Belated. It was yesterday. This is a nice reminder that I am terrible at birthdays.
August 27, 2008 was my first blog post ever. I can't fully recall why I started blogging - I was spending a lot of time on various blogging sites and my comments kept getting longer and longer. I think I finally decided that it would be easier to write my own posts and link back instead of annoying the author of various sites with my incessant rambling and observations.
I didn't think much on a style or theme and I just picked one and ran with it. Some of the old posts are fun to read through and I often link back to my old posts - mostly when there is an "I told you so" (WoW needing to link armor stats to role type - 2008! - which they are finally doing in Warlords of Draenor) or revisiting a viewpoint I had stated previously that I still felt relevant.
Sometimes when I go back and read posts I think there have been some really great ideas that would translate well into modern MMO land and other times I felt like I was just another blogger with the same feelings on the same old topics. I quickly found some circles of blogging friends and while many are gone now (Writers Resting In Paradise Blogroll to the right) many persist today. And as I find new sites and read new blogs, or people discover mine, I expand my blogroll. With my sports background and slant I call us BlogNation much like the Red Sox Nation or other groups that align around commonality. It hasn't stuck anywhere else that I can tell, but I figure if I keep writing it maybe it will someday.
My style hasn't changed too much. I am a pretty "conversational" blogger - I write as if we are having a pint at a bar. Throw out an idea or opinion and welcome a counter discussion. This is a fun way to blog because I always keep my mind open. Some would argue I write as if I had already had 10 pints at a bar. That has been known to happen as well.
I had two extended "vacations" from blogging - six months starting January 2011 in which I became very, very sick (lost over 60 pounds, night sweats, swollen glands, couldn't stay awake for longer than a couple hours at a time) and had every symptom of lymphoma from a textbook. They spent months testing and digging (lymphadenectomy, bone marrow, you name it) and I was actually checked into a Cancer centre for weeks - except they didn't find cancer. I was at infectious disease specialists, all sorts of specialists, no one found it out. And one day I just started feeling better again. They kept wanting to cut me open to dig around to find out what happened but I stopped letting them. That time was pretty scary, caused me to withdrawl a lot, but also to celebrate life a lot more in the end of it all. Nothing quite like being certain you are fighting for your life - even scarier when you don't what you are fighting against. I found it hard to justify spending hours blogging when I didn't know how much time I had left.
Could be why I have a soft spot for charity and people raising money for diseases and causes. Hell, a month ago, my entire team and partner network raised thousands of dollars at 1am in a bar (in 30 minutes) if I would shave my head - in the bar - so yes, of course I did. It is only hair and will grow back.
For the record, it is growing back terribly. Still worth it though.
My second vacation was when I was battling divorce. Gaming was an addiction for me in many ways - not that I couldn't stop, but being unhappy in my marriage drove me to game more. She loves TV (I hate TV) I love games (she hates games) - so never common ground. We ended up finding common ground (pretty easy when you have an amazing kid) and our marriage has been great ever since. Something about the first 5 years that is the challenge, as there are curiosities if people can (and will) change. In the end letting people be who they are is critical to loving and understanding each other. I am not suggesting my advice to marriage counselors still though. It works for us!
My three personal favorite posts:
1) Greatest Fantasy Movie Ever (2009)
In this one I attack the silly idea of healing by describing what the typical raid encounter would look like if it was a blockbuster movie. You don't see Gandalf sitting in the back row during the battle casting heals on Legolas, do you? In it I suggest a better way (slower paced combat, blocking and dodging graphics) - its dumb that a 10' sword goes through characters entire bodies. Hits should cause REAL damage, and instead of inflating numbers, having glances, misses, and dodges should make up the difference. I like to be immersed - swords and axes cutting through immobile toons doesn't cut it. I want MMO combat to be more like MOVIE combat. When your sword goes through someone, that's when the blood comes.
