Darkfall: Unholy Wars going F2P and other problems sink it

June 20, 2014

Darkfall and I have had an interesting history (the fact that I heard about the first game from Tobold entertains me to this day), and unfortunately I think this post marks the final chapter. The game is going in multiple directions that don’t appeal to me, the community has lost those who make the game worth playing overall, and comical developer incompetence and corruption was the final little push I needed to finally move on.

Let’s start with the game itself. Recently a cash shop was added, which sets the stage for the game’s F2P conversion coming ‘soon’ (it’s already F2P in Asia). I was asked here a while back if I would continue to support DF even if it went F2P, and at the time I said I would not. This is made all the easier since buying more than just fluff is already in the shop. You can pay AV $5 for a prowess (XP) reset, which is pretty ‘convenient’ when you have a game in constant flux due to a massive combat overhaul and general developer indecision about balance and the direction of the game. How many times will someone accept their current build being nerfed into the ground and told they can fix it for just $5 before they get fed up?

Plus how many times have MMO players heard the song and dance from developers about not selling power when F2P is announced, and a few months later the cash shop is offering you the One Ring? When things get dire, devs get desperate, and DF:UW’s core issues persist to this day.

And what are those core issues? The main one is the game is still an oversized arena PvP game, rather than an MMO. There is no reason to PvP other than for the sake of PvP, and this is reflected in the quality of the playerbase. Where games like EVE have people like The Mittani creating content for tens of thousands of players, those key people have long since left Darkfall, and in their place stand directionless ‘leaders’ providing little if any content. Even DF1 was able to initially attract some of these valuable players (Manus, Glut, Osium, etc), which is what kept that game’s meta interesting for the first two years or so. But as they saw the state of DF:UW’s beta, and the general design flaws of the game, they never even bothered showing up on day one. Inq to this day mocks me about trying to get them to give the game another shot.

The above is also why DF:UW gets laughable indifference from so many EVE players. My alliance would always wonder what I see in a game with no long-term plan, goal, or point, and admittedly I look a bit foolish now with my “they are working on that guys!” enthusiasm, because nope, they really aren’t. So why grind up to play in an arena when you can play a better version of exactly that in games like Chivalry or even your MOBA of choice. At least those games understand what they are, rather than awkwardly pretending to be something they clearly are not capable of delivering.

A more recent core problem has been the combat overhaul. To say it’s a surprising disaster would be unfair, because if you didn’t see it being a disaster pre-release you must be painfully blind. Imagine if CCP, in the name of ‘player freedom’, allowed any ship to fit a doomsday on it, and the balance explanation provided was that since everyone can use it, it’s balanced. That’s what AV did with DF:UW recently. I wish I was joking, but I’m not. They took armor, weapons, and skills all previously designed and balanced around fitting into classes, and just removed the concept of classes without the overhaul to everything needed to make it work. At least in DF1, which had the same ‘everyone can be everything’ system, balance was attempted with that in mind since day one. It was bad, but not “lulz doomsday spam” bad.

The result is not just the expected FOTM lameness that happens in every MMO with such a system that has poor checks and balances, but that combat overall is a cheesefest of who can come up with the cheapest AoE/CC combo to drop people with because nothing was designed with this system in mind. Imagine DAoC roaming 8s cheese but turned up to 11, and that’s DF:UW. The only reason the abuse isn’t nearly as bad as you might expect right now is because of the above point; the playerbase doesn’t have the top-tier talent to create the best builds quickly, but those who remain will eventually get there.

The above are further hurt by the still woefully pointless economy, made more comical by F2P-forbearing gimmicks such as double loot weekends. Having a ‘full bank’ in DF:UW is trivial, and once that happens, it’s just another brick stacked on top of the directionless mess that the game is overall. Again, imagine playing EVE with limitless ISK and you get a good idea of what DF:UW offers once you grind it out for a month or so.

The final and minor side note is how AV handles their community. The most toxic members are left unchecked, especially in-game, where global chat will drive away anyone who has evolved beyond 8th grade gym humor and the lowest of internet meme trash. On the forums the moderation team is all over the place, at times deleting an entire and often valuable thread due to one post, while at other times leaving a cesspool up no matter how low it gets.

When members of the community would try to work with moderators in a productive manner, the end-result was as likely a temp-ban for the one making the effort as it might be for those destroying it, depending on which moderator you happen to get. Double-speak excuses were put forth when confronted about this regardless of how far someone escalated things, which ultimately resulted in many once-helpful people leaving the game in disgust.

To list just one sad example, the head community manager specifically stated that since they somehow can’t verify the content of personal messages on their own forums (yup…), they won’t take any action for that content. If you ever want a place to throw out death threats without consequence, Darkfall is your place. Hell, it already has an Erotica1 clone running rampant, without that pesky CCP getting in the way of those community-building torture sessions.

