City of F2P

I just saw the news via PC Gamer that City of Heroes is going free-to-play. I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m sure that NCSoft and Paragon Studios have been looking for ways to renew interest in the game and saw Champions Online’s renewed success. I’m just glad that NCSoft didn’t shutdown the game as they’ve never been shy about that before, although admittedly for much younger games.

Free or not, I’m not planning on going to go back to the game. Just like with Age of Conan, the subscription isn’t what keeps me from playing. It’s time.

Unlike Conan though, I do like the Paragon City setting and lore. I played back when a comic came in the mail every month and I enjoyed the two books that were released. But the lore doesn’t offset the aging character models and combat system. I prefer the combat pacing and mechanics better in Champions Online, as well as the open power system and newer graphics. The only reasons I’ve gone back to CoH in recent months have been for nostalgia during free reactivation weekends.

The F2P plan itself is a pretty standard hybrid subscription model with an in-game store, VIP members getting point stipends monthly, and separate tiers for free players, those who’ve spent some money in the store and subscribers. The most interesting feature is that they are creating a VIP only server and giving VIPs one free transfer a month.

Hopefully the new model works just as well for Paragon Studios and NCSoft as it has for Cryptic and Turbine.

CoH Revisited

City of Heroes recently offered a free weekend to former subscribers. Even though I don’t play any longer, I always like to take the opportunity to revisit my characters.

I loved this game when it first came out. I played from beta on for about three years before I cancelled. I didn’t quit because I hated the game or anything, I was just ready to move on to other things. I had always planned to return but somehow I never did. I just didn’t have an urge to revisit the superhero genre until Champions Online came out.

This was actually my second (free) retry of CoH since CO launched. The first time I really just revisited my characters and checked out the Mission Architect, but I didn’t really play. This second try, I spent a couple of hours playing my level 28 energy blaster, Silver Hunter, and my level 20 tank, Blue Ram.

I had a lot of fun, but I don’t plan to resubscribe because of the differences in the two combat systems. I prefer the combat mechanics and pacing in Champions over City of Heroes. The combat is faster paced, better incorporates positioning and movement, and is overall more action-oriented. City of Heroes is just less engaging for me. Blocking in Champions is a very simple mechanic, but it has really changed my mindset. Several times when fighting with gangs in Paragon City and I kept trying to block attacks.

The other thing that keeps me from resubscribing is the archetype system. This is something I’ve never been happy with. Back when CoH was originally being designed the skill system was going to be open. At some point that was changed because it was too easy for players to design an unplayable character. So they created the archetype system and locked different powersets into them. Unfortunately this limits on what kinds of heroes you can create. I enjoyed my tank character, but I always wanted him to be a bit more of a brute than he was. The Going Rogue expansion will make it possible to make a villain and then redeem them to become a hero, so I could get around that, but frankly that sounds like too much effort.

In Champions the powers are all open to you, there’s more freedom to build themed heroes. Of course you can still create an underpowered hero, but I’m willing to accept that risk. With the ability to undo recent powers or just completely retcon using either in-game resources or real money, I much prefer having more options and less structure.

As much as I loved being in Paragon City again, I’m not planning to move back.

Postscript: By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet, go over to Dusty’s blog and check out the excellent Dual Pistols video he made.

Looking Back at 2009

I think 2009 was a good year for games, even MMOs. Sure WoW is still on top, Warhammer continues to struggle, there’s not been any revolutionizing innovation in the MMO genre, but I don’t really care about any of that. All of the games I started the year playing (EVE and LoTRO) I still enjoy, and I found a new game (Champions) that I like an expect to be playing through the whole of 2010. (more…)