Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More Dead Horses: Money May Equal Time, But It Will Never Equal Commitment

Having given it some more thought and reading Chris' comments below, here is my post, distilled: Time spent on a thing does not equal Commitment to it. Commitment to a thing leads to Time and Money being spent on it.

This morning, jim, who also commented on Rohan's A Disconnect on F2P, shared his point of view with me on yesterday's post.
Without time spending there can be ABSOLUTELY no commitment on your behalf and therefore it is not possible to care for the game. Spending money is not the same as spending time because it lacks the connection that time spent involves.

One cannot replace spending 3 months farming for mats,gold and gear with 100$ or even 300$ because it is just not the same thing. The first case you end up with the game grown on you and the second has no emotional after effect whatsoever.

I for one do not have the time needed anymore but i would prefer a slow progression on a game that rewards my dedication rather than a game that has no possible way to make me empathize with it and my characters within it's world. Get teh damn 3-monthers' out of our way please!!!!!
I thank you, jim, for your input. I must say, you certainly have a passion for MMOs. You didn't mention what games you are playing right now, but I have to assume they are based on subscription revenue. I wonder if you have actually played any games that are F2P, because you seem to have a prejudicial notion of what F2P item shops actually offer.

I am committed (or not) to a game within a couple hours of starting it. If it compels me, I will continue to play. The "farming" you describe is irrelevant to my commitment to my characters. Nor am I advocating that "pay to win" items like high-end gear be sold in an item shop.

I, too, prefer slow progression. As mentioned in my post, I have never taken less than five months to reach max level in any MMORPG. However, I beg to differ that "grind" is the way to develop commitment in a player population. On the contrary, "grind" is boring by definition, the antithesis of what devs want associated with their game. I will admit that "farming" can be a relaxing way to spend an evening. So is knitting, but I don't have needles and yarn.

What I have seen in my own life is that a subscription led to a sense of obligation to a game, or rather, an obligation to myself to get the most possible "value" out of my monthly payment. That also made it difficult to break away and play other games (MMO and SP) that may have been just as good, or even better. This was also a time in my life that I needed a good escape from my day-to-day world. But I devoted almost all my free time to the game, and it probably wasn't healthy. Sure I made friends, I even met a few for lunch or dinner in the real world. But now, I have a social life outside the game world—though I still spend plenty of time playing games.

Many people see subscriptions as an economic equalizer: we all pay the same per month and then devote time to the game, those who devote more time advance faster than others, whether we're talking about leveling, professions, or in-game wealth. However, that sub/time scenario is no more an equalizer than the time/money one. Many players literally do not have the time to devote to a game others may, because of commitments and obligations in the real world.

Playing games that don't have that subscription obligation is literally freeing. Do I want to play TSW or STO tonight? GW2 or Neverwinter? Maybe I should read a book or watch a movie instead.

Are there annoyances? Sure. The constant announcements about l33t ships and mounts coming out of Cryptic's lockboxes are annoying as hell. But most of the time that there is a cash item shop in those games that I play, it is not obtrusive. Also, except for GW2, all the games I play are hybrids with both subscriptions and F2P options.

The elitism inherent in your "3-monthers" epithet is a bit distasteful, to be honest. They're not any more in your way than PvPers are in the way of end-game raiders. The idea that the way someone else chooses to spend their time in game affects you in any way—excepting griefers, of course—is preposterous. In fact, that sort of insular elitism—the attitude that "the rabble" are ruining your game—is what poisons many a game community.

Looking at your argument a slightly different way, anyone who's ever purchased gear—or anything really—in an in-game auction house is cheating, because they didn't spend the time necessary to gather the mats and create the gear themselves, or run to dungeons and yank on the loot table slot machines.

"That's ludicrous," you may say. "The auction house is part of the game." /shrug So is the cash shop. It's a way to stimulate the game economy. And it also stimulates the Developer's economy.

In the end, I cannot disagree with your statement that without spending time there is no commitment. However, ultimately it is only a game, and very ephemeral at that. All the personal time and commitment in the world won't stop your favorite MMO from becoming the next Star War Galaxies or City of Heroes. And then where will you be?

26 comments:

  1. As someone who has committed a shitload of time to a shitload of games, but has never really gotten to very many "end games", I think Jim needs to realize that his absolutism only extends to the tip of his nose.

