The SWTORsphere’s still quiet in expectation of the move to Free To Play this month – but there are still some interesting discussions going on in the blogosphere, plus a fantastic “10-month review” of the game that’s almost required reading if you’re not already playing…
- Rohan looks at some of the restrictions in the Free To Play model, and points out some of the nefarious tricks they’re there to prevent – “Just imagine what someone could do with a thousand accounts all slaved together. Even simple things like the /who command could bring a server to its knees if invoked simultaneously by everyone.”
- Mighty Viking Hamster answers critics of the new F2P model, arguing that it was never intended for everyone – “This model is for those customers who may pay a month here or there because their life schedule affords it or because they want a break from their MMO of choice and want something different for a while. It’s not meant for those people who want to make that galaxy far far away their home away from home.”
- And Shintar writes a review of the game 10 months in – it’s from the perspective of an enthusiast, but nonetheless is really, really useful if you’re thinking of getting into or back into SWTOR – “It’s worth noting that the game has no cross-server functionalities, and while the servers that remain after the merges mostly have a very large population, you’ll still start to recognise some names if you play for a prolonged period of time. “
F2P could happen as soon as this week – when it does, the Galaxy Far Far Away will become a very different place…
Are you planning to return to SWTOR when it goes F2P?
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Many more details on Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Free To Play model have been released today, including a lot of information about the in-game perks purchasable with “Cartel Coins”.
Are they Pay To Win? Are they overpriced, unfair, or awesome? Let’s find out what top SWTOR bloggers thought…
- For a summary of the information released, check either Darth Hater or dulfy.net
- Syp is concerned that many of the unlockable restrictions on F2P players are just too much to play with – “Dudes, why not just make us hop on on leg until we pay up? There are sensible business practices and then there’s just giving noogies to get the rest of our lunch money.”
- Targeter is frankly thrilled by the cartel options, and the way they make F2P Fun To Play – “Bravo, Bioware. You could have gouged us. Instead you chose to make it fun. You chose to take our side. For the first time in a LONG time, I can look at SWTOR and say, “Yes. You are on the right track.””
- Shintar is much less concerned than she thought she’d be, although she’s concerned that the cash shop may make the game feel less real – “Depending on how well the item shop is received, we could soon also see an influx of wannabe Sith speeding around the Republic fleet on mobile thrones and male characters showing off their pecs 24⁄7 while wearing invisible shirts. I don’t want it all to be silly and weird. I still shudder at the memory of Dalaran the day WoW released its “sparkle pony”.”
- And talking of frivolity, Njessi gives us her overview of the less serious parts of the Cartel market – “More bikinis. OK, I lied, I don’t love this. I opposite of love this. We totally need more idiots dressing their companions in bikinis. But that’s ok, because finally, sweet revenge…”
What do you think of the way SWTOR’s F2P is shaping up?
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It’s a surprisingly frequent problem in the Internet age. You’ve got a thing that you made. It’s very popular. How the hell do you make enough money from it to keep it going?
That’s the challenge that many MMORPG developers face in one guise or another, usually after Plan A has failed. The entire Free To Play model sprang up from that very issue – but as several of the smartest MMO development bloggers discuss today, saying “Free To Play” still leaves a massive number of questions unanswered.
Want to know what Tobold, Green Armadillo, Kaozz and Avatars of Steel think are the solutions? Read on…
- Avatars of Steel is getting very sick of game developers simply attempting to use payment models designed for pre-gaming businesses – “Cars with naked women draped on the bonnet, buy one get one free groceries, rented motel rooms, cable contracts – new, improved, soap-powder – traces of all of these are in our current f2p scattergun approach. “
- Tobold thinks that game developers worldwide are missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle – encouraging and facilitating social relationships – “Instead of leveraging social network effects, MMORPGs are being developed into a “massively single-player” direction, where players simply have no use for each other. I think that there is a lot of missed business potential in creating better relations between players, and have gameplay elements where players can work together without being forced to be online simultaneously in 4-hour blocks.”
- Green Armadillo looks at the ways that payment policies can drive wedges between groups of players – “If the majority of paying customers are located in the leveling curve, that is where the developer must focus their efforts, even if said customers are certain to depart after spending some amount of time in game.”
- And Kaozz thinks that most games companies forget something very important: respect for their customers – “Does F2P make your game look like a joke? Do cash shops? I think it’s all in the way it’s all handled. A bad transition can hurt a good game, damage a valued reputation, that’s my honest opinion.”
