It is Never Too Late to Head to Mordor May 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online.
Tags: Brandywine, Free-To-Play
I stood again in Middle-earth.
In was in Archet, one of the small towns around Bree, and the forces of Sauron prepared to strike.
I was in Lord of the Rings Online.
My new character was set to start out on the long… six years long at this point which, if we were following the timeline of the books, would put us past the Grey Havens and into the Fourth Age… road to Mordor to throw down the dark lord.
Or, more likely, to get about as far as Rivendell then give up in a fit of ennui and go off to play some other game.
About two years back I wrote a post titled “LOTRO – Our Story So Far” that covered the various “ages” of the game for myself and our group. I probably need to update it. At that point we had been through three “ages,” which were launch, return, and return again, each time on a different server, rolling up fresh characters. The fourth time was going to be different, as we were going to pick up again on the same server. And I did make it into Moria that time around.
But eventually that petered out for the group, once again at the far end of the Lone Lands. I have been through the Lone Lands enough times that when NPCs greet me by name, I am pretty sure it goes beyond simple coding.
There was a fifth run at the game at some point last year, when I joined the Nazgun on yet another server, with the usual result. I have characters at least into their 30s on Windfola, Nimrodel, Firefoot, and Silverlode.
And now I am at what I would guess is the sixth “age,” joining our EVE corp in Middle-earth. Of course, while the odds of picking a server where I already have a character grows ever higher as the years go by, they still missed. And so I ended up rolling fresh on the Brandywine server.
Much is still the same with LOTRO, including my need to take the same screen shots every time.
Since it is time again for another plunge into Tolkienland Online, I thought I would mention a bit of what has changed in virtual Middle-earth.
More after the cut due to an excess of pictures and uninformed opinions.
Further Mutterings about MMO Revenue Models May 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Need for Speed World, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Free-To-Play, MMO Subscriptions, No Real Point
A few years back, at the height of the housing boom, we decided to move. We listed our house at the market price for our neighborhood, and the first day on the market we got an offer for roughly 60% of what we were asking. Somebody sensed, as we all were beginning to at that point, that the bubble was going to burst soon, and wanted to know if we were desperate.
We were not, and actually sold the house for what we were asking a couple weeks later. But there was no possibility that we were going to come to an arrangement with the person who made that first offer. Their offer was so insultingly low that it made it completely unlikely to be able to negotiate any deal at all.
We have a garage sale at least once a year. Often we have two, one in the spring and one in the fall. Just the process of finding stuff to sell helps us keep the house clear of clutter, so that our home, with the exception of my office and my daughter’s room, feels clean, open, and spacious.
We tend to put out all manner of things on the driveway for sale. I often have a pile of books that have made it into the category of “won’t read again” out on a table. At one garage sale I had done a big purge and had 40+ paperbacks lined up, with the asking price was 25 cents each. Cheap enough that anybody with an interest would pick them up, and it wouldn’t kill me if I decided to give a couple away to any kid who looked like they wanted to read one. And, as always, quantity discounts are available.
A woman, who rolled up in an expensive car, offered me a dollar for all of the books, and then started gathering them up like it was a done deal. A dollar turned out to be exactly the right price to start a fight.
In the cold logic of hindsight, it was just an offer I could freely reject.
In the reality and emotion of the moment, it was insulting. I started with “no” and worked my way up to using them for kindling before I would sell her one at full cover price. Her offer stayed at a dollar throughout, leavened with sneers and insults. But we could have stopped after our first pass through offer and rejection, as no deal was possible after that point. I cannot imagine she thought her negotiation technique was going to be effective. It is always interesting to meet people who are worse at interpersonal relationships than I am.
What did those two little stories have to do with anything? We’ll get to that. First, a foundation of words needs to be built.
With the announcement that Rift is moving from the once traditional monthly subscription model to a cash shop driven free to play model, there have been the usual range of reactions, from feelings that no good will come of this to expressions of joy at the demise of yet another monthly subscription barrier to entry. Some people really hate the subscription idea.
My own response is somewhere in between.
