Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 23, 2011
 
Useful or useless - What would you buy?

Imagine a Free2Play game with an item shop that offered both purely decorative items, and items which gave you some sort of advantage in game, without being an "I win" button. So on the one side you'd have clothing, decorative items for houses, and sparkly special effects. On the other side you have mounts, added inventory space, temporary xp bonuses, and the like. Which one would you rather buy?

I have the distinct impression that previous discussions on the subject were influenced by the contribution of people who actually wouldn't buy anything. It is kind of logical that people who don't want to spend money do not want the others to have ANY advantage from spending money, and would like item sales limited to useless fluff. But how about those who actually do spend money in games with item shops? Do you prefer decorative fluff, or will you only spend money if there is actually an advantage for you in it?
Comments:
I'm pretty sure I'd never pay money for fluff. I can see myself spending money on some sort of in-game advantage. (i.e. booster packs in a card game. Not so much "bonus XP" potions.)

That said, I absolutely prefer the fluff-only cash shop. Not because I'm not willing to spend money, but because I don't like it when game progress is distorted through real-world money influences. Not even when I'm on the positive end of that distortion.
 
I've bought both, but I prefer things that make the game more fun. I like being able to buy content, or shortcuts to the content I want to play.

What I really hate is having to make repeated micropayments via a cash shop (I don't mind a sub but I don't want to have to rent my mount or pay weekly for raid potions). You can argue that it's functionally equivalent to having a sub but it just gets my back up. Once I buy something via a cash shop, I want it to stay bought!
 
I have to say, I have never spent a cent on fluff, nor can I imagine myself ever doing so.

I think the best model (and, indeed, the one that has liberated the most money from my wallet) is to sell content, a la LOTRO. But of course this doesn't necessarily suit every game design.

Of "in-game advantage" sales, I'd prefer developers to lean in the direction of convenience & flexibility - storage space, character slots, mounts, etc. - rather than actual power. When I played Atlantica I hated the idea of spending money on Blessing Licenses, which really did give an excessive power boost. One of the contributing factors to me quitting that game was reaching the point where it really felt tuned to the assumption that you would be using Blessing.
 
Sometimes MMO designers include things like rep grinds because it gives people something to do when they log in. There's no purpose to a grind other than to occupy players so they don't burn through the content as quickly. I have less time available so would like the ability to pay to bypass the grind. Shoulder enchants in WoW are an example - if I could buy those then I would do so.

There's no actual advantage over non-payers because you both end up in the same place, they effectively buy the enchants with their time.
 
I've bought both convenience items (a mount in EQ2) and occasional fluff items (housing in same game) as well as unlocks like a specific race or class I want to play.

I wouldn't play games that require purchases to play the basic game though.
 
If one would be happy buying an in-game advantage, then why wouldn't one be happy to buy an "I win" button? Is it so that one can try to mentally pretend that one could have won* the game without the in-game advantage but didn't have the time because of course one is not a no-life loser?

The problem with paying for an in-game advantage is that you have removed the level playing field from the game. You can pretend you're only balancing out the inherent advantage of the no-life losers who have more time than you. There are games like that (Formula 1 Grand Prix racing, for instance), but where's the fun in winning with your cheque-book?

*won in this context means to successfully complete the game, by whatever criterion you measure yourself by, and (most importantly) that the in-game advantage advances you toward. For instance, you might say that you've won the 3.x WoW game if you killed the Lich King, or you might decide that you've only won once you've killed him on heroic, or you might decide that you've won if you collect all the pets in-game. In RPGs, winning is defined by you, so what is one person's "purely decorative item" such as a pandaren monk, is another person's competitive advantage.
 
Depends on the game, really, probably the more PvP-focused a game is, the more I'd focus on in-game advantage. Though APB wasn't quite free to play in its original incarnation, it had a dual-currency system (in-game dollars, and "RTW points" bought with real cash). Players could list items for sale in either currency, and those items could be guns, upgrades or cars with very real and tangible gameplay benefits, or purely cosmetic clothing and theme tunes. You could also sell in-game dollars for RTW points as a conversion mechanism. I never bought any cosmetics (partly because the browsing system was a bit clunky and there was so much utter crap listed for sale, mostly because I was happy with the items I unlocked myself in-game), but did buy a few guns and upgrades for either game dollars or RTW points, depending on prices and exchange rates. I did sell a lot of cosmetic items, though, enough to fund further play (had the game not shut down); it was high-volume low-cost stuff, churning out stock items rather than dazzling customers with my amazing designs, but it did sell.

