Let’s review what we’ve seen in recent years.
In 2008, we witnessed the failure of 2 hugely-hyped titles: Warhammer Online and Age of Conan. Mythic cut 4 of the 6 capital cities and 4 of the 24 classes just before WAR’s launch, the class balance was poor, and the game client and server were unstable and couldn’t handle RVR. From what I heard about AoC, the Tortage experience from 1-20 was awesome, then the quality of content dropped off. Simply put, neither game was ready to launch.
In 2009, there was excitement for 2 polished games, Aion and Allods Online, coming from Asian and Eastern Europe. NCSoft didn’t localize Aion sufficiently for the western audience – the leveling experience was tediously grindy. AO was supposed to be F2P but just before launch a stacking death penalty mechanic was added to the game that essentially required players to buy a Cash Shop item to remove the debuff.
By the start of 2010, I became increasingly concerned that social gaming might kill investment in MMORPGs. If you’re an investor, why would you risk tens of millions of dollars to build an MMORPG when it’s possible to build a profitable social game for a fraction of the cost and in a matter of months instead of years? Moreover, many believed that WoW had set the bar too high for new entrants.
However, Trion demonstrated with RIFT in early 2011 that it’s possible to launch a AAA-quality game. As Exec Producer Scott Hartsman told me, Trion was willing to wait until the game “wouldn’t fall down” and “had enough for players to do” at launch. I was a huge fan of RIFT, as it brought some innovations to class customization (you could spec with any 3 of 9 talent trees for each of the 4 classes), elegant warfront (battleground) design, and a stunning world. What we learned from RIFT is that a strong launch with a good product is not sufficient to maintain a subscriber base. There were multiple issues with the game, including buggy raid content, gear that scaled too much across tiers (leading to power creep and making it difficult for guilds to replace members who quit), and starting with Patch 1.5, increasingly poor decisions in terms of class balance for PVP. According to Xfire, RIFT isn’t even in the top 50 for online games, just 15 months after launch.
However, there was still hope for 2011, as SWTOR was going live before end of year.
SWTOR launched with neither the polish nor feature-parity of RIFT. E.g. the UI in SWTOR was clunky and could not be customized meaningfully, the auction house was difficult to use, and the game client had performance issues. Justin Lowe from darthhater.com was and is still getting ~15 FPS with a high-end PC. Despite these issues, I enjoyed SWTOR immensely. The game provided a fun combat experience – the animations and sounds made combat feel epic. I loved several aspects of its PVP, including the brilliant design of Huttball (a PVP battleground where you can pass the flag) and the fact that meaningful effects in PVP required the use of an ability with a cooldown, whereas in RIFT many of the most important effects simply proc from button spamming. That said, I believe SWTOR launched before it was sufficiently ready.
From a financial perspective, the launch of SWTOR was the most successful ever. Millions of copies were sold. However, there has been a significant drop in subscribers over the first 6 months. While BioWare has been working hard to deliver new content and game improvements, it’s not happening sufficiently fast to stem to flow of players unsubbing.
Based on what we’ve seen over the past 4 years, here is what I now believe:
- It is possible to launch a AAA-quality MMORPG. RIFT proved that
- It is possible to acquire a significant number (1MM+) at launch for a new game that requires an upfront purchase and monthly subscription. SWTOR proved that
- However, if a game requires both an upfront purchase price and a monthly subscription, the players are going to be incredibly demanding and unforgiving
Regarding that last point, there’s a factor that significantly impacts a developer’s ability to keep players happy: most of them have been implementing games with a vertical scaling model, which involves delivering:
- A huge world, with a lot of leveling content. E.g. zones with quests, instances, etc
- Increasing tiers of content (heroics, raids) and gear at endgame
This model requires a huge investment for the developer, which in turn creates tremendous financial pressure to launch prematurely to recoup the sunk costs. Moreover at launch, some players will speed-level, tear through the endgame content, then complain there’s nothing to do. Even in a game such as SWTOR where BioWare invested heavily in rich story arcs and voiceovers. And the playerbase in general will expect more new content from the developer to justify the subscription. My gut feeling is that it’s nearly impossible for a developer to continue providing fresh content for a game built on vertical scaling while retaining a sufficient number of subscribers to make it financially worthwhile. The only company to have been able to do this so far has been Blizzard with WoW. Yes, some games such as EVE have gradually grown their playerbase, but they’re still south of 1MM players.
As I discussed elsewhere, horizontal scaling systems enable content to remain relevant over time and therefore provide much better ROI for the developer, which still providing entertainment value for the gamer. I would argue that horizontal scaling systems will actually provide a better experience for the customer, even though many players have been indoctrinated into believing that vertical scaling and tiers of gear create a positive experience.
So here is what I propose as the business model of MMORPGs:
- Build games that scale horizontally instead of vertically. GW2 and TSW are doing that
- Create a business model that doesn’t discourage customer acquisition and/or retention. Charging both an upfront purchase fee and a monthly subscription doesn’t make sense long-term, because it creates too many opportunities for customers to opt out. Any of the following are much better models for the long-term:
- Having no upfront purchase fee and no monthly subscription, but provide microtransactions for virtual goods. This is the proven F2P model (a la League of Legends)
- Having no upfront purchase fee but a monthly subscription. Many F2P games support this by providing a subscription that provides a bundle of virtual goods at a discount
- Having an upfront purchase fee but no monthly subscription (a la GW2)
The main point about #1 is creating a compelling experience. Make the combat engaging. Make it social. Make if fun. If you do these things, you’ll grow your customer base. The #1 online game League of Legends has been growing swiftly despite lacking massive content. Riot Games releases new content such as hero classes, but doing so is far less costly and complicated than trying to release new PVE zones, group, and raid content.
Some people might rebutt point #2 by saying that a developer needs to recoup their costs. They do, but part of the reason they are under pressure to launch prematurely and charge upfront is because they are simply building too much content, and the reality is that content will soon be outdated.
GW2 is a great example of horizontal scaling. My prediction is that Guild Wars 2 will fundamentally change the way gamers experience and relate to content. ArenaNet has smartly invested in content that they build once and the players re-play forever: Structured PVP and WvW. In addition, they’ve removed the leveling divide between players via their PVE sidekicking system, full Bolster to max level / gear in Structured PVP, and scaling PVE such that a player never truly outlevels it.
If I’m right, GW2 will model a viable approach for other companies, and we’ll continue to have the benefit of choice as gamers.
“However, if a game requires both an upfront purchase price and a monthly subscription, the players are going to be incredibly demanding”
Unfortunately we live in an entitlement culture and players are going to be incredibly demanding regardless :(
agreed… :( whatever happened to the days when people just played games because the content is fun and didn’t focus on the things that are missing? There are plenty of games out there that have things missing. I’ll use SWTOR as the example. A lot of fun to play. I still enjoy the game. There are things that still need to be fixed/added but I would rather just play it and have fun with it than sit around pissing and moaning about the things that aren’t there yet… Sub or not if a game is fun, then enjoy it. Stop worrying about things that aren’t there yet.
This was the one conclusion I would single out as being not particularly enlightening. If you build a linear ride, when people reach the end they will naturally ask “OK, do I just get off here then?”. It’s really got nothing to do with an innate set of player demands, and everything to do with the expectations created by the experience.
Very great article. I know I’ll be giving GW2 a go. Mainly because of the no subscription. Well that and it does look really awesome… I already have a few sub based games that I play. I think that if GW2 is successful(which I do think it’s going to be), a lot of developers will take a step back and realize that a AAA MMO doesn’t need to launch with a subscription. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the MMO industry over the next few years and how the success of GW2 will affect it.
Warhammer provided also a pretty much horizontal Content with the RvR system and the city sieges. Nevertheless did the Community ask for new content. I would assume that you have to expand in both directons. This will also apply to GW2, the WvW content will not last forever.
I think you misunderstand what he means by vertical and horizontal scaling. Horizontal scaling means there are no tiers of gear (warhammer launched with 4 tiers of gear) and therefore no artificial barriers separating new players from vets. Horizontal scaling is using achievements and leader boards to track progression. New gear is cosmetic only.
