Greedy Goblin

Friday, January 29, 2010

A win-win-win solution

This is the last of my series about LFD, when "what is goblinish in bashing bad players???" is revealed. I hope on Monday I can post about some blue progress (hint: guys, show up in raid time!, hint2: if you want to raid in blues, join!), and I also have a business tip for next week.

I've always known that there is no "evil", there is no conflict that could not be solved by a good business agreement. People are just too stubborn to recognize it. I was stubborn too and in the previous posts I displayed steps of my progress to the solution.
  1. The first step was the "mean guys of the week", trying to simply scare off the M&S. It's fun, but has practically no effect besides some of them feel bad while leeching.
  2. The next was making the group kick them for being useless. That has results in the range of seconds to few mins (as the average DPS is low, so replacing a 800 DPS to an 1800 will increase the group DPS from 8K to 9K for the last 5-10 mins of the run)
  3. The third step was abusing the group itself by being silently AFK (that is good only if you don't value your "logged in" time, only your "pushing buttons" time.
  4. Than came a trick to beat the LFD algorithm to give an average player instead of a bad one (as it assumes you are the bad), this gives about 10% time gain, until Blizzard changes the algorithm
  5. By these steps I had to think with the heads of the other parties: the M&S, the group, the developers. Understanding them leads me to be able to construct the win-win solution where everyone gets something that he values more than the thing he gives up.
So:
  • Players want content, and pay money for it, but they are too few in numbers to pay enough to maintain an MMO. Some of them likes socials (unless they wipe him), others tolerate them, many cannot stand them.
  • Developers want money, and in turn ready to make content. They want more money than the players can pay. They can't provide friends to anyone.
  • Socials want the illusion of friendship and peer respect, and in turn ready to pay. They don't need content, they need friends.
If we need each other, at least indirectly, then why is all the hate? Why was all the hate in me? Because the only resource in MMO is time. In real life, you have time, and money. I value my time more than my money. I'm ready to pay more, but spend less time in turn of my gaming fun. Playing with socials is anything but fun for me.

The current system is a one-size-fits-all. Every player pays $15 and Blizzard expect them to spend % of their time boosting socials, giving them the illusion of being in a group, playing with other people, pulling their weight. Socials also all pay $15 regardless their different needs of boosting. I mean some socials are pretty good (the e-peen stroking l33t) and don't need my boosting in Nexus. Others are so bad that even the most good-hearted casuals kick them.

So the business solution to the casual-hardcore-social problem is: Different subscription prices, depending on contribution to keep the game running. Simply speaking, you could get discount for "boosting".
  • By default you pay $15
  • You are instantly offered a premium option to buy "help points" for $
  • If you have reached the "experienced player" status (based on your performance, measured by some program running on the server, watching DPS, interrupts, aggro management, standing in the fire...), you get the option to "help more to new players" for free playing days
  • If you are "experienced player", you also get the option for $50: "never has to play with new players".
Of course we all know that "new player" here is a lie, but it's marketing after all. The point is that the player would be in control of how he wants to pay for the game he plays. The more you help the developers keep the socials happy, the cheaper you play, at the end, you can play for free, or even get money for playing (there is unemployment in the world out there).

The "helping to new players" could be automatized. The game server could always measure what kind of help the socials need, and automatically assign "helping" players to these tasks. Any time some "experienced player" would hit the "help new players" button, the game would assign him a fitting task like "tank/heal in LFD" (obviously assigning "new players" to his group). Or "go to Alterac Valley, as there are not enough hordies and the alliance queue is too long". Or: "go to LFR and run a Naxxramas raid without checking achievements or gearscore". Or: player X wanted to ask questions, group with him and answer them. For these tasks he would receive free play days, allowing ultimately to play for free or even being paid, in return of helping the game running.

