Darkfall Promotion; Testing the importance of character progression

June 29, 2012

Darkfall Promotion Info

The forums are excited about this, and they should be. Short-term this will certainly work for DF, and the high player interest will result in more PvP, which will further fuel interest/action.

Long-term this is of course not sustainable. No one is going to be fighting over farming spots or villages when everyone already has more gear bags than they know what to do with (unlike EVE, DF is rather poor in terms of removing items from the game due to PvP). Same goes for PvE’ing for the sake of character progression. At 20x skill increases, everyone will be maxed shortly, and that aspect of the game will be dead.

The result will be sieges for the sake of sieging/PvP, with everyone being maxed and in max gear. How long THAT stays interesting I’m not sure. On the one hand it resembles a FPS’s deathmatch system more than an MMO, but on the other hand FPS deathmatches have been known to keep people interested for a long time, and DF does have an amazing combat system going for it.

Of course, long term might be a non-factor if DF2.0 is even remotely close to release (under a year). That, however, is a giant ‘if’.

At least the wipe question has been confirmed :)


Day-one mastery

June 29, 2012

Keen has a nice post about why he is finding current-day MMOs lacking, especially in immersion. I think what Keen writes is something many (most?) MMO players feel, whether they actually know it or not. A major issue with MMOs cloning WoW is that today, everyone is already really good at WoW, and so a major chunk of ‘content’ (learning the game) is instantly missing from whatever AAA MMO you load up.

This is a major reason why, despite having access, I only played GW2 a tiny bit during the first BWE event; just enough to know the game was decent-enough to play with INQ and my wife. Because while GW2 is set to cure all MMO woes, it does so in very familiar fashion. You are still mashing a hotbar, you are still going from lower level zones to higher, still collecting ever-increasing gear, and you still have an end-game where you bash people/doors/npcs until… well until you are bored (or for a small subset, until your server sits at the top).

The details of all of the above is what will make GW2 interesting, and there will be some changes thrown in (ooh, dodge), but learning those will take minutes rather than years, and because this is a mass-market game, the learning will be terrible accessible and dummy-proof.

The ride itself will undoubtedly be pretty, it will have some ‘ooh neat’ moments, and the time spent with it will be entertaining. But I have absolutely no doubts that GW2 will not be immersive. It won’t be something that sucks you in and challenges you on that level for months if not years. It won’t be the land of unique MMO stories, where a year after release we are reading about how a small group of players just discovered a new way of doing… anyway. And all of that is 100% fine, so long as you go in with reasonable expectations. I fear many are not, but what can you do.

Back to the larger point; in the days of the big three, immersion worked not only because no one really knew this MMO thing, but because each game had little in common with the other two. Simply put UO did not play or work like EQ1 in any way, and what AC-DT was doing was also completely different. If you put UO next to EQ and added up the similarities, and did the same for WoW and GW2, which total would be higher? And by how much?

On top of this, figuring each game out took longer, mostly thanks to the games being less accessible and the ‘how this works’ never being officially explained. This lead to information being posted elsewhere, but at that time half of what you read was still wrong. Today not only can you get every system explained to you on one site, but that one site is almost certainly accurate. If today I want to know the absolute best build for a GW2 character, I’m only one Google search away.

As always, the current-day exception to this is EVE. The lack of accessibility in EVE means you are left to figure many things out either on your own or in your group. The wealth of options means that while you can master one aspect, there are dozens of unrelated things you know nothing about. A great null-sec pilot is a noob in WH space, for instance, and to truly become a master of everything not only requires a massive amount of time, it’s also very, very optional. You would have to force yourself to jump from area to area of the game frequently just to experience it all, and that’s not very realistic for a variety of reasons.

What EVE loses by those dropping off before the first month due to the complexity it makes up for (and then some) from those who are 4 year vets and still have things to learn. The PvP-based nature of EVE also means that not only will that 4 year vet have game systems to learn; he will constantly be adjusting his gameplay due to other players and shifting tactics.

It would be difficult for a new MMO to replicate the complexity and depth of EVE on launch day, simply because unlike WoW, EVE has actually been expanding (rather than replacing) its content over the years. But while it would be unrealistic to expect years of complexity on day one, more than a month is not asking too much, is it?


Today is “post that GW2 has a release date” day

June 28, 2012

GW2 missing races = WAR capital cities?

Probobly not.

Right?

(I’m glad GW2 is coming sooner than later, if only to save the wife from murdering someone due to LoL-rage)


Last post today, I swear

June 26, 2012

To help balance the F2P doom-and-gloom, this interview about Arma2/DayZ, how it’s sandbox nature works, and how EVE players (mostly Russians) played their part, should make you feel better. Just a great read overall.


Out-voted

June 26, 2012

A box-only game is successful if people buy the box. How they feel about what’s inside the box after the sale is only important if you intend to start or maintain a franchise. If this is a one-off game, whether you sell a million copies because you created a great game or because you had a great marketing campaign does not matter; at the end of the day you sold a million copies.

