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Category Archives for "Free to Play"
3

Fortnite Battle Royale is Gaining Steam

Despite a shaky start with a terrible single-player and a nervous PUBG rival, Fortnite appears to be gaining steam. Often the game is being viewed by more people on Twitch during prime time than PUBG (not always, but often), and is resonating more with younger players. My completely unscientific research data is a group of young teens from the youth group at church who can’t seem to get enough of it.

Fortnite BR is also receiving quite a few updates to gameplay that are continually improving the mechanics of combat and the flow of battle. Fortnite Battle Royale is a considerably better game than the version I played less than two months ago.

I just finished up a few matches this evening, and the meta for Fortnite’s BR is really starting to define itself. The building element — something I originally thought would just be a neat gimmick in BR — has expanded to a massive strategic component of every major match.

With Fortnite showing itself as a real competitor to the current juggernaut, and a rising star, I’m eager to see what this type of gameplay and meta does for up and coming BR games in development.

If you haven’t given it a shot, it’s pretty fun and worth experimenting with to see if the building meta, cartoony zany gameplay, and shooting mechanics strike your fancy.

2

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp – Not a Bad Start

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is out for iOS and Android today — well, technically yesterday. For some reason it came out a day early.

I have already been asked by friends and family, “what is Animal Crossing?” I guess it’s harder to explain than I thought because I didn’t have a really good answer to give right away. Contemplating the series, I came up with the following. Animal Crossing is about three things: Collecting, decorating (or expressing yourself), and real-time open-ended gameplay.

In all of the games, you’re a human character who has come to a town (or in this case a camp) as the new resident. You get your own house (or camp site) to decorate and call home, and then spend your time building relationships with the other residents who are all anthropomorphic animal people.

The game ultimately boils down to collecting, fishing, or catching things to trade, sell (for Bells, the in-game currency), and give to NPCs. You use those bells, and in this case items you get for trading to other creatures, to make items or buy items you’ll use to decorate your camp. Decorating is a big component of the game, so if you’re anti-Sims and can’t stand the idea of putting up fences, laying carpets, setting up a couch, tweaking that lamp so it looks just right… then this is most definitely not the game for you.

A big part of Animal Crossing for me has always been accumulating wealth. I like to fish, shake trees for fruit, catch rare bugs, and ultimately become uber wealthy and have everything.

For the first time, Animal Crossing is free and works microtransactions into the game. It also introduces a non-contiguous world, whereas the game has typically been about running around to visit all of your neighbors in more of a Star Dew Valley type setting.

I don’t love driving (clicking a spot on a map and loading into that small location) as much as I like the open areas of past games. I’m also not a fan of how small the little areas feel to me. I like the “world” or playable area being a bit larger, and in Pocket Camp it’s just not.

Microtransactions are right at home in Animal Crossing due to its real-time gameplay. There has always been a real time element in Animal Crossing because of its use of the system clock, so naturally making you wait for things or lettting you spend “Leaf Tickets” to speed things up just makes sense. I don’t love it, but I would expect nothing less from Tom Nook.

I’m playing on my iPhone X, and the game is gorgeous looking and already very optimized for the device. I played for about an hour straight and my battery did not make any noticeable dip.

In general, it’s all still too early to say just how nefarious the microtransactions are in the game. Clearly we know they’ll stand in your way of having everything, but to what degree I don’t know.  I’ll post an update if I become disenchanted with the whole process.

If anyone wants to add me to your friends, my friend code is: 17319166186

16

Breaking Down the Microtransaction Discussion Further

Yesterday’s blog about Battlefront 2 being pay to win started a good F2P / cash shop discussion that warranted further dialog. The main comment that prompted this post comes from Gankatron, a long-time reader and active participate in the comments. I appreciate the active participation, and hope you won’t mind me using your comments to prompt further discussion!

Here are two clips of the comment that I want to discuss.

Selling a fun game the devs purposefully broke that can be repaired with real money is a parasitic monetization scheme.

I can’t believe people will willing buy a box for $60/$80 and then continue to pay real money to remain competitive.

Treating your player base like bags of cash to be repeatedly harvested over time through “fun pain”, on top of a premium priced box purchase, is an extremely disrespectful and exploitative business model that I wish people would stop supporting.

And…

It is hypocritical to condemn F2P games while simultaneously supporting a game that incorporates a F2P P2W type of cash shop, but even worse, on top of a premium box price.

First, let me start by saying that I do not approve of microtransactions or cash shops in any form. Whether they be cosmetic (WoW/Overwatch/PUBG), Pay-to-Win (Battlefront 2), or even only in single-player type games (Shadow of War). I’m also not a fan of “crates” — the industry’s latest cash shop disguise.

Let’s try to separate our dislike for a system and proceed with analyzing this a little further. And please, don’t read two sentences of this and comment. Read the whole thing.

We must separate the idea of “F2P” from “cash shop” or “microtransactions.” They are not the same thing.

Free-to-play games are free to play, and typically (99.999% of the time) built/designed around their cash shop. The goal of the “game” (and they are rarely true games) is always to get you into the shop. This can happen when a game starts out F2P, or after a game becomes F2P. It matters not.

F2P games typically contain predatory pricing schemes. The cash shop comes first, and the gameplay comes second. This is why most F2P “games” are shallow. [Standard Disclaimer: There are exceptions, particularly those with cult followings.]

