If you’re like me, you think of many free-to-play games as free trials. If it’s not something you’re hotly anticipating or something you’ve just recently heard of, you’ll try a game out to see if it hooks you in the first few hours. If it does, you’ll stick around and maybe spend money on it. If it doesn’t, no problem – you’ll just move on.

So doesn’t it seem odd that a F2P title would make a fundamental part of its gameplay unavailable until you’ve spend dozens of hours in the game?

As I was reading a description of the Frontier System, Dragon’s Prophet’s large-scale PvP system, I thought it sounded pretty neat. There was some mention of housing instances being involved – though not to the extent the author of the piece would have liked – and a kind of mix between free open-world and scheduled battles.

I toyed around in the Dragon’s Prophet beta for a while, but didn’t see much that grabbed my attention, at least on the PvE side. This, however? Even with its limits, the PvP action sounded interesting, especially if it involves flying around and blasting other players from the back of a dragon. As I read, I came up with the notion that I might give Dragon’s Prophet a shot as an exclusively PvP game.


That was until I read the closing paragraphs of the article. The Frontier System doesn’t open up until level 30, and even then, players will be “have significant difficulty surviving” until they reach level 60.

In other words, if you want to play this cool PvP at all, you’ll have to spend hours grinding out mostly PvE content until you reach 30, just so you can get one-shotted by higher-level characters for 30 more levels.

Thus ended my already-limited interest in Dragon’s Prophet.

It’s another take on the “the real game starts at max level” mindset that was a little more acceptable in the days when pay-to-play and subscriptions were the norm, but makes much less sense in a free-to-play game. When you paid $50 or $60 for a box game, it was going to be something you were willing to commit to. If the “fun” stuff didn’t start until level 30 or higher, you had less of an issue with it, since you were going to be there for at least your free month, and maybe longer if you bought another month or three right away.

Free-to-play games don’t usually have that luxury. Like a TV series, they have to hook you almost immediately, and if they don’t, it’s easy enough for you to turn away and find something else to entertain you. Putting a super-cool system behind a “time wall” that relatively few people will bother “paying” is just as bad as putting it behind a real-money pay wall.


Dragon’s Prophet isn’t the first game, of course, to take this approach, and probably won’t be the last. When TERA introduced instanced PvP, you had to be level 50 (with a max of 60) to participate. The game had a subscription back then, granted, and since going F2P TERA has added Corsairs’ Stronghold which scales players to level 60 regardless. Even so, Stronghold isn’t available till level 30. I also gave up on Aion before the point where PvP was unlockable.

It’s just a bad idea to make such important and well-loved parts of your game available so late in the leveling process. You could argue that raids are like that, but those are really just bigger versions of dungeons, which most games initially make available in the level 10 to 20 range, so you at least have a taste of what a group instanced PvE activity is like.

Even the few pay-to-play MMOs left – nearly all of which have free trials – tend to try and give you a taste of everything early on to get you hooked right away. If you take advantage of World of Warcraft’s “Free to level 20” trial, you’ll get access to most of the basic gameplay, including dungeons and PvP – enough to at least decide if you want to keep playing.

And before we get too far into the “You need to be high level so you know how to play your class” – it’s not that hard to get a basic idea of how to play your class, at least in one simple fashion (tank, healer, DPS) after five to 10 hours.

I’m not suggesting people have access to pro-level, ultra-serious ranked PvP, just as I wouldn’t suggest level 15 players have access to tough endgame raids. But if you’re going to promote something as a major feature of your game, let us derp around for a while and have fun – remember “fun”? – and see if it’s something we want to keep doing. And, you know, maybe give you money for.

By Jason Winter

34 Readers Commented

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  1. Woop on October 11, 2013

    Mounted

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    • This site is sucking on October 12, 2013

      They deleted my coment so… let me ask again: you didt get fun leveling to max level? learning the game and taking fun in dungeons with random people? dont delete this comment or il take u to justice MMoFart

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      • spunkify on October 12, 2013

        No one deleted your comment lol.

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        • This site is sucking on October 12, 2013

          yes they did. if you don’t know shut up. i wrote something true that they hate

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          • This site is sucking on October 12, 2013

            who you are to know (think) what owners do with its own webpage?

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          • spunkify on October 12, 2013

            Because I am the one who moderates the comments. I can tell you that the comment never made it to the page. For what reason (be it internet dropping out or other means) it was not posted. I’ve gone through the comment records, it was never here to begin with.

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          • Jordan Lu on October 13, 2013

            Lol Owned him!

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        • Desert Fox on October 12, 2013

          Spunkify stop! You’re falling into the trap of the hideous troll!

