Experienced Points: We’re Going to be Rich!

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Feb 5, 2014

Filed under: Column 107 comments

You know what would be awesome? If we could make an MMO as big as World of Warcraft! Let’s do it!

Just to be clear: When I wrote that column I hadn’t played the Elder Scrolls Online beta yet, so it shouldn’t be taken as a commentary of the game in any way. I played after the column was done, and I’ll give my full thoughts on it once the NDA is lifted.


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107 thoughts on “Experienced Points: We’re Going to be Rich!

  1. Sorites says:

    The “Shamus Young is…” at the end of the post ends with “…and he thinks Elder Scrolls Online looks like just another World of Warcraft clone.”

    I imagine you don’t write those, but if someone didn’t know that it might look like you were sneakily breaking NDA. Just a heads-up.

    1. kdansky says:

      Pretty sure that you can’t break an NDA with a single and very vague sentence.

    2. Thomas says:

      He wrote the article before he played the Beta and I imagine he wrote that at the same time too. If someone wanted to be angry about it, he’s actually got an audio record of him saying he thought that the ESO looked like a WoW clone before he played it published for everyone to see online. I think he could justifiably prove he meant ‘from the marketing materials I’ve seen’

  2. Aldowyn says:

    It does sound a lot like a condemnation of ESO in particular, doesn’t it?

    Particularly the parts talking about turning a single player franchise that’s been going on for decades into an mmo… aren’t most WoW clones new IPs?

    When’s the ESO NDA lifting? I think I saw the 7th somewhere? I think that’s Friday.

    So we get an elder scrolls post on Friday. Got it. :P (no pressure)

    1. TouToTheHouYo says:

      I thought he was speaking more of Star Wars: The Old Republic, but most of his points could be made for the majority of subscription-based MMOs developed over the last decade.

      1. Mephane says:

        Though I did not initially think of SWTOR, now that you mention it, the article fits it much better than ESO, because SWTOR is so WoW-clone-y that it even uses exactly the same combat mechanics and the vanilla WoW skill tree system.

        1. Michael says:

          Didn’t TESO announce a $10 sub fee initially, only to later bump it to $15? I can’t remember.

          1. Mephane says:

            Afaik here in Europe it will cost 13€/month, which has been the de facto standard here for years. No idea about the UK, though I’ve long since learned that they are often shafted with prices in GBP being effectively higher than anywhere else (well, except Australia, I suppose).

            1. Humanoid says:

              Since there’s generally no local presence here, Australian customers just hitch onto the US servers and use their billing systems, etc, which means paying in US dollars. The exception will be buying game time cards locally which may be either cheaper or dearer depending on the exact exchange rate at the time.

              SWTOR had a set of local servers, but they were shut down last year amidst the game in general bleeding off customers. Ultima Online had an Oceania server, hosted in Sydney, from very early on, and as far as I know it is still running.

              WoW has servers labelled Oceania or whatever, but they’re actually just on the US west coast, just with their ingame clocks set to Aussie time. I imagine most other MMOs go with this type of token effort, if they bother at all. Cost is usually cited as the issue, but no idea how the UO server has managed to survive this long if the concern was genuine.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I can also think of Neverwinter Online (which had the decency to go free-to-play from the start), and how is Warhammer Online doing? Far as the WoW clone rush is concerned I also have particular beef with Project Copernicus, because I really enjoyed Kingdoms of Amalur (though EA did the studio no favours with the non-existent marketing campaign for that one).

        I think it shows how burned out the WoW clone concept is that even trying to stir it up a bit (plotlines of SWTOR or foundry of Neverwinter) do little to revitalize it.

        1. Stormkitten says:

          I think the future will be more, but different MMOs, that all have their own smaller stable player base. Trying to be all things to all people seems a recipe for disaster.

          One example is this current kickstarter, which is trying to bring back the older, more group focused and social type of game. Sandbox, rather than themepark, and on a smaller budget.

          It’s by Brad McQuaid, and it’s called Pantheon. It’s supposed to be based on the things that made EverQuest (and Vanguard) great, with some modern ideas where appropriate. They’re going for a specific audience – it’s fairly obvious this style of game won’t appeal to everyone.

          It will be interesting in a few years to see if this kind of ‘indie MMO’ makes for any successes.

        2. Mephane says:

          Warhammer Online is doing five, six feets underground. Got closed last year because the license for the IP ran out; not accidentally, however, the end had been announced months earlier.

          1. One other tidbit about Warhammer’s demise was an ex-Dev who had a pipe-dream plea to EA for releasing the game as a single-player sandbox-thing where you could tour the lands and admire the work that went into the game, rather than it vanish forever.

            It does bring up a point about preserving video game code and memories beyond pirate servers and so forth. Could be fodder for an Experienced Points article… maybe.

            1. Muspel says:

              Apparently, someone figured out a way to do this with City of Heroes. Or so my brother told me.

              1. Indeed it is so. I think they’re calling it the “Titan Client,” and you can run/fly around the city if you want. No other powers are available, but you can see the sights. I assume this is being done in conjunction with City of Titans in some way?

                1. ZzzzSleep says:

                  Nope, I’m pretty sure this is entirely separate to City of Titans, apart from both arising/organising on the cohtitan forums. You can find their forums at http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/board,174.0.html
                  Previously it was just called ‘Icon’, but it seems in the latest version they refer to it as ‘Titan Icon’.

