Champions Online: Free for All Update

The free-to-play superhero MMO has added a bunch of new features in their latest release. Let is the rundown:

Hideouts:

 

hideout

Every hero should have a place to call home and get away from it all. Hideouts come in four themed sets—Basement, Cave, Moon and Sanctum—and allow you to customize, socialize and create a unique space all to your hero’s own.
In this first Hideouts release, you can choose from among these Phase One thematic options:

  • Mom’s Basement
  • Industrial Cave
  • Sci-fi Moonbase
  • Mystic Sanctum
To learn more about Hideouts, check out screens and watch the Hideouts Preview Trailer, visit the Hideouts info page. You’ll also find instructions there on how Gold Members can claim their FREE Phase One Hideout, as well as how to purchase additional Hideouts and customize them to fit your hero’s tastes.

 

Aftershock Comic Series Finale:
 

The final issue of our Aftershock Comic Series is now available! Issue 6: The King is Dead puts you face-to-face with the Kings of Edom in a struggle to prevent the Earth’s catastrophic destruction. To find out how it all plays out, log in and play this final issue of the series. Don’t miss out on special Comic Series Rewards and Item Drops as you play through the exciting conclusion of Aftershock!

 

Dark Ages Fantasy Costume Set:
 

The age of chivalry is back! Your hero will feel like fashion royalty with this medieval costume pack. And as an added bonus, this fantasy set includes the Medium Blade Rapier and Heavy Weapon Royal Scepter. Now available to purchase in the C-Store.costume
If you’re interested in becoming a Gold Member, please visit our online store.Thank you for your continued support and we’ll see you soon in Millennium City!- The Champions Online Team

 

Will Valve’s New Game Be Free To Play?

 

Valve’s New Game Be Free To Play

Steam, the online game distributor, has recently embraced the free to play phenomenon gaining popularity in North America and is now offering this genre an outlet. With games like Champions Online, Spiral Knights, and Global Agenda all feeling resurgence in their populations from this new spotlight its only natural for Valve to try their hand at the F2P model.

Why not test out this success on something deep-rooted but admired? Steam has already taken one of their most popular games, Team Fortress 2, and given it a free to play make over. Has their been any success in this move? Apparently so, since it is rumored that Valve is going to make a F2P game, but what future feature project could they be thinking of making F2P?

Could it be Defense of the Ancients 2? By all logical means, it sounds like this would be the most likely model for success for DotA2. Why? Because its main contender is none other than League of Legends, a game that has garnered international popularity with its free to play model, microtransaction payment method, and E-sport fame.

If Valve intends to yank players away from a game that requires no down payment or box sales this seems like the most likely means to be able to strive in the DotA Clone market against such a heavy hitter such as LoL. If they manage to make DotA 2 an entity of its own while keeping to the core concepts of the original it could possibly dethrone or spar head to head against its competitor. Good luck with that feat, Valve.

Cryptic Studios Has Moved On But Have Their Games?


For those of you in the dark about the current state of Cryptic Studios, the group that created mega super hero sensation titles like City of Heroes and… that’s it, their sugar daddy decided it was time for a split. Apparently MMO’s cost a lot of money to produce and maintain and ones that fail to meet an expected revenue end up emptying the wallets of publishers. Cryptic Studios made two games that fell short of those expectations. One, Champions Online, fell flat on its face while another, Star Trek Online, didn’t have the staying power to hold subscriptions before another mass MMO exodus ate the expensive IP dry. Sure they have a healthy population for the amount of content they offer but it is not enough to earn back the losses suffered by Atari, the previously mentioned sugar daddy.

What does Atari do now? They decided continue to maintain Cryptic Studios projects while they put up a professional Craigslist ad for someone to buy them. Who went to grab them? Perfect Worlds did! Yes, Perfect Fucking Worlds! Not knocking the company that released amazing games like Torchlight and… that’s it, but this move shows how the company is beginning to make strides into the US online gaming market.

So, did Perfect Worlds make a worthwhile purchase? I decided to suffer the pain of what could possibly be the equivalent of removing my arm with a blunt saw to find out so you don’t have to!

First up, I decided to try out Champions Online. Awhile back I did play Champions Online when it was in Beta and then during release and I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the flow of the game and the cluster fuck of their free form power system. Was I going to suffer the same kind of fate?

