In Which We Feel Smug Relative to Raiders for Just a Moment…

“…matchmaking systems never work…”
“…players never believe they work.”
“Nevertheless everybody believes…”

-Tobold, in comments on his own blog

There is a natural tendency in human beings to project their view of the world on others.  I had a professor back in college who called it the “like me” phenomena, the belief that we’re normal and that most people are like us and view the world the same way.  The Tobold snippets above just happened to be handy, as they showed up just when I needed them, from a post that is, from my point of view, flawed in its very premise.  I have the first comment on that post, asking for a supporting argument which Tobold singularly failed to deliver in my opinion.  He went on, in response to others, in an absolutist tone that spoke for everyone.

Person speaks for a whole group and makes assertions unsupported by the evidence on the internet!

Hardly a special moment.  It happens all the time.  I slip into that mode myself on occasion even though I try to make a conscious effort to speak only for myself and not a wider community onto which I have projected my views.  It is easy to do.  Hell, I used “we” in the title of this post?  Is that a royal “we” or am I speaking for me and somebody else. (I am just assuming some non-raider besides me is going to feel smug, but I am getting ahead of myself now.)

But less often do people get put in their place by somebody with the numbers to back things up.

Last week over at Massively, Syp had an article published which I suspect gave him great joy, in which Lord of the Rings Online community manager Rick Heaton told raiders exactly where they stood in terms of the LOTRO population

Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn’t comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it’s not a new thing, it’s a long standing historical fact).

Forum posters comprise a slightly larger group than the combined group of PvMP and Raiders. However, Raiders and PvMP players make up the overwhelming majority of forum posters (More than half. Though raiders are the smaller group of the two (PvMP/Raiders)). So you have a tiny group, inside a small group that is grossly disproportionately represented on the forums.

Raiders and PvPers make up less than 10% of the population of Middle-earth, but tend to be vocal (and heavily invested) groups and are thus over-represented in the forums.

Doesn’t this just confirm something you have long suspected?  (Unless you’re a raider/PvPer.)  Haven’t there been times when you have just prayed for somebody from any given MMO developer to show up and say that?  Raiding and PvP aren’t the most popular activities in the game, so stop bringing them up in every single thread.  A bit of the total perspective vortex for a group in need of a being brought down a notch, right?

And you are only 4% of "Here"

And you are only 4% of “Here”

Having long since left raiding behind me, and never having been much for PvP, I feel more than my fair share of that warm schadenfreude glow on reading those words.  In your face, forum loud mouth!  You can bet that those words will be echoed for some time to come.

And yet, the words are incomplete.

All things being equal, Turbine probably shouldn’t spend time working on raid content to the exclusion of other areas if only a small percentage… let’s call it 4%… of their players raid.  Seems fair.  And I am sure that this reinforces what some of us feel, at least at a gut level, that resources are lavished on raiders out of proportion to their numbers in the game.

Unless, of course, we were to find out that raiders made up a greater percentage of paying customers.  Rick Heaton did say “total player base,” which in a free to play game has to include a lot of people paying little or nothing to play the game.  In the free to play market, 4% of your total player base might be a very large number when compare to total subscriber player base.  So if we found out that raiders, as a group, had VIP status… what they call the $15 a month subscribers in Middle-earth these days… at a much higher rate than the player base as a whole, then they might actually be more important than was made out.  And do raiders stay subscribed longer and play more and get more involved in the social elements of the game, including the forums?  Are they more committed to your game than other groups?  And what value does that have?

Basically, Rick Heaton slammed raiders and PvPers without really putting a nail in the coffin.  Turbine not building more content for 4% of their total player base sounds reasonable.  Turbine ignoring a significant portion of their long term paying players might not.  But we didn’t get those last bits as no doubt that would give a greater insight into Turbine’s business than they want to people to know.  I am honestly surprised a community manager came out and said as much as Rick Heaton did.

It also might be interesting to know just how “good” the raiding content in LOTRO really is?  That is a very subjective things, certainly, but does LOTRO raid content attract raiders?  I know that the PvP content has a small, dedicated following that is hampered quite a bit by Monster Play being sort of a side show of the game, but I have no real way to judge raiding in LOTRO, as I have never tried it nor do I know anybody who has.  I cannot name a single raid in LOTRO.  Does that mean raiding isn’t important to players or that Turbine hasn’t done a good job?

And there will be the temptation to generalize from this single statement and to apply it to what is generally terms “end game content” in other MMOs, with the first stop being WoW.

That is, I suspect, destined to a tragically flawed endeavor.  There are the general arguments I already made… who subscribes longer and is more committed.  Plus, I am going to guess, in the absence of any hard numbers at hand, that World of Warcraft sees a much larger percentage of players accessing raid content due to the much-maligned (by “real” raiders) Looking for Raid tool.  That is a matchmaking tool that works… just to circle back to those quotes at the top… for the specific purpose of giving lower commitment player the ability to experience the end game content.

