Posts Tagged ‘free to play’

Should MMO’s Have an Expiration Date?

June 21, 2011

I pose this question for a couple of reasons. The first of which is that it seems that more MMO’s are being developed than there are being shut down. If we remove the WoW population from the equation there is a finite number of MMO players that is continuing to be diluted and diluted to a point where only the really good MMO’s are viable without resorting to some form of extortion technique free-to-play scheme. An argument against this is the fact that more choices are always better, but my rebuttal to that would be with all the clones out there, are there really that many choices?

The second reason I bring this up is the idea that if something has an end date, are we more likely to play the heck out of it and then move on to the next. It seems that people are constantly moving from one title to the next like some kind of nomad. It is hard to build a community when it is always changing. I imagine one of the big reasons the community in those early games like EQ, DAoC, and Ultima had a great community simply because they were semi-permanent.

I know that this idea is unlikely to catch on because companies are not going to shut down viable money making entities, but what if companies took a leap of faith and ran with it. Where would the die hard, never played another MMO ever, EQ crowd go if SOE said it was closing the doors in 2012? Would people in LotRO move on to a LotRO II if the devs made an ending for LotRO and gave everyone a date they had to complete it by? Would I bother purchasing that Hello Kitty Online game if I knew I really wasn’t interested in it and I only had 6 months before DDO closed its doors for good? All questions that would be relevant if games had an expiration date.

World of Warcraft: best if used by December 7, 2010.

-Pid

[WoT] Tier VI and Staying Power

June 7, 2011

Got me a new set of tracks…will roll.

Every time I enter a new tier in World of Tanks I am super excited and then rapidly it turns to frustration. No I haven’t changed my mind about the game, I still think it is a crazy amount of fun, but in order for it to be a winner for a long period of time, it needs to fix a couple of things. They are undoubtedly making a profit now, so they need to focus on life after the growth mode.

There will be a plateau at some point where the number of new players/accounts tapers off and the number of people who get bored with the game increases. At this point any game needs to improve itself or watch all their players run off to the next big thing. Here are a couple of areas that I think need some work.

The biggest thing in my opinion is optimizing the matchmaking system. For those of you MMORPG’ers out there, this is the “leveling” content of the game. Currently you click on the random battle button in the game and you are tossed in a 15-on-15 tank battle with tanks/tank destroyers/artillery from tiers that range from 3 tiers beneath you to 3 tiers above you. The battles are organized in a manner of seconds which is awesome. The problem is if you are the player that is playing at the bottom of that 3 tier range. Oddly for whatever reason it seems that I am at the bottom of the tiers more often than at the top, but that might be just perception.

The problem with this matchmaking system is that frequently tanks that are at the bottom can do absolutely nothing to tanks at the top aside from make a good target. Depending on  the tank, you can probably do some damage to tanks a tier or two above your own, but those big dogs at the top are near impenetrable. If you have a stock tank from just entering a new tier, you may as well just put it in drive and point at the other side of the map and play Words with Friends on your smart phone. I understand, the battles are random and sometimes you are the top dog, but I would much rather have more frequent even battles rather than some battles that I can’t do anything and others where I can mop the floor. Whatever they do, they need to sort this out. Even if new algorithms require a longer queue time, it would be well worth it.

One of the other problems I see is that clans (guilds for the MMORPGers) need more to do together. At present, you can play in one Clan Wars battle (15 clanmates vs 15 clanmates from another clan) a night (more if you win the first) and then the clans are relegated to teaming up in groups of three (aka platoons) to enter random battles. For me, I can only participate in the Clan Wars battles on the weekend because they are scheduled before I get home from work.  Something more useful would be setting up 15-on-15 random battles that could take place at any time so that clans could still participate in group events even if they don’t effect the Clan Wars campaign.

Again, this is a great game. It is well polished and is ultimately a lot of fun. I can see it getting old after a while though and there is only so much that adding a map or two here and there can do. Hopefully the folks at Wargaming.net aren’t just resting on their laurels and are actively trying to make this gem of a game even better.

-Pid

[WoT] Hindsight 20/20: Things I Know Now but Wish I Knew Then

June 1, 2011

Be prepared, you will see a lot of this.

I have been meaning to write a post about World of Tanks to help any new players out there that may be considering playing this game. As everyone is prone to do, I was confused and made a number of mistakes when I got started playing. Here are a few things that I wished I had known from the beginning.

