On Free to Play Games Vs Subscriptions

This topic has come up a few times lately, well, a couple? Enough that I want to write about it, and this is my blog so “I do what I want”. Mainly this topic seems to come up whenever a new MMO comes out that is either Free to Play or has some form of monthly subscription. The latest game to cause this was ArcheAge and the fear that it will be full of jerks. This isn’t to say that every free to play game is full of them, but it feels that way some times. This might be an over abundance of immature players (ie teenagers, or children) that can’t afford to pay monthly fees.

I think the concept of Free to Play is fine as long as it is done correctly, and so far at least Trion seems to be the ones that do it best. They have a nice balance of free content, a cash shop, and an option subscription service that gives you added benefits but does not give you an unfair advantage in the game you’re playing. In fact in their last few live streams about ArcheAge they’ve specifically said they don’t want to make Pay to Win games. I have no problem supporting these games either through cash shops or the optional subscriptions because I know where those payments go. Just like subscription based games it goes to maintaining the network, and paying their employees so that there is ready customer support and content development.

Really the only thing I don’t like about Free to Play games is the risk of having a bad community experience. If games games that have optional subscriptions such as Rift or ArcheAge offered a subscriber only server I would gladly pay the $15 a month for it so that I would be a little bit less worried about a bad experience. Now that isn’t to say having a subscription means there won’t be players that want to ruin things for everyone else. That is a risk of any game that allows you to interact with so many other people from around the world. The only way to avoid it is to play single player games.

I know a few people who don’t understand the whole subscription model, especially if it is a game you went to the store and paid $60 for to begin with. They don’t seem to grasp the concept of the company having to have at least enough of a profit to pay their employees. I would like to think that everyone that is capable of paying for an optional subscription would because that just means better support and possibly content.

That being said, would I choose a subscription over a free to play game or vice versa? To be honest I’m not sure. I like the concept of free to play games because there is no commitment to a pay schedule. If you stop playing the game for a couple months you don’t have to worry about paying the monthly subscription with no personal benefit. The first thing I tend to look at is the quality of the game, and if I find it interesting enough to compel me to want to play it. If I’m on the fence and can try it for free I will be more likely to play it. If I was on the fence and had to purchase the game first I don’t think I would. I would have to wait for someone else to tell me about it or watch videos to see if I would be interested at all. Like I mentioned before, I have absolutely no issue paying for a subscription if I feel it is worth it, even if it is optional. Some people may think that is dumb, but as a professional software developer I understand why they need that money and as a gamer I love having new content and customer support if something comes up.

On PVP – Player Choice or Mandatory

PVP is something that I’ve discussed a little bit before when talking about ArcheAge and that games “always on” PVP. After reading another blog by my friend Ashgar where he mentions PVP I thought that I’d go a little bit more in to the subject.

It is an established fact that I am not the worlds biggest fan of PVP in games, whether it is option or required. One of the most annoying things that can ever happen to me is being killed by another player, in some cases repeatedly. The first MMO that I ever played that had what I’d consider “always on” PVP was Lineage 2. Leading up to the game I thought it looked amazing, the graphics looked great and I thought I’d have a lot of fun playing it. I don’t remember the specifics of their PVP system, but I know that if you attacked another player you were basically red flagged as a player-killer (pk’er). This essentially flagged you for pvp allowing anyone to come and kill you without consequences.

So naturally the first thing that happened when I hit left the starter area? Someone attacked me and immediately disengaged, but I still ended up killing them in self defense. However, since they had disengaged from the fight I got the flag. This lead to them standing there farming me, so every time I would respawn they’d just kill me again. Needless to say I got tired of that very quickly and I stopped playing that game within a day and I haven’t played it since. That’s probably the prime example of why I don’t like a PVP system that doesn’t give me a choice. People are jerks.

As I’ve mentioned the one aspect of ArcheAge that I am not looking forward to is PVP. From my understanding there are areas where you will always have to worry about being killed/farmed by other players, but, you can also be attacked and killed by players of your own faction. That in and of itself is a problem, but where it gets annoying is that the game seems to reward certain types of players for doing this. In ArcheAge players can become pirates by essentially being a-holes. Every time you do something illegal you get crime points, and the justice system allows players to judge you and sentence you to jail. Eventually this will make you a pirate. So what’s the quickest way to be a pirate? Be a jerk.

Now, I don’t have a problem with responsible PVP. If you want to do that it should be up to you. I don’t want it forced on me when that is not something I enjoy. In my opinion games like World Of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online have it right because, while they have PVP, they don’t require you to do it. There are certainly benefits to it such as titles and other rewards, but you certainly don’t have to do it. World of Warcraft has specific server types that do allow for “always on” PVP, but you don’t have to play on those servers. Personally I prefer RP servers because the communities are generally more mature, not guaranteed but at least more likely.

Now there are also games that are specifically designed for PVP and they are gaining in popularity. These are games like League Of Legends and the upcoming Heroes of the Storm from Blizzard. These types of games are called MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). I’m not to familiar with the objectives of these games, but I would consider them PVP based so these types of games will probably never be installed on my computer.

So to summarize, I don’t think PVP should be required in a game. If it has to be there then I think it should be optional either by having non-required areas set aside for it, or servers where you opt in to always being PVP flagged. I can guarantee if I play ArcheAge the minute some jerk starts farming me just so they can become a pirate I will quit the game.