I believe this is my official first post for 2012; so happy new year and all that jazz!
Kicking off the new year I want to address a trend in the MMO world that I'm becoming more a fan of every passing day. This trend is the "free-to-play MMO". Developers are aware that we're still in a down economy with little to no end in sight, and as such more and more f2p games are coming out all the time. I'm going to take some time to talk about a few that I keep coming back to, and one MMO that I used to play quite heavily that has just recently gone f2p.
As players have known for quite some time, Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) has been f2p. Turbine has a fantastic model for game developers to follow on how to make a free MMO work with balanced play and for-sale content. I've stated in previous posts that Turbine allows all players (free and subscribers) to earn the currency that you can spend in the DDO store so there end up being few differences between free and subscribing players. Which is nice.
World of Tanks started out, and remains f2p for the player base. And as previously stated, while I have enjoyed playing WoT quite a bit, Wargaming.net restrict some of the in-game currency to RMT (real money transfer) thereby limiting their player base on what the players have access to. As I've pointed out before this is essentially selling power. Despite that, I still play the game because it is fun. Well Wargaming.net have recently announced that World of Warplanes will soon be available for closed beta testing. Should their model for WoWP follow the model of WoT, WoWP will be in open beta not too long after the closed beta beings. Needless to say I am waiting for the beta signups to start. Wargaming.net have announced both the American and German Flight Trees, and have shown a few glimpses of the aircraft available; they have yet to announce what the third (or fourth) flight trees will be yet: Russian, Japanese, British, etc, and I am very excited to find out. There have been rumors that since both WoT and WoWP will share account information and the "world" that when clan wars begin any clan with a success in WoWP will have an airstrike available to them in WoT. I have no idea how feasible this is, but it is interesting. I also have no idea if Wargaming.net will continue to feature the three "classes" of craft. In WoT you have tanks, tank destroyers, and Self-Propelled Guns aka artillery. I can see having fighters and bombers filling the tank and SPG roles, but I really can't think of any aircraft that would fill the tank destroyer role. Additionally, if the Brits don't have a substantial amount of warbirds in WoWP I may have to go with the American tree for two reasons: the F-4U Corsair and the P-51 Mustang. Yummy. As a final notation about the games Wargaming.net have, they already have a website set up for World of Battleships. I could easily see how the three "classes" of craft would fit in here. Battleships would be tanks, aircraft carriers would be SPGs, and submarines would be the tank destroyers. There is almost no information available on WoB yet, but I'm sure you can tell I'll be on the lookout.
A new (to me) MMO that I've encountered is this fantastically amazing game called Vindictus. Nexon have done a fantastic job with the graphics and the physics in this game. The game currently features four playable "classes" that are gender locked (currently 2 male, 2 female) but despite that they are all pretty fun to play. The storyline in the game is very well done, and the NPC interaction has been done in my opinion, brilliantly. Only the players, and monsters in dungeons are fully rendered. NPCs are simply 2D pictures that display different facial expression depending on the tone of the dialog. Picking up new quests and turning in quests to/from NPCs is incredibly simple compared to other MMOs in a similar genre. Take the time to play this, it is fantastic. I'm on the West Server.
Finally this morning, I want to mention that Star Trek Online (STO) has finally gone f2p, with the official announcement this week. Perfect World have a series of f2p games that I have tried out about a year ago and never bothered to post about because while they were graphically very pretty, after leaving the starter area and getting out into the rest of the game worlds, it felt like I was being forced into purchasing content in order to complete quests. However very little has changed in STO since I last played. Cryptic had made several updates to the game to make it more enjoyable and they increased the level cap (which is nice). A note for anyone interested in playing STO now: after downloading the game and installing the game, it will auto prompt you for a CD key. Do not fear! Close down the installer at that point since it's complete and go create a log in through Perfect World. You can get the link from the website for Star Trek Online. If you happen to already have a Cryptic sign in, you can use your old username/password and log in to your old characters. With a new account...well you know what to do. Since so many changes have taken place during the time that I was away, I have elected to restart with some new characters, and I have to say that the game is just as, if not more, fun than when I played the first time.
I'll leave it at this point for now, but I want to encourage you to look at f2p MMOs, and to not just discount them because they are free to play. Game developers are people too, they live in the same economy as the rest of us, and for the most part understand that gaming can be expensive - they're looking out for us too.