Good things will come of this change. I know that.
More people will play Rift. It won’t make it suddenly popular with people who wouldn’t play a fantasy MMORPG in the first place. But people who wouldn’t otherwise commit to $15 a month will want to play.
An annoying amount of words, and some irrelevant pictures, after the cut:
Rift to go Free to Play on June 12 May 14, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Rift.
Tags: Free-To-Play, PLEX, REX
I was wrong.
Another subscription MMO caves in, unable to make a go of things on monthly fees alone. Or they feel that the grass must surely be greener on the free to play side of the fence.
Of course, my prediction was back when Scott Hartsman was still on board and before they put the cash shop interface into the game. And with WoW, the game Rift sought to out do by speed and emulation, dropping subscriptions in huge, game killing chunks (for any game except WoW), the subscription model takes has taken another blow.
Anyway, Trion has announced that Rift will go free to play come June. They have a video and such on the official site. And a producer’s letter. And a FAQ. And an interview over at Massively to reinforce all of this.
They will even have something called REX, which sounds remarkably like PLEX. You think?
The beginning matrix of who will get what has been announced.
People who subscribe will now be called “Patrons” and will get a set of benefits. Will they be worth $15 a month to people?
That feels more like World of Tanks, what with the short term options available. They are certainly trying to mix in all they can.
But still, the cash shop will now rule the roost and new content will likely falter while Trion begins the endless race to figure out what will sell best. Those who buy from the cash shop will drive the game going forward.
Some people will be cheering, feeling that every game needs to be free, that there is only one right model.
Either way, it will change the game. Nobody can deny that. And it will likely bring in some new players to start. But eventually the cash shop chase will begin.
What do you think?
Addendum: Green Armadillo has some thoughts on Rift’s new plan.
Quote of the Day – Innovation? December 15, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, PlanetSide 2.
Tags: Business Model, Free-To-Play, Gaming Journalism, General Confusion, No Real Point, Quote of the Day, There is a point in here somewhere
With Planetside 2, the innovation is in how you buy it. For a massively multiplayer online game like this, you’d expect to pay a monthly fee like millions of people do to play World of Warcraft. Instead, Planetside 2 is free to play. Sony makes money when you purchase new weapons, add-ons for tanks, and other items, though you can also earn these upgrades by successfully completing objectives as you level up. Plenty of smaller games found on Facebook or on smartphones use this freemium model; now the model has entered the MMO world.Popular Mechanics, The 10 Most Innovative Video Games of 2012
We do piss and moan about the poor state of the video game press.
Often it is our closeness to the subject and our own motivation and bias (journalists are not allowed to have that unless, of course, we agree with it, in which case it is just telling the gospel truth) that leads us to jump on comment threads (here is the cesspit that fertilizes the whole thing) or blogs (:blush:) to decry an article as totally biased or invalid because the writer in question was paid off, did not spend enough time with the game, included something that was clearly a matter of taste or option, or used “your” when they meant “you’re” in paragraph twenty-seven.
It is really our own little culture war, where if you do not agree with me about game X, then you must be the enemy.
Part of me is annoyed by this. When I foolishly look at comment threads on gaming sites, I become depressed at the state of humanity.
And part of me sees video games as an entertainment medium and, thus, deserving of the same sort of coverage as any similar medium. How does the journalistic integrity meter rate TMZ or Entertainment Tonight or any of that ilk? Do we get out the torches and pitchforks when somebody gives a bad review to a movie we love? (If you don’t think we do, then you aren’t reading the right comment threads.)
But in the midst of that, nothing can rally gamers together like a non-gamer journalist covering games.
And so we have that quote at the top, retweeted by SOE in what I have to imagine was a moment of mixed emotion, where PlanetSide 2 is lauded as innovative because… if I read that right… they ripped off the business plan being used so successfully by Facebook and iPhone developers. As they said, “…the model has entered the MMO world!”
Zynga should sue!
PlanetSide 2 does merit some praise. How about getting a shooter to work in a huge sprawling environment where thousands of players face off? That seems to be a pretty decent accomplishment.