    I can be extremely committed to a game, like Rowan, when I fire it up for the first time. In fact, my commitment level is at it's all time high at that point: I'm excited, challenged, and engaged. It's actually when the game starts to take advantage of that commitment that I lose interest.

    This is not a one-way street. Games throw a lot at us when we start, and it's a heady time because it's all brand new to us (even games that look and play like other games are "new" to us in many ways). Over time, however, they run out of ways to keep us interested, relying almost entirely on the fact that people weigh prior investment against mind-numbing boredom of what Jim considers to be the ACTUAL act of committing to the game. These are not supposed to be "trial by fire" simulators; my love of a game should never be judged by how much pain I can endure. Anyone who thinks doing so is a badge that demands the adulation of their peers is probably in need of a good therapist.

    I've come to value convienience features like XP boosts because they allow me to approach the game as I see fit, and not have to flog myself to get past a particularly odious speedbump of content. They also allow me to keep up with friends who DO play more than I do, which is something I have come to value over the years.

    Whether I spend my way through convienience or unnecessarily subject myself to excruciating torture because some developer was handed the mandate to keep the mice in the maze as long as possible is totally my business. It's not taking anything away from people who opt to perform with a net, and I really don't fault people who like to do that for liking it. Most of the time, I like it myself, but the fact that I'm willing to spend OPTIONAL MONEY on OPTIONAL CONTENT in a F2P game while "purists" like Jimbo opt to go commando and not drop a dime is actually another form of commitment. Time spent in a F2P game without spending money isn't going to put food on developers tables, after all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think jim is a subscription purist, based his comments on Rohan's post. :) Like you, I spend a lot of time in games, but have devoted relatively little to "end-game" content.

      Delete
  2. I feel like Jim's comment is super binary. There is more than one path through any game, and there are fun grinds and completely unenjoyable grinds. These vary on a player by player basis. Personally I love kill X quests... I can be happy for days doing a laundry list of kill mobs quests. However the first time you make me do some mini-game, I lose interest in your game. However there is a specific type of player that those quests really work for. I realize this and this is what keeps me from saying... burn all the mini-games!

    So why do I bring this example up in a discussion mostly about timesinks and cash shops? Well if I could pay a fee to skip every bit of content that is not fun for me, so that I can only focus on the things that ARE fun... I would do it in a heartbeat. Essentially it comes down to an equation of how much is your own time worth to you. The older I have gotten and the busier I have gotten the more my own time is worth to me. Spend $20 to save 20 hours of grinding? Hell yes I will do that every time in a heartbeat.

    Essentially I have never played a single F2P model that has anything even vaguely close to pay to win. There is sometimes pay to catch up, or pay to level faster... and more often pay to remove some atrocious grind from your path. But never is there a case where you have to have some item from the cash shop to be able to compete with other players. Quite frankly in a PVE game you aren't even competing with other players... but the false sense of competition players have with one another is a discussion for another day.

    Basically while I value the right for Jim to have an opinion... it is far too black and white to ever be completely true. There is no one kind of player, and no one way to play a game... especially one as multifaceted as an MMO. For every feature a game has, there is a gameplay surrounding that feature that will surprise you. I feel like equally there are many different wants to feel committed to a game, spending bulk hours playing it is far from the only one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In many ways, that's where I was going with the AH example. You earn in-game currency doing various things in the game, you are then able to spend that currency in the AH on things you would rather spend time collecting. Most poeple would not consider that a lack of commitment to the game, even though it is certainly a lack of commitment to some grindy part of the game. But who (besides Jim) said we have to be committed to some unpleasant aspect of any game.

      Delete
  3. I am all for slower progression. however, payment model has zero, let me emphasize zero, to do with how or why I play an MMO. whether I am committed or not has to do with whether the game is fun, whether there's lots of content and good community or not. now, it's a fair worry that F2P games attract 'grazers' - but they don't create them any more than other games do. once we're past the grazer culture, 3+ months into games the real community show. Allods has a die-hard russian community. GW2 is slowly becoming its own game by now. payment model =/ commitment. it's an illusion to equate the two. I would also question the quality of someone's game time who only plays wow because the sub is 'obligating him'.

    "...the first case you end up with the game grown on you"
    I'd be careful with this, too. it's a very pink glass that suggests games grow on you because you forced yourself through boring grinds. ton of people hate this kind of gameplay because it's more on the satisfaction rather than fun side of things (I assume you've seen Psychochild's article on the matter). commitment isn't created out of being forced to play in ways you loathe. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "more on the satisfaction rather than fun side of things"
      I place running in this category. Running for me is never fun, but it is satisfying to have gone on a run. But at least I'm healthier for having run. Nothing about "unfun" in a game really benefits me.

