Free to play

| Monday, June 17, 2013
Back in the day I loved shareware.  I'd get these Mac Addict discs from my cousin after he'd used them, packed with demos and shareware.  Wonderful things, those discs.  The equivalent download would have taken days, even if it didn't get interrupted.  Who else remembers using some sort of download manager to be able to continue downloads after someone screws up the dialup or dsl?  Horrible times #firstworldproblemsfromadecadeandahalfago

Anyway, these discs were a way to play all sorts of games that I'd have never played otherwise.  I'd not have even known they existed.  How would I?  My friends weren't gamers and the internet was just an unruly adolescent rebelling at its neglectful father, Al Gore, before it gave up acting and went into porn.  Shareware games were nifty.  Play for a while, then if you like it, send someone a few bucks then they'd send you a license code to enter and viola, you'd have a fully-fledged game.

The closest we have to that is free to play games, and that brings us to the theme of this post: free to play games.  Act one: The fourth wall enters into a cash shop.  Act two: I'm cheaper than an ethnic stereotype.  Act three: Wretched hives of scum and villainy.

Act one
I like being in games.  Actually in them, where all that I experience is the game.  This is why I start all gaming sessions by first telling everyone in a five block range to shut up and if they're going to get injured, please call the ambulance now so it doesn't distract me.  Yet some games ruin this.  The shareware games did it with a variety of techniques, such as Hector in his invincible spaceship blowing you out of the sky if you'd played more than 30 days without registering.  That's why God invented afterburners.  Even games where you buy a box do this, inviting you to buy DLC at all moments.  I first ran into this in Dragon Age: Origins, where in keeping with the RPG rule to Talk to Everyone, I talked to a guy who told this interesting story and hey cool I should go to that place, but I don't have that DLC.  Huh?  Guild Wars 2 has its gem shop, but it's shoved off to the side and seems to be a shady side business than part of the real store, like when you ask the guy at Home Depot if they sell any Happy Plants, wink, and slip him $500 cash before he calls the police.

And then there are the free to play games.  At all turns you're reminded that you didn't give them money.  There is another bag slot, but you can't use it.  You can't check your mail because you're too cheap.  You would be able to level up, but not if you won't pay!

Act two
I really like that free and play parts, but that to bit in the middle causes trouble.  There are all manner of sources of free games.  Many of them are good games in their own right.  Many are not broken out of the box.  That leads me to my annoyance with many free to play implementations: they don't work so well out of the box that you didn't buy.  Why would I not pay good money for something that doesn't work?  If I'm going to not spend money, I want to get my no money's worth.

I could pay a little bit of money to get a fully-functioning game.  Sometimes its even quite inexpensive to upgrade.  If presented with such a package I might even buy it.  I give you money, you give me a game that works in its entirety.  Yet free to play breaks this concept for me.  My ability to hand over money is mentally hindered.  It's a free game and why should I pay for free?  Sell a man a fish and you feed him for a day; offer a man a free fish and an inexpensive fishing class and he'll get really pissed off and starve to death instead.  Because he's stupid.

Act three
What sort of scum plays a free to play game anyway?  No one I'd want to be around!  On one hand you have the cheap jerks who refuse to support a game that they're more than happy to play.  They have literally zero investment beside their time, which I presume they have in abundance and can therefore use to do a lot of whining about this thing that they refuse to pay for. The other group are the idiots who pay for a game that is free just so they can get another bag slot.  Why not just play a subscription game that never tries to get a few more bucks from you with seemingly-obvious features or ridiculous items?

Today's post was brought to us by a bunch of imaginary people at whom I am angry and me, who might be getting some pretty cool fanmail for people such an excellent writer but cannot open it because "you can't check your mail because you're too cheap."


Rohan said...

"Sell a man a fish and you feed him for a day; offer a man a free fish and an inexpensive fishing class and he'll get really pissed off and starve to death instead. Because he's stupid."

This was absurdly brilliant. Well done. Somehow just encapsulates the general attitude to F2P perfectly.

Syl said...

Hehe...I second that. you grumpy git :D

I think the point about breaking immersion is one of the most valid ones in regard to F2P issues. a lot of times it's a more emotional debate than anything - there are great F2P games with good communities but yeah, it DOES break immersion to some extent dealing with realmoney purchases ingame. of course a lot then depends on how obtrusive stuff is too....the EQ2 ('beta') was truly horrible for this imo and LOTRO has gotten worse lately :(

Ephemeron said...

If you're paying, you're a customer. If you're playing for free, you're content that customers pay for.

Klepsacovic said...

@Rohan: I'll add that to my resume, "absurdly brilliant."

@Syl: I wonder which is worse, in-game cash shop, or needing to tab out to a browser. The latter is a clear break from the world, which might help to mentally separate it.

@Ephemeron: That would explain why every f2p game I've played had terrible content.

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