Expectations

January 17, 2012

Quick item I found interesting from the CCP/CSM meeting notes: EVE New Player Experience according to CCP =  The first six months.

SW:TOR entire player/pillar experience: One month.

Both games use the same business model.


I’m kind of a big deal

January 16, 2012

I often state that I’m kind of a big deal. I usually say it in jest, but for this post I’m being serious. I’m kind of a big deal. Some facts (since those are trending of late).

At last count (and most likely still true) I was responsible for getting more players to try/buy Darkfall than anyone else through the Community Publisher Program. Over 100 people followed my link and put money in Aventurine’s pocket while I was actively blogging about the game. And the CPP was not around right after launch, while I was blogging/generating interest from day one. I also don’t have a count of how many people returned/resubbed, because they don’t show up on my CPP page, but I’m guessing that’s a sizable number as well.

In EVE currently we have 15 or so people in my Corp right now, with a few people waiting to get in (war-dec, more on that in another post). Almost all of these people are either new to EVE, or returned due to this blog. The Corp has been around for over a month now, and only one member that joined has gone inactive. In addition, more than one member has multiple accounts, and a few used the PLEX fast-forward feature, in part thanks to Corp-inspired goals. We show no signs of slowing down. Actually, we are just getting started on a number of initiatives (more on THAT in another post as well).

Now, you can either design games intended for long-term retention for people like me, or you can design them for people like this.

And let’s be very clear here, we are talking about games whose business model is based on retention. On collecting that 15 bucks a month. If you want to create the next Skyrim, that’s a different topic.

The sad and ultimately futile trend over the last few years, at least in the AAA themepark space, has been not to attract people like me into the game, but to prolong the stay of the ‘others’. Feeding them welfare epics was attempted and failed. Allowing them to faceroll all of the content was attempted and failed. Dumbing down classes, skills, stats, gear; all attempted and failed. And now, in (hopefully) the final and most costly attempt; voice. Get paid actors to drone (get it) on and on, hopefully long enough to stretch the content beyond a few months. It’s laughable, in a tragic kind of way.

It’s tragic because the real source of endless content has been known since 1997 (and even before that). Players ARE the content in an MMO. Endless, ‘free’ content that not only keepings people subscribed, but gets their friends to join in as well. Without the need to pay Mr. T or Chuck! Or can be, if you allow them anyway. Which is why things like certain instancing, phasing, and quest-chain design is just so wrong on such an elementary level. It’s why voice/NPC-story as a pillar is a joke. SW:TOR never had a shot of being a successful MMO, no matter how enjoyable the stories were, how strong the SW IP is, or how highly regarded BioWare was prior to this release, because of it’s fourth pillar. They might as well have included a “Game Over” screen after the 1000th blaster shot to the face kills Vader.

Is it 6 months yet?


I was replying to Tobold’s post… I lost the will to live, deleted my comment and came here instead.

January 13, 2012

Who’s better than Bhagpuss, stepping up on this fine Friday?

/hat-tip


Fact not opinion

January 13, 2012

The only fact that exists about WoW right now related to its success and failure is that it went from a game that was rapidly growing to one that is rapidly shrinking.

Every comment or theory behind the ‘why’ is an opinion. Blizzard has an opinion, I have an opinion, and commentators here have an opinion. I’m waiting for Azuriel to give his opinion. He has so far spent a lot of time, a lot of typing, and a lot of quoting to show that my opinion of the ‘why’ is not a fact.

Thanks.

Backing up an opinion with a fact (WoW is shrinking) does not make the original opinion a fact itself. I find it terribly boring to debate this, since, you know, it’s not a debate.

What I don’t find boring, and clearly what others are interested in reading, are just those opinions about the ‘why’. It’s actually what this blog is mostly about (well that and shilling Darkfall).

You know what else is boring? Spending a lot of time/typing arguing something that was never actually said (At least seriously, good trolling is an art after all). Counter-arguing that making WoW harder/easier would not have completely solved all its woes is pointless. Difficulty/accessibility is not some be-all end-all cure/disease for an MMO. It’s a factor, and perhaps a very important one, but not THE one and only factor. But in order to keep posts focused, and in order to keep them at a length that most people find readable, I often talk about one factor at a time. That does not mean that magically that one point is now all-important, and pointing this out in every post is a waste of everyone’s time.

EVE is not solely successful because everyone plays on one server.

EVE is in-part successful because everyone plays on one server.

And the above is not fact. It’s my opinion. We all on the same page here?

I love to debate MMO design and theory. Tell me why you think something works. Tell me why you think it doesn’t. Feel free to use past experiences or the success/failure of games to support this. Bring up some little-known fact from some game as an example of something. All good. Really good actually.

But don’t attempt to turn a discussion of opinion into some scientific formula where you plug in a few values and get an absolute result. Not only does it not work, it’s not very entertaining.

And at the end of the day, that’s why we read blogs, to be entertained (fact).

(Bonus points if you can tell me the source of this post’s title)


300m buys you a thesaurus!

January 13, 2012

INNOVATION!

(By means of a Paragus remark prior, but this truly merits its own editorial*)

*CwutIdidthur?


Seems a loaded failtrain has pulled into the station

January 12, 2012

A lot of great stuff floating around today. First is this comment from Rammstein, responding to Azuriel yesterday, related to his and Blizzard’s claim that Cata failed because it was too hard:

Anything that Chilton says to the New York Times is “established fact”? LOL. You never considered any of the following?

1. He could be lying.

2. He could be wrong, which looks more likely when you consider he is part of the design team responsible for the drop.

3. He could be both lying and wrong, the most probable scenario.

4. He could be right. In this horribly unlikely case, what he said is STILL NOT ESTABLISHED FACT, as that would require something establishing it as a fact besides someone just saying it to someone else.

