Free Realms 2nd look

I spent a bit more time in Sony’s new kid-friendly MMO Free Realms this weekend. I came away pleasantly surprised, now that I’ve broken through the “tutorial missions for half a dozen jobs” barrier.

Let me gripe first, so I can end on a high note. 🙂

Contrary to all the ‘smooth launch’ praise, I’ve been finding the servers are down more often than they should be. And the Friend Server still seems pretty borked. I had some random stranger try to friend me yesterday. I refused the invitation, of course. This morning, he was listed as my friend. I tried to remove him from my friends list, and got a message that the Friend Server couldn’t remove him. So I put him on ignore.

For me this is no biggie, but since this is supposed to be a safe environment for kids, people getting on your Friends list against your will is pretty big. Hopefully this was just a fluke. Maybe it was even user error on my part (I sure hope so) but after all the years I’ve been using computers and playing games, I’d think I could reliably choose “No” from a Yes/No choice. We’ll see.

Some of the mini-games are pretty awful, particularly for old folks like me who worry about RSI issues. I’m thinking in particular about the Cooking mini games. Chopping and carving meat even more particularly. And stirring the pot seems way harder than moving your mouse in a circle should be. My on-screen spoon doesn’t move, then suddenly it’ll zoom in a circle and give me a great rating, then stick in place again for 10 seconds before doing another circle. I’m not sure if this is a problem with my setup or what. Angela was puzzled that I was having such a hard time, so I guess she wasn’t.

OK that’s it for griping. Fix the servers, fix the friends stuff, Sony. I’ll just avoid the cookery bits; that’s easy enough.

So what did I like? The Brawler job, of all things. That’s basic MMO combat, but it had me running far and wide, finding new, very atmospheric areas. Dismal regions full of foul smelling swamps and poisonous frogs. Blech. It was there that I entered by first dungeon/cave area, and it was nicely done! The combat is still very simple, but in a way that had me thinking of Diablo (high praise from me). Using a few skills, slurping potions, getting loot. There’s not a thing in the world wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned.

In a perfect world, I’d love an “aggressive” setting that would allow mobs to come after you. As it is now, you can walk right past a combat encounter and unless you choose to initiate combat, you’re perfectly safe. I get why it works this way — kid friendly! But I’d love an option that would allow those encounters to snare you if you get too close.

There’s also a lot of collecting quests, some pretty funny NPCs (Sal Monella is one of my favorites) and just a fun and interesting vibe for us explorer types.

And I like that one job (cooking) can feed (hah!) another job (brawler). Using your cooking job to make food that’ll heal you when you’re being a cook. Fun! Granted, many many MMOs have this without separate jobs, but it was still a nice touch.

I was in a Target anyway, so I wandered through the game section and sure enough, they had time cards, so I broke down and picked up a couple of sets. One was $0.99 and gives you a 30-day membership, 250 Station Cash and a magical potion (?). I’m assuming you can only apply this to an account once as it says in teeny-tiny text “New Accounts Only.” [UPDATE: This card wouldn’t work with an existing account, even though I’d never applied any codes to the account. I guess it has to be used when you create the account? Oh well, I kind of thought it was too good to be true.] The other was $10 and have 1000 Station Cash and a red pirate hat for your in-game dog. I love that they specify “in-game” dog. 🙂 Of course, you have to spend Station Cash to get that dog…

I suppose once you have that pirate hat, there’s no real reason to go back to Target for additional points.

Oh, one last thing, not related to Sony. Is anything running Vista able to get XFire to detect Free Realms? I can’t, and I don’t seem to be alone in that, from what I’m reading on the XFire forums.

