SOE: All of the great MMOs are F2P, like…?

April 3, 2014

Dave “Doctor Creepy” Georgeson, fresh of his “MMOs should live on forever, so we are shutting down four SOE MMOs!” declaration, is back trying to cram more foot into his mouth, this time trying to defend the minor league MMO model; F2P. It goes about as well has FreeRealms went.

“I think that free-to-play is the way that gamers should want their MMOs to be, and the reason I think that is that if we don’t do a really good job and we don’t entertain the player, we don’t make a dime.

If the above was actually true, it would be a good point. Unfortunately, like anyone who has ever played a F2P MMO knows, that model isn’t about entertaining you; it’s about reminding you to visit the cash shop, over, and over, and over again. It’s about putting up a “Go Gold!” message during combat ala EQ2. Because when I think of ‘make the game better’, the first thing I jump to is more ad spam during my MMO combat.

“We’re effectively street performers: we go out there and sing and dance and if we do a good job, people throw coins into the hat. And I think that’s the way games should be, because paying $60 up front to take a gamble on whether the game is good or not? You don’t get that money back.”

Says the man peddling $100 alpha tickets to a minecraft clone. Can’t wait for the ‘deal’ SOE gives everyone for EQN. Something tells me ‘free’ isn’t going to be the ‘best’ option.

“So if you buy a turkey, you’ve just wasted your money. With free-to-play you get to go in, take a look at it and find out. It’s entirely our responsibility to make sure you’re entertained. That’s the way things should be in my opinion with free-to-play.”

I like the suggestion here that for F2P to work, it’s about making the best possible game and not about making the best possible cash shop delivery vehicle. Like yea Dave, just make an amazing MMO (a first for SOE), make it free, and then put your hat out and see if you catch a few coins. That is not only completely viable, but also totally what you and SOE have been doing over the years. 100%.

This is yet again a great example of what F2P really is; a con. Dave here has to lie and twist to sell the model, because the model ISN’T about making the best possible game and believing that people will see value in it. If SOE had that type of product, they would use the model successful MMOs stick with, and MMOs that thought they would be successful launch with, the sub model.

But much like FreeRealms and the rest of the closed or fledging offerings the one-hit-wonder SOE has, they are all sub-par imitations or ‘me too’ titles, and for that quality level F2P is the model you go with, because under that model you still can dupe a few people out of a few coins while they aren’t looking, and hopefully get a few whale-sized suckers to make giant mistakes.

SOE – Makng bad games, but provide A+ blog fodder.


Too much tolerance

March 25, 2014

Jester has two great posts up today, although about two very different subjects.

The first, and the one I’ll be brief about, is about an example of someone scamming a player in EVE. Typical EVE stuff right? Not exactly, due to the extent of the scam and the intention behind it (extreme grief rather than gain). Now I’ve said here before I don’t feel a lot of pity for such victims. Anyone who hands over all of their stuff for the promise of having it double is looking for a shortcut and hasn’t learned the ‘no free lunch’ lesson in life.

But victim aside, I also don’t understand why companies don’t instantly ban any player in their game who cons people to such lengths. The average market scam? All fine and good; you are separating a fool from his money in a game. But this wasn’t about that, and such players add nothing to your game. EVE isn’t a democracy; CCP can (and should) play god and act. As Jester points out, there is a difference from positive exposure from something like the Guiding Hand Social Club scam, and the negative exposure from something like this. From a business perspective, such a player is costing you more than he is worth, make the correct business decision and remove them.

Moving beyond just this example, it’s never made sense to me why companies are often so reluctant to ban a player. Again, MMOs aren’t a democracy or a court of law, where someone must be proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Ban first, answer questions later. Anyone caught incorrectly can always be credited for the mistake, but unless you have terrible tools to look into such things, most of the time you should be banning someone who did something ban-worthy. Again, the devs are gods in these worlds; they should have access and records of everything and come to the correct conclusion.