On the other side of this are the “premium” games that charge a box price (often called “buy-to-play” games) which offer cash shop incentives. These can be “pay-to-win” when they offer an advantage. Developers with a cash shop in their game are obviously drawn to the idea of enticing players into the shop. Blizzard markets the heck of out their cash shop. It’s on the launcher almost every time. Marketing your cash shop does not make you predatory.

Things get a lot more interesting when the cash shop offers an advantage to those who make a purchase.

This type of “pay-to-win” can be handled in so many different ways. Here are both extremes:

  1. You simply can’t play without paying. You have to drop dozens, maybe hundreds to even matter. You can’t simply play and ever achieve the success of paying players.
  2. You can completely enjoy the game without paying. The advantages provided offer a bonus, a boost ahead, and a lot of pizzazz to your gameplay, but can be skipped or achieved by playing the game without paying.

I don’t know where Star Wars Battlefront 2 falls on this list, but having seen what the star cards do, I have a hard time believing it will be closer to the first than the second.

Where would you place a game like Hearthstone on the scale? I would place it closer to #2. Is it pay-to-win? OMFG yes. The more you pay, the more cards you get. The more cards you get, the better your chance of getting better cards. The better your cards, the better your deck, and the better you’ll do.  Hint: people pay a lot more than a box price on card packs.

In the case of Battlefront 2, it has a box price. It has a cash shop. It has pay-to-win elements within that shop. Ouch, that is indeed a trifecta. HOWEVER…

It also has a fully-functional game behind it. It doesn’t feel designed to force anyone into the cash shop. You can obtain the same rewards by playing the game and purchasing as you can with spending real money (think Hearthstone here). And… there’s no season pass. There’s no paying for more maps or more content. They’re making that portion free, which is typically a very pricey and in my opinion much worse way to charge players. I also do not see a broken game needing to be fixed with a cash shop purchase.

Much remains to be seen with how EA/whoever is in charge over there handles this business model. Much, indeed. But please don’t obfuscate the separation between F2P games and games with stupid cash shops. There can be a very, very big difference. The main one being one being the core game behind the business model.

The “vote with your wallet and show EA who’s boss” mantra falls flat for me on games like this. I have too much fun to deprive myself of hours, and hours of enjoyment. I reserve the right to change my mind if EA screws things up worse.

And finally, we must realize the key factor in all of this is truly what is “fun.” If a cash shop offering any P2W at all is not fun for you, then I respect that. For me, there’s more ‘fun’ and game here in Battlefront 2 than many games recently, and I look past some P2W when I enjoy the core experience well enough.

1

Fortnite PUBG-Like Battle Royale is F2P September 26

Fortnite's PUBG is going F2P on September 26. Their original plan was to make the entire Fortnite game F2P after selling early-access founders packs. And yes, in case you're confused, they also sold physical copies of the game as well. How that makes sense for a game going F2P is really beyond me, but that's our industry today.

Epic Games is pivoting pretty fast. They're moving away from the base game (which sucks) toward the PUBG-Like Battle Royale game which actually has a lot more potential. It's smart.

According to the official release, squad mode is also coming 9/26. That's pretty cool.

Some of my early feedback of the "test" version is:

  • The maps needs more development because it feels sparse and empty (though I get it's meant to be built up in a way)
  • Vehicles would be fun (and are being conceptualized by the dev team)
  • I want the map bigger if there will be vehicles and if parachuting remains the same where you travel further horizontally
  • More maps and variety would be nice too which would be a welcome change over PUBG's static map
  • More gun variety would be nice, and some sort of addon system to the guns to provide more depth to gun-play

Their F2P model will be rather simple at start. The game will actually be 100% free. No strings, no box price (on pc only?), no consumables. Nothing. In the future, cosmetics will be added, but they're promising  "no gameplay advantage will be sold." 

I like it. I've been having fun. If anyone wants to jump in on 9/26, I would use a squad to play with instead of going at it alone.

4

Dauntless Looks Boring

I was really excited to get home today and watch some of the people streaming Dauntless. Dauntless can now be streamed by people who buy into the really expensive Alpha. I mean really, look at the prices. I’m going to vent about this for a second before I get to my main subject.

Only the $80 pack lets you in today. The other two are September 1. Alpha to closed beta, planned less than a month apart. PLANNED people. This isn’t a real alpha test. This isn’t development. This is marketing. Ugh, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Like they know when they’re leaving alpha in such a prescribed fashion. Then the game goes free-to-play at launch. Really? Come on guys.

Regardless of the scummy pricing model, I was saddened to see that Dauntless looks really boring. I was really hoping for this stylized epic hunting adventure, but it’s in rough shape.

First, it’s so repetitive in animation and gameplay. It’s just wailing constantly on mobs. I watched 4 hours of Twitch (while doing other stuff on my other monitor). If it changes after 4 hours, I’d be shocked. So far everything the streamers are playing looks the same.

Second, the audio sounds bad. Lots of squealing high-pitch mobs and weapons making contact with enemies began to sound like nails on a chalk board. I had to mute the streams to keep watching.

Visually — environmentally — I like the art style. The interface and animations leave much to be desired.

Based on what I saw, this marketing beta backfired big time. I won’t be picking up Dauntless. For being a Monster Hunter-like, I’ll skip and wait for the real thing.

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