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Cryptic's Roper Explains Microtransactions For Champions Online 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the dollars-per-experience-point dept.
Karen Hertzberg writes "Many MMO gamers have expressed concern over the recent announcement that micro-transactions would play a role in the upcoming release of Champions Online. Knowing that MTs can be a touchy subject for fans, Ten Ton Hammer sat down with Bill Roper for an interview. He reveals more about Cryptic's take on the business model, what type of items you can expect to find through MTs, and how the system will be integrated into Champions Online come launch day. Roper said, 'The idea is wanting to be able to have things there that players can get if they want to, but they don't negatively impact the balance of the game. It's not like we're expecting players to go and purchase things through micro-transactions that then give them some huge leg up. All those things I think people get worried about, but really the focus is on having things that are fun, cosmetic or are things that are more account-wide and maintenance based.'"
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Cryptic's Roper Explains Microtransactions For Champions Online

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @02:58AM (#28792379)

    Roper has confused microtransactions with on-line purchases. How did he get that job? A microtransaction is a charge so small that you don't really notice it and the charge is made in such a way that its not really noticed, and dont require any complicated action, by the buyer. I don't understand how anyone can confuse that with buying a char transfer for WoW, or buying something from iTune's.

    • How small are you thinking of? According to the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] they're defining it as anything "to mean payments too small to be affordably processed by credit card or other electronic transaction processing mechanism". Furthermore, below they refine it to often transactions below a dollar. THAT should include an iTunes purchase, no? That said, a character transfer in WoW is CLEARLY NOT a microtransaction (why they rape you like that for a transfer, I'll never know), so I agree with you there. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kamokazi (1080091)

      No, the term Microtransaction has become a standard definition for MMO's that have items for purchase, ranging anywhere from $1 to $10 or so. The credit card/financial definition is certainly the source of the term, but its definition is now pretty irrelevant when talking about MMOs.

      If you say a MMO with microtransactions, that means they will have a store of items that will cost a few bucks or so. The reason this is a big deal is that with a subscription-based MMO, this is faily uncommon, and is seen as

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tycho (11893)

      This is a site with microtransactions:

      http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/pacerdesc.html [uscourts.gov]

      Yes, the US government runs the site. PACER is intended to give access to court documents, however, to protect the business models of Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis there is an $0.08 charge per page, for both legal filings and for varying definitions of a page for many HTML rendered pages.

      In the last quarterly billing cycle I managed to generate $38 in fees, so yes microtransactions do suck and are an extremely bad idea.

  • I will not play a game that rewards, or give extra benefits to, those who give cash to the company. Charge everyone a small fee, but keep everyone equal.

    • by Tom (822) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:39AM (#28792853) Homepage Journal

      That's nonsense right there.

      You assume everyone is equal right now, and that's simply not true. There are enough people in MMOs that have multiple accounts and pass money from one to the other. There are people with nothing else to do, who can grind all day, and there are people with job, friends, family, who can't.

      If you want an "everyone is equal" game, play chess or go. MMOs aren't equal as they are now. Adding micro-transactions simply allows people who have a job to offset their time disadvantage compared to people without a job with something else that they have that the others don't.

    • Well, I understand your point and would even side with it, if it was indeed that. Except it probably isn't. Even the summary mentions that they don't want to actually sell things which would break balance or give someone a leg up.

      For example, since largely it's the same people who came up with City Of Heroes, here's what COH sells: higher resolution costume pieces.

      If you come from an EQ/WoW school of MMO, that may sound like an advantage right there, but in reality it's 100% cosmetic. The costume or weapon

      • Why YES, we are seeking to milk our players for every dime we can, and YES this will cause balance issues but we've found thru studies that 1 player who will PAY $$$ for side objects is worth 3 players who won't ?? Of course they are going to downplay any balance or game mechanics issues, they ARE trying to make a profit here. That said I hope they can strike a nice balance, and that it beneifts the game and ALL the players as a whole, but I'm most certainly not going to hold my breath on the belief that th

        • by Moraelin (679338)

          Well, I guess we'll wait and see.

          As I was saying, there _is_ at least one example which sold stuff that gave no actual in game advantage. So it's possible.

          Whether CO will be like that... well, I'm not psychic. I'll just wait until they actually do something wrong, before I get all pumped up to whine about it :P

    • I've never seen anyone give a reasonable response to this question, so I'll ask you:

      Why do you care about how other people in the game came about obtaining the powers they have?

      If I play for 30 minutes and get myself a +1 sword of backscratching (which sounds about like what the Champions guy was talking about - nothing major, just minor bennies) or I pay $.50 to get the same thing, what possible difference will it make to you that I've done so?

