I hate being sick. It’s one of the worst times to be a gamer aware of “meta” because when I’m feverish my mind start throwing massive design problems at me. The unsolvable things become nightmarish in my attempt to cool down, hydrate, and overcome the disease. Instead I lie there coming up with ways that ArenaNet could create zerg breakers. I’m now on all sorts of medications so I feel up to sharing! I’ll go in order of sadness.
Mordor or Bust
Seems Turbine is shedding more employees in a layoff round. I’ve only been picking at Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) in the past few months, and I’m still on Riders of Rohan. One of my good friends still seems to obligingly log in once a week or so. I asked him about the state of the game a couple weeks ago. Continue reading
Been a busy October, and Zubon’s been keeping the fort down well enough. I am grateful that he has such insight on WvW in Guild Wars 2 because I just can’t get in to it. I’ve still been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 and other games. Carry on, wayward sons and daughters.
Time to Kill
While I am not as tapas-oriented as Syp in my gaming, I do enjoy having small, different bites. I’ve found the number one, absolute top dog reason I won’t bite a game I enjoy is the time to load coupled with time to play.
Looking at my yearly main course, Guild Wars 2 loads up very quickly (except in Lion’s Arch), and I can jump to just about anywhere I want to play in seconds. The only place this doesn’t occur is WvW, which I don’t play. If I want to WvW, I want to WvW. I don’t want to pass the time when it’s the BBQ of enemies I want in that crazy format. Hopefully early next year it will be much different with the WvW overflow map.
The only other MMO I jump in to right now is The Secret World, which has a fairly quick time to load and play. It’s been a lot faster since I found the death express waypoint system XXX LINK. The MMO I want to play is Lord of the Rings Online, but it feels like it takes so long to load. I’ve heard that it might be fixed… something to do with skirmish caching? I don’t know. I know I wouldn’t mind logging in for a few KTR quests and Middle Earth narrative. Continue reading
Your game has various sources of gear or whatever your unit of character advancement is (usually gear). You might get it from quests, crafting, events, PvP, single group dungeons, or raids. Of course, whatever sort of gameplay you favor is the one that should produce the best rewards or at least have a chance of eventually earning something comparable to the best. In games with raids, especially progressive raiding, raids usually produce the strongest gear. And I have always been pretty much okay with this, despite never being all that interested in online synchronized dance recitals.
Because what are you going to do with the best weapon in the game as a solo player? None of the solo content assumes that you are going to have an extra thousand DPS, so you will just blow through it even quicker. Of course, by the time you get the best weapon in the game (TV Tropes warning, happy Monday), you don’t need it, so it is even more of a cosmetic reward. You will probably enjoy solo content less if you have raid gear that trivializes it. You do not need raid gear unless you are raiding.
But I know we have some readers who do things with MMO content other than enjoy it, so perhaps you have your reasons.
If you are spending $0 on a game, and the economy is working great for the company and the players who are paying money, but your favored currency is not retaining value well, that means the economy is working. “Working” applies both in the sense of in-game supply and demand (there is WAY more supply of the free currency than of the paid currency, and people with low time value are more prevalent than people with low money value) and the game’s business model. A business model that rewards “not paying” as much as or more than “paying” will not be a business model for long.
Just because you do not like something does not mean it is not working.
I am still playing Dawn of the Dragons, despite the standard social media game mechanics. Something about the energy bars and the false sense of achievement is compelling.
Mission zone 10 is an expansion pack gear reset sort of experience. Players quickly acquire zone 9 gear due to the multiplayer mechanics, and then better from leveling up while wearing it. Along the way, nothing except zone 9 raids do much damage to you. Bosses deal trivial damage, and random encounters deal exactly 1 per attack. And then you hit zone 10. Continue reading
Our testers can veto releases at work, but we have an allied tradition that half a loaf is better than none. We may not get everything we want from an update, but if it makes some things better and no things worse, we go live. We can add the rest in a future update.
A gaming example comes from GW2 crafting. At launch, crafting could use items only from your character’s inventory. Soon after, you could craft from the vault but discovery was still inventory only. Now both check character inventory and the entire vault.
This is easier in my work than in gaming because our users are not competing with each other. If we can implement new functionality for one interface but need another month to accommodate the rest of our users, bonus for the users with the easy update. If your FPS added rocket launchers for PC players but needed another month to add it to the Mac client, forums would explode, especially if PC and Mac players were on the same servers. You can see this in games that are gradually rebalancing one class at a time rather than all at once. The relative values of classes are having large swings each month. LotRO had “the month of the [class],” TF2 had class-specific updates, and other games have similarly revamped single classes. See also City of Heroes gradually adding heroes’ passive archetype abilities over time, so there were months in which only half the classes had them.