  • Don’t buy the premium tanks (at least not right away). It can be tempting to slap down ten bucks and get a tricked out heavy tank, but it comes with a catch. First you haven’t played the game long enough to know what you are doing and you will instantly get thrown into higher tier battles with veterans, and get destroyed. Second, premium tanks are not upgradeable and often not as good  as a fully upgraded tank that you could get by progressing through the tech trees (statistically as a similarly tiered tank).
  • Don’t be in a rush to advance tech tiers! Battles in tier I/II are the most evenly matched battles that you are going to get. They can be based more on skill and less on equipment than later tiers. Also there is often no artillery or tank destroyers to worry about so you will only really be up against tanks that have a similar play style.
  • Don’t try to tackle all three country’s tech trees. You will probably want to focus on one or maybe a specific line of a second. (You may like the Soviet tank destroyer line, but focus on US tanks and Artillery. If you are itching to play a heavy tank, focus on the USSR or USA trees. The German tree doesn’t get a heavy until Tier 7.
  • Speaking of German tanks, be careful if you focus on that tree. The German tanks require a fair amount of skill to play at the lower levels. This is a video game and unlike WWII, German tanks are not the juggernaut that they were in real life. The lower level German tanks tend to be lightly armored in comparison to similar tiered tanks from the other two trees. They make up for this with speed, high rates of fire, and generally more accurate guns. This doesn’t help if you are a noob and make mistakes as it only takes one good shot to end your battle. Heavier armor is your friend because you might survive long enough to shoot back!
  • There are a couple of decent websites out there to look for for insight into the game. One is the WoT Wiki. Here is a good site for some more tips and tricks. There have been a few decent blog posts about it too: One from Zoso at KiaSA followed by part II and part III. Lonomonkey discusses the difference between AP and HE shells. Tobold discusses leveling up to a new tier tank and being worse off for it. The Babbling Gamer gives his experience with getting to Tier 3 and getting overwhelmed.
  • You will H-A-T-E Tier 3. It is just that simple. There is really nothing good to say about tier 3. You unlock the first tier 3 tank and buy it. It is stock with no upgrades but you think “hey I have to be better than the stock T1/T2 tanks right?” Then you realize that you are not placed in battles with T1/T2 tanks, but rather T3/T4/T5 tanks and that you last all of about 2 minutes in the battles (and that is if you spend a minute and  half in your starting zone delaying your suicide run). This is where life changes and you have to start getting experience by tagging the other tanks instead of destroying them. More on that in the next point.
  • There are three ways to gain experience in a battle. Obviously causing damage to another tank (including destroying them outright), capturing the other team’s base, and spotting the other team’s tanks so your team can kill them. The last point is where your light tanks and many medium tanks earn their stripes and XP. There are good scouting resources here and here.
  • If you have real money to spend on the game, the best places to do it are on upgrading the account to premium (you get a 50% bonus to XP and coin) and for transferring experience from elite tanks (not to be confused with premium tanks) to free experience. This can really speed up the process of gaining enough experience to unlock the next tier of tanks. Spending real money (or in-game gold) on premium tanks or converting it to in game currency are really not a great use of your money. Just take a little extra time and earn them yourself.
  • Oh yeah, almost forgot. If you leave the battle after your tank is destroyed, but before the battle is over, there is no penalty to the experience or coin that you earn for the battle. You even get the bonus if your team wins. Get into another tank and roll on!

There is soooo much more to learn, but hopefully these little tidbits will help you avoid some of the mistakes that I made getting started. Good luck, happy hunting, and see you on the battlefield.

-Pid

WoWee a Free MMO

June 30, 2010

Let’s come up with a hypothetical situation where you were developing a new AAA MMORPG. You have had success in the past with the genre, but you are getting bored with the old games and want to make a new one. You want to be successful at your new venture, but are worried that the most successful MMORPG to ever have been made will really prevent your new game from being as successful as you want it to be.

Sounds pretty standard really for any development company, right?

What if you are Blizzard though? What if you just so happen to hold the reigns of WoW, and are developing a game that will directly compete with it? Maybe you do something crazy and take that ridiculously popular subscription based game, and make it Free-to-Play with a cash shop and cash services and the whole nine yards. You figure they already have all that in place WITH a subscription model in place.

One of the bigger criticisms of WoW is all of the “jerks” that play the game. What if you opened the flood gates on the population and eliminated any barrier of entry for so called “jerks” to play the game. Possibly a mass exodus of the core players from the game? Where would you go? You like what Blizzard has done with WoW, perhaps you try out NuWoW.

I think it is a pretty neat scenario that Blizzard is setting up here. I wonder if it will turn out that way.

-Pid

image source

Pidonomics

February 24, 2010

I know there have been blog posts out there discussing the economics of RMT in games, but I am trying to wrap my head around the idea of how a company can determine what the sweet spot is for pricing in these cash shops. Your typical macroeconomics that you learned in high school tells you that the price is ultimately determined by the intersection of the supply and demand curves.

