Age of Hybrids

Age of Conan flat out bombed with the majority of the MMO community when it launched a few years ago.  Since then Funcom has maintained development on the game and is finally turning it into a “hybrid” model.  I say finally because I am surprised it took them this long.  You all know my stance on games becoming hybrids: It’s like moving to Florida to retire and stay warm until you die or people forget about you.  Duh, games that offer free versions see a spike in players.  It also gives the developers a way to generate more money again.  Bottom line, quality suffers under the heavy hand of business.

Craig Morrison said this in an interview:

“Then you have the fact that the industry is changing, and a model like this really is the best way to drive more traffic to the game. We have gotten very positive feedback on all the improvements made to the game by our loyal players, so this is the opportunity to take the game and re-present it to MMO gamers who may have tried it years ago and wouldn’t otherwise give it a second chance… and that is good for everyone involved!”

The industry is not changing.  A few feeding at the bottom have developed a way to milk more cash out of an otherwise dead cow. The key here is that players did try it years ago and absolutely would not give it a second chance.  If it wasn’t worth playing when it cost money then it’s certainly not worth playing when it’s free; that’s my slogan and one I find holds true.  You may try a game again but you rarely see players get back in and really play unless the game changes drastically (DDO is an example of a game that flat out failed and came back F2P to do well).  Games going free/hybrid do so for a reason.  There is absolute zero goodwill involved here folks.  They’re not thinking to themselves how wonderful this will be to give people a free option.  It’s to make money.  Motivation is key here because motivation influences the path of development.

Subscription MMO’s that are good games and remain good games even when they are old do perfectly fine.  Going hybrid is a method for dealing with failure before or after the fact.  This is why we never see AAA quality MMO’s launching hybrid or F2P.  The subscription model isn’t going anywhere since it still works for the good, quality games.

So for Age of Conan, I’ll pass.  It’s still Age of Conan when it’s free.

  • If by get better you mean dumbed down to lemming IQ levels then yes, it was a great success.

  • It wasn’t worth playing for me when it cost money because I just don’t have the gaming time to make subscriptions worthwhile (it took me a year to finish Dragon Age Origins – one Sunday morning at a time.) So when a game like Conan (which I was interested in) comes free to play, for me it is worth playing. And they’ve had time to work out some of the issues they had at launch.

    I also tried DDO (didn’t like) and LOTRO which I am liking so far.

  • I didn’t quit AoC because it was too expensive. Thus, I won’t return just because it is cheaper now.

  • Lotro is fine as a f2p game too. I thought AoC was interesting, just buggy with lack of content. I’ll check it out as a f2p just to see how it’s changed.

  • Uh, LoTRO… I wouldn’t pay a subscription for it, but I’ll play it for free and drop some cash once in a while. I’m sure I am not the only one.

  • I recently tried Conan again on a free trial and it was still a giant mess so I’m steering clear.

  • Keen,

    DDO didnt change between being subscription only and becoming a hybrid. Its still the same game. Its still a heavily-instanced dungeon crawling game designed around grouping rather than solo play.

    What changed is it got a whole lot of new players, and it got a whole lot of new content. And both of these were enabled by a model that let players play for free, and buy new content a chunk at a time.

    You might not like hybrids. You might not care about a game getting new content. You may not care if there are enough players around you to make a party to do non-soloable content.

    But you’re one person, and your money spends exactly as well as anyone elses.

  • For players who are strapped for cash or do not have hours to waste every day, the hybrids work well for them. I do not care for F2P because it takes away your right to complain, LOL!!!!!

  • “This is why we never see AAA quality MMO’s launching hybrid or F2P.”

    No its because they cost $50-100,000,000 of investor money, which is currently an easier to sell due to the shining example of WoW bringing in billions a year with the sub model. Although GW2 is looking like its going to prove that little theory of yours wrong anyways.

  • well Keen, i can’t agree with you on this one.

    i played AoC on launch and tried it several times after different intervals of time afterwards.

    MMOs are living games that do change over time, so no – 3 y.o. first impressions don’t do them justice 🙂 To any of them!

