Multiplayer (MMO), Rebirth and Funding

General discussions about the games by Egosoft including X-BTF, XT, X², X³: Reunion, X³: Terran Conflict and X³: Albion Prelude.

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Al Zheimer
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Multiplayer (MMO), Rebirth and Funding

Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 04:58

First - Shouldn't there be a sticky about multi-player? I couldn't find one; feel free to merge this thread into it if one does exist.

Second - Don't worry, I'm not going to ask the Usual Questions (TM). I know you want to make a multi-player game, I know it costs a lot more than a single-player game, and I know funding for this kind of game is hard to get.

But it did cross my mind (actually when playing a totally different game) that a space MMO would be in a unique position to monetize (is that a real word?) something that doesn't really work in games set in medieval fantasy universes. I'm talking about in-game advertising.

Remember Blade Runner? Remember those huge ads on the sides of buildings and on floating billboards?

Now, in Rebirth you'll be able to walk around inside ships, right? Presumably, also around some space stations? So how about talking to a few advertising agencies and letting them buy (virtual) ad space in the walls and screens of those space stations?

I'm not talking about forcing people to watch ads when they're trying to play the game. I'm talking about ads playing on screens in the background (or on giant billboards floating near planets, etc.), integrated into the game universe, but for real products (possibly mixed with some ads for in-game products as well). Players could walk up to the screen and watch the ad, or it could just be something in the background, adding a bit of atmosphere. Done properly (i.e., supervised by Egosoft, to make sure the ads fit in with the style of the game) they could actually make the game more immersive, just like the giant billboards in Blade Runner.

You could even demand that the ads be for fake (future) products (like "Reebok AntiGrav shoes" or "Mercedes Class X sports shuttle"), and I'm sure a lot of brands would still rush to buy some ad space, as long as they got to place their brand name and logo in the game. Remember the Nike shoes in Back to the Future II ?

If some company was willing to pay a lot, you could even add little scripted sequences inside space stations where some NPCs used the product in question (ex., drank from a can of Coca-Cola, or talked about how much they loved their new Adidas shoes). Again, always in the background, never getting in the way of gameplay.

This is a new market and I'm sure any up-and-coming ad agency would love to be involved, since the traditional markets (TV, radio, street billboards, even website ads) are controlled by a few older and bigger companies.

Has Egosoft looked into this possibility? Was there no interest on the part of marketing agencies? Or is this something you wouldn't even consider because you don't think you'd be able to enforce design guidelines to make the ads fit into the game universe?

Disclaimer: I have worked in some fields connected to media, advertising and game design in the past, but am currently not connected to any company in those fields. I'd be happy to help Egosoft in any way that I can, but my main interest really is having a good space trading game to play, and multi-player tends to make things more varied and interesting. ;)

P.S. - Yes, I know Rebirth is going to be a single-player game, I'm only using it as an example for a future (possible) MMO. Although "funded by in-game ads" could also be applied to single-player games, an MMO would open up a lot more "social" possibilities, such as meeting your friends in the space station bar, etc., which would only make any in-game advertising even more valuable.
Last edited by Al Zheimer on Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:45, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by nap_rz » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 05:28

can you imagine boron drinking pepsi?

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Al Zheimer
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Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 05:42

I can. But I hear they prefer Red Bull. Gives you gills!

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Post by kurush » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:02

Actually, considering that we already have billboards advertising some non-existent futuristic burgers, selling this ad space might make sense. Are there any buyers though? I am pretty much ignoring those atmospheric billboards and to make it worth the money, they would have to become annoying to the point of being game breaking.

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Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:12

On the contrary, if they were annoying, it would work against the advertiser.

The ads would have to fit into the game and be interesting / funny enough to make players want to watch them (at least once) or just be subtle enough that they'd stay in the background, influencing the player in a subconscious way.

They don't need to be (just) traditional ads, either; most brands these days prefer product placement. A Lacoste logo on a pilot's jacket, an LG logo on the back of monitor, some Fanta cans on a table in the canteen, etc.. TV shows make a lot of money from that kind of stuff (every Fox TV show is full of Apple laptops, for example).

If players paid a small subscription fee, then all the ads for real products could be disabled, and only the "joke" ads would be left.
Last edited by Al Zheimer on Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by werewolves? » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:14

Personally I prefer this game to be SP, if they got advertising money I'd like it to go towards a better SP game.

