In the comments of a recent Daily Grind, MOP commenter Sally reminded me that a certain MOP writer who shall remain nameless (Larry!) had an absurd number of Star Wars Galaxies accounts, and one might argue that while one sub to such a game isn’t pay-to-win, a whole ton of them might be, particularly in an economy-centric game like SWG.
The interesting thing about SWG was the diminishing returns on all those accounts: The human’s time was the limiting reagent. Yes, having another 10-20 lots per account for harvesters would bring in AFK money, but it might not be worth the human’s time to actually go deal with the harvies (or factories or storage houses) past a certain level of wealth; you could make more money in the same amount of time doing other, far less boring things. But there was definitely a sweet spot in the 2-5 account range, where you could run one of every crafter and create enough busywork to fill an entire day.
I found four accounts overwhelming but self-sufficient – and absolutely pay-to-win, for my definition of winning. (I have always assumed Larry’s stable was more for roleplaying, and might not fit the category.) Likewise, I’d argue that paying to multibox in themeparks, bypassing the need for other people, is also pay-to-win in many games.
What do you think? Should running multiple MMO accounts be considered pay-to-win?
Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE is one of the MMORPG genre’s favorite bugbears: We pull it out as a warning, a label of doom, every time we see a game studio doing something that will upset so many players that it could actually tank the game. We pulled it out for Funcom when it abandoned The Secret World in favor of Secret World Legends, certainly; the fact that so many core MMORPG players meekly accepted that Funcom would trade them for a chance at a totally different playerbase – at the expense of veteran characters and loyal income – continues to baffle me.
This is probably why I was soured on playing Conan Exiles this weekend. I’m extremely distrustful after the way Funcom once again sacrificed one playerbase to secure another, even if the impact wasn’t felt quite as widely as in TSW or SWG. Of course, Conan Exiles is not an MMO, and as MOP’s MJ reminds me, I can always go play on a private server and avoid the studio’s blundering entirely. Would that TSW and SWG fans had that option!
Have you ever walked away from an MMO over a studio’s treatment of its playerbase?
Want politics out of your games? What about politicians? And do you mean it literally? Because… they walk among us.
Kotaku put out a piece over the weekend on Brian Schoeneman, one of the many players currently running for positions on EVE Online’s Council of Stellar Management. It’s basically the student council for the game, only the members could potentially wield considerable influence over the game and have traditionally been flown to Iceland to meet with CCP to advocate for the playerbase, or at least its more powerful factions. So yeah, basically like real life.
Schoeneman, however, made headlines because of his day job: Kotaku characterizes him as a “career politician” and lobbyist.
“If you replace ‘government’ with CCP, ‘union members’ with the playerbase, and ‘country’ with the game world, I’m already basically a CSM,” he reportedly said. “It’s literally my day job.”
Massively OP reader Sorrior recently sent in a question about raiding, a topic we haven’t discussed in a while.
“I have noticed raiding tends to lead to more homogenization even without PvP and a bigger focus on numbers when making classes as opposed to their feel and style. I also see a correlation with a bigger emphasis on raiding and the decline of community quality. On a personal level, I feel like raiding should be about the joy of taking on foes you cannot defeat alone with allies/friends, but I feel many treat it as a chore or just see the numbers nowadays. Or they are just after the gear, which also seems to bring in a lot of people who focus on the numbers rather than the experience. I thought talking about why we raid and what we enjoy about it as MMO players while discussing ways to preserve the feeling of community might be fun.”
I think talking about that would also be fun, which is precisely why we Overthink it in this column. So let’s do it: This week I’ve asked the Massively OP staff whether they raid now or ever did, what they raid for, and how they feel raiding fits into the modern MMO from a mechanics and community standpoint.
I’m no stranger to the allure of alts in MMO, but there are some games where the content is so massive that I don’t have the time nor energy to level up a new character even if I truly wish to be playing a different class at endgame. As such, I really wish that there was an option — free or paid — to swap out a class for another one of equal level in my games (a feature that FFXIV does quite well).
I put this out on Twitter and got a lot of positive responses to it, with Bree chipping in, “This was one of the major perks of Star Wars Galaxies’ NGE, eventually — the ability to just pay in-game cash to switch combat classes and keep your levels/etc. It’s always slightly jarring to me that so few other MMORPGs have this feature.”
Trion Worlds’ Nicholas McDowell rebutted my wish by saying, “I understand the desire to switch, but that starts getting tricky to do in a way that doesn’t lead to an unsatisfactory experience. Instant level boost is probably the best way to do this in any RPG.”
What do you think? Would you appreciate the option to swap your MMO class, especially if you don’t want to lose your other achievements and progression?
Did you think slipping player numbers were going to do in the battle royale grand-daddy? Nope. Free-to-play must have been a big boost, as Daybreak announced today that it’s porting H1Z1 to PS4. Open beta is set to begin on May 22nd, with both signups and a preorder bundle ($29.99) available presumably as soon as the landing page starts working.