Meanwhile over in EVE Online, where “end game” is a slippery concept, there is always the temptation to rage about null sec and sovereignty warfare getting more than its fair share of attention relative to the population involved.  There is the much quoted “most people never leave high sec” thing (though there is also the “most people who subscribe just leave after their first subscription cycle” thing as well, so most players never seem to get a reason to leave high sec) and the various constituencies throughout the game, most of which are not sovereignty holding entities in null sec.  But even its detractors have to allow that null sec gets press outside of gaming circles.  A giant battle like B-R5RB boosts new account generation.  It is hard to have a more tangible impact on a game than that.

And I suspect there are such arguments to be made around other MMOs and their end game content.  Not all of it is as focused on raid content as, say, the EverQuest time locked progression servers, which are raid driven by design, that being the way the next expansion vote is unlocked.  But end game, and keeping players playing once they reach the level cap is still a concern.  Longevity is tied to profitability in MMOs.

So as amusing as it is to point and say, “Hah, raiders got totally burned!” on that comment, I am still not sure what one should really take away from that particular statement.

56 thoughts on “In Which We Feel Smug Relative to Raiders for Just a Moment…

  1. Chris Bickford

    In before SynCaine explains how the 4% of the raiders drive your game content…

    I’ve done some LotRO raiding at release and it was less mechanic intensive than the equivalent in WoW at the time(Karazhan). The loot was about as good as crafted. It was amusing.

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  2. spinks

    Anyone who was a hardcore LOTRO player would probably have gotten a lifetime sub — and thus is no longer a paying player.

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  3. bhagpuss

    When that article appeared on Massively I clicked through and read some of the LotRO forum thread from which the quotes are drawn. Reading it in detail just made me more confused.

    I think Rick Heaton covers the issue about whether the 10% is disproportionately distributed among the paying customers when he emphasizes that raiders & pvpers added together “never have” made up even a tenth of the playerbase. That would include all the time the game was subscription only.

    Also it’s not Raiders that make up the less than 10%. The ten percent club is Monster Play plus Raids and he stresses that raiders make up by far the smaller part of that pairing. That would lead me to believe that Raiders in LotRO comprise less than 5% of the total playerbase.

    He then goes on to make an extremely confusing “clarification”, which Syp doesn’t quote, in which he discusses a conversation he had in a previous thread, where he gave estimates of the number of raiders present on the forums as opposed to in the game.

    Leaving that aside, the gist does appear to be that in LotRO far fewer than 1 in 10 players raid but an awful lot of that 10% go on forums to post about raiding, which puts them in an effective but highly misleading “majority” in discussions. All clear so far.

    Only a number of posters make the highly pertinent point that Turbine have no stated definition of a “Raider” so no-one can know what they mean when they use the term. It could mean anything from those players who spend most of every play session doing “Raid” content (whatever that is in LotRO) to any player who has ever done any raid content even once.

    Clearly you need to know how much raiding a player has to do before Turbine includes that player in the count before the statistic can mean anything. That, like just about everything else related to hard numbers in just about any MMO, is something we just don’t know.

    Speaking anecdotally, in all my years in MMOs that have content you could call “Raids”, hardly anyone I have played with has done that content regularly. Equally, very few have never done any. The norm amongst my in-game peer group would probably be defined as “tried it, didn’t like it”.

    When I was playing EQ pre-WoW and EQ was the big raid MMO it was generally reckoned (as in it was often claimed on forums and in in-game arguments) that any given server only had about 10% of the players who raided as the main thing they did. That’s certainly what the raid guilds themselves liked to put about.

    It’s always sounded about right to me. SynCaine’s argument as I understand it (he’ll probably appear here to give it straight from the horse’s mouth) is that raiders provide aspirational models for the rest of the player base and that by doing they make it worth a developer’s while to pander to them. Raiders are the shop -window for end-game content and in a sub game end-game content is the bait for continued subscription.

    I’m not all that convinced that a cost-benefit analysis would support that for a sub model but I guess it might. I can’t imagine how it would work well for a F2P MMO though, unless the real intent was to use F2P as a fig-leaf for guiding people into a subscription (the way SOE likes to playF2P). You’d think that for a real F2P, making most or all of its income from the in-game Store, the aspirational players would need to be those who spent the most real money and bought the flashiest, most eye-catching stuff.

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  4. Jacob

    This statement makes me wonder a little bit about the future of Wildstar too.

    Mind you, I played Wildstar for a month, never planned on raiding and found it fun, but not really fun enough to keep me paying $15 per month.

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  5. Noizy

    The 50% of EVE players never gets past the first month has become popular since Fanfest. What I’m interested in is how long do new players in other games last. For example, when CCP’s Sean Decker was at EA, he stated at the London Games Conference in 2012 that F2P games lost 70% of their players in the first 24 hours and only retained 15% of new players after 7 days.

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  6. tsuhelm

    Not having raided myself but wanting to one day although I am about 2 years away at present leveling rate..that is 4 years of player statistic who wants to raid but is not included in ‘raid’ stats…Am subscribing at the moment, and have bought 2 expansions with cash …so far…

    The more this is discussed the more complex it gets.. just makes some raids please TURBINE :) Try keep EVERYONE happy…

    Everything is awesome….oh that’s LEGO…

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  7. Braxwolf

    I fall into the trap of assuming everybody plays/reads blogs/listens to podcasts like me *all the time*. I think it’s probably human nature to project our own experiences onto others. After all, it’s what we use to predict future behaviors and situations, as well.

