What It All Comes Down To Is That Everything’s Gonna Be Fine Fine Fine

Lalafell

La-la-la-lalafell! Hugs!

I think I’m on a roll on this whole positive outlook-thing. Despite my last post about MMO companies and their relationship to betas (it was not only directed at Square Enix), the MMO genre is still a source of happiness and pleasure. I’m doing great in Star Wars Galaxies, I’m giving Final Fantasy XIV a try and I recently resubbed to Lord of the Rings Online to be ready when the F2P version goes live in a matter of weeks.

It became a bit more obvious to me today, when I read Rankvile’s blog entry about Final Fantasy XIV. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got a lot of things right. The UI is horrible, the menus convoluted, the patcher a nightmare, the quest system non-intuitive at best. I’ll repeat what Pete said about it – Final Fantasy XIV won’t be for everyone. But when Rankvile writes that it’s an “advancement of sorts for it’s own predecessor, Final Fantasy XI” (compared to an advancement of the MMO genre in general), I feel happy. Because that’s exactly what I want from it. Final Fantasy XI fascinated me, but I burned out on forced grouping. I mostly solo in MMOs, and would love a FF-MMO where I didn’t have to group up only because I want to level.

That’s not to say that I’m sure I will play Final Fantasy XIV for a very long time after launch, the game does have its issues. But I am not cancelling my preorder yet.

Ewok Love Familar

Seriously, I want one on my ship in SW:TOR. They are cuddly!

The second time it struck me today was when I read Heartless’ post about the latest Star Wars: The Old Republic-video released by Bioware. Heartless (man, he’s grumpy these days) thinks the combat looks terrible in TOR, with a traditional “trash pull”-mechanic. It has looked that way for a long time, there doesn’t seem to be anything truly innovative about combat in TOR. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much innovation in the game at all. The “epic storyline” and the fully voiced cast might be cool, but in general it’s looking to be a classic MMO. Levels, trash pulls, dungeons, etc. And you know what? You probably guessed it – that’s exactly what I want from it.

I want to play a MMO set in one of the coolest time periods of the Star Wars mythology. I don’t care about innovative combat mechanics or the storyline. I just want to play a MMO where I can team up with my friends and go explore the world of the Old Republic. I don’t even care about the fact that TOR’s space missions are on rails anymore. That minor disappointment eroded as soon as I remembered that I have the space-system I need in SWG anyway.

It’ll be alright. Because I got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is swinging a lightsaber. And I look good doing it.

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A Letter To All MMO Developers Out There

Of course, this post has nothing to do with Final Fantasy XIV's open beta. Of course.

To whom it may concern.

Dear MMO-designers, companies, economists, marketers, PR-agents and all you others involved in the development and launching of a new MMO.

We love you, we really do. Many of us jump between many different games, read up on news and theories and all MMO-related things that we can get our hands on. Hey, some of us even blog about you or go chasing you down with a camera man in tow whenever we get a chance. For some of us, the thought of not having an active MMO sub at any given time feels odd. We’ve seen countless games go into beta, many more launch and even some crash and burn.

But there are a couple of things that you never seem to learn, one lesson that you really need to finally wrap your head around. While not everyone will stick around and play your game for very long, while a lot of people will return to World of Warcraft or Everquest 2 or wherever they originally came from after a while, there seem to be a huge hunger for new games in the genre. Some games develop a huge following long before launch, fansites start to pop up in a matter of days after a simple announcement. And every time the word “beta” is mentioned, a lot of people will jump.

You guys need to be better to anticipate the amount of people that will come storming your servers by the time you go into open beta. You need to be prepared, you need gauge your own hype. Take a look at your balance sheet, see that terribly big number next to “launch day expenses”? Copy it and put it next to “open beta launch” too. If you don’t do that, how about just skipping open beta in the first place? You got your closed beta feedback, use that instead. Use other ways to stress test your servers before launch, if that’s what you want the beta for. If you’re a small company with limited funds, that might be the best way to do it. If you’re a large corporation, the first option is probably the better.