In Lord of the Rings Online, on the other hand, I have bought several cosmetic items of clothing (when on sale), as well as storage space and content such as quest packs. I haven't bought anything like XP gain potions, though.
 
I've never bought any fluff items and I don't ever see myself doing so in the future. This is why it always blows my mind to read about those who are so adamant about RMT items conferring in-game advantages. While I guess that's great for those who have more time than money to spend, it just means a RMT shop set up this way won't ever see a dime from me.
 
I meant to say:

"so adamant against RMT items conferring in-game advantages."

/wishing for an edit button
 
I've spent money on the following:

- content (DDO)
- unlocking races and characters. (Don't know whether you'd consider that useful as these are not better than the standard ones).
- accounts upgrades (from free to Silver in EQ2x)
- a guild (with no one in it, just as a way to store items and money in EQ2x)

I also bought the monocle to flip it in Eve with isk but I don't see that as spending $68 because it's not possible to legitimately cash out my billions in Eve.
 
I prefer advantage, but only a specific kind. World of Tanks is on a precarious line with their cash shop tanks for me, which is part of the reason I won't play it. I'm not a big fan of money for progress in the game.

However, I am for money for progress boosters. XP Boosters, maybe the equivalent of a badge obtaining booster for WoW-like raiding systems. Something to make it a bit easier and quicker, but not give you anything that you can't get in game.

I'm all for content as well. Races, Quest Packs, etc. etc. Priced and done well, it can be a great choice.
 
If one would be happy buying an in-game advantage, then why wouldn't one be happy to buy an "I win" button?

Because for many people the purpose of a game is not to win, but to play, to be entertained. I once inadvertedly bought an "I win" button in Free Realms, a $5 sword which turned out to be better than any sword you could find in the game, and most importantly much better than any sword I could craft after having painstakingly leveled up mining and smithing. Shortly afterwards I just quit the game, my chosen professions having become worthless and useless.

you have removed the level playing field from the game

What level playing field? Sorry, by no reasonable definition does a MMORPG have a level playing field. A MMORPG resembles a race in which not everybody starts at the same time, and where people run for different amounts of hours per day. The people who come out ahead in these race claim to be the fastest, but in reality they very often just put in more hours.

/wishing for an edit button

Pro tip: Copy the text you wrote onto the clipboard with CTRL-C, delete your comment, paste with CTRL-V into a new comment and then edit.
 
World of Tanks is on a precarious line with their cash shop tanks for me, which is part of the reason I won't play it.

Interesting. I'm not bothered by the cash shop tanks at all, because they are visibly outside the regular tech tree, and not part of the normal progress. What bothers me most in WoT is the cash shop ammo, because there you can really have somebody with an identical tank and identical skill win over you through his wallet. Fortunately the stuff is hellishly expensive.
 
I have played, off and on, Grenado Espada/Sword of the New World for several years. It's a very well designed and pure cash shop game. I've spent about $75 in that time and I'd say that 9/10s have gone for cosmetic items, costumes to be specific.

I have the pet thing that will automatically gather loot. That's about it for advantage items. Some of the costume boxes came with xp advantage items, but I tend to get squirrely about using them--always thinking I'll have a better time to do so. I think I still have all of them.

I've also played on Puzzle Pirates Dubloon servers. Again, these are an excellent model of a cash shop game design. On there, I'd say it's about 50/50 between costume items and improved swords and bludgeons.
 
When dabbling with LoTRO after it went F2P, I never spent any turbine points on useless fluff, let me tell you.
 
I bought the sparkle pony in wow (I know, how sad!) to get the 100 mount achievement. I prefered to cough up the cash than to grind endless heroics in the hopes of a rare mount drop. Never used it. It merely served to check off that achievement. Bute then, my Bartle-type is AEKS.

I think it's ok to give players the option to pay vs grind for non-progress-related items.
 
Happy to spend money on gameplay advantages (RAF) and cosmetic items.

Just give me the choice.
 
