[Links] So are we finally at the end of the (MMO) era?

In a week where I’m still struggling to move my armies around in Crusader Kings 2*, I’m sensing a sort of existential gloom around the MMO blogosphere. Not quite what you’d expect when WoW have just announced a release date for their next expansion, perhaps.

* I know, total fail. But the bizarro thing with CK2 is that you can play it like a sort of medieval soap opera even if you suck totally at the military side.

But let’s start with some upbeat links.

Huw at the MMO Melting Pot does a great job at curating MMO blog posts into a small daily digest. If you are interested in reading good writing from actual players (as opposed to  paid journalists or for-profit sites) about their experiences, thoughts and feelings with MMOs, put the Pot on your regular feed. I feel that we as a community (ie. gamers) don’t appreciate enough the value of our own gaming expertise. But I’m darned sure I would prefer to read views from a wide range of players, covering the full range of casual-hardcore, PvE-PvP, and other ways of playing I’d never even have considered, than a small selection of gaming journos.

Arb writes a paean to the Ultima games, and explains why she’s so excited about Ultima Forever. (It took a fair while, btw, for her to say anything nice about my boyfriend/husband – but we’ve been married 11 years now, so perhaps he’s been accepted by my family. A bit :-) ).

Any Rift fans in the house? Scott Hartmann (Exec Producer at Trion)  has hosted an extensive Q&A thread on reddit. This was part of an answer to a hardcore raider complaining that it wasn’t fair that some guilds had better access to beta tests than others:

If people require more fairness than “a guy is working a 16 hour day just so my guild can test,” to be happy in an MMO, I guarantee the MMO they are looking for simply does not exist.

Also, anyone catch the Olympic Opening Ceremony? Everyone British I know really loved it; I think it captured a certain irreverent spirit at the same time as touching on some national traits/people/ culture that we’re actually very proud about. I especially loved the bit where Tim Berners-Lee tweeted live from the stadium “This is for everyone” and it literally showed up as a RT on my twitter stream about a second later (obviously I had twitter up while watching the opening ceremony, doesn’t everyone?) This is the best review I’ve seen (comparing it to the Chinese one), and the whole thing is available on the BBC iPlayer to anyone who can access that.

Maybe F2P isn’t the answer to life, the universe and everything

This week, Zynga stock prices are falling through the floor. I don’t think this will surprise many gamers, as their model of F2P, fast turnabout on new games, and heavy reliance on Facebook was never really convincingly long term. Especially since so much of their initial growth relied on cross-fertilisation between games using features that FB has since heavily restricted (due to them being massively annoying), and various other underhanded semi-exploits such as deliberately working with scam advertisers and “… did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues right away”.

However, now that they are a public company, this type of stock performance triggers analyses in fairly mainstream publications as well as gaming sites.

Mashable suggests Zynga try making better games rather than aiming for more gambling applications (note: they will do the gambling thing though.)

Forbes asks why Zynga is bleeding users.

The best analysis I have seen is on gamesindustry.biz (you’ll need to create a login to read the whole thing), which notes that although they’re still gaining players overall, fewer of those players are paying. This is not the trend that F2P believers want to see.

Free-to-play mechanics mean that you expect the vast majority of users to play for free, effectively acting as cost-effective marketing to entice the small minority of players who’ll pay money and make the service profitable overall. However, in Zynga’s case, the trend is all wrong. Back in Q2 2011, 1.5% of Zynga’s players were paying money for things. A year later, the figure is 1.3%. That 0.2% figure may not seem like a lot, but it’s a trend moving in the wrong direction – and it actually translates to about half a million players who ought to be paying, if Zynga could maintain its ratios, but aren’t. Moreover, that isn’t being compensated for by “whales” dragging the average expenditure of the paying players upwards – in fact, the company’s average income per DAU (Daily Average User) dropped by 10% year on year. In short – costs are up, and revenues aren’t rising to match them.

So does this mean that F2P is perhaps not the answer to life, the universe, and everything, or just that Zynga is ‘doing it wrong’? Probably a bit from column A and a bit from column B. Cash rich Zynga could have put more of that cash and effort into developing better, more engaging games, but they haven’t done so, nor have they really ported their success to non-Facebook or mobile platforms. Pincus is almost certainly more comfortable running traditional casino games, so it’s not surprising he wants to take the company that way.

