Is Dreadnought Really Free to Play?
You know that game you hear about, and get instantly excited about? It’s such an awesome concept, or maybe something you’ve ALWAYS wanted to see! Dreadnought was one such game for me. I enjoy the vehicular shooters (World of Warships, Galactic Starfighter, etc) very much. I heard about it last year and signed up for the Alpha. In January I got into the Alpha testing sessions. Finally I heard Dreadnought was in going into closed beta, and that I could start streaming it! And stream it I did, aaalllll weekend. Free to play Sci-Fi capital ship combat – what’s not to like? The monetization. I’ll get to that, but first I want to explain why it hurts so much. It hurts because Dreadnought is a really fun game.
What’s So Good In Dreadnought
The graphics are amazing in Dreadnought. Everything just looks amazing. Especially some of the planetary environments; my favorite being the ice planet. The ships are well done too, and I like most of the design choices too. This is pretty unusual because in most games I generally like only a small selection of what’s available. It’s all eye candy of the first order.
Most maps offer fun and rewarding gameplay. They offer an intense fire-fight where you can go in as close as you want, or stay back as far as you want. Every ship type has a place in every battle. The one exception to this is the space map. It’s a sniper camp-fest where the first person to even try and engage the enemy at medium/close range loses. A real snoozer. While this one map is kind of a stick in the mud, it’s not worth avoiding the entire game over it. I’m sure the beta will shake out the poor design.
The ships have mostly distinct roles. I covered those roles a few weeks ago if you’re interested. The slight exception is the Dreadnought and the Destroyer. The tradeoff is armor on the Dreadnought for firepower and maneuvering on the Destroyer. The tradeoff is very slight though, and given you can share some of the modules, I don’t think it’s really enough. Again, not something to avoid the game over, just an observation. The game is in the first stages of beta, so balance will undoubtedly come.
Essentially, there are no mechanics or gameplay or balance issues of any kind that would keep me from playing the game.
The Betrayal From Nowhere
So by all accounts, Dreadnought was using your regular Free to Play model. F2P games like this generally charge for premium ships(fully upgraded, not better stats), paying for cosmetic skins, and paying for accelerated XP gain. Nothing new or controversial here. The week started with founders packs, and the weekend was filled with hype. Overall positive feedback on the game during it’s launch week. Then came the first patch.
Let me explain really quick what Officer Briefings (OB) are, because that’s about to become important in our story. OBs are a group of ship modules. Think of them as the jewelry pieces of your gear. Rings & Neckpiece, for example. They aren’t your main stats, but they provide some stats. You get a set of OBs with each ship. As you level up, you unlock different options (dodge instead of block, crit instead of hit, etc). Not more powerful, just more options. They cost 1 FP during the launch week. FP is the earned currency like gold or unit XP in Dreadnought.
Well, after the first patch, OBs suddenly cost Greybox Points (GP). GP is the premium currency for Dreadnought that you have to spend real money to get at this point, so that means to unlock OBs, you now have to spend real money. Or using our jewelry example, you’ll get stock pieces for your character, but to min/max properly you need to $$$ up. Instantly, Dreadnought became P2W, and a $#!+storm ensued. To make a sad story short, it was reverted the next day with an explanation. Basically they said there would be a way to earn GP just by playing the game eventually, and that they would wait until they had that system in place before returning OBs cost back to GP. And for me, this is where the train wreck starts.
I was/am so invested in this game, that this actually makes me angry. It’s such a fun game! Why in the world would you hide game mechanics behind a pay wall? Even if you make premium currency available through regular gameplay, why even make it cost premium currency to begin with? They apologized in their letter of explanation, but I just don’t buy it. Not all of it. Somebody somewhere was told to physically code the system whereby stats were purchased with PREMIUM CURRENCY. How is this then a surprise to the developer? How is it an oversight that options affecting gameplay would only be available for real money? DURING A BETA? It’s not a game bug that made OB cost GP. This is why it’s hard to for me to accept as an oversight.
Being in beta may sway you in giving the benefit of the doubt. I can buy into that in part. Unfortunately though, not the important part. If putting stats behind a paywall is an acceptable choice for the developer, what else will be put behind a paywall in the future? Progression? Entire classes of ships? This slippery slope of is what is now game for monetization worries me most about continuing forward with Dreadnought. There is no word on what they may or may not consider for monetization. That’s a problem for me. Dreadnought, above all else, deserves to get paid. It’s a business, not a charity. And even still, charities need money. Compensating Dreadnought is not the problem. The problem is how they failed to disclose their monetization method. DOOM for example costs $59.99 up front, and you get full disclosure that there will be paid DLC coming. Right now, Dreadnought is ‘free’ to play, where free may as well be an asterisk. Even though it’s in beta, players should have a good idea of what the costs are behind Dreadnought. Instead, as it sits now, some stats will be behind some kind of paywall that may or may not be able to be overcome though in-game play.
Things Could Get Worse
Lots of people are writing this off as a beta mistake, praising the devs for their flexibility. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are missing the crucial fact that OB for GP will return. Let me quote the most important line of their apology to you. “A change like making Officer Briefings (Perks) only available via GP before the entire suite of GP-gaining options was available was a mistake on our part.” The emphasis on BEFORE is theirs. OBs will be returning to GP, and most people I talk to about Dreadnought don’t know or understand this. The second storm could very well be worse than the first. I would think the Devs themselves would be more sensitive to this. All that development time and resources spent on delaying the inevitable.