A single bad apple costs you countless accounts, and it’s nonsense that companies spend so much time and effort trying to bring in new players, and seemingly so little in removing those who drive those hard-fought accounts away.

F’n WordPress…

March 25, 2014

Need a little help here.

Prior to a few days ago, I would always write out my blogs in Word, then use the “copy from Word” button to paste in the text, add some links, and hit publish.

Recently that button was removed, and now I only have a “Paste as Text” button. However using this button results in my posts having a different format from previous posts, mainly the lack of a space between paragraphs. Manually hitting return at the end of a paragraph on WordPress itself does not fix this problem.

Anyone have a fix or reasonable workaround?

Edit: Seems when I manually type the post out in the WordPress window, the format is fine. Awesome…

Reviews vs Facts

March 19, 2014

A while ago I had a conversation with someone about reviews. My basic point was that they don’t matter all that much, and that we sometimes think they do because the media that produces and relies on reviews tries to convince us that they do.

I think Metacritic is good for a quick glance, but a score of 82 vs 91 doesn’t tell me much, especially for a niche or ‘acquired taste’ title. If a random gamer reviews Darkfall after 10 hours, I’d expect that review to be fairly negative. Unless of course our random gamer happens to be someone who has been looking for a different take on the MMO genre and is really into exactly what DF does well (combat, competition, etc). Then the review is a ‘hidden gem’ type of deal.

On Steam I’ll often look at the forum of a specific game before I buy it (on sale, usually), but I’m not looking for opinion about details so much as I’m looking for “This game is terrible and lies about having X Y, Z” with 3-4 replies confirming the message. Or “This game is a totally buggy mess”, especially when looking at early access titles. I view those not as someone sharing an opinion, but rather confirming facts.

Most reviews are not about confirming facts, but rather the written opinion of the reviewer. Is the reviewer a gamer in my vein, or is he someone who thought WotLK was a great expansion? Because if it’s the latter, what he hates I might find perfect.

Side note: I think ESO is going to be a review nightmare. On the surface and in the first 8-9 levels, it’s a strange and honestly fairly poor mix of not quite Skyrim, but not quite anything worthwhile as an MMO. But then it really opens up, brings a lot of new stuff to the genre, and does a lot of sneaky-great stuff.

The contrast between ESO and WildStar is of particular note. Many expected WildStar to be the next-step MMO, and have been disappointed, while those same people expected ESO to be a clone title and instead found (assuming they got deep enough) something surprisingly better.

ESO: Prediction forming is at 85%

February 14, 2014

This article over at Massively by Larry Everett mirrors a lot of my most recent experience with the ESO beta, in that the first area is 100% linear, the second feels like a typical themepark zone, and the third feels like a comfortable cross between a full open world and an MMO themepark. I would love if someone could confirm that going forward, the rest of the game’s PvE is like the third area, if not even more ‘open’. Anyone?

Now to nitpick, I think it’s a bit silly to complain about the first, very short, 100% linear area as not being very Elder Scrolls. Load up Skyrim with a new character and no mods, and tell me what you experience for the first half hour or so? Oh right, a 100% linear experience that is mostly to setup the story. Load up Oblivion and it’s the same thing. If anything, the linear part in ESO is shorter than the single player game bits.

The traditional themepark zone is also a bit of an extended tutorial, in that it introduces you to some of the new stuff ESO does (skyshards, finding runes, stuff like that). I could do without it, but I also see why it will be helpful for new-to-MMO players, which I think will be a significant portion of ESO’s playerbase.

I feel like I need one more weekend with ESO to put down a solid “ESO is themepark 4.0” prediction post. I’m getting there, and I don’t think Zenimax is going to bork ESO just before launch like Trion did with Rift, and hopefully they don’t do a Rift 1.2 ‘accessibility’ patch to kill it, but who knows.