I kind of figure if they need revenue they can do DLC, I'd happily pay for ship + weapon packs/mission content/plots as long as they were good.

I'm surprised they don't at the moment.

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Post by EternalSpace » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:19

I'd prefer private server/LAN capabilities personally. Nothing like having a house full of people working for one goal. With the removal of SETA this should be possible now.

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Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:32

werewolves? wrote:Personally I prefer this game to be SP
In that case, your wish has been granted. It already is SP. :)

The post at the top (and this thread) is about ways of funding the development of an online game based on the X universe.

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Post by EternalSpace » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 07:57

Would X-Online be free to play or pay to play? Also if it's Free then I like the idea of the stations flying ad videos playing commercials. It makes sense. Maybe we could look at moons which have Coca-Cola beamed onto the surface lol. Or ships which fly around and just happen to randomly have Viagra on the hull. It could be a rare ship, someone would definitely capture it lol.

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Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 08:51

As mentioned above, IMO: "If players paid a small subscription fee, then all the ads for real products could be disabled, and only the joke ads would be left."

In other words, the idea of the advertising is to make the game free to play (or at least eliminate the subscription, although you might still have to pay for the original game - like Guild Wars 2 - this is mainly to ensure that your game can be distributed through shops and not just online, since being on shop shelves can function as a form of advertising, but shops would never waster shelf space with a free game).

I think subscription-based MMOs are definitely on the way out. The tendency is for new games to be funded by the sale of optional content (hats, pets, mounts, etc.) or some sort of sponsorship. Most MMOs have universes based on a medieval theme, though, so advertising feels out of place there. In X it could work much better, due to the futuristic space setting.

Also, this doesn't eliminate the possibility of selling some vanity items as well (ex., paint or decals to put on your ships, new hair styles or clothes for the NPCs in your ship's crew, etc.), but I'd be totally against selling items with an actual impact on gameplay (ex., faster ships, or ship upgrades). All those should be bought exclusively with in-game currency.

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Post by Condemner » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 09:31

:lol: Go play EVE if you want multiplayer or one of those other garbage space multiplayer games. You overlook too much in wanting a multiplayer X. You must not know what you are asking for. First, there is the difficulty of making a quality game that satisfies current players which is adaptable to multiplayer. Suicidal squid is probably not everyone's favorite starting choice for a reason. Surely you have reloaded more than once after an unsuccessful boarding or getting killed in space combat. Say bye bye to reloads and prepare yourself for an immensely frustrating gaming experience when players better than yourself are blowing up your trading networks faster than you can set them up. Not to mention, you wouldn't really be able to heavily mod your game with multiplayer set-ups unless they are on private servers. Modding makes for half the fun. If you want a good example, check out Bethesda's struggle with making Skyrim multiplayer (and even the preceding Oblivion struggle about multiplayer).

Second, advertisement and marketing in-game is absurd. This is a multi-national game with a modest fan base in countries across the west and elsewhere. There are only a certain number of multi-national companies that would even be interested in gaming ads, and this wouldn't be the game for them to pick for their campaigns. They are looking for heavy hitters like the Modern Warfare and Battlefield types with a steady, numerous online community. This game is miniscule on that scale.

Finally, to run multiplayer servers, it costs A LOT OF MONEY. A few thousand from some in-game ads wouldn't cover the electricity bill, muchless all the other costs. Free games with costs associated with in-game items and subscription-based games are the future. It's... trending.

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Post by Gazz » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 09:41

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Post by AshToDust » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 10:01

Condemner wrote:Say bye bye to reloads and prepare yourself for an immensely frustrating gaming experience when players better than yourself are blowing up your trading networks faster than you can set them up.
You mean player who play more, right?

Let be fair here, a lot of the MMO playing time is not that multi at all. And once you get to real multi, the stronger are usually player playing more because of stuff more than because of skills. Commercially it makes sense. The more you play, the more I need you to stay my customer. Most player doesn't like being own by the new coming guy... You got to reward them for time playing...

That's one of a X-Online dilemma :
To work you need high player number. This means young player as they are those with most time for playing.
X-games as we currently like them (got doubt about rebirth) ain't made for children but more for grown up guys who kept one feet (sometimes both actually) in childhood ;). We are few. Too few to finance a X-Online as we would enjoy it.

I think you just cannot make both population happy...

