Another week, another Zerg Rush. That's just how this Baneling rolls.
I'm sure every gamer's been through the free-to-play struggles. You do your research, watching trailers and footage for a new game. You love it. The game looks phenomenal. And, as the icing on the cake, that very game is free. Awesome, right? Not always. The game can be outright unplayable past certain points unless you fork out money for it, or people waste you with weaponry and gear exclusive to the paying customers, or even the game forces you into a repetitive cycle of grinding for something that you could get instantly if you just threw a little cash into the mix. Normally, not being able to play something is entirely acceptable when you haven't paid for it (Unless you're one of those skull-and-crossbones kinda people, hey, I don't judge you.), but when the game masquerades as a free title to sucker you in and then tries to steal your lunch money, you've got a problem on your hands.
The trouble with these free to play titles is the idea behind them. Granted, there are some amazing and highly popular titles that you don't even need to throw a cent at, like Valve's DoTA 2, or most games currently in the MOBA genre (coughcoughlast articlecoughcough), and some free-to-play shooters like my personal PC Game of the Year, PlanetSide 2. Even still, I've chucked money at these things like I was making it rain sometimes, but that's more because I enjoy the game and want more, rather than being forced to spend money to progress or be better. That's how a free-to-play game should be, in my own opinion. Almost all of the weaponry in PlanetSide 2 can be unlocked with in-game Certs, with certain unlocks and upgrade being exclusive to this self-earned currency. This adds a degree of fairness to the metagame, as everyone has to save up for their own resources by playing the game. It's tons better than getting obliterated by somebody who's payed $30 to get the weapon that's 20,000 Leagues out of your own.
[Image Courtesy of elohell.net]
League, you're not pay-to-win, I know. You're still free though!
Progression-blocking sucks. It's like hitting a gigantic wall in front of your own enjoyment, and murdering your immersion in cold blood. Imagine you're sitting in a Character Action game, like God of War or Darksiders, gutting army after army of weak troops as you stand alone in a metal tide of enemies, swarming you as you slay them to the last man with your titanic weapon. Without warning, the earth snaps and splits, and a gigantic boss creature emerges, it's mouth spitting doom and death. All of a sudden, the game stops, and a message comes up right in your face...
"BUY ADD-ON PACK 01 TO UNLOCK STAGE TWO BATTLES"
Seriously?Luckily, that kind of a solid kick in the teeth doesn't usually happen until after a game's end. However, with a free-to-play title, you don't need that kind of discipline. You can lure people in, and wait for emotional attachment to their struggles, and then just reel them in by forcing them to pay for the next slice of the action. It's an evil, evil practice that I wish so many developers steered clear of. There's no doubt it works, but it really hurts the playerbase. Why even make your game free if you need to pay to enjoy it anyways?
Because you can use it as a money sink, of course! By using micro-transactions, you can make people spend even more on your "free" game. Naturally, I'm not naming any highly popular names I have in mind here at risk of getting murdered by rabid fanbases, so I'm just going to talk about something real terrible. SoulCalibur: Lost Swords. A PS3 exclusive free-to-play fighting game. For starters, Lost Swords is almost identical to SoulCalibur 5's characters, but with featuresremoved. It doesn't feel like a sequel, it feels like a half-baked cash grab from the start. The menus are gross-looking and clunky, ring-outs were removed, and the three characters available by default start out completely naked excluding their undergarments (oh my) and must discover new items, or buy them with real-world cash. Another problem with this, is that the other characters of the roster are there. You just have to buy them. Naked. Again. The costumes you get range from some standard and normal fare to cat-ears and maid costumes. No, really. Look it up. "Maid Costume Pack". It's a thing, people!
Fetish items aside, the point I'm trying to make here is that you are paying for the shredded pieces of a game one by one, desperately trying to piece it back together in the hopes it'll be whole again. Just buy a whole game instead, and save yourself the hassle. You want to play SoulCalibur 5, play SoulCalibur 5. Don't waste your time on that abomination. That being said, some free-to-play games can be stellar if you give them a chance. League of Legends, DoTA 2, I know I've thrown a lot of money at you, and I know times have been hard between us lately, but I still love you. Please take me back, but don't love me just for my money.