This. I remember when WoW brought Transmogging, almost all of my buddies who left it a bit came back to it for raiding classic dungeons for gear just for the looks of it. The only difference is the stats of course, but people will do anything for a better looking armor set or reuse a classic favorite.
Simply two things are needed for a MMORPG nowadays to be successful:
– Sandbox elements at endgame (e.g. EvE, GW2)
– Player-driven economy (e.g. EvE)
There is no way a company can provide todays players with a steady flow of new theme-park content. You have to bring in the sandbox, there’s no way around that. So my suggestion would be, let them have the theme-park while leveling and at max level bring in the sandbox elements and the player-driven economy.
I, for one, think this is a great idea. It may be part of that natural “evolution” that is needed. It gives end-game people something to do and a customizable experience while not making the game too inaccessible to noobs and the casual player. (I used to feel that PvP was only for ‘end gamers’, until I started watching SWTOR Taugs videos. With the bolster mechanic in SWTOR making it accessible at level 10, I’m now a full-fledged PvP addict. :P )
Not that there still won’t be issues to consider. You still can end up with 2 buckets of players – the “elitist end-gamers” and the “noob” theme parkers who are new to the game, learning the game, or just enjoy story mode. You’ll still have the ‘grinding’ issues of leveling alts or getting guildies up to max level just to play with you.
Perhaps there should be some connection between end gamers and levelers that foster community and interaction rather than dead max level areas or lonely newbie grinding. Perhaps some of the sandbox elements could be related to crafting (creating custom gear/social gear) or even leveling (providing buffs or even teaching skills) that can be done by max lev characters. At least a way for end gamers to still be involved in the “themepark” world.
I agree with you 100%. At this stage in the “game” MMOs need to do something new and different to retain the interest of players and attract investors. ArenaNet has done an amazing job of redesigning the MMO both in game design and business model. I’m certain that combination of the two will make this one of the most successful MMOs in history.
Simply put it’s accessible. Players only have a one-time commitment to the game (barring expansions) and can literally play with whomever they want in the game. That alone will make players want it.
My only concern is the PVE End Game. Part of the pinnacle of an MMO (for me at least) is raiding with my guild members (or even the occasional pug, where I meet new friends). I love working as a team to figure out the puzzle of the boss and progressing through a massive dungeon with 9-24 of my friends. That’s going to be missing in GW2 and I hope that ArenaNet has put the same level of thought into the PVE end game that they have to every other aspect of the game.
(PS: Shameless Plug, I’ve been working on my MMO Blog, and I’d love for people to take the time to check it out: http://conwolv.wordpress.com).
Great article and I’m in agreement with it as a whole. Players want variety and active social aspect. Regarding social aspect – if it’s coupled with popular social networks to easily introduce gaming world into a real world, it is a pure win for a gaming company. So far, GW2 had no such announcement, if it will support any twitter/facebook/youtube/other interaction from inside the game, like Rift did. But, since GW2 is still heavily in beta stages, one can only wait.
Good stuff. I really thought the different class stories would give SWTOR a lot of replay value. They are very well done and innovative with respect to building a connection to your character. But, it’s not enough for me now in hindsight. The stories are great, but the PvE levelling combat itself is easy, boring, and repetitive. The fights are the same. There are no surprises. There are no challenges. So, it’s nothing but a boring time sink that sits in the way of your final goal.
For the first GW2 BWE, I mostly just played the PvE game. What I found was that the MOBs you fight can be quite challenging and dynamic. A fight against the same type of MOB can be different everytime. Take a look at the PvP training profession NPCs that are in my last movie. If you haven’t fought these guys yet, definitely try to do so the next time the game is available. They were challenging and not in an artificial way because they hit harder and had more hitpoints. They were challenging because of the way they moved and used their abilities. No two fights were ever the same.
It’s the closest any NPC in any game I’ve ever played has ever come to simulating what it’s like fighting another player.
That is huge. What keeps me playing is challenge and variety. If something becomes nonchallenging and routine then it is no longer fun. And, this is where MMORPGs have been failing horribly with respect to NPC combat in the open world. They’ve been concentrating on quests so much and totally disregarding the combat you have to complete to finish those quests. If you replace the “go and kill 30 of these easily defeated NPCs” with a “go and kill this ONE challenging and dynamic NPC” then you have replaced tedium with fun.
Yes, the PVP class dummies are great practice. They fight competently.
And the mobs in PVE are not faceroll opponents.
I agree with the notion that there needs to be more innovation in the MMO space. It’s a crowded field right now and we keep hearkening back to WoW but that game came out in a time where MMOs were small and still growing and Blizzard created an accessible, fun and vast game that just took off–it was the right game at the right time.
However, I think horizontal scaling is just another innovative feature and not as transformational as you believe it to be. It has its benefits over vertical scaling and it has its detriments and there will always be fans of either side’s playability.
That being said, I don’t see GW2 transforming the MMO space. It appeals to the smaller overall population of MMO gamers–PVPers. In fact, I see it going the same path as Rift–big start, then level off for those who it still enjoy it.
I don’t think there can be big players in this industry anymore (big like Blizzard) because that game was a phenomenon and that success isn’t formulaic. There’s just too much competition.
The appeal to PvPers is very clear, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the more dynamic nature of levelling PvE in GW2. New content in current MMORPGs has typically meant more “kill 20 of these MOBs” quests. Which would be fine if those MOBs were in some way challenging and fun to fight. But, typically they aren’t and you come to realize that they are just packaged time sinks with little thought put behind them.
The players would be better served if developers were more interested in providing challenges (i.e. fun) than churning out cut-and-paste timesinks, sorry… meant to say “content” there.
If there is anything that I’ve learned from blogging, especially for SWTOR over the past 7 months, it’s that many people, if given a sufficiently positive environment (and helpful content), grow to love PVP.
I know this from hearing the feedback from hundreds of SWTOR players.
And I am one of those Ed! :)
Horizontal scaling was the basis for the original Guild Wars, released in 2006. At its peak, I think its user base was in the millions, and the base grew with each new expansion pack over the course of 4 years (4 expansions).
It also had no subscription, so the revenue paths were players buying the expansions (which most did) and items bought through the in-game store (extra character slots, more skills, more storage, etc.).
(You could argue the original GW was not a true MMO since everything was instanced content, not counting pvp. Then again, I find that no different compared to how SWTOR works. The story content is played mostly on your own with companion save for a few heroics here and there, and the only real group content is the flashpoints and raids which are all instanced.)
By all accounts, Guild Wars was a huge success (which is why NCSoft invested so much in GW2), yet I know of no other game that uses this model other than Guild Wars 2.
I guess the other developers thought this was a fluke, and all went the traditional WoW way. Who knows, maybe GW2’s success will start swinging things the other way. Then again, my current opinion of the MMO industry is that they they refuse to adopt new models due to the high cost of entry, and therefore doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
As a side note, developers need to stop releasing half finished, buggy MMO’s. It just doesn’t cut it anymore. I absolutely despise the argument that because MMO X (usually WoW) launched with X number of issues, it’s okay for game X launched in 2012 to have the same issues. That would mean the industry has hardly progressed in those years (and what do you know, it hasn’t).
Actually, I don’t think it’s an issue of it being acceptable to launch with a buggy product. I would argue that the downsides of launching prematurely are significant: you end up with lots of pissed off customers and hemorrhage subs.
The reason devs launch games too early is because of the tremendous self-inflicted financial pressure of trying to build too “big” of a game and having to recoup the huge investment.
What is utterly ironic is that LoL likely had a very small budget relative to the WoW’s and SWTOR’s.
Bigger is not necessarily better.
And one of the biggest related problems in SWTOR is that the developers created those massive planets that people would only be in for ~5 levels for the story/grinding. Talk about cost inefficiency.
