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azuredrake634 karma

Creating content for MMORPGs is a tremendously difficult problem to solve. Not because it's hard to write any given cool quest - individual cool stories are relatively easy to tell (though telling them well is an artform unto itself). Rather, content in MMOs is difficult because its value decreases to players the more times they have played through it, until it is no longer worth their time to complete.

The reason you see "kill 10 rats" quests is because they were the most time-efficient way to direct the player into the gameplay back in UO and EQ1. Games have generally improved from "Go kill a thing N times, bring us 2N objects from the bodies of the thing" - but filler quests are also "ok", design-wise, as long as they're used sparingly. Think of the pacing of a book: Introduction, Rising Action, Climax, Denoument. If all quests are Climax all the time, the game quickly becomes overwhelming and unplayable, even if they're all really good.

Sorry, I rambled a bit. Let me know if you want more explanation on any given point.

azuredrake542 karma

Look man, I don't wanna get technical, but Drakes are not Dragons, ok?

Haha, I remember seeing that post and boggling. I hope whoever made it learned a lot from the response, though - an actual MMO where you play dragons would be cool (RIP Horizons)

azuredrake250 karma

Welp, this is a big question. I want to make absolutely clear that when I'm answering this question, it's both well-written and to-the-point. So I'm going to write you up a response at lunch, probably, and post it then.

Oh, to the first point - a ton of thought and discussion goes into it. MMORPGs are huge huge investments - no decision about core business model or product is made without extensive research and justification.

But as for the second question, I will get you an answer as soon as I can write one that's worthy. :)

Edit: Answer follows:

OK, so free to play. Pay to play. The Big Question with Capital Letters. Let’s set a couple ground rules here first. I cannot talk about the financials of any game that I’ve worked on – super illegal in some cases, and just not worth the risk to me in other cases. I cannot/will not talk about any other game my employer makes. I can make general logical statements about “the way things are perceived to be” and can try and build a case for any given business model. If this is enragingly nonspecific, I apologize in advance.

Alright, ground rules set. Now, for some background information. Let’s brush up on some Economics 101: Supply and Demand. To quote Wikipedia:

In microeconomics, supply and demand is an economic model of price determination in a market. It concludes that in a competitive market, the unit price for a particular good will vary until it settles at a point where the quantity demanded by consumers (at current price) will equal the quantity supplied by producers (at current price), resulting in an economic equilibrium for price and quantity.

But we’re not dealing in physical goods, for the most part – games can be sold entirely digitally. This means there’s a substantial one-time price to creating a game (the money needed to pay the development team) – but after that, the minimum supply price of the game is just whatever it takes us to host servers and get bandwidth to transfer our stuff to you. This is not totally trivial, but let’s round it down to 0 anyway. So once initial costs are recouped, we can give games away for free, right?

Ok, save that part in your mind. Why do people buy things? There is a spectrum of humans that spans the gulf between two types of people – rational actors, and irrational actors. Let’s ignore irrational actors for now because we learned Econ from some professor somewhere who truly believed the Age of Enlightenment heralded the End of History. So for Rational Actors, why do they buy things? Well, for any given purchase, they are willing to make the purchase when the net cost (including opportunity cost) of the item is lower than the value of the item to them. Value is a function of many things, but let’s say a game’s Value is a function of: Novelty, Quality, and Satisfaction of Expectations.

Let’s say there are 100,000 gamers in the world. Each gamer has their own “stat weights” of what they Value in a game, and on top of that a “stat weight” of how much they care about games in general. We could imagine some people and what their stat weights would look like – hell, imagine yourself and what you care about in a game – but at this point, we don’t really care about the individual level. We line up all the 100,000 people, we show them our game, they know exactly what it’s about, and their stat weights multiply by the game’s strengths in each of those areas to provide the total aggregate value of the game across the population chunk.

“I’m bored”, you say. I know, I’m sorry. It’s econ, I’m trying not to make it dry. Here, have two pictures:

P2P: http://imgur.com/P505QGJ

F2P: http://imgur.com/okchcAp

Ok, so now you can see where I’m going with this. Of course, it’s not that simple – Rational Actors will pay as little for something as they can! So even if you create a tremendously valuable experience, say, a game worth paying $180 for – you’ll be hard pressed to get people to pay you that if their marginal purchases aren’t getting them anything. Look at the Humble Indie Bundle, for example. Technically, you can just pay nothing (or is it .01?) and get a bunch of games. BUT, if you pay AT LEAST the current average price (let’s say $5) + .01, you get <insert extra thing here>. This marginal purchase is acceptable because the total sum transaction is still well below the value you appraise the entire bundle at. If it was “Pay 30$ to get extra thing!”, the bargain would no longer be a bargain, and people who value the entire bundle at somewhere between 5$ and 30$ end up not giving the bundle their money. This is why Humble structures their sales in this way – it’s essentially the optimal way to get as much money as possible from people who want to buy these specific Indie games, while still casting as broad a net as possible to reach people who only want to pay .50c or $1.00.

See pt 2 of response below: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2js28o/iama_game_designer_working_on_mmorpgs_amaa/clf8dyb

azuredrake223 karma

There is massive pent up demand for a truly social player interactive MMORPG and no one is delivering.

There is desire for it, but there is no demand at the price point you are asking.

Let me explain: Games can cost you time, they can cost you money, and they can cost you effort. These are resources you have to spend on games that you cannot get back. Do you know why casual games are so popular? Because they have extremely low effort and time costs. If you so much as sneeze at the app store, you will get 5-10 moderate quality casual games.

When you say there is a "massive pent up demand for a truly social player interactive MMORPG", what you are arguing is that "millions of people have an overabundance of both time and mental willpower". Does that sound like you, or any of your friends, over the age of 18? Even if it does, do you suspect there are enough more people with extreme reserves of those resources to justify creating a game that effectively prohibits people with low time or effort to spend from paying their money to the publisher?

I will go into cost, value, and integrals of supply:demand curves in more detail in my answer to the below post on F2P trends. But this hopefully at least lets you understand why this perceived niche has not been successfully filled in ~10 years.

azuredrake165 karma

I could write pages on this topic. The trinity or something like it is useful to limit the permutations of strategic choices players have to make when forming a group. GW2 still has some aspects of it, but extremely softer versions of it. I love GW2 - I think it's an excellent game, and I admire them for breaking the mold of the Tank/Heals/DPS trinity in a way that, for the most part, works. I think the broken trinity in GW2 does, however, contribute to a situation where DPS solves all problems posed to the player.

TL;DR - It (The GW2 system) improves the game in many ways, but makes it weaker in at least one very noticeable way.