But to call it out because of its business model… which is pretty much the same as all of SOE’s other games at this point… plus all of the other free to play MMO titles out there… seems like calling out Heath Ledger‘s performance in The Dark Knight because of the cool clown makeup.
Not to mention that in the current online market, a subscription model MMO is about as common as a silent movie in the age of talkies. But here is somebody for which MMOs are World of Warcraft.
And so we must put the hapless noob in the pillory for his transgression. Point and laugh, people, point and laugh.
And rightly so, I would say.
But is this banding together against the ignorant outsider, the gamer Gaijin, a tribal thing? Is so-called professional video game journalism the worst… except when compared with the alternatives?
Or is this just the hubris of journalists… or the hubris of people in general… that we feel we can rush into anything, clearly ill informed on the subject at hand, and add something of value?
Oh, and that Popular Mechanic’s article was probably right on target with Journey…. and perhaps the rest of its list.
I don’t know. I didn’t actually play any of them besides PlanetSide 2. I am only indignant about the part of which I have first hand knowledge.
Which sort of describes my relationship with the daily newspaper. I believe whatever they write, except when it comes to articles about which I have first hand knowledge. Those are always riddled with errors and are as often as no flat-out wrong.
There is probably a lesson in that.
SWTOR Update 1.5 – A New Hope November 16, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic.
…our Free-to-Play option has arrived! For players who want to experience the dynamic world of Star Wars: The Old Republic without committing to a monthly fee, there is a truly viable option to experience all of the incredible content the game has to offer. Free-to-Play players can now play all eight classes up to level 50 without committing to a monthly fee.
We also now have our Cartel Market up and running so players can purchase unique items like the Gamorrean Axe or Cartel Packs that hold fantastic treasures such as the Kowakian Monkey Lizard and the Overlord’s Command Throne, in addition to allowing Free-to-Play folks the opportunity to purchase unlocks for Free-to-Play restrictions .
-From the Producer’s Letter for Game Update 1.5
So there it is, Star Wars: The Old Republic has now joined the rebellion against subscription-only MMOs. They announced it back in August, but now the plan is in place. They have turned off the subscription requirements computer and are going to let the economic force of free guide their path.
This, along with their plan for regular content updates every six weeks (has anybody been tracking that?) is the plan to keep the game afloat.
I obviously have no real insight into the economics of the game, but the number floating around was “500K,” as in “the game needs 500K subscribers to be viable.” And I find it difficult to believe that this move will give them the cash flow they are looking for.
Of course, I remain dubious of free to play in general, so you have to take what I say on the subject with that in mind.
While I like the idea of not having a subscription running for games I may only play occasionally, what the conversion does to games, how the economic model forces them to throw some garish new shiny things in your face every other week, does not endear the model to me. It tends to drive me away.
Anyway, we shall see what the future holds for SWTOR in the free to play galaxy. Will it be a new hope, or just a false hope?
Certainly, less likely scenarios have come to pass in the Star Wars universe.
Quote of the Day – Gaming Socialism! October 12, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: Free-To-Play, Massively, Not Without Ethical Questions, Quote of the Day
“This whole concept of freemium play, in my opinion, is the most radical form of entertainment socialism since Obama got elected. You’ve got a whole bunch of one-percenters paying for a bunch of freeloaders.”
-Scott Dodson, Bobber Entertainment
I was not even sure what to do with that quote. It was so wrong on so many levels that I immediately assumed it was made in jest and was only being reported as serious by people looking to stir the pot for page views.
And I was right. He was playing a role on the panel at that point.
Nice job Massively! A new Editor in Chief means a new editorial line?
Still, some of the discussion on the ethics panel at GDC Online, as reported elsewhere, does raise interesting questions.
Wednesday Morning Trends August 22, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment.
Tags: Free-To-Play, Jagex, Riders of Rohan, RuneScape, Ubisoft
Ubisoft Finds a New Rationalization for Free to Play
From The Register, Ubisoft says more than 90% of PC gamers pirate their game, so they might as well go down the free to play path.
