Ryan: The Core Rhetorical Challenge Facing Goblinworks


Pathfinder Online

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Goblin Squad Member

TEO HTRajan wrote:

At least this game isn't Sword Art Online.

Think about the PR nightmare that would be.

True, though that's near the .hack's Morganna incident, where the game's Main AI put players into a coma, and in some cases dicked with a player's mind and experimented on them in a way.

Another would be Doll Syndrome where the parasitic AIDA infects a player and infects their mind both on-line and off-line causing really odd behaviors and when an infected player kills another player, the other player has a chance of going into a coma.


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Audoucet wrote:
Don't forget the 75% of EvE players never putting one foot outside of high security territory.

And don't forget, Ryan specifically saying he wanted to avoid that cowardly behavior in PFO.

Goblin Squad Member

Summersnow wrote:
TEO Pino wrote:
Just make a $5/month PVE flag, that cannot be toggled off and on, for anti-PVPers to play under. Limit them to tier 2, and see how it goes, money-wise.

No more banditry, every group will just use pve flagged alt accounts to move items.

No more siege warfare, every group will just use pve flagged alts to bring in supplies, smuggle valuables out.

No more need for stealth, just use a pve flagged alt to scout enemy territory.

The list goes on and on of ways to exploit this to defeat the entire purpose of PFO.

This would be a really really bad idea.

- It's account wide, no alts flagged with mains unflagged

- Tier limits could apply to inventory/carried as well as worn/slotted.
- Caravans would be raidable, same as POIs, and the PVE flags could do nothing to the raiders because it is not a toggle.
- yeah they could scout, so can alts and spies, and stealth is not invisibility, so I don't see a major impact.

there are no bad ideas, only bad implementations.


Being wrote:
Crash_00 wrote:
Ignoring what people state does not make those statements sloppy, it simply shows that you can't follow everything being said.
Ignoring the difference between fact and hypothesis is intellectually sloppy.

Careful labeling something 'intellectually sloppy'. That's like calling an idea stupid and may be construed as you attacking the individual rather than the idea itself.

Goblin Squad Member

Bluddwolf wrote:
Audoucet wrote:
Don't forget the 75% of EvE players never putting one foot outside of high security territory.

Don't forget that statistic, even if true, has no meaning regardless of how you are looking to use it.

Does this mean the 75% do not PvP?
Does this mean the 75% don't commit crimes?
Does this mean the 75% are not Griefers?
Does this mean the 75% are not alts of pvpers in low or null sec?

I can't forget something that hasn't been established as fact.

I'm not sure there are that many players stuck in high, but anyway whatever the numbers, I'd say these guys have found a way of enjoying EvE compatible with their own risk tolerance (or aversion), in a game that might be the most engaging open pvp around. If not, they'd have quit and gone to SWTOR (as a good example of SF theme park in my mind, this isn't derogatory).

Maybe their risk threshold makes them stay all the time in high (so no open pvp, only wardecs can hit them), or maybe they go in low once in a while for missions or rare ore or whatever and take the risk of getting attacked. But anyway, they are aware of it and accept it.

Seeya,
Moonbird

Goblinworks Executive Founder

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Moonbird wrote:
Bluddwolf wrote:
Audoucet wrote:
Don't forget the 75% of EvE players never putting one foot outside of high security territory.

Don't forget that statistic, even if true, has no meaning regardless of how you are looking to use it.

Does this mean the 75% do not PvP?
Does this mean the 75% don't commit crimes?
Does this mean the 75% are not Griefers?
Does this mean the 75% are not alts of pvpers in low or null sec?

I can't forget something that hasn't been established as fact.

I'm not sure there are that many players stuck in high, but anyway whatever the numbers, I'd say these guys have found a way of enjoying EvE compatible with their own risk tolerance (or aversion), in a game that might be the most engaging open pvp around. If not, they'd have quit and gone to SWTOR (as a good example of SF theme park in my mind, this isn't derogatory).

Maybe their risk threshold makes them stay all the time in high (so no open pvp, only wardecs can hit them), or maybe they go in low once in a while for missions or rare ore or whatever and take the risk of getting attacked. But anyway, they are aware of it and accept it.

Seeya,
Moonbird

I am a rather casual EVE Online player. Casual as in, I play it heavily for a week or two, three, then go play "EVE Offline" (i.e. just keeping the skill queue running) for the next period, which might be from 1-2 weeks to maybe 3 months, depending on interest, other games and offline stuff (work, life in general and being heavily invested in playing tabletop RPG's).

When I play EVE Online, I'm playing mostly solo in space, chatting in various channels, scanning down stuff, sites, wormholes, peeking inside those and exploring more, doing some sites I come across. I tend to mostly stay in high-sec space, because the risk of moving from high-sec to low-sec and beyond feels like a sharp cliff, not a gradual increase of danger. And yes, I've picked up stuff in low-sec, travelled through it, etc. without getting ganked or otherwise killed (except that one time when I was planning to join some big CCP-driven event, where I encountered a rather heavy gate camp the moment I crossed the line from high to low sec; that was a calculated risk, however). For some reason, entering wormholes feels less dangerous than entering low-sec to me.

I hope PFO will have a more gradual curve in the risk/danger element, and more choices/less choke points when moving around the landscape. In EVE, the gates between the systems are the only spots where you can move from one "hex" to the next; I would hope that PFO offers less defined borders where you can "sneak across" if you are careful.

I don't mind risk or danger, but I do like choice in when to be exposed to danger, and choice in how to avoid it.

And to answer the original topic of this thread, it is that choice, coupled with meaningful consequences, that drew me to the idea of Pathfinder Online; there are quite a few things I do like in EVE, but I actually prefer playing as an avatar (and not primarily a ship) and would love to experience a proper fantasy sandbox, with not just PvP but also a bunch of sandboxy PvE elements (monster hexes, escalations, etc.). And I can only hope that it is that choice that is communicated, and not just the risk posed by "open PvP" and "being a murder simulator".

