Free-to-play… it s the better business model. says Mike Donatelli of Carbine Studios, pulling a long face. Fact. There are no barriers to entry. Pick a forum, any forum, go there and there ll be people saying I like the game, I m just not paying you any money for it. And that s every post… we absolutely acknowledge that the MMO community has evolved past the (subscription) business model. So, yes, Wildstar will be free-to-play soon.
Wildstar was NCsoft s attempt to do a smart, lo-fi, fun MMO—a sci-fi WoW, essentially. We loved it, giving it 89% back at launch, but the game has struggled to get (and retain) players. The Carbine team won t give subscription numbers, but looking at NC s quarterly reports, the game made less money last year than any of their other games—sub- 30 million if my maths is right—and sales just fell off a cliff.
Donatelli is frank about the studio s difficulties. When we came out we had a plan in our head and it became readily apparent that the studio that had been working so hard, so long to make Wildstar was not the same studio we needed to… do all this post-launch stuff. But the studio hopes free-to-play will reinvigorate the player base.
After all, despite the low uptake, the game has been heavily expanded since launch—with updates happening not along the frankly-unrealistic monthly schedule promised, but at a more leisurely quarterly rate. The Mystery of the Genesis Prime finished the main world storyline and revealed a new threat to the factions, whilst the Protogames PvE dungeons and raid content have been heavily expanded. I m not afraid to say that we can continue to do quarterly updates until the cows come home. says Donatelli.
Of course, that change to free-to-play will necessitate some mechanical changes too. Firstly, the game will have even more currencies, on top of Cred, Gold and convenience tokens, with cosmetic and convenience items up for sale by Omnibits or an unnamed real-money currency, but players will be able to grind for these too. There s also a loyalty programme, so continuing to pay a subscription fee gives you loyalty currency letting you buy gear from the loyalty store.
Also on the loyalty side, there are various free in-game reward packages incoming for players who are subscribing when it goes free-to-play or who have subscribed since the start -presumably to try to hold on to those subscribers until the fall. There s a ton of stuff. I don t know anyone who s ever done that much stuff. And there will be a ton of
Little else will change. Wildstar is the same game it ever was—except this time there might be some real people in the world when you play.
WildStar, Carbine's massively multiplayer online role-playing game that launched last year with a full-priced box and a monthly subscription fee, is going free-to-play this fall, the developer announced today.
"It's not a decision we came to lightly but after thinking about it for quite a while it seemed like the best path for us as a studio," creative director Chad Moore told PC Gamer. "We wanted to communicate to everyone that there are some things about the way we're going to do free-to-play and what we want to get out of it."
The gist is that Carbine wants more players in the world, and according the developer, existing, paying players want the same. The developer didn't share exactly how many players were actively playing WildStar these days, but said that the free-to-play model will add "millions" more.
Carbine is making several changes to WildStar in order to absorb this influx of new players. It's completely redoing the tutorials for the two factions (the Dominion and Exiles) and improving the starting zones to make early progression smoother, more intuitive, and rewarding. Dungeons will be similarly rebalanced so the early ones are much easier to complete, and with a steadier difficulty curve to endgame content, which is still challenging.
More importantly, it's revamping the AMP system, which is how players customize their class-specific skills. Some of these skills used to be locked behind specific drops. Players told Carbine they didn't like that, so the developer kindly took it out, which should make progression easier for new players too.
Carbine insisted that the decision to go free-to-play wasn't made under pressure.
"Some game companies, I'm not going to name names but some will panic and will have to do this kind of thing," WildStar product director Mike Donatelli told PC Gamer. "We were never in a panic. This is just going to grow the game, it's going to get more players. We're in no rush. We're going to do it right or we're not going to do it all."
Carbine of course promises that the new free-to-play model will not mess with the game's balance, make it "pay-to-win," or hide content behind paywalls. It will introduce a new type of currency, NCoin, which you can buy with real money to use in the in-game store, but Carbine promises that there's nothing you can buy from the store that you can't get for free through play, and that it'll never sell a power advantage.
Instead, the store will offer a variety of cosmetic and convenience items like special mounts, costume pieces, and potions that increase XP, drop-rates, and gold.
Carbine is also introducing a Signature membership program you can pay for like the current monthly subscription, which will get you a steady drip of rewards. If you've been a subscriber since launch through the transition to free-to-play, you'll get an exclusive Ikthian Crawler mount, a few other decorative rewards, and four months of Signature service. If you paid for a shorter period of time you'll get a smaller but similar gift package.
Carbine said that it will share more details about the transition to free-to-play over the next several months, but the general monetization strategies it presented so far seem fair enough. Based on what Carbine said, I trust that the new free-to-play model won't break the game, and if dropping the subscription fee does actually grow WildStar by "millions," existing players will have an easier time finding groups for dungeons, more populated zones, and a better experience overall that is still unique to MMOs.
Wildstar is going free-to-play.
That's the big—if not unexpected—news from Carbine, developer of the struggling MMO. The exact date of the free-to-play switch is unannounced, but it will happen this autumn.
Carbine says that the entire game will be available to players for free, including all dungeons, raids, adventures, shiphand missions and PvP modes. Rewards are planned for players who subscribe between now and the free-to-play switch, and for past subscribers.
The game will feature an optional monthly membership that will provide bonuses to XP, crafting and item and currency rewards. In addition, an in-game store will sell convenience and cosmetic items. According to Carbine, almost every in-game store item will have an equivalent for those players that "want to invest time rather than money."
In addition, Carbine says they'll be rebalancing the game in time for the free-to-play switch. New features will include:
- Streamlining player and item stats to be much more intuitive while adding high-level options to give players more flexibility.
