Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
 
Going Softcore

I was reading the comment of a hardcore MMO player, who proudly declared himself to be the "core user base" of Blizzard, with the usual threats of "you piss me off, and your game will go under". And strangely that comment didn't even make me angry any more as it used to. In fact it seemed rather quaint, and a bit funny to me, ringing hollow. From the time of Everquest to the Burning Crusade I was complaining of devs designing MMOs mainly for the hardcore, but I don't think that is true any more.

What changed, I think, is scale. If you have a small, independent game, catering to your most hardcore users is probably a good idea. A game like Darkfall would be completely unknown if it wasn't for their highly dedicated fan base spreading word of mouth. But when games go mainstream, that approach stops making sense. Blizzard spends more money on a single games convention than the whole marketing budget of Aventurine. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion is discussed in the New York Times, not just on fan blogs and game forums. And the more mainstream you become, the more you have to go for your average customer, not your most extreme ones. The argument to play WoW is "everybody plays it", not "the cool people play it".

The major evidence of change is of course the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. I don't think anybody believes that this expansion is catering to the hardcore, just the opposite. In both marketing and fact the target audience for WotLK has clearly shifted away from the hardcore focus of the Burning Crusade.

But another piece of evidence is the botched and confused statements on the business model of Star Wars The Old Republic, the "next big thing" MMO from Bioware. It will probably be a "mid-session game", which is an EA term basically defined as "a game you buy more of in the middle of a play session". In other words, the more you are into the game, the more you pay. Which to anyone except MMO players makes sense. Who do you think is the preferred customer of an all-you-can-eat buffet: The guy filling his plate once and then leaving, or the guy who doesn't stop shoveling it in from opening to closing hour? Hardcore players of MMORPGs profit from the current flat monthly fee model. They pay as much as everyone else, unless they multi-box, but use more resources in terms of server capacity, bandwidth, and customer support. The more casual a player is, the less bang he gets for his buck, up to the point where for some people $15 per month just isn't good value for money, because they would play too few hours. Having a business model that scales better allows companies to grab those players who currently are reluctant to pay a monthly fee.

Early attempts of pay-per-hour MMOs have failed, but mostly because of ridiculous prices, like $9.95 per hour. World of Warcraft runs perfectly well in China on a pay-per-hour business model costing 5 cents per hour. And other forms of "pay more if you play more" are also feasible, for example giving away the game for free, but limited to some small selection of zones, and then selling access to the other zones. I don't know what business model SWTOR will end up having, but the very fact that they are obviously thinking about other models than the monthly flat fee suggests that they are thinking in mass-market terms, and not just what business model will please the hardcore most.

Of course the hardcore players will complain loudly when the design focus of a game moves away from them, when they stop being the "core user base", and if somebody would make them pay more to play more. The question is whether anyone will notice. The hardcore have been complaining loudly about everything even *when* they were the core user base. There is no indication that hardcore players drummed up a lot of business for WoW in the last four years, or that they are even widely known outside the circle of WoW players. Which is probably for the better, because the hardcore players aren't necessarily the best ambassadors for MMORPGs: They tend to be haughty and elitist, making fun of new and inexperienced players rather than helping them. Their function as a role model only existed in their own minds.

This was especially evident this year when Warhammer Online came out, followed shortly by Wrath of the Lich King. WAR had more success with hardcore players, while WotLK was a bigger hit with the casual players. In spite of all the hype on many blogs and game forums on how superior WAR impact PvP would be to the carebear version of WoW, in the end the casuals didn't follow their "role models" to WAR. They checked out WAR, found it not quite as good, and went back to WoW when the expansion came out. The opinions of the hardcore had a negligible effect on subscription numbers. Just the opposite, the news that Nihilum condemned Wrath of the Lich King as too easy only encouraged more casual players to resubscribe. If Nihilum would tomorrow announce that they will quit WoW en masse, that'll get them a headline on WoWInsider, but will not make any noticeable dent in Blizzard's subscription numbers. Hardcore players might still be in a prominent position in some cases, but they just aren't the core user base of big games like World of Warcraft any more. In the long run they'll drift towards smaller games, where they can wield more influence, happily ignored by large companies and everybody else.
Comments:
"which is an EA term basically defined as "a game you buy more of in the middle of a play session"

Where did you find them define the term like this?
 
So.. Warhammer is more hardcore due to being a PvP oriented game?
 
1) WAR PvP is not more hardcore than WoW and never was.
2) Sad to see you really hate the 'hardcore'.
3) The biggest impact of pay-per-hour would be that those who do not have enough money would be scared to play. I remember, when internet was pay-per-hour. It was terrible. You will not be able to chat with WoW anymore, you would have to log out immideately after a raid. If the costs are not completely irrelevant they will harm any MMO. The real advantage of a flat price is the emotional freedom to play as much as you want. Constant reminder of something negative (paying) while doing something fun (playing), damages the expirience seriously.
 
Please be a raid leader at least for a few months before you claim that a raid-oriented game does not need players who play it a lot. I always considered myself as working honorary when leading a raid - like people who organise the weekly soccer match. An adversariel athmosphere against 'hardcore' players might reduce the amount of willing and sufficiently motivated (=capable) raid leaders.
This is actually what happended on my old Warhammer server. All the early-40 players left (starting with me), because we realized that the PvP end game was a joke. The server basically broke down. No castle-raids were organised anymore and soon after that the server hat to be merged.
 
The next BIG MMO will have 100% solo content. It's not that soloing will be an option, it's that grouping will be an option. I honestly think that approach is the only way to ever make a dent in WOW.

= # # =
 
I can see where Tobold is coming from. He's not opposed to the hard working raid leaders in casual or semicasual guilds who put huge effort in to make raids happen. Every semicasual raid guild has a handful of hardcore players who could "move up" but choose to stay big fish in small ponds.

In fact those guys are the main beneficiaries of WoW's new style. They can lead people to boss kills despite no one else knowing strategies or theorycraft or using consumables etc.

I think he's talking about fully hardcore guilds like Nihilum where even the reserves are at the standard of most guilds raid leaders and everyone min-maxs. Those guilds perform much better than even semicasual guilds and to satisfy them you need content like prenerf Sunwell which is completely out of reach of guilds where not everyone is completely dedicated.

