FFXIV: Sub model isn’t just about higher quality, its also about safety

March 10, 2015

Full interview can be found here.

So, just because ESO moved into a free-to-play subscription model, it doesn’t necessarily mean for us to move into that direction as well. Also, for use we have taken player surveys and took a look at what our customer satisfaction level is and we actually garnered data that shows that over 80% of our players are satisfied with the subscription model and they feel very assured that it is a constant. You are safe to be in that environment, and you know that you can expect a decent amount of updates and content. So, we don’t believe that FFXIV needs to shift in that direction and not everything that other competitors or titles do will necessarily apply to our title.

Bold section for emphasis as its something I’ve always felt is true about the sub model vs other models, and it’s nice to have a senior dev from the most recent successful MMO state it as well.

As I’ve written before, each update from a sub MMO is usually a celebration of getting something new or improved, while each update under non-subs is a potential “give us more money” cash-shop power update or ‘addition’. In short, you cheer sub updates, and grow to fear non-sub updates, which itself has a pretty significant impact on overall enjoyment.

PS: If/when they add the snowboarding game from FFVII, that’s going to be a massive time sink for me. God I loved that game back in the day.


FFXIV: Gold Saucer is golden side content

March 9, 2015

I was finally able to check out the Gold Saucer in FFXIV, and its a rather great piece of content IMO.

The area looks great, and has plenty of nostalgia bits from previous FF games (FFVII sticks out in my mind mainly because I spent an ungodly amount of time in it). The music is also fantastic and keeps the mood up. Finally the place feels more alive than in non-MMO FF games, not just because you have a ton of players running around, but also the wandering NPCs are a nice touch.

The mini-games are fine; you will likely play them a few times and move on, and I’d say that bit of content, as well as the initial tour quest, will take an hour at most. The juicy bits are the Triple Triad card game (returning from FFVIII) and chocobo racing (FFVII, maybe others?).

Triple Triad is as good as I remember it. Its a surprisingly fun card game on its own, and then you mix in the MMO aspect of playing against other players, as well as scattering NPCs you can play against across the different zones, and its near-perfect MMO content. Building up a great deck and refining strategy was already fun in FFVIII, but now you also have the ultimate ‘pay day’ in tournaments against other players for unique and ever-changing rewards. Funny how entertaining this stuff can be when a dev actually takes something and enhances it due to playing it inside an MMO, rather than just going down the lazy route and tacking it on.

Chocobo racing, based on a dozen or so races, is awesome. The fact that you race against other players rather than bots alone increases the fun-factor big time compared to the single-player FF games. You also have the more familiar systems, like your chocobo gaining levels, being able to train it (pay casino currency to buy stat increasing items), and the biggest time-drain of them all, breeding. This bit of content has a LONG road to travel to reach the upper end, which again is perfect IMO for sorta side fluff that can also get you ‘main game’ upgrades (you can buy a bit of gear with casino currency, though how strong it is I’m not sure since its lvl50 gear and I’m still just 29 on my main class).

The racing itself is also interesting. Your chocobo runs along the track automatically, but you can move side to side to grab power ups, run over speed boosts, or to avoid other players using abilities. Your chocobo also has stamina, which is drained when you sprint. The basic strategy for the race is to finish with zero stamina, using every bit of power to finish as fast as possible, but the various abilities you and others can use tends to mix this up for you. At higher levels, different abilities can be trained to further add some depth/complexity, but I’m not there yet.

What FFXIV does better than most, if not all MMOs is add content rather than replace it. When new stuff is released it rarely if ever makes something else obsolete, which is why, even now, there is so much ‘stuff’ to do in the game. The Gold Saucer follows this design, adding a fun bit of ‘side’ content that fits in perfectly with everything else already in place.

CoC: Please continue to pay to lose

March 6, 2015

Guys, guys, I’m going to buy a ton of gems, rush up to TH10, and help us crush people in wars. It’s going to be awesome! – Wallet Warrior

Nope. (just an FYI, video is a bit loud for some reason)

This is part of why I do (people are dumb) but also don’t understand how SuperCell makes so much money with CoC. Rushing ahead in the game is, generally, a bad idea. The game is so complex that you really do need that ‘growth time’ at lower town hall levels, as each step increases the challenge considerable and trying to learn after the fact leads to, well, the above. As I’ve said before, CoC is more than worth paying for, but I literally have less-than-zero reason to do so.

But hey, I’ll gladly take dummies funding future development for me while also entertaining all of us with their failures. Solid win/win all around.


Daybreak outdoing SOE already!

March 5, 2015

Deleted characters will not be restored,” Daybreak warns, so “feel free to re-roll a new character.”

And to think all this time I was worried I’d no longer get “SOE being SOE” gems. Silly me. Smed going to Smed, just now a little bit harder!

