Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
game, a functional advantage could be a certain type of bulldozer that produces
new buildings faster than is possible for those players who do not chose to
spend real-world money. Role-playing games tend to favor swords and armor;
for a fishing game … well, you get the idea.
When considering selling players items that give them a real advantage in
gameplay, game balance should be a critical consideration. If rich players are
overpowered, those who don't spend money or as much money will become
disenfranchised and quit playing. Alternatively, if players don't feel engaged
because a game is too easy or too hard, they'll quit playing. There are a few
ways to overcome this, and the core problem differs depending on the type of
challenge offered in the game. First, there are some general issues to consider
for items of this type:
l Selling functional items in a game that pits player vs. player (PvP) risks mak-
ing the game feel unbalanced. If one player can simply spend a few extra
dollars and create an advantage so powerful that no other players feel they
can compete (without also spending), players may quickly feel alienated and
move on. This sensibility is particularly strong in North America, though less
so in Asia, based on the popularity of games like Cross Fire and ZT Online .
l To complicate matters, the risk of alienation can also become a major sell-
ing point, depending on your player community. Often, when a user in a
PvP game has been killed or “ganked” by another player, they tend to be
emotional and want to strike back; this does make your player more likely
to spend money in exchange for power, if your game design allows them to
do so. But you need to tread with caution when allowing this sort of behav-
ior. You don't want to leave your revenue to the whims that divide gamers
between their wallets and their damaged sense of pride, and you don't want
to foster the type of nasty online community that exists only for those who
get their kicks from spending a few pennies to “grief” new players. Certainly,
this is an emotion to exploit, but also to control.
l Selling functional items in a game that pits the player against AI opponents
(or “bots”) or against the environment (as in PvE) risks making the player
feel like there is no skill to overcoming the challenge of the game. As long as
they plug in enough dollars, they can guarantee a victory through attrition.
l However, items that shift or slightly tweak the game balance, creating a
new variation on the overall game experience, have the opportunity to be
significant sellers in the PvE space. If players are already enjoying your
gameplay, something that will allow them to enjoy some variety without
leaving your game space has great benefit for both you and them. As long
as the item isn't perceived as reducing the necessary level of overall skill
required to excel at the game, users are likely to spend on items that will
save them a little time, improve their chances, and otherwise vary their
already positive experience.
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