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          • This site is not sucking on October 12, 2013

            well I put the comment. It might be a problem with internet. If That im sorry. but i dont know :P

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  2. ZWatchdog on October 11, 2013

    I think that the guild wars 2 pvp system is the a good solution for your dilema Jason, it favors skill over grind, basically what every pvper really wants in a good pvp engine. The system is simple, you have your pve progression separated from your pvp, because the pvp is in a different “realm” where you start of at max lvl with every skill unlocked and the possibility to build the character as you wish with a standard and equal gear to everyone else. The progression you adquire in this pvp system is +/- like in a MOBA genre, skins, prestige, fame.. those kind of thing every decent and dedicated pvper really wants :) So yeah, i sincerely thin that their pvp recepie works as a charm!

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    • booooh on October 12, 2013

      Yeah, agreed. But unfortunately the sPvP (tPvP) is kind of in a bad meta atm. It’s very locked down on how you play since Anet doesn’t have a really good sPvP crew right now. (their ambitions are good but they are not that good at the mechanics of pvp)

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  3. denja44 on October 11, 2013

    and point for putting this…y would u want to pvp at lvl 1… if u really want a pvp game with no wait go play a moba or a fps..

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    • Arctic Ursa on October 12, 2013

      Many games that have a focus on pvp balance out the levels of players so that the only difference between a level 30 and a level 60 would be their skills available, not their stats. Both guild wars 1 and 2 let you pvp as if you were max level right from the get go.

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  4. Aures on October 11, 2013

    This is kind of exactly what me and a friend were discussing the other day. There’s all this great content at end-game most of the time, but you have to slog through a lot of boring stuff to get there. This doesn’t just pertain to high level pvp systems in games, but sometimes a lot of the cool pve content as well.

    We were just throwing ideas around, and we realized that what would really keep our attention is basically an MMORPG that was all endgame. Endgame content from the beginning of the game. Raids, massive unique pvp, etc. all from the beginning of the game. Just do a tutorial, and then bam, the entire game is opened up to you.

    You can make the argument that endgame content is what keeps people in the game at the end, but what’s keeping people playing until they reach that cool endgame content? Is it the prospect of reaching that? That wears out pretty fast considering most games have a grind that does get boring.

    I’d love to see a developer give a lot more endgame content at the lower levels. I don’t see why I should have to be almost max level or play for days on end through boring stuff just to reach the cool stuff. That’s made me quit many a game that have sparked my interest just because of the endgame content.

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    • zakena on October 12, 2013

      i recommend RIFT to you cause that game is END GAME right from the start !

      its just lvls that play a role rest is all the same.. instances rifts massive world bosses all of it.

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      • Aures on October 12, 2013

        Yeah, Rift is pretty good, but the animations just didn’t do it for me. I’m one of those guys that just loves cool looking skill animations. But Rift is definitely a step in the right direction content-wise. There’s no denying that.

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  5. jujik on October 12, 2013

    can i post a translated version of this article in some russian sites? Information here is pretty much sums all of the f2p problems.

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  6. Dominic Rowe on October 12, 2013

    I for one agree wholeheartedly with this article. I’ve been trying and playing mmos since Daoc and loved the pvp for that game as I’m sure we all did, nowadays these games tend to go the route of free to play only cause either they couldn’t make it p2p or they don’t even want to test those waters, what I don’t understand is you go free to play because you prob couldn’t hold people’s interest for that long either grind, or lil to no content or the game just gets downright stale, don’t you think the tactic when going free to play should be now to cater to those same people if you want to pull them back or even grab other gamers atention who have left mmos because of those issues?, to me free to play games tend to get cocky and that is the issue, it’s a risk to do things for the customer you know give free stuff, give content early on because companies are scared they won’t make a buck, so they tend to implement pricey cash shops, end game content you can’t get now cause they are scared you will leave early, her’s the thing tho giving to us isn’t a bad thing and they just might grab a huge crowd, if an mmo is good to me I tend to stay longer, wow ofcourse to me is a tired mmo and should fall, but the time i spent in wow wasn’t all negative one thing blizz does is they tend to know what works for them and their players, love or hate those guys they hold a sub base over 6 mil easy. when will these companies learn give more to the layers if you expect anything in return.

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  7. Southstar on October 12, 2013

    very interesting and yes agree on this one. some pvp issues is so long to that you will be hook up for the game for a quite a time then you will just found out the pvp system isnt really the essence of that game.

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    • buggy on October 19, 2013

      the best pvp game is Talisman online….yea this game dont have good skill animations,and you may think its grinding style….but you can pvp from lvl 15-20 up to max lvl,so if some1 is booting or piss you of…you just shut down him…yea…if you can:D,i played it over 2/3 years and never got bored of it,they will make new server on 29 this month.The game is from 2007 so dont expect very cool graphics on it.Thank You!

