Welcome back to the conclusion of the DDO F2P interviews, as I usher in the same group from this past weekend I also want to welcome Mindspat to the group discussion. Mindspat is a member of MMORPG.com who’s been playing on Ghallanda since Dungeons & Dragons Online went live. Again I want to welcome everyone back; joining us again is Jerry Snook from DDOCast, Mike, Aaron, taiara and the infamous Agent Smith who’s been quite active in the “Oh snap, ddo is F2P” forum thread.
I first want to refresh everyone, recently Turbine Inc. has announced that their popular subscription based MMO, Dungeons and Dragons online is going to be changing to a free to play model with a cash shop coming this fall. I got in contact with a few DDO “veterans” to ask how they felt about the changes. Here is what they said…
Inktomi: What do you think about the possible new barrage of new players coming into DDO Unlimited as free to play members? Do you think it will attract new players and bring old ones back?
Jerry: I’m looking forward to it. DDO could use some new blood. Going F2P will put DDO at the absolute top of the Free MMO hill, instead of DDO being somewhere in the middle (commercial-success-wise, I mean) of the pay-to-play pile.
Mike: I feel it is a good thing. People who play daily complain about the low population and they wish more would join. It will definatly encourage grouping and keep people on the game more with guilds starting to form. Some people who played seem to be excited about the possible population boost.
Mindspat: I think it will absolutely remove many barriers that existed with the game. One of the main issues is a psychological attachment many potential players have that makes them believe a Subscription based MMO is to have open world content where anyone can stumble upon your quest and potentially ruin an evening of fun.
Aaron: I can see it garnering new players, old players to a lesser extent. I hope that it brings more popularity to the game and incentive for Turbine to take the game further.
Agent Smith: I seriously doubt it will make the game more of a success, DDO has had plenty of free trials but so few players even complete the trials. It is just not a good MMO and despite the many things I enjoy about DDO it is very lacking as an MMO and F2P or P2P doesn't change that. But honestly, this move by turbine is not about making DDO a success, clearly this is a way to develop and test an RMT system for use with their other games/projects.
Taira: The game as it currently exists would be attractive to a new player, who hasn’t seen the content it does have. Its problems would be with older players who have seen the content for three years and haven’t seen an update for 10 months assuming a September release for free to play.
Inktomi: Turbine did mention that there will be gear sold in the cash shop, “Gear is available for gamers who would like to improve some aspect of their in-game experience right away.” I know you probably started out with gimped lvl 1 gear and a terrible weapon. How would that make you feel to see someone getting it easier and not “paying their dues?”
Agent Smith: The Monty Haul nature of DDO has always been a problem and this is likely to make that worse. On the one hand it at least gives new players the chance to compete with older vets who always gear up their alts but then again it is easy to see by what Turbine has said about the cash shop already they have no bones about selling 'easy' as the IGN article quoted them saying you could buy in quest resurrections which breaks a key element of needing to complete a dungeon without re-entry for full credit.
Mike: They give you shoddy gear at first, but dungeons give you money and gear like crazy. If people want to get gear at level 1 that’s fine with me, it would seem people would do it just to get to end-game faster, or try and catch up with people. It can hurt the economy no doubt about that, but it’s not very hard to get good gear
Aaron: Don’t see it as a game changing option as most players get access to decent items quickly in the game any ways in addition to all longtime players outfitting their new players with items and money from their older characters.
Taiara: Specifically, the availability of lowbie “twink” weapons is not likely to change the in game experience. Most experienced players have a set of equipment for lowbie characters currently and additionally have tomes that they use at level one. This would appear to allow everyone to twink their lowbies. I’ve run twinked and untwinked on servers other than my home server of Sarlona. The gear that is available at the low levels is secondary to player skill.
Jerry: I’m not too concerned about it. It’s true that new players will have equipment advantages that were not available to people who played back in 2006, but the best gear comes later in the game, for the most part. The early parts of DDO aren’t nearly as challenging as it gets later on, so I don’t think this will be a big issue.
Inktomi: Do you think that the cash shop would unbalance the game, take away from the DDO immersion? What do would you like to “NOT SEE” in the cash shop?
Jerry: I hope Turbine doesn’t add things like stat tomes (which give your basic stats a permanent boost) and things that take the challenge away from the dungeons. It could unbalance the game, but it all depends on what the final product is. Kind of too early to tell.
Aaron: I do not see any of the introduced mechanics thus far to be a threat to game balance.
Mindspat: There is no reason for balance. The only function for balance would relate to the time spent in The Content; referring specifically to instanced quests. The only thing that needs to be balanced is how long it takes players to get through different aspects of the Dungeons; this is why Turbine has decided to remove the pre-existing effects present on Wounding of Puncturing weapons. I suppose that the one item which has the greatest likelihood of appearing on the Item Mall that Should NOT be is the current version of Wounding of Puncturing which is being removed from the game – it seems this was always the intent, to make it more exclusive.
Agent Smith: It will not only unbalance the game (which truthfully is already quite out of balance) it will break the game. For instance, selling resurrections; it is a key design element that if you die in an adventure you must leave it and re-enter at substantial penalty (of course at certain levels some classes can resurrect you provided there is no party wipe). With them selling this in the item shop it is like selling a 'no lose' since you can just get back up and do whatever knowing full well dying means nothing, it also invalidates classes with the resurrection to a degree.
