Payment model data and evolution

Gamasutra has an article about payment models based on some research of esports gamers. Here’s a link to the article and a link directly to the research report.

The headline blares that “Devs are backing away from Free-to-Play” with a significant majority of the respondents opting for Buy-to-Play (US: 83%, UK: 88%) vs the common alternative models of Free-to-Play or Subscription. That’s the overall figure for all genres, however, including first-person shooters (FPS) and MOBAs. The MMORPG specific data are slightly less clearcut in the US, although still pretty dominated by Buy-to-Play (70%); Free-to-Play is next most popular (20%) and Subscription least with 10%. Interestingly in the UK Buy-to-Play is even less dominant with 57%, Subscription came in second with 38% and Free-to-Play last with only 5%.

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Source: Gamasutra 2016

The purpose and target audience of the report are somewhat outside the general focus of this blog so I’m cautious in drawing any conclusions from this data. It appears that, at least among those surveyed, there’s a difference in attitudes between these the two highlighted countries. I wonder, however, whether the general MMO-related tastes of esports enthusiasts might be different or skewed compared to a wider sample? For example, action MMOs might be more popular (both as games played and games watched) so some MMOs like LOTRO (F2P) or FFXIV (Sub) might not be as popular among the gamers surveyed. This might distort the stats from an imagined wider set if esports MMO games favour one payment model over the others.

Another anecdotal reason for differences in attitudes to payment models could be the reputation of the companies running those games in each region. Many MMORPGs, especially Asian-made MMOs that get released in the Americas & Europe, are run by different companies in different regions. I would suspect that Aion EU has a rather more  polarising reputation than Aion NA for example given significant differences in the F2P model used in those two regions. I believe Tera has a similar issue to Aion in terms of differing F2P models and service levels. Other games have historically had this regional disparity issue as well; I remember distinctly the polarised opinions on Codemaster’s EU service for LOTRO and DDO before Turbine took both games back under direct control.

This reminds me of the discussions over Black Desert Online’s somewhat controversial variations of payment model between regions. The game is F2P in several markets but is B2P in NA and Europe. According to this survey data it seems that Daum has done its homework and is pitching the game to the preferences of their potential audience. That doesn’t stop the complaints over the “cost of entry” or accusations of pay-to-win items in the cash shop.

If the data are even vaguely representative of a wider MMORPG audience then it is certainly interesting that F2P is not the most popular option. Why then are so many games apparently struggling? Is B2P the most attractive and most sustainable model financially in the longer term? There’s not enough examples yet to really say for sure; Guild Wars 2 seems to have fluctuated in visibility and popularity and the more recent change in leadership do hint that things haven’t been going so well since the Heart of Thorns expansion.

There’s certainly a push from multiple studios in the West to encourage players back into subscribing by revamping their subscription benefits (TSW, Wildstar) and/or offering subscriber only content (SWTOR, EQ2).

So is Buy-2-Play in this incarnation just the latest fad, one free of the taint of “nickle-and-dime” F2P models, or does it have more longevity? Will studios really be able to tempt players back to subscription gaming (or even subscription + paid expansions) in the F2P/B2P era?

Posted in BDO, DDO, EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, SWTOR | 6 Comments

Wildstar: addons and the default quest UI

So far I’ve only played Wildstar with the default User Interface (UI) as supplied by Carbine. That said I’ve never been that 100% happy with the quest log/tracker interface. There’s a clutter or visual overload issue with the design that still can make me lose track on what I’m doing in longer session.

The default UI: quest bubbles

The default UI: quest bubbles

So I was inspired to actually have a look what addons may be available to improve my experience via Curse’s Wildstar addons page. There’s a search menu on the left hand side that includes “Quests and Leveling” as a category. Looking through a few of the more up-to-date addons, I’ve decided to give ProtoQuests a try – it is both recently updated and seems to address some of the issues I have with the default quest delivery/completion mechanism.

ProtoQuests

ProtoQuests

First impressions are that it does address the one main issue I have with the default system. I’ve always found the responsiveness of the ‘bubble’ dialogues with NPCs to be somewhat laggy and given the lack of indication whether more will follow, you can accidentally click through an intermediate bubble and miss part of the conversation. The ProtoQuests addon replaces the “series of bubbles” default presentation with a single window that organises quest delivery, information and completion on one screen.

I’ll need to test how responsive it is out in the field, especially when playing in a group, but it seems an improvement. The other issue I still need to address if possible is the chaotic numbering of quests on the main map.  When duo’ing with my husband we rarely seem to have the same numbers for any given quest which can be confusing to say the least!

These issues are not limited just to Wildstar. I remember Neverwinter having the “map numbers out of sync” problem as well. Also my earliest MMORPG experiences included addons to solve UI issues – the early World of Warcraft UI was pretty basic and quest tracking was usually enhanced by an addon. More recently I’ve discovered just how much different the EQ2MAP addon made to questing over the rather uninformative default map in that game. It’s strange – I’ve never been an add-on avoider, though I’ve played with several over the years, but I’ve rarely been quick to adopt addons in a newer MMO. I guess it takes a certain level of frustration or an external requirement (“you must have DBM To raid!”) before I go looking for them…

If you have any other Wildstar addon recommendations, please pop them in the comments!