      3. Pyradox says:

        Yeah, I figured it was SWTOR the entire time until he mentioned ESO at the end. The stuff about pulling writers off other projects was exactly what Bioware did.

        1. Aldowyn says:

          This is true, although quite a few of the writers stayed with their own projects.

          Karpyshyn left to go write on SWTOR, notably, but, ah, he was having issues on the mass effect team anyway, and he was a writer on KotOR.

      4. Steve C says:

        Pretty sure he was referring to all of them. Past, present, future. That it wasn’t one game but all games was the point of the article.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Yeah; once “Ouroboros” was mentioned, it sort of became the punchline of the article for me.

  3. X2Eliah says:

    Their pricing scheme is really player-hostile…

    A full price purchase, *and* a full-cost subscription (iirc and microtransaction framework too), it feels like they are trying to price themselves into the SW:TOR situation. The entire industry, imo, has changed sufficiently enough that nowadays, the fullprice+fullsub model just doesn’t make sense anymore for MMO games… And, of course, in 9-12 months they will be going free-to-play, and everyone who up till then paid the $[60+8*15] will feel like a chump.

    Also, much as I don’t want to dismiss their work, the trailers really have seemed like a generification of the Elder Scrolls. Sigh.

    Anyway. What was the date for the NDA lifting – 12th Feb or something?

    1. Kamica says:

      Actually, first time I saw the ESO trailer, I didn’t recognise anything that yelled at me “This is the Elder Scrolls” Hell, the elf looked like a generic fantasy elf! She was too tall to be a Bosmer and too… pink to be a Altmer or Dunmer, and you’re not going to tell me she was an Aldmer or any other type of ancient mer.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        Altmer ARE Aldmer, for all intents and purposes.

        Anyways, Rutskarn was twittering about this exact issue when that trailer came up. For what it’s worth, I’m roughly 99% sure she’s an altmer. The big guy is obviously a nord, and the nightblade (he’s totally a nightblade) is a breton (I forget where I heard that). That leaves the Dominion unrepresented, she’s certainly not a Khajiit, leaving bosmer or Altmer. She’s a mage, she doesn’t look or act like a bosmer or all, and Altmer are the leaders… so, Altmer it is.

    2. kdansky says:

      I don’t think it’s the pricing that’s the actual issue. You can ask for crazy numbers if your game is worth it. People spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on Hearthstone, for example.

      But you can’t make a bland game that is clearly a carbon copy of another game released exactly ten years ago, and expect it to rake in the big money.

      To use the local analogy: You can sell cars for a quarter million, but they’d better be really damn special Bugatti Veyrons, and not just VW Golfs.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        It’s not a carbon copy of WoW, I can tell you that from what I’ve seen in promotional material and such. SWTOR is significantly closer to WoW.

        That doesn’t mean it’s good, however.

    3. Irridium says:

      It can work, since it seems to be working for Final Fantasy 14. But then again that game is $30, with no microtransactions, compared to the $60 ESO is asking for on top of a sub fee and microtrasactions. So it’s a bit easier to swallow.

      FF14 is also doing pretty well for itself, last I checked.

      1. Thomas says:

        The trick is to not aim for the sky. I think SE were always pretty clear on the numbers they were expecting to get and what they could survive on. They had a good amount of experience with FFXI to figure that stuff out and it was much less of a case like ‘we want to be the next WoW’

        I’m really happy FFXIV seems to be doing okay, what with the complete revamp SE put into it

  4. methermeneus says:

    Extra points if the game developer was a P&P RPG company and not a single-player video game company. (Although, to be fair, that did happen to White Wolf only after they were bought out by CCP, who have already made several successful MMOs. Still, kinda wouldn’t mind some more paper content.)

    Also, please don’t hate me for saying “First!” This is probably the only time I’ll ever actually be first… And it wouldn’t remotely surprise me if someone else hits “Post Comment” before I do, thus nullifying this entire paragraph. Such is life.

    1. methermeneus says:

      Yep. No one posted before I started writing, but three people posted before I did. This is why you should never shout FIRST without some sort of actual content to go along with it. Well, that and it’s annoying as heck.

      1. Didero says:

        Or just never say ‘First’ because it doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation?

        Also, I only know CCP from EVE Online, what other MMOs did they make?
        Dust isn’t an MMO, right? That’s ‘only’ a multiplayer FPS, as far as I know.

        1. Incunabulum says:

          As far as I know, DUST is an MMO (and a FPS MP shooter). Ultimately they intend (if they haven’t already) to fully integrate it with Eve.

          1. Thomas says:

            I’m pretty sure DUST is more of a normal multiplayer round based shooter but with a persistent economy and some guild features

        2. methermeneus says:

          Huh, I thought they owned Cryptic Studios for some reason. Teach me to post at 2 in the morning without fact-checking. Nevermind, one MMO, albeit one of the few that can compete with WoW’s numbers.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            It can’t, actually. Not as far as number of subs, anyway.

            The significant thing about EVE is that it’s player base has been fairly steadily *increasing*.

