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Forbes: Scott Hartsman Interview and the Future of MMORPG – Sub vs. F2P

By on Mar 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm, in SWTOR, Uncategorized  |  Comments: 6 comments

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Scott Hartsman, one time head-man of RIFT, the man with apparently the best dressed photo of all devs on the planet, sat down to have a discussion with Forbes.com. Since RIFT’s launch, RIFT has gone from a full subscription game with no trial to having a Rift-Lite version where you can play the first 20 levels for free. Now that Scott has left Trion and rumors swirl around the internet that Rift is heading towards a full F2P model, we get a glimpse of the future of gaming subscriptions according to Mr. Hartsman.

Continue reading to see what he had to say about the subject.

The subscription model was a great way to keep everything paid when MMOs were a lifestyle choice, a hobby. MMORPGS had more in common then with a game like golf. Now players simply aren’t willing to commit to the subscription model as large audiences. Subscription models aren’t going away, but the fact is we’ve hit the cap on players looking to embrace the subscription model and free-to-play models have really opened up doors to a new audience. Users don’t stay as long as they used to.

With the first-generation MMORPGs players used these games to make friends. Now players are bringing all of their friends from game to game, and they all have different amounts that they’re willing to pay. So players that have all the hours but don’t want to spend money they’ve got a spot, and the players that don’t play as much and just want to pay for perks, they have a spot too. It’s all about finding business models that serve larger numbers in a fair way.

So what is in store for the future for Scott Hartsman? We don’t know, but we are eagerly awaiting what project he will work on next. Hartsman has never been the head of any game development from inception. If you recall, he came on board RIFT when it was still called “Heroes of Telara” with a very different design in mind.

Scott does bring up one interesting point, he doesn’t believe the sub model is dead. If you were to ask John Smedley, he’d disagree. These two people have their roots in online gaming development in Everquest, and it will be very interesting to see how the genre advances. Smedley has an upcoming project in Everquest Next, and if it’s anything like Planetside 2, it’ll be completely free to play with a cash shop attached to it.

Will Scott Hartsman’s next project, if he chooses to dive back into the gaming market, be free to play or subscription based? We can’t wait to find out.

Read the full Forbes article here.

SPEAK FRIEND AND DISQUS WITH US
  • Drexy

    He has a point, my guild has played like 6? games together over the years

  • Drexy

    He has a point, my guild has played like 6? games together over the years

  • Syamak Tabrizi

    PR translation: if our game doesn’t succeed its not our games fault its just that the market has changed. You know that other game that has 9+ million players that is 8 years old? Does that game prove that the market has changed theory wrong or is it the exception proving the rule? I bet if a mmo releases that either A) innovates beyond belif or B) iterates and provides a great alternative, it will support 10+ million subs and then some.

  • Syamak Tabrizi

    PR translation: if our game doesn’t succeed its not our games fault its just that the market has changed. You know that other game that has 9+ million players that is 8 years old? Does that game prove that the market has changed theory wrong or is it the exception proving the rule? I bet if a mmo releases that either A) innovates beyond belif or B) iterates and provides a great alternative, it will support 10+ million subs and then some.

  • Sean Malloy

    Another issue that he fails to address is the problem of existing players who bring in friends after the player has been playing the game for a while. And, unfortunately, most MMOs fail to accomodate this well. Take SWTOR — all your characters are in the 30-50 range, and you’ve just convinced some friends to try the game. If you want to play with them, you’ve got three options — ignore your existing characters and start new ones to play with your friends, join your friends’ low-level characters with one of your high-level characters doing their missions and steamroller everything, or have your friends’ low-level characters join one of your high-level characters doing your missions and have them get slaughtered. Neither of the last two choices is much fun for your friends, and the first choice won’t be as much fun for you, since you’ll be ignoring characters you’ve already invested considerable time into. This works against people bringing friends into a game unless they’re all starting the game together.
    One of the things that City of Heroes did well, from the very start, was to have a way around this problem with the ‘sidekick’ and ‘exemplar’ mechanics. A high-level character could team up with lower-level characters as his sidekicks, and the lower-level characters would fight as if they were one level lower than the high-level characters, enabling them to be useful doing the first character’s high-level missions. Alternatively, a high-level character could team up with lower-level characters and choose to exemplar himself, fighting at their level, so they could do the lower-level characters’ missions without the high-level character being grossly overpowered for anything they’d run into in the mission. This made it possible for _any_ group of characters to play together and all contribute, regardless of how long they’ve been playing and what level the individual characters are, so you can bring in your friends and play with them or have them join you and the people you’ve been playing with, which fosters increased community in the game.
    Unfortunately, something like that is difficult to retrofit into a game, and even though there’s canon background to support the concept of mentoring lower-level characters at the level of the mentor in SWTOR, I don’t think that there is enough flexibility in the fundamental game mechanics to make it work (the heavily-instanced nature of missions in CoH meant that a mission from a contact could be given at the level the character was at the time, so you might get the first mission from a contact at level 15 and face level-15 opponents, but if you’d been doing other missions with your friends and dinged twice before getting back to that contact, so you picked up the next mission at level 17, you’d face level-17 opponents, while in SWTOR the level of a mission is fixed in the definition of the mission).

  • Sean Malloy

    Another issue that he fails to address is the problem of existing players who bring in friends after the player has been playing the game for a while. And, unfortunately, most MMOs fail to accomodate this well. Take SWTOR — all your characters are in the 30-50 range, and you’ve just convinced some friends to try the game. If you want to play with them, you’ve got three options — ignore your existing characters and start new ones to play with your friends, join your friends’ low-level characters with one of your high-level characters doing their missions and steamroller everything, or have your friends’ low-level characters join one of your high-level characters doing your missions and have them get slaughtered. Neither of the last two choices is much fun for your friends, and the first choice won’t be as much fun for you, since you’ll be ignoring characters you’ve already invested considerable time into. This works against people bringing friends into a game unless they’re all starting the game together.
    One of the things that City of Heroes did well, from the very start, was to have a way around this problem with the ‘sidekick’ and ‘exemplar’ mechanics. A high-level character could team up with lower-level characters as his sidekicks, and the lower-level characters would fight as if they were one level lower than the high-level characters, enabling them to be useful doing the first character’s high-level missions. Alternatively, a high-level character could team up with lower-level characters and choose to exemplar himself, fighting at their level, so they could do the lower-level characters’ missions without the high-level character being grossly overpowered for anything they’d run into in the mission. This made it possible for _any_ group of characters to play together and all contribute, regardless of how long they’ve been playing and what level the individual characters are, so you can bring in your friends and play with them or have them join you and the people you’ve been playing with, which fosters increased community in the game.
    Unfortunately, something like that is difficult to retrofit into a game, and even though there’s canon background to support the concept of mentoring lower-level characters at the level of the mentor in SWTOR, I don’t think that there is enough flexibility in the fundamental game mechanics to make it work (the heavily-instanced nature of missions in CoH meant that a mission from a contact could be given at the level the character was at the time, so you might get the first mission from a contact at level 15 and face level-15 opponents, but if you’d been doing other missions with your friends and dinged twice before getting back to that contact, so you picked up the next mission at level 17, you’d face level-17 opponents, while in SWTOR the level of a mission is fixed in the definition of the mission).

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