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  8. dynamoex on October 12, 2013

    and im just sitting here playing wow

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  9. Cacalips on October 12, 2013

    The most attention spanless game I ever played was GW2. POst is just a button to push, you can cheat death, you need no mounts, everything is “Open map, click on the spot you want to teleport too, PLOP”. No hotbar linking, just a few spells AUTO placed when you switch weapons…just. There is ADD, then there are designers promoting ADD

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  10. Jowns on October 12, 2013

    TBH I don’t waiting till end game to try pvp just like you.
    Like you say when I try a F2P game I know within an hour if I’m going to keep playing it or not, or after getting some levels like 10-20 because that’s when I know how the game will play out till the end. I like PVP but I don’t see why the companies that do it like Dragons Prophet can’t do it like WOW or Rift as my two examples. When I play a game I want to know what everything will be like till the end and so forth because I do not ever want to spend the time it takes to get to end game to try PVP for sure. Mainly because okay even after spending the time to get to the end game theres getting gear which at least if you do PVP up until the end level you got your chances to do good just based on gear you obtain from quests/dungeons/what not along the way.

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  11. ExHuman on October 12, 2013

    I`m 100% agree with you Jason, with only exception that doing the same thing over and over is boring, regardless of payment model. “Grinding for the end game content” is retarded concept to start with. Its like watching talk show – may feel tolerable, when you got bunch of time to spare, but seems like total waste, if your time has any sort of value.

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  12. Brian W. Dieter on October 12, 2013

    Not everybody wants to play PVP. Some of us like level progression and doing the quests. If you don’t like the grind, maybe you are playing the wrong kind of game.

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  13. chefmadness on October 12, 2013

    The best model for any game is buy 2 play. 60 bucks for a one time fee & no restrictions is the way to go. I would even pay 80 bucks for a good game. I wish more games would be buy to play. SWTOR should have been buy 2 play. It makes games more enjoyable for me & you know exactly what you are going to get!

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  14. Bishonen on October 12, 2013

    At this point i have to say that Star Wars The Old Republic is Outclassing other Games , You can always get into PvP without getting bombed by LvL 50+ Player since they get there own Max LvL PvP. And now they announced the Space Battles which we asked for since the start of the game. And the game Modes are also pretty good , except for Hutball , that mode makes me rage all time , but thats my opinion, if you look at SWTOR than all just see a WoW with a Star Wars look , but Generally the Game differ in so many ways , WoW put up a Standard which people try to surpass or be eual and SWTOR surpassed it, thats not Reallys EA’s work since those guys are Pretty much at fault for the Bad Marketing and some Really bad Decisions, SWTOR itself got an Good PvE envirement and an Awesome PvP mode which you basicly can enter on lvl 1 or atleast after you Finished the Starter Planet .

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  15. Viktor on October 12, 2013

    This game is cool !!!

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  16. itzteajay on October 12, 2013

    Some would argue that you don’t truly know the game until you get to cap. On top of this point there is also the point of unlocking skills. At level 30 you’re going to have a lot more skills unlocked than at 10 and balancing classes level by level is a much more difficult task than just balancing the end game result.personally I’d like to sWe a type of multirole system where there are things in large scale PvP that every level can do to contribute to the fight such as lvl 1-10 can repair gear they get exp for that level 11-20 can insta red players level 21-30 can manlarge scale weapons and 31+ can actually fight. This would give you a feeling of involvement without dishing you completely out to other players as a feed kill. Just a thought.

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  17. Ruov on October 12, 2013

    I think the last time I’ve had the most fun in PVP was in Aika Online. It was my go to PVP game for a while until I got hooked on League of Legends and the host of free FPS shooters that followed like Planetside 2, Hawken, Warframe and Firefall.

    Now I find myself enjoying PVP in the likes of Elsword more than I enjoy PVP in my other more graphically demanding games like Rift, Tera, Neverwinter, and yes Dragon’s Prophet.

    I have yet to find myself another aesthetically beautiful 3D MMO that offers some good PVP content/action. I think the closest I’ve experienced so far that has good PVP is Blade & Soul, which I got to try out from a friend of mine, who’s korean of course. I particularly like when two assassin’s are dueling, it’s a whole lot of eye candy and ultimate ninja action. I really hope they release it internationally soon.

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  18. jhalchan on October 13, 2013

    great review , as usual :D
    actual f2p mmorpgs are not so funny … let’s wait for EQN !

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  19. kestas25 on October 13, 2013

    Want pvp from lvl 1 lineage2 is for you :D

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  20. Ankhr on October 13, 2013

    Seriously? Dragon’s Prophet’s Frontier system is about capturing a frontier or sky island for your Guild or Alliance, a territory war, not pure, senseless PVP for the heck of it. This is end game content, so don’t expect you can just waltz in and expect to stand a chance in the frontier with the guilds who’ve been there since OBT. Capturing a frontier would require one who is experienced in DP’s gameplay, mechanics and coordination throughout all guilds involved.

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    • buggy on October 19, 2013

      you may mean pay to win:D

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