No, I did not! Champions Online has made some great improvements to help with the disaster of their free form system. First of all, with their free to play model you can’t go with the free form system and are limited with a couple of premade archetypes that have to fill out a certain role. Why is this a positive thing? Before, everyone just made whatever they wanted and just blew everything up. There were barely any real tanks or healers and it promoted uber recommended builds rather than true individuality. With its current archetype system, you get some diversity but not full free reign.

As for content, the game originally released by throwing you into a city wide disaster during a Qularr invasion, handing you a key to the city, and then shipping you the fuck off to a desert or to the Canadian Wilderness. Nothing makes a hero feel more welcomed to the world than being kicked out of the city and immediately transported off to regions they have no interest in. Now after 3(?) content packs and a revamped quest line where you start your adventures in the city for a good amount of time before being sent away, the game has everything you might want to find in a super hero MMO.

With so many costume customization options for your characters, a decent trade skill system, and powers and goods that can be purchased from the C-Store, the game really excels when it comes to being free and a pay to play.

Is it really worth it as a viable free to play model? Definitely! With heavy customization, a decent amount of content that can be expanded through the C-Store marketplace it runs on a great free to play model with an amazing community that will keep you there for a decent month or two.

Now is the game worth $15 a month? I would say yes! With all the features previously mentioned topped with a great community, someone who is active with the players they game with will find Champions Online engrossing enough to stick around for a month or two as well.

End of part 1. Part 2 to conclude with Star Trek Online.

On the Record: Champions Online goes Free-to-Play

Champions Online Free for All Box
Champions Online Free For All

Champions Online

Late last week we told you about Champions Online going free-to-play. This week we wanted to go a bit deeper into this story and find out about the reasoning behind the move as well as this emerging new model for MMO’s to follow. Obsolete Gamer was able to talk with Shannon Posniewski, Executive Producer at Cryptic Studios about the changes.

Obsolete Gamer: What were some of the reasons for wanting to make Champions free-to-play?

Shannon: We think that a lot of players have made a transition from wanting subscriptions to wanting to pay as they go. Traditionally, North American gamers have preferred all-inclusive subscriptions to microtransacted games. This has changed over the last two or three years. The advent of microtransaction-based social games helped bring about acceptance of this model, I think. At minimum, it proved a robust market existed.

 

We were finding that many people who played our trial loved the game, but weren’t as willing to subscribe monthly. So we began to explore going free-to-play. We decided to provide a hybrid model because there still were plenty of players who prefer subscriptions. At the business level, subscriptions are nice because they are more predictable than a la carte item purchases.

All of this is driven by our desire to have more people playing Champions. Having more people in the game is better for a bunch of reasons. Mainly, it’s more fun to have a lot of people around on the social level. There’s more heroes to do missions with, chat with, duel with, and so on. It’s just a better game when there are a lot of people to play with.

Of course, on the business side, having more players means that there are more people who may spend some money. We use this revenue to add new content, powers, zones, and so on. So, the more people who come in and spend money, the more things we can add to and improve in Champions.

Obsolete Gamer: Did the recent release of DC Universe Online have an impact on your decision pro or con?

Shannon: Not really. We had been considering going free-to-play for a while.

Obsolete Gamer: Some fans feel that when a MMO goes free-to-play that means it is on its way out, what can you tell us to counter this belief?

Shannon: Well, for us it definitely doesn’t mean that Champs is on its way out. The early success we’re already experiencing with Free for All is great, but we always figured the transition would encourage more users to play. And, given what great competitors like Turbine have achieved with their games, it’s clear that a switch in business model can actually mean new life, not less life. So I think that’s a misconception some users have.

It is a big change to move from a subscription model to a microtransaction model. It’s frightening to the bean counters because it means potentially giving up a nice, even flow of revenue for something which is comparably unpredictable. They see such a switch as very risky. I suspect, then, that some studios may wait until it’s too late before they bite the bullet and try to switch. By then, though, they may have lost the social momentum that MMOs need to survive.

I think the shift in how players want to pay for games has made it rough going for subscription-only games over the last couple years. We’ve been watching this change here at Cryptic for a long while. All our games have had in-game stores, which we used to get our feet wet before taking the plunge. The comments about loving Champs, but not wanting to pay a subscription, became so prevalent that we decided to go for it.

Obsolete Gamer: Does your free-to-play model follow anyone else’s or is it original and if so how?

