Cracking Open the Cash Shop: Part 2

Content Styles

Now here is where things get a little harder to determine the actual effect of the various payment styles. They certainly do well in bringing more people into the game and genre but, as was said by the writer, you don’t have the pressure to like the game. Easy for the potential player to jump in and jump out at will with little forethought about the game. It kind implies that you wouldn’t feel the need to stick around if you faced any sort frustration or inconvenience; in the face of those the potential FtP player is likely to give up and go on to other titles.

This is an obvious change in the style of development we see in these newer FtP mmo’s. Everything is made just a little more easy and directed with removing the chance of the player feeling lost or confused. Quest are more streamlined from one to the next, markers are that much more obvious.. they even have bright glowing trails to follow or in some cases it will take you to the right place for you. It is a system that is slowly removing any sort of player input to the circumstance as well as requiring little thought to complete. A simplistic pez dispenser in most cases; hop on the ride and enjoy the loot.

This has of course led into what the writer called Frontloaded Content; making those earlier areas as polished and entertaining as possible yet this denotes the rest of the game is lacking in quality or quantity to compensate. Make it better to hook the players first might seem like a good idea but mmo’s are a long-term experience. It is rather disingenuous which will eventually be revealed, you’re selling an experience that is uncharacteristic to the rest of the game. This is how you lose respect as a developer and many games have suffered from such a design approach.  It is the effect of the journey itself and the end game that really proves whether a mmo is going to last and I’m seeing this frontloaded issue a lot lately; not just FtP titles of course but it seems more prominent.

What I have noticed in my own gaming life is if I have bought a title and am paying for an experience than I feel more invested in the title. I’m more likely to give it time to enjoy, I’m more likely to try and overcome challenges and frustration to continue and I’m more likely to gain a complete impression of the title before proclaiming it a failure. Sub games seem to just get longer to impress and that might be a good thing for a game where the early play has little to do with long-term interest. In this way I also believe games can try to be more different from the others; they can innovate more as the player is likely to acclimatize to the differences during play before deciding whether to continue.

Friends

Yay, they got a part right here except they seem to misunderstand a little the importance of certain things. Yes,, games are better played with friends and that doesn’t just include mmo’s but, it is the game and the mechanics within that help this far more than any sort of buy in price. As has been brought to my attention being able to play with friends can be the deciding factor; a buy in price being a restriction to how many will play or if anyone will play at all. I still don’t understand why someone would decide to never ever buy a game as your cutting off a wealth of brilliant experiences but that’s their choice.

The part that still affects the multiplayer experience though is the mechanics themselves within the game. Too many mmo’s have a lot of restrictions about whether we can play with friends or enjoy the same content. Level ranges and gear scores have been holding friends playing together for years but there are many other restrictions as well. I’ve seen being on a higher quest change ruin the experience as well. Even if they don’t stop higher friends from playing lower it often becomes a case of invalidating the experience, one shotting mobs and such or not being able to contribute.

This has been getting better in recent times> some are providing more tools for higher characters to scale down towards others but this is not nearly far enough. These restrictions hurt cooperative play more so than I’ve seen any payment scheme yet they have little to do with it. It is an obvious design choice. The better games for playing together are actually the more sandbox type games. The open-ended experiences that free the player to do the content they like when they want and to make their own goals and I see most of those being subscription games. I rarely see ftp titles come close to this as they are too busy peddling the same linear front-loaded design.

Accessibility

The writer see’s the size of client downloads itself as the last barrier to the player within the industry that needs to be overcome… is that really an issue? Cloud Streaming is nowhere near ready yet and even the slow incremental downloads of games like rift cause issues for those of us with slower bandwidths. In the end for the speeds required to utilise those system effectively you could have already downloaded the whole client within a minimal amount of time. Even now you can grab a 20g client or more in several hours; just leave it on overnight and you could wake up in the morning to play. Is that really an issue?Are gamers this inpatient?

Ahh yes but browser games, the saviour to us all. Now I know they were scraping the end of the barrel for positive factors. I’m sorry but none of these games offer a comparable experience in regards to the look, feel and play of the average client based MMO. They are a far more simplistic code mediums without any of the nuance or complexity of other development software used in the industry. I have played some great browser based games but there is already a wealth of those titles available and I wouldn’t want to see these other titles I enjoy devolve into something like that.

In my mind this fetish for accessibility the industry has is what is killing it. We are drawing people into the genre that actually don’t like it or many of its features. They have a more single player mindset and want to continue to see this playstyle yet, it is conflicts with the basics premise of a mmo. Easy content, constant rewards, little challenge and the insistence that everything should be soloable… it’s silly. We should be continuing on this heritage rather than trying to be a lesser experience, more time orientated experience than your average RPG.

