PlanetSide 2 Tackles ‘Pay-To-Win’ Problem

By Nathan Grayson on September 20th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

The best things in life are free. Evidently, these are some of the best things.

Redundancy police, beware. I’m about to commit a heinous crime the likes of which will make you physically ill even after your 30 years on the force. I will now use the word “impressive” until it loses all meaning. Here goes: PlanetSide 2 is an impressive game. It’s impressively large, yet also impressively free-to-play, and that impresses me. Not only that, SOE’s been impressively open about the development process and its intentions for the gigantotronic shooter behemoth. And now, based on a new post from creative director Matt Higby, I get the impression that SOE’s impressively dedicated to steering clear of pay-to-win’s slippery slope.

Granted, Higby immediately (and rightly) notes that ‘pay-to-win’ is a nebulous term. His goal, however, is to ensure that all content is available whether you’re ponying up or hunkering down in a microtransaction-proof bunker.

“In Planetside 2 we don’t restrict your character from any type of gameplay based on paying money. No weapon, vehicle, attachment, continent, class or certification is unavailable to you as a free player. Everything and anything that can affect gameplay is available to unlock through gameplay. It would be extremely easy for us to make tanks and aircraft restricted to members only, it would be very easy for us to sell exclusive guns on the marketplace for Station Cash. We wouldn’t do those things because we have a commitment to ensuring that the game remains legitimately competitive.”

“Another thing that I believe keeps us pretty firmly in the ‘not pay-to-win’ column is the way characters in Planetside 2 advance. Unlocking a new weapon or ability in the game should never make you straight up more powerful. Rather, a new unlock should give you access to a new gameplay style which has trade-offs. This is the concept of sidegrades, if I spend Auraxium to unlock a Skyguard turret for my Lightning, hell yea it makes me a lot more powerful vs. airplanes, but it makes me a lot less powerful vs. tanks.”

He did, however, note that there are still some instances in the game (secondary weapons on aircraft, for instance) where that’s not entirely true right now. But then, that’s what betas are for, and Higby promised that changes are on the way.

Real money, then, grants players access to two things:  convenience items and cosmetics. So basically, unlock things faster and look ravishingly attractive while doing it. Beyond that, Higby also detailed membership benefits, which include 50 percent boosts to experience, cert point, and resource (think grenades, spawn beacons, and medkits) gain. The goal, then, is to only increase the speed at which paying players can nab new toys – not their ability to rain down orbital strikes on your parade.

Granted, I’m still seeing a potential schism between the haves and the have-nots. I mean, we’re looking at a hypothetical situation in which members and people who buy boosts can obtain far larger quantities of some fairly potent consumables significantly faster than their less wallet-happy counterparts. To Higby’s credit, he went on to address the concern directly, saying, “They won’t suddenly have a super tank that lets them crush all the puny free player tanks, their success on the battlefield is still entirely player skill based, they’ll just be less impacted for re-deploying to the battlefield. That is a huge benefit, no denying it. Is that ‘buying power’? Well, that depends on your definition.”

So then, I’ll turn it over to you wonderful and ravishingly attractive (especially without any cosmetic items – oh yes) folks. What’s your definition of buying power?

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103 Comments »

  1. jrodman says:

    I prefer click-to-win.

    • Ultra Superior says:

      I can’t understand the whining about F2P. Playing a free game entitles you to nothing. It’s a multiplayer game, so F2P is a very good choice. However, balanced classes and balanced equipment are essential.

      1) The ‘Free’ part of F2P gets in more players = good for multiplayer.
      2) Unbalanced items ruin any multiplayer as soon as the word gets out.

      Hence, it’s good to constantly balance the game so that none class or equipment stands out too much in the analytics.

      However, at the end of the day – paying is necessary – for the developers and in the end for all users, especially the free users.

      Therefore it is only legitimate to give something extra to the paying users, who are sponsoring the game. Extra tanks, guns and classes are not pay to win, as long as they’re reasonably balanced.

      • DeVadder says:

        I used to be against anything free to play. But for more than a year now, i fully changed my mind. F2P is a good thing. It lets me play games i enjoy and have payed for with friends who did not and do not want to pay for the game. That is awesome.

        However, the line is crossed at consumables for me. Once i have payed something like 20-30€ (depending on the game) i WANT to be on par equipment wise with anybody else. I do not need to have any possible equipment mind you, but i want to be able to have the upgrade path i want and the best version of that (assuming something like a best version of an upgrade path exists).
        So why do i hate paid for consumables?
        Easy, because there is no upper border for how much money gets you an advantage. This existed in BF:H (where there also were better weapons only buyable with money and what not) and they were what made it unplayable for me. In BF:H you could buy consumables that would insta-heal you. Only a tiny bit and you could buy them with ingame currency as well, but also with money. That ment, someone investing 200€ into the game could have a significant advantage over someone spending only 50€. And that is a clear gamebreaker for me.

        I would prefer games to be ‘Freemium’ where you can only either play for free or pay one specified amount to get all features. But i understand why the developers do not want that, so i accept the F2P we get most of the time nowadays. Just no consumables. Ever.

        Note i am not saying PS2 does this, i am not in the beta, i do not know.

        • Dominic White says:

          Why does Battlefield: Heroes get rolled out as the central example each and every time? Everyone knows that game has an almost uniquely terrible business model based on bleeding players dry for any chance of a fair fight. We knew that when it was first released.

          • DeVadder says:

            To be fair, when it was first released it had a very fair model. It just was unprofitable and got changed.
            It just is a good example of what i do not want to see in a game, thats why i used it. Given how bad it is nowadays, i suppose that is true for many people and thus you see it as a bad example often?
            But i can give you other examples, if you wish, i just happen to never have played games with buyable consumables for very long except BF:H (i joined that one when it still was cosmetics only, so i also am one of those many people who feel betrayed by DICE).
            Other examples: Buyable chips in Goodgame Poker (wierd model anyways, why people would want to play poker when they can only loose money but never cash chips out is beyond me), Skill-shard-whatever thingys in Dragon Age Online before they got patched to only improve a skill activation instead of beeing needed every time (they are a consumable, not a ressource as using more skills is just better than using less). From what i hear Allods Online had something similar and got rid of it in a patch as well. But i never ever played that.
            I am sure there are more examples but i do not know them and none is as clearly understandable as the health packs from BF:H.

        • Barnaby says:

          I agree with your remarks about “Freemium”. Whether that is an actual term to describe that type of payment model, I’m not sure. For example, I paid for a HoN account just before the game went F2P (literally the day before I think). I would have absolutely hated the game if I had played the F2P version with limited hero selection.

          I think the inherent flaw in the F2P model, such as the one for PS2 and a game like Tribes Ascend, is the amount of money you could spend to get ALL the items is ridiculous. Things like boosters you have to continually pay for and can’t just get the boost permanently. The fact that you can put > $100 into a game and not experience all the content is… f*cking dumb.

          I would be much happier if we settled on a “Freemium” model such as the one you mentioned where players can pay one flat rate and get all the content. Also that flat rate should never exceed $50 or $60 bucks imo. I also feel like pointing out that forcing a F2P game to have ONLY sidegrades is actually quite limiting and problematic. The inherent nature of sidegrades waters down the strength of any given weapon. How do you have a bazooka that easily destroys on a tank, but won’t kill a player with a direct hit (as an example)? While I’m not saying sidegrades are problematic in every context, I just think very often (especially without a large amount of testing and tweaking) that it doesn’t work very well.

      • jrodman says:

        How does this relate to my joke comment in any way?

      • alw says:

        Ultra Superior says:

        I can’t understand the whining about F2P. Playing a free game entitles you to nothing.

