Get the latest Education e-news
 

Go Back   Game Career Guide Forums > Design
Forum Home Register Members List Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-16-2010, 01:09 PM   #11
bob
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 14/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss297
Location: Washington, DC
Default

Retro,

Sure thing ; ).

Graedius,

This company is doing a limited time deal during which 100% of the profit from some limited-edition items goes to a charity to fight hunger. It's pretty awesome. Retro, though they won't be making any money off of them, I'm sure they're hoping people who haven't made a micro-transaction will take the bait, then make more in the future. Not that a company trying to make profits is a bad thing.

http://www.freetoplay.org/
bob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2010, 02:10 PM   #12
Retro
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 17/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss253
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob View Post
Not that a company trying to make profits is a bad thing.
Of course not, and I'm not so naive as to believe companies shouldn't try to make profits. That's what a company is; a unit for turning investor capitol into profits via goods and services. But the way in which a company behaves can still be questionable. Dumping a ton of toxic waste into the river may be cheaper than responsibly disposing of it, but that doesn't make it right. I'm not saying 'making games that are nothing but schemes to rake in money' is equal or even within the realm of 'dumping toxic waste' (although... never mind, that joke is too easy ).

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is when you integrate profit-making into the design process at a fundamental level, intentionally making parts of the game limited or unbalanced without the player paying, you're compromising the entire experience. With F2P, it seems that the experience/fun is nothing more than a way to seduce players into paying out the nose.

I feel that games should be tuned towards fairness and equality, something F2P games as a whole seem to shun... unless the pay items are cosmetic in nature, of course, but that hardly seems original.

Whatever it is, it will have to involve Horizontal growth, if growth is even present. I think I'd rather sit this one out than adapt F2P mechanics to a system using vertical growth.
__________________
- Will Armstrong IV -
( Level 1 Game Designer )
Game Design Challenges: Winning Entries

Last edited by Retro : 01-16-2010 at 02:26 PM.
Retro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2010, 02:29 PM   #13
Graedius
Junior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 14/20
Today Posts
0/11 sssssss13
Default

It's great that we've got a fired-up discussion about this! This challenge is gonna bring out the best (and worst) in each and every one of us, and will tell us more about ourselves.

Retro,

I understand what you meant in your previous posts. It's hard to justify the topic of free-to-play in a charitable context, however I'm trying to aim for a win-win situation for both the consumers and the company that made the game. Unless if it's indie, companies will still try to make a buck out of a free-to-play game since they're running a corporate business. It can't be avoided. What I'd like to propose is to put it in such a way as to water down the evils of the cash shop by way of giving a bit of reprieve for the players when they purchase items.

As for the MMO peer pressure, I've felt that too a number of times. It's a vicious cycle, being forced to match another person's purchase just to outrank him, and I despise this kind of business model since it basically drives one to a form of pseudo-spending obsession (guilty). However, there are ways to try and approach the cash shop dilemma, such as presenting items for sale that are not stats-centric, rather they could be more fashion-based or ambiance-focused (new clothes, swag for your avatar).

Another thing I've considered for my design is this possibility: what if each purchase the players make contribute not only to charity but to the welfare of the entire game? This could also benefit the entire community, including those that are just playing for fun. For example, if I was going to propose an Animal Crossing type MMO, each seedling purchase made by the player gives 10% to charity. Once he plants that seedling, it will grow into a tree that will improve the environment around it, giving other players additional bonuses for their stats. Heck, players can even purchase fertilizer to make the tree stronger, allowing them to gain more attribute bonuses the bigger it is.

These are rough ideas, and I will try my best to shape them up, but I guess I can't make a completely ethical free-to-play game. Companies still need money, and players will still have to pay in some way. What I want to aim for, though, is a more justified reason for purchasing, and something that will completely eliminate peer pressure and will encourage fairness and equality. There is a way to do this... I just need to think hard about it.

Thanks, and I hope you will join this challenge. I can tell that you can and will make a good game that will support your ideals, and I am excited to see it come into being.