To be honest I don't think matters are as clear-cut as Tobold suggests. I think WoW is finding its feet with a new style of difficulty ramping. Progressively harder raid instances will be introduced throughout the expansion. How hard the final instance will be we have yet to see. Ghostcrawler has stated that Blizzard have no intention of designing content for 5% of the player base again. It is difficult to reconcile that comment with the idea of each content patch introducing a progressively harder raid instance. If Icecrown, to be released in 3.3, is even as hard as BWL then most people won't be able to complete it. The average WoW player is a lot worse than the best WoW player and this becomes exponential when you have 25 of them. I've raided with a guild who never pulled when someone is afk and (it seemed) take it in turns to have lengthy afk breaks. We were trying for Void Reaver and never reached him. I can't see how content can be made that is interesting to people playing for a challenge and also people like that.
 
WAR PvP is not more hardcore than WoW and never was.

Maybe not, but it was advertised as such. I remember many people hyping the "impact PvP" that WAR would have. But I agree that in the actual realization those keep battles end up having less impact than taking Wintergrasp in WoW. Where WAR *is* more hardcore is in leveling speed. You can get to level 80 in WoW faster than you can get to level 40 in WAR.

Sad to see you really hate the 'hardcore'.

Hate? No. But this blog is, and always was, a bastion of the casual player. Visit a couple of hardcore blogs and game forums, and you will see *extremely* derogatory things said about casual players. Yet when anyone dares to prick their bubble of superiority, they always get very indignant. Thus making fun of the hardcore is quite satisfying, they always go balistic even if you just mention that they might not be the masters of the universe. Nevertheless, if you look at it objectively, I've always been a lot more respectful of the hardcore players than they are of the casual players. I'm not calling them no-lifers, or tell them to l2live, or invent other insults. Reread my post, and the only thing I'm saying is that they aren't the core user base of major MMORPGs any more. If that hurts them, it is probably because they are very afraid that it is true.
 
/clapityclap
Imo Blizz has the intelligence, manpower and ressources to give everyone their share.
Simple thing like the Zul Aman timer, arena ranking requisites etc make it possible for the hardcore to stay "ahead of the game" (including better gear , achievements, titles and all that), while making it still possible for the more casual to see content that actually cost alot of effort, time and money to devellop and would be a waste if only enjoyed by a fraction of the population (like pre-expansion Naxx) while the other 95% of the server-population is waiting for new/doable content.

/godless
 
You can get to level 80 in WoW faster than you can get to level 40 in WAR.

You forget that the rank is to some extent irrelevant in WAR concering fun at playing. The ..so called.. End-game doesn't start at rank-cap. I experience WAR not as being hardcore in any term. Many things are easy and fast accessible which is a quiet nice approach for playing the game as a casual gamer.

But I agree with you that the future MMO's will more and more focus on the casual player as they are greater in numbers than the so-called hardcore players. More gamers in your game means more money independent of subscription/payment model and at the end of the day, this is what matters for the company.
 
It's time to redefine the hardcore player in 2008, cause it's a very different one now, than it was when i was such a player in early EverQuest. Hardcore back than meant putting huge amounts of hours into a flawed product and even pay for the experience. The hardcore back than, made the genre. Everyhing we now are used to have, was created by the hardcores back then, learning and shaping the genre. If there would be casuals back then, we would not see any single raid today. We probably would still have the ranger class tanking too ;P The hardcores created unofficial forums, where they shared indepth knowledge and kept it closed for other areas of the game. The hardcore created a website for his guild, where he published killshots, and trashtalked other guilds and the developers. The hardcore created those DKP systems everyone is using today. Those things are 100% playermade, no developer came up with this, they only copied what the hardcore had already built themself.

This was being hardcore back then. Wich genuine invention delivered the hardcore in the WoW-era? I can't remember a thing cause the hardcore changed, just like the game did. WoW even for hardcores was and is so flawless, that the new hardcore got sloppy too. The majority became a pure consumer, that differs from a casual by the amount of time spend online. When i see the new generation of hardcores i really have to ask myself, what's the purpose of them anymore? They don't have to find solutions to flaws, cause the old flaws no longer exist, while the new flaws are kept untouched to secure the status quo. I see more casuals writing MMO related walls of text now, than hardcores. The output of casuals became way more valueable, at least for me.

Hardcore still serves an important purpose though. You can't deliver a new product without pleasing the hardcore. WoW's greates achievement outside the game, was to have frustrated EQ players write about how awesome this new thing is. Word of mouth is killer for the community. A game that is 4 years into dominanting or even better representing the whole market, doesn't need word of mouth anymore.

For WoW the hardcore is a nice little footnote, a reference of what actually formed the game more than anything, only to suddenly realize that their work is done. The good thing is, being hardcore is temporary. If we should ever the a dominant hardcore player crowd, it has to be for a very flawed product, wich we won't see ever again. So Tobold is probably right with this entry.
 
I agree with Doomdiver about WAR being much more enjoyable while still levelling, but so was WoW when it came out.
Once all core players are at the cap and only a bunch of alts roam the tier 1-3 zones like it is the case in WoW, "same shit different color" (excuse the expression)

/godless
 
40 % of the MMO-Gamers are Soloplayers. (Source: Bioware)
Most gamers are Casual-Gamers.

So where ist the coremarket? Hardcore-Raiders in a Harddcore-Guild? Or...???

;)
 
I find the whole "casual vs. hardcore" debate to be very polarized. It's not that easy IMO. I do consider myself a casual player, but when I compare my time spent ingame to that of "real" casuals I realize that I probably do not fit into that description. Thing is, I still don't like the more "hardcore" approach to gaming (whatever that is", so where does that put me? In the "semi-casual" crowd? But what exactly does "semi-casual" mean? Instead of focusing so much on pure "hardcore vs. casual" we should start seeing that there ae shades of grey even here. We will get better games from that.
 
I agree with the comment above. It isn't really a solid dividing line, and there are a lot of different combinations of playing style that could be considered hardcore in a way, casual in a way.
 
