Game talk

This is the catch-all category for stuff about games and game design. It easily makes up the vast majority of the site’s content. If you are looking for something specific, I highly recommend looking into the tags used on the site instead. They can narrow down the hunt immensely.

What drives retention

 Posted by (Visited 10941 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Jan 302019
The difference in active users between 100% and 10% churn shows a huge increase under the curve for the lower churn rate.

For better or worse, much of the games market is moving to games-as-a-service. Once upon a time, this was known as the MMO business model, because all MMOs were games-as-a-service, and virtually nothing else was.

Obviously, a lot of GaaS games won’t be MMOs. Candy Crush Saga is a service, but it’s not an MMO. Nor does GaaS mean the game has to be free to play with upsells via microtransactions. GaaS is a business strategy, and F2P is a revenue model.

In the past we’ve seen services of all sorts drive revenue in lots of ways:

  • free sampling to get you in the door, supported by other revenue streams such as other paying members subsidizing free users, or advertising
  • a la carte offerings which let you dip into a service without an ongoing commitment
  • periodic upgrade offers to take you from that free tier to something with recurring payments
  • subscription tiers — a low basic offering and a few richer ones catered to specific demos, which retain the ability to a la carte for specific features
  • individual one off upsells for special events that are never covered by the sub tier

In fact, cable companies and phone service both do just about all of the above at once. So there’s lots of ways to make money, if you have a service, and arguably, mature service businesses use as many of them as they can.

But underneath it all is one inevitable underlying truth.

Continue reading »

Mailbag: Parts of an MMO

 Posted by (Visited 7128 times)  Game talk, Mailbag  Tagged with: , ,
Nov 132018

Hello Mr. Koster! I have a school project that requires the input of an expert like yourself. I know you usually don’t reply to students, but hopefully you’ll reply to me. I am currently working on the concept for a open-world MMO and wondering if you can help me out. I know your major works are Star Wars Galaxies and the Ultima series, but my game is still a MMO. It’s just more like DC Universe Online. Basically, I’d just like to know what major things should be included in MMos and Open-World games. Do you have any knowledge that might help?

I spent about an hour doing a quickie list off the top of my head. It’s not exhaustive, just stuff that occurred to me as I ran down a mental checklist. I know it’s not exhaustive because in past years when I’ve done similar outlines (which I can’t lay hands on now) they were twice as long.

But maybe this will be helpful, and convey some sense of the scale of what you need to worry about. Important note: I didn’t even get to the stuff that only lives on the client. This is only the stuff that lives on the game server side.

You might want to look at Insubstantial Pageants, a book I started and never finished on MMO design, and of course Dr Richard Bartle’s Designing Virtual Worlds[affiliate link] has an exhaustive amount of material on the subject.

Continue reading »

Jul 132018

I have posted up the two talks I delivered last month. Sorry for the delay, but I caught something while at the first event, and have only shaken it right around… now, believe it or not. Four weeks of intermittent fever, coughing vehemently, and generally feeling unable to do much of anything.

One, entitled “Tabletop Game Grammar,” was a talk at the inaugural Tabletop Network event, a game design conference centered specifically on tabletop games. It was held at the lovely Snowbird ski resort, at a high elevation (we went up to the peak after the event, it was around 11,000ft high). This talk is centered on applications of game grammar to boardgame design, including a working through of how the addition of new resources creates the different variants of poker. Continue reading »

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 Posted by (Visited 1011 times)  Game talk, Writing  Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 262018

My new book Postmortems is now shipping. If you pre-ordered the Kindle version, it should be there for reading now.

You should be able to get it from pretty much any bookstore. I get a little bit extra if you order it through this link on Amazon:

It’s a hefty 700 pages. Early reviews are pretty flattering, and make me happy; I am looking forward to seeing what readers think! If you read it, please leave a review on Amazon; they matter a lot.

Also, if you are an academic who might be interested in using the book in your classes, reach out to the publisher here to request a review copy.

Here’s a sampling of press reviews, in case you aren’t sold on it yet: Continue reading »

 Comments Off on POSTMORTEMS is out
May 312018

POSTMORTEMS book coverMy new book Postmortems is now available at various booksellers. The print edition ships on the 26th. Various sites may have the ebook already, some may not just yet.

This is the first volume of a projected three that gather together many of the essays and writings that I have been sharing on this blog over the last several decades. This book focuses specifically on games I have worked on, from LegendMUD up through social games, and is a book of design history, lessons learned, and anecdotes. Richard Garriott was kind enough to write a foreword for the book.

It’s not a memoir or tell-all; the focus is on game design and game history. There’s still nowhere near enough material out there in print covering things like the history and evolution of online worlds (MUDs especially), in-depth dives into decisions made in games by the people who made them, and detailed breakdowns of how they worked. So I hope that this will be useful to scholars and designers, and that players might find it a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Just don’t expect salacious stories and secrets.

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while will find much in there that is familiar; if you have ever wanted the SWG postmortem series in book form, here it is in expanded form. If you have ever wished that the various articles on the UO design were gathered together, here they are, along with new chapters covering things like all the things we tried doing to curb excessive playerkilling. If you ever wondered what happened with Metaplace, this is how you find out, as there’s a new and extensive postmortem. Many blog commenters make cameos in footnotes.

The contents: Continue reading »