      Delete
  4. I'm not sure commitment is a word I want to use in regards to gaming in the first place. I play games I enjoy, pure and simple. If I have fun while playing, then I'll keep on playing. It matters not to me if they are free to play or if I'm paying a monthly subscription. It's all about the value I place on my free time and where I'm willing to spend it.

    And I must say. I'm a grown adult who works for my money. Deciding to give money to a game, either through a cash shop or a monthly subscription fee, does mean something to me. I do not throw money at virtual pixels lightly. Is that not some level of commitment to the game?

    TSW is a great example. I have a lifetime subscription for it. I knew when I bought that sub that it was very likely going free to play. So why give Funcom my hard earned dollars? Because I thought the game was worth it. For me, that game was a breath of fresh air. It was a challenge. It was different. The cut scenes and voice acting were awesome. I gave them my money and...

    Promptly went off to play GW2 almost exclusively. I loved GW2 for different reasons. And as someone who loves PvP, its end game was perfect for me. I have never once regretted the lifetime sub to TSW. I will say also, that I've spent more money in GW2's cash shop than I would have if paying a monthly sub.

    I don't regret that either. Why? Because it has been super fun for me. I am now taking a bit of a break from GW2 until ANet can fix this terrible WvW match up system. Where am I spending my gaming time? TSW of course.

    So I fail to see how one player's style shows more "commitment" to a game than another. It's apples and apples really.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "I do not throw money at virtual pixels lightly. Is that not some level of commitment to the game?"
    It's a huge level of commitment, tbh.

    And man! Did I love me some sPvP in GW2! I need to jump back in and do that again sometime.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with what Scott Geeding said in his comment, a thing Jim completely disregarded. The reward for grind may not be a "material" one (well, as far as in-game items are material) but simply being able to do another activity (i. e. content as reward). If I want to engage in some in-game activity (because I consider it fun), I need to spend time not only on the activity itself but may be asked to grind (for XP, items etc.) which I do not consider fun and would rather engage in the activity more. Even if we accept the "game grows on me" hypothesis, doing the activity would be enough - actually, the grind may be counterproductive (depending on the type of player) as they are consider double-taxation of P2P (time and sub money) versus a single periodic payment of money of F2P games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it's been discussed in the past that one player's unpleasant grind is another player's relaxing evening. If we could bypass the things we consider grind to play the things we consider fun or relaxing (or both), I think that could only increase our enjoyment of, and therefore commitment to, the game.

      Delete
  7. I agree with you. I don't agree with Jim. However...

    Back when I first played Everquest, and for quite a few years, it absolutely was the case that quite a few people thought players who wore tradeable gear were, if not exactly cheating then certainly slacking. Most good gear was No Drop and if you waned it you had to go get it. When the Broker was added later it was commonplace to hear snarky comments people about wearing Broker gear, suggesting they must have bought it because they weren't capable of getting it themselves. I wouldn't say that attitude ceased to become common before 2006-2007 and I am certain there are EQ players who still feel that way.

    On the idea that paying a sub makes you feel you must play that game, I think that's a personality thing. I think of paying the sub like paying the dues for a club. You pay them because you want to be a member of the club, even though you may hardly ever use the facilities. We maintain two SOE All Access passes at a cost of around £30 a month and have done for, what, a decade now. It has no effect on on whether we play SOE MMOS at any given time. Neither of us has played one regularly for getting on for a year, I think, but it's worth the money to me just to know we're still members of the club.

    Whereas in GW2, which I've played non-stop for 10 months, I have spent not one penny over the box price, partly because I consider the Gem shop too expensive. Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may want to reassess your spending habits. ;)

      The "sub = obligation" feeling is totally a personality thing. But it is also why I never played GW1, because I was subscribed to WoW and wanted to "get my money's worth." It was 4 years before I bought and played another game, STO, and that was a combination of my Trekker status, and a hacking incident that almost ended my WoW experience entirely. I'm glad I broke out of the WoW bubble. I don't regret having played, but I have many rich experiences since.