"New players" would also have options to choose what kind of help they need. For example:
  • "I need a group to do dungeons/BGs, but with people who don't judge me for playing less than them" (Oh, the marketing!), and behold, LFD or BG matchmaker would put you in a group where several helpers are present
  • "I don't have enough gold": and whoa, soon some NPC would introduce you a player who helps you with making gold, or even give you some seed money
  • "I want to play my class better": and the NPC introduces you a player of the same class to show you rotations, give you hints
  • "I'm bored questing alone": and soon, you'd get a whisper that "player X wants to quest here too, and wants to group".
The available help would depend on the supply/demand ratio of help_needed/helpers_available. The supply/demand would also determine the helping_hours/free_days ratio. One could buy extra help points for money to get more help than others.

The average player is never assigned to direct help jobs (like explaining class), but LFD puts him to dungeons/BGs with a mixture of helpers and "new players".

If someone pays extra to never interact with "new players" (available to experienced players only), he would never "randomly" be assigned to groups with new players, and would have the option to join "experienced only" guilds, where the guild officers can look into official performance benchmarks of those players who want to join the guild.

So this would be a microtransaction system where you buy no game items (so there is no pay-for-cheat), but buy "social fun". After all, the MMOs sell the illusion of friendship and peer respect to the socials. Why not selling it more officially, and motivate the players to be friendly the same way: "help socials and get free play days".

You see, a good business solution solves everything. Now, dear readers, tell me, is the outcome of the series is goblin enough, or "elitist whine about less geared players"?

Of course until it's implemented, keep abusing LFD! Don't boost until you are paid for it. After all, you pay to play, not to waste time with annoying socials.

Such system can not be introduced using in-game resources, because the real new players lack all kind of in-game resources, and because the socials won't trade such resources for help, as they believe they lack resources (gear) and not help (to learn skill).


PS: and this could finally get rid of account-hacking goldsellers and botters. Anyone needing gold could pay the developers, not for gold itself, but for the time of another player who help him make his own.

34 comments:

Jeanie said...

Firstly, a good business solution solves everything, for goblin, not for social. If a social can be rational enough to understand the business part, they would not be one.

"If you have reached the "experienced player" status (based on your performance, measured by some program running on the server, watching DPS, interrupts, aggro management, standing in the fire...), you get the option to "help more to new players" for free playing days"

I believe that it's impossible to judge a player based on those kind of data. The e-peen stroking l33t warlock would pull high dps (warlock doesnt normally have to do anything), however asking advice from him would be a disaster. More over, how do you judge stuff like kiting, healing, tanking, doing special thing depend on mechanics of the fight ? So until there is a better way to rate the players, this solution wouldn't work.

And you've always said this many times : socials don't know that they're bad, they honestly think that they're just missing the resource. A truly new social may pay for helping points in the first month of two after they get to 80 for raiding advices, but after that, he would stop doing so, because doing so means he agrees that he's bad.

Anonymous said...

Wall of text:
People still buy gold because they're too lazy to try to farm it for themselves.
There is enough free advice available (here, at just my two copper, on thepiratebay, freewowguides, ...) but most people looking for thousands of gold want it instantly (let's face it, using auctioneer to get to the goldcap can take a month or three)
So they're stupid and pay for it, which get's their visacard plundered and their accounts banned (at least they got their gold fast :-D )
Same goes for dungeons and raids, the morons and slackers don't want other M&S around, but they don't want to be considered an M&S and you can't point it out to them either (remember the shut-up-comment you got after saying "come on I'm in all blues") they want instant-epics (or legendaries) and those that are good players won't pay tripple to get rid of the M&S , it's cheaper to just start an elitist guild.

Samus said...

Gevlon, I feel like you are forgetting your own argument:

"The social honestly believes that he is just as good as the other guy, and any difference between their performance is the product of bad luck or factors out of his control."

You cannot tell these socials that they are the ones who need the help instead of being the skilled players who should be giving the help. WoW as a business is successful primarily because it sells players on the idea that they are skilled even if they are not. If you are unskilled, a game like Darkfall will just make you fail over and over until you quit.

Don't get me wrong, your system is good...for the hardcore players. But the socials drastically outnumber them. As a business, Blizzard is smart for catering to the larger customer base, even if those customers annoy the minority like you.

Gevlon said...

@Samus: the point is that the system can do it subtly. The social gets help even when he doesn't ask for it in the form that the system assign helpers in his group. He believes that he is playing with peers, when he actually playing with paid helpers.

