"Free-to-play" and "microtransactions" are dirty terms to some. That's understandable. Famous Facebook Skinner boxes like Farmville have clouded attitudes toward today's free-to-play games, and there's an assumption all microtransaction-driven game design is handicapped by the need to create ways to charge players. For some games, this is certainly true, but there are excellent free-to-play games out there that represent good value for money. Below we've assessed some of the most common methods used by free-to-play games to make money from players, and highlighted some of the fairest examples of free-to-play that are worth your time.
Free To Play
Hawken's latest beta patch is live, dropping a new mech and a new co-op game mode onto the mech shooter's dystopian landscape. Code-named Predator, the new mech has some decidedly asymmetrical tactics and weapons at its disposal, according to information on the "Invasion" update released by developer Adhesive Games.
MechWarrior Online doesn’t have melee combat, but it does have plenty in common with boxing. Both divide fighters into weight classes. Both test your pain tolerance against your damage output. In both, fighters target their opponents’ injuries while twisting to protect their own wounds.
And “brawler,” appropriately, is the nickname given to mechs built to fight within 100 or 200 meters. Here, at close range, MechWarrior’s resemblance to hand-to-hand combat is clearest: clumps of missiles hook into steel ribs, cockpits rattle like concussed skulls, assault mechs swing with every weapon until their arms fall off.
According to an email sent to Star Wars: The Old Republic players, BioWare will soon begin a “Character Name Renewal” program, targeting inactive players. Free-to-play characters who have not logged in to the game for long periods of time will have their names released into the general pool for anyone to use.
Free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile will emerge blinking from the beta dungeon later today, its bugs slain and features looted. With the game levelling up to v1.0, developers Grinding Gear will be dramatically expanding the game, adding a new class, areas and enemies, and new challenge leagues for those players looking for some advanced mouse-driven biffing.
Though it hasn’t actually released yet, Mojang’s new game Scrolls has already far exceeded the indie developer’s goals. After selling 40,000 units to become profitable in its first week of paid beta access, Scrolls sold another 60,000 copies and finally slowed down. Now that sales have plateaued, lead designer Jakob Porsér says that a free-to-play structure could be in the game’s future.
As this cinematic Warface trailer makes clear, online multiplayer shooters are a lot like Chess. You remember Chess, the game about the panicked movement of pieces around a board that's being assaulted by grenade spam and AK47 fire. Every time you take a piece, it respawns after a few seconds, leading to advanced tactics like surrounding the resurrection spots until the arbitrary round timer has elapsed. No wonder it became the game of choice for some of history's greatest minds. Esteemed tacticians like Custer, Napoleon and, er, Michael Bay. Probably. In non-Chess related news, Warface is now out in Europe and North America.
It might be a little tough to recall the exact nature of Extraction, seeing how it's one of the blandest game titles around, but I'll help you out a bit. The game used to be called Dirty Bomb, and it still is Splash Damage's London-set free-to-play FPS. Whatever it's called, it's now entered closed beta - you can sign up for shooty funtimes right here.
Magicka Wizard Wars, the free-to-play game I once described as a game of Dota 2 in which everyone on both teams is playing Invoker, is now available on Steam Early Access. You can claim your spot as a founder in this arcane altercation with three different tiers, starting at $13. Jumping in at the $20 tier gets you a free copy of Crusader Kings II, which is half of that game's current Steam price.
Crytek's free-to-play shooty shooting game Warface is already open for business in Russia and China, and after a long Western beta period, it will very soon open shop over here too. Monday 21st October is the launch date to write on your face in military crayon, though you can sign up in advance if you already know what online handle you're going to use. (Something with the word 'face' in it, presumably.) To mark the occasion, Crytek have released a 'going live' trailer, below, though they've neglected to include Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher.
Hawken devs are looking to roll out official leaderboards for the free-to-play game in November, according to Adhesive Games' latest community updates. The move is part of a plan by developers to make the mech shooter a home for competitive as well as casual pilots, says game designer Chris Vance.
Path of Exile has been in beta for roughly 8,000 years, but its journey is finally about to come to an end. As revealed to Shacknews, the free-to-play action RPG will escape open beta and emerge blinking into the real world on October 23rd, accompanied by a new prestige class.
This latest Survarium trailer is a pretty good showcase for the game's lovingly rendered ruined world, but it's also one of the more exciting 'let's show off one of our game maps' videos I've watched. It has a narrative and everything, telling the story of a sniper perched on top of an abandoned church, and some dude who tries to take him down. What is Survarium again? It's the free-to-play multiplayer shooter from former Stalker 2 devs, and you can still sign up for the alpha over here.
Crytek’s free-to-play military FPS, Warface, has just received a free update called the “Sneak Phase” that adds in new maps, female soldiers, and a few other goodies for those who’ve managed to find a way into the closed beta.
New information on MechWarrior Online's Community Warfare came to light at the game's launch event in San Francisco last week, describing for the first time how the upcoming expansion might function. MWO creative director Bryan Ekman said faction warfare will add a leveling system and affect multiple areas of the game's economy as well as territory on its Inner Sphere star map.
First, the bad news: a full sequel to 2003’s Legacy of Kain: Defiance was in development ... until it was cancelled. The good news is that the multiplayer mode from that cancelled project has been saved and built up into online multiplayer game called Nosgoth, set in the Legacy of Kain universe.
Dota 2's First Blood update looks set to bring local play, a new game mode, and a better backpack to the ultra-popular free-to-play game. The patch drops September 23 and also includes a host of smaller tweaks and changes to Dota 2's interface, economy, and community features.
It makes me immensely happy that C&C: Red Alert's Hell March intro has become the zenith of sci-fi war trailers. Do you have a game featuring conflict, explosions and heavy metal machines? Then you'll need some industrial-rock guitar, pounding drums, and faux-military chanting. MechWarrior Online has now ticked over to the v1.0 milestone. It's a game featuring conflict, explosions and heavy metal machines. Let's take a look at what's in the launch trailer.
A few months ago, Hi-Rez's Todd Harris announced that development on Tribes: Ascend was suspended, with the studio focusing its efforts their third-person DoTA-like Smite. As fans of that game grew concerned that its own continued development would eventually be in danger, the studio's CEO Erez Goren has posted a candid address to the Smite Reddit page, addressing Tribes' development, its financial troubles, and Smite's success in comparison. His comments also call into question their plans to release map-making tools for Tribes: Ascend.
A Twitter reply from Gearbox president Randy Pitchford has confirmed that Homeworld: Shipbreakers, the game formerly known as Hardware: Shipbreakers, is no longer planning to use a free-to-play business model. While you could reasonably argue that Twitter isn't the best medium for divulging information about the funding plans of an anticipated RTS resurrection, realise that it could be worse. He could have done it as a Tumblr gif wall.