Ok, I lied. It does have to do with Final Fantasy XIV's open beta.

Also, and this has been said so many times now, at some point “open beta” became synonymous with “free trial” for many. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it happened. I’m not sure who to blame, the companies or the players. It doesn’t really matter, it’s the way it is. Unless your beta product is very, very polished your game will probably suffer because of it. People decide if they are going to pick up your game on launch day or not from the quality of your open beta. There are different ways to handle this, and placing your open beta really close to launch is a gamble – it gives you more time to prepare, but if players feel that the game isn’t ready for launch things might get messy anyway.

I just thought you should be told, again. The strategy that all of you seem to be using these days is pretty flawed. You need to learn to humble yourself a bit, to plan better, and be prepared for the storm that will hit your servers. Trust me, it will come.

Yours truly,

Petter

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Warhammer 40K, Space Marines and that Blizzard game

One of the things that came out of Gamescom this year was someone from the THQ brass saying that Space Marines in Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millenium Online would be some form of unlockable hero class. That always confused me, since Vigil Games made it quite clear to me that Space Marine was the first class they had decided to reveal. Sadly, we had to prioritize when it came to what material we would start to edit – we came home with 50-60 interviews done – and while I placed Dark Millennium Online high up on that list, it would still take until today to finally see it online.

We also deal with the “Dark Millennium Online is a lot like WoW!”-comments that popped up a while back, with a bit of insight into how the game is going to be played. A shooter MMO with iconic Warhammer 40K classes and vehicles sounds great to me and I can’t wait to hear more. Still waiting for that set date!

A big thanks to David Adams for talking to us and for taking all my questions and silliness in good stride and with a smile.

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All You Need Is Love

I love World of Warcraft! Or no, not really. But I used to!

I’m glad that people took time to read and react to my post on the WoW-clones. I was a bit afraid posting it, since I had already been accused of trying to rile up the masses. That’s not what I meant to do at all, instead I guess that accusation just goes to show how little humor and how little love is in the MMO-sphere right now. So bah, screw the hate – let’s get some loving going instead.

I might be frustrated over stuff in my life and blah blah blah but I want to give some extra love to the MMO scene. After all, the genre is doing great, we got more games than we can shake a level 60 Benediction at (if you don’t get the reference you’re obviously a nub, nub), and I am a level 90 Jedi. Hell yeah. Subs are not dead, not all F2P devs want to eat your first born children’s allowance and more games should have funky Maple Story hats. Dude, those hats are funk-ey!

Also, not all MMO-studios are evil masterminds bent on your destruction so they can pick up whatever spare change you leave behind when you implode. No, no, no – I’m serious! They are not. They are not trying to overly copy World of Warcraft in any way they can, since down that route lies disaster and ruin. There might be certain trends going in the genre and we don’t always like those trends, but you know what? Trends change. And luckily for us, there is a crapload of games available at all times. Some of them might have shut down, but usually that’s because they weren’t economically viable – either because they were crap, or they tried so hard to go against the trends that no one wanted to play them. Or a combination of the two.

One day we will be able to say “remember that time when all third person shooters were all brown” and we’ll laugh and laugh and still remember what a great time we actually had with Gears of War despite its overly…brownness. Remember that only a few years back we were prone to saying “oh, no, not another fantasy MMO” and it felt like CCP was the only studio that would ever release a space-MMO?

This game is going to be the greatest MMO ever created! I've been to the future!

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be critical. We should always be critical, we should shun hype, we should at least try to not jump to conclusions long before a game has been released. Or, wait. You know what? Screw that. Unless you’re a games journalist, or a journalist, or a human being that try to at least maintain a standard of rationality…go ahead, get all hyped up. It’s great that you’re excited! Be excited! Or vice versa – be bitter and angry and whatever you want to be. It’s ok. I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to listen to you and luckily, you don’t have to listen to me either.

