Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Line

Designing 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.

On paper.

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.

Not good.

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.

Everything.

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.

or

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?


4) WoW

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.

Right?

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.

Yet.

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.

44 Comments:

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Kahsha said...

Great minds think alike!

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger Konata said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger Konata said...

Cause you know ... FFXI totally hasn't done the same thing. Read ... Mog Satchel, or the new Nexus Cap ... or that weird necklace thing.

Least WoW has the guts to come out and directly say they're taking money for in game items.

I much prefer that over FFXI's "Here buy this mostly useless rl thing and we'll give you omg awesome in game item for free" like the security token which we all know darn well 90% of the people only bought because of the space.

Also ... #@$&^$#*( double posts.

 
At 8:37 PM, Blogger ParrotSneeze said...

Well, to be fair, the Pandas were in Warcraft 3 before Kung Fu Panda was out.

The only reason I care at ALL about how WoW charges for things is because there will probably be other MMOs that follow suit... Though, I haven't actually played any MMOs for a good two years, so whatever.

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I really don't see the big deal, wow knows better than to sell gear because once they do that the game will fall flat on it's face. If a company wants to sell vanity pets and things that don't provide advantages I don't see the problem as you are not forced to buy them.

 
At 8:55 PM, Blogger Grenade71822 said...

Well they are combat pets but i dont think they would go down the rmt for epics and stuff. But i guess we will see.

 
At 8:56 PM, Blogger Mark said...

No they are non combat vanity pets is all, lil kt does like to kill critters from what I read but they provide no advantage to players.

 
At 9:24 PM, Blogger Tyler said...

I think at this rate, WoW is just going to die soon.

I read somewhere that China is banning the game or something. Isn't that going to cut down their population by at least 10% or so?

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger tyranastrasz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:40 PM, Blogger tyranastrasz said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger phillip said...

Dave, I bet you are just sad because you didnt get hired to be Gm for WoW. Thats fine I mean we cant have everything. Best wishes a guy that thinks you should stop playing a fail japanese game. AMERICA FUCK YEAH!

 
At 9:58 PM, Blogger iLG said...

I did raise an eyebrow when I found out they were selling in-game vanity pets for real money, but as long as it doesn't turn into selling in-game gear or whatever, I'm fine.

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger Razahphon said...

Ok so people say that FFXI did this too.

well look at it like this:
the token keeps your from losing your account AND gives you more space thats awesome i never get to lose my account and i can hold more stuff.

The nexus cap is if you bought all the add-ons saying thats like buying items is like saying buying any of the expansion packs is buying gear.

yes there is the tidal talismen but you get that in real life too, it just doesnt teleport you to windy.... oh darn.

so shove off and go play with your panda.

 
At 10:25 PM, Blogger chris said...

One comment I will add...is half the proceeds for these pets are going to charity. O_o Though you could do the world a little better by simply donating ALL the proceeds to charity. I'm sure it did not take multi millions in dollars to develop these pets which they're probably hoping every single user purchases.
~Tora

 
At 11:22 PM, Blogger Beltayn said...

Line crossed. Subscription cancelled. GG.

 
At 11:37 PM, Blogger Fredrik said...

Lotro has non-combat-pets for FREE if you play a certain class (crowd-control-class Lore-Master).

They are squirrel, fox, sparrow, cat, frog, turtle, dog, snake and a cute rabbit. Best part of it: They look like normal pets! Not some freaky Disney-adventure on crack.

 
At 1:08 AM, Blogger ShermanMemoirs said...

I bought both. I'll tell you what, that panda is the funniest goddamn thing I've seen yet. They aren't selling tier pieces just yet so don't twist your panties.

Once again people overreact and whine too much. Take your "I'm so pure and MMO!" and stuff it. God forbid you have fun!

 
At 2:32 AM, Blogger Kring said...

I guess you missed that you don't only pay a monthly fee, you also have to buy expansions every other year.

The monthly fee is not for developing new content. It's only for running the servers (and stake holders).

 
At 2:45 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Mathis said...

