Hello, everyone! I’m starting to write articles for fun and this forum post ended up sounding a lot like a Medium article so I carried on with it. Hopefully you’ll like it, but it is a rather long read (~700 words). Enjoy!
The Blockheads is a free, mobile game. It also isn’t made by Voodoo, so it doesn’t have an incessant amount of ads, but it does have some In-App purchases for a premium currency, and credits to fund online servers.
And yet still after the 1.7 update, The Blockheads doesn’t feel pay to win at all. With so much rich content to explore and endless play with friends there’s never a stale moment even without spending a dime.
On the other hand, you look at games like Clash of Clans or even PC games like Star Wars: The Old Republic feel sluggish without paying. Granted, these games are playable without paying, but you still feel disadvantaged against paying players and no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to compete with “premium” users. Even SWTOP has items blocked by a massive paywall that is impassable.
So what has The Blockheads done that has made it stand out in comparison with other F2P games, especially mobile games?
1. The small paywall doesn’t feel so important
Everything in the game, including the end content, can be unlocked for free. Progress can be sped up with the premium currency, time crystals, but you’ll find that in the end it’s worth it to wait the 5-10 minutes.
The only feature locked behind a paywall is the ability to own a server and keep it running, and even then making a server costs about as much as a Starbucks drink. As a free game this completely makes sense.
Multiplayer is still accessible as a normal player, mod, or admin. Without paying any money, you won’t be able to create a server of your own, but you can still enjoy other people’s servers or play on locally hosted singleplayer worlds.
Kind members of the forums can even give you a free server using their Mac to self host servers.
Even donations can be given to support servers you love. This function is similar to Minecraft servers which need third party hosting and cost more than the smaller servers you can easily set up with a few dollars.
2. The game distracts you with more content
There’s always something to do in The Blockheads, whether you want to build grand castles, or explore deep caverns to gather resources.
Which, of course, means that even if there’s micro-transactions in the form of time crystals or server credit, it’s content that isn’t as important as the other features that don’t have to be unlocked.
4. The premium currency doesn’t do that much
Time crystals can be used to rush sleeping, crafting, teleport, or to instantaneously make a workbench.
Still, sleeping and crafting really aren’t worth the rush. Sleeping takes a meager few seconds when time is sped up by meditation, and crafting items usually takes somewhere from 15 seconds to 30 minutes for mass production of items.
Most importantly, the premium currency can’t be used to gain any resource. You can’t get ores, food, or literally any other item in the game from time crystals.
The main function of time crystals post-1.7 is for teleportation in developed multiplayer worlds, especially themed servers involving PvP combat.
Even here there are more “cost” effective ways to travel, including the new inclusion of unicorns, boat, or a Caffeinated Coffee Charge.
5: The game is subtle about its premium currency
There are two unofficial playstyles for most of the game: idle, passive gameplay, or a more active one.
It is possible to complete the game with an entirely idle playstyle, but it simply isn’t as practical as a combination of idle-active.
Waiting out sleep cycles, meditation, and crafting can be played idly. However, crafting requires resources which you have to gather, forcing a more active playstyle if you want to be able to improvise. On the other hand, an idle playstyle means you’ll have to carefully plan out what your Blockhead will do (craft, then sleep, then go mine, then come back to craft, but then you need to travel to the other island to get to that workbench, but then…)
And so the more active playstyle is more effective if you want to “finish” the game and progress faster. It is natural for players to want to be more idle though, because it makes sense to do less work in exchange for a high outcome.
An active playstyle encourages use of time crystals though because you want to complete objectives like crafting or walking at maximum speed with full energy as fast as possible.
But because a vast amount of players don’t want to sit staring at the screen for the crafting or meter to fill up, they decide to combine active/idleness.
And that is the genius of the F2P model- because people use a playstyle that combines encouragement for using time crystals and one that allows you to be passive, it isn’t as obvious that the premium currency is used.
Maybe Dave really is a brilliant developer and he is our shining beacon of light in a dark world of pay to win, or maybe I’m just looking too much into it. What do you think?