But the general trend of players drifting from one F2P game to the next, tending to spend less as they go, is one to take on board. You are NEVER as invested in any MMO as you are in the first one you play. It’s entirely possible that this is as true for F2P social games as for AAA MMOs.

Since we don’t really get meaningful numbers from most F2P MMOs (eg. LOTRO, STO, etc) it’s hard to know if this signals a general trend. Maybe companies do have to work harder to get F2P customers, even the fabled whales, to keep spending enough to make their games truly sustainable once the flood of new players has dried up. We know that regular paid expansions is one way to keep the money flowing in (you could think of this as similar to the subscription model, if you only had to pay once every year or so), but if a F2P game cannot sustain a fairly massive base, can the model still work?

Whither SWTOR, and can any new MMO have a longterm future?

EA have an earnings call this week, and it’s likely that SWTOR subscriptions are significantly down from the last time they were announced. They will drop further in August when the six-monthly subs from people who took those out at launch run out. Even as someone who still enjoys the game, it’s hard to feel positive about SWTOR’s future. Bioware have let a lot of SWTOR staff go, and leavers include some of the more influential senior designers. That’s never a good sign in a new MMO, because their vision is the thing which made the game appealing to the players who actually like it.

There have been comments about new content such as a new companion and new planet before the end of the year, but if EA want to retain players, they need to give out some actual timescales. If you bought the game and enjoyed the content and were hoping for a long lifecycle of regular content updates, it isn’t really clear whether that is still the plan at all.

As a fan who has been subscribing, if they kept a reasonable pace, I would retain a subscription. Possibly even for years. That offer (from me as a player) was on the table when I bought into the game.  If they can’t and the community crumbles and my guild/s wander off … then I won’t keep paying them. I’ll follow the players. I wish them luck with a F2P conversion if they decide to go that way and I hope a lot of new players get the chance to try SWTOR, enjoy it, and realise that it’s actually a pretty darn good game if you can enjoy it for what it is, and not whine about what it isn’t. But if they renege on what I expected at launch, I will leave them to it, albeit with fond memories.

UnSubject has been writing a super set of posts at Vicarious Existence about recent MMO failures. And he tops it by looking at factors that contributed to these failures, and predicting the end of AAA MMOs (it’s been said before, but this is a good analysis.)

I’m having difficulty thinking of a Western AAA MMO that has launched since 2006 that’s managed to grow its player base post-launch (well, without switching to free-to-play (F2P) anyway).

And with all that choice, the MMO player base is more fragmented than ever. It’s hard to get enough of them engaged for long enough to earn your development budget back (well, without switching to F2P anyway).

One of the interesting things about his analysis is that this doesn’t depend on how ‘different’ the new MMOs are from existing ones. Unless they are genuinely different enough to appeal to a different market, in which case existing MMO players may well not like them. motstandet writes a reply to my post about not minding MMO clones, describing how he looks for games with depth that he can play for years. (Clearly this also requires other players to play with/against if they aren’t single player games.)

From Zynga’s example (see above), it’s not clear whether F2P is a good long term solution either. So maybe the destiny of these games is never to be longterm again in the way they have in the past. Old dino players will look back to the days in which a core player would subscribe to a game for YEARS as if it were truly prehistory. And that will affect in-game communities also, because people engage differently with a game that they genuinely expect to be spending significant amounts of their free time around than a game which they expect to be done with in a month or two.

EVE is often cited as an outlier, with a steadily growing subscriber base. I’m always unclear how to analyse this, since so many of the core players seem to pay for their gametime and multiple accounts using in game credits/ PLEX. Gevlon has been theorising this week about which segment of the EVE player base actually pay for time – I have no idea if he is right. Theoretically, every PLEX that is bought in game had to be paid for at some point with real money, so it shouldn’t matter to CCPs bottom line how people finance their gaming (ie. if a player buys PLEX for in game cash, that PLEX still got bought by someone else before they sold it in game  so CCP still got the money for it).

