So John Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published a devastating critique of Marvel Heroes, the just released FTP-MMO-ARPG, and he pulls no punches cascading the game. It is a good read and you should definitely give it a look if you are either playing the game or interested in playing it, or frankly just wanting more confirmation that Free to Play is not the savior of the MMORPG.
As someone who has spent a couple of hours in Marvel Heroes, I can a test to basically all of these complaints. I did have fun with this game, no question, and there are some hilarious laughs (The Taskmaster video is gut busting), and the story seems intriguing enough, but it is hard to argue where John is coming from. There really is no challenge when there are SO MANY OTHER PLAYERS with you, that you did not ask to be with you. In fact, I remember the most fun I had was fighting The Hood, with just one other player at my side since the other players in my involuntarily created group were away somewhere. However, my biggest peeve is that I really REALLY wanted to play Spiderman, but $20 for the character was frankly asking too much, and starting off at level one!? Meaning I would have to replay the whole game again with the character I ACTUALLY wanted to play from the beginning!? Pish-posh!
To give a counter example of how to actually get your money's worth, I was playing Age of Empires Online a ways back. Starting off at level one as The Celts was not too bad, it was slow and at times tedious, but it was not bad. However, when Steam had sales for the starter packs, $14.99 if I remember correctly, I decided why not and bought one. Lo and behold, I was given a level 20 Persian civilization that I would otherwise have had to unlock by playing the game for hours and hours. Not only did that save me a great deal of time, but playing as a level 20 Persian empire was so much more fun. THAT is how you give your players a very reasonable deal.
Just taking a look at the Steam packages for Marvel Heroes gives me nausea. $249.97!? Really?! Even if you could make a justification, and believe me, if you go on the Marvel Heroes forums, you will find all kinds of excuses and runarounds, most of which amount to 'if you are too poor to pay $20 for spiderman, why are you playing then?!' or 'It is free to play, why are you complaining?', the sheer amount of money you have to put down for a game to get the 'complete' experience is WHOLLY dependent on it being online, WHICH MEANS, if it goes offline permanently due to the studio shutting down or the game not performing 'as well as expected', you are out of all the money you spent. That is what happened with Age of Empires Online. Sure it is still online, but the updates stopped, and I am sure the game will not be far behind.
This has been one of my pet peeves about spending money on MMOs, is what happens when it ends. What happens when the studio moves on, where does the game, and the money I put into it go? At least those $60 single player games I pay for are on my computer permanently, for me to log in whenever I want to, down servers be damned! I can perfectly understand a subscription fee back in the hey-day of subscription based MMOs, at least I got the complete World of Warcraft. Even Eve Online does a great job of giving you free expansions and even the option of paying for and selling PLEXs for in-game cash, which can translate into A TON of time saved.
Now free to play seems to have become an excuse to piecemeal the game. I feel like I have to buy the Steam Starter packs just to feel like I am actually making headway in today's FTP games, I know Lord of the Rings Online stopped moving at a glacial pace after I put money down for one. Just look at Star Trek Online's steam packages and tell me! Tell me with a straight face that seems reasonable! Even if you are a huge Star Trek fan, or Marvel fan, you cannot justify these prices on the notion that 'if you love the game enough, you will put money down for it.' That is not what the player is suppose to say, that is how the seller manipulates a customer into saying 'shut up and give take my money.'
It is not entitlement to ask that games, let alone FTP games, offer more reasonable prices. We should not be turning the gaming community into a class-based, multi-tiered structure where only the rich get the best while everyone else gets what they can. Gaming is suppose to be fun-to-play, not pay-to-win or play-to-win or even pay-to-have fun. Free-to-play was suppose to open up the MMO-verse to more players, and though Lord of the Rings Online and Age of Conan Online have found a great deal of success by doing do, Marvel Heroes proves that being a superhero, is not all it is cracked up to be...and that will be $4.99 to repair that crack please?