Lost Rambling

Lost has a lot of potential, but doesn’t apply himself.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lack of something to say.

I haven’t had much to say as of late, not due lack of sources of things to comment on, between announcements, E3, and who can forget some of the stupid comments made. (*cough* $600 is to cheap or NCSoft questioning returning to next year E3 *cough*) But Woody at GUComics does such a good job it’s hard to add much other than have a good laugh.

I did notice something when I was making my first post on GUComic’s forums, I was going to joke about how long it would take before Dark World Online (Tulga’s newest announced game) had it’s own fly and was going to join the Horizons fly when I noticed that it may have already zapped (the comment of this fact disappeared from the thread *sigh*). The web site along with the press release are gone, also gone is any mention of it from Istaria.com.(edited in: The site is there now and I can only guess it was an issue with changing servers and it hadn't updated completely when I checked. But I do believe that they removed the release from Istaria.com and there is nothing about it on Tulga's site)

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed in Horizons given the high expectations they set,also the fact that so many people cite it as this ground breaking game (which it isn’t, I played it from the release and can’t say that I ever saw it). Needless to say I have become much more cynical about the claims that are made in the PR drives and I believe that most companies have their own version of the Tulumellonator sitting in the office. But I have to think that Tulga is most likely past over stating and now they are quickly coming up on bold face lying.

Which this might be the real reason why I haven’t had much to say about "industry" news, because I don’t buy into all the hype. While I understand that companies need to create interest for their respective games, so much of it boarders on hmm.. well... see the Tulumellonator.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Real money transfers (RMT) and game design.

It doesn’t a lot of time or effort to find game items/accounts being sold for money, most notably on Ebay (Ultima Online, Guild Wars, Worlds of Warcraft and Everquest II *despite SOE strong stance on RMTs*). Even Richard “Lord British” Garriott said in an interview with the The Escapist "I buy virtual gold all the time," he says, adding, "I have no problem with it. I'm a supporter." While I am not a supporter of RMT and I could give many reasons and links from others that feel the same. That is not the reason of this post, this post is intended to explore why current MMO design has created the RMT market.

One thing that strikes me when reading the disclaimer in the EQ account sale is that “You are bidding on the time spent playing these accounts only.”, while I full know this is just a way/tactic to try and avoid SOE polices, it does help draw attention to the primary factor of why the RMT is so large: Time.

Looking at the “market” of UO items, mainly because there is such a wide range you can buy materials, gold, housing, accounts, rare items, armor, and weapons can in one way or another be boiled down to an investment of time.

While the argument can be made that without the time investment to acquire resources, items, and levels/skills that players characters will be all the same and boring (a.k.a. if everyone is “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”, then Clark Kent would be just a man and not Superman. I will just argue that is what RMT is doing that now.)

The current model is to give players goals that require this time investment in order to reach the end game or at least what the player sees as the end game. From Richard Bartle’s paper: The Newbie Induction: How Poor Design Triumphs “If evolution is not the answer, perhaps revolution is? Innovation could be the savior we’re awaiting. If a virtual world appears with a unique selling point that doesn’t map onto any player’s experiences, then perhaps newbies and oldbies alike might chance it?” (I strongly suggest reading the whole paper.)

I believe that designers should be gearing the player’s time in towards entertainment value, not just towards a series of long grinding goals. Also from the Escapist article

Robert Garriott said: "So you play it, you like it, you stay for ten months, and then you leave," he says. Rather than fighting what they saw as an obvious industry trend, NCsoft decided to go a different way and embrace it. "As games become more casual, churn rates go up. So, we knew the churn rates were going up, so we started saying, well, how can we make churn our friend? Because there's nothing we can really do to stop the fact that churn is going up. Interestingly, if you're a single product company, you can never make churn your friend," because people leaving your one cash cow undermines your entire company.

While “embracing” churn might be an overstatement (also given the growing budgets for MMOs leaves me skeptical about “embracing” it), but accepting it as a fact is pretty encouraging and could lead to the innovation we seek. I do not claim to know what “the” innovation is that is need. But I do know that if we aren’t willing to throw out some of the old ideas the innovation may never come or be possible. The player’s time shouldn’t only be seen a means of keeping them paying a subscription, but more as their valuable entertainment time being fulfilled.

*disclaimer Ebay being an auction site, some or all of the above links could be useless in short time. And to the people selling on Ebay, I consider the information on Ebay “public information” that anyone can access and I’m not disclosing anything that could not be easily found by others. Therefore I am not responsible for an actions taken against you or your account by above listed games or their representatives.*

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

House Keeping

No “major” post today, just a little house keeping like alphabetizing blog links along with adding “Deeply Random Thoughts” (I’m not sure that it is truly what you would call a blog, but some interesting reading), also added “Indie” links of projects/developers from GameDev.net. (Quick note, it’s nothing personal if I don’t have your blog or project linked, odds I just haven’t gotten a chance to read/see it. If you have suggestions on blogs/projects feel free to leave them as a comment and I’ll make a point to check it out. As it is I spend way to much time reading blogs.)

I’d also like to thank Ryan from NerfBat for the link. It wasn’t until I read the post describing each blog that I noticed that I was the only one with no tagline. Not to fear, as I was reading my review (for lack of better term) one part jumped out at me and reminded of a phrase that I heard more than once in school (and I’m sure I’m not the only one that heard it.) and that seemed like a perfect tagline. I always say you, you shouldn’t make fun of others unless you can’t make fun of yourself too. ;)