A Free2Play Weekend

A friend and I had one of our monthly LAN party-of-sort (is it honestly a LAN party if it’s just 2 people? Sure) and as such this found me playing a multitude of random games I would normally not play on my own. The plan all week had been to pick up Darkfall or reactivate my World of Warcraft account, but little did I know, what happened at the LAN would change all of this.

We started things out slow with some RTS action in the form of Demigod and the Heroes of Newerth beta (DOTA clone). Demigod can be fun when you can actually find a non-lag match in the short list of online games that actually exist. Heroes of Newerth, well, I am pretty sure it’s under NDA still ( luckily for them), so I’ll bite my tongue.

After a food run and a short stint in Warhammer Online (trial accounts) I had the idea that we should test some of the many new “free2play browser games” that seem to be sprouting up more and more now (and of more and more quality). My eyes were set on Battlefield Heroes, Fallen Empire: Legions (Tribes), Quake Live, and the one that turned out to be my favorite, Free Realms. I had dabbled in most of these games in some sort of beta form but had never given them an authentic chance since. Before I get into the others, I might as well just say that Fallen Empire: Legions doesn’t work on Windows 7, so that’s a bummer.

I’ll start with Battlefield Heroes. It turned me off a bit in the beta because I felt like it was just a dumbed-down BF game in third-person, where twitch and aiming skills didn’t really matter. Turns out, I just wasn’t giving it enough of a chance. The charm in BF Heroes is the art style (reminiscent of Team Fortress 2), the classes and leveling/ranking-up system, and well, just the overall “charm” of the game (seeing people running around with tophats on or in their underwear, while wielding a sniper rifle sitting on the wing of an airplane – craziness). My friend wasn’t getting as into BF Heroes as I was and wanted to keep going back to the HoN beta or Counter Strike: Source but I was having a blast. My favorite class was either the Gunner, who is the “tank” type heavy-gunner, or the Commando, your usual “scout” or sniper-rifle wielding class. The stealth mechanic really adds a fun layer to playing the Commando, as it lets you get to and set up your sniping spot without getting mowed down every time you spawn and try to make your way to a safe sniping spot, so your class can actually be useful.

I was never one to play Quake 3: Arena back in the day (I was an Unreal Tournament kid), but Quake Live has had a special place in my heart ever since I first tried it at a similar LAN last year. I feel like you either love or hate the quick-frag-action of Quake Live and it just turns out that I love it. It reminds me of playing the original UT and that hits a special nerve in my gaming-heart. A shot of nostalgia, in a modern-day syringe, if you will. I don’t really know what else to say – it’s Quake 3 multiplayer action in your browser for free. Go play it if you dig that kind of thing!

I capped the LAN night off with some Free Realms (by myself, as my friend glanced over in confusion) and found myself playing it for a good 6-8 hours on Saturday as well. It’s hard to nail down what hooks me into FR so much, but all I know is after a few hours I was a subscribing-member and had 1,000 Station Cash in my character’s wallet. There are so many innovative, refreshingly fun, and charming things about FR I don’t know where to start. The fact that this is a browser-loaded game blows my mind. This could easily be a store-shelf product and it would totally be worth the money, more so than many games that are going for $50 on store shelves right this moment in fact. One of the simplest things that I instantly loved about FR was the name-creator they give you to help make your character’s name. It’s really just there to help encourage cutesy fantasy names and weed out the bad names, but any game that let’s me go as “James Peachmetal,” and actually encourages it, is awesome in my book.

The game is an evil perpetrator of the infamous “just one more quest” gaming hook. I found myself thinking this every time I would start another mini-game or head to a quest objective, yet I would still be playing an hour later. There are so many unique jobs (classes) that I wanted to explore and unlock them all, but then I wanted to try them too!

I really wish it let you take screenshots because I found myself hitting the “Prt Scr” button on many occasions, even after realizing it wasn’t working. I’m pretty sure the FR engine was built from the ground up by SOE, in which case, I really hope they are planning to use it in future games, if they aren’t already. The game is beautiful and runs flawlessly. I’ll have to get FRAPS installed again and get some footage for sure. Speaking of footage, below is some that I captured in game with FR‘s built in video capture. The quality is low because I was pushing out videos that were about 700mb-1gb when I had it on the “high quality” setting. It’s definitely not optimal, but it’s pretty awesome they have it in there and a way to upload it to YouTube with a click of a button.

