An exciting mechanic I do not see in enough games is a state between fully capable and dead. Some games weaken the player as injuries accumulate, but most follow the trope codifier in letting you (and your enemies) operate at full power with 1 hit point and instantly die to the next falling leaf. For this post, I am less interested in gradual weakening than a transitional dying state. This is variously known as dying, downed, unconscious, “fight for your life,” bleeding out, second wind, etc.

Continue reading Rally!

2012 Predictions

I will now get the highest score of any MMO pundit making predictions. Ready? “It will not go live in 2012.” Whatever we’re talking about, I’m predicting that it will slip into 2013, or later, or just never ship. The game, the expansion, whatever: not in 2012. I’m going to lose a few points, since something will ship in 2012, but I don’t see how anyone can beat my accuracy rate here.

: Zubon

F2P Quote of the Day

There is one school of thought that thinks F2P means “if you spend enough time, you can experience the whole game for free – paying is just a shortcut”. There is another school of thought that says “you will never see the whole game, unless you pay astronomical amounts of money, and maybe not even then”. There’s a real conceptual rift between the two camps, and some games are finding themselves caught in the middle, or transitioning between the two.
Brise Bonbons

I’d argue “astronomical,” although that depends on the model, and it’s really the models I want to discuss here.

We’re all familiar with pure subscription models, as well as subscription plus a small premium shop (WoW sparklepony, CoX booster packs). WoW, Warhammer, and others now have unlimited free trials along with their subscriptions. Most Western players have limited familiarity with the item shop model in its pure, evil form, although Allods players got a taste. I think it’s clear under these models that you will be ponying up some funds or you will not be getting much beyond the most basic experience; item shop gamers may have been fooled at the onset, but it should become quickly apparent once they’re into it.

The murkier middle comes from hybrid models and games that let you unlock content (“no cover charge”). Wizard101 has a very clear unlock model, in which you just do not get most zones unless you pay for them. League of Legends gives you access to everything, eventually, a little at a time, with some free permanent unlocks and why don’t you just give them $20 to get the handful of champions you really want? Turbine is the headliner for the hybrid subscription/pay to unlock model, with Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online. You could theoretically unlock absolutely everything in LotRO without paying, although you would be creating and deleting characters to grind deeds until your very fingertips wore away.

And there really is tension between people who want to play for free, absolutely free, and those who are willing to pay and/or recognize that someone needs to fund these companies if you want servers to stay up. When I am getting a lot of value from a game, I don’t mind giving an extra $20 to Valve or Riot or whatnot. I look at my Settlers of Catan box and wonder if I should mail Klaus Teuber a check or something, based on the play value received. But I remember having no money, and I can see a bit of that perspective.

And then there are games that are just annoyingly in your face with their pleas for money. See, for example, the LotRO UI re-design that makes the shop the most visible UI item (poor design decision: the shop links are annoyingly present even if you cannot use them to spend more money, such as subscribers/lifetimers at the stables).

: Zubon

DLC Is the New Expansion Pack

Between sales, the price of Civilization V on Steam is $49.99. The total cost for “All Downloadable Content For This Game” is $49.39.

When DDO came out, I wondered why it was not using a module pricing strategy: base game cheap/free, sell the dungeons individually. You could even have a store for player-made, developer-checked dungeons for which players get a cut. Of course, selling the packs piecemeal encourages power creep by the question of whether this pack is worth the $5. Is the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus awesome enough to spend extra money on it? The same power creep/worth it question arises every time Team Fortress 2 puts a new weapon in the store, but at least there you face a near-certainty of getting the weapon as a drop (or crafting it) fairly soon.

: Zubon

DDO, or how to take the RP out of ‘RPG’

Allow me to preface this by saying this isn’t a hateful post. It’s merely an observation.

I’ve got absolutely nothing against DDO. I think it’s a fine game. Not the best game there is, but does it have to be? It provides fun and that should be the basic mandate of any game. I like the visuals overall. It’s AD&D which, despite its DDO-specific splashes of flavor, is basically a known quantity and familiar waters if you’re into that kind of swimming. It treats its F2P players well and the Eberron setting is interesting.

However, after coming back to the game and playing it more or less steadily for the last couple of weeks something rather ironic stuck out at me: The RP scene is quite barren. The sadly ironic part of all this is that we’re essentially talking about D&D, kickstarter extraordinaire (however you wanna slice it) of Roleplay Gaming, paper or not. So it should have a more or less healthy RP community, but I haven’t observed it (and yes, I know where to look. Us RPers are like dogs sniffing each other’s butts when it comes to this).

So where’s the disconnect?

Continue reading DDO, or how to take the RP out of ‘RPG’

$omething for Everyone

Thanks to a guildmate I came upon this interesting blog run by David Edery, who has his fingers interwebbed throughout the gaming world.  The post of interest was an argument for “aggressive” monetization of games.  He wrote that Western game developers were wary of Asian games, especially F2P games, where a player could buy everything from functional items, boost items, aesthetic items, and so on.  Edery said that Western games had a much more tame monetization of games.

To be honest, I found the entirety of the post a little vague.  He has some hyperbolic analogies such as comparing F2P games to coin-driven arcades or TV advertising, and it is unclear whether he is talking about true F2P games or something less when he talks about how some developers rope off a portion of the game for later purchase.  Then he briefly brushes past the wildfire topic of “ethics [in a cash shop],” which is a too-big-for-this-post concept that really muddied his best point.  He did have a fantastic point in his post “[a] game with a more diverse array of offerings is going to satisfy more people and earn more cash in the process.”

Continue reading $omething for Everyone

“No Cover Charge”

Informis, commenting at Keen and Graev’s:

Apparently, “free-to-play” these days really means “no cover charge.”

I assume it has been said before, but this is my first time seeing this phrasing, and I like it. Can we all start using that to refer to Wizard101, Dungeons and Dragons Online, and other games with the not-quite-F2P pricing model? I’m not sure that “NCC” will catch on as an acronym, although there would be a special glory in applying it to Star Trek Online…

: Zubon