The "request help" feature is mostly for really new players who are too dumb to figure it out themselves. The long time playing social just get dungeon, raid and battleground groups that carry him.

Blizzard tries to do something like that now, but since we are not paid helpers, it can easily turn upside down if we choose to comment on the social's performance.

MomentEye said...

I don't get it... why do the Goblins at Blizzard want to give you a discount when you've already proved that you'll pay for the game anyway?

Their cost benefit analysis for them has to be: is this the most cost effective way to retain players.

I bet discounts are far more expensive than, say, content creation.

Anonymous said...

1. Socials don't realize they are bad.

2. Even if socials realize they are bad(800 dps for example), they will never push a button that confirms that.

3. Who will check if the advise given by 'experienced players' is correct? They might have been away from the game for 3 months, witch may include a patch witch changed a lot. They might even not care, but just want the free days. So they group so the system thinks they're giving advice, talk some bullshit and boom! Free playtime. And players who group with that social player are into trouble, because the socials thinks it was right because 'the expierenced player' told me. Would you want to group with someone like that?

4. Related to three: Good luck finding experienced players. How are you gonna confirm that they really are experienced? They might just have bought the account from e-Bay. I doubt they can help anyone. So how do you check if players are still experienced?

5. Even noobs sometimes do something good. What happens if someone just happens to click a right spec together and gets yelled at to not stand in fire? Obviously he doesn't stand in fire then if he's not braindead. But he's not a good player. You cannot ensure that there are experienced players behind the account. You can only hope so.

Note: Why are the experienced players so important? If one social fails to get good advice, they will go cry on the forum that the system sucks. Witch would make the system pointless.

6. How would you imagine such a conversation between an experienced player and a social?
"What spec should I have?" "Check it on elitistjerks" "What does this ability do?" "Read the tooltip" "How do I make 5k gold a week?" "Go read greedy goblin, justmytwocopper and others"
It seems like blizzard could make a help buttons with links to pages. Witch would do pretty much the same.
Plus such answers make socials mad, as they have do actually do something instead of being carried.

Sry Gevlon, but I don't think it's gonna work.

Ken said...

What would be the interest to Blizzard in spending their resources developing such a complicated system?

ks said...

Unfortunately, this idea is a failure, Gevlon.

1. Any kind of discount is impossible, until the number of people playing WoW starts to go down rapidly.

2. Why should Blizzard pay you to do something, when you are ALREADY doing it for free? As you wrote in one of your previous posts, they created a perfect boosting-leeching environment. You are already helping the socials for badges or loot. Yes, you can /afk out and slow them down - but in the end - it is YOU who loses time (when I play, I want to play, not /afk and watch porn).

3. The socials would not admit to failing, unless someone told them that / kicked them / refused to let in a guild. Again, as you many times noted - they do not want help (as they don't believe they need it), they want to play with other kids and feel good about themselves. Once a social realizes they're bad and starts reading/asking about builds, rotation etc.., he in fact can be saved! Unless he is retarded, he will adapt some of the new ways and become a *slightly* better player.

4. Also, I don't believe any sane person (especially a pro gamer) would PAY for not playing with the socials. If he's good enough, he can group up only with his guildmates and attend guild runs.

wickEdgirl said...

Only while the illusion is functioning as a real, it is accepted by the socials. When that illusion is stripped down, socials will put in motion all kinds of regulations (laws or media pressure, or the so called public outrage) to stop the obvious division. Why do you think there is such a thing as political correctness that tries to equalize everyone in the most symbolic realm of all - the way we speak?

Gevlon... you cannot do in the game world what cannot be done be in the real world. The same laws apply, same as governments do not want to alienate all that need help (abandoned children) or that leech (unemployed) community resources, same thing Blizzard does with their "laws & regulations"... with one big exception.

In the real world a lot of responsibility to be "cruel" and fiscally responsible is assigned to private incentives, which then fire and employ as they wish. I lived in communist country a long time, so I know: it never fired ANYONE, ever.

