A note on MMORPGs business models

First, remember that MOST people can only see what happened after it happened. Whereas other people learn enough to have a vision of what is going to happen. In a similar way, there are games created for an existing market and audience, and games that deliberately create a market that wasn’t there before, and that suddenly becomes canon and that everything else has to conform to from that point onward. A vision can open new paths, and these new paths become the foundation on which everything else is built.

That said, there’s this widespread myth that free to play has to “replace” subscription models, that it is some unavoidable destination. This discussion is conditioned by the idea of a new model replacing an obsolete one, instead of discussing the game’s own merits. So a game can fail or succeed because of its business model.

The truth of free to play versus subscription models is fairly simple and slightly different from the debates I usually see. The point is that a subscription model is more directly competitive, and so risky. But it is not a case of “new” versus “old”, or a model that is now obsolete. The rise of free to play is motivated by the fact that the market is so competitive no one would survive in a subscription model. Free to play is a way to virtually enlarge the pie. Understood?

The reason is also simple. Players out there can and will buy different games, they can shift their focus from one to the other. Whereas a subscription model leads to a situation where a player will decide on what game to play. It’s very unlikely that a player will maintain multiple subscriptions. So the result is that subscription-based games are much more directly competitive between each other, and only the “King of the Hill” will survive and do well under these conditions. Every other title will fall short and struggle, which is the very simple reason why World of Warcraft dominated all these years. Or the reason why Elder Scrolls Online has to move to a subscription-free model not because subscriptions are a “bad business model”, but merely because the title isn’t valid enough to face the competition of a subscription model. It’s like a two-tiered market where a couple of games can compete at the top and do well with a subscription model, while lesser competitors have to find a way to co-exist with less belligerent business models.

Again, subscription model are still “ideally” the more appropriate business model for a long-term MMORPG that wants to grow as a virtual world, but for the practical needs of a market, and a market where you want to survive, the free to play model offers a way to squeeze more space out of that highly competitive, merciless market.

Don’t put stones on the rails of the Hype Train

I so hate when I see this happening. Erikson once told me that I’m disruptive of online communities, and get so much aggressive backlash, because it’s like everyone makes an effort to go with the flow, while I’m like on a bridge and dropping stones into the river.

Right now, at the E3, it’s the time of the Hype Train. You want to be part of the community and considered to be one of its members? Are you a gamer? Then let’s build ANTICIPATION. And together we’ll share excitement for all these wonderful, unimaginable great games that are coming. It means this is a POSITIVE moment, when you are asked to put down and forget your criticism and critical thinking. Just watch the advertisement and be part of it.

But nope, you want to spoil it and remind what’s at the end of this railroad. It is not the time.


It’s dumb talking about this when it’s all already done. It’s SMART talking about this when it is actually happening, instead of being surprised after the fact.

Dark Souls 2 bullshit started well before the year it was released. If all these potential players don’t learn ANYTHING from what already happened and are ready to swallow it all again, then this is exactly the problem. YOU are the problem, not the developers. The developers simply exploit what they find. They find a gullible, naive audience? They exploit it, since they will believe everything that they are being told.

When the game is one month from release all the rants and complains result to absolutely nothing. You suck it up and shut up.

But if you start to complain about this when it’s actually happening, and call developers out to STOP THIS SHIT, then maybe they’ll understand it doesn’t work, and that it actually hurts the business to promise something the final product will not match.

But nope. Keep blindly worshiping your developer gods, so they’ll keep cheating you.

The oracle says: The Elder Scrolls Online

– Yes, I’ve seen the beta.
– I will only speak generally, to respect the NDA.
– What I found was actually better than what I expected after reading leaks and other forums discussions before I got into beta. This game’s reputation is rather awful out there.


The problem isn’t that everyone is now bored of playing MMORPGs, it’s instead that in the last few years MMORPGs have been gutted of all their potential and appeal.

We’ve got more and more single-player games that are offering interesting sandboxes, instead we get MMORPGs that are more linear than single-player games. That’s what is wrong.

So what’s the reason why someone should play a MMORPG? Only one: the appeal of “lots of content”, because that’s the idea that comes with every MMORPG. You play for hundreds of hours. But these days all that translates into: “I’m going to play for 200 hours this extremely dull combat, yay?” …Why? It all really comes down to this. It sounds more like torture than something you’d want to do. We get so many good games that the idea of spending hundreds of hours into DULL linear gameplay isn’t appealing for anyone. It’s just a single-player game, but WORSE. It’s just the same awful combat of Skyrim, but WORSE, because it’s online and with the online “features”: like lag, absence of collision and so on. Skyrim combat is already awful, so now it’s much worse! Good job! Everyone will love this absolutely!

That’s ultimately ESO’s challenge: demonstrate it’s not just an Elder Scroll game, but, oh, so much worse BECAUSE it has all the INCONVENIENCES of being online.