        ————

        It kinda does, though. F2P games are not free because the devs are really generous – they’re free because the business model needs a lot of players with enough investment in the game to cough up money for items. Both sides need each other. Even players who don’t buy anything are good for the game because if they all left, the lower numbers would make the game less fun for those who do pay.

      • Savagetech says:

        I love the concept of F2P and I agree that the advantages you describe are very real, but I think it’s near-sighted to dismiss legitimate complaints about the model. While all players may have equal potential to access the same content, the reality is that paying players (or those who grind the game endlessly) have a distinct advantage. Players who only make a moderate amount of purchases and/or don’t devote a significant portion of their free time to the game tend to fall behind.

        The constant expansion (and re-balancing) of F2P games exacerbates this problem. If you’re one of those modest spending/playing users and something you bought gets nerfed into the ground, you’re going to be at a disadvantage until you get the resources to unlock other content that fills the void. In my experience, the end result is that players in the middle of the hardcorecasual spectrum end up getting screwed the hardest. Casuals don’t care/know about their competitive power while hardcores are willing to play/pay enough to make ends meet, but moderate enthusiasts see the mountain they have to climb and say “$300 or 900 hours to get where I want to be, by which time there will be way more stuff that I need? Damn, this sucks, I like this game but not that much.”

        A good example of this is League of Legends. If you spend your money wisely by buying the bundles AND not spending real money on champions that are comparatively underpriced in the free currency then you’ll run up a bill of 36895RP which is £180.36/€200.00/$250. You’d still have to grind a lot to get the remaining 86700IP to unlock the rest of the champions; even the absolute maximum rate (win every game, get your first win of the day bonus IP every game, maximum IP/min by forcing the enemy to surrender @ 20 min every game) that would still take 127.88 hours of game time. And that’s ignoring the fact that you need to spend IP on runes to compete. With optimal purchases, unlocking the full game costs you as much as 3-6 full retail games (depending on your region) as well as 5 entire days of your life.

        You don’t need to have all the content to enjoy a F2P game or even to compete, but I think the astronomical costs of getting a “whole” F2P game are what turn a lot of people off; not only is the gap huge to begin with, but the developer has to push content at a rate that outpaces the ability of players to get too much for free in order to stay in business. If you love the game or have a mild interest then F2P is great, but if you’re just an enthusiast then it can often feel suffocating. There’s nothing wrong with people who say “That game looks cool, but I’d rather pay $60 for a game (or ~$90 with DLC) and get the whole experience rather than be forced to pay/play an exorbitant amount to do what I want in the game.”

      • mescalin1 says:

        no actually games cost time, so i disagree, i have the right to complain about free games

    • Smashbox says:

      I prefer pay-to-click. Like that Civilization “game” on Facebook.

    • thecaptain says:

      I feel like F2P games are swinging back in the ‘pay for the gameplay you want’ experience of their arcade forebears, and this in itself is no way a negative trend.

      Multiplayer competitive F2P games often bring out the wish for a level playing field, that I get. But it wasn’t that long ago when we were happily plonking down one quarter per life and not batting an eye, or turning $20 into a roll of arcade tokens. 

      Havig to pay real money to become stronger, last longer or resurrect in a game is a natural, and occasionally frustrating friction against our desire to succeed in a game. Some may not like it, but it works really well in some games. ‘Seeing how long I can last on one quarter’ is a fun minigame in itself. If I want to burn 22 quarters to grind to the end of Street Fighter III, that’s fun for me, even if it shows how crap I am at the game. If I want to buy $100 worth of plex in eve, sell it for isk, and lose it all in a fiery explosion, that’s my (unfortunate) business. And if I join Mechwarrior Online’s founder’s program or PS2′s alpha squad and use the bundled premium currency to buy some cool weapons or new mechs, does that really hurt the free players to the point that it ruins the game? I’d say it makes the game marginally more difficult for the opponents, but in no way ruins the experience. 

      Games are about making interesting decisions and often trying to best others. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you, whether you’re fighting someone you’re ill matched against, or someone who is more skillful, or who has invested time or money into gaining power. Imperfectly balanced and asymmetrical situations are interesting in themselves, and I fully support the movement of some ‘free to play’ games to allow an increase in power that’s comparable whether time or money is invested. In my opinion, the developers of Mechwarrior Online and Planetside 2 have striven to ensure this is the case. Is it fair? No. But it does lead to interesting, fun, and imbalanced gaming situations that can require skill or luck to overcome.  Winning against the odds is fun if you can expect some reasonable chance of success (even if you’re just banking on luck when it gets down to the wire).

      If the game is well designed, a loss against a more powerful opponent is still fun, and often can be blamed on player error rather than an unwinnable matchup, and can even be seen as an opportunity for learning. An improperly designed game where players steadily increase in power and become effectively unbeatable isn’t enjoyable whether they get there through time or cash invested. The F2P/monetization aspect hides and exacerbates existing problems with a bad design. If we’re going to incorporate payment into game experiences on a larger scale, we need to design games that don’t center on permanent power imbalances where the dominant strategy is to pay (or grind) your way to the top. Paying for a game experience isn’t the problem; lazy or greedy design is a far worse culprit.

      (It’s late, I’m rambling, and this is tl;dr)

  2. mrmalodor says:

    But how much will I, as a free player, have to grind to get those unlockables? If I have to play 8 hours a day for a month to get all the powerful stuff that wallet warriors get to unlock in a couple of days, is it honest to say “oh look, our game is not pay 2 win at all, cos free players can unlock everything too so it’s all right”? Even if free players can get access to everything, it can still be a pay to win environment, because premium users can get powerful weapons right away and dominate the battlefield.

    • Lokai says:

      Right now, in the beta, it is very grindy to unlock things with Auraxium. There are plenty of skills and modifications that you can unlock with certifications, a different resource (sort of), and those come very quickly, but Auraxium currently takes forever. I’ve played the beta about 10 hours and I can’t buy one of the most expensive items, which are about 12,000 Auraxium. There are other weapons and such that I could buy for cheaper, but some of the most interesting and powerful ones are 12,000 and the system is very unbalanced. However, like Nathan says, it is beta and the devs are very on top of talking to the community and trying out new changes.

      • Xzi says:

        Almost nothing is priced the way it will be at launch right now. The things the developers want you to test are available quickly, whereas everything else is mostly overpriced.

    • frightlever says:

      The game costs you nothing, and you’re complaining about your time investment? Step back and try to understand that this game is being made on the basis that some people will pay actual money. Money to pay for servers and recoup development costs. It may only be 10% of people, but that 10% are not the enemy. They’re footing the bill for everyone else’s entertainment. Isn’t that due some gratitude?

      • mrmalodor says:

        No, it isn’t, and why the fuck would it be?

        You should be grateful to the freeloaders, because without them every F2P game would be a cricket colony.

        • frightlever says:

          Please use your indoor voice and avoid the potty talk.

          • DeVadder says:

            He is still right though.
            Free to Play games are that: Free to play! Playing them for free is nothing one should be ashamed of. And for it to be a good F2P game, the free experience needs to be good as well. If you can not properly play it for free because you can not realistically unlock needed gear without paying, than it is just a insincere demo for the game.
            Free to Play games are free so that more people play them, thats it.
            If some people feel guilty about enjoying a game for free and decide to buy something because of that, that is fine as well, but not the basic idea. The basic idea is: Make a free game that is enjoyable enough that many people play. Among them will be many players who would pay some bucks for some goods. Now sell those goods while making sure that people want them while they keep the game fun for everyone because if the free players have no fun, they will never pay anything and you are stuck with a small number of fanboys.
            Not easy but simple.

          • MrLebanon says:

            reality of the game is – even if it’s grindy – your not unlocking anything revolutionary

            Rocket pods on figters? All your doing is changing the fighters role from A2A to A2G.

