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Dragon Oath Official Developer Blog

Developers of ChangYou's Dragon Oath, the F2P True Martial Arts MMORPG, write about Dragon Oath and the gaming industry. We'll also bring you insights about MMORPGs made in China and published in the West. Share your thoughts with us!

Author: changyou

The Essence of F2P

Posted by changyou Wednesday February 24 2010 at 1:33PM
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  From a developer’s standpoint, the most exciting opportunity you could have is that the games you have worked on will be available to anyone who has a computer and an internet connection. We all know MMORPG players are always in search of good games that they can play without burning a hole in their wallets.
  But as F2P games offer an alternative to the traditional P2P model in the MMO market, the common gripes that you always hear about the F2P genre are:
“The graphics are so bad!”
“It’s free so it’s bound to have lots of bugs and glitches”
“It’s just a trick to make me eventually spend money”
  It’s always funny for those of us in the industry to hear these complaints. I can’t speak for every other F2P game, but here at Dragon Oath these criticisms couldn’t be further from the truth. Our testers and developers spend just as much time, if not more, than our counterparts working on subscription-based games, debugging code and making sure the games run as smoothly and impressively as possible. We’re also committed to keeping Dragon Oath free forever.
  With that being said, I personally am very excited to see the Western market opening up to more and more F2P MMOs. These games have been popular in Asia for quite a while now, but we’re seeing many becoming household names in America as well. Of course, bringing a popular game from China to the U.S. is not an easy task.
East Meets West
  Marketing: By far, the biggest challenge for us. The game Dragon Oath is based on an immensely popular martial arts novel in China. Going from being a household name to having nobody know anything about your product is not easy. It’s like making a game based on Harry Potter and giving it to an audience that has never read the book. So of course, despite our rich storyline and plot, these were not points that we could focus on in promoting the game. Thankfully, the huge number of appealing features and in-game events in Dragon Oath gave us something that MMORPG players anywhere can relate to.
  Features: Now, it’s no secret that there are differences in the audiences that we are catering to. Features that our players in Asia love could also be features that gamers in the U.S. hate! I’m not going to lie, it’s been a learning process for all of us here at ChangYou. The entire time we’ve released Dragon Oath in America, we’ve listened intently to user feedback and gamers’ suggestions. Things like deeper quest content and alternatives to grinding for experience are what we’ve worked to include in each patch and expansion. The one thing that’s stayed constant across the continents is the fact that an F2P survives based on the depth of the gaming experience it can offer players, regardless of whether or not they spent any money on microtransactions. When you have a game like ours whose content and depth rivals those of pay-to-play power houses like Aion and World of Warcraft, people start to take notice.
  Competition: Any time you come in to a new market, especially as an underdog, there are bound to be challenging competitors who already have a foothold in the marketplace. As I’ve said before, as an F2P game, we’ve had to battle the stereotypes that players inevitably have when they hear the name. It’s even tougher when you have well-established subscription-based games out there breathing down your neck. What we’re striving to have players understand though, is that F2P games like Dragon Oath offer players a unique experience, in that they can literally sample the game entirely for free, and play for however long they want to, and never spend one cent. This is appealing to both MMORPG newbies as well as veteran players who want to take up another challenge. Another advantage we hold is that the microtransaction model (which, due to its success, has been adopted by major P2P games like WoW) allows players from all walks of life to enjoy the game at the same level. If someone has little time on their hands due to work or school, they can always catch up to other player’s levels by spending a few dollars on experience items. At the same time, we balance the item shops so that you cannot simply spend a bunch of money to create an overpowered character. The sole purpose of the shop is to make sure all players can enjoy the same experience without forcing anyone to forego other important responsibilities that they may have.
  Going into the future, we know that we have a unique challenge. We have to distinguish ourselves from all the other F2Ps out there, we have to offer the same level of gameplay that all of the most popular MMORPGs have, and at the same time we’re going to have to offer our players a sense of community that they cannot get in any P2P game. To do that we’re going to keep giving the same level of customer service so that players will always be able to have their complaints, suggestions, and comments quickly heard and addressed. We will also continue to offer new expansions, features, and special events to really let our players know that they are in a dynamic community with many other people who share their love for the game.

UnsungToo writes:

I'm not a team oriented kind of player. But I believe your trying to do the best you can.

Thu Feb 25 2010 7:11PM Report
Skuz writes:

If you truly want to be seen as different from the other F2P games you will have to convince them of a few things that have become F2P staples won't be as much a part of your game.

Pay to win: Having an item mall is a valid way to finance a game but to date there are only a tiny number of games that western audiences feel struck a good balance & offer a value for money, if your game has PvP content it will be seen as bad to have the player progression tied into the item shop in buying power to compete & gain an advantage with cash rather than effort or skill.

Game design hampered until item mall purchases alleviate it: Many item-mall based games have a basic design that ramps up the inconvenience within the game as you progress, this effectively serves as a "bait & switch" mechanic, get the players hooked & then at endgame hit them with a new style of gaming that if not dependant on item mall purchases expects an exhorbitant grind/timesink in order to progress, or to maintain a position of relevance within the game, such as staying geared enough to be able to participate in new content as it is released.

Price gouging: Item malls need to offer value for money, or at least provide the illusion of it, you need to be thinking about what a subscription game costs a player & pitching your sales in a way that an average moderate gamer will not be expecting to purchase more than a sub game, indeed usually a lot less, in order to sustain a similar level of quality of gaming experience, wheras hardcore gamers could be expected to be willing to spend more. In that regard, micro transactions should be just that, small payments, a lot of small payments maybe, but certainly no 1 item being costed at more than a sub for a month, think of offering a "shopping basket" approach, oh I'll have a few of this some of those 1 of that etc, get to the till...7 bucks, a flashy or exclusive never to be seen again mount, maybe 10-15 bucks....something like an extra 6 slots for your bag at 20 bucks when the game requires you to have a lot of bag space......stupid move, not bad, stupid. Costumes, mounts,  ornaments, house furniture, lots of "fluff" items & convenience items, the real thing to do is provide a solid game & the item mall ADD stuff to an already fully enjoyable game, an item mall should not be used to "un-gimp" your character.


Thu Feb 25 2010 11:18PM Report
UnsungToo writes:

That's about the truth of it Skuz.

Of the games that I did spend money on in their cash shops (which is only 2) til I got shafted and learned my lesson.

I spent money on things I didn't need. which was about the cost of 1/2 the boxed price if it were a boxed game.

If the game is a good enough F2P and it gives me everything I need to play the game comfortably, i have no problem spendiing money in the shop. No problem whatsoever.

But don't give me a mount for 3 days then make it so I can only get another one from the cash shop.

It goes way further than just the mount, but i'm sure you get the gist.

Fri Feb 26 2010 4:10AM Report
Tl12000 writes:

If you understand how hard it is to bring an asian game into the american market then why is it that you would actually try to?


Yes it is hard to be able to pull something off like this but an asian community would probably hate the features of an american game like world of warcraft. Can we not take world of warcraft to the asian game market? why not? because blizzard probably knows they wont like it and it will most likely not succeed. As for item malls, im ok with them as along as the whole system is balanced by those who can and cannot afford it. A player who is overpowered just because he spent 100$ dollars on the mall kinda sucks. When im playing world of warcraft, or aion, i know that when i see a really strong player in the game i know he worked hard for it and didnt get to the point where he is at just because he spent money in the game. That is the beauty of fixed 15$ dollar a month games.

As for skuz fluff items, i kinda agree with him. Its something that has followed many asian mmorpgs since cavemen times like roaches.


Sat Feb 27 2010 10:16PM Report writes:
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