The opinions of the hardcore had a negligible effect on subscription numbers. Just the opposite, the news that Nihilum condemned Wrath of the Lich King as too easy only encouraged more casual players to resubscribe.

Tobold, the 'opposite' of a negligible effect would be a significant effect -- which contradicts your statement that the opinions had a negligible effect.

You seem to argue that Nihilum condeming Wrath both encouraged casuals to resubscribe and had no effect whatsoever.

I think you intend to say something like:
The opinions of the hardcore had a negligible effect on subscription loss. In fact, if anything, the news that Nihilum condemned Wrath of the Lich King as too easy only encouraged more casual players to resubscribe.

Just some nit-picking -- I agree the premise of your blog post.
 
I agree with the premise of your blog post, I should say.
 
I do not read any other MMO-blogs - so I am really a little bit surprised by all this anti-hardcore propaganda in this blog right now. I considered myself quite hardcore while I was playing and stopped only, because I wanted to earn money after my studies and casual playing is just no fun for me.

However, we had a guild which stated goal was to bring the raiding to the casual player - especially the endgame raiding of classic WoW and TBC. We were a hard-working community of about 5-10 (varying over time) 'hardcore' players with about 50 (TBC) - 80 (classic) casual players around us. There was a competition going on in our hardcore community, who would be best at leading a raid.

We spent hours after each raid going through the statsitics and even more hours before the raids discussing the raiding-landscape on the server, loot system (hundreds of paged have been written about it! - some did computer simulations :) ), personal management (casual players love to quit one raid to go to the next, just because there are more epix .. that's just my impression) - politics in general. We would help other raids out with tips, compete with them for server firsts, discussing elitist jerks threads etc.

On occasion we also had to make hard choices. Over about 2 years I voted to kick 3 people, because they were just leeching epix. But this happened only after several months of talk between them and us. After a lot of tries to tell them that 50% less 'performance' than anybody else is not enough. We had, by the way, no policy to read a guide before an enounter. Everything ALWAYS was explained and nobody had to bring buff food/flasks to the raid (we offered these things freely to the casual players). There was no preparation asked of anybody - ever.

It was a very rewarding time and I am pretty sure that I learned a lot about the often quoted soft-skills by 'playing' WoW. If I could, I would write it into my CV, but most employers are sceptical about 'gaming'.
Through all the time there were little to no problems with casual vs. hardcore.
Indeed, the casuals knew that the 'hardcore' did a hard job for no money which they could only do, because they had even less money in their RL. We did it, because we loved it and I would still be doing it, if I could earn money with it.

This is probably why I feel hurt by the hardcore adversary athmosphere on this blog.
 
This discussion again?
I really think it has more to do with another aspect of these games..I did a post about this "hardcore vs casual" playstyle. I actually call it "niche".
I also do not think it is hardcore vs softcore anymore. It is more along the lines of what the game offers to the player.
The game should have all mechanics to avoid "niche". PvP focus? (WAR, Darkfall) you are niche. Too casual or streamlined? (LOTRO), you are niche. Offer a genre that is not wide in scope? (Tabula Rasa, City of Heroes) you are niche.
WoW offers all playstyles. Hardcore AND Softcore. PvE, PvP, Chat, Ease of use, easy entry, more time equals better skill.

Now, how will Bioware do this? If they do not offer all aspects, they will be niche, and the sales will not be that great. If they can round out PvE and PvP into an overall cohesive game, then it will not matter WHAT audience it is going for, as all players will enjoy it.
I still have worries about it's Sci-Fi bent though, as THAT is niche...

But, the argument of Hardcore vs. Softcore (Casual) I think is behind us. Now it is all about being niche or being a game for ALL players.
 
chrismue's comment is interesting, I have been thinking of something similar. Pen and paper games can require thinking, imagination, creation. Modern MMOs are entertainment where we are consumers and are spoon fed everything.

Maybe the way to bring the positive aspects of being hardcore out are to require more of those things - more creation, more imagination. How would we do that? Puzzles (not one answer puzzles you can look up) ? TCG like mechanics? User created content?
 
I really wish Nihilum would quit, then maybe Blizz would start building content that rewarded effort beyond soloing during the middle level ranges. The hardcore (by that I mean anyone who has hit level cap on multiple characters, my definition, you don't need to agree with it) did contribute one thing to WoW, that is the hazing that is levels 1-60. Now if the trend continues to make that run less and less important, or they end up selling level 50 characters I think the game will be revitallized, but with a majority of their revenue coming from those who come and go in the game the hardcore will never define what Blizz does again.
 
tob is this a response to sycaine's blog ?

http://syncaine.wordpress.com/2008/12/15/accessible-to-you-means-trivial-to-me-and-elitist-to-him/

[quote][i]
It seems Tobold was having a rough day Friday. Aside from missing the true point of my post, a few days later Tobold describes a similar situation, only from the ‘raid leech’ perspective rather than an officer’s. As seen here, it seems even his ‘casual’ guild would like to make progress in mini-Naxx, and a few people quit to find more likeminded gamers. (elitists of course, dirty dirty elitists) Not wanting the guild to implode, changes were made by the officers the guild, and people were asked to, you know… come prepared for a raid. How elitist indeed… Not wanting to feel left out of the club, Tobold alters his plans for the game, spends some grind tokens, and gears up just enough to not be excluded. Now if only those ‘raids’ were a bit more ‘accessible’, casual players like Tobold would be able to play how they want, and still see top content. Maybe the next expansion…
[/quote][/i]
 
I really can't imagine paying on a per hour basis or something like that. It reminds me of the time of pay per minute internet, when I would make plans what to do online, do it and then go offline as fast as possible. This isn't a working playstyle. You won't get to know any people like that and whatever you do, in the back of your head will be a large clock ticking, always ticking and telling you to hurry up before it gets any more expensive..
 
what's with the hardcore/sofcore propaganda?

The reason WAR has not caught on has nothing to do with the 'core' ... it is just not a good game, too derivative.