I linked back with a GREAT example from Batman: Arkham in a more recent post. The tech and will is there. This should be the next innovation in MMO combat. In that game you rarely get hit and when you do you feel the impact. It shows that with 10 mobs around you you can still have contact combat. Besides, in this hyper-world of ADD and circle strafing, slowing it down and having combat meaningful and impactful would be a great innovation.
2) Can the End Game be the Game? (2009)
I tackled how silly leveling is and how Wow is wasting resources on planned obsolescence content, and that if more resources were created for "max level", repeatable content instead of one and done quests - there would be better, and more content, for all. I see a lot more agreement on this type of idea today - if your content doesn't really start until the "end game", why not start there in the first place?
3) The 6 Wheeled Car (2008)
This was my PVP slanted point about relative power. DAOC and WAR showed me the biggest fundamental flaw in PVP games - you have such ridiculously giant disparities in power between levels. A level 1 can't even HIT a level 40 - that makes no sense (again, immersion.). So my idea here is to have levels multiplicative. So 40 level 1s could indeed be an EVEN match for a level 40 character. Or 4 level 10s or 2 level 20s. A level 40 is "god mode" in comparison to level 1s and that just feeds into my #2 post above - if your PVP character has to level 40 levels before being able to enjoy the game, why have levels so multiplicative? This alone ruins open world PVP. If you had relative power levels it could make open world PVP thrive.
Funny looking at that they are all old posts. I haven't seen these concepts used in my modern day gaming yet but I still hold that they would be a welcome offering for gamers who like immersion and could enhance a current day MMO offering.
So 6 years. 325 posts (12 drafts) and 1144 user comments.
My blog isn't that popular and I am fine with that. It has been a journey and I believe the journey is the destination and I never stressabout who is reading and how many comments there are. That part is is important for anyone who blogs or who wants to blog. I know I'll be around for another 4 years (at least) doing this so I will have a 10 year anniversary. Health and life willing.
Looking forward to more of this journey with you - and thank you for stopping by. I do enjoy the company.
YAR! is a nostalgic MMO word for me. YAR! Was the rallying cry of my EQ test server guild, The Grove. Anytime anyone logged in there was a /gu of YAR! And usually the same number of responses per number of guildies on. I carried YAR! to DAOC and again to WoW in the guilds I was a part of and kept it a tradition. I'm not sure if any of the guilds I was a part of still use it, but I can still be found "shouting" it out when I log in to various games if I'm in any sort of guild or clan.
Funny too - not sure who, or why, it started and the last time I tried pulling it out in a new guild I was in they asked if I was a Pirate. Silly kids, Pirate speak is YARRR! And although Pirates are way cooler than Ninjas YAR is not the YARRRR you are looking for. This is a scary thought to me as I also need to replace my Tragically Hip slide in my PowerPoint with a Justin Bieber slide to remain relevant. I am getting old.
Joking aside (inside?), what does YAR mean, and where did it come from? Google-fu time (they need a Google-fu exclamation equivalent for Pirates. Sounds too Ninja-y)
Word Origin and History for yar
growling sound, imitative, attested from c.1300.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Growling sound makes sense. Imitative? c.1300. What was going on in the 1300s?
According to Wikipedia, lots.
As a means of recording the passage of time, the 14th century was the century which lasted from January 1, 1301, to December 31, 1400. Political and natural disaster and black death ravaged 4 khanates of the Mongolian Empire. Consequently, the Mongol court was driven out of China and retreated to Mongolia, the Ilkhanate collapsed in Persia, the Chaghatayid dissolved into two parts, and the Golden Horde lost its position as great power in Eastern Europe.
I knew the word was always super cool. I mean, not black death ravaging Mongolian Empire cool, but cool nonetheless.
YAR! Was, and is, more than that. It was our rallying cry - our call, our sign. Our secret handshake! Our "Nanoo Nano". Our kicking of the jukebox. Our "D'oh" (only much less stupefying). It was something we all did and it made our guild who we were. A symbol, if you will.