EDIT: Or maybe Pathfinder Online should not only have the equivalent of EVE wardecs, but also add peace declarations. And force people to play as "the other side" for a while, for a price. How would that feel?

Goblin Squad Member

Xorgrond wrote:
Audoucet wrote:
Don't forget the 75% of EvE players never putting one foot outside of high security territory.
And don't forget, Ryan specifically saying he wanted to avoid that cowardly behavior in PFO.

And yet the blunt fact that all of the pvp players with the stick up there butts holier then thou superior then everyone else attitudes in Eve seem to forget is that without those so called cowards your precious game and your precious pvp wars would all cease to exist.

No high sec resource farms & manufacturing = not enough new ships = no pvp.

The other point you seem to miss and I wonder if GW has missed is 75% of players in high sec = 75% of your income from high sec.

Could eve survive on 25% of its current income?

Can PFO survive if 75% of its potential income walks away because the game isn't "safe" enough for them?

Something to think about next time you read one of those "I wanna be a random gank griefer and I feel like throwing a childish hissy rant because you have a rep system that won't let me" threads.

There's a reason rep exists, there's a reason ganking / griefing type behavior is being heavily discouraged by GW. Part of that is so they don't have to designate 1/3 -1/2 the map to "safe" areas I suspect.

Goblin Squad Member

Crash_00 wrote:
Being wrote:
Ignoring the difference between fact and hypothesis is intellectually sloppy.

Yes, you're being very sloppy. Instead of actually debating you're attempting to deflect by ignoring basic logic and standard reasoning practices.

If the reputation system causes rep loss for unmeaningful PvP, and player y loses rep after unmeaninful pvp, is it just a hypothesis that he lost that rep due to the reputation system's rules?

It is an argument based upon a hypothetical premise, not a proof of anything outside the mechanics of logic.

The usefulness of such an argument is to instruct in logic. A use of such an argument may also be a rhetorical ploy to convince someone that something that isn't actually true is instead a fact.

CEO, Goblinworks

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Ok, finally have a chance to unpack this OP. This is probably going to be long and laden with business and marketing theory.

tl;dr - You're not wrong, but you're not definitively right either. There's a variety of tactics that could be employed and none are clearly superior to the others in my opinion.

Mbando wrote:
GW has a serious rhetorical challenge facing it: to general gaming public, this game is a murder simulator, and most of the people this game would appeal to don't want a murder simulator. It's a miscommunication, compounded by some rhetorical mistakes GW is making (understandable ones, and ones that can be fixed), and the ongoing discourse at gaming sites.

Firstly, I completely disagree that the game is a murder simulator.

My definition of that term is that such a game primarily involves PCs killing other PCs without any meaning other than "because I can", and the game rewarding that behavior by allowing the killing PC to become more powerful

FPS games are the platonic ideal of this kind of game play. In Battlefield or Call of Duty, you just kill as often and remorselessly as you can and the more you kill the better you get. The only thing that doesn't make it an actual murder simulator is the tissue-paper thin overlay of military combat operations and the general absence of civilians.

Many years ago I was surprised to learn that my understanding of the Ten Commandments was wrong. I had always been taught that the Commandment was "Thou Shalt Not Kill". But that is not an accurate translation. The more accurate translation is "Thous Shalt Not Commit Murder". "Murder" is a different thing than a killing. And that's a critical difference.

For the sake of this discussion and not trying to parse Talmudic (or American) law, I'll choose to define "murder" as an event when an innocent is killed with no contextual benefit to the killer.

A game can be chock-full of killing, but not all of those deaths need be murders. And the lower the ratio of murders to killing, the less the game is a murder simulator.

Our goal is to create a game where the number of murders is low compared to the total number of killings.

Quote:
I had an intuitive sense of this problem, and so I conducted a corpus linguistics analysis of editorial and user comments at sites like Massively and MMORPG.com. What I found was that people are extremely negative about the game

I find this sample to be extremely unrepresentative of our target customer base. And from that sample comes data that isn't very useful to us.

Segmentation of a target market is a critical part of any business plan that works. So many plans start with the assumption "our target market is everyone", and then they fail. Because "everyone" is an unaddressable market.

The key feature of any marketing for a product is to establish its unique selling proposition. In other words, defining what it is about the product or service that makes it distinct from anything else in the market. Because without that unique aspect it cannot succeed. Buyers will not select something that is exactly identical to something else unless that thing is a commodity and the only thing that matters in commodity businesses is price - whichever producer delivers the lowest price gets the sale, and if the lowest price is shared across multiple producers, sales are randomly allocated.

The act of creating a unique selling proposition always changes the target market from "everyone" to "a segment of everyone". But it is that segmentation that allows the product or service to be sold at a price higher than the cost of production at the point of delivery. It is what transforms a product or service from a commodity into a brand.

In my business life, one of the axioms that I transmit to my co-workers and people I discuss marketing theory with is the idea that "brands live in brains, not in boxes". This was the revelatory discovery of the marketing profession in the second half of the twentieth century. It had transformative effects in virtually every sector of commerce and those effects are still rippling and being felt today.

One of the big issues that statement reveals is that the companies that own a brand don't control a brand. If the brand lives in a brain, not a box, and the company can only affect the box, then the essential nature of the brand is outside the company's control.

What marketing does is attempt to manipulate the brains, and therefore to manipulate the brands that live in those brains. And that, as it turns out, is really damn hard. Despite decades of work, nobody has yet figured out a sure-fire way to manipulate a brain and get a guaranteed result in manipulating a brand.

There are some practical guidelines that have emerged which provide some structure to these efforts but they are by no means guaranteed to work. That is the art lurking in the heart of the science of marketing.

We attempt to influence the brains that our brand lives in by creating an active segmentation of the potential market for the product. We don't have the ability to manipulate those brains directly so instead we attempt this manipulation indirectly through the communications that come from us about the product. We have to accept that not only are we speaking about our product, but other people are speaking about it too. Our communication payload is in competition with the payload of other people's communications. Where that communication conflicts, the brains which receive the conflicting messages have to resolve the conflict by picking one, or synthesizing a gestalt of the conflicts. The final result is essentially unknowable. We can conduct research on people to see if we can ferret out what their brains have done to these communications and how they've reconciled the conflicts but that is an inexact and error-prone process at best, and a misleading one at worst.