-Rammstein

I remember hearing Chilton’s comment when it was originally made, and had a similar reaction to Rammstein (I might have blogged about it, not sure, too lazy to look). To take the word of someone who is partially responsible for sinking a runaway success as gospel is… silly at best. If anything, I’m pretty sure Blizzard has been writing a great “What not to do” book of MMO design since WotLK. MoP should be a thrilling conclusion.

And in that book, they should also include some footnotes, one being this. Raise your hand if you are shocked that a game that was good and then went full-on WoWtard is seeing players leave? Anyone, anyone? Again, much like WAR, it’s sad to see what could have been a nice entry in the MMO genre turn into a pile of wasted code.

Speaking of a pile of wasted code, this is amusing. If 300m can’t buy you semi-decent graphics that work (let’s be honest, even the high-res stuff still looks very meh compared to something like Skyrim), is there any hope? Sure, it’s impossible to catch something random like /dance turning on godmode, and we all know having more than a dozen players on a screen is technically impossible (I write this as I undock from Jita 4 4, with everything maxed (real maxed, not ‘high is a bug’ maxed), and my FPS sitting at 60), but is it too much to ask for 2008-ish graphic options? But hey, at least they shipped with AA enabled, right? I mean only a super-indy game from 2003 (Darkfall) would ship without that feature enabled… Oh… Hey… voice!

The worst part of all this high-res nonsense is that BioWare assumes everyone playing SW:TOR is an idiot (I know, I know). “Oh the ‘high’ setting is a UI bug”, “No no, the current high really is high, even though the beta high looked much better…”, or that long explanation of how drawing characters on a screen works. Thanks Doc. I never considered how having more characters might be taxing on a machine. Next you are going to tell me the whole problem is exponential! Hopefully they have emailed that wonderful discovery to Nvidia so maybe they can start working on a solution. And if only we had internet connections faster than 14.4…

Maybe it’s a generational thing? All of the current devs that believe handing out epics = retention while they stand on pillars just need to finally exit the industry, and maybe we can get some money spent on non-insta-fail design?

That’s not going to happen, is it?

Oh, one more point: all this “money is in casual themeparks, deal with it” crap. Hi, themeparks have/are failing, and they cost a hell of a lot more when they fail (WAR, AoC, Rift, EQ2, etc) than some 10m indy MMO that never got a chance (poor Shadowbane). Yes, WoW had 11m subs. Blizzard made a ton of cash. Everyone wishes they were WoW. I get all that. It’s not 2007 anymore. No one has even come remotely close to replicating WoW no matter how much they spent or how hard they mashed copy/paste. The current WoWs in gaming? A ‘hardcore’ PvP game and two ‘hardcore’ PvP games (LoL and BF/CoD).

Also Minecraft made a million dollars (read that in the Office Space “guy who invented the pet rock made a million bucks” voice)


Getting back to the source

January 11, 2012

Jester has a post up about how Sovereignty works in EVE, and how the game might benefit from borrowing some ideas from Perpetuum in that area. A good read as always, and it brings up a larger point: competition amongst MMOs can be a good thing, and ultimately if the devs are smart the real winners are the players.

Devs being smart is something that seems to be lacking in the genre of late.

Take for instance Rift. In beta, when Rift was limited to only one large zone (the 1-20 game), it was a great game. Players quickly learned which areas were the elite ‘tough’ areas, which parts were easier, and the different hubs truly felt like hubs given the player activity and uses. Combine this setup with how the invasion system worked back then (far more active, more impact to hubs), and while the ‘world’ back then was still a zone, it felt much larger and grander than the typical themepark zone.

The day-before-release nerf to invasions happened. The after-20 zone layout happened. And finally 1.2 happened.

And while this is just me speculating, IMO Trion tried to WoWify Rift. More speculating; they did it because WoWbies tried Rift and wanted it to be, well, WoW. It’s what the locust do after all. How’s that working out for Rift now? It’s one thing to ask your community for suggestions and such. It’s another to just blindly give the players exactly what they are asking for, regardless of how it fits into your game or what you originally set out to do.

What if Rift, start to finish, was like the beta version of the game? The one that was near-universally praised. The version that, for those how tried it, saw a game that, while still firmly themepark, at least felt a little different. Had a little more… MMO to it?

What if Rift borrowed from Guild Wars? 1-20 level game just to teach you the basics, and then all zones tuned to level 20, each one different based on theme and setting rather than level range. Make invasions really matter, allow them to dominate a zone to the point the players are ‘locked out’ until they rally together and fight back. At worst, one of the ten zones you can visit as a lvl 20 is blocked, big deal. Expand the game in that area, horizontally, rather than just repeating the same world event every few months, tacking on raids, and having everyone wait for the inevitable level increase and total content reset/replacement.

But, because while Rift was still cooking, WoW had its 11m ‘subs’, Trion borrowed from Blizzard rather than a different source. Same can be said for Mythic and WAR, Funcom and AoC, and today BioWare and SW:TOR. The results are in for WAR/AoC/Rift, and it’s not rocket science to predict what SW is going to look like in 5 months.

What’s amusing about all of this is that, because EQ1 had 500k subs and UO/AC ‘only’ had 100-250k, the big suit copy/paste monkeys looked at EQ1. And it works for a while, because for all its faults, at least EQ1 was still an MMO. And so was WoW origin. And… well we all know how things went, and what the ultimate result is.

So now, does the genre gravitate back towards EQ1-style design, or does it go full-circle to its roots, where we start seeing teams create worlds and make them work, rather than settling on a theme and tossing in some MMO concepts to calling it a day?

Is it 6 months yet?


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