We will see, but I think this as well. I keep having high hopes about new MMOs like Rift, and SWTOR but in the end they can’t hold my interests. SWTOR ran like crap on my machine but I feel even if it ran good I’d still not have been able to play it for even as long as I played Rift for. I think for me in the end is I’m getting older and my time is more valuable than it used to be. I played EQ1 from 1999 to 2005 and played world of warcraft from 2005 to 2010 taking a break for warhammer online. There are no other MMOs that can come close to keeping my interest for that long anymore. I guess that is why I find myself playing League of Legends and Diablo 2 & 3 more than anything else these days. I can log in play some competitive 30-45 min games in LoL, or if I feel grindy I will do some baal runs on D2 or level in D3.
Most people I befriend in MMOs are not younger kids but guys and girls in there 20-30s that work and have families and used to be the young kids playing EQ1 and early MMOs for endless hours but just plain can’t do that anymore. Maybe the pattern is we miss the old days and a new game comes out and we get our fix for a few months and realize this game isn’t worth the time investment and start to complain about it, some complaints justifiable and some overly critical.
I also wonder what if a game like Rift came out before WOW? Would WOW not have been as popular?
Holy sheets batman! The Taug delivers! I could not agree more. Hey speaking of horizontal leveling Taug, you see what firefall just did? Yeah removed levels! Why? Because vertical scaling is OUTDATED, breaks balance and is taxing on devs. Real simple. Can blizzard continue it, sure can. But they too get this and have done a lot to RUSH the player to their endgame because of its skewed game world and outdated barren content. But that’s blizz they have the luxury of doing whatever because they have a solidified market share and fan base. New companies have to remove the vertical scaling and the old model of endless gear grinding and subscriptions are all but dead. I think you will see a substantial shift once Arenanet releases it’s juggernaut. Players will then understand why vertical scaling is a thing of the past. Kickass post Taug. Keep em coming man.
I agree Wow found itself in a good place. That place was one of little competition and a head start in a burgeoning gaming genre. They made all the right moves at all the right times. People point to Cataclysm as being their first misstep, but I see it as just a time of increasing competition. WotLK was all about making the game as accessible as possible to as many as possible. Group finder, PVP queue interface, Hard Mode Raids (which made normal mode accessible to former non-raiders), Linear Questing, loss of attunement and encounter specific gear all helped to cement Wow as the MMO giant that it is. Bioware got the tiered raids in, though buggy. They got the Linear Questing right. And they completely avoided encounter specific gear. The big missteps were a lack of a group finder and the lack of a cross server pvp queue. Any game that is less accessible than wow will not work to attract a sufficient audience, and certainly not to maintain that audience. GW2 has completely side stepped larger than 5 man groups in PVE content, and I’m not sure if they have a group finder or not. But the PVP game should excel where SWTOR’s has not. The AH game should succeed where SWTOR’s has not. WvW looks amazing, but we will have to wait to see what populations look like after the two month honeymoon period. People might complain about Tol Barad and Wintergrasp but there is certainly something to be said for having a window of time for the fighting to take place. Having an open two week battle hearkens back to Vanilla Alterac Valley. There were very good reasons that AV got changed into what it is today…. lack of accessibility.
Anyway, we’ll see. I’m looking forward to GW2 as are many in my Wow guild. Those same people who had little interest in SWTOR are indeed interested and listening to the development of GW2. That is a good sign for those of us who are bored of Wow and looking for something different.
I can’t help being a little shocked about how much effort goes into producing a new AAA MMO, while the end design still lacks so much. For example, how can open world PvP in SWTOR not be solved atleast adequately before launch? All you need is common sense, knowledge of game theory and some experience, to provide a playable, meaningful (if not exactly epic) Ilum. Developers certainly have the artists part covered, but please, hire more brains!
Another pet peeve is the lack of tech to solve underpopulated regions. Again, how hard can it be? The upcoming WoW expansion MoP is testing a system where the underpopulated regions are shared across servers. MMOs benefit hugely from player interaction in order to provide life to the world, so something like that is pure gold. Can you imagine if SWTOR had this in place? Each planet is vast and beautiful, with plenty of content including group content (Heroic Areas) in place. How cool would it be if the 50 servers with 10 people per planet on average post launch, just had one instance capable of supporting 500? Instead, it’s already playing as a tedious grindy singleplayer game with little challenge, as pointed out above. LFG and bustling activity on all planets would turn the same content around from dull and lonely to lively and fun, solely by the help of the players themselves.
On another note enitrely, I’m not sure one should so quickly critisize to choice to go Buy & Pay to play (sub mmo, such as SWTOR). If the average user is subbing only four months, a fair estimate imo, Selling 2.1 million copies of SWTOR will still be better than 4 million of GW2 (no sub).
It’s an issue of biting off too much scope.
There’s a real possibility that BioWare invested $100+MM in the leveling content in SWTOR. It’s a massive, massive world. I heard BioWare state that SWTOR was the largest voiceover effort in history.
Well, think of it this way:
1. SWTOR is BioWare’s first MMORPG
2. BW started with a new engine (for them) and had to build out the tools and systems around it
3. BW had to create the live services production environment and team, because again it was their first MMORPG
Things like transfers or tech to combine underpop’d zones takes time and money to develop, and I think they ran out of time to do that work.
Well, I did combine some concepts in my article.
It’s not that subscriptions in themselves are bad. Or upfront purchase fees. It’s that games tend to go live before they are ready because the dev is under financial pressure.
You get to have financial pressure when you undertake a massively large project, and on top of that the returns are not good when much of the content you develop has limited replayability for a given customer.
[…] Taugrim made a post about horizontal scaling in Guild Wars 2 via content that can get replayed "forever" in the case of WvW and structured PvP. The post got me thinking about GW2′s progression and how to really define it. […]
I agree with Ed, there is more as well. It’s an evolution, we played PONG and then we played Asteroids then came Battlezone and so on. What a game has to do is improve gameplay, innovation not regurgitation is how you get a foothold in player’s hearts.
I won’t say WoW revolutionized the MMO genre but they did have some innovations, no more mindless grinding of mobs in camps, questing.. lots of it. Storytelling, lots of it. You don’t need to make a completely new game but you need to do a few things better then the last guy and a few things different.
GW2 is doing just that, the manifesto states how they came to this conclusion, they played the other games and what they didn’t like they found ways to improve or change the gameplay to be more compelling or exciting. It’s not a radically different game from WoW, AoC or Swtor but it’s different enough and likely most important (though we won’t truly know till release) polished enough to find a place in our hearts.
We as gamers are addicts to our past, our cherry high of a new game that really engaged us, infuriated us (in a good way) and made us come back for more. We always want the games we’ve played in the past plus more. For a gaming company it really is, Learn from the success of those who have come before you or be doomed to fail.
A number of good points here that I mostly agree with, but I’ll address the “business model” part of the post a bit by saying that I don’t think anything is close to be clear cut right now.
Certainly when it comes to pricing scheme, I’m almost completely indifferent. I’m no longer playing SWTOR because I no longer want to play it. I don’t think I would play most MMOs right now even if completely free, though I might be more likely to TRY them, dunno. The other side of that coin is that if a game was truly exceptional then I’d be willing to pay well over $50 a month, maybe 100 or even 200 IF I really enjoyed the game. The bigger cost for many gamers today is their time. So along those lines, I’m inherently skeptical of F2P titles because I’m not looking for a “good value” experience. I’m looking for an exceptional experience.
And at $60 + $15/month, MMOs in the past have, for a period, provided that exceptional experience. And, honestly, good value when compared to other entertainment options.
Just on a basic design level I think MMOs will continue to fail (and should) if they feel like they have to continue to create a never-ending stream of “content”. Design games in which the player-base generates most of the persistent content through their actions and you have the potential for a game with legs. Pricing scheme won’t address that. But, under the heading of “business model”, MMOs shouldn’t try to create tons of content for launch. It’s simply not affordable. Players will always consume it infinitely faster than you can create it, so don’t sign on for that race. The player-base is maturing anyway and their taste for PVP (or interactive content) content over PvE content is growing anyway. I would argue that much of the “PvE” content in WoW is really about cooperative player interaction anyway.
