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Goblinworks Blog: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step


Pathfinder Online

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Paizo Employee Paizo Glitterati Robot

Added discussion thread for Goblinworks Blog: A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Big Things Come in Small Packages section wrote:

At launch, and for the first seven months following, we will cap new paying players at 4,500 per month. Four thousand five hundred new paying players monthly. We expect to keep only about 25% of those players on a long-term basis, so after we factor in attrition of each month's signups, we end up with 16,500 paying players at the end of that seven-month period.

Making a game that starts with 4,500 players and grows to 16,500 players is much, much easier and vastly less expensive than making a game designed to accommodate a million players on day one. We'll be able to focus on a relatively small part of the world at first, expanding it only as we need to.

After the first seven months, we'll raise the limit on new paying players to 12,000 per month. That will remain our goal for the next couple years of Pathfinder Online's life cycle. Factoring in attrition, by the end of the game's third year of operation, we expect to have about 120,000 paying players. For many MMOs, that number would be considered a failure, but because of our lean development strategy, achieving that number of paying customers will mean success for Pathfinder Online.

I'm wondering, how does this restriction interact with the free to play members? The bold paragraph in the middle implies these restrictions are related to the number of players the game can support, which would in turn imply bad things for people who are looking to start free and pay when they decide the game is worthwhile.


Pay to Play beta? Why does this sound familiar?

Of course, businesswise, there's no reason not to exploit your userbase if they fall for it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
FoxBat_ wrote:

Pay to Play beta? Why does this sound familiar?

Of course, businesswise, there's no reason not to exploit your userbase if they fall for it.

If you recall, FoxBat, Ryan has posted plans to make certain PFO is highly polished before release (though of course a few bugs may still slip through and need to be cleaned up thereafter.)

Goblinworks Founder

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Am I the only one that is still seeing this as positive?
I see it as a chance to watch a virtual world come to life, not as a pay to beta test confidence trick.

Not that I have a problem with paying to test games. I have payed for pre-alpha games in the past as a show of support for indie developers. I have no problem doing it for a seasoned development team.


I can't say I would be prepared to pay for my first month (in fact I was actually planning to primarily give Goblinworks my money through the micro-transactions side of things) but I've got to admit, I really like the idea of gradually expanding the game from the ground up rather than letting in hordes that hit it and quit it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Love.

Sczarni Goblin Squad Member

Very stoked. Quite exciting news, indeed.

Goblin Squad Member

I'm a believer in this model.

My only unsolicited suggestion would be to consider allowing for a certain allotment of 'rental' spaces so that everyone who is keen to give the MMO a shot would have a window in which they could experience it. So if you're outside of that initial 4500 you can still play on one of the rental spots over one weekend a month.

Looking forward to hearing more.


I think this is a fine strategy. It seems to support the "lean startup" idea of starting small, with robust, high priority features, and focusing early on learning what works and what does not.

I have a request for the blog: Add an RSS feed.


The thing with the cap does lead to one thing that is possible Account scalping to buy an account and then when people cannot get an account until later sell it the account illegally at a higher price since there is a quota.

Goblin Squad Member

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This does look like a solid starting plan for PFO. Can't wait to see how it develops.


I am excited about the game , and even more so that it is not building from the ground up but relying on tried tru methods and programs to cut the scut work for programers and giving us a quality product sooner than anticipated
my question is the rate the beta tester will pay vs full play opption when the game hits mainstream am I willing to pay for a beta game
yes but my feedback will be the stuff that feeds and immproves game play before they market to the masses
just my 2 cents worth

Silver Crusade Goblin Squad Member

have you looked at the DarkStar project?

http://java.sun.com/developer/technicalArticles/Interviews/kesselman_qa.htm l
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Darkstar

now called Red Dwarf Server

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RedDwarf_Server

I would love to see a MMO created without the need for shards, where the backend is not influencing the gameplay but enhancing it.

Or at least have something different to offer...

I'd also be interested in the pay to play beta, as I've done that a few times already with some other games and it is nice to help influence a game by how you play it.

This all sounds positive.

Thanks for showing us the process your going through, I'll be sure to keep my gaming groups up to date :)

Goblin Squad Member

"You have my sword, and my bow!....and my wallet!

