Shopping By Customers

I recently read An Economist Gets Lunch by Tyler Cowen. Much of the book is advice on finding quality ethnic food (and barbecue) at reasonable prices, whether in the US or in their home countries. Don’t eat in the tourist district, do eat where there are several restaurants of the same type in the neighborhood (until I visited DC, it never occurred to me that you could have a half-dozen Ethiopian restaurants on one block). Being an economist, his insights focus on where the restaurants have the right incentives and efficiencies. A place with great atmosphere is selling that, rather than the food; the tourist district does not worry about repeat customers; American shipping systems are great but really fresh seafood and produce is only available close to the source.

Yes, this is one of those extended metaphor posts that takes an example from another setting and applies it to gaming.

The simplest guide is to look at the customers. If the restaurant has the right people eating there, the food is probably good. Who are the right people? The ones with interests aligned with yours. Continue reading Shopping By Customers

Boatorious on Bonding

Bad/Unforgiving games tend to have very tight communities in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. You join a guild in WoW to raid some dungeons and get some loot. In old EQ or UO a guild was more like AA or a cancer survivor’s group or something, and naturally tight bonds formed.

So I guess the question I have about UO, and FFXI, and EQ, and all those great old “social” games is this : did those games have great communities because they created social interaction, or did they have great communities because they eliminated non-social players?
— Boatorious

Pro-Social Design

The question arose last week: how do you design around/against people being idiots and jerks? “You can’t fix stupid.” There is no 100% solution, because some people really are that dumb and others will go to great lengths as griefers, but there are better and worse designs in terms of the behavior they reward. If the system rewards pro-social behavior, it promotes harmony. If the player must make sacrifices to help others, you will see destructively selfish if not predatory behavior. Economics in two words: “incentives matter.”

For example, consider Marks of Triumph in The Lord of the Rings Onlineâ„¢: Shadows of Angmarâ„¢. The epic quest chain is a big feature for LotRO, but it was punctuated with instances that demanded full groups. If most of the population had completed them all, how did newer players and alts get through the epics? You asked someone to repeat one. Repeating one was a way to help friends, but you got jack for it. Your friends had to give something up, and you would not meet new people unless someone was a very charitable stranger (or, lucky day, you find a few people who need it, a couple of whom have charitable friends). Game update: repeating one of those instances began to award (once per five days) a Mark of Triumph; accumulate several Marks to barter for various rewards. The rewards were rather nice for when they were released. Pro-social behavior increased.

Because of how Marks were awarded, you did not need someone new to repeat the quest. This has the further benefit of letting you repeat older content without completely sacrificing character advancement, and developers want players to pay for recycled content. The downside is that it is more efficient to get a level-capped group and cycle through all the Mark instances rather than actually helping near-cap players on their first run-through. On balance, however, Marks increased pro-social behavior more than they inhibited it.

Continue reading Pro-Social Design

Swish Effect

You know what makes combat in an MMO really satsifying?  Yes, a deep combat system is important.  But right now, I want to talk about the sounds.

A lot of the classes that swing their weapons in Lotro make a “swish” sound no matter if they hit a target or not.  It’s not something you notice the first time you fight, or even the millionth, but at some point you play a character in Lotro or another mmo and you whack something and go, “Ouch, I think I heard some bone breaking!!”

As an example of the swish effect, I’d like to direct your attention to some bloody penguins.

First, the swishy one:

Then the more satisfying smashy one:

Notice how when you smash the penguins in the second link, it just feels more gratifying.  You get to hear a “splat” sound when you actually hit the penguin to begin with, plus the penguin makes “ouch” sounds whenever it bounces, and finally there are sweet “boom” sounds whenever the penguin hits a mine.

FFXI is great at having very satisfying sound effects.  Other games like SWG really drop the ball in this department.  With Lotro, it depends on which class you play and which skills you use.  One of the reasons I like playing my new Warden alt in Lotro is how satisfying the stabbing sounds are.  I really feel like I’m inflicting some virtual pain.