            Found some data in a few places saying that as of early 2013 EVE had ‘reached’ 500k. Which, for those of you counting, is a whole order of magnitude less than WoW.

            1. Thomas says:

              The non-Chinese playerbase has been static for several years now. It’s one of the big perennial worries for EVErs. They’ve had roughly 30k people logging in for the last 4 years

              Most of that increase is probably coming for the Chinese version of EVE which is apparently growing pretty well.

  5. paronomasiac says:

    I’ve always wondered what made WoW different. They didn’t invent the MMO genre, there wasn’t anything particularly innovative about their gameplay model, and yet WoW managed subscriber numbers orders of magnitude above any other MMO.

    What did they do so right?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      First of all,they are blizzard.Second,they had plenty of experience what people want in multiplayer with the whole starcraft craze.Third,they were very regular and thorough with their updates.Fourth,it was warcraft,a game with an already established and rich lore.Fifth,they are blizzard.

    2. Eric says:

      I’m guessing it’s a mix of brand recognition with the Warcraft name and the mechanics hitting some kind of sweet spot with regards to complexity and perceived value for time spent. Or something. I haven’t played WoW since before Burning Crusade was announced. I remember liking it well enough, but not enough to sacrifice college for it.

    3. Dawson says:

      More people played Warcraft than Ultima and the stronger IP won, as far as I can tell.

      1. Humanoid says:

        Everquest is the game it largely grew its seed audience from I’d imagine. As far as I know the lead developers were taken from EQ – not EQ developers, but its most prominent players. Which sounds like a hell of a risk, but it would leave them well placed to take players frustrated by the inertia of the incumbent.

        Take a game you fundamentally are interested in but are growing annoyed with because of the legacy crap it’s developed over the years, due to complacency, a misplaced sense of pride, etcetera, and promise to keep just the good stuff. WoW might seem like a lumbering beast from a distance, but it’s actually reasonably agile in terms of changing long-standing mechanics over each content cycle.

        SWTOR’s failure to me wasn’t necessarily that it was a WoW clone, but that it was a clone of WoW as WoW was in 2007, and not the WoW of 2012, or indeed a projection of what WoW would be in 2015, that it needed to hit. It copied mechanics that had been tried, tested, and discarded by its rival and stubbornly held onto them, and while that’s inevitable due to the length of the dev cycle, it feels as if they’ve barely tried to anticipate the direction the genre was heading. “Here’s a build dated 01/01/08, copy this.”

    4. Paul Spooner says:

      I’m no expert, but here’s my suspicions.
      1. Big Name: Blizzard had, at the time, huge street cred. It was basically built-in advertising for WOW. I don’t know how much they spent on advertising it, but
      2. Killer Style: Wow’s presentation was, from the very start, top notch. It wasn’t going for photo-real, but instead a kind of half-cartoon abstracted whimsy. This reduced load on the art team as well as making the whole world feel cohesive.
      3. Skinner Box: WOW threw away the pretense and presented one huge nested bifurcated Skinner Box. People knew this, but at $10 a month it was cheaper than going to the slots and way more engaging. A bargain at twice the price!

      There were a lot of other factors I’m sure, but in my book those are the big ones.

    5. Shamus says:

      * The game was actually a lot less grind-y than its contemporaries. Here is a game where you can get your first level in a few minutes!
      * LESS FORCED GROUPING. Just about every other MMO was designed so that you couldn’t progress outside of a group. But finding and maintaining a viable group is a huge pain in the ass and eats up a ton of time. You need 4 people, of the right level, of the right class makeup, in the same area, with the same goals, at the same time. And when someone leaves you have to stop playing and begin looking for a replacement. WoW’s model of solo-friendly play opened the game up quite a bit.
      * Huge name recognition with the Warcraft name.
      * Vibrant distinctive art. You could spot a WoW screenshot instantly, and I think their art ages / has aged much more gracefully than other games.
      * Low system requirements gave them access to a much larger potential install base. Compare to Everquest 2, with their (relatively) steep RAM requirements.
      * Continuous refinement of the game. Most other devs didn’t tinker with their base content once the game was successful, but WoW was constantly changing as Blizzard found ways to make the game more fun. If a system was needlessly obtuse or a hassle, they would streamline it. (The original system for Hunter training their pets pretty much required some wiki-reading. Blizz revamped it, and now you can intuit how to play.) This made the game better at retaining people and made it accessible to larger numbers of people.
      * Network effect. As WoW takes more of the market, it becomes easier to get more people, since everyone want to play with their friends.

      1. Mephane says:

        “Low system requirements gave them access to a much larger potential install base.”

        Not sure what the system requirements were for other MMOs at the time, but I still remember that the computer with which I started WoW had only 512MB RAM, and it ran quite well and only stuttered around the auction houses.

      2. Curious says:

        I can’t remember any MMO in which you didn’t get your first level and sometimes many more than that in the first minutes. Plenty of MMOs of the time had levels going all the way to the hundreds. The Fourth Coming, Ragnarok Online, Helbreath, Priston Tale, Mu Online… List goes on.

        Forced grouping was also something confined to a select few high profile western MMOs. In most MMOs you would not group at all save for specific endgame tasks. In some MMOs there wasn’t a group feature implemented at all!

        Most of those games were 2D isometric too, and could be played on a toaster.

