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?

Valve does that gamification thing RIGHT

cube ardyn@flickr

Anyone out there looking forwards to playing Portal 2? Been following the Valve ARG/ countdown?

Then you’ll know that when the timer was up, a new timer started and players were encouraged to help GladOS boot up more quickly by .. playing games. Not any old game, but specific ones, from Steam.

Here is Kotaku’s take on the whole thing. Is it just a big marketing scam to encourage punters to buy the Potato Sack bundle of indie games? Well, yes and no. You see, if you already own any of those fine games on Steam and boot it up, you’ll see that you have been given a free extra Portal themed level.

I don’t even want to buy Portal 2 on release (as I said in the last post, I can wait a few months) but I have been happily trying out my free Portal levels in Audiosurf and Defense Grid Awakening, both of which I picked up ridiculously cheap in Steam sales of the past.

Haven’t earned any potatoes yet (I think) but it was fun, they’re both cool games that I hadn’t played in awhile, and I’m charmed at the free stuff, and I’m now following the release schedule for a game I have/ had no intention of buying. As far as gamification goes, you have to be impressed.

I think Valve have done a cracking job with this one, even though I can see how if you didn’t own any of the (awesome!) indie games in the pack, you might feel pressured. Plus it isn’t as if they weren’t going to release Portal 2 anyway – it really isn’t required for anyone to play these games unless they want to.

Perhaps we just don’t want to talk to YOU

This is a great (non)news story in the games sphere. Yesterday gaming sites were reporting that Valve’s Chet Faliszek complained that my fellow brits are too quiet on voice chat.

“You guys are notorious non-talkers on both 360 and PC. Americans are just chattering away, working together as a team. If you want to work together as a team you’ve got to talk!”

So assuming this is the case, it’s either that Brits hate voice chat and never talk even to each other, or else there’s something else going on across the cultural divide.

I’ve never been big into shooters or the crowd who play them on consoles, but from MMO experiences I’d say we talk plenty. It’s quite likely that we’re  more reticent about talking to strangers than the average American, but Europeans in general  have a good reputation for being strong on teamwork.

But that doesn’t quite cover ‘notorious non-talker’. What could the issue be?

Chet added, helpfully:

You can go into a random 360 game on US servers and it’s crazy talk. It’s fun.

Right, there’s the answer. Crazy talk. Why do I want to log into a server to play a co-op shooter and be bombarded with some teenage american’s idea of crazy talk? Does that sound like fun? No. It does not. Especially when you take into account that American culture has a greater propensity to smack talk than we do here, particularly in competitive sports or games. It’s not that Brits aren’t just as racist, homophobic, or bigoted in other ways as their US counterparts (present company excepted), but there’s stuff we don’t say that they do.

If you check out the comments to the original post, you’ll see the predictable amount of UK vs US posturing, but in amongst it are a few more clues as to why the Brits might be wary of opening their mouths.

Getting told to ‘shut up limey’ followed by insults towards my family and/or any of the above, well, that’s just not fun, sorry.

I’m a female gamer in the UK and I barely ever use headphones and chat to random people when playing online because I know I’m going to get some stupid American kid spouting sexist (and racist and homophobic) nonsense at me.

I don’t bother talking to Americans ‘cuz everytime I do, they can’t understand a word I’m saying… I’m a brummie

You probably need to hear a Black Country accent to understand where he’s coming from with this. I had a mate at University who was from Birmingham (brummie), we all mocked him relentlessly. I’m not proud but I can see why the Americans might not understand this guy.

I will say that, all trash talking aside, the Americans I play with have the edge over any Brit gamers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with. Many of the best l4d american gamers stick to tournament(gamebattles)and friends only games.These are the ADULT gamers that most Brits playing online will never run into. See, we hate playing with homophobic 13 year olds too.

So maybe the nicer US players are also playing with friends and not talking in random games. So they exist, but you’ll never run into them.

I’m more than happy to get on the mic & have a bit of banter. But more often than not there is either an abusive, American kid spouting crap, or some tool who thinks everyone wants to listen to his generic dance music down the headset.

I don’t mind playing americans but they do grate sometimes. Seems that alot of our banter goes right over the top of thier heads aswell.

problem is, is if you try to have a laugh with americans they don’t understand the humour, why? simple thy’re american, they only know they’re own culture

(and vice versa)

well i rarely speak ingame, unless i feel i need to tell someone why they are a muppet.

As a British gamer myself, I always wished my fellow Brits would speak up more during online games of Left 4 Dead.

this was one of my personal reasons why I switched my 360 for a PS3. Because on the PS3 your not obliged to talk as much if at all, you don’t feel like your missing the point if you never buy a mic.

I have come across some very nice US players. However these are often the quiet ones.

Now that’s some cultural bias showing right there. Being nice in UK culture is associated with being quiet and polite and cooperative.

Right at the end of the game (no spoilers here!) they all decide to start talking so it was impossible to hear the voice over and understand what the hell was going on. Why talk then!? Surely that’s the prime point to SHUT THE F**K UP!?

Americans talk, but they just talk about general crap. Usually nothing to do with the game in which they’re in.

So maybe we really are more reluctant to open up with strangers and just chat.

I suspect this is actually what Chet was getting at. And perhaps game devs need to consider how they can encourage strangers to bond in a game to build up that level of trust when there are cultural barriers involved.

Or just give us regional servers, age limited servers, or another way of team matching to increase the chance that you’ll end up in a game with people you feel comfortable chatting with.