An upcoming shooter from an independent developer is going to not only promising a high-quality gaming experience, but one that will be free for gamers.
When you hear about free online games being developed, it's likely that the first thing to go through your head is that someone's trying to cash in on the casual MMOG craze. This time, however, an announced title sounds like it's going to be completely different from the free online game pack: An independent developer has announced a new "AAA" shooter that will be free to play.
Indie developer Online Warmongers has been working on a game called War Inc. Battle Zone, an online session-based shooter. The basic gameplay idea is that players will engage in various modes of team vs. team combat, across a series of different locations. Exactly what types of modes and locations have yet to be revealed though.
The game's backstory sounds, well, pretty much like that of every other shooter set in the near future. The economic chaos that began in 2008 continued to make life hellish around the world for a while, which caused breakdowns in international trade. Countries fell apart and mercenary groups become private armies. Players assume the role of a mercenary and then battle against other paramilitary units, presumably for the amusement of their corporate overlords.
"As players climb in rank, unlocking achievements, awards, and new features, they will also be able to join Units (clans), compete in tournaments and climb the leaderboards. Players can upgrade their 'Hero Character' with special skills, powerful weapons, useful tactical gear, and even customized looks. Diverse features of the gameplay will allow players to call in supporting elements, rescue their team mates, and even to coordinate their unit's attacks through a real time message system."
According to Arktos Entertainment, the game's financial backer, Warmongers has some serious talent within its ranks. Veteran members of the development team have worked on titles like Call of Duty, Champions Online, and Star Trek Online.
Overall, War Inc. Battle Zone certainly sounds interesting, but the main question about the game is still, "how will it make money?" Will there be microtransactions? Will only certain options and play modes be available to players for free, while paid subscriptions will unlock the game's full content? Will advertisements play between sessions?
These are all possibilities, but requests for more information from Arktos were unanswered by the time this story went to print.
Update: A representative from Arktos followed up with me to explain how the game's business plan would work. Like so many other free MMOGs, War Inc. will take advantage of - you guessed it - microtransactions to earn funding.
"[The] game will be based on micro transactions, but we expect that most of the players will never spend a dime on a game," the rep said. "Unlike lots of games that just won't allow you to be competitive above certain level in ... without spending money, our game designed so avid hardcore players will be able to enjoy every feature that [the] game will offer for free. At same time we'll offer [a system] for casual players, who [are] just unable to spend long hours [playing] the game to catch up with their friends and clan members by 'compressing time' they need to unlock certain features of the game.
"Since [the] game itself is skills based shooter - it really doesn't give you any advantage on the battlefield if you spend lot of money. What it gives is more variety with weapons selection, faster ranks progression, certain 'convenience' features that overwise you'll have to spend much more time of gameplay to unlock them."
Now that some light has been shed on how the game's business plan works, it sounds like this could be a really unique free MMOG: one that is just as much fun to play for those of us who don't feel like constantly spending money to keep up with our friends. Of course, judgment will have to be reserved until War Inc. Battle Zone is actually released, but the game certainly sounds like it has a lot of potential for greatness.