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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Via Eurogamer, news of WildStar’s business model – monthly subscription, with tradable blocks of subscription called CREDD that let cash-rich players buy gold from the guys with time to grind… at least in theory.

I’ve got doubts about how well this will work in practice. We’re past the point where subscriptions are the norm – so many games out there have gone to a freemium or buy to play model, including most of the AAA games, that players now expect to be able to play without paying a subscription, especially if they’ve already stumped up the box price. Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World set a pretty high bar for what players can expect for a one-off payment. WildStar seems to offer players the chance to do the same in return for giving up some of the gold they earn in game. However, the question is how practical it is to earn enough gold to buy a CREDD every month. To do that, lets look at the likely supply and demand, because that’s what is going to set the CREDD exchange rate.

In terms of subscription, WildStar will have three classes of player. Earners are trying to play for free, and need to each buy a CREDD every month. These guys will need to give up some of their gold earned in-game to do so. Subscribers are happy to pay their own sub, but they don’t want to drop any more of their real world dosh on the game tan that. They do get to keep any gold they make in game to spend on themselves. Finally we have the whales – they guys willing to spend more tan a subscription on the game. These guys will be flush with gold in return for the CREDDs they sell. Exactly how flush depends on how much CREDDs sell for. There has to be a whale selling a CREDD every month for every earner who gets to play for free – there can be more earners than whales, but only because some whales will be selling multiple CREDDs.

And that’s where the problem lies. The number of players willing to spend $30, $45, $60 or more every month is going to be fairly limited. The number of players who want to play for free, by buying CREDD, is going to be a lot higher. That’s going to drive the price of CREDDs up to the point that only a minority of players can earn enough gold to buy one – which makes things worse, because if a whale can get so much gold for one CREDD then he’s less likely to feel the need to buy a second one. The result is a lot of players who feel that they were supposed to be able to play for free but they’ve been “forced” to either subscribe or grind their nuts off in order to get the free play they were “entitled” to. There are enough bitter gamers out there ready to troll forums and bad-mouth any game without going out of your way to create masses more of them.

Things get even worse though, if we consider the inflationary effect of the huge piles of gold the whales will be sitting on – driving the gold cost of the most desirable traded items out of the reach of the subscribers. So now we’ve pissed off the middle class of gamers as well, and they’re justified in feeling aggrieved because these guys are paying cash every month for the game experience that has just been shat all over… or maybe they decide they aren’t going to pay every month after all in that case.

You might ask, what about EVE, which seems to do quite well with PLEX? I just don’t think the games are comparable. EVE is a niche game with a very different economic model and doesn’t have direct competitors offering a sub-less option. Also, with all respect to EVE that is a survivor from an older era of MMO gaming… but if WildStar after six months has the number of subscribers that it took EVE years to achieve, given the dev budgets of modern MMOs, it will be seen as a massive failure.

I don’t wish WildStar ill. There’s nothing about the game that personally excites me, but I want every MMO that launches to prosper because every failure hurts the genre as a whole. I just have my doubts that this one is going to thrive.

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You can blame Stabs for this post. When he wrote all about TEST alliance’s trials and travails with Internet democracy in EVE I pretty much had to write a mini essay in his comments thread because, as any of my friends or family will tell you, once I get going on politics it’s hard to shut me up. And it didn’t stop there – once I had a chance to sleep things over I had more thoughts on the subject, which were applicable to game guilds in general and not just EVE. Hence, I brought my comment over here for a polish and expansion.

First of all – there’s the hoary old quote from Winston Churchill about democracy being “the worst form of government, apart from all of the others”. Democracy keeps people engaged because they feel they have a stake rather than just being ordered about, and it lets people replace bad leaders without having all the mess and fuss of a revolution. The cost of that is a certain amount of inertia and friction, but that might be better than a well-oiled machine that your Master And God drives off a cliff. However, guild members have an alternative to replacing their leadership in their current guild… \gquit. In the real world, if you don’t like the way your country is run, it’s not that easy to leave it and join another one. You only get masses of refugees if something is seriously messed up within a country. In most MMOs, the barriers to movement are a lot lower, so voting with your feet becomes a viable alternative to changing leadership in your current guild.

