Ludia’s Jurassic World Alive isn’t being marketed as an MMO, but it is an augmented reality game that involves roaming in the real world for virtual dinosaurs so you can battle them against other players. Online. But not near you.
It’s not exactly perfect, kind of like the series, in several ways. It’s not as promising as Maguss seemed in some ways, and suffers from similar design issues, but it also does things differently from Pokemon Go that, with some tweaks, could potentially attract a playerbase, even among our readers.
Just maybe not right now. Let me explain.
Last week, Guild Wars 2’s Crystin Cox gave a monetization interview to Gamasutra during which she made one specific argument I wanted to pull out and re-examine. She was trying to explain why lockboxes can provide a “value” to players that they can’t get any other way.
“When we talk about cosmetics, there’s a demand for every individual cosmetic. Like maybe I love cowboy hats, I just want to buy cowboy hats. But there’s also a demand, and a lot of players feel this way, for just cosmetic options. I like cowboy hats sure, but I also like bandanas, and I like clown hair, I like everything. I don’t really have a super strong preference. I just want more things to put in my dress-up box. That demand can be satisfied a lot better sometimes with just giving you a random thing because that can be done a lot cheaper. If you don’t care about which one you get and you just want one, you can get it for a lot cheaper. When you’re talking about games that have rarity, and rarity’s a big part of that game, then lootboxes can be done to distribute something on a small scale, so that not everybody has access to it but some do, as sort of a jackpot item. And then that gets into a little more complexity around the economy and your game, and whether not this is an enjoyable part of your game for people to play, play with the economy of some such. But if it is, then you can use lootboxes to be a pretty good distribution for something that’s very rare.”
With its early access debut coming next month, Bless Online has a lot riding on how well it can present itself to a western market. Renovations and adjustments continue apace on the fantasy MMORPG, with the combat system receiving a top-to-bottom revamp in order to please future consumers.
The dev team said that it looked through the classes’ combat skills and “restructured their composition and effects” for the upcoming release. This revamp includes changes to rhythmic combat, incentives for grouping, and more ways to skill up your character.
It also emphasized, yet again, that the buy-to-play title will not feature pay-to-win aspects. “Bless Online’s monetization system will be user friendly,” the team said, going on to point out how the two main in-game shops work in conjunction with each other.
Get ready for Bless Online’s May launch by reading up on our interview with owner and operator Neowiz!
GDC isn’t E3. It isn’t PAX. It’s not even what I think stereotypical gamers can appreciate. But I think the Massively OP crowd is a different sort, and because of that, we can give you some content the other guys might not be talking to you about. Like data collection and monetization. They’re necessary evils, in that we armchair devs can generally see past mistakes rolled out again, but know those choices are being made in the pursuit of money.
So how do you make better games and money? Maybe try hiring some data scientists, not just to help with product testing and surveys, but with some awesome, AI-driven, deep learning tools. Like from Yokozuna Data, whose platform predicts individual player behavior. I was lucky enough to sit down with not only Design and Communication Lead Vitor Santos but Chief Data Scientist África Periáñez, whose research on churn prediction inspired me to contact the company about our interview in the first place!
Don’t call it a victory – nobody wins forever in the Star Wars universe – but there’s still reason to cheer in Star Wars Battlefront II today. EA has announced that it’s overhauling the entire progression system for the game. Readers will recall that outrage over the game’s lockbox gambling was the final chunk of kindling in the monetization dumpster fire that finally blazed over into mainstream media coverage at the end of 2017. (The “a sense of pride and accomplishment” line was being quoted in government hearings last month.)
“With this update, progression is now linear,” EA declares. “Star Cards, or any other item impacting gameplay, will only be earned through gameplay and will not be available for purchase. Instead, you’ll earn experience points for the classes, hero characters, and ships that you choose to play in multiplayer. If you earn enough experience points to gain a level for that unit, you’ll receive one Skill Point that can be used to unlock or upgrade the eligible Star Card you’d like to equip.”
If it weren’t for my promise to write this article, I would have given up on Maguss in less than 15 minutes had I been a consumer.
I understand the game’s in open beta, but from the start it was repeating issues I’ve seen too many times: bad tutorial, terrible UI, and aggressive monetization the likes of which I’ve only heard of in terrible games and dating apps. Like many of you, I grow defensive when seeing industry terms used as shields against bad design when developers (actually) need funding to continue. I’m jaded, I’m suspicious, and I don’t want to be nice or patient about it, especially when my money is on the line. What sounded like a great Pokemon GO challenger left me once again questioning why I bother with video games as a hobby at all.
But then I got past it. I found some things I genuinely liked that were in and functioning (mostly) as advertised. No, I’m not a convert, but I’ve dug through the dirt and found a bit of gold, and if the developer, Mawa, is able to make some changes to the game before really trying to attract a launch playerbase, Niantic may actually have a rival in the location-based alternate reality game genre.
Six months. Six months is the countdown timer from the start of Bless Online’s early access to the game’s official launch, according to developer Neowiz. Although with no planned character wipe, the open beta should act more as a soft launch than anything else, especially to fans who have been eager to get their hands on this good-looking title for years now.
The studio fielded another interview about the incoming MMO in which it hedged a bit on the topic of grind, promised improved optimization, and confirmation that there will not be a region lock for the title. Neowiz said that it is planning to introduce a new race as early as 2019 and that housing is also on its way to the game.
