End of the free ride for (EVE) money making gaming blogs, guides, and addons

CCP, developers of EVE Online, set the cat among the pigeons yesterday when they announced that they intend to charge a licence fee to 3rd parties who use their assets for profit making activities. (If you run a not for profit blog, service, etc then you just need a free licence.)

They didn’t spin it quite that way, saying instead:

Starting this summer you will be able to charge people for usage of your applications, websites and services for EVE Online.

I’m torn on this. On the one hand, why should people be able to make bank by producing online guides without paying anything to the owner of the IP? That’s not how things usually work. Or in other words, people already are finding ways to monetise (I do hate that word) their EVE blogs, guides, and apps and now they’ll all have to register and pay the piper.

Examples of monetization could be donations, one-time purchase, in-app purchase, subscriptions or ad-supported sites or apps

Note that they have explicitly mentioned ad-supported sites. If you run Google Adsense or have a tip jar on your EVE blog, CCP will also want their $99, thank you.

I have no horse in this race since this blog a) isn’t game specific and b) isn’t monetised (there I go again). But you have to wonder if other MMOs with strong communities will follow where CCP have led – after all, it’s money on the table and if a few bloggers who fancy themselves entrepreneurs throw their toys out of the pram and close up shop, no biggie. (The smarter ones will either find better ways to monetise or switch to a multi-gaming blog.) Would Blizzard do this? Hard to say, it’s a lot of work to police the licensing although doing so would give a dev plenty of clout and control over the fanbase.

On the other hand, if app writers want to charge people for services provided, are happy to throw a sop to Cerberus/ CCP  by paying the license fee and people want to pay, what’s the real problem with that?

If there is a problem, it comes from the increasing reliance of devs on addon makers to clean up their UIs. Effectively encouraging players to pay for addons is letting them pay for an in-game advantage, which is one of the things players have in the past complained about with cash shops for F2P games.

Maybe cracked.com got it right with their 4th most ominous trend in video gaming (“the new model is infinite payment”.)

Caveat Emptor. The bottom line will be whether or not CCP is prepared to go to court over any addon writer/ blogger et al who ignores this. If there is a real likelihood of a legal fight which will definitely cost more than $99 then paying the license makes sense. If not, then it can be ignored.

[SWTOR] Does Bioware have a vision for class design?

I mentioned in my last post that Bioware (via Greg Zoeller) posted an update on their advanced class design for SWTOR last week.

Talking about classes and class design in SWTOR is tricky for two reasons:

  1. It hasn’t been released yet and if it is in beta, it’s a very closed beta and no one is breaking the NDA. So design is in flux plus we don’t know how they really play.
  2. The big selling point of the SWTOR classes is that they will have extensive class-based stories/ questlines (in the Bioware story-driven game style). So if you love the idea of playing a smuggler, it’s likely because you have a thing for Han Solo rather than because you want to play an uber healer.

The easiest way to look at the advanced class mechanics is to compare them with WoW. I don’t know how much of this design was in place before Cataclysm but they’re now looking more and more similar.

There are four base classes for each faction. Once you get to level 10, you can select from a choice of 2 advanced classes which are specific to that base class. You will then have access to three talent trees, two of which are specific to that advanced class and one which comes from the base class (ie. both advanced classes share it).

For comparison, in WoW you also get access to three talent trees when you hit level 10. It’s less complex than this sounds, but then again WoW has more ‘base’ classes.

If you check out the link above, you’ll see that they’ve also listed roughly which roles accrue to each advanced class.

eg.

Imperial Agent Advanced Classes

Sniper (Roles: Mid – Long Range Damage Dealing)

Operative (Roles: Close – Mid Range Damage Dealing, Healing)

So the Agent has two advanced classes: Sniper and Operative. The Sniper is a pure damage dealer with all their talent trees arranged around damage (possibly one for mid range and one for long range), the Operative has one damage dealing tree and one healing tree.

The current plan is that there will be two ultra hybrid classes, both of which are ranged. Trooper/ Bounty Hunter and Jedi Consular/ Sith Inquisitor will both have options to heal, tank, and dps from range.

My experience with WoW leaves warning bells ringing in my head here. They now have a lot of tank/heal trees to balance with each other (eg. Will a smuggler offer better dps than a consular because they have an advanced class with pure dps trees? Who is the best healer? etc.), and role options on some classes are more limited. I don’t especially want another rerun of a game where I pick a warrior/ burglar and the paladin/ loremaster outperforms me in every respect.

And that’s before we include PvP into the mix.

My other concern is whether they really have a vision for class design in SWTOR. It was never going to be a new take on the trinity (healers/ tanks/ dps) but I hope they have enough time to polish this up and make it shine, because if the actual gameplay is clunky and unbalanced, it may not matter how great the storytelling turns out to be.

RealID debate brings all the posters back to the official forums

I’ve never seen an expression of general outrage against Blizzard so great as what’s been happening overnight.

I’ve lost count of the blog posts protesting the proposed new change.

Moderators of other forums, such as mmo-champion, tankspot, and even Elitist Jerks have come out immediately against the idea too (and to assure users that they don’t plan to go that route.)

And when an EJ moderator suspends their usually harsh rules about whining on Blizzard, you know there’s something more at stake:

The idea of merging RealID into the Blizzard forums is dumb. The more places that say it’s dumb the better (which includes here). If your post violates our forum rules we will infract you for it, but the do not whine rule is waived for this thread only. Carry on.

And that’s even without counting the official forum threads:

(As to why the EU boards are so much less excitable, I think it’s partly due to stronger moderation and partly because everyone knows there’s no point posting there because devs only read the US ones.)

Obviously one cannot assume that all those forum replies are from people who disagree with the idea. But who is going to read through 15682 posts just to check? Oh yeah, forum mods. Who’d want THAT job? Still, at least it gets people posting…

In any case, it’s an interesting experiment in online democracy, whether you agree with the change or not. Does Blizzard really intend to ignore all of the backlash? Today we’ll find out, one way or another. I hope they’ll modify their policy to let people create a battle.net account alias and require all official forum posts to show that information instead of real names.

And what dire PR for the company just before SC2 is released. There was a time when Blizzard was viewed as a company run by and for gamers. That time is now over. Even aside from the wrongs or rights of the proposal, no company that fails so badly in understanding gamer culture can really claim to be one of us any more.

A little bit of housekeeping

I’ve rearranged the furniture here slightly, swept away the spiders, and found 50p down the back of the couch (WIN!).

Main changes are that because they’re relatively popular, I’ve put the links to my warrior fury and protection guides onto their own page so that visitors can find them more easily, and also set up a page for links to my reviews of new MMOs.

Also, I’ve set up a feedburner news feed for the blog RSS with a new link/ icon in the right hand margin — this won’t affect the current RSS at all. If you do want to switch (or subscribe), the new feed will update new posts much more quickly and will also make things more portable so that if I do ever decide to self-host, you won’t have to change anything to keep up.

I’m happy to take suggestions for anything else I could do to make my witterings easier to follow. And thanks to everyone for all the support and comments. I feel like  such a noob at this ;)