Three Truths…

Three truths have become false this week:

1) I hold a very principled stance firmly against the Micro Transaction based MMO business model.   It is the root of all MMO evil et. cetera…

2) I have played DDO, and it sucks.  It was crappy in Beta and it never improved.   Poor implementation of some decent concepts, coupled with extensive poor choices for the balance of the design, resulted in an overall dry and uninspired game with little good to write about and quite a bit bad.   DDO is doomed to fail, and will never recover.   Period.  De Facto and all that…

3) I have become so disillusioned with MMOs in general, and the diku model in particular, that I am doomed to watch reruns of Two and a Half Men and Mash for the rest of my life.   Until I die.  Old and bored…

That is, until I read this post written by Ravious

As a matter of history, I almost never go back and retry MMOs that have failed to meet my minimum expectations at launch.   As I’ve noted before, DDO was amongst that group and doomed to never again get a second thought from me.   But hey, I’m bored…  and its free!

I have been using my Gametap account a considerable amount as of late, due to my complete lack of involvement in any persistant world, so I think my preception of what consititutes a successful MMO game session might have tempered somewhat to allow a casual romance with a game world like Eberron.  

For me, that’s the beauty of Dungeons and Dragons Online: quick flavorful bites of MMO play.

Really, thats it for me.   Ravious nailed it.   DDO in it’s current implimentation allows the MMO player to log in for a snack.   It doesn’t require all the preperation and pomp and circumstance of Thanksgiving Dinner, rather it can be enjoyed like a bag of Doritos out of a vending machine…

I am a metagamer, minmaxer, hardcore…  whatever you want to label it.  If I get started with a game, I can’t just be middle of the road.  I push and push the limits of the game, of my own sleep needs, and of my wife’s patience.   DDO is different.   I can feel satisfied with an hour, a Rank, a few quests…  

And what surprized me more than being pleasantly surprized by the game play?   I actually applauded their use of the micro-transaction model!   On the website, it is somewhat in your face, but in the game I do not feel gimped if I choose not to purchase anything.   In fact, I would consider it likly that I spend money on DDO in some way over the next few months, but only because I choose to support a game I am enjoying, rather than due to design roadblocks implimented to force an alternative subscription plan through the use of micro transactions.

Is it working?   Can Turbine really make this a successful niche title, and continue to finance development, operations and customer service, via a Free To Play, micro-transaction business model?   I haven’t seen any subscription data one way or another, and I certainly have no idea how profitable the game is, but the game world seems absolutly packed with players at my level, and the title is approaching it’s 4th Birthday…   if that isn’t success in some form, I don’t know what is.

~Cyndre

8 thoughts on “Three Truths…”

  1. If you search around on the net you can find the sub info – for a brief history:

    Jan this year (according to their own historical patch notes) they merged 1/2 the servers away.

    Announced the F2P and the general subscriber reaction was ‘omg end of the world – fine then I’m going f2p and you won’t *ever* see money from me again – you just signed your own death warrant’

    F2P launched – and according to interviews with Turbine – subs are *up* over 40%.

    (note – that’s amazing for any MMO)

    In addition they have sold millions of ‘turbine points’ – at around 10 bucks per 1000 points (average price between discounts and promotions) you can figure out the short term math gain.

    F2P launched end of September – we have had 1 major update to the game and the 2nd is in beta preview atm expected shortly. (compare this from no updates to the game for over a year prior to f2p conversion).

    And they had to open another server to handle growth – I’m pretty sure they are the *first* MMO that had to shrink it’s server base – that was able to justify adding servers after that happened. I think it’s an important fact to note historically – as all previous history indicates that once an MMO ‘merges’ servers due to population issues – that they begin the long slow march to obscurity.

    Also on a personal note – my first impressions of the game were in beta – fell in love … so I tried the ‘live’ game.

    Wow… I *hated* the live version – many people focus on the f2p conversion – I think it would be nice to see people talk about how much they focused on making the client much more friendly and *usable* to people. The controls are so much better now.

    Biggest thing I love about the game though – best dungeon/puzzle/trap design in any game (online or off) I’ve played period.

