#2 -- Balance microtransactions with game content.
Real money trade (RMT) was big news this year. The rise of the microtransaction model was on everyone's lips. I'm not calling for a death-knell of subscription fees or anything (I like the predictability of the subscription system; I know how much I'm going to pay) but I am saying that microtransactions need to be carefully monitored.
This writer's suggestion: cosmetic pieces. The item doesn't have to do something to make people love it. Take some hints from Gaia Online, Mabinogi, and City of Heroes. Their models have proven that people will pay for things -- awesome abilities or not. Just remember the first rule of actually having an avatar in an online space -- people want to look cool above everything else.
"Just remember the first rule of actually having an avatar in an online space -- people want to look cool above everything else."
Many people may not agree with John Smedley on everything he says, but he's dead on the money with ideas like character action figures, guild calendars and pictures, and posters with your character on it and the official branding. Those items are amazing concepts, easy to produce, and a great way for an alternate revenue stream to flow into your company.
#1 -- "Kill/Quest, Level" concept is a dead horse, get on with it already!
Yes! Get on with it! This is, without a doubt, in my mind, the biggest failure of the industry today. We're following along a solved formula, and it's shooting this industry in the foot. Player needs to level, player completes quests and kills monsters, player reaches next level, player gets new abilities, player uses abilities to go complete quests and kill monsters, et cetera.
We keep asking the question, "Why don't these new games seem like they're as good?" And then we begin this in-depth analysis and begin checking every aspect of the game to find out why this feels like we've done it all before. The answer is taking a step back, looking at the model and exclaiming aloud, "Holy heck in a handwoven handkerchief, we have done this before!"
The reason we keep playing single player games is because each one has it's own twist on the core formula. Couple that with the story and personal experience, and you get a great game. Our MMO industry needs to learn this fact this year -- not next year. The quest/kill, level, quest/kill model has been done and overdone. Gameplay needs to expand past this. Even reputation grinding is nothing more than the quest/kill to level system.
One game that has been taking off faster than a warp drive engine has been EVE Online, because it has broken from this methodology. Before you begin your complaints, yes, the grinding system is there. Doing missions to get money is the quest/kill system. What makes EVE different and attractive is that this system is not the core of the gameplay -- it is a tangent of that play. The gameplay centers around the tools offered to let users shape and mold the universe according to their wishes. Money is a requirement, but it does not only come from mining and missions; it can come from basically anything you can twist to make money. If you can dream it you can probably do it in EVE -- that's the magic. This is why EVE is simply one of the best MMOs you can wrap your hands around.
"The quest/kill, level, quest/kill model has been done and overdone."
2009 has a chance to be something special. With titles like Jumpgate Evolution, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Darkfall Online coming at us, this should be a very good year.
Colin Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who remembered Darkfall before the rabid comment fans ripped him apart for not mentioning it. When he's not writing here for Massively, he's over running Epic Loot For All! with his insane roommates. If you want to message him, send him an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com.