Or: ESO is worse than Skyrim proportionally to its MMORPG features & design forced into it. You get EVERYTHING you learned to hate after years of bad MMORPGs, concentrated into an Elder Scroll game, to ruin it.

Either the developers know how to answer this, or they don’t. And they don’t have a lot of time left.

Instead, why would YOU buy another Skyrim that has become several times worse because of its port to a classic MMORPG, and that not only costs you full price, but also $15 a month?

Answer.

Next-gen PC gaming is old-gen

This deserves its own thread. Basically we are back to the old times when PC specs were a mess.

The first news is that AMD is now really at war with Nvidia. Every two weeks a new videocard comes out, or prices are readjusted. If they keep up like this for 6 months we’ll have a card four times more powerful than a PS4 for half the price.

The issue here is how AMD is playing the war: whereas Nvidia cards have a stock clock and a boost clock, so that the gaming frequency goes from stock to the max of the boost clock, AMD instead now does the opposite. They have a max clock and then as temperature and noise rise they lower the frequency to the point where noise+temperature target is matched.

So basically if you set your card to sound like a JET TURBINE, then you can go to the maximum clock. Otherwise the card is chocked.

This led to a situation where AMD carefully selected cards to send to reviewers, ending up with retail cards that performed NOWHERE like the benchmarks, simply because the noise and temperature throttled the “ideal” frequencies. Basically the 290X is a card pushed to the extreme. That’s how AMD is trying to win the war, they just squeeze the maximum possible juice.

To consider, though that (1) AMD is saying these cards can run at 95° without a problem. (2) they claim the problem of the retail cards are not normal and trying to analyze & fix in upcoming drivers.

The bottom line:
the piece of hardware is the same, they are trying to juggle it through drivers and settings. The latest beta driver gives the r9 290 a BETTER performance of a GTX 780. The 780 costs something like $500. The r9 290 costs $400. It sometimes is faster than a Titan, for the price of a 770 till a week ago. But to make the card reach that performance they turned it into a really loud LAWNMOWER. They hugely increased the performance of the card by pushing UP the thermal and noise ceiling, not by making more powerful hardware.

Anandtech says:

Ultimately there will be scenarios where this is acceptable – namely, anything where you don’t have to hear the 290, such as putting it in another room or putting it under water – but on a grand scale those are few and far between. For most buyers who will simply purchase the card and drop it into their computers as-is, this represents an unreasonable level of noise.

So, despite all this, the r9 290 is a monster of a card that almost reaches the performance of a Titan. It costs $400. Right now it’s too loud, but right now AMD is forcing the default model with stock cooler. Within a month it’s possible that custom coolers will come out around the same price that would BOTH make the card silent AND reach the maximum frequency. Basically AMD is waiting Nvidia response while preparing for the final blow.


The second news is about “recommended” specs of PC games. First there was the case of Battlefield 4. It “recommends” 8Gb of memory and has a 64bit exe by default.

The problem is that accordingly to reports BF4 NEVER exceeds 2.5Gb of memory. So having 8Gb or more memory onboard is COMPLETELY USELESS as far as the game is concerned. This is valid for both single and multiplayer, with the game running at 1080p and max settings. On top of this it’s even likely that the 32bit exe would perform better without any disadvantage whatsoever.

Bottom line: “next-gen” PC gaming is only a label on the box that makes feel good those gamers who’d like to see their new hardware purchase justified. There are people out there who even buy 32Gb memory “for gaming”. The PC market is being targeted by game developers as “Premium”, where the BIGGER the specs, the happier gamers are. It’s becoming an elitist, niche market where hardware requirements on the box are being ARTIFICIALLY INFLATED to require or justify new hardware purchases.


Add to the same scenario the fact that Nvidia is pushing all sort of “exclusive” effects on new games in order to justify new hardware. Or AMD dropping barely 3/4 years old videocards into “legacy” so that new drivers won’t work with those cards, and games will not run. Leaving you with bugs and problems to force you buy new hardware.

AMD released new legacy drivers a couple of weeks ago, so you’d think it’s at least decent support? Nope. This is just a new package containing drivers released in April. Exact same version. The April drivers were also old drivers that contained one fix for one specific game, nothing else. So the most “recent” drivers were (and still are) released in December 2012. Also including problems with Firefox hardware acceleration that messes up the screen.

All this while users actually open those drivers are are manually updating them to fix bugs and enable new versions. All things that AMD is refusing to do just to make you buy new hardware.


Third news and most ridiculous: Call of Duty Ghosts.

This game, unlike Battlefield 4, doesn’t simply make the idiotic claim on the box. But if you try to launch the game with LESS THAN 6Gb RAM onboard, the game FAILS TO LAUNCH with an error.

“Your system memory (RAM) does not meet the minimum specification for running Call of Duty: Ghosts”

Not only this is a shitty-looking game compared to BF4, but it pretends to use all those 6Gb. It will fail to launch. And maybe it would be fine, just a shit of an engine and another crappy PC port to add to a long list.