    I remember when AoC was cutting edge in graphics taking a brutal toll on half its playerbase systems. now it’s actually quite old and manageable by the average PC out there.

    the content has expanded, the glaring bugs have been fixed and basically it’s a better game now.

    having said that, i’m not looking much eagerly forward to trying it either. but me and some friends will definitely give it a try to check whether it would be our “once-in-a-while” hobby game

    if all goes well i’d even buy the expansion – all sources give nothing but favorable reviews about RotG and i was tempted by the whole getting a tiger from minipet to mount business from way back when i first read about it, so – we’ll see

    the thing i’m most looking forward to is the solo dungeons. it’s a strange beast and i’m guessing it’d be the right thing for me – a casual online rpg for the solo-explorer that i am 🙂

    all in all – i think AoC was not worth playing way back when it launched – due to bugs and lack of some systems and content, but has alleviated all of these issues with that last hybrid – freemium offer so i’d probably give it a go one more time, and would advice others to try it too

  • “Subscription MMO’s that are good games and remain good games even when they are old do perfectly fine.”

    And which MMOs are these exactly? Name any MMO that are “good” and still sticking to a subscription model after a few years? Final Fantasy? Warhammer? Star Trek Online? Darkfall? I’m running out of decent options here….and no, WoW does not count, you can’t just go and say “because WoW is happily doing it” , that everyone else can.

    Maybe EVE? Star Wars Galaxies? EVE is a very unique game and that is why that -can- keep up a sub. If there were 20 other EVE-like MMOs this would be another story…

  • But AOC also changed since release, theres a new expansion that changed the game mechanics, i came back after i quitted in the same summer when it was released and i like it now, but it never became my 1st MMO, it always stayed my 2nd one, and thats the one you quit first when you get short of time.
    So i think f2p has some potential for funcom ( both ways…)

  • I never understood “If it’s not worth paying for, then it’s not worth being free”. Isn’t that the whole point of the “quality purchase”? I’ve played plenty of games that weren’t worth money to me, because they didn’t really interest me. But because they were free, I gave them a shot and actually liked them. I’m not 100% on the point there. Perhaps that statement would fit better to a console game. For an MMO, that can ALWAYS change.. that seems almost narrow-minded.

    This move is about money, sure, but it’s also about bringing players back. A free option is the best way to do that. Sure, they’re saying “Give us your money”, but they’re also saying “Give us another chance to deserve your money”. This goes back to my previous point. I paid for AoC (Hypothetically) and it bombed horribly. It’s no longer worth it, in my eyes, to pay for it further. But hey! Now it’s free. They’ve made some changes. Now, I can go back and see if those changes were good for me as a player.. without paying them my money. Is that really a bad thing? I don’t ever see how it could be.

  • AOC has/had an early story episode where your character gets imprisoned, but inexplicably the guards fail to take away your weapons and armour (my toon had a huge spear that they must have noticed). It’s this kind of casual approach to story/immersion that turns me off a game more than any amount of bugs and glitches. Rift is another example where the story and world design appear to be a tacked on afterthought that ticks some box on a form of MMO prerequisites.

    MMO designers need to work from the creation of a convincing immersive world as a first requirement. Everything else is bells and whistles.

  • Personally I will take this version of AoC over subscription anyday. I was there in the beginning and enjoyed my purchase for the first two or three months, but once the shiny wore off I was on to other things. Nothing they have done since launch has made me interested enough to pony up money to try it again, so if I can download the client for free and start over in a very casual fashion I will.

    I have logged more hours this past year on free games than on sub games, in fact the only sub I had this past year was Fallen Earth. I paid for a three month special and surprise, played only about 1 month of that.

    So at this point, subs are over for me. I do not think I can justify any monthly subs in my budget anymore. I do like the GW model of a one time fee and free play after, but nothing at this point can get a box fee AND a monthly fee from me.

  • @Amish Ambush: Could you please develop your claim?

    Personally, I think the game got worse with the influx of “no credit card” kiddies, who ruined at least a part of the more mature atmosphere that game had. The negative impact of free to play even hit the European RP servers.

