Moo Tang Clan: May 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WoW's AH online app - benefits for the rest of us?

Since it's a web-service based online app, it would be interesting to know if there are any major limits on simply querys of the auction house.

I know there are limits on how many auctions you can post, but are there limits on how many queries you can make?

If there isn't, and if Blizzard don't get touchy at other websites using the web-services API (like they currently don't frown at Armoury scanning websites), then this would mean someone else could set up a website which does frequent and complete periodic scans of all AHs on all servers, and make that information available to anyone, even if they don't have the AH app at all.

Sure would save me logging in at all hours of the night just to run an AH scan.

I'm referring to sites like here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The illusion of "doing it better"

Imagine there's a game publisher with a design doc for some truly innovative advances to the MMO field. They've done their homework, they know how to build it right, they've done the numbers, they know how much it will cost. This stuff will knock your socks off. We'll refer to these people Game A.

Now, imagine there's some game publisher with a Triple A game which dominates the market. Game B.

The Game A people have done the math, they figure it will take about $M to implement this innovation to the full extent they have in mind. This means they need to attract some N thousands of players to their game to satisfy this budget expense.

Game B, seeing all the attention and interest that Game A is garnering from their early press releases and dev interviews and such, and seeing that some number of players are considering defecting to Game A for this feature, decide to also implement something similar.

Does Game B need to spend the same $M on this feature to remain competitive? (Assume that every $M that Game B spends produces the same value as what Game A has, assume no special advantage or brilliance).

Surprisingly, the answer is No.

See, if they spend (say) 0.6 x $M, then they will retain some portion of potential defectors. Those defectors are not available as new subscribers to Game A, and thus impact the revenues available to spend by Game A. Without Game B in the picture they figure they would have sufficient revenue to afford to spend $M, but with Game B making similar promises (remember, neither have working code to demo at this point) they no longer have $M available, they only have 0.4 $M available.

Game B doesn't need to develop 100% of the original idea at all. They can do a half-assed job, split the market, and forcing Game A to compromise on their design doc vision.

Now, if Game B was an equal player in the market and not a monopolistic behometh, the innovation would be still be pretty good. We, the players, would get at least 50% of the original concept to play with.

However, since Game B is a massive presence in the industry (leveraging network effects, market inertia etc), they know they don't even need to implement 50% of the innovation to split the market and retain potential defectors. Game B only need to implement (say) 10% of the idea, and Game A would be left in the position of only affording to implement about 9% of their original idea.

If Game A doesn't get sufficient traction, then they shut down and we never see the other 90% of the original innovation.

Things are now looking bad for us, the players, and the industry in general.

The galling thing is that commentators will be saying "Game B took the idea, polished it, and did it better than Game A". Sorry, but although 10% is “better” than 9%, that 10% is still much less than the original 100%.

Doubly galling because Game B only needs to spend 10% of the original budget to achieve this, yet retain 100% of their profits. Which suits them just fine.

The duration of dynamic events?

GW2's Dynamic Events Content is starting to sound pretty cool.

There's something I've not seen explicitly stated yet though, and that is how long these dynamic events take to play out. Reading between the lines it sounds like there are two activities affecting timescales involved:

  1. active participation resulting in a state change (success or fail mechanics)
  2. nothing happening until the conditions are just right, resulting in a state change (trigger mechanics)
The former is equivalent to what we know questing activity being today. Kill ten rats, collect 100 ogre ears, that sort of thing. Timescale: minutes to tens of minutes.

The latter would depend on either other events cascading, or players performing some specific action like activating a McGuffin device. Timescale: days, weeks, months, possibly more.

Personally, I'd like to see some long-scale events added to the mix too. Huge community based events that stretch over hours, days, or weeks of activity by dozens or hundreds of players to finally tip the balance and effect a state change. Consider the resource gathering efforts to open the AQ gates, or the unlocking of the Isle of Quel'Danas as extreme examples.

