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Orymus3

Thoughts on Elevating "A Link to the Past" gameplay to F2P Model?

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Hi,

 

I'm currently tinkering with a project that is based on the gameplay of Zelda: A Link to the Past (an adventure game where character upgrade is made through the acquisition of new powers which have tangible effects on your surroundings).

 

The problem is that I'm to make this into a Free-To-Play game, and I'm not exactly sure what mechanics to introduce to make it happen.

 

I mean, sure, I could just say: Let's make the "bomb/arrows" scarce and let the user pay for more, so that lazy players will pay us money.

But I don't think this would work much, nor would it be an interesting mechanic to work with as a developer. It's not satisfying for the players either.

 

I want something that players can grind for free, if they so choose, but that can be monetized by impatient players.

 

Customization came in mind, but given that this is 2-4% of gross sales in F2P market, I doubt the game would make significant sales with that.

 

Thoughts?

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  • Golden Keys - unlocks special dungeons and more adventure with potential to earn larger amounts of experience. This will result in easier levelling. 
  • Home - a house which you can decorate with things you find during adventures
  • Levelable weapons, self & gear - you earn some form of magical/experience "ether" which you can add spend as you wish, on yourself or on your gear. Impatient players can unlock cooler upgrade levels... or grind!

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Golden Keys - unlocks special dungeons and more adventure with potential to earn larger amounts of experience. This will result in easier levelling.

I felt disappointed when I read that because this was my "big idea". Now I realize its not as unique as I thought ;)

 


Home - a house which you can decorate with things you find during adventures

Wouldn't that feel like customization?

 


Levelable weapons, self & gear - you earn some form of magical/experience "ether" which you can add spend as you wish, on yourself or on your gear. Impatient players can unlock cooler upgrade levels... or grind!

I'm affraid to make monetization some form of pay2win to be honest. Gear would have to feel like a trading card game for this to work efficiently.

 

I also thought about allowing players to purchase a (random?) item from their progression as a means to skip over a dungeon and still get the item, but that would feel like paying to skip content which sounds a bit dull...

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  • Companions: some RPGs have companions (Zelda has that flying thing) which could be possible to purchase. If you let them have some ability which is balanced it could be a possibility. 

 

You are right about the pay2win thing, it's never good and always feels like cheating. Also it will only lure people with poor cognitive skills or people with depression into paying... Unlocking chunks of gameplay is much better. 

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Home - a house which you can decorate with things you find during adventures

Wouldn't that feel like customization?

 

 

 


Levelable weapons, self & gear - you earn some form of magical/experience "ether" which you can add spend as you wish, on yourself or on your gear. Impatient players can unlock cooler upgrade levels... or grind!

I'm affraid to make monetization some form of pay2win to be honest. Gear would have to feel like a trading card game for this to work efficiently.

 

I also thought about allowing players to purchase a (random?) item from their progression as a means to skip over a dungeon and still get the item, but that would feel like paying to skip content which sounds a bit dull...

 

 

Don't knock customization -- It might seem pointless, and like no one would ever spend the time or money, but it appeals to a certain kind of player. And don't forget that things like real-world cell-phone bling (ringtones, cases, backgrounds) make (or used to, perhaps) a good deal of money for relatively little effort. Think about how Valve sells all kinds of cosmetic customizations in the steam store, or all the skins that League of Legends sells. People want to stand out and will spend money to do so, and it has no real affect on gameplay if you don't want it to, side-stepping pay-to-win entirely. If you're otherwise giving the game away for free or very low cost, why should you feel bad that somone want's to give you a dollar so that they can wear a funny hat and show their friends.

 

This will be boosted the easier it is for people to share with their friends. I suggest making it so that people can easily share their purchases on facebook or twitter, and for them to be able to share their hero's profile in some way (think character sheet, notable feats, time played, etc) -- maybe with facebook integration. I'm not big on those sorts of activities myself, but tons of facebook users play games on the site, and enjoy the friendly competition with their friends.