        You could argue none of these games were from the United States, but City of Heroes came out in 2003 and had almost all of these points, easy leveling, soloing friendly, relatively low requirements (at release). Brand recognition had to play a big role.

        There’s one thing WoW did few other MMOs of the time thought of: making it like a theme park rather than a sandbox; essentially making it more accessible. WoW was one of the first if not the first to go with copious amounts of hand-holding, with the now industry standard exclamation mark on top of important NPCs, rigid quest lines, waypoint markers and the like.

        1. Shamus says:

          Yeah, the games you’re talking about are MMOs, but they’re a very different market. The point is that WoW distinguished itself from Dark Age of Camelot, Anarchy Online, and Everquest, which were it contemporary economic rivals.

          Your last point is really good: The hand-holding. That’s probably more important than art style and leveling speed combined. And good hand-holding is hard to do. You can’t just drown the new user in tutorial pop-ups, and you can’t let them flounder around confused. You have to know exactly what concepts to teach and when to tech them.

          1. Raphael diSanto says:

            Timing, too. I think this one’s very important and people overlook it. Blizz got super lucky on the timing.

            Bear with me on this one…

            There’s a certain amount of play time that you have to have your player for before he’s hooked. This is related to things like how fast it takes to get to endgame, how much work it takes to gear up, how long it takes for you to get a player invested in his character. Let’s call that a time period X.

            There’s also a certain amount of play time before your average player is going to get bored of the grind and want to quit. We’ll call that time period Y.

            You have to make sure that Y is greater than X, so that when your players really -are- sick of your gameplay, they still won’t quit, because they’re too invested in their chars by now. Many people who play WoW now, play it because WoW is what they play. Their gaming lives are reduced to a tautology.

            Historically, we can look back at the MMO landscape and see when the MMO options started to explode. WoW launched in 2004. The MMO market exploded with options just a few years after that, many of them Free to Play.

            I think that what WoW has was timing. Unless Blizzard’s team were prescient, they couldn’t have predicted the absolute glut of MMOs both Free-To-Play and sub-based that were due to come on the market just a few years after them. Let’s call that time time Z.

            WoW has managed to remain successful and sub-based after all these years because 2004+X is less than Z

            WoW picked up disenfranchised EQ players and its legion of Warcraft fans while people were still in a subscription-based mindset. And it grabbed them and hooked them on the gear treadmill right before the swathes of F2P MMOs started to arrive in huge numbers and made ‘subscription’ a dirty word.

            Now? You’ve either gotta be very crazy, very brave or very both to try and launch with a sub-based model, just due to the sheer amount of competition. (One could make the claim that Brad McQuaid is very both, although his latest attempt is perhaps very crazy, very brave and – importantly – very niche)

            People will play an inferior MMO if it’s free over a superior one that they have to pay for. Unless.. They’re -already- addicted to (and invested in) the one they’re playing.

            There won’t be any WoW-killer MMOs. The market’s moved on. There’s too much competition now. The playerbase is too fractured. I think we’ll start seeing more niche MMOs that target a specific audience and have lower subscriber expectations.

            Even if Blizzard turned off the WoW servers tomorrow and a new MMO popped up in its place that had all the same elements, that new MMO wouldn’t end up with all of those WoW subscribers looking for a new home. They’d just be dispersed through the hundreds of different MMOs that are now available.

            1. Cybron says:

              I think it’s kind of silly to say that Blizzard ‘got lucky’ by beating its competitors to market, as if most of those options weren’t a reaction to the overwhelming success of WoW.

              1. Exactly. Ultima Online, Everquest, and some of the smaller Eastern MMOs were interesting but not market-making. They also lacked the artistry and the comprehensiveness of WoW – which was something like a revelation when it finally hit the market. After that, everything changed.

                Not only was WoW orders of magnitude more successful than any of its rivals and showed just how much money there was to be made in MMO’s, but it killed the possibility of Pay-to-Pay for a wide swath of the market. If you were going to pay for the game via monthly fee, you were going to pay your money to Blizzard. Which meant other games needed a more aggressive pricing model. They found it by offering the game for free (more or less) and getting customers to pay other ways. However, this market exploded because WoW existed. WoW isn’t really a “lumbering beast” but has proven to be remarkably agile in development, scrapping ideas that didn’t work, and refusing to be limited and restricted even by their good ideas. But it also isn’t destroying the MMO market, but pushing it far beyond what it could otherwise have achieved.

        2. krellen says:

          City of Heroes was, for a very long time, the second most successful subscription-based MMO. It’s just the difference between #1 and #2 was so astronomical no one noticed anything below #1.

      3. Alan says:

        I was going to say why it’s the only MMO I played for more than a month, but apparently Shamus wrote my post for me! :-) I played for a few months, I believe around 6-12 months after it was released. I loved the art; it looked way better than everyone chasing “realism.” It ran awesome on my mid-range gaming PC. The first ten or so levels didn’t feel like tedious make-work. Being solo-friendly was a big help. Perhaps non-intuitively, not needing to group made me more willing to group.

    6. guy says:

      Ultimately, WoW is unlike the later MMOs because they weren’t doing something inherently doomed. I don’t know enough about the prior MMOs to say exactly what they did differently, but they were trying to make a good game instead of a copy of a good game. And they weren’t coming after a huge mainstream MMO.

