Free-to-Play Games: Got Questions we got the Answers!Written by: Brandon Perton
"Wickedly Honest Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About "Free"-to-Play Games"
Is this game free to play?
It depends. Are you willing to give us your money while you play?
Yes. Oh yes.
Then we won’t make you pay, you’ll just choose to pay inside our free game.
Then we will fill the game with stupefying tasks, arbitrary delays, and joyless mismatches until navigating them is worse than whatever work you’re avoiding by playing online free-to-play games and essentially like a terrible minimum-wage job. But a job you get to do for free and that is unencumbered by productive outputs in the real world.
Well…okay. So what kind of fun stuff can I do the rest of the time?
You, my friend, are going to build some stuff.
Fair enough. How do I do that?
Pay us or click a button then wait for hours.
Huh. Well, how about once the stuff is built? What can I do with it?
Build more stuff with it! Some of the stuff you build will technically be described as people or animals, but functionally it will be indistinguishable from the other, inanimate stuff. Building may also be called growing!
How do I build this other stuff wi—
Pay us or click a button then wait for hours. But there is another way—you can also send notifications to everyone you have ever known online! We will make it very easy for you to do this! Some stuff can only be built in this way. We consider this nearly the same as you paying us, so it will be really helpful in the game and fairly unobtrusive. For you.
So let’s assume I’ve finished building, paying, and waiting for a while…
Ha! Sure, let’s assume that.
What else do I do?
Missions! We have many, many missions. (We may not call them that, though. Which genre skin are you playing our game through? Never mind, it doesn’t matter.) Your stuff is needed to satisfy the arbitrary requirements of some missions. When you assemble the required collection of stuff, you can click a button to make the mission occur.
Pay us or click a but—sorry, I forgot you clicked the button already. Pay us or wait for hours.
How do I make sure my mission succeeds?
Well, you can pay us. That will pretty much always work!
But what if I still want to play for free? Can I still succeed then?
I see you have chosen to play our game on Hard! Technically, yes. It’s going to take you somewhat longer to assemble the stuff for the mission, of course.
Yes, we’ve been over that. We’re at the mission now.
Right, right, of course. I had forgotten we were assuming you’re not still building stuff! Now that you have your stuff, sometimes there’s no chance of failure and you’ll just need to wait until the mission is completed.
Right, but what am I doing to get the mission completed?
The mission completes itself.
So what’s my job?
Building the stuff for the mission! Also, committing stuff to the mission! Some missions involve probabilities, you see. You can commit your stuff proportionally and gamble on success.
This sounds more interesting. What kind of strategic thinking is involved in managing probability-based missions?
You may have noticed that your stuff is pretty weak in the scheme of things. The best strategy is to make it stronger! You could pay us to do that for you, spam your acquaintances for rewards, or wait interminably long until you can build strong enough stuff on your own. This last option may not always be available, and to be honest, even when it is available it’s not going to be a great option for long if you plan on progressing deep into the game. Alternatively, you can roll the dice now and hope the odds are in your favor! (Also not a great long-term strategy.)
What do people like best about your game?
Incremental achievement! We offer levels, stronger stuff, new missions, and the ability to compare yourself to others and to pay to improve your standing in said comparisons. In each of these cases, our game will say incredibly flattering things to you when you succeed and delicately remind you of your shortcomings when you fail to encourage future success. We also have innumerable genre skins so the narrative explanation of the stuff-and-mission dynamic depicts a world you want to engage in. And, of course, we’re a social game! Sometimes you can use your stuff on or with other people. And when you click buttons at each other, you all get more stuff! Also, you might be able to have neighbors or collaborators, which also positively affects your stuff.
What makes your game challenging?
Are you paying us?
Waiting and remembering to come back after the waiting time is done but before too much post-waiting time has passed. To a lesser degree, choosing which stuff to build when. Managing your social life in the wake of your notification spamming and its on- and offline consequences.
A lot more waiting, friend. Trying to avoid accidentally notification spamming during the fairly frequent occasions when we sneak a spam button in front of you midgame or intentionally spamming when we dangle incredibly useful stuff in front of you that can be obtained in no other way.
This game sounds like a considerable time commitment.
Yes. But if you’re notifying your friends, you can consider it socializing!
What’s the ultimate payoff at the end?