Pete asked on Twitter today who had been disappointed in the news that Cryptic is working on Neverwinter Nights. You know what? I am disappointed that Cryptic is working on Neverwinter Nights. I didn’t like Champions Online, I don’t like Star Trek Online. I’d rather have a huge, persistent world based on the Forgotten Realms-franchise. But I’m not going to go completely nuts over it, troll my way across the Internet and then spend the rest of my evening throwing sharp objects at my Jack Emmert-poster (that I don’t have, but have you seen his hair? It’s certainly poster friendly).

Here’s my promise. I will keep being vigilant and critical. I will raise eyebrows when eyebrows need to be raised. But if I start getting totally bitter at the MMO genre, if I fall into the trap of spreading more hate around me than appreciation…then I’ll stop writing. I’ll even stop playing MMOs.

Update! I am so sorry, I totally forgot to add a picture of a funky hat. Man, I wish my level 90 Jedi could wear one of those. She can’t though, since she’s a Twi’lek. A level 90 Imperial Dark Side Jedi Twi’lek. Now that’s riling up the masses.

Check that hat out!

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Searching For The World of Warcraft-Clone

We shall rule the galaxy like father and clone!

In 2004, World of Warcraft was released and changed the face of the MMO-genre as we knew it. Millions of people flocked to the game, driven by Blizzard’s brand and reputation and the now almost legendary streamlining of the genre. At the same time, some critics say, the genre changed for the worse and the “virtual world” became a thing of the past. World of Warcraft was easy, too easy, and by now everybody want a piece of the cake that they set the table for.

From that criticism comes the term “WoW-clone”, a term that describes a game as nothing except a lazy copy of the WoW-formula. Just like the idea of the “WoW-tourist”, a WoW-clone is a derogatory term that has been used against more or less every MMO released since. While World of Warcraft itself copied shamelessly from games that came before it, like Everquest and the DIKU muds that EQ itself took its foundation from, but it is the streamlining and the sudden ease of play that is important here.

It’s an interesting term. Perhaps it is because I’ve taken one of the most hated MMOs to heart that I’ve started to see things differently. For a long time, I had the same ideas – that MMOs were killing my interest in them by too much streamlining – but lately I’ve tried to take what I think is a look at the bigger picture. Is WoW actually killing innovation in our genre? Do developers constantly play it safe?

To find out, I’ve decided to compile a list of some of the most important MMOs that has been released since World of Warcraft was released, including events that happened as a reaction to its sudden popularity (the SWG CU/NGE). Will such a list point towards the end of the virtual world that certain critics seem to believe is happening?

I’m not a fan of the direction Blizzard took the game after Wrath of the Lich King, don’t get me wrong. If there’s one MMO right now that I have no interest in playing, it’s World of Warcraft. I will return in Cataclysm, there’s no use denying that, but I feel that the game as it stands right now does not cater to my tastes at all.

Despite this, the list and my take on these various games will be tainted by a pretty positive outlook. It is not objective. It’s as much an examination for my own sake’s, as for anyone that actually bother to read it through. Also, even if an innovation “failed”, I will try to bring it up – after all, ideas can be a lot better in theory before thousands of real players are released on them.

So, without further ado…behind the cut are the games (in no particular order):

Read more

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Is That An Elite Harvester Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Tugg Back in Bestine

Tugg Back, being confused in Bestine. Look, a dancing Stormtrooper!

Earlier today on Twitter, some people seemed to react when I mentioned that I planned to do some AFK-mining with my trader in Star Wars Galaxies. I can understand that, doing things AFK are almost the same as botting in other titles. I thought I’d return to the culture of AFK that is present in SWG in a later post, but inspired by Stargrace’s writings on Vanguard, I thought I’d take a look at crafting in Star Wars Galaxies.

