Free to Play Future

First it was Dungeons and Dragons Online. Then it was the Lord of the Rings Online. And now we know Everquest and Everquest 2 will be going down the path of free-to-play as well. It was a massive money maker for DDO and promises to be a huge money maker for both Lotro and EQ2. But how free is free to play? If you want to reach max-level, create a guild, or complete the main quests, you’re going to need to drop down some cash in these games. Both Lotro and EQ2 are putting hard maximums on the amount of gold a free player can acquire and both are restricting classes. In EQ2, if you win the roll for some rare armor, you best reach for your Visa card so that you can upgrade your account and be allowed to wear it. It seems to be part of the business model to create a game where you eventually feel forced to pay cash in order to participate in end-game.

DDO has set the stage with a potentially lucrative business model that encourages players to play free until they are hooked enough to spend massive amounts of money, but it’s only the beginning. All the MMORPG companies will be watching these two titles to gauge their success, including SOE. If both these titles are a financial success, expect to see all of SOE’s other titles, as well as the rest of the MMO market, follow the trend.

SWTOR: Inter-planet travel

I want to take a break from playing tons of games and drooling over E3 coverage to speculate about the way players in Star Wars The Old Republic will travel between planets. With the announcement of player ships, there was immediate speculation about space flight. However, developers were quick to point out that ships do not mean you can fly. Players may walk onto their ship, click where they want to go and sit through a loading screen until they see a cinematic of their ship landing. In fact, there is some strong reason to believe that this is the case.

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Removal of No-Trade in SWG

Different games call it different things. But whether you call it “Soulbound” “bio-linked” or “no-trade”, it all means the same thing: you can’t give away or sell an item once you have it. Developers put in no-trade items so that you’re forced to beat a boss to get a great piece of loot or forced to actually earn your own armor for your character. You can’t just have a friend give you a set of all the top-tier items and tell you that you beat the game.

This is the case with the epic jewelry rewards for the “Heroic” instances in Star Wars Galaxies. But tomorrow’s patch for Star Wars Galaxies will remove the no-trade tag from all new heroic jewelry.
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End Game: Progression vs Buffet

So you’re an MMO developer and your players have hit max level. Now what?

We’ve seen a lot of MMORPGs out there, so you would think we’d have seen a lot of different ways to handle end-game by now. But end game across a large number of these games is dominated by instanced dungeons with bosses designed for large groups. The main difference between these games is just how many bosses they have and the order in which you’re allowed to fight them. This blog is about restrictions on how and when you’re allowed to experience end-game.

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Mission Maker

I resubscribed to Star Wars Galaxies to try the new content that has been added since I last played. I remember reading the press release about one of the features which had been added called “Chronicle Master”. Apparently, it was like the mission creator system they used to talk about having in 2003. The press release claimed that over three million quests were made the first month. Considering SWG’s last reported subscriber numbers, that’s a lot of quests! One individual even created over 6,000 quests that month.

So now that I’ve had a chance actually try this system, I can say that SOE didn’t make anything worth bragging about. The reason an individual would create thousands of quests in a month is because everyone who wants to make cool quests has to grind for hours before they’re allowed to make anything worth doing. Almost all of the quests I’ve made have been made using a mouse recording program while I was asleep. Anyone that made six thousand quests in four weeks probably did the same thing. Every single one of those quests is as engaging as you imagine.

Why is that developers put in massive grinds into these things? I know they want me to play longer, but the ability to find well written player content would keep me playing a lot longer than a massive grind.

SWTOR, the real WOW 2

Once upon a time, a western MMO was announced three years before it’s targeted release date. The developers tried to hide their more simplistic graphics engine by making use of “stylized” graphics. Some were turned off by the graphical design, but others argued the graphics would age better than realistic looking games. Besides, it promised to be a “seamless” world, which is worth something. Despite being the company’s first MMO, people trusted the developer because of their reputation for only releasing quality games. The developer had a reputation for making the some of the best games of their genre. The game of which I speak is Star Wars, The Old Republic and Bioware. But all these things could also be said of World of Warcraft and Blizzard.

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The Final Countdown

A lot of times, developers get a lot more out of their advertising buck if they don’t tell us what the heck they are advertising. The Cloverfield movie trailer originally didn’t give us any clue as to the title of the movie it was advertising. All the speculation outside the movie theater actually lead to more word-of-mouth buzz than if they had just told us, “This is a trailer for a blair-witch like monster movie with a funny name”.

Bioware has once again decided to make use of the power of mystery with a countdown timer that appears on every Bioware website you can think of, except for TOR. Is the exclusion of the timer on the Old Republic’s site an indication that TOR fans shouldn’t care about the timer? Or is it an insidious plan to throw us off the trail of a big Star Wars announcement?

Well, I suppose we’re supposed to speculate until the countdown reaches zero, on Monday morning.

EDIT: Turned out it was a competition to win stuff like computers, t-shirts and other swag. My heart always yearns for a TOR announcement. /Sigh.

Profile of an addict

I”m beginning to wonder if I’m too addicted to mmorpgs. Whether I’m addicted or not, is not really up for questioning, it’s just a matter of how badly I’m addicted. I stumbled upon my old Everquest 2 profile. I noticed that I logged an average of about 40 hours per week on my main character even though I know I was working full-time during that time period.

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I bought WOW gold

I have a confession that I’m a little embarrassed about. Yes, you guessed it, I’ve been playing WOW. I haven’t been spreading that around too much, because of the stigma associated with it. I imagine the next time someone yells at me to “Go back to WOW”, it might actually sting a little. But that’s not what this blog entry is about. Really, this is about someone reacting to me purchasing gold.

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Price Cut

Suppose people are disappointed with your product. Suppose it’s an MMORPG and people are arguing whether it’s really an MMORPG or not. People are claiming they’ve been ripped off. People are upset. Seems like a price-cut will make everyone happy right? No, not necessarily. You won’t find copies of Cryptic’s offer from a few days ago on their website. For that, you’ll have to check out forums outside Cryptic’s control like the forums.

Lots of MMOs have price cuts, of course. But MMOs are not supposed to have a price cut within the first month after launch. The hardcore Star Trek fans who paid for their pre-orders weeks ago, felt ripped off. To make matters worse, many of those same fans purchased multiple copies of the game in order to secure one of every pre-order bonus item. Too bad there’s no end-game content to wear those precious limited-time cosmetic uniforms to. If there was, then the STO lifetimers would have something to do other than troll their forums.