For many, Dark Age of Camelot is a genre classic, having been released just after Everquest, it made a dramatic impact on MMORPG's and secured a place in a relatively new market. However despite its longetivity, its subscription rate has dropped dramatically in the last three years, despite having released three new expansions and no end of trial offers.
For many players, Dark Age of Camelot, provides meaningful PVP in a non instanced enviroment. But for many others, especcially those new to the genre, its a complete grindfest.
Theproblem is, from the moment you start the game you feel the grind, its unavoidable. In the trial version of the full game you have three methods of leveling as a new player:
1# Grind mobs at static game world locations.
2# Do Tasks, which consists of running to an NPC, finding a mob, then running back to said NPC.
3# Do Instances, which consists of running to an NPC, running to static instance entrance, clearing map of mobs, complete said goal in journal (kill all/kill named/kill X of X), return to NPC, repeat.
Its horrific, for a new player coming into a new game world, you want to be gripped and excited from the start. What makes this grinding especcially bad is the lack of other players.
Unless your on a Classic server, higher levels can automatically level to 20 when they start their character, this may sound great to somebody who's already made a gazillion characters, but this has a knock on effect on the amount of players new players can interact with. Further more, the few players that havent maxed out yet are making alts prefer to solo, why? Becuase its faster XP, which again has a knock on effect on the amount of players to interact with. So in the end, with the coupled effects above, then the problem that so few new players are actually filtering into this game, your faced with only one outcome; a long solo grind to 50 and frankly people dont pay for that shit.
I dont like to use the word grind lightly, becuase its not necessarily the monotomous process thats the problem, its the lack of distraction (read my blog on the Grind). Infact I hold firm to the belief that DAoC CAN be revived to subscription levels prior to 2005 and not only that, it can be done easily with little modification to actual game content.
Three years ago Funcom embarked on an curious experiment, by making the original version of their game free to play (no expansions) they hoped to boost their MMORPG's popularity and in turn boost the number of subscriptions. In my experience it was a great success, players flocked to the game, and not just "F2P gamers" as one might expect, but all player archetypes, the community stayed civil despite predictions and most importantly the influx of players boosted player interaction making the gameplay (which is largely group based) MUCH more enjoyable.
I just wish I was able to get hold of subscription statistics for Anarchy Online but they dont appear to have been submitted, therefore the knowledge of AO's success is from personal experience due to play before and during the F2P program. If anyone wishes to dispute that, I'd be happy to debate, but from my experience it was successful.
Its my belief that this same program, could be used in Dark Age of Camelot. Allow players to play the original game for free! Heck, throw in Shrouded Isle too so that graphics are slightly improved. Just as in AO, players would flock to try out this Subscription MMORPG turned F2P. Those that enjoy it and want to progress further in the game can buy the expansions (at a reduced price) and assume a subscription.
What could it cost Mythic, especcially now when Warhammer is in the pipeline and players are just looking for something to keep them busy for a few months. A one ditch effort to get subscribers in their dieing game is better then no effort at all. In AO, this revived the title for atleast three years, and while its popularity has died down now, they still get new players on the F2P program.
This program would bring players into DAoC and provide greater player interaction and greater chance of finding groups, contributing to grind distraction. Player retention would improve and more newer players would hit the max levels which has a knock on effect to the high end RVR (which I hear is suffering on some servers).
This wouldnt be enough to completely revive this game, but it would be a start and it would contribute. Mythic seems to have spent all its time making 1-50 content easy, people dont play games becuase they're easy. People expect a level of difficulty that implys a challenge and gives a feeling achievement once the goal is accomplished. But thats something completely seperate and im deviating. I will however, go into that in Part 2.
Mythic, I cannot emphasis this more:
Make DAoC Original FREE!