      The reason why every later MMO fails is that they’re trying to be WoW and we’ve already got one. People who want to play WoW are already playing WoW. Some people will prefer the changes enough to switch, and the IP might draw people, but not enough people to make a WoW-style game viable.

      Now, SWOTOR could have potentially leveraged brand recognition and the story focus to make a plausible bid for first place, but as it happened the game wasn’t very good. TESO has a shot thanks to name recognition, but it is a serious uphill climb.

      Also, lots of the various doomed MMOs respond to complaints about not having features by saying WoW didn’t have them at launch. That might be true, but they are competing with the current state, not seven years ago.

    7. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Saying that WoW wasn’t innovative is to have a very narrow definition of “innovation”.

      -WoW innovated all over the place when it came to presentation, which is as important a place to innovate as any other. Quest inidcators over NPC heards, maps, basic window layout- WoW brought a level of design to those things that had never been seen before.

      -WoW brought quest-based gameplay in an age where other MMOs just made you grind mobs over and over to level.

      -WoW showed MMOs how to introduce a player into their world. They had a clear progression from starter zone to intermediate zone to opening up and letting the player explore around more. They used story to guide the player into the world. The starter zones and quests were designed to give the players a clear sense of location before sending them out to new areas. These were things that, as hard as it might be to remember today, weren’t really being done before.

      -WoW’s pacing was a complete gamechanger. Being able to hit the level cap in months instead of years opened the genere up to a lot of people who never would have bothered with another MMO that made them play for a year before they were doing anything cool.

      WoW was hugely innovative. Sure, they stayed within the broad form of the genere as it was, but they showed that they could do things with the formula that nobody had dreamed of doing before.

      1. Joshua says:

        Yeah, my first foray into MMOs was Dark Ages of Camelot, as a number of my friends were playing it. I bought the game for the full retail price, getting one month of playtime for it.

        You generally spent half of your time looking for a group(it took a LONG time to get one together) just so you could go around and kill mobs. There were a few quests, but you had to go around and walk up to random NPCs and type /quest(or something similar, I can’t remember) for the off-chance that one of them had a quest, which might turn out to just be go kill X over at Y. So, you had to spend a lot of effort to get a group together to do mundane tasks that were a lot less interesting than your typical RPG, and you had to pay for it. Imagine the game being a single-player RPG, and you’d have something as interesting and deep as the first Dragon Warrior.

        I did not continue my subscription.

        Fast-forward a few years, and now WoW and a lot of the others have taken a large step towards being similar to your average single-player RPG. They’re not fully there, but close enough that plenty of people choose to play them as if they were single-player games. The game-play is interesting, the graphics are much better, and it feels like you’re playing more of a real game beyond just hanging around with people.

    8. Thomas says:

      To add my piece, MMOs have a social network/Microsoft business model. The more people who play your game, the more valuable it is to everyone playing it and the easier it is to join.

      What’s more, because people play MMOs continually the word of mouth effect is more powerful. For a single-player game word of mouth is active for the month or so when it’s first released, for a game like WoW (or something replayable like Minecraft) the word of mouth effect never ends. You ask your friend what MMO he’s playing right now and he says WoW and that you should start too.

      So WoW was the best game at a time where no MMO was dominant and sucking up users at just the right time for it to pass critical mass and become the dominant market force. And then, just like Microsoft or Facebook, once you’re by far the most popular it becomes incredibly hard to overthrow you

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You shouldve named that game Age of Sword and Sorcery Online.Much more fitting.

  7. X2Eliah says:

    @Shamus: So there’s this really interesting thing with comments on this post. On the front-page (the place where you see post intro + “click to read further” it lists 11 comments at the time of writing.

    When I click to read further/post a comment, it goes to a seemingly earlier, cached version of this post, with just six comments on it (counter & actual comment count).

    Has something changed in the site’s caching behaviour lately (lately as in last few weeks)? This seems a rather… unpleasant complication, if a lively discussion-commenting is wanted.

    1. X2Eliah says:

      Addendum: and, ofc, by posting a new comment, the cache seems to update.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its been like that for a month or so.Until the first dozen or so comments,the counters are broken,and comments dont get displayed until a certain number of them are reached.

      1. Humanoid says:

        It’s broken regardless of comment count as far as I can tell. It’s probably just a lot more obvious at low comment counts due to the higher volume of comments coming in.

        1. syal says:

          Or when a post disappears in the middle of a reply chain, sending all the other replies to their own new posts and making me look like an idiot when the post comes back and I suddenly have multiple replies to myself about how I can’t reply.

          That was with… 136 comments already, I believe.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            That happens only when Shamoose delets a post,or when the post is being edited after being replied toand gets sent for moderation(which cant happen anymore).

  8. pkrcel says:

    Was Shamus talking about the Diablo franchise by any chance? >.<

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Diablo 3 doesnt have monthly subscription.And its main goal was not to get wow money,but rather to implement and experiment with the real money auction house.

      Now star wars old republic….

      1. pkrcel says:

        I was mostly sarcastic in that ^__^ …just like they ditched the monthly feee BEFORE even releasing…just to come up with another money sink.

        1. Raygereio says:

          Diablo 3’s auction house (both the gold and real money ones) are going to be removed in march.