But I’m not sure. I’m not sure if a model where the more hardcore players get to play for free is really a solid one, especially since the playerbase will tend to become more hardcore over time. If it’s really that easy to make money in game (which seems to be implied in comments to just about every EVE blog I’ve ever read), then are there enough players who like the game but can’t be arsed to make money in it to pay the subs for everyone else (and their alts)? I do take their subscriber base with a pinch of salt, given the preponderance of multiple alts though. That game is not as big as people think, and if Dust fails, we’ll see CCP feel the pinch.

People seem more dubious about MoP already

Let me be clear on one thing: I would never bet against Blizzard. They consistently make games that players enjoy, and even games that have garnered plenty of criticism such as Diablo 3 have broken sales records and generally pleased the majority of their players. I will not be surprised if Mists of Pandaria breaks sales records, even if they have to invent a record for it to break.

But I look on my guild boards and for the first time before an expansion, I see people wondering how long other players will find MoP engaging. I see one of the hardcore raid guilds on my server (which is the most populated RP server in the EU) take their entire guild to another server for the expansion. I think MoP will please many many players, and I like the new emphasis on a wider endgame. But for how long?

Anne at Wow Insider riled up readers by talking about how players got bored with Cataclysm and comparing it to the smart kids at school who are bored with lessons aimed at those who are merely average. The reason this annoyed people is because of the implication (which I don’t think was her intention) that if they’re not bored, then they were not ‘the smart kid at school.’  Redbeard has some good comments on her post here also.

I’m going to use a different analogy. When I was a kid, we moved around the country a lot, so I went to lots of different schools. And they taught the syllabus in different orders. I remember sitting in a beginner’s French class and being bored rigid because I’d already studied French for 2-3 years in previous schools. This is a type of boredom that comes of experience, rather than just being ‘the smart kid’. Experienced players in a game/genre will always get bored more quickly than new ones, because they don’t face the same learning curve. Wrath kept the experienced players interested for longer than Cataclysm because it came with a much larger set of zones and storylines than Cataclysm (10 new levels rather than 5, plus a new class, plus hard mode instances, plus longer raids such as Ulduar and even Naxx). Also for many casual raid guilds, Wrath represented the pinnacle of their raiding existences, where some of the barriers that had kept them stuck in TBC were removed.

Pandaria on paper offers more new content than Cataclysm for max level characters. The new continent seems larger and more connected (as opposed to the bittiness of Cataclysm). Cataclysm’s focus on remaking the old world didn’t sustain either old or new players. There will be a wider variety of endgame experiences. But now maybe the rot has set in, and players will be more willing to unsub once they are bored rather than hanging in there. Perhaps Blizzard will have to work that bit harder to keep them – after all, these last months represent the longest WoW has ever gone without a solid content patch.  Yet at the same time, more players than ever have tried the MoP beta. Does that mean they’ll get bored more quickly when the expansion goes live? Soon enough, we’ll find out.

30 thoughts on “[Links] So are we finally at the end of the (MMO) era?

  1. The reason why I left WOW originally and recently (went back for 3 mos). I don’t like the culture they inexplicably cornered themselves into. Whether it was because of their own greed, success and the players they attracted or separately, the game died for me. And it was overnight it seemed. One day a few years back I was happily farming dungeons and dailies, the next I couldn’t believe the utter voidness of the game. But it wasn’t overnight really, it was a gradual buildup of policies that indicated I wasn’t the type of player the game developers wanted and that type of player they wanted…well their heyday was over. First it was the changes to a single profession (enchanting) that forced the players with enchanting to share their mats (something NO other profession has ever been forced to do). Then it was that realID fiasco. The continual changing of class play styles that were geared to create imbalance not fix it. In every single area I liked (PVP for one) there was a closing down of play avenues in favor of players who seemed to make that area their life’s work. Heck they couldn’t even leave the figleaf of egalitarian status between guilds alone and decided to create super guilds with more perks.

    Do you see where this is going? I refuse to believe the players were solely responsible for all that mess. I believe the developers had the bigger responsibility and they were stuck in the past, developing for a gameplay that went extinct.

    I hope they can pull back with MOP.

    SWTOR had gameplay bugs that I couldn’t ignore. I don’t know if they fixed them but that was why I left that game. I could see EA killing the game the way it did to WAR. And they are going ahead with doing just that. Its a shame that some of the people they are letting go worked on WAR which indicates to me that they are just waiting to pull the plug on WAR and soon to SWTOR.