Crafting in Vanguard is awesome. Crafting in Star Wars Galaxies is a science, at least for newbies like me. Poking around in it can be pretty fun, but if you’re going to try to make any credits out of it you’re in for a ride. Something I noticed when I decided to take my poor trader out of early retirement a few weeks ago. He went from simply pulling up worthless materials for easy credits to trying to wrap his poor Ithorian head about the finer details of weapon crafting…

Bear with me, because this might get a bit long.

Tugg Back, my budding crafter, was luckily already level 90. I grinded him to cap through the usual means – going for a structure trader, picking up a grind kit of materials and making statues until my eyes bled. It was horrible, took about three hours of insanity, and I don’t ever want to do it again. Sadly, a trader beneath level 90 is more or less worthless to the current community, seeing how old it is, so it was pretty much needed.

Re-speccing him to a munitions trader, putting my expertise points into weapon smithing (our guild city already has an awesome armor shop), I took a look at what I could put together. From the list of weapons I picked the Advanced Laser Rifle. It sounded basic enough, and “advanced” sounded better than the normal laser rifle. For it, I would need a frame, a receiver, a grip, a barrel, a core and an optional scope, stock and elemental chamber. Reasonable enough.

Then I started to take a look at what materials I would need, and that’s kind of where I am right now. In a state of miserable shock, trying to figure out if this project is worth the effort or not. For the frame, receiver and grip I will need some rather easy stuff – link-steel aluminium, non-ferrous metal and polymer. But the full list of stuff I will need to gather is a bit longer…

Rhodium Steel
Duralloy Steel
Duranium Steel
Ryll Amorphous Gemstone
Polysteel Copper
Carbonite Steel
Crystalline Gemstone
Inert Petro Chemical
Reactive Gas
Chromium Aluminium
Green Diamond Crystalline Gemstone
Corellian Deciduous Wood
Varium Carbonite Ore
Phrik Aluminium
Tolium Reactive Gas

This will get me an Advanced Laser Rifle with an acid elemental chamber. Sweet! Just go out and mine the stuff, right? Run up to a Reactive Gas-node and get the good old mining pick out? Oh, no. I’m just getting started.

Tugg Back and harvester

Tugg Back placing an elite harvester... in a swamp!

You see, there is Rhodium Steel and there is Rhodium Steel. Materials in Star Wars Galaxies have stats. A freaking ton of stats. All of them don’t come into play when you’re going to craft something, for most of my stuff I just need to keep my eye on Overall Quality (OQ) and Shock Resistance (SR). But I still need to find the darn materials, and they need to have spawned somewhere in the galaxy in the first place. Different spawn, different stats. Luckily, some brave souls keep updating the list on the wonderful website SWGcraft, so lazy traders like me don’t need to scour every planet to find what they need.

All of the stuff on that list isn’t available at any given time. They might spawn, they might despawn, they might pop up when I least expect it and disappear before I have time to get my harvesters there. And then, of course, there are planets like Mustafar where you can’t even place harvesters so you have to rely on sampling – pulling up small quantities of materials from the ground. Which is where my trader is right now, AFK-mining away to get his hands on some sweet high-statted copper. Yum yum yum. I had plans to AFK-mine that really nice gemstone that had spawned the other day, but of course that was already gone…

Are we done yet? No, we’re not. Here comes the whole “you need money to make money”-thing. Because when you finally have the materials needed, you need to put it together. And to get the best result, you need to pray to the Gods of Chance – you will need to “experiment”. And to make sure that the Gods are smiling in your favor, you need to stack up on crafting gear. Which I surely don’t have right now, and can’t afford anyway. During Empire Day, they hand out a nice bandoleer with a lot of bonus Luck, but that’s about it for me right now.

Tugg relaxing at home

I'm just going to sit here and stare for a bit...

So this is pretty much where I stand right now, confused and scared and excited at the same time. It might sound like I’m complaining. I’m really not. I’m looking forward to getting this project off the ground, slowly building up a nice stock of materials (I haven’t even mentioned things like weapon augmentations…) and trying to put up a small weapons shop in some corner of our guild city. It won’t be the fanciest shop in the world, but I’m going to sell some really nice weapons to my customers. That’s the plan, at least.