In Blizzards case, they do not wish to alienate people any more than any government does. Blizzard prevents private incentives on any large level, and keeps them confined to guilds, one aspect of the AH and private announcements (trade, forums) - and even in those it is ready to step in as an interventionist force (bring back robbed banks and characters, ban people that "insulted" you by saying fuck, etc etc).

There is no systematic way you can influence the PoliticallyCorrect laws that equalize people's skill by the same amounts of money we pay to play the game - or at least I do not see them stepping away from that model, since the socials that do not understand the game are usually the most vocal in WoW community, similar like in real world the journalists who are able to simplify topics and ignite emotions are the most "trusted" even when they ignore the complexity & the finesse of the issues.

Jana said...

They could start with something like this:
Allow to sell game time cards for ingame gold. Of course the seller must buy the game time card for real life currency.
It is discussed here:
http://forums.wow-europe.com/thread.html?topicId=12304322803&sid=1&pageNo=1

You can already see how most of M&S posters ("particularly since the amount of gold proposed is in no way accessible by people like me who have a small income") really don't even understand basics of such business model.

Xaxziminrax the Second said...

The only question left is "Is it MORE or LESS profitable for Blizzard than WoW's current model?"

Seeing as that's one of the "wins" I'de have to see some numbers to even begin to investigate this model.

Everblue said...

The reverse system is already in place in Eve - if you value money more than your time you can buy game time with in-game money.

Isac said...

The system to mesure a player skill would be a voting system at the end of each random run, like something from 1 to 10 how well did x, y and z done? People from the same server could not vote on them. Something like this could be a plus.

I know that there will be people voting unfair but after a certain number of runs it should be possible to get an aproximate "rating" of a player.

Just an idea xD

Inquisitor said...

I Predict A Riot.

Meeting the benchmark for 'Experienced Player' would be gamable, and plenty of people with the intention to use the system as best they could would do so (indeed, I can't believe you'd assume *any* altruism in your analysis).

So... we have someone given a rather hazy task - one which it is possible to do either well or badly, but which it is hard or impossible to objectively measure performance at.

Consider 'yeah, I queued for AV as requested, but I got pwned a lot because our side was out of position - and of course I offered good advice on how to fix that, but they ignored me', versus 'yeah, sat in AV. Mostly just farmed HKs, but I spammed a macro about Belinda a few times', versus 'worked my ass off for 20 minutes, coordinating a victory'.

We also have *real money* hanging on these tasks.

Therefore, we either invoke human judgement as to whether it was performed acceptably (imagine the QQ, the hurt feelings, and the general animosity that results, quite aside from the possibility of actual lawsuits).

Or we leave an automated system judging performance (and yes, there's the option of player feedback, but if that devolves into 'do Share The Love or I rate you 1/5' blackmail a couple of times, I'm never touching the system with a bargepole again), which people will game and abuse.

Either way, the chances of the help you pay for being worthwhile... are small.

That's quite aside from the fact that (as pointed out elsewhere), most people will not only fail to seek out the current free (and really quite good) advice you can get online - but they will actively reject unsolicited advice provided by altruists - so what makes you think they'd pay actual $ - as WELL as pride - for in-game help.

I know it's easier to knock ideas down than to build them, but I think you'd be better off looking at tweaking the mechanics of vote-to-kick if you want a way Blizz could improve the game experience for the average self-interested competent person.

spinksville said...

It's quite an interesting idea. You don't really need to check for people being experienced, just offer an elite subscription which means the algorithm will only group you with other people who paid the extra fee.

And then see who is more likely to pay for that. If you're right, only goblins will pay and you'll get competent players and feel it was worth the money. If you're wrong, some socials will happily pay more to get a better chance at being boosted too (although as you say, the normal system does a good job at that).

Or you could pay an extra fee and have your character's stats and damage boosted permanently. Good players wouldn't need to do that, more socials might because they know it will make people shout at them less. Of course, the people who don't care still won't care.

Either way, Blizzard makes more money.

Wildhorn said...

Would not be possible.

1) As a programmer I can tell you it would be impossible to measure players performance like that. What if a DPS die because the tank or healer make him die on purpose? Does his score is affected?