    I saw a comment over at LOTRO Players (there are many opinions on this, as you might expect) that I think would be worth exploring further. That is, what does the omission of a certain aspect of the game do to the rest of the game’s “ecosphere”. We may not all be raiders, but we may still enjoy and expect the traditional grouping content to be an option within the game. Raiders contribute to the economy, as they will both post and buy rare items in the auction house. Crafters support raiders with high-end jewelry while raiders supply crafters with rare drop ingredients required for this type of gear. What are the ripple effects of an entire (even minority) group of players being told that they are no longer worth supporting? While the on paper it may look like only 4% of the population will be affected, I’m not sure that all of the ripple effects of these type of statements have been anticipated.

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  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Spinks – Hey, a paid in advance player! And expansions aren’t free. I spent a chunk of money after I went lifetime. Turbine made that deal, so they go back on it or start moaning about Lifetime accounts at their peril. But yes, best deal I ever made in an MMO as far as play time vs. money spent.

    @Bhagpuss – “Also it’s not Raiders that make up the less than 10%.”

    I think I covered that when I decided to call raiders “4%” for the sake of argument.

    I get the aspirational aspect, and even agree with it. I just think when I cannot name a single raid in a game I have played off and on for seven years now, that perhaps the devs might be part of the problem.

    I never raided in EQ, but I knew who Lady Vox was. Judging from how I do in the WoW category of QuizUp, I know who the raid bosses are in WoW. (Except for Burning Crusade content, for some odd reason. Big hole in my knowledge there.) But LOTRO, not a clue on raids.

    @Noizy – Indeed, numbers that get thrown around with comparison do wrankle a bit. Even the 50% is a bit empty in the absence of any sort of quantity. If it is 10K new players a month, that might be okay. If it is 200… well… there are lots of long term problems if that is the case.

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  9. ultrviolet

    I’ve always guessed the percentage of raiders to be closer to 1% personally, which seems to match their “raiders make up a small part of the 10%” statement. Seems plausible since PvMP is a lot more accessible than raiding.

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  10. SynCaine

    The fact that LotRO has 4% of anything that Turbine would call ‘raiders’ is the big news here. Who the hell raids in LotRO? Even before it went minor leagues when I played it, and this was fresh off leading raids in WoW, I never once was attracted to or aimed at the raiding game. Just not that kind of MMO, even back then.

    Plus like others have pointed out, even if you put all the LotRO-specific stuff aside (like it being terrible, for example), it’s a F2P MMO, so what exactly does “4% of the playerbase” mean? Is that counting every account created ever? I mean that sounds like a terrible stupid way to measure it, but this is “4 million characters created” Turbine we are talking about, so without direct clarification, what exactly are we talking about here?

    (That said I thought the statistic about 10% of your players reading your forums, with far less than that actually posting, was a known thing across MMOs?)

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  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – “The fact that LotRO has 4% of anything that Turbine would call ‘raiders’ is the big news here.”

    Yeah, that was the “EVE has sound?” part of the equation.

    My first thought was, in fact, “LOTRO has raids?” I knew that it did in an abstract, spec sheet sort of way, the way I knew my modem had MiniTel support way back in the day, but my actual first hand experience with raiding in LOTRO is nil, to the point of being unable to even name a raid in the game.

    As for the percentage of forum users relative to a game’s population, that has the same ring to it for me. I believe most of us know it in an abstract sense, but when the forums light up over some outrage… especially with companies like SOE who use their forums to pass on nearly every tidbit of information… it is easy to get caught up in the idea of, “OMG, the WHOLE community is going to explode!”

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  12. Braxwolf

    The problem with getting information in live streams and forum posts is that it’s not always readily accessible in one place. At some point, Mr. Heaton has clarified that “traditional end-game content” includes all types of instance clusters – 3-man, 6-man, and 12-man. Typically, expansions have included some of each, usually about 3 3-mans, one or two 6-man’s and a 12-man “raid”.

    Although apparently in update 14 they were able to “sneak in” a new 3-man instance somehow. Perhaps a bone to be thrown to the <10%.

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  13. Lookb4uleap

    How many nonraider friends and family does the average long-term raider recruit, over those years? How many raider friends and family does the average long-term nonraider recruit, on average? How many raiders end up being long-term devoted players? How many nonraiders end up being long-term devoted players? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of figuring out which 5% of your population really drives your game long-term; but it’s a pretty important tip, and I know what my anecdotal experience has been in regards to those 4 question–and the sum total of that anecdotal experience is that hardcore raiders are disproportionately important to the long term bottom line of a wow-clone type MMO. This anecdotal experience is backed up by the observational fact that we can see that Blizzard devotes a disproportionate amount of development time to raids; and the supposition that this fact is true for a reason.

