For a while last summer I was playing EA’s free to play driving MMO, Need for Speed: World, pretty regularly.
It was reasonable fun, with races, polices chases, and a few other distractions. I put some money down for a couple of cars.
Eventually its appeal wore off and I summed up what I liked and disliked about it, then mostly stopped playing, halting my career at level 26.
But since then I have peeked in now and again to drive a bit and see what has changed.
And like most MMOs, the game has changed over time. And as with MMOs, I am sometimes strained to see how some of the changes have been for the better.
The first thing I noticed as time passed was the removal of police from the world. Police chases are no longer random things that could happen at any moment if you slammed into a police cruiser.
Patrol Cars go Flying
Instead, police pursuit became a type of road course, and instance like races and team escape. Police cars are no longer seen on the streets.
For me, that made the world feel a little less real.
Not that smashing into police cars was anything like realistic. But the police in the world were the one thing you could not smash into without fear of repercussion. They added a… well, sense of danger isn’t really the right term… but maybe a sense of constraint, a feeling that there were some limits in the world. There was a price to be payed (unless you could get away!) if you went too far.
They also changed up the daily treasure hunt. That wasn’t really a big change. They started actually giving out some better stuff at times. But it also became a vehicle to get you to spend Boost, their RMT currency. (Which, for some reason, never got combined with the rest of the EA Play4Free currencies.)
For the daily treasure hunt, your rewards now get better as you finish the hunt consecutive days in a row. But if you miss a day, you can buy your way back into your streak with the revive option.
A new place to spend Boost
They also changed the timer on the hunt. It used to be, to my recollection, based on calendar day. You could do the hunt on any given day. Now there is a 24 hour lock out on it, so if you finish the hunt at 6pm on Tuesday, you cannot do it again until 6pm Wednesday.
Here is something I wish everybody would pick up from Blizzard; the 20 hour day for lockouts. I hate when I forget, or am late, to do something that is on a 24 hour timer and then I am stuck with that late time going forward unless I just skip a day. I did the gem hunt late one evening, and the next evening just punted on it because I did not want to stay up that late again just for one small game event. That, of course, broke my streak, which removed an incentive for me to log on again, which in turn meant that I ended up not logging on and essentially stopped playing.
Spam bots are even more aggressive. The “free boost” scam bots now invite you to group.
Chat now auto-hides URLs at least
This happened to me one day when I was logged in off-peak. Apparently I was one of the few viable targets as the bot would invite me to group every two or three minutes until I logged off in frustration. There does not appear to be a way to auto-decline groups.
They have introduced language specific chat channel. When you log in for the first time since the change, it asks what your preferred language is and assigns you to an appropriate channel from there on.
This, however, appears to not be working out very well. The English language channels still seem to be full of other languages. Maybe those people fear that we will miss their long tirades in Portuguese.
Then there is the pain of world-spanning races. This was a problem before, but it seems to have grown more acute since I was away. Every race start seems to take 5 or minutes to load while we wait for, I would guess, some guy in Tierra del Feugo on his 14.4Kbps dial-up connection to get ready.
You will see 8 players in the pre-race lineup, then the load screen comes up, and when the wait is finally over, there might be 5 or 6 people left in the race.
That would me tolerable I suppose, except cheating/hacking in the game seems to have gotten out of control. I ran six races the other day and there was an obvious cheat/hack going on in three of them. While hardly conclusive evidence of an epidemic, it was enough to put me off racing.
And it is really bad when it is obvious enough that I can spot the pattern. On multiple lap races there appears to be a hack or exploit that allows a person to use the “add one lap” opti0n so that it applies to everybody in the race except you. And when you only have to do two laps and everybody else has to do three, guess who wins? I was neck and neck the whole time with a person who did that in one race and they won right in front of me while I still had a lap to go.
Ah well. According to the forums they are trying to fight this sort of thing, but it sure sucks the wind out of your enthusiasm when you see it happen that often.
The devs seemed to have figured out that very few people read the news and specials listed in the launcher, so they have also put news and deals in a window that comes up when you enter the world for the first time.
Wanna buy a 240Z?
I get that they need to push cash shop items… and it isn’t like I don’t get something similar in EverQuest or EverQuest II these days when I log in… but it is just one more window to close. And the important news, like “oh, we’re having a special event which is why all but six of the usual courses have disappeared from your” is absent. Priorities, I suppose.
And, finally, things have gotten blurry… but in a good way.
Now when you start going really fast in game… it seems to kick in somewhere above 100 MPH… the scenery will blur as you speed down the road. That sounds a bit silly, but it is an interesting effect, as the distortion radiates out from the center of your view, growing more pronounced as you read the edge of your vision. But it seems maybe a little more Star Trek than Street Racer. Plus, as you can see in the picture above, other cars on the road remain oddly in focus relative to the scenery. The overall effect is strange.
So Need for Speed World is still around and appears to be getting regular updates like any healthy MMO. And with any MMO, when you have been away for a while, upon returning the world feels like it has moved on without you.