Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (“What to play until GW2 releases”-edition)

Before we start with today’s Geekwatch, there’s some news about ArenaNet’s community managers: We apparently now have community managers tweeting during EU time and Rubi Bayer has joined as new community manager (she was previously working for Massively). It’s great to see them “expanding” and hopefully this means that Guild Wars 2 is closer than we dare to hope at the moment! ;) The funny thing is that I haven’t really noticed not having CMs tweet or report during EU times because Seattle is conveniently located timezone-wise. Or they just waited for all their big announcement until us EU folks were up anyway. Because so far, announcements came at some point during our afternoon or evening. Still, now we get to hear from them during our morning hours as well, maybe? ;)

But let’s continue with the actual posting. Today’s Geekwatch is about “free” games. And with “free”, I mean games that used to cost a monthly fee and which don’t anymore… to a certain extent at least. More and more seem to be converting nowadays which is great if you just want to check out game or two or if you want to bridge the time until Guild Wars 2 comes out.

Let’s start with MMOs that went f2p some time ago. You can just go to their official website, download the client and start playing:

Lord of the Rings Online went f2p quite some time ago. I’d recommend this if you’re a Tolkien fan (or just liked the films ^^). You get the starting areas plus a few after that for free (I know Lone-Lands are free now but I’m not sure about others). All other areas won’t have quests for you unless you buy those quest packs. You can still grind your way up to max level, though. The game’s “real money shop” now also offers armour with stats which is one of several reasons why I’ve fallen out of love with the game recently. Still, it is a pretty game and I love looking at the game’s screenshots. They also have interesting classes with good and fun mechanics. And I love the cosmetic system which lets you dress your character in one way while the character wears ugly armor with good stats on it. ;) If you want to read more about the game, go to this entry where I’ve previously compared Rift, WoW and Lotro.

Everquest II is a game I’ve just recently discovered for myself. And I was probably one of the last people to do so. ;) It’s definitely an “old game”. It was released in 2004 and it’s showing its age. Then again, the amount of stuff you get for free is great. The downside is that you can’t play all races or all classes for free. That’s kind of sad and made me actually spend money so I could play my cute little rat. But the housing in the game makes up for it. So much freedom (compared to Lotro which is the only other MMO I’ve ever really played that had housing) when it comes to how you want to decorate your house. Also, all quests are free. You just don’t get the last expansions – but you need to buy those in Lotro as well. ;)

Star Trek Online joined the f2p group this week. You get less character slots than subscribers (as in Lotro and EQ2 as well). STO is outstanding when it comes to the character creation (compared to Lotro an EQ2). Also, they have space combat which the other two, obviously, don’t have. As I said above with Lotro and Tolkien: If you’re a Star Trek fan, it’s worth checking out! The restrictions you get compared to subscribers also aren’t bad at all.

Champions Online, DCUO and City of Heroes: I’ll just throw those in because they’re all superhero MMOs and it seems they’re such a niche, they all go f2p one day. ;) City of Heroes is the oldest one, DCUO the newest. I liked the character creation in Champions Online the most (one thing Cryptic – the developers behind STO and Champions Online – can do very well is character customization, apparently ^^).

Aion EU will go free to play soonish. There’s no definite date yet as far as I know but it was said to become free to play in February. Once that happens, the game will not be published by NCSoft anymore. They will hand over the game to Gameforge. Important to note is that this is only the European version of Aion. The US American one stays with NCSoft (at least, as far as we know) and will still require a monthly sub. Still, if you’re interested in the game, why not check out the EU version once you can do so? As it’s not switched over to f2p, we can’t say much about the real money shop yet.

Guild Wars – Oh come on, you know I had to throw this in here now, didn’t you? ;) This is NOT a real free-to-play game. You actually have to buy the game first. But once you own it, you can play without any monthly subs. And I’ve seen all three campaigns plus the addon for 30€. So that’s not too bad. If you want to start playing the game and you don’t want to buy the complete edition (with all three campaigns – and either with or without the addon, depends on the version), I’d recommend “Nightfall” as I found this tutorial the best to follow. If you’re just interested in the world 250 years before Guild Wars 2, then you want to check out “Prophecies” (and later the addon “Eye of the North”). Stay away from Factions at the beginning because it’s not newbie-friendly (I felt lost in there and that was after I’d started a character in Nightfall and knew the basics ^^). It’s also not a real MMO. I guess “cooperative RPG” might fit better. Still, if you haven’t played it yet and are waiting for Guild Wars 2, why not check out its past? :)

World of Warcraft (European version), Warhammer Online and Rift Lite are still subscription-based. But all three games offer “unlimited trials”. Which means that you can play a portion of the game for free and don’t have a time limit. WoW and Rift both give you 20 levels of gameplay. Once you’ve reached level 20 with your character, you can’t advance it any further unless you pay. In WAR, it’s the first 10 levels, I think.

11 games to choose from. Even if each of those only entertained you for a month, this could last until the very end of 2012. And we know that GW2 will be released this year… ;)

Edit: I was just reminded that there’s also Fallen Earth. Now I know that I can’t list every single game that exists but this list should’ve been one of games that I at least tried out (and liked ^^) and I even played Fallen Earth for a few weeks (which is… well… a bit more than just trying it out)! The crafting is what makes this game stand out as the best items are craftable. Also, it’s set in a kind of post-apocalyptic USA (or very tiny parts of it). There also weren’t any bad restrictions. I just found the combat itself a bit clunky. Still, it’s nice to have a non-standard settings for once.


