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Retention

Ravenlute
"I'm only playing because I paid for a subscription."

If a sense of obligation to try to get your moneys worth is the only reason you are playing a game, there is something seriously wrong with that game.

It has been mentioned that Goblinworks has lost money since they got rid of their box price and started the free trials. That is just a symptom, not the issue. In both cases, the players aren't sticking around to subscribe. If you compare a person having to pay to enter a game vs not having to pay, of course a company gets more money by charging a price. That doesn't make it the right thing to do or a good fix to a problem.

I talked about pricing previously. It might be hard to believe by some but the cost is not what is keeping players from sticking around.

Ultimately, the game is boring in its current state.

The biggest reason people say they keep coming back is because of the community, the other people they have met in the game. You could say the same thing about a chat room. The people will only get you so far.

So this is a game, not just a chat room with avatars that swing swords around? What enticing goodies does it offer?

The crafting is pretty solid. It takes a player going out to interact with the world to gather materials which they or someone else can then refine and finally craft into an item. The process can involve multiple people and takes a fair amount of time. Having a network of other people in the crafting cycle can make this part of the game really enjoyable. There's always something else to gather, make or sell. The pursuit of recipes can add a bit of additional investment into the game for a short time as well, until they are all collected. The basics aren't groundbreaking but there's a good variety of things to make. I believe most crafters will be happy with this part of the game.

The combat needs some work. The mechanics are detailed and the variety of attack options are great. The problem mostly lays on the art side. A knockdown attack doesn't knock the target on the ground, it puts a debuff icon on them. A web spell shoots out an orb of light instead of a sticky web that coats the area. Lightning bolt doesn't create a line of crackling electricity, it shoots a frickin' laser beam. The mobs don't roam and they leash back after running a certain distance making combat isolated to tight little zones that are easily navigated around. Stopping someone from bleeding out can only be done by someone with healing magic and it's a gamble if it works because a downed person vanishes so quickly. Some of the most exciting moments in my combat experience wasn't killing a boss and it's minions, it was getting a heal that brought me back up off the ground so I wouldn't lose durability. That's a problem. Combat feels more like walking into a shooting gallery with your weapon of choice instead of fighting off dangerous monsters in the wild. It's fun for a time but it doesn't challenge you. Players that enjoy PvE will like fighting with different weapons against different types of monsters but when they've tried them all they'll get bored.

Rewards are weak. The most coveted rewards are crafting recipes. Great for crafters still looking for a recipe, not so great for everyone else. Killing a mob doesn't grant xp, only a little coin and some raw mats. The mats aren't worth fighting the mobs for so that leaves only the coin. Having specific mats that drop only from certain mobs would go a long way toward giving players a reason to fight them, as a sort of living node. People love rewards and achievement that they can show off. Sadly, PvE players are left in the lurch here and results in a more hasty exit from the game.

Escalations are tedious. There isn't even the sense of encroaching danger that spreading escalations used to provide, or a reason to take them out. Now they are just there to sometimes go poke for recipes to give to crafters. Nhur Athemon was a hit because players had an emotional connection with the Towers they were blowing up and the explosions were great fun. Without that emotional connection, additional escalations are just more mobs. Try them out for a little bit then log them in your personal index of difficulty and risk/reward. Create an event where certain settlements, even NPC ones, come under siege for a certain time with the possibility of structures being destroyed if they take too much damage. Get the players to contribute time and resources to build up defenses and repair damaged buildings. That will get some attention. People want to be involved in things that change the world. Escalations can be ramped up by letting them spread, fight each other and really threaten holdings and settlements next to them. Give players a reason to care about them. Constant pressure to do nothing but fight things endangering your holding can start to seem like a chore after the first few times so give players other ways to deal with the problem. Hiring more guards around the holding to fight off the invaders or maybe bribing a neighboring escalation to advance into the one threatening you. There's a lot of possibility there but right now escalations aren't much more than recipe slot machines.

PvE in general, is in a 'meh' kind of state. It boils down to stabbing/shooting at something and very little reason to do so besides enhancing crafters. No instant gratification for combat types.

World designers and survivalists will be very disappointed. For a game that calls itself a sandbox there is very little the player can actually contribute to the world. Everything has specific places it can go allowing for no creativity on the part of the player. There are no tools in this toolbox. Designers will find no reason to stick around.

Character planning is involved. Those who find creating characters in table top games to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of gaming will enjoy the crazy amount of options and possibilities available in PFO. The dissection of normal table top classes into Role Features, Armor Feats, Expendables, Combat Feats, etc allow you to create and fine tune just the type of character you want. Very well done but complicated. People who enjoy character planning will love this once they understand how it works.

Difficulty level varies. There are some very detailed and expansive parts of the game, especially those directly related to a character and its abilities. As a new player, their character is the first point of contact with the game world. Not being able to easily figure out how to do what they want is frustrating and will cause players to leave within moments of first coming into the game. More patient players or those with a contact already in the game that can walk them through the steps and answer questions, will find enjoyment in the possibility of their character.