Wish me luck. I’m still trying to bend my head around all the concepts at play here. It’s an amazing system, with a nice depth. It’s light years ahead of other titles, and together with Vanguard it has one of the most interesting crafting systems of all time. The only games that come close is Ryzom and in a way EVE Online. And I never managed to get much crafting done in those two…

Or perhaps I’m just making it more complicated in my head than it actually is in reality. Hopefully that’s the case.

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What A Long Strange Journey It’s Been

No, I’m not talking about E3. I know that the last time I posted, I was packing for LA. But that was weeks ago, E3 is over and we’ve all internalized and processed all the information. Let me just say, for the record, that I had a great time. It was stressful, and at the end I was a tired mess, but it was wonderful. Now to get ready for Gamescom…

Anyway, what I’m talking about is Star Wars Galaxies. I started out in November last year, planning to give the game a month to see if all its bad rep was deserved or not. I ended up falling in love with it, and the week after E3 I hit level 90 – the cap. During that time I have been a Jedi, a Bounty Hunter, a Smuggler and back to Jedi. I have grinded a Trader to level 90, I’ve picked up a second account where I got an Entertainer to cap as well.

Now I am getting ready for “endgame”, which in Star Wars Galaxies I’m not sure really exists. At least not in the traditional sense. I’ve put my foot in one of the heroic dungeons, the Temple of Exar Kun, and I’m hoping to finish up the few remaining heroic pre-quests I have left this week and see the rest of them soon. I’ve started to dabble in invasions, I’m trying to re-decorate my new house, trying to learn about crafting enough that I can actually use my Trader for…well, for something.

I feel at home in Star Wars Galaxies. It’s a great game, with a long and sad run. Seven years of constant controversy. But also seven years of sandboxy goodness, with a dedicated playerbase and ideas that haven’t been seen in other MMOs. I plan to stick around for a long time coming, even if I’ve started to feel the call of the classic fantasy MMO. My Lord of the Rings-account is still active, and Vanguard’s server merge has put it back on my radar…

What a long strange journey it’s been. And what a long strange journey I have yet to look forward to.

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Relax? Relax?!

I tend to get pretty stressed before going on trips, be it for vacation or work, but this time it got me really bad – yesterday I was truly a mess. I don’t know why it happens, and I’m not sure what was different this time, but it is annoying. Mostly since I know that when I’m actually there, usually busy working, I won’t give it a second thought.

No matter. I haven’t blogged in a while, so I’m not even sure why I’m posting this to say that I won’t blog for a while. I’ll be heading to LA tomorrow, for E3, and will be gone for a week – we’re heading back to Denmark/Sweden next Friday, which means we will be here at around 9am local time on Saturday. The team is pretty big, which is nice, and our boss and his girlfriend will be staying with us at the condo we’ve rented near Marina del Rey. It will be a lot of fun, and a lot of work, I just need to get over this particular bump and realize it too…

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Sera and Shawn (of Massively-fame), with an added bonus being the place where we’ve decided to meet up. There will be photos, trust me. I shall try to update my newly re-discovered Flickr account, but I won’t make any promises. I guess I will have a ton of photos to go through when I get back home, though.

Time to get the last packing done, before my brain implodes.

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Good Company, Episode III

I keep meaning to do some form of podcast, or force someone I know that makes a podcast have me as a guest, but Good Company is as close as it gets I suppose. It’s like a podcast in video form, featuring me and Andreas (producer and camera guy at GRTV), and this time we let it run for almost 30 minutes… Might be a bit long for video, but if you tab away you can listen to us talk about Star Wars, instant action in games, more Star Wars, Skate 3 and more Star Wars.

But yeah, podcasting. Should really look into that, because babbling is fun.

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Understanding The RMT Economy And Sparkly Ponies

AT-AT in SWG

It's pretty! I'll take it!

