Champions Online Free to Play!

I woke up this morning to some of the best news I’ve heard in a while.


That is from an email stating that in Q1, 2011 Champions Online will have a free-to-play option. I have wanted this since I played it for a free month thanks to BlueKae. This game is very fun, but it always seemed too shallow for me to pay a subscription fee, especially compared to all of the other pay to play MMOs out there, including their own Star Trek Online (I still need to try those episode dealies).

Now from this little email I can’t tell whether they will make a good implementation of F2P gaming, but I do have a theory. Based on the wording, note that Champions Online is not “going free to play” but is instead gaining “a free to play option”. My guess is that it will be implemented more along the lines of Evequest II Extended. You’ll have a free server, and very limited character customization options, which you can pay for. No travel powers unless you pay a one time fee, etc.

However this turns out, I am at current VERY excited about this news. If it’s done even half decently I will have gained a new F2P game to mess around with, for which I have gained a new found enjoyment. I’m currently playing LOTRO, Runes of Magic, DDO and Vindictus. I have EverQuest II Extended on my hard drive, but I only want to play as the Ratonga and I haven’t bought them yet.

Edit: I found an FAQ for Champions Online F2P thanks to Tobold, and most of my predictions are wrong. Take special note of this.

Disassembled: A Review in Pieces – Champions Online 2

Welcome to the second review in pieces. Today I will be reviewing Champions Online levels 6-10. Will the review be better or worse as you ascend the ranks in Cryptic’s second Superhero MMO? Find out after the jump.


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Cash Shop AND Subscription?

While writing my review of Champions Online levels 1-5 I started thinking about the idea of subscription games that have a cash shop. Most of us don’t like the idea of a cash shop, but that comes down to two things. The first is that we aren’t used to it and that makes it bad. The second is that we have been burned in the past. Almost every cash shop until recently has helped to destroy games.

I think it’s something we could get used to, having a cash shop that we dump $15 a month into instead of paying a subscription, though I would argue that most of us would rather just pay the subscription, especially if it is a quality game. That right there is another problem when it comes to convincing players a cash shop is ok. Most games with a cash shop were terrible, second rate things that players too broke to pay a subscription fee were stuck with.

That all changed with games like Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited (admittedly a subscription game when it launched), Allods Online (Cash Shop mushroom stamped it’s players), and…well that’s it as far as I can recall. So am I OK with DDO and Allods Online? Absolutely, now that Allods has dropped the prices on some of their store items. If I get a game for free, I realize that the developer needs to make money, or they are going to go out of business. With that in mind I have no problem with them having a cash shop, though I would always rather have a subscription only game. If Allods was subscription it would be much more popular in the U.S. I believe.

What really has me wondering about all this is a small game that you may have heard of. It sold a couple of copies and people seem to think it’s ok. The game I am thinking of is called Guild Wars, a free to play MMO of a unique kind. You pay for the game and expansion packs, but you never pay a cent otherwise. You don’t pay a subscription, and they don’t have a cash shop. If Guild Wars can sustain itself on box sales only, like every other video game since the dawn of time, what makes MMO’s require a subscription at all?

But then that isn’t completely fair. MMO’s are constantly updating and there is free content being added all the time. That takes time, effort and work. Who am I to begrudge a company to charge a subscription fee, or a cash shop, to help pay for some of those costs. But what about when they try BOTH?

Both of Cryptic’s recent games, Champions Online and Star Trek Online, use the subscription model AND contain a Cash Shop. The cash shop doesn’t contain any game changing items and it more for looks. Like Everquest II’s mini-expansions these stores may also contain quest lines/new areas I would imagine. It’s arguable that you don’t need ANY of the items in the cash shop and so, if you don’t like it, you aren’t being affected at all.

The problem with that assumption is that work has gone into these things, whether it is a new island with quests or a new non-combat pet. That is work that probably would have been done anyway, and it would have been added as a patch to the subscription game, like most games do. When you add a cash shop on top of that you are in effect stealing that content, content that should have been added with a subscription, and forcing the player to pay twice for it.

Is this just massive greed? Do games really cost so much that we NEED to have both for the game to continue operating? I find that difficult to swallow with Guild Wars chugging along just fine. If you are in the industry and you know how this works let me know, because I’m interested to find out if it really is just greed, or if it is poor planning and budgeting on the part of the developers.