    Debating raiding in themeparks with Tobolds is pointless; he’s suffering from a massive case of sour grapes and self-delusion in regards to ‘difficult’ PVE themepark content. Arguing with him about it is like arguing with a paraplegic who claims that long-distance running is unhealthy and boring. Don’t go there.

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  14. NetherLands

    Thanks for the post :)

    IMO It all stems from the idea that those who keep a game the most afloat should in a themepark get the most content, or, to put it differently, people who spend equally should gain equal amounts of content.

    Note that the last bit doesn’t necessarily mean the SAME content, though that is part of the reason these ‘brawls’ happen: if (e.g.) PvP’ers would gain a new map and Explorers & ‘Journey’ players a new Questing Zone every Patch with WoW like Raiders basically gain an extra Raid every patch, the subject would be far less volatile.

    However, ever since Vanilla people noticed that what was once basically promoted as a WPvP game from a RTS franchise (eg the original Vanilla Trailer – hinting at a vast world, characters fighting each other yes, the Raid Treadmill no) had its Devs (quite a few from a ‘uberGuild’ EQ Raid Guild background) favoring PvE Raid content more than the first paragraph would justify

    (eg BlizzCon 2005 ; extract at http://tobolds.blogspot.nl/2006/05/raid-numbers.html though Google is one’s friend)

    Now, with a F2P game that’s becomes fairly easy to adress – make Raiders pay more than others if you want them to have more content than others – but with a sub game it gets tricky, especially if like WoW you have this phenomenon of Raiders playing a raid, unsub till the new one comes out, sub again when the new is there etc. – sure they claim they played ‘since Vanilla’ or ‘since TBC’ but is this really the case if for large parts of the year they aren’t subscribed and therefore not bringing in money?

    The aspiration thing is rather iffy, too, it works only within a given player demographic – adults and females for example are (according to that study from a few years back) less interested in that whole pissing contest that comes with it to begin with.

    Which brings us to ‘LotRO has Raiding?’

    Yes and no.

    Yes, as being a post-WoW MMORPG it was kinda-expected by a certain slice of the gamer populance affectionally known as ‘Content Locusts’ (nice Google term), no certainly during Angmar most people where quite likely like the Dutch Tolkien Society (and me): happy to finally walk in a virtual world they knew well called Middle Earth.

    In fact, when Moria started to put more emphasis on Instance running (because hey, WoW did it) many of the players of the first hour (including aforementioned Society) quit playing as it became ‘too gamey’. They signed up for a virtual world, and now you had people offering to ‘boost your character to cap so you can come Raiding with us’ (also a personal anecdote). The Forums at the time voiced this at the time , too.

    And now I noticed I started rambling, but this topic keeps fascinating me ;)

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  15. sid67

    Where I thought Tobold missed the boat is that he is asserting that the reason people dislike LFG is because it forces you to group with unskilled players. I carry people through content all the time and that’s never been my objection.

    My issue is that “random” means I spin the wheel and take a chance that the bad group member might be one who ninjas loot, or goes AFK, says racist crap, and so on. Each of those things is FAR worse for my gaming experience than failing to complete a dungeon because someone can’t DPS enough.

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  16. Dril

    I still don’t understand what factual premise this whole fuss about raiders taking all the content away from everyone else rests on.

    The vast, vast majority of a (modern, themepark) MMO’s content is solo content designed for leveling. Raiding very often amounts to, MAX, four raids over an expansion cycle that last in excess of two years.

    Even if we extend the 4% number to every themepark, I’d hazard a guess that, in terms of absolute content, raiding makes up less than 4% in any game.

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  17. sid67

    @Dril I would argue that, at least in themeparks, the organized group content is the distinguishing characteristic that makes these games MMOs. Without it, it’s a solo experience in a shared world and not something I would define as an MMO. Don’t get me wrong, that can be fun, but it’s not a “massive multiplayer” game if you are neither massive nor multiplayer. :)

    You know your MMO is not really an MMO when it plays like the match finder in Halo 4 and with about as much interaction.

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  18. sean

    I’m so glad someone I read posted about this, I’ve been wanting to get my teeth into it since I read it :D (bio alert: long-time MMO player, on-off hardcore raider, never played WoW because omg kindergraphics >< )

    My first reaction was to recall Damion Schubert's blogpost from 2007 where he pointed out that functionally 0% of WoW players had completed the end-game raid in Burning Crusade 9 months after launch, and that thus this is a waste of development resources. That was 2007: it wasn't wrong then and it's not wrong now.

    That doesn't mean that "the Syncaine" argument is wrong, just that it's only really valid if you're trying to keep people paying for as long as possible: all those expensive developer resources indirectly keep your subscriptions up by showing the other 99+% of players what they might get if they keep going through the content (hello, Wildstar attunement, btw). Which means, as I've thought for a long, long time, that raiding – ie, instanced, finite participant group content – is *an outgrowth of the subscription business model*.