Advancement is bumpy. Unlike other games, xp is not the most important factor. Clearing achievement and ability gates is the real focus in advancing your character. All the xp in the world won't help if you don't have a high enough ability score to learn your next feat or skill. It's not all laid out though. Raising some of those gates requires you to invest in things you had no intention of learning. That can feel like a waste of time and an unneeded xp sink which can really upset a player since they had to pay directly for that xp. If a player feels like they are getting conned out of their money they are going to leave. For those that enjoy the variety of multiple abilities they will go out of their way to try a little of everything and won't have as much problem with the gates. However, as they reach higher Tiers and have to wait longer and longer to learn new things they will grow bored and look elsewhere for entertainment.

PvP lacks purpose. You can fight anyone you want but doing so has negative consequences. One of the main advertised features of PFO is the open PvP but the penalty for going on a ganking spree is lack of ability to train and possibly even enter your settlement. Playing by the rules and only fighting certain groups requires a bunch of work unrelated to PvP to set up and then you might find there is no one to fight when the time comes. Maybe you decide to take the fight off the battlefield and to a Holding to lure some defenders out and force a conflict. If the defenders show up you've got a fight weighed heavily by the numbers on each side and with a time limit based on the amount of durability left on your gear and how often you die. That's alright the first few times but what are you fighting for? Enjoyable PvP has a purpose or goal behind it. The only reason for PvP in PFO is to cause strife to someone else and/or just for the love of combat. You can't take over a settlement and trying to destroy an enemy Holding is a lengthy affair that takes a lot of resources that have nothing to do with the PvP itself. PvP needs ways to fight each other without restriction, penalty, or cost, with goals to accomplish and rewards for the winning side regardless of who started the fight. After spending some time killing other players that don't want to fight back or tormenting an enemy without a way to actually do anything meaningful or lasting, a PvP player will get bored and leave.

The world is plain looking. The terrain is generated instead of hand crafted so it blends in odd ways and some spots like mob camps are unappealing circles flattened into the ground and many areas have visible stretch marks. From a distance it can look quite nice, such as looking out over a forest from a mountain vista and there is great visual range. Overall though, the world is uninspired and lacks interesting landmarks and locations. There are a rare few structures or objects scattered around the map to break up the scenery but they don't have the same impact as a handcrafted valley or a mountainside speckled with caves.

The map is large and open to exploration. A player can spend a good deal of time exploring the very large map and the odd locations. A cartographer can really dig in trying to record various resources and wildlife. Unfortunately they shift regularly so recording anything can seem like a waste of time. After seeing what there is to see an explorer won't have any new options. Thankfully it will take a bit of time before that happens.

I know I haven't covered everything but take a look at what we have.

Crafting = Stay
Combat = Short Stay
Rewards = Leave
Escalations = Leave
PvE = Leave
World Designing = Leave
Character Planning = Stay
Difficulty = Varies
Advancement = Short Stay
PvP = Short Stay
Terrain = Leave
Exploration = Short Stay

This points to the most satisfied players being those that enjoy crafting and character planning.

Combat, advancement, PvP and exploration all give a player something to do for a time and enhance their game play but aren't likely to be the main reasons a player will stick around.

Those who primarily enjoy PvE, rewards, escalations (dungeons), world design, easy to understand mechanics, or hand sculpted terrain and features will probably leave in short order.
Myl - Herald of Stone Bear Clan (Tavernhold)
"You can walk into Tavernhold but a horse will have to carry you out."
Caldeathe Baequiannia
Ravenlute
"I'm only playing because I paid for a subscription."

If a sense of obligation to try to get your moneys worth is the only reason you are playing a game, there is something seriously wrong.
Doing something because you've already committed the money and can't get it back is not at all the same thing as only doing it to get your money's worth. Eating something I've already paid for, even if I don't like it as much as something else, is entirely different from buying more of it when I run out.
To reach me, email d20rpg@gmail.com
Midnight
Some people have subscriptions pre-paid, like the $150 for a year deal. or the kickstarter deals.
He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
-Edmund Burke
Bringslite
Players love the idea of sandboxes for the possibility of wide open options. They ARE becoming more popular.

Developers like the idea of sandboxes because at first glance they see something that they can make for well under 50 million dollars. Also because they are starting to "trend" if you will and investment tries to follow demand.

Where those two statements meet is where things go wrong. Players want unlimited options while developers strive to build just enough "content" or "mechanics" to keep them within their self imposed "small" budget.

Some day a really smart person or group is going to build a sandbox MMO with a great deal of money that will be the cash cow that the first theme parks were.

-They will front load "game tools" that allow players to actually cause theme park like content to "happen" just because those players are going about their goals in the game. You will be able to make friends with that NPC Elven Clan or pay that Orc Horde to attack Jeff's village. You will be able to disguise yourself, be granted titles that other players can see, be sought out because you are one of ten players that know how to make this sword or that wizard staff. Forests will disappear if over harvested, ore veins will run out, animals might become scarce or EVEN too numerous because players have altered the ecology.