But I’m afraid that the industry is actually going to repeat it mistakes- and the mistake is their herd mentality. Every MMO for a period tried to duplicate the WoW formula. Now the herd may drive the industry toward F2P when it really isn’t necessary. That has the potential to be a dangerous race to the bottom.
Understood and agreed.
I think you are on to something here, and I agree that the time-to-consume content is much shorter than the time-to-build.
A developer might radically change their approach to how they build content if they had the assumption that they would either not charge a sub, or not charge a purchase fee.
What I mean by this is focusing on what is absolutely essential for creating a watertight kick-ass game, instead of a very large game that is leaking water all over the place.
This is partly why, to draw an analogy from my long-time professional career, Agile-based methodologies have increasingly gained traction over the last decade, as opposed to the traditional waterfall methodologies.
Agile focuses on what is most-needed at any point in time.
Agile is cross-functional and multi-disciplinary.
Agile focuses on building a working prototype for each iteration/sprint.
Agile is learn-by-doing.
Loved the article, I will say this though. I fully enjoyed some of those MMO’s u mention. And In the case fo WAR online, that is what I miss the most tbh I loved the PvP in that game. Everything else was sadly lacking. But I have gotten my moneys worth out of even the worst mmo I have played. That is enough for me ;) looking forward to GW2. BTW Taugrim I stopped playing SWTOR, I hope to come back in a year or so and it will be awesome.
Oh, I loved WAR too. I stuck with the game for 12 months after launch, which is longer than 90% of the people I knew.
I finally gave up and moved on.
That’s the main lesson I learned: if I believe the signs are there the developer isn’t managing the course of a game well and that the game isn’t going to recover, it’s time to move on.
Given that, what’s your current feeling towards SWTOR in this regard? Personally, I have a hard time seeing it recover given the upcoming MMO’s.
i completely disagree with this, gear progression is the way its always been,you level you put in the time and you get better the longer you play the game..any other model is like jump in an out gameplay based on skill it might as well be an FPS game with wizards and elves,i mean im sure theres people that want to do that sort of thing,but im sure the people in the other camp that want a more traditional MMO experience are more numerous. If it isnt about content then it truly does become more like the fps genre where its personal skill based gameplay but the same few maps and areas to play on,in other words it becomes less like an RPG less about stats and gear, which is the attraction for many gamers myself included.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions when it comes to GW2
GW2 has options. You can do max level PvP out of the box with preset gear to choose from. You can do world PvP out of the box, BUT you will be limited in what you can do if you are not max level because you won’t have abilities and skills that you need to earn via the PvE game. You will be bolstered, but the effectiveness of that bolster will be dependent on the gear you have earned through the PvE game. And, then there is the actual PvE game which is the closest thing that GW2 offers as a “traditional” MMO experience. Now as a matter of personal preference I prefer GW2’s version of PvE when compared to “traditional” versions because it is much more dynamic and challenging.
Is there any other game that gives you all of these options? I’m thinking the answer is no.
It might be prudent to do a little research about how gear works in GW2. In sPVP, everyone has access to the same gear. There’s no grinding for better gear at all. Max level, unlimited specs and whatever gear you want to use.
In PVE, new gear doesn’t scale you higher than the dungeon you’re in, so it’s largely not really necessary at end game. They’ve taken most of the focus away from the gear grind and into player skill. Where it should be.
Your gear really does matter in bolstered WvW though. I actually worked on decking my L15ish warrior out in the best gear I could get and stacked precision to see what would happen. He ended up with an 80% chance to crit in WvW. They need to do some fine tuning on how things are bolstered, but having gear appropriate gear will be important just as it is with SWTOR bolstering.
gear appropriate gear = level appropriate gear
I won’t disagree with you on the appeal of the traditional MMORPG. But just because that’s the “way it’s always been” doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to evolve to stay current, relevant, or keep players playing (which is the point). In the end, it has to be fun. If a game is only about ‘stats and gear’, in your own words, is it fun? Not if no skill/strategy is involved once you have the gear (faceroll opponents with a spam attack). Not if the only path to the gear is a repetitive, boring, a timesink just to get to a fun raid or boss fight…and then they add a new level cap and another gear level, rinse and repeat.
Good old fashioned gear and level progression can and should be fun in a RPG game. Players who invest time into their characters SHOULD be rewarded. Its just that current games on such a large scale need to improve on current methods b/c as we’ve all discussed they simply don’t scale well and they need to appeal to a wider audience due to their heavy production costs. You can’t bury you head in the ‘sandbox’, so to speak. Gamers are getting older and more sophisticated and demanding enjoyable content, but also have more commitments on their time and being able to jump into a structured PvP match or a dungeon finder and enjoy high-level competitive/coop or fast paced casual gameplay is huge in attracting and retaining that type of player (and payer). It doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy building up my main to max level over time and using that gear I played many hours to get.
It’s just that in today’s market, a MMORPG can’t have just one way to play, and how ever a player chooses to play, it can’t feel like work.
The only way that gear progression would work in such a way to not make content trivial over time would be to provide *extremely* small increments between gear tiers, e.g. by having steep diminishing returns.
But at the end of the day, even with DR, you will have the same problem of content becoming irrelevant as people grow to out-gear it.
The issue for me with FPS games is simply the lack of a persistent world.
If you like gear progression, nothing I say will meaningfully change your mind.
I stomached it in WoW Vanilla, dealt with it for 10 months in TBC until finally I realized the utter stupidity of it all. The only reason I came back to WoW in May 2010 was because the grind had gotten much less. But the gear scaling issues are still there.
Good article. Your title states that the MMO business model must evolve. In your article you cite League of Legends, GW2 and TSW as examples of MMO’s that are using a new business model. It seems as though the MMOs have already changed. Perhaps the title should be “How MMO business models are evolving”.
I disagree with your statement: ” Charging both an upfront purchase fee anda monthly subscription doesn’t make sense long-term, because it creates too many opportunities for customers to opt out.” Opportunities to opt-out are not the appropriate metric. Free to play games gives players infinite opportunities to opt out.
I think that this article would be better if you segregated the revenue-generation vehicle from the game design/development methodology. If you can identify the design/development methodology that engages the most players for the longest period of time, you can then construct an appropriate revenue generation model around it.
For example, Rift’s generation model makes perfect sense. They are a development-heavy, large content (vertical, as you call it) generator. This requires a substantial up-front cost that needs to be recouped and heavy continual investment in content. Therefore, an up-front, monthly pay model fits best. They’ve recouped and profitted from initial sales, and are now trying to bolster profits from sustainment. To this end, they dropped the price of the box to garner more interest. Eventually, the client will be free, requiring only a monthly sub. Once the user base drops below a certain threshold, frequent content updates will not be profitable, and they will drop the updates and transition to a microtransaction model.
GW2 is going to develop a lot of content up-front, then provide little additional content beyond bug fixes and balancing of classes. Therefore, they are going with an up-front cost followed by microtransactions.
Lastly, you should take another look at social gaming. It’s not a competitor to the MMO, but a component of the next-generation MMO. Imagine if your MMO had a fully functioning economy fueled by people playing Farmville? What if your Farmville game had some influence on a larger world that was played with other players? Suddenly your MMO is not just limited to one style of play, but it’s several different ‘games’ interconnected by a highly networked, socially enabled infrastructure and a much more real economy. What kind of revenue vehicle would you use? Would you be limited to just one?
What if that economy was designed to act like the old ‘company store’, where your MMO-bucks had more value in the virtual world, but could also be exchanged for real world dollars (for an exchange fee, of course). What if you offered your users the ability to use their RMAH money to help pay for their recurring subscription fee?
Think big – like project Titan big. WoW+Farmville+RMAH = next gen MMO.
Diablo 3’s RMAH is Blizzard’s beta-test for a much larger MMO economy.
That being said, many players don’t “get” the value of the horizontal scaling systems of TSW and GW2. Read the comments on this blog.
Most F2P players are not customers. They never opted in in the first place.
