Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5,029
Okay... I expressed some of these thoughts elsewhere but here's the gist of it.

I think players want content. I think players, when they buy items, see it as subsidizing content. For many players, I think they've inherently adopted a Kickstarter model for how they think MMOs work. That is, "I pledge money to content development and you give me these shiny totebags as a 'thank you.'"

I think developers are split on this point. I do not think that's how publishers see it.

My observation is this:

Quote:
Atari:
Sub Fees - Server access. Where the real profit is.

Item purchases - DLC bundles.

Systems Design - Making the game work well.

Q&A - Keeping people from quitting before we made our money back.

Marketing - A side source of revenue through partnerships and low cost awareness generator.

Content - A difficult to grasp expense.
Quote:
PWE:
Sub Fees - A difficult to grasp "fan club" operation.

Item purchases - A one time monetization approach that is a product sold.

Raffles and Lockboxes - A longterm repeatable monetization approach that yields repeat sales if managed properly, creating a thriving economy by constant sink and churn from low investment users.

Systems Design - An integral part of driving new sales by engineering shinier products.

Q&A - A team designed to slow user churn.

Marketing - An expense needed to fuel new user acquisition and enhance retention, with the understanding that retention has a limited lifespan for users.

Content - A marketing expense designed to draw revenues.
Now here's how I think players see it, understanding that these are broad generalizations:

Quote:
Players:
Sub Fees - A stable means of acting as a patron for content distribution.

Item purchases - A means of establishing oneself as a distinguished, high dollar patron of content distribution, perhaps to the extent that you get some content advantage for your patronage. Also, vanity.

Raffles and Lockboxes - A dubious but potentially thrilling low cost means of donating to content development. Many DO find it thrilling but the question is always, "I spent $50 on these, where's my content?"

Systems Design - A means of creating engaging and novel content, with a side focus on creating rewards for content patrons. Big priority? Poker and mini-games and PvP. Low priority?Pretty ship powers with quirky effects.

Q&A - A team designed to make content work.

Marketing - How the team showcases its good work and helps draw friends in. The ideal is that it reinforces how smart the player is for spending money here and why all their friends should join them, while giving realistic content previews.

Content - The core product that everything else was a donation towards the development of.
I think misunderstanding this on players' part causes player dissatisfaction and frustration, justified or otherwise. I think players want a business deal that isn't the deal they are being offered. Inherently, I REALLY DO think many players view cash shops and even subs as basically "thank yous" for Kickstarter or PBS style contributions and donations to content development. "I pledged my car to you guys. Just don't cancel Sesame Street!"

I think the misunderstanding on developers and publishers' part stems from misunderstanding the value of what they're offering or what players are actually buying into. "We offer you a product. You buy it. You should be happy! How can we make the product we sold you better? We can sell you better products! Stronger products! Better guns! Bigger potions! Okay, let's focus on more repeatable sales!"

And it's the heart of the disconnect. Devs and publishers think they're running the Home Shopping Network with infomercials. Players think the so-called infomercials are TV shows and want to donate to support them.

To many publishers, player complaints come across as, "I bought the tote bag now give me more footage of the girls in the mall and the kids on the playground and that guy with the small business who loved that totebag so much. I want more of their product testimonials!"

To many players, developer interaction comes across as, "Thanks for your support in keeping quality programming like Masterpiece Theater, Nova, and Sesame Street on the air! Now, donate another $75 and we'll give you a glow in the dark totebag with an MP3 player that will identify you as a REAL fan of PBS! Act now or we shoot Big Bird in the head!"

There's your divide. There's the source of forum meltdowns and players behaving badly, invoking Godwin's Law and 9/11 and the "Won't you think of the children/addicts/soldiers?" threads in response to minor game bugs or what seem like purely business decisions. On the dev side, there's the source of costly employee turnover and high medical bills and needless illness and stress and failed relationships and botched product launches for developers.

It's more complicated than that. There are nuances. There are side issues and side interests. But that's the heart of it. That's the malignancy that, once addressed, will lead to a clean, healthy, and happy life (for anyone who would have had one anyway).

There you go.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 223
# 2
10-11-2012, 11:05 AM
TL;DR version: Devs are shrewd, cold, calculating revenue generators, while players are whiny, ignorant, emotional train wrecks?
_____________________________________________


I used to be able to play STO, but then Season 7 happened. | Join Date: Dec 2009
1000 Paper Cuts for Star Trek Online
Republic Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 805
# 3
10-11-2012, 11:17 AM
OP has a good grasp of the situation, except for one important detail. The internal operations of Cryptic are using STO to finance other more "shiny" products.

Think about it, we've had "talent" leave STO over the past six months, and I haven't seen names floated as replacements. Haven't seen any "X will be taking Y's position."

No new names or faces interacting with the crowd out here... and very little forward movement.

Unless it has to do with cash-infusion programs.

We're paying into a black hole. The money is going to... where? Neverwinter? "Fees?" "Expenses?"

I'm burned out grinding. I want STORY not another grind map or grind-sink system.

Yet... that's going to be the highlight of Season Seven isn't it? Progression System, STF map and possibly more grind-maps for the Fleet system.

