Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: August 2013 (page 1 of 2)

More F2P Fisking

There sure is a whole lot of wrong going on over in this debate.

We both know that someone, somewhere has to pay for the game’s development, and for that idea to work out, you either need to hook some ‘whales’ who pay out a fortune and subsidise everyone else, or you have to constantly nag all of the players to pay for in-game items.

If I can give the gift of great gameplay to three times the number of customers because a handful of heavy users love my game so much they beg me for more opportunities to spend – is that really a bad thing?  And how is this really different from Golf shops that are subsidized by high rollers buying $10000 clubs, magic players buying Black Lotuses, or knitting stores who sell balls of yarn from rare endangered alpacas for $1000 per ball?  Why is this the one industry where people actually feel pity for the hardcore fan who wants to spend? Continue reading

Candy Crush Not As Unbeatable As You Might Suppose

Candy Crush Saga is used frequently as an example of Free 2 Play gone awry.  Critics argue that Candy Crush Saga is insidiously designed to force monetization, which can be the only reason why the game has 15 million players, and why King Games is now estimated to be worth $500 million dollars.  As Ramin Shokrizade points out on Gamasutra:

Another novel way to use a progress gate is to make it look transparent, but to use it as the partition between the skill game and the money game. Candy Crush Saga employs this technique artfully. In that game there is a “river” that costs a very small amount of money to cross. The skill game comes before the river. A player may spend to cross the river, believing that the previous skill game was enjoyable (it was for me) and looking to pay to extend the skill game. No such guarantee is given of course, King just presents a river and does not tell you what is on the other side. The money game is on the other side, and as the first payment is always the hardest, those that cross the river are already prequalified as spenders. Thus the difficulty ramps up to punishing levels on the far side of the river, necessitating boosts for all but the most pain tolerant players.

Continue reading

“The Loss of an Online Home”

Remember yesterday, when I suggested that the person who thought that WoW should be shut down anytime soon was smoking a big ol’ bag of crack?  It turns out that it could also result in front-page CNN news (well, it was front page before Miley Cyrus taught the world what ‘twerk’ means).

After 10 years and a significant drop in user numbers, Disney has decided to instead focus its resources on the more popular “Club Penguin” virtual world, which has about 200 million registered users. “Toontown” will be shuttered September 19….and many long-time player…are dealing with the loss of an online home.

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WoW Hints at Potential Free-to-Play Future, Supposed Industry Insiders Get Silly

So Blizzard has confirmed what everyone who has actually seen the numbers behind a free to play game have actually suspected – they are in the process of debating whether this is the right time to take the game to be Free-to-Play. Not really a surprise when they’ve already confirmed that, whatever their next game is, it won’t be a subscription-based MMO (and if they are thinking of anything even remotely novel, using WoW to test their technology and design ideas isn’t a terrible idea). I’m so happy to hear a developer actually come to this from the basis of, I don’t know, information, that I’m going to choose not to quibble with Tom Chilton about a couple of places they claim to be uncertain where they really don’t need to. Instead, I’m going to train my ire at, of course, the anti-monetization community that has congealed on Gamasutra, much the way that old milk congeals if left unchallenged too long.  So let’s fisk! Continue reading

Those Unwilling To Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It

At least Wildstar is willing to try something different.  While I’ve been on the plane to GamesCom, both Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online were kind enough to elaborate on their billing model — which is the classic subscription model.

Elder Scrolls Online has this to say:

“Charging a flat monthly fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play,” Firor told the website. ESO will also include 30 days of play with the purchase of the game. “Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.”

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Yer Killin’ Me, Wildstar

It probably comes as no surprise that I have discovered religion about Free 2 Play in a big way.  It’s very clearly the way that the future of the genre is going, and any new competitor that enters the space is going to face immense competition from the rest of us that now provide a pretty substantial amount of gameplay for free.  Right now, WoW is the only successful subscription-only MMO in the west, and even they seem to be sticking their toe in the pool. Continue reading

XBox One Announces Self-Publishing Program

Color me cautiously optimistic:

Microsoft said there are no application fees, no certification fees and no title update fees…. Registered developers will receive two Xbox One development kits at no cost, and access to the console’s full features, including the “full power of the console,” cloud, Kinect and Xbox Live toolsets and more…. Revenue splits will be “industry standard” Charla told us. (Digital deals often give the platform holder 30 percent, and the developer 70 percent.)

Oh, wait, are Microsoft still evil because they want developers to make money?  I lose track.

Design Review: Last of Us

I just finished “Last of Us”, or as my wife likes to refer to it, the “Dumpster Moving Simulator”.  It is good — very good — but I found it short of the accolades that I had heard about it so far, which were all along the lines of ‘we should stop making video games, because it’s been done now.”  There, I would beg to differ.

Don’t get me wrong, there are aspects of the game which are very well designed.  The characterizations of the two driving characters are both excellent, especially Ellie the girl.  There’s a grim horror going on, and yet the writing still does the good job of reminding you that she’s a teen, struggling with teen problems and feelings, while all of this horrible shit is going on around her.  Naughty Dog did a marvelous job here, and there are definitely lessons that Bioware could learn.  That being said, I have some quibbles. Continue reading

Design Review: Don’t Starve

Don’t Starve is a fascinating little game available on Steam.  The best way to describe it is that it’s a crafting game with the soul of a Rogue-like.  Your character is dropped on an island (for no discernable reason) and given a simple mission: survive as long as you can.  This is harder than it looks – it took me several tries to get past the 3 day mark.

The island you’re dropped on is randomly generated, with nothing but raw materials you can use to craft tools, shelters, and other things to help you survive.  And much like a Rogue-like, your fate is often in the hands of the random number generator.  Start in a world without much flint, for example, and you’re in for a  very short game, since you won’t be able to create an axe you need to chop down trees which you need to craft a fire, which you need to keep away the evil… something or other.  When it’s dark, it’s real dark, so who knows who ends up munching on your little hiney. Continue reading

Bringing World of Tanks to the 360

One of the oddest parts of the Microsoft XBox One announcement was the announcement that World of Tanks was coming…. to the 360.  Just as an aside on this article.

“The biggest hurdle that Wargaming had to overcome was not a technical one at all. Wargaming had to convince Microsoft to change its business policies and procedures. “This is a risky thing for us and for Microsoft,” said Kislyi. “If you look at this objectively this is probably the first big project to come into Xbox free-to-play. Because Microsoft is a huge corporation… they have rules, they still sell boxes, there are dozens of aspects we are working with them to overcome. They have to change; they understand this.”

I really don’t know how much convincing you need to do.  Microsoft has shown all signs of seeing the writing on the wall, and realizing this is where the market was trying to go.  The fact that they went out and pursued a partnership with one of the largest microtransaction games in the world suggests to me that they are interested in having solved all of the problems before this business model becomes the norm instead of an asterisk.  Anyone whose ever tried to buy anything quickly on the XBox 360 knows there’s a lot of work here to be done.

It’s still weird that they’re not focusing their efforts on WoT on the XBox One, though.

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