Source

In a virtual market though essentially what we typically think of as supply is now practically unlimited. How many heal potions are there? Answer: as many as we need. In this scenario supply is unlimited and the supply curve becomes a vertical line.

As the quantity is fixed at “unlimited” demand essentially governs the entire equation. For instance the demand for hair dye in a game like DDO is relatively low, so you can get the dye rather cheaply. On the other hand, potions of experience in a game like Everquest is rather high, so the price gets jacked up. In a big enough pool there will always be a few people who will pay as much as the seller asks and some that refuse to buy it at all, but the average bloke has a price point that more than likely falls in some kind of bell curve distribution.

None of this comes as a big surprise to me, but what I am curious about is how companies will determine what they can get away with. A hyped, polished game like Allods tried to push the envelope and caught some serious flack for it. Was it a ploy gone wrong or just a major miscalculation? I’m sure some people ponied up the cash for the high priced items, but is this really where gPotato thought the sweet spot was or were they thinking if they shocked the community with sick prices and then came back and lowered the prices a bit it would sell more? I really don’t know. In any event it should be interesting to see how these types of things pan out. For my part I am happy to pay my $15 a month and once in a blue moon drop a couple of bucks for that pink hair in a F2P game.

-Pid

From Failure to F2P

November 13, 2009

Robbiebit (who has yet to post here) and I were playing Dungeons & Dragons Online a few days ago and then recently (before the news) we thought to try out the unlimited trial of WAR. I have to say that for the casual MMO guy that I am, these games really fit the bill. Why is that? Perhaps a little background would help. (Feel free to skim because this turned out to be a bit longer than I anticipated)

My first stint in playing MMORPG’s was when Star Wars Galaxies came out. I was newly married and in graduate school and while the game was fun, I was more or less playing alone and mining farming resources. I decided that I really didn’t have the time or money to keep up with it and promptly sold my account on ebay. Apparently that is frowned upon but back then I had no idea. I ignored WOW when it came out because I was knee deep in graduate school and was experiencing fatherhood for the first time. Free time was at a premium here.

In 2006, my brother-in-law then told me that his buddy was setting him up with an account on Everquest and for whatever reason I decided to give it a whirl. This was the first time I had played an MMO where I actually knew someone in the game world and I was hooked instantly. I created a halfling druid named Piddleglum, but everyone just called me Pid. I was playing as frequently as possible and was having a blast. It reminded me of the times in undergrad when I played a MUD with some of my dorm mates. Life was good, but after a while the time I was spending in the game was testing my marriage (I was also unemployed at the time after graduating from graduate school) and some in game personality issues really made me reconsider my subscription. I know, this is a terribly unique experience, but bear with me.

Warhammer Online came out and I dove into that and ate it up for a while. The early game was a blast for me, but then in tier 3 I justcouldn’t drag myself to log into the game. Between the terrible performance on my computer, the lack of a coherent guild or groups, and the utter spamfest that RvR turned out to be really killed the game for me. I subbed for 3 months after the initial month, and only played for 2 of them.

During all of this time my brother-in-law was crafting a kings ransom in EQ but not really playing all that much. There was an announcement of the closing of a progression server on EQ and I misinterpreted the details of it to think that all servers were going to wipe any characters below level 10. I resubbed to EQ and then played for 5-7 months before realizing that this aging game just really didn’t appeal to me. My brother-in-law and Robbiebit were playing as much as I was and that camaraderie was awesome, but soon my B-i-L was not signing in and the game is pretty tough without a group even with the new mercenaries. I just couldn’t justify paying $15 a month for an aging game that had little to offer if you weren’t a raider or in a well established guild.

I tried my hand at Champions, but it didn’t fancy me that much. Then DDO said hey we are going F2P and now Robbiebit and I play it once a week or so. The game is tough for a duo and Robbiebit never played pen and paper D&D so he is a bit lost, but for the money, you can’t beat it. I splurged on the Drow race and Favored soul, but haven’t otherwise spent a dime on the game. We are level 4 and play when we get a chance, but not avidly. It is a win-win situation as the game is very polished and has gobs of content, but I don’t feel the need to “log-in” to get my money’s worth. Awesome!

WAR recently announced its endless free trial program and I thought, is this possibly the path for all future “failed” MMO’s? (WAR and DDO were considered failures by many.) If they can’t sustain a population that is viable through regular subscriptions, will this be a fail-safe device to at least get a little return on the investment? Only time will tell, but until then I will be casually playing DDO and waiting for the next “failure” to give a free trial out too.

-Pid