I can't be the only one wondering where our money is going... we spend money on keys and ZEN and all we get in return are maps that could have been churned out by someone using the foundry. Two one-off missions (the clone-Vulcan mission and that ALPHA mission for KDF.)

Meanwhile we get stacks more lockboxes demanding Zen/Keys to open.

This is the real disconnect... at least it is in my mind. I paid into a game... that took my money and created more opportunities to spend money? Oh and if I get tired of that I can WRITE MY OWN story using the toolbox.



Yeah. Disconnect indeed.

Can we get a Dev or the Producer to chime in on this?
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 5,029
# 4
10-11-2012, 12:01 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by themarie View Post
OP has a good grasp of the situation, except for one important detail. The internal operations of Cryptic are using STO to finance other more "shiny" products.
Nothing wrong with that if you're a widget manufacturer and the brand of the widget (STO, NW, CO) is irrelevant or secondary to it being a Cryptic product.

On a certain level, it's like manufacturing paper plates.

For some of them, I think Champions, Star Trek, and Neverwinter are themed designs they put on the paper plates. The Foundry is like offering a recipe book with your paper plates. Content is an ad for your paper plates or maybe an expensive promotional dinner event you host where you serve quality free food on your paper plates. The goal is to sell paper plates. The brand is designed or licensed to help you sell more paper plates.

Meanwhile, I think players who attend the promotional dinners are more like, "Yeah. Yeah. Enough about the plates. This is a pretty good restaurant. It could be better but I'd eat here. I'll take two cases of paper plates if it'll make you happy. Now, what are your hours? Do you have a senior discount?"

And the savvier of the devs are like, "Holy heck! We're running a restaurant now?" Maybe a few decide they're chefs because as it turns out, they ARE trained chefs. And back at corporate HQ, they're like, "Okay. So plate sales are up. Let's figure out how to maximize our plate sales. Maybe we can create 'restaurants' to sell more plates!"
Captain
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 593
# 5
10-11-2012, 12:43 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by themarie View Post
OP has a good grasp of the situation, except for one important detail. The internal operations of Cryptic are using STO to finance other more "shiny" products.
I think what you fail to grasp is that Cryptic does not make any money on its own. If you buy zen the money goes to Perfect World, because you are buying it from them. If you buy a subscription the money goes to Perfect World. If you buy an LTS the money goes to Perfect World. The only income Cryptic makes is what Perfect World decides to give them each month/quarter/year.

STO is not financing other games. Perfect World is financing STO, and CO, and NWNs. Perfect World decides how much money Crytpic gets to pay its bills, and gets to decide what budget each division within Cryptic gets to work with from the money they give Cryptic. Perfect World is not giving Cryptic money from its STO income. It is giving them money from their corporate accounts which has income from 13 different games. Forsaken World and Jade Dynasty are financing NWN in the same way that STO is: profits from all games go toward making more profits.

STO is not carrying CO or NWN. STO is given a budget and expected to make profits. CO is given a budget and expected to make profits. When NWN goes live it will be given a budget and be expected to make profits. Perfect World pays all the bills and gets all the profits. Each division in Cryptic is required to make profit to benefit Perfect World, not Cryptic.
Survivor of Romulus
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,553
# 6
10-11-2012, 12:58 PM
OP makes some good points.

As for the people screaming 'content', I generally ignore those people from the get-go, because 'content' can mean so many different things. What I consider content and what you consider content could be two different definitions.

If we're talking mission content -- as in... new missions? We're seeing that. The starbase fleet actions. Colony invasion, No Win Scenario, Starbase Incursion, Starbase Defense, Starbase Blockade... am I forgetting any?

What we're likely to see more of is repeatable content. Like the starbase stuff. Into the Hive? It's going to be repeatable. Romulan Colony? It's going to have repeatable content.

Anyone remember Everquest? The first one. SOE was churning out 2 expansions a year at its heyday, to feed the mission-hungry players more mission content. But if we all remember what that did, we'll remember that it didn't work out all that well. The expansions were buggy. And most vulgarly of all... some expansions were hitting the store shelves before the expansion itself was complete -- and Game Masters and devs would go in-game and purposely break the story quest chain so players would be unable to progress until their developers were done working on it, despite having shelled out the money for the expansion already.

What did they learn? The same thing every other MMO in existance knows by now. This is truth, this is not speculation. This is not hyperbole, this is not opinion. This is established fact.

Players will burn through content faster than it can be created.

What takes me 15 to 20 minutes to burn through, has taken weeks and months to produce. No MMO is safe from this. STO tried to address with the Genesis system. The 'randomization' of star cluster missions is not all that random. We know exactly the kind of mission we get when we enter a star cluster mission.

When Cryptic creates mission content, they make it to be repeatable. And that's what we've seen. This is what we've been given. All we can do is hope Cryptic continues to expand on the 'repeatability' of the content, similar to starbase upgrades. If Cryptic can make the Romulan Colony's lifespan last several months... that gives them time to work on more content.