      Please don't say that players who buy things vs. players who "e

      • I don't see if it matters if it only gives a heads up on pre-existing content. However, if it gives the people things that the regular customers don't get, then I'll be pissed. If the thing was free with microtransactions, the people paying for the extra gear or whatnot could go hog wild for all I care. But if I'm being charged monthly or whatever, I don't think it's fair for me to be shown up by somebody with more disposable income who buys all the fancy bits. That happens enough in real life, I don't thin
        • I can see your point, I guess I just don't agree with it.

          I guess my feeling is that there's no equality in this situation in the first place, and as long as it isn't having a huge effect on my experience, I don't really care what people have access to that I don't.

          For example, I have a really nice gaming rig - I can play games at the highest settings and my FPS won't dip much at all when I'm in a huge battle. This is HUGE in player vs. player combat because I'll be able to react to events in real time; some

          • Heh. I see your point to I suppose. It's just that when I think of micro-transactions in terms of gaming, I think of $5.00 here and there for the codpiece of awesome. To me that, while not a lot of money, isn't something I'd want to spend. I just think that if it breaks the balance of the game, then it's something that shouldn't be there. I'm just starting in PvP myself, and I don't take it seriously, but it would bother me if somebody who was the same level as I was had the codpiece of assrapery just becau
    • by vertinox (846076)

      I will not play a game that rewards, or give extra benefits to, those who give cash to the company. Charge everyone a small fee, but keep everyone equal.

      Well that isn't the case even now. What is the difference between a lawyer who works 60 hours a week who buys a WoW character than his wealthy retired client that sit at home all day and grinds characters?

      I doubt many wealthy retirees or busy lawyers play WoW, but my point is the same. Wealthy in the real world can get you a better character passively or ac

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Whereas I would because I don't really give a crap that other people can buy extra stuff. I'll enjoy the cheaper game without that stuff. Of course I'm probably exactly the player they don't want, which is lucky since I last all of 1 week on MMOs before they bore me silly and I never touch that one again.

  • Microtransaction = Cheating. Its like the rich kid who gets al the best baseball equipment and coaching. It leaves the other teammates feeling like he cheated. In fact he did, because his effort is as much a product of his parents money as it is his skill, and so it is here. the game world is really supposed to exist in itself. In a monthly pay game, when you get the magic sword you got it by working for it, not buying it at the store because you have a great job outside of the fantasy world. THis is why
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZosoZ (1603973)
      In the majority of MMOs out there at the moment merit and skill are a long, long, long way behind time, and to a lesser extent luck, as the determining factor in success (if you define success as "gaining gold and/or levels and/or magic swords"). I'm strongly opposed to any system that just layers "micro"transactions on top of existing mechanics so you need time *and* money, but I can't get worked up about a guy buying a magic sword for $5 compared to a guy killing boars for ten hours and using the in-game
    • by Tom (822) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @04:37AM (#28792845) Homepage Journal

      That is only true if you think of the game as a competition.

      I don't. The rest of my life is competitive enough as it is, thank you. I play games to relax and to challenge myself. Grinding isn't a challenge, so if I can bypass it, I will. If you call it cheating, I'll call you dumb. Also, arrogant because you are trying to put rules on my play.

      • Games are supposed to be fun, and competitive. I understand that some people don't want to waste all day to get items so they can have fun, but it's clear that buying your way to the top is unfair.

        It sounds to me (Disclamer: I don't play MMORPGs) like there needs to be two separate worlds. A "house league" world where you can buy stuff and just have fun. And a "Select league" world where its only things you have earned, where its very competitive and all about skill.

        Then they could implement some way
        • by Tom (822)

          What, exactly, is "unfair" about buying stuff instead of grinding for it?

          Note: I'm not talking about anything that would require skill. I agree that if you want to get, say, a title "great marksmen", you should actually play and get a certain hit percentage.

          But what, exactly, is unfair about investing $10 to get 100 monster skulls compared to investing 2 hours of time to get 100 monster skulls?

          A huge part about MMOs is not about skill at all. Every idiot can complete 90% of the quests. The only skills they

          • What, exactly, is "unfair" about buying stuff instead of grinding for it?

            Your right thats rather unclear.

            There is nothing wrong with spending $10 to get 100 monster skulls. Provided that you don't see yourself as competing with other players.

            However many people do see themselves in competition with others, and derive a sense of accomplishment (I am assuming its like a long term K/D ratio in FPS, I don't play MMORPGs) from getting items for their character. People only do the boring parts for the item or what ever at the end. An investment of time results in a reward.