Historically, a single-digit % of the population pays for a F2P game, the rest play for free. But some of the paying customers are rabid spenders. E.g. I played with a pizza shop owner from Brazil who used to spend $100-200 USD on Knight Online back in 2005.
Totally totally get what you are saying.
I think part of the problem is that developers who plan on charging a purchase fee plus monthly sub have this notion that they have to build some kind of epic game.
So they try building something massive and end up biting off more scope than they can reasonably handle.
When I attended a BioWare SWTOR panel at GDC 2012, I was surprised / shocked by some of the “learnings” they had – and after the session other game devs went up to Richard Vogel and Dallas Dickinson and were like “we learned the same things too” – only these were things that the software industry learned over a decade ago because of the Internet.
Social games are getting better, but they lack the rich immersion and complexity that I enjoy in a game such as SWTOR or GW2.
Back at GDC 2010, at a private party hosted by a venture capital firm, I talked with some of the young twentysomethings whose social gaming companies had been bought out by Zynga.
One of them told me something I’ll never forget. He said “Don’t judge. You have to design games that can be played like this…” and then he showed me looking around, distracted, only occasionally playing a game on his iPhone with one hand.
I’m sure he’s right, the dude made millions. But that kind of game simply has no appeal for me.
There are some upcoming web-based games that *could* be interesting, such as Game of Thrones.
I definitely agree with your post and I do hope that more and more professionally dedicated players like yourself ;-), will begin sounding the alarm.
Back in January, after SWTOR debut I read an interesting article addressing the “locust effect.”
This article is a bit too nostalgic for my taste: “the good old games of the past”. It also oversimplifies matters by placing a lot of the blame on the “locust players”. Nevertheless one does have to admit that recent big production MMO’s have a clear target group in mind – Everyone is still trying to capitalize on the WoW effect.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with casual grind games. ( If you can call “grind” – a casual experience.) I just don’t agree that this is the only recipe for success. It seems to me that the fundamental mechanics of a theme park game automatically exclude sandbox content I consider important for a long term commitment to any game.
To be completely honest I have a bias here, I am an absolute fun of EVE Online. Obviously it’s an extreme example, EVE is a 100% sandbox and it offers a very different experience from WoW or SWTOR. However, what is absolutely fascinating about creators of EVE is their dedication to innovation. Naturally, its a lot of trial and error, but the simple fact is that for the last 10 years they have been growing steadily. They are doing everything to avoid a streamlined experience, while attempting to create a sci-fi simulation that encompasses all different play styles and professions. Combining a first person shooter console game (Dust 514) into the EVE spaceship-PC-world is an incredibly gutsy move. Many are skeptical but if it works it will prove that play styles can be mixed and what truly lies at the heart of a good MMO’s is complex player interaction.
As a hard core Star Wars fun, who has read all the books, operates a Star Wars fun page, dresses up in SW costumes for kids etc. I admit I was very disappointed with BW and SWTOR. SW is the biggest story rich universe ever created and frankly speaking it deserves more then the mindless hamster wheel of a theme park game.
Eventually MMOs will evolve, this is the way of the world. More often then not it is the small companies that truly innovate. They do it because they have to, they simply cannot compete straight up. Every now and then one of them succeeds – then, all others follow. For now many companies like BW seem content squeezing every last drop from the theme park grind-mania. I wander what will happen when they discover that they are squeezing a dried-up fruit.
the link above didn’t work just google: locust killed my mmo
Yea I didn’t touch on the sandbox vs themepark factor, but I agree that sandbox games have a lot of attractive characteristics: they engage players and make them feel like they can shape the world.
That’s part of the reason I loved RVR in WAR – we could hold keeps and strategize across zones how to advance our conquest of the enemy.
The sad truth of the matter is innovation is truly a rare thing. A sadder truth is that those that innovate usually take all the risk, prove a model works, then a big box comes along and says “we can do that”, puts their skin on the same concept and reap the financial benefits. In business and in the NFL, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” as most successful models are simply copied and tweaked because they are proven successful (they kicked our ass with the Wildcat formation and a speedy quarterback…..Let’s get a speedy quarterback and run the Wildcat).
But what Taug is talking about here is not innovation, but EVOLUTION. The MMORPG gaming industry as a whole needs to move to implementing the types of systems and gameplay that modern players expect and will pay for. The developers/investors look at the WoW model and say “let’s do that. That’s what works” both in terms of overall game design (vertical scaling) and business model (upfront + sub).
I think it will eventually get there. We are starting to see a differentiation in what “is” a MMORPG (and MMO as a whole for that matter) and these different “types” of games will align with the models that make sense. GW2 business model works well for the horizontal scaling type of game, with new content tied to new expansions. No sub fee will drive up flat out purchases of the game and the model of paying once for an online coop/competitive game is already proven in the console space (Battlefield type games). Yes it has “traditional” MMORPG elements to it making it accessible to both types of players, but overall it will be a different type of PvE experience than the “WoW clone” MMO due to this approach.
Will the “traditional” quest/story driven MMO go away? No. There is an appeal to this type of game, of “growing” (through gear or otherwise) your character, of going new places and fighting new and harder things. Not everyone wants to replay content on Nightmare Mode ala Diablo III. People always will like playing those types of games, but for the premium price of upfront game cost + a sub fee, it better be FULLY baked. I am a big fan of SWTOR and enjoy playing it. But i’m not THAT much into PvE and level grinding, and at a point, no amount of voiced story and/or Legacy rewards will make we want to level yet another character to 50, just to play through the content I haven’t experienced.
I think a much more realistic model for these types of games would be the subscription ONLY option. You develop a game that people will want to KEEP playing and a roll out like we’ve seen with SWTOR, where “required” features continue to get released in the first year of going live would be much more understandable (and the player base much more forgiving).
I know investors would baulk at not recouping development costs right away with the sale of the game, but you could also argue that MAINTAINING a +1million sub base throughout the 1st year of release would be more profitable in the long run. In fact, some of those missing features that would cause subs to quit in the traditional model (customizable UI, group finder, character transfer, post character creation customization, cross server queues, etc, etc), players would actually hold on to their subs looking forward to these features to make their gameplay experience even better. Depending on how you look at it, you can argue this actually lowers your upfront development cost since you can launch a game people will subscribe to with less features. It would still need to be a QUALITY launch, like SWTOR 1.0 to 1.2. But you wouldn’t see as much of the initial “burst then quit” of sales/subscriptions like you see currently in most games like this.
This would be no different than any other subscription based service w/ no upfront cost which still required major development upfront, such as Netflix. True, Netflix does not develop its own content (for very little of it) and neither does “gaming as a service” company Onlive.com. But I’m sure there are other examples of this model at work.
It’s interesting to read your take. I didn’t write it, but I very much relate to the things you stated.
I do agree with you that other companies are making the mistake of trying to imitate WoW. What worked for Blizzard probably won’t work for anyone else, because they have economy of scale. No one else does.
Many people I’ve spoken with agree that the no-sub aspect of GW2 makes it feel like a less risky purchase.
My wife likes this aspect, lol. Which means she will play, and I will get to play more.
(“Happy Wife, Happy Life” for all the kiddies out there. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but true! :P)
Like a few others have stated, I love the CONCEPT of GW2. It sounds great in theory and even the feedback from testers such as yourself has been overall positive for the game design as a whole (PvE, WvW, sPvP). I don’t know if that will translate to me LOVING this game. Something about the visual style seems off to me, and I will have to see how the gameplay “feels” to me. I do know PvP will be a lot of fun, since it’s ArenaNets bread and butter.
A game centered around horizontal and dynamic scaling may have it’s own issues that will become annoying. “Here comes that dynamic event of those blasted centaurs attacking the town…..AGAIN. If I leave it up to noobs I might lose this waypoint I like. So annoying”. Or you go back to the starter area w/ a couple guildies to help another guildie new to the game…and while you are all scaled down to her level….the event gets scaled up b/c there are 3 of you instead of just one. Fine for you with more skill and abilities. Not fine for her trying to learn the game fighting stronger mobs that can kill her more easily than if she was solo. (Not sure if that’s how it works, but that’s what I heard.)
