Hard Target

April 14, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 11 Comments
Tags: , ,

Hard Target. About as perfect a movie as Tombstone.

A lot of free to play games require you use the cash shop to fix purposefully broken mechanics. They need to make money so I don’t resent them for this, but I also don’t play their games. I think the most important quality of a cash shop in an MMO is that you need to make your customers feel like they’re not being forced into the cash shop.

That should be Arenanet’s target in winning approval for their model. They’ll need to convince people that the gold for gems system means that you don’t have to spend real cash. That the items they sell aren’t required to play. That nothing in the shop is an unfair exploitation of the player base. That no one has a real advantage over others.

Being able to buy gems with in game gold is an excellent compromise for people who never wanted a cash shop in the first place. The system solves a lot of problems while creating few. People with no intention of spending money have equal access to the cash shop.

And most of the items give you marginal boosts at best. The experience boost for example, perhaps one of the items that people have the biggest problems with. In a game with a flat experience curve, where the developers have specifically gone out of their way to make experience less of a grind, these complaints seem invalid.

Cosmetic or utility items are matters of aesthetics or convenience. I can’t imagine an argument that could convince me a costume gives someone an advantage over another.

The above examples are great ways to soften the need for using the cash shop. But what happens when game systems become so unbalanced or dysfunctional that the only alternative is to use the cash shop? A common problem in other free to play games.

Unfortunately in this case it doesn’t matter if the items in question are cosmetic or non-game breaking. If people feel like they need to use cash shop items to accomplish their goal, they will feel like they’re being forced. And at that point it won’t matter if they can buy gems with their own gold. They’ll feel like they’re being cheated. Cheated out of gold, or gems, or money, or all three.

And that is why in my previous post I was worried about less obvious options like the dye items. From an outsiders perspective the system looks like an unforgiving grind, even if a grind over cosmetic unlocks.

The real test will come when we actually get our hands on the game. Only then will we know for sure just how important the cash shop is to our individual experience. Some may feel compelled to use it, some may find little use for it.

Personally I don’t see myself using the cash shop often but I do see myself using it, and that is exactly the target I think Arenanet should be hitting.

Advertisements

11 Comments

  1. I think Arenanet is trying to use the shop as a way to lower the bar between the 1 hour play session and 2+ session’s they see players doing, I believe there trying hard and alot of the shop seems to be ‘time-saving’ items, until we get the game to see how much time you dollar save’s you.(I see many spread sheets ahead.)

    • I remember working out a lot of dollar values in Runes of Magic and if I’m honest I spent way too much time on it. Going to concentrate on the usefulness of items instead of costs on the blog.

  2. Sadly, when people hear cash shop their brains go numb and they stop listening. Then they rave about it and how much it sucks. I’ve been on the Guru2 forums since it was announced and there was lots of raving and complaining. I, myself, think its a fair usage of a cash shop, but others disagree. Of course the Guild Wars 2 Guru forums is mostly whiners and complainers so maybe I’m coming from a bias community.

    • I whole heartedly agree. It seems like some people just need something to complain about to vent from their unhappy lives, and somehow they all end up on guru. But there are plenty of good people there too, they’re just drowned out.

  3. “If people feel like they need to use cash shop items to accomplish their goal, they will feel like they’re being forced.”
    .
    Perception is 9/10ths of the law of physics… err… or something like that is what the Buddhist monks would have us believe.
    My personal views on MTs and cash shops have always been extremely negative in the past (probably has something to do with DEVs of those games drinking the tears of children who are forced to watch them torture puppies and kittens) but it seems like ArenaNet has successfully managed to maintain their basic humanity and decency in the past (original GW) and I’m very hopefull they will do so in the future.(GW2)
    Any feeling that I’m not able to enjoy the game without heavy, regular use of the cash shop will fairly quickly cause me to put it down – perhaps permanently. And ANY indication at all of “Pay2Win” type tactics in the cash shop won’t just be quick – it will be immediate departure from the game. I want an “even playing field” for any game that proposes PvP as a large facet of it’s gameplay.
    .
    Things like additional character slots and inventory space are not just acceptable, but very welcome additions to a cash shop, and I will cheerfully give financial support to the developer with those purchases. Given the fact that I’m retired, and basically play video games all day long, there is a better than fair chance I will be buying at least 1 character slot per month. (Btw, trust me kiddos, it’s not all fun and games at this age… physical infirmity definitely sucks.)
    And there is no problem with any of the cosmetic stuff – that’s just good clean fun for those who are interested in playing dress up.
    The tricky part (as you suggested) is the “time saving” items – ostensibly put there for folks who aren’t able to play as much as they would like so they can “catch up” with friends who play more often. First, sidekicking down, and flat level curve really ought to alleviate much of that feeling of “needing to catch up.” And second, if this involves tweaking of the game’s mechanics to “encourage” everyone to make use of these items they are going to seriously piss off a lot of folks like myself, and could lose much of the goodwill they generated in the community.
    .
    We will probably have a better idea once numbers are released about how well they did with the pre-purchases… I suspect those numbers will be quite healthy, which will suggest that they are going to make a mint without having to resort to excessively greedy tactics in their cash shop. /fingerscrossed

