It’s the elephant in the room that nobody talks about.
My top five free-to-play FPS
Note: This is strictly for FPS titles. I might have my own personal lists for third-person shooters or role-playing games down the line.
[5. Blacklight: Retribution]
- Lots of customization, down to individual gun parts
- Enemies are easy to distinguish compared to many other modern shooters, and various parts of the UI are tweakable (HUD, crosshair color/style, etc. for free)
- HRV (temporary wallhack available to everyone) balanced very well
- Fast-paced gameplay in a futuristic cyberpunk/dystopian setting
If you’re craving a fast-paced modern FPS experience with a more futuristic feel, Blacklight: Retribution is right up your alley. Gameplay speed is on par with COD, but without the game-breaking killstreaks. HRV allows players to invoke a temporary wallhack, at the expense of being unable to shoot; it’s very well-balanced and has a cooldown that will encourage smart use of the mechanic. There is a huge variety of customization with a number of different gun “bases” (stocks) as well, meaning that there is something for everyone. The game includes a co-op horde mode as well (Onslaught).
Free player experience: The default assault rifle is very powerful; there is no need to buy additional primary stocks, as simply upgrading your existing gun parts will make you a ruthless killing machine. In fact, it’s outright banned in many community scrims.
There is definitely a GP (in-game currency) grind in the earlier levels if you’re aiming for specific parts or equipment, but everything that matters are unlockable with GP. This is a pay-for-early-access F2P title.
- A decently-paced mech FPS that isn’t the snoozefest that MechWarrior Online is
- Arena-style FPS without the breakneck speed of its cousins (UT, Quake)
- Matchmaking that places you with others around your skill level based on a hidden ELO value
If you’re an avid multiplayer FPS player that likes mechs, Hawken’s here for you. Since the Steam transition update, the game’s pace has sped up a bit, but it’s still slower than most contemporary shooters. It’s definitely more of an arena FPS (albeit heavier) than a mech simulator, but this is probably something that has a wider appeal. Aside from the usual team deathmatch and co-op modes, Hawken has two objective-based modes as well, including the unique Siege mode, where your team will attempt to launch ships to defeat the enemy while defending your own anti-air.
Free player experience: The starter mech, the CR-T Recruit, may not earn any points for style, but it’s a very viable mech that is very well-rounded and can fulfill many roles. It’s a personal favorite of mine as well, and I use it on a regular basis against other players that uses other types of mechs.
Similar to Blacklight: Retribution, the in-game currency grind can take awhile sometimes, but it’s far more bearable in Hawken. This is a pay-for-early-access F2P title, where everything that matters is accessible for free players.
[3. Team Fortress 2]
- Team-based FPS with a great sense of style and humor
- With nine different classes, there’s something for everyone
- Hat simulator
At this point, Team Fortress 2 is no stranger to the F2P scene. The team-based gameplay has the polish that you’d expect from a Valve title, and it’s one of those games that simply feels fun from its design and aesthetics. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s also driven heavily by the community, which helps with the longevity of the game. If you’re looking for a fun and accessible team-based FPS, look no further.
Free player experience: All classes are unlocked from the start, and free players earn additional equipment by simply playing the game. Cosmetics play a heavy part of the microtransactions.
While the option to directly purchase weaponry is available, it’s also easy enough to earn and trade for them that this form of pay-for-early-access isn’t a huge deal.
[2. PlanetSide 2]
- A true MMOFPS, a rare breed within its sub-genre
- Engage in large-scale warfare on persistent servers
- Combined arms combat puts Battlefield to shame
- Player-driven gameplay can produce many memorable moments
This is the game that I’ve always dreamed about when I was a kid, and it was the sort of thing that I always envisioned in an MMO. Looking at many of the MMORPGs on the market today, I always wondered one simple question: why bother having an MMO structure at all, if everyone can simply solo through the game’s content? Besides, large-scale warfare was definitely up my alley, too.
While the game is not perfect and that there are many things that needs fixing, I still applaud Sony Online Entertainment for making this possible. Combined arms combat on a large scale was finally realized with PlanetSide 2. It’s a unique experience that you simply won’t find in any other game - every FPS player ought to experience these large-scale battles at least once in their lifetime.
Free player experience: Like many other F2P titles, this game is pay-for-early-access. The default weaponry are very competitive with the other weapons that are available (and they are mostly sidegrades), and the passive abilities and bonuses on your classes and vehicles are only obtainable with the in-game currency. You also earn a small amount of them even when you are not logged in, similar to how EVE Online functions.
Of course, like the other games I have mentioned, you can obtain everything that matters with the in-game currency. It can be a bit grindy in the beginning, but once you start to understand the game’s flow, anyone can maximize their currency gains by being a better player.
[1. America’s Army: Proving Grounds]
- Modern military FPS with a very strong emphasis on teamwork and communication
- Harder gun handling characteristics than most modern shooters; medium to slow-paced game flow; features both a Standard and a more tactical Hardcore mode
- Mature gaming community
- Anyone can host their own third-party servers
Wasn’t expecting this one, eh? This game is the latest iteration of America’s Army, and it’s currently in beta. Proving Grounds is a very solid modern FPS that heavily encourages proper teamwork; teammates can revive each other (in limited amounts) and can “secure” enemies, which will permanently remove them from the battlefield. Recoil is also heavier than most modern shooters, encouraging players to practice proper trigger discipline. There is no deathmatch mode; once you’re down, you’re down (akin to Counter-Strike). The community is also a very mature one, and community competitions are also fairly frequent.