      Delete
  8. I *detest* the feeling of obligation that comes with a subscription, and it's largely based on justifying the money I've spent because the clock is ticking. Conversely, I've spent money on Wizard101 that I've not yet actually *used* in the game yet, and I've purchased GW2 but only played a few minutes because of technical issues. I don't feel ripped off in either of those cases because I can go play them later when I can make the time and tech work. It's similar to these indie game bundles that I keep getting for a few bucks here and there. My Steam list is getting pretty long, but I don't mind spending that money because the cost is low (microtransactions, of a sort) and because the access is more or less perpetual.

    Tangentially, I've been a Puzzle Pirates player and fan for nigh on seven years now. If the game had only ever used subs, I'd probably have tinkered for a few days of a free trial and moved on. Their microtransaction "F2P" servers are what hooked me by letting me play for more than a trial period. Yeah, there are restrictions, but once I started mastering pieces of the game and digging into the community, it got in my blood, and I started spending money on it. I "committed" because I was permitted to do so on my own terms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's really the key. If the commitment (to anything, really) is not on your own terms, then it's really not a commitment at all. It's only something you do as long as you are obligated to.

      Delete
  9. Ok let me get some things straight.

    I do not detest f2p games just on a whim, my doing so comes from personal experience. So here is a RL example of when Quel Danas dailies hit WoW. ALL of my guildies were playing the damn game from some point in vanilla, some from the get go and others from varied start points before TBC hit us. I personally adore TBC era being an avid raider and pve gamer.
    ALL of the above group were farming mats/gold for 5 hour blocks before 2.4 patch and NEVER EVER got bored of the game because gold was not exactly in abundance, many did struggle hard to even get an epic flying mount back then, and even more so crafting reagents were a huge issue since raiding is all about gearing up.
    So when the dailies came along NOT A SINGLE SOUL went back to farming/grinding (some were even group grinding tyr hand elites JUST for silver back in vanilla), they were just collecting 300g from dailies each day within an hour and bought all they needed/wanted.

    Guess what the result was... They started complaining about dailies after a month or two and showed signs of decay as far as their desire to keep playing. Ultimately all of us stopped playing a month after wotlk came. I started playing again 5 months after that as a casual gamer.

    The same thing happened to everyone i ever met that was buying gold (illegally). They could not go back to farming anymore and after awhile they got bored of the game as it was not challenging etc.

    What i want to say is that giving shortcuts (even with money) ultimately it takes a toll on the playerbase. They slack or learn to, and YOU are to blame.

    There simply cannot be a f2p game that has no shortcuts on sale. It just won't be financially sustainable, and therefore it will add them soon after.

    I certainly cannot play for 12 or 16 hour blocks as i once did, but even if i can afford 2 hour blocks now (since you cannot play an online game with distractions, as superman actor said you simply cannot pause the damn thing), i would prefer a game that does not diminish my efforts in any way and i rather be certain that it won't do it during my course on the game.

    I don't think though that a game's payment model determines it's quality. I just believe that f2p games have an innate tendency to have a smaller lifespan (regarding me as a player i.e. they will keep my interest for a short while). Certainly there are sub games that suck like hell though but they CAN be designed around keeping the player's mind busy by ingame activities without also needing to provide incentives for him to buy stuff from the shop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just out of the OP curiosity, from wotlk onwards i am doing what everyone else seems to be doing.

      I am on an Endless jump from game to game trying to settle down on one.
      I did try WoW,Lotro,EQ2,Aion,AoC,WAR,GW2,Tera,Age of wushu and currently Dragon's Prophet. I did also try Runes of Magic, Allods online (before it got screwed and deemed as the foremost example of bad f2p) and every other fantasy setting mmo that seemed interesting. I kinda bounce back to wow from time to time only because of botting (look who talks about shortcuts lol), only i dived into that in early cata.

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience during the last days of TBC, and all your friends lost interest. I think a big clue to whether they really liked the grinding as you did is the fact they all jumped at the chance to dailies instead. I played through WotLK but didn't completely lose interest until Cataclysm.

      I did those same dailies in Quel Danas for months (among other things) and loved them. I'll farm dozen of eggs in Eversong woods before I ever pay 1 gold or more for them in the AH. However I'm certainly willing to sell them there.

      There is a huge difference between Illegal gold farming in WoW and the Cash Shops in FTP games, not the least of which is the hacking which often occurs as a result. My own WoW account got hacked with days of my starting this blog (no I never bought gold), which was the beginning of the end of my love affair with WoW, and which cost Blizzard probably a couple hundred dollars in man-hours and evaporated gold as they worked to restore my characters.