Last edited by Graedius : 01-16-2010 at 02:31 PM.
Graedius is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2010, 08:22 PM   #14
Retro
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 17/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss253
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Graedius View Post
It's great that we've got a fired-up discussion about this! This challenge is gonna bring out the best (and worst) in each and every one of us, and will tell us more about ourselves.
We're hardly the first to have a serious discussion on the nature of profit-driven design, and I'm sure we won't be the last. That said, it's interesting really looking at my own views and trying to see why I hold these opinions and if it's wrong to do so. After all, game development is a business, and businesses are out to make money. So why do I feel like we should aspire to something greater, something that can merit 'admiration and respect'?

I guess I look at other forms of media, especially film, and know that despite dozens of trashy flicks every year there are still a few that can inspire deeper emotions than 'wow, look at that blow up'. In the game development future as Zhan Ye seems to want it, everything will be cheaply produced 'popcorn games', carefully calculated to draw in the largest possible audience in order to maximize profit while the actual human value of the work is measured only in how long you can get people to stay hooked.

And yeah, you want people to buy your game, but you also want them to take something away from it. The F2P approach seems to want players to just keep mindlessly forking over money... sure, it's a business, but it can be more than that if we don't get caught up in profits generated or units shipped. The article I linked to earlier concerning Chris Hecker's Keynote address really hit home for me, coincidentally just before this challenge got started. If we don't stop looking for ways to screw gamers, games will end up like Comic Books (or worse).

My brother was an avid collector for a while, so I saw a lot of what contributed to the slide as it was happening. Everyone remember when it was popular to kill off famous characters? Remember how everybody bought a dozen copies because they'd become collectors items? How publishers would release foil-stamped, variant covers or any of a dozen other stunts to maximize profits? Rather than try to expand their audience by trying something other than male power-fantasy wish fulfillment, comics took on a profit-first approach, and now they're treated with a great deal of disdain, as a 'nerd sub-culture'. Sure, you can go see a Spiderman movie, but how many people are out there buying the books?

I dunno, this post is already a bit rant-like, but I just feel like designing games with a gouging-by-design approach will inevitably lead us down a road where... well, I dunno where it will lead, honestly. But my personal opinion is, we won't like it.

I'll probably post more later tonight or early tomorrow, I have a few ideas brewing but I really want to run them against my own internal compass. I already know how easy it would be to sit down and design a 'game' that squeezes as much money as possible out of a player... they've been making them for years. They're called Slot Machines (yes, I am aware slot machines are not F2P, I'm making a point on how easy it already is to separate people from their money under the guise of entertainment.)

That last thought conjures to mind an interesting read that you guys might find interesting. I've linked to it before on my not-a-blog (blogs get updated, mine does not, therefore... you get my drift), but it's worth a read.

Buzzcut.com - The MMORPG motivation?
__________________
- Will Armstrong IV -
( Level 1 Game Designer )
Game Design Challenges: Winning Entries

Last edited by Retro : 01-16-2010 at 10:06 PM.
Retro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-16-2010, 10:48 PM   #15
Retro
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 17/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss253
Default

Apologies for the double post.

So I'm thinking of ways in which a F2P system could be built that doesn't allow paying customers to have an advantage over nonpaying players. As I've mentioned previously, growth has to be horizontal in order to maintain fairness (yes, I am going to actively ignore Zhan Ye's advice).

Growth is usually a strong enough incentive to gain new players ("I want to be level 10!") and retain current players ("I'm level 10, I don't want to lose all that work"), but a strictly vertical scale will automatically tip balance towards veteran players, who are likely to also be paying customers.

Vertical scale + paid advantages = heavy skewing of balance.

A skill-based system is much more likely to work in our favor; a player who just started can obtain a skill that is useful to older players who don't have that skill, or against specific targets who are weak against said skill.

Concept: Massive Multiplayer Online Real-time Strategy
I've had an idea floating around for a while of an MMO-Real Time Strategy hybrid, but one with a substantial twist. Every player has a set number of points with which to build their traditional RTS army, but can choose to spend those points on several low-value units, a few high-value units, or a mix of any in-between. Each player's pool is kept intentionally low, so instead of having a huge army to control, each player is responsible for ~20 small units at the most. Players group up and work together, forming the traditional sized RTS Army by working together.

