Archive for June 2009

MMO Subscription Plan Feedback

June 30, 2009

I’ve always been sensitive to the subscription plan of a game.  If the companies play their cards right, they would have a better shot at getting my money.  We’re going to take a look at the main MMO subscription plans their upside, their downside, and the reasonable consumer reaction to them.

Monthly Subscription: Due to the fact everybody is paying the same amount each month, there’s a sense of fairness with this subscription.  You don’t feel others get an edge because they spend more money.  However, there’s a certain quality and standard that players expect from the company that comes with this subscription plan.  If these standards are not met, your going to have poor retention rates.  Companies have a steady stream of income.  Players are basically paying for a full game every 3 to 4 months, but due to the price they tend to limit themselves to 1 monthly subscription at a time so companies need to gage their competition.

Microtransaction: Rather than paying up front games with microtransactions let you freely try the game out, so players are less resistant when it comes to giving the game a shot.  Players feel kind of jipped because getting to the top is sometimes about how much money you spend rather than how well you play the game.  There’s no limit to how much a player spends so the opportunity to be more profitable than the monthly subs is there.  Many companies are implementing both a microtansaction and monthly subscription plan, but they really don’t compliment each other well.  While the purpose is to milk as much money as you can from your players, you lose out because your not allowing the free play and the jipped feeling is even greater because subscibers are also paying monthly.  Depending on what your offering in your store you can get around the issues though.

Just Buy the Box: You go to the store buy the box and you get to play the game, which is the traditional way you play games but it’s rare with MMO’s.  The only game I can think of that has done it this way is Guildwars, which was a completely successful and perfect plan for them to do.  The key to be successful with this plan is to keep the amount of maintenance low for the developers, so they can focus on expansions.  Guildwars has barely any itemization, everything is instanced, not much of an economy, no real tradeskills, no auction house.  It doesn’t really sound like much of a game, but they do their pvp guild battles well and pve is decent which is enough to keep players around.  The point is you have your developers focusing on expansions rather than fixing maintenance issues.  If you can put out an expansion every 4 to 6 months, you can pull similar profits as subsciption based games who put out an expansion every 1 to 2 years.  Combine this with the fact that you will have a decent amount of subscibers if your game does something decently well that players find amusing, due to no monthly fee.  It’s been awhile but the lastest numbers I heard for Guildwars was 3 million.  If there were a monthly fee for this game, I think it would drop all the way down to a couple 100 thousand.  I would like to see more games try this route, there’s a lot more potential in this plan than companies think.

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John Smedley’s Fan Faire Podcast Reactions

June 27, 2009

After viewing the schedule, I felt the best chance we had to hear a EQIII announcement would be during Smedley’s presentation.  Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, but there was still some interesting things going on that I saw during the podcast.

Free Realms will soon announce 4 millions subscribers, and add a soccer game to their MMO that seemed kind of fun and would fit well with their targeted player base.  There was a cool gameplay video of DC universe, which you can really see how the physics of the game come into play.  The video on The Agency was ok, it showed some of the sneaking around spy type of activites as well as first and third person shooter mechanics, but don’t see how it really fits into the multiplayer side of things.  It just comes off as a game that would be better as a single player.

There was indeed announcements of both an EQ and EQII expansions, which really wasn’t a surprise.  EQII’s expansions is going to get into odus, paineel, and stuff on that side of the world.  Just hearing the names of those old zones really got me wanting to play the game again.  They’re also adding a new city Halas geared for the new players entering the game.

I honestly don’t remember much about what was said regarding the EQ expansion, but there was a really really awkward moment  for the guy presenting.  For their 10 year anniversary EQ was opening up a new server for the players, and they got to choose which type of server they wanted.  I remember that list from awhile ago and it was a really pathetic list of servers to choose from, but the 51/50 server won (you start at level 51 with 50 AA’s).   So this guy makes the announcement ‘the new 51/50 server Mayoong would be going live TODAY’ then a pause for the cheers, however nobody was cheering.  After about a 10 second moment of silence, there was like 2 people in the crowd thinking I guess we better cheer.  The look on the guys face made me feel so sorry for him, but I can’t blame the audience.  Your celebrating the 10 year anniversary and the best you can do for your players is a 51/50 server.  When I quit EQ about 2 or 3 years ago, I was 75 with around 700 AA’s.  Now your average player is 80 I guess with 1000+ AA’s, and the best you give them is 51/50.  Come on EQ you can do better than that.

That was about the jist of what went on during Smedley’s hour.  It’s not looking promising for the EQIII hopefuls, but there’s still a couple days left.

Soe Fan Faire

June 24, 2009

The Fan Faire will be starting tomorrow, and i’m sure it will be a great time.  I wish I had tickets.  While they have a ton of games to talk about, there’s really only one announcement that I’m looking for.  I don’t care about the next expansions for EQ and EQII.  I don’t care about The Agence or DC Universe.  At some point during the event I just want the to announce ‘We are working on EQIII’.  That would make me the happiest person in the world.

My Brief Atlantica Online Experience

June 22, 2009

I don’t know how many other gamers are like this, but I have a tendency of making my decision on whether the game is promising or not fairly quick.  I made it to about level ten and I just wasn’t feeling it with Atlantica.  The main thing I didn’t like about the game was the mercenary system.  The game is an MMO use it to your advantage and get people to play together.  I only want to worry about one character, and not 4 or  5 other mercenaries that I also have to control and gear up.  Right off the bat I could tell that this style of game play leads to an isolated and boring experience.  The lack of people you see in the game, separate screens for combat, and playing with mercenaries are all indications to me that the game play is going to be boring.  I’m not going to write a big review, because when games are boring I don’t play them much.