            Bu

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Tom (822)

              It's not really about someone (like you) who purchases one or two items needed to do something fun. Its the people who drop $500 to max out their character so they can strut their stuff without having earned it.

              Yes, but compare to what? It's not as if I couldn't put down $500 today to have my character power-leveled and equipped with the best gear, is it? It's just a black market, that's all. What they're doing is making it a legit market. We should all know from the drug market experience over the past 30 or so years that pushing things to a black market does nothing to reduce demand, it only drives up the profits of the dealers and creates expenses to keep the black market in check.

              • by brkello (642429)

                Just because something develops a black market doesn't mean we should allow it because it is hard to deal with. If you don't like grinding, then MMOs aren't something you really should be playing. While you might just be playing it for "fun". Other people derive fun out of the competition. Achievements are a big thing now. Someone feels much more accomplished if they spent the time to get the achievement rather than someone who bought it.

                If you want a game where people can buy their progress, t

                • by allenw (33234)

                  Unless there is a mark that says "Item was bought", I'd argue that most players wouldn't know the difference between a bought or won item anyway.

                  • by brkello (642429)

                    I don't think that will help. It will just label the people who buy stuff. People won't want to group with the guy with labels. It will just make stupid drama and cause subscribers to quit. A lot of people feel really strongly about this. Whether it is rational or not is a different debate.

                • by Tom (822)

                  If you don't like grinding, then MMOs aren't something you really should be playing.

                  Largely true, which is why I have carefully selected those that I do, and avoid the pure grinding parts in them. I don't need the super-special rare items that you need 20 hours of grinding to get, and that give you a 0.5% advantage over some item you can buy from the weapon trader.

                  Other people derive fun out of the competition. Achievements are a big thing now. Someone feels much more accomplished if they spent the time to get the achievement rather than someone who bought it.

                  And I never said achievements should be buyable. If you like competition, you should compete based on skill, not based on how many hours you can put into the game, wouldn't you agree?

                  People want to escape the real world where the rich have all the advantages. You allow everything to be purchasable and you just pissed off the majority of your customers.

                  That's a good argument, yes.

                  I would argue for

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by toad3k (882007)

            It devalues the work other people have put into their characters and therefore makes playing the game at all that much more pointless, thereby gradually spoiling the game.

            It is similar to saying, I don't want to study for four years for a degree, so if I can bribe someone to give me a degree without the studying, why shouldn't I do it? Similar to steroid use. If I bust my ass off for a good body, it is inevitable that someone will accuse me of steroid abuse eventually, degrading the effort, making it poin

            • by Tom (822)

              It devalues the work other people have put into their characters

              Good. I'm all for devalueing pointless, repetitive work. We have machines for that. Us humans should engage in challenging work that requires skill.

              Your degree example doesn't hold. A degree is a paper that says "xyz has these and these skills". Almost no item or level in an MMO is equivalent to that, all they say is "xyz somehow killed the end boss abc", which in most cases essentially translates to "put x ours of time into it".

              Time has no value. What you do with the time has.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by PainKilleR-CE (597083)

          It sounds like you just don't understand MMOs. There really isn't skill involved until you've already collected all of the loot and are just in PvP playing against other players that have also managed to collect all of the best equipment. Everything is an investment of time and/or money, and some people already simply pay to have their character leveled and equipped to the point at which they can jump into the end-game and compete in the only skill portion of the game. If the company gets in on the action b

      • I prefer MTs (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WolfgangPG (827468)
        I don't understand the MT hate. You aren't forced to buy anything from Cryptic off of the MT store and they have said everything you can buy will be earnable by playing the game. I will take them at their word here -- if they are selling a silly hat on the store, then I expect to be able to somehow earn it in the game if I don't want to buy it.

        This is just a bunch of people who think having Tier 8 or whatever actually matters. If you are a gear whore -- then you can still earn gear the "legit way". If you
      • by AP31R0N (723649)

        It diminishes the value of what the other players have EARNED.

        If i spent days working on an item or questing for some special item, and your mom just goes and buys it for you... what the hell was the point of me earning it the hard way? It makes honest players feel like suckers.

        It's not cheating in that it is not against the rules, Blizzard WANTS players to gold farm and twink. But it's certainly unfair for people to players who can't afford to buy imaginary property with real money, it's also unsportsmanl

        • by Quirkz (1206400)
          Funny, I was going to use Kingdom of Loathing as an example of a place that I think does things right. While they're not really microtransactions (their "item of the month" donation item is $10), there's a lot that still holds true.
          1. They make their game free to everyone. Donators keep it going, but lots of people can play and never pay anything.
          2. A limitation on turns lessens the divide between people who only have a little time to play, and people who are free to invest their entire day to the game.
          3. Anyth
        • by Tom (822)

          It diminishes the value of what the other players have EARNED.