            I can play Ps2 all day every day with no unlocks and have a good time.. people need to realize that gaming is about having fun

        • Dark Nexus says:

          Here’s the thing…. without the non-paying players, there is still a game to play. Under-populated maybe, but it’s still there. Having the non-paying players there definitely does make for a better multiplayer experience.

          Without the paying players, there is no game. It doesn’t make for a lesser experience, it makes for no experience at all.

          • Amun says:

            You’ve hit the nail on the head. No free to play game is free to make. The developers have every right to charge whatever they want for their creation.

            The flip side to this is that I, as a customer, have every right to decide what I want to do with my time and money.

            If the developers make a game that gives players an option to: (A) have no fun at all, or (B) spend a whole lot more than they would pay for something like Torchlight 2, what’s the point in playing it or spending money on it?

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        >> “The game costs you nothing, and you’re complaining about your time investment?”

        What is it about paying money for a game that entitles us to a balanced (in terms of time invested vs progression), well-paced game experience, exactly?

        This is exactly why I think the idea of “convenience goods” in F2P games is so disingenuous. There is no reason to believe that having a well-paced gameplay experience is a matter of convenience. In fact, you are not paying for “convenience”, you are paying to experience the game with its intended pacing, to remove the hobbles attached to annoy freeloaders.

        The F2P design pattern presents us with the idea that you can “pay money or time, choose one”, as if money == time is some immutable truth. But there’s no reason to think this is inherently a more sensible setup than DOTA2′s model, where time == playing because it’s fun and money == funny clothes. Or some different model where money == actual convenience features such as stat tracking, access to VIP club forums and social features, etc.

        In short: The game is broken on purpose to make the experience frustrating without “convenience items”. It better damn well be free, because I’m sure not paying for carefully structured inconvenience.

    • EnragedPixel says:

      Well, that’s the crux innit? How can the free-to-play model work if it offers no benefits to those who pay over those who don’t? Surely the company who produces free-to-play title has to make money somehow? I’d rather see paying for XP boosts a la World of Tanks than paying for better gear, so I for one find this very impressive.

    • Yodas_Brother says:

      I really don’t understand this self-entitled attitude by some zealots against F2P.
      It’s childish: “GIMME EVERYTHING! BUT I DON’T WANT TO PAY A PENNY!)

      The irony is, you (almost, with a little catch) get everything for free:
      You get handed a fully-developed, feature-rich, multiplayer game (server-access and all) for FREE. No restrictions whatsoever. The only catch is that if you are not willing to fork over even a few dollars, you might have to invest some more time than someone who pays to get things faster.
      I mean to state the obvious, yes, of course there needs to be _some_ incenctive for people who pay, otherwise no-one would pay at all. And then there would be no game at all. Is that so hard to understand?

      What it essentially boils down to is that you have a chance to try out the gameplay, with no restrictions and no financial risk and THEN you can decide on your own if its worth some investment (and how much). And this is considered bad? How is that, please enlighten me.

      I think if you _really_ like a game, then you play if a lot anyways, thus time investment is not a big issue anyways, and also investing some dollars for hundreds of hours of gameplay is not such a bad deal.

      Perhaps it’s just that I have a different perspective, being over 30 I can remember the times when you had to fork out over 40-50€ just for the privilige to play a game like Unreal Tournament, without even dreaming of unlocks and new maps and stuff like that.
      I know that my younger self would drool over the chance of having the possibility to have hundreds of potential fun gameplay in a polished multiplayer AAA title while paying little to no money for it.
      (I’m guessing that for 10-20 € you can probably already buy a decent amount of unlocks/boosters)

      So I guess what I want to say is I am really baffled by this crusade (by some) against F2P. For me, if well executed it’s an improvement, both sides win.

      tl;dr
      Why this hate agains F2P? It can be an improvement for both parties.

      • mrmalodor says:

        *facepalm*

        Some people are just too stupid to understand.

      • Harlander says:

        Thank you, thank you, for using the term “self-entitled” properly.

      • sophof says:

        I prefer a one time payment, I am sorry I (and probably many others) don’t fit in your false choice fallacy.
        A game can only be made once, by making it F2P I get to play it for free, but I don’t get to play in the environment the way I like it. Expressing a disappointment with that and a different preference is not such a strange thing, no matter how many strawmans you throw at it.

        I have yet to see an example of a game that is better (I am talking quality here, not better for my wallet) because of F2P. It could be this game, but until the launch I will be sceptical.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          You can pay full price for a game, and have no subscription fees or cash-shop. We typically call those games “Single player,” or they only include single-instance servers, often run by players.

          You can pay a subscription fee each month, though the $15 subscription fee is just batshit-fucking-insane, and you get a persistent, open world with persistent characters.

          You can pay full price for the game and have subscription fees. People seem to eat this shit up, and I have no idea why. The alternative, which is a pretty good one, is to have a “lifetime” subscription available at launch for a few hundred $. This has, so far, always been in the consumer’s favour. With this, you usually have an open world with persistent characters, etc.

          You can pay full price, have no subscription fee, and have a cash shop. Open world, persistent world, persistent characters, etc.

          You can pay nothing and have a cash shop available. People who pay the developer money DESERVE benefits for paying. That’s how they’re encouraged to pay. That’s how the game continues to exist. The *LEVEL* of benefits for paying can be debated, however.

          • mnem says:

            You forgot:

            Pay full for a game, have subscription fee and have a cash shop. I think that’s the lowest form.

        • battles_atlas says:

          Given how unknown the quality and the future of any online game is, its not exactly the case that coughing up several hundred dollars on launch day is the best choice. In fact to many, me included, it sounds insane.

          The traditional one-off payment at launch however doesn’t work for F2P games that work on the understanding that they are persistently evolving. World of Tanks has changed massively since it launched, and its team has I think quadrupled in size or something. That wouldn’t/couldn’t happen with a one off payment model, unless it was of the kind of mad gamble the poster above this one advocates.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        “I think if you _really_ like a game, then you play if a lot anyways, thus time investment is not a big issue anyways, and also investing some dollars for hundreds of hours of gameplay is not such a bad deal.”
        *
        The thing is, it’s destructive to create an atmosphere where your time is transformed from an expression of raw enjoyment into this monetized concept, an “investment”. It creates all sorts of perverse incentives, such as in LoL where players play to maximize IP gain: “Surrender at 20″, “why are you playing that character and wasting my time, go play vs bots”, etc.

        My time is already precious. I don’t need games to exacerbate this fact by turning my playtime into a rare currency that must be carefully manage and converted into unlocks. Just let me buy the whole damn thing for $60 and let me set the value of my playtime for myself.

        For the record, I support DOTA2′s F2P model because it is the fairest and most generous on the market. As such I am happy to spend money on vanity items and team pennants in DOTA2, where I’ve never given Riot money over my hundreds of games in LoL because their F2P model feels greedy.

        I wonder how many F2P designers underestimate the value of a perception of fairness, and the power of player good will.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I guess you missed the part about there not being “more powerful” weapons, just different ones. There is nothing you can unlock that will “dominate the battlefield”. You don’t need to grind for the unlocks, because you don’t need the unlocks to compete – you can make a perfectly good contribution to the fight right out of the box.

      • Adekan says:

        I don’t know about that. Currently one of the most expensive unlockable weapons is a Rocket Launcher that has lock on targeting. That seems flat out more powerful than the base Rocket Launcher which has no lock on of any sort.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          That’s more a problem with the implementation than with the model itself. Also, this is Beta, part of the point of which is to sort out such balancing issues.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        This is another silly idea that F2P designers like to push on us: That flexibility and customization are somehow less important, and thus OK to gate off behind pay/time walls.

        Firstly, it assumes that we as players don’t value customization highly, which I believe is horribly wrong. Yes we like to win, but I think many players value their ability to create a personalized build more than they do min/maxing to be as strong as possible.