 

When it comes to things that approach "pay to win" type scenarios, I tend to prefer things that make it easier to progress, but not so much more-so that you can simply buy your way to victory. The advantage on offer should be enough to let them overcome their current challenge, not to obliterate it. Say there's a dungeon in which the baddies are all fire-themed, and use fire-based attacks to deal heavy damage to the player -- You might offer an amulet for sale that lessens, but doesn't entirely negate the heavy effects of the fire attack -- the dungeon remains dangerous, its just less-so with the amulet.

 

Also, as a general rule, think long and hard about your financial relationship with your players. You don't want to milk them (unless you're goal is to be a soul-less corporation), but at the same time its not your job to decide for them how they should enjoy your game, or what value-propositions they should find acceptable. Players are the ones who decide whether the value gained for money offered is worthwhile to them as individuals -- as one person dictating value for everyone, you simply can't make any decision that's good for everyone, so don't try. Your job is to invest your time working on things that return *you* good value -- to attain more players, to retain players longer, to build your reputation as a game maker -- usually these things align to player interest in some way by strengthening your product or your relationship with players or the relationship between players. If some player gives you money because they like to collect funny hats in-game, let them; if another player buys all the power-up amulets because they want to see the end of the game and don't have the time or skill to grind through, let them; if another player wants to buy a mount to fast-travel to points of interest rather than slogging through the overworld, let them. The *individual players* will decide whether what they get in return provides them with good value for their money -- you just need to make possible the thing they want, you don't need to mother them about how they should be spending their money. Provide the value that they seek for a fair cost -- that's all you need to do to be ethical about it.

 

If you're into TED Talks, I suggest watching Amanda Palmer's talk The art of asking, in which she shares her experience of having made her living as a street performer and musician. Artists, musicians, and other creative folks through the ages have always made their living by "passing the hat" to let people return the value they offer. In a lot of ways, its much more pure than how the elite art world, or publisher-support model of music, film, and games try to extract a living from people today.

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I really like the idea of paid add-ons that add a new "mode" of play; in a run-and-jump platformer users may be able to pay for a ninja rope or gravity boots for example. The game should be satisfying and completable without this add-on but might be easier or allow access to some additional content if it's purchased.

I've only played older versions of Zelda, and I'm not sure what might work for that type of gameplay.


You could also consider additional inventory slots, which I believe were quite successful for Realm of The Mad God.

Incremental upgrades to existing items might work too - 10% additional damage, larger splash range from bombs, etc.



The general concensus amongst F2P developers seems to be that you need to have at least some consumable content, so maybe additional bombs or arrows (perhaps with a daily or per-level cap on the number purchased) is still worth considering.

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Is this intended to be a single player game or an MMO?  Because monetization works differently in the two.  Single-player games are often explicitly pay-to-win, and that's not a problem in that context, whereas MMOs can't have paid items give some players a huge advantage over others.  Tool/weapons would probably work differently in the two types of games as well.

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The one MMO that I played, I saw some characters walking around with custom items and there was a little nagging voice in the back of my head saying "I want one too". I didn't succumb to that voice (I might have if I played longer) but I'm pretty sure that voice wouldn't be there at all if it was a single player game.

 


When it comes to things that approach "pay to win" type scenarios, I tend to prefer things that make it easier to progress, but not so much more-so that you can simply buy your way to victory. The advantage on offer should be enough to let them overcome their current challenge, not to obliterate it

 

I think Ravyne was on the right track. Instead of pay2win or pay2cheat you think of it more as just pay4easy. You start playing the game starting in a standard 'winnable by most' difficulty and have the option to purchase items that effectively bring you into a 'winnable by more' difficulty realm. Enchantments on swords that do more damage or on armor so that it protects you more. Maybe items that negate elements of a boss' attack. Maybe some sort of teleport item that allows you to fast travel.