          1. harborpirate says:

            It was clear that the auction houses were an abject failure when the console versions came out and were superior due almost exclusively to their absence.

            It turns out finding cool stuff is way, way more exciting that buying it.

            Honestly, its a bit like fishing. The excitement isn’t in getting a picture with a huge fish or simply possessing a huge fish, its in catching that huge fish yourself. Going to the market/store and buying one of the several dozen huge fish they have doesn’t impress anyone, nor is it exciting. In fact, doing so is more of a chore than anything else; it actually turns out to be the antithesis of fun. By making rare drops even less common and encouraging players to buy equipment, the auction houses actually reduced how fun Diablo is to play. Its no fun to fish when you’re only catching tiny ones, and then have to stop at the store later to get dinner because you didn’t catch anything large enough to keep.

            It was an interesting experiment in trying to find a new source of game revenue, but kudos to Blizzard for admitting that it failed and having the courage to give it the axe even though they probably still make some cash off of it.

            1. Raygereio says:

              It was clear that the auction houses were an abject failure when the console versions came out and were superior due almost exclusively to their absence.

              The console version is more fun not because it doesn’t have an auction house, but because it beta-tested Loot 2.0 (a major overhaul of the itemgeneration and drop systems).
              I still think that if the loot system wasn’t crappy and you could get fun items through normal, non-grindy play; Most people would have been okay with the existance of the auction house.

              1. Axe Armor says:

                Well, that’s the thing. Why was it hard to get good equipment from loot? Because they wanted you to get it from the auction house. The game was balanced specifically to encourage people to use the auction house, because it would make Blizzard money. The auction house and the shitty drops were two parts of the same whole.

          2. Abnaxis says:


            I…might just go pick up a couple copies of DIII in March then. My wife and I played the death out of DII, and were sorely disappointed in missing the third one thanks to their auction house shenanigans.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Although…are they going to remove the always online requirement?

              1. Raygereio says:

                Nah, that’s staying.
                That said: From what I’ve seen of the upcomming expansion – Reaper of Souls – so far, it looks like Blizzard is making an real effort to make Diablo 3 fun. If you’re thinking about picking the game up, I’d wait until after the expansion is released.

  9. Infinitron says:

    Funny article, but this topic has been done to death already, hasn’t it?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You can never have enough of good old fashioned beating.

    2. Axe Armor says:

      Bioware and Bethesda could use a reminder.

  10. Curious says:

    Is there an actual example of a sub MMO going F2P with negative effects? Every game we hear about boasts drastically increased revenue from the switch. CO, STO, SWTOR, LOTRO… Even CoH made more money before NCSoft decided to pull the switch.

    There’s enough examples to make it hard to believe this would be just publishers lying through their teeth. Besides, these games have been F2P for years, surely would be closed by now if they didn’t pull a profit?

    1. X2Eliah says:

      Depends what you count as negative effects. Adding microtransactions & timebased items/bonuses/whatever to a game to make a f2p model might upset the game’s balance and pacing…

      But generally the trend seems to be that going on a f2p model boosts revenue a lot, yes.

      1. Curious says:

        Sorry, that was ambiguous. I was referencing point 9) in Shamus’ article, which is written from the point of view of a developer/businessman. So, yep, revenue is all I meant.

    2. Mephane says:

      Yes, F2P is quite a profitable model. The downsides are mostly on the side of the players, though that depends entirely on the F2P model. Actually, that variance in and of itself is another downside. Just by learning that a game is F2P, we know nothing. It could be anywhere on the scale from character slots and cheap vanity items to genuine pay-to-win schemes. On top of that, any F2P is open to change in either direction at all times.
      GW2, for example (though not purely F2P) started on the “vanity and some convenience” end and has been cautiously dipping its toes into P2W territory during the last few months, I think it started with the Infinite Continue Coin, which, as the name suggests, effectively grants infinite lives in the Super Adventure Box retro game-in-a-game. It was conveniently released in tandem with Super Adventure Box World 2, which was an order of magnitude harder than World 1, plus they reduced the amount of lives one automatically starts with upon entering from five to one.

      1. Mephane says:

        The recent Dungeon Keeper comes to mind as an example of a terrible F2P model, from the perspective of the players.

      2. Daimbert says:

        I think that CoH (sniff) had the best model I’ve ever seen, but a lot of that was based on what the game was and not on what the F2P model was. Because character customization was so important to that game, all they had to do was add cosmetic costume choices and reskinned — even if mechanically identical — powerset choices and people would go “OOOOOOOO!!!!” and buy it, and subscribers — who always get some “store bucks” for free every month for subscribing — would feel that those store bucks were worth them having … and you definitely still want subscribers if you can get them, even F2P. And it won’t change the balance at all.

        TOR, on the other hand, doesn’t really have anything like that, and so the only things to buy are really vanity items or are potentially game impacting … except for the XP bonuses, which are what I spend my Cartel Coins on.

    3. guy says:

      I’m pretty sure that games which go free to play make more money than they were making but less than they planned to when they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on them.

  11. TSi says:

    Is it important for you to not break the NDA ? If it is, Why ?
    Why should people follow NDA’s ?

