Best practices in MMOG metrics April 30, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in games, games 2.0, gaming, metrics.
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I missed Daniel Jame’s presentation at GDC last month, but he has a great blogpost and slideshow about how to use data dashboards to run an online game. Go read it, and pay attention to the sample reports in the appendix.
How to build an eldergame April 28, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in game design, games, games 2.0, mmorpg.
Via Raph, Richard Bartle’s IMGDC keynote on how to build an eldergame is very interesting. He notes one of the problems with many MMOGs today is that once players have leveled all the way up, many of them quit. There is essentially nothing new to do. In a packaged software business that isn’t a big deal. But in a services business (whether subscription or virtual goods) you want to keep your best players around as long as possible. Bartle’s analogy:
• When you start off in a new mmo it’s like arriving in a foreign railway station on a backpacking trip
• With classes and races, The designers have provided trains that are guaranteed to go to interesting places
–You want to shoot fireballs? Board the mage train!
• Quests are the enginesthat pull the carriages along?
• However, trains run on rails
• if you want to disembark and go elsewhere, Well, you can’t!
• The design philosophy is all about controlling the player experience
• The same philosophy is applied for newbies and oldbies alike
• It’s consistent –but players aren’t!
Oldbies (experienced players) get bored when they’ve reached the end of the trainline and they want more to do. That’s where an eldergame can help.
Bartle thinks that many of the elder game options aren’t good, including raiding:
Well, the raiding game isn’t that good…
• Like quests, raiding content is fixed
–There’s only so many times you can run naxx before it’s samey
• Once, in fact
• Other attempts at the elder game also flop
• RvR (Realm vs Realm) is never resolved
–and therefore pointless
• PvP (Player vs Player) isbetter – if you’re good at pvp
–but the results are also pointless
• They provide burst fun, but no fun overtime
He says that to keep oldbies around, you need to let them create history:
• History is the player’s retelling of interesting events
• This means there must have been some interesting events
• No history means nothing interesting happened
–Where’s the fun in that?
• Problem: “interesting” changes over time
Bartle’s suggestion to solve this problem:
• Alice worlds are newbie-unfriendly but provide the depth and freedom that oldbies crave
• Dorothy worlds are very newbie- friendly but oldbies, who don’t want their hands held, feel disenchanted
• So: start off as a dorothy world and switch to alice for the elder game
Dorothy worlds are based on players who are like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, much like newbies:
… Dorothy, upon arrival in Oz, said: “We will go to the emerald city and ask the great oz how to get back to
• Dorothy is wary of the new world she has arrived in
• She wants a path she can follow to get through it
• She represents the modern, game worlds like wow
Alice worlds are based on players who are like Alice in Wonderland, much like oldbies:
When alice arrived in wonderland, her first words were: “curiouser and curiouser”
• Alice finds merely being in another world interesting
• She’ll go wherever fortune and fancy may take her
• She represents the old, balanced worlds like mud1
Barlte presents Eve as an excellent example of an Alice World, and hence an excellent model for an “eldergame”:
• although “user-createdcontent” and “user-generatedcontent” are often used interachangeably, there is a difference
–User-created content is created explicitly by the actions of players
–User-generated content is content created implicitly by the actions of players
• User-generated content is emergent
•Eve’s environment is so rich that interesting things just happen
In other words, allowing oldbies to indulge in freeform play is the best form of eldergame.
Online video CPMs can’t hold up April 26, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in advertising, video.
eMarketer has a couple of interesting charts on CPMs by media types.
First offline media:
Next online video:
Online video preroll CPMs are at $25-35.
TV CPMs are at $6-10.
Even granting some premium for preroll that has to be watched (vs TV which can get skipped), these CPMs can’t hold up.
Flinch based pricing April 23, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in pricing.
I first heard this story at business school, I still love it today:
Steve Blank: Can I tell you a pricing story? When we starting Epiphany, I had no idea how to price enterprise software. There was one small problem, I had started an enterprise software company and never been in the business.
But, I had heard, and it actually was true, there was a woman named Sandy Kurtzig, who had started ASK Softwark. She was one of the first woman entrepreneurs, woman CEOs of a large corporation. And they were making software for IBM mainframes that was manufacturing software. Something called Manman, which I used in the late ’70s, early ’80s.
Since it was the first non-IBM enterprise software on IBM mainframes, [when] she got her first potential order, she didn’t know how to price it. It must have been back in the mid-’70s. She’s [with] this buyer, has a P.O. on his desk, negotiating pricing with Sandy.
