Paeroka’s Ponderings: Spending money in Trion’s games

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnA side note first: I am very late with continuing the “Blogging 101” challenges, as I did not have any good ideas for some of the last tasks. Blogging 101 asked me to make a regular column, but I just did not have a good idea until now. I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them. So I will try to give my rants a place in this blog with “Paeroka’s Ponderings”!

Today’s topic is the recent shift in how Trion wants to monetize Rift and Trove. It started with Rift – if you ask me, several months ago already. I already complained about the prizing of the Primalist, a profession I am interested in, but won’t buy because I think it’s too expensive. Yes, I know that by paying I support Trion in developing Rift and that the few who are willing to pay something are financing the game for those who do not want to or are unable to. But let’s be honest here: I am not rich at all and I need to see where I am at the end of the month as well. If I want to feel generous, I rather donate money to charity. So when I do spend money on a game, I also ask myself: Do I get what I’m paying for? And in this case, it just feels too expensive. They also increased the price Europeans pay for credits (the currency you use in their cash shop) just a few months ago.

Rift Store

A couple of days ago, Rift’s community manager announced a change that came with very short notice (2 days). The earring slot and the unlock to wear water-based items would no longer be able to be unlocked with in-game currency, but with credits only. To elaborate: With the last expansion, character sheets also got two slots for earrings. Those earrings can add quite a bit to your stats (Rift is very much a stat-based game)! And then there are some items that can only be worn if your character is attuned to water (the element the expansion focuses on). So, without spending real money, you either have a weaker character than everybody else and sometimes drop items that your character cannot equip or you save all your gold (“platinum” in Rift) to spend on a REX. REX is an item bought with real money by a player. That player can then sell this REX in the game and receive platinum for it. With that REX, the player who bought it can exchange it for credits, the cash shop’s currency, and buy those earrings slots. Long story short: Every unlocked earring slot was paid with real money from now on. In other words, unless somebody pays money, your characters are weaker than other people’s characters. What was the definition of “pay to win” again?

Again, I do get that they need to earn money. And what I really like about Trion, despite all this, is how open they are in their communication. At least, they’re not waiting until the “shitstorm” dies down, and reply to the community. But at the end of the day, I still strongly disagree with what Trion is doing and it will reflect in my willingness to spend money on their game.

Trove_Mounts in the store

Not long after that announcement, Trove also announced a shift in how they are earning money. Some of those changes are minor, I would say. You get fewer initial cubits, but the amount you get in the beginning isn’t that huge anyway. And since this is one of the in-game currencies, I think it’s okay. Yes, cubits are used to pay for some items which can be paid with either this in-game currency or real money, but I still don’t think it’s too bad. Additionally, I actually thought some items were rather cheap on the store and wondered why I should pay with credits (the real money currency) if I can also pay with cubits. The much more controversial part is that classes will no longer be unlockable with cubits! In order to get a new class, you will have to pay. But they also said that there will be ways to randomly get a class coin which can be spent on any class in the cash shop and that you will be able to unlock a few classes for free. In fact, you will be able to unlock more classes for free than you are now, but if you want all of the classes, you will have to spend at least some money.

On top of that, they are considering hiding features behind the Patron status (monthly sub). While I understand the first two parts, I am scared of what will come out of this change! I do not pay monthly subs, because I just don’t play most games often enough to justify one. The only exception being Wildstar right now, but I do not intend to keep my sub running once it expires. Instead, I plan on spending some money to buy a few costumes or mounts and unlocks. I would really hate to see features that I like being hidden behind a paywall. What’s worse is that since patron is a monthly fee, the minute I stop paying, I lose access. Unless I decide to pay the monthly fee again, of course. But once again – and even stronger here than in Rift – I get the feeling that they want to communicate with us and maybe reduce the negative reactions both games are facing now. They also stated that patron benefits will not include playable content. So maybe, those changes won’t be that bad, after all. Maybe.

Wildstar “open” beta started

Wildstar will go free to play in 5 days! And maybe you’re sitting there, in front of your PC, wondering: Is Wildstar for me? Will it suit my gaming needs? Is it fun? And, most of importantly since it is going “free to play”: Is the cash shop fair?