Very exciting news. Could not agree more with the launch schedule. Now to wait and see when this might come to pass...

Goblin Squad Member

This model sounds like a very interesting idea. I will be doing everything I can to get a shot at this beta :) Now to start forming a guild lol.

Paizo Employee Paizo Glitterati Robot

dhemery wrote:

I think this is a fine strategy. It seems to support the "lean startup" idea of starting small, with robust, high priority features, and focusing early on learning what works and what does not.

I have a request for the blog: Add an RSS feed.

I'm unsure what can be done about this at the moment. The Goblinworks blog is being manually built for the time being.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

My friends and I have been waiting years for a MMO like this. Can't wait!

Goblin Squad Member

This is a slightly rambling post. I have zero experience with MMOs so I don't know the jargon at all. What does "theme park" mean in this context? Or "sandbox"?

Which are the "major fantasy theme park MMO released in the past five years" Ryan is taling about? I don't think I know of any fantasy MMOs besides WoW (and even that by name only).

blog wrote:
But a sandbox needs a critical mass of players to interact with each other, or they may as well be playing a solo game.

I'm not even sure if that's a disadvantage. I don't really see a huge difference between interacting with characters played by other players or NPCs. To me, at my computer, or to my character, there's not really a difference, is there?

Goblin Squad Member

3 people marked this as a favorite.

I am pretty excited about this. The more I hear about the sandbox style of play, the more enthused I become. Sandboxes are what drew me initially to MMOs - when they went the way of WoW, I lost all interest. With this focus on small, incremental, meaningful growth... I'm for it.


Here are a couple more ideas for helping keep the cost and art work times down.

Once you have selected the game engine you are going to use. Check about using/buying ddls of game objects already made by other companies that are also using that engine. I think this would be cheaper than paying someone to draw the needed object and code it for use in the game.

Also if the engine maker has a kit that those of use that would like to help out could rent/buy to design objects, adventures. Then send them to you for review and maybe use in the game. With the under standing that they are doing this for free!

For me, I would like to see the level of art work of Guild Wars at very start of game before the land was destroyed at a min.

I am thinking that support for dx9,10,and 11 along with 3d support will be very important in the long tearm with the ever increasing power of CPUs and new video cards in the next couple of years.

Goblin Squad Member

Zaister wrote:
This is a slightly rambling post. I have zero experience with MMOs so I don't know the jargon at all. What does "theme park" mean in this context? Or "sandbox"?

There is a thread discussing this in the Video Game boards.

Zaister wrote:
Which are the "major fantasy theme park MMO released in the past five years" Ryan is taling about? I don't think I know of any fantasy MMOs besides WoW (and even that by name only).

World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift. These would be the heavy weights at the moment and in that order. You could also include Lord of the Rings Online, Warhammer Age of Reckoning etc.


Zaister wrote:
This is a slightly rambling post. I have zero experience with MMOs so I don't know the jargon at all. What does "theme park" mean in this context? Or "sandbox"?

Theme park means you have the game it self, and a set amount of content or rides to make it easier to understand. Like one ride is a dungeon with 5 bosses, and another one maybe a cave with a boss dragon. If you understand what I mean.

Sandbox is more of a make your own content. Basically go outside and play in the sandbox. Build your own house, city, etc.

I may have just confused people more.

Other theme park MMOs are World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Rift, Aion, Final Fantasy 11 and 14, Lord of the Rights Online, Dungeon and Dragons Online. I can't really think of anymore off of the top of my head.

Andoran Goblin Squad Member

Keal wrote:
Zaister wrote:
This is a slightly rambling post. I have zero experience with MMOs so I don't know the jargon at all. What does "theme park" mean in this context? Or "sandbox"?

Theme park means you have the game it self, and a set amount of content or rides to make it easier to understand. Like one ride is a dungeon with 5 bosses, and another one maybe a cave with a boss dragon. If you understand what I mean.

Sandbox is more of a make your own content. Basically go outside and play in the sandbox. Build your own house, city, etc.

I may have just confused people more.

