Brand Loyalty (was Re: [MUD-Dev] Requirements for MM (wasComp lexities of MMOG Servers))

Sasha Hart hart.s at
Thu Jan 9 03:21:01 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

[Koster, Raph]

> Treadmills compensate for real life skill. They are the crutch
> that keeps people who below average at the game from quitting. In
> a real skill-based environment, 80% of your players are below
> average at the game.

Do you mean that most of the people who are good at the game aren't
playing? Or that 30%+ are average or above-average but quit out of
perceived lack of skill?

Okay, so why not use things which are easily learned or which are
simply easy to do? These approaches exist to limited extents in
existing games, e.g., many people can learn how to get from one
place to another and this is part of the player's skill at the game,
also part of the gratifying mastery they achieve over it, even if
they are not very fast or thoughtful.

Perhaps people aren't buffered enough from the shame or failure to
cope even with even odds without just quitting. Many, for example,
are very intimidated by death in deathmatches initially, and have to
learn to get over it even if they are playing with similarly
unskilled opponents. It's even steeper if the other players are
doing crazy trick jumps and beating you 20 to 1. That's with full-on
respawning. When risk comes in, maybe it shouldn't be surprising
that skill-based combat wouldn't have broad appeal. But what about
skill-based other things? What about providing multiple skill-based
games so people could find niches (after all, the big MUDs already
are typically supporting several subgames - e.g., fighting vs.
crafting and trading).

> Failure is evidenced by multiple large classes of online
> games. All persistent skill based games with no treadmill
> (persistent shooters, etc) have had subscriber bases around 15-20%
> of the ones where cumulative characters exist. All persistent
> social-and-worldbuilding based games (MOOs, OnLive, etc) have
> individually also had playerbases 10% of that of games where the
> player's fate is not solely dependent on skill. Lastly, only 30%
> of FPS players play online.

This is very interesting stuff! If anyone has more figures or info,
please chime in:

I only know of a handful of persistent skill-based games. I am
suspecting that there may be other relevant differences between
these and MMORPGs. It would be interesting to compare dev budgets,
expected subscribers, subscription costs, advertisement, etc. with
more conventional MMORPGs. Likewise for the social-and-worldbuilding
games. If I had to guess I would assume that advertisement, dev
budgets and hype/buzz were a lot lower for these other classes of
persistent games.

It might also be very interesting to consider the types of skill
employed. E.g., are the skills mostly speed? Are these things easily
learned? What exact kinds of tasks are they?

How does the number of FPS players compare to the number of MMORPG
players? And/or the absolute difference in online players.

I would assume that there is no way to exploit the smaller audiences
for these different kinds of games to create a game with more
limited scope and/or running costs. E.g., to reduce players per game
(the upper bound on resetting multiplayer FPS being something around
128 players tops, 500 players persistent would be a big step up,
even if it seems very minor in comparison to the
MMORPG-metropolises). Or, to exploit player-run servers (somewhat a
la NWN). I am assuming in each case that there is some kind of scale
problem that dictates absolute lower limits to the number of players
that a commercially viable game can have (or at least that this is
perceived so)?

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