Buying Blocks and Burning Bridges

Well, the monetisation of Everquest next landmark has been outlined on the forums and I have to say that I’m not very impressed with their plans, so much so that I might just get a refund if that’s still possible. Games have to make money of course and I expected the usual ftp options but this seems a little to integrated within regular gameplay systems to the extent that I’m worried about it.

There is a post available on the forums with the current plans for monetisation across the alpha and beta stages, much of which is the usual fair. For some reason I expected SOE to be a bit more innovative in this regards: they’ve had a wonderful marketing strategy so far, they are championing new game play types we don’t see much in the AAA space and it was hard to not be wrapped up in the initial hype. A new modern multiplayer minecraft, that’s like gaming nirvana but what we got just isn’t hitting the mark for me anymore.

I have to admit that right now, it is a little too alpha for me. I expected a few more systems already in place, better tools and a more defined progression points. I also thought we’d be in the larger world already rather than these smaller instanced zones. This by itself isn’t really enough to turn me away, I’ve stuck with quite a few alphas longer, I still enjoy it and will still wait for the eventually realise but the monetisation post has changed my mind for the immediate game. It’s just hard to stop that feeling that the experience is somehow going to be lessened by their addition; extra time grinds added at certain points to compensate (burled wood and those rare gems) or like certain mechanics would be designed to frustrate into purchasing… I just don’t know yet but I’ve been burnt before and so am a bit more cautious.

The fact they are already bringing in a cash shop system this early is all kinds of wrong. We barely have a game yet, a bare minimum of the necessities that are supposed to be in and a long time before it even approaches something like what was claimed in the initial pitch and yet they already want to begin charging for services for these systems that are neither in place or if they are, are extremely imbalanced. As far as I’m concerned I actually payed into the alpha to avoid this kind of internal meddling with mechanics for the sake of a cash stream. I wanted to experience the purer untainted version first, a time when the haves and have-nots are measured in time and investment, not a credit card statement. I didn’t want to see that shiny button or options that infest any other wise raw, but interesting experience. I thought the number of people that payed into these earlier modes would be able to stave off this aspect as it surely would have earned enough to support the process and extra overhead while in this stage… I was wrong and I iz dissapoint.

Selling resources has to be the most contested part of the plan. I can understand the point were people just want an easy way to start building, to be able to have the resources and tools they need in order to start creating the wonderful creations they have been but I just believe having the option there diminishes the multiplayer aspect of the game. It’s not just a game for the singular person, measuring success solely for themselves, there are many more people around and when you have a much greater level of interconnectedness then it creates many issues.

Such a thing actually reminds me more of the free(ish) mobile games wherein you are paying increasing amounts in order to remove time grinds. That makes a certain amount of sense there although a few take it to its extreme. In a mmo the time factor is part of the experience, you remove that you remove the long-term sustainability in order to make a short-term boost. It’s the time in an mmo that helps to form an investment in it; with the mechanics, places, and people. It’s also the memorable experiences that happen during this time that keep you coming back for more. If you’ve finished and progressed all you need to in a couple of weeks then what… probably trying something else.

I think it also diminishes the level of achievement in attaining something in-game when there is an equal item easily attainable within the cash shop. That magnificent castle starts to become a little less valuable when the amount of materials can be acquired easier, no one knows whether you mined or bought materials and as such the level of achievement becomes comparable. That amount of effort it take to acquire gathering tools and other items seems to get cheapened as well.

A big issue that might come with selling resources and crafted components that improve or boost items is when the PvP enters the game. It’s coming, that much is assured and based on what the game is it would seem to be going with something in the open world. When Items that boost, improve or a permanent improvements to stats whose effect is noticeable in combat then I consider it pay to win. I realise the end point will probably be the same but I find it hard to believe that such a thing wouldn’t give someone the advantage in some situation.

Even if you don’t agree on this part of being Pay to win it seems SOE are skirting very close to that boundary, stepping over a little to sense the reception and then acting like the enlightened and reformed drug attic just after. There are a lot of elements just touching it; selling building materials in a game about building for one, better tools where there is a wealth of gathering and just other concerns that pop up whenever the word “convenience” is used. Enough that the issue can’t be ignored but also can’t be substantiated.

My biggest issue with the apparent selling of resources and craftable items and consumables is that it has the potential to have a huge effect on the economy. Whenever you add something that in some way lessens the demand of an in-game good you are effecting the economy in a negative way. You are removing the agency from players to enjoy a variety of gameplay styles and yet still contribute to the general economy. Selling resources themselves lessens the usefulness and maybe even the cost value of gatherers, a playstyle of exploring the world and delving deep within that I was actually rather interested in. It diminishes the importance of dedicated crafters to buy and sell within the markets. The farmers that grind mobs for hours that want to sell materials and probably a few more game play styles I’m forgetting.

I would actually be more ok if they sold in-game coin, like is popular in a lot of mmo’s. This way players can still speed up their progress in order to attain items, resources or costumes the want while still supporting the economy and a variety of playstyles. An MMO is an ecosystem and this way you aren’t detracting from that or worse, lessening the connection between the various areas.

I am still interested in Landmark to see what it eventually becomes as well as how it impacts upon Everquest Next. It is a very interesting experiment they have going here, just the creations people are already making build hope within me for the future of it. I’ll probably even jump back into Landmark eventually to build once more, explore around the world and it could become something more but right now, my interest has been diminished enough for me to be content to wait.. at least until I know more of the direction the game will take.

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5 thoughts on “Buying Blocks and Burning Bridges

  1. Curious as to how you would suggest monetization for the game? Selling customization only gets you so far. Selling consumables is one of the few sustainable business models. From what I’ve read on Landmark, the only consumables are directly related to power/achievement, which to your point negates the purpose of the game.

    • I’m not too happy about the whole selling resources part, just seems to be a mechanic to avoid either playing the game or engaging with other players.

      In the announcement they also talk about selling crafted items and boosts within the store, stuff like improving gathering tools.
      It just seems these are designed to circumvent the economy, I would much rather they have the ability to buy gold and then buy it from players in game. This way they can still buy resources and those boosts but are supporting the gatherers and crafters

      I actually think selling just customisation with a few boosts can be sustainable. As long as the outfits come out regularly and are of a decent quality it will do fine.You don’t need to resort to these other tricks, if the game is good you’ll get people paying but to often they cripple certain parts with microtransaction and it either makes players leave or become a little tighter with their wallet

  2. I am appreciative of the fact they are bringing in monetization early. Even if it is a paid alpha, a lot of people play these things like they are the release (albeit still in a ‘living’ state of change) version. The longer they wait and the more stuff they add before monetization would just increase the “WAIT YOU ARE GOING TO CHARGE ME MORE?!” backlash.

    • I don’t know. They could have outlined what they were going to do but held off until a lot later, at least until most of the systems are polished and in place. It’s almost like they’re desperate to get more money in

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