You point also falls flat in that the PvP is much more hardcore in WoW, think Arena ... what other MMO compares to it in hard-core-ness? I think what WoW demonstrates is that you can cater to both audiences and that is what makes the game succesfull. I bet the next patch will bring some really tough PvE instances
 
"Of course the hardcore players will complain loudly when the design focus of a game moves away from them, when they stop being the "core user base", and if somebody would make them pay more to play more. The question is whether anyone will notice. The hardcore have been complaining loudly about everything even *when* they were the core user base. There is no indication that hardcore players drummed up a lot of business for WoW in the last four years, or that they are even widely known outside the circle of WoW players. Which is probably for the better, because the hardcore players aren't necessarily the best ambassadors for MMORPGs: They tend to be haughty and elitist, making fun of new and inexperienced players rather than helping them. Their function as a role model only existed in their own minds."


Why all the hate Kobold? Did a 'hardcore' made fun of you when you started playing your first MMO? :)
Here's some news to you: many players who could be perceived as 'hardcore' are against the changes because they feel that the game is being dumbed down, not becasue the casual joe will be able to see the last dungeon or they are too far into their own ego trips.

Regarding the influence of hardcore, i think chrismue hit the nail on the head. The dominance has been established, WoW is now a more refined game also due to the 'hardcore' feedback (for example, do you think casuals design all those mods that were brought to the game without it's creators seeing a cent). Now that WoW has become a massive pop icon in itself, sod the 'hardcore'. "The word is out there and let us stop being a game and start being just entertainment."

It's a valid business decisionfrom Blizzard, but insulting every 'hardcore' player with this "Take that!" post and making up the stereotype of elitist jerk who loves to belittle every new player that comes up and likes to keep the content restricted to a few enlightened ones just seems a bit childish.

I could be perceived has hardcore, playing about 30-35 hours a week and when i quit in June i was attending my guild's Sunwell raids. I always helped the noobs (not derogatory here) i encountered and i always made a point of being extra diplomatic, for i undestood that critics from the guy clad in BT and Hyjal epics could be seen as "i'm better than you so you must play as i tell you too". More often than not the answer would be "i play as i like" and the shieldless tanking, wanding, body pulling, not waiting, hitting multiple mobs, breaking CC with AoE, etc..

No wonder people complained that the game was too hard. I would have a hard time sawing a wooden board with the saw's blade facing up. :)
 
"Constant reminder of something negative (paying) while doing something fun (playing), damages the expirience seriously."
and
"in the back of your head will be a large clock ticking, always ticking and telling you to hurry up before it gets any more expensive"

That happens already with subscriptions. You're still paying for time, and the less you play, the more you pay per unit of time. Subscriptions work because most people are terrible with math, and don't bother to think about how much things actually are costing once the subscription has been turned into a reflex. (Most addictive behaviors work that way; smoking is a notorious money sink, but rarely do heavy smokers actually care about the cost.)

The only way to get away from that sense of pressure is to stop charging for time in any way, and go with something like a Guild Wars model.
 
I think you overestimate the success WAR had with the hardcore. I saw the WAR thread in the Benefactor's Bar on Elitist Jerks, and they were *really* harsh with the game. Far harsher than any of the blogs or anything I read in the regular media.
 
making up the stereotype of elitist jerk

I made that up? They call themselves that! And it's not just irony, they behave in exactly that manner. So why shouldn't the casual players be allowed to defend their position against that?
 
"I made that up? They call themselves that! And it's not just irony, they behave in exactly that manner. So why shouldn't the casual players be allowed to defend their position against that?"

Don't you, at least, feel an desire to occupy a higher moral ground instead of waging a dirty and unnecessary 'blog-war' ?
 
Well, they are so eager to be everywhere first, I'll let the hardcore reach the higher moral ground first too. :)
 
An elegant, but disappointing answer :(
 
Well, re-read my post and tell me where exactly I crossed the line to a "dirty and unnecessary blog-war". The worst thing I said was "They tend to be haughty and elitist, making fun of new and inexperienced players rather than helping them." Note the "tend to", and then tell me if there isn't some truth in that. Compared to the average posts mentioning noobs on the Elitist Jerk forums, my post is a shining beacon of moderation and reason.
 
It seems that Blizz's new strategy is to allow everyone a shot at the raids and to offer hardcore players a challenge in terms of timed runs like in "Culling" and other goals by way of the achievements. In the next tier of instances, while they will be a step harder in terms of requiring some gear from the previous tier, I don't expect that they will be dramatically more difficult to any given team that has spent at least some time in the previous tier. The high end achievements, I suspect however, will ramp up more steeply. This way, everyone gets to see the content and go through the story line and the considerable work of developing the environment and encounters will not be wasted on just a precious few, and yet, the hardcore elites will still have their bragging rights. There will be only few who will have certain mounts and certain titles and they will be more then willing to show them off to everyone standing next to the mailbox. This, I think, is a good compromise.

On the subject of payment models. I doubt we will see a simple pay per hour or minute model. I could, however, see a model where you played the game for free up to a certain level and they payed for the base price of the game in what zones you unlocked. Then, at the end game paying a fee based on what content you wanted to access on say a weekly basis. In WoW terms, imagine paying a buck to obtain a raid id for a week and then if you finish it early being able to reset that id early, yet still, if you need the time, you have it and don't have to worry about spending an extra 30 minute there. This way those who want to progress faster can and those who want to just spend a little time online chatting or planning a raid can do so without being charged or charged more than a base access fee.

This model would also have its own problems especially in terms of guilds wanting to bring in an extra healer for just one fight type things. And what do you do with heroics? 10 cents per? and could you reset them more than once a day? This was simply an example of where they could go with this beyond a pay per hour thing.
 
Micro-transaction adoption rate will not likely be tied to hard-core vs causal type of players.

It is going to be tied to predictable costs for entertainment. To go from a set price to a variable price is likely undesirable to mainstream players.

I submit those that desire micro-transactions because they believe it will cost them less, are also not the target market for MMO games, because they don't provide much value to the game itself. By that I mean the value of being in the world giving the world a feeling of scope and expanse.
 
