F2P Discussions Continue

The discussion over F2P as a viable, fair, fun business model continue, with a couple of really interesting posts this week.

Whether you’re looking at the game decisions or the larger ramifications of how we “vote with our wallets”, there’s something here for you:

  • Azuriel explains why he finds that most F2P games are the worst of all worlds, removing interesting choices and optimisation, despite being pretty much their ideal player.

    Read “The Worst Of All Worlds” »

  • And Tobold looks at how both Kickstarter and F2P are changing the ways that we signal support and approval for the games that we like.

    Read “Voting With Your Wallet” »

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3 Links For Friday: Feedback, Following and F2P Payment Models

It’s time for the increasingly-traditional Friday roundup post!

This week we’ve got an eclectic collection of posts, from a look at the difficulties of item description (in a text MUD, but applying to all games) to a combination HOWTO and travelogue…

  • Big Bear Butt chronicles his trials, tribulations and eventual solution as he used WoWhead data to search all over Azeroth for the Unborn Valykr.

    Read “Following the Unborn Valkyr” »

  • Tobold asks for a slightly more sophisticated dialogue about F2P – rather than just treating it as one homogenous mass, he argues we should be looking at the details of each game’s payments, and discussing what works and what doesn’t.

    Read “From the general to the specific” »

  • And The Ancient Gaming Noob looks at the problem of whether to describe weapons with numbers (which are immersion-breaking) or simply descriptions (which can be really hard to interpret).

    Read “The Feedback Issue” »

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Why That Kickstarter You Funded Looks Like It’s Failing

Today’s post isn’t specific to MMOs, but is so tremendously true – and useful – that we’re featuring it anyway.

There’s a saying in software development that “The first 80% of development takes 80% of the time, and the last 20% of development takes the other 80% of the time.”

As more and more games – often very ambitious games – get funded on Kickstarter, an increasingly large number of them will look like they’re slowing down, falling apart, or failing. Some of them will be.

Others will just be going through a perfectly normal process of game development.

Rampant Coyote explains more:

“In my experience, one of the main things that causes indie game development projects to fail is the incredible gulf between prototype and product. This is actually not a problem limited to indies, or even to game development. I’ve had uncomfortably close views of this phenomenon with spectacular, expensive failures outside of gaming.

In fact, let’s talk about one incredible failure at a non-gaming company. The previous management of the software department had been sacked because, IMO, they were too willing to speak frankly to technologically illiterate executives – and often told them things they didn’t want to hear, like how long a project would really take. So new management was brought in, and they selected a “silver bullet” system (which, incidentally, the previous management had considered and rejected). The sales team and techs from this third party were able to throw together a very pretty prototype of new software using our existing data inside of two weeks. On the surface, it looked like it was halfway to completion!

If halfway there, they reasoned, the rest of the software should really only take two more weeks to complete! They generously gave us eight weeks, just to be on the safe side. We needed training on the new framework, after all. They signed papers, spent a lot of money, and patted themselves on the back for finding such a brilliant, easy solution.”

Read the rest of “The Prototype Problem” »

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LINK ROUNDUP: The Past, The Future, And The Present

It’s been a good week for interesting MMO-related article, about all topics and all games.

So good, in fact, that we’re having to hit you with another link roundup to get ’em all in!

From hidden bits in Pandaria to the closure of a much-beloved site, here we go:

Enjoy the weekend!

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Is Free To Play worth the money?

There’s been a lively discussion around the blogosphere over the last day or so, around the topic of Free To Play games and their value for money.

Sounds like an oxymoron? Not really. After all, Free To Play games still have to make money somewhere – and that’s where the trouble starts:

  • Klepsacovic muses on F2P in three parts, in a blog post that had me really struggling to stick to our new “no quotes” policy. He’s got some superb lines as well as some very interesting thoughts on F2P, immersion, and player reactions to it all:

    Read “Free To Play” »

  • Rohan dissects the way that players often believe Free To Play games monetise, versus the way they actually do – it’s not about many players paying little, it’s about letting a few pay a lot:

    Read “A Disconnect on F2P” »

  • And Tobold gets very annoyed at players who complain about purchases in F2P games buying advantages, arguing that “fluff” purchases are equivalent to begging for donations:

    Read “Financing Games With Free2Play” »

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Adult Gaming, Lack Of MMO Blogs, And Finding Your Binding

Lots of good posts this week, and I was slightly tardy on looking through them all – so here’s a Saturday update of all the good stuff I didn’t get to in the week.


