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.┬áNow 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.

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On Player Housing

I’ve read various blogs lately discussing player housing and whether or not the presence or absence of might be a deal breaker for some people. Personally I think player housing is purely optional and if it’s there great, but if it is not then that isn’t going to keep me from enjoying a good game.

I know there are plenty of games that contain some form of player housing, the ones that I’m aware of are Everquest 2, Rift, and ArcheAge. I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that pop in to my head. Each of these three games has its own take on how much customization they allow. Star Wars Galaxies also had a form of player housing, but to be honest I don’t think I ever got that far in the game to know anything about it. Galaxies was the first MMO I played, and it was before I met any of the friends I have now that helped me get more in to the genre.

Everquest 2 for example lets you add items to your house that you collect through playing. The houses themselves are more like apartments in the capital cities, the more you pay for the apartment the more space you can get. At least, this is the way it was back when I played, and I’ll admit that has been awhile.

From what I know of Rift it allows you to build your own “Dimension” that you can share with other players. A good example of this can be seen in a video posted by my friend Bel showing off the dimension made by our friend Rae.

The last example is ArcheAge, from what I can tell this game has a large amount of customization as well as an interesting system to keep space opening up. Player housing in ArcheAge is player built on plots of land claimed by players. Each player, once obtaining a plot you have to pay rent on the property so that you can keep your land. If you stop playing the game and stop paying your rent eventually your house will be destroyed and you’ll be sent the items. I think this is a good way to keep to many empty houses from cluttering that land.

There is going to be a finite amount of land available, so if you play the game and get a house but quit playing then I think it’s obvious that someone else should be able to use the space. If you’ve seen the video by Trion Worlds they state that housing is a premium. If every plot in the game is taken then no new players will be able to build a house. This also encourages one of my favorite aspects of any game, which is exploring. From what I understand you can find some fairly remote places to build a house, so it might take a long time for every conceivable spot to be used up.

The one feature I think it really cool is the amount of customization you have for items placed in the house. You can import your own images in to the game to create textures. I’ve seen videos where people had soda machines, stereos and family photos in their house.

I think rather than trying to explain this all correctly I will just embed the video. The developers do a good job of explaining it.