In the past few weeks a number of bloggers have been dicussing the topic of MMO price models and looking for alternatives to the regular 13 Euro/15 USD type of monthly subscription fees as the only payment option. Of course there are all the “free-to-play” MMOs and there is also the Guild Wars model (pay once per content package).
I do not quite like the “free-to-play” terminology, because those games are not really free to play, but rather free of charge for access to the game. In the end the point is that at least a large portion of the players should pay for their game time, because the companies must make money on the games.I also do not like when game talk about “free updates/expansions”. It is certainly not free, just hidden somewhere else like in a subscription fee.
I also do not think that there should be any reason to separate “free-to-play” games from subscription-based games when comparing them. A game is a game is a game. It might be a bit trickier to figure out the costs, but in the end they are all MMO:ish games.
What I would like to see is a more unified price list for MMOs. Perhaps in some way to help a bit with comparisions, but mainly open up for more diversified payment models.
I am thinking that prices are in five major areas:
- Start fee
Start fee is any initial cost you may pay once to get started at all.
Access is of course to be able to access the game and play. This is most likely a recurring fee.
Content is of course new experiences in the game. That could be new areas, missions/quests, classes/professions or other things that expand the experience (housing, costumes, decorations etc).
Gameplay are things that affect the game without actually bringing in new content/experiences. This could be xp boosters, potions, new skills.
Extras are things that are related to the game, but not affecting playing the actual game. This could be character transfers, extra character slots etc.
Some games will combine items under content and gameplay; it is quite typical for subscription-based games to do that – look at pretty much any expansion released.
Applying this on some games, it could look like this. I do not claim the data here to be complete or entirely accurate, since I do not have game access at the time of writing.
City of Heroes/Villains:
- 1.99 Euro, 14 days limited access
- 14.99 Euro, includes 1 month full access
- 24.99 Euro, includes 1 mohth full access plus bonus content and items
- 12.99 Euro/month
- General content updates bundled in access fee
- Wedding pack: 8.99 Euro
- Super Booster 1 – Cyborg: 8.99 Euro
- 30 day jetpack: 4.99 Euro
- Character transfer/rename: 9.95 Euro (?)
- Extra character slots: X Euro
- 19.99 Euro, includes one content package, PvP and PvE
- 17.99 Euro, includes PvP content and 60 skill unlocks
- No access fee, 0 Euro/month
- Content package (areas, zones, skills, professions) – choose from Prophecies, Factions, Nightfall, Eye of the North: 19.99 Euro
- Bonus mission pack: 8.99 Euro
- Guilds Wars 2008 update (Fire Imp): 4.49 Euro
- Guild Wars xxxx update (bonus weapons): X Euro
- Skill unlock: X Euro
Adding games like World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online etc would have starting fees in perhaps 10-40 Euro range, access fees around 13 Euro/month and content/gameplay packages in 20-40 Euro range. I have no clue what extras might be there and how much they cost – I would assume character transfers are available at least.
I think splitting up price data into different areas like this helps to show that there is room for various pricing models and that it may be more clear to see what you are paying for if fees are split up more. I would certainly prefer to see explicitly the content and gameplay elements that may be provided with a game as listed explictly, e.g.
- 3 Euros/month
- updates 10 Euro/month (120 Euro/year)
- content packages 30 Euro (1 per year)
Of course, this will cause people to perhaps think more what they pay for and companies to be more upfront with what things may cost. Which is precisely the point. By splitting up prices it opens up opportunities for different price choices and addressing different target audiences.
Not all games will be able to support splitting this up to the extent one might want, since that will generally need to be a consideration when designing the game.
With the Double Reward weekend in City of Heroes/Villains during thsi past weekend, I decided to head back to the Rogue Isles again for a bit, after mainly been focusing on the Paragon City side of the game lately.
While the double xp, influence/infamy rewards are nice I think my main enjoyment out of such event weekends is that there is more people around that want to team up.
While I did not see any of the old friends that left the game earlier I did run into a number of nice people and this was the main enjoyment of the gaming weekend. As a bonus of course the progression is quite quick.