Up until this morning (or last night, depending on time zone), you had to rely on people streaming the closed beta which has all the upcoming changes and the cash shop already. Or people writing about their experiences in a blog. For example, I had considered writing about my impressions here. But due to a lack of time I have not been able to do so yet.

WildStar new character creation screen

Thankfully, a bug happened. Carbine had given out beta keys for people to test the upcoming changes and/or to take a look at the game itself. And apparently, some of those keys expired and players were not able to access the test realm anymore. So, instead of fixing the keys, Carbine decided to just open the gates for everybody! But keep in mind: This is the beta test. It’s the test server. None of this is… real. :p That is, once “free to play” arrives, you will have to start over on a live server. The test server client’s size is close to 14 GB, by the way, if you’re wondering whether it is worth downloading now.

As I said, I’m lacking the time to sit down and write a proper blog post on what I think about the game. My impressions from back before release haven’t changed, though. If it was free to play, I would play it immediately. And it will be free to play in 5 days. I think the biggest complaints – other than the payment model – have been about the raid content of the game. Since I am not going to raid in Wildstar, I do not care about this aspect of the game. I care about the world, the housing, the combat itself and, last but not least, how they implement the free to play features. I love the world as it’s weird and quite open (you can leave the city without facing a loading screen, for example) and the monsters and animals there are actually quite funny to look at! The housing is decent – more than just decent, I assume. I have not done much yet because I focus on levelling instead for now. But housing has a purpose. I have a field with mining ores, I have a garden for plants (used for cooking), I get rested XP when I log out there and there’s a board which gives me a buff (like more XP). On top of that, you can also decorate your place, of course! Then there is the combat. I actually enjoy it more than the combat in Guild Wars 2. The telegraphs themselves are distracting sometimes, but they’re also useful, because I don’t feel like I have to memorize which skills a mob can or may use at which time. It’s just much easier. And yet, I’ve died much more often than in Guild Wars 2. But I also always knew why I died. So yeah, I like it. :)

Wildstar Beta

This leaves one thing: The cash shop. First things first: There are lockboxes. I still don’t like them and I doubt I ever will. I want to know what I get for my money before I spend my money on it. I do not want to buy an RNGed item. So many games use them (Rift, Trove, Guild Wars 2, just to name the few that I’m playing), so I guess this is the side effect that we have to live with. On the other hand, I didn’t see anything that would be labelled as “pay to win” either, so that’s good. And we will get daily login gifts which is something I have come to love. It’s become part of my morning routine before I start with my work. I get my first cup of coffee, sit down, check the news, my emails, Twitter and grab my daily login gifts from the games that have them (Rift, Trove, Guild Wars 2, just to name the few that I’m playing… :p). But I would definitely recommend you check out the cash shop for yourself to judge whether you like it or not.

First impressions: Trove

Trove Alpha Screenshot
The path up the trees leads to a boss.

Update (October 17, 2014): Trove is in closed beta and I have just posted a newer impressions piece. Please have a look at this one, too, if you want to know what I think about the game.

A few days ago, I was idling for a bit before it was time to leave and catch my bus to the doctor’s office. I had decided to check Twitter and saw a tweet by which had been posted a few hours earlier announcing that they were giving away Trove Alpha Keys. Not really believing in my luck, I still went there to check if any keys were left and actually got one! I immediately made bookahnerk aware of it, so he could get one as well.

I have spent quite a few hours playing Trove now and – as a tl;dr version of what my first impression is: I also now spent 18,99€ on the adventurer pack, so obviously, I enjoyed my time playing the game enough to give them some of my money.

As usual, this “review” has “first impressions” written in front of it. It is going to be subjective and about my experiences within the first few hours of playing this game. Read the following post accordingly, please.

