I recently read a post on Massively commenting on the state of tools for finding teams in the Star Wars: The Old Republic and advantages and disadvantages with the current approach and what for example World of Warcraft uses. There have been a lot of comments there, mainly arguing for or against a tool like the Dungeon Finder in World of Warcraft.
I have not played WoW in 5+ years and I know very little of the details of SW:TOR, but it seems to me that the arguments were somewhat missing the core issue here. It should not be a discussion only about whether Dungeon Finder-type tool is needed or not, but rather about how a game in general supports team play and encourages community building. These may not necessarily happen at the same time all the time, but is of course an good opportunity for it to happen.
The main issue here with combining these I think lies with games that adopted a level-gated, holy-trinity-oriented, play-content-in-developer-mandated-order design. I do not know if this is the case with SW:TOR, but if a game has these elements then the game design hardly has considered it important to have community building and team play happen at the same time.
Community building is not only about forming guilds or similar constellations either – it is about how people in general interact with each other in the game, at any time. A single tool will not change that part completely, although it can adjust the balance.
It seems to me that World of Warcraft is a game that for a long time has encouraged gated communities over general community building, plus an emphasis on gated content or at least segregated content. The Dungeon Finder tool seems to me that it was a a way to try to work around community building issues, but only through addressing a smaller and easier problem than the core issue.
I think ArenaNet gets it whan it comes to general community building for their Guild Wars 2 title – at least from what they communicate they seem to have been giving this a lot of thought. Funcom maybe gets it for their next title – not quite sure yet about them for The Secret World. Paragon Studios seem to understand it, but sometimes perhaps only on a subconscious level and learning from mistakes.
The Massively post raised my curiousity a bit where Bioware stands here? Is there an overall pattern to be seen around community building in the game design of SW:TOR? It is not obvious from the general talk about the four pillars for their game what that pattern would be: progression, exploration, combat, and story. Admittedly, I have not looked much into the game yet so it might be obvious for those with a bit more insight here. But the four pillars mentioned are not elements that are specific for MMO-type games – it can be applied to any RPG-style game.
Today when I looked into one of my web-emails, I noticed that I had received an email potentially is a genuine email from Blizzard.
I do get a few scam emails per week from fake Blizzards trying to get my WoW account information – I do not see them anymore, since they end up in the spam folder automatically. But suddenly I see an email that did not end up in spam folder and that also actually seems to know that I have not played World of Warcraft for quite a while – 5+ years and counting.
So it offers 7 days of free game time to try out the game again. I will pass on that.
7 consecutive days is not really much time in practice for me, since I would probably only be able to play a bit during 2-3 days of those at best – if the game download is quick and smooth.
Except for maybe the Dungeon Finder there was not really anything listed that would make me interested in playing this game rather than some other fantasy MMO, but I do find it a bit amusing that they managed to include my email in a marketing campaign. Last time I got an email about returning back was a few years ago, around the time of their first expansion if memory serves me.
Maybe when they get an unlimited or long free trial or follow the footsteps of DDO, LOTRO, Champions or EQ2X will there be a time to see what what the state of the game is.
I saw this post on Broken Toys about that Blizzard is going to enforce the used of RealID (i.e. your real name) for people who post on their forums.
I am perfectly ok with that people can use their real names if they want to, but it should a choice they make themselves, not something that is pretty much forced on them.
Even when they initially announced the RealID feature they did say that people should not share it with people theey know and trust. And suddenly the WoW forums are going to become a big happy family?
Either someone did not think things through, or they did think a little bit and got $$$ and “world domination” in their minds, thinking about Facebook, LinkedIn and other networking sites and making plans to compete in that area.
I had no plans to pick up WoW again and I am generally not active in most game forums (City of Heroes is a slight exception), so it would not really affect me.
But if the worst things they could think of what people posting nasty things on their forums and that they could “fix” that with mandatory use of RealIDs for forum posters, then they need to think again.
Just the names in themselves are not necessarily bad; but putting names in a certain context and combining with other sources can lead to unwanted connections and associations.
Again, it is perfectly fine if people make a conscious decision to do that; but Blizzard do not seem to provide that type of option.
Looking at the spam folder of one of my email accounts, I noticed that there was another scam email in there. This one was quite good.
Not only are the first few lines formulated so that the manage to leave out any actual reason that you may be in violation of the EULA etc, but still conveys that you may have done something bad. But when it comes to the second part they do the usual “verify Login/account” type of thing, but then also add a lot of statements about account security. That includes, statating that Blizzard will never ask for the password during any circumstances.
That is a bit bold or devious. What will be the next approach?
Recently I got an email on one of my email accounts from “account management” @ Blizzard. It was pretty obvious this was some type of scam:
For me, I did not even have to read particularly far to see that it was a scam, since I have not played the game in about 4 years. I certainly do not remember my password or even the account name I used.