Sometimes half a loaf is worse than none. Beyond the cases where it distorts your competitive balance, a function that only half-works can make some things worse and no things better. Adding something that only works for a known half of the users is inconsistent but reliable, which can be okay; adding something that works for everyone a seemingly random half of the time is inconsistent and unreliable, which is bad. The new functionality must work as expected, even if only under additional assumptions, and those assumptions must not cause other problems. Half a loaf is better than a whole loaf with gravel scattered through it.
Yesterday we discussed the tendency of a new option to expand to all potential uses. Facebook was a digital whiteboard but now you use it to share family pictures and invite people to events. I want to discuss the failure to expand in two ways.
“The gimmick” is when it does not proliferate. They tried it once, it failed to spread, and it became quietly ignored outside its home. The blade itself is lost in the back of a drawer. In MMO-land, this is usually update- or expansion-specific, the neat new idea that never went anywhere. Will LotRO have mounted combat outside Rohan? You go through a zone and need to learn a new mechanic, but you will never need that mechanic again. Sometimes that is intentional, to give each zone its own gimmick.
“The forced feature” is when it proliferates but reluctantly and only by including it whether it makes sense or not. Developers may not have a use for it, but management said that it goes in everything. The Wiimote comes to mind: it may not make any sense for the game to involve wiggling the controller, but the Wii was sold around its innovative controller, and the games must justify it. Maybe every dungeon must have a physics puzzle or use the conversation mechanic or include a trap or have a secret door with a bonus treasure behind it. You learn to recognize when you have reached The Obligatory X Scene
These two go together really nicely. In the new expansion set, every single thing must incorporate the forced feature, and then it will not be seen again until someone uses the gimmick five years later in one boss fight as an intentional callback.
If you have better terms than “gimmick” and “forced feature,” comments are open.
The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.
— Homer, The Odyssey, although I cannot find a translation online that uses that exact phrasing.
It is not a slippery slope argument to say, “Developing the capacity to X makes X much more likely.” Beyond the tautology that you cannot do X if you cannot do X, we find that humans are more likely to pursue options that are readily available. Once you have the ability to do something, you start finding occasions for it. This is a driver of progress and source of anguish.
Before Arkship started, I needed food. I walked until I found a restaurant we did not have back home, which happened to be Fatburger. We do have hamburgers in Michigan, but not that chain, and friends had gushed about the place. It was indeed a quality sandwich and my first time having a hamburger with relish on it. I have had hamburgers and relish before, but not together, and the combination of ingredients was unexpectedly good.
Relatively few restaurants offer anything new. They can offer something new to you, Continue reading
Felix Salmon blogging at Reuters has some things to say about monetizing online magazines that has applications to gaming:
Which brings up a fundamental rule of online subscriptions: there is zero correlation between value and price. There are lots of incredibly expensive stock-tipping newsletters which have a negative value… And of course there’s an almost infinite amount of wonderfully valuable content available online for free…
Or look what happened when Newsweek and Sullivan parted ways: both of them started subscription products, at almost identical prices… That doesn’t mean the two products have almost-equal value; it just means that both…came to the conclusion that the $20-a-year range was more or less the point on the supply-and-demand curve where they would maximize their income…
But there’s another consideration, too: the more formidable the paywall, the more money you might generate in the short term, but the less likely it is that new readers are going to discover your content and want to subscribe to you in the future…
…on the internet, people prefer carrots to sticks. That’s one of the lessons of Kickstarter, too. To put it in Palmer’s terms: if you want to give money, you’re likely to give more, and to give more happily, than if you feel that you’re being forced to spend money.
I saw this last note most richly in Kingdom of Loathing, where players would buy the item/familiar of the month as a de facto subscription fee just to give Jick $10. I have donated to quite a few online games, some of which called it “donating,” but I find myself strongly averse to paying for flash games that added a grind you can pay to skip. Games with limited, optional, non-pushy cash shops probably see more purchases that the players think of as donations, and some shops’ opening saw pent-up demand to donate to the game (probably an influence on sparklepony’s revenue).
The third paragraph is most of interest to me. Aggressively monetizing can yield great short term revenue while harming your long term prospects. Without having revenue numbers, I suspect Turbine is seeing this: excellent initial numbers, followed by decline and aggressive monetization of dedicated players, and flirting with blatant absurdity. You can get a feedback loop if players start feeling like the game is being milked before it shuts down.
Hat tip: Marginal Revolution