Could Kickstarter have made World of Darkness possible?

June 6, 2014

This World of Darkness article is sort of a good read. I say sort of because how many times have we read an MMO story about managers asking for one unconnected feature after another, code being reworked, and a game that is in development forever not going anywhere? The answer is often. Hell, I’d bet most released MMOs that have done decently even have a similar story.

Moving past that, the point I want to make today is that Kickstarter could have made WoD possible, for a number of reasons.

For starters, I guess the IP is a big deal (I’m not familiar with it), and big deal IPs attract attention on Kickstarter. Combine this with the fact that you don’t need millions and millions of dollars to make an MMO via Kickstarter these days, and had WoD set a target of, say, 1.5m, I think they would have gotten it.

Second, the Kickstarter route means you are selling access to stuff like alpha, which means more people giving you feedback earlier and really driving the game to some sort of release state. This of course doesn’t guarantee you end up with a good game, but it at least moves you to actually finish it or get it to something resembling a more complete product. And while you never fully want to be designing based on what your players/fans are telling you (cough: AV), if you properly filter the feedback it should be a benefit to the overall game.

Finally, the Kickstarter route somewhat lowers the standard IMO. You don’t need to deliver a full bells and whistles MMO, just a solid core that primarily appeals to those who funded you and others like them. If the initial budget is 1.5m plus whatever extra comes your way, you don’t need 500k subs to recoup that, which means if your MMO is only great at 1-2 things specific to the goal/IP, that will work.


Double cheese weekends

June 4, 2014

Quick one for today, which I think is going to build towards a more substantial post: is anyone else highly bothered by an MMO doing “double XP/loot/whatever” weekends?

I think I’m primarily bothered by it because such events bring “this is a game” to the forefront over “this is a living world”. I guess if your MMO is already highly ‘gamey’, not that big a deal, but the closer your MMO tries to be a virtual world, the more this bothers me. Especially when it’s done with a very broad brush, like “all loot sources doubled” vs “this particular type of mob is now 50% more likely to drop X”.


What we can learn as we watch little sprite people burn

June 3, 2014

Tales of randomness incoming!

I’ve been playing Sim City 4 lately. A game released in 2003, that is now on GoG.com, which was on freaking sale for $5 due to a 75% sale (so to recap: a game from 2003 is normally priced $20 still; very impressive). I think the last great Maxis game before EA completely ruined that studio? Anyway yea, Sim City 4.

Graphically the game has held up well despite using sprites and going no higher than 1600×1200. It’s not blowing any doors down, but it more than gets the job done, and still gets a laugh or two out of me (the random hyper-violent car crashes in particular). It’s stable, I think bug free, and opens/closes/loads quickly.

What I think I’m enjoying most is the sheer difficulty of the game, in that at almost no point am I in a boring too-comfortable zone with a city. Something always needs to be built, and that something always hits the razor-thin budget or creates new strains on support systems like power, water, or crime/fire/health coverage. The game is a pretty beautiful dance in that regard, made even better because some of the major stuff like the top airport or a highway system are absolute resource monsters.

On a higher level, a well-executed city builder like Sim City 4 hits a lot of points I enjoy in a sandbox game. The open-ended decision points, the more freeform flow of the game, the ability to fail due to your own decisions; all of that just works for me. And then depresses me because I need to go back to 2003 to find such entertainment. Do more gaming, do more!

#SimCity


The day the pilot died

June 2, 2014

Sad to hear Jester is retiring from blogging. His blog quickly shot up to my daily ‘must read’ list, and his content quality and quantity was second-to-none. He was also my easy-access window into the deeper side of EVE design and discussion, which to me was very important. Sad day indeed.


A fresh start, or a kick out the door?

May 29, 2014

When do you wipe an MMO?

That question has been floating around Darkfall for a few days now, sparked by the massive dupe-fest that required a 5 day rollback, but grounded in the fact that the game has had major systematic changes over the last few months, and will continue to dramatically change with the upcoming removal of skill groups/limits.

Rather than focus on Darkfall for this post, I’d rather talk more generally on the pros and cons of wiping, along with some history and different ways to reach a similar conclusion.

