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MMORPG - our Virtual Worlds are under attack. Log in and fight dammit!

Our genera is under fire by a generation of gamers for whom the term MMORPG represents an extension of Animal Crossing or Battlefield 2. Writers are telling gamers to buy buffs from people who control the need for them. I hope it's just a Secret World ARG

Author: Cyberdeck7

How Others' Item Purchases Affect Your Gameplay

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Tuesday May 8 2012 at 3:41PM
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I recently ran across a comment on another MMO blog where they were discussing the item shop in GW2. I thought my response did a good job of summing up my arguments against cash shops in general, so I reposted it here.

"Explain to me how someone else using an EXP boost or anything else from the cash shop is negatively affecting your game play experience. Keep in mind that in PVP you get auto brought up to max level, and that you're never competing with anyone on your server."

To do so would first require you to accept the premise that there are other possible forms of achievement in these games besides conquest in combat. In some older titles, you could play to be the best dressed, play to dominate the market or play to be the crafter that outfitted your guild all in black.


This current view that all things cosmetic do not affect game play belies the major assumption that the only thing of value achievement-wise or competition-wise is combat because these item shops completely bork all other play styles.


Even tossing all that aside, if you can accept that people play for different reasons than yourself and value their fun as well as your own then you can see that many, many people play to hit cap first or for play for guild or server 'firsts.' In the case of XP boosts being available for cash, this play style is completely screwed as players or guilds with more disposable cash have a better chance to get there first by directly buying it.


Even if you don't consider these valid goals (it's not why I play either) saying that XP boosts don't affect game play means that they don't affect YOUR game play therefore the converse must also be true - removing them wouldn't affect you in the least.


But they have to make money!!! you say.

I agree and they should be paid well for good work. Make it a sub game and kill the cash shop.


In a nutshell, this post highlights the major reasons I'm against cash shops in any form - they limit the valid play styles. Anything available for cash removes an achievement type from the game and hands it over to people with more cash than common sense who want to treat MMOs not like virtual worlds, but like Dress up Barbie joins the Army.


This has the direct effect of homogenizing the player base down to people who only value combat as an achievement or in competition. It kills the variety of the player base and is precisely why these games are feeling so anemic.


Buying something for cash in a game is the real world equivalent of having everything handed to you. There's just nothing left to do in these games that's worth doing except to fight.

Why you SHOULD pay as much as a hardcore player. The definitive answer

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Tuesday November 29 2011 at 3:18AM
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thamighty213 writes:

"Why should x who plays a total 2 days a month using far less rescources and less whining than Y who plays a total of 18 days a month using almost as much in rescources as his sub costs?

For years the casual player has took the brunt of the cost for the hardcore no lifes to play + some if you factor that a lot of these hardcore players live off benefits paid for by the casual players taxes."

I'll begin with another question:

     Would you agree that all of the hardcore Showtime watchers are being subsidized by all of the casual partial Showtime watchers? 

     If you subscribe to a pay channel like Showtime you're given access to content for a month. The Channel could care less if you had to work overtime or were deployed. You signed up to pay a set amount in exchange for access to Showtime's content for a month.

     If you don't feel you're given a fair value, you cancel. You don't go on about whining and carrying on until someone changes something for you. You don't ask for the whole channel to only broadcast cheesy shows because what you feel you should pay can only support low budget action flicks.

     The $15 subscription amount common to MMOs was arrived at as a happy medium. There isn't really anything else you can do for even 2 hours per month that will only set you back $15 or even $30. I think 2 hours playing per month is pretty low even by casual standards, correct me if I'm wrong.

     Please try to stay with me here, it's hard for me to explain this in writing-

thamighty213 is upset and saying that he has always been getting screwed by having to "subsidize" the hardcore players. HE would like to just pay for how much HE plays. I say fine, but let's break this down:

     Let's say that a casual player pays $5 per month. They pop in once in a while, pop around to other games, like their variety etc etc.. Then there's the "hardcore" player. They play all the time and since we're "un-subsidizing" they would have to pay their $15 sub plus the $10 remaining from the casual's sub - $25. We need some numbers for this experimnet, so to keep it simple, let's make the total playerbase an easy 1 million.     

