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Posts Tagged ‘acronym’

Ostensibly, “F2P” is an acronym for “Free to Play”.

In practice, the term can cover a couple of different types of MMOs that don’t monetize via subscriptions.

On one hand are the Item Shop games, say, Runes of Magic, Allods Online or Puzzle Pirates.  RoM and AO are post-WoW DIKUMMOs (PWDMMORPGs?), but Puzzle Pirates is an entirely different animal that uses a microtransaction dual currency system.  RoM and AO have taken heat for goofy pricing and design that spurs purchases, some of it rightly so, some of it ill-informed and incompetently reasoned.  Noting that Puzzle Pirates functions quite nicely as an Item Shop game, might I take another moment to note that while business and game design are inextricably linked, incompetence in one need not mean the other is equally busted?

On the other hand, there are Subscriptionless games that monetize by selling content and convenience.  Look to Guild Wars, DDO and Wizard 101 for this sort of game design.  Content is sold with perpetual access, and players need not continue to pay a subscription.  These games tend to be constructed differently from the Item Shop games, earning money most like offline games of yore, by providing a valuable experience out of the box.

Also of note are the hybrid games.

Wizard 101 allows for subscriptions, content purchases and item shop purchases.  It monetizes all sorts of demand and lets all sorts of players play together, hopping servers willy-nilly almost at will.  It’s a beautiful game that plays extremely well, carving out its own identity with unique game mechanics and quirky writing.  The Harry Potterish feel is almost certainly part of the appeal, but it really is a solid game under the hood.

Puzzle Pirates has microtransaction servers and subscription servers.  Players cannot change server, and their economies are largely unique.  Doubloons (the microtransaction currency in their brilliant dual currency system) are tied to the account, not a server, and so may be spent on any “green” (microtransaction) server, but “blue” (sub) and “green” servers are isolated.  Still, players can play on any server, and can find one to suit their finances.

I think there is a critical distinction to be drawn between Item Shop games and Subscriptionless games.  I’ve argued for selling content instead of time for a while now, and I firmly come down in the Subscriptionless camp.  Whether this is sold in large bites like Guild Wars or smaller bites like Wizard 101 or DDO, it doesn’t matter much, but there is a clear difference between this model and the Item Shop model.  RoM and AO and their kind walk a line between selling stuff that’s useful and selling stuff that breaks the game, between impulse purchases and wallet-busting stupidity.

Both games can rightfully be presented as “Free to Play”, inasmuch as the acronym itself really only suggests that there is no subscription.  (Though it is a curious thing when a product is defined by what it lacks rather than what it has or is…)  We really have misnomers on top of misnomers abound in the MMO market, so this is no surprise, but it isn’t useful to take something like Allods Online’s messed up Item Shop (or your favorite game used as an example of the apocalypse) and paint an entire swath of games with a disdainful “F2P” epithet.  Games need to be taken on their own merits, balanced against their monetary and time costs, and evaluated for fun.  Blind prejudice against games roughly defined by a marketing acronym that doesn’t have consistent meaning doesn’t really help anything.

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It’s that time again.

What with the whole “SWTOR companions are solo friendly, and LOTRO Skirmishes are solo friendly and FUN“, the “MMOs are for grouping only” zealots are tunneling out of the woodwork again.  More often than not, the acronym “MMO” is cited as self-evident conclusive evidence that grouping is the Only One True Way to Play.  (Green Armadillo has a good starting point if you want to start prowling the conversations, and he has a great point to boot.  And to answer his question, yes, NPCs can teach you how to group with players.  This is precisely how it works in Puzzle Pirates, where NPC pirates train you as a noob, and even let you sail ships solo later on by manning stations.  It works, and works extremely well.)

I suppose there’s some sense to it, after all, “multiplayer” does by definition mean more than one player.  Of course, given the “virtual world” roots of MMO design, it should be (and has been) noted that “multiplayer” in no way exclusively implies “players playing in a group”.  That’s the difference between connotation and denotation.  “Multiplayer” denotes “more than one player”, in this case, playing the same game.  Some players take it and run with it, believing that it connotes “more than one player playing together“, when the word itself only has that as a possible subdefinition, not an exclusive overarching one.  If anything, such is a much more limited and specific small subset of the word “multiplayer”.

I know, English is hard, especially if you’ve gone through American schools, and logic is even harder.  Perhaps it’s not the gameplay that needs dumbing down in these games, it’s the terminology and public relations.  After all, it’s harder to educate people than it is to make the system stupider.  *coughNCLBcough*

Perhaps we need a new acronym.  (Muckbeast wrote a great article on this a while back, but I can’t find the link…)

I suggest MGORPG.  The G there is for “Grouping”, so that there is absolutely no question what the second letter in the acronym refers to.  It also sounds better, since MuhGORPGuh sounds worlds better than MuhMORPGuh.  The former just rolls off the gutteral better, while the latter sounds like a stammering hikikomori surrounded by pretty women who want his phone number.  Plus, gorp is healthy!

I suppose you could go with GOG (Grouping Online Game), but that’s already taken by Good Old Games, and Gog and Magog are sort of apocalyptic, which may not be a good allusion.  And that brings us back around to connotation and denotation.

MGORPG could clarify the debate considerably.  Of course, it’s only a mirror suggestion to make the acronym family complete, since others have suggested MSORPG (rather condescendingly and inaccurately… it should be MSPORPG since “single player” is actually two words) for single players.

I’d actually like to see that sort of differentiation in the market.  Make a nice Punnet Square of games; MSPORPGs that are just leveling content, MSPORPGs that are just raiding, MGORPGs that are just leveling content, and MGORPGs that are just raiding.  Throw a bunch of players at them (F2P to get more players involved, of course), and see what sticks.  That’s what happens in a nice, mature, differentiated market.  The successful design floats to the top, and the next wave of designs takes those successes and runs with them.  Darwinian game design, as it were.

Of course, it might be noted that such is actually the genesis of the increased soloability of MMOs of late.  See, people, weird whackjobs that they are (remember, I’m a soloist, too, pleased to be a nutter), actually do like playing solo in MMOs.  Games are evolving to cater to such players, and GASP, are proving to be profitable by doing so.  Ditto for the differentiation in the business models.  Anyone who has spent much time reading about MMOs has certainly seen the fallout from that particular holy war.

The staunch Old Guard still wants subscription based forced grouping death march grindy games, and by gum, those whippersnappers should want them too.  It’s self evident that such is the One True Way when it comes to MMORPGs, since that’s how it’s always been.  I mean, it’s right there in the acronym, right?  Get off my lawn and go play your offline single player games, NOOBz!

Oh, by the way, there’s a black guy as president in the U.S. now.  Stupid hippies.  Can’t they see that the American Empire only works when there are old rich white guys in charge?  We’re doomed! Who let those freaks vote?  Let’s go back to landowners (subbers) being the only ones that can vote!  Those other people are doing it wrong!!!

Further recommended reading:

Playing Alone, Together (Muckbeast)

That’s Right, I Solo in Your MMOs! (Saylah)

Get Your Party Off Of My MMO (Ravious)

Gaming Dictatorships (Melf_Himself)

AI Allies (Andrew)

Suddenly Bioware is Incompetent (evizaer)

The Social Soloer (Sente)

Three Truths (Cyndre)

Stupid Single Player Games Ruining it for MMOs (Dusty)

Defining “Casual” and “Hardcore” (Gordon)

Grouping Isn’t Always Healthy (Callan)

Disclosure:  I’m not an Obama fan, but it’s because I don’t like what he does.  Imagine that, judging someone by what they do and by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, or their playstyle, or how they pay for their games…

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