how they work their trials. It's by level instead of time. For example I don't consider WoW to be freemium because it's basically free for a day unless you want to be a perma level 20. Ryzom is the only exception I can think of since it lets you get to a fairly high level for free

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:34PM ployer said

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Beau I often read your column because I am interested in trying out new games, especially if the initial investment doesn't cost me more than my time and bandwidth.

As a suggestion, would it be possible for you one week to put up a list of all the Free to Play and Fremium Games (denoting which is which) and possibly a grade beside each? No need for anything in any depth, just a simple A-F assignment based solely on your opinion). I know it would help me when I am looking for something new to try out and i bet there are others this would help out as well!

Thanks!

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:39PM Beau Hindman said

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@ployer Well, I have made lists before and I am always trying to tweak those lists (for example: http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/06/21/mmobility-fifty-games-for-the-mobile-lifestyle/ ) but as a rule we do not assign grades or stars or anything to the games we talk about.

I am working on another list revision, but the main issue now is that most of my gaming is done on phones, pads or my laptop. A lot of it is browser based. I just don't download clients like I used to. Watch for that list in the future. Thanks for the comments so far guys and gals!

Beau
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:39PM Space Cobra said

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I was rethinking this the other day in regards to the Star Trek f2p details article.

While I do agree that some basic tenets and guidelines need to be laid out for ALL games to follow, it is trickier in deciding what those guidelines may be especially if you stray into more creative (MMO) games that differ from the norm.

I still wonder about the (general) two character slot limit: It probably is enough of a limit and one that engenders (my vision) of a typical player to sybscribe/pay, but I wonder if it can't be increased to 3? or 4? or maybe, 1/4 of slots offered?

I think most people don't make a distinction between "freemium" and "f2p"; there is much cross over at times.

One thing I do think should be removed are certain chat limits in games. While most do cover spammers, it also hinders legitimate new players in talking to fellow players, getting involved (maybe even in a guild) and staying (and ultimately paying). I feel this should be tinkered with more. New players certainly could use help. Maybe a new specific in-game channel called "Help Channel" that all can sub (and unsub) to? Perhaps special "invite" commands from paying members to non-paying ones, such as, a paying member can make a "new class" of "friend" with a free member that allows the free member to send /tells to them?

Posted: Sep 11th 2011 8:39PM Ordegar said

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@Space Cobra

I do believe that LOTRO does most of the chat suggestions you list. For example, a free player can /tell people who have him/her in their friends list; they can talk in guild or group chat (kinship and fellowship chat in LOTRO lingo) chat; and LOTRO supports player made channels in which anyone who joins can talk (a player who creates a chat channel has the option of password protecting it or not), so you could make a channel for all of your friends to join, including free players.
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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:55PM blackcat7k said

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These Free-to-Play systems are ultimately shady in their execution. From the way they are implemented, to the lack of information regarding what you are purchasing.

The buyer has no way of making an informed decision about what they’re buying because they can’t test how the item for sale impacts their gameplay unless they spend huge amounts of time in the game. Now this isn’t always the case. Sometimes companies give you taste, but it usually doesn’t encompass the entirety of their cash shop.

Many of these cash shop items are beyond vanity. They have stat advantages, time advantages, and access advantages that a buyer would really have no clue about unless they had a thorough understanding about the game. The player at many times has to rely on third party sites and forums for this information.

Does anyone ever question why many of these FtP systems don’t give a receipt in some form for the buyer’s own records? Just that you spent X dollars on the service from the company, not what you actually spent money on. That in itself seems to be a major failure, because you still don’t own the data you bought.

This is why I rather P2P systems. I pay the company and they give access to ALL of the product. The company can lose the information I generate using their product if it wants to. When I’m done playing, I don’t pay. No gold line, no silver, no anything, just a flat fee.

I have no clue what I’m buying in FtP and the company holds all of the cards. That right there is what scares me about this FtP movement: That gamers actually believe that a company will have their best interests at heart when the company can now charge piecemeal for content.

Do gamers truly believe that the company won’t change the content/gameplay systems to further benefit their company at the expense of the customer?

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 6:53PM jmerriex said

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@blackcat7k Umm, not knowing what you are going to get before you purchase is true of P2P games as well. In fact for most of them you have to pay $50+ just to see that you don't like them. I can't list the games I've spent money on that I know no longer play or only played for a few days.