Personally, I've found the "Elitist Jerks" name to be an in-joke of sorts and that the image is cultivated on purpose. Yes, they are elitist in that they expect people who post on their forums to have done their research. And yes, if you haven't done so, they will point out in great detail why your argument sucks. And quite harshly at times.

However.. if you show that you've at least attempted to solve your problem on your own first and ask questions that cannot be answered by five minutes of googling, then you'll get detailed, thoughtful and well-researched answers to your questions and even extra tips on how to improve your gameplay even further. If you're worth their time, they'll definitely be worth yours.

The way I see it, they don't make fun of people just because they're new to the game. They make fun of lamers, not newbies. A lamer just wants a fish, but a newbie wants to learn to fish. The newbie will eventually learn how to be self-sufficient and can even provide long-term benefit to the teacher. A lamer will bog down the teacher indefinitely.
 
Considering how many time sinks tend to be in MMO's, I hope they don't do a pay-per-minute type of subscription.

Question - do *any* successful games currently do a pay-per-minute type of fee structure? I suppose pinball & video arcade games. Or pool (billiards), darts, and golf. But I can't think of any computer (or even console) games that are successful this way.

I think there would be a general revolt and a lot of bad press.
 
...I guess I should qualify my statement: with the big exception of the Chinese having a lot of subscribers who play WoW for a nickel an hour. I suppose there's a price at which pay-per-minute becomes feasible. (Maybe 50 cents an hour?)
 
Oh and another thought regarding "raiding = easy mode" - considering it took Tobold all of 1-2 months to get to lvl 80, Blizzard definitely wants raids to occupy a lot more avg players' play times. Therefore you have to make raids more accessible and easy. If prior experience is any sign, the next expansion won't be ready for another 18-24 months.

Considering how much development effort goes into the raid dungeons, it makes sense to tailor them so that most can enjoy the experience. If you lose your top 10% and your bottom 10%, it's probably money well spent.
 
@Anon19:46, I desire microtransactions because they let me tailor the game to my schedule. Nothing more, nothing less. It has absolutely nothing to do with the world's scope and expanse. You present a bizarre argument there.

Microtransactions allow for players to have greater control over how they play the game and when. That's why they are a market force that will make inroads. The "variable price" is precisely the point; players can pay for as much or as little as they choose, rather than bellying up to the buffet. It's meant for customers that pay attention to where their money is going. (Which means that yes, some will benefit and others won't. No argument there.)

The scope of the world itself is purely a function of game design.
 
@sumdumguy,
Time sinks are in MMOs *because* of subscriptions. They are there to keep people playing. If designers knew they couldn't bank on inertia and grind, they may well make better games in the first place.

Your argument about reducing the charge to a "per minute" rate is good, and illustrates just how silly charging for time is in the first place. The charge should be for content, not for access, because that's what people are actually consuming, the content. If you charge for the content, it doesn't matter how quickly or how slowly people consume it, since they paid for it. The elitist jerk and the carebear casual pay the same amount, and any feeling of "rushing" comes entirely from the player, not the business model.
 
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"I made that up? They call themselves that! And it's not just irony, they behave in exactly that manner. So why shouldn't the casual players be allowed to defend their position against that?"

In my example I wrote elitist jerk in lower caps because i was not referring to the WoW guild.
The stereotype is there as much as the the stereotype of the clueless noob who wants everything in a silver plate being that all the rewards without a single ounce of effort.

I raided, i played 36+ hours a week and i was, if anything, a care bear to less skilled players. And, crap, I am a pretty average player myself without any deep number crunching understanding of how my class played. Nevertheless, i never belittle anyone who didn't know how to play in a group and if anything i kicked from my parties players who did.

So I really found a bit, just a bit, offensive when you make such a generalization. Players who are more progress driven than others, or who have more time or whatever do not tend to anything. A jerk is a jerk regardless of having soloed Kil'jaeden naked or just chatting in Ironforge with his main lvl37 character he's been playing for the last 3 years.
 
Seems to me that microtransactions supporters don't really want "balance."
Micro-transactions, to be worth it, just shift the "elite" status from those with skill or time to those with money.
Unfortunately that "status" would disappear when despite all shiny epics the player in question would fail miserably in raids. And why?
Not because he's a noob, not because he's less skilled or anything... but because even in MMO's, practice makes perfect and no amount of money can buy that.
 
This may have been addressed already, but I think you are wrong on one serious point. Your mention of PvP. As long as Blizzard ties in their PvP reward system with that God-awful arena system, it will never be casual. That arena is far far far away from catering to the casual user base. Folks on forums laughing and pointing and saying 1800 arena rating is "EX" and everyone who is complaining is a "scrub," are the same guys you are grousing about for the hardcore raid circuit.

Blizzard needs to take care that their Raids don't follow the Arena. Remember how many people complained about the player friendly Arena system in which everyone could get the arena gear and compete, it just took some folks a lot longer than others? That was in response to a terribly exclusive PvP game in which you only realistically played to be fodder, as the best gear was exclusive to the very top percentile of players, and between being crunched by Raid geared elites, and PvP high officer elites, you scratched out your fun on the other poor saps like yourself, when you could get paired up against them. See where that kinder gentler system, the big push in BC, the attempt to make PcP a casual friendly and rewarding affair, went now. Dev's name calling their own casual base and insulting them by using the term "Wellfare Epics" on a system they designed to be casual friendly, and a system eventually adjusted so that, just like the old terrible PvP bell curve system, allows those with most time/best gear/best group comp/ and skill (I will not say there is no skill involved) set the standard for everyone else. You never let your elite set your standard! That is supposed to be the point of your post, but that is NOT what they are doing with their PvP. Now the BG gear is tied in with that elite system. I know many many people who cannot meet that standard, anymore than the number of guilds that can come close to meeting the standards of Nihilum.

While WoW PvE is getting more casual friendly, I will play WAR for PvP, and it aint because it's for the Hardcore! WAR PvP is casual friendly and all inclusive, the elites can still matter, but they don't set the pace for the rest of us. You even said so yourself about the game. What changed your mind Tobold?