The better, if far less quantitative, approach is to try and examine the actual behavior of those brains as they interact with the product and use those actual actions as the basis to conclude what has happened to the brands that live in those brains.

Which takes us back to why forum posters on on-line venues about MMOs are not a representative sample of our target market.

Our unique selling proposition is "a fantasy sandbox MMO based on the Pathfinder IP". Clearly, based on that selling proposition, our target market does not include people who don't want a fantasy game, or who don't want a sandbox game, or who don't want a game based on the Pathfinder IP.

We have no idea how big the segment is that is created by our selling proposition, but we can speculate based on some data points:

We know that several hundred thousand people, perhaps more than a million, have paid money in the past 10 years to play a sandbox MMO. They played Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, EVE Online, and Darkfall.

We don't know how many unique individuals that represents. And we don't know if they express preferences for science fiction vs. fantasy, or for brands like Star Wars or Ultima over all-new brands like EVE and Darkfall.

We can make a few guesses though. We know that in literature, fantasy outsells science fiction by about a 3 or 4 to 1 margin. We know that in cinema, fantasy generates more revenue per movie than science fiction although the amount is much harder to quantify for all sorts of reasons (how do you classify X-Men, for example?) Research conducted on fan communities shows that most fans prefer fantasy and science fiction, as opposed to fantasy or science fiction. It seems safe to say that we can treat the audience of prior sandbox MMO players as homogenous in their genre preferences, and if there is a bias, it's likely towards fantasy and away from science fiction. We know that these communities are highly receptive to new brands. New creators and new characters and new worlds are being generated all the time and are often embraced by the community. It does not appear that these customers are hostile or even biased against new brands they have no prior experience with. In fact, the opposite appears to be true.

When we look at those previous or current sandbox MMOs, which generated perhaps a million players, what is the single aspect they all have in common?

PvP

There are sandbox MMOs that don't have PvP. Sims Online, for example. Generally speaking, they fail.

So, based on that analysis, PvP needs to be a key, well expressed feature of our sandbox MMO.

It would therefore be accurate to say that our unique selling proposition needs to be expanded. It should be "a fantasy sandbox MMO featuring PvP based on the Pathfinder IP".

Having realized this, we are then forced to confront a whole host of issues that derive from making that decision.

  • First, there are a lot of people who don't like PvP.

  • Second, there is a history of PvP in MMOs being associated with toxic player behavior.

  • Third, the Pathfinder IP does not have a strong grounding in PvP.

  • Fourth, the biggest fantasy sandbox MMO with PvP failed (Ultima Online).

The act of creating our unique selling proposition has by default segmented our market. What can we intuitively guess that segmentation produces?

  • People who like sandbox MMOs.

  • People who like PvP.

  • People who are aware of the toxicity of PvP MMO communities

  • People who are aware that Ultima Online failed

  • People who love Pathfinder and trust Paizo to not put the Pathfinder IP on something they won't like

Now, the next question we have to ask ourselves is: "Where can we find brains within which to manipulate the brand of Pathfinder Online, which roughly match our expected segmentation?"

The major MMO websites do not match that criteria, and even more so, the people who participate in the comment threads on those websites do not match our criteria. That is because those websites are powered by an economic model which derives revenue from selling advertising, and 90%+ of the advertising dollars that are available to them come from theme park games with tightly controlled PvP and no connection to the Pathfinder IP. We can reasonably assume that by demonstrating the success criterion of not going out of business over a very long period of years, these sites have succeeded in optimizing their audiences to be receptive to the marketing messages being transmitted by the sponsors of those sites.

Those sites are not monolithically dedicated to theme park MMOs. EVE gets some traction because they spend advertising dollars there. The owners of those sites are fans of the medium and permit content from sandbox MMOs to appear, in limited amounts, because of their own personal interests and because they believe that it would be good for them to be perceived as a reasonable place for sandbox MMOs to advertise in the future if some appeared with marketing budgets. And since they know better than anyone that the age of the AAA theme park MMO is ending, and with that end, the end of the associated marketing dollars, that's not a bad bet on their part. Which is why we spend time communicating with them and asking them to support us with editorial content (plus we like the people involved too, which is always a nice plus!) But we don't kid ourselves - we are a leading value proposition that has not matured, rather than an existing value proposition which is paying the bills. And we believe the communities that aggregate around those sites mimic the current, not the future state of the market. So we believe those communities are filled with theme park MMO players, many of whom have an active dislike of PvP.

In other words, we have to discount the value of the input from those communities to close to zero, because the people in them don't match our segmentation.

You described the attitude of these players as:

Quote:
If you change the design to something that everyone can enjoy, something that fits the Pathfinder style, I will gladly support it. Right now, though, you're making a modern recreation of Ultima Online that rewards griefers and gank-squads instead of honest players. I've discussed the game with dozens of fans of both pen and paper and MMO titles, and I have yet to have one of them who thought that what you are making would be entertaining, or that it was at all a match for the kind of community thinking that made Paizo and Pathfinder so wonderful. I'm very afraid that you're making a mistake, one that will sully the Pathfinder name to much of your potential new audience

I totally agree.

This is the place where I concede there are options that we are not taking. We could, in fact, get rid of PvP from our game design. Or we could, as Bob Settles suggested off-handedly yesterday, make PvP work only in the context of factions and then make factions so important that everyone would use them, de facto generating Open World PvP without having to say we're doing it. Or we could have restricted PvP, opt-in PvP, opt-out PvP, or any number of ideas that regularly get thrown around. And if we did any of those things, then we'd be forced to change our unique selling proposition, and that would therefore change our market segmentation.

So far, I have not been convinced that doing any of those things would reduce risk in the project, increase our likely market size, or make a better long-term business. If I did believe that, I'd be honor-bound to make those changes. I just don't believe it.