        Secondly, it ignores the fact that in a game like PS2, being able to tweak your build to suit a situation can be just as – if not more – powerful than simply having a weapon that is numerically stronger. If one player has paid to unlock anti-air guns for their tank, then they are simply more powerful in a scenario where they need to defend against aircraft. I don’t see how anyone could argue flexibility does not equate to greater effectiveness in a game where refitting might only take a matter of minutes or seconds.

        I mean, look, I play F2P games. They’re fun enough, and I’m sure PS2 will be a fun game and not be nearly as bad as many F2P games. But these ideas that F2P designers are pushing on us are often nonsense, and I think we need to call them on it when they try to convince us that this new status quo is based on anything but their convenience and marketing strategy.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          Firstly, it assumes that we as players don’t value customization highly, which I believe is horribly wrong.

          That this is the part of the game that devlopers gate off would tend to suggest they believe the exact opposite. If players didn’t value it, they’d not be willing to pay for it.

    • Xzi says:

      Everybody’s definition of “powerful” is different, though. There are no weapons that are intentionally stronger than others in Planetside 2. They all have strengths and weaknesses. You might, for example, want a weapon that has a fast fire rate but low damage per shot, whereas your buddy might want a slow-firing weapon that packs a big punch. In the end, they’ll both do the same damage if every shot hits, but the play style for these weapons is a lot different.

      This is a very general example, obviously, and there is a lot more customization you can do with weapons, but again, they all have drawbacks in some form or another. Thus the term “sidegrades” and not upgrades.

    • innociv says:

      The only big problem I see is that there is no Anti-Air available at the start, or rocket pods for aircraft.

      Adding rockets or missiles to your aircraft isn’t a choice. It’s entirely better. You start with neither. It needs to start with some sort of alternative weapon.

      Also optics on tanks is massively better, you have nothing without them.

  3. teacup says:

    The problem is it always needs a balance. Too much in the pay2win column and no one will want to play long enough for free to pay for it because it’s not fun. Too much in the free2play column and why pay for it… thus no money to actually support the game.

    Valve have balanced it fantastically but they’ve also had the good fortune of having the game already established, one of the most popular games around ANYWAY, steam, and for some reason people obsessing over hats.

    At a certain point I think I’d prefer a free2play game that doesn’t lock you down at the start at all (nickel and diming right from the get go is why I have been turned off a couple of f2p games so far) but has a clear class/expansion/area that is “pay for this” – rather than this nebulous pay for currency bullshit peddling around. Then again I feel that a lot of f2p games are just too poxy to put up with in the first place, so who knows.

    • Xzi says:

      If you make the game fun enough, people will play it for a long time. The longer they play, the greater the compulsion to differentiate themselves from the crowd will become. A system heavily reliant on cosmetic items is the way to go in any F2P game that doesn’t have other means of changing your appearance. I think they’ve found a nice balance between this and time-savers that you can purchase in PS2.

  4. Commander Gun says:

    I liked the Tribes Ascend method very well.
    Any purchase gives a lifetime 50% XP boost, and that really was enough to buy everything i want up to now. Granted, i bought a 30 day booster for a grand total of 150% boost the 1st month, which basically means i spend about 10 euro’s for a FTP game, but to be honest i feel very comfortable with that.

    However, i understand that there are people out there who want to take FTP literally, which means that
    the succes depends on the speed with which you unlock sidegrades matters a lot.

    • Barnaby says:

      I have to strongly disagree. I also spent money on Tribes Ascend thinking they successfully implemented a good F2P model. After having played it for a while the flaws became clear. For example, I put 20 or so bucks into the game, unlocked a bunch of the stuff for the light flag capping class (whatever it’s called). Turns out there are tons of douche bags that like to do nothing but stand on the flag stand and camp even when their flag is gone. Now that I spent my money on those items for that one class, I’m kind of shit out of luck in terms of alternatives. I can trudge along and buy some items for another class with XP, or I can drop more money on the game. So #1 I don’t think the classes and weapons are well balanced, #2 some of the guns are intentionally watered down to make you want to upgrade it (shotgun for light class) #3 the game seems to favor camping and playing Deathmatch in a game based around CTF. Also, the community seems to consist of a lot of jerks from my experience.

  5. AlwaysRight says:

    I don’t think they can go far wrong tackling this like Tribes: Ascend.

    Enough unlocks that come relatively quickly to get you a nice basic assortment of stuff, followed by deeper and more expensive unlocks that you can save up for by playing free, or pay for outright.

    By adjusting the cost for unlocking things it works a bit like a tutorial, funnelling you toward your preferred play-style.

  6. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    I’ve been playing some (too much, really) Blacklight: Retribution, and it operates on a system similar to this where all the things you can get with money you can also get with game points and higher level gear always has tradeoffs. It’s not an awful system, but I think SOE is going to find that they have a similar problem to Blacklight in that the players with access to the higher level gear may statistically be on even footing with the players who have new gear, but in practice being able to min/max makes a much more effective build than one that’s just sorta okay at everything.

  7. Ritashi says:

    You don’t avoid Pay-to-Win by letting free players eventually get everything paying players do (excepting something like a leveling system, where you only have to compete against people of your level and paying can advance you faster. In that case, the paying player is at any point in time on an even playing field with those he is actually playing with). You avoid Pay-to-Win by avoiding the much broader problem of anti-competitive unlock and upgrade driven design. Yes, seeing numbers go up and unlocking new toys is fun. However, it is NOT competitive. If, at any point in time, your victory or defeat comes due to any factors other than a) your skill (including tactics), b) your strategy, c) your team’s skill and strategy (where applicable), or d) your prior performance within the current frame of comparison (i.e. you got shot first, or missed your first shot), then the game lacks that element which is fundamentally necessary for competitive games. If your win or loss was influenced by how much time you’ve spent playing the game, or how much time your friends have spent playing, or how good you are at some other game (i.e. using top-tier PvE equipment for a PvP advantage in MMOs), or how well you did when you played last week, then the game is not balanced. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing; one of the major draws of Eve Online is that there is no such thing as a fair fight. However, a game which is not truly balanced is also not competitive, and should not be billed as such.

    Planetside, fundamentally, is not balanced, even taking the upgrade system out of the equation. Whichever side brings more people has an advantage. This isn’t a bad thing though; it’s a fundamental part of the design without which the game would no longer be the same game. Pay-to-Win doesn’t factor in to this part, however, since it’s not like you can buy extra people for your side. Where it does factor in is the upgrade system. And in this system, Planetside 2 is pay-to-win. You can pay real money to have a real advantage over other players. The secondary weapons on planes is the most obvious example, but the same is true of all of the straight-upgrade certs. True, you can’t directly purchase cert points; however, you CAN purchase delayed cert points, in the form of boosters. You won’t get the upgrades (and most certs are straight upgrades, like added ammo capacity and the like) immediately, but you are still paying real money for those cert points which the booster earns you, albeit you don’t get them immediately. Paying money for a straight upgrade is, I think, clearly pay-to-win. Sure, it’s not “pay for an automatic win” but it is “pay to make yourself stronger and thus improve your effective skill level”. Yes, a more skilled opponent will beat someone who paid money. However, given two people of equal skill, one of whom paid money, the one who paid money is more likely to win. There is of course the balancing factor that you could spend time instead of money to unlock everything; but I answer that by saying a) that’s still a terrible form of poor balance, and b) during all that time you’ve been trying to unlock everything, you’ve been getting beaten by people of equal skill level who bought their equipment, and c) you’re still weaker than someone who both paid money and spent time playing the game.

    The followup question is whether that is bad. And, well, it doesn’t have to be. It’s an unavoidable consequence of trying to make a game like Planetside 2 (and more generally, any game which uses an upgrade system) as a free-to-play game. You *could* avoid it, and I think LoL is the best example to look at for a game that only has the slightest traces of it, but it’s hard to do so.