I started off a bit on Friday evening after getting back from work in Finland with Vortex Blast, which turned out to be a bit higher in level than I remembered. Fairly quickly I joined at team with a mixture of level 43-45s and a level 47. Everything was running smootly with our highest villain’s mission until we got to the mission “Defeat Statesman“. Now Statesman is not just any ordinary superhero (which there are plenty of in this part of the world), he is more the superhero on the good guys side.
Strengthened by our recent successes we of course decided to tackle Statesman on the highest difficulty setting. That he might be 4-5 levels higher than most of us was not a big concern … at the moment. Before getting to Stateman though we had to deal with the cops in the surroundings of Atlas Park, i.e. the PPD (Paragon Police Department). At this level cops generally tend to be of the Ascended type, being a bit more supercops. Although no match for a team of suppervillains of course.
Next part was the troop of Longbows which were surrounding Statesman himself. The first attempt was slightly confusing and we pissed off Statesman at an early stage. After we dealt with the Longbows only Statesman (level 49 hero) remained and this is where the difficult part of the mission started. It initially seems to go reasonably well, although he did seem to have a tendency to single out one enemy from time to time and go after them and he kept runnign around quite a bit, which made it a bit difficult for some. At some point when his health was fairly low however, it started to increase again slowly even though everyone continued to beat on him until he was back at full health again. And then the cycle started again – his health was lowered for a while, only to see it rise again.
After a couple of rounds like that two of us decided to get some level 50 villain to help a bit more. I went and picked my Fortunata, because frankly my dominator was pretty much useless, being 5 levels lower than Statesman. This time it worked slightly better, but we still did not get him down enough and his health started to rise again. One more team member brought a 50, but then people started to become a bit tired of it and it was discussed to lower difficulty. Eventually the mission were reset twice and Statesman was reduced to a level 48 hero.
This time around it worked out better and after some fighting we managed to defeat Statesman. At this time we had spent more than an hour on this fight, so everyone was happy to have completed it and move on to something else…
This was probably longest fight with mostly one hero to fight that I have been in. While there was not really any xp involved here since I switched to a level 50, it was pretty fun – although it got a bit frustrating after a number of his regeneration cycles.
I played a bit more on Friday, but most of the play time continued on Saturday, basically a number of shorter sessions throughout the day. Most of the missions were familiar, but there were also some new missions which I had not done before, which is quite nice to see. In particular a couple of missions involving fighting Nemesis’ army were quite enjoyable.
Not all time went to play Vortex Blast though; there was also some time with a number of the other villains which I had not played for a while. Doing that was a bit of a mixed blessing – a few of them reminded me of why I had not played them for a while…
Overall it was quite enjoyable weekend and I started to get some new ideas again for new villains and themes to create. The problem is though that for many of these ideas, the villain may end up aborted after a while unless I find some regular teaming – which will likely be difficult with the current job situation unless it will be a weekly event during the weekend.
In the end it was a pretty fun weekend. Vortex Blast reached level 50, becoming my 5th dominator to reach max level. With my lowbie dominator Niefelheim being at 41 now and being great fun to play in teams, it may still perhaps happen that all dominators will reach max level.
It is good to be bad in the Rogue Isles.
There is a forum thread in the City of Heroes/Villains US forums that contains some details about the next City of Heroes/Villains issue 14 – Mission Architect. Have a look at the Mission Architect knowledgebase thread.
It is interesting to see that they will allow people to gain xp through these mission, but no other rewards expect points for a new system (“skeeball tickets”).
Also each account will be able to create up to 3 story arcs (up to 5 missions in each) – unless they get the attention of the devs or get voted into Hall of Fame, which allows for more mission arcs to be created. It sounds like a nice way to avoid too much garbage missions and reward good missions.
A map designer is not included, but one will be able to pick from around 1000 different maps – that is probably pretty much what is in the game today. This also confirms by assumption before that maps are not generated on-the-fly in the game, but rather created manually from common building blocks.
