Darkfall has been greenlit

November 30, 2012


(And now the obligatory “How will AV screw this up” trolling/truth)

Also I hope the process to get the game on Steam for purchase is not completed by 12/12/12, because the queues could be pretty lengthy. Far better to have this trigger a month or two after release, once the initial rush has died down and not everyone is piling into the newbie goblin spawns (that will kill WoWbies the first few times they attempt them. Welcome to DF!)


Get Darkfall on Steam

November 28, 2012

Aventurine has submitted Darkfall: Unholy Wars for Steam’s Greenlight. Go vote to get it in.

Also the newest video has been released, showing off the Skirmisher role / Brawler school. Gotta love that jump range. Hopefully the dodge move is not an invuln-dodge ala GW2.

Occupy Endgame

November 27, 2012

Yesterday’s post about repeatable content had a side conversation in the comments about the % of players who use ‘end-game’ content, be it raiding or PvP, in a themepark. That topic then begs the question: what about all those who never hit the level cap?

I’d break that group into two: those who stick around for a bit, and those who don’t.

The don’t group is easy; they just did not like your game enough to stick with it. It’s not a group you should ignore, but it’s not a group end-game changes or additions is going to effect. Let’s ignore this group for the sake of this post.

The second group is interesting. They are players who sub/play for multiple months, but for one reason or another never hit the level cap. Here perhaps end-game changes might impact them, but I would think mostly in either a neutral or positive manner. If they don’t like your change, it has no impact on them since they are not using that content anyway. If they do like the change, perhaps they hit the cap and experience it.

But as a customer group overall, your MMO is doing its job in terms of giving them something to do, and they seem to like doing it (otherwise they would be in group one). Expanding non-endgame content would benefit this group, and if the devs notice they are losing a lot of players right around this transition (hit the cap and quit), it’s something to address, but again if we are talking about focusing or changing end-game content, this group is basically a non-factor.

And so when someone states that only 2%, 5%, or 10% of players raid, are they including the above two groups in that calculation? Because if they are, what’s the point? Someone who only plays WoW for the leveling game is not going to care how accessibly you make raiding, or that you reduced the raid size from 40 to 25. But the players who are currently raiding? Oh, they certainly will care.

And raiders or end-game PvP’ers are in it for the long haul. They are, in many ways, your best customers. They reuse content at a crazy pace compared to those who only like leveling or solo content, they create much of their own momentum with guild events or raid schedules, and they provide that all-important social ‘hook’ to keep people subbed, at times long past the point of actually enjoying said content (how many raiders will continue to play because of their guild, despite not really loving the current raid? Contrast this to how likely a solo player is to stick around if they hit a zone they don’t enjoy.)

Of course to discount that end-game players are also often very vocal would be wrong, but amongst all the noise a lot of valuable information can be found (bugs, exploits, suggestion), and it takes a skilled developer to properly filter it all and ultimately provide content and updates that are best for the game, sometimes going along with the players, sometimes going against what they are asking for. Always giving the players what they THINK they want is often worse than totally ignoring them.

Anets recent scramble to add a resist gear grind and progression raiding/dungeons is not aimed at those who are enjoying the leveling game. It’s not aimed at those happily queuing for WvW or sPvP (it actually hurts that crowd). It’s aimed at the end-game crowd, because Anet must have noticed they were losing those players at a rapid clip, and whatever their business plan is, they clearly don’t want this to happen. So much so in fact, that they are willing to (and have) upset some of their core base (GW1 fans) and backtracked on their manifesto. You don’t do something like that unless you MUST retain a certain group, which should tell you a lot about the importance of the end-game crowd, even in a non-sub MMO like GW2.

The best MMO content = the best MMO content

November 26, 2012

The measure of success when it comes to MMO content is surprisingly simple IMO (the longer the content holds your attention, the better), yet rarely mentioned much less accounted for directly. Both players and developers talk endlessly about many aspects of content, yet when was the last time someone directly stated that piece of content X is fantastic because it’s been reused/rerun countless times?

