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Old 03-24-2006, 02:39 AM   #1
the_logos
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So I've ran two round tables so far at the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose, on the Free To Play business model that's enjoying such worldwide success, and what was amazing that out of a couple hundred game developers, venture capitalists, publishers, media guys, analysts, researchers, etc, there was not a -single- person who objected to this model, or the fact that it does indeed fit every reasonable definition of free.

It's pretty cool really. We were one of the pioneers of this model nine years ago (I'm not actually aware of any other developer/publisher who used our model as their primary model before then), and it's taken awhile, but it's sweeping the game world absolutely by storm. It's the dominant model in Korea and almost dominant in China, and my co-host for the panel, Daniel James (who co-founded Avalon and now runs Three Rings, which does Puzzle Pirates), made a bold prediction that within 10 years, the subscription model for online games would be basically dead, supplanted by our model. I'm not sure I believe it'll happen so quickly or so completely, but it was an interesting prediction.

Other interesting sessions today that I went to included Will Wrights (SimCity, The Sims, and the upcoming "Spore", a game based almost entirely on algorithmic content) presentation on, well, whatever the hell he wanted to talk about. There were around 2500 people there, and I swear, we all treat him like he's a rock star (with justification). He gave this odd but very compelling talk on the design process he goes through that ranged from human resource problems to astrobiology. Will Wright is simply operating on a different level from every other game designer on the planet. He's brilliant. It must be really gratifying to be essentially the designer in the industyr that can make literally whatever he wants. Can you imagine any other designer being given a huge budget by EA to make a game that sets out to allow players to "mess with the evolutionary process"? Freaking awesome. The guy is a national treasure.

Also attended a round table today on competitive PvP systems focusing on larger groups (think the sieges in Lineage or Shadowbane), but it wasn't particularly useful, as expected. A few text MUDs are still so far ahead of graphical MUDs in terms of this kind of thing (including ours) that we mainly didn't participate in the roundtable. Anything we could say on the matter is so far ahead of anything they can conceive of being practical (as they're operating with a much larger audience than any text MUD, and that is simply harder to design for) that it would require tons of explanation for it to not sound ridiculous to these guys. It's not at all that they're dumb - quite the opposite in fact: There was the producer for City of Heroes/City of Villains, one of the lead guys from Dark age of Camelot, a guy from Xbox Live Arcade, etc. They are smart, competent, reasonable people. They just have no exposure to the level of depth that text MUDs can take things to. They don't even realize that their games have taken what has existed for quite a long time and actually dumbed it down rather than advanced the state of the art.

--matt
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Old 03-24-2006, 04:15 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Mar. 24 2006,09:39)
It's pretty cool really. We were one of the pioneers of this model nine years ago (I'm not actually aware of any other developer/publisher who used our model as their primary model before then), and it's taken awhile, but it's sweeping the game world absolutely by storm.
If you're referring to the "pay-for-virtual-items" model, muds have been using it a lot longer than nine years (although they typically referred to the items as 'donation items' in an attempt to get around non-commercial licence clauses).
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Old 03-24-2006, 08:44 AM   #3
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the_logos@: Mar. 24 2006,03:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by
So I've ran two round tables so far at the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose, on the Free To Play business model that's enjoying such worldwide success, and what was amazing that out of a couple hundred game developers, venture capitalists, publishers, media guys, analysts, researchers, etc, there was not a -single- person who objected to this model, or the fact that it does indeed fit every reasonable definition of free.
Of course nobody objected to the business model.
It was a conference for commercal Game Developers and other commercial interests, wasn't it?. How many representatives of non commercial Muds were present? My guess would be none at all, since Mud developers that run free muds, don't have the money to attend conferences (nor to advertise their games for that matter).

Naturally the Pay-for-perks business model. (which you keep calling Free-to-play), is enjoying a world-wide success among commercial Game Developers.
It is after all the most effective method known to squeeze the largest possible amount of money out of your total playerbase.

Naturally an audience like that wouldn't have any objections to the 'free-to-play' label either, since that makes it easier to get new players to try out the game, without having to reveal the snag before they get hooked.

Also it's in line with the prevailing commercial culture, where you get all sorts of 'free' offers all the time, (free cellphones - if you pay for a 1 year account, free television channels - if you buy a box to view them etc.). That's today's advertising culture, and regrettably it has totally invaded the internet too in the last years. And people are getting so used to commercialism that they forget how it was before, when you didn't have to listen to irritating commercial's every 15 minutes in a TV program. Many are even too young to ever have experienced it.

There are only a few areas that commercialism hasn't yet invaded. The truly free Text Muds are among those few, but they are fighting a losing battle, since they are having increasing problems in getting their message noticed in the flood of commercialism.

All the Mud sites that started out mainly as forums for free Muds have now been taken over by the commercial interests. This also reflects on the topics of discussion, which have changed over the years from questions about game development, to questions about commercial business ideas.

Personally I think it is sad. This site used to have a lot more interesting discussions 5 years ago. In case any of you forgot, or weren't a member back then, take a look at the Articles part of this site. There are some very interesting articles there, but most of those were written over 3 years ago.
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Old 03-24-2006, 07:24 PM   #4
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I prefer to play on the true free MUDs, because the 'free to play' model says to me 'pay to enjoy'. I'll admit it's better than a monthly fee though.

Gaming is an industry like any others, and you've got to do what you have to support it. The transition of the model more speaks to me more about our economic status. People might rely on their $x every month, so they can't afford it. Whereas paying for an ocassional perk here and there is much more managable.

It doesn't mean I enjoy either one any better. Free/low cost is the key to my patronage.

Also, I can agree with you on Will Wright being lucky. Any dream this guy can envision, he can make it. I would kill for a chance like that.
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