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Category Archives: World of Warcraft
Tobold asks the question when will WoW go free to play and how that might be implemented. Blizzard has certainly learned the lesson all good gym owners know– the neglected subscription is the ticket to success. Who among us hasn’t joined a gym or health club with a monthly fee and ahem how shall we say… neglected to make full use of it?
I have no idea what the average is, but it must be a significant percentage of members continue to pay but, even with the best of intentions, stop going to the gym regularly or at all. Call it guilt, call it taking a wee break, call it preserving your access should you want to play, it’s still recurring income.
Blizz may get there, but I don’t think they’ve lost enough people to justify going F2P yet.
For other games that, in Tobold’s words, don’t justify a subscription when compared to many players’ level of interest or commitment, F2P is just the ticket. DDO, LotRO and now STO are three that have come back on my radar specifically because they went free to play. Being able to match my spend with my level of enthusiasm and or time commitment is a boon to me.
Even with a traditional sub though, in theory I could maximize my return on the sub by consuming as much content as my time budget would permit. If I were only interested in the leveling game in SWTOR, and played obsessively since launch, I might have consumed all the storylines for all the classes/factions by now. I could see SWTOR going free to play at some point following the path others have taken– pay for fluff, utility items, progress enhances and or access to content areas/modules for progression.
Eve however remains the anomaly. One can legally buy characters, and effectively in game currency as well, but one cannot buy progression. Eve progression is skill based and skill training is time based. The only way to continue to progress is to continue to subscribe.
So why doesn’t Eve just sell time?
If I really want to spend the next year working through a skill training plan (not an unheard of amount of time) why not let me buy the time now, apply it to those skills I want to train and be done with it? If I’m going to spend $180 to learn to fly a Titan, why spend it over twelve months?
One of Eve’s major barriers for new comers is never being able to catch up skillpoint wise to friends who have played much longer. Granted that progression can go in any number of directions, but to switch from a hardcore miner industrialist to a 0.0 capital ship pilot would take a very long time.
Seems like a natural progression for Eve. Eliminate subscriptions, sell a time equivalent for skill training, or just skill points out right to be applied to skills of a players choice, make that freely tradeable like PLEX and you would have the most flexible model in the universe. Players could truly exchange time for money in whatever proportion they wish.
Earn isk by playing, purchase training and it’s truly free to play. Buy isk or training and your time budget is preserved. Of course the one element that likely prevents this from upsetting the games balance is that to survive in Eve, you still need to learn how to be a good pilot. Something that you just can’t buy.
This started as a comment to Wilhelm’s post but the tale grew in the telling…
Regarding SoE’s discussion point about selling max level characters…
As someone who doesn’t raid, I suppose I don’t really care. In my mind, its a bit like hiring someone to carry you to the top of Mt. Everest so you can take a snapshot and put it on your wall.
But still, SoE’s proposed solution raises a more interesting question which many folks have been discussing of late– how do you reconcile vertical progression with a raiding end game and permit a game to grow and thrive? How do you bridge the gaps for new and old players and between new and old content? Or between current content and the “end game”?
What experience seems to show is that shoehorning both games into one does a disservice to both.
An ideal solution in my mind would be something along the following lines:
- Raiding is a separate game along the Guildwars PvP model with limited world interaction
- Leveling unlocks the ability to roll a new character at any level up to the highest level attained
- With the purchase of each expansion, players may roll a character at the base level of that expansion
- Experience curves wouldn’t be compressed, previous content remains intact
Raiders would get what they want and avoid the exercise of leveling through trivial content unrelated to raiding skills.
Levelers new and old could come into a game at any point in the game they desired and be with the pack but still have the opportunity to play previous content as it was intended.
Levelers could choose to level 1 to cap or leapfrog along experiencing a new chapter of content as they saw fit much like choosing which film or book of a series to read.
Completionists can play cover to cover and replayability is preserved.
Whether “expansion” characters would be permitted to visit the old world is something I haven’t fully considered. Locking them out of the old world isn’t very immersive, but probably strengthens the lowbie economy. Forced down-mentoring maybe to avoid the usual problems?
Running around EQ2X this weekend and enjoying working on some tradeskills. Crafting in EQ2 is one of the things EQ2 does a bit better (note I said a bit better because its far from ideal) than many MMOs. There is a bit if a minigame to it, so perfect success is not guaranteed though there is little chance of real failure, the products are genuinely useful, there is quite a diversity of recipes across a broad range of professions, it doesn’t require the generation of many many useless/valueless items to make progress and its an entirely separate progression mechanism from the rest of the game.
Of course, all crafting requires inputs. That means gathering. Ugh.
No MMO seems to have done this part well. So what has the last decade brought us on the gathering front?
Consider the Miner.
Random spawning, mailbox-sized chunks of “ore” that are curiously unevenly distributed in zones the difficulty of which correlates to their relative value. How immersive.
How do we find this resource? Mining radar of course. Sort of Yukon Cornelius meets Aquaman. And how is this oh so valuable ore actually gathered? Take out your trusty pocket pick, give the ore pinata a few whacks and voila. Paydirt.
Not exactly the picture of mining that I had in mind. Why did they bother with Moria or Thorin’s Halls when the dwarves could have just skipped through the fields tapping rocks as they went?
