Greedy Goblin

Friday, August 12, 2016

The myth of the "time rich" player

Someone invented the term "time rich player" down the line of free-to-play gaming. This term is meant to be put in parallel with "money-rich" players and explain cash shop as a mean for the "money-rich" to keep up with the "time-rich".

I understand where the nameless inventor came from. Back then subscription or buy-to-play were the norm and paying for advantage was only possible as illicit RMT, which was considered cheating. Then the devs started to realize that they aren't winning the war on RMT-botters and took a different approach: selling advantage themselves. Then they somehow had to explain the players why is it OK what was considered cheating up to then.

I believe the term has ran its course. Cash shops and token trade is everywhere, players accepted them. While there are some outrages over "pay-to-win", they fade out fast. Most of the BDO guilds already switched their logo back to normal from the P2W protest logo. There is no longer a need to explain why you are selling power: everyone does that.

Imagine "time rich cinema customer" who can't pay for tickets, but has lot of time to watch movies. What kind of business opportunity they present? None. They are bums who has to be thrown out of the cinema. The service providers need paying customers and not freeloaders. While pure PvP games like World of Tanks or Clash of Clans can use free players as content for the paying players, I guess they could be replaced by bots and no one would notice. You are worth as much to a company as much you pay. If you pay nothing, you are treated as nothing. I learned that the hard way in EVE.

Sure, not all games go all-whale. I am sure that League of Legends would badly suffer if you could buy +damage for money. There wouldn't be tournaments anymore. Same for the Olympics. If you buy "power consumables" and WADA finds it out, you are out of the game. Where is the difference between the "relatively fair" and "flat out whale" games? Exactly the "time rich" approach. If you have lot of time to play League of Legends, your units will be just as strong as the units of a casual player. Sure, you'll likely have more skill, but that's in you and not in the game. In typical MMOs, you can simply outgrind a better player. I make about 40M/day in BDO and play 1-1.5 hours a day. That's very high silver/hour. But a lowly 5M/hour grinder who isn't more skilled than a bot can outearn me if he "plays" more than 8 hours a day.

The thing is that the games where "time rich" is applicable are unfair to begin with, so it doesn't really matter if it is made more unfair by paying, while in fixed-time match games there is fairness and paying would turn it around.

Sure, by better play, you can still outearn the whales, except bizarre ones. In EVE I made 60-70B/month that needed about $1000/month to keep up with as a whale. While it was possible, it was very unlikely that too many people would take that route. However now that not only extreme grinders but also extreme payers can outearn a skilled player, maybe I have to change my blogging focus and move away from MMOs to fixed-time match games. I tried it once with WoT, just to find it rigged. I tried League of Legends but didn't really like the twitch-based no-brain gameplay. I will have to look around. This doesn't mean a quick departure from BDO as it's very interesting how the "P2W" drama unfolds, but I have a feeling that BDO will be my last MMO.

28 comments:

bobturkey said...

Camelot Unchained might be worth a look for a MMO. No idea what the economy will be like though.

Anonymous said...

The fairness in "time rich" games isn't from the amount of income, but how that income is used. The better player beats the grinder because he has greater efficiency, allowing him to do more with less and put the extra time towards other goals. "Time rich" was just an excuse bad players made up because they didn't have the decision making skills to beat the grinder.
There's no answer for the "money rich" players unless MMOs go back to the old Everquest days, where their existence in the world wouldn't make any sense.

Unless you want to play Rocket League or obscure strategy games, there isn't really anything else that fits what you're looking for. Wolfhead's been complaining about this for almost 13 years now. The best you can do is to find something that you can start a project in instead of just playing it as-is.

Anonymous said...

Time rich simply means that the person grinds ingame to get the items, instead of going through the cash shop to get them.

It says nothing about the company and its business model, it is a statement of whether the player has more free time, or disposable income.

maxim said...

I'd be interested in your take on Starcraft 2
The best way to quickly familiarise yourself with mechanics is to watch some of the day9 Starcraft dailies. He stopped doing Starcraft a while back, but his Starcraft 2 dailies are still archived on his day9tv youtube channel
The most recent set of games worth watching that is available for free viewing online was TotalBiscuit's Shoutcraft Kings series of matches (king of the hill format)

Alessandro said...

I don't know if it would suit you, but there's a game based on skill and money, Magic the Gathering.

It's a very popular Card-Game, and it allows playing on "paper", or online ( https://accounts.onlinegaming.wizards.com ).

It's kinda of expensive, because it is both a Collectible game - with a market in the veins of "Stock Exchange"; and a very brain-intensive skill game based on matches.

The "Auction House" of the game is real money, and there are countless material on the Economics of Magic the gathering...

Anonymous said...

Just saying, League of Legends totally cheats with damage application outside of ranked mode, exactly as WoT does in fact - selling free players as content every second game.

