Albion Online Won’t Be Free to Play

Albion Online Not F2P

I have followed Albion Online for a very long time. Having played in the earliest stages of Alpha, and now in the Closed Beta, I can say that I have always been excited about the prospects of a game that comes close to creating a modernized version of Ultima Online with just enough EVE to make things interesting. The one thing keeping Albion Online back in the mind was their F2P model; however, all of that is about to change now that Albion Online is official not going F2P at launch.

Stefan Wiezorek, Founder/CEO of Albion Online, posted a rather shocking road map that included the following details:

  1. The closed beta will be extended until at least 1st August 2016
  2. The game will not be free to play at launch

Here’s their reasoning behind the massive change of direction:

Making the game ready for a free to play model would take up significant development time which we would much rather use to make a better game. Free to play would also create a lot of risks for the game – spamming, botting, world too small, etc – which we do not want to take if it can be avoided.

Some people may be worried about the Founders Packs that grant access to the game immediately (you can literally play now) and whether or not they should purchase them or wait. Stefan says that the Founders Packs will be retired and new “starter packs” will be added, but at a lesser value as not to diminish the value offered by the current packs. Sounds fair.

All of the details can be seen by pressing the expand button below. I’m going to discuss a few of them.

Significantly increasing the world is awesome. Albion Online already features a large world, but given the style of game where large zerg guilds can take over territory, and where end-game zones become very PvP oriented, it’ll be nice to have more room to spread out.

Albion Online Crafting Changes

Following in Ultima Online’s footsteps with a reputation and crime system makes me extremely happy. I love the idea of consequences for acting like a criminal. I’ve written before on Virtual Worlds and Social Consequence; this is right up that alley.

Lots of QOL improvements, even to the economy, will be great. I think the change to add a training mode will definitely make people less inclined to flood the market with too many of the same goods. Since the economy is already entirely player driven, this will mean a better return for those serious about crafting rather than simply skilling up. Adding a PC HUD will be awesome too since right now it shares the same HUD as what they were shooting for on mobile devices.

The Future of Albion Online & F2P

Albion Online Won't Be F2P

Let’s make sure we read this carefully. They said Albion Online won’t be F2P “AT LAUNCH.” That definitely means they can, and probably will, make the game F2P down the road. Some people are already putting on their tin foil hats saying this is an opportunity to hook the suckers willing to pay, etc. I don’t believe that to be the case. I think they are feeling the same burn everyone is feeling right now in the F2P industry, and if they are set on making the game they said they want to make then it only makes sense to go with a different business model. Albion Online’s roadmap and F2P are diametrically opposed.

I am now 100% more excited about playing Albion Online when it launches. I’m a little disappointed about having to wait so much longer. August 2016 at the earlier? Ouch. Albion Online requires so much time and commitment, which I love, but do not want to invest heavily in when I know that it’ll all be wiped clean. My stance for now will be to dabble in it on occasion while waiting for major patches. When they patch, I’ll try them out. I still have a few things I need to do like finish my farm. I enjoy that regardless of a wipe.

If you’re looking to try out Albion Online, give it a shot.

Smedley Flip Flops on the F2P Model

So here’s a fascinating turn of events. Remember when Smed (John Smedley) was all about the F2P? The “our games will be free forever!!” mantra that was being preached from every channel. Check out the article he wrote on back in 2011. I particularly like the section headlined, “The Future is Free to Play.”

People can change their minds. I do it often. Apparently John has changed his mind. See the tweets below.

You don’t say? I’m not trying to be an overly snarky ass here. I completely agree with all of his tweets. Check out all of them @j_smedley. I’m cautious, though. This is all a little bit much to take in when you look at the 180 he’s taking.

I hope that more people grow tired of the “development” process being all about how to monetize every line of code. I’m ready to stop feeling like I am being manipulated into spending money, or feeling like everything I do has been calculated to maximize revenue per player. Smed is tired of people questioning whether or not something was done to make money or to make a better game:

Well guess what? I’m tired of having to do the questioning. I’m tired of having to listen to corporate shills tell me why playing for free forever is so amazing for me. I’ll be waiting to see what Smed churns out, and for $20 I just might give it a try.

Pokemon Shuffle Review & Pokemon Go Preview

The world of “mobile” gaming is surely evolving (accidental pun intended) as the gamer demographic expands. Mobile gaming used to be my brother and I playing our Gameboys in the backseat of the car during family vacations. Mobile gaming used to be restricted to the few who owned handheld systems. Now, mobile gaming is done on just about every device in our pockets or on our wrists.