Sure some games try to jazz up the immersion by actually having the nodes spawn in or near hills. Others just don’t bother. How the farmers in Kingsfell manage to plow their fields with all that rich iron popping up in their fields is beyond me.
Eve got it partially right. Mining in Eve is a full-blown progression game in its own right and encourages group play. Yes, its a bit boring with the waiting factor, but to me that is a question of how much, not whether it takes time.
Mining in Eve requires the development of various skills that increase proficiency (speed, mining yield, refining efficiency, etc.) as well as collaborative supporting activities (hauling, group management, even defense).
So why hasn’t any fantasy MMO bothered with truly fleshing out the gathering professions properly? I for one would love to have to go prospecting for ore deposits and constructing a mining operation out in the wilds, alone or with others. Then figure out how to haul it all back to town all the while defending your operation from marauding mobs.
A noob miner would have little but his pick, pan, a trusty pack mule and a bit of luck. A journeyman could construct a proper mine that would yield more, a guild could construct and man a large mine, etc. Like scouting asteroid belts in Eve, prospecting for a good site with lots of the desired ore (to justify construction of a mine, etc.) would be half the battle. Imagine if prospecting was a bit like WoW’s archaeology?
Of course, one aspect that is key to the viability of Eve’s mining progression is the economy. Even the lowliest of the low minerals (Tritanium) which comes from the most abundant asteroid in the game (Veldspar) is used in nearly everything constructed in the game.
Copper doesn’t cease being useful just because I can wear or wield iron or steel or mithril items.
The same paradigm can be applied to any of the other gathering professions as well: hunting/trapping for hides and leather; farming for food and fiber (thank you LotRO, sort of); lumber mills (with depleting forests) for wood.
Did no one at Blizzard remember the resource gathering part of Warcraft when they designed WoW?
Was an entire civilization built solely on the basis of logs of weathered driftwood that washed up on a beach or random yew branches that the wind knocked down? Did no one think to swing one of those enormous battle axes at an actual tree from time to time?
Even fishing never progresses beyond a string on a stick… No fish traps? No one invented the throw net let alone a fishing boat?
Of course, a key component to making a system like this work is dangerous transport. Without some risk, there would be little excitement to the process and less value in the product. Lets add some transportation for the poor gatherers. Start with a big backpack, claw your way up to a donkey, add a cart, maybe an ox team and wagon…
And of course, a nice big slow transport full of valuable goods invites bandits…
Seriously, I’d do this all day.
Tobold’s post quite nicely explained why our little group is looking outside of WoW for group fun. Frankly, there is nothing in the world that is particularly fun for a group to do. Even if the mobs weren’t trivial, XP is diluted in a group (versus bolstered in other games) and if you want to enjoy the actual quest content, you can’t increase your level of challenge by playing in red zones since you can’t get the quests!
Several of the commenters somewhat snarkily chided that somehow that viewpoint is tainted if one of your reasons for saying WoW no longer lets people play together is “lower efficiency.” What is lost in the discussion is what efficiency really means.
On its face, most people assume that “efficiency” means simply the shortest path (time-wise) to the level cap. Personally, I think that’s too narrow. In my mind, that’s only looking at one narrow aspect of the entire picture.
A better measure is the amount of reward you receive from participating in group activity– whether that is gold, xp, loot or unquantifiable fun– in a given play session. The unstated denominator in all of these things is time. The fun quotient.
When you add time or proportionately reduce your numerator, the fun quotient decreases and the overall entertainment experience is diminished. Its in that sense that it becomes “inefficient.” Its suboptimal entertainment measured against the potential you know is there. Its worse in a game where alt-itis is rampant since its likely that you may have experienced the content more than one time on different characters.
Its gets more complicated when you start adding in the impact of “group generated” rewards– the fun stuff that people bring to the mix extrinsic to the game itself– conversation, jokes, humorous mistakes and yes, the sense of a shared experience that is unique to that group. Even if its a well known encounter or challenge, your group attempt(s), successful or otherwise, are still unique. These group benefits (and detriments) can add to and substract from the numerator in the fun quotient.
How we perceive the value of rewards is measured against what we had to invest to get them– time, mostly. Even the other things we “invest” in them are still just proxies for time (even consumable items from a cash shop, the cash is still a proxy for RL time). In our MMOs the progression element (whether level, gear or otherwise) is almost universally the main reason we play.
We ding therefore we are. Anything that slows down the ding (in the broadest sense) without adding something else to the mix (recognizing that is entirely subjective) frankly makes the process less fun than it could be alone and hence less efficient from a “fun” perspective. A lower fun quotient than soloing.
WoW grouping for open world content suffers from all of these ills. XP is diluted, so time to ding is extended. The challenge of fights is completely trivialized since there really is no open world group content. Collection quests in a group multiply the time it takes to complete them. Finally, mobs may be killed so quickly that a group experiences increased downtime waiting for them to respawn and all of these aspects feedback on themselves as well further exacerbating the problem.
At some point, the additional time to gain meaningful progression or the diminution of the challenge in gameplay simply becomes much less fun per session in a group. Lower efficiency in the broadest sense, means less fun. Azeroth in a group just isn’t that much any more.
At this point in WoW’s evolution, I often wonder why it isn’t a local client or individually instanced world with a global chat server and matchmaking lobby much more like Guildwars or DDO.