But NOPE.

People who can actually run the game are reporting that the game’s memory usage “is usually around 1.1 – 1.8 GB”.

At maximum settings, 1080p.

So not only this game completely fails to launch, but it won’t even allow one to use lower settings to meet the target. The 6Gb requirement on the box is neither recommended, nor maximum. It’s the minimum requirement. For a game that, completely maxed, can’t even use 2Gb and would probably run PERFECT on Windows XP.

It can’t use even 1/3 of the memory it pretends. Maybe soon we can expect a patch that adds a memory leak so huge to actually justify 6Gb?

This is next gen PC. All fake smoke and mirrors. Forced upgrades like cockblocked new DirectX exclusive to Win 8 to make you upgrade to a shitty new OS. 64bit exes that runs slower than 32bit ones. Inflated hardware specs and hardware makers playing all kind of tricks.

“Premium” PC.

Also, in case you were concerned:

Dog hair is coming in a patch according to Andy (Nvidia rep).

http://www.geforce.com/whats-new/articles/call-of-duty-ghosts-definitive-pc-version-available-now

Call of Duty: Ghosts – DEFINITIVE PC VERSION

With a NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics card, PC players benefit massively from high-quality, high-precision NVIDIA HBAO+ Ambient Occlusion, NVIDIA TXAA temporal anti-aliasing, and in a forthcoming game update, NVIDIA GPU-accelerated animal fur, and NVIDIA GPU-accelerated PhysX effects.

NVIDIA GPU-accelerated animal fur will add high-quality, realistic, dynamically-reacting fur to Riley, NPC wolves, and multiplayer attack dogs.


Some reports running the game through a debugger are saying Call of Duty Ghosts does nothing with the memory, but it is pushing artificially beyond the 32bit address as a way to prevent cheating.

Basically the game starts addressing memory after 3Gb of empty block, to push it out of the 32bit range.

That’s why the Windows Task Manager reports it’s not using memory, as it’s actually truly empty.

(this because people are trying to hack the game to change the FOV, since the game has it fixed at 65, lol)


Also interesting about the sales:

Black Ops: “an estimated sell-through of approximately $360 million in North America and the United Kingdom alone in the first 24 hours of its release”

MW3: “has become the biggest entertainment launch ever with an estimated sell-through of more than $400 million in the first 24 hours of its release”

Black Ops 2: “has achieved an estimated sell-through of more than $500 million worldwide in the first 24 hours of its release”

Ghosts: “the company sold more than $1 billion of Call of Duty®: Ghosts into retail stores worldwide as of day one.” … “Although it is too early to assess sell-through for Call of Duty: Ghosts

lololol

But now they have more important metrics:

” Fans around the world shared their excitement in social media, with Call of Duty-related terms trending an astounding 20 times globally on Twitter in the last 24 hours. “

Rift, the MMORPG, is Warhammer in weaksauce

I know very well to stay away from this, but I decided to check it out, despite my vow to never again join mmorpg betas, because at the helm of this game is Scott Hartsman (former EQ2 technical guy and then producer, surely did better work as the latter) and he’s one of the VERY FEW guys I have esteem for.

So I checked this out.

In short: Trion, the studio behind this game has been shopping for Mythic’s devs for a while (Mythic’s producer is the most recent acquisition). Scott Hartsman probably brought some SOE devs with him as well. The game uses Gamebryo, the DREADFUL engine that everyone learned to hate and scorn. It’s the same engine used on Morrowind, Oblivion, Fallout, DAoC and Warhammer, so you know what to expect.

The result is that Rift plays, looks and feels like an hybrid of EQ2 and Warhammer. The basic gameplay copies the first iteration of WoW (when quests had far less variety), plays the exact same way and has the exact same UI (but done in Guild Wars art).

There are two features that make Rift stand out:

– The “soul” mechanic, that makes the same class mix and cover different roles (tank, DPS, control, healer).
– The rifts.

The soul mechanic I approve (even if the specific implementation comes with some issues, like balance problems, redundant skills, and not quite streamlined skills purpose), in fact it’s quite curious how one of the two distinctive features of this game that wasn’t copied from some other MMO… is one of my own.

About five years ago (see forum date and original thread for evidence) I was proposing the exact same idea:

Here’s how I’m following HRose’s “fixed classes/flexible roles” concept …

My idea was basically letting characters and a single class cover all “roles” in a party like “healer” “tank” or “DPS” so that some players could always form a decent group at all times, without having to sit an hour because they couldn’t find an healer.