Trove is a sandbox game currently in alpha which will be free to play once it gets released. I haven’t followed it too closely lately, so I’m not sure which features will still be added in the future. I do remember that when Trion Worlds first announced the game, people called it a Cube World clone. I had never heard about Cube World, but it does sound like it belongs to the genre of Minecraft and Terraria – as does Trove now. As far as I can tell, Cube World is more about adventuring (and questing as the developer has added or is adding a questing system to the game) and not so much about crafting, creating and collecting resources. In Trove, you do adventure, kill mobs and collect better items to advance to more dangerous areas, but you’re also collecting various resources and will probably spend quite some time crafting, most of all items for your homeworld and your cornerstone – more on that later. Let’s just say: Trove has got housing! :D

After installing and launching the client, I had to name my character (“Paeroka” in case anybody wants to add me to their friends list) and that was all there was to the character creation. Off my little (male-looking) avatar went into the tutorial hub. This is just a very small region which introduces you to the very basics of the game like moving, switching between adventure and building mode, etc. After leaving the tutorial, I got thrown into another hub where I quickly found a barber shop. Here, I could finally change my look and make Paeroka female – as female as it gets with those avatars – with reddish hair and green eyes as most of my main characters have.

Trove Alpha Screenshot
The class changer with the three classes currently in the game.

I had automatically become a Knight, but I knew the game has more classes than that. In fact, three are released already and there will be more. A quick internet search told me that I can change classes in the hub and that the Gunslinger is free now (this was added with a patch which also hints at how they’re handling classes in the future: Some will be free, some will require a purchase) while the Fae Trickster costs something (in-game currency or credits which are bought with real money). When I had created my character, I actually got some in-game currency. I am not sure if that is something like a daily login bonus or what triggers it. However, you can also earn more of this currency by playing the game and defeating bosses. I decided not to save the in-game currency for the Fae Trickster and bought myself a mount instead. After that, I rode through the hub to finally find the class changer. One click and I was a Gunslinger! You level each class separately, by the way. I got the Gunslinger to level 5 at which point bookahnerk suggested I should try the Knight because that’s usually what I enjoy more than a ranged class (but the dual pistols of the Gunslinger are quite awesome!). The Knight was still level 1 and she is now level 6. The current maximum level in the alpha is level 20 for each class, so I still have quite some content ahead of me.

Speaking of content: What is there to do in Trove? You start in a central hub where you and other players gather. From there, you can take one of several portals to the adventuring world. Those are divided into level brackets. You can go to a world that is higher than your level, but mobs will hurt you a lot more than if you were even level.

Once in such a zone, you can stroll through the world and will probably get attacked by mobs that roam around in the world. All mobs are hostile. There are no quests, but something like “events” in some areas. Sometimes, those are bosses, sometimes, those are waves of mobs spawning to attack you after you started the event. Some of these events have something like jumping puzzles to get to them. Nothing has been very challenging so far, but I’ve only gotten to level 6, after all. Bosses drop chests which give you loot (equipment) which makes your character stronger. Standard mobs can also drop such loot but this is rarer.

Altogether, you can roam the world to farm bosses and earn XP and loot to advance in levels and get stronger. However, the other part of Trove is what I enjoy much more: There are resources in the world. Some are, for example, tree stumps or mushrooms that you destroy to gather the resources. Then there is also ore. You need different kinds of ore to craft different items. And most of the world can be destroyed as well. It mostly consists of cubes which you can collect and use for building yourself.

Trove Alpha Screenshot
This was the way my cornerstone looked before I destroyed the building on it. The glowy thing on the left lets you refill your healing potion.

When I first started playing, I found a cornerstone. If nobody else has claimed it, a simple click on “E” on your keyboard claims it for you. You can have one cornerstone in the world. It is basically a tiny piece of land that you can build on. It can also host different useful things like the healing potion refiller (your healing potion has 15 charges and can be refilled for free here). I had claimed a piece and then gotten attacked by a mob. I realized that there were two or three mob spawns right next to the cornerstone and I didn’t even have a calm minute before another of them showed up and attacked me. I was a bit upset because I hadn’t seen how I could switch the cornerstone yet. So, I left it and went to explore the world. The further away from it I got, the less I remembered where it actually was. So at that point, I wasn’t just disappointed about the location, I also had no idea where the location actually was (it shows up on your map, by the way. I’d just been too blind to see it!). However, by now I know that a cornerstone is not meant for you to claim a specific location in the world. You can do that, I guess, but that’s not using the cornerstone to its full potential.