    1. Mephane says:

      Because, at the very least, his TESO account will get banned (this applies to all MMO betas with NDA accordingly). Why should he risk that, especially considering that the NDA is going to be lifted soon anyway.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      Because, if nothing else, you gave your word.

      1. Hal says:

        Indeed, integrity is important. It would reflect badly on The Escapist if he divulged things there. Even if he kept it to his blog, people who break NDAs tend not to get invited back for such testing again.

    3. Zeta Kai says:

      Because, if you violate a Non-Disclosure Agreement (basically by disclosing the information that you agreed not to do so), you open yourself up to civil litigation. Basically, the company/individual who asked you to sign the NDA can sue the pants off of you. Also, I’m sure that you would likely get a reputation as a gossipy oath-breaker, thereby making it hard for others to trust you in the future (IE nobody else invites you to check out cool proprietary stuff that you need to sign an NDA to see).

    4. guy says:

      I suspect you may be confusing NDAs and some of the shadier things publishers do. A proper NDA is a pretty reasonable thing for a company to request, in general.

      To be clear, a Non-Disclosure Agreement is an agreement not to release information you have privileged access to until the other party wants it to stop being secret. In the specific case of games, this is theoretically because you’re playing it before it is finished and they don’t want people to hear about all the bugs they need to fix and features they haven’t implemented yet. There’s also the non-shady PR reason of having every major news outlet publish reviews simultaneously shortly after release. Of course, it also quashes bad news about the game not being very good.

      An NDA is a contract and usually carries a stiff penalty for breaking it. It’s also a good way to stop getting early access to stuff.

      Now, the NDA’s shady cousin is demands to not publish bad reviews for a certain time period. People keep those because breaking them means they stop getting review copies or ad money.

      1. TSi says:

        What makes you believe this is not a case of “shaddy NDA” ?
        I mean, Bethesda does know people will talk about the game after playing it under NDA and will build up a hype for it before the release. These people will know they can’t say funny things about the game “or else” something bad will happen so it feels the same as “shaddy NDA cousin” doesn’t it ?

  12. Benjamin Hilton says:

    Here’s my question.

    If this little drama you presented us is so clear for the rest of us to see, why are developers so blind to it?

    1. Cybron says:

      Just because it happened to the other guy doesn’t mean it’ll happen to me.

    2. Shamus says:

      Probably the same reason that these leaders never wrapped their heads around DRM, and it took them a decade to figure out what everyone else realized in ten minutes: It doesn’t work.

      The people that lead these companies are not gamers in the sense that they play the latest releases, follow gaming news, pay for games, do irresponsible things during Steam sales, read forum threads about game balance, think about mechanics, play on multiple platforms, work little bits of gaming culture into their everyday conversation, and think about games when not actively playing them. They are business people first, and if they play at all it’s probably low-ket, low-commitment stuff.

      Rumor was that former EA head honcho John Riccetello (sic?) and his wife were big into social games, but one look at Origin makes it obvious that nobody at the top understood even the basics of Steam.

      The don’t understand the industry. Worse, they don’t understand what they’re missing. They’re treating games like other consumer products: Snack cakes, furniture, clothing, etc. Watch for what’s popular and what [appears to be] working and copy that. This mindset explains a lot of the last 10 years.

      1. Bill says:

        Yeah, you could have added another point to your article:

        11. Those Who Forget the Past

        Fresh off the failure of Age of Dragon Sword Online, the executives notice all the money being made by League of Legends and say “Hey, let’s make an Age of Dragon Sword MOBA! How hard could it be?”

      2. Tizzy says:

        This is an impression rather than factual knowledge, but it seems like a lot of suits working in the entertainment industry (music, movies, tv, games…) have inexhaustible reserves of contempt for their customer base.

        Because of this, I imagine that when they see people throwing big wads of cash at WoW, they think: “oh, these people must be really stupid; how hard could it be to get a piece of that”. You know, something about a fool and his money being soon parted… Then, they turn to the hapless people who make games and actually understand and love the stuff, and they say “make me one of those”. No-one wins.

        (As for me, I’m amazed that people manage to throw such big chunks of time at WoW, not so much money; but then again, I’m not sure that my free time is spent in more productive ways…)

    3. BeardedDork says:

      Point two, Hubris, they aren’t blind to it they just think that somehow these pitfalls won’t apply to them.

    4. WillRiker says:

      A lot of reasons. The big one is that, holy shit, WoW made super mega-giant huge ass TONS of money. Buisnesspeople see that kind of money and they want a piece of it. On top of that, people are very good at underestimating how much time and effort it takes to build something like an MMO, especially if you’ve never made one before.

      Not to mention, games like TESO and SWToR were in development for a long time. Back when they started, you could still imagine a competent WoW clone making decent money. By the time that stopped being true in the last couple of years, it was far too late to change course.

      1. Bill says:

        Yeah, that’s a very important point about the development time. TESO wasn’t just started two years ago and two years ago Zenimax should have known better.

        These big-budget MMOs that have recently flopped (or probably are about to flop) were started like 4-6 years ago when WoW numbers were flying past 10 million subscribers and showed no signs of stopping.

        Back then, it wasn’t a completely ludicrous idea that WoW represented not a one-off fluke but rather a whole new market that maybe could support three or four multi-million subscriber MMOs. We now know better, but it wasn’t that obvious back then.