You could basically swap your party role to whatever was needed. And what is used in Rift is close to the same idea. (as long the swap is not permanent like WoW’s talents)

It can take time, but eventually even the professional designers arrive to the same conclusions I arrived a few years ago. If you sit and wait in the place where everyone is going, then it looks like everyone is coming to you ;)

The other feature is the “rifts”. This one seems an original concept, but it’s just a variation of Warhammer’s Public Quest. Quite shameless, imho. You arrive at the location of a Rift and you automatically obtain a Public Quest divided in sub-phases EXACTLY like Warhammer. First there’s a wave of minor mobs, then a “boss” of some kind. When all phases are complete you can pick up a reward depending on how much you contributed.

It’s exactly the same idea, with very minor adjustments. The only relevant one is that instead of being in a fixed location like Warhammer, these are scripted to occur at random in a number of points across the map, including quest hubs. You gain some dynamism, but you lose the handcrafted detail Warhammer’s model allowed. Imho, it’s not a step forward.

Conclusion:
Warhammer offered four kinds of gameplay: standard PvE, Public Quests, Battlegrounds, world PvP. Of these, two were badly broken due to bad game design (Public Quests not being scalable, world PvP being just horribly done and nerfed so that everyone was playing just BGs), but AT LEAST they were there.

Rifts plays essentially the same, but PvP seems entirely tacked on (and balance problems won’t make it easier).

Warhammer was a big failure. Rifts offers even less and has far less ideas, but perhaps isn’t utterly doomed. I think it was developed in a short time span and cost less than Warhammer (all thanks to Gamebryo, whose “discounts” will be then payed every single day). Without EA expecting millions of subscribers and Scott Hartsman at the helm I think they have a realistic plan and in the end the boat could stay afloat even if this game is on paper (and in what I played) sensibly weaker than Warhammer.

And for more Gamebryo HORRORS look here.

Different projects names, same people behind them. In the end I can’t be surprised if all these games play exactly the same. From what I see, the larger the crisis in the industry and especially the mmorpg genre, the more fragmented it gets. Studios shattering in many smaller ones and developers finishing on the road and continuing to wander aimlessly like zombies between failed projects. It’s not a recipe for success, and it will take many more years to see a new mmorpg that actually deserves the attention.

EDIT:
I LOLed at the beta forum:

What about the Gamebryo engine? What impact does it have on performance?

The fact that Rift uses the Gamebryo engine does not have a significant impact on performance. Rift uses a heavily modified version of the engine, and only for certain game systems. As such any issues you may have experienced with other MMOs using this engine will not affect Rift.

Wishful thinking :)

On MMO’s recent numbers

I’m the first to say Xfire numbers are unreliable. If you look at Eve-Online the game had a HUGE increase of active players during the holiday, that now seems dying down. This coincides to when they reactivated all canceled accounts for a period of time, so it may explain the surge of activity.

But the “real” numbers looked almost unaffected by that. Look at these graphs. These measure the activity in the same way of Xfire, only of all the players instead of a smaller sample. It is weird that the huge activity increase that Xfire showed is only very slightly reflected in the other graph. The recent weeks also aren’t showing the same consistent dip on Xfire. How can this be explained? Maybe they had a special promotion through Xfire that rigged those results, maybe some bug on the client or database.

In any case Eve-Online seems to have stalled during the last year, maybe reaching its full potential within the constraint of game design that sure isn’t made to be appealing to the large public (along with basic flaws that they simply decided to not address). Now it is slightly growing again, but probably as result of momentary situation related to promotions or launch of expansions. They have already another in the works where they rewrite for the 10th time the tutorials (hint: it’s gameplay that should be reworked, not the tutorial text).

Hard numbers: currently Eve-Online has 250k subs. Putting it head to head with DAoC at its peak.

Now lets see Warhammer. No real numbers to see, beside it vanishing from forums discussions and relevance overall. Xfire is all we have. Not meaningful or reliable, but reasonable. The game is relatively stable, slightly dropping as players burn out. We don’t have real subs numbers, not even projections. Sure is that we won’t have them as EA is likely not too pleased to the point of publicizing them. MJ public “target” was at least 500k, but from other interviews it was quite obvious that his and EA target potential started from 1M going up (or better, a target to reach. didn’t mean to have 1M in 1 month).

Warhammer doesn’t likely have 1M now, I doubt it has 500k. I doubt it has 400k. From Xfire and general reception it is likely that by now its success is set. Meaning that I doubt it will see a relevant increase or even a sudden relevant decrease. It is whatever it is. We can only guess that number, but we know that to sway it now it will take some “extreme triggers” that it is not realistic to expect (especially from Mythic’s righteous game design).

On Warhammer potential subscribers I’ve said a whole lot of different things. Now I’ll explain so people won’t accuse me of writing all kind of things to the different forums and then only link those that were right (I’m not one who wants to win arguments when in fault). When Mythic decided to sell out to EA, I said that Warhammer would have never surpassed DAoC at its peak. 250-260k then. This was as a reaction to the sellout. I explained that I thought it was a bad move. Mythic needed money to be more “secure”, so they went with EA that was working like a guarantee and put them out of troubles. My point was that this transition also had negative aspects to not underestimate. One of them is that if you get much more money to make the product, then this product also HAS TO be much more successful. So if Mythic could be successful by reaching a certain target, with EA’s acquisition that target would become much, much bigger. It’s like as if going from 1 to 10 Mythic didn’t want to go through all the steps, but make a big leap and find itself at 10. I’m against those sort of things.