The subscription model collects equal pay from everyone, and is successful when enough people continue to pay. The plus side for consumers is that if you sell a box and the content sucks, you are going to fail under the subscription model. The downside is that if 10k people REALLY like what you are doing, it’s still only 10k people and you most likely have failed (unless you aimed at 10k). The other factor here is that, for the most part, one sub is just as good as another, so the goal is to just get as many as possible.

The F2P model makes its money off a tiny subset of players, but those players end up paying far more than they would/could under other models. The model is successful if that subset buys and buys often, rather than how many people in general find your game interesting. You could have the world’s greatest game, but if the cash shop is a ghost town, you have failed as a F2P game.

I write the above (again) because, to me, gaming is going down a very dangerous trend in terms of ‘wallet votes’.

The first model is not perfect. Games could and do often sell on pure hype. How many terrible, terrible movie tie-in games have sold in the past for no reason other than having a trendy name on the box? And no matter how much you hate that Superman64 game, you still bought the box and effectively told the devs behind it “more please”.

On the other hand, positive word-of-mouth could lead to better sales, and high review scores ‘mattered’. While it still happened (ICO), overall good games sold well, and developers had solid reasons to make quality titles. A sad trend of “good original game, lots of crap after” happens, but hey, at least the original was worthwhile.

The sub model should be familiar to everyone here. The obvious advantage is that box hype won’t save crap (WAR), and solid titles can earn their teams far, far more money than just a single box sale. CCP is able to do what it does not because EVE is an amazing game for all, but because EVE is an amazing game for 100-200k people who pay CCP hundreds of dollars a year, every year, ‘forever’. Under the box model EVE would have long since shut down and been declared a massive failure, while WAR and SW:TOR would be considered great success stories.

The other big advantage here is that not only must a quality title be delivered, it must be maintained. If a year goes by and your MMO falls behind, or goes in a negative direction, players have a direct way to inform the company that they do not approve (unsub). Games that are well maintained and innovate while staying true to their core are rewarded, and as a player that is the ultimate win/win when it comes to the MMO genre.

The big downside, especially from a company perspective, is that each vote is limited to a set amount of money. Super fans can’t (reasonably) vote more by spending more, and if the core of your title has a somewhat limited market, your updates might only go as far as they need to in order to maintain, rather than push the boundaries aggressively to really make players extra happy.

F2P allows for that super fan vote. Or rather, it ONLY cares about the super fan vote. Left at just that, it should be the ideal model for true gamers, right? The more you and your niche love a title, the more successful you can make it while also getting more out of it.

Unfortunately reality does not align with theory. Current-day F2P games, for the most part, sell power (because power sells), and games that sell power become competitions of spending rather than of skill (or even time). By design, a game that sells power is inherently flawed IMO. The devs are too motivated to put walls in front of you that you can spend to climb over, or ‘encourage’ PvP to be determined by he who has the bigger wallet.

What really worries me is that, even if the above is accepted by most, it only takes a few to justify peddling F2P goods. 95% of people can recognize a poor game that sells power as something not worth paying for, but unlike the other two models, the 95% does not matter. If that 5% is buying, the game is a success. Furthermore, in order to KEEP that 5% spending, devs must keep giving them a reason to do so. If the 5% all already have the sword of $25 doom, then you better have the axe of $40 godslaying coming tomorrow, even if that axe drives away scores of the 95%. You never counted, so you leaving is a non-factor.

I’ll go one step further; I believe those who spend heavily in F2P games are generally dumb gamers. They are the types who want to level faster even if it means they burn out sooner. They are the ones who use god-mode codes even when god-mode just means you need to pay for another game sooner. They are the ones who read a walkthrough before playing a game, all while complaining about how easy and predictable everything is.

The crux of the problem is that now, with F2P, the dummy vote is the only vote that counts, and while long-term that might not be sustainable, long term and quarterly financial results don’t mix. If your favorite MMO shuts down because it sold one too many power items, you can bet that the company behind it has already reallocated resources to the “next big thing”, and the only ones really screwed are those who wanted to play the game that was originally pitched, pre-F2P ‘conversion’.

(Which is not to condemn F2P overall. F2P can be done right (LoL), and the results can be a massive win/win for players (more content) and devs (way more money than box or sub. But F2P done right is, as of today, sadly rare.)


I don’t think you know what the bear means

June 26, 2012

Short post day: sorry/you’re welcome?

MiltDavies is my new favorite commentator at Massively. Pure gold every time the guy types. If he had a blog I’d read it daily.

Also how has TESO not been cancelled yet? Fans bashing you for obvious reasons is one thing, but have we ever seen other game studios dump on something so far from release?


Yes yes, but how much for The One Ring already?

June 26, 2012

When did Turbine change its motto to “Bend over loyal players and take it”?

First $70 for a LoTRO expansion, and now $50 for DDO’s? Oh and be sure to pick up the half-orc race for just $20. So much for that whole ‘micro’ transaction thing huh? Damn.


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