The absolute worst form of content from a retention perspective is strictly one-off content, yet the most expensive MMO to date based its entire sales pitch around just that, and both players and other devs ate it up for years until launch happened and poof it all went.

People then repeated the same song and dance with GW2 and its personal story, though at least in this case Anet had no illusions of retention and just wanted to sell you a box and perhaps a hat on your way out. (Or at least, said as much and then added resist gear ‘raiding’, but details blablabla)

And at some point we will have a proper name for online one-off games with others around like SW:TOR or GW2, where the bulk of what you pay for is set to be consumed once, while those who REALLY like the theme/setting can still stick around with the other diehards in various attached mini-games (battlegrounds, WvW, hard-mode dungeons, etc), and more can come back to purchase DLC/expansions and one-off that content.

But that genre aside, if you really are designing an MMO, or you really are looking to play an MMO, reusable content is the key. Raiding works for those into group-based PvE in a themepark. It’s hard to argue against the merits of Molten Core or BWL in early WoW when you consider the number of hours poured into them by players at that time vs the amount of dev time spent creating them. And if you don’t think WoW’s early success is tied into that end-game design, I’m guessing you worked on SW:TOR and still think it’s the business model that screwed you.

How Blizzard later handled raiding also helps explain WoW’s more recent performance. About the only thing that ended up being more accessible seems to be the cancel account button, but hey, at least you’re not selling hotbars. (Yet?)

Raiding or themepark-based design aside, it’s easy to look at what EVE does in terms of content and see why a game that’s 10 years old is still a genre leader. Missions are generic and not thrilling content, but given the choice of running 100 missions or one of GW2’s single-player storyline 10 times, which would you choose (factoring knowing the end results/rewards/impact)? Exactly. Plus in EVE you decide when to increase the challenge. You can move to low-sec for your PvE, get into Incursions, or even WH space. And at some point you are going to come across PvP, either because you are seeking it out or it found you, which will open up a whole new can of replayable worms.

But at the heart of replayable content lie the players. Doing the same actions with others (and ‘others’ can’t be easily replaced by silent bots) is just more fun, not to mention somewhat random thanks to human nature. It’s also why focusing so much of your design on REMOVING said random factors is MMO suicide, yet we continue to see developers try to ‘limit the frustration’ and ‘steamline’ things. ‘Groups’ without knowing who is in your group, zero-effort group creating with one-off randoms, rewards for failing, achievements for playing poorly (naked, in joke specs, not causing damage, etc); the list goes on.

Yet during all this trending on attracting… someone… with all this accessibility and single-player online whatever, MMOs that have followed the core principles have continued to do well. With indie-funding on the rise, and quarterly-reporting publishers being minimized, would it surprise anyone if the next wave of MMOs look a whole lot more like MMOs, and less like online sRPGs?

The first rule of MMO club: You must continue to attend MMO club

November 19, 2012

Some good comments from my last two posts, so thanks to everyone who contributed. Amazing what writing a less-than-clear post or two does. (File that under blogger pro-tips kids).

Rather than try to re-explain what I was trying to get at, I’ll just cut right to the chase and state the (maybe not so) obvious: an MMO only works if it works long-term.

Let that sink in for a bit.

It’s why, when BioWare announced the 4th pillar for SW:TOR, it was easy for me to instantly declare the game a failure. The quality of the content, whatever it ended up being, was a non-factor long-term, because long-term resource heavy dev content does not work. You just can’t produce it fast enough, and in MMO land the 10th month is just as important as the second.

It’s also why GW2 is not a sub-based MMO, and we will see if long-term it ends up being/feeling like an MMO at all. No one would argue that GW2 launched with a solid amount of 1-80 content, and that the quality of that content was reasonably high. But until the recent introduction of the resist gear grind and dungeons/raiding, GW2 had zero long-term sustainability (and no, gear treadmills are not the ONLY source of sustainability, but they are the easiest).