But I will agree, if you read various internet forums, that is what the segment of people who are excluded from our current target segment are likely saying.

But we can't listen to those people.

Quote:
You said that people will come to PFO with major misconceptions, including that "Open World PvP implies a murder simulator," and I 100% agree with you--that's what the phrase means in usage. Guess what GW has on it's "About PFO?" page--one of the blurbs is "Open World Pvp." We know that GW is not advertising a Murder Simulator, and people that take a chance on the game will see it is not, but to the larger public, you are advertising the production of a innovative, high quality murder simulator.

Now this is a meaningful problem.

PvP is a feature, not a bug. Our target market segment expresses a preference for it. And we have built our game design around PvP. Specifically, the kind of PvP we have built our game around is Open World PvP.

This is the specific term that triggers highly negative responses from the people who are excluded from our segmentation. But it is a desired feature for the people we are actively targeting.

We accept that by promoting Open World PvP, we alienate ourselves from a potential audience of players. But that's a good thing in our case. Because if those players did come to our game, they would be given a product that they not only don't want, but actively work to oppose in many cases. And that creates a huge irreconcilable tension between the game we want to make, and the players we want to make it for, and the people who we mis-targeted and attracted under incorrect premises.

We'd rather filter those people out at the top, before they engage.

On the other hand, there is a big problem embedded in this segmentation that we have to be prepared to address.

Some of the people who like Open PvP games like them because they like to engage in toxic sociopathic on-line activities and they can do so with a great deal of satisfaction in Open World PvP environments.

In other words, the very thing we see is a feature is also the very thing that attracts the problematic players that ruin PvP for lots of players who would otherwise enjoy it.

This appears to create a catch-22. The more successful we are at positioning ourselves as a game with PvP, the more likely we are to attract sociopaths. And sociopaths create toxic communities, which drive out non-sociopaths, until eventually the game fails under the weight of sociopathic behavior, developer attempts to restrain it, and players quitting the game because of the resulting brew of terrible conditions and experiences.

The Hail Mary we are attempting with this project is to feature Open World PvP, and keep the sociopathic behavior below a threshold where it creates that negative feedback cycle.

Our vector to attack that problem lies in our unique selling proposition. It is the presence of the Pathfinder IP.

Pathfinder stands as a proxy for Paizo in this conversation, up to a point. As that proxy, it represents Paizo's success in doing something very few other companies have managed to do. It has an open, public internet community about roleplaying games that has not become toxic. If you are not a regular inhabitant of such fora, let me tell you that is an extraordinary achievement which would have been considered virtually impossible until they did it.

Is the success of the Paizo community due to the cooperative and communal nature of tabletop RPGs? I would argue that it is not. If it were, then all communities that aggregate around tabletop RPGs would share those values. They clearly do not. The thing that is working for Paizo is external to the products they produce. Instead, my opinion is that it is due to selective bias in who is shown favor in their community, how community norms were generated and how they are enforced, how successful Paizo is at excluding disruptive members of the community who refuse to reform their behavior, etc.

In other words, Paizo's community management has been successful in spite of the kinds of forces that tend to tear tabletop RPG communities apart. And as I said earlier, the Pathfinder IP is a proxy for Paizo. The thing we like about Pathfinder isn't Pathfinder. It's Pathfinder Enthusiasts. And I am utterly convinced a meaningfully large number of those people will like Pathfinder Online when they get a chance to try it after we move past the MVP stage of development.

The question is, can we undertake a transplant of community values from Paizo to Goblinworks and continue to maintain the positive outcome? Can we sustain that community before we have a game filled with meaningful Open World PvP, when, during the development of the MVP, much of the PvP in the game will be murder? During the months where the easiest thing to do is whack another PC and take their stuff, rather than engage in some other activity that takes longer and has a less certain reward?

We believe that we can. We think that combining that initial transplant of people from Paizo to Goblinworks with a multi-layered, multi-dimensional, in-game and out-of-game approach to combating toxicity will work, leaving us with an Open World PvP game with a relatively suppressed level of sociopathic behavior, even if it takes us a long time to mechanically implement all the systems in our game design.

But we also want to expand the very definition of what "Open World PvP" means. We want to expand it to mean that the PvP has contextual meaning. That the PvP outcomes are killings, but not murders. The biggest context is Settlement warfare. The struggle between large groups of humans to take, and control territory is ancient. It might be embedded into our DNA. It's compelling. And it provides a framework within which there can be enormous amounts of Open World PvP that does not degenerate into toxicity and "murder".

And that is why we use the term Open World PvP in our marketing, rather than seeking alternatives. We do so knowing that it leads to problems. And we accept those problems as a necessary barrier we must overcome to achieve our long-term game design and community goals.

So where can we find an addressable community of people who will respond positively to our unique selling proposition, if the major existing MMO sites don't have one?

My answer is that we have to make it ourselves.

Our theory is that we start with a community rooted in the positive values created by Paizo. That's why we built this forum here on Paizo.com. That work has laid the foundation for what comes afterwards. But it's not big enough, and most of the people we will likely have as customers are not current Paizo tabletop RPG players. We need to expand our footprint.

That takes us to our next step. We will build our own community on goblinworks.com, and we'll transition this community to that support structure over the next year or so. But at the same time we are going to be actively working to engage with people who are outside the paizo.com environment and bring them into our nascent goblinworks.com community. That's what we are doing with the Land Rush, for example. It's a promotion designed to target a very specialized form of MMO fandom - people who are interested in large-scale social endeavors in virtual worlds.

Over time we intend to keep expanding our footprint. Sometimes we'll iterate on an existing initiative. We'll likely always have something running to engage with large multi-game MMO guilds, for example. But there are other directions we'll expand our marketing to address. There's a huge EVE community and I know from direct personal experience that a lot of those players are deeply dissatisfied with the EVE experience. They're an obvious target. Another obvious target are players of Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. There are active communities for both and my sense is that there are a lot of people in those communities who would like to try again, this time with a platform designed to limit sociopathic behavior.