And even ranked mode is suspected to have some sort of barrier in place to prevent certain people from ever getting to the top of the ladder.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: Starcraft 2 is a "memorize build orders for every map and execute perfectly and fast". I once beaten the local Starcraft champion (Starcraft 1) when I convinced him to play on slowest mode.

@Alessandro: MTG is the poster child of P2W with over $1000 costs.

@Anon: no, League has a rating, so you always have 50% winrate. This is OK and would be OK in WoT too. What's not OK is hiding this rating and acting like everyone was equal.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Way to utterly dismiss all the possible high level plays :D. Also way to utterly reduce the complexity of the great RTS classic to whatever local level you were playing it, further crippled by playing at low speed.

Well, the only real answer here is that SC2 is significantly different from SC1 because it allows a level of control that is impossible in SC1. As a result, the "execute perfectly" part is significantly lessened.

Granted, simply executing stuff perfectly will still make you better than 80% of players, but that's true in any game, so any game can be dismissed by an overly cynical goblin as "learn proper procedure and execute it perfectly".

99smite said...

I don't know, I have taken a break from BDO a few weeks ago, as I was shifting from playing my main through the quests and "advancing" in the story of BDO towards managing my workforce and feeding them beer every once in a while. While it is nice to earn income sort of afk-ish in BDO, it takes focus away from actual exploring the regions and that is somehow the problem in most recent mmo's. Content as such is no longer a core focus as most of the competitive players do not enjoy end bosses or some endgame dungeons, they are solely interested in the loot and who first succeeds in finishing either the boss or the dungeon/instance...

Compared to older single player rpg players then much more enjoyed the story and character evolution of the party members, SQUARE has done some very good jobs in the FF series and I am not talking about the games on the playstation2 and later...

Anyway, it seems as there is no solution to that dilemma that the players will always want to have the opportunity to get some advantage over other players. Psychologists have demonstrated multiple times that people prefer tiny lottery-like odds of getting mega items over more balanced odds.

If people were all as highly competitive as Gevlon, they would all be playing Chess online or Monopoly online or other games with a fixed ruleset where only skill and experience gives you an advantage over other players...

I can't stop lauhging when I imagine a chess-like online game, where people can buy power ups or special abilities in a cash shop, and the King gets to teleport away or the bishop can sacrifice himself in order to lift a checkmate.... And all this with the opponent not knowing whether the player has bought these advantages or not...

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: there is no complexity, just accuracy and speed. Don't get me wrong, an Olympic swimmer has even less complexity, (s)he isn't doing anything differently than anyone of us in the pool, just does it faster, stronger. Simply Starcraft and Swimming are not brain-testing but body-testing sports. Which isn't bad, just not my thing.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
That's an interesting offtopic turn.

Define "complexity".
For example, is chess a more or less complex game than Starcraft, according to your definition? Plenty of pattern-memorisation there as well.

Is BDO complex? Does it not have winning patterns that can be learned and executed?

Or maybe anything is "complex" for as long as winning patterns haven't been discovered and becomes, at best, a "body-testing sport" afterwards?

maxim said...

@Gevlon
On a more personal note (and i'm perfectly fine if you are the only one who reads this comment), the only ones who get to claim that a game has no complexity are those who have actually gotten any notable results in it.

Your opinion on Starcraft's complexity is noted, but there are simply way too many people who know the game way better than a "local champion" would (and are able to demostrate their knowledge) that have a different opinion.

You routinely accuse me of trolling. From where i sit, you coming here and stating that "there is no complexity in Starcraft" IS trolling. Disapponting.

Ephemeron said...

Cinemas, restaraunts and many other RL companies differentiate between time-rich and time-poor customers by charging them different prices during prime time (evenings, weekends, holidays) vs off-peak hours.

Anonymous said...

> @Anon: no, League has a rating, so you always have 50% winrate. This is OK and would be OK in WoT too. What's not OK is hiding this rating and acting like everyone was equal.

There is evidence that rating is not used in a "fair" way.

In fact, even in WoT people who stand above others are having winrates as high as 60% (mine was 57% before I quit). However, in League of Legends, rating is used only to estimate "what kind of force would it take to reliably beat you" and committing such force to keep you within 45%-55% hard-constrained winrate, even messing with damage application when necessary.

Even more, in normals, League is found to be messing with damage application to create "illusion of comeback", constraining a team it selected to win, until the moment comes to flip the board, reversing the mischievous tampering and giving the players an illusion that comeback just happened ("and there was a dia player on the enemy team, woo, I must be challenger hurr-durr").