    • At this point in development I doubt they’ll make many major changes to how the game mechanics work in relationship to the cash shop. It would have to be pretty much too late to massively overhaul anything to force people into the cash shop. That being said i’m sure theres plenty of time to change the individual items so who knows.

  4. […] Insight: Putting the pieces together and Hard Target, where Hunter’s gives another good analysis on what ArenaNet shuold aim for with their […]

  5. I think that the cash shop is best used for things that actually enhance gameplay: An example is home server transfer; putting that in the cash shop at quite a high price may act to inhibit everyone moving to their zone’s top rated WvW server instantly their server loses a matching. Stuff like makeover kits and character slots are also good, since those things encourage at least some degree of avatar stability.

    Putting cosmetic items in the cash shop needs to be handled sensitively, since at level cap rewards will be largely cosmetic and they shouldn’t compete with cash shop items. Also, since the in game items are likely to have more prestige, that would somewhat limit how much cash ANet would make from similar, but less desirable, items in the cash shop. So probably they’ll restrict in game armor in the cash shop and mostly have peripheral dressing up stuff, such as tuxedos, blacksmith’s aprons etc.

    I’m not sure I quite understand why every game related item and service should be obtainable in the game via trading gold for gems (if that is the case). If I was doing it, I’d be tempted to keep stuff like server transfers, additional character slots, storage panes, content updates etc. as cash only items. But, maybe, there will be some kind of separation like that: I don’t see why *anyone* is entitled to play the game for free, forever. After all server availability, maintenance and updates do cost something and surely, in an ideal model, players would contribute to that pretty much equally, according to the time they are in the game.

    • Depends on how the whole server mechanic thing works really. I wouldn’t want it to be mandatory to pay something like that to play with friends but if you can visit that would be fine.

      As long as there is a wide breadth of selection in game I don’t care if there are cosmetic armour sets in the cash shop.

      A lot of people might feel entitled to play the game for free since they paid for the game itself and were promised that they could play for free afterward. I dont’ necessarily blame them.

      • I had heard, from the horse’s mouth I think, that visiting other servers would be free, but permananent changes to your home server in order to play WvW elsewhere would be charged for.

        I think that if Anet’s charging model is going to work for them and the industry as a whole, it has to compete with the subscription model. If, it is perceived that they *could* have done better on a subscription basis, then buy to play is a fail for future MMos. That’s the commercial reality; and I rather think the idea of relying on so called “whales” to make up the cash difference (as in some F2Ps) is a bit morally suspect (and tends to lead to play2win) – I’d much rather they find a way of getting contributions from the whole playerbase to fund further development, as they did in Gw1 – with the factions/nightfall/eotn content.

  6. […] Hunter’s Insight — Hard Target. “A lot of free to play games require you use the cash shop to fix purposefully broken mechanics. They need to make money so I don’t resent them for this, but I also don’t play their games. I think the most important quality of a cash shop in an MMO is that you need to make your customers feel like they’re not being forced into the cash shop. That should be Arenanet’s target in winning approval for their model. They’ll need to convince people that the gold for gems system means that you don’t have to spend real cash. That the items they sell aren’t required to play. That nothing in the shop is an unfair exploitation of the player base. That no one has a real advantage over others.” […]


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: