What Price Fame and Immortality?

People are willing to spend hundreds of dollars for characters, items (useful or fluff), gold, virtual land, “premium” access, privilege and even life-time accounts. But what else would they be willing to part with their hard-earned money for?

I’ve charged people to officiate weddings in some games, I’ve seen artists charge gamers to draw their pencil/paper RPG characters, and I know a few talented writer types that have charged to write cool backgrounds or stories for their friend’s favorite characters.

Would you pay to name a street in a city? How about christening a bar or tavern in some metropolis? What about naming a creature or being able to design a creature? How about having your favorite RPG character immortalized in the history and lore of an MMO?

For example:

Joe the Barbarian could have his exploits created (within the framework of the content) to be a warrior of legend with a statue somewhere or perhaps rumors of an ancient cult following, or maybe his deeds in some epic battle or another would be immortalized in a ballad of the ages that gets stuck right in the game lore etc.

Or maybe Jack the Ranger discovered this mountain pass in the year 064 during one of the worst winters in memory. He saved the day by leading the villagers from X to safety or brought them food…(maybe your character could be flagged as a recognized “descendant” of the famous one).

Obviously anything like this would have to be done to fit the content of whatever game. No, you can’t name a tavern after McDonalds, or pay to get “Mr. Stinkybottom” inserted into the lore of a game as a minor deity or the founding father of the evil skeleton city. That’s just dumb. But most MMORPGs that spend the time to really develop the story and setting of a game have to come up with a lot of filler and flavor. I just wonder if people would want to pay for a little fame and notoriety.

It isn’t so much that people want to be famous, as they want to be *somebody*, or be unique and different in some way. “My great-grandfather was a famous bard and he liked to stay at this inn. They eventually named some beer after him. Pretty cool eh?”

Anyway, sound off and let me know what you think. The idea is to open up things a little bit and give people a limited chance to have some small measure of influence on the writing and design of an MMORPG to make things a little more special. This might be a nice way for some smaller independent developers to make a little extra money to help fund their own projects.

Good idea? Bad idea? Would you pay? There are obviously two different ways to do this…the wrong one is cheesy and kills the sense of story and immersion…the other one is seamless and makes the world a little more rich and interesting.

What do you think?

Personally, I like the idea of “Ethic’s Rat Farm”, “Zubon’s Lair”, and “Ye old Bear and Goblin Grill” (started by my great grand-pappy, doncha know).

Hrm, I might run an experiment with Immortal Destiny and see if anyone would pay for a tiny slice of lore. On a stick no less!

Sound off and tell me what you think….

Nicodemus

16 thoughts on “What Price Fame and Immortality?”

  1. It would be nice to integrate some player achieved actions into the developing lore of the game. For example, Guild X was the first to defeat this particular raid instance, and for the next major patch or expansion, their acts are woven into the storyline. This would serve as a great motivation because for once, your actions does indeed have consequences and goes on to help shape the game world.

    There needs to be a lot of developer and community communication going on for this to happen though, not to mention greater enforcement on guild and character naming conventions.

    I’m against paying anything else other than subscription fees for a game, because anything else would be ‘paying for the unfair advantage’. The lore would be reduced to self-advertisements, like a billboard.

  2. Although I did manage to get myself placed into Asheron’s Call 2 (some good that did me) for no cost, I would certainly be one of those people that would pay to be placed into the lore/history of the game. It would be a cool thing to become “part” of an MMO. I would dig it.

  3. Mythokia,

    Without making a really long reply, let me say that there is a difference between *plot-driven* and *story-driven*. MMORPGs that are plot driven are usually pre-scripted and have large scale “events” that occur (with little or no player involvement or influence). Everquest expansions and WoW’s Burning Crusade are two examples. Story driven, done the proper way, starts with a very well defined *setting* and *lore* at the time of launch. Beyond that, the player actions determine and influence how things go from there. That’s how it should be done, and that’s how we are doing it with Immortal Destiny.

    Second, something like a guild “advertising” by buying something like the name of a tavern is definitely a no-no. Things that give players any advantage should never be sold. Cosmetic things, sure, but never things of power. Using one of my examples, it might be an old character of yours from an RPG gets his name added to the local lore of a particular town or region, but that’s about it. That has pretty much no bearing on the game or the player’s character, but it gives them a sense of belonging or history. Sure your character may have started out as a child on a turnip farm, but wouldn’t it be cool to take some friends back to some village and point out the old “smith farm” that some relative fought off some orcs at a few decades back?

    /shrug/ just some thoughts…

  4. The economics of this are poor. Unless you are selling the tiniest things, either the cost is very high or the time involved in implementing it eats up most of the benefit.

    “We name something after you” is easy, especially if you do not get to pick what. This can be economical. Let’s say that you can pre-order with a lifetime subscription, and as long as you do so at least one month before retail release, something in the game will be named after you, to be revealed at retail release. The player indicates a preference, but there is no guarantee. A developer can go through and insert names easily enough, provided placeholders were designed with that in mind.