The way she tells the story is, she didn’t know what to ask for it. But, the head of manufacturing told the buyer to go buy this damn thing. [He] didn’t care, [if] it was the world’s best piece of software. So, Sandy said she goes into the buyer who says, “How much is it?”
And Sandy gulped and picked the biggest number she thought anybody would ever rationally pay. And said, “$75,000″. And she said all the buyer did was write down $75,000.
And she realized, shit, she left money on the table. Sandy Kurtzig was awesome. And she said, “Per year.”
And the buyer wrote down, “Per year.”
And she went, oh, crap what else? She said, “There’s maintenance.”
He said, “How much?”
“25 percent per year.”
And he said, “That’s too much.”
She said, “15 percent.”
And he said, “OK.”
[Ed: This is called “flinch pricing.”]
So, enterprise software got priced at $75,000 per year, per module. Now, I have to tell you when I started at Epiphany I heard this story and someone said, “Steve, how much is your software?”
I said, “$75,000 per year, per module.”
This and two more great pricing anecdotes from Steve Blank as transcribed by VentureHacks are here.
There is no one formula to pricing anything, whether virtual goods or enterprise software. It is where willing buyer meets willing seller.
Crowdsourcing missions for MMOGs April 21, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in game design, games, games 2.0, gaming, mmorpg, user generated content.
Really interesting post at Kotaku about City of Heroes experience with crowdsourcing story arcs.
In a letter to the community posted on the official City of Heroes website, Matt “Positron” Miller revealed that within the first 24 hours of the new updates’ existence, players in both hero and villain factions had created more than 3800 story arcs, each consisting of five missions a piece – more content than the development team had created during the game’s entire existence.
Players have been busy trying out missions and critiquing them in the forums as well. Out of the more that 20,000 arcs now available in game, 2,860 of them have been rated 5-stars by players, with only 582 rated at 1-star. Popular themes include the 5th Column, featured in 794 arcs; the super-heroic Statesman, starring in 134; and time travel, which is the subject of 112 arcs.
As an indication of volume, this is more story arcs that have been created by the game developers in five years!
One popular element was creating custom opponents notes the City of Heroes blog
70% of the arcs that are published use Custom Enemy groups. These are enemies created using our fantastic costume editor, coupled with a large sampling of the powersets that the game already uses. These unique enemies have proven to be extremely popular and sparked new life into the game. Players absolutely love fighting custom enemies for the simple fact that they no longer know what to expect. One of the biggest problems with MMOs is you eventually learn what all the critters you are fighting do, and the game can get pretty rote. Developers make new critters, but there can be months before you get new ones. Now players have the opportunity to be constantly making new enemies with new, interesting capabilities that can challenge and vex themselves and their friends, any time they want.:
I don’t play City Of Heroes, so I don’t know how directly applicable this idea is to web based social games. However, any of the social games currently available have very similar structures (e.g. the “wars” genre) which can get old over time. Perhaps this approach of crowdsourcing missions might add some interesting eldergame elements to these games.
One difference between VCs and Entrepreneurs April 20, 2009Posted by jeremyliew in decision making, Entrepreneur, VC.
Steve Blank had a great post last week about speed and tempo in startup decision making recently where he says:
… think of decisions of having two states: those that are reversible and those that are irreversible. An example of a reversible decision could be adding a product feature, a new algorithm in the code, targeting a specific set of customers, etc. If the decision was a bad call you can unwind it in a reasonable period of time. An irreversible decision is firing an employee, launching your product, a five-year lease for an expensive new building, etc. These are usually difficult or impossible to reverse.
My advice was to start a policy of making reversible decisions before anyone left his office or before a meeting ended. In a startup it doesn’t matter if you’re 100% right 100% of the time. What matters is having forward momentum and a tight fact-based feedback loop (i.e. Customer Development) to help you quickly recognize and reverse any incorrect decisions. That’s why startups are agile. By the time a big company gets the committee to organize the subcommittee to pick a meeting date, your startup could have made 20 decisions, reversed five of them and implemented the fifteen that worked.
I think this is great advice.
Entrepreneurs will find that almost all of their decisions are reversible. As a result, good operators get into the habit of making decisions quickly even with incomplete information. Entrepreneurs make 1000s of reversible decisions per year.
On the other hand, VCs will find that almost all of their decisions are irreversible. You can’t really “ask for your money back” once you’ve made an investment. This is one reason that fundraising can take so much time and effort for entrepreneurs. VCs want to know as much as they can before making a decision. VCs make one or two irreversible decisions per year.
That’s a big difference in decision making style