This year, in August, I got the occasion to try Warhammer. I was surprised, found a game much better than how I was expecting. Good execution, good artistic talent and direction, overall well done and strong in potential. Under these conditions and in a moment favorable for MMO market (no matter what you are going to argue), I thought that the potential subscriptions would climb from my own first “blind” guess. So I wrote on F13 that I expected it to be between 250-500k, with the potential for more if they solved some basic problems (irony: look two posts down and there’s another revelatory in retrospective question).

Well, not too shabby for a prediction. Four months later Warhammer didn’t solve those basic problems, but made them worse in some cases. As I wrote in various occasion I don’t think the game moved in a positive direction, but actually did a number of counterproductive and wrong moves. Pretty obvious that all the potential I saw wasn’t and isn’t going to be realized. The game’s real performance seems rather close to my view.

Today, it is a meaningful thing to notice Eve-Online is probably going to be more successful than Warhammer. We won’t know when exactly since we don’t have numbers. But it is happening.

It is also an obvious defeat for all those who thought EA’s marketing power was enough to attract the big numbers.

P.S.
About showing numbers and naysayers: this will never affect the market in a relevant way. Sure, forum warriors use numbers all the time to prove validity of their opinion (I did it here), but they do not influence results. If there’s a site who shows a chart of a game population going down the game won’t continue to go down because of that chart. The numbers are consequences, not causes. So: fire all marketers, hire competent game designers with eyes that can see.

Warhammer: post-launch state of the game

I don’t need to wait Friday to read Mark Jacobs’ own.

Putting aside client performance and stability for once, even if it should remain the very first-priority effort, I’ll focus on the gameplay. Class balance is also an argument on its own that I won’t comment here.

I said before, and repeat again, that Warhammer’s biggest strength is in the variety of gameplay it offers. This variety comes in four different flavours: straight PvE quests, Public Quests, Scenarios and Open RvR.

The game is in the best shape when these four systems are always accessible and equally rewarding (or comparably rewarding). All four of them.

Removing Scenarios doesn’t make a better game, it’s the wrong solution to a problem. Reducing the number of scenarios also doesn’t make a better game since it reduces once again the variety. The main reason why everyone says the game is an awful grind is because the game entered a dead end where there’s scenarios and just scenarios. It’s repetitive, and repetitive is “grind”. And grind means that you worship your exp bar. And worshiping your exp bar means that you aren’t having fun and just hope to reach the “promise of a different end-game”.

This is the state of the four gameplay paths coming from my personal experience in the game and what I read in other players’ feedback:

– PvE Quests yield crap experience, especially in Tier 3 and 4 (or so I read)
– PQs don’t have enough players and bag loot should be improved
– Scenarios outbalance everything else, but should be balanced between each other to be more equal in rewards
– Open PvP is non existent and with piss poor rewards

PvE Quests
I don’t have the data, but I think that the experience curve throughout all the levels should be improved. Things should scale more uniformly and quests, scenarios, PQs, direct kills, these all should scale with the levels following a smooth, predictable curve. Instead I read reports that quests yield less and less experience and something similar happens for scenarios too. The escalation of level requirements isn’t perceived as smooth, and I’m willingly to trust the feedback I read on this.

I don’t have any experience in Tier 3 so I can’t comment the details. For sure the solution is NOT to add repeatable quests to fill the gaps. If the are gaps they need to be removed entirely, not just bridged with fluff. In any case it’s a problem of boosting or decreasing the xp rewards so that even the normal quests make your experience bar move perceptibly.

Public Quests
Big issue. Problems coming from different aspects that aren’t easily fixable without significant coding efforts. Difficulty scaling, to begin with.

The real reason why Mythic is scared about making leveling faster is because the faster the players move to the cap, the quicker the tiers will depopulate. The quicker the tiers depopulate, the less fun the experience for new players. The less fun the experience of new players, the smaller the influx of new subscriptions to the game. With less players sticking, the game has no future.

Right now for Mythic is crucial that the first tiers are vibrant with activity. The band-aid they have for this is to keep the leveling so slow that people “pool” in the tiers for longer, maybe even encouraging them to create alts more than pushing to the cap.

The real problem is that no matter how slow the leveling speed, these problems will arise anyway. The depopulation of the tiers is the big thorn in the game’s side. It WILL happen. Ignoring it now will just make things worse later. It starts affecting mostly the PQs, but later will even affect Scenarios. It’s a game-breaking problem.

There’s only one effective solution, and I’ll point where I discussed it.

