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Posts Tagged ‘w101’

A couple of thoughts on subs and F2P business and MMOs, today guest starring Tobold, Spinks and Raph Koster.

Tobold’s I Would be Happier with Free2Play

Spinks’ WoW Thought for the Day

Raph Koster’s F2P vs. Subs

I’ve long been a proponent of making WoW F2P and even offline or in W/JRPG format simply because subscriptions never offer me enough value for me to bother with them.

…and yet, I have a 60-day time card that I’ve had for almost a year and a half and a handful of 30-day time codes from the WoW VISA card I use for big purchases and emergencies.  I have the time codes (and one unscratched card), ready to use, already paid for, but the flubbernuggin’ time-limited monetization scheme still doesn’t feel like good value to me.  I don’t want to use those codes since I have too much going on to devote sufficient time to playing to get good value out of them.  Similarly, I have a Steam code for 30 days each of FFXI and RIFT, but I haven’t activated either of them.  They are paid for, ready to go, but I hate the idea of locking myself into a monogamous game experience just so I can squeeze the most out of it as I can before the time stops ticking.

I hate gaming on the clock.

…and on the other hand, I’ll happily sink a little time into the newly F2P Star Trek Online every morning sending my Duty Officers off on missions and maybe run a story arc mission in the evening.  The cost of activation is really low, so I go play when I feel like it.  I’m considering spending $15 or so to get a new ship that I would then be able to use whenever I darn well please for as long as the servers are live.  That’s value I’ll pay for.  That’s how I approach Wizard 101, too; I bought Crowns to unlock areas that I’ll get to someday, and in the meantime, I’ll play when I feel like it.  I’ve spent money on Puzzle Pirates for the same reason; I bought a ship that I can sail around and pirate with, but I don’t have to keep paying just to play on the occasions when I make the time for it.  I’d readily pay for a single purchase SWTOR.

Would that translate to WoW?  In my case, absolutely.  I’d log in and do a few quests here and there, and toss them money to unlock a dungeon or the ability to make a Dwarf Druid or make my own guild comprised entirely of my own characters without the need to recruit other players or some sort of service that lets me bypass some of the extremely poorly paced crafting curve.  I’m definitely not averse to giving Blizzard money, I just want to pay for things that offer me good value.  WoW is still a fun game to play, even with all its warts and weirdness.  As it stands, though, I can’t exactly send them a financial message about the parts that I care about, which is one of the weaknesses of the subscription model.

…I can, however, offer to sell my time codes.  Anyone?  Maybe trade for some titles on my Steam Wish List?  Oh, and I still have some coupons and COGS and World of Goo if anyone wants them.  Nobody took me up on the snowflake contest, so I’ll just throw them to the winds.  (Another interesting take on value, perhaps…)

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…is another Wizard’s trash.

I’ve had a little more time than I thought over the holiday weekend, since the book illustration is on hold for revision, and I had a few hours to actually go play something.  I know, I said I’d be out of commission for a while, and I will be soonish, but I wanted to slip this in while it was on my mind and while I had a few minutes to write.  It’s how I polish my thoughts, for better or worse.

I popped back into Wizard 101 recently to see what recent changes have done to the game.  In short, I like Grizzleheim’s design, housing is pretty cool, and the Bazaar is nice, but I really don’t like No Trade/No Auction items, I’m very sad that I can’t get the old crown gear, crafting is an unholy grind, and gimmick fights are unfortunate.

The Friendly Necromancer wrote to King’s Isle about the No Trade flag (a while ago, I’m catching up, remember?), and received a response, chronicled here:

Of Shared Banks and No Trades

One of the King’s Isle admins, Professor Greyrose, wrote:

Professor Greyrose:

“Making certain items restricted to one character makes them more rare and valuable. The number of items in the game that are restricted is a tiny percentage of items. We are constantly assessing which items to mark as No Trade and are listening to the community feedback on this and other matters.”

I strongly disagree.  Items restricted to a single character have a higher chance of being almost completely worthless as anything but vendor trash.  My Balance Wizard scored a spiffy healing ring from an instance boss in Marleybone, but he couldn’t use it because he isn’t a Life Wizard.  It was marked No Trade/No Auction.  I couldn’t even break it down into crafting ingredients like I could with a WoW Bind on Pickup item that I couldn’t equip.  What should be a very valuable ring was vendor trash to me.