Money quote from CEO Yves Guillemot:
“It’s around a 93 to 95 per cent piracy rate, so it ends up at about the same percentage as free-to-play”
I still find it hard to believe that 90% of gamers pirate their games, and people who spout such numbers rarely go into detail on how they arrived at them, so color me skeptical.
Riders of Rohan Delay
Casual Stroll to Mordor reports that the launch of the Lord of the Rings Online expansion Riders of Rohan will be moved back from September 5th to October 15th. I expect conspiracy theorists everywhere to proclaim that this delay was to get out from under the weight of the Guild Wars 2 launch the way they declared the Mist of Panderia launch date to be a defensive move against the game.
Chalk another one up to the might of Guild Wars 2?
Your Virtual Currency Has Expired!
Massively Multiplayer Fallout brings up a topic from the RuneScape forums. Apparently somebody discovered a statement in Jagex’s terms of service that indicates that RuneCoins, the RuneScape virtual currency, can expire.
Jagex responded, indicating that the terms were correct, but that they had never, to this point, had to expire any RuneCoins. The actual shelf life of RuneCoins was left unstated.
Of course, this makes me wonder when companies like SOE, which seemed to be picking up bad habits from its free to play neighbors, or UbiSoft, which just seems to hate
its customers pirates people in general, will jump on this potentially lucrative idea.
And then there is how local law applies. In my own jurisdiction, companies cannot expire things like gift cards. Where does virtual currency fit in that equation?
Bonus Trend: Windows 8
After watching this, I foresee another Windows Vista level PR fiasco looming.
If Microsoft needs to learn something from Apple, it is how to produce software that doesn’t make people angry.
Apple drops OS updates more often that Microsoft, charges for them, and people tend to be interested to indifferent. Microsoft drops a huge OS update every few years and manages to make people run around screaming like their hair is on fire more often than not.
And don’t get me started on how much I loathe every corporate mandated Microsoft Office upgrade. In my mind, MS Word was perfected with version 5.1a about 20 years ago. Everything since has been… uh… Windows dressing?
[Credit to Derek Smart for finding that video, but his Twitter account is locked down so I can't even link to the tweet.]
Free to Play and the Implied Social Contract August 13, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Vanguard SOH, World of Warcraft.
I am going to start sounding like I hate free to play if I am not careful.
I do not hate free to play.
Free to play can bring a lot to a subscription game that transitions to the model.
The primary benefit is more players.
Bringing more players to a declining MMO can be a wonderful thing. When I was playing the short-lived EverQuest II Extended, one of the best things about it was that the world seemed quite alive relative to the subscription side of the house.
It is also very nice to not be tied to a monthly subscription plan when it comes to games that you no longer play regularly, but still like to drop into now and again. For example, I doubt I would have resubscribed to EverQuest II just to be able to see… well… whatever it was they did to Qeynos.
These are clear benefits on which I think most people can agree.
But I am also mindful that there are costs as well.
There are the inconveniences, the nagging, the intrusion of crass commercialism into an alleged escapist fantasy world, and the inevitable realization that, unless you’re buying what they have on offer in the cash shop this month, you really aren’t important to the company any more.
But you can get used to that. Or some people can. Probably most people can.
The problem, as I see it, is that you may have to get used to the way things are over and over again. Currently, “free to play” is a pretty empty phrase, since it can mean so many things.
A long and winding thread of “logic” follows after the cut in order to spare the front page a wall of text.
EverQuest II Throws in With Random Lockbox Schemes August 2, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Star Trek Online.
Tags: Free-To-Play, Lockboxes
Step Right Up!
We are adding a feature where you can play instanced mini-games to win random loot in game! You purchase a ticket that gives you access to a mini-game instance. Should you beat the simple, fun game, you receive a random reward from a chest, or opt for tokens you can spend on items available on a merchant. We will be selling the tickets for Station Cash in the marketplace.
While still pretty vague in the “how much” and “what do I get” departments, it looks like SOE is stepping into new territory in order to hustle Station Cash. New for them at least, this is old hat elsewhere.