    So how did free to play make LOTRO better? Please explain.

  • @Keen
    So does WoW chief – not only monthly but every time an expansion is released, as well as via hybrid costing model where you pay extra for using the AH and guild chat and grouping with friends from other servers. This is a model you support?

    The point you made was:
    “This is why we never see AAA quality MMO’s launching hybrid or F2P.”

    GW2 is launching as a hybrid, yet has all the components of a AAA mmo. You want to modify your statement or swallow your words later?

  • @Gnome: sorry, but we still don’t know in what extent GW2 will be an “hybrid”. Unless I missed something, apparently the shop will sell stuff like cosmetic armor customization, just like WOW sells some pets and mounts.
    Maybe you have more information about what will be sold in the GW2 shop you could share with us. But selling some fluff outside of the game doesn’t make a game an “hybrid”.

  • @Gnome: addendum => we also don’t know if GW2 will be an AAA quality MMO or another pile of monkey poo.

  • @Gnome: GW2 is launching without a subscription fee. They will charge for the box. This doesn’t make it a hybrid. This doesn’t make it fall into the category “Free to play”. This makes them like most every other goram game on the planet.

    GW2 has absolutely zero impact on my statement at all unless you have some secret information about them charging for levels, items, or other things in-game that have -any- impact on gameplay.

  • @Keen: I feel I have to say something here. A GW2 rep stated a while back that they were toying with the idea of selling everything you can get. That they “saw no problem” with selling items available in game. I want to say it was at PAX East, but I could be wrong. It was on a GW2 stream on Livestream back during one of the conventions. Of course, they never said that would happen.

    GW2 has every impact on what you’re saying. It just does. This isn’t something that can be “pick and choose”. Hybrid means pay for it, then pay for microtrans. There is no “Oh, well this game does it a little so it doesn’t count”. WoW is the same way. It’s a P2P game that uses Microtransactions to make even MORE money. Which is actually WORSE.

  • I had no idea GW2 was planning on microtransactions in the form of items and gameplay impacting purchases. If that’s the case then it does play into this scenario.

    I’d like to see some references, quotes, etc., because if it’s true then I am 100% done with ever thinking about picking up GW2. You might have just saved me $60.

    WoW’s microtransactions are not gameplay impacting. They sell cosmetic pets and mount skins. Zero impact on the game. Absolutely not relevant. WoW is not a hybrid.

    Hybrid means you have a subscription model and a “play for free” model where you restrict people on what they can do unless they unlock it via purchase or choose to become a subscriber. GW2 doesn’t fit this. WoW doesn’t fit this. Lotro does, EQ2 does, and AoC will.

  • “WoW is the same way. It’s a P2P game that uses Microtransactions to make even MORE money. Which is actually WORSE.”Definitely not. There’s nothing WoW sells that you need to play the game. Unlike e.g. LOTRO, where items that give you a tremendous advantage in game are sold in the shop.
    That’s night and day for me. I couldn’t care less if a game sells a sparkle pony in an outside shop, I don’t need it to play. But when it sells items that give direct in game advantages, and even worse, which for some can’t even be acquired in game, then yeah, it affects me.

  • The more I hear about Guild Wars 2 the more i doubt it will be the end all be all. It appears they are making a much bigger investment in GW2 than GW and they have to make that money back someway. We’ll see. This trailer for the GW Engineer career, doesn’t impress me much, esp the art. Reminds me of Fallen Earth.

  • – Merovingian

    Considering new updates/content were few and far between before LOTRO went FTP is one thing I can point to as an improvement. The content that we are getting now (Post Mirkwood) is coming in pretty steady and the quality has seemed to improved.

    The more mature atmosphere in LOTRO can be credited to a couple of things. The small player base (in comparison to WoW), the setting, (LOTRO wasn’t catering to little kids like say Wizard 101) and the subscription hurdle. MMO’s with a smaller player base are going to naturally have a more mature player base. LOTRO may have lost a little but of the “mature atmosphere” that it had but the community is still better than most of the MMO’s out there. People are still helpful. You don’t have the amount of trolls in chat that you would have in a game like WOW. I don’t think FTP destroyed LOTRO in this respect. It has just diminished it slightly.