There’s a lot I don’t know. But hey, I’ll put down $60 one time, no subscription, for lifetime play, to find out. EVEN IF i HATED THE GAME, I would be oddly satisfied knowing I could pick it up and play it again at any time and fully examine and explore everything I don’t like about the game down to the last blasted centaur…for no additional cost. That’s worth the cost of admission for me, easily.
GW2 isn’t going to be the end all, be that, MMO. There are those out there that don’t mind paying a monthly sub to play. Content is created and carrots are displayed to chase as a result of that monthly sub. Those of us in the MMO community that have been paying those subs for years are used to it and it’s become ingrained in our commitment to further our characters as well as support our friends and guilds.
Currently, Rift is generating content at an alarming rate. That content is aimed at the PvP crowd as well as the PvE crowd. Of course, nothing is perfect, but it’s the belief in the developers and past history that proves they care and are willing to put in the hours to make the game better and fresh.
I’m not sure a game like GW2, that really doesn’t have a carrot to chase IMO, will cut it. I’m just not totally convinced player generated content is enough. Sure, back in the DAoC days, we all thought it was great doing RvR and retaking those keeps. But, was it really? Mostly, we just remember the good things, over years past, and forget the not so good things. I suppose time will tell but, until then, I’ll continue to pay my monthly sub, chase carrots, and improve my character and guild.
I think you misunderstand. GW2 PVP will have a carrot, you just don’t have to pay $15 a month to get to chase it. There is PVE content that improves your character and that WvW (RvR) will also allow you to improve your guild and characters. You just presume because there’s no monthly fee that there’s nothing to chase after in game. And that assumption is dead wrong.
Some people seem more drawn towards virtual item acquistion while others seem more drawn towards something being challenging and fun. The latter is the carrot that I would prefer to chase.
I don’t mind paying a sub, but the carrot-on-a-stick is a turnoff to me. It devalues my time.
RIFT already missed their opportunity IMO.
I’m not sure what the best site is for tracking hours played by game, but on Xfire, RIFT over the past few months has been sitting in the 40s for the past few months, and now they’re not even in the top 60.
GW2 has plenty of carrots, they may not appeal to you.
For me, all of the following sound like fun:
– WvW ladders, for server pride
– ranked Structured PVP, for competitive group play
Excellent post. You’ve done a fantastic job at highlighting the primary problems with the genre as well as discussing suggestions for improvement.
I’m more excited about GW2 on a conceptual level than I am about the game itself. I applaud AN for trying to do something innovative in a stale genre. I hope they succeed and that we see a substantial shift in the MMO market.
Thanks Taugrim, insightful and thought-provoking as usual. I feel like the MMORPG genre is at sort of a strange point in its development. You’ve made a clear case for why change is needed, and I agree. There is really no limit to how creative you can get with horizontal progression. It’s so refreshing to see a company like A-Net want to do right by their customers by risking innovation instead of playing it safe. They strike me as a real gamer’s game company.
I do feel that along with new ideas, it may be a smart time to look to the past for inspiration. Back before publishers and developers were afraid to take the risk of not aping the WoW paradigm, they had the freedom to make games that, while certainly flawed, had a magic to them. As much as i love SWTOR, for instance, it all feels so sterile. So safe. And so very unaffected by my presence in the world. Even Rift felt that way, dynamic events or not.
So why hasn’t some intrepid company gone out and, for instance, made a sandbox game? Or a game with real, permanent consequences? (Permadeath!…is probably going too far. but something to give you some emotional investment beyond a conditioned “shinies!” reflex)) But made it with the knowledge, the tools, and the experience of the last 10+ years.
Look at it like this: most younger MMO players only know the theme park model. If someone could make an innovative game that combined some of the old school tropes with what the genre has learned over its brief evolution so far, the product might theoretically be just what the industry needs. Something to capture both the older and younger markets, but more importantly, something that neither of those markets have seen. Something that isn’t the same currently reigning paradigm.
I recognize that i could be asking for the impossible with this line of thinking. Then again….Dayz is super popular right now. And while it isnt an mmorpg, i believe it does feature some old-school hardcore mechanics, including permadeath. I tend to think that people, whether they admit it or not, like some sense of danger in their gaming.
Not sure why you have such a hate on for Rift. They work at one content patch at a time and focus on certain areas each time. Last patch was the new 20 man raid with leader boards fishing and the equivalent of cooking. Prior patches addressed casual players with 5 mans and more Chronicles and even threw in some RP stuff for RPers like weddings. The newest patch 1.9 is adding more PVP content specifically “conquest” a 3 faction RvR PVP and and leaked info about their upcoming xpac so the game has far from failed unlike the path SWTOR is going. The days of the 10 million subs are gone Blizz had good timing and little or no competition at the time.
The sub model can still be profitable and successful if done right as Trion is showing. I’m not a fan of the B2P model with a cash shop (I’m sure there are others too) and I do wish the best to GW2 but it’s not my preferred model. I paid Trion upfront for a year at $8.25 ($99 for a years sub) a month to Trion for Rift and it has been worth every penny and I probably will end up spending less then a B2P or F2P model game but Trion in their current state is a one of kind developer. Others sub based games try to milk their subs with extra micro transactions.
My hat goes off to Trion the little developer who came out of nowhere and is taking chances where most MMOs won’t break free from their comfort zone. I will admit that I’m more of a PVE’er then a PVP’er and game like Rift fits the bill for players who enjoy PVE. In short some people need to get their heads out of the sand and open their eyes and not just tunnel vision on the games getting the most “hype” they tend to fall hard case in point SWTOR and yet to be seen GW2.
Stay classy Ed. ;)
Let me inform you on the quality of the production of the content Rift has been releasing since patch 1.5; broken for 3 months until enough head-butting from top guilds has been done and then they “nerf” it across the board and call it a GG. That is why Infernal Dawn (their latest and probably last raiding 20man so far) has seen mass exodus of top end guilds and players leaving Rift with all but handful of them still forcing them selves through broken bosses.
I’m sadly one of those people and let me tell you, its not funny. Even after numerous feedback before launch of the zone, they have failed to address basic issues. Let’s just say, their QoS for ALL CONTENT relies on small group of public players spamming (QQ-ing) everywhere instead of trusted band of pro players and people who understand the game (here should the developers be included as well, but they’re not).
Bottom line, Trion deserves praise for excellent WoW paste on its launch, but they deserve slam on their back for failing to understand this is NOT what players want. The subscription amount tells the whole story.
I don’t hate RIFT.
I dislike poor decisions by devs that effectively make their games not a viable option for me and people I play with.
Keep in mind I was hugely excited by RIFT and Trion, as RIFT was the first AAA-quality launch in many years.
How do you measure success?
When I still played RIFT, it was ranked in the top 30. It’s fallen out of the top 60 now.
I hate to break it to you, but Rift is failing pretty bad and has far, far less subs than SWTOR (despite its failings).
if you had followed the login stats on riftstatus.net for any length of time you would of seen the steady decline in population. To take a more specific example, when I started Rift (sept 2011) there were 3 PvP servers (EU english speaking), the lowest login rating was 1.45 for Sagespire, today the highest rating for any server on the EU english group is 1.40 (Icewatch), there are now only 2 PvP servers, one of which is dead and all of this is after servers going to trial, The story is pretty much the same for the NA shards.
The fact a number of the top progrssion guilds (Maximation, Voodoo, etc) decided to finish with Rift a week after the newest raid was released tells you all you need to know.
I have NEVER been able to get to max level in any MMO I’ve played. I got a Hunter to level 40 in WoW, got a Smuggler to level 28 in SWToR. It has been the bane of my MMO career, and I think I can blame it on the vertical scaling model.
It is always fun at the beginning, at the lower levels, but as you start climbing up, it gets harder, battles take longer, and it just feels like a grind. Everything I loved about low-level combat is lost as I level up. And you can’t just stay in the starter zones forever, as enemies become grayed out experience-wise.