Secondly – representative democracy (as practiced in the modern Western world) is not the same thing as participatory democracy (as practiced in ancient Athens). Representative democracies let the people pick their leaders on a regular basis, and then let those leaders make the decisions until it’s time to replace the leader or renew their mandate. Participatory democracies let the electorate as a whole make the call on each and every decision. The reason Rome (representative democracy) put together an empire and Athens (participatory democracy) didn’t is that participatory democracies really suck at having a coherent strategy for anything beyond the immediate term. A guild that wants to achieve anything more than “let’s hang out together” needs to pick and empower leaders rather than put every decision up to popular vote. However, some decisions SHOULD be made by the guild as a whole because they all need to be engaged – for example, whether to merge with another guild. Real world representative democracies hold referenda on important issues too. The trick is identifying which issues are important enough.

Thirdly – the “campaign commander” thing TEST are considering has been tried before. Go look up the original meaning of the word “dictator”. The Roman Republic would hand wide-ranging powers to one man to be supreme leader for the duration of an emergency. It actually worked the first few times. The Roman Republic became the Roman Empire because guys like Julius Caesar and his rivals and successors (and one or two guys before him, to be fair) weren’t so keen on handing the power back once they’ve got it. Lesson for guilds should be perfectly clear here – if you don’t want to make someone el presidente for life, be damn careful who you hand all the power to.

Fourthly – the benefits of Western civilisation are arguably down to the rule of law more than directly to democracy. Democracy is probably the best guarantee of the rule of law, however. The problem with applying this to EVE is that I don’t think that any corporation or the personalities in it are stable enough to genuinely support the rule of law. Frankly, that goes double for most guilds I’ve ever seen in any other game.

Fifth and final – democracy is all about letting the people at large have their hands on the levers of power, or at least letting them choose who has their hands on the levers. Simply having votes is not democracy. The Soviet Union had regular elections, which the Communist party won by a landslide, because only they could take part. That’s not democracy. Likewise, Iran has a system of vetting all political candidates so only those approved of by the people already in power can gain power. That’s not democracy either. On the other hand, democracy is not about sharing the wealth equally – that’s egalitarianism and is a whole different kettle of fish. Every time I hear someone arguing for a particular loot distribution system because it’s more ‘democratic’ I want to punch their face.

We all know that gamers are one big family, united by our common love of the games we play… except that we aren’t. We’re divided into a whole bunch of tribes that play these games very differently from each other, and each of the tribes stares at the others in sick incomprehension, convinced that they are Doing It Wrong.
I’ve written my little guide to the tribes here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because its fun, and that should be reason enough. Secondly, though, is because I started to write down my thoughts about Everquest Next after SOE’s big reveal recently, and I realised that I needed to refer to some of these tribes as part of that discussion. Rather than having a major digression in what could be a fairly meaty post anyway, I decided that Tremayne’s Guide To The Faeces-Flinging Monkeys Of The MMO Jungle probably deserved a post of its own. And so, here’s my list of the major flavours of gamers and a guide to their habits and habitats.

Fierce Competitors (FC)
FCs play to win. They’re up for a challenge, willing to work for victory and accept that if they aren’t on their best form then they might not win, but their definition of fun is bound up with their victory conditions. For them, dev time spent on cosmetics or events which don’t reward with best in slot items is wasted effort, and they’re intolerant of less capable or less driven players if those untermenschen get in their way (by, for example, slowing them down on a dungeon run)
Bartle type: Achiever
Most likely to play: any game
Most likely to say: “I’m the best!” (After topping leader board)
Least likely to say: “the most important thing is to have fun”

Role Players (RP)
For RPers, the game is just a framework and venue for a specialised form of social interaction. They’re here to make up their own story and share it with their fellows. Mostly harmless and have little interaction with most other tribes, apart from the passive-aggressive minority who cry that anyone who isn’t role playing to their own idiosyncratic standard is “breaking their immersion” – and seem to believe that using the game’s built-in ignore function is also immersion-breaking. RPers, especially the passive-aggressive sort, are natural prey for Sadistic Jerks..
Bartle type: Socialiser
Most likely to play: LotRO, Champions Online (for sheer costume variety)
Most likely to say: “Forsooth!” (If the cheesy ren faire thee and thou variety), “Let me tell you my life story…”
Least likely to say: “Let’s go farm some loot to max out my stats”