        Flash forward four years of development time. It’s now clear that there is no market for AAA subscription MMOs (aside from WoW), but the publisher is now 40+ million dollars (or a LOT more) into development. They’ve gotta do something to try to get some of that money back.

    5. Torsten says:

      Part of it is the time it takes to develop an MMO. A lot of the games were in development before the notion of monthly payment not working became clear. Another thing is that those financing the game development do not see that, and rather like the idea of a monthly subscription in a game. After all, it is pretty common payment method in other fields of entertainment media.

    6. Daimbert says:

      To be fair, a lot of the ones that are getting into this have some reasons to think that they might be able to be successful at it. TOR had the Star Wars IP and a reasonable success with Galaxies. I’ve constantly called TES a single-player MMO, so changing that model to add more real people in the world sounds lke a no-brainer (its sandbox, wandering style fits an MMO better than KotOR’s model did). DCUO, LotRO, DDO, and Star Trek Online had their massive IPs to leverage. Other MMOs that came out tried to do things differently enough to draw enough of an audience. And so on and so forth.

      I do think that oversaturation is a big concern, but opined in a lost article that MMOs are different that regular games and so oversaturate faster than. Most people generally play one, maybe two, MMOs at a time, because of the cost and the time sink required. It takes longer to “finish” an MMO than it would any comparable RPG, and they’re built on you never really finishing them (so you’ll keep paying). Also, social groups are more important and you’re likely to stay with an MMO because all of your friends are instead of moving on to the next one that might not appeal to them. Thus, it can support less MMO “franchises” than regular games, unless you dial down your expectations. And who wants to do that [grin]?

      So the model they’re taking, I think, could and has worked for regular games, but flops far more quickly and badly in the MMO case. Building a, say, Call of Duty or Tomb Raider or Arkham Asylum clone with different characters and slight improvements can work for quite a while, but that just isn’t going to be enough to get people to leave the MMO you’re playing for the new one.

      (In my case, I now have TOR as my main MMO, but only because of the stories and companions, and because CoH died (sniff). I tried WoW and found it not as interesting as either DAoC or CoH, and found DCUO a pale shadow of a superhero based MMO compared to CoH. Only when TOR gave me something radically different did I adopt it.)

    7. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Sadly,there is nothing new about big companies making horrible,easily preventable mistakes.Especially if the incentive for it is big bucks in the near future.

      And a big compounding factor today is the incredible rate of change for everything involving digital media(entertainment,news,trade).

    8. guy says:

      Essentially, what they see is that WoW itself made a lot of money, and this convinces them that there’s a lot of money in WoW-style MMOs. They don’t read much into other people failing to make money off them, because in any genre some people don’t make money.

  13. Alex says:

    The stupid thing about Elder Scrolls Online is that I, a complete outsider, know how to do at least part of their jobs better than they do.

    They said player housing in MMOs can’t be done. We all know they were wrong on that, and I think you could make even the housing a huge selling point.

    I would make there be two types of house: bulk housing on telescoping streets, basically infinite in number, and main street housing, which is always in a fixed position and thus more valuable. The main street housing would be split between store loft and basement apartments and standalone buildings. The better houses would be more expensive, and might have an ongoing rent to act as a gold sink.

    Give each player the option to give other players “read” access (can visit, can’t change anything) or “write” access (can visit, can add, move and remove things) to their home. This would be great for role-players and for guilds (to share property, and to let them invite new members into the guild without having to worry about them stealing everything).

    Make each of those houses an instanced “dungeon” run with a basic Bethesda-esque physics engine. Make the bulk housing run on the players’ own computers if you need to save on load. This would let people decorate their homes.

    Basically, imagine if Jorrvaskr was a player owned guildhouse, decorated with trophies taken by its members. The main hall could be open to all, while the basement could have its access limited to guild members. That’s what I would want to offer if I was working on Elder Scrolls Online.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I have no idea if this is as technically feasible as you claim, but it’s certainly a neat idea, and it sure sounds like it would have an appeal.

      1. guy says:

        Well, the resources necessary for player housing should be linear-ish relative to the number of players with housing. However, if it does the interactivity Bethesda is known for, the per-player overhead would be substantial. I’d personally advise just having portal doors instead of fiddling with variable street length.

        1. Alex says:

          Variable street length could be handled procedurally. Say you’ve got a ringroad with streets at the north, south, east and west. Each street could be generated from eight arrays, two extending either direction from the closest intersection. Your house’s position in the array would always be relative to the closest intersection (say, four north from the west intersection), so the fact that the street is always being extended on the longer path isn’t going to make you get lost.

          The street would eventually turn into a non-euclidean spiral as the arrays got longer, but since the game only needs to render the houses and people within a certain distance that doesn’t matter.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Also, make the windows work! I don’t care if they are actually just looking at a static model of the exterior, or even a pre-rendered skybox! Just let me look out of the windows of the house! If it uses a skybox you could even do fun things like colored ambient lighting… oh man, so many opportunities!

      1. Alex says:

        Sure. There’s a nice mod that adds this to Skyrim – Immersive Interiors, I think it’s called. It only works in Whiterun the last time I saw it, but it is very nice combined with ELFX to get some changing natural lighting.

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