Edit: Sorry, in my haste I also missed this part:

Of note, the studio says it will not “administrate a guild or intervene in guild management affairs in any way,” meaning that if your guild leader disappears, you’re out of luck: “If your guild leader is absent, please create a new guild of your own or find another guild on the server that meets your needs.” Guild and character renames, the studio recommends, are to be handled with name change potions available in the cash shop.

Free to Play, ALL THE WAY!

CoC: Required reading for our TH9+ players

March 5, 2015

Fantastic writeup on TH9 base design.

Everyone in Supreme Cream at TH9 or who is about to move up should read the linked info above and start working on improving your TH9 layout, and then continue to improve your layout based on war results.

For non-CoC players, the above is just a small glimpse into why CoC is far deeper and more difficult/complex than it seems at first glance. The game really is a monster of a strategy title, and as soon as you think you have it figured out or are getting decent at it, you either move up and have to learn a bunch of new stuff, or you have a war like we are having right now and realize you have a LONG way to go to be more than a pub-stomper player/clan.

Easy to play, hard to master is an old game design mantra, and CoC is a prime example of it done perfectly.

Crowfall: The winners don’t need help

March 5, 2015

Building a bit off this post from Az (link coming later, site blocked due to work network) about winner and loser motivation in Crowfall today, but a quick note first: I think Az is missing or discounting the fact that ‘jumping in’ to a winner world (which itself will only work in the faction vs faction worlds, as you can’t join the winning side in the FFA or Guild vs Guild worlds) isn’t that helpful in Crowfall based on the (granted, very limited) info we currently have.

You build up what you can potentially walk away with over time on a world, and already the devs have indicated that even if you are on the winning side, if you joined late your reward percentage is diminished. If scaled correctly, you should earn more reward for your time finishing strong on a losing world than jumping into a winning one late. And if you are abandoning your work on a losing world to play an alt on a new world (to jump in early for max reward), there is always the chance that you don’t end up picking the winner this time either. We’ll see if reality aligns with expectations, but at least on paper the system isn’t critically flawed (no 4th pillar or manifesto here, at least not yet).

I think what is critically important however is to get the reward scales ‘right’, and by right I mean not making winning too good, and not making losing a “quit the game now” situation. After all, winning itself feels good. You don’t actually win anything when you beat everyone else in a boardgame, but you still feel good about it right? That feeling along has value, so even if everything else was equal, the winner feels better than the loser.

We know the winners in Crowfall will get a larger percentage of their stashed loot, but really this percentage doesn’t need to be huge. Rewarding the winner by making it easier for them to win again is a recipe for disaster, and it’s why almost all professional sports leagues ‘reward’ weaker teams with better draft picks; parity is far more entertaining than utter dominance by a select few (sorry that the Pats are so much better than the rest of the NFL that they still dominate in spite of this, but that’s what happens when the greatest QB of all times is paired with the greatest coach of all time.)

Another aspect of rewards is you don’t need to make them help you win the next time. ‘Fluff’ rewards work, as do leaderboards. In addition to just the feeling of winning, a guild or player will be additionally motivated if it means getting their name in history, or on some score sheet. In WoW, the top guilds compete for world firsts, even though there is no ‘real’ reward for doing so; the loot isn’t better the first time a boss is killed, and imagine how much worse the raiding scene would be if that was the case? If the first few kills rewarded better items? Crowfall needs to avoid this, or create additional systems (seeding based on previous performance?) to counteract it.

What’s new and interesting in this entire mix with Crowfall is the length of time too; we are talking months per world, and we haven’t seen how the average player will react to that length of time. We have plenty of examples of far shorter timeframes, be it arenas or battlegrounds in MMOs, or now the average MOBA match. We also have EVE and its decade+ of warfare, along with other ‘forever’ examples in MMOs. If you want to count ‘soft’ resets (increase in level cap) in themeparks, those are often years apart as well, and are a borderline apples/oranges comparison. But we have never seen what happens when the clock is set to months, and that alone is a huge unknown.

Hell, right now, even I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it really. I think I’ll love it, because to me it sounds like a long-enough timeframe to get really invested, but not so long that the next reset seems like it’s never going to happen, but maybe once the game is live I’ll feel completely different. It’s an exciting prospect, but also incredibly dangerous. If it feels ‘wrong’, Crowfall might be doomed regardless of everything else. Quite the gamble, but that’s what the MMO space SHOULD be about.

The Turbine info has been right here for years

March 4, 2015

Link to the first of many Aylwen posts.

If the general gist, and even some of the exact details were news to you, you haven’t been reading this blog long have you?

Still, it’s nice to have someone ‘officially’ confirm what I’ve been saying about not just LotRO itself, but F2P when it comes to Turbine for years now. Bonus points to Aylwen for the line about the poster with the “millions of others” tag line; still stands as such a great example of Turbine’s goals vs reality.

Maybe I’ll go look through my LotRO-tagged posts and see who was doubting me and what they had to say. Guessing I’ll find at least a few gems.


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