Random Question – Is There Room for Solo Progression in an MMO?

This is a question that is near and dear to my heart because well, I’m just a tad bit anti social when it comes to logging into games. OK there was that stint in Aftermath and really that whole gild had some awesome folks in it. Other than that I usually run solo or in small groups with either family or close friends.

For the most part as soon as games start to pretty much require grouping to get things done, that’s about when I totally turn off from a game. I mean sure I could go mercenary and just group up to get the job done, but for some reason grouping just exhausts me. Not to mention the fact that it usually tears the 4th wall to the ground then starts working on my last nerve.

I’ve been reading over at Cedarstreet and lately some of Scopique’s posts have got me thinking (link). MMO’s have the group thing down. All of the games have incentives for grouping up with others to get stuff done here or there. I realize that this is important when all things are said and done because most people don’t see the point of playing by yourself when there’s a bunch of other virtual kids on the playground.

Evidently these kids weren’t the ones that asked to get put out in left field during game day so that they could ignore the world and stare at the bugs. But I digress.

So what if MMO’s were able to offer solo play progression. So say some form of character progression either as a class or a function within the game that didn’t require a player to group much if at all while in that class or function?

Now I’m not saying that an entire MMO like this would work. There’s been more than enough debate on that and I can see the point.

Thing is though, what if games could add an anti-hero role? What if there was room for the lone wolf or even wolves, that just sort of do their own thing? What if in that role however, other players in the game were able to contract with that person to get specific little roles in game accomplished?

I mean think about it? Hiring mercenaries to take out a rival clan or guild. Hiring someone or a group of someones for the purposes of espinage, sabatage, theft, that sort of thing.

The problem that I see with most games is that they create worlds in black and white. You’re bad or you’re good, no questions, no deviations. Thing is though, would it add depth, interest and perhaps even playability if there could be a bit of gray added into the mix? What if there were still good and bad, but also those who didn’t fit into either good or bad, order or chaos, lawful or unlawful, etc, but were able to make things interesting by playing the one off the other?

In this role it would make sense to have single or small group gameplay available for the purposes of mobility and secrecy.

Really not sure if anyone could actually pull this off in a game or if folks would even enjoy having a third option. However I’m still curious, what do you think about adding a solo progression path or paths to a game?

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Random Question – Do Fickle Gamers Make RMT a Viable Solution?

Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to rotate content in fast enough to keep people’s attention these days. New MMO’s are either working on release or fresh out of the gates. There is also now a huge quantity of MMO’s to choose from.

When you look at things from a gamer’s perspective, we have all kinds of games vying for our attention each day. Really it’s hard to choose one game and stick with it. Even though MMO’s are designed to reward folks who stick with their game, it’s pretty tough to want to log into the same game all of the time. Even the coolest games can become a bit of a grind after a while.

I would imagine that from the other side of the table the subscription model is starting to look not only less lucrative but a lot less secure. A lot of gamers want to check out the latest games just to have something fresh and exciting to check out. Thing is though, they may have to cancel a current subscription rather than adding on another expense. Even if that player returns to their previous game, that’s still lost revenue.

Adding in RMT gives developers a chance to sell items in addition to or in lieu of charging a monthly fee. Now here’s the fun part about RMT, you give people the chance to spend as little or as much as they like at any one time.

These days it seems like a lot of people play MMO’s through pretty quickly and or leave for the next big game release. Now let’s think about that. MMO producers have to realize that it is going to take them longer to release new content than it takes for some players to blow through it. This means that there’s probably going to be stretches of time where they would lose subscribers to other games while they work on the next release.

Now if a developer incorporates RMT into thier MMO, they give players a chance to spend as much as they want on the game while they’re interested in the game. If the player quits playing the MMO after a short time, the MMO producer stands to see a lot more income from the player on an RMT model than they would see from a subscription model. Since let’s face it, in a RMT model the MMO publisher would be able to get as much money as the player would be willing to fork over at least for the amount of time that they’re excited about the game.

If the player then leaves for a new MMO before their current game can add new content, the MMO publisher can still feel confident that they recieved enough income to produce new content and lure back fickle players for a short time. The MMO publisher can also make more from that player in that 2 to 3 months than they would have seen on a subscription based model.

This isn’t saying that the MMO publisher will make more in those 2 to 3 months by using an RMT model, but it is totally possible. It all depends on how easy it is to purchase the MMOs virtual currency, how much that currency costs, and how much of an effect the RMT items can have on game play.