Free player experience: Above all, this is simply a very polished modern FPS that is truly free. There are zero microtransactions, and all players have everything unlocked in their disposal. The game runs on a client-server architecture, and you can even run your own servers if you want to.
In terms of its existence as a F2P title, Proving Grounds is the pinnacle of the F2P ideal. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the developers don’t have to worry about their balance sheets, as the game is funded by the U.S. Army.
Kids today, they don’t know
I remember how freaking excited I was when WInamp started having different skins.
Cleaning that ball in the mouse when it wasn’t working! And that labyrinth screensaver was the most awesome thing ever!
OH MY GOD, SPACE CASE THO!!
somehow i feel like i played space cadet recently tho
Yo it’s your boy! You already know who it is!
Evol Intent & Ewun vs TechItch vs Kemal vs BinaryFinary - ‘Binary Calling’
Source: SoundCloud / Evol Intent
Different levels of free-to-play models
Over the last few years, I’ve seen a huge surge in free-to-play gaming, especially on PC and mobile. And over those years, I’ve also seen a variety of F2P implementations and how microtransactions affect actual gameplay. Believe it or not, everyone has their own definition of what “pay-to-win” is (in other words, if microtransaction affects gameplay severely enough to be considered a detrimental factor). I have a list of the various F2P models in my head and I’d like to share them.
1. Pay for exclusivity. This is when a game offers players items that not only has a definite impact on actual gameplay that can only be obtained by paying real money, but also locks either meaningful progression or content to non-paying players.
The most obvious example of this is weapon purchasing in Combat Arms. Weapons purchased with in-game currency (GP) only lasts a finite amount of time for expiring, and “permanent” options are only available by paying real money on their cash-shop variants.
In my opinion, this is the most exploitative form of pay-to-win (P2W).
2. Pay for temporary boosts. This includes temporary experience/currency boosts as well as temporary power-up boosts that can give players a slight edge. I am tolerant of boosts as long as they don’t affect actual gameplay, such as most forms of experience boosts.
Gameplay-affecting boosts that can be obtained with real money, on the other hand, borderline on P2W to me, even if said boosts can be obtained with (usually a high amount of) in-game currency. Examples of this can include expendable golden bullets or temporary shields. This is because non-paying players usually need to keep in-game currency reserves for other aspects of the game, and in most F2P designs that include temporary gameplay-affecting boosts, constant maintenance is simply not practical with only in-game currency, especially for newer players.
3. Pay for early access. This is when the definition of P2W starts to vary from player to player. For a game to earn this label from me, the game must offer all unlockable content that affects gameplay in permanent duration (in other words, anything except for cosmetic items and temporary boosts that does not affect gameplay with others) to non-paying players.
Many games in the F2P market today are in this category, including Hawken, PlanetSide 2, and League of Legends. In some cases, non-paying players can “pay for early access” of in-game items or content that is locked behind a level progression; however, the premise is that the developers are willing to give free players the opportunity to access all of the gameplay content of their game if given enough time.
I am okay with this form of F2P, as long as the game is reasonable with the pace in which free players can access all of the game’s content. On the other hand, I see a trend in many mobile games that uses this model, but slows progress for free players to a crawl; this is unacceptable.
4. Pay for cosmetics ONLY (and maybe some convenience). This is still somewhat rare. For a game to earn this, microtransaction must not gate any content for free players, regardless of their level of investment. The only two examples I can think of are Dota 2 and Path of Exile.
In Dota 2, all heroes are unlocked from the start; only cosmetics are obtained with real money. In Path of Exile, you cannot even purchase experience boosts; cosmetics and storage stash tabs are the only microtransaction in the game. Storage tabs belong in the “convenience” section because free players start with an ample amount of tabs to begin with (4), and the developers encourage players to create alternate/mule accounts for additional storage tabs.
To many people, this is the only form of F2P that is acceptable. To me, this is the ideal form of F2P.
drm and pc gaming
history tends to repeat itself. having seen the effects of some of the worst forms of drm via ubisoft/uplay (requiring you to always be online to even play single player games), i saw the massive turd that is diablo 3 from a mile away. d3 was a decent action rpg, but it definitely does not live up to the diablo name and it has burned a good chunk of the faithful blizzard player base.
lo and behold, ea goes ahead and publishes simcity with an always-online drm. the franchise has long been known for its single player experience. wanting to hold the reins over their published game, ea forces its users to connect to their authentication servers in order to play by themselves.
and as expected, shit hits the fan and you get a sea of angry customers.
many see drm as a solution to piracy, but I feel it serves another purpose as well - it gives ownership of the games to the publishers rather than the customers. the customers are at the mercy of the publishers since publishers can simply pull the plug at a whim and you, the customer, will not be able to play the games you bought anymore.
I get that times are changing, but guys… if you’re going to claim ownership of the games you sell (or more accurately, rent/lease), at least treat your customers like human beings. valve’s steam service, although a drm platform itself, at least makes it as easy and painless as possible for users to get what they want. you can play your games offline and the frequent sales makes the platform quite attractive.
so please, if you’re gonna take away ownership rights, at least make it worthwhile without pissing on your customers. that is all.
p.s. go drm-free whenever possible! gog, humble bundles, desura and other online shops do offer drm-free games. (:
 The MSG Mix // March 2013
i almost forgot to update the tumblr after arriving in chicago… things has settled down since then and the city is awesome! enjoy the new mix (: