The next phase of crafting – besides expanding on the fundamental types of weapons (I’ve got to add projectile, edged, bombs, etc.) and continuing the replacement of items from the other games where practical – will take things in a new direction as we start rolling out the Saga Rewards system.
I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that OtherSpace needs around-the-clock activities for players. In the past, that amounted to the concept of a trade system, which saw players flying from Point A to Point B to pick up cargo to sell for a profit. This was always pretty easy to exploit to raise individual wealth to ridiculous levels.
Now, though, I’m leaning more toward a system that doesn’t require knowledge or use of HSpace but does require Roleplaying Point and Saga Point investment from players and expands on an existing coded system so that players don’t have to learn a whole new interface to participate: Crafting.
An offshoot of the new crafting system philosophy – where modified versions of basic weapons and armor are created using Action Cards as components – I’m planning a system that will use Event Cards as components, with starship and planet objects (acquired with Saga Points) serving as equipment for the crafting of goods that can be sold to NPC vendors.
With this system, players will have the opportunity to build their own worlds, using +craft/desc and the Wiki to flesh out their vision. They’ll also be able to amass fleets of freighters without having to clutter the grid with extra rooms or satisfying pre-requisite crew numbers to get an actual HSpace vessel. However, if someone gets at least one starship object with Saga Reward points or as a Veteran Reward, they’ll be eligible to have a starship on the grid if they want it.
The goals with this system will be as follows:
1) Provide an around-the-clock activity that’s profitable but requires an investment of RPP and Saga Points
2) Create another mode for players to build their own worlds and generate their own lore on OtherSpace
3) Expand the utility of the crafting system
One thing that I’ve found rather intriguing about free-to-play web games like Mafia Wars, Farmville, and Castle Age: They’re all pretty shameless about looking for ways to get money from their players.
Even more intriguing: People seem more than willing to pay, even if it means that all they’re doing is paying to change numbers in a database faster than their friends.
And, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. If people think that’s important, more power to them!
I’ve tried a few different approaches to making games profitable at Jointhesaga.com during the past decade. They’ve worked with varying degrees of success:
* Chiaroscuro (2003-2009): People could acquire peasant characters for free, but paid as much as $100 to become nobility on the game. Short term, this earned a significant amount of money and paid the game’s marketing and server costs for a good while. Long term, it just wasn’t sustainable. Eventually, we dropped the price requirement on social status and went instead to the Chia Credit system. Contributions earned certain amounts of CCs, which could then be used to buy crafting minutes, property, custom weapons, and custom armor. This was a much more successful long-term system.
* Necromundus (2006-2010): Initially, we tried a subscription-based system, limiting some content to players who paid a monthly fee. We also included a Necro Credits system, based off the success of the Chia Credit system, which allowed for extra crafting minutes, property, and custom goodies. This combination actually saw some success, but I lacked the time to keep personally working on Necromundus due to the new job at Fallen Earth. So, it fell dormant.
* OtherSpace (1998-2010): It’s always been free to play, but we’ve asked for help from time to time. Just asking nicely works sometimes. Right now, we’re in the midst of our latest Olympic Fundraiser. When we first introduced badges for fundraising efforts, the contributions came a bit easier, because players enjoyed the recognition for their contributions. These gifts helped pay our marketing and server costs. Just having the game pay for itself makes me happy! However, over time, that novelty has diminished and the contributions dry up, no matter how nicely we ask. So, taking a page from Chiaroscuro and Necromundus, we’re now offering Saga Points in exchange for contributions. With Saga Points, players are going to have faster access to special crafting schematics, starships, customized alien races, and crafting minutes. The exchange rate: $1 per 100 Saga Points. (Saga Points are also going to be available to players who never give a dime to the game, but they will accrue via paychecks.)
I don’t feel the need to be quite as money hungry as the web games, but I do think there’s nothing wrong with wanting to receive enough compensation to make sure this hobby pays for itself. It costs hundreds of dollars each year to maintain the server. I’ve dug into my own pocket for gift certificates for special contests. And, finally, it does take a lot of time and energy for me to run and promote OtherSpace. There’s a value to those things that even I have dismissed in the past. I can’t afford to be so free with those anymore. It’s important that I be just a little bit mercenary. Long-term, it’s in the best interest of the game. When contributions roll in, I feel obligated to invest more of myself into the project. That’s an energy that keeps feeding on itself.
Interested in helping out? Contributions are welcome via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the facts:
OtherSpace gets maybe 20-30 new visitors logging on to check out the game during an average month. Of those, maybe five stick around to give it a chance. Of those, we’re lucky if one really commits long-term to the character they’ve created.
From a promotional standpoint, this can be fairly demoralizing, especially when we have gone to great lengths to make the game so damned easy to join.
So, it occurred to me, maybe I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. Maybe ease of entry is the problem. People run through the simplified character creation in-game, usually without reading the material, just to make it onto the grid and disconnect before anyone can interact with them. Maybe the simplicity of the process puts forward a message like “Hey, you can join. Or not. It’s no big deal. Whatever.” And that sounds like the wrong message to me.
Maybe the message needs to be: “We’re concerned about quality. We’re looking for commitment. We don’t want just anybody running around the place. We’re exclusive. But we want to make sure you feel at home too.”
If we turn things to a new perspective, then those five people who give OtherSpace a real chance each month are the basis for us to say, for purposes of discussion, that we’ve got five open new player slots each month. We could set up a web-based character tutorial, have newbies read through it, and then submit an application via email at its conclusion. If a player’s application is approved, we set them up for entry into the game and close one of the available slots for that month. If we’re lucky enough to get six people interested during a month, then we start a waiting list. With that, perhaps we manage to turn a perceived weakness into an actual strength.
It’s not just a matter of being exclusive, though. I also want more of a hand in the character creation and player introduction process. I don’t want to miss a chance to communicate with potential new players – and an email application allows fairly rapid response.