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Why Are Pet Classes So Hard To Balance?

Want some deep insight into how MMO design works? Like, really, really deep?

We’ve got a good one for you today, then.

Eric at Elder Game has written a stormer of a post looking at pet classes, and the problems of balancing them in MMOs – which then goes into how balance works in an MMO overall, what an “action economy” is, and why there’s such a temptation to make pets almost useless:

“There’s a game-balancing concept called the “action economy.” It just means that you can only make a certain number of actions in a game, so you have to fit all your actions into your “budget.”

In an MMO this is incredibly apparent: if a fight lasts 30 seconds, and pressing a button takes two seconds, you have an action budget of 15 button presses. (Of course, all sorts of other things determine the actual number of actions, but you get the point.)

Pet classes break the action economy, which is why they’re hard to balance. The pet can perform actions at the same time that you are performing actions. So now either all of your actions after summoning the pet have to be sucktastic and useless, or your pet’s actions have to be useless instead. Otherwise you’re getting a double helping of awesome actions.”

Read the rest of Pet Classes In MMOs »

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Why Silence Is Sweet In MMOs

What’s the best thing that many MMOs could do to improve immersion?

Shut their lead character up.

At least, that’s what Ravious contended this week, in a post that’s sure to make any MMO developer who has spent tens of thousands on voice acting unhappy…

“In The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2 my character speaks. Not for me, mind you. They speak to guide the narration. Sometimes I can choose how to respond. Other times I have to accept whatever dumb thing falls out of my character’s mouth. It would seem obvious for my character to talk. Yet, this might be one of the most immersion breaking aspects of these two MMOs. I am guiding some other character. It is not me.”

Read the rest of Narrative Silence.

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A Grand Unified Model Of MMO Economies

If there’s one area in which MMOs differ more than any other, it’s economy.

From Guild Wars 2’s uber-accessible model to Everquest 1’s “go stand somewhere and shout”, via the massive player-run commercial empires of Star Wars Galaxies (and the equally huge and even more cutthroat world of EVE), no two worlds work the same.

This week, The Ancient Gaming Noob decided to undertake an ambitious task – to overview them all and come up with some overarching structure with which to describe them…

“I was thinking about all of this and trying to fit MMO player economies into a two dimensional system for comparison.

What I came up with was how much of a requirement the player economy was to play the game and how much friction there was to engaging in the player economy.

The first seems pretty reasonable to gauge. Can you play the game, or can you get very far in the game, without engaging in the player economy. For example, in EVE Online, you have to use the player economy to play the game. You could, I suppose, try to avoid it. In fact, it might be an interesting experiment to see what you could do without it. But I imagine that it would be a long, slow grind to completely avoid the market and it would limit what you could accomplish.”

Read the rest and see where your favourite MMO fits in: Charting The Relative Natures Of MMO Economies

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Voted: The top 20 most wanted MMO features

Everyone has a wishlist. But what rises to the top?

Machination had an interesting idea – to trawl through some of the biggest “mmo wishlist” threads on forums out there, and compile a list of most-requested features.

So, what does the modern MMO player want in 2013?

” Character customization: “to make my character unique … from the crowds of other players”

Player impact: “… If I burn down a building I want other players to see it burned down and then if some farmer rebuilds it later, I want the NPCs to remember that it was burned down. I don’t want everything to reset…”

Non-combat classes: Alternate progression “let me increase my level entirely as a baker”, “I want to exclusively play an explorer, a politician, an assassin, a merchant…”

The next most common requests were driven by character and progression. If you’re going to invest 1000 hours in an online world, who wouldn’t want it to add up to something? You’d better be able to define your character how you like… to be more than yet another avatar. Your actions ought to matter in the world, and be able to alter it for better or for worse.”

Read the rest of Top 20 ideal MMO features for 2013.

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