If you noticed(and I'm sure you do), there are tons of games that are now Free-To-Play. The Free-To-Play has been around long enough that many developers are noticing that throwing your game out there without a price tag actually can work. But even if its free, it will still not provide you with the best experience, making you think that even though its free, is just not worth the time and effort. Oh, and were not talking about games from Facebook by the way.
MMORPG's I believe was one of the first genre's to really adopt this concept, but the popularity of having players play for free is soon creeping on other genres. Online shooters are now at it, and we have big titles like Planetside 2 or Tribes: Ascend that are free for anybody with a computer, which provides somewhat the same FPS experience many crave. But what's the big catch with all these Free-To-Play games? There's actually a lot.
The constant grind
In most of these Free-To-Play games, you can get everything and experience any content without spending a dime, but many people don't realize that it takes a whole lot of grinding to really "experience" it all That's the case to games such as Hawken, or a couple of MMORPG's out there. Yes you can get all the content without spending, that's how they draw you in, but the hours needed to get to what you want can be taxing. It's also depressing when you've spent 30 hours on the game, finally earning the required amount of in-game currency to get what you want, and stand right beside someone who just bought it with real money and pretty much didn't spend any time at all.
Now the question is, who's at the losing end? well the guy who spend time rather than money of course. Free-To-Play games have most probably double the amount of grinding needed in a game, and this was obviously designed to keep the player engaged. As much as I like to play the game for free, I think its more costly to spend a huge chunk of your free time for a small bit of progression. Microstransactions in your face
All Free-To-Play games have online stores. These stores allow you to buy items, cosmetic skins, and gear(depending on the game) using real money. This is where they get their income, and their way to keep the game afloat. They need people spending money on their store, so they keep reminding you of stuff you need or want...every.....time.
You log-in, first thing you see is the online store. You die in an MMORPG, they offer you a revive potion for 1$(Not really), the point is - As you play the game hours on end, you are constantly reminded what you can get in the online store to make your experience easier. It's like walking around a store, being hounded by every store clerk as you look around. Game limitations
There are tons of MMORPG's that are Free-To-Play now. No monthly fee, no purchase of the game. Download the client and your set to create your character and go off into an adventure. Again, they say you can experience all of the content they say, but you won't be getting the best experience. MMORPG's that go free has two types of players, the free players and the ones that still bother to subscribe. Let's ignore the subscribers since we know what they get, let's focus on what the free players don't. Yes you get to play the game for free all the way to the top level, but are restricted of certain game features hampering the experience. its like being chain and forced to carry all your baggage.
You are only allowed 2 characters, this amount of gold, you can't use the auction house, you can't join a chat room, these are the usual restrictions on a Free-To-Play MMO. Other genres restrict you from the latest game mode or set of new weapons. The best example that does this in the most harsh way has to be Star Wars: The Old Republic. A considered triple A MMO that is now Free-To-Play is the first free game that makes me want to be a subscriber. But I guess that was the whole point to why they have such restrictions.
Another big problem when it comes to games without a tag are balancing issues. Thanks to Free-To-Play, the phrase "Pay to Win" has been tossed around so much in free games that this is mostly my main concern when playing a free game that can be played competitively. Some free games have products in their online store that actually makes the player stronger if they choose to buy it with their hard-earned real cash.
This provides major balancing issues because free players will be at the losing end most of the time.This can destroy not only the game's community, but also leaves a bad taste in a players mouth, making him think it's time to move on to another game. Newer free games only provide cosmetic items in their online stores, because they are aware of this issue. But there are still some that provide this, ruining some player's experience just for a quick buck, and we all know people would pay to always be a winner with little effort. Game is revolved on how to make the players want to spend
These are were some games fail in my book. During the development process, every decision is not really all about making the best game they can ever make, its more about making the best game that would make people want to throw money at them. Each decision while making the game is thought on how to keep the players invested, and give that urge to spend money. The best example will have to be the need to constantly grind or farm what you need. Spend more time, or spend your money to save your,that's the position they put their players in every time. And usually if the game is good enough, they might just do it. it's all about getting the right amount of addiction, and repetitive gameplay to keep players invested. That's the main focus.
The game design for Free-To-Play games is tailored to make you think spending will help you enjoy more at times. It's genius really. A devil in disguise. Your addicted to a game and really need a specific item in the game. You can go get it, but you could spend this much of real money to get it right now without the hassle. No pressure, its just there for this much if you want it. tempting...yes?
Free-To-Play can be lots of fun. League of Legends, Dota 2, NeverWinter, Path of Exile, there are tons of games that do it right. But there are some that slowly sucks away any fun out of their game to stay alive. Free-To-Play is a work in progress, and it's getting better with triple A titles showing up now, but don't ever think there's nothing to lose because Free-To-Play games costs more time than any other game, and for me that can be expensive.