Shannon: We use a hybrid model that combines free-to-play and subscription aspects. A number of other games do the same kind of thing. We decided to make it as simple as possible, though. There are only two kinds of players, Silver and Gold. Gold Members are subscribers. Silver Players are not. Some other models have four of five levels, which we found confusing.

A lot of the specifics are different in terms of what you get when you are a Gold Member. We wanted to find something in Champs that a casual player might not really care about and provide that to Gold Members as part of the subscription, since they’re enthusiast players who would care. We decided that being able to make a free-form hero (choosing powers and abilities from any framework as you wish) was a good split. We found that brand-new players were often confused about this anyway; they were used to having the role of their characters more defined and their advancement more tightly controlled.

We also don’t break our players up. They all play in the same universe. And, we don’t gate content. We decided to let everyone play all of the core content in the game and advance to the maximum level for free.

In the store, some items we sell will be familiar: XP bonuses, health buffs, damage buffs, and so on. Other items are pretty special to Champions: transform into a werewolf, growing and shrinking, and calling for a sidekick are examples. Of course, we also sell costume parts like we always have. We looked at other games to help us set prices on the items we sell in the store.

Obsolete Gamer: What are the main advantages for those who still pay monthly or are part of the gold membership?

Shannon: Anyone who subscribes, either by paying monthly or with a lifetime subscription, is a Gold Member.

Gold Members are entitled to many things that a Silver Player has to pay for. All the Adventure Packs, power frameworks, and Archetypes are included at no further charge, including any new ones introduced in the future. They have access to an extra dozen costume packs, and several travel powers for free. They also receive a stipend of 400 tokens every month.

But the big feature, which Silver Players cannot get, is the ability to build a free-form hero. Silver Players must choose an Archetype to base their hero on. This specifies which powers the hero can have and what role they play, much like a class in other MMORPGs. A free-form hero has practically no restrictions on which powers they can have. They can choose from any framework they want to make exactly the hero they imagine.

We actually have a handy Features Matrix online to better describe what Gold Members and Silvers Players get… http://champions-online.com/f2p_matrix

Obsolete Gamer: As for updates and expansions how will that be handled with free-to-play?

Shannon: Right now, our Adventure Packs (which can be thought of as micro-expansions) are free for Gold Members and have a small cost for Silver Players. Any new gameplay or systems features we introduce will likely be free for everyone. Our updates are free for everyone.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you think the a-la-carte system of buying various items and access is the future for MMO’s?

Shannon: I think a hybrid model is likely to go on for some time, maybe forever. Some people (and certainly the business) prefer subscriptions. But I think that the a-la-carte model is here to stay and will likely be the predominant revenue stream from here on out.

Champions Online goes Free for All

Champions Online Logo
Champions Online Logo

With many other MMO’s going the free to play and purchase additional premium features route and the recent release of DC Universe online it is no surprise to see Champions follow suit.  Today Atari and Cryptic studios launched a free-to-play version of their super hero MMO.

You will be able to download Champions and play for free. Adventure Packs, items, powers and costume pieces can be selected a la carte inside Cryptic’s C-Store.  For those who are gold member everything will stay the same and anyone can still upgrade to gold status to receive pretty much all the a-la-carte items.

“We’re thrilled to finally be able to launch Champions Online: Free for All,” said John Needham, CEO, Cryptic Studios. “The Champions team has put an incredibly amount of effort into making Free for All an amazing free-to-play MMO every gamer can enjoy at no cost.”

Here are the options that come with the Free for all launch:

·         Play Everything – With the exception of special Adventure Packs, all the content in Champions Online: Free For All is available to every player. Once a player enters a location within the MMO game world, nothing is off-limits!

·         Unlimited Play Time – Play as much as you like, as long as you like, at absolutely no cost. No subscription or credit card required.

·         Your Own Hero, Your Own Story – Become a hero, encounter his or her Nemesis, and advance to maximum level at no cost.

·         Play Your Way – Utilize the optional web-based and in-game C-Store to purchase gameplay upgrades or additional premium content.

To learn more about the game and download the software head on over to the Champions Online website.

MMO’s Coming Out In 2011 Are Already Behind The Curve

2011 sure seemed like a year that would be promising us some exciting upcoming titles in the MMORPG world. With Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rifts of Telara, and DC Universe Online it appeared at first glance that there finally would be some promising games out there which fought back against the monster known as World of Warcraft. I, for one, was in this crowd of believers looking forward to something fresh and a chance to move onto to greener fields.