      But your prime example is from a subscription-based game, that also sells 25 dollar sparkle ponies in its cash shop. I'm so glad that you blame me personally for your perception of a poor and transient community in the 12 games you've played. I've only played 10 MMORPGs, and only 7 for any length of time. I've been playing TSW for almost a year, less a couple months break for GW2, and I'm back STO after having played for about a year and half after launch. Who's more the game hopper?

      F2P fits my play-style, and my life. And I honestly am beginning to take offense that you are implying that I am some kind of "Rebel Scum" for preferring it over tying myself to a subscription. I certainly hope you find the ultimate game that you never tire of or leave. My community is on the ultimate F2Ps of Twitter and G+. While I derive enjoyment from the games I play, I do not pin my happiness on them. I don't think you should either. Now go outside and play.

      Delete
    3. YOU are to blame was referring to the OCCASIONAL developer, so was my ORIGINAL comment that you quote in the post, i never tried to offend you and i have never tried to persuade a person against his opinion, after all we are just spouting thoughts here, none of us can be certain of what we believe is what leads to the best possible outcome (which also varies from person to person).

      Of course i was amongst that group of friends and i certainly stopped grinding. What i am saying comes as an afterthought from a long lost time. I stopped being addicted to gaming 5 years now. Meanwhile i got married and have a daughter on top of that. I certainly view things differently from back then.

      But case in point: I still believe that HARD shortcuts ruin your gaming experience, that's what i was referring to as commitment (experience that leaves a taste). Of course smart players know how to use the occasional AH of each game and that is called optimal solution/path, but early wow required time INVESTMENT that gave you(the player) an experience.

      Imagine how differently one would describe 3 months spent in a game gearing up his char with a dungeon set, as opposed to a slacker that blatantly goes ahead and buys that from the shop (RIFT example). Imagine that i forgot both RIFT and SWTOR from that list...See what an impact they had on me.

      What kind of an experience/impact does those 2 situations leave the player. Of course player No1 could ignore the shop, but we both very well know that is not the case.

      Even f2p "subscriptions" give shortcuts to players that in my opinion make them soft in the long run.

      Delete
    4. Ah, My apologies, I did not realize you had referred to developers in your original comment. And congratulations on your new family. :)

      Delete
    5. On the other hand, I know people who gave up because the grind was unbearable - I can even say promise of less grind was the reason why I started playing WoW (in late TBC/early WotLK). Yet, somehow, despite WoW being one big shortcut (compared to LA or RO, where I came from), I managed to play and like it for years.

      The thing you didn't acknowledge is that some parts of the game (such as endgame) are often gated behind other one-time and repeated parts. While some gating is accepted as a must in the genre, too much gating (how much is too much is individual) does leave a taste but most likely not the one you had on your mind when writing your post. ;-)

      Delete
  10. @Imakulata I wasn't sure if you were replying to me or to Jim. But in the post prior to this one, I mentioned that in "WoW, I came to resent having paid for content I would never see." In saying this, I was referring to high-end raids like the Black Temple in TBC. I never saw them, even though I'd paid the same subscription as those that did, because I didn't have the time or desire to join a hardcore raiding guild. I did end up seeing the first several fights of Ice Crown Citadel, before realizing that I didn't really have the time to devote to the raid.

    At this stage of my life, I am far less interested in the "status" of having been through a raid like that with the accompanying Achievements and Gear, than experiencing the story of the place as it unfolds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Rowan, I meant to reply to Jim, I'm sorry I wasn't clear.

      I understand your point but I don't consider it the same case as I mentioned. I can't say I never grinded, I did but did not want to (or wanted to grind less that I did) and I certainly had more fun in game which allowed me to grind less. While it may be paying for the content (grind) one never sees, in my opinion it is paying for the content I like, either with money or time (by grinding).

      Delete
  11. Anyone who's ever used a third-party website to read a guide or a watch a guide video is cheating, because they didn't spend the time necessary to find it out the hard way themselves, or learn the mechanics in dungeons on their own.

    C wut I did thar?

    *beats more dead horses*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL too true.

      "Don't study the fights, whatever you do," said no Raid Leader ever.

      Delete
  12. Heyo. Just wanted to thank you for the insightful discussion. I used it as a great starting point to discuss commitment and support in gaming. http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/feature/7522/The-Devils-Advocate-Commitment-is-a-Strange-Word.html

    *hugs*

    ReplyDelete