    • Vorphalack says:

      ”Where it does factor in is the upgrade system. And in this system, Planetside 2 is pay-to-win. You can pay real money to have a real advantage over other players. The secondary weapons on planes is the most obvious example, but the same is true of all of the straight-upgrade certs.”

      That’s only true for a very short window when you begin the game, and place a completely new FTP guy against someone with some unlocks. It is relatively easy to reach the point where you will have one class cert capped .i.e have an upgrade for everything, and at that point no one is getting any more powerful. You can bypass that lack of initial certs by paying something for the game, which all FTP games require in order to survive. If everyone did that and picked a class / vehicle to focus on, then everyone would be balanced. The trade off you make for paying nothing is that you will suck for longer, but even then you can reach the point of equality if you stick with it.

      • Low Life says:

        Yeah, that kind of delayed advancement is pretty much the best solution I’ve seen implemented to tackle the problem of pay-to-win unless your game somehow gets ridiculous amounts of players who like buing hats.

        I think we need a new name for this sort of system, maybe pay-to-win-for-a-short-while-until-the-other-players-catch-up?

    • Saul Bottcher says:

      Well said. This IS pay-to-win, but some of the pay-to-win aspects are being obscured by a series of “convert resource X to resource Y” relationships.

    • Asurmen says:

      I have to disagree that it’s pay to win. With the exception of the air secondary weapons and HA lock on upgrades, every other weapon is a sidegrade. Most of the certs are again not upgrades, and often require you to forego something else Also, paying to speed things up does not make it pay to win. You still have to play the game like everyone else to reach the goal you had in mind.

  8. zebramatt says:

    I’m personally somewhat allergic to the whole free to play model.

    I buy games based on whether I think they’re worth the asking price. Anything even half decent is worth ‘free’. But I don’t have a lot of time to play games; and I have way too many games I want to play. Whether I play a game at all is half the battle, but if I do then it has to hook me pretty quick or I move onto something else. If I feel like I’m at a disadvantage which will specifically take time for me to overcome then it’s a massive stumbling block for me to enjoy myself.

    So then I either have to stop playing or fork up some cash. But how much? I’d have to play sufficiently to judge where to most effectively spend my money. Is X enhancement worth Y? Maybe. Only two ways to find out: time or money; and I have more of the latter than the former (and I don’t have masses of either, frankly). So away goes some cash, followed by some time. The time will tell if the money was well spent but, if not, then there’s most likely a further amount of cash I could part with to improve my experience further.

    And each increment might enhance the experience by some unknowable amount. But some time down the road I look back and realise I’m honestly not sure if I’ve been dedicating so much time because it’s fun (now that I’ve spent money); or just because I’ve spent the damn money. And I’m even less sure if all those little downpayments I made along the way I would have paid all at once up front for the game if that was its asking price. So I’m left feeling somewhat cheated.

    It’s not that I think the model is necessarily designed to cheat me. But as someone who is time poor, really my only option is to pay something for competitive free to play games of this nature, or give them a miss entirely.

    Contrasted with how I normally go about making purchase decisions for games – reading reviews, shopping about for a good price, and (mostly on impulse) then taking the plunge – the real difference here is that I know everyone writing a review for a traditionally priced game knows how much it costs and is inherently judging whether it’s worth it. To get the same feel for how much I might have to spend on a free to play game to really enjoy it according to my own personal circumstances requires a research investment magnitudes larger.

    That said, I am a sucker for DLC (and perhaps that’s part of my problem too) and I rarely feel cheated by that, in quite the same way. I think the difference there is that I’ve already invested a great deal of time into the games for which I DL the C, and it’s obvious to me by then that it’s because I really love them. I’m basically showing I think the game is worth even more than the original asking price.

    So perhaps there is hope for me with free to play games, if they can get the hook right. If I can play them for free and get totally lost in them before I even realise I might want to spend some money, and then they come along and ask me to fork over some cash, I might be far more accommodating. But then, that would also be true of a game for which I paid an asking price up front – so there’s no real gain for anyone there!

    As I say, the model and I – we just don’t get along.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Very well said, you’ve described a lot of the same issues I have with the F2P model.

      Time is a much larger bottleneck for me than money, so “free” is much less appealing than “dense gameplay experience that rewards an hour here and there just as much as a dozen”.

      I need a game to be good immediately, not after I play for a few weeks to unlock things. And even if I spend money in the cash shop, I know that an F2P game is always going to make me painfully aware of my time spent in it by showing my how much more points I’d get with a booster, or because my teammates are raging because they’re not earning as many points as they could be.

  9. PatrickSwayze says:

    So much QQ-ing about free to play games.

    If you want to play a game as a non-customer then go right ahead but please don’t complain that the actual customers get more than you when all you are is a PARASITE.

    I haven’t spent any money playing the beta and I’ve had a FANTASTIC time.

    That merely encourages me to pay some when the game goes live.

    • Balanuir says:

      The whining is not about F2P. It is about F2P being either a) a horrible grind because the business model wants to force you into paying because the free part isn’t enjoyable or b) “free” becoming a bad joke because the actual game, i.e. with everything unlocked, the way it would have been when it would have simply been a game you buy, is two-, three or more times as expensive as a full-price game would’ve been.

      Basically, it’s about realising someone is trying to fool you, the same uneasy feeling you get when the shopping channel says “free” about anything – even if you can’t spot the baint-and-switch right away, your alarm bells go off.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        Yes this! I’ve been struggling to express this myself, but you’ve done it very well.

        Look, I like to buy games. I enjoy knowing I’m supporting a company who does work I like. Sometimes I buy games and don’t even play them for months. I am not poor, I have a job, I don’t need free things.

        But I want to buy the game and have access to all of it – not some tiny part of it, and know that the game is going to endlessly remind me of all the other things I could have if i just pay more. And there’s nothing more likely to turn me off supporting your game than realizing I’d have to pay hundreds to access the entire thing.

    • Ritashi says:

      If the company does not want “parasites”, then they should not make their game free to play. The free to play model is based on allowing people to play for free, so that they get hooked and decide to pay money anyway. The people who the free to play model targets are those who would not have paid money for the game, but who, after playing it for some length of time, will decide to spend some money on it. In other words, the free to play model is all about letting your “parasites” play the game, because some of them will then decide to pay money. But if the game is unenjoyable for people who don’t pay, then those people aren’t going to decide to pay to see if the game becomes good then; they’re going to leave and find a game that doesn’t invite them in only to demand that they pay if they want to see the real game.

    • mrmalodor says:

      Those “parasites” populate 90% of your game. Remember that.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Generally, people want the game for the regular 60 bucks or so, instead of the hundreds or thousands or whatever that it usually costs to buy your way past the grind in a F2P game.

      • Yodas_Brother says:

        Are you serious? Thousands? Really?!
        I can’t believe that. I’m willing to bet that you can buy an awful LOT of upgrades/boosters with 60€ for PS2, certainly enough to get past all the “grind”.
        (Maybe someone actually here with experience in PS2 could clarify on that?)

        What is it with that “grind” kind of thing anyways? When did we stop playing and enjoying games for the pure sake of it — when did it turn into a kind of “job” to reach the “endgame”?

        I played hundreds of hours in TF2 (before and after its became F2P) and it never felt like “grind” to me. If it had I would have quit. The moment a game becomes a chore it’s not worth playing anymore (and I doubt that other weapons and unlocks would change that very much, especially if they are sidegrades…)
        When I got another weapon or a silly hat through drops, it was a nice bonus, but that was it. The core weapons were more than enough to enjoy the gameplay.