    At this point I’m happy in LOTRO. Is the game shop annoying? Yeah but I can ignore it most days. They are just about the only game catering to players who don’t have a mission to make LOTRO their life’s mission.

    I have high hopes for GW2 despite hating some of their female avatar styles. I saw a lot of gameplay centered on opening up opportunities to all players not just the 1%.

    In regards to RIFT, even though the game doesn’t appeal to me, I am always impressed with their player community and the consistency of quality playing experiences.

  2. Eve doesn’t actually have that many players. I mean, it has a fair chunk but it’s not as huge as the amount it’s talked about suggests. Rather, it gets a lot of attention because it’s easy to write about in such a way as to pretend that deep meaningful things about gaming are being said. So it tends to be a favourite of bloggers out of proportion with it’s actual playerbase.

    The issue with MMO’s as a whole, particuarly AAA ones is that someone has won the genre in way that’s pretty much unprecedented and not really matched until LoL came out. All the market share is taken and the people have spoken. There’s simply not enough room for another big, expensive MMO in there. It’s not so much the genre is dying as that WoW is, for the most part, MMO’s and the two have become indivisible. MMO’s dying isnt’ the cause of the failure of other games, it’s that the big expensive game part of the genre has been won.

  3. It is the end of ONE MMO era, not the end of MMO. The WoW-clone model is dead. Everyone, from devs to players, including the blogger, closed themselves at that model that is a dead end.

    MMO will survive, it just need a MMO that not follow the WoW-clone model. And 28th august is arriving….

  4. Have you actually looked at how many MMOs there are? Literally hundreds. Many have been running for more than five years, some for quite a lot longer. Pretty much every week a new one starts up, far more than ever close down.

    The MMO blogosphere tends to focus on what, a couple of dozen of those titles at most. Probably not even that many. Even Western MMOs like Runescape and Dofus that have millions of players and make massive profits don’t feature even as a passing mention in any blog that I read. A collective tunnel vision leads to an impression of stagnation or even decline but who knows what the real picture is?

    My feeling is that there will be MMOs forever. Whether they will be MMOs I want to play is another matter but I reckon I’m safe for another few years. The real threat to the medium that I see is the likely disappearance of the PC as a platform. When tablets consume and destroy most of the PC market, will MMOs migrate successfully, and to what format? Tablets? TV? Consoles? New as yet unseen devices? And will I still be interested in what they have become?

    • If you ever want to write about Runescape, let me know and I’ll publish it as a guest post. I’m only one person and I’ll write about the segment of the market that I understand. You are free to add your own interpretations.

      • Anyhow, here is some more info about Runescape via a recent interview with Jagex CEO.

        Because they started at F2P, then introduced a P2P premium service, and because their players skew young (he says that the average age is 16), it’s a very different playerbase to the sorts of games I’d usually play. And leaves an interesting thought experiment open as to where players might migrate to if/when they bore of Runescape.

        I thought it was interesting that he claims:

        “We don’t have whales in the same way that Zynga do, where one or two percent of their player population pay enormous amounts of money. The breakdown of free players to members is roughly 70/30, so the most common form of payment is a small monthly payment to gain access to premium content.”

        Anyhow, interesting reading, although no doubt with PR spin on it, and I’ve no idea what proportion of their player base are actually bots or goldsellers. Looking at comments around the web, I note that I see longterm players complaining that Jagex is focussing more heavily these days on monetization via microtransactions and gambling/lockboxes/gacha to the detriment of the longterm subscriber base. So I deduce either Jagex is not immune to trends in the industry, or all longterm subscribers complain about the same things whichever game they are playing.

        Regretfully I honestly cannot keep up with every graphical MUD/MMO in the universe. I will comment on those that grab my attention or are aimed at my market segment.

      • Blimey, I wasn’t meaning to suggest that *you* personally should write about Runescape! Nor me, either. I do have it installed and from the little I’ve seen of it it looks like a game I would have been able to get involved with, but I came to it too late and there were too many other choices.

        All I meant was that most of the bloggers I read and on whose blogs I comment, and who occasionally comment on mine, write about and use as points of reference the same relatively small subset of MMOs, presumably because those are the ones that they play. I do exactly the same.

