Free Realms seems to be signing up people left and right; they announced yesterday that they’d reached 1 million registered users (note: not subscribers). And they’ve added another 2 servers, bringing the total to 10. We logged in at 10 am ET this morning, and all servers were already at Medium capacity.
The Friends list is still borked, but it seems like the overall server crashing/unexpected downtime issues of last weekend are gone.
Speaking personally, Angela and I are still enjoying the heck out of it. In fact I found it a bit too enjoyable, and played so much last weekend that I aggravated my wrist (typical gamer/programmer RSI issues, nothing serious). Then Mon & Tue were very long work days full of head-down coding, which didn’t help the wrist situation any. So I’m restricting myself to short Free Realms play sessions a few times a day. And mostly doing combat missions, which aren’t as mouse-intensive.
It still feels like every time I log in I find something new. Today it was a whale breaching off the coast in Seaside, then later a crazy fireworks display from a musician named Bruce who was being held hostage by some ogres. When the last ogre was knocked out, a huge burst of rainbows and fireworks shot off from the rock that Bruce was using as an improvised stage.
We’re supporting the game, both via subscriptions (in my case, Angela has a Station Pass) and buying stuff at retail shops. I bought a couple of $10 Station Coin cards at Target one day, and a couple of Starter Packs for the physical CCG from Best Buy this week. Those were $10 too and are a decent deal. They get you a month’s subscription to the game ($5 value), a virtual dog (pets cost between $2.50 & $4.00 in-game) and some other in-game odds and ends, plus of course a deck of cards and a ‘playmat’. The down side is that there’s still no detailed instructions on how to play…just what’s printed on the playmat. Maybe all this stuff is obvious to veteran CCG players, but this is my first such game.
But I find it interesting that I’ve spent $25 this month on a “free” game and have zero regrets for having done so. The $5 for the subscription was a ‘must-have’ but the other $20 was just bubbling-over enthusiasm and wanting silly extras.
We’re gleefully anticipating the future of Free Realms. Apparently more jobs and more mini-games are in the works, as well as all those “coming soon” areas on the map. The funny thing is, we weren’t chomping at the bit waiting for the launch. I played a tiny bit of the beta and wasn’t impressed, and Angela had zero interest in the game (I’m not sure what convinced her to try it…I guess just that it was included in the Station Pass). And now we’re both completely enchanted by it.
If any devs happen upon this, here is my suggestion for the future of Free Realms. How about offering different ways of accomplishing crafting tasks? Granted I’m an old man and not the intended audience, but the smelting mini-game kills me with all its “frantically shake the mouse around” motions (ie, the bellows). I’d love a more cerebral alternative to doing those action-based mini-games. And I’m sure there are players who would like more of the whack-a-mole action-packed mini-games and that get tired of the ‘eliminate the gems’ stuff.
I’m visualizing an option when you start one of these tasks you are prompted — Minigame 1 or Minigame 2? — with 1 being action-packed and 2 being more cerebral. You could ask every time, or let the players indicate in their settings which style they prefer.
And one last request: soundtrack, please?
Or, just ignore me and keep doing what you’re doing, because what you’re doing is pretty damned awesome.