-The developers will have built in tools to set things in motion like monster hordes, weather effects, famine, drought, natural disasters, side trek instance gates to strange places that are there-completed-and then gone. The Devs will be able to easily make and put into play NPCs with messages, unique items, prophesies, ANYTHING they want.

Someday, someone with money will get brave.
Virtute et Armis
-Unknown
Ravenlute
Edit: directed at Cal and Midnight.

I get that, but the reason to play a game should be that you enjoy it. If the "only reason" is that you paid for it then it's a waste of your time. Don't suffer through something you don't like, no one is forcing you. Own up to the fact that your money is gone and move on to something you will enjoy instead. Even if you just like the people in the game, they are your reason for playing and the fact that you paid for it isn't the "only reason".

Cal, in your example, you are probably hungry. You paid for the food and it might not be your favorite but you need to eat, so you do. Your hunger is the reason for eating it, not that you paid for it. If you weren't hungry, there must have been some other reason you paid for that meal. Maybe it was for a charity donation. Then you feel obligated to eat it even if you aren't hungry because you don't like food going to waste or because you may as well get something out of what you paid for. You don't have to though. You can hand it off to someone else or leave it there and eat something you actually like later.

Midnight, the point is what? (Sorry this sounds a little rude, not sure how else to say it.) Yes, money was spent. Is there any other reason for those people to stay in the game or is it because they feel like they should? It's up to each individual to find what they like, but just paying for something doesn't require them to do something with it.

Let's add a little to the end of that line:
"If a sense of obligation to try to get your moneys worth is the only reason you are playing a game, there is something seriously wrong (with that game)."
Myl - Herald of Stone Bear Clan (Tavernhold)
"You can walk into Tavernhold but a horse will have to carry you out."
Bringslite
I am here because I have fun playing, planning, plotting, and prancing especially with those who I do those things with.

What is your point Ravenlute? Do you feel that lots of us are hanging on out of a sense of obligation to GW?
Virtute et Armis
-Unknown
Ravenlute
Bringslite
Players love the idea of sandboxes for the possibility of wide open options. They ARE becoming more popular.

Bringslite, that was an excellent post.

Bringslite
I am here because I have fun playing, planning, plotting, and prancing especially with those who I do those things with.

What is your point Ravenlute? Do you feel that lots of us are hanging on out of a sense of obligation to GW?

Nope, I was only responding to the line that was quoted. A game should offer a person more reason to play than just that they paid for it. This isn't a personal attack on anyone who has subbed and no one should take it that way.

This isn't about those of us that have stayed on, we've found our reasons. It's about why players keep leaving. Understanding why this is happening and talking about it may help come up with ways to fix it.
Myl - Herald of Stone Bear Clan (Tavernhold)
"You can walk into Tavernhold but a horse will have to carry you out."
Bringslite
Thanks for clarifying! I was hoping that you weren't going to the dark side. We have enough of those.

Yes, identify WHY people leave. That helps, but is GW in any position to be able to do anything about that right now? In the back of my mind a track keeps playing:

"The population is low. The Veteran players can make real impressions on new and trial players. The population is low, GW could cook up lots of interesting Server Events that could add Soul to the game, maybe even a nice fat story arch"

The reality is that it takes several hours to help EACH new player and so far they only come along in "one packs".

The further reality is that, even though we are talking about people around Paizo who are as creative as hell, they don't have time for manually organized and operated in game events.
Virtute et Armis
-Unknown
Ravenlute
That's all true, and as much as I'd like some of what I suggested to happen I understand that it won't be soon. Unfortunately, that's why I've marked escalations as a Leave instead of a Stay. This is all about what is really going on with the game at this particular moment.

It's very important to discover and understand the real reason to a problem instead of vague ideas. Unless you have that understanding you can't even begin to properly fix it. I did my best to lay out what I thought on many different parts of the game but they are only my view so I encourage everyone to break down these concepts on their own and see if they agree or come to a different conclusion.

In the end this is all just brain storming and theory crafting. The power for change rests in the hands of Goblinworks. I write this in the hope of giving players different ways to look at the issues and if any of it results in some insight for the dev team, that's even better.
Myl - Herald of Stone Bear Clan (Tavernhold)
"You can walk into Tavernhold but a horse will have to carry you out."
Midnight
Ravenlute
Edit: directed at Cal and Midnight.
Midnight, the point is what? (Sorry this sounds a little rude, not sure how else to say it.) Yes, money was spent.

I was just reminding Cal that there are people who aren't deciding each month. Their decision was earlier and they are already stuck with that *financial* decision.

Believe me, I'm not telling people to also spend their *time* on a game because they paid for it; last month I logged into and spent more time on Ark, The Secret World, Elder Scrolls Online, WoW, and Minecraft Realms than I spent on PFO.
He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
-Edmund Burke
 
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