There's a mass market of people who have very lightly formed opinions about MMOs. Several million people have played World of Warcraft, and no other MMO. I've seen research about how dissatisfied a segment of those players are that World of Warcraft isn't a sandbox (although they usually don't use those terms, they instead talk about how frustrated they are that their actions have no meaningful persistent impact). So we have many potential sub-segments to target; more than we have the capital resources to go after, in fact.

But each time we do that marketing, we're keeping our unique selling proposition front & center, to cut down on the mis-targeting of our message. I'm hoping that we can, in a year or so, revise our unique selling proposition again. I'd like the final version to be:

"a fantasy sandbox MMO featuring PvP supported by a non-toxic community based on the Pathfinder IP"

I don't think we can sell that proposition today, because it's never existed and the level of doubt is too high. We have to succeed first, then we can sell the result. But we have to keep the objective destination in mind, or we'll never get there.

Goblin Squad Member

Ryan Dancey wrote:
This is probably going to be long...

Heh, indeed :)

Goblinworks Executive Founder

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I really think that there is a massive difference in perception, between "PvP Sanbdbox MMO" and "sandbox MMO featuring PvP". I certainly strongly prefer the latter.


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Honestly I must say that is the best post I've ever seen from a developer on an mmo forum. Hands down.

/bow

I really hope you guys are successful honestly, PFO and EQN for me are my only hopes left in the mmo game market.

Goblin Squad Member

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I really appreciate that you take the time to respond to these concerns, and at such depth.

I like where you are approaching this from and generally just appreciate the outlook you have been expressing. I may not always agree with the form it takes, but I am just one voice in a community of passionate people.

The approach you have taken in marketing thus far is spot on for attracting discontented players like me, who chafe at having fewer options in play as new games come out rather than more, and who thoroughly enjoy contest. Your Kickstarter description was a breath of fresh air, everything since has been reaffirmation..

Redefining perceptions of PvP is the responsible route to go, you are doing the entire industry a favor if you succeed in this one thing.

While I am eager for PFO and its success, I am even more eager for what that will mean for MMOs in the long run.

Keep at it, make your vision a reality. I will gladly give praise for your successes and stern words when I think you have mis-stepped.

Now hurry up with the alpha so the rest of us can play too. =p

Goblin Squad Member

Ryan Dancey wrote:

The act of creating a unique selling proposition always changes the target market from "everyone" to "a segment of everyone". But it is that segmentation that allows the product or service to be sold at a price higher than the cost of production at the point of delivery. It is what transforms a product or service from a commodity into a brand.

In my business life, one of the axioms that I transmit to my co-workers and people I discuss marketing theory with is the idea that "brands live in brains, not in boxes". This was the revelatory discovery of the marketing profession in the second half of the twentieth century. It had transformative effects in virtually every sector of commerce and those effects are still rippling and being felt today.

One of the big issues that statement reveals is that the companies that own a brand don't control a brand. If the brand lives in a brain, not a box, and the company can only affect the box, then the essential nature of the brand is outside the company's control.

What marketing does is attempt to manipulate the brains, and therefore to manipulate the brands that live in those brains. And that, as it turns out, is really damn hard. Despite decades of work, nobody has yet figured out a sure-fire way to manipulate a brain and get a guaranteed result in manipulating a brand.

There are some practical guidelines that have emerged which provide some structure to these efforts but they are by no means guaranteed to work. That is the art lurking in the heart of the science of marketing.

We attempt to influence the brains that our brand lives in by creating an active segmentation of the potential market for the product. We don't have the ability to manipulate those brains directly so instead we attempt this manipulation indirectly through the communications that come from us about the product. We have to accept that not only are we speaking about our product, but other people are speaking about it too. Our communication payload is in competition with the payload of other people's communications. Where that communication conflicts, the brains which receive the conflicting messages have to resolve the conflict by picking one, or synthesizing a gestalt of the conflicts. The final result is essentially unknowable. We can conduct research on people to see if we can ferret out what their brains have done to these communications and how they've reconciled the conflicts but that is an inexact and error-prone process at best, and a misleading one at worst.

The better, if far less quantitative, approach is to try and examine the actual behavior of those brains as they interact with the product and use those actual actions as the basis to conclude what has happened to the brands that live in those brains.
...

And from another point of view, this agrees that the market is being segmented, but disagrees abut all methods (former pink/blue vs current pink/blue) of segmenting markets. I think there are proper way to segment and I suspect that is also your point. In a sense, the segmented market is a Nash equilibrium.

Goblin Squad Member

Amaziah Hadithi wrote:
PFO and EQN for me are my only hopes left in the mmo game market.

Put these together and you have 90% of my dream game.

CEO, Goblinworks

@Amaziah Hadithi - thanks. @Mbando asks good questions. :)


Ryan Dancey wrote:
@Amaziah Hadithi - thanks. @Mbando asks good questions. :)

Agreed, he is part of the reason why I joined Ozem's Vigil

Now on a side note Ryan, convince Erik to issue a Test of the Starstone in PFS so I can get a true black god ascended so my cleric can have a black god to follow in PFO.

And I'm serious I really want to take part of that test

*Grin*

Goblin Squad Member

Ryan Dancey wrote:

Ok, finally have a chance to unpack this OP...

Wall of fascinating text.

Great read, it is really nice to be able to get insight like this.

It will assist me in winning over my doubter friends.

Goblin Squad Member

Ryan,

Do we need to wait before we can help make the PFO "brand" better understood?

"a fantasy sandbox MMO featuring PvP supported by a non-toxic community based on the Pathfinder IP"

Is a strong statement that should be displayed prominently on every page of Goblinworks.com, and that can be adopted by forum members (and guild/settlement leaders) from this point forward for every conversation with new players about this game.

I backed both KS from the very beginning , and read the forums daily, and this is the best description of PFO I have seen in 2 years...

Thanks for taking the time to respond to Mbandos post.