Review of Wizard 101

June 19, 2009

I have been playing Wizard 101 the last couple of days, and let me start off by saying this game was a lot better than I thought it would be.  I’m just going to talk about different aspects of the game so you can get a better picture of what type of things they do the same and do differently compared to other MMO’s.

Combat: It’s turn based which was one of the reasons why I was hesitant to try it, but I grown to appreciate the amount of strategy involved in this type of combat.  You need to put up the proper shields, wards, charms, and debuffs to set up and defend against the higher power spells.  The spells that you receive are similar to the spells you will see in any other MMO, combat is really a battle of elements.

Health and Mana Management: Around the areas which your fighting in you will find red and blue wisps floating around, which you will have a chance to grab when your out of combat.  The red ones will give you health the blue ones will give you mana.  The red ones are all over the place, but the blue ones are a bit harder to find in the combat areas, but you will find a lot in the city.  You will also have a potion bottle after you complete one the quests which rejuvenates your health and mana.  If you don’t want to collect wisps, you can play a mini game to fill up your mana and potion bottle.  There’s about 8 of them and I haven’t played all of them, but the one I found to be the simplest to play was the dig dug one.  Once you get a feel for the system you can go a long time without having to go back to the city or playing a minigame to fill up.

Quests: They did a really good job with the voice acting for the quests.  The downside is that the quest system is much like any other game.  Kill this, kill that, click on this, collect that, talk to him, talk to her, then run back to me when your done all that.  Very boring typical quest grind.

Graphics and Animations: One of the advantages that a turn based game has in regards to animations is that it’s not restricted to cast time.  Wizard 101 goes crazy with the animations and they look amazing.  The graphics won’t blow you away, it’s all cartoonish looking but they’re ok.  In the starter areas the combat zones are pretty much the same, houses on the sides, street in the middle, and sidewalks sorounding the streets.  The combat happens in the streets, the sidewalks are for you to run on to avoid being thrown into combat, and you will have to run in and out of houses for quests and they also act as a border so they all serve their purpose.  It does get a bit repetitive, but due to the  way they implemented their gameplay it going to be hard to get around this.

Community: While everyone won’t fit into a category, my overall feel of Wizard 101’s community is strange but friendly.

Conclusion: The greatest advantage that Wizard 101 has is it’s combat system and their ability to get players to play with each other, which sadly in today’s MMO’s developers are more concerned with how they can encourage soloing.  In Wizard 101 if you see someone fighting a mob you can jump right in.  No need for group invite and there’s no kill stealing after the fight you can go on your seperate ways or look for another group to join.  The main downside of the game is its payment method.  While the game is free to play once you get to level 10 the quests you have lead you to zones which you need a subscription to go in.  I like the game, but I don’t like it enough to get a sub. Maybe if times where different I would, but it’s just not something I’m willing to do at this point.  Whatever happened to the convention method of just selling the game for 40 or 50 bucks instead of doing this sub garbage, it worked for guildwars.  Well as I said it’s a pretty decent game and if you want to try something different check it out.  If anything else, this game has gotten me interested in turn based MMO’s.  I’m downloading Atlantica online as I’m writing this.

Aion Will Be The Next One For Me

June 17, 2009

There’s MMO games such as CrimeCraft, Champions Online, and Fallen Earth that are suppose to release soon, but they spark little to no interest from me in playing them.  The two games that do spark interest from me and are going to be released fairly soon are Aion and Mortal Online.  MO is using a shooter style combat system that reminds me of TCOS, Darkfall, and D&D which I feel are all poorly implemented.  I enjoy FPS games and I’m fairly good at them, but I have yet to see a RPG implement a shooter style combat system well.  While MO interests me, I’m going to put it on my wait and see list.

Aion on the other hand, is a game that I’ll be playing as soon as it’s released.  I haven’t had the opportunity to play it, but from what I’ve seen from player responses, aionsource, and videos, this is a game I will enjoy.  I’m not just looking at the good stuff either, there are some bad designs in this game such as heavy instancing and quest grinding.  I know this game is not going to be the one I play for five plus years, but I think it will at least hold me over till that game does come around.  Over on Aionsource.com they have just announced the drop of the NDA, the pre-order program, and the unveiling of their secret project.  The secret project is aion armory, an Aion database, it’s the equivalent to WARDB or WOWHead.

Brad McQuaid Returns

June 16, 2009

Known for being the visionary behind original EQ, Brad tried to recreate that success for Vanguard SOH.  Unfortunately it took a real bad turn, and resulted in Brad being banished from making or touching an MMO ever again.  That’s what it feels like anyway.  I was pushing for vanguard to be successful and I was in the early beta for the game, however I am realistic and during the beta I knew the game was going to crash and burn.  There have been many games that have faced the same demise, but I think VG hit a special tone with people due to the fact it was suppose to be the next EQ.  I don’t mind people expressing their feelings, but the amount of anger that Brad has received was completely uncalled for.

Every game seems to be the same peice of trash as the next, and I would like to think that they will learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and avoid these mistakes the next time.  Dosen’t Brad deserve a chance to do that?  It appears Brad is making a comeback from his Banishment, and it’s the real deal.  I will never get caught up in the predetermined hatred that gamers have towards SOE, EA, McQuaids of the MMO industry.  I’m looking forward to Brad’s next project.