I will say this however, the comparisons to SW:TOR with ESO are ridiculous. SW:TOR wasn’t predicted to be the Tortanic because it was ‘boring’, or ‘more of the same’. It was easy to spot the Tortanic because on day one the devs told us the 4th pillar was the path to greatness, and some of us (or just me) called the game DOA on that day back in 2010. There is no 4th pillar for ESO, at least not that I’ve found yet.

Pre-ordered the digital collectors edition, in part because I think the game will be a good time, and also in part because the genre blows outside of spaceships.


Turbine finally updates us on the continued success of their F2P conversions

February 13, 2014

Instead of linking to that old PR release about how great LotRO and DDO are doing thanks to F2P, please use this updated link.


SOE is going to pleasantly surprise you because they are SOE

February 5, 2014

Oh Smed.

The guy knows he works for SOE right? The “we haven’t done anything right since EQ1″ studio? The studio that NGE’ed SWG probably shouldn’t be trying to get people back by reminding them of that, especially since the easy money is on whatever Smed is hinting at being terrible, because SOE.

Between this and “lulz Minecraft”, we will be entertained by the stumbles and bumbles of SOE all throughout 2014.



EVE: Required reading

January 30, 2014

CCP dev blog about the longest and one of the largest battles in MMO history. If you consider yourself an MMO fan, consider it required reading, start to finish.

A few quick notes:

CCP gets it. Not only does the blog contain a ‘sales pitch’ at the end (something I know from personal experience hocking DF1 works amazingly well), but they also acted quickly to immortalize the event with the in-game monument. How many other MMOs have done that? How many devs have been so quick to do it? How many MMOs are even capable of anything close to this type of event?

This is the type of event that hammers home the sandbox theory of peaks and valleys and its importance to retention. I think its very safe to say that not only will this battle result in thousands of new players learning about EVE and giving it a shot, but will also server as reason for current null-sec players to keep going. This is the type of event that justifies shooting structures, mining ore, or running PvE content for ISK. And a large part of WHY it works so well is it’s rarity. If a battle of this scale happened often, it not only wouldn’t make news, it also wouldn’t serve as such a huge catalyst and motivator.

This type of event is also why EVE is the only MMO still growing after 11 years. It simply has content so unique to itself that it’s impossible to ‘burn out’ on all of it. Players take breaks, yes, but most pilots that get beyond the training stage never fully leave, because you are never really ‘done’ in New Eden, and there is always some hook pulling you back. It’s amazingly discouraging that seemingly no other developers are capable of creating anything similar in the genre, even after the blueprint has been out for 11 years.

Finally, there is a bit of sweet irony in the timing of all of this; as SOE shuts down so many of it’s failed MMOs, the ‘niche’ MMO that dwarfs all others in scope has one of its biggest event to date, one that will likely trigger at least a bump in continued growth.

F2P MMO X dies

January 9, 2014

Quick observation: I find it interesting that pro-F2P people continue to point out that most new MMOs are F2P ‘for a reason’, yet don’t acknowledge that just about every month (or week), Massively has a new “this F2P MMO is shutting down” post.

Yes, I get that the MMOs that shut down are garbage, but maybe its time to link garbage with F2P a little closer?

ESO: The “make a good game” problem

January 6, 2014

Clearly a Forbes writer is a big fan of this blog, what with this copy/paste job of an article. I’ll excuse the lack of a h/t this time, but clean it up will ya? Anyway, since everyone is jumping on my wagon about ESO, I’ll just have to argue with myself today for content.

The (incorrect) Lessons of The Old Republic

The biggest lesson from SW:TOR isn’t that you can’t have a big budget, or that you can’t launch with a subscription; it’s that if you are going to spend a giant pile of money and ask $15 a month, don’t launch a terrible game. SW:TOR is terrible. The 4th pillar was a sad joke when they announced that in 2010, it was a sad joke at launch, and how many of those ‘big content releases’ have built upon it?