Goblin Squad Member

Excited: Yes. Thank you, Ryan; amazing to have such depth of communication from a developer, another marker separating you from your competition.

Goblin Squad Member

Thanks for responding Ryan with such depth and detail.

1) I heartily approve of the first half of your reply, although I suspect you may have misunderstood me, e.g. "Firstly, I completely disagree that the game is a murder simulator." Well yea, me too--that's a big part of my point. None of that was stuff I'm arguing. I love the game design, I'm just concerned that there are a lot of folks like me who would be great for this game, but are genuinely misinformed.

2) The second part seems more connected. If I understand you correctly, you think that using marketing language that leads people to believe you are building a something like Mortal Online/Darkfall/UO isn't a problem. In fact it's good--fostering the impression that PFO will be similar to Mortal Online/Darkfall/UO helps keep away the wrong kind of player.

I'm sort of stunned by that, but I'm willing to accept that's your position. But it totally confuses me--if you really feel that way, why do you bother with things like posting articles at Massively, and then patiently correct person after person in the comments section who completely misunderstands the game? That seems absolutely counter to what you're saying.

Goblin Squad Member

Mbando wrote:
That seems absolutely counter to what you're saying.

I thought it might be related to what he said about asking them for editorial support, thus increasing overall visibility. Ryan, in making that request, must've pretty much signed himself up for some sort of presence on their boards, regardless of how small the benefit of anything there other than that editorial support might be.

I find myself hoping that editorial support and its accompaniments aren't a net-negative value for PFO.


lol tl;dr

Goblin Squad Member

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Lor'Evenwind wrote:
...Russell Brand in Gladiator...

Be honest: how many of you would pay to see *that* movie?

Goblinworks Executive Founder

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I get chills up my spine whenever I see a CEO in cold blood saying "They are outside our market segmentation".

I get it, it's objectively a valid choice to make. It just goes against the pattern of desiring rapid growth. Which, conveniently, is a path that has been specifically rejected.

The differences in the corporate position (e.g. Intending to grow slowly, realizing that the Pathfinder IP is worth more than a murder simulator MMORPG could possibly bring in, heavily directly engaging with the community) make me more confident that the product will be significantly different from the existing games.

Scarab Sages Goblin Squad Member

DeciusBrutus wrote:

I get chills up my spine whenever I see a CEO in cold blood saying "They are outside our market segmentation".

I get it, it's objectively a valid choice to make. It just goes against the pattern of desiring rapid growth. Which, conveniently, is a path that has been specifically rejected.

The differences in the corporate position (e.g. Intending to grow slowly, realizing that the Pathfinder IP is worth more than a murder simulator MMORPG could possibly bring in, heavily directly engaging with the community) make me more confident that the product will be significantly different from the existing games.

Maybe rapid growth is only necessary under a planned-obsolescence model. Maybe that fits consumable products, but for a subscription in which prior purchases directly influence the value of future ones, you may not want a spike which you can't sustain.

Goblin Squad Member

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Mbando wrote:
But it totally confuses me--if you really feel that way, why do you bother with things like posting articles at Massively, and then patiently correct person after person in the comments section who completely misunderstands the game? That seems absolutely counter to what you're saying.

As the old saying goes: "There's no such thing as bad press."

Goblin Squad Member

My thought is that marketing the PvP element of PFO using the acronym 'PvP' suggests a few implications to the minds of the potential customers that can be harmful to the brand.

My thought has always been that role playing cannot be sufficiently realized where there is no chance of expressing the character's ultimate physical statement in the form of violence, whether defensive or offensive. That there is no chance of fully realized negotiation or diplomacy at an organizational level if the potential outcome cannot include war.

And I have pointed out an adage in these forums that 'War is the last resort of Diplomacy'. I explain that conflict between characters is the most complex system that must be in the game so it receives the lion's share of focus, yet in playing the game almost everything else should be the focus rather than war.

'PvP', per se, is an acronym that carries emotional baggage. The term so laden is suboptimal for conveying the intended meaning for PFO (or so I assure myself). Yes there is a kind of brand recognition that trundles along with it, but I don't believe that emotional baggage is worth the negative connotations that the targeted population retain.

I think that 'PvP' should be remolded somehow in the minds of the intended market constituency in order to project into the considerate mind the variance GW intends. I think that effort to modify the implied meanings that attend 'PvP' should have a significant, even theatrical presence of the stage of the potential customer's mind.

This proposed investment of marketing effort might take several forms, among them clear statements of how in the Pathfinder setting PFO-style PvP will be used by players. Descriptive use-cases, as it were, should suggest the replacement of the generic term 'PvP' with a specific meaning of PFO-PvP term.

I hope I wrote this in a way that the reader will find coherent. It is somewhat difficult to talk about with clarity.

Similarly the term 'role-playing' carries baggage among many players who have found objectionable the behavior of some RP players who grew intolerant of OOC interactions in previous MMOs. Perhaps moving the constellation of meanings triggered by 'RPG' into a more moderate concept like 'pretend' or 'virtual fantasy' should be considered in parallel with rebranding 'PvP'.

Goblin Squad Member

Virgil Firecask wrote:
As the old saying goes: "There's no such thing as bad press."

I think that old saying is from a time when journalism was less about packaging and more about informing.

I don't want to divert the conversation into current political opinion, but current politics seems to advise the contrary to that adage.

Goblin Squad Member

Being wrote:
Virgil Firecask wrote:
As the old saying goes: "There's no such thing as bad press."

I think that old saying is from a time when journalism was less about packaging and more about informing.

I don't want to divert the conversation into current political opinion, but current politics seems to advise the contrary to that adage.

Yeah. Even 30 years ago you could count on any press to raise awareness then fade away while you capitalized on the attention. Now it's only a couple of keywords away.

Goblin Squad Member

DeciusBrutus wrote:

I get chills up my spine whenever I see a CEO in cold blood saying "They are outside our market segmentation".

I get it, it's objectively a valid choice to make. It just goes against the pattern of desiring rapid growth. Which, conveniently, is a path that has been specifically rejected.

