Edit: Update! My “final” word on Atlantica Online is here:
I’ve written about how impressed I am with Atlantica Online. It’s a fun game, mixing squad based tactics with an interesting crafting system and strong MMO staples. (Side note on the crafting… I think that every single piece of loot is an ingredient in crafting somewhere. I’m not certain, but that’s the impression I get. There’s certainly a LOT of recipes and crafting skills, and the auction market is thriving with stuff on sale. It’s really nice not to have vendor trash cluttering up my limited inventory.) I keep finding things to like about it.
Of course, there are things not to like as well.
One of them is the grind. Grind seems to be almost a given for MMO designers, but to me, it’s a sign of lazy design work. I can understand it as a way to keep people playing your game, but all too often, it’s just padding. If combat is fun, and it is here, grind isn’t a huge deal… but I do still think that it’s lazy design, and if it’s overused, it’s a fun killer. Most of all, it wrecks the pacing of a storyline. If the story is lame, that’s fine, but I’m actually interested in the AO story, so it’s a wee bit annoying. To each their own, though.
Another thing that I was somewhat surprised to see is the RMT trade alive and kicking. The devs have somehow made the chat almost completely free of RMT ads. I’m not sure what they did, exactly, but the chat screen used to be full of RMT spam, but I haven’t seen any in the last week or so. It’s very nice. The mail system in the game is the new avenue of spam, though. The devs have implemented a scheme where characters under level 20 are limited in their ability to send mail (ostensibly to combat spam). It’s a good plan, but I still see plenty of spam.
It’s pretty much just background static at this point. I imagine that’s true for most MMO vets, or even anyone with email experience. So, it’s not the spam that has me writing. No, it’s the fact that the RMT trade is alive and kicking in a FREE MMO currently in BETA. It’s just… bizarre to me that anyone would bother, but as the old capitalistic concept goes, they wouldn’t be there if there wasn’t demand for their product.
That’s the key. There is a demand for RMT, so vendors pop up. I’ve slammed subscription games before, comparing them to Puzzle Pirates (which has killed third party RMT by monetizing the demand in-house). I was a bit shortsighted in that, since really, it’s the whole DIKU level/loot treadmill design that is to blame. Inasmuch as any MMO (even a free one) adopts such core design tenets, RMT is inevitable.
Since the demand is always going to be there, fighting is is swimming upstream. It’s unnecessary work for the devs, when there are proven models that kill it. I’m not recommending giving up if you’re determined to go the “traditional MMO” route, I’m just noting that it will be something that devs have to stay on top of, it’s a drain on time and money, and that ultimately, it’s their own fault for making other core design decisions. Yes, the third parties and customers are the ultimate source of the demand, but the game devs are the ones that make it possible in the first place. It’s in vogue to demonize the RMT people, but if the company has power to completely eradicate it but refuse to do so, it’s a bit hypocritical to point fingers.
I suppose that on some level, it’s complimentary that RMT has targeted a game, since it shows that people are playing and want to advance. The core game impulses are alive and well. Still, when a dual currency system like that in PP not only kills RMT but levels the playing field between subscribers and casual players, it’s baffling to me that more companies haven’t taken advantage of it.
The tin foil hat side of me grumpily figures that these behemoth MMO devs are simply happy to suck players dry via a sub model that has unfortunately gained plenty of inertia in the market. The cost/benefit analysis is so stuck in the “dinner and a movie” comparison rut that it’s become the accepted “wisdom”, despite being intellectually vapid and logically bankrupt. The game dev in me looks at their bloated dev budget and poor business practices and sees early subscribers as paying beta testers. Devs (and investors) have gotten lazy, lured by the pie in the sky of Blizzard’s insane monetary successes.
…sound familiar? Someone wanting to make a lot of money while only putting forth the minimum of effort? Someone like, maybe… one of those demonized RMT customers? Nah…