I actually have a really strong aversion to paying money for advantages in a game. If I like a free to play game I often want to pay them a little money just for the experience of playing. But when I have to buy in-game advantages with that money, I shy away. There are games I've played that if they had a "give us $5 for no reason" button I would have hit it, but I didn't end up paying them anything because I didn't want to buy the in-game advantages they had for sale.

This isn't really an issue of standing on principle. It's just that I don't want to figure out which advantage has the best reward:dollar ratio, or think about how much I'm actually paying for what I'm getting. I like playing games, I don't like playing the game of buying games. Buying in game advantages kind of foists the buy-the-game game on me, and I refuse to play.
 
Based on my own experience in Lotro, DDO and World of Tanks I am willing to spend money on new content and on stuff that helps me progress in the game.

I have spent in game currency on cosmetic items but to date I have never spent real cash on one.

None of the above games sell an "I win" button but some of my purchases do make the game easier like buying crew training in WoT or buying extra storage in Lotro.
 
Most people accept Einsteins E=MC2 theory of mass energy equivalence as a law of physics. Another great thinker a little further back in history postulated: Time is Money, which is a time money equivalence theory. It stands today as fairly solid theory. But money is a funny topic, almost taboo to a lot of people. People with not enough money envy and curse the rich. The rich flaunt and freely spend it, the really rich hide it as fast as they can. Money causes social stratification in a lot of real world societies, but online is different. Online; how much money you make, what job title you earned, what car you drive doesn't matter so much. A lot of people, me included don't want to have that Rich vs. Poor social ladder creep its way into the online world. With that being said the time equals money equivalence theory still holds some water.

1) No one should be able to get an "iWin" item. That's just silly, whether you pay money or spend time to earn it.

2) Games shouldn't offer MORE powerful items in game for real money that can be earned through spending time in game playing. If Time and Money are equivalent then the rewards should be equal no matter which path you take.

3) Games that exclude people who can't spend 6+ hours per day in-game will have a smaller player-base to draw potential revenue from, no matter what monetary system they operate.

Bottom line is there is no reason to make a game unfair to either the time poor or the money poor. Make it equivalent and more people will be able to enjoy your creation. As a side note the time poor AND money poor are probably not going to be playing your game anyway ;-)

Kooby
 
Seconding Spinksville on this one. I'll happily buy content.. that *stays* bought and that I retain access to without further cost. I've bought things like content passes in Wizard 101 and DDO, as well as a Captain's Badge in Puzzle Pirates.

As for item shop frippery, well... I'm not too fussed either way. I'd probably buy something that actually helps me in some way, but since most of them are shortcuts, I don't really care all that much since I'm not racing. Cosmetic fluff doesn't bother me at all, and I like that it makes money for the devs.

I can see that advantage purchases are a bugaboo for PvP balance concerns, so the game has to walk that line carefully... but since I think PvP in level-and-gear-based games is stupidly imbalanced anyway, I can't get too worked up over item shop stuff.
 
I'm going to have to jump on the content band wagon. I was going to answer that I can see myself buying fluff or anti-grind items. However. when I think back on it the only things I recall buying are content unlocks. In Pox Nora, this was extra decks. In EQ2 this was race and class unlocks.

Apparently, I have yet to see fluff that stands out enough to be a must have. I'm willing to but in time to unlock fluff, but I'm slower to spend money doing so.

By the same token, I have less interest in buying power increases. I guess it comes down if the game is grindy enough that I'd want to skip some grind, I'll switch games before spending money on anti-grind measures.

However, things that give me as a player new and interesting options I'll buy with little hesitation. I'm fine with paying I little extra to get something new to play with. I'm less interesting in overpowering parts of the game with money, having to pay to reduce grind, or paying for things with a purely cosmetic effect.
 
I think what I prefer to spend my money on comes down to a simple evaluation:

Is it fun and/or cool?

So a cool new sword/mount/cloak fits the bill, whether it has any in-game advantage or not (though admittedly I would never buy a purely cosmetic cloak in a game without appearance slots).

I never spend money on stuff like experience potions. They're not fun. They're more like paying an accountant to do your taxes for you. It makes life easier, not more fun.
 
I certainly would not buy fluff. Not a sparkly pony and definitely not a $60 monocle.

As for useful stuff, it depends on whether I *could* acquire the item in game or not and, if not, how much it affects my gameplay.