The differences in the corporate position (e.g. Intending to grow slowly, realizing that the Pathfinder IP is worth more than a murder simulator MMORPG could possibly bring in, heavily directly engaging with the community) make me more confident that the product will be significantly different from the existing games.

Exactly what I was thinking, and part of the reason why I have supported this project.

Goblin Squad Member

Being wrote:
'PvP', per se, is an acronym that carries emotional baggage.

I expect this is the reason you see "RvR" and "WvW" and even "RvRvR" as companies attempt to clarify that their game is not a "murder simulator".

Personally, I think "PvP with consequences" is a better construction. At least, that's what made me embrace the PvP in PFO so wholeheartedly.

Goblin Squad Member

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Nihimon wrote:
Being wrote:
'PvP', per se, is an acronym that carries emotional baggage.

I expect this is the reason you see "RvR" and "WvW" and even "RvRvR" as companies attempt to clarify that their game is not a "murder simulator".

Personally, I think "PvP with consequences" is a better construction. At least, that's what made me embrace the PvP in PFO so wholeheartedly.

I don't know what the words should be exactly, but using words that signal Darkfall/Mortal/UO, when the goal is to not replicate Darkfall/Mortal/UO, seems strange.

Goblin Squad Member

Mbando wrote:
...the goal is to not replicate Darkfall/Mortal/UO...

Always fun to see messages that *require* split infinitives. Take that, grammar Nazis!

Goblin Squad Member

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As far as I can tell, Ryan wants to rebrand PvP. Not come up with some other nebulous term that still means PvP but tiptoes around the baggage.

Goblin Squad Member

Deianira wrote:


I'm in the "backed the game despite my previous unpleasant experiences with PvP" because the PvP I have enjoyed has been the large-scale sort - and I did enough reading before backing the Kickstarter to understand that settlements are at the heart of PfO's system. "Open world PvP" by itself doesn't really capture the settlement focus, and players like me who might otherwise be great additions to the social game are more likely to hit that phrase and think "Nope! Tired of being ganked every time I log in!"

It also has the effect of playing up the social nature of the game.

I really think Deianira's comment should be given some attention since I'm pretty sure there are quite a few people like this out there. I know I was like this, for one. Conventional Open World PvP has left a lot of us who happen to be on the fringe with bad tastes in our mouths. I'm not against what PFO is going for by any means, but I kind of wish that there had been more stress on the settlement aspect of it. It feels more constructive, and as a person that prefers to create things that attempt to withstand the test of time (and all you people that will constantly try to topple my walls!), it feels like I can be the person in the sandbox making the sandcastles and won't get them constantly smashed before I even finish one. If it gets kicked over when it's done, I don't mind so much. Nothing lasts forever. I just mind the login-gank-beatdown that tends to happen. If not for the extensive reading I did before the Kickstarter now years past, I may not have backed this.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I understand Ryan's perspective. Focusing on a market segment is a good thing, and it will lead to better things for the game as a whole. I just wonder if the message he is sending is clear enough if people like me had to dig quite a bit to have our fears assuaged.

Goblin Squad Member

Crash_00 wrote:
Being wrote:

Yet people who are neither criminals nor police officers have automatic weapons, and I know this to be a fact. Therefore it is not a fact that only police or criminals have automatic weapons. Therefore your premise is an hypothesis and the argument based thereon is not a fact.

If you want to be sloppy in your thinking that is your business, but don't expect to easily use your sloppy reasoning among intelligent and self-disciplined people.

May we leave your personal political beliefs aside now?

Not "newly made" automatic weapons as I stated, unless you consider things from 1986 "newly made." If they are owning "newly made" automatic weapons, they are criminals or government employees.

Ignoring what people state does not make those statements sloppy, it simply shows that you can't follow everything being said.

It also has nothing to do with politics, but is, again, simple logic that has a direct mirror in what you were trying to shoot down.

If you wish to leave the facts alone, sure, you can. That doesn't change the fact that they are facts.

And here's that thread derailment ... as predicted.

Goblin Squad Member

APersonOnAComp wrote:
I suppose what I'm saying is that I understand Ryan's perspective. Focusing on a market segment is a good thing, and it will lead to better things for the game as a whole. I just wonder if the message he is sending is clear enough if people like me had to dig quite a bit to have our fears assuaged.

I've often asked myself whether I'm actually in that target market segment, or just lucked into being introduced to some of the key ideas about PFO at the right time.

Goblin Squad Member

Nihimon wrote:
I've often asked myself whether I'm actually in that target market segment, or just lucked into being introduced to some of the key ideas about PFO at the right time.

I'm pretty sure I'm not in their target market, but I'm hoping to be proved wrong. Not least because I shelled out for a year of game time....

Goblin Squad Member

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APersonOnAComp wrote:
I just wonder if the message he is sending is clear enough if people like me had to dig quite a bit to have our fears assuaged.

I think that Ryan's point was that when it comes to folks that have a lot of doubts, GW is going to have to prove the game works and has meaningful PvP before they play. That is a realistic goal. We can all shout until we are blue in the face about how PFO won't be a murder sim, but until GW delivers a product that proves it won't matter for those people.


Lhan wrote:
Crash_00 wrote:
Being wrote:

Yet people who are neither criminals nor police officers have automatic weapons, and I know this to be a fact. Therefore it is not a fact that only police or criminals have automatic weapons. Therefore your premise is an hypothesis and the argument based thereon is not a fact.

If you want to be sloppy in your thinking that is your business, but don't expect to easily use your sloppy reasoning among intelligent and self-disciplined people.

May we leave your personal political beliefs aside now?

Not "newly made" automatic weapons as I stated, unless you consider things from 1986 "newly made." If they are owning "newly made" automatic weapons, they are criminals or government employees.

Ignoring what people state does not make those statements sloppy, it simply shows that you can't follow everything being said.

It also has nothing to do with politics, but is, again, simple logic that has a direct mirror in what you were trying to shoot down.

