Re: RE : [MUD-Dev] Removing the Massively from MMOG (long)

Marc Bowden ryumo at umich.edu
Wed Nov 23 00:28:51 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


--On Monday, November 21, 2005 9:40 AM -0500 "Jean, Yannick"
<yannick.jean at cgi.com> wrote:

> On the subject, I recommend reading Dave Rickey
> (http://feetofclay.us/) "Robot Jesus" article on WoW churn
> rate. Basically, I am submitting the idea that maybe ingame social
> ties are not the end-all be-all of player retention, as previously
> thought.

Well, no, of course not. We've known for a long time that the key is
a "non-portable emotional investment", whatever that means to the
individual - and this varies widely. It can be dedication to a
social circle, and believe me, that can keep someone on a bad game
for a LONG time. It can be perceived ownership of some aspect of the
game world. And for a certain segment of the population, it's the
feeling of power that comes from controlling someone else's game
experience or "getting away with something" through loopholes in the
mechanics.

Now, some players don't develop that, or only develop it under
certain conditions. For example, I have serious emotional ownership
in my own MUD for obvious reasons. I've got a solid commitment to
Kingdom of Loathing because I run the chapter of the gaming group I
belong to there, and I have certain responsibilities... Also, the
humor is a great hook. I have only slightly less investment in
Puzzle Pirates because I like being "damage control guy" for my crew
- I feel useful and appreciated, so I'm less likely to switch
oceans. I have little or no investment in World of Warcraft because
there's nothing to anchor me either of the two servers I have
characters on; I can flit freely between them handing out free
equipment to NAH new folks, or read a book if I don't feel like
dealing with Other Peoples' Kids that day.

Part of player retention is the commandment "know thy audience". You
can make an educated guess about what will anchor your guests to
your game by looking at the demographic your material is geared to
appeal to. Nobody is going to anchor to a pvp server because of the
clever block puzzles. ;)

But it's only a guess and you can only do so much shaping yourself
as a designer. Unfortunately, there is no "end all/be all" solution
to guest retention because our guests - and this is especially true
for ginormous MUDs like Warcraft or Galaxies - do not have a
homogenous set of wants, needs, and desires. So the best you can do
is polish up your content and keep an ear bent to your population
for ideas about beneficial in-flight changes.

         - Marc
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