Player A may build lots of small, cheap units; fodder normally, but very valuable in specific situations. Player B may build one big unit (let's say a tank), but because he's invested all of his points in a big unit, he doesn't have any little guys to defend him. Player A and Player B's strategy is to work together, playing off each others' strengths and compensating for each others' weaknesses.

The F2P element comes in by determining how many 'sets' you can build. Player B may have his big 20 point tank, but because he's paid for an extra 'set', he can also have a completely different build, maybe two 10 point Jeeps for when the tank isn't useful. He won't have to restart his game or sacrifice his progress to change up his gameplay or grouping options.

Granted, that's a convenience and quality of play thing, but if 'progress' in this case has something to it, then it can become more.

MMORTS Concept: Vampires vs. Humans
The actual MMO-RTS concept I've been poking at is one that involves two opposing factions; Humans and Vampires (no Twilight comments, please... they're ruining vampires forever). There's a lot of interesting mechanics built into the mythology that would suit our needs... and by mythology I mean "material written before the '80s."

One idea is land ownership. Both factions need it to maintain a sanctuary (vampires during the day, humans during the night). Non-payers can obtain land, but only a single plot or two at a time. Paying customers can purchase larger tracts of land, but doing so draws attention (calling to mind the humans' methods of tracking Dracula's lair down in Bram Stoker's novel).

In other words, a great way to maintain balance in a F2P environment is to have every sword double-edged; every advantage carries some disadvantage. In this case, having lots of room to decentralize your activities, flee to in times of trouble, or expand on also means you draw more attention to yourself, have more land to monitor, etc. You may be out in the middle of the Carpathians and decide to log out in a little cabin you purchased to keep suspicious items hidden, only to find out the next time you log in that a Vampire set up shop inside and has turned you. It's your fault for having too much land to control.

Another concept is actually a social element; players aren't prohibited from speaking with players of the enemy faction, and lots of interplay between the two would be possible. Vampires are often depicted as ensnaring humans to do their bidding, while humans are sometimes depicted as using vampires to further their own ends.

A player who is manipulating the factions will inevitably draw attention to himself, but paying members might have a way to circumvent this. For example, dealing with a vampire might leave a taint that is only detectable by other humans; paying a corrupted priest to clear this evil presence might be an option, or bribing an official to hand over incriminating communique (in-game messages). Players would be able to avoid the pay options simply by not dabbling in this social manipulation as much.

Using the concept of incriminating communique, maybe every message you send has a 20-day timer on it; you can't destroy the messages, but you can hide them until they expire. Other players, suspicious of your activities (maybe their land was taken by a vampire just before you conveniently purified and purchased it), might enter your land and find this evidence. The game would have a mechanic built into it where evidence such as this could be used to call a witch trial, of sorts. Whether you paid to hide the evidence or not, it can still be used against you and your character might end up dead (and then, of course, undead).

My approach at this point is to ensure the pay options cannot affect the core gameplay mechanics in any way, but instead allow for extraneous features within the game environment to become more pronounced. In the example above, social interaction between factions is not required and doesn't change gameplay, but allows players to work with each other in new ways to their advantage. A non-paying member can participate on the same level as a paying member, but doing so might carry more risk. Drawing the double edge sword, frequent collaboration with the enemy faction will inevitably cost a great deal of real money, and anyone who's really sniffing around should still be able to find evidence (for example, that you have a quiet little cabin in the mountains where you keep your secrets).

I've got a long list of general concepts for this little project, I'll have to look over it and see what I'd like to do with it. I can honestly say that this is one challenge I'm not sure I want to adapt for use; implementing F2P design features might limit what is otherwise a nice idea.