    I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop on the big F2P conversion for a long time now – the announcement that Helm's Deep would have no raids at all was, I thought, the moment it would drop. But hey, it took Rick Heaton's own special brand of brutal honesty to make it happen: there's no point building expensive content for a very small minority when the same money could be spent developing content for the large majority, for much better ROI. (my guess: more mounts, outfits and festivals). It's not like LOTRO is unique here: RIFT announced a new crafting skill a few months ago that…. crafts stuff for Dimensions! Not raid consumables, not gear improvements: a brand new trade skill to gate *Dimension* gear behind. Let's all take a guess at what the most profitable part of RIFT is, shall we?

    Raiding – instanced, finite participant group content – with it's gearchecks and attunements and lockouts and instance ladders, is a device to stretch out subscriptions. (It's also *fun* (to certain populations), but so are many other things in MMOs, so let's not debate that – it's fun for a demonstrably tiny proportion of the MMO population). WIth subscriptions gone (hello ESO, when are you going F2P? gotta be soon: I'm half-expecting the 'big announcement' Zenimax are making at Quakecon next week to be a F2P announcement), where is the business case for expensive content that only a tiny population of paying customers use? There isn't one.

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  19. Helistar

    Ahem, what exactly “news” is the data provided by Turbine?

    Even without getting into the debate of the quality of LotRO raids (my experience was not positive), that raiders are a small minority of players is a well established fact. Even in WoW, which sells raiding very well. Just head to WoWprogress and check the number of players having killed the 1st boss of the last tier… you get beyond 10% of the playerbase only if you assume that all guilds are 25-men and different characters mean different players….

    At the same time if Blizzard is investing so much in it it pretty much means that they are making money off it, which of course does not mean that the thing will translate to other MMOs, especially one like LotRO which sells on Middle Earth IP more than on group gameplay.

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  20. Matt

    My question is whether the raiding population has increased or decreased over time. As long as we’re projecting, I’m just going to assume that most people, like me, used to raid but don’t care anymore.

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  21. SynCaine

    “That doesn’t mean that “the Syncaine” argument is wrong, just that it’s only really valid if you’re trying to keep people paying for as long as possible”

    So… basically if you like money, raid content good. If you are running a charity MMO, hats for everyone?

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  22. Chris Bickford

    @Matt: It really depends on the time frame that you are looking at and what you consider the raiding population to be. Relative to, say, pre-WoW EQ where you’d have 2 maybe 3 guilds working on ‘progression’ content and a lot of other guilds farting around with dated content, there’s a lot more raiders (people who see/kill the final tier boss). In terms of actual hardcore raiders working the cutting edge of progression, I’d guess that number is roughly constant.

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  23. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Helistar – If you came here looking for “news” I think you would be better served here.

    That said, in the sort of things I write about here, a CM coming out and confirming the sort of gut level perception that a lot of people have, that forums only service a small percentage of the population, and raiders, an even smaller population, are over-represented in the forum population, is in fact worth noting, in my opinion. Doubly so given how little data about anything we hear from Turbine, which seems to be edging closer and closer to putting LOTRO on auto-pilot to ride out the rest of their contract with Tolkien Enterprises.

    @sean – How you summarize Damion Schubert’s post is something of a serious mis-statement in my opinion.

    “That’s a lot of development dollar (design, art, qa) that players aren’t seeing at all.”

    Is not the same thing as:

    “…thus this is a waste of development resources.”

    His focus was, attunements, which were keeping people who might otherwise be raiding out of the raids, something that even Blizz seemed to agree with at that point. He was not saying that they should not have built the raids in the first place.

    As for “paying as long as possible,” I am tempted to quote Helistar and ask how that is news. People stay subscribed when they feel they still have things to do, something that The Burning Crusade was quite successful at. A good subscription MMO always has something more to do within your reach. That is how the game becomes a success.

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  24. NetherLands

    Perhaps a dumb question, but I take it the Damion Schubert from Sean’s post is the same Damion Schubert of BioWare who explained his (almost Syncainian ;) beliefs regarding so-called hardcores and casuals in

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/10/13/gdc-austin-2011-biowares-damion-schubert-takes-a-wrecking-ball/2#comments

    ?
    Note that as people commented in that piece his theory has some flaws, as what is percieved as ‘hardcore’ content/Raiding does not always lead to people staying with a game let alone consistently (the whole Patch-and-unsub cycle within WoW, and the 2-monther phenomenon)

    Personally, I think the whole ‘hardcore=Raiding, and vice-versa’ thing is somewhat overblown, especially with todays standards (I can see why original EQ could be considered hardcore, with the whole camping schedules, having to race other Guilds over the spawn, having to come up with your own Guild tactics etc. but zoning into a Raid once or twice a week for a couple of hours to essentially follow an instruction video.. not really, I’d call camping a Mount for hours on end for weeks if not longer more hardcore behaviour; note that I don’t collect Mounts myself)

    Also – and I don’t intend to ruffle any feathers but it always has surprised me so I just have to throw it up – how come that even Amercian/Western games place so much social value in mandatory group content in the first place?

    Needing nine or more other people to accomplish your goals doesn’t seem very ‘pioneer-y’ (is that a word?) or independant, or even heroic for that matter (one could link your average Raid encounter to angry mob justice in a way, especially with Raid bosses generally not acting even remotely intelligently).