So as I move forward into this week, I’ll probably be playing a ton of Free Realms and hope to throw some BF Heroes in there somewhere too. I feel like the litmus-test of free2play games is whether or not you feel like buying something in the in-game cash-shop would be worth it and if that appeals to you. If a RMT/micro-transaction game even tempts me to use “real money” to buy something in the game, let alone gets me to do it, I feel like it has succeeded at being a successful free2play game. I’m not sure if BF Heroes has hit that point with me yet, but congratulations Free Realms.

If you want to find me these games, here are my names for each respective game:

Battlefield Heroes: Remove_Nozzle

Quake Live: Remove_Nozzle

Free Realms: James Peachmetal (on Server 4 usually)

New God of War 3 Trailer

If this game, along with an inevitable lower price point, can’t sell PS3s I don’t know think anything ever will. Along with things like Killzone 2, NCsoft allying with Sony, and all the SOE goings heading to the PS3, I will undoubtedly be trading my 360 in for Sony’s black box eventually. Until that day, my media streamer Xbox 360 will have to collect dust suffice.

Free Realms is on for an April launch?

Would appear so, via EuroGamer.

At a press preview of its free-to-play, family-friendly MMO Free Realms in London today, Sony Online Entertainment confirmed that the PC version of the game will launch in early April.

The beta test will begin very soon – within “a couple of weeks”, according to associate art director Sebastian Strzalkowski.

Check out the rest of the article for a good up-to-date preview of the game and where it’s at.

Where’s that beta key SOE? Time is a’tickin!

Smed Interview: PS3 and SOE


GameDaily recently interviewed John Smedley, SOE god, and he had this to say about SOE games on ps3

I think PS3 will be close to half our business. There’s an audience now waiting for online games on the PS3. I believe PSN has over 15 million users today. It’s growing so quickly, we see a great user base potential there.

I think a lot of the people who play PS3 games right now aren’t the same people playing MMOs right now. I think it’s going to bring in a lot of new players. There are certainly people who have consoles and PCs in their house. The difference is what they actively play. PS3 gamers are used to playing Resistance 2 instead of a shooter on the PC. I think we can bring this kind of gaming to this audience and I think it’s going to be huge.

Read the whole interview for more tidbits about SOE’s future. Things are looking up for SOE, should be a good year as long as there are no delays. Free Realms + The Agency = I’m intrigued. DC Universe Online? Not so much, but that’s another blog.

Real Money Trading


With the recent addition of Station Cash into Everquest and Everquest 2 the MMO community has been abuzz, mostly full of angsty forum kiddies with their pantaloons up in a bunch, crying foul as if Sony has just killed their dog. I know a thing about SOE and wrongdoings to their game fan base (Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE, yeah hi), but this is nothing of the such, but rather a horrible misunderstanding from the community, on what RMT (real money trading) means in MMOs and why it is here to stay.

For as long as I can remember, Americans have been wary of RMT in MMOs like the plague. I think it has something to do with consoles, and how this generation of gamers has grown up on Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, and they have seen the pyramid scheme of paid download-ables that Microsoft and Sony plop on their respectable marketplaces. That said, the micro-transaction and RMT method has worked WONDERS in every market besides the western market, where it hasn’t hit the hardcore mainstream yet. RMT *is* alive here, it’s just not in your big hitters yet. Kids go bananas for Nexon cash and Webkinz and the like, essentially RMT. I still remember a trip to Walmart where I saw a kid drag his mom to a store clerk to ask if they had any “Nexon cards,” and of course they did, to my surprise. I had no idea Nexon had soaked in that much.

But my main focus of this post, is to share my astonishment at the overall astounding negative response to Station Cash in EQ and EQ2. SOE has said that they will never sell any items that create imbalance in the game-world, obviously, yet it’s as if players are just completely ignoring that sentiment. I’ve heard accounts of people who just reactivated right before the announcement, who are now claiming to be canceling already, just because of this inclusion of Station Cash into their game. Sad.

I think gamers, for whatever reason, have some natural knee-jerk reaction to RMT, that tells them to be afraid and react aggressively, without even trying to understand it and why it is becoming more of a standard. Games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and EA’s Battlefield Heroes will be, in my opinion, the first games that will illustrate how RMT can work in the western market. Gamers may be shy at first, but I think SW:TOR will have critical success based on the graphic style and how it will be marketed alone (Bioware + EA + ‘Star Wars” = $$$), and this critical success will eventually lead to acceptance.

So friends, don’t fear the RMT. He is your friend, and he won’t bite. No one is forcing you to spend any money on RMT goods. It is just an option added to broaden the appeal to more players who might be just as afraid of a $15/mo fee, as some are to RMT.