  • @Keen: Hybrid doesn’t mean game changing. It simply means you’re making money from both sides of the market. I could argue that the new features do in fact effect gameplay, though. Even if it is convenience. It still gives you a significant avenue to play the game that no one else, unless they pay for it as well, can use. Mobile auctions are a HUGE change to how the economy can play out in WoW. Does it make the game broken? Of course not. That’s not the point.

    As for GW2. I’ll do some digging and see if I can maybe find the cast that was done. It was from the GW2 booth at one of the conventions. As I said, they made the statement of toying with the idea. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen.

    That’s the channel for the Livestream I saw that on. I’ll see if their archives still have that specific cast or not.

  • lol so GW2 will be ftp – your bitter little arguement is still false.

    Looking at LoTRO, EQ2, DDO, Global Agenda – all success stories due to switching to a hybrid/cash shop model – you should see the obvious conclusion that the sub model is going the way of the dinosaur. Its simple supply vs demand economics. Many solid MMOs with tons of free content and adding more constantly vs the 2 or so left with a sub only system. Didn’t Morheim just state how they are going to try abd get content out more rapidly, and even has considered the possibility of a ftp in the future?

    Your theory is crap.

  • *sigh*

    GW2 will not have a subscription. That doesn’t make it “Free to play”. You must pay money in order to play the game.

    LotRO going free to play was not a success story. There are thousands of examples of people highlighting plenty of ways in which the model diminished the quality of the game. More people playing =\= success for the game, just the business.

    EQ2 runs a subscription model and does quite well. They have a server that runs the hybrid model. It is inferior to their subscription server communities and gameplay.

    DDO, as I mentioned in the entry, is a case when it is rare that a game does well after switching to the model. I stated that in the post. Point is still made that it flopped hardcore and turned to this model as a method of dealing with failure. It did not launch in this state.

    Global Agenda flopped and is still a flop. There is no success story there.

    Only 2 games left with a sub model only system? Your brain is crap, son.

  • @Amish Ambush

    “I think Lotro was a great game that got better after going free to play.”

    “It has just diminished it slightly.”

    So… what is it? =P

  • They dumbed the game down to the lowest common denominator in order to appeal to the F2P market, that’s what’s wrong with LOTRO.

  • I don’t get the “LotRO got dumbed down” argument. As far as I can tell from my guilds ventrilo discussions, the current instances at endgame are every bit as challenging as they’ve ever been.

    • Challenging instances are but a very small part of what makes a game quality or not dumbed down. I see the argument every day that WoW is dumbed down, yet 90% of everyone saying that could never complete even the first raid. That doesn’t negate their statement since WoW as a whole really is dumbed down.

      Turbine had to change the game to accommodate the F2P masses and, as always, it ends up having to accommodate the lowest common denominator.

  • – The Merovingian

    The mature atmosphere has been dimished slightly, not the overall game. The overall game has gotten better.

  • Looking forward to this. I played AoC after Craig took over and got a few characters maxed and raided a bit, but as of now I can only afford 1 sub which is going towards Rift atm.

    Sadly I won’t be able to play them due to my classes not one of the 4 F2P.

    I’ll still make it a 2nd home though cause I really miss the world and combat, and decapitating mobs never got old 😉

  • @Shadrah: I think you must have misunderstood whatever you heard in that stream you’re talking about. ArenaNet has quite specifically said that they will NOT sell items in the store that they consider to have an impact on gameplay. There will be cosmetic and ease of life items there (costumes, extra character slots, extra bag space, maybe potions, etc).
    They will most certainly release content that you’ll need to buy, but those are called expansions (or campaigns in GW1) which you can expect from any MMO.
    And honestly it’s no point in speculating on what the shop will contain as they haven’t decided every detail on that themselves yet, and will most likely put out info on the subject on their website/blog even before releasing the game.