I’ve pretty much given up on the account magic fairy returning to allow me into the game before October 12th, and so I’ve been using the time to play stuff I haven’t played in a while and check out a few new things. One of the most interesting I’ve played so far is a new free-to-play game called Black Prophecy.
Graphically it seems somewhat reminiscent of Eve-Online, and your on-screen character is represented by your ship, but that’s where the similarities end. It’s a real time space shooter but with a good solid storyline, quite unlike Eve in the actual gameplay. The major drawback I’ve found so far is that the targeting and combat controls are loose and difficult to master, but I haven’t yet reached the point where I’ve given up trying. I just downloaded this a couple of days ago and am still in the earliest stages of the game so I’m willing to put in a little more time and effort before I decide that it’s just too much of a pain in the ass.
As luck would have it, it seems this game went live just a couple of weeks ago, and so it’s still fresh and new. I’m hoping I can get enough of a handle on the combat that it’ll prove a suitable distraction for the next few weeks until I can play FE again.
I was in the closed beta of Rusty Hearts, but lost the game when my hard drive crashed and I haven’t felt that I’ve missed it enough to bother re-downloading it, even though it’s just gone into open beta, supposedly with many new features and updates. Maybe I’ll give that one another shot if I decide to bail out on Black Prophecy…we’ll see.
Also, just released is a new FAQ on FE’s free-to-play configuration. As I’d expected, the crafting limit is apparently not something which disappears if you prove yourself a real player and not a chip farmer by buying something in the premium store like the chip limit, but rather something which will continue to plague free players throughout their time in the game unless and until they get a paid account.
This, to me, is the single biggest problem with FE’s upcoming free-to-play configuration and the one aspect of the game most likely to discourage new players from sticking around long enough to to want to invest actual money in the game. Simply put, once new players get into the game enough to start regularly using the crafting system to upgrade their equipment and discover how long it’s going to actually take them to build a complex item like a vehicle or a more powerful weapon than what they start with when they’re limited to only 8 hours of crafting a day, many of these new players are going to start looking for something else to play.
Some MMO’s can probably get away with this kind of thing, particularly those which are extremely popular already such as WoW, or those which are connected to a popular franchise like Star Trek, Star Wars, or DC Comics, but Fallen Earth doesn’t have any of those things. FE will live or die solely on its own merits because it doesn’t have an established fanbase outside of the game itself from which to draw players from. The reality is that a lot of players just aren’t going to have the patience to work around that crafting limit and aren’t going to be willing to wait three times as long as paid players to craft an item they want or need to progress in the game. Making your first ATV is time-consuming enough even with 24-hour crafting, and I seriously doubt that players who are just trying out this game for the first time are going to be willing to accept a tripling of crafting time in order to accomplish many of their in-game goals.
For players like me, this isn’t as big a deal. I fully intend to get a paid subscription once I can afford it because I really enjoy the game and I already have a lot of time and effort invested, but new players trying to get their footing in the game won’t have that history with Fallen Earth and therefore likely won’t have established their loyalty to the game as solidly as I have.
With so many free-to-play alternatives out there already and more coming all the time, including big-name-major-franchise-connected games like Star Trek Online and DC Universe Online, I have serious concerns that Fallen Earth won’t be able to compete in the free-to-play market with so basic a game function as crafting crippled as severely as it will be for free players. I see it as much the same as if STO didn’t allow a free player to fly a real starship but only shuttles or if DCUO didn’t allow you to fly on free accounts. Such limits would kill the free-to-play model on those games and I fear the same may be true for FE and its crafting limit.
What I’d much rather see happen is GamersFirst trash the crafting limit and instead offer more in the way of customization options for paying players the way STO and Crimecraft do. Another option I think is important which GamersFirst doesn’t currently offer is to allow players to use G1 credits to buy premium account game time. I’m someone who generally doesn’t like to use credit cards to pay for gaming if I can avoid it and that would allow players like me to go to our local store, buy gaming cards with cash, and so be able to access premium-tier game time without using a credit card.
The success of the free-to-play model is a symptom of the modern economic reality for a lot of gamers, maybe even the majority. A part of that reality is that a lot of us just can’t or won’t get involved with a recurring monthly subscription anymore because we don’t know if we’ll be able to keep affording the expense even as little as just a few months down the road. For most of us, particularly for adult gamers with adult-level bills to cover every month, the entertainment budget is going to be the first thing that takes a hit when finances get tight and cutbacks in expenses have to be made, and for many an MMO subscription is likely to be among the very first things that will go in such situations.
If a player has the ability to buy premium gaming time when and as she can afford it I believe it’s much more likely that she’ll upgrade her account on a game she really likes for as long as she can as often as she can than if the only way to access those premium account benefits is to initiate a recurring subscription. Two different kinds of players, two different ways of paying, two different sources of income for GamersFirst. Not only is it just more convenient for more players in general, but having both ways to pay will probably generate more income for GamersFirst because more players will be able to get what they want without having to get involved with recurring subscription payments that will give pause to many currently on shaky financial ground.
In addition, allowing players to use G1 credits to buy premium account time will also allow players of limited financial means to earn all or part of their premium time through participating in surveys and other offers which pay off in G1 credits, opening still a third avenue of income for GamersFirst from players who might not be able to pay for that time at all otherwise and giving those players more incentive to stick around and keep playing (and paying).
The simple truth is that in GamersFirst buying Fallen Earth and taking it free-to-play the obvious ultimate goal is for this game to succeed and even flourish for many years to come. The more money Fallen Earth generates, the more likely it is that that will happen. The better an introduction to the game a new player gets when they arrive, the more incentive they’re given to keep playing, and the more ways they’re offered to pay for the best experience they can afford, the more likely it is that they’ll be inspired to continue to invest money in the game.
I believe that the imposition of the crafting limit in Fallen Earth works directly against all of these goals. I hope GamersFirst gives this a serious rethink. I’d hate to see this game go down in flames because it couldn’t keep enough new players who might have stayed otherwise.
After all, if the choice is either offering 24-hour crafting to all players or not gaining enough new players to keep the servers up for anyone, is that really a choice at all?