Other theme park MMOs are World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Rift, Aion, Final Fantasy 11 and 14, Lord of the Rights Online, Dungeon and Dragons Online. I can't really think of anymore off of the top of my head.

How about EQ1 and EQ2?

Goblin Squad Member

Martin Sheaffer wrote:
How about EQ1 and EQ2?

Everquest 1 - The seed of all themepark MMORPGs. I would not personally call EQ1 a themepark as the genre looked a great deal different back then, but without it the genre would not look the same today so...tricky one.

It is certainly responsible for the current industry, but is an altogether different beast. Sooner than call it themepark or sandbox, I would call it backwards and old, too old for such contemporary labels.

EQ2 however would be more in line with what we call a themepark.


You realize this means he needs 500 dollars from each of his players at the three year cap to break even. Thats a hefty goal. I am beginning to understand why Dancey is no longer with CCP.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Wooot I cant wait ..this is going to be great.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

4 people marked this as a favorite.

I have to say, the limited number of new players each month is a bit distressing. When you factor in that just about everything with "Pathfinder" in the name has sold far more copied than initially anticipated, if you have 50,000 people interested in the game when it launches, and turn away over 90% of them, some are simply going to not try again. Either because they get involved with another game instead, or hold a grugde over having their money turned away to play a game they wanted to, it strikes me as a way to generate far more ill will towards the game than beneficial.

When you also factor in the very realistic situation of having one player get in one of the first few months, and love the game, only to find out that even though he's plugged the game to his other gamer friends (either other MMO players, or tabletop gaming group, etc.), they can't get to play for several months until they are able to get in....by then the original player may have become dissolussioned with the game and his friends never join to play with him.

Finally, giving preferential treatment to guilds from other games is simply elitist a major turn off to potential new players (at least some of them, counting me - I don't claim to speak for everyone) when there's only a limited number of openings. So I potentially can't get to play because people who play another game get a "fast pass" to the beginning of the line?

Now, if these first 7 months are the Beta period, that's one thing, but the blog post doesn't indicate this is the case. By not being a Beta, it's a finished product that's able to be paid for, and I can't fathom the business sense of actively turning away customers.

Andoran Goblin Squad Member

RedMageSA wrote:
You realize this means he needs 500 dollars from each of his players at the three year cap to break even. Thats a hefty goal. I am beginning to understand why Dancey is no longer with CCP.

I'm confused - where are you getting that number from? He stated that at 3 years he expects to have 120,000 paying customers. Multiply that by $500 and you get a $60,000,000 budget. Where did he say that was going to be his operating budget?

Ryan Dancey wrote:
When I first approached Lisa about a Pathfinder MMO, I presented a plan roughly on par with the kind of development that had been the norm in the industry for the past 5 years: a $50+ million budget, a 3 to 5 year timeline, and a development staff of 50 to 75 people.

If you're talking about that, he next stated that he scrapped that plan and then spent the rest of the blog explaining how he was going to do it MUCH cheaper.


Count Buggula wrote:
RedMageSA wrote:
You realize this means he needs 500 dollars from each of his players at the three year cap to break even. Thats a hefty goal. I am beginning to understand why Dancey is no longer with CCP.

I'm confused - where are you getting that number from? He stated that at 3 years he expects to have 120,000 paying customers. Multiply that by $500 and you get a $60,000,000 budget. Where did he say that was going to be his operating budget?

Ryan Dancey wrote:
When I first approached Lisa about a Pathfinder MMO, I presented a plan roughly on par with the kind of development that had been the norm in the industry for the past 5 years: a $50+ million budget, a 3 to 5 year timeline, and a development staff of 50 to 75 people.
If you're talking about that, he next stated that he scrapped that plan and then spent the rest of the blog explaining how he was going to do it MUCH cheaper.
Quote:
I presented a plan roughly on par with the kind of development that had been the norm in the industry for the past 5 years: a $50+ million budget, a 3 to 5 year timeline, and a development staff of 50 to 75 people.

I rounded upwards because honestly 50 mill. is not a huge budget, and that would just be to build the game. $416 per player would be needed just to recoup that budget. That is a lot.