Even the once-productive MVP forum has so many like-minded people included now that it really serves no purpose, especially since AV has stopped sharing key details and instead are now just throwing out pie-in-the-sky ideas (alignment system, one-off quests, etc) without following up. Even small, silly things like there recent survey, with all its mistakes, could have easily been improved with some feedback, but they don’t use the resources available to them for whatever reason.

Much like Shadowbane and other PvP focused MMOs that have come before it, I think future developers can learn a thing or two from this experiment, and hopefully MMOs like Pathfinder take some of these lessons to heart to become successful titles. This was a good run, with at least as many highs as lows, but with F2P lurking and things overall not improving (the number of bugs and exploits in the game right now is almost back-to-beta bad), it’s time to put DF:UW down.

#DF:UW #F2P


Big boy toys

June 12, 2014

It wasn’t THAT long ago when video games were considered a kid’s toy. Now when someone asks me when I’m going to stop playing ‘games’, I tell them hopefully the afterlife has solid broadband.

Given the above, it makes sense that along with gaming content (‘mature’ themes) changing, pricing models and levels have also been changing. A kid’s toy maxing out at $50 makes sense. Little Billy isn’t the one holding the wallet, which makes picking up a $200 in-game shiny difficult if not impossible for him. Someone a little older and successful can decide between going out to dinner for $200 or buying said shiny, and a serious argument can be made in what has more real ‘value’.

TAGN has a post up about Shroud of the Avatar selling in-game towns for real money, and these are not micro transactions. The smallest option comes in at $750, while the largest is $4000. Those prices are beyond just a decent dinner out, but if you are in a long-standing guild with successful people, splitting even $4000 between 20 or so players starts to sound a whole lot more manageable.

Star Citizen, also mentioned by TAGN, is another example of this growing trend, and just like SotA, if you have the means knock yourself out.

I’m perfectly fine with games like this so long as you know up-front what is going on. While I personally haven’t enjoy my wallet winning for me since giving up Magic The Gathering, if that does it for others more power to them. If a game I’m currently playing switches over to wallet-warrioring, I have a problem, but here both games have been upfront since day one. No one can say they didn’t know what they were signing up for here.


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.

#SOE #F2P


The three flavors of F2P

March 5, 2014

Another post about the F2P business model, yay! (I blame TAGN for this one)

One development that has happened somewhat recently is the split definitions of what ‘F2P’ really is. It’s a different take on the “what is an MMO” question, only I don’t think the lines are as blurred here. Below is an attempt to identify the different models, and pass some thoughts on each.

The most basic IMO is the demo model. The MMO in question is free until a certain point, and in order to pass that point (be it a level cap, content cap, or power cap) you have to pay. If paying means buying a box or subbing and getting basically everything, the demo aspect is even more clear. If paying means getting pushed into a cash shop, that’s a bit murky and likely falls into the third model described below.

The next category is one that so far has only workout OUTSIDE of the MMO genre, and I think is the best F2P model; the fluff and extra convenience model. The base game is free, and spending money gets you fluff like champion skins or extra convenience like character slots. The base game, that is free, isn’t affected negatively by the shop, nor are game systems designed around reminding you of the shop or pointing out what you don’t have access to because you haven’t bought it yet.

The third is the ‘classic’ F2P model, where the free part is basically an infomercial to get you into the shop, and only through spending money in the shop do you get the ‘real’ game, be that full access to content or the removal of barriers put up by the devs.

The first model I don’t have issue with if the after-demo part is a box or a sub. In those cases using the term “F2P” is more about using the current buzz word (instead of saying demo) for PR than really using that model.

The second model is the hardest to pull off, because you’re game has to be so good that people WANT to give you money for it. Riot is able to do this with LoL because the base, free game is amazing, so spending money on skins, which are also usually of amazing quality, feels more like supporting something you like rather than being pushed to hand out some cash. Path of Exile also uses this model successfully, again because PoE the base game is pretty great at what it is (a better version of Diablo than current Diablo), and the stuff in the shop is fun/cute for the price.

WoW also somewhat falls into this category because of stuff like the sparkle pony, though of course the sub fee muddles the waters. I do think WoW would still be profitable if it was fully free and Blizzard emulated LoL and sold lots of different skins for mounts, weapons, armor, etc, but I suspect they make more money double-dipping, at least for now.

The third, ‘classic’ F2P model has been discussed to death. It’s the minor leagues, the math-tax scam show from developers who can’t make a good-enough product to stand on its own merits. As I’ve said many times before, this is the model that is the ticking time bomb, and eventually (already?) most people will smarten up and the money will stop trickling in.


Payday the right way, DF:UW boats, ESO beta

February 28, 2014

Random bits on a Friday.

Payday 2 received a nice free update recently, adding a new difficulty level to every heist and two new enemies, among other changes. The game continues to be another good example of how to support your game post-release, mixing DLC and free updates to keep people interested while still making money. Certainly it’s been one of the better games I’ve purchased in recent years, and is still highly recommended.