It makes me a bit curious though where they have picked up the email address. It is not an address I use for MMO related stuff nowadays, but it could happen some years back. So presumably they have hacked some fansite which I may have visited a few years ago and from there obtained various email addresses.
What if there was a World of Warcraft where the amount of content was the same as today, but the max level was somewhere around 20-25? E.g. when a Horde player hit Barrens and completed the quests there, he/she would be at max level.
From there on every mob, every dungeon would have enemies typically level 20-something, with big bosses perhaps into the 30s.
Weapons and armor would have various stats, but with smaller differences than this reality’s WoW. The stats could also be moved around with some work and you could obtain stat modifiers separately.
Only a subset of skills would be available when the max level were reached, but you could earn more and better skills through quests or indirectly through rewards that allowed you to buy more skills (i.e. rewards + money would be needed).
In this alternate WoW the end game would just be about raiding – in fact, almost the whole game would be the “end game”.
Would you play an alternate WoW like that? Would you stick with it? What do you think the guild structure and the community would be like?
This is just a thought experiment combining WoW’s content with some of the game mechanics of another game by some ex-Warcraft developers. Would a game like that have been developed with a different Blizzard?
NCSoft is in the process of changing their subscription model for Lineage and Lineage II, accoding to some comments on their latest earnings report call for Q2 2008 – this info is probably somewhere else also, but I first heard it on the call.
Instead of just offering a subscription with unlimited time, they will have three different options which you can choose from for that subscription fee:
- Play with unlimited time, as before
- Play at most 300 hours per month and get some in-game items
- Play at most 100 hours per month and get more in-game items
So instead of spending a lot of time grinding for phat loot, one can spend less time in the game and possibly get phat loot anyway.
I do wonder a bit how much time some players spend on that game if the middle option is 300 hours. That is about 70 hours per week, almost twice as much many regular full-time jobs. Even the low option is one that would be more than enough time for me, most of the time.
Would a similar model be beneficial for other item-focused games, like World of Warcraft? Or any older and a bit grindy games, e.g. if items included were xp boosters or something similar?
I recently read a blog entry by Tobold on the European price for Age of Conan and I am must say that I was a bit surprised by Tobold’s comment and by some of the commenters.
The European monthly fee for Age of Conan was 12.99 Euro if one paid one month at a time. This was basically called a rip-off because with the current exchange rate between Euro and US dollars, this is substantially less than the US monthly fee of $14.99.
This is just silly. The fees are basically the same as all major subscription-based MMOGs , be it in Europe or in North America. It is not a market where the companies compete with price, but at the same time it is a bit price sensitive – at least no company is willing to try to get a much higher fee than the rest, too much risk.
Since the fees actually pay for operations and continued development of the game, what becomes interesting is where do the companies have those costs?
In the case of Funcom – originally a Norwegian company, but at least on paper it is registered in Netherlands and has a headquarter in Switzerland. There are probably some tax reasons for this. They are listed on the Olso stock exchange. They also have offices in Norway, USA and China.
There is little doubt that the majority of the development work is done in Norway though. The main expense there is salaries; that is typical for a software-focused IT company. The salaries do nto change with exchange rates. So how many Norwegian crowns (the currency – NOK) would they get for a monthly fee today (May 9th 2008)? How would they have received a year ago (May 9th 2007)?
Today a North American subscriber gives them
$14.99 = 14.99 * 5.1307 NOK ~ 76.91 NOK
Today a European subscriber gives them
€12.99 = 12.99 *7.8815 NOk = 102.38 NOK
Looking back a year ago, the corresponding numbers are
$14.99 = 14.99 * 5.9893 NOK ~ 89.78 NOK
€12.99 = 12.99 * 8.1317 NOK ~ 105.63 NOK
Note: I did not include any taxes here . That will affect what a customer will pay in the end, but that is not money that is going to the game companies, that is picked up the the governments. So it is not relevant in terms of whether a game company would rip someone off or not, since they do not get that money.
In both cases Funcom are “loosing” compared to if the game would have been released a year ago. If the exchange rates change they might of course “gain” some later, or “loose” again.
Roughly, the fees from 3 Europeans pay for the same amount of work that 4 North Americans do. If the value of the US dollar drops more, then more North Americans are needed to pay for the same amount of work, since they keep the prices the same. The same is the case for those paying in EUro as well.
Now, everything is of course not handled in NOK most likely. US servers and operations are likely handled in the US and with US costs. European servers and oprerations are likely handled here in Europe, perhaps in Norway or Switzerland.
The costs there would very likely be in the local currencies and differences in exchange rate would not matter that much.