Scenarios
I believe that the Scenarios should be reworked even in level design, but I won’t go in the details. For sure they need to add lightmaps and avoid fights in the dark. Not fun, especially when it’s so easy to get stuck everywhere. For this kind of gameplay the zone design shouldn’t get in the way, it should ease the fight. Less stupid obstacles and more visibility, thanks.

Secondly, all the Scenarios in a tier need to be equally rewarding. Make an average of time each required, then compensate the differences through bigger or smaller rewards for completing one.

Open RvR
To begin with: travel sucks. Travel time-sinks have to go completely. Every hub, big or small, should have all the necessary NPCs. Then I’d add at least two flight masters for each zone, one closer to a PvE hub, the other to the RvR Lake warcamp.

Once travel between PvE and RvR Lakes is simpler, I’d go with the following plan:

– Players take a Battlefield Objective (or keep) and cap it (worth nothing for now). Guilds can put a banner on the BO and stack benefits.
– For the time the BO is being actively defended (meaning there are real players in its proximity) it “blinks” on the map for all the players in the zone, for both factions. So that all players know that there’s activity there.
– All the kills (both defenders and attackers) that happen within a decently wide radius from the BO starts to be worth more points (XP, renown). A bonus that should be slightly higher for defenders, to encourage defense.
– For all the kills that defenders manage, some points go into a “bounty pool” in the BO. The more kills, the more this pool increases. I’d also make the BO generate some of these points even if no one is around, so that if left untouched for a lot of hours it actually start to be worth something anyway.
– This means that the longer it takes to conquer the BO, the biggest is going to be the reward, as it increases with the time and makes the prize progressively juicier.
– In order to “collect” these points the attackers need to conquer the objective themselves and “cash” the reward.

This has mainly three effects:
1- The BO works like a magnet, like a natural convergence since the direct kills are worth a lot more when they are closer to the objective. This makes the players know where to go and the action is focused on a smaller area (those who played Planetside know what I mean). This reduces the problem of RvR lakes being too dispersive.
2- The bounty points increase over time, so growing to a level that will likely motivate the other faction to take action. It will also move the “hot” RvR area around instead of repeating what happened with “Emain” in DAoC. It puts variety in the system.
3- It avoids exploits and disruptive behaviors. Points in this system come from direct kills. Handing out a lot of points for just conquering a keep, instead, encourages the factions to just trade the objective instead of fighting for it. It teaches them to AVOID the fight to maximize the reward (we saw some of this in WoW). My system instead focuses on the fight itself. It motivates it and makes sure it is rewarding since it promotes and rewards the activity.

This is how I would fix Open RvR. Some of those mechanics existed in some form in DAoC, but were never implemented in a way they mattered.

Mark Jacobs says:

Look, it’s really very simple and I’ve said this more than once. This is not 2001 and we are not going to blithely make changes to our game just because some people think that we are wrong before they even get a chance to see the changes in action or worse, just because we are getting yelled at by a very vocal minority. We’ll gather the data, look at all the feedback and then make a decision. If we’re wrong, we’ll correct the decision but at least this time we have all the data we need to make the right call and we are not getting swayed either by just the loud voices or a few wrong-headed individuals. So, if you feel the need to talk about canceling in these threads, of course you have that right. Just don’t think that we are going to react to it the same way we might have at times back in 2001, we need to be smarter and react more carefully than that.

Mark Jacobs apparently believes that these complaints about Open RvR are due to “loud voices or a few wrong-headed individuals”.

To what did they overreact in 2001 that made them so scared today? Class issues, maybe. Doing nothing in regards to huge unbalances for a long time, keeping specs completely broken. And then suddenly turning things on their heads. This happened. Right now there are no signs of change. Class issues are still unaddressed and no one knows if when the changes will come they will be searing.

Class issues aside, what I remember from Mythic is not overreacting, but doing very little, too late and never at the root of the problem. How is this different today? As with ToA, they risk to fix things when it’s too late, or never in a radical way. Even at that time Mythic believed that the complaints against ToA came from a “vocal minority” and it take them a long time to acknowledge that this “vocal minority” spoke in regards of the majority. When they did, it was too late.

History repeats, no matter how hard they try to persuade players of the contrary. No matter how much I hope something really changed.

DAoC with the time became more and more a game just about specialized 8vs8 or arranged matches between guilds. The keep battles and sieges became a rarity. For a very long time I was part of the “vocal minority” who pleaded Mythic to bring the “real” RvR back to when the realm was fighting together and the battles pivoted around keeps instead of away from them to avoid interferences.

They did nothing for a long time and when they started adding some rewards to conquering a keep, these rewards were ridiculously low. Does it sound familiar? This is way too similar to what is happening now in regards to Scenarios and Open RvR.

The same happened again with the “Catacombs” expansion. They added private instances that were merely a corridor populated with a row of skeletons. It was STUPID. Ridiculously pointless and dull.

But everyone continued to do them and just them. Over and over and over. Why? Because they gave by far the most experience points.

