i <3 free weekends

NCSoft and/or Cryptic Studios are certifiable geniuses. Not necessarily in the money-hat-factory sense of Blizzard, but they’re certainly putting in the effort.

About a week ago I received an email warning me of the impending “free weekend” for City of Heroes. The free weekend is exactly that – free. No muss, no fuss, just log in and play on my old CoH account with no restrictions or hooplah. For serious!

The process was literally thus:
1) Find install CDs (harder than it sounds)
2) Install & Patch (1.8gb from launch masters to issue 9, 8 hours)
3) Play. Well reset password and then play.

No codes, no activations, nada. I did waste another 2 hours making a new character on a newer server as my old one was “double yellow” and laggy as hell. That and it really did take 8 hours to patch at an abysmal 70k/s, but if I had installed a few days after I got the email vs 5 minutes after I decided to play…

That’s all fine and good, you say, but “what’s the point?” The point, dear reader, roadblocks. Or more precisely, the lack of roadblocks. This is a lesson Blizzard taught the industry with the runaway popularity of WoW. WoW isn’t a super l337 hardcore game. Learning the basic mechanics of any class and the game itself is a process easily completed in the first week of free play. This allows a new player the maximal amount of time to discover the game and not just how to play.

Cryptic “got it” with the concept of free weekends. It looks like they do these events periodically when there’s a major change to the game. The “excuse” this time was Issue 9 going live. I played CoH-beta and for the first 3 months following launch. I know exactly why I left, but this chance to jump back in with no strings attached had me seriously considering a 1-month resub. Ultimately I came to my senses and realized that none of the reasons for my departure had changed so a resub would be silly.

But still… good try. No MMO I’ve ever played has ever come close to this level of nostalgia.

The end result? I can spare the 2 1/2gb. So who knows what might happen?