- Making the Amp system easier to use by unlocking all Amp slots.
- Reviewing dungeons and open world content so that the experience is challenging, but not brutal.
- Changing the tutorial and early game experience to provide a better and quicker introduction.
More details are expected over the coming month. As for why Wildstar is going free-to-play, check out Dan's interview with Carbine.
There's been a lot of talk of downgrades recently; of pre-release trailers being unrepresentative of the eventual release. Here's hoping that this one's legit, because it's a wondrous display of graphical splendour. It's for the v1.0 release of Thief Gold HD—a high-res texture upgrade for the 1998 sneak-'em-up.
Thief: The Dark Project has never looked so good. Admittedly, that isn't really saying much—it was made in the late-'90s after all—but the trailer's comparison between the mod's v1.0 release and the currently available, and already much-improved, v0.9.3 is striking.
Kodus to the mod's makers for imbuing the video with all the hype and escalating tension of a AAA game trailer. That is a baller move.
I'm a big fan of Thief Gold HD mod, and Bentraxx's Thief 2 equivalent. Unlike so many HD texture mods, these are careful to keep the original aesthetic intact. They don't overwhelm the original art style, and that's crucial to preserving Thief's atmosphere.
Thief Gold HD 1.0 is "coming soon". Keep an eye on its ModDB page for more.
What is Dirty Bomb?
It's a free-to-play online FPS.
That was easy. What, you want more? Fine. Here's a trailer released ahead of the game's open beta release next week. It features members of Splash Damage doing the most British thing one can do: sitting politely in a pub, promptly answering the questions asked by that evening's designated Question Friend. It's a rollicking good time.
"On Tuesday, June 2nd, Dirty Bomb will enter Open Beta," writes Splash Damage. "No more access keys, no more buy-in, no more raffles, no more sign-ups; anyone in our service area that wants to play Dirty Bomb can download it through the Steam client and play for free!"
Splash Damage promises more features, more maps and new mercs as the open beta rolls on. The Dirty Bomb open beta starts June 2.
In this, the next leg of Skywind's tour of a remade Morrowind, we see Seyda Neen—the town our protagonist arrives in, fresh off the prison boat, at the start of the game. "Our 3D artists have recreated and re-imagined this iconic town with updated buildings and clutter," explains the trailer's description.
Skywind is a remake of Morrowind, for Skyrim—reimagining the locations, enemies and quests and placing them in the most recent Elder Scrolls game. This is just latest in a number of environmen previews for the Skyrim mod. Head to our Skywind tag page to see more.
If you're playing the StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void expansion beta, then you'll soon get access to a new Terran army unit. As part of patch 2.5.2, the mechanical air unit, known as Liberator, is capable of firing two missiles and "can be deployed to attack ground units", though this will penalise mobility and anti-air attack capabilities.
There's a long list of other tweaks and fixes as well, including improvements to chat functionality, and changes to the mini-map and gas geysers. The whole list is here, and it's extensive.
In beta since April, Sean Sands dished up some early impressions last month. "The big plan is evident in every corner of the current beta, and it only remains to be seen whether Blizzard can actually deliver on being all these different things to all these different people," he wrote in his preview.
Update: we received clarification from Twitch regarding potential restrictions in Europe and Australia. Looks like bans will only apply to AO games in the US, as below:
"if the game is AO in the US, then it is not allowed. If the game is not AO in the US, but has a different rating abroad, like The Witcher 3, it is permitted."
Additionally, Twitch has clarified its position on specific titles, including GTA: San Andreas.
"If a game's US version is rated Adults Only by the ESRB, you should not broadcast that game on Twitch. However, ESRB rated Mature versions of Adults Only titles are permitted for streaming, such as Mature versions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy."
Twitch has updated its rules of conduct to disallow streaming of Adult Only games, the company announced today. That means any game classified with an AO rating by the ESRB will be banned from the service, including games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Manhunt 2.
"Previously, we made game-specific decisions about which games would and would not be available for broadcast sometimes due to overtly sexual content, sometimes due to gratuitous violence," the company said in its statement.
"This is unsustainable and unclear, generating only further confusion among Twitch broadcasters. We would like to make this policy as transparent as possible."
While few games are rated AO anyway there's a full list here and few will be missed it may have interesting global ramifications: especially in Australia where it's more common for games to be rated R18+.
"While the ESRB ratings apply exclusively to US titles, our policy extends to versions of these games in all territories," the statement reads. "Generally, if the US version is rated for Adults Only (18+) or has an equivalent rating in your territory, you should not broadcast that game on Twitch."
You'll be able to experience Oculus Rift for "around $1,500" when it releases early next year, according to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. Before you panic, he's talking about people who don't own a gaming PC, which means the unit itself will be only a fraction of that cost.
We are looking at an all-in price, if you have to go out and actually need to buy a new computer and you re going to buy the Rift … at most you should be in that $1,500 range, Iribe said at the Re/code Code Conference today. According to Re/Code's report, Iribe wants the price to drop below $1,000 eventually.
It's an interesting statement, especially when sized up next to the required specs for the Rift. Referring to PC Part Picker, you can build a system to those requirements for $1,200, meaning the Rift itself could be aiming for a $300 or less price point. That's in keeping with co-founder Nate Mitchell's estimation that the unit would cost between $200 and $400.
Meanwhile, Valve and HTC's Vive headset is expected to release at a "higher price point", according to HTC marketing head Jeff Gattis. He didn't give a ballpark figure, though he'd have been aware of Oculus's price goal.
For more, check out everything you need to know about Oculus Rift.