So in the end the question remains, is RMT only going to become more and more of a viable market strategy as more and more MMOs are released? Also as players are we bolstering the RMT model by flocking to each new game on the market, leaving our old subscription based games behind us?

Just some things to think about.

Random Question – What does ‘Making It’ mean as an MMO blogger?

Syp of Bio Break linked over to an article Massively posted up today (Link). So Massively asked some pretty prominent dudes in the MMO blogsphere some interesting questions about MMO blogging. The questions look into just where bloggers fit into the bigger picture of the MMO culture.

The questions that Massively asked were not the kind of fair I expected to see. None of the typical blogger questions were present. The stuff I expected to see like “how do you find stuff to write about” or “how do you deal with obnoxious comments”, were not present. Instead the questions seemed to hint at a bigger role that MMO bloggers have when it comes to their readers and the MMO’s they write about.

Here’s the questions found in the article (Link):

  • A common myth about gaming bloggers is that they all want to eventually become game designers one day. Do you feel this is either true for you, or MMO bloggers in general?
  • Do you feel that your role as a blogger doubles as an “unofficial” community manager?
  • What methods have been most effective for you in reaching out to game developers?
  • What do you feel are the key differences between bloggers and major MMO news sites?
  • A game developer invites you to take an all-expense-paid trip to visit their studio and review their upcoming MMO. They promise a free copy of the game and lifetime account, as well. Would you do the review? Explain why or why not.

From these questions one can almost paint us bloggers as MMO vigilanties. We don’t have editors, we don’t have deadlines and we don’t have the pressure of maintaining hits for advertisers (for the most part).

As solo or even small team bloggers we have flexibiltiy that bigger game sites just don’t have. We can choose to participate in the latest game or avoid it. We can choose to write reviews or we can leave them to the bigger sites. We ‘can’ even go off topic once in a while though granted that never helps us much.

Ok, wall of text aside, let’s get to the heart of the matter, so just what does ‘Making It’ as an MMO blogger really entail? Do you know you’ve made it when you are contacted by or when you are in touch with the folks that work on your game of choice? Have you hit the top when you’ve got a small army of readers behind you?

Perhaps ‘Making It’ as a blogger just means that the opinions you write are shared by those who leave comments on your posts. That would pretty much mean that ‘Making It’ as a blogger has a lot to do with how much influence you, your blog, and that blog’s community, have and how that influence can impact the MMO’s that community participates in.

Perhapse making it as an MMO blogger is actually more about making it as an MMO blog. In that sense, the community that follows a blog is just as important if not even more important than the person posting the wall of text.

Sure it would be neat to be ‘net famous’ as Scary always likes to say. Though I’ve got to say that if even one or two of the things I’ve posted here, or some of the other good ideas or reccomendations I’ve seen on other blogs are actually implimented in game, then you know, to me that would definitely outweigh some of the personal glory.

For those of you that visit MMO blogs and those that have your own MMO blogs, what’s your take on it? What do you think ‘Making It’ means for an MMO blog and or an MMO blogger?

Random Question – How Powerful Are Reviews?

OK so here’s the skinny. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to put a lot of weight behind game reviews. Personally, I don’t read reviews before playing anything. I take a look at the game website, I get dropped a line by one of my friends, or I might just get bored and start randomly surfing the web for games I haven’t seen before.

(Pausing in Ryzom with Redshiftflux)

Recently though another review has been pulled down. Not sure if folks remember the Darkfall review by Eurogamer ( Take one, Take two). The first go round the reviewer gave Darkfall a score of 2/10. Unfortunately it was believed that the reviewer didn’t spend a lot of time in the game. The review was eventually re-done by another reviewer who was left with an overall impression of 4/10.  So after all sorts of fuss, the score went up a whole 2 points. That had to hurt.

On a more recent note Gamespot posted and pulled a review of Global Agenda which (according to the forums) only saw a 5.5 (link). On the Global Agenda forums (link), the players seem to have done a little digging and really didn’t believe that the reviewer spent enough time in game to justify the poor score the reviewer gave the game. They felt that it was not enough time spent in game to really get a feel for what the game has to offer.

Evidently time spent reviewing is basically how you can justify how much a game rocks or sucks. If you give a game a low score, you evidently need to have invested a good chunk of your life in that game before firing a shot over the bow (link).

What really got me into wanting to write a post about this sort of thing is not really these debacles so much as another thread over at the MMORPG.com forum. Evidently a Darkfall player is calling for a re-review of Darkfall by MMORPG.com (Link).