There are lots of places in the world and in the different zones where you find empty cornerstones. As soon as you find one, you can click “E” and the cornerstone moves from the previous position to the current position. A cornerstone can house, as mentioned above, the healing potion refiller (handy to have in the world out there, right? ^^), crafting stations, a box where you can store some items, or even a crafted item that lets you destroy looted items (you can’t sell them anywhere but you can destroy them to get a resource that you need to upgrade your items). So, the cornerstone basically follows you wherever you go and lets you conveniently do whatever you want to do – as long as you have crafted the respective stations and put them on your cornerstone. You can also build on it, of course! And if you happen to die, you will get resurrected at your cornerstone (or the starting point for that world if you haven’t claimed a cornerstone).

Trove Alpha Screenshot
A small part of my homeworld where I’ve started building a modest little house (with a garden, at least).

One bad thing is that the cornerstone is tiny. Your homeworld, on the other hand, is pretty big! And that’s where you can build to your heart’s content. But first, you need to build your homeworld portal which creates your homeworld. After that, you can jump to it from anywhere in the world (the homeworld is an instanced area). Since the cubes are pretty big, placing items in your homeworld isn’t rocket science (oh, the amount of rage items in Rift have already caused when I wasn’t able to align them properly …). One may argue that the graphics are ugly, too blocky or whatever. I guess this is a case of “either you like it, or you don’t”. I like the graphics and I think they’ve got a certain charm. It works for games like this one.

As mentioned above, I bought a supporter pack now. I like knowing that I support the development and that I spent about the same amount of money that I would have spent on the game had it not been “free to play”. It is not a required purchase, of course. The things I got as bonus items are things like a pet or cosmetic items. It doesn’t look like I’ll get anything that’ll give me an advantage and I hope that this is where the shop will also go. No f2p without an item shop, right? ;) At the moment, the shop mostly has mounts, pets and the Fae Trickster class (for credits or in-game currency) available. But the Knight and the Gunslinger are free, so you do not have to spend money on it.

So far, I would say that if you don’t mind the graphics and enjoy gathering resources, crafting and building on your homeworld, then Trove is a game to check out. If you’re into challenging fights, collecting items to make your character stronger, etc. – then I’m not sure if you’ll have tons of fun in the game or not, because I haven’t seen enough of the bosses yet to judge that part of the game properly. ;) One thing I do not like is that apparently, you don’t have a wardrobe or a cosmetic item system where you can choose a certain look but wear other items for their stats. With the amount of funny looking items, I would have assumed they have such a system in place!

Since it’s in Alpha currently, you either have to sign up and hope you get an invitation or buy your way into it (it starts with 18,99€) – or, as in my case, be lucky to win a key in some giveaway. If you’re patient, you can also just wait for beta to start (5€ gets you a guaranteed spot in the beta – yes, unfortunately, it seems that the best and easiest way to get your hands on the game in alpha or beta is to spend money) or even wait for the game’s launch since joining the game will be absolutely free then! We will also know a lot more about which features will be in the finished game then. And, of course, the whole experience will be more bug-free than it is now. I haven’t encountered a lot or anything game-breaking, but still. It’s not yet a finished product and you notice that, of course.

WAR f2p… for a short time

Warhammer Online_115When I wrote about the closure of Warhammer Online, I complained about them not doing anything to say goodbye to the players. As a goodbye, Mythic has now reactivated all accounts and Warhammer Online is free to play until they shut it down on December 18. This is definitely a nice gesture. According to the official announcement, they will also add NPCs that will “power you up”. This is good, since you can’t really join the endgame (T4) unless your character isn’t only max level but also has a high renown rank. At least, if you want to be any competition to the players who’ve been around for ages.

Of course, I haven’t been able yet to get into my old account which is a shame. I would love to say goodbye to my characters. :) I am currently logged in with an account, but I have no idea which one it is. It might be the one I used after cancelling my sub as for quite some time, they let players try the first 10 levels of the game for free.

Patching seems to be very slow. So if you want to have a look at the game, better be patient.

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.