The number of P2P games that I shelled out cold hard cash for only to be disappointed by moments later ranges well into 30 or 40. The number of F2P games I've had that same situation occur with I can count on my hand and in EVERY case, I complained to support and was compensated for my loss. NEVER have I gotten my money back for a P2P game after being dissatisfied and complaining to support.

Also, generally most F2P games I've played DO give you a receipt (LoTRO, DDO, Champions) or at the very least include some type of transaction history (APB, EQII, Perfect World) so you can see what you purchased in the past.
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Posted: Sep 8th 2011 1:04AM blackcat7k said

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@jmerriex

Maybe it’s just how bare bones many of these F2P titles are. Not necessarily ones that jumped to F2P as from P2P. Those games that were P2P already got their money from players, and are now selling their game piecemeal.

You mention games like Champions. I find that funny because I bought a lifetime way back in the day. I notice very weird things that significantly hamper a person’s way to play the game if they’re not a gold member.

Bag slots, market slots, resource limits: These types of gameplay restrictions waste the players time. I’m against hampering gameplay systems like these because they ensure that the paying people and the people who don’t pay have a ridiculous gulf between them.

That affects grouping, because it affects the items they receive and the ability to buy the items they need to become effective. Some of these F2P systems even affect what items you can equip if you don’t pay them.

This is ridiculous, especially in groups where you need players to have some level of basic items, only to find that they’re non-paying customers and thus do not have the gear needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.

The developers of East and West need to wake up. These are games! You can have your vanity, you can make your convenience items. However, when the players are on different sheets of music you can’t expect them to play the same game.

It’s like if you went to a baseball game and you watched on side swing with the regulation bats and the other pull out some ultra-light aluminum bats because they paid off the officials. The game would have no meaning if it was played like that because you saw a clear tangible advantage of one side over the next. Why are gamers even allowing this nonsense to creep into their games is beyond me.

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Posted: Sep 7th 2011 3:59PM Azaetos said

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I just can't understand it .. I went down to my local cinema and told them that I wanted to see this particular movie and if when it's finished I like it then I might then pay for the ticket but certainly not before. They told me to get lost.

Why do people feel 'entitled' when it comes to MMO's and that they should play for free? The free part of these games should remain as pretty much a trial of it, after which if someone likes it then there should be no issue with paying for it.

Now having said that I do not agree with most of the supposedly F2P games where if you do want to pay and play the game to the full extent you end up paying many times over the price of a standard subscription fee. Allods Online being a glaring example of this when they first released their MT store pricing.

For me I'll take a subscription game over a F2P one anyday. I always feel like I'm being nickel and dimed in F2P games.

Posted: Sep 7th 2011 7:00PM N620AA said

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@Azaetos I'm fine with having to spend extra for some cosmetic stuff, extra character slots or things like that... but if they're going to charge me $15 every month like fully-featured P2P titles do, I expect at least some solid perks out of subscribing, along with a good chunk of store currency to spend each billing period.

I feel AoC does this fairly well with its veteran rewards... you can get teleport spells to every zone, mounts and training for free, and other quality-of-life upgrades with vet points you get every time you buy playtime. On top of that, you have access to all classes, your full inventory (and bank), and you get an offline level every 4 days of paid time.

I wish they offered more Funcom points (store currency) for being subbed, but I don't hate it enough to feel I don't get my money's worth overall... so the system obviously works as intended. Ultimately, these games are out to make money, and make as much money as they can.

It's why I'll take a sub-based model anytime over so-called F2P. But I can see the merits in a hybrid system that's tuned well. An item store that sells cheap XP pots and cosmetic armor is fine by me, as long as subbing gets you an allowance of points that lets you benefit a bit each month.

One thing is for sure, though: if you don't have money for small impulse purchases, you probably want to go with a P2P game where your $15 gets you the same as everyone else. Otherwise, you'll just have to come to terms with the fact that someone with buying power will get cooler stuff/advance faster at the very least.
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Posted: Sep 8th 2011 5:47AM pancho72 said

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@Azaetos

If your cinema advertised the movie as being free, and then it stops after 10 minutes and they ask you to pay to see the rest, wouldn't you feel put of a bit? Even if you do pay the normal price you would still be faced with an inconvenient break and get a worse experience than if you had paid up front.

I prefer subscription based payment models as well, but they are getting rare. Many of the "F2P" games end up having a worse service even for paying customers. Game balance get sacrificed for the sake of monetizing and advertising is an inevitable feature.
I don't want to pay to be more powerful, on the contrary I'd rather pay up front for a balanced game. Very few developers provide that service these days unfortunately.
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