Blah, glad I left a few months ago. This is the first step, soon they WILL be selling gear.

Plus Blizzard wants to start releasing expansion packs EVERY year. And do you honestly think they will be the same size and the same quality as before? Heck, the quality has already started going down in their expansion packs. Although I bet the price will not change.

 
At 3:25 AM, Blogger Kinam said...

I m'self got a tidal talisman and quite enjoy it ... I wear it every so often too when I go out, just to have something more on ...

The thing I hate about it's in-game representation is the long as farce reuse time .... 40 hours ... kind of crazy ...

Admittedly I got it because of the in-game item... but when it went on sale it wasn't explained what the cooldown time would be, only the effects of the teleport, which were awesome. oh well, it's been so long ago that it was released and subsiquently bitched about all over the net (and I'm sure the GM calls flowed in game) ... but it's not going to be changed anytime soon I'd suppose.

((The only thing I wonder, is ... is FFXI going to continue to be the same lovely service and fun when 14 comes out? ... or is it going to become more of a ghost town that it seems to have been as of late .. at least on Shiva, it used to be danged near impossible to walk up to the WG AH without bumping into 30 more people ... now, it's lucky to see 1 ... even at any of the Jeuno AH's too))

 
At 5:07 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Yep its LAME... vanity pets or not its a step in the wrong direction...!
And as soon as that gear sell sh*t come's out I'm gone, even though if I've played this game from beta to now as a fan sometime's more then a gamer, but this is just wrong!

Probally has to do with that merge with those Activision asses, they are afterall evil!!

 
At 5:32 AM, Blogger Gwynn said...

IF you read carefully, this is a Fundraiser for the Make a Wish Foundation. Yes, $5 goes right into Blizzard's Grubby little hands, but $5 goes to a good cause.

 
At 5:35 AM, Blogger Kring said...

Only for one of the two pets and only till the end of the year. Afterward, the money it's all theirs :-)

 
At 6:15 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Considering also that there are still non combat pets being added in game that cost nothing other than various achievements, again what the hell is the big deal. It's not like people who want them can only get them one way, people are so overreacting to this it's not even funny.

Maybe it's a first step to mmo apocalypse as they sell tier gear, but I highly doubt it.

 
At 6:24 AM, Blogger RyRy said...

Tbh SEs Payment plan is bollocks.....firstly they charge VAT. Wow Doesnt.....WoW is generally cheeper...with FFXI you have to pay for each "other" character....and Wow are only selling free pets....I dont think they will go asfar as epic gear.

and tbh....Playonline is the worsed piece of junk ever...why not have there own account system directly linked to "You" and not some playonline Junk.

and yeh as Parrot and Konata said, there was pandas in warcraft 3, and also FFXI sell the mog satchel etc.....

There all as bad as one another.

 
At 8:08 AM, Blogger Grim said...

"The Line" isn't a very strong argument on any level. I play WoW, I played FFXI, I got no problem with either, and people who suddenly OMGQUIT over this are as opaque to me as people who bemoan the change to Bnet accounts because they think the EULA is significantly different when, in fact, they simply never read the base WoW EULA.

Stop the hate? I mean, I never understood this competitiveness between MMO users. Just because I don't currently play FFXI, should I accept it as my given role in life to take the piss on everything about it that I don't like?

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Rabid Ferrets of DOOM!!!™ said...

Your point would be valid if there was anything for sale that was more than just a vanity item. (Mounts technically aren't vanity items, however your player still has to pay for the training to use that level of mount, which is 90% of the cost.)

Sure, you can use money to buy items. But the the little lich won't do anything to help you kick players asses other than maybe distract them with his cuteness.

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger tali said...

tidal talisman?

mog satchel?

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Mil'bereth said...

Two words...you ready, cause here they are.

"Tidal Talisman"

SE are the same money-grubbing f-holes Blizzard, and the rest are. And why not? People will buy it.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Leut said...

Heh. Dave, you got called out. Feeding time?

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Mali said...

WoW just plain sucks anyway

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Salt said...

LOL, I had a feeling this latest "scandal" from WoW will make it to your blog.

