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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

Can An MMOG Be Successful Long-Term Without an End-Game Power Grind? Facts Say Yes.

Posted by Meleagar Friday August 10 2012 at 11:22AM
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In several threads in the GW2 forums now, many people have raised the "concern" that they don't believe GW2 (and by implication, any MMORPG) can be financially successful long-term, or hold onto "enough" players long-term, unless they have an ongoing end-game power-grind such as that found in WoW and most other current MMORPGs.

In their stated opinion, they appear to think that "most players" will burn through all of the regular content and have maxed out characters within a couple of months, and that unless they then enjoy engaging in PvP for cosmetic rewards, there will be no reason for them to stay.

This "concern" stems from several unfounded assumptions.  According to information freely accessible from nickyee.com, a site dedicated to an ongoing analysis of real MMOG player statistics and information,  under the heading of "what do players want to see in MMOs?", there 18 items on the list ahead of "High-Level Content: Content for large raids. Challenging endgame content."  Only 2% of respondents wanted to see more end-game in an MMOG.

According to the list, the things most players wanted to see were more interesting and variable-outcome quests, more customization options, more soloable content, more storyline, more casual content, more PvP content, more crafting/tradeskill content, and more role-playing content.

Also according to the site, and according to the rankings of motivations of the average player, achievement takes a back seat to fantasy immersion and escaping the real world, and is about on par with the desire simply to socialize in the game environment.

In an analysis of the player life-cycle, the data indicates that burnout of MMOG players is pretty much a direct result of grind and social obligation overload/frustration.  They are not end-game power-grinding with friends because it is enjoyable, but rather because it has become their duty/obligation.

As the data indicates, the re-entry of those burnout players often coincides with them developing a more casual playstyle that avoids that which becomes unenjoyable and burns them out on the game.  They avoid big raiding guilds and end-game grinds.

End-game power grinds ultimately burn players out, and in any event, developers cannot hope to keep up with them content-wise.  Such power and achievement oriented gaming is not, according to the numbers, the reason why the vast majority of players play MMOGs anyway. It seems to me that except for a minority of players that require such an end-game power-grind because it happens to be their primary motivation, the presence of such a power-grind system can only serve to disenfranchise the vast majority of players because they will see that they are considered "2nd rate" by the developers, who reserve the best and most powerful content for the relatively small percentage that are willing and able to  invest that kind of time and effort into the game.

The data at the site makes it clear that the presence of an end-game power grind system is simply not necessary for a game to have wide appeal to the vast majority of players, and that is not even a concern to all but 2% of players who wish to see more of such content in MMOGs.

Why Several Recent Games Failed To Meet Expectations

Posted by Meleagar Thursday August 9 2012 at 7:38AM
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It's really pretty simple; the developers tried to have their cake and eat it, too.  They built what were ultimately end-game power-grinders that also had a lot of stuff in the game meant to appeal to more casual players.  There wasn't enough end-game grinder content to keep those players occupied/satisfied, and the more casual players quickly realized that all of the casual-friendly content was nothing more than a collection of shiny objects meant to divert their attention from the fact that they would never be able to have characters as powerful as the end-game grinders.

You can't keep end-game power-grinders happy without pretty much myopic attention on providing an ongoing stream of new top-end grind content.  When all the rest of the content in a game is essentially "run-through" material that is only meant to structure you into the end-game scenario, the casuals see and understand this, and recognize that what they are being used for is to subsidize the development team's focused attention on adding more end-game content.

What developers have failed to realize is that there is no structural reason for either an end-game power-grinder or a casual player to leave WoW or play a non-WoW game that has end-game power-grinding.  There is just too much content in WoW for end-game grinders which no new MMOG could hope to match, and as for the casual players, there's no reason to move from one end-game grinder to another and give up their beloved characters that they have invested so much time in.

Why should end-game power-grinders of WoW move to Tera, Rift, Aion or SWToR? Why should players coming into the genre pick any game other than WoW, if they are an end-game power-grinder?  Why should anyone risk their valuable time in games that obviously just don't have the staying power or the available content of Wow?  Or EQ2, for that matter?

I don't think it would be possible to build a better end-game power-grinder than WoW, so I don't see how any developer could hope to challenge for that market share. No, the real opportunity lies in drawing the casual players from WoW and other games by creating a game that doesn't have end-game power-grinding and offers meaningful, casual player opportunity towards top-end gear and power.  After all, it takes casuals much, much longer to consume content; why throw a game out there that simply cannot hope to satisfy the voracious end-game grind appetite of such players, when a casual-focused game provides the dev team with plenty of time to develop new content?

Why Fluff Is Imporant, Especially In A B2P Model, & Suggestions

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday August 1 2012 at 8:49AM
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As of BWE #3, there's not enough "fluff" in GW2. Well, there's enough for now, but not enough for the long-term.

Let's be honest here; about 1 month after release, all the hardcore players are going to be level 80 and will either only sporadically visit GW2 after that, or they will turn their attention to PvP. I don't know that hardcore PvP'ers are that interested in"fluff" content, but I do know who is generally very interested in it:

Casual players and RPers.

Arenanet isn't going to make a living off of cash shop sales to hardcore PvPers or min-max speed levelers; the bread and butter of of cash shop sales is going to come from casuals and Role-Players.  Therefore, in order to maximize profitability (and live-team size), ANET needs to make sure they retain casuals and Role-Players (and draw more in) by continuing to add "fluff" to the game that is either directly sold from the cash shop, or indirectly drives cash shop sales. And remember, of course, all cash shop items should be purchasable via in-game gold one way or another.

I'd like to propose a whole new perspective on what can be monetized in GW2 and other games: how about emotes? What if you could buy RPing and casual sets of emotes and accessories, like a chaplain/priest set, a dancing set, a screenshot-friendly pose set (dramatic poses, sexy poses (nothing lewd), fun poses, couples poses such as holding hands, kissing, hugging, loving glances, etc.), attitude sets, etc.

When there is player housing, how about furnishing sets? You could have different styles that reflect different races and proffessions, or just fun sets.

How about cash-shop hairstyles? Tattoos? Emblem sets?  Gear decoration sets? 

How about cash shop variant battle animations (not applicable in PvP)?  Variant spellcasting animations? Variant walking, running, and jumping animations?  Variant finishing animations?

How about custom player "booth" applications for guilds, where your guild can set up "booths" at events they organize to provide mini-games for prizes the guild puts up, or just to have fun, like a dunking booth, a fortune-teller's booth, an arcade, fishing from a barrel, coin toss, etc.

Or, there could be guild-hall "event" packages, such as a masquerade ball, or a harvest or summer faire, etc.

MUSIC!  Musical instruments, musical scores, ampitheater events (theater dress & emote packages), etc.

The deeper the fluff system, the more casuals and RPers (and perhaps some hardcore players, as well) will spend. The more attached to their avatar these players become via these kinds of choices, the better for the long-term health of the game.

ANET need to quickly start expanding their "fluff" content after release, if they aren't doing so now for release.