Games can change of course, but GW2’s state at launch made it very clear why Anet did not attempt to charge a monthly fee. It would have spectacularly failed. Going forward it will be interesting to see if they can introduce enough progression to sell enough gems in the item shop, especially with how heavy that goes against their manifesto/Vision/sales pitch.

Staying on the GW2 theme for a second, I also find it silly when people bring up being able to ‘jump back in’ to GW2 as some major plus for the game. Here is what you are saying when you say that: “I know GW2 won’t hold my attention long-term, so once I run out of content, I’ll move on, but probably return for a look once more is added”. Combine this with the pace of content delivery in most MMOs (Rift is somewhat unique here, and surprise they are a successful sub-based MMO), and what are you really saying about your expectations? Are you really approaching GW2 as an MMO, or as a sRPG series like Final Fantasy (not the MMO); something updated every few months/years that sees their players return for another run?

And if the above is a non-issue to you, consider what THAT really says. You don’t care for community or continuity, and are only interested in consuming dev-driven content when available, no strings attached, and then moving along. It’s not a wrong approach to gaming, but it is ‘wrong’ for an MMO; both for the player and for the company hoping to make the business model work.

How to produce sustainable content is another, rather long topic, but first I think it’s important to ask if your game of choice even has it, and how much of the focus was spent on designing it versus designing the one-and-done stuff. The second question to ask is if you care. Are you even looking for something sustainable? I’d argue that anyone who answers “no” is not an MMO player, at least as I see the genre.

The ever not-changing MMO genre

November 16, 2012

A second post based on a game I’ve never played or even know much about. You’re welcome.

The reaction to Glitch closing has been interesting, and very telling about the MMO genre and the average/casual/whatever fan. If I had to combine everything into a single comment or two I’ve seen it would go something like this: “I played it a little, loved the concept, could never really get into it, so sad that it’s closing”. Or “Never played this, but so sad that a really unique MMO is closing. This will only encourage more generic MMO games. :sadface:”

Again, most people lie to themselves about games. Or are just delusional in general. “I hate trash reality TV” as reality TV continues to get crazy ratings because you watch it. “I hate stupid movies” as Skyfall debuts at #1 (spoiler: Skyfall blows). “I hate pop music” as pop music continues to be… pop-ular. Hipsters being ‘different’ with Apple products. Occupy whatever using $500 phones to document their ‘struggle’ on Google-owned Youtube. I could go on. For a while.

Glitch is just another small local restaurant that you pretend you love supporting while passing it to go to McDonalds.

Not that any of this is new of course. Nor will it every change.

What should change is the expectation that there is this group of MMO players who just want a non-PvP EVE, or that would love to play Darkfall on a PvE server. Or that you need Trammel in UO to make it work. Oh wait, that already happened and we know the result.

This group does not exist. Glitch might be proof. ATitD being so tiny is proof. EVE being the second-biggest sub MMO ten years after release and still being called niche is proof of the perception. Former bloggers believing an MMO that succeeded for three years and will continue to succeed (very likely at a higher level) being in trouble while something like SW:TOR is cashing out one last time is proof.

How many times is some dev studio, large or small, going to run head-first into the brick wall before it becomes an accepted fact that head-into-wall is a bad idea? You can’t build a complex MMO for casuals and expect them not to be casuals. You build Farmville because Farmville is what casuals understand. You can’t build something that is a one-time meal and roll out with a business plan around players feasting for months.

The players, for the most part, won’t change. Isn’t it time most devs do?

Glitch was EVE without PvP?

November 15, 2012

Glitch is closing. I’ve never played the game, nor looked into it enough to really have an opinion, but if this is true:

The game IMO is a 2D Eve without the PVP – instead of star systems you have streets, streetsigns instead of warp gates, real time training of skills, huge emphasis on crafting, etc.

what does that tell you about not including PvP?

Also Darkfall.


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