Friday, July 25, 2008

Who plays What and When?

A report from Casual Connect, regarding the demographics of gamers.

It's far more complex than even I suspected, and I suspected it was pretty complex!


SUE is only worth 3 points

It looks like it has finally happened, Hasbro is suing the facebook app, Scrabulous.

Last year they 'requested' scrabulous be taken down, it wasn't, and now Hasbro and EA have released an 'official' Scrabble facebook app. I haven't had a chance to play the new app but it's off to a rough start.

Scrabulous gets a 4.2 out of 5 star rating. EA/Hasbro's Scrabble Beta gets 1.7 out of 5. This isn't about what's best for Scrabble players. This is about Hasbro maintaining complete control of a decades old game.

Scrabulous (I'm losing)

Scrabble Beta (Can't get anyone to play)

While I will remain critical of Hasbro's "sue anyone who makes something cool with thier games" strategy, I do realize they are acting within their rights. I just think it's a mistake that hurts them, their fans, and the properties they claim to be protecting.

If you're interested in what I had to say about this back in January, it's right here.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ich bin ein Habbo-ite!

I was asked today to check out Habbo's economy, how they charge, and what they charge for. I see no reason not to share my findings with all (both?) of you! I just signed up today, so this is very much a first impression of Habbo's economy. I know there's more to it than this, but this is what I could dig up in a couple of hours.

SnowStorm, one of several games I can't try out in Habbo

Habbo is a stingy virtual world. Pretty much everything costs coins (also called credits), and coins aren't cheap!

Follow this link to see all the ways Habbo will take your money. It's pretty impressive, actually. Coin Purchase Page:

Items range in cost from 1 (for a rubber duck) to things in the 20's.

Collectibles - Habbo releases (weekly, I think) an item that will only be available that week. The current item is a gondola (Italian canal boat) for 25 coins. They claim the original collectible, released back in 2005, was sold for 4950coins (About $800), though I'm not sure how they came to that number. In any case, collectibles seem to be a 'stock market' sort of thing in Habbo (plus they're pretty neat!)

Trophies - Trophies are an interesting item in that you can write something permanent on them when they are purchased. The idea is you reward yourself or other players with them.

Pets - At 20c pets are a little pricey, and they come in three flavors: cats, dogs, lizards

Games - You need tickets to play all but the lamest of the Habbo multiplayer games. Tickets are 2 for 1 coin, or 20 for 6 coins. When entering the game room, there was an ad for The Dark Knight (I've seen it, lay off!) I don't know what you get if you win the games, but I expect there's prizes.

Habbo Club - It's hard to tell, but it looks like it's 20 coins per month. You get:
  • Access to special items - there's a Habbo Club tab in the store.
  • Free furniture item each month
  • Special room layouts (non club members get boxes only)
  • Jump to the front of queue lines when waiting for rooms to load.
Oddly enough, I couldn't find were to join the club, but it seems like a big deal.

They have a 'coin subscription' listed on their payment page, but they are no longer offering it. I'm curious as to why they stopped. Another interesting thing about their payment structure, they only allow three 'purchase attempts' per eight day period, at least with normal credit cards.


Tee Em Eye

Too Much Information

It's a constant battle communicating with online players. There's information they need, information they want, information they don't know they need, and information they think they don't want. Simple!

Most Virtual Worlds are complicated. The more things there are to do, the more features you offer, the more places there are for players to get tripped up. No matter how simple you make each thing, a whole lot of things results in a complex system.

Most people want to figure things out for themselves. If they need help, they'll ask for it when they need it. This has a few repercussions:
  • Features that players can't figure out for themselves are inherently problematic. It's tempting to only release simplistic features.
  • People need the right help at the right time. They're not paying attention before they try to play. They've forgotten after they've given up. That's a narrow window.
  • Engineers, designers, and programmers like to suggest demos, tutorials, and FAQs (oh, they love those FAQs). While not terrible solutions, they aren't particularly effective, either.
What a player sees when he or she skims an FAQ

For complex features, you need the thing to either ramp up complexity gradually, have a robust help system, give live tours/demos, or accept that not everyone's going to be interested enough to survive the learning curve. Is it worth it?

Yes. In fact, hell yes!

Once a player has mastered any sort of learning curve, they are more than just casually engaged. They become special. They become elite. Time is an investment, and when that investment pays off to a player, everybody wins. That's a big deal, and worth working for.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Grrrrrl Power!

This isn't a surprise to anyone who's close to internet gaming, but just in case you're late to the party...

More Girls Get Into Gaming

Spend 10 minutes in ourWorld and you'll notice many, many, many girls. Whether they're gaming or socializing, that's hard to say, but they're online and MIGHTY! Go Girls!

Edit: A pretty common girl/boy ratio in ourWorld's Cake Mania Room (note: the guy is me)


What's the diff?

What is the difference between MMO's (Massively Multiplayer Online games) and Virtual Worlds?

Generally speaking, MMO's use client side software more extensively, but many, many VW's do as well, including Second Life, the granddaddy VW.

MMO's usually have a single, overriding game element. Virtual Worlds usually revolve around a number of smaller scale flash-type games. Is that really a difference? I'm not even sure that's a valid characterization of the MMOs vs. VWs.

I really think the primary difference is one of focus. MMO's are primarily about the game, with the social aspects an important, but secondary aspect. VW's are meant to emulate the social aspects of the real work in a convenient virtual setting as their primary function. They include a game or games to facilitate the social aspects and provide something for less social players to do.

That's pretty slim. Perhaps the real answer is there is no big difference, other than that which the publishers choose to market and the fans choose to perceive. World of Warcraft is a Virtual World, but more than that it's also a MMORPG. There are RPG games in 2nd Life, but more than that, it's a Virtual World.

What do you think?