    While I to a point understand the likely monetary reasons (hoping people will keep playing because their ‘team’ plays) besides it too often being merely marriages of conveniance (e.g. all the poaching that attunement systems bring) the social damage it does to a game’s community (historically, those that could set aside a specific amount of time at a specific moment to play consistently see themselves as somehow ‘better’ than others) turns people off as well.

    Add in the whole ‘all subscribers are equal but some are more equal than others’ bit they tend to bring to games (paying your sub doesn’t entitle you to content you like – ‘would cost a Raid Tier’ – but somehow others are entitled to you paying your sub to pay for content they like) and it all brings an almost- ‘Sowjet’ smell to it, some would say.

    Still, fascinating subject.

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  25. sid67

    The comments for this post deliver for no other reason than someone wrote the word “Syncainian” and we all knew what he meant. :P

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  26. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @sid67 – Indeed, I am going to use that word again I am sure.

    @Netherlands – Yes, it is the same Damion Schubert. I was going to give myself a cookie for discussing him in my past comment without bringing up SWTOR and how that compared to The Burning Crusade.

    As for group content, there are a couple of things that push MMORPGs in that direction. First, there is the history, the MUDs and D&D that lead directly to these games, which were by and large group oriented games. The five player dungeon crawl is part of our RPG heritage.

    Then there is the whole “what does an MMORPG bring to the table if not group content?” You can make much better solo RPGs. WoW is not very deep compared to Skyrim as a single player game. But I cannot play Skyrim with my friends.

    There is a balance. You don’t want players to log on and not be able to do anything because their friends aren’t on at the moment of the group is already way off in the middle of something. So there is some call for solo content. But you also don’t want the content to discourage you from playing with your friends when you are all online together. There ought to be things for people to do as a group or a guild or whatever.

    And then there is the social thing. That is objectively something that an MMORPG delivers that even a multi-player co-op game can’t. But social always has frictions. Community isn’t the same things as “we’re all happy to be around each other all the time.” To round back on Tobold again, which is always fun, he once criticized my statement about there being a MMO blogging community because Gevlon was, to paraphrase, a jerk. That the quote I have at the top of this post came from a entry Tobold wrote directly in reply to Gevlon gave me no small satisfaction. Community!

    As Potshot once said, I don’t live in a city because I want to be friends and interact with everybody I meet. I live there because it allows access to amenities and services that I couldn’t get living in a cabin by myself in the back wood.

    But yes, I agree, the subject itself, and how it has ebbed and flowed over the years, is worth study. Fascinating.

    Like

  27. Lookb4uleap

    “That said, in the sort of things I write about here, a CM coming out and confirming the sort of gut level perception that a lot of people have, that forums only service a small percentage of the population, and raiders, an even smaller population, are over-represented in the forum population, is in fact worth noting, in my opinion.”

    Not sure why you think that a PR person, talking about customer percentages and not any strictly ingame fact, is more trustworthy than your own gut perceptions. (Assuming that implication is what you meant by using the word “confirming”). He is being paid to promote his companies bottom line, not to ‘confirm facts’. If he’d said the opposite, would you have treated his statement as ‘confirming’ that your gut perceptions were wrong?

    Like

  28. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Lookb4uleap – Let’s just say I don’t automatically assume that community people are necessarily lying sacks of shit who will say whatever is required to promote their game. It is a small industry and if you get a reputation as a chronic liar, you aren’t any use to any company and you end up in a different profession, like SEO optimization or promoting AT&T U-verse. Anyway, in my experience, lying is something that happens far further up the corporate ladder at most companies. CEO’s tell the most outrageous lies.

    Plus, I want to be there when you call somebody like Sanya Weathers a “PR person.”

    That aside, I think the number would have been interesting regardless of what he reported. My reaction might have been more skeptical if he had said that the forums represent the majority opinion of the community or that raiders are drastically under represented. That might even have qualified as “news” for Helistar.

    Instead he came out and confirmed my gut belief… but who doesn’t love that?

    Like

  29. Lookb4uleap

    “Let’s just say I don’t automatically assume that community people are necessarily lying sacks of shit who will say whatever is required to promote their game.”

    I don’t assume that either…and neither do I assume the opposite. The grey area between is where all the action is.

    “Anyway, in my experience, lying is something that happens far further up the corporate ladder at most companies. CEO’s tell the most outrageous lies.”

    In my experience, sometimes the CEO’s write really outrageous lies and then send them to the PR flacks with the directive: “post this to the forum as if you’d written it.” :)

    “Plus, I want to be there when you call somebody like Sanya Weathers a “PR person.””

    Never heard of her, but she apparently refers to herself on Twitter as a “community weenie”–there’s no need to improve on that title.

    Like

  30. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    “In my experience, sometimes the CEO’s write really outrageous lies and then send them to the PR flacks with the directive: “post this to the forum as if you’d written it.” :)”

    And those tend to sound as tuned, nuanced, and scripted as they tend to be, often lying by omission or joining points together to get people to make false assumptions.