2) "New Players" would not pay to get help points because in their head, they are hardcore. They do not seek improvement, they are already at the top in their head.

3) Everybody would want to be helper, even those who somehow reached experienced players, but do not know shit about what they are doing, just to get free play time.

jan said...

Gevlon, I must be VERY lucky or on really good battle group (Blackout - EU) but I simply dont remember when I was grouped below-2k-DPS. My hunter is still trying to get the Needle Encrusted Scorpion trinket from FoS HC (I have been there over 30 times so far just to see it dropped and won by tanks twice) and usually there is a guy doing less than 3K and other guy doing 3-5K in this instance. This fact makes me really wonder where are all those M&S's? On your battlegroup? :)

The reason behind this might be that I only get to do heroics either early in the morning or late night when the kids arent there. So for me LFD was a godsend :)

Tonus said...

That doesn't sound like a good business solution, in that I don't see how it would generate enough additional revenue to make any extra effort worthwhile. A business solution, after all, is attractive to the owner of the business.

If I can get millions of players to pay a monthly fee for my game (in a market where the typical game attracts 1/10th of that or less) then I don't see any reason to spend more money and time in the hopes of squeezing a bit more money out of people.

There's a reason that most of the purchaseable extras in the game are mostly fluff (pets, character changes, server changes). They are easy to develop, easy to isolate, and thus produce more revenue with relatively little time, effort, and risk.

Ironically, that kind of idea (segregating based on performance) is probably most attractive to those players who perform well but also feel a desire to stroke their "social" ego. Blizzard is not above catering to that, but it is probably not a large enough market to make the effort worthwhile.

Scott said...

If the LFD tool is not a good use of your time, then don't use it.

Orcstar said...

Ok,

World of Warcraft would become Disneyland where you pay a fee for queue jumping.

The morons and slackers get to play dps and pay a premium to get in front of the queue, the experienced players would have to play tank or healer.

Anonymous said...

the problem with your idea is this: the S&M want the ILLUSION of competency. your plan would shatter that.

furthermore, the game would develope a caste system due to those payment options. personally, I wouldn't mind, but it would make a whole lotta M&S ragequit in the end.

sam said...

People still buy gold because they're too lazy to try to farm it for themselves.

no people buy gold because the time reward ratio is in the favor of buying gold. The developers choice to speed leveling to end game just tilts it even further that way. If blizzard wants to hurt gold sellers they should let people by level 60, 70 and 80 characters. Then the people that are willing to buy thier way out of old content.

We've had developers quoted as saying the "real game doesn't start till 70" when 70 was end game.

It has nothing to do with good players or bad players. I've seen good players who bought gold just to keep up with raiding reqirements because that was the only way. I've also seen people buy 10,000 gold to get a mechano hog.

The problem with money sinks is they encourage gold selling which drives up inflation which further encourages gold selling.

sam said...

The silly thing about this whole discussion is that it is driven by the "Ape Subroutines" that gevlon loves to talk about.

100 good runs are something that just fade into memory and are forgotten. While that one bad run with complete idiots I kept up front in your memory where it can be accessed immediately. Its because in the real world thats necessary for survival. You need to remember those bad events and protect yourself.

for the most part this is an issue that is so minor its just not worth trying to fix. Especially if you are looking at it as a buisiness problem.

Lifeforce said...

Let us say that Gevlon's entire premise is correct, for argument's sake. That everyone who needs help knows that they need it, and that boosters will get in the emo line to help out, etc.

The problem with the plan will be much the same as the one that happened with twink battlegrounds, and the current tank shortage: the ratio of M&S is much higher than that of skilled players. So the number of skilled players, willing to pay for less interaction with M&S will be such a small pool, as to make wait times "unavailable".

Micah said...

I really think that blizzard should add just a few bits to each character's record. It would store that characters DPS over the last 5 or so heroics that they Q'd as DPS.

Then they can assign a minimum group dps for each heroic. When putting random groups together the sum of the 3 dps'ers ability has to equal more than the instance dps floor.

I honestly don't care about getting a 1000-ish dps death knight in UK but I don't want him in HoL.