Edit: I dont think I am making this clear. He is going to need a budget easily in the 50 million range to build a workable modern MMO. This is not a theme park versus sandbox thing, this is not a "well WoW did/didnt do it" thing. This is a cold hard realfact. Video Games are expensive to make. MMOs are more expensive to make because honestly they ask for more. You need a solid network architecture and infrastructure or your game will be rightfully panned


But RedMage, he's made a HUGE point out of noting how he and Lisa are working the system to produce this game cheaply. I doubt PFO will be using a budget over 30 million.


I'm liking the sound of it. Would there be the possibility of observing what is going on in the game servers from the outside for those who are not in the 4,500? Mostly I'm wondering (as someone who doesn't play MMOs) how one keeps track of the changes that are happening in world without being in game to see them?

Also, re sandbox, I like the kind of vibe I'm getting from you. More along the Minecraft experience of things, but with a deeper story/world behind it.

Re: middleware - Do you have a particular aesthetic in mind? Im thinking of a game like Torchlight, where each of the playable character classes has a very specific look and feel to them. Another way of phrasing this might be to ask "What is your base assumption about the kind of machine most people have?" I think the kind of home-build custom rig that I have is likely quite different from the kind of laptop that most folks would buy for school, but the latter is far more common than the former. Thoughts?

Goblinworks Executive Founder

I'm confused. How can you create a competitive sandbox game where the early arrivals don't get an advantage over the latecomers? The high-intensity MMO gamers from the first month will always have a one-month lead on the joiners in the second month.

Limiting users also only helps control hardware costs. You still need the same amount of content for 4500 users as you need for millions. Since a fair amount of your gameplay is going to be interacting with other people, limiting the number of players hurts twice (reduced revenue, less engagement).

If you want to outsource the content generation for a themepark MMO, do it by offering an asymmetrical PvP option- create the tools that allow a player to create an area from the antagonists perspective. I'm sure that you can find enough players willing to do things that you would otherwise have to pay the level designers to do. Given that you are already limiting revenue from hardware limitations, I suspect that the extra infrastructure required to implement that is beyond the budget.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
But RedMage, he's made a HUGE point out of noting how he and Lisa are working the system to produce this game cheaply. I doubt PFO will be using a budget over 30 million.

Oh thats good. He'll only need to make $250 a head. :rolleyes:

Goblin Squad Member

I always wonder when I see posts like RedMageSA's, what industry knowledge they have other than playing that allows them to refute a guy who works in the industry?

Goblin Squad Member

4 people marked this as a favorite.
RedMageSA wrote:
You realize this means he needs 500 dollars from each of his players at the three year cap to break even.

Not even remotely true. You failed your save vs. reading comprehension.


So how much will monocles cost?

Goblin Squad Member

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think many are missing the advantages in such a launch philosophy.

Launching in this manner allows them to squeeze every bug and optimization out of small portions of content before expanding the sandbox organically in tune with the requirements of the players.

Instead of the conventional production process, the development and expansion of the game will be a liquid process which will shift production to where it is most needed and the game will progress intuitively. It will be difficult to force the same balanced growth which Eve Online experienced and I sincerely hope that the low cap stages of launch are considered a 'beta', otherwise it can be quite disenfranchising for communities to be unable to enjoy the game together.

This launch manifesto has all the potential, if used correctly, to create something truly interesting. Imagine watching the game expand and grow around the players naturally? Monthly content updates and not an ounce of developer time wasted so that it can be focused where it's needed.

I personally prefer this to a philosophy of spending 3-5 years developing a product to a certain specification, spending tens of millions of dollars, unveiling to a massive audience and then spending the next 12 months hoping you've got it right.

We should all put faith behind this as, save for the launch cap, can only play in all of our favour.


Any chance you could reply to the concerns addressed in this post Ryan?


Ryan Dancey wrote:
RedMageSA wrote:
You realize this means he needs 500 dollars from each of his players at the three year cap to break even.
Not even remotely true. You failed your save vs. reading comprehension.

I am genuinely curious though, what's your budget going to be? Because saying "oh we will just cap players that'll do it cheaper" is not really workable. Surely someone who isn't bothering to correct the "MMO Steve Jobs" claim has a pretty good idea what your game is going to run to make.