Check out this logic by the way. The player feels that if another game that was recently reviewed deserved a 5.8 score, that the player’s game deserved a score greater than the 6 that Darkfal received. I still can’t decide whether I want to burst out laughing or reach for a bottle of pain killers.

(Someone needs a hug, Geistig (1))

While that aspect of the poster’s logic makes me scratch my head and wonder if he/she forgot to take their meds before posting, another part of the post does make sense. No, not the picture of the lolcat, or even the title of the post. You see MMO’s change over time and Darkfall is no exception to the rule. The game as it exists today has changed since the original review was launched. In fact the second Eurogame reviewer even noted that changes had been made to the game during the time he spent in game.

So the question is, can you really judge an MMO today based on a review written at launch. No, no, don’t think about the buggy madness that most MMO’s tend to push out at launch these days. I’m not talking about covering up that kind of mess. I’m talking about the fact that MMOs DO change over time. An MMO that doesn’t change is going to bore the pants off of it’s player base and put it’s self into an early grave right? Is it really reasonable to think that a review written about an MMO at launch should be the end all decision as to what that game is like and will always be like?

You see I can’t really say that I’d play an MMO based on what was said in a “review”. MMO’s aren’t like movies. When you go to see a movie now, it’ll be the same movie 10 years from now. The movie doesn’t change. Reviews even work for the standard “play ’em once” box games. Sure there may be different scenarios, but once you’ve beaten the game it’s over and it goes on the shelf. Even if the game takes forever to actually play through, once it’s done, it’s done. That means any review you write about the game when it’s released stands because the game played on release is the same game played by someone installing it much later.

MMO’s though must change over time and because of that a review written about an MMO at launch probably doesn’t reflect the same MMO a year later, two years later, or like World of Warcraft, 5 years later.

Ask folks who’ve played WoW since beta. They’ll tell you that WoW is not quite the same game it used to be. So on this point a static review of an MMO would just be stale. Chances are it would really only run the risk of turning off players that may enjoy the game it is now even if they would have hated the game it as it had been when the review was written.

Here’s another point on which MMO reviews stand to fail. Think about the time it takes to do things in an MMO. In WoW supposedly “the game starts” at the end game. With that said, if a reviewer only spent 20 hours in the game but didn’t make it to the end game and spend some time in Heroics or Raiding, would that reviewer have a solid grasp on what it’s like to play WoW? If a person tried Free Realms but didn’t get to try the membership only jobs could they give a complete review of the MMO? If a person reviewed Guild Wars, but only had access to the original game (Prophecies) would they have a complete picture of everything Guild Wars has to offer?

So the thing is, can an MMO really be accurately portrayed based on the “number of hours” logged in? I’d have to say that argument totally falls flat. When games are produced to offer it’s subscribers MONTHS of content to keep them subscribed, how can spending 30 hours in that game really give you a well rounded feel for the game.

Hell according to xfire, I’ve logged over 100 hours in World of Warcraft. Does that mean I feel like I could write a review of that MMO? Hell no. That and I um, don’t keep xfire on all the time so chances are that number is just a little low *snickers*.

So thing is, can a consumer really make a purchasing decision based on a review written about an MMO? How much time should a person spend in an MMO to really get a good understanding of the game? Should reviews be written to give separate scores to MMOs that are more PvP focused than PvE focused? Should MMO’s be rated based on the strength of in game crafting or the presence or ease of talent re-speccing? What of the community of an MMO, is that something that should be taken into consideration when writing a review?

(Goofing with Guildies in the Aftermath days)

Better yet, what about reviewers? Should all reviews be written from the focus of the mythical “average gamer” or should PvP focused MMO’s have PvP focused reviewers and PvE focused games have PvE focused reviewers? Should quest driven games have quest loving reviewers? Should sandbox style games be reviewed from the perspective of folks that understand and enjoy sandbox style games?

I mean really, how can some stranger’s 30 hours in an MMO and 5 to 6 paragraphs really sway someone as to whether or not they want to play an MMO?  It’s not like we’re talking about a pair of sneakers or a local restaurant here. We’re talking about a game that you may spend months if not years playing. Do you really want to base a long term decision, not to mention your hard earned cash on an MMO you’re thinking about playing because it got a high review on a website?

Come on folks, if you’ve got enough intelligence to turn on a computer, surely you can make your own decisions about what games you want to play. Be strong, take control of your online destiny.