  1. Weren’t the EU community managers active before? Incidentally, the German community manager contacted my old American all-girls guild and are giving them guild-beta access, for 20 people. They offered it to both of the all-girls guilds on my WoW US server. I thought that was interesting!


    1. Who is the German CM? I only know Martin Kerstein. And I’ve never heard of those other names before – except for Rubi, of course, but we know she’s new at ArenaNet.


    2. This is the third instance I’ve heard of this sort of thing – entire guilds lining up some form of beta access. And, “Yes” I find it extremely interesting also.

      If you’re focusing on “community” as a major facet of an MMO you’re building, how brilliant is it to invite already formed guilds to some of your beta testing? So smart…

      Things like this, and just the whole “ACTUALLY TESTING” approach to the beta tests (as opposed to the glorified demos that most companies run) is so reassuring to me about this game.


      1. There’s really probably no better way to have people test the group content as opposed to having them all walk around solo. :)


  2. I’m going to cut-n-paste a comment I posted at Massively on the subject of taking a hiatus from MMOs that I feel captures the essence of my thoughts on the subject of waiting for GW2.

    I haven’t seen a login screen for a MMO in roughly 2 years… and it’s not due to burnout, as many here have cited for their personal reason.

    I played a combination of EQ, WOW, and Vanguard for about a decade, and at first, I really enjoyed my time in those games. I started playing them around a time when my physical health was quite poor due to injury and age. The sense of exploration and travel I received from those games was an absolute godsend for me, and between that, and the sense of community that was also present, I was rescued from the horrible ‘cabin fever’ that was developing as a result of being forced into a much more sedintary life.

    Unfortunately, I have “seen behind the veil” on many of the design choices (flaws) that are common to nearly all games in the genre. Flaws that pit players against one another in the most antagonistic and unhealthy ways… I’m not talking about PVP here either – personally, I really enjoy challenging, competitive PVP (I have no patience for ganking or griefing however, and they represent some of the systems and mechanics that are among the worst offenders in the “poor design choices” category.)

    The antagonistic systems and mechanics are nearly omni-present; competition for mobs (commonly referred to as Kill Stealing, KS) and competitiion for resource nodes, as well as the more aggregious ganking and griefing that are not only permitted, but in fact, encouraged by the design choices of some game developers. And of course the fundamental design flaw associated with all these games; the trinity-based class systems, which enforce co-dependent style interactions between players (which are inherently unhealthy) and which acts as an obstacle to truly cooperative gameplay that must be overcome by players to achieve real teamwork.

    And of course, the subscription-based financial model that encourages developers to introduce one hideous, mind-numbing, soul-crushing GRIND after another in an attempt to bind players in chains to an endless hamster wheel so the sub money keeps pouring in. (Which directly results in the “burnout” cited by so many others in their comments on this topic.)

    At first, I only experienced an unpleasant, unnameable sense of general discomfort, but I had no idea how to describe what was causing me such frustratioin in the games that were giving me such a terrific sense of exploration and community. Then I saw ArenaNet’s manifesto video for Guild Wars 2… as clear a demarcation line for me as B.C. and A.D. is for most historians. Suddenly, I not only knew exactly what the source of my discomfort was, I could point directly at it and describe it perfectly.

    Well… friends might diplomatically describe me as “decisive” but the truth of the matter is; I was raised by a USMC DI, and served myself in the USN as a radar tech and Fire Controlman for many years. Although I pride myself on a philosophical and open-minded approach to life, the fact is; I can be as soft and yielding as the blade of a guillotine once I’ve made a decision on something.

    The current games available to me were flawed… horribly, hideously flawed… unforgivably flawed in my eyes since the flaws were actually introduced ON PURPOSE by those who designed them. They would receive no more of my time or financial support. Subs canceled. Done and done…

    It has been a long march through arrid lands since then, but always I have firmly and doggedly adhered to my decision – a decision reached with full and complete information, and accurate assesment of the situation at hand.

    Sites like Massively have helped me stay informed over that period of time, and I have continued to look for possible candidates that could allow me to experience the exploration and community I value in this genre of games, but thus far, only GW2 holds out clear and shining hope for me personally. (I am curious about Pathfinder more lately, and will continue to follow it’s development as long as it remains hopeful as well.)

    But, no matter how much I may like other elements of a game (including an awesome “cowboys in space” IP) if the game is handicapped by a trinity-based class system, and the usual antagonistic, unpleasant, and unhealthy (psychologically) systems and mechanics, then I cannot be swayed towards it… and so, my hiatus continues…

    (but not for much longer…)


    1. I just have to add to this the fact that I have greatly appreaciated sites like NBatTG because of the wonderfull vicarious insight into various MMO games you’ve provided. Your intelligent and entertaining commentary on your gaming experiences has allowed folks like myself to still stay in touch with the genre we love despite our hiatus.
      (I am also secretly endlessly impressed with (and envious of) your multi-lingual skills.)


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