Should more social players pay less?

Here’s a great story, Valve/ Steam supremo Gabe Newell has a great interview with Develop, discussing his views on Valve, mobile gaming, social gaming, how he looks after his staff … and payment models.

The industry has this broken model, which is one price for everyone. <…> What you really want to do is create the optimal pricing service for each customer and see what’s best for them. We need to give customers, all of them, a robust set of options regarding how they pay for their content.

An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with. Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them. Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave.

Interesting notion – but recognising that some people will actively build the community and be seen as more fun to play with than others is quite an interesting step. In MMO terms, this might mean charging less for successful guild leaders, a bit more for soloers, and rather more for griefers.

He gives this as a hypothetical example but I wonder if you can actually reward your more social players like this. After all, they’re creating content for your other players and making your game community a more pleasant place.

And more to the point, if you imagine MMOs/ online games are all competing to attract these community builders (at least in a sense), what if one game did offer a more appealing reward and attracted a larger amount of these players?

Rift: Small objects of desire (and dragon age 2 links)


Sadly, flu has gotten in the way of gaming this week (boo!) but I have had a bit of time on Rift. And one thing I realise is that sometimes it’s the small things – the new hat, the new mount – that really pull a character together.

Words cannot express how much I love this hood in the left hand picture. A mage with a hood like that and carrying a big staff looks wise and stuff, as though they might know the secrets of the universe. That’s what I want in my mage!

The stripey antelope mount is also delightful. It has this whippet thin, athletic and yet alien look to it which makes it very convincing as a mount. I also like the way my character is seated on the saddle, again it looks convincing to me.

In other news, I ran my first instance in Rift this week thanks to Arb and other players in the guild. Arb did a super job of tanking it, I was healing via my Chloromancer spec which was mostly fine but seems to lack some spike healing punch when you really need it. I think it’ll work out fine with more practice, and people were happy to have a Chloro around. The actual spec is quite fun, it has that shadow priest feel where you’re mostly healing via doing damage but you do have some specialist heals, channels, and utility spells (ie. to cause a mob to heal the next player it attacks rather than damage them) to pad it out which makes the Chloromancer rather interesting to play. I don’t find healing in PvP as much fun as CC in this game – you just don’t get the sense of making as much difference as a healer which is odd but there you go.

I’m also still really enjoying the Warlock as a primary damage/ soloing spec. Being able to switch life into mana, and charge into life/ damage just gives a nice amount of flexibility if things go a bit pear shaped.

More on Dragon Age 2

Oh yeah, and because it’s DA2 week and I’m over excited here are a couple of links:

PC Gamer review of Dragon Age 2

Interview with lead writer and designer of DA2

The Changing Face of WoW Customer Relations

Eric@Elder Game posts a typically thoughtful look at customer relations in MMOs, and especially on how some teams are very forthcoming in admitting their faults and keeping players informed about what they are doing, where others maintain a (more professional?) silence.

It is very clear that with Warcraft, Blizzard has been moving more and more in the direction of sharing information and views with the players. The latest example of this is in an excellent interview that Rob Pardo gave to Warcry.

They ask what he thinks the biggest mistakes were with WoW, and he specifically names the arena.

If I was going to pick on a game design thing that I look back on and think was a mistake? We really never designed WoW to be a competitive e-sports game; it was something that we decided to start tackling because there was such a desire and demand to evolve it in that direction, to introduce competitive arenas. I’m not sure that that was the right thing to do with the game.

This is not something that I’d have expected to hear from anyone highly placed inside Blizzard even a year ago. But now, the mood has changed, and the style of customer relations has changed too. And it’s OK to admit what everyone already knows – balancing for PvE and PvP has been a huge hassle and will continue that way too.

Rob also discusses other recent changes in WoW, and the move to a more casual friendly game from the perspective of someone who himself used to be a hardcore raider in EQ.

We had all these suppositions, and as the years went on and we had more and more experience living with WoW as a live game, we realized that they weren’t just truths. They might affect a hardcore minority, but the people we saw weren’t really as hardcore as we thought they were. If we reduced raids from 40 to 25, we saw, it makes it more fun. You might have some hardcore players who get upset, but keeping people out of content isn’t right for the game overall. We mellowed sometimes, and realized we were wrong.

Why am I still talking when there’s linking to do?

  1. First up, a mind-boggling colour based optical illusion. (I’m thinking this won’t work too well if you are colour blind)
  2. And on that note, have been posting up some great interviews recently. Check out this discussion they had with Timothy Cain (lead designer of Fallout) and Mitch Ferguson (lead systems designer who worked on The Sims Online) about the future of MMO gaming, it has some real gems.
  3. One of my favourite newer blogs, standing at the back in my sissy robe compares his experience in PUGs to .. err.. his experience in pick up bars.
  4. Ixobelle helps out with the best healing macro you’ll ever need for PUGs.
  5. syncaine eyes up the problem of how to introduce new players into old games. Why do we force alts to regrind , and what about the new guy?
  6. Copra is also puzzling over the problem of how new players can learn to group when old players won’t teach them, may mock them, and may just exclude them. As a social player, I want games to make it easy for players to group, not foster elitist barriers which prevent them!
  7. Brenda Braithwaite thinks about what it is in games that makes us happy. Is it the purple loot? The other rewards? Or are they just steps on the path towards happiness?
  8. John Walker@RPS asks why we can’t just teleport in MMOs. It works fine in Free Realms and Guild Wars, after all.
  9. What does it mean to be unique? Why do we all want to be special? And how can you really sparkle in MMOs? Larisa has some deep thoughts and some smart answers.
  10. Suzina discusses a recent experience in LOTRO. She joined a guild with a few friends, and because her clique is so tight-knit, she feels as though they’re slowly taking over. I’ve seen this phenomenon also, and as a guild officer, I’ve always been a bit reluctant to invite a large group of existing friends for that reason.

Also, a gratuitous Harold Ramis link where he discusses why it’s more difficult to make funny videogames than funny films. I had such a crush on Egon as a teenager …. (then I grew up and found a cute, funny, geeky guy of my own to marry :))