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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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Ezra

Or make MMOs that're fun for more than a month or two.

If SWTOR never had a million plus subscribers in the first place, it'd make sense to criticize subscriptions. It'd mean people didn't want to start a subscription, but they did.

Subscribers not wanting to continue a subscription is indicative of the game failing, not the business model. It's no different than how I am with cable and HBO; I'll subscribe when Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are in season, but I don't care for it when those two shows aren't ongoing and cancel my subscription. That decision has jack to do with the business model and everything to do with year-around content or lackthereof.

Similarly in cancellation surveys of MMOs the reason I've gave has never been "it's subscription based". I'd bet the fact that SWTOR costs money every month isn't the top reason anyone gives for cancelling their subscription. I'd bet the top reason you Hamlet don't play it (unless you do) isn't that its subscriber-based, but more that it doesn't appeal to you.

Pussycat Catnap

While I agree that most MMOs are going the 'fremium route' - I do not agree that that is related to why Star Wars is losing subscriptions.

At the end of the day, folks who tried it have found it ok, but not anything unique - from what I have read.

And you've got to have a serious angle to get people to give up their community; which for an MMO is already in WoW, or one of the old MMOs that hangs on like City of Heroes, Everquest, Eve, and so on.

Not despite, but perhaps BECAUSE of being tied to a license, Star Wars has it rougher.
- It got a -LOT- of hype, but also had to deal with some severe expectations from 'casual fans'.

Hardcore Star Wars folks can overcome the lack of Darth Vadar and Storm Troopers because they know those things did not exist in the lore at this time. But casual fans don't care about lore, they just want to play in the 'movie'...

Two camps that cannot get along...
1. If you set it during the movies... hardcore lore fans would be all over every event and how that event was not proper canon...
2. Set it outside the movies, and casual fans will be 'where mah stormtroopers @?'

Now that the hype is over, fans are realizing "ok, what makes this different from [insert other MMO here] where all my friends are?"

Its the same hurdle any VR faces when starting and trying to pull people away from SL. It might be better, but is it better enough to give up your friends in SL?

- I think -that- is the real issue. Not price. Subscriptions are just a sideshow, that lets devs and others avoid looking at more complex problems like "you didn't make this right" or "you don't have a plan for getting people's friends in here fast enough."

Masami Kuramoto

@ Ezra

If Second Life had been subscription-based all the way from the beginning till now, the boom of 2007 would not have happened. Certainly I would not have joined, nor any of my friends who started on basic accounts. Free-to-play/freemium _is_ a way to attract the crowds, the casual players, and you need those crowds to build a community and keep people attached to the game beyond the initial excitement. Without that community, it's really not much different from an HBO subscription.

Ezra

@Masami

"Free-to-play/freemium _is_ a way to attract the crowds"

It's a way to attract a bigger crowd than what'd normally give a product a try, yes, but size of attraction has absolutely nothing to do with whether a product's userbase will grow, stagnate or shrink.

A bad product is a bad product, which is why despite Second Life being free to experience less than 1% make it pass their first hour.

To blame subscriptions for SWTOR losing players is like blaming the cost of a plane ticket for a bad vacation. Sure, if plane tickets were free more people would vacation at bottle-glass beach, but that doesn't mean it'd be a success. Likewise, SWTOR has actual real reasons it didn't succeed like WoW did and it has nothing to do with having a monthly price tag.

Arcadia Codesmith

The subscription model had NOTHING to do with SWTOR stumbling -- they were stumbling from the earliest stages of development with some boneheaded design decisions that the community repeatedly told them WOULD NOT WORK.

SWTOR is not so much an MMO as eight modestly interactive animated films interrupted by long stretches of not-terribly-interesting slaughter.

I actually like the cut scenes, but they come at a terrible price -- production of new content is a slow, expensive, painful process. Make no mistake; no matter how much content you think you have, you are going to need tons more starting two weeks after launch, because that's when your most ambitious players will finish EVERYTHING -- including the stuff you thought would take five years to complete. You'd better have a compelling sandbox for them to build in after they've gotten sick of killing.

Bioware is an MMO newbie, and it's painfully obvious. They've innovated where it would be best to stick with industry standards, and stuck with industry standards where it would have been better to try something new.

And don't overstate the power of the Force. When was the last movie released? And just exactly what was the fan reaction to the second and nearly unwatchable trilogy? And you want to set a game in a period before any of the rich movie continuity has ever happened? Good luck with that.