If I could otherwise acquire the item within the game I might consider buying it from the store.

If the only way to acquire the item was to buy it in the shop and it had a significant effect on gameplay. Then I almost certainly wouldn't play that game*.

Mike.

* I wouldn't apply that to store supplied content (eg LOTRO)
 
I personally don't mind paying for an "advantage", as long as it doesn't become a "necessity".

As a reference, I play WoT and have purchased 30 days of premium time. And also plan to buy a gold tank when I hit Tier 7/8.

@Straw Fellow
As had been stated many times, the gold purchased tanks in WoT are at best, equal in power compared to other tanks of their tier. More often, they are slightly weaker (generally speaking). Their main benefit is to farm credits faster as they have lower maintenance costs. You can't get the best tanks (Tier 9 or 10) via the gold bought tanks. You still have to play and research your way through the game for those. Gold bought tanks in WoT are not parallel in progression to normal tanks.

The WoW equivilant would be to buy a level 80 character with a set-in-stone talent spec. You could never level them past 80, never use any glyphs, nor change your spec.
 
Really not a fan of the Premium Ammo and requiring Premium to group with friends in World of Tanks, the former being the more "offensive" one. Spiral knights basically makes you subscribe to make much progress after the first bit but it is otherwise free and the "energy" can theoretically be earned in game.

Fluff is good, but in-game advantages (that can't be earned by individuals in game) I dislike.
 
yes @spinksville et al, I can not conceive of spending RL$ for rent - something temporary.

As a packrat, i would probably reflexively purchase any inventory assistance.

My initial guess was that non-epeen advantages (inventory, leveling speed bonus) would cause less problems than endowment enhancers like swords. But in the blogosphere, one's RMT position seems to be a fixed religious position.

I always have my two biggest points of confusion.

1) MMOs are quite unfair; if fairness matters that much you probably need to find another genre

2) In PvE: Why would i feel worse if you got full BiS T12, either by spending RL$ to Blizzard or because you are sleeping with the GM of a paragon-level guild? In particular, the bloggers and commenters who frequently denigrate "social" players sure seem to let their self-image be driven by others. Which strikes me as some combination of ironic and hypocritical.

------

I am evolving a theory of RMT being healthy.

1) I think it is bad game design to say "our game is not fun to play but if you endure enough you can have better pixels than your peers." I posit that players would be a lot less interested in mindless grinds if they thought someone else just spent $ to avoid it. Thus, better games.

2) A PvE player who, instead of wanting good gear, wants better than others gear will not want to play RMT games. And the games they don't want to play will be better off for their absence.
 
Trading money for xp boosts or other advantages like skipping rep grids stinks because it completely cheapens the in game achievements. All of a sudden things that use to have to be "earned" can just be bought. Basically that just trivializes the whole game.
 
All of a sudden things that use to have to be "grinded" can just be bought. Nothing wrong with that.
 
Cosmetic only.

In paying for useful items, I get concerned that the game would intentionally engineer-in reasons for wanting them.

Require annoying double/triple click looting - sell a mechanic to make looting easier.

Limit bag-space to a level known to be uncomfortable for most players (OR increase number of vendor-trash drops) - sell more bag space.

Etc.

It sets up a potential conflict of interest IMO.
 
@ Tobold

What bothers me most in WoT is the cash shop ammo, because there you can really have somebody with an identical tank and identical skill win over you through his wallet. Fortunately the stuff is hellishly expensive.

And this is the crux of the RMT debate. In that people who value their time more than their money will pay for these advantages if they are available. So the level playing field aspect becomes just as important as the time versus money aspect.

I could never play a game where there was even a hint that any advantage could be gained with ones wallet, and I find it disturbing that so many gamers could be so readily accepting of this notion.

Now, if WoT would match players in battles with other players who had bought tanks/ammo, then that would help level the playing field and might help put players at ease a bit more, but I dont think that's the case since even you have a problem with the ammo.

I do have an issue with the fact that you try to reduce the significance of the ammo by saying that it's hella expensive...like no one would ever buy it because of that. But then again, those who value their money less than their time will not see it this way..hence the great disjointed logic in all of this.
 
I don't really have strong feelings one way or the other about how games should be. I think it is good that lots of different models are being tried.

I suppose it can be very irksome when the model of a game *changes* over time, though - this is probably to be avoided where possible. But still, developers must try new things sometimes...