Even though GW2 does have levels, being able to scale down to any content and earn (original) level based rewards means that a player can go back and replay all the content as much as you want. The player is given the choice to progress their character in whatever way they want. If it means pushing through the hardest content, then so be it, but I personally see myself hanging back a bit, like I always have, but at least now, I shouldn’t be disadvantaged as much.
I think GW2 will be more successful than other MMOs because the population #s won’t matter as much, because players can be free to come and go from the game due to no subscription fee.
Population is crucial because this is still a persistent MMO, which are very expensive to maintain. The way they will pay for it is via purchases from the game store and expansion packs, which requires players being vested in the game (IMO harder to do without a monthly subscription).
Server population doesn’t matter as much, as servers only really matter for “home world” selection for WvW and which server your guild is home to (again, for WvW). You can play on whatever server you want. So players will migrate to where other players are naturally without much hand-holding from ArenaNet.
Not only that but unlike in 99% of other MMOs, it is actually profitable for max-level characters to come back to previous zones, since they will scale back down to a lower level and get max-level drops.
Good article but I don’t think it is the business model that needs to evolve but the players that have to evolve. Player expectations are way too high, they expect to be entertained for hours upon hours every day for months and years when they play an MMO that won’t and can never happen even if progression is horizontal.
Having played GW2 I didn’t like the game and didn’t like the progression model. I am almost certain GW2 will have a huge launch with 1+ million plus players but drop off considerably (similar to Rift and SWTOR). I don’t see why horizontal progression will keep players around.
Horizontal progression is not for everyone, that is true. However, GW1 already has proven that it works for a very large number of people. In fact, if you log in today, you’d find many people still playing, despite the fact that the last expansion was released in 2007 and the live team for the game over the last 5 years consists of around 10 people or so.
I really don’t see how Rift has missed it’s opportunity. At least, not for me. I’ve been playing it since head start and keep up on the changes that are inevitable in any AAA MMO. An there have been changes galore. It just tells me that the devs are cognizant of their product and realize things change, for good or bad, at any given time, and that they’re not unwilling to make changes to their game.
There was a point in time that Rift became stale for some and they left, for whatever reason. We all get burnt out from time to time, don’t we? Regardless of what other sites are saying concerning population or number of people playing, the game is still thriving. I’ve jumped around changing servers often in the past few months, and have never been disappointed with the population and general chatter nor have difficulty getting in a new guild (guild finder thingamajig).
Anyway, I guess I’m just defending the MMO I pay to play (it’s natural to defend the things you enjoy). Rift isn’t dead; it’s evolving and has a healthy player base.
I’m not saying GW2 is going to flop. I hope it doesn’t, because I’ve prepurchased it. So, I have a vested interest in it’s success as well. I guess I’m just saying that there is another AAA MMO out there (besides SWTOR and WoW) that has a healthy player base and is making changes (as they should). Perhaps a second chance isn’t completely unwarranted.
Totally agree that horizontal is more interesting for me…
Player versus Player >> Playtime versus Playtime in my book.
Vertical progression just seems to have too many issues with it:
-often feels like work (grinds), and having to work in a game to then have fun gets old
-its a barrier for alts and new/casual players
-forces me into the most efficient play style to minimize grind time as opposed to play style that I have fun with.
-as others have pointed out, it seems to lead to pvp “balance” issues, and a near continuous demand for new pve content and “shinies”.
-and for me anyways it leads to burn out….I opt off the hamster wheel at some point and then its that much of a bigger barrier for me to opt back in
Persistent open world pvp, has captured my attention the most over the years and if a game can get that right, I don’t need constant additional “content” to keep me happy. Just a healthy player population. Really enjoyed my GW2 beta time thus far, and fingers crossed that they can get WvW right.
I can see that a portion of the mmo pvp player base prefers vertical progression though. Its a means to gain an advantage…and some people like playing with an advantage (see existence of FOTM for proof), and posts in here and other forums which basically translate into “I spend more time in front of my computer therefore I deserve a coded advantage” Personally I don’t get that thinking and prefer competitive battles, where skill/strat >> the grind you put in prior to the fight (past a minimal threshold).
Quoting myself here. Holy crap – I did not know Blizzard has already started to implement ‘Blizzard Bucks’: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/blog/4434651
” In addition, with the upcoming launch of Diablo III, players will have the option to use Battle.net Balance to buy and sell items in the game’s currency-based auction house.”
Yup – they’re one step closer to the company store. You can farm items in D3 and sell them in the RMAH to pay for your monthly WoW subscription.
I think this issue boils down to, if i may be melodramatic, freeing mmo gamers from the Skinner Box system we’ve all been put in. And hopefully going back to making games with a simple philosophy: make it fun to play.
The prevailing philosopy has been: make it addictive to play.
The problem here is that”addictive” does not mean “fun”. It COULD. And sometimes does. But in practice usually it means performing repetetive actions for the random possibility of getting a treat.
Are we mice or men?
I think this issue boils down to, if i may be melodramatic, freeing mmo gamers from the Skinner Box system we’ve all been put in. And hopefully going back to making games with a simple philosophy: make it fun to play.
The prevailing philosopy has been: make it addictive to play.
The problem here is that”addictive” does not mean “fun”. It COULD. And sometimes does. But in practice usually it means performing repetetive actions for the random possibility of getting a treat. This is at best poor design. At its worst its insulting.
Are we mice or men?
I’m not Skinner’s rat…I’m Pavlov’s dog… “DING!! W00t!!!”
Just read this BLOG for the second time…..Really enjoy it, and hope people around the industry are taking a peak at it. But Im sure in their own circles they know damn well they have to rethink the MMORPG…
Many developers do know this but until the suits are convinced that the old model is financially non-viable, very little will change.
[…] Taugrim – “The Business Models for MMORPGs Must Evolve” […]
Why don’t we look back when Ragnarok Online was launched? It was so fun that even when you reached max level, you still have PVP to do not to mention a weekly Guild vs Guild vs Guild vs Guild vs Guild vs Guild……………… wherein any guild can attack your castle in order to claim it. You and your 90 guild members should be there to defend it until time runs out or 50% of your member defends it while the other 50% attacks other castles in order to get more castles. The more castles, the more benefit you get, not to mention fame wherein you guild emblem will be posted on a flag in the middle of the town. The guildmaster even pay his members a salary before/after every guild wars. The economy is player driven. You can get good items to sell / use and upgrade up to +10 by hunting normal monsters who drops a certain item at 1-2% chance of getting dropped, therefore you don’t have to beat bosses all the time just to get rich. Even the items used to upgrade items are dropped by all monsters and therefore, some people do business by hunting those and sell it to players. The bosses drop gears that some normal monsters drop. The only difference is boss drops item more at a higher %. There is also a card system wherein normal monster drop a unique card only attainable from that certain monster. Example, you kill a a Hydra and you get a Hydra card (1% of getting drop, can be slotted to weapon, 20% increased damage to demi-human characters), or you kill a boss like Orc Hero and get Orc Hero card (0.01% chance of getting dropped, can be slotted to head gear and give immunity to stun). The end game is not so boring, you have so many things to do and the PVP is very fun. Boss spawns randomly in a certain map every 1hr and they are so hard to kill, mini boss spawns randomly in a certain map and spawns every 30 mins. Many people hunts them but the first party to hit the boss gets the loot (if they won’t die and im sure they’ll die). Boss items are not necessary since they are not that too powerful. Priests makes small amount of money by charging people few zenys for warping them in a certain map. Blacksmiths makes small amount of money by forging gears or making pots or vending items. The rest makes huge amount of money by farming from normal monsters / boss Hunting. Ragnarok gameplay is flawed because it failed to balance the classes but generally, it works, it’s fun, you add your own stats and skills, and not boring. The model they used is subscription method wherein you get the cd for free or download it online, pay 2$ for 1 week unlimited gameplay, 5$ for 1 month unlimited gameplay. There’s much more i forgot to say, but that’s the perfect game i’d like to play again. The only changes i’d like Ragnarok to have is it should be 3D if they remake it, they add instances so that bosses can be killed by everyone anytime, character balance, remove upgrading, more gears, and a deep story. Again, sorry for my grammar.
