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Sep 29, 2010



Nice post! I understand the problem, I think, but many of these solutions stiil feel like nerfing. Penalize the hardcore to make the entire system more fair. Sounds to me like what Kurt Vonnegut wrote about in Harrison Bergeron.

I think the attitude should be: how do we create a level playing field when, and only when, the playing field needs to be level? Ubiquitous fairness isn't really necessary, being able to share magic circles is. Having the ability to opt out of PvP, or play in safe zones, is also a way to achieve fairness by eliminating fundamental vulnerability.

As I said in my post in the other thread, I think it's fair to expect thst players who play more should achieve more, and should receive greater rewards over time. As long as any player can achieve the same benefits, that is, with effort being the currency. I guess the way I think of this is to try to imagine any of these MMOs merely populated with casual gamers; the high-level ecosystem contributes a LOT of richness to any game.

Don't mess with it, I say. Those players deserve rewards for their efforts, as long as they aren't abusing other players.

The achievement problem only really arises when the non-uber player is locked out of play experiences that other players enjoy (expecially when the players in question are friends and family). City of Heroes/Villains mitigates this admirably with the side-kicking/exemplaring system that allows players of any/all levels to play together, at the same level, with similar abilities (scaled up or down). GuildWars had a provision for this, as well, allowing players to play at high-levels when PvP-ing in a closed system. I think these are great examples of flexible systems that leave agency with the players.


I used to work in legal marketing; that's right, helping lawyers hawk their services. Two kinds of evil all wrapped up in one.

Pricing of legal services on the corporate side is, almost entirely, done by the hour. You've got a price for a lawyer's time, multiplied by how much he works on a case. 'Nuff said. Lawyers complain because it turns their work into a commodity. Clients complain because per hour pricing doesn't encourage "smart" case management. But very few are willing to try anything else.

I knew one lawyer, though, who advised investors on some kind of weird IPO stuff. I have no idea what the details were. But he had one rate, period, for what he did. You told him the investment (I think) you were interested in, and he came back with (essentially) a yes-or-no recommendation based on a bunch of research and review that he did. He told me, confidentially, that sometimes this research amounted to a couple hours, because he could relate all his past experience to the question. Sometimes he had to do a hundred hours of work to get a good answer. But the charge was the same, and averaged out to more than he would make for an hourly rate on most jobs, with a few that he took a bath on (while learning stuff that would make him more efficient later). He liked it, and his clients liked the simplicity.

What does this have to do with flexibility?

Well, paying by an hourly rate is much more externally flexible: you can change the rate, you can shrink/grow your hours. It seems very flexible. Want to pay less? Find a cheaper lawyer or demand fewer hours.

But the "one price fits all" ended up being much more flexible internally for my friend. He didn't have to worry about pricing, and so just did the work very flexibly, using whatever time/resources were necessary, rather than working to an external measurement that would have driven his behavior.

So... for games... what if you had no XP, per se? No levels? What if you actually advanced by really getting better at something skill related? Or what if the game monitored all the same stuff that it does for XP, and just automatically made you "better" at stuff when you'd done enough of the early work?

For example, weapon use. Let's say you find a really cool, big-ass sword. You try to use it, and can barely swing it. OK... you must need more strength. Go use smaller swords for awhile. Then come back. It's easier to swing, and faster. But you don't hit as often as you like. You need better DX. So you practice swinging at things that move, or fight foes that block, or you fence with someone, etc. You find that your swings hit more often.

There are very few "levels" in real life. It's much more granular, eh?

Arbitrary levels of flexibility don't really provide more power; just more specific descriptions of whatever power you've got.


It's interesting that a frequently requested feature on the LotRO forums is the ability to turn off XP gain completely.


Andy Havens>But the "one price fits all" ended up being much more flexible internally for my friend.

It works for a lot of people. We used to charge players per-hour for MMOs, but then they went flat rate and people abandoned the per-hour worlds in their hordes.

If your friend were to offer his services for free, but would add other, out-of-brief recommendations for a fee, he'd clean up.



As I see the biggest trouble with MMO pricing at the moment is lack of true marketing support. No, not the PR/flyers/advertising game; but a statistical approach to consumer choice. What are the value thresholds for each market segment? And if we think there are only two segments; casual and hardcore we would be wrong.

My suggestion? someone needs to launch some needs based segmentation and really take a good hard look at how consumers are responding to the current plethora of mmo features. Then with this in mind, design the game. This is commonly called STP in marketing, unfortunately not commonly obeyed. Segmentation, Targetting and Positioning, in that order. All too common, companies make the product first, then toss it over the wall at marketing.


RO, it's interesting that you mention that. FFXIV has certainly had some, er, passionate responses. (See http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/10/12/1318223/Final-Fantasy-XIV-Launches-To-Scathing-Reviews)

I can't tell it's a total disaster or a stroke of genius. On the one hand, the game really is pretty bad. But it's bad in ways that can be fixed over the long term. The graphics engine is incredible and the armory system and leveling mechanics are good. The implementation, however is horrific -- slow, cumbersome menus, very little actual content/storyline, and a completely chaotic market system.

So I guess what SE has done here by trolling the early adapters is they have purchased a great deal of market data and analysis at the cost of subscribers and good reviews. It's an interesting gamble, and one that is undoubtedly timed with the launch of the PS3 version in march. It will be interesting to see how far the game has moved past what now is essentially a for-pay alpha (yes, alpha, not beta, it's not feature-complete) test.


The solution seems to be a more adaptive AI, nobody plays game to gain a sense of fairness, the game should provide a fun or immersive challenge for each player, so instead of leaving it to the player to determine his/her level of difficulty, then the game should recognize how a player performs and should adapt to that. If a dark elves is easing his way through a dungeon than maybe the creatures should dodge and walk to him faster than they would should he suck at it. The experience points would then be proportionally given. I'm writing an article on the subject of adaptive AI, i'll post it on the Video Game Canon ( http://videogamecanon.com ) for those interested.

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