Personally, I have never bought fluff except maybe for doubloons in Puzzle Pirates (and that was a really tiny sum in real money terms). I would not rule out ever buying fluff though.

With useful items it varies - I played Project Entropia for a while a few years ago and enjoyed it, but that was during the boom period when you could actually break even - I think it is a lot different now. I liked the challenge of trying to break even.

I play Astral Masters but I have never upgraded to premium cards.

On the whole, I like games where you can be bit of a skinflint and still get by - I don't mind paying a little. But overall, I will probably generate far more revenue as a subscription customer.

These days the online game I play the most is poker. I just had a funny thought - what if a poker site allowed you to pay more and get better cards? Of course the site would instantly collapse (at least if it was known!) because nobody would play poker under such conditions. Poker is probably the most extreme example of a game in which in-game advantages of this kind could not work.
 
The League of Legends cash shop is the ideal RMT system imho. You can pay for fluff, convenience, and minor temporary buffs to earning faster xp and influence points (their secondary currency).

Bear in mind, this game is COMPLETELY FREE TO PLAY if you want to. I can gain zero advantage over you by spending money.

How much have I spent so far? Over $100 on stuff like champion skins, additional rune pages, and some xp/ip boosts so I could play ranked games with my friends quicker.
 
Same as spinks, really. I have bought fluff that looked cool or added to my enjoyment. I've bought XP accelerators and other things that remove some tedious aspect that I dislike. But it's an enormous turn-off to be charged rent; if I buy a horse I want it forever, I don't want to pay $1 a month for it.
 
I will spend money on anything I feel makes the game more enjoyable for me, be it fluff or something that confers some advantage.

I play to have fun and I pay to have fun, whether it's an amusement park, a movie ticket, an mmorpg, a single player RPG, a carnival, sky diving, or whatever.
 
"if I buy a horse I want it forever, I don't want to pay $1 a month for it."

If I buy a game I want it forever, I don't want to pay $15 a month for it.
 
I prefer it best when the item shop allows non-payers to benefit just as much as the payers.

Couple examples of what I mean:
I hit the 1 million gold cap a little while back. I bought a Spectral Tiger mount with that gold in celebration. Only cost me 260k. I would've never paid real money for the tiger mount, so because I could buy it with gold, not only is the payer happy, a non-payer (i.e. me) is happy as well.

I also just started playing Spiral Knights (a 2D MMO Action RPG), which requires the heavy use of cash currency to play. But there's a large amount of that cash currency (called CE) floating around, and you can trade in-game currency (Crowns) for it with other players. If you're pretty skilled at the game, you can farm a lot Crowns with your limited energy each day, and trade those crowns for the CE (which the payers have bought and are willing to trade for crowns). Both payers and non-payers benefit.
 
I'd never buy "decorative fluff"; wait I don't in real life either :))

I don't like the idea of advantage items shops; surely that leads to the people with the most money having the most advantage?

I have bought content (ffxi) they did 3 mini-add-ons of extra missions.
 
I asked
If one would be happy buying an in-game advantage, then why wouldn't one be happy to buy an "I win" button?
And Tobold replied:
Because for many people the purpose of a game is not to win, but to play, to be entertained. I once inadvertedly bought an "I win" button in Free Realms, a $5 sword which turned out to be better than any sword you could find in the game, and most importantly much better than any sword I could craft after having painstakingly leveled up mining and smithing. Shortly afterwards I just quit the game, my chosen professions having become worthless and useless.


But Tobold, that is exactly my point. Being able to buy an "I win" button simply shows how pointless it is playing that particular game. A buyable in-game advantage is just a weaker version of an "I win" button.
 
Being able to buy an "I win" button simply shows how pointless it is playing that particular game. A buyable in-game advantage is just a weaker version of an "I win" button.

You're arguing with the wrong chap here. I have for a long time insisted that the point of a game is being pointless. I don't believe that "achievements" are an achievement, or that being on top of some ranking in a video game makes you a superior human being.

Having said that, I do enjoy advancement in a game as much as the next guy. I just prefer to have alternatives to an advancement based on far too many hours spent in a game. Not everybody has the same amount of available time, and it is nice to be able to speed up your advancement a bit for a small amount of money, knowing that at the same time you are paying the people that made this game you like.