I am really glad for all the interesting comments I received on my last entry, and in case you’ve read them I’d direct you over to the Buzz-version of the thread where a couple of other MMO-bloggers (including Tobold, Spinks, Chris and Pete) chime in on the subject. Thanks to everyone! I have been giving this a lot of thought ever since the sparkle pony was released for World of Warcraft, and it’s great to take part of other views on RMT in subscription MMOs.

But I thought that I’d take an entry to explain why I believe this is happening. The reason for this is that I believe that partly the item shops are misunderstood, as I see the word “greed” thrown around a lot by critics. Ark pointed out, again, that there might be a difference of opinion depending on political standpoint of the viewer, and I am starting to agree with him. Because I don’t think it is about greed at all, except for the greed inherit in the capitalist system. It’s all about the money and how economics work.

Disclaimer: I am not an economist. I have never studied economic theory. This entry is based on my understanding of economics through the very limited reading I’ve done on the subject, including books like The Undercover Economist and various books by leftist economic and cultural theorists that would drive the more right-bent readers nuts if I mentioned them by name. If you are an economist, or have studies the subject, or just happen to know more than me – please comment and enlighten me. Economy is fascinating and I would love to learn more. Neither am I saying I am the only one, or the first one, to bring this up.

There are a couple of scenarios that I believe are bringing this change to MMOs. They have nothing to do with greed, at least not from a developer standpoint. Some have pointed out that they’d support the cash shops much more if they knew where the money goes – if it is invested back into the game or to the money-men at the top. The answer to that is complicated, as the money goes straight into the pockets of the company itself. But the company have to give money to a lot of people, including the ones on its payroll, investors, shareholders, etc.

Despite being highly critical of the highly overpriced mounts (subjective, I know), these reasons make sense to me. They are legitimate, even though I don’t condone them. But in an economic reality, we’ll probably have to accept them – especially when it comes to games like EQ2 and WoW.

Cataclysm goblins

Improved goblin graphics are not free, you know.

Reason 1: Development costs go up, while the subscription price stays the same. Stargrace (and someone else, I can’t remember who right now, sorry) names this as her reason to support this RMT over on Nomadic Gamer. It’s a perfectly fair point. Development costs do go up, a new MMO is much more expensive to develop now than it was 10 years ago (or even five, or two). Cataclysm is probably much more expensive to produce than The Burning Crusade was, for example. SOE is developing at least one new MMO (DC Universe Online), which is probably even more expensive than Cataclysm (since developing a game from scratch takes a larger team and more tech than a live team working on an expansion). And we know that Blizzard is working on a “next-gen MMO”.

At the same time, we can probably expect operation costs to go down – bandwidth gets cheaper and cheaper, and storage space gets cheaper by the minute. That’s not to say these costs evens out, even though most of the development investment is returned by box sales at launch. The live team, which then will keep the game updated (new content, squash bugs, QA, etc), is normally a lot smaller than the development team so the running costs become smaller again. These are all columns on a spreadsheet, but they do lead us on to the next point…

Reason 2: World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 are not making as much money now as they did. This is not to say that they are dying or anything of that nature. World of Warcraft is alive and kicking, and Cataclysm is bound to make Blizzard a crap-ton of money. Everquest 2 seems to be doing alright as well. But they are not as big as they used to be. People keep throwing around the 11 million subscriber number for World of Warcraft still, despite the fact that it’s been a long time since they published official sub numbers (which is enough proof for me to draw the conclusion that the game isn’t growing anymore). Also, there is all the trouble Blizzard has had in China – that’s a huge loss of revenue, and a lot of lost players. There’s also the simple fact that the games are aging.

New Halas housing

Fluff items cost a lot of money to develop. Housing included.

