We haven’t heard much lately about Cliffhanger Productions’ Shadowrun Online MMO for a while, but hardcore deckers got a sweet bit of info earlier this week when the company clarified the differences (and similarities) between free-to-play and paid players.
First things first: Free and paid players will all play on the same servers. Which really seems like a no-brainer these days, but it’s good that it’s out there so there won’t be any confusion, which is understandable considering the image on their Kickstarter page (under Model and Reward Overview).
Being a free player is mostly what you’d expect. There’s a cash shop for microtransactions and you can also pay for a subscription to give you a boost in loot, as well as additional “weight” for your actions in plot development, a way in which the game plans to advance the overarching storyline for the game.
There’s also campaign mode, which requires a one-time “box” purchase, after which you can receive all the benefits of a subscription and can play the game forever with no additional fees, a la Guild Wars. Unlike Guild Wars, however, the promise is that every item in the game can be purchased with Shadowrun Online‘s in-game currency, Nuyen. No cash shop needed!
In a way, that gives you three different ways to play, and more is good, right? Well…
Under the chart comes a somewhat puzzling paragraph concerning the differences between loot acquisition for campaign and free players – “free” including people who spend in the cash shop or not pay a subscription.
You still with me? Good, because it’s about to get bumpy.
The paragraph seems to indicate that certain types of rare gear will be purchasable by free players but will drop in the game for campaigners, and that campaigners won’t be able to transfer that gear to free players. The latter makes sense as an anti-farming precaution.
As for the former… Cliffhanger admits that this could lead to some rancor between players in PvP, perhaps even to the point where they’ll need to tweak their matchmaking to account for different gear. They also seem to take the tack that it’ll be the free players complaining that they need to buy what the campaigners can earn for free.
I’m not so sure that won’t be the other way around – that the campaigners won’t gripe about free players being “pay to win” just as much, or more than, free players will complain about campaigners “getting everything for free.” I assume campaigners can still buy stuff off the cash shop, too, but since they can earn it in game, it probably won’t happen much.
(There’s also the assumption made that this won’t be an issue in PvE, to which I say: yeah, right.)
In my opinion, this method of “loot separation” is more trouble than it’s worth and is unnecessarily confusing – so much so that Spunkify and I (Jason) argued over what it said for several minutes before realizing we’d actually come to the same conclusion. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen this kind of model for separating paid and free players. There’s probably a reason for that.
If I had a suggestion, it would be to scrap the notion of paid loot and just offer cosmetic, non-stat-increasing loot for cash instead. Between that and the loot rate bonuses, as well as the additional weight on plot development, that should be plenty to get people to want to plop down their cash, while minimizing confusion and the inevitable grumbling that will likely come from both sides.