The current system only lets you Q for instances that blizz feels you are geared for. Unfortunately it has no way of accounting for skill. This system would at least take a step in that direction imo.

Ratshag said...

Sam said "100 good runs are something that just fade into memory and are forgotten"

Gotta agrees with this. If there's a real problem with sub-1000 dps (or sub-1500, or whichever) then let's see some real data. DPS broken down by class, DPS broken down by fight. The kinda numbers ya needs fer ta draw conclusions. A handful of screenies from fights where arcane mages shine and other classes don't suggests the conclusions came first, and then a little data were found ta agree.

Wiggin said...

Once this idea blows over, I'm waiting for Gevlon to demand all the non-M&S players to "Go Galt*" to stop boosting others.

Because we know, if all elite, pro, intelligent, non M&S players stop boosting/carrying nubs and M&S the game will surely die.

Then, the Ayn Rand circle will be complete.

*"John Galt is the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Galt leads a revolutionary movement in which all the top leaders of the banks and corporations forsake their corporate jets and perks to work in diners or as subway repair guys. No they weren’t fired by Galt. Rather, Galt urged them to go on strike and withdraw their expertise from an increasingly socialist world. Deprived of the genius of their genius, the world economy collapses."

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/06/going-galt-everyones-doing-it/

To be more serious, the idea, while having merit, is too complicated, to obtouse, and simply not that enticing.

Bristal said...

In any group or team there will be a range of abilities. Some arse invariably perceives that they are the best and being held back by the substandard effort of others, and team play suffers more from that attitude than from any poor effort.

Your ideas that "better" players should receive monetary rewards from Blizzard (might) make for (less and less) interesting or provocative blogging, but it seems to boil down to you're right, they're wrong. You'll always be better and they should all go to hell. Which is not very interesting.

Do you really believe Blizzard should reward you for being a superior player (or person)?

Andrei said...

Assuming that this idea gets implemented and has positive business outcome it may still result in Blizzard getting more trouble that they bargained for. It would introduce real-life economy into mostly pure play game world. Some may even argue that Blizzard has already broken the ice by offering things like Pet Store. Regardless, abandoning flat subscription fee model and introducing price differentiation for different content or access level on mass scale Blizzard may no longer claim "magic circle" protection of virtual game environment from real life laws and exemption from property law restrictions. They may not be able to manipulate game economy at will, delete items and accounts on a whim, introduce new features that grossly devalue current property (i.e. items or currency) and generally change in-game experience without fear of lawsuits.

Kraklin said...

Hey Gevlon, I think you'd find this forum post on MMO-Champion of some interest.. debate about a random LFD where a player noticed a hunter was hardly doing anything and pulling in only 1k dps.. wanted to kick him but another group member said it was his son he was playing with, but he was 10 years old.

Kick him or keep him in group because it's the nice thing to do? (let father and son play)

http://www.mmo-champion.com/general-discussions-22/playing-with-children/

Anonymous said...

I would say.

Kick.

Aside from the fact that he's under 12. You're under NO obligation to boost anyone.

His father, maybe, it's his parent. But other group members are not that guy's parents.

verter said...

This is how I understood Gevlon's idea:

M&S do not get informed that they're are being helped. All they see is that their LFD queues get shorter and they wipe less than before (thus boosting their self image and interest in the game).

Blizzard does not have to offer monetary rewards to the helpers. But my understanding is that Gevlon's arguing that Blizzard might want to because they would find it financially beneficial because it would allow them to offer better playing experience to their main subscriber base - M&S.

Anonymous said...

I believe it would be impossible ( well, too expensive to be viable ) to come up with an algorithm. After reading trade chat, I am very sceptical about the answering questions working out well.

But the idea of a "veteran" server - 80 only, can't create new toons there, perhaps or perhaps not prohibit alt. More $ for Activision, trivial to program and it would not be as disparaging of the players who stay behind. Yet those who are impelled to measure their epeen would know it is the place to go. Self selection would improve the average level of play there.

Zanathos said...

This belongs on the general forums, with the other half baked ideas to "fix" Blizzard's cash cow for them. Good thing you came up with this before they went broke!