[MUD-Dev] [BUS] Browser-based games

ceo ceo at grexengine.com
Sat Dec 20 10:00:41 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


There was a very brief discussion (2 posts?) of this a while back:

  http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2003Q3/msg00277.php

but one of these games (that I've been involved in) is about to go
into final beta. Mainly this beta is for balancing gameplay issues -
the team behind the game is very small and can't do a Blizzard
(spend money on external testing, or spend 12 months on balancing
the game internally) - and all going well it should be finished /
gold in 2-3 months time.

As my involvement slackens off a little, I thought I could offer
some new thoughts on the subject in reply to the original months-old
post :)...

On Wed, 23 Jul 2003 15:55:05 -0700
Corpheous Andrakin <corpheous at yahoo.com> wrote:

> For those of you who don't know about them, BBG's are Browser
> Based Games, much like the old school MUD's but with a graphical
> overlay.  They are seperated from the title of "graphical mud" (or
> at least in my opinion and others) because they do not offer
> command line interfaces and many are turn based as opposed to real
> time.

> The question is, is this missing link so to speak, marketable?

The game I've been working on is aiming, conservatively, to achieve
600k players over 12-18 months. This is with a marketing budget of
almost nothing. Most of those will be playing "for free" although
that doesn't preclude them from generating significant revenue using
the hated advertising :) that is so easy to include in any
browser-based game.

An important factor here is that the industry framework for
advertising in web browesers is very well established, with the
complete end-to-end chain of suppliers and purchasers (...of
advertising space) all in place. It's very much a mainstream
activity, and so persuading advertisers to pay for "in-game
advertising" is easy by comparison with getting them to pay for a
billboard inside say an FPS style MMOG. (Ahem; I'm making big
assumptions here on the difficulty of getting advertisers to
psychologically accept the latter - and the difficulty in getting
them to accept the measurement metrics that define the revenue
payable. Anyone care to elaborate with their experience trying to
get people to advertise inside an MMOG?)

Equally, there is NO download required to play the game. The core
GUI is also extremely familiar to Mr Average (non games-player),
intentionally re cycling standard web mannerisms. Barrier to entry
for non games-players is pretty low.

The game itself is all about Soccer - so it's inherently
mass-marketable in the UK and European markets, without any reliance
on hardcore gamers (in fact, we're still debating whether they
should be targetted as part of the early-adopter segment, or ignored
completely as being only a small niche within the game's overall
target market...)

FYI our major competitors consist of a mixture of boxed retail
single-player games and online-only games. The latter are very very
rich in incidental detail and depth, but have no multi-player
capability at all. The latter use very similar basic design, BUT
they are like classic BBG's: very very very simplisitic in
gameplay. Our game tries to be the best of both worlds (ask me again
in 12 months time whether THAT worked ;)).

The online competitors already have in the region of 100k plus
SUBSCRIBING players each; like Lineage etc, the revenue model is
sufficiently different from EQ etc to make direct comparison tricky,
but sufficiently similar to make it worthwhile. Subscribers are
mainly wooed with a non-repeat-payment system - you have to decide
each month (or, in practice, on a less fine-grained, more variable
period) whether to pay more cash. There is a lot of incidental
variety in what happens if you miss a payment-period, so I wont go
into details unless someone here specifically requests an overview
(I'd have to discuss each game separately).

Typically they have 600k "registered" (free + paying) players (dead
acounts typically deleted after 30 days inactivity, so the number
isn't entirely meaningless :)). And they're pretty darned boring
games :).

> Currently there is of course, not enough media flying around about
> them to generate intrest from investors but if there were enough

I'm not involved in that side, but I do know that the game's owners
had received half a dozen genuine offers of investment even 3 months
before the public beta started. So far, the offers have been cash
only, and the decision taken (which I was involved in) was that they
weren't worth it; money is always useful :), but right now for the
risk involved only the backing of a major corporation (mainly for
the benefits of an internationally and mass-market capable marketing
dept) would be worth surrendering equity / control / etc.

And we were recently contacted by one of the dev team for the retail
single-player games...which scares the heck out of me in that it
signifies (albeit very late - they ought to have released something
2 years ago easily) they've finally got their eye on this space.

> Just looking to get some thoughts on this niche and see if anyone
> else thinks this type of game has a place in the multiplayer
> gaming industry.

Yes; enough so that we're releasing ("have released", actually, but
no marketing has been started :)) a cut-down version of our MMOG
server specifically to cater to this market. In all honesty, too
much of our MMOG technology is still in the R&D stage to be able to
sell anything close to a "complete solution" (what everyone needs),
whereas the subset needed to make running these games is all stuff
we've already completed, so the decision to launch this niche
product has as much to do with the practical realities of our
business as it has with confidence in the growth potential of the
segment :).

Final thought: How / Is / Should this be ... related to MUD
development? ;P

As Corpheous observed, the community aspects of these games show a
lot of similarity to MUDs both textual and graphical - they appear
with or without encouragement, although to date they have reflected
the shallowness of the games themselves by being amorphous and
subject to extremely high churn and relatively low loyalty (I've
seen very very little that comes close to the hardcore loyalty of
many MMOG fans; nor much that equates to the apparent psychological
buy-in of MUD players for particular MUDs). To date, most seem to
been played pretty flippantly (but, NB, my research has been fairly
superficial here!).

The niche that particularly interests me is of BBG's that add enough
depth to make them competitive (in terms of gameplay etc) to
MUDs. They don't seem to be weighed down by the
"Must. Stay. Online. 24 hours. or I'll fall behind on the levelling
treadmill" problems of many MMOGs (although they take it to the
opposite extreme - many you hardly need bother logging in at all
each week :)). Still, I can see them morphing into something that
satisfies the mainstream mass market of people with jobs etc more
easily than MMOGs. I.e. accomodating the people who don't have hours
to spend playing each and every day.

Adam M
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