Mobs will spawn at the predefined points in the maps, although I would guess that there will be some option on where to place the different custom bosses/enemies/allies that are part of the mission.
Unfortunately there will not be any assaults or triggered events in this release.
Mission data can be saved offline and edited there, which is quite nice. Apparently also the level of the players can be changed for each mission also – not sure how that would work with the xp.
Either way, interesting to read a bit more info about the Mission Architect and I can’t wait to play around a bit with it – both to perhaps try to create missions and play other people’s missions.
The weekend starting on Friday, January 23rd is a double xp weekend in City of Heroes/Villains.
I find it interesting that they will still run double xp events, since they have done a number of things in the past few issues to make the leveling curve to be smoother and shorter.
Nevertheless, I still do find it nice that they will run these events. If nothing else I might try to progress a bit on my meta-goal to get all my 6 dominators to level 50. Double XP weekends tend to make xp gain more than double in that sense that there are more people playing and more people that want to team up, since xp is also much better in teams.
Most of my old friends do not play the game anymore, but will be interesting to see if any of them will turn up again for a bit.
Currently I am in Finland working during the weeks, so I only get back home for the weekends. Which mean not much playing. I did squeeze in a short stab at LOTRO to take care of some of annoying quests (ok in short sessions), but mainly I played a bit in City of Heroes.
First off was with my ghostly controller, Frieda. She is currently in her low 40s and have started to run around on Peregrine Island, a zone for levels 41-50 on hero side. Initially I decided to pick up the exploration badge in the Founder’s Falls Safeguard mission, since I had that one lined up.
Running Safeguard missions tend to be short affairs often – get in, head to bank, defeat the bank robbers, get out. Sometimes the team you head in with wants to stick around because there are a number of mobs to gain xp from. While I usually tag along if the team wants to do that I still prefer to do missions that follow some story rather than just “grind” mobs. To me the exicting part of the Safeguard is in the beginning, before the timer starts. So this time I was solo and simply beat up the baddies, searched anf found the exploration point for the badge and headed out.
While I just picked up a Carnival of Shadows mission from a new contact, I received a tell if I wanted to join for the Imperious Task Force, or itf as everyone calls it. I have run this task force a few times, but only with a couple of my villain characters. It is a fun task force and doing that one for the first time with Frieda sounded like fun, so I jumped in.
Setting and accomplishing goals, even if no-one else knows about them, is an important part of the gaming experience I think. My current playlist consists of four different MMOs and the goals for each tend to vary a bit:
City of Heroes/Villains: My longest running game so far, 31 months and counting. While I have not experienced everything on the villain side, I have played through a large part of it and many times also. There is not really anything that keeps me playing for too long on that side, except to have some fun with friends who want to play on villain side. There is also a bit of a meta-goal: to get all my dominators to max level. A long time ago I set up a goal to get all the dominator pets and consequently I also created dominators covering all powerset options available. That goal was reached long ago. Dominators are still my favourite archetype and as long as there were other interesting content and goals to be set, I usually played it with a dominator.
Today I have 4 dominators at max level and 2 more around 40 (39 + 43). But without any other plausible goals on villain side may possibly not get the dominators to max level – I will certainly not grind my way there just to get some level.
On hero side it is easier, since I have not played that much and there are still zones and areas I have barely touched yet. However, with a controller at 41 this part may fade a bit. If I can jump into the game and team up with some friends I absolutely jump in and play, because that is an area CoX excels in. But there is little else currently driving my play.
Guild Wars: This game I think it absolutely brilliant in its design. Not only does it have excellent story content and very little grind type content. It also provides all sorts of added challenges and pieces to help set goals both for PvE and PvP. The story-driven content is very much in what is called cooperative missions, with some quests sprinkled in between them (and not grindy “kill X boars”). Each of the cooperative missions have a base requirement for completion, but also a master/bonus requirement, which typically is a bit harder to reach. There are also other types of missions which provides high score type gaming, PvP etc. Combine all that with the excellent skill system which provides a lot of freedom to mix and combine skills to fit the current challenge – there is no one size fits all. And if the story lines are completed that unlocks hard mode, which could be compared to heroic/elite mode of content in some other games – and that is all mission content and all zones.