Remember how SW:TOR launched without an end-game, and just expected millions of players to reroll and progress alts through the same lame content over and over to hear the unique bits of voiced dialog? Or how EAWare expected MMO players to spend months grinding to the level cap because they wouldn’t be smashing spacebar across the 4th pillar?

Yes, there are lessons to learn from SW:TOR. Plenty of them. Big budget/sub fee is not one of them.

Also, the notion that the ES IP is weaker than the SW IP? Across all brands globally sure, but in the realm of videogames, and especially RPGish ones? I’d say ES is the stronger IP here. How many copies did Skyrim sell vs whatever the last SW game was?

I’m also continually amazed at this “oh nooz $15 a month” stuff. What today doesn’t have a subscription? You pay monthly for Netflix, you pay monthly for console services, you pay monthly for cable/internet/phone. Services like are rolling out subscription options. In 1997 when UO launched yes, asking for a monthly fee for a game was something new and a hurdle. In 2014? If the tiny cost of $15 a month is a deciding factor for you, spend less timing gaming and more time reevaluating your life, because you are seriously doing it wrong.

Also this quote ‘officially’ sums up nicely why F2P is a weaker model if you aim to produce something above mediocrity:

“And it’s important to state that our decision to go with subscriptions is not a referendum on online game revenue models. F2P, B2P, etc. are valid, proven business models – but subscription is the one that fits ESO the best, given our commitment to freedom of gameplay, quality and long-term content delivery. Plus, players will appreciate not having to worry about being “monetized” in the middle of playing the game, which is definitely a problem that is cropping up more and more in online gaming these days. The fact that the word “monetized” exists points to the heart of the issue for us: We don’t want the player to worry about which parts of the game to pay for – with our system, they get it all.” – Matt Firor

Know Your Audience (No one wants multiplayer Skyrim…)

I think just about anyone who has played Skyrim can imagine how that game could work as a multiplayer game. Not an MMO, but a co-op style game where you and a buddy or two head out into the world and clear dungeons/caves and complete quests. At one point a mod team was working on that, but the mod got shut down for obvious reasons. So on a basic level, I do think some of the tens of millions of Skyrim players are interested in that IP being multiplayer.

The big question and likely problem is just how “multiplayer Skyrim” is ESO going to be. Likely not enough from what I’ve seen. The game is stuck in a strange/bad middle ground, where it’s not quite just co-op Skyrim, but not really anything special as a pure themepark MMO either, beyond the IP. Maybe the pieces come together and that ends up working, but if there is one major question about ESO, I think it’s that.

The Gold Rush is Over (MMO genre is dying)

From an outside perspective this would certainly seem true. The last however many big MMOs have all failed to one degree or another (GW2 not bombing out of the gate is the most ‘success’ a new title has had in years), but to me that says more about current MMO devs than it does about the viability of the genre itself. For whatever reason, the general flaw in every new MMO is that you can finish it in under 3 months, and that’s a rather large problem when you are trying to build a game that only ‘works’ if people play for months and the all-important social hooks develop and keep people playing/paying.

The F2P fad has only distorted this further because if you can get a sucker to spend a ton in those 1-3 months, as a F2P dev you believe what you have done is working, and with so many MMOs recently downgrading to F2P, the ‘first month rush’ is still fresh in people’s minds (how many times has someone linked to that LotRO F2P first month article as ‘proof’ that F2P is a great thing?).

But building off a broken base (F2P) doesn’t work long-term. We talk often about a player’s MMO first love and how that effect can’t be recaptured. The same is true for F2P in the MMO genre. You might whale it up in one game, but once you realize you are throwing money into a hole for nothing once, most people aren’t going to fall for that trick again (exceptions exist of course, dumb and rich are not mutually exclusive). While $15 a month might be a ‘hurdle’, it doesn’t corrupt your basic game design like F2P does. The sub model forces you to make a better game, since you don’t have the whale lottery to bail you out short-term, but “make a better game” is a problem I want MMO devs to have.


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