Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Champions' Take On "Free To Play"

Champions announced their take on "free to play", complete with a benefit matrix similar to what we've seen for other games that made this jump. 

Much of the table is pretty standard.  Non-subscribers face limits on character slots, bags, auctions, and costume slots, and will have to pay extra for access to "adventure packs".  The latter are the patches that Cryptic previously threatened to charge subscribers for.  Presumably that threat is now off the table now that it's an explicit benefit of the subscription, which is theoretically a win for subscribers (especially life-timers, as freedom from the sub is worth a lot less if they start charging by the month for content). 

The big and somewhat unique change is that non-subscribers will be forced to use a pre-generated "archetype" build instead of being allowed to customize their powersets as they see fit. 

Archetype Impact
For a very new player, having the option to go with a pre-made build is probably a welcome option.  In the long run, though, being able to pick your own powerset is one of the game's major features.  More concerning, these pre-generated archetypes will have to be optimized for something.  Presumably, that something will be leveling (possibly solo leveling) to ensure that new players stick around long enough to pay, which could leave players regretting their decision when they reach endgame.

Also, lapsed subscribers will need to somehow revert their existing customized characters (from before or after F2P) into archetype templates to continue playing them, which sort of defeats the purpose of not charging for server access - you can't sell microtransactions to people who aren't playing because they would have to permanently gimp their character in order to do so.  Perhaps Cryptic will implement a system where characters will be allowed to swap between two builds as their subscription status permits, but that does not sound like the current plan.

In the end, as readers of my EQ2X commentary are well aware, I'm not fond of so-called "free to play" models which come with major restrictions that can only be lifted by subscribing.  Time will tell, but this sounds suspiciously like the same situation.  I suppose that the shift to free to play makes it slightly more likely that I will someday try the game.  Unfortunately for Cryptic, the archetype restrictions probably mean that I will do so as a mostly non-paying tourist.

P.S. Star Trek Online, by comparison, will almost certainly make its way onto my playlist when it eventually follows in CO's F2P footsteps.  If Cryptic has a sense of humor, they set it so that STO's free player archetypes are red-shirted ensigns.  :)


Pangoria Fallstar said...

There is only 3 real restrictions to Silver: you cannot change the color of your powers, you cannot get priority log in, and you cannot pick and choose your powers.

Even the chat and supergroup restrictions go away after 20 hours of play time on that character (at least that's the way it is worded).

Matt said...

Well, true, but the inability to pick and choose your own powers is a major drawback. Still, I paid for a Lifetime Sub but the open beta wasn't rock-solid enough to convince any of my friends to shell out full price for the game; this is drawing a lot more interest than even the "eternal trial" offer they've been running the last few months.

I do hope they give people a chance to pick an old toon and reset them to a framework to make it easier for non-Lifers to come back.

Guinadrodd said...

I'm also looking forward to see how they do STO's free to play (if they do it).

After doing all of the Federation content in two months, and then coming back for the first series of feature episodes, I found myself only putting in an hour or two a week into the game. It wasn't enough for me to justify the cost of the sub.

If I can just pick up a series of episodes for $5-$10 instead of the full monthly sub, I'd probably come back for that.

Dblade said...

It depends on how the silver archetypes are. It might be better because one of CO's problems was in customization, and how you had to cherypick powers anyways from different powersets. Many of them didn't have a native healing or defensive power.

It might make groups more common if there are limits. As well as healers more valuable during leveling, and not just at level 40 in therakiel's temple.

Yeebo said...

You captured my major concerns with the Co matrix perfectly.