Personally I don't see it as a big deal.

Free-to-play MMOs like MapleStory have been doing stuff like this for years. It's how F2P MMOs fund themselves, and given that it's still around with new content occasional added, yes it's viable.

And for most part, the things that are sold are mostly just "for fun" perks, with no effects on gameplay balance.

I can see other stuff being added:
- new hairstyles,
- mounts (every mount is the same it WoW functionally, and the main cost of getting one is not the mount cost but the riding skill cost)
- some useless novelty trinket like the Personal Weather Machine.

Although I hope they don't get too carried away with it.
Things like +exp scrolls seen in MapleStory are, to me, kind of a grey area.

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger J said...

...Why would they sell gear? That lessens the amount of time people are willing to grind away at instances / arena / PVP hoping for that one achievement/drop/mount. That lessens their subscription income. I'm pretty sure that if they keep adding things to buy with real $$, they're all going to be superficial non-game-affecting bullshit like tiny liches or pills that make flowers grow beneath your feet.

They already charge you to change your gender/name/race/faction.

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

I love how people keep toting the Tidal Talisman and Mog Satchel as if they are the same thing as SE selling in-game equipment for real money. As Razahphon said, the security token protects your account from being hacked (one of my best friend's accounts was hacked). If you have put any considerable time into FFXI, or any MMORPG for that matter, wouldn't you want to protect your account?

As for the Nexus cape, it's a gift for buying all of the add-on scenarios. Unless game producers decide to start making expansions free, we aren't going to get expansion gear for free, just like we couldn't unlock DNC or SCH until WoTG came out. The cape isn't what you bought the add-ons for, since it wasn't even mentioned until 2 add-ons had come out and the 3rd is on the way. It's just a little extra gift for the players who continue to expand their game (like the ability to go to new areas, do new quests, etc).

As for the tidal talisman, there really is no logical argument besides the fact that you can actually wear the necklace. You get a real one, and you get a virtual one.

I agree that the virtual pets in WoW, so long as they don't lead to anything being sold that could create player advantage, are not that big a deal. Just don't complain about things that make complete sense (security token, nexus cape). Anyway...enjoy your pandas or whatever.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Music-chan said...

Man, I know hating WoW is, like, the 'hip' thing to do nowdays, but seriously? SERIOUSLY? They're vanity items. You don't need them. They're not going to affect gameplay in any way, shape or form and people think this is worth bitching about?

Could this argument get any more tired? So Blizzard is good at making money. Oh well. They are smart sons of bitches.

 
At 11:43 PM, Blogger Christina said...

So I think I've recently discovered that reading the comments is almost (read: not really but kind of) as hilarious as the actual blog. Just because of how ridiculous they are.

And I'm basically in agreement with you.

 
At 12:39 AM, Blogger Jesse said...

I didn't read comments but I'd like to point point out how he knows about epic mounts and arena gear from only playing the free trial that let's you to 20 so he plays the game or reads the forums....wow I seemsmarter then i am, ido love this blog tho

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger David said...

Dave..

You're a fag.

It doesn't work trying to be the smart ass, know-it-all, sarcastic prick if you don't have your facts straight.

I'm in no way a WoWfag, and I don't like to twiddle myself to FFXI either- No time for it, But I love reading your blog for old time sake.

But really man. Pandarens are sooo pre kungfu panda.

get'cho head in the game, you sexy slut.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Hr8mph said...

Seriously, Dave, we know you think FFXI is superior to any other MMO.
Deffinitelly seems more hardcore from what I read.
But how can 2 in-game pets foretell the coming of epic-gear purchases?
I think Blizzard is smarter than that anyway, it would be a serious dissadvantage to those who could not afford such purchases.
I would not tolerate that :/
But they're just two pets, that make no difference in gameplay whatsoever.
If they cost money, people have to gripe? Just don't buy them, try getting every Other in-game pet but this.
I love Final Fantasy like no other series or game (including WoW) but this diversion has always bothered me.
I play WoW, not FFXI, that means I should suddenly have to Hate FF?
Or loathe myself, because I didn't try one game of the series?
That, I never understood.