The rating has turned into instrument of cancer player retention, who rely on the system to win for them. I have tested the extents of it, and yes, even if you go full retard and pretend to forget how to play, just in 5 games you find yourself in a situation where your team suddenly has so much advantage over the opposing one that it simply wins 4v6 (with you weighting it down). This effect has almost 100% reproduction rate, which is enough proof to me that your play no longer affects the result. So, the game is NOT fair.

Ranked play I prefer to ignore because I find the whole play2win idea retarded - you have to play champs you hate, tactics you hate, get items you hate, stall the game so the opponent hates you - for what? "win"? This is the same thing that I find in your posts, one I remember clearly when you had a bad cold but still went to grind mining missions despite being in pain. You will never convince me it was fun. Play2win is anti-fun by definition. Call me scrub, cuz scrub I am, because being scrub is way more fun than play2win. It may be true that League doesn't mess with ranked until dia levels. It may be not - I'll never know. But I know for a fact that in normals, the game is definitely messing with you.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: while pattern memorization helps with chess, there are way too many patterns to memorize and only world class players can memorize most. Starcraft has one or two. I seriously claim that if there would be a "turn based Starcraft" (several minutes to give commands to all units followed by 1 second action, next turn), my mum with zero previous gaming knowledge and one day learning the game would beat world champions 1 v 1. It's simply a twitch game with action per minute deciding who wins.

Complexity means that there are no winning patters, every move has a countermove in a rock-paper-scizzors setup. EVE did it pretty good among video games.

And no, BDO isn't complex either. After I found workers+processing+crates, I could leave a bot doing what I'm doing and be #1 wealth. BDO is WoW with better graphics and story.

Baktru said...

If you actually liked the game of Wot, minus the rigging and gold ammo, maybe you would like War Thunder.

Similar idea to Wot but somewhat more realistic and with planes and tanks in one game.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 14:07 - I'd love to see all the objective data you've certainly gathered to back up your tinfoil-heavy claims? I mean, sure you aren't expecting anyone to believe you without providing proof?

Ael said...

Gevlon: Don't get so hung up on the concept of "winners" and "losers". It is entirely possible to frame the MMO experience as a software "toy" rather than a "game" (which might explain why solo MMO play is so popular).

Another way to look at it, is as a garden. While garden associations do give out prizes, most gardeners don't think of themselves as competitive (except perhaps against various pests). Rather, they want a nice place to sit and watch the world. Its even nicer if you can share the pleasant place with others.

This whole "pay to win" argument leaves me slightly puzzled as to why people take it so seriously.

Anonymous said...

Ael This whole "pay to win" argument leaves me slightly puzzled as to why people take it so seriously.

watch the pure pwnage movie (imdb or the web series, it's a bit old but still good.). The movie will clarify many things, better as I ever could :)

I like your garden comparison. however It's lacking obvious numbers. And as soon as numbers are involved a large subset of gamers goes apeshit crazy to be in the top of what ever listing. In the end people do it for symbolism. A "nice" garden too, it represents extend leisure time and in most cases too much money, same with gaming. Sure we say we do it for "fun" but in the end it is yet another symbol to have for comparison. Even games that are not competitive at first glance get it if you time them look at speeddemosarchive.com or youtube.com/user/gamesdonequick

Anonymous said...

@ maxim
Read this before further embarrassment http://insomnia.ac/commentary/on_complexity_depth_and_skill/

Gevlon is completely right in that Starcraft has virtually no strategy at all. "Real Time Tactics" is a much more accurate and already existent description. Tactics is the execution (apm) of combat actions, whereas strategy is the decision of what actions to take - combat or otherwise - based on an overarching objective. The "where" and "when" are already decided for you, and there's only one real way to win. The game practically takes place on a single plane.

Far more complex games have been made even before 1998. APM always matters to an extent, but given two players with equal timing, it's everything else that determines who will win, and in Starcraft that "everything else" is pitifully lacking. "I scouted these buildings and think he's making this so I'll make this" is the Green Eggs and Ham of strategy.

Hanura H'arasch said...

@Maxim: I think you're simply confusing SC:BW with SC II. They are quite different games really. You had to babysit ALL your units in SC:BW, or they would do the most stupidest things. SC II has removed a lot of that, leaving more room for strategy in form of scouting, counters, etc.

That being said, Starcraft II is still pretty much a twitch game.

@Gevlon: I'd recommend you to give HotS a try. It's much more strategic and teamplay based than LoL, because there are map objectives, shared XP, talent tiers and there are no fed overpowered champions that can pentakill the opposing team.

The only game I can think of that's purely decision-based, where time is not an issue, and that is not P2W would be Hearthstones Arena. As long as you stay above 7 wins on average, which any decent player should be able to reach, you can play arena indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Give it a try to AION the NA version by NCSoft.

SiderisAnon said...

"Imagine 'time rich cinema customer' who can't pay for tickets, but has lot of time to watch movies. What kind of business opportunity they present? None."