Other games have been criticized for selling random prize boxes. Syp did a post over at Massively called The Truth About Lockboxes, which includes directly calling them gambling, which has been the literal truth in some cases.
SOE looks like they are going to try to skirt the gambling charge by following the carnival game example.
As I recall, in my home state, the elements of gambling of gambling are:
- Consideration – You have to pay something in order to participate
- Prize – You get something of value if you win
- Chance – There is an element of luck which may keep you from getting a prize
Rules in your jurisdiction may vary.
Carnival games do not qualify by being about skill and not chance. You need just the right throw to get that hoop over the stuffed dog and the base on which he rests. And lockboxes like the ones Star Trek Online hawks so vigorously do not count in my state either, since you always get a prize. But the random nature of the boxes trips over the rules in other places.
In a carnival game, you know what the prize is in advance, so if you have the skill, there is no chance.
SOE is also trying to introduce some skill with the mini game. We shall see how easy or fun the games really are.
But SOE is still offering up the random prize box, which might make the whole skill aspect moot. The hinging factor might be that they added in the option to simply take tokens which you can spend. You can opt out of the random factor.
Will this avoid a gambling charge in all jurisdictions?
We shall see.
Will this take “pay to win” and make it “gamble to win?”
I can hardly wait to see what the prizes will be.
I guess if your cash shop is overly dependent on certain items… like mounts or heavily discounted Gold subscriptions… you have to find a way to branch out. And these sort of random box schemes have been a gold mine in other games. They might even be why STO is Not Dying.
I’ve said it before and I am sure I will say it again. I like that there we are entering an era of varied subscription options. The box price and monthly fee add up to a big barrier to entry for many.
On the other hand, I am not really happy about what some games become when they go free to play. And if you look at the MMOs I am actually playing lately… Rift, EVE, and a bit of WoW… you will see the common thread is that they are classic subscription model games. I am not sure if that is an accident or not. Like others, I seem to like my subscription.
How about you? Do you like random lockboxes?
And how soon after conversion will they show up in SWTOR?
New Perks for EverQuest Subscribers April 19, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest.
1 comment so far
While EverQuest has gone free to play, SOE has never made a secret of the fact that they really want you to invest in a regular subscription to the game.
Free to play is becoming so common that we need to start coming up with ways to differentiate the types of free to play models out there.
SOE has adopted an approach that I will call “Drive you to subscribe.” You can play the game for free, and all the content, minus the latest expansion, is available to you. But there are a lot of little things you have to pay to get. There is a whole matrix of what is available for free versus subscription.
And on that list are some things you simply cannot get unless you subscribe. Things like shared bank slots, additional bag slots, removal of the currency cap, and the ability to sell at the bazaar.
And just to prove this point, that SOE still wants you to subscribe, Thom Terrazas has a post up in the EverQuest forums about additional perks for subscribers who opt for a recurring membership.
I wanted to be the first to let you know that we’re giving everyone on a recurring Gold Membership some free items.
We’ll have more information about this on Friday but when we release the news article and when the Email hits your inbox, it’s going to tell you that if you are on a recurring Gold Membership under the 1 month recurring plan, we’re giving you one of our Big Bags and some food and drink that gives some benefits. And if you are on a 3 month recurring plan or better, you’re going to get a Bigger Bag + XP potions + Consigned Armor + Mercenary Contract and a few other potions, food and drink. If you’re not signed up to receive emails, you might want to go into your account and click to receive the information.
Also, if you are not currently on a recurring Gold Membership Plan, there will be some additional information on how you can take advantage of this offer as well this weekend, starting on Friday.
A thank you from the EverQuest Team! (the items, not my leak of information…)
-Thom Terrazas AKA “Phathom”
Big bags, bigger bags, and other stuff… if only you will just subscribe like you used to!
How do you define holdouts when subscriptions still seem to be the focus?
Addendum: In the EverQuest way of doing things, the perks can be claimed by a single character per account via the /claim command in game.