Add to this a number of titles that can be strived for that actually have some meaning or a sense of accomplishment; e.g. survivor titles that is earned if the character does not die at all, protector titles for completing master levels of all cooperative missions, explorere titles for actually visiting and seeing a large part of the zones and the different areas in those zones. The game makes it very easy to set various goals and I always tend to have at least a few different ongoing goals. Finding motivation to play has not really been an issue – everything from experiencing the story arcs, exploring the beautiful world, trying out new some new skill combos or play styles, working towards some title etc.
The Chronicles of Spellborn: Two pieces are driving here – the neat combat system and the interesting setting and environment. The combat system is quite different from other MMOs – not the regular button-mashing type, but which requires a bit more presence and thought sometimes. In a way it pushes similar buttons (pardon the pun) that Guild Wars’ skill system does – provide room for improvement and encouraging some experiementation on that path.
The setting and the lore of the Spellborn world is another driving factor. Exploring and learning more about the world is absolutely a significant set of goals here. While the quest system does not have a huge amount of quests and some of them are of the “kill X boars” type, it also provides number of quests with enjoyable stories – perhaps exposng and learning more of the lore of the workd, or perhaps some comical twist. Perhaps because there are not so many quests those that are good and is worth remembering stand out easier. While I might rank Guild Wars higher in terms of quest quality I still think Spellborn does a farily good job. Even with some kill and fedex quests I still am interested in doing more, since the already completed quests have been good enough overall for me to want to go for more.
However, the whole split of the European market and some current bugs and misfeatures does dampen the will to play a bit right now. So I am waiting a bit to see what happens. I will still be paying for the game even if I not play; it has enough potential that I do not want this one to vanish due to lack of paying customers.
Lord of the Rings Online: This is my black sheep. The game is easily the prettiest MMO that I have seen and the epic story line seems nice and interesting enough. While there are a lot of different ways to advance your character in the game, too much of it feels like it is some kind of grind to get to the goals and getting there may not be that interesting. I certainly do not feel any sense of accomplishment for being awarded just having used a certain skill 500 times, or killed X number of some certain type of enemy, which I might almost do blind-folded as long as I remember which buttons to press.
I do want to like the game and and find things to drive my play time in there. But I struggle with this to find enough that do not feel grindy and feel worthwhile.
There is some more details on the upcoming Spellborn update as well as some of the plans they have for the game, both in the EU forums and on the TCOS web site. This is mainly an update from a content perspective, so it does not address the publisher and IP block issues, spawn rates etc that are not strictly content related.
Good to see a bit on the plans for the future, although I hope they will provide some updates soon in publisher and access areas.
NCSoft has released the Mac version of the game. Only available through digital download, so there will be no boxes in stores. Great to see some more MMO games for the Mac also, besides that game from the Vivendi subsidiary.
When I bought a new computer it had Windows Vista (64-bit) preinstalled. Initally when I installed and played City of Heroes/Villains on the computer I had some severe graphical issues, which were tracked down to problems in the Nvidia drivers from my graphics card. These were later fixed.
However, I have still had regular crashes when playing the game where the screen goes blank, program hangs and Vista reports that it has reset the graphics drivers. Kill the program and start it again was the only thing to do.
Now there seem that this issue might have been a Vista problem and Microsoft released a hotfix for it, which was reported in the City of Heroes/Villains forums.
The hotfix can be found at this URL: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/953186
There seems to be a content+bugfix update scheduled for the end of this month for Spellborn, according to community manager Banshee:
A content patch is planned for end of January, containing, again, truckloads of bugfixes, some new content and game improvements. More info and news about it will be released in the coming weeks.
No details yet, but I am eager to see what game improvements and bug fixes that are included. More content is also fine and I think some people who have gained fairly high levels may be looking for more content.