     The breakdown of casual vs hardcore players is difficult. First of all the terms are subjective - they mean something different to everyone. A recent study (1) shows that the average player of MMOs plays 29.11 hours per week. That sounds pretty hardcore to me - playing a game for 2/3 the number of hours in an average work week, but let's really slant this in favor of the casual player anyways to highlight my point. Let's say a full 50% of the players are "casual"   

     So - we have 1,000,000 players all paying for the time that ONLY THEY play. 500,000 Casuals paying $5 and 500,000 "Hardcores" paying $25.  

     Now let's build their games... The casuals have a budget of $2.5 million, but it's shakey - sometimes they play, sometimes they don't, sometimes they play something different so the dev doesn't really have anything to count on here. However the "Hardcores" have a solid budget of $12.5 million per month, paid up front even! Time to build the two games...    

     What? you say... wait... but we all play the same game.!!??...     

     I say hell no!

     If I'm paying $25 per month for my $12.5M game, you're certianly not getting to see our content for $5. I could care less if you're only there for 2 hours - I'm sick of subsidizing you peoples' QUALITY content when all you want to do is come dip your toe in once in a while and pay a one-off bargain basement price - go see what you can come up with for your shakey $2.5M... How would the game worlds compare? Which would you rather play?

    LotRO? LoTRO, DDO, Conan... these are games that were built with the hardcore players $$, and then handed to the casual players after being injected with grind and P2W BS. What does a game built on purely casual players' money even look like?

    I swear - MMO forums are the only place I've seen people become uppity standing on a platform of "I put less time in to my hobby" and "I pay less" and expect to somehow count more because of it.

     The average MMO player is hardcore by default and getting a hell of a lot of hours of play for $15/month. Even casuals are getting a hell of a deal, so why bitch because someone else is taking better advantage of a good deal than you? With what you WANT to pay, you don't get games like these... at all. You get Farmville.



or search for yourself for time played references - they're all roughly the same. I'd have gone with Daedalus, but the figures are from 97 - I wanted 2011.

Prove LotRO tripled revenues and I'll record myself dropping $50 in their item shop.

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Friday August 12 2011 at 8:11PM
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OK - and I'm surprised a free blogger had to find this instead of one the journalists. Here are some facts:

Time Warner 2010 Earnings Report:

Time Warner had lost $20,000,000 in its Filmed Entertainment division by the end of 2010. This is the sub-division in which their video game business resides. So someone lost money there; here's what the financials say about the other 95% of the "Filmed Entertainment Division"

"In 2010, the Warner Bros. Pictures Group broke the all-time industry worldwide box office record with receipts of $4.814 billion, which surpassed the prior record of $4.010 billion (set by the Studio in 2009). Warner Bros. also established a new industry benchmark for the international box office with a total of $2.93 billion (marking a record third time of crossing the $2 billion threshold) and retained its lead domestically with a box office of $1.884 billion. 2010 also marked the 10th consecutive year Warner Bros. Pictures Group passed the billion dollar mark at both the domestic and international box office."

And No, the purchase of Turbine and Rocksteady get reported elsewhere.

Many of you keep parroting the "LOTRO tripled its revenue since going free to play" line. If you Google for the quote, the ONLY results are from video game sites like this and you'll see it all attributed to the answer the head of Turbine gave on a podcast at Ten Ton Hammer.

Adam Mersky himself makes no mention of the milestone on twitter or any of his social network sites and he retweets every little detail of what Turbine is doing. There's also no collaborating post on any Official LotRO, Warner Bros. Time Warner Inc, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, or Warner Bros. Interactive website.

The only mention of Lord of the Rings Online in any stock holder's report, earnings report, SEC filing or anywhere official at all is:

"In 2010, WBIE continued to expand its games publishing business through acquisitions, including the acquisition of Turbine Inc., the developer of The Lord of the Rings Online"

Now isn't that odd that such a smart purchase that tripled in revenue isn't trumpeted to the investors? That it isn't anywhere where Mersky could be held accountable for the quote, in fact no where official at all? I don't know, maybe Ten Ton Hammer has a bible they have all the MMO marketers swear on as they're entering the studio, but last time I checked people advertising on Podcast interviews don't have to tell the truth. After all, didn't the same dude say they would never sell anything game altering before they went from clothes all the way through potions and on to selling Legendary Weapons in less than a year? So now we know he lies on Podcasts. Period.

The situation we have at all of these MMO sites is some writer reading some other guy's article, maybe 10 ton hammer or something, and just repeating it without doing any research whatsoever. It's not just here - it's all over the net - some guy attributes his facts to Massively who attribute their facts to and they pass it around and around until it's everywhere, but what it comes down to is some guy answering a question on a gaming site's podcast that makes him look like a business genius who then won't reassociate himself with the quote or brag about the major milestone on the net. It is a giant marketing circle jerk.