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Neverwinter, Wildstar, WoW | 2 Comments

TSW: Museum of the Occult

Courtesy of Massively OP, I’ve just read about a planned update for The Secret World that will add a pseudo-housing area to the game – not housing really but still a customisable space for player’s to take ownership of.

From the little details I’ve seen it sounds similar to the Seat of Knowledge area in the Mists of Pandaria expansion – you collected items for display in a phased room within the main player hub for the continent. They had a similar mechanism with the pedestal trophies in the Garrison although I didn’t unlock any in that expansion.

A new feature coming to TSW is the Museum of the Occult; this exists as a location in London already, but outside of a particular investigation mission it is inaccessible. The dev stream video talks about it starting at 38:00.

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According to the preview given in the stream, the museum will have wings for each region in the game (plus one for ‘world’). Players get to populate the exhibition spaces in each wing by unlocking exhibits through gameplay. The example given is that lore objects will be added for major creature types and the player will have to complete a lore collection to display that monster in the museum.

There’ll be some customisation options regarding the pose of the monster exhibit requiring that you upgrade the display pedestal. Placing exhibits will cost the character AP since each holographic display is fed from your character’s memories.

It is a very limited version of player housing, more along the LOTRO model than say Everquest 2’s. However as I have come to expect with TSW, the devs seem to have put some thought into how the purpose and story of the system fits into the game world. It’s not just housing for the sake of having housing. There’s some story and gameplay behind unlocking and developing it I think. There’s even a new “assist” system being added, which is linked to the museum, that will unlock new passive abilities related to specific monsters or exhibits in the museum; the demo given was of a chance on attack for an ak’ab to appear and charge your target for extra damage.

Something to keep an eye on for sure!

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 1 Comment

Sci-Fi mood

I’ve been in a Sci-Fi mood for a week or two now. My World of Warcraft account is tokenless, I’ve stopped playing Black Desert Online and am not missing Path of Exile at all since we finished. It’s all about spaceships, lasers and high-tech futures in my imagination. There’s a reasons for this as I’ve been spending free time re-reading rules and writing an adventure for the Alternity/Star*Drive RPG game that I’m running this weekend with friends.

So last week I was contemplating playing more Wildstar again and the three of us have been discussing other games we might play – I’d  be rather tempted to add Elite Dangerous to that particular list. I’m heading for a Sci-Fi MMO binge this summer if this mood persists; SWTOR and STO are prime candidates as I have a good amount of time invested in them already and a recent play session or two in both games left me wanting more.

This phase and this mood will almost inevitably evaporate on 31st August when Legion launches and I join, once more, the stampeding masses rushing through new lands in the World of Warcraft.

Posted in BDO, Gaming, Path of Exile, STO, SWTOR, Wildstar | 5 Comments

MMO puzzles and computer systems

Playing The Secret World last night we had a ton of fun on a particular Investigation mission called Immersion. It’s a crazy, mind-bending mission where you play a text-adventure within the game. As per usual I don’t do spoilers so I won’t talk much about the mission details other than to say it is really, really well done.

As we puzzled our way through a game within the game that made me think quite a bit about puzzles and technology in MMORPGs. This topic mostly excludes the vast majority of fantasy/pseudo-medieval settings MMOs use. The few online multiplayer games that are set in a technical world, at least those that I have played, do not make much use of computer systems or puzzles for that matter.

The Secret World

Has the G.H.O.S.T interactive computer interface in many missions, especially Investigations. You are usually presented with a menu of options and search through those for clues. Occasionally there is more interactivity, such as finding the password for the system in the game world before you can access any information. It’s a bit strange that this parallel version of Earth has a 1980s MS-DOS clone as the global computer operating system but I guess budgets and tech are limited for a windowed graphical user interface within the game.

The "high tech" G.H.O.S.T O/S.

The “high-tech” G.H.O.S.T O/S.

Puzzles of course represent one of the three mission types in the game, albeit less numerous than the action (kill ten rats) category. Still TSW wins the prize when it comes to the number and creativity of its puzzles.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Sadly SWTOR, despite all the love I have for its droids and holograms, doesn’t do much with interactive technology beyond “click to slice” (the Star Wars term for hack). It would have been nice to have had a mini-game for slicing perhaps, but then mini-games aren’t always popular. I suppose beyond using consoles, a lot of interaction with technology in this universe is done by ordering droids or companions to do the work so it kind of makes sense we have relatively little interaction ourselves.

Why hack a terminal when a Twi'lek spy will do it for you?

Why hack a terminal when a Twi’lek spy will do it for you?

Puzzles are pretty absent from SWTOR, as they are from the vast majority of MMORPGs I should add. I’m deliberately excluding jumping puzzles from this discussion, so the holocron hunts in SWTOR don’t count. The penultimate chapter of the KOTFE expansion does feature a puzzle. I hope the devs keep adding the odd puzzle going forward as it was really nice to have this in the game.