FFXI: There and back again

ffxi [Final Fantasy XI] Well, I fired up my old FFXI account around Christmas. My old character was still saved because Playonline now saves characters for up to a year. I decided I’d probably never play that character again and I’d use it as a mule and sell all its stuff. The first thing I noticed in FFXI when I went to sell my stuff is the current economy “problem.” While some would argue that it’s not a problem, there is a large inflation going on. No one really knows the cause but some attribute it to mostly the holiday season and idiots. Regardless, a lot of items have increased in price, mainly the more rare items. While some say this is bad, others would say it’s not that big of a deal because a lot of other money making items have also gone up in price; however, some haven’t. Either way, inflation in FFXI never increases your current gil supply. Someone who could buy several rare items now can only buy a couple. You either had to realize an inflation was coming on and buy items before they got too pricey and then resell or your gil is now not worth as much as it used to be.

Continue reading FFXI: There and back again

Loving Change

ffxi [Final Fantasy XI] My brother mentioned FFXI one night. I’m not sure how we really came to this decision, but because he hadn’t asked for anything for Christmas, we came to the idea that maybe an FFXI account would be a good idea. Both he and I have burnt ourselves out on WoW, though we are far from done with WoW.

I’ve been kind of mellow lately, not feeling like even logging into WoW, even though I got home five days ago and have been able to. I’ve mostly been playing offline games between my new Nintendo DS and Dragon Quest VIII. I don’t know exactly why I haven’t felt compelled to play WoW. There’s many reasons I can think of, with feeling bored of the game actually being close to last on the list. Playing FFXI again would be like breathing fresh air again. I’ve never played two MMORPGs at once, so I don’t know if this could eventually be a good or bad thing for me.

Continue reading Loving Change

O… M… F… G…

FFXI[Final Fantasy XI]

/em clutches chest.

/em dies from joy overload.

In the next version update, major changes are scheduled for the dragoon two-hour ability.

The development team does not consider the dragoon to be particularly weak when compared to other jobs, but we are aware that a large part of a dragoon’s strength depends on the presence of his or her wyvern. After taking into account the wyvern’s tendency to be quickly defeated in heated battles, and the dragoon’s lack of a powerful special ability for use in missions and other critical situations, it was decided that improvements were necessary.

Continue reading O… M… F… G…

WTF is Limbus?

FFXI[Final Fantasy XI] SE is introducing something called Limbus, specifically Limbus: “Temenos” and “Apollyon.” The description sound like it will be a Dynamis style event, which are huge 64 person groups that fight a zone full of monsters. There was very little detail and nothing given on the developers page. There is alot of speculation though, as it appears that the area this might take place in would be in “Sea” the high level CoP mission areas. So far we know that Temenos means the area of and around a religious place and Apollyon is a greek term used basically to describe destruction. Also the term Limbus implies Limbo and all its attendant vagueness.

Continue reading WTF is Limbus?

The Road Forks.

FFXI[Final Fantasy XI] Well, I have completed and helped my static complete Chapter 2 of the Chains of Promathia. We are now working on The Road Forks. This is a quest that has a semi-branching story line and doesn’t have to be completed in order (even though it usually is because the story lines take place in San d’Oria and Windurst respectively). For the San d’Orian story line we had to defeat a relatively simple Marlboro-type mob then return to San d’Oria to complete the mission. For the Windurst branch we had to go to Attohwa Chasm and defeat a pretty simple named Antlion mob. The problem with this part is that we then had to go up the Parrademo Tor, which is a big mountain that we had to climb to finish the quest. It has these cliffs you have to walk along that you can easily fall off of and the path is often times blocked by gas escaping from fissures in the wall.

Anyway, I have now completed the hard parts of both of the quests and just need to talk to the NPC’s to finish the quest. Which is nice. Except the fact that I have to do it again for the rest of my CoP static.


More FFXI October update info.

[Final Fantasy XI] Square Enix is adding new conquest points items that will allow you to get a slight bonus in experience points (and limit points) for a period of time. This will likely be used mainly for soloing while looking for a party.

Experience Point Bonus Items

These items are designed to help those who wish to earn a little extra experience from defeating easy opponents, rather than for use in extended party play.

The bonus points provided by these new additions may not be noticeable at first, but taking advantage of the bonus every day will eventually make a substantial difference.

The new items will be available through the exchange of conquest points, making them accessible to a wide range of players. Talk to your nearest conquest guard after the version update and see how this adventuring accessory can help you!

Stolen from the Development Team page.