There are a few sites that tried to investigate, who could only say 'a line item for the gaming division was 'suspiciously missing' from their earnings report.' At least they found that the triple earning quote was inconclusive.

So here's a challenge - find anything officially owned by Time Warner or Turbine that has any mention of a tripling of the revenue pulled in by LotRO. Anything, as long as it's official. And Official MMO Journalists, especially that grey haired F2P pied piper who apparently can't track spending - I'm looking at you - are you a cut and paste shop or do you research what you're told? I think you should analyse this stuff before encouraging thousands of kids to go spend $5 on copies of buff icons while publishers are tweaking the game so the icons don't last as long.

If anyone finds anything, I'll go drop $50 in the Lotro (maybe Vindictus) Item shop and record the whole thing.

F2P and the Explosive death of an Industry

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Monday August 8 2011 at 11:01PM
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While games that go F2P may take a while to die, it'll happen. A game's primary cornerstone is achievement and they've stripped it out to sell for parts. It's a logical projection if you watch the progress games are taking towards selling buffs and items that affect game-play, watch the industry and watch how MMO companies behave running a F2P business model. The death of F2P will be a spectacular explosion taking a lot of the gaming industry with it. Here’s my take on the how we’ll get to the explosion and what will happen after.

At first the company converting is all altruistic about what they'll sell: only cosmetic items. Besides the fact it eliminates crafting right away, it also dries up one entire avenue of achievement. It then takes nothing to wear fancy clothes except the ability to spend more than the next player, so you can't measure how well you're playing based on it unless you're interested in comparing real-world wallets.

Next, they start selling quick travel. This means one of two things - either their quests were set up badly in the first place or the company considers their world and the experience of being in the world as unimportant. You'll also probably find that new quests released after this point have locations that are a bit further apart.

Then come experience buffs to make the game quicker; to "ease the grind" so to speak. Most games I've played have a pretty clear, pre-laid out quest and level progression. So, now they’re saying content and story is unimportant because you can just skip past pre-maturely grey quests. Again - look for more discontinuity in quest chains to force you into a little experience buff burning grind.


After that are health buffs. So now you're standing there fatigued or soul drained from dying multiple times when your party got in over their heads. Of course the lawyer and engineer are still alive as well as the spoiled rich kid. Sure, they spent $5 in buffs a piece to make it through but now they're waiting. In a grouping game you'd be peer pressured into spending the money so you could stick with your guild in battle.

Some raiders might even require that you're fully stocked. So, then raids cost $5 for you to run. How often has everyone been in a raid that *gasp* wiped once or twice in a night before you were successful or quit out of disgust? No refunds. If you raided once a week, assuming you’re in a non-hardcore elite raiding guild like 90% of the rest of the players, you could pay for 3-4 subs to different games (with all item shop items included) for your raiding expenses in a free game. Now your mobs are getting harder to help you burn those health potions.


The death wallow of a game is the selling of buffed weapons and armor. LotRO is selling Legendary Items. This means there's absolutely no achievement left in that game at all. There's nothing you can accomplish that you can't buy. It's no longer a game; it's dress-up in a virtual interpretation of Tolkein's world that is enough off canon that if it were a little glitzy museum it wouldn't fly as a tourist trap in a town named Mordor.


There are only two reasons for going back on promises to your community (documented in the tubes, forever) and watering down the quality of the gaming experience. Either these companies are stepping back their standards incrementally because they're losing players or they're just that greedy - the round of explosive profits from the first icon (oh, little red dress, buff, potion, whatever - it’s an icon) release just wasn't enough. Seriously, is there a higher profit margin in the world than 8-bit icons that get “used up”? Man that’s tempting.

What's next?

Well, personally I think the sand-boxers aren’t having anything to do with F2P.

PvPers, unless they have fat wallets and the overwhelming need to teabag, won’t play games with purchasable non-cosmetic items.

Raiders have max level characters and are dedicated to their game. They have/are figuring out that even $5/week > $Sub fee. What most of them are spending would pay for two or three subs. B-bye.

Players that love to group but live on a budget are starting to feel a little uncomfortable with the pressure they feel to spend in order to not be a beggar in groups. Live on a budget = most people.