So, if you ever see some old guy running around saying YAR! In a MMO it is probably me. Feel free to /kick, but that won't stop me. I'll be YAR! (ing) for as long as I play MMOs.
I try to read a book a month. These books are mostly non-fiction and are business or personal growth related. I love thinking in general (its a gift, I tell you) and as such picking up books and reading and learning feels like I am developing both personally and professionally. Someone once told me that the person you will be in 5 years depends on the people you meet and the books you read. I find some truth and comfort in that statement.
I recently read "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek and I'd categorize it as a pretty simple premise but a game changer if you could execute it in life, work, relationships, and elsewhere. The basic premise of the book (and I am keeping this very simple) is that if you drew a circle that had three layers, it could look like this.
What Mr. Sinek argues is that most companies focus on WHAT they do. Dell builds computers, for examples. They then tell you HOW they do it - the have a great processing facility and it allows for personalization and you can change features, chips, memory, hard drives (etc.) and get it built just for you - for a cheap price. They never tell you why though, do they? The book argues that a company like Apple always starts with why, then explains how, and then shows a product that is the outcome of the why and how - not the other way around. Profit is never a "why" either. In very generalized thoughts and terms he demonstrates the companies that start with why has made them industry leaders - in some cases changing complete industries and in even more extreme cases the world. He also argues that if you don't start with why you can't achieve the same results, and that starting with why creates an inspiration that team members, co-workers and customers can all rally behind - which creates that success.
A simple example of how to apply this is personal health. If you focus on the WHAT and HOW of personal health it doesn't sound like a lot of fun. I need to go to the gym 4x a week and work out. I need to drink less beer. I need to eat better, less bread, less deep fried foods. I need to take the stairs instead of the elevators. The WHAT and HOW of personal health doesn't actually sound that great.
If you started with WHY, you may look at those things a bit differently. I want to walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to be able to work and provide for my family. I want to be around long enough to play with my grandkids. If you start with those whys suddenly less beer, and more time at the gym, and taking those stairs don't seem that bad after all.
Its a must read. Please do. It's on Audible if you like books that way, can even be your free trial book.
Can the golden circle be used in Personal gaming? Of course it can. Clearly developers are starting with WHAT and HOW and not WHY. WildStar started with we are going to create a game that WoW would have been if they didn't get off course. (WHAT).
We will do this by not making the same mistakes as Blizzard and keeping the game catered to the 1%, with attunments and a tougher levelling and raiding experience. We'll reintroduce 40 man raids. (HOW)
They never really explained WHY.
I want a gaming company to think with WHY first, instead of "how much profits can we make if we do yet another twist on a theme park". I bet if a gaming company really started with WHY, we would get that inspiring and engaging MMO we are all waiting for.
I just read an amazing book and while I am saving that for another entire post one part stuck out to me. That part was in regards to the explanation behind how, and what rate, new technologies spread throughout societies. That explanation is called the "Diffusion of Innovations" and was written back in 1962. It was recently updated in the 2000s and it is popularized by a Professor of Communications, Everett Rogers. It's a pretty cool theory in our tech driven world and it makes sense.
The author used it to prove a point for a business argument. I immediately thought of paid beta/alpha tests. The theory goes like this (basic format) for adopting new technologies.
The theory goes that new technologies are best picked up by Innovators, who evangelize to Early Adopters (who purchase on their recommendation) - and then it gets a bit of steam for the Early Majority to pick up, and the Late Majority now sees a lot of people using it and they don't want to be left out. The Laggards never buy but only adopt when it's been standardized, cheaper than their current option (etc.). I may have bastardized the whole Theory - but that is the way it was explained in the book I read.
The argument goes that for new tech its best to solely target the Innovators and the rest sorts itself out. If you target the Majorities (Early, Late) they don't understand why they need the tech as they would if it had gone through Innovators and Early Adopters. It makes sense - who knew we needed DVRs until TIVO? Now they are a standard cable box. (for the record, TIVO is an example of a failed new tech - they went straight to the mass market and people weren't ready / didn't understand)
Of course, with my love of gaming, after reading this theory in a business book I wanted to try and apply it to what we see in gaming.