Star Trek Online

Although I’ve only played the Klingon PVE story campaign, and only to level 52, I’ve found a good number of puzzles in STO. Many of them are sequence or logic puzzles that require you to use a menu system styled with the standard Star Trek universe computer graphics. So STO actually combines the two, puzzles and interactive computers, quite nicely.

A STO computer puzzle

A STO computer puzzle

I do not feel I have played enough of the game, nor paid attention closely enough to know what ratio of missions puzzles feature in, but there are enough for them to be memorable and not feel ultra-rare. I should also note that on occasion a puzzle may have multiple solutions based on your character’s career (tactical/engineering/science), which is a very nice added variety to see in a game.

Wildstar

Since my highest character in this game is only level 30 I’m hesitant again to offer much comment on this Sci Fi MMORPG. The game has some puzzles, I’ve found several that are an in-game copy of the electronic game SIMON where you repeat colour/sound patterns. There are also plenty of jumping puzzles but I’m focused on the more cerebral variety for this post.

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Like SWTOR the extent of computer interaction in Wildstar seems to be of the “click on the console” variety. I’ve not seen any deeper, more interactive use of a computer interface.

Do you know of any other MMO games that offer interactive computing experiences within game or a plethora of mental puzzles to solve?

Posted in Gaming, STO, SWTOR, TSW, Wildstar | 6 Comments

SWTOR: screenshot moments

I was playing Star Wars the Old Republic with my husband a couple of nights ago and I was struck by the cinematic or visually striking framing of many of the cut-scenes and dialogue backdrops.

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The normal levelling game is very impressive still even on my third Republic-side play-through. My droid obsession means I’ve not really given my other Jedi Knight companions much of a chance to shine though.

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Tee-Seven has my back

Even if playable races remain fairly limited there is such a wonderful variety of weird and wacky alien NPCs that you meet – it’s one of the reasons why I love the Star Wars universe.

Ortolans are pretty adorable

Ortolans are pretty adorable

The tech of Star Wars is also cool, not just lightsabers but also holograms – I like to holo-call into mission briefings or dialogues on occasion just because I can…

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They did add a new feature at some point that we’ve only just discovered – there’s now a group option to teleport other players into your instance; a really nice feature to lessen the time and travel burden on group questing imposed by class missions.

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I’m still enjoying plenty of hours of good gaming in this MMORPG!

 

Posted in Gaming, SWTOR | 1 Comment

Branching out from MMORPGs

This year I’ve started to venture out of the MMORPG genre for some of my gaming sessions. MMORPGs remain my favourite style of game by a long way, but I’ve tried a few games in other genres. It’s not the first time I’ve tried something different, we played a good deal of Shadowrun Chronicles last year, but this year we’ve been looking at having at least one cooperative non-MMORPG game to try out for variety’s sake.

Action RPGs: Path of Exile

We played through the campaign in Path of Exile on normal mode in full, finishing just a couple of weeks ago. The game was fun to play as a quick “jump in” game. The story was pretty dark but interesting and more original than Diablo 3’s story in my opinion.

So..much..loot

So..much..loot

Having finished the first playthrough we’re done for now on the genre. None of us are that loot-motivated and frantically clicking our way through maps of endless monsters doesn’t thrill us enough to warrant a replay of the same story on a harder difficulty level.

Zombie-survival: Dead Island

This is well out of my normal areas of interest but it was a cheap first-person shooter style game that was available on steam to play coop with a friend. The game is brutal, gory to the extreme and the zombie enemies are unrelenting in their numbers. The story is ok, it’s hardly The Secret World, but at least the characters are varied and interesting enough to warrant further investigation of the game world.

Zombies at the gate

Zombies at the gate

The game’s systems and loot are a bit inconsistent – guns are super-rare at first and melee weapons break very quickly but then moving into the second chapter we’re finding more guns than we can even carry.

4X turn-based strategy: Stellaris?

I used to play a lot of Civilisation-style “build and conquer” strategy games. I particularly enjoyed the interstellar space ones such as Ascendancy or Galactic Civilisations II. So seeing posts on blogs about Stellaris has tempted me into giving the genre a go once more. The game is brand new so I’m going to wait for some more reviews or a Steam sale discount before buying it.

Team shooter: Overwatch

Overwatch is the new hotness on the blogosphere and WoW guildmates are chatting the game up. Sadly my PVP shooter days were short-lived and were twenty odd years ago. I have zero interest in PVP thesedays, no matter how slick this game might be. I was listening to the Aggrochat podcast‘s discussion on this game and I concur with those lamenting the lack of PVE campaign for the game. If Blizzard could build on the current game to add a Destiny-style PVE mission system then Overwatch could be a real contender for something different to occasionally play instead of MMORPGs but as it stands I’ll pass.

What non-MMORPG games are you most interested in at the moment?

Posted in Gaming, Path of Exile | 5 Comments