More to follow if I decide to follow this venue. Sorry again for the double post.
__________________
- Will Armstrong IV -
( Level 1 Game Designer )
Game Design Challenges: Winning Entries

Last edited by Retro : 01-16-2010 at 11:33 PM.
Retro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2010, 08:13 AM   #16
bob
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 14/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss297
Location: Washington, DC
Default

Retro,

I think you're making an error when you try to create a game that is balanced towards non-paying customers. If people didn't pay for the game and they aren't using a subscription-based model, the company has to get the money to keep making games somehow. There has to be enough people buying the content to make up for development costs. Unless the minority that opts for the extra content makes up for this, then your game is going to be a failure. You said yourself that the game Ikariama (sp) was balanced for everyone, but probably made little profit, whereas Exteel, which was really made for people willing to pay, might be doing well. If you're giving a game away for free, you need people to pay for something. Lastly, realize that there are ways to make the game for people who will pay that aren't exploitative.

I'm trying to come up with design concepts that unabashedly favor the people that pay and give them more rewarding experiences, but doesn't actively punish people who don't pay. If your game isn't marketed towards the cheap hardcore mmo players who surf the interwebs looking for the next free game, but instead tap into normal people who drop 20 - 60 bucks a game, there shouldn't be any problem finding people willing to pay as long as it's a fair deal.

I've been thinking about having a mod marketplace for some kind of adventure game, and lo and behold I just discovered that Starcraft 2 is going to have one.

Finally, the vampires/human game sounds like a lot of fun.
bob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2010, 09:26 AM   #17
Retro
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 17/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss253
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob View Post
I think you're making an error when you try to create a game that is balanced towards non-paying customers. If people didn't pay for the game and they aren't using a subscription-based model, the company has to get the money to keep making games somehow.
Right, but on the other hand if free players are getting stomped the instant they start playing, then they won't stick around long enough to become paying customers or to populate the game world.

It sounds a bit malicious, but one idea I'm pondering is actually the abuse and theft of paying customers' special currency. For example, the in-game economy could be based on trading resources; a blacksmith might as you to bring him iron, for example. There's no form of in-game currency other than what paying customers get when they pay with real cash.

A player who is paying in coin rather than resources will attract attention to himself. If he doesn't take steps to ensure his own safety, other players can take it from him. For example, a player who has just dropped $10 of real money to earn 1000 in-game coins can wander outside of town, head off on his grand adventure, and end up robbed by other players. Obviously systems would be built in (A bank that cannot be stolen from, for example), and disclaimers posted, but the general idea is that wealth in-game does not automatically ensure success. It's the double edged sword I spoke of earlier; you can buy your way into the game, but you'll also draw the attention of other players.

Essentially, the game wouldn't have much law in place; players can beat and abuse each other as much as they want, form alliances with the opposite faction or just hang around other players' buildings to steal from them as soon as they leave. Kind of a throwback to Ultima Online, in a way.

Dunno. Still thinking. I'm pretty sure I'm being too vindictive against paying customers though .
__________________
- Will Armstrong IV -
( Level 1 Game Designer )
Game Design Challenges: Winning Entries

Last edited by Retro : 01-17-2010 at 09:28 AM.
Retro is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2010, 10:48 AM   #18
Pirates0nFire
Junior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 13/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssssss8
Default

I really like this challenge. I hope to devote some time and thought into a submission.

Just wondering, was any one else tricked into playing the free-to-play game Evony with promises of cleavage?
Pirates0nFire is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2010, 01:32 PM   #19
bob
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 14/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss297
Location: Washington, DC
Default

Retro,

My point was that having a game that is completely acceptable for the majority of players without putting any money into probably won't make much money, like Ikariam. It sounds like this is what you want to do - I could be wrong.

I think the idea of having real money in the game could be very exciting. I'm sure if you come up with a clever way to keep it balanced, it would be quite entertaining.

The idea that players need to play a long time before they are going to spend money sounds like an assumption carried over from the MMO genre where what they sell is mostly convenience. If it was a game that people came into expecting to pay money, then you wouldn't need to have an uber-balanced free version because they would upgrade to the pay-content relatively quickly. I'm thinking of the free version being a sort of demo or trial that allows you to get a feel for the game so you can decide if you want to start investing money in it.
bob is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-17-2010, 01:34 PM   #20
bob
Senior Member

Activity Longevity
0/20 14/20
Today Posts
0/11 ssssss297
Location: Washington, DC
Default

Pirates,
I've seen ads for it, but none with cleavage.
bob is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.9
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:30 AM.






UBM Tech