The social fabric of the game, the people who play to craft, for profit or just to help others, will be the slowest to react though they're the first casuality. They don’t want to fight monsters, they just want to do something useful for their guild. They’ll finally figure out that crafting in a F2P game is largely pointless.

Additionally, the current batch of games are for tourists and the converted ones all move towards solo content so there’s a severe lack of social continuity in F2P. Those people that are there for friends will gravitate to sub games that, by default, have a more dedicated player-base.

The other thing working against the 2010-2011 round of labeling things "FREE" sheisterism is age. People that see the F2P model clearly for what it is trend towards older players as a whole. That’s because we experienced the big media companies huddle up around music CDs and price fix something that cost all of $.25 to produce and ship at $14.99.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but $15 now isn’t the same as $15 was then. The most popular, trendy shoe at the time, the Black Reebok, cost $40. If the hot shoe of today costs $120 that’s the equivalent of them charging us $45 for an album. They were eventually prosecuted for price fixing and a lot of us got a surprise $5 check in the mail if we actually signed and mailed back the class action papers. Some people had CD rack walls in their houses and apartments. $5.

We also got $80 long distance bills and $50 dial-up AOL or CompuServ bills back when they charged internet access by the minute. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. The time period I’m talking about is back before Web 2.0 became “The Cloud” and web servers became “Cloud Services.” Back before “the ‘net” became Web 2.0; before the Internet became “the ‘net”; before cyberspace turned into the internet... all the way back before the Tech Bubble when the web was called The Information Superhighway and it was trendy to use modem squealing in commercials. Catch my drift? It's all marketing.

That’s why I say age is trending against the F2P “revolution;” a lot of players will become more experienced in life and will end up warning their kids about whatever BS is going on in the future. This will have been a learning experience. Back when we were paying $45 for an album there were people all over in magazines singing the gospels of CDs and what a deal we were getting with the new high-tech music.

What this is all leading to is not an explosion of a genera, but an implosion of an industry. Notice the F2Ps getting gobbled up by or converted by major F2P empires? Remember the buying spree that lead to the internet bubble? This is a media bubble.

Before the tech bubble, the vast majority of the population didn’t take the Internet seriously and the “brick and mortar” retailers actually framed online shopping as a trend to fight against instead of using it to augment their services. Then the Internet user-base grew like wildfire and there was a huge buying spree. Big software corporations bought up or out-right stole technologies from all these little innovative companies and tried to charge for them as add-ons to their operating systems. All the sudden everyone realized they were getting screwed as they peeked over the AOL walled garden into the ‘dangerous Internet’ and POP!

A quick meta-note on comments: if you’ve read this far and would like to comment add ## to the beginning. Everything else is getting deleted. There’s no point in discussing any sort of article with some F2Per that finds the first point he doesn’t like and cries. Thank you.

I think MMOs should be taken very seriously as the next trend leading towards a shift in humanity - like the Internet. As resources run low, it’ll become too costly not to do business in virtual environments. What we play is the genesis of these virtual environments where everyone will go for work and entertainment. Your job will pay for your access like they pay for your cellphone now. The problem is they’re all not interconnected yet - you can’t maintain an avatar from game to game or environment to environment. That’ll change.

My prediction is that there will be a media bubble driven by games, it’ll pop and the industry will be in shambles. Then, of course Google - who has their fingers in all areas of technology and media except online worlds - will buy up everything, shove it all into google earth, add ads, product placements and give free glasses with the Nexxus 20. Then we’re back on the path to the metaverse.

Gold sellers are better for the industry than item shops

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Thursday August 4 2011 at 6:55PM
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I'd rather buy gold from a seller then items from a shop. The industry has everyone chanting "gold sellers are evil" as they deploy their item shops, however consider these points

1) Gold sellers don't take anything from the game or inject anything into the economy that wasn't there first.

2) Item shops remove achievement, challenge and decimate crafting.

3) You can buy items with your gold, but you can not accelerate leveling or skills. You also don't have access to any item that people with less money don't have even though you can afford things sooner.

4) Gold sellers 'work' for the money in-game and sell you something that has value in the game world.

5) Item shops sell icons that they replicated

6) Gold sellers can't affect the difficulty of the game before or after they make their sale

7) The entire F2P business model is to adjust game difficulty to get you to use buffs faster.

Sure they're annoying to players, but in reality they're only moving and redistributing parts of the game that already existed. They operate in a closed system - they don't have the ability to damage anything at all. Item shops' goals are to inject as much from outside the game world as they can.