Mythic had other instanced dungeons that provided a lot more variety and depth of gameplay, also more linked to the various zones. They were completely deserted. No players at all. Why? Because they couldn’t even compare to the fast rewards of the private instances. For a long time I tried to persuade Mythic to make these other dungeons comparably attractive. They never did.

History repeats.

I know I sound like the stereotypical soured player, but I’ve seen these things happening. Over and over. And now I don’t see any sign that they actually learned from mistakes. They say they did, but this isn’t reflected by their actions. I continue to see the same mistakes repeated. The exact same mistakes.

I remember reading an old post from Ubiq who described similar patterns:

In Star Wars Galaxies, I remember, the rewards for killing the flying bat things were better than for everything else (probably had something to do with me being a Master Armorsmith). So because I could choose my own randomly generated quests, I chose the flying bat thing quests every time. Man, I got so sick of killing those, but all of the other content may as well not have existed.

It bears pointing out that most MMOs, rather inadvertently, end up shrinking their own content down in some way. Players are incredibly efficient at finding the fastest way to advance, and designers sometimes accidentally make design and balance decisions that help this along.

What Ubiq describes here is what it happens with Warhammer today. Players do scenarios and just scenarios, everything else may as well not exist at all. They shrunk their game to just repetitive deathmatches. This is what originated the “grind” the players are feeling. The repetition. The dullness.

Bringing back the variety I talked at the beginning would already help to substantially reduce the “grind” even without touching the levelling curve. But Mythic is scared even to touch the smallest thing, because their “metrics” tell them how much fun players are having in Scenarios. The same metrics that told them how fun were the 8vs8 matches or those stupid task dungeons in DAoC.

Mark Jacobs continues to repeat that they’ll only listen their metrics and not those “loud voices and few wrong-headed individuals” I’m sure he would put me in.

The metrics on my account will tell Mythic that when I log in I sit in a warcamp and do exclusively Scenarios. But those metrics don’t know that I’m PISSED, DEAD BORED about them. Mythic instead will take those metrics and see the evidence of how much I obviously love Scenarios since all my play time goes there.

How much I love Mourkain Temple, especially, since I do mostly that one. But those metrics don’t know that I think that whoever designed the Scenario terrain should better move on another job. Plenty of time I get stuck somewhere while moving, the textures are so dark that I see jack shit, and there’s a total absence of lightmaps that makes all this even worse. It’s terrible, but I continue to do it because it’s the most rewarding.

Metrics are dumb. Their “evidence” is a lie.

So I really don’t know what message I should send Mythic instead. Because if I play Scenarios they’ll think I love Scenarios. If I do Open RvR they’ll think it’s ok that Open RvR yields no rewards. Next time they’ll write that they see some more activity in the RvR Lakes because some idiots are trying desperately even if the system is so punishing. Do I boycott them? Do I cancel my account? Canceling my account would tell them that I don’t believe in Mythic, the potential of the game, or that a PvP MMO could be successful. Whatever I do sends the wrong message.

Whatever I do sends the wrong message because on the other side there should be a game designer that UNDERSTANDS players. That is in touch with them. That plays the game himself and sees where the problems are. That plans and fix things for the long term, and not through band-aids. At the root of the problems, and not inadequately.

Instead we rely on “metrics” and whatever twisted, biased use is made of them. To prove “evidence” where there’s only wronged partiality.

I’m having serious doubts about Warhammer

This is not backpedaling, actually it’s realizing how significant are becoming the potential flaws I was pointing out.

I’ve been playing some more these days and experienced concretely those problems. And I think these problems are crippling. I said long term, now I think I was optimistic.

My “fun” has been spotty. The game has a HUGE potential, as the huge potential was always there if PvP was done right. In Warhammer it is done right, but only occasionally realized and well executed. Too many variables affecting the fun, and this means that it’s not consistent and most time the game isn’t fun at all.

1- The client doesn’t have a good performance. It has serious problems with memory management, and even more in video memory management and caching. On new systems these flaws are much less noticeable and the gameplay is smooth, but over a number of different configurations there are PLENTY of players who report a lot of problems. This doesn’t seem a priority issue, but it is. Mass market means that your game HAS to work flawlessly on a wide range of configurations. Conservative graphic doesn’t guarantee good performance. It helps, but the really high number of little and major problems in the game client risks to cripple the sales and subscriptions in a substantial way. Those who can’t play well rarely spend weeks hunting for “magic” trick on the forums or sending feedback, they go back to play WoW, where technical execution comes above everything else.

