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December 01, 2008

Comments

Pete S

You need to move to Japan. :) Or wait a few years. I know there are cell-phone based MMOs over there and I think the kinds of functionality you're looking for is pretty common in their much more cell-phone-as-mobile-internet-device-centric culture.

Melf_Himself

Great post, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said.

I'd also add crafting to the list of things to let players accomplish on their lunch hour. Little flash-based minigames that can load up in web browsers, on phones, etc. No reason to clog up valuable game time with that stuff if people don't want to, as the hardware requirements should hardly be up there relative to the 'real' game.

As for the auction house, that's a simply superb idea. I'd see no reason to restrict people from buying or selling, it's just the same as if they were sitting in game all day (only less life-destroying).

Alysianah aka Saylah

@ Pete S - I don't think an all the time cellphone or browser-based game could satisfy my needs to great graphics, huge expanses and the sophistication of interacts that can exist on a powerful device such as a PC. However, the fact that there are web-based and cellphone based games already, means that what I'm asking for is clearly do-able with existing technology.

@Melf - I thought about crafting but I think that one could really expose the game to exploits in most MMOs. It could easily be botted or compromised in the average crafting system. Games with ideal situations are ones where the player isn't actually creating the items - no interaction other than ensuring components and clicking start. EVE Online and Pirates of the Burning Sea come to mind as examples.

Jeromai

You know what would be utterly addictive? And consume your soul in an MMO?

Allowing out-of-game access to chat channels, be it guild chat, or global channels or some such.

My guild set up a chatbot that funneled guildchat out to a browser interface in Age of Conan. Maybe I've always joined technologically-impaired guilds before this, but it was an eye-opener for me.

And it got to be a compulsive habit to just log in and lurk around to watch people chatting at all hours, going "at work, what are you guys doing now" and so on.

Lloyd "Svartalve" V.

For awhile now I've wished for an MMO that really takes advantage of the web with features that you've mentioned here and then some. I think it's a win-win for both players and the developer to have auxiliary apps (browser, mobile etc) that interface with the MMO because it helps players stay connected to the game experience when it's impractical/impossible to enter the full client.

Things like Achievement systems being available online (which incidentally, a recent WoW Armory^ update added) are a start. Station's chat system* is another--letting users chat across Servers and Games, both in-game and through the Station Launcher. In this regard, next-generation MMO might not look at all different from the current staples, but instead implement a robust and varied off-client online presence.
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^http://wowarmory.com/updates.xml
*http://tinyurl.com/cross-chat

Crimson Starfire

Great post!

If you haven't already, I recommend reading a post I did recently about making money off websites like you've suggested. It could lead to reduced subscription fees or even a free game (I wish):

http://word-of-shadow.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-dont-they-milk-it.html

Khan

Interesting ideas! Though, lack of access to the game at work is what keeps me doing ... um ... whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing. Responding to blogs? No, that's not it. Well, it will come to me. :)

Alysianah aka Saylah

@Khan LOL

Tesh

This sort of multitiered access to the game is a natural fit for casual playstyle gamers. It's also a natural fit for microtransaction business plans. I've always felt that subscriptions put undue pressure to "perform" while logged into the client, since players feel they have to make the most of their money. (Though these sort of browser-based mini applications would be a great fit for Guild Wars, too.)

For example, rather than having a flat subscription rate, a game could go with the GW model and charge a little bit extra for something like an "Auction House" website, even if it's something like an in-game surcharge for the convenience. (And in a dual currency model, those surcharges could directly correlate with real money fees that could monetize the game without a sub fee.) In other words, you pay for what you do in the game, rather than a buffet-style access. (Though some would almost certainly get more out of a subscription to an online "auction house" service that waives or alleviates fees.)

I've written before that I'd pay good money for WoW offline. I can easily see some sort of offline game like that that nevertheless has an online auction economy (that thereby conveniently verifies accounts and dodges onerous DRM schemes). Really, that's how WoW plays a lot of the time; a great solo game, optional multiplayer raids, and a chat room/auction house. Why not break up those functions and perhaps even monetize them differently, so the player who plays the market more than the game can pay for what he uses, and the player who plays the game but doesn't ever both with the chat or AH can pay for what she uses.

Yes, this sort of thing would mean more granular control over the user experience, and might open up more security chinks, but ultimately, if it gets more people playing and paying for the game (whether sub or MT), it's going to pay for itself.

Alysianah aka Saylah

There was a time when I would have liked an offline version of WOW too. WOW101 offers pay if you want to access it model for the worlds beyond Wizard City. I do agree that there's a certain pressure to play when you're paying a subscription. And you're not playing enough or doing something substantial when you are playing you eventually make the decision to unsubscribe.

I wonder how many people playing Fable II are taking advantage of the co-op play and how it's going? That's an example of solo offline with online opportunities. Oh how I wish EA had done that with The Sims Online which is all most of players probably wanted vs. that bastardization of the core game they deployed. *Cries bitter tears*

Tesh

Saylah, have you heard of Dreamlords? It's an MMO/RTS hybrid that splits its control between a client and doing stuff right in your browser. I haven't played it yet (despite being interested), but it might be a good demonstration of taking some elements of the game out of the client.

Saylah

I've heard of Dreamlords and from what I recall, it wasn't very favorable. But that could be the whole Asian games not appealing to Western players thing.

Tesh

There's likely some "free to play" stigma going on there, too. Their particular MMO/RTS mashup won't appeal to everyone either. In regards to his particular discussion, I'm mostly mentioning it because it's trying the browser/client split.

Whether or not it is a well crafted game is something I can't attest to yet... but I do suspect there's a lot of ignorant bias out there. It still might be a lame game, but many people don't even bother trying it for prejudicial reasons. *shrug*

I suppose it's still just tangential anywho. I still agree wholeheartedly with your call for some browser aspects for our beloved MMOs.

Saylah

I think offline access to just monkey around with a game would have kept me subscribed a bit longer to some. I might have tried my hand at playing the auction market in WOW, EQ2 or EVE. But I don't think I should have to pay cash per transaction. Not sure I'd want to pay extra just for the access either.

Now that I think of it, EVE's industry is actually ripe for this type of feature. Since crafting isn't interactive they could offer production and access to auction house in a web client. Holy damn that would be a sweet option.

Tesh

I mentioned monetizing the AH because it's an alternate to the subscription model. I'm a long-time opponent to subscriptions. (They are fine for some players, but not all, that's the main rub.)

In a subscription model like WoW, I'd actually expect that the AH and crafting browser/phone apps would be part of the base sub price. I still get the feeling that they are overcharging for what the "service" actually costs them, especially as server costs go down with time and technology, so adding such functions shouldn't increase the cost to the subber.

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The Smithes

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