And frankly, in most of the games we are discussing there is no "I win" button for the simple reason that there is no win condition. How do you win WoW? If as you say everybody sets his own goals, then every "win" is a personal one, which can't be compared to the win of another player anyway. So it doesn't really matter whether the player spent only time, or time and money on reaching his goal. If I reach my personal win condition by putting a big bundle of cash on the table, how does that affect your personal win condition at all?
 
I will buy fluff if I like it.

I would never buy a gear/weapon item that would normally be BoP as that would defeat the whole purpose of playing.

I would however pay for items that are BoE (or buy the gold to buy the item with) because gold is incredibly easy to earn such that I view gold as nothing more than digitised time.

That comes down to the old cash rich/time poor versus cash poor/time rich issue.

I am cheating no one by purchasing a BoE with real currency. It is no different to PVE players converting their JP into HP and buying PVP gear. It is merely a conversion from one currency to another. You can spend your time earning a currency of your choice and exchange it for another.

The unemployed/student MMORPG addict converts Time into Gold and converts Gold into BOE’s.

I’d like to convert Time into GBP and convert that into BOE’s.

Doing so would merely be levelling the playing field so that I can compete with the large number of illegal gold buyers on my realm as well as those legal players that are Time rich.

Although given that the Time rich person must also pay rent and eat food one can assume that he is also Cash Rich because he can afford not to work or work very few hours. The other explanation is that he has rich benefactors – parents/taxpayer etc.

He is converting his money or the money of his parents/taxpayer into Time then converting that into Gold and converting that into BOE.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
"And frankly, in most of the games we are discussing there is no "I win" button for the simple reason that there is no win condition. How do you win WoW? If as you say everybody sets his own goals, then every "win" is a personal one, which can't be compared to the win of another player anyway. So it doesn't really matter whether the player spent only time, or time and money on reaching his goal. If I reach my personal win condition by putting a big bundle of cash on the table, how does that affect your personal win condition at all?"

Just so we're clear, Tobold, the above also applies to Free Realms? I get the feeling you don't approve of the cash shop in Free Realms for reasons which don't exactly jibe with what you are saying above. How exactly do you win in Free Realms and if you reached your personal win condition via the big bundle of cash, etc.?
 
Of the games I've played Lotro is the one with a cash shop. I've bought some content (opening up questing areas), some useful stuff (shorter cooldown on the milestone skill which lets you return to a previously set point a la WoW's hearthstone), and a couple of fluff items (the travellers hood comes to mind - it colors so nicely!)

I understand if it sounds silly to others, but I like making different outfits for my Lotro characters (can't wear the same crafting, adventuring and going to the festival), and getting one of my outfit items from the cash shop did not make it look less nice to me. I guess by paying to unlock cosmetic outfit slots I also bought fluff.

The one thing I can't see myself buying in the Lotro shop is the crafting things (ingredient packs) as that would take the fun away from crafting lvling for me.
 
If I buy a game I want it forever, I don't want to pay $15 a month for it.

I know you meant to be sarcastic, even a little bit, but to be honest this is how I choose games now.

I picked up Lotro a while back, lured in by the news of a new expansion being released. All my purchases were either (a)Classes or (b)Content. Mainly things that are account-wide.

I see no point getting things that are useable by only 1 character, limiting replayablity.
 
@Kooby

The Time=money axiom is flawed -- I can give you money, but never give you time. Time has a value, but like all things, that "value" is subjective according to the needs and perceptions of potential buyers.

I could go out and buy a level 85 toon, but the value of simply having it is not the same as the value I put on the time of earning it. So in that case, my time has an infinite price.
 
Just so we're clear, Tobold, the above also applies to Free Realms?

In a game of advancement a developer has to program a number somewhere of how often a player has to perform a task to get an achievement or reward. Let's say you need to kill 1,000 foozles to earn a level. Killing 1,000 foozles takes 20 hours. Now you get player A who plays 20 hours per week, and considers gaining a level per week as an acceptable rate of advancement. Player B plays 2 hours per week, and considers a level per 2 months to be too slow. Now a combination of "rest xp" and item shop xp bonus potions can accelerate player B's rate of advancement to something more acceptable, and that is good.

The item shop could also simply sell a level, but that would be bad. Because player B still wants to play the game, he just doesn't want to have to play it for 2 months to gain a level. That is a bad item shop.