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Post by Al Zheimer » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 10:56

Condemner wrote:Go play EVE if you want multiplayer
:? By your logic, there would only be one multi-player game in the world, because people should "go play X [Everquest, maybe?] if they wanted multiplayer".

EVE is full of artificial (and nonsensical) limitations (ex., no way to remotely control your transports - the autopilot only works if you're inside the ship). Also, the interface is very messy, it feels like a game from the early 90s. That part could be easily solved if CCP allowed fans to make UI mods, but they don't (WoW's default interface is also very bad, but there are lots of good UI mods made by players).

If anything, the fact that EVE manages to survive (despite the repetitive and limited gameplay and the bad interface) is proof that there is a market for space MMOs. No one had ever heard of CCP before they released EVE, so it's not as if they had a big fan base at the start. It's estimated they currently make around 4 million euros per month.
Condemner wrote:Surely you have reloaded more than once after an unsuccessful boarding or getting killed in space combat. Say bye bye to reloads and prepare yourself for an immensely frustrating gaming experience when players better than yourself are blowing up your trading networks faster than you can set them up.
First, you have no idea how good I am or whether I'd be setting up any trading networks.

Second, do you really think Egosoft is so incompetent that they'd make a game where everything would get blown up faster than it it could be built...? Why do you assume they would release a game that was "an immensely frustrating experience" ?

Obviously the gameplay would be tuned to deal with multiple players (ex., stations would be owned by player "guilds", and members would be expected to defend the factories while they were being built). In high-security systems, NPC militia ships would automatically attack any aggressor (just as guards attack enemy players in WoW). If you chose to play as a pirate, attacking random stations, you would probably be the one getting blown to bits pretty quickly. A smart pirate would just try to ambush lonely transports.

And third, in case you're not aware, Rebirth pretty much eliminates the concept of being killed. Ships are remote-controlled, so losing a ship basically means just a loss of money. That change is seen by some people as a step towards making the game ready for multi-player.
Condemner wrote:You wouldn't really be able to heavily mod your game with multiplayer set-ups unless they are on private servers.
The whole point of a MMO is to have a persistent world that you share with other players. It makes no sense to talk about content mods in a multi-player game. A "content mod" in an MMO is called an expansion. Was World of Warcraft a stupid idea just because it wasn't exactly identical to Warcraft 3, and didn't let people load custom maps?

You criticism about a (possible) X-Universe MMO seems to be "that MMO wouldn't be like a single-player game". Well, duh! That's like saying a video game isn't like a movie, or a movie isn't like a book. It's not supposed to be the same thing.
Condemner wrote:Second, advertisement and marketing in-game is absurd.

Yeah, newspapers are the media of the future! :roll: I'm sure someone also said that product placement in TV shows was absurd, but guess what, that's a major source of income for many production companies nowadays.
Condemner wrote:subscription-based games are the future.
I guess you haven't heard of Aion, Everquest, Guild Wars 2, Team Fortress 2, etc., etc...

In fact, there are some rumours that Blizzard is thinking about abandoning the subscription model completely, and just make money from selling extra pets, mounts, etc.. Personally, I doubt they will do that for WoW, at least during this year.

Anyway...

If you don't want to play an X-Universe MMO, you don't have to. But a lot of people would like to play such a game, and Egosoft has stated that they would like to make such a game. The issue is how to pay for it. To quote CBJ:
CBJ wrote:Ignore all technical arguments you see. Most of them have never been an issue, and some were only relevant years ago when the idea was first mooted. Only a few present serious challenges and none of them are insurmountable with sufficient development. However, that brings us to the real reason there is no multi-player: because the money to undertake that development has never been available. [...] The trick will be to find the right way to present it so that publishers want to fund it
But he never mentions if they considered in-game advertising and, if so, why they didn't find it viable (i.e., lack of interest on the part of advertisers, or is it Egosoft that does not want to have adverts in the game as a matter of principle). Or, if he mentioned that, I couldn't find it.

Gazz, any idea if that possibility has been mentioned? I think it would make publishers feel a lot more confident if they could see another potential source of income (not just potential subscriptions).

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Post by Xander Cade » Wed, 29. Feb 12, 11:19

Not only is this not a new idea, but it has already been done, to a limited extent. One of the games in the Battlefield franchise (I think it was Battlefield) has billboards on their official maps and they used to put real ads on them.
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