        • Ritashi says:

          When people complain about grind, what they are saying is that they don’t like it and will quit if they need to grind before getting the stuff they actually want to play with. When people complain about needing to grind, they are, in fact, saying that games shouldn’t be about grinding to reach an “endgame” – the game should be fun from the start. And yes, you’re correct, TF2 never feels like a grind, because they don’t have silly leveling up and upgrade systems. There are more weapons to find, sure, and some of them can be cool to play with, but you don’t have numbers ticking up after every game telling you how close you are to getting the next new thing; you just keep playing and pick them up sometimes. TF2 doesn’t have grind.

          Planetside 2 does have grind, and the vast majority of f2p games – and, indeed, many paid games as well – also have grind. You might like the game once you’ve put in 20 hours and unlocked all the cool stuff for your class or vehicle of choice, but you might not like the game up to that point. In that scenario, you need to grind a game you don’t enjoy before you’re allowed to play the game you do. That’s just silly, and people dislike it, and that’s what they’re complaining about. It’s not some made-up concept in their head, it’s an aspect of game design.

          Edit: And I don’t know how much 60 Euros will buy you, but I can promise you it’s not everything, or even close. Maybe that will let you max out one class, but it will not buy you everything – and keep in mind that a major money sink can be consumables that give you buffs like faster reload times, and which are completely unsustainable for a free player to buy (their duration is far less the amount of time you need to play to earn them, not to mention you can have 3 active at a time).

          • Yodas_Brother says:

            Ok I think I understand where you’re coming from.


            You might like the game once you’ve put in 20 hours and unlocked all the cool stuff for your class or vehicle of choice, but you might not like the game up to that point. In that scenario, you need to grind a game you don’t enjoy before you’re allowed to play the game you do. That’s just silly…

            I agree that would be silly. The thing is, you see (and thats maybe where we disagree) it’s that I don’t accept the premise that a game that is “unfun” for 20 hours will suddenly become fun after I unlock a certain amount of stuff. Or maybe it is possible, but that for me would be a sign of fundamentally flawed gameplay and I would just refuse to play further, let alone pay.

            My point is that F2P allows you to test out – without any risk – if you like the core gameplay – and then decide if you wanna invest a little in it, because after all, you like it and why not – developers must eat too, after all ;)

            So maybe it’s a point of view thing. How we approach this kind of game…

            Anyways, thanks for the clarification on the 60€ stuff in PS2.

          • Dark Nexus says:

            “You might like the game once you’ve put in 20 hours and unlocked all the cool stuff for your class or vehicle of choice, but you might not like the game up to that point”

            I fully reject that concept. If they’ve done their job remotely well, it isn’t suddenly going to become a different game after a 20 hour grind.

            I’ll accept it can raise your enjoyment of the game, but not so drastically. If you don’t enjoy any of the base mechanics, you aren’t going to enjoy any of them with a few extra sparklies added on either.

            Unless they’ve gone and done something stupid like locking away an entire base gameplay method (no vehicles until level 20!). Which I’m sure some companies have done.

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          Tribes: Ascend is 200 bucks or so. League of Legends is apparently ~$2116 (probably more by now)
          If there are no gameplay-relevant items to be unlocked by cash, then sure, it’s not really grinding. Usually that’s not the case, though.

    • Jenks says:

      A lot of “QQ” doesn’t come from parasites, it comes from people like me. To put it simply, I want to pay $50 for my games. I don’t want to worry that I just destroyed someone who paid nothing, or got destroyed by someone who paid $200. It breaks all immersion and completely ruins the game for people like myself.

  10. Balanuir says:

    Tribes: Ascend is for me the counter-example on how to do it. Every upgrade they add more stuff that takes lots and lots of XP to unlock, while the further you get along, the less XP you get per game.

    Basically, it is impossible to unlock everything with any reasonable amount of playing. If you know exactly what you want, you can get that fairly quickly, but if you want to experiment a bit before settling on something, you can forget about it.

    T:A is doing a great job at semi-avoiding the Pay2Win thing. You can theoretically grind everything, but really, unless you play 24/7 for a few months, you won’t. I mean really, I’m in the gold star ranks now, and I get less than 1000 XP per game if lost and 1000-1500 if won. Only exceptional games net me more than 2k XP. That means to buy any of the additional weapons or kits, which are mostly 75k or 88k, I need to play 50+ games. Make it 20 minutes on average, that’s 16 hours of continuous gaming. To unlock one weapon. That’s ridiculous.

    I’m ok with micro-payments and the F2P + buy extras models. But T:A is one of the examples where… well, just add up everything that you need to buy in order to get a full game experience and you end up with a sum much, much higher than a full-price game costs.

    I’m really unhappy with how most F2P implementations end up. They make two groups of players happy: Those with way too much time and no money, and those with way too much money and little time. They make those of us who don’t mind spending a reasonable amount of money but don’t want to grind for hours and hours very much not happy.

    So I desperately hope that Planetside 2 won’t make that mistake, and make everything unlockable in a reasonable time/money frame. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if I could temporarily unlock something to test it out for a few games, and permanently unlocking it takes more.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Insightful! This illustrates a key personality trait that determine how players experience an F2P game: Some of us really want to have every option available. We want to know we have the freedom to change our equipment mid-game to out think our opponents.

      Other people really enjoy just picking one class/character, customizing that, and getting really good at it over a long period of time. I think these folks are going to enjoy most F2P games without worrying much about unlocking everything, and will probably wonder what all the fuss is about when folks like me bitch about time time/cost to unlock the entire game.

      But hey, different games for different people. For me, the fact I can random in DOTA2 and potentially get any hero out of the pool is going to produce more enjoyment than any amount of unlocking or customizing my runes in LoL. But most of my friends would find this prospect overwhelming or outright insane. They would almost certainly find the act of working towards and unlocking a new champion in LoL more rewarding.

  11. Dominic White says:

    To those kvetching about F2P games… well, wouldn’t you like to go back to the good old days? Remember Tribes 3? How it sold fuck-all at launch, and there were barely any populated servers after a month? How the publisher refused to bankroll further support for a dead multiplayer game? Good times.

    Now look at the hundreds – possibly thousands – of other commercial multiplayer games that nobody is playing. Truly a golden age of gaming, and a timeless, classic business model. Yes, there may be parts of F2P that you disagree with, but you know what it’s giving you, without you having to play a penny? A regularly updated game with a large, active player-base.

    Even shitheaps like Wolf Team (http://wolfteam.aeriagames.com/) can survive and flourish as F2P. It’s pretty hard to kill a game where the barrier to entry is effectively nothing.

    • derbefrier says:

      This is the reason why I have changed my opinion on F2P. I am tired of buying multiplayer games only to see the game dead within a month of release because everyone has already moved on to the new hotness. I really enjoyed the War of the Roses beta but i expect its multiplayer to die off pretty quick just like anything that isn’t CoD or battlefield. Take RO2 for instance a bad launch really hurt that game and now its only left with a small group of dedicated players who use servers i don’t get good pings on so i don’t play…This wouldn’t be an issue if the game were F2P.

      I am sure most of you wouldn’t have to think to hard to find a game you enjoyed the multiplayer in but cant anymore because either the servers were shut down or there’s just no one playing because no one wants to buy a 2 year old game for the multiplayer..but if it was free that would be a different story. I believe F2P is the future for multiplayer gaming unless you have a fanbase like CoD or Battlefield its just not gonna last long having to pay 50 bucks to try it out and by the time its cheap enough to were more people are willing to take a chance on it, the game is already dead. so they just skip it and move to something else.

      and PS2 is a blast. It will be a while before i really dig into it with the wave of awesome games coming this fall but I can already see it becoming my go to multiplayer FPS

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Dominic, clearly you have a good point, but come on now, the dichotomy you’ve set up is sorta silly. I don’t see many people arguing that F2P shouldn’t exist, just that the current implementation (which is becoming increasingly unremarkable and accepted) still has a lot of unresolved problems.

