[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

Dave Rickey mahrinskel at brokentoys.org
Wed May 21 15:27:23 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

From: <Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com>
> From: Dave Rickey [mailto:mahrinskel at brokentoys.org]
>> From: <Daniel.Harman at barclayscapital.com>

>>> So your are saying that people who have high level chars are
>>> more likely to renew their account? Surely you could draw the
>>> opposite conclusion that people who renew their account are more
>>> likely to have high level chars?

>> How are those two statements different?

> Well given that achievment is largely predicated on time invested,
> it seems implicit that those who tend to renew more will have
> higher level characters. If you are inclined to cancel, then its
> less likely that you will have high level characters, there are a
> lot of opportunities to quit before then!

> i.e. it could mean either :

>    A) They won't quit because they have high level chars.
>    B) They don't have high level chars because they quit.

> So the cause and effect are transposed depending.

> If you interpret it one way, you might erroneously assume that
> since those with high level chars are less likely to quit, then
> you will have higher retention by handing out high level chars to
> people or lowering the xp curve. That may be true, but you can't
> reliably read that from the data.

> You might be able to extract further meaning by looking at hours
> played as well, from a players perspective it is probably more
> telling. As a company it is easy to get fixated on billing
> periods, but when I play games I don't worry about that I worry
> about if I'm bored yet.

Obviously the billing-period cycle was more meaningful to the
primary purpose of the analysis (finding out where the game elements
that were costing us money were).  But I would doubt that simply
handing out free 50th level characters would have beneficial
effects, since what seems to be at work is the sense of investment
in the character and value derived from it.  By the same token,
simply extending the maximum level could not allow a *negative*
cancellation rate.

>> What I found was that if I divided the accounts by the level of
>> the highest character on that account, the month-to-month
>> cancellation percentage rates were invariant by any other
>> subdivision (within statistical variation). The age of the
>> accounts was irrelevant, if that is what you were getting at, the
>> cancellation rate of accounts 3 months old with 50th level
>> characters was statistically identical to that of accounts that
>> were over a year old, and for all other levels.

> That definitely supports the idea that looking at hours played
> might yield more info.

Looked at that.  Even when comparing accounts with mains that had
1/4 of the average played time to those with 4 times the average, a
16 to 1 variance, there was no difference in account cancellation
rates by level (both were *slightly* less likely to quit than all
values in between, but it was barely significant, statistically).

>> Oddly enough, so was the cancellation rates of 5th level mains in
>> the same time periods (in other words, there were an appreciable
>> number of year-old accounts with their highest level character at
>> 5th level, and they cancelled at exactly the same rate as
>> accounts that were 3 months or less in age).

> In cases like this, it would be interesting to see when they had
> last logged in & how often they died each level. Were these
> forgotten accounts, accounts regularly played by socialisers,
> people who made lots of characters but never leveled that far, or
> incompetent players who just couldn't advance etc.

Which was the purpose of subdividing by class, by realm, by played
time, by guilded status, by numbers of quests performed, by RvR
participation rate, etc.  The line just wouldn't budge.

>> I had truly reliable data for only the first quarter of 2003 and
>> June of 2002 when I ran my analysis, what was interesting was
>> that the June data *did* show some discrepencies when analyzed by
>> class and level, specifically a few classes with higher
>> cancellation rates and a big bulge in the cancellations of 41st
>> level mains (there was a "hell level" at 41 at that time).  After
>> the changes made to address those initial findings (smoothing the
>> levelling curve to eliminate the hell level and buffing up a few
>> classes), all that was left was that invariant linear
>> relationship.  In other words, it was exactly as if the linear
>> relationship between cancellation and level was some kind of
>> universal constant, that would pop out when the game was "close
>> enough".

> Your June conclusions sound fairly safe, and they no doubt
> supported suspicians you held anyway?

Yes, which is why it was so strange that 6-9 months later, no such
variances would appear.  Obviously gameplay and class balance
factors could and did affect cancellation rates in June, so why did
they stop doing so in any detectable fashion later?

> Whilst I did jokingly suggest that you might hand out high level
> characters, it is quite possible for DAoC that it might
> work. After all there is a belief that the game is most fun when
> you get to the high level RvR content which obviously requires a
> high level char. Of course it would probably break other things :)

> If you had wanted to know more, then an exit pole when people
> cancelled might have helped too.

Initially I believed so as well, now I'm not so sure.  If the
decision to cancel does not appear to be made by any of the
"obviously" relevant criteria, would an exit poll reflect real
issues in need of response, or merely the process by which the
decision to cancel was rationalized?  Someone who left might cite
"boredom" or "lack of content" or "class imbalance", but if no
objective factor relating to any of these things could be shown to
have any effect on cancellation rate, how can this be defended as
grounds for setting development priorities?


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