    Paying for a meaningful self-insertion is difficult. Put all the work on the player: you write the story, you give us the image, etc. You still need someone to look it over, edit it (because Tiamat knows your players cannot spell or use there/their/they’re), Google names to make sure they are not profane terms from other languages, make sure it fits the existing content, update art, make sure all name variables update, and so on.

    How long does it take to do that? Going with something easy, let’s say 5 minutes (one paragaph maximum, no new art needed) per insertion. How much do your developers make? You must charge at least 1/12 of that developer’s hourly cost to break even. Remember that this is total cost not just hourly wage: my cost to my employer is twice my salary due to taxes, benefits, overhead, etc. Remember also that this person will not spend 100% of his time on actual work due to staff meetings, HR paperwork, getting coffee, etc. Next you should budget time for dealing with the complaints that arise, not just from players who are upset with you for in-game ‘advertising,’ but also the guy who is upset that no one uses his item (“The spear named after me is gimped”), the Jewish guy whose name was assigned to the slow-cooked pork, and the ardent RPers who insist that there is no way that is an appropriate thing to name after them, because he specifically said that his grandfather used an obsidian-tipped spear and was from the northeastern mountains and didn’t you read the thirty-page character backstory he supplied to help you assign it properly?

    There may be an efficient way to do this, but do not underestimate the resources involved in even doing it half-assed. Doing it well could price it beyond the range that most players could afford, and that is a new round of complaints.

  5. Heh, no this is meant as a very limited thing, not an ongoing source of revenue or something that would be automated. I.e. maybe auction off a few things to the highest bidders or give them away as prices once a year or a handful each quarter.

    I’m also well aware of the costs of running development ; )

  6. The biggest problem I see with Mythokia’s idea is that in most games one guild dominates for a good length of time. Someone always manages to get out front and once they start being first a few times, the advantage of being first in item driven games allows them to continue being first until something causes their guild to break (either people go on vacation, or there is guild strife and they split up) allowing someone else the time to leap frog them. Expansion to expansion, you’d likely end up with stuff all named after a handful of guilds, in not just two or three. I think it would actually alienate more players than it would empower.

    Even the original idea of purchasing “names” in the game falls into that same trap unless you artificially limit purchasing. Otherwise you might get some bored millionaire dropping many thousands (or hundreds of thousands) on the game to name everything the way he wants and insert all his characters and his friends characters into the lore.

  7. I think the idea is very intriguing. There may be a few dedicated (obsessed?) players who would foot the bill to have personal contributions published in the game. But, I would tend to side with some of the other views mentioned previously.

    If a player is paying a monthly fee (or hourly play cards over-seas), they may be expending their all. Possibly, their only other contribution to the game may be seen via time and in-game achievement. Players will support a game that rewards them with (servre-wide) fame. There is even the potential for (ADHD) players to jump servers to try and out-do one another’s achievements (were the system allowed to do this). I think a more on-going (reward via story and legend fame/infamy) system would generate a more persistent player loyalty and on-going (noob) interest.

    The typical consumer may see anything else as a gimmick. This might lead to reduced sales. Sony graffiti was a failed attempt to produce word-of-mouth buzz like that found with I Love Bees, (IMO) mostly because of the transparency of the ad campaign and its passive implementation. It may not be worth the risk to generate a few more dollars or a little word-of-mouth advertising.

    If its a feature, go for it. If its a (or will be seen as a) gimmick, can it.

  8. Bad can of worms, imo. I like the concept, but I dislike the idea that we are going to add a form of micro-payment. If you have disposible cash, you can be more unique than someone who either doesn’t have it or won’t spend it.

    Also, anything shiny has to be at least marginally available to everyone. Content that is only available to one person, like unique items or unique titles defy the very fabric of an MMOs world.

  9. Problem I have with that comment Cyndre is that there are two things people spend on MMOs. Time and Money. Most MMOs cater to those that spend time. Much of the content designed is for those people. People with more time than money get more content than those that don’t. I don’t see any reason why a game should not cater to those with more money than time as well. Since I don’t have time to grind to the level cap, why should I be locked out of much of the content?

    Currently, those with disposable time can be more unique than someone who either doesn’t have it or won’t spend it.

  10. Thats all prespective Ethic… Lets say at a slow pace of play you *could* eventually experience all of the content. You may choose to move on prior to that, but the option is there.

    Creating a micro-payment, or unique purchase system, some people are simply not ever going to have that opportunity. Especially the naming thing… What happens to the new players in a venerable world like UO or EQ1 after every tavern and bridge is already been sold? Tough luck, go play in another sand box? By giving a player something, that no other player can ever get, thereafter, you violate, imo, one of the cardinal rules of MMO design. Rare or difficult is ok, but Unique is a design that should never, ever be implimented.

  11. Fame is fun. A few of my friends are immortalized in EQ1(Cabbage quest, from my druid playing days), and I’ve always been a bit jealous of them. There was a book of lore on Vex Thal supposed to go into EQ1’s Plane of Knowledge listing my main character as the author, but Sony’s lawyers and I never were able to get together.

    Buying that fame though…doesn’t seem as special.

  12. I agree with Cyndre, in that the value of things in MMOs is based on the fact that anyone can – theoretically – obtain them. The fact that many people can’t – practically speaking – obtain them is what makes them more valuable.

