We’re a bunch of pathetic whiners with no backbone. Keen’s got a post up about the latest details of Age of Conan’s end-game raiding grind which he takes issue with. I whole-heartedly agree that that kind of tired resource sucking design element is a big turn off. I wasn’t that interested in AoC even after participtating in the stress tests, etc. From what little I’ve seen, Keen’s PvP weekend impressions were spot on, but I digress.
The issue at hand is that here is a game that purports to have structure that Keen and I’m sure many others will find objectionable, annoying or at least off-putting. Maybe it matters little to some, maybe it matters a lot to more. At the end of the day, Keen seems resigned to vigorously object to the approach the devs have taken but will still gladly give them $50 for the box and probably some subscription revenue (not to mention whatever they get for the so-called Fileplanet “Open” beta). I’m sure many of us will find ourselves in a similar conundrum.
I did the same thing with PotBS. I was very luke warm about the game from closed and open beta but decided I’d give FLS the benefit of the doubt since I didn’t have time to personally experience all of the aspects of gameplay during beta. In retrospect, I wish I didn’t. I did know about most of them (not the buggy ridiculously broken ones, but the major design features) and even though I was somewhat iffy on whether that would be the game for me, I handed them $50 only to cancel before the initial 30 days ran out.
LotRO wooed me and I gladly gave them my $50 and subbed. I loved the early part of LotRO, but the middle bits started being unfun. I parked my accounts but kept them live and the dollars flowing to Turbine which has regularly and continually improved the game, added content and garnered my attention again. I had seen the high quality that Turbine had put into the game and was hopeful that it would evolve in the right direction (for me at least) and consciously wanted them to succeed in doing so. So I’ve paid and continue to play.
I continue to go back and forth with Eve. Its not 100% my game, but I do like what they’re doing and want to support it. But I can’t always justify keeping the subs live when I’m just not playing and not sure that I’ll come back to stay next time. Or the time after that.
WoW I’ve continued to play and bought TBC without hesitation even though I wouldn’t bring my new mains to Outland for a year after the expansion. Quite frankly, if I knew then what I know now about TBC (at release at least), I probably wouldn’t have thrown down for it on release. I’ll certainly be more careful about WotLK because I think WoW has lost its way though I’m still enjoying our group adventures.
We have two true feedback mechanisms that work with game developers– our dollars and our feet, and our feet only matter if they’ve already gotten our dollars and by then, its probably too late for us at least. The number of games that have successfully “come back” after losing someone is probably small (EQ2). The number of successful games that have grown and grown into a player base is similarly small (Eve), but have slowly grown because of their design decisions not despite them.
In the democratic capitalism of game development, one dollar (or euro or yen, or won or …) equals one vote. If we really want to see projects succeed, we have to put our money where our mouth is and buy and subscribe. We are patrons of the game arts. If, however, we object to design decisions made, then the last thing we should do is support them with our hard earned cash.
Once they’ve got it, don’t expect an audience with the game gods or even assume that you have a voice that matters. If you’re playing, you’re paying and if you’re paying, they’re doing something right (in their minds). If AoC sells 250k boxes ($12.5 million), they’ve probably gone a good way toward recouping their development cost. Tack on three more months of subs (beyond the initial 30 days) and you’ve got another $11+ million. $24 million in revenue in the first four months. Not a hit, not a giant win by any means, but enough revenue to take the pressure off the devs so they don’t have to answer the question “Why aren’t more people playing? Why aren’t more people staying?”. If we don’t pay, they have to ask those questions and hopefully win our business. If not, and they are still successful, then its just not our game.
The dirty little secret is that unless it sucks SO bad that we can’t stand it, subscriber’s remorse sets in and most of us want to see some kind of ROI on our time or dollar investment in a game. We are enamoured by the new and the promise of the better. We like the shiny, even if its dingy and often refuse to see the Man behind the curtain which is the same Man behind all the curtains of all the unsatisfying games we bought and continue to pay for.
Truth is we get the games we pay for, so we must be very careful of what we pay for.