Mike: The one thing I’m upset about is that they are taking war forged away and making people pay for them, that are the only thing that ticks me off. I'm not a big PvPer and the only PvP is in Taverns. I feel it won't unbalance the game, seeing as everyone in a party gets all the experience and get different items set to their level and class at the end.
Taira: I don’t think there would be any unbalance from selling equipment, so long as the equipment sold is inferior to equipment that could be obtained from quests or raids. Plat sales would certainly have an inflationary effect on the auction house.
Inktomi: Did you know a game called “Puzzle Pirates” makes $50.00 a month ARPPU on average from players? That over $230,000 a month, do you think that was a smart move from Turbine or very risky?
Jerry: That’s crazy! $50 per month is outrageous, can’t imagine spending that on one game myself, especially month after month. That said, I think this is a VERY smart move on Turbine’s part.
Aaron: I see it as a move that has greater potential benefits than it does drawbacks. The improved access the general gaming populace will have in and of itself is a commodity sought for in games, and with the model turbine has, it’s about as low risk as one can hope for.
Mindspat: It’s very easy to distort statistics to give a view that supports the desired objective. Is that $50.00 per month from ARPU or ARPPU? When the bulk of the revenue is actually generated by something as low as 2-3% of the millions of players who ever spend money it’s very easy to get misty eyed by a narrow presentation of numbers. (Its ARPPU spat.)
At this point I want to really focus on what taiara details about the DDO economy, because it made a lot of sense to me.
Taiara: In order to make that much money from current subscribers, Turbine would need to drastically change some game mechanics. Most players I played with were long term players. Their assets were measured in the millions of plat, and the equipment costs for each character were beyond belief. For example, on Sarlona, each of my 10 characters had a +2 or +3 tome for each attribute, and the auction house values of the tomes were about 500,000 plat. Each of my 6 melee characters had at least 2 greensteel weapons, the material costs of which were a couple of million plat. My main melee characters also had raid crafted items that were also millions of plat. Since DDO hasn’t raised its level cap since mod 6 in February 2008, most hard core players have been grinding loot since then. The consumables a long term player would buy currently don’t cost that much from in game venders. For example, a stack of 100 heal scrolls, a high level consumable people most often complain about, cost my haggle bard like 12,200 plat and would keep my UMD melee healed for like a week. Repair costs were never that big of a deal. DDO doesn’t really have any money sinks, so I would presume current characters could live off their loot and resources for quite a while. Turbine could change this in two different ways. First, if they substantially increased the costs of repairs and consumables, in a few months the casual players might need to use the DDO shop. Secondly, if Turbine only sold consumables in the DDO store, this would cause the players to use the DDO store. This would not be popular with veteran players.
Inktomi: Last question and I want to thank you all for cooperating so far. What changes would you like to see in DDO from Turbine in the future?
Jerry: I would like Turbine to really focus on new quests and locations for us to explore. There’s plenty to do in DDO, but people who have been playing a while are in need of new content. I would like to see Turbine bring more of the Eberron campaign setting to DDO as well, which is something I am sure they plan to do. I’d also like Turbine to do more to promote this game through things like banner ads, publicity and even getting the game noticed by non-MMO players. It’s always seemed kind of head-scratching that Wizards of the Coast is involved with DDO but the two companies have never really cross-promoted each other’s products.
Aaron: Larger environments that operate more along the lines of a DnD module within a given world.
Agent Smith: I think it is too late for DDO, that train left the station when they sold what is really a co-op game as an MMO. It should have gone live as a Guild Wars type sell the game, sell MODs every few months or possibly like most RTS games are arranged and run. In trying to pass DDO off as an MMO DDO was doomed from the start, it is a testament to the dedicated D&D fans that it lasted as long as it did.
Mindspat: Turbine has lost all respect from me and this is related to the lack of transparency and deceit. What they did by parading the patch notes for module 9 was to secure subscribers in effect to prevent canceled accounts by portraying a historical process of Patch Notes to Live which they never intended to deliver. This in effect is fraudulent.
Taiara: Even though I cancelled my subscription, I do want DDO to continue. I still have numerous friends who are playing (and no doubt wasting the DelScorcho fortune) and I know they still enjoy the game. The biggest change that needs to happen is that Turbine needs to be more honest with its players. The free to play model was been in the works for some time; however, the developers were suggesting the upcoming content would be released in February. The reason it hasn’t been released is that turbine wanted it to be an additional draw for the new free to play system. Knowing that, they were still suggesting the mod was right around the corner, which was profoundly deceptive. The events of the past few months have cost them quite a few subscribers. Many of the people who still subscribe are watching the developers to see whether they can trust Turbine. So in the future, Turbine needs to be more up front with their players.
Mike: Make Warforges free and give me a damn cloak animation!!!
And that wraps up my interview session; I want to thank everyone for stopping in and lending their support to my blog.
This was a bold move on Turbines part and unfortunately there will be some stiff competition coming this fall with an allstar lineup of AAA games such as Aion and Champions Online to name a few. However, Turbine’s recent decision may spark a change in the way many companies approach struggling games in order to increase their audience. At this point Turbine is going to face some tough scrutiny from the old players as mentioned in the interview and new ones as well. They are not going to be the only F2P on the block so they better come locked and loaded this fall with new content and a fairly balanced cash shop. Remember, RMT might not be for everyone but you don’t know until you give it a try; DDO is going to be on my “to play” list this coming fall.