“H1Z1 on PS4 is designed specifically for the console and focuses exclusively on the core elements that make battle royale exciting,” Daybreak’s PR says. “The game features a new weapon progression system, fully reworked UI, and new weapons and gear.” The company is touting a “tailor-made” control scheme for PS4, a “grab-and-go” equipment system, and new progression mechanics.
And lest you forget that this is the game Star Wars Galaxies fans can come home to,
“The crafting system has also been removed from the game.”
Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:
“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”
I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
Plenty of panels at GDC are recorded and uploaded to the internet weeks after the event, including this one. It’s not quite the same as being there, as you miss a few things. For example, this year’s Ultima Online Post-Mortem panel was packed. It was international. It was fun, gross, nostalgiac, and sometimes groan-inducing.
And I’d hate to just summarize the talk, especially since some of you vets have heard these stories before, but since ya’ll couldn’t make it, I’ll do it. For you. But for this particular panel, not only will I try to summarize what was said before the panel will be viewable online in a few weeks, but I’ll dish out on the after-panel chat with Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Raph Koster, and Rich Vogel, including comments from the team on bad bans, kingslaying, VR, and the state of the MMORPG.
Before my GDC interview with Producer Matt “Destromathe” Pettit last week, I was really frustrated with the news about Defiance 2050. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Defiance, but mostly out of lack of experience; I liked the transmedia idea, and when that died, so did my interest. When Trion announced 2050, I couldn’t join in the excitement. The details were scant and PR-y. I wasn’t even happy with the questions we got back. When I was told I’d get an interview with Pettit at a “party,” I was worried it might mean I’d need a stiff drink to accept what I was being invited to see. In short, I expected 2050 to be a cash grab.
But now I wish Trion had put in its announcement everything Pettit told me. I feel much better about what Trion’s doing now that I’ve seen the product, and I didn’t even drink anything beforehand!
A renowned game AI designer who worked on EverQuest Next and John Smedley’s Hero’s Song is the focal point of concern following an accident at this past week’s GDC.
Dave Mark was struck as a pedestrian by a car at the conference and has suffered brain bleeds, a pelvis fracture, a hip fracture, and possible brain damage. Mark’s friends set up a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of his travel, medical costs, and rehabilitation. It looks like the campaign has taken off, too, as it raised nearly $20,000 in its first day.
“Please help if you can,” tweeted Star Wars Galaxies designer Raph Koster. “We are lucky to still have him with us, and recovery will be a long road.”
“Please help if you can. Dave is a wonderful guy with a beautiful family and he’s also one of the worlds leading experts on game AI. Send love and prayers his way,” said John Smedley.
MassivelyOp reader Bryan recently wrote to us with a fun question about emulators, a topic that will simply never die as long as MMORPGs do.
“I recently viewed some comments claiming that official era servers wouldn’t acquire much of the player base from private servers, due the benefit of private servers typically being free to play. After thinking about it though, I actually know many people who have donated money or purchased cash shop items on private servers. And I have been in guilds that paid for guild website hosting and guild voice chat hosting for their private server guild. Free stuff is always nice, of course, but it seems as though while the benefit of free to play private servers is there, there’s still a decent amount of people willing to pay out of their pockets for them. I am wondering, how many MOP readers have donated or would be willing to spend real money on a private server?”
So let’s tackle the emulator question in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Have you ever played on an emulator? Under what circumstances? Which ones are you OK with, and which ones do you stay far away from? Are you OK with emulators raising money, and for what purpose? And have you ever donated money to or spent money on an MMO emulator?
Remember last week when we covered how the Entertainment Software Association is fighting a proposal to amend the DMCA that would help preserve online games, including MMOs, for future generations? MMORPG developer Raph Koster has since thumbed his virtual nose at the ESA’s jerk move.
“Speaking as a designer, I’d rather my game be played for free than never be able to be played ever again,” the Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies designer wrote on Twitter. “Much of my work is basically gone and what survives is all altered. Preservation matters.”
He points out that the ESA’s claim that putting sunsetted games back online would create a “loophole to let the public flood” in is absurd, since the lack of a flood is generally why the game closed down to begin with.
Last week, it became clear that H1Z1 has forfeited a ton of ground in the battle over battle royale games as it’s lost 90% of its Steam playerbase since July. Now, I’m gonna be honest: I don’t really care about H1Z1 for its own sake. Even if the game didn’t make me internally cringe at the “Star Wars Galaxies fans can come home” silliness, I really dislike zombie settings, I find battle royale modes dull, and the game has been a mess for years, with missed launches, missed ports, and more marketing do-overs and renames than I can shake a sawed-off shotgun at.
But I’ve nevertheless had the impression that H1Z1 was propping up Daybreak quite a lot, which made it hard to bear it any ill will. It really was a popular game on Steam for the last few years and had to have made quite a bit of dough. We’ve already noted this year that Daybreak’s down to a bare handful of titles, and I have to wonder whether DC Universe Online’s console crowd, the vets stretched thin over the EverQuest and PlanetSide franchises, and the Standing Stone publishing hustle are enough.
Are you worried about Daybreak?