          If i spent days working on an item or questing for some special item, and your mom just goes and buys it for you... what the hell was the point of me earning it the hard way? It makes honest players feel like suckers.

          One, for people who work for their money, paying for something is just as much "earning it the hard way".
          Two, the "work" you refer to is the exact kind of work that humans have built machines for ever since they were able to - stupid, repetitive, non-challenging work. We call it "grinding" for a reason.
          Three, there is absolutely nothing dishonest about buying an item if the game so allows. We can argue about honesty in regards to games where buying stuff is expressively forbidden, but that's not what this t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by crossmr (957846)

      MMOs and RPGs have never been about merit and skill. They've been about who can sit in their chair the longest and press the attack button the longest.
      the longer you do it, the more powerful your character. Nearly every MMO out there is about grinding. It is the #1 complaint for a reason...
      Microtransactions don't have anything to do with cheating as long as they are done properly. A lot of western companies haven't figured that out yet, but asian companies have been doing it a long time. Here in Korea every

    • What about the guys, who play wow 24/7, while Im at work/having a social life etc. Isnt that considered cheating then?
      • by Mursk (928595)
        Yes; playing WoW AND having a social life is clearly against the rules.

        Oh, were you referring to the other guy?
  • Microtransactions: This would be the payment model that has so much going for it: 1.Instead of playing the games to win items you buy them.. so the point of playing is to allow the folks with money to burn work less? 2.The model that relies on a few people subsidising the rest of the player base, hoping that the urge to compete will cause people to shove coins in like some fruit machine that never pays out. 3.Lets companies who can't come up with outstanding original products to compete with World of
  • Corpo-Speak (Score:3, Informative)

    by dcollins (135727) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @03:25AM (#28792545) Homepage

    There's a lot of bull being thrown around in that interview. In response to the first question about whether the US market can accept micro-transaction games:

    "I think a great example of that is Rock Band. That game is based wholly on micro-transactions and has a really high cost of entry, you know? With Rock Band you're not just buying the game, you're buying all of the peripherals and equipment... World of Warcraft has micro-transactions and people don't even think about it. Their micro-transactions are fairly steep at times - like $25 to move your character to another realm - and that's account-wide micro-transactions."

    If an item is "really high cost" and/or "fairly steep", then it's not a micro-transaction, duh. And look, our game is comparable to both Rock Band and WOW, right.

    • by Ferret96 (1293480)
      The argument you made with Rock Band you can make with ANY console game. In order to play any Wii game you need several peripherals, in order to play a 360 game you need to buy a controller... The need to buy the equipment up front is something that is given for some console games, hell even Duck Hunt needed the Nintendo Laser Gun (which, if you were like me and broke the one it came with, you needed to buy another one). Also World of Warcraft has only ONE extra cost at this point in the form of Realm Mov
      • by True Vox (841523)
        Really? I haven't played for about a year or so, but I could have SWORN a name change had something like a $10 cost associated with it in WoW.
    • Rock Band + WoW = Raids where 25 people get together to play epic 5-6 hour medleys. There is no death penalty in game, but players may become exhausted and pass out. It is recommended that you play with a buddy so that, in case you do pass out, your buddy can flip you on your stomach so you don't choke on your own vomit and die. Should you complete the raid you will be rewarded with an animation of the final boss's head exploding to the background applause of a cheering stadium and you'll have the chance to
    • by brkello (642429)

      I agree, the guy has no idea what a micro-transaction is. Character transfers are a service Blizzard provides that they don't really want to encourage. But if you really want to, you can pay some money and they will do it. The money is more of a deterrent.

      You need to look at the Korean games to understand micro-transactions. 50 cents to buy a new outfit or a new item for your virtual home.

      I think his definition of a micro-transactionsis anything that you pay for above and beyond the cost

  • Hellgate part 2? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This sounds a lot like the subscriber/non-subscriber deal from Hellgate London. Either way, if Bill Roper gets his hands in like Flagship, this mmo, microtransactions or no, won't see it's first birthday.

    • Well, I understand your point, but the alternative is that it's designed by Jack Emmert (Statesman) like COH :p

      Now the game had a lot of good ideas (for my taste) and I still love the superhero setting. So Statesman gets my recognition for that.