And ultimately I think that's where the mark needs to be set. Give players a grindfest to last several months in order to develop more content that will be a grindfest to last several more months.
http://sto-forum.perfectworld.com/image.php?u=91851766000&type=sigpic&dateline=13403  39147
Career Officer
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 315
# 7
10-11-2012, 07:00 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by iconians View Post
What did they learn? The same thing every other MMO in existance knows by now. This is truth, this is not speculation. This is not hyperbole, this is not opinion. This is established fact.

Players will burn through content faster than it can be created.
I've read that a good number of times across several games from different devs. The quality of content the vocal crowd wants simply takes time. I've proposed/asked for systems, myself. Content is great, and I love it, but at the same time there needs to be systems, games-within-the-game, for people to involve themselves in.

http://gamasutra.com/view/news/17916...p#.UHd4DsXA_5M

http://gamasutra.com/view/news/17917...p#.UHd4A8XA_5M

I think that we need a good mix between theme-park (story content) and sandbox. I'd like to see more systems created that enable players to interact with and against each other, even if indirectly.
Updated 2/11/13! Buying Zen with Energy Credits | Upgrading Duty Officers without Dilithium.
Q&A Presents: Maui Online! My friends' radioshow/podcast Computers, with occasional forays into astronomy.
Captain
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,764
# 8
10-11-2012, 04:48 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by stf65 View Post
I think what you fail to grasp is that Cryptic does not make any money on its own. If you buy zen the money goes to Perfect World, because you are buying it from them. If you buy a subscription the money goes to Perfect World. If you buy an LTS the money goes to Perfect World. The only income Cryptic makes is what Perfect World decides to give them each month/quarter/year.

STO is not financing other games. Perfect World is financing STO, and CO, and NWNs. Perfect World decides how much money Crytpic gets to pay its bills, and gets to decide what budget each division within Cryptic gets to work with from the money they give Cryptic. Perfect World is not giving Cryptic money from its STO income. It is giving them money from their corporate accounts which has income from 13 different games. Forsaken World and Jade Dynasty are financing NWN in the same way that STO is: profits from all games go toward making more profits.

STO is not carrying CO or NWN. STO is given a budget and expected to make profits. CO is given a budget and expected to make profits. When NWN goes live it will be given a budget and be expected to make profits. Perfect World pays all the bills and gets all the profits. Each division in Cryptic is required to make profit to benefit Perfect World, not Cryptic.
This is the main problem. PWE poorly maintains Wanmei game to the point of disrepair, as its just 1 Chief of Engineering + whatever he can get his hands on while trying to keep 9 NX-classes afloat while under fire from both players, CFOs and game bugs. I'm never trusting them to fix gamebugs or give us useful content. In fact, they chop out content as they are localized from China. Whatever the hell funds that logic...

Rusty Hearts, Torchlight and Cryptic games get off better because they actually have dev teams on their games. For RH and TL as far as I recall they are 1 dev team for 1 game as the studio was responsible for 1 game alone. Cryptic is a small team that has huge problems in this framework. Their PWE overlords are sucking up their, and our, money and only giving them back a pittance, while applying the same inept management as to the other Wanmei localizations to Cryptic. They are a small (if absolutely puny) team managing TWO (and soon to be THREE) MMOs... when a good mmo that is infamous for player tears requires little over a thousand artists, devs, story writers, creative directors, coders, etc.

And then, when something breaks in another Wanmei localization, that game puts out a distress call, and the engineering department has to answer it. I suspect Cryptic gets rerouted to some of them, as I find that bug fixes seemed to have improved on other Wanmei games ever since PWE bought Cryptic.

This is why I whinge about the lack of content, but I don't want to hammer home the point. They are having a hard time, even as we are having a hard time. Doesn't help that they make gaffes here and there. But until Cryptic actually gets more funding (and stop at 3!! Please!!!), hires the army of programmers required of an MMO, I'm happy that I get to fly around the galaxy doffing.

Because really, that's what Starfleet does day-to-day. Ferrying people from place to place, getting jobs done, answering distress calls, sending crew on assignments elsewhere. When its Prime Time, something happens, and we have our TV show missions and wonky STFs. And then its back to the daily grind.

At the very least, this grind can be done while offline.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lt. Comm. Pion
What should I wish upon the endless universe;
To be able to smile and forgive everything;
That's right, if we light up the dream in our hearts without averting our eyes;
We should be able to walk whatever tomorrow comes...

I am V. Adm. Kha Yuung, and I approve of this message.

Last edited by khayuung; 10-11-2012 at 04:52 PM.
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 330
# 9
10-11-2012, 05:20 PM
Completely disagree with the above. They say they have the money and people now, so that excuse is toast. Don't do their apologizing for them. They don't have it bad at all according to Stahl. And we need to hold them accountable more now than ever, not less.
Community Moderator
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 1,657
# 10
10-11-2012, 11:22 AM
Producing a fairly generic, combat-heavy mission that plays out in half an hour takes a week of work. Producing an intricate, puzzle and story-heavy mission that plays out in an hour takes a month of work. In both these cases, players use up that content in a day, and never see it again.

Producing a new ship takes a month, but they use it every time they play.

Plus, many players rebel at the idea of paying for missions, but are totally fine with paying for items.
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