To add insult to injury, it was “appraised” for 3500 gold or so at the Bazaar, but I wasn’t allowed to put it up for sale.  Since Bazaar buy prices are very low compared to sale prices, I was holding a ring that would have sold at the Bazaar for well over 30,000 gold.  I couldn’t even give it to an alt on my account.  I had to sell it to a vendor for a whopping 355 gold.

This isn’t working.  I got a useless item, was taunted with how much it could have been worth, and it didn’t even function as a gold sink as most other Bazaar-resale items do.

That’s not “rare and valuable” in my book, that’s annoying, wasteful, and ill-conceived.

As for the now-unavailable crown gear, I’m rather disappointed.  One of the early draws of the game was that you could get gear with crowns (W101’s secondary microtransaction currency) that offered unique bonuses and extra cards for your deck, expanding combat options.  A short while after release, you could also get that gear with in-game gold (though it was very expensive).  I thought this to be the best of both worlds; you could pay cash and get the gear, or pay with time and get the gear via grinding gold.  Now, the “crown gear” has changed, and is severely underwhelming (weaker stats and no extra card), and it’s not available for gold purchase any more.

I’m baffled by this decision on King’s Isle’s part, and I consider it to be extremely ill-conceived as well.  One of their brilliant ideas, and a sterling example of “RMT” done right (pay with cash or time for the same stuff), is gone.  That doesn’t bode especially well in my book, either for W101 in particular or the genre at large.

The gimmick fights, as noted by Tipa over here (Cyrus Apologizes), are another strange decision.  I’m very sympathetic to the notion of introducing a bit more variety than simple “smash and grab” encounters by introducing “puzzle” aspects of boss encounters.  It’s nice to have different ways to play the game.  Except… these weren’t presented as an option, they were a sudden and complete change.  What would have worked better is to offer both styles, and let players choose what they wanted to do.  You can’t always do that when you change a game, but this one would have been a very natural fit for “Heroic” dungeon options in the game.

Crafting is a nice addition in theory, but the mechanics of crafting in W101 aren’t all that impressive.  It’s a significant grind to get all of the materials to craft items, and most crafted items just aren’t all that useful, especially as an older character going back and grinding up through the ranks.  Vertical progression in crafting is just as annoying as it is in character development.

The game is still very good, and a great bit of fun.  I could just be oversensitive to change, as I’ve suggested others are in the past.  I’m certainly not boycotting the game or suggesting that anyone else should either.  It’s just that these decisions make little sense to me.  They aren’t like Blizzard’s Faction Switch fiasco, which can be handwaved away as a way to let players get together easier while earning a bit of revenue from those willing to pay the fee.  These are just pure game design decisions in W101… and they don’t make sense.  Even the stated rationale isn’t well reasoned.  It’s a bit disheartening seeing devs that I’ve held up as being great examples make dumb decisions like this… it makes me wonder if earlier successes were just lucky.

When changes in these MMO things happen, they need to happen for good reasons, and the notion of “bait and switch” needs to be carefully avoided.  Changes should bring about more choices and things to do, not fewer.  As I’ve written elsewhere, change is inherent in the MMO genre, and it’s only fair that I find myself on the bad end of some changes when I applaud changes in other games.  Karma and all that…

Even so, stepping back and trying to see what they are doing with W101, I see some odd choices and some ideas that really needed to be thought out a bit more, and then changed before implementation.  It’s something to learn from, at any rate.  I’m glad that I’m not invested in the game to the tune of hundreds of dollars and several months of hardcore playtime.  The disappointment would be more personal, rather than abstract.

So yes, Spinks, I understand the notions of “betrayal” that invested players get when things change.  That’s a personal itch that makes sense.  I just see things like the WoW Faction Switch as a smart decision overall, and can ignore the personal annoyment borne of attachment, investment and a sense of entitlement.  I just can’t find a good game design or business reason for these W101 changes, so it’s annoying personally, which I’m already over, and professionally, which is a bit more unnerving.  Strange that my priorities are thus, perhaps, but so it goes.

Edited to add: Beej’s comment below reminded me of something.  I still heartily recommend Wizard 101 to play, especially if you’re just going to try out the free zones and get a feel for it.  It’s a lot of fun to play.  These concerns I have are about itemization, crafting and the economy.  They aren’t insignificant complaints, but they don’t have a significant impact on how you actually go about playing the game from day to day.  The core card-game combat is brilliant, and the setting and story are delightfully whimsical.  It’s still a fun game to play, despite concerns, and that makes it an easy one to recommend.

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