All in all, to me it would feel a lot better buying gold from a source that operates by the same rules I do in-game then buying any buffs from the same person who controls the need for those buffs.

Why sandboxers need to shed the MMO moniker

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Thursday August 4 2011 at 4:35PM
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I've been arguing that since the mixing of F2p browser credit card games with actual MMORPGs under the same moniker, the real sandboxes are getting lost in the white noise.

Either we need to kick this crap over to its own moniker or get another catchy abbreviation for ourselves. Right now devs don't see us as our own market, just a small niche of a giant market where people are willing to pay real money for icons. We need separation from that. We need our own name and own sites again. It's the only way we'll get funded.

The sandboxes are waaay outnumbered by these cheesy money grabs calling themselves MMOs. To the devs it appears as if there isn't a market for real virtual worlds. In reality our genera and the moniker MMORPG has just been watered down by companies making a cheap money grab at what was a burgeoning industry ripe with innovation by just stealing the name.

From the 'dinosaur' perspective, in the real world it's like going out for a nice double shot of Tullamore Dew and finding out they now only sell pint glasses of single shot bar rail whiskey and water but advertise it as a double of Tullamore Dew. Eventually the bar is filled with watered down whiskey fans who think their favorite drink is Tullamore Dew. Capiche?

If you write about Farmville as a MMO you're going to attract a ton of Farmville fans who think their favorite casual game is a MMO just because they searched Farmville on google and your article popped up. 

The MMO sites aren't helping things. I don't know if there's still a columnist at any of them that would staunchly defend the real concept of MMORPG or tear into FTP item shops and analyze why so many companies are racing towards them.

Here's a clue: You purchase potions and buffs from the people who control the difficulty of the game. I think it's ridiculous to think they don't engage in world tweaking to make more profit.

If there is a MMO Journalist anywhere that can see what F2P is really all about and has the cojones to just ask permission to do an Investigative piece you'd be helping recover the genera. We need help. Please.

I don't blame the columnists at these sites for helping to water everything down. One example of the pressure to add water was when Massively was brought from a niche forum into the fold at AOL when this F2P junk really started taking off. It's the nature of the beast - if they stretch the definition of MMO then they get a larger audience. If you post a job for a columnist to report on Facebook MMOs then guess what? You only get applicants that enjoy facebook games and think they're MMOs.

Global Agenda tried to pass its lobby+ graphics off as an MMO and MMO sites supported them in it. They asked for a monthly fee to participate in persistent conquest play - it was a freaking hex map. I don't know who the heck OK's encouraging gamers - a lot of them young teens and 'tweens' - to pay $15/month for a lobby and a hex map. The sites even got these people all fired up defending the game as an MMO until HiRez realized their marketing failed and went on to create their own 'MOBA' moniker. They're pushing to get into professional competition gaming now. Good for them - they finally realized they were Counterstrike.

I think it's pretty much proof positive that the MMORPG genera is being watered down with the complete support of these MMO sites when a site called 'Massively' runs a column called 'Not so Massively.' Are you serious? You guys aren't having fun chipping away at our niche are you?

Here's Massively's first issue:

All of the games, even the F2P ones, were actual Virtual worlds. It took them four years to go from MMORPGs being Virtual Worlds to calling 2d clickers with chat on an iPhone MMORPGs

You can write about whatever you want, call it a MMORPG and people who enjoy that game will show up. This does not mean the game is an MMO.

Just buy the Green Lantern DLC

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Monday August 1 2011 at 7:07PM
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First some facts. Everyone is parroting - they broke their promise! they broke their promise! about monthly content releases. Well, that's crap unless you think they should have released when they found out that everything got hacked (waaay before it hit the news) or when we were all locked out because of the hack.

In order to figure out what is actually going on and make up your own mind on whether or not to pay $10 for a crapload of content, consider the following.

DCUO was released in Jan

Feb - Catwoman, Batcave, Valentines thing

March - Two Face Instance, Two-Face in Legends, Batcave 3 raid

Apr 12th - Sony hacked (if they didn't hedge on the date). I'd assume all projects were halted. Who'd fund pushing out content when they were facing the extinction of their gaming community?