Free Realms, by selling the best sword in game for $5, was such a case of a bad item shop. It didn't accelerate my mining and smithing, it simply made it obsolete. It isn't the effect of the sword on OTHER players which is bad, but the effect of the sword on the player who buys it.
 
"All of a sudden things that use to have to be "grinded" can just be bought. Nothing wrong with that."


I'd argue there is something wrong with it if it means devs deliberately make ultra-punishing grinds to encourage more players to buy their way past with real life cash.

If you assume that there is a gameplay reason to have a moderate amount of grind in a MMO (ie. gives people something to do while they chat, a low impact solo activity for when you don't feel like interacting, etc) then adding a profit motive might drive the gameplay one off kilter.
 
Personally I like the way Blizzard seem to be heading.

A premium service for non-essential parts of the game (Remote Auction House and remote Guild Chat) and the ability to buy non-combat sparkles (Panderan Pet, Twilight Sparkle Pony).

The ability achieve equivalent if not identical actions/items in the game exists and if you only want to pay your monthly subs you are at no disadvantage in PVE or PVP content.

If it were items of pay only armour and weapons or new spells and abilities it would be wrong and would probably be enough for a sizable chunk of the Western player base to unsub (I believe the Korean/Chinese/Taiwanese have a different pay model).

The other option for Blizz is to raise monthly subs if they want a cash injection. People willing and able to pay for these services and items are ultimately keeping the cost of the monthly subs down for all of us without negativelty impacting our in-game experience so no harm done.
 
And the effect of the sword on someone who doesn't craft? Because if you tell me the sword made leveling up too easy, I'm going to have to call shenanigans as someone who leveled several adventuring classes to max in FR. Never felt the need buy any gear for RL money and leveling was easy enough as it was. But it's to be expected for the target audience they were looking for.

Regardless, I also maxed out my Miner and Blacksmith professions in FR. That there was a sword available that invalidated my efforts in the cash shop wouldn't ever have deterred me in the least. I usually take up crafting just because it is another sort of XP bar to fill rather than the possible items I can gear myself with.
 
I'd argue there is something wrong with it if it means devs deliberately make ultra-punishing grinds to encourage more players to buy their way past with real life cash.

I'd argue that this is just hypothetical, and wouldn't work in reality.

Apparently Asian players have a much higher acceptance of grind, so translated Asian MMORPGs are usually rather grindy. And the consequence is that US/EU players simply refuse to play these games, whether they have means to accelerate progress with cash or not.

The around 95% of players not paying anything in a Free2Play game aren't optional. If you try to force more people to pay, you always end up with less people playing instead of more people paying.

There are quite a lot of games I'm willing to pay for, but I certainly also had games which were so in-your-face "pay or lose" that I quickly dropped them without paying anything. You can't really extort players, because they can always go elsewhere.
 
@Chris K

If I buy a game I want it forever, I don't want to pay $15 a month for it.

I know you meant to be sarcastic, even a little bit, but to be honest this is how I choose games now.


Actually, I should have been clearer. I keep forgetting that my full meaning isn't always clear from a quick quip that doesn't take into account my history of hating subscriptions.

I am very, very serious about what I wrote there. It wasn't meant sarcastically at all. If I buy a game, I do not want to keep paying for it. I'll buy expansions of content, sure, but subscriptions irritate me immensely.
 
@tesh (and others with similar thoughts)

How would you recommend developers pay for maintaining the game (paying for admins/GMs/support, bandwidth, hardware/software upgrades, etc) without a subscription? Typically the box cost of the game is meant to only cover initial costs (developer time advertising, etc).
 
Then what exactly is that subscription money doing? Penny by penny? Without numbers from Blizz, we're only assuming things.

And in the meantime, F2P games march on, with nary a bleat about upkeep costs.
 
Actually, they do have quarterly reports you could view for yourself.

http://investor.activision.com/results.cfm

Sure, it's not exacting, but you can easily get an idea on where the money is going.

F2P server architecture usually uses P2P to offload server load onto the users, so they don't have to pay a dime for that. But that results in pretty shoddy gameplay when you get more and more players (or simply a lagging host).

Not to mention, F2P companies aren't exactly known for their quality.
 