        Although I do attempt to play quite a lot of MMOs, there are only so many hours in the day. I have something like twenty MMOs currently installed on my HDD but a quick glance through my own back pages shows that I mostly write about the same subset as everyone else in my blog reader does, bar the occasional one-off piece about MMOs that I enthuse over and then never mention again because it turns out I only play them for a week or two, then go back to whatever I was playing before.

        I do wonder if there are other MMO blogospheres out there, though, possibly in languages other than English, which discuss in the same obsessive and repetitive detail different subsets of MMOs, ones that I don’t currently know anything about. I might have a bit of a ferret around and see if I can find any…

    • You are soooooo right bhagpuss.
      There are way to many “cookie cutter” MMO’s out there. Every movie, tv show,cartoon and even reality series is being turned into a MMO with no end in site. The good thing is that the lame ones will come and go but the real good one’s will stand the test of time.
      I hope!

    • Thanks to Spinks for the kind words.

      I re-wrote that article about 3 times and excised about 1000 words from it that mentioned games like Wizard101 and Runescape and even Club Penguin – the MMOs that skewed younger and really carved out a place for themselves. However, they are ‘kid’ games and therefore not something the industry takes seriously.

      There’s a decline in the AAA space (as I’m terming it, anyway) because, outside of RIFT, there hasn’t been a new success story in quite a while, just a number of non-starters and some true catastrophes. Part of the reason for that failure to launch could easily be the large number of ‘small’ MMOs that don’t have huge development costs to repay.

    • I agree with Bhagpuss. It may seem like the genre is weaker now than it was 8 years ago when a new launch falters or a project fails but that’s just a game and we’re well past the stage when a game failing is a big blow to the genre.

      In the glory days of UO and EQ, how many worldwide MMO players were there? About 300 000?

      The genre’s never been healthier. Personally I’ve never had more MMOs backlogged up that I don’t have time to play because I’m having too much fun playing a different MMO.

  5. While I won’t be playing MoP myself, I have to admit that I’m very curious to see how it’ll do. Looking around, I get the impression that Blizzard has lost some of their street cred over the past two years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if day one sales of MoP were actually below Cataclysm ones. On the other hand my view is almost certainly biased, and there’s a strong trend among gamers to buy anything new that Blizzard puts out, even if it’s just to try it. Either way it’ll be interesting to observe.

  6. It is a shame that SWTOR has gotten as much crap as it has, it’s a great game, and I’ll keep subing as long as I’m able. I’m happily leveling my 4th character knowing ill love the hell out of it, a personal story really makes a difference. As for MOP I’m excited, I’ll enjoy seeing the new content but I have a feeling it will be a rush back to raiding and while I’ve been a raiding veteran in previous I don’t think ill rush to it. LRF will let me see the content and at the end of the day that’s all I care about. In the meantime….. its time force lightning some pathetic republic scum!

  7. I second Hyperian. I love SWTOR – it’s easily my favorite MMO ever – and I’m baffled that so many people haven’t found the addition of choices, a personal story, voice acting, etc to be a huge and valuable addition to the genre. But, maybe the truth is that I’ve never been a true MMO player. *shrugs*

    I’d love it if the MMO genre took what SWTOR added and really ran with it. Granted, I’m not quite sure what you’d end up with if that happened, but I think it would be fascinating to find out. (Also, if single player games took some elements from MMOs that would make me more likely to play them – like the ability to create your own character to the same extent. I mean, SWTOR really could’ve been a single player game with multiple stories to play through. Give me single player coop-able games with multiple stories and good character customization and I’d be happy with that, too.)

    I know there are problems with taking the SWTOR model and running with it – what do you do if the Empire or Republic wins on a server? Besides have content planned for that eventuality. Oh, damn, an ever changing game in which what players do actually effected the game world. I think I would love the hell out of that. And different things would happen on different servers so replay and alting would be big with pretty much all players. They could even add servers periodically. It would be like a game with a whole bunch of different alternate realities going on in it. Ah, if only.

    • Hmm, I probably wasn’t clear enough on what I meant by taking that idea and running with it. You have people’s decisions effect the over-all story in greater ways. One would have to carefully think through how quests were designed – you wouldn’t want every quest to be a one person once kind of thing. But you could make decision point quests that were cumulatively permanent. Enough people picked option X and that was what canonically happened.

