Monday, April 26, 2010

Perspective on the Cost of Gaming

The "correct" way for a non-subscription DDO player to advance in levels without spending too much money is to carefully spread out your limited Turbine points among mid-upper level adventure packs. (In particular, almost all of the leveling content from 10 to the game's level cap of 20 is in paid packs.) Over the weekend, I wandered off of this game plan. It cost me under $2. In the grand scheme of things, that's not actually such a big deal.

My bard was level 5 and had just genuinely struggled to clear the first quest of the Delara's Tomb adventure pack, a workhorse of a story arc that many players ride through to at least level 10. It was pretty clear that I wasn't going to survive part 2 (a level 6 quest) without either gaining some levels or dropping down to "casual" difficulty. So, it was time to go get more experience, only I had already beaten all of the level 4 content I owned, and most of the free level 5 stuff.

Then, I noticed that, with the current sale, the Catacombs adventure pack was currently priced at 175 Turbine Points (approximately $1.75, depending on what exchange rate you happen to be paying). It's one of the cheapest packs in the game, even though the adventure covers a fair amount of content (8 stages by Turbine's count), because all of the content is sitting at level 3, which most players breeze by without needing to pay for premium content. To make a long story short, I decided to spend the points.

I beat the entire pack on normal difficulty in a single sitting - level 5 is the highest level that still gets full exp for a level 3 quest - and gained the last chunk of experience I needed to hit level 6. I may or may not repeat the chain on hard mode (the bonus for hard difficulty a bit more than cancels out the penalty for being over-level). I will certainly level alts, and all of them will now have access to the adventure pack. Even if we imagine that I never touch the thing again, though, that would mean that I spent $2 on an evening of entertainment that happened to help me move towards a goal I was working on in a more entertaining fashion than repeating old dungeons I had already memorized.

$2 in an evening is more than your average MMORPG ($15/month = $0.50 per day), and the content was probably less than 5% of what we'd see in a $40 expansion pack. Even so, the amount is trivial compared to any other form of paid entertainment out there. I typically dislike this type of comparison when we're talking about things that are in an entirely different price class - I don't think that it's valid to compare your MMORPG subscription to expensive sports or theater tickets or cars (yes, I've seen people use that one), because you're not really going to be substituting one for the other - but the numbers in the DDO shop really aren't that far out of the price class, especially if you actually take advantage of continuing non-subscription access to the content you pay for.

I now own the three lowest level adventure packs in the game, none of which are rated on anyone's top 10 highest priority packs. All three were excellent, far better than the free content they compete with. I don't know if that's good for the free to play model (people who buy them will probably be satisfied) or bad (people who don't buy will be stuck with content that is less interesting, which might make them less inclined to stick around). Either way, it's interesting to see how our perception of cost scales.


Carina said...

How do you deal with those distrubtive "Pay to play that" messages?

I know they'd drive me batty - things like that are annoying enough for me in order to touch the whole game again.

Tesh said...

I don't see that they are any worse than "You must be level 25 to equip this" nonsense. *shrug*

When discussing the value of these things, can any value be assigned to the notion that you don't have to repurchase these bits of content for alts? In a sub game, you'd still have to pay for the time you're playing an alt, but when you buy content, it's available forever for any alts. That's hard to tie a number to, but it's valuable.

Brad said...

Carina - NPC's that give quests have a chalice above their heads. In the image, right above the dialog you can see a red chalice with a gold coin over it - that shows you that this is a paid quest that you don't have access to. I've never seen the "Pay to Play" meesage other than the first time I clicked on a red chalice to see what would happen.

So I don't think it's disruptive, it's obvious which ones are unavailable without getting the dialog box.

Yeebo said...

@Tesh: to me it's a pretty big deal. I really like the idea of adding value to an account in the way that I see fit, rather than paying for server access and watching the developers add content that may or may not interest me.

Borror0 said...

"the bonus for hard difficulty a bit more than cancels out the penalty for being over-level"
Actually, running the quest on Hard will increase the quest level by +1 so you'll still get full XP on top of getting the first time bonus and greater base XP.

Elite does the very same, but gives a +2 level (and has a +50% first time bonus).

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

You liked the Catacombs? I read up on the reviews of the adventure packs and the universal opinion of Catacombs is that it's the one to avoid like the plague.

I'm still pissing around with my lower level characters, so haven't dived into any of the "premium" content yet. We'll see what the Wednesday night group does once they hit "the wall".

Gevlon said...

Why don't you write about real games instead of playing niche games just to feel special?

Green Armadillo said...

@Carina: It doesn't bug me, though in practical terms I'm ending up purchasing most of the content that isn't too badly panned.

@Tesh: Indeed, that was part of my point - the "worst case" scenario on the cost of this particular AP was $2 for one evening, and that can only go down if/when I reuse it.

@Psychochild: I did, actually. The pack has a good storyline (which Sirgog's famous review thread notes), low difficulty running it as a bard at +2 to the quest (what I was looking for after getting my rear kicked by on-level content), and the reward options were actually decent. I think the dealbreaker for many veterans is that it's perhaps not the best set-up for groups; the line takes long enough to be hard to keep a PUG together to finish it in a sitting, and it's premium content at a level range where most players aren't going to pay for premium content because it can be skipped. I'm probably going to write up a post reviewing the adventure packs I've purchased once I'm done playing them. (Sorry Troll!GevIon.)

Borror0 said...

@Green Armadillo
Yes, that is pretty much why it's unpopular to veterans.

I would also add:
*The loot sucks
*The XP isn't outstanding either, if I remember
*The flagging system is the most annoying of them all
*Undeads. A large segment of the game's content is made of undeads, and eventually you get tired of dark gloomy dungeons with monsters immune to critical hits and sneak attacks