Cliff
 
That first line was supposed to be "laughing and pointing and saying 1800 is EZ"

Cliff
 
@Wyrm,
I really couldn't care less about "balance" in eliteness. Internet ego stroking isn't why I choose to play a game. I support microtransactions because they provide an economic balance between those with more time and those with more money, which balance makes for a stronger game economy and critical mass of players. I support them because they keep a company afloat when the subscription buffet model does not. I support them because they let me tailor the game experience to what I want out of it, not what someone else wants out of it.

That said, you're right, only practice makes a better player. Sadly, modern MMOs really aren't much about player skill. I might be the best tanking player in the world, but if I'm "only" in level 60 or even 70 gear, I'm not going to survive Wrath's raids.

Still, that's all tangential to the business model. Confusing the issue of microtransactions with the absurd urge to boast about epic gear is showing a fundamental ignorance of what the business model is all about. To be fair, some devs confuse the two as well, making "prestige" gear for purchase. I'll readily agree that that is stupid, if that's what you want to posit.
 
Sigh, that's what I get for multitasking. "Prestige" in that last comment of mine should be "elite, exclusive game-altering" gear. Prestige gear that is purely cosmetic is harmless.
 
'Where WAR *is* more hardcore is in leveling speed. You can get to level 80 in WoW faster than you can get to level 40 in WAR.'

1. Casual players want to play the game, not get to max level so they can raid. One of the most common complaints from casual players is they would like a way to turn the exp off, so they don't have to miss any quests/unlocks. Casual players buy an expansion that offers extra levels: they wouldn't pay money to have 10 levels taken out of the game.

2. Raid leaders would, based on effort, normally be paid something close to 10$ an hour for keeping that many people passively entertained. Between a 40 man raid that wouldn't be so bad, but at 10 or 5 it gets to be pretty expensive. If instead they are paid in developer time and attention, minimum wages laws don't apply.

3. WAR PvP: log in, press button, kill people (or 3 buttons, a cutscene, and a short walk for oRvR). WoW PvP: grind to 80, grind gear, change spec, arrange a team and a time to play, meet up at that time, probably nightly, wait for everyone in the team to be online, then kill people. Which did you say was hardcore?

4. WAR PvE: place guild raid on in-game calender, show up, ensure you have one healer, kill stuff (that could have been killed by an elite and coordinated 6 person group, but you can take 6 warbands if you want to), in-game roll for loot, bitch to Mythic about the system if you lose. WoW PvE: organise guild raid on your out-of-game website, sort out classes and specs, exclude people who don't make the cut, call off raid if some needed person decided not to play, kill mobs (needing no more or less strategy than WAR), sort out loot according to your out-of-game point system, bitch to the unpaid volunteers running it when you lose.

WAR is just by far the better game for casual players - WoW is a game designed for hardcore play, but then with the core gutted. It will stagger on for a bit based on it's past reputation, but it's glory days are far behind it.
 
Sometimes I think it would be handy to just replace the phrases "hardcore" and "softcore/casual" with "requires more dedication vs. requires less dedication" since its seems open to so much misinterpretation and confusion.
 
"I support them because they keep a company afloat when the subscription buffet model does not."

A company that isn't Blizzard, Turbine or NCSoft, right? I think NCSoft and Turbine have cash-shop games, but tell them to change the sub model of CoH or LotRO.

Ultimately you're saying rubbish. There is no balance whatsoever, it will just take you a bit longer to reach an objective, but is there.
The thing is, in every cash shop game i ever see, if the payed items do not give a distinctive advantage to the "players" with the credit card.

When you state "I support them because they let me tailor the game experience to what I want out of it, not what someone else wants out of it." it only comes across as "I don't want to play the game that was developed because it takes to damn time for me to be where I want." So, do you want a bit of cheese to go with your w(h)ine? :)
 
But tell me, if not superior gear, what kind of items would you want to buy in order to "tailor the game to your needs"?
 
The one main thing I worry about, well, besides that format of paying being a MASSIVE detriment to me personally (The semi-hardcore or semi-casual branch that raids, but doesn't raid hardcore, who spends lots of hours but doesn't accomplish a whole lot for the time spent, and with a more focus on the relationship developed), is the effect it will have on casuals. Right now on WOW, I generally don't have a problem wiping a few times while on a Pug to get an instance done. If we wipe too much I will leave, but in general I am up for wasting an hour more than I need to to complete the instance. If I had to pay for my time I absolutely guarantee you that I would NEVER NEVER PUG and "instance" or any real group quests. I would find a hardcore group of people and only play with them. Because suddenly every single one of those unnecessary wipes is costing me money.

It seems to me like it would stagnate the social aspect of the game. I love making new friends and chatting. Hell, last night I logged on and actually saw a semi-intelligent conversation in trade chat (emphasis on semi...) and ended up spending over an hour standing in ironforge chatting in trade instead of doing what I had got on to do. But I am absolutely not going to pay for social aspect. I would have no idle time since idle time is wasted cash.
 
Wyrm, you're still making some pretty big assumptions, and not really reading what I'm writing. You don't even paraphrase me correctly. Thanks for misrepresenting my arguments so that you can beat down strawmen, though. It illustrates well how the microtransaction position is often misconstrued in an effort to dismiss it. It does little good for me to answer questions on a position that you've created for me.

If you really want to understand what I'm getting at, try reading my comments again, and perusing my blog. In short, though, I'm still not saying that the subscription model should die, just that it's not necessarily the best business model, or the One True Path. This will increasingly be true as the gamer demographic ages and starts having careers and families.
 
@Caleb, what you're not realizing is that such hours filled with wipes are already wasted time. You're already paying for the time you spend making mistakes and chatting. Each month might have a slightly different cost per hour, depending on how much you play that month, but as long as you're being charged on a per time basis, whether its hourly or monthly, you're still paying for time, and idle time is still a waste.
 
I reread my post and it's not very coherent. It's been a long day.
But i asked you a fair and direct question: what kind of items would you buy on the cash shop? If it's not elite gear, what would allow you to play the game as you want?
 
"The scope of the world itself is purely a function of game design."

By scope of the world, I meant population that makes it feel like a large and vibrant world. People who save money from a per hour charge aren't in the world enough to add value to the shared experience.