Being in the “we’ve got something popular – how do we keep it alive?” space is surprisingly tough to deal with – I’ve been there a couple of times, and I have a lot of sympathy with the SWTOR business guys, for example.
What do you think SWTOR – or any other MMO – should be doing to make enough money to stay running?
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SWTOR players are still in a pretty tough place this week, staring down the barrel of the upcoming Free To Play system. Will it kill the game or save it?
But that’s not all that’s being talked about in the galaxy far, far away – and we’ve got another great post looking at the identity of SWTOR’s classes, too…
- Rohan’s at his analytical best looking at the various ways in which F2P can be implemented, and what needs to be done to save SWTOR – “At the end of the day, someone has to hand money over to the devs so that they can eat. One would assume this is obvious, but judging by a lot of the forum rhetoric, it isn’t.”
- Larry Everett at Massively takes an overview of the Free To Play story so far – “Two factors weigh against SWTOR in its quest for F2P salvation, and two factors might help it succeed. “
- And Njessi writes a really great, lengthy look at the personalities of the various SWTOR classes, and how they help or hinder her playing the game – “I feel like my complete discomfort with both my consular toon and her companions makes me ambivalent about the playstyle – which, admittedly, has nothing to do with the story, voice, or crew. If I think about it, sage, has a lot of aspects I like, specifically a resource system that doesn’t penalize you for dropping below 60%. Still, I am seriously struggling to find the will to level.”
The last point is an interesting one in the context of the F2P discussion, actually. Most people who played SWTOR, I suspect, wanted to play either Sith or Jedi. Now, the Sith storylines are pretty good, but I know very few people who liked the Jedi characters – I know I hated mine and gave her up as soon as possible.
Was that, I wonder, more of a factor in the game’s failure than we’ve given credit for?
Do you think F2P’s going to save SWTOR’s future?
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And elsewhere in the MMORPG world, things are still very lively indeed. From positive feedback for RIFT from a very unexpected quarter to an EVE player saying “no thanks” to the tears of his foes, here’s the cream of this weekend’s crop:
- Random Average looks at the reasons he fights in EVE – and surprisingly, delicious tears aren’t amongst them – ” I wouldn’t have undocked if I didn’t accept some risk, and if I didn’t want the risk, I’d play Wizard101.”
- I don’t often link to awesome MMORPG in-game outfits, but when I do, I do it right – this one’s fantastic
- Who is running Syncaine’s blog, and what has he done with the real Syncaine? This weekend, he’s positively enthusiastic about a sneak peak he got of “themepark” game RIFT’s new expansion – “If themeparks are your thing, I’d say the way Trion handles Rift is how you’d want your themepark handled, and I’m actually curious to see just what players eventually do with the housing system. I think Rift players and general themepark fans will be very happy with Storm Legion, and the general direction Rift is moving in.”
- Shintar considers the lively atmosphere of SWTOR’s starting zones, and for the first time starts to think that F2P could be a good thing – ” Star Wars is an incredibly popular IP – the problem is that only a small fraction of those Star Wars fans are traditional MMO players. Maybe Bioware isn’t completely crazy with their reasoning that too many of them don’t want to pay a mandatory sub these days, when you can access so many online games and services for free.”
- And at the same time, Jason at Conveniently Placed Exhaust Port looks at the way that SWTOR’s F2P is being implemented, and believes EA is learning more from Farmville than other MMOs – “Based on what we know so far, it’s looking like EA trusts their players as much as a creepy uncle who just got out of prison for the second time. “
- Syp makes a great point about MMOs – that maybe they should be judged more on the extent to which they produce magical, brilliant moments of gameplay – “A good memorable moment, whether it’s a great story, a funny aside, something interesting another player does, or a spontaneous event, usually makes me far more affectionate toward a title than before.”
- And finally, A Ding World looks at how City of Heroes players are reacting to their game’s last days – “On the other hand there are people who just move on at this stage. Perhaps that works as a better closure, with all good memories and move on right away, now that the end has been given a specific time.”
What do you think? Are MMOs more than memorable moments? And is Alternate Universe Syncaine in charge over there?
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Where is the MMO going? Can the genre find a new business model? And is there actually any innovation?
The past year hasn’t been a great one for the MMORPG genre, as Azuriel noted yesterday. And with new ideas and new MMORPGs a go go right now, despite the downturn, we’re all wondering where the MMORPG is going.
