Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hammered Home

I gotta say Free Realms is really quite fun, and there is a lot of free content. As someone who is not planning on ever paying any real money at all (instead I'll stay a truly no cost player) I realize that I'll be missing out on roughly 1/3rd of the game - which is fine by me - there seems to be so much free content at least initially. One irritant however is the almost incessant need to hammer home the point that I'll be missing out on some good stuff at every opportunity. Quest chains end quite suddenly after having diligently completed the first sevens steps with the fact that to go any further in the chain, membership is required. I realize that this is part of the (brilliant) marketing strat, but it is jarring and really serves to ruin whatever immersion one can get from such a game as FR.

I notice a few more popup messages than there were in beta, pitching the CCG for example, even though I have been playing the CCG for an hour or so already, just minor annoyances and to be expected certainly in this game model. I have noticed several shops where the items you can purchase require Jobs which are membership-only thereby preventing me from purchasing said items from that shop and therefore putting me at a distinct disadvantage. I'm thinking that there will be more things like that which are not immediately evident at first but after having played for a while will be uncovered as putting a bit too much emphasis on a subscription purchase.

It will remain to be seen whether the tradeoff between disadvantages to the free player is outweighed by the brilliance and pure fun-factor of the game world. So far it is. And SOE knows that while there will be many paying subscribers (or at least they hope so) that there will be many many more who never pay a dime. That is just the nature of the F2P genre and they know it. Here's hoping they eventually stop rubbing my face so hard in the mud of being a non-subscriber!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free(dom of movement) Realms

The "Free" in Free Realms does not mean "free as in costs no money" but rather "free as in freedom". FR give players an almost unsettling degree of freedom to do whatever you want and go wherever you want and become whatever you want almost instantly as soon as you enter the game. In FR there is none of the usual MMO hinderance to journying to distant cities just because you have not yet killed a few dozen wolves or delivered a few handfuls of mushrooms to attain level X yet. You want to see the next town? Just go there. It kind of feels like the equivilent of going from Goldshire straight to Shatt (well, maybe not quite that far). The point is that the freedom of movement alone without level restrictions is very fresh and natural-feeling to the player.

Coupled with the freedom to be all classes simultaneously if desired, plus the huge number of quest and minigame choices presented from the first minute of the game, the feeling of expansive freedom is overwhelming and cannot be overstated. The fact that the game mostly costs no money to play should not be overlooked of course, but that is not the reason for the game's title.

Off the beaten path

It's a game totally off the radar, but in my daily check of moddb I somehow came across it. It'a a game that I somehow kept installed on one of my backup drives - Quake 4. There is a great graphical update-type mod that I tried out and man, does it work magic to Q4! So I've been replaying the game a little bit between my "normal" games. Basically it makes Q4 look as if it were using the Unreal 3 engine. It's that good.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A new beginning

I'm ready to get this thing rolling, but not quite in the mood to get into "ancient" history so let's focus on the present. My big gaming interest at this time, generally speaking, is the Free-To-Play online genre. This is a huge market that is only just in its infancy here in North America but it is where the future of gaming lies, and actually has quite a successful past in Asian markets. I'll deal with mini-reviews of individual faves of mine but for now... just a quick list.

Primary Games:

(Pay to Play):

Team Fortress 2 - I play this daily and have forever. My favorite game, period.

Unreal Tournament 3 - Another favorite, great for something a bit different from TF2.

(Free to Play):

Runes of Magic - I built up quite a following due to being the first to put together "Addon Packs" while the game was in beta. The game is basically a WoW copy - but a good one. I'm a level-capped Mage/Scout.

Battlefield Heroes - I've been in the CB for quite a while and have multiple 12+ level characters. Fun game that is much better than it first appears.

Free Realms - Got in the GB from day1 and have fooled around with it a but, but not that much really. Level 16 Card Duelist/10 Brawler. Very fun game but a bit below my age group.

Ace Online - played for quite a bit but stopped pretty much, although I do check in daily to grab my loot on both accounts. Unfortunately small community on my server.

Drift City - Just got back into this since the latest update to the graphics engine added some nicer eye-candy and cleared up some corruption issues I was having. I love this game!

S4 League - I'm not playing this much anymore mostly because I get my daily action-fix from TF2

Secondary Games:

Atlantica Online - of course. Need I say more?
Battleforge - Probably not going to work out, but not bad.
Sword of the New World, Perfect World, 2Moons, Requiem, Cabal, Rappelz, Shaiya, Project of Planets.

...actually there is a bit more than just those, but I'll stick with that list for now as being my promary and secondary games right now.


For now, this is just a place to collect thoughts on gaming and current activities in specific games. Probably won't go much further than that, but we'll see.