Sunday, April 03, 2005


Bringing Those Fickle Casual Gamers to EQ2

They aren't powering through the content, that's true. They come with another problem, though. They get bored easily. They move on to the latest and greatest game with nary a look back. Instead of whining for months on your message boards (and keeping their accounts active the entire time), they just stop playing and move on to greener pastures.

What can you do to hold their interest (and keep collecting their money through subscription fees and expansions)?

The most effective solution may be to offer varied types of gameplay. If you've made a game that offers nothing but combat, and that combat does not even appeal to regular gamers, you'll have a hard time attracting a large player base. Add sub-games or other unique content that offers the player a different experience but the same feeling of advancement as the main game. These additions can attract players who get bored with the main game or who aren't particularly enthusiastic about it in the first place. (If they are poorly designed or implemented, however, they are a waste of resources.)

Let's say your main game is all about real-time combat. Have secondary games that focus on strategy, management, social interaction, etc. Each game should still help the player advance in some way; you shouldn't make players have to choose between having fun and advancing.

EQ2-specific examples:
- A full-featured virtual pet system. The pets themselves are already in the game, but they are just decoration right now. In this sub-game players would have the ability to train, feed, discipline, etc. their pets. The pets would grow and advance, and players could take them to the local pet track & field center and compete against other players' pets in multiple types of competitions. Spectators could place bets, and other designated players could act as the bookies. There could be special "pet dungeons" and quests where your pet does all the fighting, and you give commands. In addition to getting pet-specific loot and other rewards, your pet could get experience/loot for you as well.

- The ability to own a specialized business. Instead of merely setting up shop in your inn room, you could open a casino, a racetrack (see above), or any number of potentially fun ventures. You'd have to pay various startup and upkeep fees, rent, etc. and would need to bring in a decent amount of business to stay profitable, or you could just do it as a hobby and fund it with your loot from adventuring. There are plenty of great spots already existing in the cities to put these businesses.

- Arena battles. You face off against a semi-random NPC or NPCs, and your win/loss stats are kept. You could fight through Mortal Kombat-like ladders, winning prizes if you reach the top, and perhaps gain status points as you would for doing guild quests. There could be special items sold only to players who are successful in arena battles. This system would provide "instant action" and allow player to advance in a way they don't with the main game

- A Magic-like strategy game. You find the "cards" (or whatever you want them to be) either as the normal "collectibles" lying around, in stores, as loot, as prizes for arena battles or petcompetitions, etc. There could be unofficial and official tournaments with prizes, rankings, etc. You could have special businesses players can open that can host these games or sell official packs/decks (obtained from NPCs, which will sell to you if you have the right business license).

These are just a few examples of additions to gameplay that would attract a different sort of people to the game, or that would maintain the interest of people for whom the combat-centric main game has gotten stale.

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