Here is some nightmare fuel for gamers imagining the future of the industry. How about an artificial intelligence that deliberately manipulates and messes with players in games to drive revenue growth?
Back in January, a leaked and unconfirmed (and possibly fake) slide show from Data Broker LLC outlined a draft of something called “online game revenue models with AI.” In it, an AI was described that manipulated players’ gameplay experience to drive them toward more microtransactions. Even worse, it uses real-world information about you to drive this process.
“We have proven that allowing the AI to alter a player’s game as a whole (social engineering),” the slide show appears to say, “and alter the player’s individual gameplay experience (psychological manipulation tactics) causes a consistent and dramatic increase recurrent revenue streams.”
Bloggers and journalists throughout the online gaming industry have been talking about monetization a lot lately. It’s not just lockbox/gachapon scandals, or their relationship with gambling, but basic monetization and what we want from it. Games, after all, don’t make themselves; we have to pay for something to make that happen. But some gamers seem to view free-to-play games as a game that should be free, not one to be supported if it earns respect. And on the flipside of that, far too few game studios give off a vibe not of experimenting with monetization but of maximizing profits above all else while barely veiling their greed.
However, outside the MMO world, there is a company that’s been doing it “right” for a long time: Nintendo. The AAA developer/publisher is known for both innovation and hesitance, following in others’ footsteps with great trepidation, trying to figure out the ins and outs while entering the mobile market long after it’s been established. The company recently released a new mobile title, but what’s interesting is that it and the company’s last four games are all different genres with different monetization strategies. Exploring these titles and their relationship to their monetization plans will not only highlight the potential success of the models but hint at why they work and how they can be curbed into models gamers and lawmakers can better accept.
An extensive Twitter thread from former Star Wars: The Old Republic lead systems designer Damion Schubert grappled with the timely and touchy topic of lockboxes and microtransactions from the perspective of one who designed them.
Schubert said that designers can make lockboxes that aren’t pure evil: “I’ve been working in free-to-play games for four years, and lootboxes are pretty crucial to that business model working. But it is possible to do them ethically, and they are super easy to f**k up.”
“Good [microtransactions] design is an art,” he continued. “It requires designers to be equal partners with product managers to come up with something that is perceived as fair and is celebrated […] MTX will fail if it doesn’t feel good to spend. It will fail if it creates a poisonous environment around the game instead of excitement.”
Were you too busy gaming this week to pay attention to MMO news? Get caught up every Sunday evening with Massively Overpowered’s Week in Review!
This week, Guild Wars 2 players, primed by the last few months of anti-lockbox sentiment in the gaming community, rioted over the addition of pseudo-lockboxes containing random mount skins in the cash shop. ArenaNet President Mike O’Brien has since provided a statement acknowledging that the timing and context were poorly chosen and that the multitude of new random skins unduly exacerbated the perception that ArenaNet was headed down an ugly path. That said, he also points out the upsides: that the mounts are cheap, progressive, and diverse. So will Anet change them? Yes and no.
“Microtransactions can be polarizing, and we’ve received both positive and negative feedback on the license. We won’t change the existing license in a way that would invalidate the investment players have made, but I want to confirm to you that our next planned mount skin releases will focus on individual sales like the Reforged Warhound and bundles like the Spooky Mounts Pack. We will not add any skins to the currently available Adoption License, thus not pushing down the odds of acquiring any one skin in that set.”
Thanks to our tipster Miol and the artist of the image header too, qears2gnomes/knight-mj! Now read on for the very best of this week’s MMO news and opinions.
No exaggeration: The Paragon subreddit is in absolute uproar over the MOBA’s newest monetization tactic. The board is currently covered with dozens of threads angry over the game’s new buyable packs as dedicated players express rage over what they’re saying amounts to pay-to-win, mobile platform strategies – a moneygrab.
The most expensive pack, the Diamond pack at $150, does include a ton of stuff. But what it doesn’t include is a guarantee that the loot crates tucked inside it will actually grant all the unlocks, meaning you could shell out a ton of money and still be outta luck.
Redditors are also speculating on the decision-making process itself, pointing out that the game’s former director, Steve Superville, who left Epic after 15 years with the company last spring, was adamant that the studio would never sell cards and heroes, that they’d be earnable only through gameplay.
“Vote with your wallets,” one Redditor urges players. “This game cannot thrive with a P2W platform, and the best way to prove this is to NOT BUY THE PACKS.”
We’ve been talking about exploitative gacha games and related business models on Massively OP for a long time, most recently and notably in depth earlier this year when we covered how Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore have all passed laws to take the model down a peg. In fact, China’s newest anti-gacha laws have since been used to target MMOs, card games, and even Overwatch’s skins. So given all the crackdowns, you’d think that the trend would be to avoid it, right? That industry analysts and watchers on this side of the pond would be wary?
But no. Bizarrely, there’s a new GamesIndustry.biz article this week in which AppLovin Managing Director Johannes Heinze advocates that western developers start including gachapon mechanics, even citing Pokemon Go as a good example of how well it works. He argues that gacha requires:
- A large, varied set of content
- A strong desire from the player to collect as many items as possible
- A game where gacha content is necessary for players to progress
- An effective mechanic for duplicate content (to prevent player churn from pulling too many duplicates)