      Personally, I don’t love F2P, but I think it can be fine. DOTA2 is wonderful, but probably wouldn’t be viable for anyone but Valve; Path of Exile is looking great; LoL is OK for the most part, but doesn’t suit me personally. My point is just that F2P game design has reached a stage where devs ask us to accept certain statements as fact – “it isn’t pay to win because you’re only unlocking specialization (which just happens to be one of the strongest tools for min/maxing in any game)” – when these statements are disingenuous at best and nonsense the rest of the time.

      I am glad to see F2P thrive and allow niche games like Tribes: Ascend to prosper. But it doesn’t mean I’m not going to push back when developers make assertions that seem like BS to me.

  12. Fox89 says:

    Kinda think folks moaning about the Planetside Free to Play model are kind of missing the point. I can certainly see valid arguments against F2P games that are just annoying grind-fests until you get to a certain level of equipment and then you can actually start to be competitive and enjoy yourself. But PS2 doesn’t fall into that category in my books.

    I spent the first two weeks I was in the beta without spending any real money. I hardly even bought any certifications. I spent my time playing the ‘vanilla’ game without any kind of real upgrade and advancement. During that time I had a 15 tank/Mosquito/Galaxy killstreak on a single turret while defending The Crown. I had some great dogfights in the cockpit of my Reaver. I worked with 3 random guys who spawned in a tiny little outpost with me to defend said tiny outpost against a Terran/Vanu pincer attack, and when we found ourselfs under artillery fire from the ridge above we staged out own Normandy Landings to assault up the cliff and drive them back.

    I joined in a massive assault on the Biolab and single handedly cleared a path for our armour by taking out three defensive tanks – sneaking among the rocks and hiding from enemy infantry as I picked them off. I used my jetpack to get on top of a full Galaxy and rode it all the way to the battlefield, trying to take on circling Mosquitos with my assault rifle.

    You don’t need to pay a penny OR grind to have these kind of stories to tell in Planetside 2. Sure, the guys who pay will probably have a degree more fun even than that, but they’re the ones supporting the game. So that is their right (and I will be one of them once we’re out of beta). But even though there is a long term grinding element in PS2 to get ‘stuff’, that isn’t where enjoyment of the game comes from. It is very easy to ignore the upgrades and certifications entirely and still have an incredible time.

    As far as I’m concerned when the free, core gameplay is as enjoyable as PS2′s is, there’s no reason to complain about the business model at all. Hell, I wasn’t even using text chat or VOIP. With a squad (that again won’t cost a penny) I imagine I would have had even more great memories.

    • Mavvvy says:

      Well said fox. As I said to my mates, if you were to buy bf3 now you would have to pay 60 quid upfront just to play the game and then grind to get access to your fav weapons. Where in planetside there is no upfront fee, and if you want you can skip the grind and pay a much smaller fee to get access to a weapons you want.

      There is much hypocrisy on this topic as how many gamers have paid money up front just to play a grind fest.

      • Ritashi says:

        First, it’s only hypocrisy if these same people don’t also complain about the grind in any other games they play that have them, assuming the grinds are in fact as long as the PS2 grinds appear to be – and you have no evidence to support that. Don’t try and apply a label to people without any supporting evidence whatsoever, it just makes people wonder whether you’re stupid or just a prick.

        Second, people can point out flaws in the free to play model without discrediting the game itself. Tribes: Ascend has a horrible free to play model, and yet I like that game a lot (though I did pay money at one point to pick up the upgrades I needed before a tournament). If we refuse to point out flaws in games that are good despite them, we won’t be able to express ourselves when we find a game that avoids all of those flaws and thus becomes great. There’s no point to establishing a threshold and saying that anything that’s better than this arbitrary threshold is just labeled “good” and we can’t point out any flaws it might still have, because it’s “good”. Fluid discourse on everything from terrible games with a few good qualities up through amazing games with a few flaws can only help us make even better games in the future.

        • Mavvvy says:

          You have no evidence to support the fact that my evidence has no evidence! In truth the evidence is plastered on a lot of threads here, there are a lot of games where you have to play to get access to more features just for some reason that fact is lost on people when it comes to the ftp model. Out of curiosity (and of course you don’t have to say) how much did you spend on the weapons in tribes?

          I’m in no way arguing that my point closes the discussion let’s keep this debate going. But please don’t call me a pee-pee head again.

    • zebramatt says:

      I can’t fault your reasoning – and, in fact, I’ve admitted that if a free to play game can really hook me and draw me in without making me feel the need to spend any money along the way, then perhaps I’d get along with it just fine.

      But then, a game of that quality I’d play even if it cost me money – so clearly I STILL fall outside their main demographic!

  13. Bork Titflopsen says:

    I think the biggest problem SOE has to worry about is not how much faster paying players will gain unlocks than non-paying players, but how fast non-paying players gain unlocks and resources (and thus varied gameplay) at all.

  14. Bent Wooden Spoon says:

    Thus far I think their system is okay. Auraxium might be a bit slow to build up, or the prices might be a touch high, but I don’t think it’s too bad. I’ve not been playing stupendously long and I’ve already managed to buy one of the other anti-vehicle weapons for my heavy assault, which is definitely a sidegrade rather than an upgrade.

    Additional weapons on the vehicles are unfair, so it’s good that seems like it’ll be addressed. I also can’t help but think the shield recharge and armour boosts make the playing field slightly more uneven, although they’re purchased using certifications rather than Station Cash (the ingame currency). I’ve no idea whether SC will be able to be converted to certs.

  15. P7uen says:

    Maybe the confusion comes from the word “free”. It’s called a “free-to-play” game not a “free game”. It’s a normal game with a different business model that has a horrible name. It’s not free.

    I find it a bit like complaining that Max Payne 3 made me pay for all the guns and characters and levels and music and menu screens, and had the cheek to do it before even letting me try it out. And all because it was a game I wanted to play! The nerve!

    • Yodas_Brother says:

      Well spoken.

    • zebramatt says:

      Actually, that speaks to me quite a bit, yeah. Surely all one ever really wants to DO in a game is play it? If one latterly feels one has to pay for said game in order to enjoy the playing of it, it can lend the experience the air of a con.

      Imagine an Italian restaurant where all the food was ‘free to eat’ but in order to get to the main course you first had to eat your way through starter after starter after starter, or pay some money. If you really like garlic bread and bruschetta then you could get a pretty decent meal – and you’re certainly ‘eating for free’ – but to enjoy a nice bowl of pasta or, God forbid, some tiramasu you’d have to really commit some time and effort to the place, or fork over some cash. You might still enjoy yourself but you’d question the legitimacy of touting it as ‘free to eat’.

      Perhaps a better label would simply be ‘no obligatory fees up front to play’ – but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

  16. piratmonkey says:

    As someone who bought the Alpha Squad package, I don’t begrudge anyone who doesn’t want to pay. However, after release, non-paying members will simply not be able to be as flexible as paying ones or people who play more often. There will always be room for the more generic roles of the starting classes until you start to unlock things. Playing well and with a group will net you far more wins than using the sidegrade weapons and gear.

  17. BarneyL says:

    I don’t think we can comment on the F2P issues right now. It’s not clear what rate you’ll earn in game cash after release so there’s know way of knowing how fast you’ll get free new weapons. Equally we don’t know what price they’ll cost if you’re willing to pay for them. Will my £30 Alpha squad money skip me two years of grinding or two weeks, no one knows yet?
    The biggest issue with the system right now is that you earn cash in game simply by being logged in which means the full servers we struggle to get into are packed with players stood around idle.
    Right now balance issues seem to sit between the factions *cough*boltdriver*cough* rather than based on what you’ve unlocked.