Wanna Wins (WW)
Oh god, the WWs. Like FCs, these guys enjoy winning. Unlike FCs, they feel entitled to win. They expect there to be a clearly laid out path to victory, ideally with a minimum of effort and for the love of all that’s holy without any requirement for actual thought on their part. These guys are voracious consumers of guides, go to the forums to ask “what’s the best class?”, are the group most likely to get a ban for exploiting, and think the dungeon finder is the best thing EVAH but queues for DPS are too long.
Bartle type: Achiever, Killer
Most likely to play: WoW… Wait, there are other games?
Most likely to say: “I’m the best!” (After ‘earning’ an epic item by being AFK through 20,000 PvP matches)
Least likely to say: “Let’s try something different…”

Sadistic Jerks (SJ)
For these guys, fun is a zero sum game. They’re only enjoying themselves if they’re ruining someone else’s day. They’re usually loud advocates of free for all PvP with full looting and ideally a “rape corpse” emote because they’re convinced that they would be the wolves and not the sheep in such a world. Group most likely to get a ban for grieving or offensive language – they tend to have very little in the way of communication skills other than a not particularly inventive selection of obscenities. They may be shy, awkward, bullied youngsters in real life in need of a good hug. Or they may just be oxygen thieves.
Bartle type: Killer. Definitely Killer.
Most likely to play: EVE Online but they will infest any other game, especially if it’s F2P so getting a ban doesn’t actually cost them anything.
Most likely to say: “QQ moar noob!”
Least likely to say: “I’m sorry”

Forward To The Past! (FTTP)
The FTTP crowd have found the perfect MMO – it’s the first one they played, over ten years ago. Everything since then has been on a downward spiral, and every innovation in the genre has been a mistake. WoW’s commercial success is just proof that all of the rest of humanity are brainless sheep. Despite their perfect game already existing, FTTPs feel the need to pop into every new game at launch in order to reinforce their prejudices, sneer at the kiddies and condemn the upstart game as a “three monther”.
Bartle type: Any – nostalgia knows no boundaries.
Most likely to play: Everquest.
Most likely to say: “Forced grouping or GTFO. And then you should have to travel for an hour to reach the dungeon. Where every spawn point is camped and has a waiting list.”
Least likely to say: “Action based combat is brilliant!”

Truly Madly Deeply Casual (TMDC)
TMDCs treat the game as just a game. They dip in and out, they putter around, they do whatever takes their fancy in their own sweet time. They don’t post on forums or write blogs because they just aren’t that invested in the game – anyone seen posting on a forum claiming to be a TMDC is almost certainly trolling. This makes the other tribes, many of whom live and breathe the game forums, seriously underestimate just what a large proportion of the player base is actually made up of TMDCs.
Bartle type: Socialiser, Explorer.
Most likely to play: Pretty much anything that isn’t ONLY FOR TEH HARDCORE, but probably WoW because a friend or family member got them into gaming in the first place, so statistically speaking the game in question was probably WoW.
Most likely to say: “I wonder what happens if I do this?”
Least likely to say: “Must grind for best in slot trinket…”

Mellow Old Farts (MOF)
MOFs are more invested in the game than TMDCs but more mature (both emotionally and probably wrinkle-wise) than WWs and have too much else going on in their lives to be FCs. They see the game as something to kick back and relax with, but they’re aware of what constitutes playing well and try to do so – within reason. They will learn to play their class abilities to good effect, but probably won’t spend hours upon hours grinding out that last 1% of improved performance – life’s too short when you’ve got a full time job and kids to spend some time with. MOFs would rather run a dungeon once with friends than speed-run it three times with grimly intent strangers for extra loot.
Bartle type: Explorer, Socialiser, moderate levels of Achiever.
Most likely to play: Guild Wars 2
Most likely to say: “OK guys, lets see if we can get this boss down before the baby wakes up”
Least likely to say: “I just farmed Dickwolf rep for 48 hours straight!”

As for which tribe I personally belong to… isn’t it obvious? Just call me Grand MOF Tarkin 🙂