April 27th - Public announcement and the beginning of subscription losses - yeah, we were locked out of cancelling but were reimbursed in full + free service + digital crap

May - Servers down for 12 days - between that loss, free game time, subscriber loss and paying for everyone's ID protection they lost $3.6 Billion ($260 billion yen) 


Fun fact: If you stacked 3.6 billion 1 dollar bills, the stack would be 244.44 MILES high.

this is not true.---> That is further then the distance between the center of the earth and the center of the moon.<--- but it has to stay for posterity. (Thanks Deathtrip)


A quick lesson in corporate finance before we move on. Sony is not just a big blob of money. Corporations are divided into something similar to divisions, departments, large projects and contributing projects. Everyone from the smallest dev team who wants to get their special move implemented to the entire entertainment division fights for a budget and receives less of an allocation then they ask for.

June - July : Well, Sony didn't lose $3.6 Billion, Sony's gaming division lost the $3.6 billion. Every project would have been looked over. We lost SWG because of it and we lost the upcoming Spy shooter thing. We probably lost crap we never heard of and if you don't think a low performing game like DCUO didn't take a budget hit you're nuts. The reason Sony doesn't come clean about these layoffs and cancellations is that no one at Sony is allowed to mutter the word hack - they don't want to freaking remind us of it, do they? MMO players have an even longer memory than voters.

The item shop was a surprise announcement in July and it is a half-assed thing they threw up to sell the Green Lantern content. The content was never intended as DLC; it was going to be released with the movie along with a TV commercial blitz stressing the relation between the game and the movie. They'd then ramp up content production with the money from the box sales and then maybe satisfy all of us yammering morons.

Look, if you really take a 10,000 foot view of the situation the game is going to be cut unless they can pull in some cash. Plain and Simple. 

If you like to see this game continue, help fund it - give them their $10. It's like two Starbucks for crying out loud. It's probably the closest you'll ever get to the much ballyhooed "speak with your wallet"... ever.

If you hate it, go find a game you like and talk about that.

Item shops - in logic and fiction

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Saturday July 23 2011 at 4:48PM
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This article is not a broad criticism of the f2p model as a whole or even item shops in general. It is about applying logic to one small part of the so called f2p revolution: buying and selling buffs and potions in item shops. Hopefully I'll be able to illustrate just how sleazy the practice is and help some of you buyers out there, even occasional buyers, snap out of it.


So, you're a freshly minted alt - you've just saved the town for the third time and you can almost feel the crackle of lightning coursing through your new staff and pulsing through the inscribed runes. There's a cloud in the sky though, your spirits are dampened a bit by the foreknowledge that just over that little stone bridge there's a pissed off farmer who'll need 15 wolves killed.

You do it because you know he gives you the 5 AC Robe of Wonder and maybe zapping them with lightning is new enough to take some of the tedium out of finding and killing those 15 while avoiding the white ones until you meet the farmer's friend down the road.

You blaze through some greys but die once because you got too close to a white. He seemed to come from a long way to get you though and took you down in two bites, but maybe he was returning from a chase and you were still wearing that Ragged Robe after all.

Back off into the woods you go blasting greys. It's fun but holy hanna do mages go through mana. They did say mages were advanced to solo with, but that heal costs about a third of your mana a cast. Luckily, you had the 4 small mana vials the townsfolk gave you in appreciation and you didn't use them all. The farmer was going to give another 2 along with the robe so you'd be back to 4 and should be able to easily get through the white wolves for his friend.

You get to his friends house and of course he asks you for 15 white wolves. They're a little way off, but you get there, find the first one and then mana mana mana, die die die. You get sick of running back and forth and though you're looking forward to that castle in the valley, you begin to get kind of bored of the grind.



This could be any MMO, subscription or item shop based. The difference is how devs and producers will handle the situation.

For a sub based game the dev's motivation is to keep you interested so you stay subscribed. The way to do that is to make adjustments so the grind isn't so boring. Boring is bad.

For an item shop game the motivation of the devs is to increase the grind so you go through your mana quicker. The more you burn through, the more they sell. If they don't sell mana in the store the situation is much more dire. They're selling XP and health buffs. In that situation they try to walk a fine line between you being bored enough to buy ways to accelerate through the content, but not bored enough to quit.

See, the tables of capitalism have turned. In a sub game, you're a customer who is there to be entertained. They have to keep you from getting bored by adding content and keeping things balanced. In an item shop game the devs control both the sale of and the need for buffs.