Today we’ve got four very smart bloggers discussing various aspects of the genre’s future, from monetisation to whether the genre’s just run out of ideas:
- Green Armadillo considers the question of whether MMOs, and SWTOR in particular, can successfully make money by selling access to content – “Could selling access to content throughout the game – perhaps on a planet by planet basis similar to LOTRO’s model – really have doubled or tripled Bioware’s revenues?”
- Pewter wonders whether her ennui at the current crop of MMORPGs is the designers’ problem or hers – “The regular reader will navigate the narrative of a book in much the same way every time, and we don’t get tired of the the overall format of ‘reading’.”
- Scary isn’t sitting on the fence in his “MMO future article” – it’s called “Why Guild Wars 2 will Thrive and WoW will Die” – “We can slowly untuck our old security blanket and feel the warm air around us. That’s when we start looking at that old tattered game we are “renting” monthly. Why pay a fee when we can play for free?”
- And Infogamerist asks whether the glut of MMOs at present dooms them all – “Please, gaming industry: don’t break up the MMO community with too many choices and/or “massive” fails! I’d miss all my friends too much!”
What do you think? Are there too many MMOs? Is Free the way forward?
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How do you design a Free To Play scheme? What can a 9-year-old teach us about game design? Could user-generated content ever work in an MMO?
It seems to be Game Design Wednesday here at the Melting Pot. First up we had the very exciting news that Alexander Brazie, a designer at Blizzard, has started blogging. Now, we’ve got some great writing on game design from a number of interesting perspectives!
Let’s get going.
- Tobold considers a part of MMO design we’re only starting to understand – the structure of a Free To Play deal, and whether SWTOR’s F2P deal is fatally flawed – “Leo Tolstoy’s book Anna Karenina begins with the phrase: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The MMORPG version of this is: Subscription business models are all alike, every Free2Play game does business in its own way. “
- Big Bear Butt’s Cub returns in an interesting discussion of his 9-year-old perspective on game design – some really interesting stuff here, particularly about arch-villains and how they can succeed or fail – “He likes the individual pieces of what is coming out, and the game in my opinion is going to be vastly improved by what is being changed and added. But taking the focus off a single storypoint that captures the minds’ eye has left Alex cold. More faction battles? “But”, he says, “we already have that. I can do PvP in a battleground whenever I want. We’re already at war. How is the war new? Or are we not really killing each other in PvP battlegrounds?””
- And Fulguralis asks whether a map creation tool and user-generated content could be the saviour of the MMORPG world – “Heck, one could make the argument that the map creator was the true shining star in some of Blizzard’s old Warcraft and Starcraft games. User created maps have spawned entire games for Fel’s sake! (League of Legends anyone?)”
Of course, Everquest has User-Generated levels already, but from what I’ve heard, their mapmaker is fearsomely limited.
Oddly, this is one area I could see SWTOR suddenly rising into. Bioware are well-known for stories, but what you may not know is that they’ve also created some of the greatest user toolsets of all time. Neverwinter Nights spawned mini-MMOs of its own, not to mention a feature film made in the engine (which I may have, erm, had some involvement with). If they focused on UGC suddenly, it could be a game-changer.
What do you think?
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It’s been a great, busy week in the MMOSphere – and so we couldn’t contain it all in five days. Here’s your weekend goodness – and we’re beginning on a sad note.
- One of the most prominent Orcish voices is no more. That’s right – Michael, the man behind the curtain of inimitable Orcish blogger Ratshag of Need More Rage, is lowering the curtain on Ratshag’s writing, and the Orc himself went out in style. The entire MMO Melting Pot community will miss him – but we’re looking forward to seeing what Michael does next.
- Syp looks at the definition of “Free To Play”, and is quite frankly overwhelmed by all the things it can mean – “Should one term be used to cover such a varied blanket of business models? Should we be coming up with better terms for these different categories, and if so, what should they be?”