Pros:

A fresh start is a notable PR event that gets picked up by gaming news sites and generates buzz for your product. The degree can vary, but news about your game, especially news that is new-player friendly, is always good.

You wipe away past mistakes such as duped items, exploited characters, and whatever other side effects bugs produced while your game matured. You also allow your game economy to work as planned NOW without past imbalances impacting it, and if your previous economy was poor, this can be very significant.

A fresh start is new-player friendly. Those on the outside looking to jump in have the perfect reason to do so, en-masse, on the day of a fresh server. This kind of event is important because those new players jump right into a world that is highly active, with everyone else doing similar activities. This helps get them into the flow of the game and stick with it, compared to starting on a random day on a server that is well-established and mature.

Cons:

Some portion of your current playerbase is going to be upset. This will range from mildly annoyed to frothing ragequits. If you lose more players than you gain, taking long-term into consideration, that’s obviously a major problem.

Player trust is tarnished. I’m not big on this one, but some feel that if a dev team is willing to wipe once, what’s to stop them from wiping again? Why work on and build towards something in an MMO if tomorrow it might be wiped?

The gains might be minimal. The power gamers who got ahead the first time are still going to power-game and get ahead again, so a ‘level playing field’ is only true for the first minute or so of the server being live. A similar statement can be made about economic problems; if you haven’t fixed the root issues, your economy will return to a broken state in short order. Also no MMO is bug-free, and every update brings the possibility of new exploits. Wiping after every bug or exploit is exposed isn’t feasible.

In summary, when or even if you should wipe is a tough decision that requires the consideration of many, many factors, some which can’t be measured.

How you execute a wipe is also another discussion. The obvious option is to take your current server, delete everything, and put it back up, but that’s not your ONLY option. You can put up a new server while keeping the old one(s) up. Those that want to stay can do so, those looking for a fresh start can also do that. If the old server(s) end up mostly empty, closing them down is a much easier, less impactful decision. If the new server has population problems, you made a major miscalculation in terms of needing a wipe/restart.

Partial wipes (just items, just gold, just holding, etc) are also options, though I think they get very messy very quickly. The one exception I would make is character names; I think there is a lot of value in allowing current players first dibs on their current character names.

Certainly an interesting topic IMO, and one that I think will see more traction as MMOs continue to age, change, and figure out ways to keep current players happy while gaining new ones.


Dupes and dupes?

May 27, 2014

Finally back from work travel and a short vacation; has the genre fixed itself yet? It hasn’t, has it?

Darkfall just had a fun bought with a massive dupe bug, one that apparently was very easy to reproduce so lots of people took advantage. AV did a three day item rollback (which missed some of the impact of the dupe), disabled the source of the dupe (markets), and has started banning some accounts.

I’m now just of the opinion that the game needs a full and complete wipe once the class removal update is put in. So many economic factors have been changed, this isn’t the first dupe bug to be abused, and with the upcoming updating has already had a prowess respect announced. Bite the bullet and full reset AV, there isn’t a whole lot to lose at this point.

Moving on, Jester did his outgoing post about ESO, stating what a lot of us have stated; ESO is an online sRPG. Certainly around blog circles that’s not what most of us are looking for, but I do wonder if that opinion is somewhat limited to ‘hardcore’ MMO players. Would I be shocked it ESO sub numbers are tanking right now? No. But would I be surprised if they aren’t as bad as the blog circle suggests, because there are a lot of casual players who enjoy an online sRPG of ESO quality (again, it’s a good game, just not a good MMO)? Not that surprised, no.

I find myself wishing some of the kickstarter MMOs would hurry up already, which is depressing on so many levels. For now it’s down to skill training my main pilot, stomping zombie skulls in Dead Island, and playing my daily LoL rank game. Save me Steam summer sale, save me!

#DFUW #ESO


EVE Empires reminder, blog update

May 22, 2014

Quick reminder that the Kickstarter for the EVE Empires  book is winding down, and if you want to jump in and own something that is likely to be very awesome, do so now.

Blog has been slow this week as I’ve been traveling for work. Back to normal next week!


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