Netflix Streaming, Amazon's video library, and other pay a monthly fee for all the videos you want service. Or if the user have zero money and are willing to watch commercials, one of the many official places to watch stuff online with commercials and no monthly fee.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
I have watched and played enough Starcraft games to tell you that there are much more than just "one or two" patterns. Starcraft starts off slower than chess, but ramps up pretty quickly as you get more resource points to control and defend.

That being said, chess also has comparatively few viable starting patterns, all of which can be memorised.

There have been some winning patterns in the past. It took the players literally years to figure out how to reliably survive beyond one or two base phase. Now (2 x-pacs down the line, in case of SC2) all of these issues have either been figured out by the playing community, or patched out by Blizzard.

Your notion that any random granny could easily beat a Starcraft pro in a turn-based version of Starcraft is interesting, but probably false. However, it is also a completely useless notion as it cannot be tested until someone actually makes a turn-based equivalent of Starcraft.

@Hanura
Not saying SC is not a twitch game. Saying that it affords some plenty complex decision gaming, provided you can handle the twitch part.
Of course, no complex decision making for those who can't handle the twitch.

Agree on the SC:BW and SC2 distinction, with one caveat. It was harder to find complex play in SC:BW than in SC2, because it was harder to handle the twitch. But complex play was still there (<3 Boxer)

@Anon
Your tone makes it hard to take your seriously.

The article you linked says some general words about the nature of complexity, but seems completely uninterested in actually proving anything and doesn't even adress Starcraft directly. If the author were to adress Stracraft with his methodology, he'd find and immense distance between newbie and pro players, which would make it a complex game by his definition.

On a more general tone, attempts to reduce Starcraft's complexity to a series of formulas have been made many times over by many players who found a measure of success. In all cases, these players have eventually been dethroned and stopped winning, proving the limits of their understanding

Anonymous said...

MMO-s are basicly in nature simple idle games. Longer you play, more power you get. More things you can do. Players who figure out effective ways to get more out on less amount of time tend to get ahead on gameplay. Usually idle games have some clickable button, more you press, more recources you get. Players who got time, press that button more, so they get more resources and get ahead. Thats average casual player. Proffesional idle gamer on idle game uses patterns and gets advantage on that. Passive income, income per click, clicks done on timeframe, those are things what matters on proffesional. Now if both casual and proffesional gamer are on same game world and can influence eachother with resources, important third type of player emerges. Some players "chea"t, use autoclickers and get more recources out of the same timeframe and get ahead of players who dont use autoclickers. On MMO-s, they are the gold sellers, they dont want advantage, they want to sell advantage. MMO-s need to figure out how to equalize those 3 types of players.

LoL as a example done many things right and is in my option best game made so far and even if you ignore gameplay.

First problem on MMO-s, if someone gets a advantage, they use it and get even more advantage. Player who join later have very big hill to climb to get same level to firstcomers. How to fix it? LoL made clean reset after every game. It starts a new clean state where everything is equal. Well, almost equal. EVE has another aproach, dishminishing returns on skillsets. Longer you play, less effective your gained powers are. And getting to the limit is relatively easy to get as a new player what equalizes that part of the game.

Next problem is wealth. LoL gameplay has equal wealth on every match and it changes dependent how game goes. There are very miniscule ways to trade wealth between players. On WOW, wealth get quicly limited by dishminishing returns. After new release, power items cost alot, but longer it goes, price of those items get cheaper and cheaper until a point where those items no more give any significant power because majority got them. On EVE, there is way stronger correlation on wealth and power. Gevlon blog is example how there wealth changes things. And because wealth gives power, it corrupts powerholders. Explains why dev-s are corrupt there.

Anonymous said...

> And getting to the limit is relatively easy to get as a new player what equalizes that part of the game.

Oh wow, so waiting 5 years is "relatively easy", we got a "time rich" player here bois.

Anonymous said...

Game producers likely cater time rich players because they want to make their game to look more popular. Movie producers tend give people free movie tickets during premier week for the same reason. Sports competition organizers often give free tickets if there are a lot empty places in stadium. Someone who plays 10 hours a day does more to make game look popular than someone with more modest playtime.

Anonymous said...

> Someone who plays 10 hours a day does more to make game look popular than someone with more modest playtime.

Unless you're monetizing "time rich" players (mostly as whale content, bleh) they are just waste of server cycles. The only profit he can give you is being there to be killed.

> Sports competition organizers often give free tickets if there are a lot empty places in stadium.

Because stadiums are totally not full of commercial banners waiting to be eyeballed.

> Movie producers tend give people free movie tickets during premier week for the same reason.

Usually to opinion leaders, to force socials into following the example and going to the fucking movie. One ticket for a 3k blogger is probably the cheapest ad contacts per $ on the market.