      You could also use phasing (as WoW did, but with a bit more thought to how that would affect teaming) to make the world change for the individual player character.

      Like I said, I’m not sure how this stuff would work, but I’m pretty sure there’s a terribly fun and interesting game in there somewhere.

  8. Just wanted to pop on and say that these [Links] posts are by far some of my favorite weekend readings. It flows nicely, it introduces blogs I would never have encountered, and is overall good times.

  9. So as we see more MMOs diving into the F2P market rather than closing, we now have so many enterprises bidding for our time investment.

    Yet with the waters are so muddied with F2P games we find newer MMO-ers have never experienced a monthly sub.
    If you are to suggest it to them they are almost repulsed by the idea, yet in some cases they may spend more on cash-shop items than it would cost for a subscription.

    Free to Play remind me of those “only 9.99″ offers people will jump at the perceived savings when the truth is the savings aren’t as good as expected.

    I feel that F2P game are moving away from being a source of enjoyment for players and more of a cash-cow studios. That’s not to say studios aren’t out to make a profit but at what point does a studio go too far in it’s business model and effectively put their integrity up for sale?

    No matter how I try I can’t feel “invested” in a F2P MMOG and thankfully I’m starting to realise that I’m not alone and others have similar views to mine.

  10. Thanks for the kind words, Spinks.

    Anyhoo, I must be the reason why SWTOR is on it’s last legs, because I subbed last month after waiting and waiting for space to open up in my budget. Since Red’s finally on board, it’s time for the game to be shelved, right? It’s a shame, really, because I still get the feeling that TOR has taken over the mantle of “first MMO you’ll ever play” from WoW, and for a good reason: the community.

    Since SWTOR followed Rift and WoW’s lead and put the first 15 levels free on a trial account (no limits), I set up a trial account for my kids to play with. I let them play TOR and LOTRO, but NOT WoW. There are too many asshats in WoW who would like nothing less than to ruin another player’s day in Durotar or Elwynn Forest for me to let them try WoW out. I can handle it, but my kids? No, I know they won’t be able to.

    I think my kids would enjoy WoW, but I see a certain portion of the community that actively poisons the waters for new potential WoW subs. The pool of new WoW subs really does critically evaluate the game based on their first session, and if someone is going around shouting racist/sexual/obnoxious comments or killing questgivers in intro zones, that turns their experience into a nightmare. Add to that the lack of new toons in the intro zones, and you’ve got a perfect storm.

    When I started, I had someone there with me to help me out. I was lucky, I’ll admit, and that assistance really kept me in the game. But how many times has that assistance not been there?

    Now, with the guild mentorship proposals by Blizz, they’re trying to combat that problem. The thing is, I look at the proposal and I think that guilds will sign up not for the greater good, but because they want to pad their raiding ranks. And that bothers me, because this program may end up blowing up in blizz’s face if people are motivated by greed.

    • “And that bothers me, because this program may end up blowing up in blizz’s face if people are motivated by greed.”

      The game developer class has some insane ideas about humans in general.

      For one, most of them are raging Ayn Rand libertarians. And yet along side this greedy philosophy (if it can even be called that), they think all human beings will automatically behave in an altruistic manner. Not to mention they seem to fall for every crack pot idea to come up the pike (Singularity being one of them).

      They cannot see the opposing conflicts in their own ideas and how that affects their games. They create selfish game play paradigms but yet think that players will ignore the selfish and be selfless. It hasn’t happened and never will. They should design pragmatically and cynically.

      Players would be happier and not behave so abominably. Odd but true.

      • Believe me, no experienced game designer thinks that players will automatically behave altruistically. (Although it is quite nice if they leave the option in to do so.)

      • Heh. Don’t get me started on libertarians, and how “the market” doesn’t exactly yield the optimal results that libertarians espouse.

        That said, I think that Blizz has a certain amount of disconnect from what actually happens in-game vs. what people say in the Blogosphere/WoW Forums/BlizzCon. It’s not the bloggers and company who are the problem, it’s the people whose concept of fun is to ruin other people’s WoW time. We may bitch and moan about this or that about the game, but the real problems out there are people behaving in anti-social ways simply because they can.