 
At 1:41 PM, Blogger Tim said...

Okay, seriously, a lot of the people posting about this are retards.

FFXI - Buy a real life item, get a useful ingame item as a bonus.

WoW - Buy an ingame pet that does nothing but look cool.

Now, selling the pets wouldn't be such a big deal if it wasn't for the cost.

10 dollars.

10 DOLLARS.

TEN FUCKING DOLLARS FOR A VANITY ITEM.

Think of all the things you can get for 10 bucks. That's almost a full month to play the game itself. Hell, for 10 bucks I can log onto my PS3 and buy Metal Gear Solid or FF7 and transfer them to my PSP to play anywhere.

And for the charity thing, only half the cost of the panda is going toward the make-a-wish foundation, and only until December 31. After that Blizz keeps all the money from it.

 
At 3:09 PM, Blogger Mark said...

It bears repeating that regardless of what you think of the price you don't have to buy it. It doesn't do anything for you in game at all, zero, zilch, nada. 0 benefit beyond looking cool.

If you want to buy stuff for your ps3 instead knock yourself out, either way I fail to understand why anyone cares that they sell a vanity item.

Nobody seems to care how many other games sell stuff but as soon as Blizzard does it they are evil. I am far from a wow lover but how quickly people will jump all over Blizzard amazes me.

1) The are not a nonprofit organization, making money is their goal.

2) They are smart enough to know what boundaries they can push and still keep filling their scrooge mcduck money vault up.

3) It's a freaking non combat vanity item, who gives a crap if they want to sell it.

4) If anyone really cares there are still a ton of free non combat pets in the game including new ones with the next patch so it's not like they are making you spend real money to get them.

Get a grip.

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Hylian said...

Understand this then...

These are in-game pets. They offer no advantage whatsoever to anyone at all. Spend the money, or don't spend the money, you'll be no better off than anyone else.

That being said, offering Pandaran pets pisses me off. They show the Pandaran first in warcraft 3, and for some reason as many lame 1-liners he had, it was still cool somehow. "I bring you Panda-monium!" yeah, lame, but whenever he says it, it sounds cool somehow. Needless to say, Pandarans got a positive reaction even though they were only meant to be an easter egg. Then, when wrath of the lich king was awaiting launch, on april fool's day they revealed the next playable race would be pandarans... HAH! just kidding!

...

you bastards. do you know how many people would love to play as a pandaran?! and you gotta dangle that s#$%^ in our face like that? oh oh... ah, sorry community. here, we'll give it to you... AS A PET.

some consolation prize. that's like a business telling you that you and everyone will be laid off in the next 3 months, but they're beginning to introduce blue jeans fridays for once! yay.

If you haven't played warcraft 3 (the frozen throne expansion... that's where the pandarans are) pick it up (or pirate it... i don't judge... whatever) and play it. Pandarans are awesome.

Dave... they throw ALCOHOL at their enemies to slow them down because they have a never-ending supply of it...

u like pandarans NOW!?

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

Well, and I don't care who gets rabid about this, I've always thought that the best way to cut out RMT from outside gold/gil farmers is to offer Pay Servers and Play Servers to customers.

People who want to buy their way up will do it. Allowed or not.

It only disadvantages other people if they are mixed in with people who won't/can't do the same.

Solution: Separate them. Let the people who want to pay (or have the option to pay for or work for at their choosing per item) go do it and leave the rest of us to our plodding down the path of "OMG I finally did it, 6 years but totally worth it" for our stuff.

And no switching back and forth! Damn server jumpers piss me off.

 
At 4:32 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

What's weird is that Blizzard has been selling in-game items like this since the game came out.

So why is this catching your attention?

Look at the Warcraft TCG, you have something like a 1 in a thousand chance for a card that gets you some quirky in-game item.

Sure, it's the first time Blizz has blatantly sold something like this, but still, doesn't really matter.

Now, if they were selling emblems of triumph/frost (think of it as assault points), THAT would be unfair and f***ed up.

 

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