The point being, it would be good to log on over multiple days, and see measurable progress on change being effected in the world. This, vs. not knowing what state the world will be in when you log in, just to do the equivalent of some random daily quests and log out again.

My theory is that this form of longitudinal game play would have an effect on the social dynamics of the players, strengthening and shaping the community for the better.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Would you pay more?

Say there's a mass market MMORPG which appeals to the casual player and they charge $15.00 per month.

Say you're looking for a niche game which appeals to the smarter more committed player types ... would you pay $25.00 per month, just to get away from the idiotic masses?

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I has a twitter thing now.

Although I use it mostly to follow other bloggers who tweet, feel free to follow me ... it's just another way for me to find more people to listen in on.

Actor Dynamic vs Event Dynamic

Syncaine writes:

When I think of dynamic events I think of a developer setting up some random variables and letting them loose on a virtual world. Let’s say the event in question is an undead horde rising up to attack an empire. ...
He then goes on to describe that undead horde conquering vast swathes on the world, obeying their primitive programming, and how this can turn out to have unintended consequences (eg. the undead horde sacking and infesting the major cities). This reminds me of the Ultima Online resource system, and how that worked.

I think a distinction can be made here between actor-based dynamism and event-based dynamism. With the former the actors involved, being zombies, skeletons, cultists, etc are each programmed to behave in particular ways and set loose on the world, and thus it’s possible that they could expand and expand and expand.

In an event-based dynamic system the various zombies et al are pawns to the programmed events, and if the devs haven’t coded an event where the undead swarm march on the city then they never will, no matter how much they dominate surrounding areas.

An actor-based dynamism can have interesting emergent properties (eg. killer bunnies in UO) but it would lack the carefully crafted and constructed drama of an event-based system.

With event-based dynamism, you can tell stories. It requires effort to set them up, but they are then there for the taking. With actor-based dynamism we have to interpret the opaque motives of the npcs, assigning whatever story makes sense or is interesting. Like watching dogs in the park from a distance and voicing aloud what you think they are saying to each other, constructing a free flow improv.

It sounds like GW2 is going the event-based dynamic content route.

Friday, May 14, 2010

<Orgrimmar Pony Club> now recruiting

Horde wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
So ... I've started a new guild. I've wanted to do this for quite a while.

OPC has been set up for regular mount runs in the various places (Zul'Gurub, Karazhan, Sethekk Halls, Magister's Terrace, Stratholme, etc), and also for working on the achievements that reward mounts, like Glory of the Hero and Glory of the Ulduar Raider and more.

We even run a weekly Northrend Fishing Competition, where the first person in the guild/raid that fishes up the Riding Turtle gets a bonus 1,000 gold from the guild bank.

By the way, we call the MgT run a "chook raffle" in trade chat which usually elicits a few curious whispers.

Plenty to keep us busy there, and by not being progression raid focused we avoid burnout. We do run raids of course, as there are mounts in there. Hey, we've even got an excuse to run ICC, right?

If you're on Dath'Remar-H, look us up.

Is healing boring because of interface design?

Playing DPS is generally more fun that playing a healer - that's the accepted wisdom.

This is often explained due to hurting being more fun that helping, and also due to hurting being essential to accomplishing the game goals (and that you can't "heal a mob to death").

I've previously written about making more quests for non-killing activities, particularly healing, but could it also be due to the interface design? With DPS, you are given continual appraisal and reinforcement of your progress towards your goal: the enemy target's health bar is diminished, gradually or in leaps, until it's all gone. Healers on the other hand see a full health bar when they start, and if they are doing their job properly they see .. a full health bar. Where's the encouraging feedback in that interface design? (The same goes with dispelling debuffs by the way.)

We're so used to seeing progress bars in our games, steady measurable visible progress. Enemy health bars go down, XP bars go up, reputation bars go up, cast bars fill up, channeling bars go down, item crafting feedback bars slide across the screen, etc.

There are no progress bars for healing though.

So, is healing boring because of interface design?