I’ll leave you with a though. World of Warcraft has at least 2 million U.S. players. At 14.95 a month that is over 29 million dollars every month JUST from U.S. customers. If Activision (not Blizzard, this all started with crazy ass Activision) can’t keep WoW afloat with 29 million dollars a month coming in, to the point where they feel the need to sell stuff to their players in a cash shop, then someone needs to shut down that entire operation for gross misconduct and apparent burning of money.

Disassembled: A Review in Pieces – Champions Online

Welcome to the first of many reviews in pieces. The basic premise here is that I am going to be taking a game, most often an MMO, and reviewing it as I go. You will follow me through my reviews, around ten levels at a time depending on the game, and at the end I will condense it all into one final review.

For the first issue of Disassembled we are going to be reviewing levels 1-5 of Champions Online with levels 6-10 coming tomorrow. If you have been following the blog you might have noticed that we already did a comparison between Champions Online and City of Heroes. I thought about continuing the comparison through the levels, in five level increments, but I realized that the core things that separate the two games wasn’t going to change that quickly. Instead I came up with this. Let’s hit the jump and get into this review of Champions Online: Levels    1-5.

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Sandbox vs. ?

Warning. Today’s post contains cursing, foul language and anger.

A lot of the people I follow have been chiming in on the whole Sandbox vs. Theme Park discussion such as Keen, SynCaine and Alex to name just a few. Let’s get a few things straight before we start. I started playing MMO’s back in Ultima Online, before they supposedly “destroyed” that game. I have played most major MMO’s and many free such as Atlantica Online, Asian such as Lineage, or just “kiddy” MMO’s such as Wizards101.

I game a lot too. Most of my free time is spent gaming, and a lot of that is playing MMO’s with my friends. I also fall squarely on the “Theme Park” side of the discussion, though I think that term is derogatory. You see I’ve played so called Sandbox MMO’s before. It was amazing in Ultima Online, and from what I hear Everquest 1. Have you ever noticed how it has sucked in every other MMO that has come out since? Ever noticed how most of them have tanked?

I believe there are two main reasons for this. The first is that 80% of the people who say they want a hardcore PVP free for all Sandbox game reminiscent of Ultima Online actually don’t. The second is that PVP of any kind, whether it is in an FPS style game like Call of Duty or Halo, or it is a game like World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online or Aion, is flooded with douches.

I’ll try to explain both of these, starting with the second. Let me be clear here that I do NOT think that everyone who likes PVP is a douche or an asshole, and I don’t think that PVP makes people into this. I simply think that the massive amount of asshats out there (many of whom starting playing MMO’s with WoW) are drawn to PVP. Not really though. They are drawn to the misery of others, and PVP is a means to an end.

These are the type of people who will roll onto a role-playing server JUST to harass the role-players. These people are the teabaggers, the Halo jocks, the people who don’t really enjoy the game, only the interaction with others that makes them feel good. You will hear these people, from here on referred to as asshats, berating the game in general chat and wishing it didn’t suck SO much. Most often you will find them playing some kind of rogue class where they can stealth and gank lowbies. These are the same people who will cry the loudest when a new MMO talks about putting in protections for lowbies.

More after the jump

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Comparing Champions Online to City of Heroes

I recently downloaded the demo for Champions Online and the trial for City of Heroes. I call what Champions Online offers a demo because it is ONLY the tutorial area. That is levels 1-5, with the ability to get to level 15 (or so I have heard) by grinding level 2 aliens.

City of Heroes offers a more traditional MMO trial. It lasts 14 days and as far as I know has no level restrictions. The usual deal applies here, so you won’t be whispering anyone, trading or talking in general chat for the most part, but those aren’t really necessary to decide if you want to pick up a game, at least not right away.

Let’s get the age difference out of the way first. City of Heroes is showing it’s age. The graphics aren’t terrible by any means, but when compared to Champions Online it looks dated.

That is if you like the graphic style of Champions Online at all. The cell shading is a huge point of contention with fans of the two games, though I can’t really see why. I don’t know how people can be fans of comic books enough to want to play a super hero game, and yet not like the cartoony look. Then again maybe they are fans of super hero movies.

Pictures after the jump.

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