    Turbine is really quite a success story in how to run ‘non-gigantor’ MMO’s and it would not surprise me to see the first real ‘wow-contender’ come from this studio as a sleeper release.

    1. I agree with everything above, but I’ll just add that in 3-4 months, there will be another entry in the story of DDO.

      -Players realize DDO F2P is still DDO, and once past the 100% free game (the docks), the insistence on pay, plus the lack of any real progression in terms of combat tactics, leads many to leave.

      Which is basically the problem DDO had initially when released. At first it’s both very different and very interesting, and really nails being a fun game for level 1-4 (I think in large part because it’s so un-MMO. Fast progression, zero grind, action-y combat, cool mini-stories.) That explains the 40% gain; DDO makes a great first impression. DDO does NOT leave you wanting for more after the first month, and that’s what killed it as a sub MMO. If they can get people to spend enough in that first month using the F2P model, they should be ok, and they will continue to have that small base of players who do enjoy what it offers, and will likely continue to play/pay.

      But I would be VERY surprised if going from sub to F2P is nothing but a temporary blip for DDO, as people flock to check it out, and it’s old demons still trouble it.

      1. It’s a unique game, with somewhat different strengths and weaknesses from the mainstream. That’s a Good Thing. If the business model shift nets the devs more money (thanks to new people checking it out and *some* of them sticking, either via subs or microtransactions), it’s a good move.

        No, DDO isn’t perfect, but it’s a solid game that does what it sets out to do extremely well. Getting more people in to see if they like what it does is smart business, even if it doesn’t suddenly become the second coming of WoW.

  2. The most amazing thing about what Turbine has done lately is that it’s been an uncanny example of a software business GETTING SMARTER and actually implementing lessons learned the hard way. /gasp!

    (Granted, EQ2 has a long track record of slowly but steadily un-sucking itself over its life but SOE can hardly be said to be doing things ‘right’ from the gamer’s perspective overall. ;-P)

  3. So I’m having fun as a bard (really want to buy the monk!) and kicking around the idea of rolling a melee-centric battle cleric. The forums seem fairly split on the overall “usefulness” of melee clerics once grouping becomes really needed. Would I be kicking myself later when failing to get a group because I didn’t go pure heal?

    My minstrel in LotRO was essentially the same (as well as my WoW priest ages ago). I’ve always liked being a battle ready healbot and the swifter mechanics of DDO makes me think it would be a helluva lot of fun to play.

  4. @ hess there’s no problem getting groups as a battle cleric. The problem is everyone shouting at you because you were hitting things when everyone wiped.

    That’s because your healing is instant and on a cooldown so you can melee and still fully heal. So it looks to new DDO players like you’re not healing even though you are.

    You also sacrifice some healing power for strength, toughness etc depending how you build it.

    I was too thin-skinned for it. I now only play stand at the back wimp clerics. Wis, Con and Cha for extra Divine Vitalities.

  5. I am not the one to ask regarding any strats or endgame effectiveness, as I simply have no experience with the game beyond the very early stages I am playing myself. I took Ravious advice and I am just playing a premade path to get the feel for it, and then after I figure some things out I plan on rolling my second free slot as whatever I want, hopefully along with a static group or players doing the same.

    I would also like to temper my endorsement of the game a bit… I am having fun, and I do recommend that everyone give DDO a second look, if you have the time. However, that does not mean I consider DDO to be a quality game in ‘the big leagues.’

    I feel like it has a lot of really good design features, and it has/is getting better, but there are still some areas where I think the game falls down a bit. It is over-instanced, and lacks that alive feeling of a AAA title, in terms of how the AI works. I feel like I am playing a game when I’m playing instead of how I felt party of a world in EQ or WoW. As a matter of fact, that was one of my big complaints with LoTRO when it first launched, although I understand they have done an amazing job adding that life to the mobs and zones since…

    I am still having a blast. I will likely play as long as no other 800lb Gorilla catches me in the near future, and with a good static group playing casually, I could definatly see DDO as a small part of my MMO repetoir for a very long time, even with another MMO as my primary game.

    ~Cyndre

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