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

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at
Thu Jan 9 13:02:07 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

"Koster, Raph" wrote:
> From: Paul Schwanz

> Definitions:

>   "treadmill" - any repetitive activity performed in order to
>   derive advancement. Typically can be performed in such a manner
>   as to minimize risk.

>   "fail" - fail to retain customers who would otherwise have been
>   very happy with the game

> 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.

I don't think your statistic supports your premise.  In fact, it may
undermine it.  It seems to me that if 80% of your players in a
skill-based environment are below average, this might be an
indication that skill-based environments are good at keeping people
who are below average at the game from quitting.  Of course, you'd
have to look more closely at the churn above and below the 80% mark
to make any more useful determinations.

What might be more helpful would be data concerning potential
players, but I imagine those numbers are much more difficult to
ascertain.  Total subscriber base might be a useful indication as
you've said.

> 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.

How many persistent shooters are there?  How do you know that these
numbers are not the result of many other factors that have little to
do with skill-based vs. cumulative character?  They could speak more
of twitch-based skill vs. social skill or of text-based
vs. graphical or many other issues, couldn't they?

>> I think you know that I don't like treadmills, but perhaps more
>> importantly, treadmill-oriented games have not been able to keep
>> my attention or subscription past a month or two.

> You are speaking to two likely factors. One, the diversity of the
> activities may bore you. Two, you may dislike the presence of the
> crutch.

Perhaps the former.  In fact, I even find real-life treadmills
boring because of the lack of diversity in the activity.  I'd rather
get my exercise playing some sort of sport.  For me, this is one of
the things that define a treadmill, and your definition includes
"repetitive activity" which speaks to a lack of diversity.  I
actually do enjoy character advancement.  I like the fact that the
character experiences a journey.  If you had said that a mud without
character advancement will fail or that a mud in which the character
experiences no journey will fail, I probably would have just nodded
my head.  But "treadmill" seems to indicate that character
advancement must be based on repetitive activity and that's where I
balk.  Perhaps repetitive activity is the only viable state of
character advancement that is technically feasible at this point in
mud evolution, but I don't think so.

>> To me, treadmills speak of futility.  That is, you are constantly
>> exerting yourself but never get anywhere.

> Yes; providing a cumulative character model means that anyone with
> time and patience will climb to the top, but it ALSO means that
> the top is merely having gotten the whole crutch, so to speak. It
> does not speak to the gameplay along the way, nor does it speak to
> the end game when you have the whole crutch.

Maybe I'm just short on time and patience?  Yet, when it comes to
MMORPGs, I'd have to say I have quite a bit more time and patience
than anyone else among my family and friends.  I've never actually
managed to get to the "top," but when you add on an end game,
doesn't the "top" get redefined anyway?  Do you then base the end
game on player skill or on player time?

I don't think I'd be in favor of a 100% skill-based game, but I also
don't think that a treadmill is the only alternative.

And even if you do have repetitive activities, at the least allow
the character to perform them offline so that the player doesn't
have to.  I mean, why require player time and patience?  Why not
just require patience and some number of months worth of
subscription.  If skill puts off more players than time and
patience, surely time and patience puts off more than patience


Wouldn't it be catostrophic
If my Opus were myopic?  ;-)

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