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

&lt &lt
Wed Jan 15 13:12:16 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Dave Rickey" <daver at>
> From Mike/Szii:

>> Treadmills are driving players AWAY from the games.
> Where's your evidence of this?  Beyond anecdotes by the few dozen
> habitual posters at rant sites?  How would I go about proving
> this?  Because I've got gigabytes of data on the players of DAoC,
> and the only concrete indication I ever found of players hating
> the treadmill was a tendency for them to quit when they hit the
> "wall" at level 41 (which no longer exists).

Perhaps I misworded it.  Treadmills aren't driving players away from
the games, per se, but they're causing gamers to not be as willing
to "start over" on the next game that's put out.  It's hampering the
game-hopping, which may be good for retention, but it means that new
games have to overcome the stigma of "just another treadmill" in
order to coerce the players to abandon all of their work in their
current game and start over in the new world.  There has to be a
compelling "oooh!"

I have no evidence, no logfiles, no data besides a whole lot of
playtime and a whole lot of talking.  Persistant BBS doors, MUDs,
UO, EQ, AO.  I've not played DaoC or AC.

People like moving ahead.  Starting over in a new world and leaving
their hard work (character levels, gear, houses, whatever) is not
well received by a lot of people.  Powergamers seem to do it because
they hunger for new content/worlds/sights so badly.  The same can be
said for explorers.  The majority of people I've talked to (again:
heresay) don't like losing everything they've worked for to start
over and dedicate the TIME to a new character.

I wish I'd have kept logs and tracked it.  It's not been a formal
thing, just something that comes up regularly as "new game X" is
nearing completion.  It would be interesting to see a large
gaming-fansite put up a poll on:

  "What is the one major reason you would not leave your current

    1) I've invested too much time/I don't have the time to start

    2) I don't have the energy to play a new game.

    3) I've made too many friends to consider leaving.

    4) The game world is perfect for me.

    5) The character's history is too strong, my ties run too deep.

>From the games I've played in (heresay) and the cross-game guilds
I've been in (more heresay, no data) it's all about #1.  #3 comes up
once in a while but it's kind of pointless...their friends may not
feel the same way.  When the friends leave, it removes #3 from the

Ask a player to delete all of their characters and start over, no
twinking/alternate characters.  Ask them to start over at level 1
with their stock newbie gear.  See how many balk, and then ask them
why they would level up alts with twink-gear and why they'd have a
problem deleting all of their characters and starting over fresh.
The twinks have the advantage of powering through the levels - ie,
reducing the TIME it takes to run the treadmills. They have the
energy to start a new character - they have the interest in the
world and the people - yet they balk at starting over from scratch.

Now extrapolate that out - if they move to the next game, well,
they're starting over from scratch which we've just seen isn't well
received.  Regardless of ANY incentive to move to the new game
(graphics, playability, guilds, world, etc) you're going to come
across the hurdle of "starting over."  People don't like to lose
their investment (time.)

People don't mind starting over in Quake/UT/Doom.  They have no
persistant investment even though they've spent hundreds of hours
playing.  There's nothing to lose by starting over.  No treadmills
to run except honing your own skills...  yet somehow these games
garner a huge (recurring) audience.

With everyone building treadmills and "hoarding players" it's
interesting that I've got friends leaving game X because they don't
have time for Game X AND Game Y.  I've also got friends NOT going to
play Game Y because they don't have time for both.  Who benefits
from this?  Why does a gamer have to choose a single game because
that's all they have time for?  Because of the time-sinks, we now
have GameX and GameY with 1 person each.

My wife did a brief stint as a Mary Kay rep and one of the greatest
things I heard was the quote, "If I have one idea and you have one
idea then we each have two ideas."  I have UT and CS installed at
home and I play both.  In terms of "use" each game has "two players"
just not at the exact same time.

Remove the treadmills (or drastically change the implementation) and
you open up the possibility of "oh yeah, I play EQ and AO and DaoC."
They may not play it 100% of the time, but look at the pros/cons.
Some obvious examples include:


  - If you're subscription/monthly and they're not playing, it's
  free money.

  - Players don't burn out as quickly since they're not always
  playing the same game.

  - As above, if they're not playing as hard they're not moving
  ahead as fast and game content remains fresh longer.

  - People wouldn't be intimidated by new games and their implied

  - More "casual gamers" would give the game a try knowing they
  don't have to invest 2 zillion hours in order to see the
  upper-middle of the game.

  - Wider player-base as you're crossing over with other games.


  - You don't get to boast about "exclusive players."

  - Your world is smaller at any given point in time.  VCs may look
  at this.

  - You have to endure the "well, they did X in this game over here!
  Why can't I do it?"

  - Multiple subscription fees.  (This is mitigated by the player
  having the choice to only play one game.)

  - Without treadmills, players MAY advance faster.  This contrasts
  the Pro above about content lasting longer.  By putting in truly
  "challenging" content at the high-end, you could keep people from
  capping out as fast.  Or it just creates more jobs as you pump out
  more expansions.

The one upside/downside here is that it creates FAR more competition
in the industry to go this route.  Companies are competing based on
the game and not retaining people via treadmills.  The gamer
eventually wins out as the companies push each other, but it's far
more work for the companies who now have to face the possibility of
a more "fluid" playerbase.  As new games come out the gamer may
choose to play that game, but if the game's fun without huge
timesinks then you're not really LOSING that player, just sharing.
(See Pros: #1)

-Mike "No data" Oxford

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