        With as many subs as WoW has, it’s unavoidable that there will be some bad apples out there. However, that makes it more incumbent on Blizz to beef up the admin ranks so they can respond more quickly to player complaints. And if the admins are all tied up with restoring pilfered accounts, here’s a concept: require all players to have a Secure ID badge. With two factor authentication, the ability of hackers to steal accounts plummets, freeing up the admins to, well, admin.

  11. “Believe me, no experienced game designer thinks that players will automatically behave altruistically. (Although it is quite nice if they leave the option in to do so.)”

    But Spinks, time after time in game after game we get game play that consistently allows for the worst possible behavior in players. Once or twice or maybe three times a mistake in game development is understandable. But now it is an ongoing practice which means the developers themselves have issues in certain areas which they won’t address.

    @Redbeard
    “it’s the people whose concept of fun is to ruin other people’s WoW time.”

    I will agree that since WOW is so popular it is more inviting for griefers than other mmorpgs. And yet the developers won’t take this into account when they design their game. In fact they go out of their way to cater to these people and other outlier groups (such as raging raiders). As I said beforehand a few mistakes is understandable but when it is consistent it isn’t. And the only ones who can consistently take the blame are the developers.

    Some of them started out as griefers themselves. You can see it in the names they pick to represent themselves.

      • Actually, I heard that one old-school commercial MUD programmer said he made games because it was the only job he could enjoy where people would pay him to abuse them.

        As to melponeme_k’s assertion, I obviously can’t speak for all devs. But, I think there are broadly two schools of thought.

        1. Conflict creates drama. This is the EVE Online philosophy, where allowing people to give into their baser natures makes for great stories. This path also embraces the “any publicity is good publicity” angle. I mean, where else can you hear about someone screwing over former friends to take a huge prize and have people think, “That sounds fascinating!” Closest you get is fiction, but EVE Online scams happen to real people.

        There’s also an element of “if you can’t beat them, join them” in this attitude. If griefers gonna grief, then you accept it as part of the game. Even in a relatively “safe” game like WoW, the griefer can add a bit of spice to an otherwise uneventful game.

        2. Code can’t determine intent. Look at the history of PvP to see how easily people can exploit a system. As you pile up more restrictions, you usually add in more loopholes to abuse. Blue healers in UO (or angeled healers in M59), for example, or noto PKers. The flagging system was put in place to discourage random PKing, but it just made it so that people who ran afoul of the rules for standing up for what they thought was right just ended up putting a target on themselves.

        We forget that the “need/greed” roll was put in place to stop “ninja looters” from long ago. Now we see people abusing that system to try to loot anything and everything, ignoring what need/greed means. (I remember back in Vanilla WoW that raid leaders would often require everyone to pass on items then manually do a roll. No such mechanics in LFD.) But, addinng restrictions to who can roll can edge out people who have legitimate reasons for rolling on strange items. I remember, again, in vanilla that people would scream at me for rolling on Rogue stuff as a Druid, even though my main spec was Feral, and Dex was the stat I needed for that.

        Any tool you give players to stop griefers can be used by griefers to harass players. Any tool you put in place to stop anti-social activity will also likely stop some forms of social activity, such as letting people shun assholes in the game.

        I mostly subscribe to the second philosophy, myself. As I tried to run a PvP game for the better part of a decade, I saw first-hand how even as you start to understand the second- and third-order effects of your design decisions, you still see people exploiting the hell out of whatever you put in place. Not to say that you give up, but it took me a long time to get to the point I am today, able to identify some of the possible exploit-prone mechanics in a game.

      • That comment is really too good and too interesting to lurk at the bottom of someone else’s comment thread. I’d love to see it expanded into a blog post of the theme Brian if you get time.

  12. F2P is about opening up the demand curve. It’s the way forward in a bloated market. It might not work as a big budget, high risk, big revenue stream vector, but if devs keep their systems fair and their games good, it will work out better in the long run than subscription games will. Thankfully, there’s still room for both… but we may well be seeing the end of big budget gambles in the MMO space. I expect smaller, more modest games like Wizard 101 in the future.

  13. I honestly think that the payment model is the least of our worries. In the long term (over a span of years), only the content itself will determine success.

    We’ll evolve from Themepark to Sandbox, to something else entirely someday. Payment models will change depending on the flavor of the month and trends. But MMOs can never die.

    We’ve tasted glory, and we’ll have even more of it someday.

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