Went to a Sea Fortress recently in Darkfall. We had ten with us, and I was driving the boat. When we initially arrived we saw a few other boats fighting it out, and the hitpoints of the Sea Fortress were also dropping. We rolled the dice and tried to get the last hit on the tower, but no luck there. We then engaged one boat with cannon fire, only to eventually be swarmed by 4-5 large boats and another 3-4 smaller ships all from the same alliance. We held out for a bit, as I tried to sail the ship in such a way as to reduce the number of enemy cannons able to hit us, but eventually our boat was too damaged (slows the boat), the enemy ships caught up, and we got swarmed. Good times, and credit to the enemy for bringing so many people.

Finally, ESO beta is this weekend, and I’ve got a nice crew interested in the game. I don’t know if INQ is officially going to jump into the game, but either way I’m in and will have a guild up. Hoping to see some of the dungeon content this weekend, and maybe jump into the RvR area as well.


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.

F2P ALL THE WAY!


EVE: Learning skills in a F2P world

February 11, 2014

A few years ago CCP removed the Learning skills from EVE Online. To quickly recap, the Learning skills took about three months to train, and their only benefit was a boost to training other skills faster.

They were, overall, a design mistake, in large part because players are famous for min/maxing, even to the extent of taking the fun OUT of a game that is intended to be played for fun. In theory the Learning skills would be something you training when you don’t have more pressing skills to finish. In reality, the common advice was to sit your pilot in a station for the first 3 months and just train those first before you started playing. If you are a new player asking for advice, being told to do nothing for 3 months isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for the game.

Again, they were a design mistake, and CCP was right to take them out while refunding the skill points.

Would CCP have done that if EVE was a F2P MMO?

One of the criticisms of the sub model is that developers will put things such as raid lockout timers to keep you subbed for longer. Now, I find that criticisms a bit silly, because what ultimately makes someone unsub is the simple question of whether you are having fun or not with the game, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoyed a game overall but then unsubbed because of some lockout timer. (Timers help pace the players to content, yes, but IMO that’s more to help players not burn themselves out.)

As EVE is a sub MMO, isn’t CCP hurting themselves here by removing a nice 3 month sub buffer? The short-term view would say yes. The long-term says no. The game is a better game without Learning skills, and as CCP is in the business of running a successful game for years, not weeks/months, long-term making EVE the best possible game is what’s best for business. When you have a solid product, you don’t need cheap tricks to leach another month or a few bucks off someone before they catch on to the garbage you are peddling.

But of course the big elephant in the room here is that under F2P, ‘lockout timers’ are not only in place, but are a prominent feature in the business model; be it locked chests that require a cash shop key, slower XP gains designed to push you towards an XP booster from the shop, long pointless travel unless you buy a portal license; the list goes on. In most F2P MMOs, the “learning skills’ would be an item you purchase in the shop, and just like in EVE, that purchase would do nothing for your actual enjoyment of the game; you would simply feel like it was something you needed to do. We players can be dumb like that, and more than a few suits (and basically everyone at EA) are not above exploiting it.

So again, if EVE was a F2P MMO, would CCP have removed the Learning skills (an example of bad design), or would they have instead introduced that new item to their cash shop to allow you the pleasure of paying to remove the design mistake, and allowed freeloaders to suffer that 3-month “do nothing” phase?

If EVE was run by SOE, Turbine, or EA, I think we all know the answer to that question.


SOE: Still a one-hit wonder

January 25, 2014

Shocking.

SOE continuing to show that if you get one MMO right (EQ1), you can basically screw up everything for the next decade and still be ok.

But don’t worry SWG fans, SOE is working on a title just for you! No chance they screw it up. Zero. That would only be possible from a studio that pulled off something like the NGE, which totally isn’t SOE…. oh wait.

 


F2P All The WAY! doing it big again

January 20, 2014

Whale Hunting!

Funny story, and yet again provides some nice insight into just who the F2P MMO business model is going after; it’s not about getting little Billy to spend a buck no matter how many times a hotbar salesmen tries to sell you that line, its about hooking that whale and bleeding him dry.

On top of that, if you are an L2 player, how excited are you that your devs are promoting something with the tag line “Earn rewards just for shopping!” Wait, am I playing an MMO or am a ‘competing’ on the Home Shopping Network?

“Oh Syn that’s just one example out of a thousand this year, what about all those MMOs that do F2P right?”

Which MMO?


ESO: “Nobody believes that The Elder Scroll Online would be hurt by its business model if it had a Free2Play model with a subscription option.”

January 13, 2014

Totally dude.

ESO would be just as good a game with cash shop ad loading screens, devs spending time coming up with ways to get you to buy yet another hat/wing/item (eventually of questionable power), seeing said items on people around town (nothing says ES like neon wings or a baseball cap), and finally we would get the awesome immersion effect of the guards telling us to visit the cash shop rather than about that arrow in the knee.

What a huge loss for the game that it’s sub only. Total killer.


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