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Don't knock customization -- It might seem pointless, and like no one would ever spend the time or money, but it appeals to a certain kind of player. And don't forget that things like real-world cell-phone bling (ringtones, cases, backgrounds) make (or used to, perhaps) a good deal of money for relatively little effort.

I'm not convinced this is a 'low effort' feature to be honest. I think it can be quite an investment and rarely pays back.

Plus it's a single player experience only. There won't be much 'showcasing' what you've earned per se.

 


can easily share their purchases on facebook

Unless you mean a screenshot, things like Facebook Connect actually take a little too much time for the breadth of this project.

 


really like the idea of paid add-ons that add a new "mode" of play; in a run-and-jump platformer users may be able to pay for a ninja rope or gravity boots for example. The game should be satisfying and completable without this add-on but might be easier or allow access to some additional content if it's purchased.

I can see how this could translate to acquiring certain abilities. For example, the 'grappling hook' may not be necessary to complete the game, but it helps you reach some areas faster, and some areas you can't otherwise reach (which would have hearts, etc). Neat/simple.

Might even be better if the player is forced to have only a few items in his inventory, as these 'advanced gear items' could fill two roles, leaving you with one more slot for potions what/not.

 


You could also consider additional inventory slots, which I believe were quite successful for Realm of The Mad God.

That makes sense. Many games do so. Thanks for pointing it out!

 


Incremental upgrades to existing items might work too - 10% additional damage, larger splash range from bombs, etc.

Increased damage could be detrimental to game balance, but larger splash range, shorter fuses and the likes would make some sense.

 


The general concensus amongst F2P developers seems to be that you need to have at least some consumable content, so maybe additional bombs or arrows (perhaps with a daily or per-level cap on the number purchased) is still worth considering.

'daily' makes me shiver in fear of an energy system. I'd like to avoid gating players from being able to play based on 'time'.

While I think its acceptable to monetize player's impatience, I don't like to artificially cause that impatience with a system as arbitrary as energy.

 

Focusing on ammunitions may be too 'optional'. Potions might make more sense?

 


Single-player games are often explicitly pay-to-win, and that's not a problem in that context

I disagree. Pay2Win in single player experiences removes player pride and involvement. I'm ok with player having the feeling they've invested into the game, but no one's happy about feeling like they've cheated. It's important to keep a certain level of challenge and avoid making the rest of the game mundane after they've paid.

Once a player has monetized, the developer should unfold a red carpet to their feet, not make everything less fun afterwards because its suddenly too easy.

 


I think Ravyne was on the right track. Instead of pay2win or pay2cheat you think of it more as just pay4easy. You start playing the game starting in a standard 'winnable by most' difficulty and have the option to purchase items that effectively bring you into a 'winnable by more' difficulty realm. Enchantments on swords that do more damage or on armor so that it protects you more. Maybe items that negate elements of a boss' attack. Maybe some sort of teleport item that allows you to fast travel.

I'd like to think that the concept of side-grades would be more appealing though. This is what I like most about jbadams' post: tools would change the game plays, but wouldn't necessarily make it factually easier. What's fun about tools is that, each player can define what their playstyle is, and stick to it, without it ever being a dominant strategy.

If you are used to speed-run, then 'fast boots' may be the thing for you, but some 'explore-it-all' type of guy might go for a very different gear set.

 

 

Thanks!

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To clarify my earlier suggestion with capping the number of items, I wasn't suggesting an artificial limit on the number of bombs/arrows/whatever that might impede progress - that would be horrible! I was suggesting that the player could gain an unlimited (or whatever number suits the game if you go with the classic 99 limit) number of items, but could only purchase a limited number of additional items via micro-transaction per play session.


In Triple Town for example, you place a random item onto the play-field each turn. The cash shop allows you to make one-off purchases of specific items, but only provides a limited number of each per game, therefore limiting the difference paid items can have on the game. You're not limited via normal gameplay, but can only sway the game so far with purchases.


Absolutely stick to potions or other items instead if you feel they're more suitable though.

(Posted from mobile. )

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