    Having something for server-firsts seems pretty good, but I agree that it’s kinda a shoe-in once a guild gets ahead of everyone else. And buying something that *affects* other people doesn’t seem right. I don’t want to have to read someone else’s name on a quest just because they paid more. Perhaps not even if they did something in game (though there might be potential there). Flavor items, such as fancy noncombat pets, etc are fine for money. But realize that for some people, the draw of the game is that they can get ahead/on top without a lot of disposable income. If you’re rich, you don’t need to be on top in a game, you’re alrdy on top in RL (or at least well off).

  13. I’ll disagree again, if you put some unique treasure at the end of a raid that takes 4 or 6 hours to complete, it is not attainable by everyone. Time is money. Some people have time, some have money and I suppose some have both – lucky bastards. But time is not always available to be spent in large chunks at one time and therefore it can make some things impossible to reach. As impossible to reach as putting a financial cost on it anyway for some people. There is a very real chance I will never be able or willing to put 4 to 6 hours straight into a video game. No matter how you handle things, there will always be people that cannot attain some unique item. I don’t believe time is always easier to come by than money is, for me it is quite the opposite.

    I’m not advocating that all games should add microtransactions, I’m just saying I’m not against them because I am someone that would be more willing to spend the money, than I am willing to spend the time.

    I’m not so sure I want to see the systems mixed though. I think special servers are the way to go personally.

  14. What about psycologically though? You put something at the end of a 4-6 hour raid, and “all” it takes is 24 other people and a certain time commitment. You *could* quit/slack off on/take a vaction from your job in order to raid for a while. Obviously that’s a stupid idea. But if one has to pay money for an item, that creates a very official and physical barrier to acquisition. Rather than logistics blocking some people, the structure of the game itself is obstructing them. It’s the difference between hiding a diamond ring in a haystack and locking it in a (hypothetically) impenetrable safe. People will keep looking through the haystack, no matter how big, but they’ll just walk away from the safe.

    Hmm, maybe I’m just saying making people spend time instead of money (directly) is better business.

    Special servers might work, though simply selling them as being able to pay for items may not be a good idea. Advertising them as something closer to “elite” servers might be better, increase the subscription by like $5 or something, the idea being that the “12 year olds” won’t pay the extra, making the population more mature. Then making it possible to pay for items could work without creating too much of a stigma.

  15. I’d enjoy seeing my name (real or character) stuck into a game in some way.. which is part of what made the Ragnarok Online craft system interesting for me.. forge a weapon or brew a potion and the item name forever (or until some scab breaks it trying to over-upgrade) declares it to be KioJonny’s Wind Damascus or Blue Potion or whatever it is you’ve created. On the other hand I’d also be fine with knowing some guy out there paid $20 or 30 to have an NPC or a tavern or the like after himself.. I’d even consider paying myself, once I’d discovered I really liked the game.
    on the Time Vs. Money issue.. I’m playing a game called Rappelz lately.. free to play with a cash shop supplying play-enhancement goods, exclusive (ie. not dropped/sold in-game) equipment and what amounts to “subscriber content”, in the form of a “hidden” town with cheaper npc prices and a wider range of “service NPCs”. The system doesn’t really seem to favor the cash players, as almost anything tradable (equipment and enhancers particularly) can be found for in-game currency as an alternative to buying it for dollars, meaning that a noob (or anyone too strapped for time to go farm his game-currency) can spend a little cash to amass in-game wealth, while a hardcore grinder blowing 8 hours or more of his day in-game can still have access to a majority of the cash items.
    For a more concrete example:
    I end up playing good lengths of my day (every day), paying around $20 a month for the pay-access area/npcs (because I want to support the game and, frankly, the cheaper npcs are totally worth it) and the occasional one-time output for “extra shiny” armor, while making plenty of game currency to pay for upgrading my gear, while a friend of mine who can only play weekends because of his work schedule has just managed to keep abreast of me by spending around $120 a month on the game to sell consumables (in terms of equipment-quality at least, while I have an account full of alts, he has just his main character). In a WoW situation, I’d just write off playing with my friend until he finally caught up after I hit the level cap.. but even then my gear would outmatch his so badly we’d have a hard time finding things to do that didn’t involve me making him look like a noob because of his non-raid-intensive inventory.
    Should I feel bad that he has more in game cash than I do just because he has more disposable income? I don’t see any reason to.
    Should he feel bad that my stable of 6 characters with gear as good or better than his 1 character cost me 1/6th as much real cash just because I work a seasonal job that leaves me with my summers off to play games in? Again, I don’t see why.
    And if some other guy has both free time and money to blow, why not let him do it through the developer/publisher rather than through a gold-seller (who is most likely cluttering the server with bots to earn said gold)?

  16. Why do you have to pay to be inserted into the lore?

    I’m not sure, but I think A Tale in the Desert describes player contributions in it’s lore.

    I’ll give you a hint of what is coming: Continuous Content.
    It means that everything you do leaves a mark on the MMO world. It means that if you kill 10 rats, those rats aint going to respawn. If you don’t save the world, someone else will probably do it later.

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