Goblin Squad Member

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Daniel Powell 318 wrote:

I'm confused. How can you create a competitive sandbox game where the early arrivals don't get an advantage over the latecomers?

We're going to be very careful to ensure that as the game ramps up, new elements are continuously added - thus there will be "new stuff" to be "first" to master.

We're also going to ensure that there won't be startegic choke points in the core game regions that would let a group block access to critical resources or travel routes.

The map itself will expand over time as well which means there will be regular opportunities to be exploring territory no player has previously seen.

Goblin Squad Member

RedMageSA wrote:
I am genuinely curious though, what's your budget going to be?

This will be a future blog post. We're going to talk a lot about how we're changing the way MMOs are built to work with a rational budget.


As someone who recently worked on Star Wars: The Old Republic, I think this is a very smart approach to take. I'm no fortune teller, but having seen the development process from the inside, I fear that SW:TOR may be the death-knell for large budget, AAA MMOs. The US economy and the evolution of the player base isn't going to support the development of large-scale, World of Warcraft type games for much longer.

As a side note, rumor has it that the release schedule for SW:TOR was set back by almost 2 years because much of the HeroBlade engine that they licensed had to be rewritten. Middleware can have its drawbacks, of which I'm sure you're well aware.

I'm really looking forward to reading about the creation process of Pathfinder Online, and I hope I have the opportunity to assist in some way in the future.

Goblinworks Founder

As long as it takes notes from D&D online and learns from the mistakes and does not fall in with World of Warcraft/Rift/Star Wars Old republic style of gaming then it will be good.

I'd like it to not use the leveling system, but then it wouldn't feel like a Pathfinder game if it did that I suppose; but then again it can still feel like a pathfinder game and not use leveling system.

And Free to Play does raise up a lot of questions as to how this will play out. I know games are going to this, but they just seem so limited in how much you can play without having to purchase something; even though some of them have been just cosmetic items or extra slots but still...

Goblin Squad Member

Interesting.

Are you familiar with a game called "A Tale In the Desert"?

They had similar design modes, as well as an economy that just wouldn't quit. (Grass was a resource. I'm not even kidding.) It's free, might be worth a gander to mine for ideas. I believe (though I could be wrong) they have the longest-running and most dedicated player base ever. In the history of ever.

Moreover, are you going to be adhering to the Golarion Worldmap? Are we going to be able to point at a section and say "Hey! I remember this hex! There are moonradishes around here somewhere!"?


kyrt-ryder wrote:
Any chance you could reply to the concerns addressed in this post Ryan?

Please? :P

Goblin Squad Member

kyrt-ryder wrote:
I'm wondering, how does this restriction interact with the free to play members?

It is likely, but not definitive that we won't have free play during the ramp up. We may have limited duration trial play so that people have a chance to "try before they buy", but the emphasis during the ramp will be on subscribing players. A big part of the ramp strategy is to ensure there's enough content and social structure in place to make the F2P/MTX model "make sense" from a player perspective.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This will be very interesting to watch a new corporation with some solid financial backing and resources build an MMO in this manner.

And for all you detractors, not only is this possible, but it is already being done on smaller scales all over the place. The development resources for building a complete online game are available from many avenues, some of which are free to use in exchange for a percentage of any profits the game makes when it begins collecting money.

Indie developers all over are using these resources to good effect thus far (I've even seen one pretty fun game that was completely built by one man over the course of a year). Quite a few small development teams have also put stuff out there with fantastic results.

I can't wait to see what an organization of professionals does with this approach.


Ryan Dancey wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:
I'm wondering, how does this restriction interact with the free to play members?
It is likely, but not definitive that we won't have free play during the ramp up. We may have limited duration trial play so that people have a chance to "try before they buy", but the emphasis during the ramp will be on subscribing players. A big part of the ramp strategy is to ensure there's enough content and social structure in place to make the F2P/MTX model "make sense" from a player perspective.

Thanks for the response.

I have to wonder if you can be sure to fill your 4500 per month playerbase growth when it's restricted to subscribers, but only time will tell for sure. Best of luck Ryan.

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