Rift MMO plant
Rift MMO plant

Unfortunately, from my time playing the beta for some of these games and then also playing World of Warcraft’s latest expansion Cataclysm, I have to say that World of Warcraft has trumped the genre yet again.

But Umar, how can you say that? Those games are in beta and things always change!

Yeah, okay. People said that about Final Fantasy XIV, Age Of Conan, Warhammer Online, and Champions Online. Where are they now? Age of Conan is struggling to show some respectable numbers while being considered another tally of fuck ups by Funcom, discussions about putting FFXIV on a free to play model are on the table with Square-Enix already boasting a whopping 2 million active characters (look closely at the bolded word), Mythic is essentially dissolving with employee blogs ranting about the horribly typical EA experience they are suffering from (WAR really needs a F2P model if it’s going to stand up ever again), and Champions is already on a F2P market and is shitting bricks from the upcoming DC title.

Beta did not change those games. They have remained garbage and will never be something worth a purchase.

It’s time to take off those rosy glasses of hope and look at reality for a minute. Nothing has come to close to taking a slice of this market no matter how much you whine.
For the longest time, you’d hear me complaining about World of Warcraft and its flaws and its lack of this and that, but those were the days of Burning Crusade. The game has progressed leaps and bounds from release. I honestly have no qualms about it. What were the typical issues people had with WoW?
It’s too easy, Umar!

Okay, you nerdy Sephiroth cosplaying queer. Have you played Cataclysm? A PUG can barely clear a heroic now if most of the people you group with have downs. Oh, and don’t say “The WoW community is filled with bad players.” That’s easy to say. Most people I know that say that and then either play WoW or another MMO with me are usually just as bad as any other idiot I could PUG with.

WoW’s graphics are out of date!

Yeah, they are but it works with their art style. You need things to look pretty to have fun? Plants VS Zombies wasn’t enjoyable? Mario Kart isn’t fun? Let’s go play something pretty like Final Fantasy XIV. I’m sure that’ll be a great experience. Or let’s play Age of Conan where even the most high end computers at the time were struggling to display some of the graphics. Graphics shouldn’t be on the top of your list for playability as opposed to the actual style of the game.

I think you’re stupid and gay, Umar! Star Wars is going to be awesome!

Thanks, asshole. Enjoy Star Wars then. I’m not telling people to not play it as much as I’m saying that future upcoming MMORPGs are already behind what Cataclysm has presented. Star Wars will have what? Epic dialogue and a story? That is fantastic. Cataclysm already makes your character feel like they were part of a story, maybe not on the scale of Star Wars with all the cinematics, camera angles, and voice acting, but they did make your character more involved in the storyline.

Bioware already claimed that they won’t have much endgame and that they encourage people to roll alts to see the story from a different perspective. This is a “Choose your destiny” book in virtual form. All you’re getting is a story and not many innovative mechanics. They barely ever talk about actual gameplay and mechanics as much as they talk about the story portion of the game and the classes. “Hey guys we’ve got spaceships and Jedi! Cool shit, huh?” This is a niche game and once your story is over that’s it. Bioware isn’t known for making difficult games that require strategy and skill. Putting Mass Effect 2 on harder difficulties just meant you took more damage. Wowzers!

Rifts of Telara has already thrown in the towel by conceding the fact their game is more like Vanilla WoW than WoW in its current state. Vanilla WoW was one of the most raw and broken starts to an MMO. Gamers today are crying for innovation and polish. Not a throwback to olden times. Rifts is going to be what Vanguard was to Everquest 1. An old school reincarnation that will fall flat in the present.

The only game I think that can even grab a slice of the MMO market is DCUO. I’m not talking about a game that will take subs from World of Warcraft but a game that can fill that super hero niche that Champions failed to quench. City of Heroes is already too old school and bland even with all their amazing patches. DCUO has that opportunity to grab the market from those games and even pull in more people who cream to “Smallville” and “The Dark Knight”. It isn’t competing against the elephant in the room but against the carrion dogs roaming about.

If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. You can think what you want and I can still think you’re a bag of dicks. What am I saying is going to come to true because my word is not only correct but absolute. These MMOs will fall flat with the exception of DCUO if Sony actually markets a game this time. Time will allow you to see the truth and your bottled-up, unbridled nerd pride will nourish me when you fail to accept my prophecy.