  18. Lagwolf says:

    I have actually been thinking about this debate and I think we might be going at it all wrong. The problem is that F2P games need to be accessible for a newb. It is really not very fun to get crushed repeatedly for days on end because everyone else has better kit than you (that they bought or grinded for). If you have limited game time this is not an enjoyable experience at all. One problem with T:A is that the three character types that are offered initially are not very good & do fit all play-styles. It would have been better to allow access to all the types of characters initially. Someone people don’t mind getting owned for the first 10-20 hours they play I game. Others don’t find that enjoyable.

    I am not in the Planetside beta so have no idea what it is like.

    The key thing is balance both in attracting new players & making sure people don’t feel ripped off.

  19. Popcornicus says:

    I’ve been in since the alpha tech test, but the devs only turned on the auraxium-for-unlocks system around a month and a half ago. Many players have earned enough resources to unlock items that would be available instantly at release by paying real money.

    Meanwhile, until last night, I’d been abroad and too busy to play for 1.25 months. When I jumped in, I was killing it as ground infantry and as a tank driver using un-upgraded generalized gear, going up against other players with specialized unlocked weapons.

    The buyable unlocks only do the following:
    1. Allow tanks, aircraft, and other vehicles to swap from generalist weaponry to anti-air, anti-vehicle, or anti-infantry. These specialized weapons are USELESS against anything other than their intended target type, whereas the generalist weaponry is generally useful against all types of targets.
    2. Allow infantry to unlock rifles specialized for CQB or long-ranged combat, in the process making them shit at the other type of engagement.
    3. Let infantry buy consumables (medkits, grenades, etc.) for real money. Buying 20 grenades doesn’t mean you can walk around with 20 grenades; you’ll have 1 grenade on your person at a time unless you use certs [XP] (not buyable with real money) to increase your grenade carrying capacity. These consumables can also be purchased (quite cheaply!) using ingame-earned resources. I think only morons will bother wasting real money to buy consumables, instead of earning enough resources through combat to stockpile them.

    It’s hard to imagine a fairer system for an F2P game of this type and quality, for which I would gladly pay a $60 box cost plus eternal monthly fees. I’m impressed and relieved, however, that the F2P system is so fair, and as a result I’ll probably end up blowing Collector’s Edition-level cash to unlock everything at once and support the game. I figure why not, I’ll be sinking way more time into this game than any of the last 3 Battlefield titles, which were great games, but Planetside 2 is something else. If you enjoy multiplayer shooters at all, I can’t recommend this game more. The $40 beta buy-in is absolutely worth it, especially because you get $40 of spacebucks at release in addition to a 6-month 10% XP boost.

    • Adekan says:

      I’ve been saying I’d gladly pay a subscription fee for this game since before Beta, based on how much I loved the original PS. However, after getting into Beta I have realized that my PC simply can’t handle the game, even on lowest settings. Any time I hop into a vehicle or end up in a battle with more than 30-40 people the game becomes a slideshow. It’s a pretty unbelievable thing considering that while my PC isn’t amazing, it can run Skyrim on ultra settings with various ENB/graphics mods, with more than acceptable FPS.

      They truly need to work on optimizing the engine if they have any hope of surviving as an F2P game.

      • Asurmen says:

        Maybe because it’s better looking than Skyrim and has more things occuring on the screen at one time than Skyrim? Also really need to state your PC configs with statements like this. I personally would say that post people are now getting acceptable levels of FPS to be able to play, or at least they’re heading in the right direction with performance.

        At least it’s not crashing every 5 minutes like the start of beta!

      • MrLebanon says:

        my toasterbox 360 can also run skyrim just fine

  20. Saul Bottcher says:

    Let’s stop repeating the falsehood that a “play style” has no impact on competitiveness. Of course it does. A play style is a series of choices about which actions to take and when, and that directly impacts how effective you are.

    If a game allows you to unlock “sidegrades” that open up new “play styles”, what that really means is that it allows you to unlock additional strategic options that your opponents don’t have.

    A sniper rifle isn’t a “play style”, it’s the option to be more effective on maps where there’s more long-range combat.

    A “sidegrade” that makes you stronger versus jets and weaker versus tanks, isn’t a “play style”, it’s the option to be more effective on maps where jets have a greater impact on the game.

    I’m not accusing the developers of being deceitful. “Sidegrades” are less pay-to-win than outright upgrades, but they still impact competitiveness in a significant way.

    As Ritashi said above, the only real way to defend the competitive nature of a match-based game is to remove unlocks as a game element. (Or to segment servers by unlocks — i.e., you unlock “tier 2″, which includes a bunch of new weapons, but now you can only play on “tier 2″ servers — but who really wants that?)

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      Very well said. Especially in a team game like PS2, I can’t imagine that the ability to have some soldiers specialize into AA while others specialize in anti-tank won’t result in a substantial net gain in effectiveness. I’d much rather have one guy who can obliterate aircraft and one who can obliterate tanks than 3 who are so-so at both – especially since our generalists need to constantly sort out who is shooting what so they don’t all shoot the tank and let the aircraft run wild.

      I would much prefer that all these options be available in the base free game, and custom guns could actually cater to subtle play style differences – i.e. you could unlock a long-ranged rifle that is semi-auto with a larger magazine, or a CQC AR that has a higher rate of fire but less damage. Even then, you run a serious risk of having “ideal” choices for specific scenarios.

  21. BarneyL says:

    Do we have a clue what the membership fee is? Will it be payable with Station Cash? The revised gains from it are tipping me over into a more concerned mood particularly the doubled resource caps which will give you far more capability to get vehicles any time you need them are a clear advantage in my eyes.
    Also feeling a little annoyed that having signed up to Alpha Squad with no visible mention of membership on top of that only now do I find the advertised 10% XP boost is trumped by the 50% if I pay them even more money every month.

  22. biz says:

    it seems like f2p fps games just attract the moba equivalent of rts gamers.

    what works for lol and dota clones is that the game is way simpler than a rts.

    what doesn’t work for all these f2p fps games is that they’re attracting a lower “quality” gamer with a much more complex game than quake / cs / cod or even BF / ET

  23. Redford says:

    Currently, some weapons are very well balanced based on the “Free = equally effective versus everything” mechanic. The baseline MG is actually very good versus any target when fired en-masse and an APC armed with them can flank and kill tanks with suprising effectiveness in addition to killing infantry and repulsing aircraft.

    The problem is that not every single thing in the game is as good as that. MAXes and the Lightning are a good example. If you are in a MAX currently, your AA capability varies wildly with your faction and weapon, and none of these options except the Comet (which is broken good and is going to be beat with the nerf stick soon enough) is very effective. The Lightning is in a similar situation. While it’s guns could technically be used versus air, the skyguard changes it to massive antiair which has no way of defending itself versus ground threats.

    In fact, most of these ground versus air discrepancies and related to the fact that Air to Ground fire (esp. the amazingly broken rocket pods) is absurdly strong for no good reason. You need ground to air or air to air in order to win. If you don’t, then a single guy with rockets will endlessly destroy everything you own and there is literally not a thing you can do about it. There are people who are battle rank 20+ purely because they spend most of their time farming kills with rocket pods versus targets that can’t fight back. The rocket pods, are, of course, an item you can only buy with araxium.

    If Sony really wants to carry on their thing, they need to consider the impact that a specialized weapon has versus a baseline weapon. Because currently, all they would need to do is make the rocket pods absurdly expensive, and then say “Hey, this is really expensive. Pay us money so you can get araxium twice as fast so you can get them before everyone else. But since everyone can get them eventually it is totally not pay to win for serious.”

    • Asurmen says:

      Rocket pods have been nerfed into the ground. Funnily enough, the only thing they’re good for right now is vs other air. and I assume the AA bit meant AV as AA max is the same for each faction?

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