The Wizard of Oz had it right…
Hi, I’m Edward Hunter. I’ve been a gamer for many years and now have the perfect job working with Comscore clients in the gaming industry.
I’d like to share some things I’ve learned along the way. My advice might not be sage or even wise. In fact, without Comscore numbers at my disposal, I'm pretty powerless. But, I do know a couple of things.
Never, ever, let anyone see behind the curtain.
Pretty simple, right? Well, you'd be surprised how many MMO's have lost their mojo by violating this simple rule. I remember the first GM position I took a long time ago. It was for an exceptional text based MMO that I really loved. I was sort of a trouble maker, but I was creative so they gave me a shot.
The process involved my creating a new account with GM powers. I would log in and appear in the GM lounge and that was that. But it wasn't. Right away, I was no longer bound to the constraints of players. I could have any item. See any creature and with a simple word or gesture, dispatch it. I was in heaven, or so I thought.
Everything was great until I tried to play the game as a player again. I couldn't do it. The goals of reaching great heights no longer held any appeal to me, and, why should they? Just moments before I was creating creatures, now defeating them just didn't have any appeal.
I never played that game the same way again, and eventually quit. I had loved that game.
I used to play Ultima Online and wow, I was doing great. I was a woodcutter by trade and was just having fun sort of building stuff and you know, life was good.
Then I got an emulator. Yeah, I could run my very own UO shards, create objects, maps, buildings -- you name it. Very cool, until of course, I tried to actually play UO again. That was more than 7 years ago. Haven't ever gone back.
I played an MMO in beta recently. Decent game, it really was. It was a new metaphor for the genre, one I won’t reveal because frankly anyone halfway savvy reading this would immediately identify it. Anyway, played the beta, even preordered. That’s how cool it was.
I logged in on the last day. I was excited for the server wipe because like many beta players, I had firsthand knowledge of how to get a leg up before the unwashed masses started playing.
I went to a local NPC shop and, to my horror, there were experience books there. They were cheap and allowed me to instantly level my beta character to the highest level possible. Of course I did it. Of course I ran off and obtained what I tried so hard to obtain in the beta, what I knew I would try equally hard to obtain in the live game.
So there I was with all the goodies. It was great.
I never played the game again once it went live. I tried, once, but...I had already seen behind the curtain. Once I had experienced end game content, the mystery was gone and so was the appeal.
The lesson I learned is: don't promote paying players to GM's unless you have a damn good system in place.
Another lesson is: don't design your games so they can be emulated. Always keep something so key to the game’s operation that it keeps the smart ones guessing. And when they figure it out, change it. Change it again, and again. At random. Make it clear to your paying subscribers that any client detected having played on an emulator will be permanently banned from the live game.
Finally, don’t ever expose your end game content during beta to players who haven't gotten there by their own means. It might seem like a great reward, but I'm here to tell you, it’s a game killer. Period.