10 thoughts on “Free Realms 2nd look

  1. Played this morning for a few hours… fun! I’m impressed that they kept the monthly fee at a kid-friendly level too.

  2. That whole ‘friends’ thing happened to me as well… it does seem pretty borked. That said, I’m enjoying myself… I don’t think it’ll last, and I doubt I’m going to spend any money on it, but it’s good fun for those ‘I’ve got 30 minutes / an hour’ times…

  3. I’d heard about the $ 0.99 card and actually put off making characters until we could go and get them – both my wife and I consider pets to be a must-have feature, and that little card gets you a nice headstart with enough cash for a pet plus a subscription so the game won’t nag you about subscribing for a month. On the downside, it would have been nice to link the thing to my existing station account so that I’d have one less login to worry about. I don’t expect to pay for a station pass in the foreseeable future, but that part could eventually bite me in the rear.

  4. If I can start with a .99 card, I’d happily delete my current beta account. I wanted to see more of Free Realms, but down time on the servers and all the ‘members only’ pay stuff I finally stopped.

    The mini-games are fun, but I know what you mean about combat so weird to never be attacked unless you click to go fight – lol!

  5. Did you ever figure out how to get Free Realms working in xfire? I am using Windows Vista 64 of the Home Premium variety and got it to work based on the info at the xfire forum by following the directions on symbolic link post.

    The location the game is stored in Windows 7 is:

    C:\Users\[Your Windows Logon]\AppData\LocalLow\Sony Online Entertainment\Installed Games\Free Realms

    It might be a bit different in Vista, but it is pretty close that. Sorry, I do not have Vista.

    1) I copied the “Free Realms” directory from that directory to “I:\Games\Free Realms” directory
    2) I started a command tool
    3) I CD’s into:

    C:\Users\[Your Windows Logon]\AppData\LocalLow\Sony Online Entertainment\Installed Games\

    4) I renamed the existing “Free Realms” directory as “Free Realms.old” so I can get it back if I need to
    5) I used the following command:

    mklink /D “Free Realms” “I:\Games\Free Realms”
    6) Tested that everything works file. I ran the game and quit and saw that the files in my “I:\Games\Free Realms” directory had been updated. I also did not get any new downloads because I had copied everything from my original location to the new one
    7) I deleted the “Free Realms.old” directory from C: drive to regain the disk space

    After you do this, you have to manually add the game within xfire —> tools —> options —> games tab —> Not Installed —> find Free Realms —> select the “manual setup” radio button and inside the “Game Path:” textbox enter the following:

    C:\Users\[Local User Name]\AppData\LocalLow\Sony Online Entertainment
    Where [Local User Name] would be your Vista account name or user directory name.

    Click Apply

    Also, I did the unhide the entire AppData directory tip. This is done by right-clicking on the AppData directory and unchecking Hide and applying it to all subfolders.

    Hope that helps. Nice Blog, BTW.

  6. I forgot to mention: once you have followed all the above steps…you must launch Free Realms from xfire.

    Tools —> Launch —> Free Realms

    This will fire up the free realms site in the default browser. Log in as usual, and when the game finally loads, you will get a confirmation pop-up stating in-game xfire is activated.

    🙂

  7. Having spent more time experimenting with xfire and Free Realms on Vista, I’ve noticed that this solution works sporadically at best. Sorry about that. The details above to give some insight on as to how to tinker around with your settings to get this working. It works occasionally, but xfire doesn’t always recognize Free Realms is running. Also the path that you set in the Game Path textbox isn’t necessarily accurate. It is sometimes:

    C:\Users\[Local User Name]\AppData\LocalLow\Sony Online Entertainment
    or
    C:\Users\[Local User Name]\AppData\LocalLow\Sony Online Entertainment\Installed Games\Free Realms

    Strange indeed. One thing I know is that the xfire team is working diligently on the matter and there is a potential SOE will release a standalone client for the game. As I tinker with these settings and get a permanent fix, I will be sure to update you all.

  8. Thank you for all the info, nuttyriv3r. I was watching the thread at the XFire forums but guess I lost track of it.

    A stand-alone client would be very welcome.

  9. Yesterday, Sony announced that the players of Free Realms will now be able to create guilds with their friends. It’s supposed to be super easy to use, and players can even teleport around the Free Realms world to meet up with their other guild friends who are online at the same time! Definitely a great reason to register to start playing Free Realms if you haven’t already. Find out more about the guilds here: tinyurl.com/free-realms-guilds

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