Star Wars Galaxies, the title that saw its license revoked to make room for this disaster, was a far superior initial design that shot its own player-base in the face in an ill-fated attempt to draw in stupid people... oh, I'm sorry, I mean "casual gamers".

But without the stability of a core community of subscribers, you're another cash shop with game elements in a sea of them. Whatever you wanted to do with your game, it will now be a marketing piece for imaginary stuff and all further development will be tilted alarmingly towards pushing more imaginary stuff.

You might get rich. Maybe you'll even make enough money to buy back your soul. But I wouldn't bet on it.

shockwave yareach

I don't mind at all, paying for my play.

What I do mind is games that are not fun, bore me to tears, filled with difficult "achievements" that aren't the slightest bit amusing to do. And expecting me to play 16 hours a day to be able to accomplish $task or $challenge, as well.

I don't live in my mother's basement. I have a job, a house to maintain and a family which all take up time. (not to mention Second Life, which sadly is my only socialization right now.) I play whenever I am able to play, not whenever I happen to be awake. Games that require me to play 8 hours a day in order to get the "horns of the mongoose" necessary to keep playing, are not going to get my money nor my interest. I quit Rifts because it became impossible to go past a point without a group, and no guild is interested in having casual users.

Games are supposed to be fun. I'd love some fun. I'll even pay for fun. But don't expect me to pay (in any way) for a game that does nothing but frustrate me and keeps me at a low level for no other reason than I cannot live and breathe its pixels every day. That's not fun to me.

shockwave yareach

@Arcadia - don't be too quick to equate casual players as being stupid. Not all casual players are noobs or bubble ups from Facebook you know. Some of us are casual players because we are too busy with our jobs, our families, our own businesses, writing, playing music and then Second Life. There's simply no time left to slaughter Boars in the forest for 18 hours a day (and what fun that must be...)

Pussycat Catnap

I'd wager 8 million of WoW's 9-10 million are "casual" folks.

You kind of have to cater to them. WoW has also managed to do so without alienating the 'plugged in junkies' -too- much.

But as I said above - the movie feel issue is IMO the biggest issue for a license game.

Either you set your game in the same milieu as the license, and annoy hardcore fans every time you break canon by having 12 glasses of a water on a table that in the 2 seconds it was in the source only had 11...
Or you break from there and go to some other period, and annoy all the casual fans who just want to play the heroes of the license or like them.

Old Republic has no Storm Troopers and no Darth Vadar. It can't by canon, and this dooms it.

Especially since every comment I've heard about it has related to how its not all that different from the other MMOs.

That said, it still has a HUGE subscriber base. Only WoW and Guild Wars beat it out in the western world, and that's because they have always had unreal-insane numbers compared to everyone else.

But its likely more than 10x as large as say; City of Heroes - and that game has been doing a very healthy business for years by being comfortable as a small but stable game.

Its like being the UK, and calling for a 'Live Aid' concert to feed the people of London because your country is about to collapse... its not. You just aren't as rich or big as the US. But frankly, compared to the rest of the choices; you're doing pretty darned good.

They're panicking way too soon. Not everyone gets to be number 1, that's why its number 1. Being number 3 is not all that bad - especially when number 2, Guild Wars, isn't getting any money from subscriptions. So in revenue you're really number 2.

Emperor Norton

shockwave yareach @ "What I do mind is games that are not fun, bore me to tears, filled with difficult "achievements" that aren't the slightest bit amusing to do. And expecting me to play 16 hours a day to be able to accomplish $task or $challenge, as well. "

Pretty much sums up a lot of problems with these games. Gee, I get paid to do work, not the other way around.

Arcadia Codesmith

I misspoke, and I'm sorry.

I'm not frustrated with casual players, I'm frustrated with casual design. I don't think casual players are stupid; I think designers perceive them as stupid and designing accordingly.

Classes are one example. Classes are a cop-out used by designers who don't want to hassle with creating a balanced skill-based system with an infinite variety of viable 'templates'. It's lazy design predicated upon a belief that players are too stupid to create a character with a viable skill set that suits their playstyle, not a set of four or five predefined group roles.

Grind is lazy design too. Can't think of anything interesting for players to do? Kill ten rats. Yawn.

The golden ring for me is an MMO that makes few assumptions about a player's level of skill, interests or what they find fun. Instead, it dynamically analyzes their play habits and preferences and adjusts itself to suit each individual or group.

And while that might seem like a tall order, there's a field that's already doing it: advertising. Do games designers really want to admit that the marketing department can easily do something that's too hard for a dev team? Ouch, break out the ego bandages!

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