People that play so much that they are a constant drain on resources are undesirable for usage reasons, people who aren't in the world enough to give it depth, aren't desirable for content and retention reasons.
 
Reading through the most recent replies, it occurs to me that paying by the hour moves it further from being a social environment and more towards being an arcade game.

I suspect that would also have a detrimental effect on retention overall.
 
@Caleb, what you're not realizing is that such hours filled with wipes are already wasted time. You're already paying for the time you spend making mistakes and chatting. Each month might have a slightly different cost per hour, depending on how much you play that month, but as long as you're being charged on a per time basis, whether its hourly or monthly, you're still paying for time, and idle time is still a waste.

While technically true, come on you are being ridiculous. Yes, by definition you are wasting time. But the scale of the waste is very important. When you pay for a month, you are already noting that at the very least you aren't playing the hours each day that you sleep. That is wasted time, but accepted wasted time. With a time scale of 1 hour, there is no acknowledged wasted time. That is all play time.

And an hour of wasted time is a lot more important when you are paying for an hour's time than when you are paying for 720 hours at once. Or even better, 4320 hours time.
 
@Wyrm,
Yes, that's a good question.

Have you played Puzzle Pirates or Atlantica Online? PP has a dual currency microtransaction system where most things are cosmetic, like clothing, pets, housing, furniture, ships and paint. The things that aren't cosmetic are weapons (which are pretty balanced, but even there, some are clearly more powerful... and yes, that's annoying) and badges mostly. Badges unlock parts of the game, and they decay on a per-use basis. I have a Captain's Badge, without which I cannot sail my ship or make changes to my crew. It decays one "day" every day that I log on, but if I skip a day, it doesn't decay that chunk. That alone makes it more suitable to my casual schedule, since I effectively only pay for the days that I play. It's a bit like a bus pass where it's only punched if I ride.

There are some gradations of badges, with concurrent different privileges, but the underlying theme is that they unlock elements of the game, and if you're not playing, they don't decay. Also, the bulk of the game is playable without any badges, and there is no "edge" granted by simply unlocking elements of the game. If you're not going to sail your own ship for a while, you simply don't buy the badge for it.

Think of it as a Raid License in WoW. If you're not going to raid for a while, you don't pay for that privilege. Say, during the leveling grind, where you don't need raid access, you don't pay for it. When you're raiding, you don't need access to the leveling grind. There's even precedent for making the Auction House a microtransaction beastie, either with transaction fees like eBay or some sort of subscription model. The main point is, you pay for what you're using, and if you don't need things like raids or the AH, you don't pay for them. If all you're doing is Dailies, gathering and crafting, that's all you pay for. The mechanic is via microtransactions, but the end result is paying for what you're using, and for how much you're using it. As such, there will always be the hardcore who spend lots of time and would be better served by buffet access. Still, there's good reason to have that sort of prorated or piecemeal approach to get more people playing. The subscription price isn't a big deal to some, but neither is it ideal for all.

Atlantica Online takes another approach, and the gameplay is more like WoW. There, they sell Licenses which allow for teleportation, they sell Mounts, and they sell inventory expansions. These are all conveniences that are neither game altering gear nor cosmetic fluff, but can make for an easier time for players who are willing to pay for them. They save time for players, and cost money. They are not necessary to play, and in fact, the game is very playable without them. They are just there for those who would spend the money for a bit of convenience.

They do also sell "Power Potions" which grant temporary boosts to attack and experience gain rates. This is a bit more sticky for some, but they don't bother me. The rate at which someone else progresses in the game doesn't affect my enjoyment. The only time when I would care is in PvP, but their PvP is matched based on a carefully measured "might rating" which takes your character levels and gear into account. There are some weird matches when they widen the criteria or when you get on winning streak, but for the most part, the system-matched PvP is based on fairly close matches to a player's power level, not their progress rate. (You can challenge anyone anytime, so there will be some imbalanced fights, but that's the player's fault, not the system's.)

Short story long, there is a big enough market for cosmetic and convenience items to avoid resorting to "selling power" in the form of exclusive game-altering gear. That some companies do offer such things is indeed annoying. I don't like giving cash players an insurmountable edge any more than the most ardent of microtransaction haters. Thing is, I don't mind if items are available by paying with them either with time or with money. Some players will have a surplus of either, and it really doesn't matter to me how they get where they do, so long as the end result is available to either player.

That's the balance. Send time or spend money, it doesn't matter, you can see the whole game, and have access to everything. Don't give an edge to *either* party. Right now, the edge is heavily on the side of the time-rich. The system is already imbalanced, it's just hard to see if you're the one benefitting from it.

The arguments about pacing and such are silly to me. If someone else progresses faster or slower than you, what difference does it make? You're paying for the game, play it your way and let them play their way. If your guild is pressuring you to keep up, you're in the wrong guild. If you find someone who has purchased a high level character and doesn't know how to play it, either teach them or use the /ignore function.
 
@Caleb, if I were actually paying for time played, yes. When I'm just paying for "access to maybe play if I can make the time to do so", it's different. If I were able to pay for, say, forty hours of game time *no matter how many days it takes to actually play that time*, it would be different. Paying for access, however, just shifts the balance to those with more time to play during that access period.

That's why there's pressure to perform and play, often over real life priorities. You're paying for something, so you'd better use it or suck up the loss. If, on the other hand, you've paid for the *content* rather than the *access*, you can play at your leisure, no matter how much time or how many months it takes.

@Anon00:51 Are you seriously claiming that people have to play a certain amount of time per month to make it worth even admitting them into the game? That's... quite the attitude.
 
Oh, and Caleb? if you only have maybe 10 hours per month to play,and half of those are wipes, yes, each "wasted hour" is significant. That's why a subscription model just won't work for everyone who wants to play. Everyone has different schedules. The subscription model effectively mandates that you must play so many hours per month to get your money's worth. That infringes on real life schedules, which is why the casual market isn't well served by subscriptions. Put another way, if you're paying for 4320 hours, but only play for 100 hours, those hours are expensive. If you are paying for 4320 hours and play 2000, those hours can be considerably cheaper. I agree that you can "diffuse" the cost if you play a lot. The point is, not everyone can, and charging on a monthly basis rather than a usage basis heightens that imbalance.
 
