May 18, 2012

[Allods Online: 2 Years Later: Part 1]

Allods Online was one of those cases of poor F2P monetization decisions on the part of devs ruining what could have been a very good thing. During it's (cash shop-free) beta period, many MMO bloggers praised it's beautiful art design, airship combat and exploration endgame, and solid (if not wildly innovative) gameplay. There were dungeons and PvP, and quests, and the world was done in a familiar yet still enjoyable fantasy style with a Russian twist.

I myself enjoyed the time I spent in Beta, which was up to about level 20, and as Allods was my second foray into F2P MMOs (the first being Mabinogi, whose cash shop I rather liked and which had given me a positive first time F2P experience) I was not overly worried about how things would play out at release as much as some of the folks for whom this was their first try at this new payment model. It seemed as though many longtime sub-model MMO players were giving Allods a try at a time when F2P was still a fairly radical concept, and they were actually enjoying it!

And then release came around, and the cash shop was unveiled, with ludicrously high prices, and blatant 'pay to win' items. And then right after, there were patches to nerf character combat strength and buff death penalties to the point where it was impossible to play unless you were regularly buying items from the shop. PvE was made agonizingly slow for nonpaying players since now it took unreasonably long to kill even one mob unless you had the cash shop buff, and dying would literally leave your stats so reduced from the rez penalty that the game was basically telling players to 'either pay up or log out'. The promising Beta which had engendered so much positive press was exposed as a blatant bait and switch, and many MMO players who were for the first time trying out a F2P game had all their worst fears about the model justified.

Player outcry was immediate, and the hype turned bitterly sour, permanently damaging what I feel could have been one of the first mainstream hit F2P MMOs at that time. The devs basically tripped right out of the starting gate and fell squarely on their faces. The stigma from those first few months after launch has remained ever since, even though the game has apparently been doing fairly well and has released regular content updates and new features even with a reduced playerbase. Allods Online seems to be on a permanently low-key profile nowadays and many folks seem to avoid it because of it's sins from two years ago. But I had heard recently that things had changed in the past year and a half, and that both the cash shop and the game had been adjusted and balanced for some time now, with the hostile game mechanics that tried to punish players into spending money having been discarded long ago. So I decided to hop back in and see what (if anything) had changed in the cash shop since 2010.

[Go to Part 2]

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