Free to Play. If You’re Going to Fail, Get Better At Failing.

Everquest 2 F2P lol
Everquest 2 F2P lol

For the past six years, MMORPGs have been failing. Be it because the companies believe releasing beta quality games, far-fetched mechanics, or releasing a game that has the savory indulgence of a stale piece of bread, the genre has seen some gloomy days. World of Warcraft has created a boom for many money hungry companies and jaded developers that think releasing a game in this genre will garner them fame and money. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case and nothing has been able to compete at the level that Blizzard is currently at.

Let’s face it. Very few MMORPGs have had amazing launches and it is because of this lack luster grand opening that a lot of people just get turned away. How can these companies salvage their investment? How can they bring in money to a sinking ship? How can they increase their gaming audience?

The answer lies to the Far East. It is in this land of Zerg obsessed gamers and mob-grinding gurus that holds the key to America’s salvation in the MMO Market. Asia has been using a model known to many as Free to Play for a very long time. Players are allowed to download the game from a website and jump right in. Sure, there are some restrictions that hold them back from unlocking the full potential of the game but it is a better option than a 14 day free trial.

“But Umar”, you may find yourself pondering, “I know Asia is known for crazy people but this sounds insane! How do the Crazians make their money?!”

Very simple, Little Billy. Crazian MMO Developers make their money from an in-game market place where players can unlock classes, races, potions, cosmetics, and content for real life money. While not every player’s going to feed cash to companies for a game they play for free, they do garner in more money than $15 a month. Some players are so into power gaming and/or cosmetics that they’ll easily throw down more than $15 a month in purchases via this market place without even thinking it through.

Why adopt this model though? The answer is simply because it seems to actually work.

Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online was far from being considered a true MMORPG by many of today’s standards and it was on the brink of extinction. However, unlike the dodo bird, DnD Online was not ready to leave this world. In one last hurrah, it released a Free to Play model and quickly flourished. The game’s income reportedly jumped by double and it felt a chance to thrive. Life began to ebb back into this would be abortion and deliver it salvation.

To follow suit, many MMORPGs began to jump onto the bandwagon. Lord of the Rings Online, while not a failure by many aspects, saw a chance to increase its player base with this new subscription model. It held back many features to free players but the market place allowed them to expand further into the world.

Around the same time LOTRO adopted the model, Everquest 2 wet its feet in the F2P world with Everquest 2 Extended, which included 8 classes, 4 races, 80 levels, and 5 expansions for free.

Now, companies like Cryptic, probably persuaded by Atari, are hitting the F2P model to save their abortion known as Champions Online and also the acclaimed Star Trek Online. Some may know my dislike for Cryptic in general and I don’t want to bore anyone with my vendetta but these games were Free to Play quality on release and never should have been Pay to Play, but I digress. They are now hitting the high road and going F2P.

Those seem to be some of the bigger MMOs released in the past couple of years that really need this chance to boost their communities. One MMO that I am waiting to take the dive into this model is Warhammer Online. The game has been a downward spiral since release and while I doubt EA even cares about the game still (they have been systematically dismembering Mythic) a F2P model for WAR might be able to save it from its dying breath.

Sadly, though, some MMORPGs that haven’t even had a year to fix their abominations are already looking to hit the F2P market as well. Yes, I’m talking about Final Fantasy XIV. It has been reported that they are currently seeking a chance to hit into this model to save their plummeting shares and overall consumer backlash.

I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about this model and some find it “greedy” that companies are willing to push out virtual stores but I don’t find a problem with this at all. Most of these games offer a chance to unlock the full game for the standard $15 a month and no one is forcing you to purchase anything from the marketplace to begin with. Most of the items these games offer aren’t game changing and aren’t required to excel in the game so there is no reason for some of the criticism. However, regardless of whether it is a good model or not there will always be people who will complain.

The Free to Play opportunity that has raged through the past two years seems to be giving players many chances to see more of what is out there than WoW. While it is good for companies to regain their money and enlarge their player base, it also gives players a chance to expand their horizons onto what is out there without feeling guilty for dropping 40-50 dollars on a game that could be releasing in beta quality.

How do you feel about the Free to Play model many MMORPG’s seem to be taking? Would you like to see future games continuing with this setup and if not, why?