    Rick Heaton’s quote in the post sounds very much off script. A CM person telling a vocal portion of the community that they aren’t as important as they think they are is a statement against interest (keeping the community happy) and thus seems more likely to be on track in my view.

    Anyway, he is quoted here for truth, because I am one of those people who comes back three years later and say, “But on date x you said something different!” It had held back my career at a couple point.

    Like

  31. Lookb4uleap

    “And those tend to sound as tuned, nuanced, and scripted…”

    Sometimes, not overwhelmingly often, in my experience.

    “Rick Heaton’s quote in the post sounds very much off script.”

    Based on your blog post and my personal experience; neither one of us raids in LOTRO, therefore, I don’t understand how either one of us knows enough about the actual situation with raiding in LOTRO to judge whether Rick Heaton is “off script” or not. If Turbine has thrown raiders under the bus in development terms (by stopping or vastly decreasing development time to them, after getting them to pay lifetime subscriptions, and realizing that they now offer no future monetary value), then the script would include throwing raiders under the bus in PR terms, to cover up the worse crimes done to them in actuality. This is why lifetime subscriptions are such a bad idea in MMOs; the raiders are going to feel like they’re being abandoned, whether or not they actually are, every time a raid tier gets delayed: and that’s the best case scenario.

    Like

  32. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Lookb4uleap – Are you just here to be the contratrian? Yeah, I don’t raid in LOTRO, but that doesn’t make a community manager telling his loudest forum audience that they are too small of a group to get the attention and dev resources they want an indecipherable enigma.

    That is the proverbial slap in the face.

    How often does that happen?

    Yeah, the overall mandate was that they were not devoting more dev resources to raids. That has been around for a while. But the quote above, you will have a tough time convincing me that this is, as you put it, a “PR Flack,” reading from the approved script. Your cynicism is certainly much deeper than mine.

    And, in the end, does it matter? Still back to confirming gut instinct about the numbers. Unless you think the numbers are all a lie.

    Like

  33. Lookb4uleap

    “Are you just here to be the contratrian[sic]? ”

    NO–wait, that’s a trick question!

    “That is the proverbial slap in the face.

    How often does that happen?”

    Pretty often; this is the Internet, after all. Faces, they be made for slapping.

    “That has been around for a while. But the quote above, you will have a tough time convincing me that this is, as you put it, a “PR Flack,” reading from the approved script. Your cynicism is certainly much deeper than mine”

    I’m not trying to convince you. You’re the one trying to convince me. I’m defending the agnostic, default, position of “we don’t really know what’s behind the scenes here”. Your positions are much more affirmative. That’s skepticism on my part, not cynicism. The impetus behind my starting this little back-and-forth in comment #27 is that there seems to be a pattern among MMO bloggers of trusting the “official numbers” over third-party numbers; a pattern which I find curious; and your comment #23 which I quoted reminded me of that pattern. In that sense, in that I’m motivated by a curious trend which I find to be quite doubtful, I suppose you’re right, I’m being somewhat contrarian. If this exchange is going on longer than you’d like, I don’t see why you don’t just stop replying: I don’t see how writing, in effect, “I’m slightly skeptical about X”, is aggressively demanding a response I thought we were just having some harmless fun. :\

    Like

  34. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    “I don’t see why you don’t just stop replying”

    Because it is my blog, not yours, and the only thing I have ever banned somebody for is telling me I needed to stop commenting on my own blog. I consider that to be quite rude. My own rule on the blogs of others is that after three comments I am done, as things tend to go downhill from that point forward, and if I care enough about a topic I’ll go write my own blog post.

    As for the slap in the face, I suspect you are now deliberately misunderstanding what I am getting at (did I mention the whole internet?) or you do not understand the reference. No, it does not happen all the time in the case of MMO companies telling their customers such things, despite what some rather hysterical forum dwellers might say.

    I am interested to know where I might find third-party numbers on the on what percentage of the LOTRO population are raiders? The only numbers I have ever seen are the ones quoted in the post, so I don’t see this as trusting “official numbers” (in ominous quotes) compared to third-party numbers, since such third party numbers do not exist to my knowledge. This was much more, “Wow, we have some numbers!” And hey, they conform to something I previously thought to be the case!

    Like

  35. Lookb4uleap

    ““I don’t see why you don’t just stop replying””

    is so completely different from the full phrase:

    ” If this exchange is going on longer than you’d like, I don’t see why you don’t just stop replying”

    that it seems like you’re determined to take offense wherever you can find it. I’m not intending to give offense, at all; let me explain that in more detail. The reason I wrote that phrase is that you seemed to be implying that I was responding too much, but you’ve also asked me 3 questions in comment #32, and 2 more in comment #34, which has left me confused. Unless this is cleared up, I’ll assume you would prefer me to stop posting in this comment thread, and that your questions are rhetorical in nature. Adieu.

    Like

  36. Lookb4uleap

    Is that a yes, you would like me to keep writing long “contrarian” replies, well past your “three post” limit?

    Like

  37. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    As Ken at Popehat says, govern yourself accordingly. But don’t expect to get the last word over the guy who has his finger on the moderation button. Or something.

