Thursday, April 12, 2012

SOE: Anyone mind if we shoot that other guy over there who isn't you?

When EQ2 went free to play, certain gameplay-effecting items were removed from the old EQ2X cash shop.  The promise was that these would only be returned after considering the desires of the community through in-game polling, and SOE further promised to disclose the results publicly.

The poll has finally arrived, and features questions on how players feel about self-res items and cash store potions.  Each item is broken out into two questions - if the player is okay if the items can only be used solo and if the player is okay if the item can also be used in raids. 

Most reasonable people can probably agree that these items are less problematic if you keep them out of content that is actually balanced to be challenging - where their use would feel more mandatory.  However, setting up the poll in this way is designed to get a specific result - i.e. substantially higher acceptance of the items as long as they're kept out of groups, where a straight up "are you in favor of this item" would have drawn more "no" answers due to the group concern. 

More to the point, this poll gives everyone an equal voice on a topic that has dramatically unequal consequences.  In this particular case, there are probably substantial numbers of non-raiders who can agree that having these items is problematic.  However, imagine for a minute that the results do go in the other direction.  Imagine that about 10% of the playerbase raids and that 90.01% of the votes in the poll are for allowing the use of the items in raids as well.  Would anyone outside SOE's marketing department be comfortable using those results to claim overwhelming popular support for the potions? 

At the end of the day, the deck remains stacked against SOE because this is a non-random poll sample - players who want a specific result have an incentive to sign on to vote (and get their friends to do the same).  SOE also claims that this is a "poll" and not a "vote".  Even so, presenting data that lumps in the opinions of players who are not affected by the decision with those who are is misleading, and a tactic that only makes sense if the marketing goal is to obtain a more favorable result. 

1 comment:

Bhagpuss said...

The poll is by character, not by account. I voted with many characters across several accounts and my characters voted differently.

My characters hold opinions that are not necessarily my own, this still being to some degree a roleplaying game, at least as I try to play it when I remember why I started playing in the first place.

Leaving that possibly idiosyncratic position to one side, As far as raids go, I don't even see that it's as clear-cut an issue as you describe. I don't raid but as far as I understand it raiding in EQ2 takes place primarily in uncontested instances. Each raid
has the instance to itself. Consequently, there are no competitive implications that I can see, unless in relation to "World Firsts" or a putative pecking order of raid guilds, which are meta-gaming concerns that I wouldn't consider relevant to encounter design although others might take a different view.

In addition, Raiding guilds habitually set all kinds of rules for their members. They can obviously set a rule to use some, all or none of these SC items if and when they become available. It just opens the door for yet more diversity in types of guild.

There's a possibility that developers could balance the raid instances in the expectation that raiders would buy and use these items, which would make the raids harder for raiders who didn't want to use them. There are already innumerable variables that make content more or less accessible to all kinds of players, though. I don't see this as materially different. It will disadvantage some and advantage others, as all changes do.

I played on Freeport throughout the period when these items were on sale. Not only did I never buy one, I can honestly say I never even thought of buying one. The only time I even remembered they existed was when the topic came up on some discussion I was reading out of game.

EQ2 solo and group content is already very straightforward. A Silver character in Treasured/Mastercrafted gear with Adept spells will have no difficulty whatsoever questing or doing level-appropriate dungeon content at least until DoV, after which Treasured gear largely disappears. Back while we still had EQ2X I took my Berserker to 90th without using unlockers for anything other than Appearance.

If anyone really feels they *need* these items to enjoy solo or group content below the level cap then really they should have them. They must be having a ridiculously hard to time of things that would be hard for most players to comprehend and they clearly need all the help they can get.

In the end, I think whether items like this are sold in the cash shop of games is supremely irrelevant to the enjoyment of most players, although it may indeed seriously affect the enjoyment of a minority. One solution would be to have a server which specifically excluded such items so that the minority could gather there. If there were enough of them to form a viable community, which would be interesting to find out.