Archive for the ‘theory’ Category

How to Get More People to Buy Your MMO

After reading this brief article over at Massively, it got me thinking about whether players just have to bite the bullet and buy an MMO to determine whether they were going to like it or not. I think this is completely ridiculous to be perfectly honest. Why should we be forced to pay for a game that we know very little about? Most MMO’s do offer trials of either one or two weeks to give the player a brief glimpse into their game to decide whether they want to keep playing or not, however they are usually for brief periods of time, rather than ongoing. I think one or two weeks (if you find the trial while it’s available) is simply not enough time to determine whether they like the game or not. For the majority of players using these trials, they already have an MMO that they are playing and just want to try a new one on the side, which means that the developers should be doing everything they can to try to take the customer away. A couple weeks might only mean 8-10 hours of time that they spend with your game. How can anyone say that you get a fair assessment of an MMO, a game that can potentially be played for months (in-game,) after only 8-10 hours of play? One month is a much better time-frame. Everyone gets busy from time-to-time, some moreso than others. Several times I have signed up for a week-long trial and only ended up getting to sit down and play for one or two of those nights due to unforseen circumstances, and of course didn’t purchase the game. If I had been able to play for an entire month, my chances of finding something worthwhile in the game would have been much higher, and even if I didn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways since I didn’t purchase the game to begin with.

All the developers risk losing by offering a month is two weeks of play, but they have so much to gain. Here are three very likely scenarios that could occur:

Scenario 1. The player decides that they don’t enjoy the game enough to purchase it. In this case, you’ve only allowed them to play an extra two weeks, but effectively works the same as a one or two week trial.

Scenario 2. The player decides that they enjoy the game enough to purchase it. After their free month of play, they lost their desire to play and cancelled. In this case, you’ve got the purchase price of the game out of them, and they can resubscribe whenever they feel like it now.

Scenario 3. The player decides they absolutely love the game, purchase it, and play it for the next 2-3 years.

Obviously, these situations can still occur with shorter trials, but the chances of success are greater with a longer trial, while costing the company almost nothing extra to let them try it for longer. Once you give the trial a go, you have to wait six months to try it again. This gives the game enough time to make some improvements and add content, but it’s spread out enough for the player that they can’t just keep getting a free month of play whenever they want. It just doesn’t make sense that MMO’s wouldn’t have a longer trial (that is always available) when the content is typically 5-10x greater than a typical video game with profits potentially at 200-300%.

~Kanthalos

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In-Game Currency for Cash (legally)

Michael Zenke, being his usual self, wrote another excellent post describing his ten points that would make the perfect MMO. I agree with almost every point he posted, particularly about hopping between servers (but not for $25 *gasp*) and making sure your game is relatable.

One smaller problem I do see, however, is the bit about selling currency back to the game. In theory, I think this would be an excellent for the player to be able to potentially play the game for free or even for a bit of extra cash. The biggest problem with this would be finding the perfect balance between currency and cash. If the balance favors currency, players will feel as though the time they put in to obtain the currency isn’t worthwhile. If it swings the other way in favor of cash, it’s pretty obvious what might happen then *cough* gold farmers *cough*. This would potentially legitimize (even legalize) what they do. This would only create more problems. Not only would the finance department of these games have to deal with the charge backs that they face now, but they would also be losing even more money that they are actually giving to them. If it becomes too much of an issue they will either drop the balance back too far making it pointless, or they will do away with it all together. If the balance isn’t in their favor or they do scrap the idea, they will simply go back to the player.

This also ignores one major flaw with this system, which is that the developers don’t need our currency. They can make or destroy as much as they want. There are already methods of taking currency out of these games; they’re called money sinks. Why would they be willing to dish out cash for something that they can create on their own? I don’t think they would be, other than using it as a feature to possibly attract more players.

Again, I think this is an idea that if pulled off correctly could be great, but there are so many elements that need to be considered that even getting them to consider it would be difficult.

~Kanthalos

Aggro Radius

I’m not really coming up with anything original, so I’m going to piggyback off Cameron’s post once more; this time on his post regarding aggro radius. While I do agree that the idea of an aggro circle can be a bit of an immersion-breaker, I think it all depends on the way the game is built.

If you want an MMO where creatures attack when they spot you, this means that:
a) the game needs to have far fewer creatures running around, or
b) the game will have a stronger emphasis on grouping to deal with the far greater number of mobs that will attack, or
c) players will need to be able to easily slay four or five monsters at a time. I played Asheron’s Call for four years, so I’m all for muliple mob fights (remember tusker dens where your screen was literally covered in mobs and you lived?)

If there are fewer creatures, the landmass of the game is going to have to be much larger so that mobs have room to spread out and not all aggro on players at the same time. The experience gained from mobs would also have to be increased as there would be more time spent going from mob to mob, and likely more strategy involved in positioning to attack them. I personally would be a big fan of this, but I know a lot of players would not. Many players enjoy the fact that they can jump right in front of a mob, slay it, then turn and face the next mob to do the same thing. It all depends on your preference.

Also, if the mobs are more spread out, again, the landmass will need to be quite a bit bigger. Otherwise, mobs will be crammed too closely together and you’ll aggro the whole zone. On the other side of this, if mobs are too close together it this will force players to group up much moreso than they do now in case they do aggro too many mobs. This runs the risk of not being a “solo friendly” game, which seems to be the only way to build a game anymore.

It really just depends on how you build the game from the ground up. If you want a more realistic AI, you run the risk of frustrating your players in that it might be much harder to spot a creature before it attacks you, or they feel as though they are always being attacked. If this is the approach taken and is done right, you will have a much more immersive game and (at least I think) will make the world feel much more alive, strengthening its verisimilitude.