We're not dealing with "The Mom and Pop Dev Shop" here either. The games are sold to us by massive corporations that see only numbers at the decision making level. You can bet your life they are not only adjusting content so you're either bored out of your mind or die enough to get frusterated, but also researching the f2p model into a precise money extracting machine. It's a real goldmine for them - they're selling replicable 150k icons for $3 a piece and controlling the need for them.

In the real world you'd be fined or sued for for creating a need for which you're the sole provider of the solution. At the very least it's the sleaziest of businesses that use that model. Camel Joe and the Marlboro man are guilty of it - nicotine is addictive, all they have to do is get you in the door and let's face it - Camel Joe was targeted at kids. Crack dealers use the f2p model as does big Phama. Restless leg disorder, give me a f'ing break, but you can get a free sample - just ask your doctor and here's a pamphlet outlining your symptoms. Cure cancer not boners you f'ers. But I digress, back to bilking people by selling icons.

I don't think people who think differently than me on this subject are morons, but I do think the companies using this model are sleazy. After considering how many times a buff icon is replicated, it costs a fraction of a penny in development costs. It's pretty much nothing if we're talking potions -they're a 2d 150k .png already on our drives along with a function,  [x = x + 50] and [y=20;y=y-1], or some shit. Selling a 20-pack for $9.99 while fine-tuning the difficulty of the content is disgusting.

It's literally like beating a kid up, taking his candy, selling it back to him, then beating him up and taking it again. With a game and an item shop there's no real violence but the financial transactions are, pardon the pun, virtually the same.

Additionally, I personally believe the journalists encouraging this f2p revolution are behaving irresponsibly by not thinking this thing through. You're telling a lot of kids to spend $10 on a 2d 150k .png already on their drives along with the equation [x = x + 50] and [y=20;y=y-1] from a company that adjusts difficulty levels to lower even the virtual value of that purchase as low as they can possibly get away with. Kids listen to you guys, ya know.

Frankly, this type of rip-off can't happen in a purely subscription based game. It makes no financial sense for a company running a pure sub game to do anything but raise the perceived value of fun and accomplishment in their game. Items, either purchased via in game currency or given outright, are rewards not expenses. A crappy player doesn't pay more to play the game and you can't get swatted by some noob who XP potted his way through the levels.

A sub game is a game with rules - you buy the game and you play the game. Everyone plays under the same conditions no matter what their financial situation.

Most importantly, the devs don't have financial incentive to make your valuable playtime frusterating or boring, their only financial incentive is to develop more content to keep you paying that sub.


A clammy breeze prickles across the tatooed scalp of our intrepid young mage. Now level 25, he stands outside a cave portal ready to solo the previously impossible dungeon due to a snazzy new game feature - the scaling instance. He swings off his pack and untwists the leather strap binding it. Rummaging around inside, his brow furrows as he sees he has only three jugs of pure silver mana left.

The mage straightens his Robe of Minor Doom (+4.2%) as he stands, covering his eyes against the sun. He considers the trail he'd come down.It was a long ride back to the quest hub and he couldn't remember if the little town had a potion vendor or just a general store. The last place he bought mana was the city before which was only a little further, but it was making his way through the spiders that cost him most of his mana supply on the way up.

The player's eyes flash towards the golden button while in an alternate reality a young project lead looks on. Shiny shoes up on a shiny coffee table, he talks on the phone excitedly about his team's improvements to the Scaling Instance project's revenue stream.

They'd positioned the new E'atronoiac Caves instance far enough out that the travel factor alone was generating some numbers in the inst trav and frgt pots categories. Adding the spiders and removing the potions from the mid-trip general store was a stroke of genius. He needed something more though.

The caves were doing well, but the mobs' on the fly stats generation cost quite a bit in processor load up front. Even with the project granted one of the sparse XLTs (Extended Loading Time) slots, importing a party's stats, equipment and inventory, then adjusting the frequency/stats of mobs and mob groups created quite a server load.

Scaled instances were the perfect 'milkers,' as his director put it. The goal of the zone and dungeon projects was never to kill players over and over, just to milk them; to send them onto the next zone almost dry of pots, a little shaken and dreading a grind. 'The scaling instance project was the future,' his boss said over a beer. He claimed it was the perfect companion to their new f2p conversion and was already fine tuneable down to 9 or 10 pots left in inventory.

In the long run, with a little tweaking, they thought it'd be far cheaper to replicate a reskinned scaling instance then to build and balance a standard, level focused dungeon. They'd be able to shed modelers almost as fast as the Bump Skinned Pony Project.