    Like

  38. Lookb4uleap

    I have no idea who Ken or Popehat are; lacking a clear yes, I’ll take that to be a no, you don’t want me to keep posting, and your questions were rhetorical.

    Like

  39. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    “Syncainian!” It is the word you need to know… and probably already do.

    And yes, part of the reason for my personal “three comments” rule is so I don’t destroy an otherwise active comment thread on another blog. This thread became an object lesson why I came up with that rule for myself.

    Like

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  41. bhagpuss

    I know who Ken at Popehat is but only because I read this blog. I already knew who Sanya Weathers was though. Is. Is I mean!

    I also follow the “three post” rule, which I first heard of on the original EQ forums before SOE ragequit and closed them all down. It was a rule mostly practiced there in theory only, obviously.

    Oh and I’m only here again now because SynCaine back-linked from his post. See what shenanigans I miss by not having that “someone posted to a thread you are following” thing active.

    Like

  42. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Great! Now for the last question… and think carefully before you answer… do you know who Tobold is?

    I would turn off the ability to follow updates to comment threads on this blog if I could. It just seems to enable the whole OCD “somebody is WRONG on the internet” thing.

    Oh, hey, I just noticed that I can turn that feature off.

    Mission accomplished.

    Like

  43. Adam

    William,

    What you’ve suffered here with Lookb4uleap is a case of corresponditis. Corresponditis is a malady where a person cannot refrain from continuing correspondence. Moreover, the sufferer always insists on having the last word.

    Like

  44. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Adam – Just as long as it doesn’t get too close to that “You hang up first. No, you hang up first” thing that young couples dating sometimes get into. If he has a crush on me, I am better off not knowing.

    Like

  45. lothirieth

    Ugh.. so tiresome to see so many people believing in the bullshit Sapience says because it’s great for them to see raiders shit on. Sapience’s numbers may well be true if they’re talking about the numbers in respect to every single account ever created in Lotro’s history as opposed to the active ones. But when I think of all the people that raided on my server, all the ones I actually played with, the ones I knew of, the ones I saw running around on the landscape.. there were SO many. That would mean there would have to be LOADS of non raiders.. yet where were all these non-raiding people?? The maths don’t add up as Lotro’s population was never that huge.

    So whilst the non-raiders dance with joy at see raiders thrown under the bus, strangely Lotro’s population has gone to crap, the AH has so little on sale, there’s no one writing guides for classes on the forum or theorycrafting anything, etc, etc. Raiders were probably a minority but nowhere to the extent he’s claimed. One mistake him and all the smug anti-raiders are making is thinking that pissing off the supposed “10%” will only affect the supposed “10%”. This is a painful reality Lotro is now experiencing.

    Like

  46. lothirieth

    (I hesitate to add this, but it does add quite the important er.. dynamic, spin? not sure of the word, to believing the numbers or not. The Lotro CM is a proven liar and entirely unsuited to the role he’s in. He’s not a trustworthy individual. He’s been asked numerous times to tell us how they came to the numbers they’ve come to.. he refuses, only says it’s a fact. The real world doesn’t work that way. I can say the sky is magenta, it’s a fact because I say so. This is essentially what Sapience is doing .)

    Like

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  51. NetherLands

    Somehow couldn’t slip in time earlier. Still within 3-post-rule ;)

    Regarding the mandatory ‘Group content = MMORPG':

    First of all, in my mind there is a difference between small group content (2-5) and content aimed at much larger groups (now starting at 10, though e.g. EQ had much larger Raids of course).

    One fits the ‘playing with friends’ bit to my mind much more than the later, and is much less restrictive, the more beause getting better Gear, being higher level etc. can ‘make up’ for small groups meaning that the content is available to all much sooner than in case of Raids (with WoW, you have to wait abt. four years before Raid content becomes some-what available to all players who paid for it)

    I realize the PnP pedigree, but that is also why the focus on hugely organized play is so startling: the need for organized play with PnP games (without set hours and keeping to it, campaigns would go kaplooie) was the major weakness of the genre and one of the reasons people moved to computer gaming in the first place (no hassle with travelling times, making scheduling theoretically easier).

    Similarly, PnP games NEEDED other players, without other players there was no gameworld and development, most notably with no game-master.

    Virtual world games ‘got over’ this restriction by featuring a world that would still have things happening in them/’exist’ when a singular player logged out, and the GM was replaced by the server and whatever the Devs wrote.

    So one could argue that by moving back to the need for scheduling etc. is a rather atavistic, backwards moving of the genre, especially when time and again this need for scheduling is what confronts Devs with the same issue PnP games had: few people partcipating in that type of play.

    I’m not saying Raiding should be abolished entirely – certainly the more spontaneous types like World Event spawns are okay, be it player-created (eg Doomlord Kazzak going to town in SW) or dev-crafted – and with PvP nothing gives the feel of an actual battle going on more than large groups, but this over-focussing on Raid content is odd on so many levels it just has to be wrapped up in personal tatses of Devs.

    BTW: saw your post on LotRO’s profits, quite heartening.

    Like

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