2- Terrible flow. This basically summarizes all kind of critical problems. The fact that the “fun” is spotty. The zones have too much wasted space. Too much traveling without shortcuts. The death penalty may be trivial but here there are HUGE downtimes due to traveling, waiting for scenarios to pop or running aimlessly for half an hour or more around huge open PvP areas without meeting a single other player. In the last days I’ve been having serious problems to find even ONE open party for Public Quests. Even during prime time. This also gives a very bad perception. I have no idea how successful is the game, but the world feels empty and lonely as if I joined two years after launch. Instead how long is it? Two weeks? It’s all wasted, all those open PvP areas with all sort of objectives. Carefully designed to hold zerg of players. And there’s NO ONE. If you are lucky you see a tumbleweed in the distance. Developer time completely WASTED. Money wasted. And fun crippled.

So what were Warhammer strengths? The variety of gameplay alternatives it offered: normal questing, PQs, Scenarios and open RvR.

Pragmatically, which one of these alternatives are really viable if I decide to log in now? Normal questing and Scenarios when they pop. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, a PQ party that holds for ten minutes only to be wiped at the third phase because it was badly designed and it’s not doable with a single group, escalating difficulty in the worst way possible (from trivial but slow -kill 120 level 10 zombies- to impossible -five linked level 12 heroes-).

I don’t like PvE questing much. So what? Just scenarios, and they grow old after a while, same as WoW.

So that’s the downward spiral. Some deathmatches for shit and giggles and some boring PvE to slog through. Not exactly a masterpiece of game. Not even the WAAAAGH they were claiming it was going to be. You read on the forum a lot of similar feedback, players that try to explain how great was the battle they had yesterday. Sure, it was, but it’s inconstant. You have fun once every few days, when all the celestial bodies align properly. And Mythic’s design doesn’t help it.

I’m back feeling like when I was playing DAoC. Feeling bad because the game is THIS close to *be* a masterpiece.

What if?

What if Mythic planned the server structure form the start not as this prehistoric shard/server division, but a dynamical system where characters are an autonomous entity and where a new zone instance is only spawned when the previous reaches the cap? Think if, no matter when you decide to log in, no matter the server you picked, the zones always had players running around, with lots of activity, where all the PQs have players, where instances pop frequently and where open RvR is active at all time, where faction and population balance are more even than how they are currently. Utopia? Not. It’s vision, careful observation and experience. It’s knowing the right thing to do. It’s about knowing what the game needs to work well and to plan ahead with that in mind. It was possible by just planning the server structure in the way I was suggesting.

What if they actually designed the zones so that the three campaigns had ONE open PvP area for each tier (excluding endgame), like a convergence, instead all that ridiculous wasted space?

What if there was a de-levelling system so that all those PvP spaces were more consistently alive, and more consistently counted in the overall campaign? While also allowing PvE junkies to hunt down their Tome of Knowledge tricks without the fear of outlevelling the zones.

Well, it’s useless to repeat it again, but I was pointing all this out years ago when Warhammer didn’t even exist as a project. Trying to be as loud as possible but obtaining once again no result beside the evidence I was right.

I don’t fucking care if I was right. If it does not make a difference, it’s of no use to be right.

So, since I’m powerless, someone out there PLEASE WAKE UP.

But instead I’m talking to a deaf wall. No matter if I’m loud or not, in the best case I’m seen just as an arrogant idiot, or a troll, or a fraud who is accused of re-dating and rewriting his posts to claim undeserved wit.

I repeat myself I can’t start another of those useless crusades, no matter how much I think I’m right. Maybe I’m not? They say I’m not. So I wait the probable: Mythic to repeat the same mistakes, announcing soon all kind of fancy bonuses to encourage players to reroll on specific servers, obtaining no tangible difference, and later an expansion with some new classes, races and brand new zones to dilute what is already too diluted and wasted.

‘No, it comes with living long enough to appreciate the value of the time you’ve got left. Long enough to recognize the fallacy of a crusade when you’re called to one. Hoiran’s teeth, Gil, you’re the last person I should need to be telling this to. Have you forgotten what they did with your victory?’

P.S.
I truly admire who did art direction for Warhammer. Stylistically I love it, more than WoW. But what the fuck was he thinking about all those white, textureless cloaks? Or the utter lack of variety in the graphic of items?

Of course with the time these issues will vanish, but probably only at the level cap as more shit is added. And this doesn’t make a good game at all. It just leaves a sour taste.

And it begins

And it begins.

Point 1 + 3 at the bottom of the post.

==
Part 2.

I play on a High/Full server and maybe I’m leveling too fast, but the PQs and RvR Lakes are usually empty.

With the quantity of PQs and the size of the later RvR Lakes, they’d have to have twice the server capicity to keep people doing them?

Prior to release, I was very excited about the prospect of levelling through RvR – The massive pvp that happened in closed beta was a good sign that my excitement was justified.

However, on Phoenix Throne, there is very little open world RvR, and I’m surprised. Loads of people PvE’ing, and lots of characters being created, but hardly any OPvP.

Now, Phoenix Throne is going to be cloned, and plenty will leave.

In my opinion, things are looking a lot more grim than I had anticipated. Either we have a lot of PvE players who don’t want to PvP, or the server population being “high” is not indicative of the amount of action happening on that server.