Around the office the BSPP was actually referred to as the Pony of Doom Project, which was funny in a way, and the young project leader briefly pondered what they'd call his. They weren't just fine tuning item recovery, but the fact that the system scaled and skinned was going to save the company a shit ton in labor.

As he was on the phone trying to explain why the boredom factor was a good thing he glanced over at his laptop. His view into the world since launch had migrated to watching characters near the entrance to the instance. He'd peek through their bags and try to guess what might change after they went in. Surprisingly enough, big character changes after entry, after content generation, were a major problem to tune the code for.

A character leveling inside the instance was where the issue first became apparent. Leveling was one of the few areas where the system slowed down in item recovery. It threw off the balance enough that they had to dial back their potion use estimates and figures. Solving that problem was the coding team's top priority at this point.

The guy on the screen was just a solo mage sorting through his bags. He only had 3 mana... the project lead squinted his eyes and began to chant 'go to the store, go to the store' to himself. On the phone - "no, hehe... nope, I was just working a little." Nope, no store trip. Damn.

The guy entered the cave. "Oh, sure - now he goes to the store. Great, there goes my item extraction ratio for this guy." The programming team had better get a handle on this soon. The Scalable Instance project stood to really make him stand out. With his boss being up for retirement this year, the project lead stood to climb the ladder quickly. They just had to drive their potion extraction numbers up.

The little gold item shop button was both his profit pipeline and his main problem. Huge changes after entry really tanked his numbers. Though the spiders were doing their job and the dungeon had its distance factor going for it, there was still a 50/50 chance of players restocking after entry. On the phone - "Holy shit Mom, I gotta go" and he hung up.

He held the phone for just a second before dialing his director. He'd be stepping around his boss a second time. He could theoretically be fired for breaking the chain of command, but he just had a feeling this was his shot. He was going to take it.

With the fate of the mage on the screen completely wiped from consciousness, he dialed the number. "John? yes, hi, this is Hal from scalable instances" ..listening... "yep, yep.. no, no problems, in fact - I think I have something here".... "yeah, ok.... I think we should just turn off the gold button in dungeons all together and bill it as the Devs fighting against marketing because the Devs feel the button is too distracting during the dungeon content."....."Yep, I fully considered that - that's why we use the marketing vs Devs thing. We get less variablility and much higher pot extraction numbers and it'll be a PR godsend.".... "yes" ....."uh huh, I agree. They all want to love Devs and hate marketing." ..... "Sure" Hal almost stuttered "you liked Newcastle, right?" .... "OK! I'll be right over!"

As the Ogre blocking the exit exploded into a electrically buzzing splatter,  the mage looked through his loot and reflected on how much fun he'd just had going through the new scable dungeon. He still had plenty of supplies and was feeling pretty powerful as he went through the exit and on towards the elven castle in the valley. The dungeon had been so much fun that he decided to bring his stagnant Ranger through the instance after his mage's current quest chain ended, maybe in a couple days or so.

A week later there was a big to-do over the item shop itself. It was an internal company battle that was made public via a leaked memo. The player read with interest as all of the sites were saturated with the story. Every detail, every dev post since beta, was rehashed over and over in the news and the forums. For once, sanity overtook greed and the Devs won - no gold button in the dungeons! Victory! Yes, death to The Man!

He thought about how awesome his game company was as he watched the ticking progress bar for his 60MB patch get longer and longer. Finally!

Inside the world a 26th level ranger woke from a long slumber. He made the ardurous journey from the hub city to the village and on to the E'atronoiac Caves. He already had a few ideas on how he'd approch the dungeon mobs with a ranger and was almost giddy with anticipation as he looked through his inventory. After a quick visit to the shop he entered the dungeon and thought "Victory!" to himself one more time as he saw the greyed out item shop button.

Three hours later, after multiple deaths culminating in a drawn out 45 minute 1,4,3,5..1,4,3,5 battle with the final Ogre, the embattled ranger emerged from the dungeon broken and sapped. He looked through his bag and considered his previous plans for the night. Screw doing the Goran cave tonight. He needed to re-pot before even trying to get there. He hit the big gold button and began to restock for tomorrow night. He clicked on 'My Account' and briefly weighed the $22 he'd spent this month against the apathy he was feeling after the caves. Nope, nope he thought - he'd stick with the game. After all at least it had good devs who are willing to fight for the players.


Let's kick this off right

Posted by Cyberdeck7 Saturday July 16 2011 at 4:12PM
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