Well yesterday I did try to log into several games. Really though I just couldn’t get myself into playing anything I logged into. Even though blowing a few heads off in Fallen Earth would have done me some good, or frying some Char in Guild Wars might have made me chuckle, I just couldn’t do it. Even the thought of solving a puzzle in Myst Online: Uru Live, didn’t strike a cord with me.

At the end of the day I somehow decided to log into Free Realms for a bit. Things have been really, really nuts for me lately and really I think the idea of having some deliciously goofy fun was something that could make me feel better.

Thing is that when I jump into Free Realms, I don’t really have an agenda for my play time. While the Ninja is bad ass, I may not feel like battling baddies. Though I enjoy the bejeweled style puzzles, I may not want to hit up the farm areas to get cooking ingredients. Yeah the cart and demo derby driving games are just crazy fun, but really I might not want to dink around with those either.

Sometimes I just want to jump into a game and goof off for some silly fun without having to do any specific set of tasks. I know that sounds like an awful waste of time, but all fun and no play makes the Creepster go buggy nuts.

So what do I end up doing on my Free Realms goof off days? Well sometimes I end up chatting with folks I’d met during or right after beta. I go jump off the cliff at Seaside. I go cow tipping just south of Snow Hill. I start snowball fights in Snow Hill (that place is just awesome). I also usually end up taking a ton of screen shots(1). I also love clicking on any of the random wandering critters because sometimes they have some pretty wild hidden animations that make me giggle endlessly.

Let’s face it, Free Realms is a slacker’s paradise, no two ways about it. Sometimes just these little things amuse me enough to keep me in game for hours. Ah, welcome to the joys of ADHD!

Ok so now that I’ve gabbed for days about WHY I bother logging into Free Realms, I might as well justify why I’m blogging about it. Here’s some of the changes they’ve made to Free Realms since I’d logged in last time.

Mounts, Pets, and Interface Tweaks

For some reason they added mounts to Free Realms. Why? Really I have no idea. It’s a place with a tiny map and you can get speed buffs from pets or the Postman job which make zooming around pretty quick and painless. You can teleport to any of the zones AND you can even teleport to friends, which can be kind of awkward sometimes, hehehe. Safe to say, getting around in Free Realms is NOT a grueling task.

Never the less, the denizens of Free Realms are able to purchase a dinosaur or dragon mount to traverse the terrain. Oh and picking up one of these mounts requires no grinding for gold or dungeon raiding. Mounts are available only through the cash shop, proving once again that people will buy game mounts with real monies no matter what game it is they’re playing.

They also added a plethora(2) of pets. Now every little girl can fulfill her wish to have a pony, pegasus, or unicorn. Heck she could have all three if she can come up with the cash. Oh and little boys can have dinosaurs! OK, OK, the little triceratops, is quite possibly one of the cutest things I’ve seen in a video game ever. SOE can be evil, oh so evil. Pets too are also available through the cash shop.

The Free Realms crew has also made some MORE tweaks to the interface. I’m betting that they’re still hoping to port the game over to consoles and they’re probably trying to simplify the interface as much as possible. Hey for a kid’s game though, simple interfaces are where it’ s at.

Sure it can get annoying to have to click 20 times to drill down into whatever it is you want to get at. Thing is though if it makes the game easier to use for it’s intended audience, I’ll just have to deal. It’s not like I’m goofing off in Free Realms all of the time anywho hehe.

Almost One Full Year of Fun

Thing is I’d read up on Free Realms in Massively months before the initial beta. I had a chance to participate in the beta, and well, I kind of like occasionally checking in to see how things are evolving in the game.

Here we are almost 3 months out from the one year anniversary of Free Realms. The game seems to be thriving. Even logging onto server 10 there seems to be a good population of folks hanging out. A lot of players also seem to be using an item or two from the cash shop. This of course all means that the players have confidence enough in the game to spend some cash, but also that SOE is raking in that cash after dropping dough on what was certainly one of the most experimental MMO’s released in 2009. While Free Realms certainly wasn’t on the radar for the more hard core gaming crowds, it was one of the most successful games, at least when it comes to the number of subscribers. It was even launched pretty painlessly which, let’s face it, is pretty rare in the MMO genre these days.

I’m still wondering what will happen in Free Realms as it creeps into it’s second year. Personally I’m wondering when some of the new zones will be added to the map, you know, the ones at the four corners of it that never seemed to be opened *taps tiny foot*.

I can’t really complain though, the Free Realms team has been pretty savvy about the content that they have added to the game. The content that has been dropped so far did include things that were promised during beta such as player housing and guilds. They also added fluff items that made for a continuous revenue stream like boom boxes, new pets, mounts, and even seasonal goodies like Halloween Costumes.

The Free Realms team completed two jobs that weren’t working during the beta (kart driver and demo derby). They’ve also added two additional jobs since that time (soccer and fishing). Not to mention the fact that they’ve made tweaks here and there to the jobs that already exist, changing up they’re looks a bit.

On an exploration note, even though they haven’t added new areas, they have continued to add new nook and cranny “Elite” explorer coins (which can be a pain in the arse to get to) around the map. So while they haven’t added new places to poke around in, at least they’ve given you new and interesting reasons to explore the ones hanging about. Oh one of the coins is right off the end of one of my favorite places to cliff dive in Seashore, awesome!

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it’s at least the changes I can remember off the top of my head.

Free Realms it’s Just for Fun

There’s probably a lot of reasons why Free Realms has been successful. For folks like me though I think that Free Realms is a game I manage to go back to because it’s just plain fun. Free Realms hasn’t upped the level cap and added new zones with new raiding instances. The game doesn’t change from solo level grinding to group raids once you hit level xty. You don’t spend hours killing mobs grinding for crafting mats, reputation, or some obscure mount. You don’t spend hours reading game guides or listening to podcasts to make sure that your raiding spec is up to snuff.

Nope, Free Realms is just grotesquely fluffy fun and shows no remorse for being just that. It’s pretty much what would happen if a mad scientist combined World of Warcraft and Hello Kitty Island Adventures, wrapping it in that Mac OS style shiny icon goodness. For the most part it’s just plain goofy fun.

Yeah goofing off in Free Realms can make you feel guilty, even ashamed.  There’s no e-peen appeal in Free Realms. Thing is though, it is free, it is fun and while it’s a shallow game that’s not designed to be anyone’s exclusive MMO focus, it is one of those places that’s just fun to run in and check out now and then.

Oh and if you ever need to know where to go for cow tipping, drop me a line and I’ll give you the scoop.

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(1) the screenshot key is F12 now, they keep hiding it from me

(2) I just like saying ‘plethora’, a nod of course to “Three Amegos“.

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