The Pokemon Company has dabbled recently into how their namesake can be implemented onto other devices. Previously, Pokemon as a video game was a Nintendo handheld gaming franchise. Then, it lightly expanded into guest appearances in other games and occasionally a few standalone console titles. Now, Pokemon is being taken to the masses on mobile games.

You might recall that Nintendo partnered with DeNa back in March of this year to start bringing games to smartphones and other devices. So far we havent’ seen anything come from this partnership, at least not that I am aware of anyway, but we have seen Pokemon begin its journey into the mobile space much more aggressively in the past few weeks. I attribute most of this to how Pokemon is owned partially by three main companies: Nintendo (33%), Gamefreak (33%), The Pokemon Company (33%-2% or so to some anima people). I think I saw that Nintendo owns 54% of Gamefreak, therefore putting Nintendo technically in big control, but it just gets too complicated. Suffice it to say, Pokemon gets around.

Let’s first take a look at the just announced Pokemon Go.

Sensationalized in every imaginable way. Obviously the city of New York will not band together to defeat Mewtwo, and Blastoise won’t be making waves in any major bodies of water. You won’t see these things in real life, and you won’t throw or even mimic throwing anything to catch a Pokemon. This will all take place on the phone, maybe utilize the camera, but at best still be a digital experience.

Pokemon Go Plus Watch

Wearing this bluetooth device will alert you when there’s action happening in your area.

The point they’re trying to get across in this video is that Pokemon can transcend a game you play on a device where you control a trainer. YOU can become the trainer. YOU can set out on the adventure. Just a few problems with that…

I don’t want to go out and adventure. I’m simply not going to bust out my phone and geolocate Pokemon. I’d rather sit at home in the air conditioning and explore a fantasy world.

Gamers — specifically Pokemon gamers — aren’t into traversing mountains, seeking out vistas, or exploring the world. They are definitely (especially in Asia) into the whole street pass thing where people carry their system around with them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a group of Japanese tourists at Disneyland all playing on their 3DS while waiting in line for rides. That’s a far cry from seeking out the experience of hunting pokemon by traveling to different locations. [Read more…]

Age of Empires Castle Siege on Windows and iOS

Age of Empires Castle Siege Review

Microsoft Studios continues their experimentation in different business models and applications with Age of Empires Castle Siege, the latest entry into the AoE franchise.

This time around, Age of Empires has been adapted to fit what I have coined the ‘time waster’ model. Essentially it’s a full game, but actions are gated behind time sinks. Building a barracks will take just a few minutes, but upgrading that barracks to be able to build your next units may take 10 hours. Gathering resources plays a huge part in time waster games, and that mechanic is ever-present in Castle Siege. Have you played games like Clash of Clans, Star Wars Commander or similar games? If yes then you already know how to play Age of Empire Castle Siege.

Your Kingdom Can’t Run on an Empty Stomach

ResourcesGameplay is centered around building up your kingdom whether it be Briton, Teutonic Knight, or any of the other popular civilizations. To do so, you need three things: Apples, Wood, and Stone. Acquiring these three resources is done with buildings that generate the resource over time then storing them in another building. Each of these buildings (generators and storage) can be upgraded to generate faster and store more.  It’s simple and easy to manage in Castle Siege. [Read more…]

WildStar’s Next Stop: F2P

Sitting back and watching WildStar's future unfold

If the rumors are true about box recalls, WildStar might be going free-to-play. Having predicated WildStar would be free to play months ago, this change should come as a shock to no one, myself least of all.

Unfortunately, ignorance leads down the path to the dark side F2P. It’s not a subscription keeping players away from WildStar — it’s the one-dimensional content and gameplay. The developers had a myopic vision of what they thought people wanted, and ignored the blatantly obvious signs all around them that such a plan would fail. Playing WildStar simply isn’t fun, and no price can change that.

The relatively small group of players still enjoying WildStar are doing so on a subscription (or CREDD?). Reading the official forums and outlets where real players actually speak out, they don’t want the game to go F2P either. They’ll end up having to pay more for less if it does.

What NCSoft should do is push the game into a B2P model. Going F2P is just as foolish as developing a “hardcore” themepark game. If they go B2P with an optional subscription for added perks (maybe like a DLC season pass, still capable of being funded with CREDD) and actually put PvP and PvE where they should be at, then WildStar can most likely still chug along. All of that is a pipe dream though. Realistically, the community and interest have shrunk so badly that NCSoft is likely to align the China release with a F2P announcement in the West for their quarterly report. They’ll do the F2P conversion, ride it for a year or two at most, then close it down.

[Update: See comments below for a semi-official lead on what might be the direction WildStar is going (B2P).]