I prefer fluff or fun items. Buying advantages can ruin many games (like buying a super powerful weapon).

Instead I'd rather be able to customize my character. I'd also rather play games with the same things.

I'd also buy adventure packs. But I'd probably be more careful with those and let others try first.
 
A great look from the other side on the issue of Pay to Win:

http://www.slideshare.net/bcousins/paying-to-win
 
Good evening Tobold and guests,

First off to answer your question, I would by neither. I wouldn't care much on how my avatar looked as much as how it performed. I make it a point not to play games that offer buyable items that change gameplay.

My reasoning is that the level of elitism in these mmorpg creates a separation between the haves and the have-nots. Much like the real world.

My most precious currency is time, and that seems to be the factor that most games are competing for. Your time is their money, the more you play then the more they make off of monthly subs or in the item malls.

Item mall games have always turned me off that the mechanics are built around creating a situation that makes the player want to buy something. To me, that hurts the gameplay and immersion value of the game. I don't want a game scratching at my pockets every step of the way.

Its bad enough that they scratch it them once a month or whenever the company decides to charge for an expansion.

The reason I am here is because I am troubled over the situation going on over at EVE Online. I recently unsubbed post-Incarna to show my solidarity.

But reading deeply into that newsletter has opened my eyes to a much larger picture; it's not very pretty.

I come here on a search for guidance, maturity, an intelligent point of view and maybe some sanity.

Thanks for reading this T,

Inktomi
 
Tobold asked me

If I reach my personal win condition by putting a big bundle of cash on the table, how does that affect your personal win condition at all?

It doesn't, and I didn't claim that it did (which is why I used the impersonal pronoun "one"). I'd rather answer this with a quote from none other than Tobold:

It isn't the effect of the sword on OTHER players which is bad, but the effect of the sword on the player who buys it.

So it seems we're in complete agreement. An "I Win" button simply spoils the game for the player who buys it. A buyable in-game advantage is just a weaker version of an "I win" button.
 
A buyable in-game advantage is just a weaker version of an "I win" button.

No, it isn't. There is a huge difference of whether there is an option to reduce a 100-hour grind by half, or whether I can buy the same reward I'd get for that grind directly from the item shop. The former just adjusts the time requirement of a game, the latter makes the game completely obsolete.
 
Or, to put it another way, the latter makes the game completely obsolete, the former makes half the game completely obsolete.

In other words, if buying this reward and saving 100 hours of in-game activity is the "I Win" button in this case and makes the game obsolete, then reducing that in-game activity in half simply means that one reaches ones "win" condition in 50 hours instead of 100, at which point (since one has by then reached the same stage as one would have done by buying the reward) the game is now obsolete.

So by paying extra money, you have reduced the value of this particular game from 100 hours to 50 hours.
 
Only if the only reason you are playing the game is to satisfy personal win conditions.
 
That is not correct.

You don't get twice the value out of a game if you repeat the same activity twice as long. Not only are there obviously diminishing returns even from fun activities. But after a certain time the repetition becomes a grind, and the other 50 hours actually have negative value.

Why do you think somebody would pay to skip part of a game if that part was actually any fun?
 
Tobold, I agree that the second 50 hours may be boring, so let's assume that after the first 50 hours, the player has completed all the fun activities and now has a choice:

1. Carry on with the 50 hours of boring activities in order to reach the reward that you say "makes the game completely obsolete".

2. Buy the in-game advantage that you say removes the necessity of doing the 50 hours of boring activities. On doing this you will have completed the grind that you say awards you the reward that makes the game completely obsolete.

3. Stop playing.

It's clear that option 2 (buying an option to remove the grind), after you have spent the first 50 hours having fun, is identical to the "I win" button, the reward that "makes the game completely obsolete". In fact, if the first 50 hours were fun, you could have bought the "I win" reward, and then carried on and done the first 50 hours just for the fun of it.

So in this case, the option to reduce the grind is just a short-cut to the "I win" reward, only you still have to do the first 50 fun hours. In other words, it's a weaker version of the "I win" button that makes the game completely obsolete.

The logical solution is option 3, though it is not the emotionally satisfying solution, because you didn't reach your personal win criterion (the reward that makes the game completely obsolete); but either way the game is over; either immediately (options 2 and 3) or after investing 50 hours of boredom (option 1).
 
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