Not every game has to appeal to everyone or being easily entered and played. Sometimes having certain barriers whether that be payment, skill, time and many other factors is a good thing. Of course options are a great thing but it has gotten to a point where near every game now is trying to be as accessible as possible when, this neglects a large part of the market. There was a wonderful article that I can’t remember where or what it was called now that brought out the idea that we need both accessible and challenging games within any medium, and a range in between. You need accessible titles to draw people in, to build a fanbase and appeal to people who want a simpler experience and then you need more difficult and challenging titles for the older players and those wanting more to further their learning and experiences. Without one the system fails as your either stifling growth of the population or of the players themselves. We need a range of titles here of varying styles and features, not just this one style fits all approach that the industry has a hard on for

Well that about wraps up an argument against certain article with levels of stupidity I have not seen before and probaly won’t for some time to come. Take care out there and if you should ever need the service of Captain Nerd Rage than just yell out the secret signal and I shall be there, ranting at clouds once more as well as those darn kids to get off my lawn.

TLDR from these two posts:

  • Options in payment styles is a great thing.
  • FtP has many faults
  • Judge games on.. oh I don’t know, their actual features and gameplay
  • Lets never speak of this again… it’s just not worth it

#FtP #Payment #ArmchairDeveloper

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6 thoughts on “Cracking Open the Cash Shop: Part 2

  1. “What I have noticed in my own gaming life is if I have bought a title and am paying for an experience than I feel more invested in the title.”

    I think that’s the key for me as well. The issue I have with a Free-to-Play game is that initially, I have to get over the fact that I don’t perceive the game as having value. There is no urgency for me to ‘get my money’s worth’ so if the gameplay doesn’t hook me, then I will quickly lose interest. Sadly, that gameplay rarely does hook me because, as you point out, it has been diluted to hook a broader base of customers rather than core MMO players like myself.

    And, to be honest, that is generally a principle that works for me across all entertainment. If I pay for something, then I am far more likely to take full advantage of it. I have pirated games in the past (especially older ones), as well as books. I’ve found that having a huge supply of pirated entertainment does not necessarily translate to me being entertained. Simply because I need to lose something (money) so I feel compelled to get it back.

    • Pretty much how I feel. I tend to rate these games as a lesser experience just from a certain bias. Although in getting more experience to confirm that.

      It’s a funny saying to get your money worth. It implies getting enough out of a purchase but where does that leave free games. I see a lot of people eating time to getting your moneys worth where I almost always judge based on enjoyment and engagement.

      • My money’s worth is a really subjective measurement for me, one that encompasses both enjoyment and engagement, as well as impact.

        More importantly, it comes with a notion of a relationship. Namely, since I have spent money, I should get something in return. That alone guarantees that’ll I will try to put my best foot forward to get something back. It also means that I am more likely to be forgiving for certain things.

        In contrast, a free game doesn’t have that relationship. Once I might’ve said ‘time spent downloading’, but that’s a non-factor now. It is entirely up to the game itself to hook me in and make me want to play.

        Sadly, the way F2P MMOs try to hook people in DO NOT WORK on me.

    • The other side of the coin is that the hardest thing for a developer is getting people in the door. Having been around since the relatively early days of MMOs, I remember when people having to pay a subscription was a major barrier to entry. There are still people like that.

      Let me give a personal example. I currently play a lot of DDO. But, I didn’t play the game at launch. My friends weren’t playing, so I didn’t bother. But, when Massively was going to play some DDO, I decided that I would play along with them. It was free, so there was little investment on my part. Here I am, years later, and I’ve poured a few hundred dollars into the game; probably about as much as I’d have paid for a subscription. But, with one important aspect: I have continual access to the content I’ve purchased as long as the game is running. I don’t have to keep paying a subscription to keep playing the game, and I like that. But, I almost certainly wouldn’t be playing (and have paid for) DDO if not for the ability to play it for free.

      Free-to-play has some other good elements for developers, but you can go read my blog if you want a laundry list of those. 🙂

      • i do understand that I just see how it can and does change the direction of the game with developers and even my own mindset. There are certain types of things in these ftp games that really irritate, those 100 dollar expansion packs for instance when they contain far less than a usual one.. the premium pricing for near every item rather than appealing to the majority. It needs to stop being a practice of milking the most money and more about having ethical and sustainable business practices

        I agree the sub is still a big barrier to gamers but I think a good word of mouth does help to overcome this. Friends hear a games cool and you’ve all suddenly bought the game and playing it. To be honest I think people seek out an experience that interests them first rather than the payment model completely guiding their choice.

        I’m not against ftp at all, this whole word spam was more just to add a differing opinion to what seems the dominate paradigm now… I’m playing a couple right now, even throwing a few dollars at them and eagerly awaiting for one in particular at the same time. I just think there are better options out there and some more suited to certain games than what’s being used.

        And hopefully I won’t be ranting about the cash shop in one future game in particular

  2. Pingback: Cracking Open the Cash Shop: Parts 1 & 2 | Healing the Masses | Murf vs Internet

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