Now, if there were any “rip-offs” that would more be from the companies with have the bulk of their development in the US, e.g. Blizzard, SOE, Turbine, NCSoft (for Western games).
Or aren’t all Westerns getting ripped off, since prices in China is likely even lower for any games that are available there? Let’s encourage all these companies to relocate and put all of their development work and all of their servers and operations in China instead. That would surely cut the costs and they can lower the fees for us all and not rip us off.
Polish. Innovation. Two quite overused words when it comes to MMORPG discussions and which seem to become some general blunt weaponry to smack around with either to defend or attack some game in the genre.
Polish entered the stage with World of Warcraft and while at that point seemed to describe games whose properties were few annoying bugs and a number of game mechanics which did not completely suck and worked fairly well together. Which was a bit rare at that point, at least at the release of an MMORPG.
Now it seems to generally be used for the initial use, but with some added mesarement on how good the user of the word thinks a game is. E.g. World of Warcraft is more polished than insert-any-game-here.
How do you measure polish? What are the units? Is this polish measurement all that matters? If game a has 10 polish and game B has 12 polish, will players pick game B then? How much more polish matters?
If the game from a technical perspective works generally well and game mechanics are mostly positive experiences, then the game is “polished” enough to me. There is no “more polished” and even if there were, it does not really matter. Lack of “polish” can get int he way of the fun of the game, but more “polish” does not make the game more fun or better.
And innovation – people must have listened too much to Bill Gates and his crew who used the innovate word for way too many things in my opinion. And it is used as it is the only way to salvation for the MMORPG games. And when people are talking about innovation they are asking for things they think is more fun than what they are currently used to, once they see it and like it. Which is a quite different thing.
It seems every time a new game is released in the past few years a discussion with “Innovation” (or lack thereof), “clone” and similar words pop up. Age of Conan gets a bit of that now, Tabula Rasa and Pirates of the Burning Sea had that a few months ago and Warhammer Online and Chronicles of Spellborn will surely have that as well.
People are talking about “WoW clones” or “WoW killers”, perhaps saying that it is too much of the first and too little of the latter. Which is a bit #2 from the cow’s husband. What some people here, in particular many WoW players, are looking for is a “better WoW than WoW” referring to them as “WoW killers”, projecting some lack of complete satifaction with their game of choice, but without wanting to give up that unless it feels meaningful to do so. And it becomes meaningful if “everyone else” would jump on this killer game and it it would feel like a better WoW than WoW.
This is not just for WoW of course, but due to its market size there are more people in that situation and it may also accentuate the feeling of playing the “winner”, which also makes it more meaningful than other games for some.
While I think these are quite understandable and human reactions I think it may hurt the game market – they do not only have to be fun and functionally working properly (for the most part), but also have to fight a legacy with gaming hours spent in a meaningful way.
For many people, inlcuding myself, a good background story and story content is an important aspect of an MMORPG. So why the headline?
Let me qualify “good story” a bit; that is that a game company developed story is a prominent feature of the game and with some thought to hold various elements in the world toghether by the story. You have to put in an effort to compltely avoid the story, if you wanted.
Tabula Rasa is a recent example, Earth & Beyond was another game with some serious story telling ambitions. LOTRO is another one in the fantasy genre.
The story experience if often considered weaker in MMORPGs though compared to single player games. In single player games, the player is the big hero or center of attention – this is not the case in MMORPGs.
The story telling is however not much different from single player games. At any given moment a single player can experience the story by himself/herself. He/she may need help at certain stages to overcome certain difficulties but in essence much of the story telling is just directed to a single player – no element of the story changes regardless of the number of players involved, only the amount and diifculty of some enemies in the path of the story.
Thus I think the story telling currently works better to support solo play experience, sometimes spiced up with some added support by other players. It does not support a core multiplayer experience, at least not well.
And for longevity of a player experience in an MMORPG, the multiplayer part needs to work. This can of course be accomplished by other means, but the story as it is now does not do that much to contibute to it. Rather it makes the solo experience better/good/more bearable. With a too strong story element in comparision to other features of the game, the game is going to hurt. To some extent like in single player games, players are going to feel some kind of completion when a story is followed through. And that may make the game feel “empty” and people may end up quitting.
Compare the games above to games like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes/Villains and Everquest 2, to take a few. The latter 3 all have a strong background story element, but the story element is a bit more hidden and a less prominent part of the player experience. I think this provides for a better foundation for longevity of the game as it is now.
And then there is EVE Online of course. Not much story at all provided by CCP, but very much so by the players themselves and very much a multiplayer story telling. And for those who get into EVE it seems to last quite well.
So how can the story telling be improved? Does it have to be player created content only, like in EVE? Or can game companies create story telling on a multiplayer scale and will that keep players playing longer due to the story?