If you wish to leave the facts alone, sure, you can. That doesn't change the fact that they are facts.

And here's that thread derailment ... as predicted.

TWAS FORETOLD

Goblin Squad Member

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Wow ! What a post ! Thanks for taking the time to explain all this !

Ryan Dancey wrote:

PvP is a feature, not a bug. Our target market segment expresses a preference for it. And we have built our game design around PvP. Specifically, the kind of PvP we have built our game around is Open World PvP.

(snip) But it is a desired feature for the people we are actively targeting.

You got me ! Your target is dead on my brain !!! :-) I'm in the market segment, yeah !!! This game is for me !!! And this is to say that some ppl on the forum support you fully, I think what you're building is great :-)

Nihimon wrote:
Personally, I think "PvP with consequences" is a better construction. At least, that's what made me embrace the PvP in PFO so wholeheartedly.

"Meaningful PvP" maybe ?

Seeya,
Moonbird

Goblin Squad Member

It strikes me that player interaction is the key to successful mmos:

1. PvP is a very powerful interaction: I mean I find PvP many times more engaging than PvE AI combat but pvp in context of a story where it makes sense and is not senseless otherwise as said play a fps game.
2. Trade is a very powerful interaction between players as evidenced by some of the cool stuff in EVE.
3. Groups aspect seems really core part of having fun too.

Player networks seems to be the key. The designs that seem to have this potential for example:-

1) EVE = Virtual economy
2) EQN = Asset creation and purchase and the whole platform of voxel-making virtual objects building a community around that that then uses such for their own types of games or world-building. Minecraft seems to have achieved this somewhat albeit less around actual asset sales, and more around mods for private servers?
3) Shards Online = if they were successful at creating a platform with lots of scripting of Lua and admins run shards that design has potential to build a community around the game and in the game atst
4) Pathfinder Online = Virtual Economy again.

I think even Valve is attempting to drive this for Steam to build the community and get out of the way of them doing more for each other.

So far we're seeing some good stuff for PFO: wiki, website, landrush and guild websites, gobbocast, maps being made, there's even people crunching numbers! Hopefully some vids soon too. And again a history/reporting/lore aspect. I think it all feeds into and out of the actual game itself ie players interacting at multiple levels. Definitely feels like next-gen entertainment of stories as a branch from other mediums such as novels or films, theatre or even TT as well.

Goblin Squad Member

Being wrote:

I hope I wrote this in a way that the reader will find coherent. It is somewhat difficult to talk about with clarity.

Similarly the term 'role-playing' carries baggage among many players who have found objectionable the behavior of some RP players who grew intolerant of OOC interactions in previous MMOs.

I think you have. I think the difference Ryan mentioned:

PvP for combat only => FPS eg point and shoot.
PvP as a component in a story => Game of Thrones characters' relationships

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

@Crash_00:

So, you return.

Goblin Squad Member

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AvenaOats wrote:

It strikes me that player interaction is the key to successful mmos:

1. PvP is a very powerful interaction: I mean I find PvP many times more engaging than PvE AI combat but pvp in context of a story where it makes sense and is not senseless otherwise as said play a fps game.
2. Trade is a very powerful interaction between players as evidenced by some of the cool stuff in EVE.
3. Groups aspect seems really core part of having fun too.

Player networks seems to be the key.

Yep, I fully agree on these points.

AvenaOats wrote:

The designs that seem to have this potential for example:-

1) EVE = Virtual economy
2) EQN = Asset creation and purchase and the whole platform of voxel-making virtual objects building a community around that that then uses such for their own types of games or world-building. Minecraft seems to have achieved this somewhat albeit less around actual asset sales, and more around mods for private servers?
3) Shards Online = if they were successful at creating a platform with lots of scripting of Lua and admins run shards that design has potential to build a community around the game and in the game atst
4) Pathfinder Online = Virtual Economy again.

Not so sure about these points... My expectations and hopes for PFO run around playing a great PvP game oriented around Settlement Warfare* (building fortresses and strongholds, being able to defend them but also to lay siege and take them), Player vs Player combat being one aspect of that bigger fight going on. Virtual economy and associated activities (ressource gathering, crafting, building etc) IMO are supporting activities for warfare, just alongside other types of activities like level or skill advancement, diplomacy (guild or nation relationships), intelligence gathering on your foes (in-game and out-of-game) etc.

Seeya,
Moonbird

* that's another example of those "you always seem to look for your first love again thing": in this case, Shadowbane's Gameplay for me.

Goblin Squad Member

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As communities are composed of individuals yet community leaders are few, the game for most people will be composed of the experiences of those individuals.

For sure those who run the communities will focus on building the industrial base and then on settlement conflict and settlement economy but for most players those will be peripheral. Significant, but not central.

And without citizens there can be no community.

So while GW may well be most focused on the community and the hopes and plans of the various leaders and councils will be focused on the aggregate, it seems to me it would be well were those leaders also heavily concerned with the play quality of the citizenry and individual concerns.

So any overview that systems like large scale economies and settlement warfare may be overlooking the integral and vital detail of the individual experience.

Goblin Squad Member

@Ryan - Thank you for the reply!

Ryan Dancey wrote:
There's a huge EVE community and I know from direct personal experience that a lot of those players are deeply dissatisfied with the EVE experience. ... and my sense is that there are a lot of people in those communities who would like to try again, this time with a platform designed to limit sociopathic behavior.

Next target demographic: the dismayed.

Yeah this would be me, and judging by the constant "well in EVE..." comments there more on the forums.

I backed PFO because it seemed like my best shot at a decent MMO within the next decade (assuming there might be one decent MMO per decade and I live for the next 5 decades, god willing). I haven't played an MMO seriously since around 2009 because real life doesn't include raid time. Gave up on the prospect until your Kickstarter, which was the first I ever backed. I wonder how much of the PFO base is new/re-entering the MMO pool like me.

Anyway, not too concerned with these murder simulator fears. More stabbin' less gabbin'. Will work itself out.

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