World of Warcraft is still making Activision Blizzard millions of dollars each month – the large Western player base is enough to secure the game’s future for many years to come. But that doesn’t matter, especially since the two companies merged (Vivendi culture was a lot different, trust me). What does matter is that it isn’t making as much money as last year. If we put last year’s earnings, and this years earnings, next to each other it will produce a red number. And God forbid we compare it to two years ago! In this economic system, what matters is growth. Not subscriber number growth, the shareholders don’t care about that. Economic growth. You might have made us a billion dollars, but last year that number was 1.2 billion! Disaster!

While Activision Blizzard expect to make up for the investment for Cataclysm this year, we have to remember that they are working on their next MMO which probably has a long way to go before it is released. That’s a pure expense, it is making them no money at all right now. And as development ramps up, the cost will do nothing except increase. Saying that it will make the company even more billions in 2012/2013 doesn’t really cut it today.

SOE is developing DC Universe Online, which is another cost on the already pressured games company. The last game they released was Free Realms, and despite all the news we hear about registered accounts, we know nothing about how much money they are making from it. Insider sources, and with that I mean people in the actual MMO industry, have told me that Free Realms has been a disaster for SOE. Take that with a grain of salt, as with any unnamed source, but personally I have no real reason to doubt this person. More red numbers, more money that must be gained elsewhere.

I think that’s the whole reason why Blizzard introduced the pet shop, the reason why SOE started to dabble in pretty small scale RMT (not sure we can call the virtual card game small scale, though). With that success came the sparkle pony and with its success followed the prowler (I subscribe to the theory that SOE’s price point is not a coincidence). Not because they necessarily wanted to. Not that a developer thought it’d be a cool service. Not because they are greedy, or because they believe it gives the player more choice (the amount of mounts in both games are quite enough to give the player a lot of choices, with more or less grinds involved). But because they simply had to.

Free Realms dog

If you're lucky, you might be able to pick this up in Vanguard soon!

The price point – $25 – was with great certainty not picked out of a hat at a Activision board meeting. There’s probably a lot of science behind it, just like the 1200 point price for the Stimulus Package for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It’s all about perceived value, and similar economic buzz words. That’s what they figured people would pay, and that’s what they needed to sell it for. And they were right, with the sparkle pony being a huge success (we still don’t have numbers for the prowler, do we?).

The other alternative would be to raise sub-prices, as Tobold mentions in the Buzz-thread linked at the beginning of this entry. And just like the $25 for mounts, I believe that only Blizzard can set that precedent. Expect a higher subscription fee when their next-gen MMO is released, or at least a pricing model that will be radically different from what we have now that will make them more money every month. Then the rest of the genre can follow suit. Otherwise, you risk having potential customers stay in whatever game they are playing now.

You know what? I can kind of buy it, if this theory is right. It doesn’t mean I condone this form of economic system, it causes a lot of problems, but I’ll accept is as a sad part of modern life right now. If this is what it takes to keep old games rolling (let’s face it, WoW and EQ2 are old), then it might be worth seeing 200 000 people rushing to buy a sparkly, flying pony the second it is released. It will sting in my eyes, but if the prowler keeps EQ2 out of trouble for a bit…well, I’ll accept it. I guess that’s where the choice comes in – more MMOs on the market is a good thing.

For now, this might be the price we have to either pay (and get a mount) or simply accept to keep our favorite games alive as they grow older. Let’s face it, a lot of us have rosy colored glasses on when it comes to what MMOs used to be back in the “good old days”. Many of us play games that were released 6 – 7 years ago (which includes World of Warcraft). If we don’t want the shareholders, or CEOs, or board of directors, give the developers we love trouble we might as well just pay the $25 when a sweet mount is put on sale. I know my gnome would look awesome on a proto-drake (preferably without the sparkles, please).

I can’t be bothered to be upset anymore. I’m just gonna go “meh” and move on. If they truly try to screw us completely in the future and the slippery slope we’re worried about becomes a landslide, I’ll be back. For now, I think I’ll just stop caring. Buy a prowler, support your lovely developers, and be happy.

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Virtual worlds, massive multiplayer games and assorted ramblings

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