It is a real shame I have not ever played it myself. I have only heard very good things about it (just like your post). Seeing something like that remade would be very exciting indeed.
[…] The Business Models for MMORPGs Must Evolve (taugrim.com) […]
I started playing back in eq 1, until velious and to me still has been the most fun. Why? Sorry a lil long winded lol.
-First off, multiple starting areas that you could go to and lvl. You had at least 3 places to transverse to. If one area didn’t fit your playstyle or charcter class, you could go some where else.
-You could lvl by yourself or with a group.
-The dungeons where big enough and lvl broad enough to have multiple groups in there all pulling creatures with fast enough spawn times to keep you there.
-Dungeons where not completely linear. They weaved in and not sometimes with more than one entrance and you didn’t get the feeling of getting lead thru the place. With noonks and crannies for special bosses. Unlike now where start here end there done.
-Yes lvling was grindy but that meant you stayed in an area for longer and could experience it more before you out lvl’d it.
-Game was not instanced. Some of the most memorable moments was getting helped by random person or helping someone…. Of course some of the most frustrating was getting trained lol.
-Getting 40 people together to take down dragon’s or gods was truely epic.
-The mob pathing could be spilt if you had good enough enchanters, and monks. Hate pulling one creature and all come running no finese to pulling anymore. Which is why every class in most games need some type of cc.
-Classes felt truely unique, and varied not like today’s class’s that each of can do a lil of everyone’s, but have a primary focus.
-Gear felt epic. I play DnD sometimes, the newest version 4 didn’t have the epic feel of 3.5 why? It doesn’t feel epic. It’s just a tiny increase over previous gear, so I would not like incremental gear increases. I play any RPG, MMO or other to feel epic, powerful, and accomplished. Gear does that and why I spend my time in it. That’s pve though of course, PvP is a different sense of accomplishment.
-World PvP, could only be within 4 lvls of you, so you couldn’t be facerolled by a random 50 on a PvP server at low lvls, that was bored and wanted to harass people.
-Player driven community at first, there was no auction house when game rolled out and nothing was bind to self everything was for sale, and everyone gathered in the east commons zone to show off and sell made for a great impromptu fair atmosphere. First time making it to that zone seeing all the different classes and armored was just amazing.
I’m sure there’s more but these have stuck out as things i have missed most from other mmos I have played. Where there bad things of Eqs 1 yes but these I believed they got it right as it kept me invested and active wanting to play more to see more. I like horizontal scaling only for PvP. In pve it gets boring fast to me. I played GW1 and after a while when all you had to gain was the next skill so you could PvP more effectively it got old as killing mobs in pve then ment nothing, no xp, no items, just a skill after doing sometimes very large instances.
When players go against players though I am in ageement that horizontal is the way to go as it should come down to skill and knowledge of your class over hey i have a million hrs to spend on playing and you dont so I’m better than you.
So to wrap up my long winded speech that wandered more than I thought it would. I think that both vertical and horizontal are needed in a game, and it needs to balanced properly, which every person has different views on how that’s done. The more I read of Gw2 though I am liking the way it seems to be mixing both… Everything in moderation :D
Ps.. as to f2p models, over sub etc.. as long as its a good engrossing game i prefer pay + sub. I hate microtransactions, for in the long run I end up paying more than if I just pay one sub, plus that helps keep people working on the product I want to see more content for and I know it will come with. Though paying for expansions as I’ve been paying for a subscription is annoying. Just not as annoying as “hey! F2p except if you want this, and this, oh and that. Gotta pay!”. It’s not f2p then so don’t call it that!
Just wanted to respond quickly to this, even though its an old(er) blog.
“What we learned from RIFT is that a strong launch with a good product is not sufficient to maintain a subscriber base.”
This is not really the case at least not relatively speaking. Rift may not have the sub base of a larger game like WoW or even SWTOR but Rift was designed to operate with 200k+ subs. Not well over 500k as SWTOR is. We know that Rift did extremely well its first year, earning almost double its costs even with a lackluster end to the year due to SWTOR’s launch.
The bottom line is that Rift is still doing extremely well, and has actually grown since December last year (no doubt they took a hit from SWTOR but a good number of those people came back). Whats telling is the reason they came back. And its something you touched on. Fast content iteration. This is huge in a sub based game. And no one does it at the speed Trion does. Now with the expansion coming out Rift is poised to make a very big dent in the MMO space. I knew about the expansion a long time ago but I think people who didn’t were shocked at how Trion was able to put such a huge amount of stuff into the expansion while maintaining a breakneck live pace.
The biggest issue Rift faces though is that it is a vertical growth model. And that system over time is just almost impossible to support. We have seen WoW struggle with it in a major way. Rift faces it on two fronts with PVP (the PVP gear grind in Rift is just horrible), and even in PVE. An expansion had become almost a necessity to “reset” the game. Rift PVE continues to thrive, but I worry about Rift pvp. I see less and less people in warfronts. I know Conquest will bring alot of players back but I don’t know that it will be enough. And not announcing ANY pvp features for Storm Legion did not go over well with the Rift pvp community.
Regardless I hope you come back to Rift for a bit in 1.9 to try out Conquest and the new improved Bolstering (up to 36 in warfronts and Conquest).
[…] Again, Guild Wars 2 is doing something that represents a really smart call for players. They are keeping with their old model of no ongoing charges to play. That in and of itself, makes this game a lot more accessible to folks who may not have the luxury of shelling out $15 a month every month. The use of an in-game store with micro-transactions for convenience (remote bank access, XP boosts, dyes, non-combat clothing sets, etc) is a great idea. I know that I will buy gems if for no other reason than to continue to support development of new content. I know that the concept of in-game stores and microtransactions often wrankle folks who are morally opposed to anything that might give an advantage to folks who have more money than skill, but from an economic standpoint, this seems a good decision to costly recurring monthly fees. This is probably also a good place to point everyone to a great article by Taugrim (if you aren’t reading his blog, you should start, immediately) that covers some insights and opinions on the business of MMOs. https://taugrim.com/2012/05/24/the-business-models-for-mmorpgs-must-evolve/ […]
As usual, well thought out and insightful. I totally agree with you that the models need to evolve and you point out some good suggestions for the players and the industry. Thanks for the good read!
I was curious if you were planning on making a post about horizontal progression and the recent tiered trait changes in Guild Wars 2? I was very disappointed to here that they were moving more towards a vertical design with their system. I was also hoping that they’d fix up traits and make the less desirable ones more desirable, and begin to remove the bland stat increase traits. Instead, I was hoping to see traits that added functionality to existing skills and would thus open a narrowly designed build to more playstyle options.
I played this last BWE as a Mesmer, and by the end of the day, myself and many others found a broken build in the new system. It had little to do with trait combinations creating issues, but everything to do with one single trait not working properly (Phantasmal Haste). Tiering seems like their bandaging the wrong aspect when balance has a lot to do with many other things in the game.
I’ve been thinking about making a post or video about that, but with work travel I haven’t had the time.
[…] traditional business model simply doesn’t work any longer. The reasons for this are many and varied, but the end result is that subscription based services […]
I was reviewing this entry today, and I’m not sure that I agree with #1 anymore. While I think that PVP would benefit from this in most games, I don’t think that PVE works in a horizontal progression. The idea sounds fantastic on paper, but from my experience on both GW2 and TSW players aren’t interested in better looking gear. Once they have a look they like, they aren’t likely to change it.
Players want to see better stats. They want to be the best geared person in their guild/server/world, etc.
Guild Wars 2 was such a massive disappointment for me at end-game that I just couldn’t play it. I went back to SWTOR to raid with my friends there.
But I’m very interested in Wildstar. The devs have their heads in the right place. More than half of their team is working on end-game. Meaningful things to do after the leveling process is over. Which includes stories. PVP that has Arenas, Battlegrounds and massive 40v40 warplots.
If you haven’t been watching this MMO, I would strongly suggest doing so.