Leavers and F2P

Playing Town of Salem, I am constantly annoyed by suicides, i.e. people quitting the game. They don’t like their role, they started without time, they anything — I’m alt-tabbed and typing this now from a game that has had 4/15 people quit so far. It adds quite a bit to the randomness when one team suddenly loses several members, which can snowball. No one cares if a neutral benign role leaves, but everyone is cheated of a decent game when one side is hamstrung. I’ve seen other perversities like a 3-arsonist game where they would have won pretty handily had not one of the arsonists quit on day 1. Even worse is when an important, unique role is AFK; I have had two games with AFK mafiosos so the Mafia just could not do anything. And then town is hamstrung when people quit after dying, given that town can have a rezzing role.

But Town of Salem is also free to play. I want there to be some disincentive to ruin the game for others, but what are you going to do, ban a F2P account that someone can re-create in a minute or two? Ooh, you wiped out their cosmetics. That is hardly a speed bump for the sort of jerk who doesn’t care about ruining others’ fun, to say nothing of the actively griefing troll. I am interested in ranked play, where those players tend to fall out as they cannot rise in the ranks, but ELO is broken and most of the roles do not appear in ranked play.

Having real costs in a game is a useful thing just because it imposes costs. If there is no cost for bad behavior, you are free to impose costs on others.

: Zubon

“Harbingers of Failure”

Admit it, you know some of these gamers and might keep a couple in your feed as negative indicators:

We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed.
— Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester, and Catherine Tucker, “Harbingers of Failure”

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution, where a commenter says:

My wife thought I should open my own market research firm where I’d be proprietor, sole employee, and entire sample size. Big companies would show me mockups of products they were considering launching, and if I’d say “I’d buy that!” then they’d cancel the program, fire the guy who came up with idea, and bury the mockup at Yucca Mountain under concrete and steel.

: Zubon

Town of Salem Team Balance

Still playing Town of Salem. I have switched to the Chaos – Any/All game because it is the only way to consistently see all the roles. The problem is that it really does mean any/all chaos, so the game might be randomly unwinnable for one team or another. Not technically unwinnable, but practically so.

If the town has less than half the population, the town loses. It is not technically impossible for the town to win, given good luck and/or incompetent opponents, but I have yet to see the town win with less than half the population. I have been in a game with only 3 people in the Town. Being mayor of a three-person town is just waiting to die. Other times, the town will get a stack of roles that cannot synergize or help find the Mafia, like 3 mediums and 3 transporters. A 2-person mafia is also likely to lose, but I have seen them pull it out occasionally. A game with 3 serial killers and/or arsonists is going to be rough for anyone except the neutrals.

The standard game uses a standard set of roles to better ensure a balanced game, but you lose out on variability and seeing all the game has to offer. You will never see about half the roles in the standard game. Chaos takes that to the other extreme. There needs to be a balance with variation but constraints on randomness. Maybe make some of these official?

: Zubon

Rollers of the Realm

Pinball-RPG hybrid. You have a standard RPG story: start from humble beginnings, collect a motley crew of allies, realize your initial foe is part of a scheme to take over the world, save the realm. You have RPG character advancement, whereby you can level up, select new party members, and upgrade them with equipment. The twist is that each map is a pinball table. Instead of standard RPG combat, your characters are pinballs that bash your enemies down. Each character has a special ability and different stat mods, so the knight breaks things and has a shield, while the rogue does more damage from behind and has a dog multi-ball, while the ranger shoots arrows as he passes by enemies and has a bigger multiball of animal companions.

The campaign mode is a few hours of content, so not a lot. As pinball, it is as replayable as your enjoyment of pinball. The achievement checklist suggests the “real game” is playing for gold medals on the arena maps. Those seem to be variations on “complete this map quickly” and “get a high score on this map.” I have only briefly sampled that part of the game.

If you like virtual pinball and character advancement mechanics, this certainly seems to be for you. I enjoy it in small doses, so I’ll check out the arenas gradually.

: Zubon

What Is Wrong with MMOs

To return to not making your content fun, I believe MMO content should be designed on a scale. On one end you have rewards, and on the other end you have fun. The more fun said content, the less rewarding it should be, while the less fun something is, the more rewarding it needs to be to stay viable/relevant.
— SynCaine, Fun vs Reward

In terms of designing a subscription-based game that retains players and makes efficient use of content, it makes a kind of sense to design a Skinner Box that rewards your players for spending time on the least fun content. This is where Moloch drives MMOs.

Pay to play a game designed to minimize fun per hour. The main thing we seem to learn from playing MMOs is that you will have more fun not playing MMOs.

: Zubon