There are so many sides and angles to this topic, but I’m going to leave it at that for now. I’ll probably add on to this soon, but I’ve got some errands to run. đŸ™‚

Hope you all have a nice weekend.

~Kanthalos

Servers with Different Content…?

With all of this talk going around about world-building and world-destroying, mainly pertaining to PvP, it’s got me thinking about some of the things this entails, as well as a bigger picture. If players have the ability to alter the world like this, it means that servers are going to be different from one another. This idea got me thinking about differing servers on an even greater scale than this. Imagine if servers were set in different periods of time, say 200 years apart from each other. The capital city on one server might not have existed on the “younger” server, or it could have been taken over by an opposing faction, or perhaps completely destroyed on the “older” server. On another note, different servers could have different instances. Maybe they give the same loot, but the content is 100% different.

There are endless possibilities on what could be changed. This could create a sense of server loyalty and honor, feeling like your server was one-of-a-kind, being completely unique. This also creates some potential problems though. If too many things change, this could create lopsided server numbers with people favoring one server over the next. It also means creating content that is relatively similar with alterations to make it seem original when completely new content could be created with that time and those resources. Would it be worth having less content overall in order to make it feel like an alternate reality rather than a replica? I’m not sure myself, but it’s definitely interesting to consider.

~Kanthalos

Possible New Payment Options?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile after reading a post over at MMO Explorer regarding payment options, which was inspired by Moorguard which was inspired by Adele (we really have to get that system going that Cameron discussed last week…ok, seriously I’m done.) Anyways, I was thinking about some alternative payment options for MMO’s that would be a little more fair. While I don’t think we will ever get away from paying for the initial game for the AA/AAA titles, I think there are some ways to making payments more reasonable for more casual players or those looking for different games.

Rather than charging a flat $15 monthly rate, they could go with a $1/hour rate, capping out at $15, which means 15 hours of gameplay. Most serious gamers who really enjoy the game they are playing will play a game for at least 15 hours a month, which is about 30 minutes a day, meaning that the majority of your customers will pay the full price anyways. I think this is a pretty reasonable option, unless the game companies are “banking” on the fact that many players will play for less than 15/20 hours a month, and in that case, they are making a greater profit. That said, I think a lot more players would pop into a game for several hours a month, in which case they could gain $6 more from one player, and $8 from another player who normally would not have played that month because they were too busy to justify $15 or simply wanted try out the new patch or whatever else.

Another option I came up with is a four-tier system that’s like this:

(After some reconsideration and feedback, I think this might be a bit steep so I altered the prices a bit, but its more about the idea than the specific prices. I’ll leave the pricing to those money people, hehe)

Two-day Pass: $2.99

Week Pass: $5.99

Two-Week Pass: $8.99

Month Pass: $14.99

This gives you a bit more freedom to play within an allotted amount of time, while still being cheaper than a monthly subscription. (Removed a sentence about video game rentals that after price changes was irrelevent) If you find that you have a free weekend in the midst of a hectic month, you can pop in for those couple days and enjoy yourself and spend a fifth of the monthly fee, and again giving the company $3 that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Same goes for the week and two week. While I think they would be used less than the two-day pass, they are still options that could be used depending on the amount of free time you have and the amount of money you are willing to pay.

Anyways, there are a couple options that I have come up with that I think should be considered more by MMO companies. There might lose a few customers willing to spend $15 who don’t get their money’s worth, but they would get a lot more who want to give it another shot or can’t justify a full months payment.

~Kanthalos

Improving End-Game: Town Building

I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot lately. Many people simply don’t have the time, patience, skill, or dedication to raid after reaching the max level in MMO’s. This leaves several options open to the player. They can craft and trade to earn money for better gear. They can faction farm for certain rewards. They can roll an alt and do it all over again. And the last real viable option is PvP. While raiding can be fun and interesting working with others to obtain rewards, the content will always be the same. While this can be true for PvP as well if you enter battlegrounds, arenas, or whatever else to fight, your surroundings might be very similar, but the outcome can never be certain. This factor of uncertainty is what leads me to the belief that the best form of end-game content has to involve the world your character is living in.

What better way can you be involved in the world than by city building/destroying, leaving a lasting impression on the environment? I don’t know that there is. There are problems with this, however. For instance, how do you prevent an all-powerful group or faction from dominating everything and ruining the experience for everyone else due to a lack of power? Well, you could reset certain areas where you build towns and outposts every so often, but again this begs the question of what difference am I really making if it doesn’t have any real permanence? If this isn’t considered an option, you could simply limit the size or the capabilities of towns that can be built. This way you could leave your mark, you would simply be limited in how big of a mark. The last option (though straying from the PvP aspect) is the ability to built outposts/towns that can’t be destroyed. This would allow you to have your own private/guild space that would be yours, without any of the risks and responsibilities of guarding it.

Whichever of these options (or any others that are possible) you consider, many benefits can be seen. This would promote crafting that had a real purpose. It would promote trade between groups for these items. One the PvP side that would promote alliances between groups to help defend each others areas. Perhaps groups from different time zones could ally and help defend the other while the majority of their players are offline and vice versa. Also, this will constantly give you something to do if you get bored with questing or grinding, either trying to capture a new location or building up the one you have. These locations could also have access to materials not found anywhere else, causing certain areas to be more prized than others.

While this wouldn’t necessarily have to be an end-game activity exclusively, they would likely be the biggest players as they have gotten through all of the content and they will be the most powerful. I’ll probably expand on this later, but here is a (somewhat) brief outline of why dynamic worlds are a must in the near future for MMO’s.

~Kanthalos