The LineDesigning a fair and moral MMORPG is a really complex endeavor.
On the one hand, in an ideal world, a game would be entirely free to play offering maximum content to all users without any money changing hands.
On the other hand, money is awesome.
This puts any game designer in a serious bind. It would be really great to offer constantly changing material that is adequately maintained for free, but that model is nowhere near feasible in today's business world.
So, what do they do?
Well, that's where things get interesting. There are several common MMORPG business models.
1) Everything is free
Yay. Everything is free. No money down, no money on delivery, and easy monthly payments of zero dollars.
This sounds like the best system.
Or... A blog, as it were.
This seems to be the greatest value/cost model for the player. Since you're not paying any money, receiving any service at all means a great deal of value.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it's kind of hard to keep a business going with no actual income. You can't have developers and tech crew and the ever important GM staff running 24/7 when you're not willing to pay them.
I mean, I love being a GM, but if they stopped paying me, I'd be out like a scout on a new route.
Oh, and while free content sounds awesome, you usually get what you pay for. Instead of carefully refined events and graphics, you get something that looks like your video card is trying to commit suicide.
Sooner or later, this model runs out of steam.
And by "steam" I mean "money".
Then, they are stuck restructuring.
"Restructuring" means they go out of f&%@ing business.
2) Everything is "free"
Pay very careful attention to those quotation marks. They are going to be very important.
Some MMORPGs like to play a little game of semantics. They tell you the game is "free to play", but then include a premium account option.
Basically, you CAN play for free, but someone with a credit card and disposable income is going to totally destroy your ass.
That's an option. Right there in the menu, there's a button that says "kick free players ass".
Those are some damned important quotation marks, am I right?
3) You can buy EVERYTHING
These guys don't even try to be subtle about it. Everything in the game can be purchased with real money.
Need some epic piece of gear? You could:
Step 1) get a group together
Step 2) develop strategy
Step 3) organize group and explain strategy
Step 4) get group to event safely
Step 5) run time intensive event
Step 6) have to repeat event again and again due to terrible drop rates and/or terrible group.
Step 1) get out Visa card
Step 2) done
While this seems like a good system for those willing to spend the money, it's really kind of a dick move. You're basically gouging players for every item AND you're only propagating the real money for virtual items business.
Do I really need to explain how I feel about that part?
4) The subscription model
Here's where FFXI falls. You pay a set monthly fee and that's it. That fee covers the general services provided and allows for development of new content.
You have no problem understanding right where you are. There's no pressure to buy a big item because... Well, because you can't. You need to earn it.
This is hardcore. Your Visa card ain't worth shit over here.
... Except for your monthly fees. You'll totally need a Visa card for that.
Best of all, all players are on equal footing and only skill and commitment will decide who is better. You can't buy an advantage.
For general, all-around player satisfaction, this really is the best model. I really think this is the best.
And that has nothing to do with it being responsible for my paycheck.
Nothing at all.
That's pretty much every...
Wait... There's another business model? What are you talking about?
Haha, bitches. It's another episode of Everything [GM]Dave Hates About WoW.
Today's episode: payment plan
At first glance, WoW seems to follow the same payment model as FFXI. You pay a standard fee each month and that's it.
Not so much.
It started really slowly. They came out with the card game and certain cards gave in-game items like mounts and such. You buy the card and you get a free in-game item.
While this wasn't strictly a real money/virtual item exchange, it was as damned close as you could get.
Basically, they took the real money/virtual item model and jammed the word "card" in the middle.
Still, I could kind of let that go. At least you got a sweet card out of it that did have some benefit in the real world.
I could grudgingly accept that.
At least the weren't directly selling in-game items for real world money, right?
Whoops. Spoke too soon.
This is where WoW officially crossed the line between subscription base to RMT.
Yeah, yeah. It's only a completely original, not-at-all ripped off from a animated movie Panda who just happens to know Kungfu.
And a cat that I don't have a relevant imdb link for.
Sure, it's just two in-game pets, but this is really starting down a slippery slope. First, it's the cute pets, then a new piece of gear.
Pretty soon, kids are maxing out their credit cards buying epic mounts and arena gear.
Tsk, tsk, WoW. I really thought you were better than that.
That's really not true, but at least it gives me one more thing to bitch about.
You know how I do so love the bitching.