      But seriously, the game had _massive_ balance problems that could have been avoided by just doing some arithmetic on the back of a napkin. Jack Emmert was also genuinely surprised as to what happened to his game's balance when you just use level 22 equipment. Serious

  • Anyone looked up the term "Flagshipped"?

    There was nothing wrong with the game Hellgate London but they screwed the pooch with a bad payment model by trying to sell a game as an MMO that was definitely not an MMO.

    I smell a another debacle in the making. Bill Roper at the helm is apparently not a good idea.

    • There was nothing wrong with the game Hellgate London [snip]

      Slightly off-topic, but there was plenty wrong with HGL. We could start with poor class choices (the only melee character is a holy warrior? wtf...), end with poor itemization (let's see, I need 54 more sizzling doodads to get +4 damage to my blue uzi, or I could just get a glitched rocket launcher by farming an early quest boss), and hit every point along the way where Flagship utterly failed to listen to any bit of beta reviewer commentary that didn't begin and end with OMG THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVAR! But

      • by arakon (97351)

        Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I had fun with the game playing it as just an out there FPS. I wasn't looking for an in-depth rpg.

        What I didn't like about it was the subscribe to play content instead of pay X for the content to play whenever you like (see guild wars model). Also the no LAN play. If they had charged per expansion I am quite sure they would still be running today. The whole free players vs subscribers thing was a huge fiasco.

        Most people were not willing to pay the monthly fee because n

  • I always see incredibly negative feedback to micro transactions in subscription games. While forum polls are obviously very biased by the vocal minority, they tend to also have an overwhelmingly negative response to questions about integrating micro payments into subscription MMOs. My impression is that a non-trivial percent of MMO players will not subscribe to a game that also integrates micro payments in a substantial way. Perhaps marketing research has shown that the revenue from micro payments will m

    • Oh, wait, Bill Roper...now I see. I guess the backlash to Hellgate's ridiculous payment model didn't burn him deeply enough.

    • by Jartan (219704)

      One point of note though is that City of Heroes already has pay for DLC vanity items like he's talking about. Those transactions are actually viewed pretty favorably by the CoH players so Champions is probably counting on their target market already being broken in on that regard. In fact they probably got the idea from watching it work so well for the new group running CoH.

      Personally I'm of two minds on the issue. I think the prices companies charge for this sort of stuff are way too high considering

      • The interesting thing about MMO pricing is how well your profits scale as you add players. While some additional expenses are incurred with each new player development costs largely remain the same at 100k players and 10,000k players. This means that a company like Blizzard can invest enormous resources into ongoing development compared to a company like Turbine, and still be making vastly more money on a per subscription basis.

        This makes it difficult to determine a fair rate, since a game like WoW is bas

  • FTFA: "And it's not even because that item has a gameplay effect; it's that cool mount, or that cool pet that is a super rare drop or that kind of thing. [...] But if I had the opportunity to get something that was similar or something that I felt was equally cool, so not even necessarily the exact same thing, I might say, 'Oh cool, I'm going to buy this cool pet for myself.' I don't think that negates from the enjoyment of my game, or the enjoyment other people have with their game because they're going to

  • by Chas (5144) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @09:38AM (#28794529) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, this isn't necessarily some huge, game-breaking thing.

    Their previous product, City of Heroes, has been doing this for over a year now with Super Boosters.

    What these boosters deliver are a few extra costume options, some extra emotes and what is usually a neat, but relatively useless power.

    The first, though not officially a "super booster" was the Wedding Pack [paragonwiki.com]

    SuperBooster I: Cyborg [paragonwiki.com]

    SuperBooster II: Magic [paragonwiki.com]

    SuperBooster III: Superscience [paragonwiki.com]

    The only thing that has me worried...well, not worried, but apprehensive is that it sounds like they're going to allow the purchase of actual, game-changing items.

    If that's ACTUALLY the case, then you DO have something to worry about other than the lousy play mechanics in the game.

  • He will always be the voice of the Warcraft footmen to me. Microtransactions blah blah blah AT ONCE SIRE
  • Isn't this from the guy that ran Hellgate: London into the ground in the most ridiculous way possible?

    I can't find the link, but I remember reading a postmortem of Hellgate from the community and a few developers that discussed how ever since he's gone solo, the man has managed to bring all sorts of fail to the party.

  • The problem here is that they are delivering fluff content for pay that used to be delivered for free, in game, just for purchasing the game and buying a subscription. Now a subscription doesn't get you everything. It's just a door opener to spend more money. The player is basically paying for content twice.

    The other problem is the "slippery slope" dilemma. I hate the whole slippery slope argument in general, but I think it can apply here. If they see fluff as a viable model for MTs where does that stop

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