Wait, because I think WAR is more fun than WoW i'm hardcore now? 0.o
 
Using trends in WoW subscription rates is fairly retarded, since nothing appears able to change it. As I've said many times before, more people eat at [Insert favourite fast-food chain] then at up-market restaurants.... does this mean the food is better at [Insert favourite fast-food chain]? No, the food is ass. But the people who eat it all the time are stupid and self destructive.

Also, WAR was full of bugs, like every other MMO that gets released, and so it really wasn't as good as WoW. Therefore making a comparison about the relative merits of focusing on PvP by comparing these two is fairly epically useless.
 
Anyone noticed that among all that played indignation over perceived disrespect none of the hardcore players even touched the actual subject of the post? Are hardcore players still the "core user base" of WoW and upcoming AAA games like SWTOR, or has the focus moved away from them?
 
Tobold, I try to avoid arguing for argument's sake (with varying success), and I dislike simple "me too" posts. If your core observation is sound, there's little point in debating it.

Personally, I don't think that hardcore players were ever the "core user base" of WoW, and that the design direction has mostly been towards less demanding design. Except for the attunement debacle in TBC, Blizzard's design goal has always been "easy to learn, hard to master". WoW was definitely less "hardcore-oriented" than EverQuest. However, it seems that Blizzard is struggling with an another aspect of their formula: vertical content vs horizontal content. TBC was very vertical in design. Normal instances, heroics, Kara, SSC, Eye, Hyjal, BT, Sunwell. Conversely, Wrath is very horizontal. Heroics and raids are at the same level.. and there is no next level at the moment. Sure, it's easy to learn, but there's little to master.
 
"Are you seriously claiming that people have to play a certain amount of time per month to make it worth even admitting them into the game? That's... quite the attitude."

No, I'm saying that losing them is irrelevant to the game's success and catering to them in the terms of offering micro-transactions that could increase the core population's costs would be a negative sum approach. You'd lose more money by losing core players who won't pay such silliness than you would gain from players who play less than average. And those light time players, they don't add enough value to court, at least not at that price.

It has nothing to do with attitude, and everything to do with thinking it through.

1) A player pays x, which funds the game (adds direct value)
2) A player plays y, which populates the world (adds indirect value)
3) A player is worth some combination of x and y (and some other considerations), and a player that is low on both counts, isn't worth nearly as much as the core player base which is normative on both accounts.

Going micro-transaction to support people who won't be in the game much would lose Blizzard money, and it would be much more than they'd gain by doing so.
 
"Anyone noticed that among all that played indignation over perceived disrespect none of the hardcore players even touched the actual subject of the post? Are hardcore players still the "core user base" of WoW and upcoming AAA games like SWTOR, or has the focus moved away from them?"

The fokus has shifted a little bit away. But WoW is still much more hardcore than, say WAR or AoC (<- lol).

Game companies up until now support this opinion:
The money comes from the casual. They pay the same and cost the least.
Hardcore players cost much, much more while paying the same, but add to the game. They develop mods, guides, guild web pages, forums, blogs, organise raids, organise arena teams, write in the alterac valley chat, fill the world, make the AH have something to offer,...

Microtransistions are only possible if they are so low that Blizzard erns less. Hardcore players usually have less RL money (they already probably pay a higher percentage of their freely available monthly money for playing WoW. They couldn't support microtranstions and still be hardcore. It might even have a bad psychological effect on some of the more casuals casuals.
It would be more just - obviously - but is absolutely unrealistic.
 
Microtransactions - Pros and Cons - My immediate thoughts

Pro:
Blizzard makes more $$ (somewhat of a Con, lol)
Subscribers with $$ (and probably less time) benefit
Possibly shifts the power balance - strongest toons aren't necessarily those that spend the most time

Con:
Anger a large portion of the subscriber base
Subscribers with lots of time (and probably less $$) lose
Anger probably carries over towards those who paid (I can imagine all the insults from the ones who don't/can't pay towards those that do)
"Keeping up with the Joneses" effect
Possibly shifts the power balance - strongest toons aren't necessarily those that spend the most time
 
[i]Anyone noticed that among all that played indignation over perceived disrespect none of the hardcore players even touched the actual subject of the post? Are hardcore players still the "core user base" of WoW and upcoming AAA games like SWTOR, or has the focus moved away from them?[/i]

I question whether they've ever been the "true" core user base or merely the squeekiest wheel. But I think hardcore users have become marginalized as games have gotten larger subscriber bases. Just look at all of the indignation on self proclaimed hardcore players' blogs.
 
About 15-25 cents an hour would be a reasonable hourly rate (depending on whether the currenty monthly rate should correspond to 2 or 3 hours of play a day). If you want to preserve the "glorified chatroom" effect to promote social aspects, you can even make it free to just stand or roam around a town doing nothing or next to nothing other than chatting. Buying or starting an auction should charge the hour though, as well as quest interactions and so on.
 
Hardcore players may draw more resources but since they are such a small portion of the customers why would they want a business model that pull more money from them. I'd much rather be pulling $15 from people playing one hour a week than allow them to pay be 25 cents per hour. The popular games are always going to have a monthly fee. Or the hourly fee is going to equal month fee for the average customer.
 
Wyrm, the stereotype of an elitist jerk doesn't really need to be made up, all you have to do is visit your local /2 channel and eventually you'll find them.

I have 3-4 key people on my server's most progressed guild on permanent ignore due to how big of a fuckwad they are.
 
Tobold you freaking rock. I dig reading 98.8234% of everything you write.
 
Soon it wont be the hardcore vs the casuals. It will soon be the bored vs. the yet to be bored. Now that casuals are getting to the endgame they are finding it just as easy as those that have been doing it for weeks. Wonder how that will play out.
 
Somehow my comment did not make it some days ago. Basically what I said numerous times already. Nothing wrong with making things more accessible for the average man. But it is totally wrong to make things piss easy to the degree of extreme boredom for everyone. Just what the anon poster before me said.
 
Longasc, to me, that underscores a problem with the game design itself, not the business model.
 
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