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.

Bookahneer’s Geekwatch (June 22)

Pirate AsuraWelcome to today’s Bookahneer’s Geekwatch! The place about LotRO, Guild Wars 2 and any other interesting news related to gaming.

Guild Wars 2: Sadly, there aren’t any news… yet! ArenaNet is having several fans over at the end of the week. There’s no NDA but filming won’t be allowed. Still, who knows what we’re going to get out of it? I’m personally just hoping for Asura week because I want to know more about them! Or Sylvari week because I’m curious about their redesign.

If you want to make sure not to miss anything, observe Twitter’s hashtag #GW2Fanday.

GW2Guru is also listing the twitter accounts and websites of the people attending.

For our German readers: Kronos von Onlinewelten und DeBussy von Wartower werden da sein! Auf den entsprechenden Seiten könnten sich also auch News auf Deutsch breitmachen. ;)

GuildMag posted a community roundup where you can find the latest news (interviews, the link to the Guild Wars 2 Asset Kit,…).

Lord of the Rings Online: The Summer Festival has just started. Goldenstar has posted a guide for it as she always does for those festivals. I highly recommend reading it if you’re lost or don’t want to miss anything!

This year’s festival mount looks suspiciously like one of the spring festival mounts. Now, simple recolouring is unimaginative enough but I’d thought that they would at least make mounts specifically for the different seasons (like my autumn mount which has leaves on its saddlecloth. Oh well. Turbine will also sell another store-exclusive mount: The Steed of Bright Days. I like the idea theoretically but I think game companies always want too much money for their mounts. Especially when it’s just reskinning/recolouring. Anyway, it’s up to you whether you want to spend about €20 for it. Just remember that it is only for one of your characters and not account-wide!

Turbine also released a dev diary talking about the upcoming expansion and that stat changes of all classes. I found some interesting comments in DocHoliday’s blog entry… for example: Will Finesse be a the new Radiance?

Other games: City of Heroes will go the freemium-road just as LotRO did. You can play the game for free or pay a monthly sub. I am not a fan of superhero games but I will definitely have a look at it once this change is live. The release will be “later this year” with people guessing around September or October. Lego Universe is adding some kind of “free trial” model to its game this August. Syp takes this to speculate on which other games could go f2p/hybrid/freemium next.

Last but not least, League of Legends – which isn’t an MMORPG, I know – has had its first championship during this year’s Dreamhack. It’s over now but you can still watch the matches if you’re interested. Just head on over to their website.

I have a LoL account but haven’t actually played much. But it is a fascinating game! And who would have thought that they’ll be this popular when they launched? XFire lists them as number 1 again – even before World of Warcraft! And before you start: I know that XFire rankings don’t mean that objectively it’s the most played game. It just means that out of all the XFire users, it’s the most played one. Still, it is impressive. Not that many have managed to top WoW over there. Hmm… when looking at the ranks (you can sort by clicking on the name of the appropriate column – in this case, it’s “Rank”) I think bookahnerk isn’t far off when he’s suggesting that maybe Blizzard hopes to be able to release Diablo 3 when Bioware releases Star Wars: The Old Republic. Blizzard’s Starcraft II is number 5 in those rankings. Anyway, this is pure speculation.