- And Green Armadillo goes looking for evidence for or against the theory that subscription is irrelevant – gameplay is all – “What if the truth is that every MMO that has succeeded under the subscription model has done so because that game – at the time – offered a compelling experience that was not available elsewhere? “
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And finally, the news of SWTOR’s move to a Free To Play model is still echoing around the SWTOR blogosphere. Here are the latest reactions – some lengthy and thoughtful, others raw and unfiltered…
Long and detailed
- Dusty Monk argues that SWTOR – or almost any MMO – can be made vastly better by an influx of new blood – “So when people make statements like “well if the game wasn’t fun for you then its just not going to be fun period regardless of whether or not it’s free to play or not”, well, by far and large, that just isn’t true. “
- Darth Hater takes a detailed look at plans for the future of SWTOR, including plans for new content – “With the introduction of Group Finder and Ranked Warzones in the 1.3 game update, there is a feeling that the “core” systems of the game are now complete. Which means that the design and development teams can focus on producing content within the game’s existing framework.”
- And Ravanel takes a long look at what might work and what might not in SWTOR’s new existence, using LoTRO’s move to F2P as a guide – “So far, it looks like they give subscribers full access and F2P’ers limited, which is the common solution that works well. I hope they won’t place many attention calling advertisements everywhere, but I suppose they might need that to get money flowing. If they do, I can only hope they will give subscribers a break from it.”
Short and sweet
- Targeter is really not happy about the move, and more upset about the tacit admission that SWTOR has, by some measure, failed – ” I knew it was coming (although, not THIS quickly) so I was mentally preparing myself for the day this would turn into a space station cash shop.”
- Lono is also not happy, largely because of the history of the people coming in to head up the game – “Swtor is headed by Jeff Hickman, the man who was accused of finishing off Warhammer Online by the EA Louse. I was there for the the Warhammer debacle and as much as it pains me to say, Swtor is following an eerily similar pattern.”
- Rambling Redshirt is happy about the move, which he thinks will be a step in the right direction, provided EA give subscribers good reasons to stay – “This could be a scenario where leveling to 50 may be a free experience and once there, a few months of paid subscription could scratch the space mission, warzone, and flashpoint itch. “
I do think that the F2P move is likely to bring a lot of players back to experience the single-player campaigns if nothing else – but I wonder if the timing’s going to be right? With Guild Wars 2, The Secret World and MoP all either out or due shortly before the November F2P date, and the Christmas gaming rush shortly after, I’m not sure how much traction they’ll get until everything slows down a bit.
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The discussion of SWTOR’s F2P move continues, but it has split now into two – one between SWTOR players discussing what the future holds for their game – which we’ll cover later – and another whole discussion asking what this massive bombshell – the biggest-budget MMO since WoW admitting failure – means for the MMO industry as a whole.
There’s some really interesting thinking going on from a wide variety of people, talking about payment models, but also much more:
- Jim Rossignol argues that it’s not the MMORPG that’s dying – it’s the quest-based semi-single-player experience, as opposed to the sandbox game – “Perhaps the true lesson of EVE, as I suspect I’ve drummed many times before, is that it delivers a unique experience. What you pay for is unlike what others play for. Not just in the sense of being a singular game design, but in the sense that your EVE experience is yours.”
- Green Armadillo looks at the numbers for SWTOR, and asks where all the money went – “The catch is who gets the $210 million. The store doesn’t put the box on their shelves and pay an employee to run the checkout line for free. The distributor doesn’t ship the boxes to the store for free.”
- Rowan Blaze reminds us that the question isn’t really “did subscriptions fail”, it’s “does the game offer enough that you want to play it?” – “The real question is, Does the game service provide you value? That is, is the game designed to your tastes? Do you enjoy playing? Is your investment in time (and money) worth it?”
- Ocho compares the cost to the end user of the various potential game business models – “Content, potions, storage, cosmetic items, ships, weapons, it’s all in there, and it’s scrutinized heavily. Not only is it scrutinized, but it’s pushed like a bookstore’s endcap with the latest best sellers. “
- A Ding World briefly compares the fates of EA’s MMOs and those from Funcom – “Given the numbers Funcom provided in the earnings report they will be quite profitable with The Secret World even with numbers similar to Age of Conan. Now that about a month has passed since launch we may see some subscriber numbers soon – if they have been doing well and are able to retain players.”
It’s interesting to note just how many sandbox games are still around and collecting subscription cash. Jim Rossignol only mentions EVE, but WURM is still doing fine as far as I’m aware, Ultima Online is still out there, and of course A Tale In The Desert just keeps on rolling. OTOH, of course, RIFT and WoW are still happily collecting subscriptions too.
What do you think SWTOR’s move to Free To Play says about the future of the MMORPG industry as a whole?
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