Applying the theory makes sense with the "pay for betas" trend we have been seeing - and in which I have participated. This makes sense - if you get the early innovators and they start blogging, podcasting, and sharing their experiences with others you may be able to get Early Adopters involved. This has actually created a revenue stream for SOE. This has been working really well for Archeage as well - I have been reading great blogs and stories around blognation. While that particular one isn't my cup of tea (I'll be a Late Majority for AA - if at all) I'm still reading and thinking about it.
For early Betas the theory doesn't work as cleanly for two reasons - one is because characters get wiped because its software and not new tech - this causes people (like me) to not invest as much time or evangelize as much to other people. I spent more time in Landmark than I did in WildStar and if I knew my efforts would exist, I would still be playing. If I was still playing, I'd still be blogging and posting pictures about it. It's fun, it's a grown up Minecraft. If it can be as commercially successful and trendy as Minecraft remains to be seen. The second way the theory is a stretch for gaming is that MMOs in themselves aren't really new anymore and the curve is meant to represent the adoption of new tech.
Despite that I still think it makes sense that gaming companies reach out and engage their best players and potential players as early as possible and get them talking about it - good or bad. Conversations and top of mind - the buzz - is always important.
The other way to look at that curve and apply to gaming is possibly the population curve of a MMO.
Innovators = Alpha
Early Adopter = Beta
Early Majority = Pre-orders
Late Majority = Launch
Laggards = Post-launch purchasers
Looking at it that way works with the overplayed market share % as well - and isn't it true that at launch most new games peak anyway? This doesn't replace the Gartner Hype Curve but fits along with it. For all NEW MMO launches (post-Wow) it seems that every game except for WoW, and EVE, had peak subscriber base at launch. That is a sobering thought to the importance of launch to developers. SWTOR, AOC, WAR - are there any that ended up with more subscribers than boxes they sold at launch?
If that is indeed the case and we can apply it directly then a MMO has ~90% of it's maximum player base at launch.
Since I read about the theory through a second hand source I am going to get to the source material and read the actual applications. I have a habit of looking at a lot of my experiences through a gaming lens (service, loyalty, math, experiences, heck, even family!) and I suppose that in itself could be a measuring stick of my passion for this pastime.
Murf and I chatted about baseball not too long ago, and I was recently treated to a 19 inning, walk off win marathon from my home team Toronto Blue Jays, against our dreaded rivals, the Detroit Tigers. It had a lot. A lot of intentional walks (the Jays lineup is down 3 starters so once you get past Cabrera and Bautista your pitcher is generally safe.) a lot of bases loaded let downs (Jays had them loaded 3 times (often thanks to the walks - intentional or not)) and still couldn't win until the 19th frame. Spectacular defensive saves (looking at you, Rasmus in centre field. you and your .219 average!) and all in all, a great way to spend 6 and a half hours.
Yup, you heard me. 6 glorious hours of baseball. And 37 minutes. Glorious. or something. On Baseball Canada Day.
After 17 innings the Tigers were out of pitchers and had to put in their starter for the NEXT day. How did the game end? What lead to the victory? Was it a clutch hit, or defensive error - what was it?
The game was dragging, and then the camera pans and we see journeyman and underground fan favourite Steve Tolleson walking around the dugout physically turning around everyone's caps. He's doing it all by himself. That is the stuff of legends! He walks around, spinning caps, a tried and true baseball tradition. The Rally Cap. Not asking, not suggesting, just doing. The straight-back rally cap - a veteran move, compared to the less fashionable inside out rally cap.
And then they win.
Sometimes superstition works.
I know players put on their rally caps (save Vanguard petition) often when games are going to be shuttered and while and I pulled my pitcher (metaphorically) with my yesterday cancel of WildStar sub - I do wish it well, and hope to enjoy it again someday. I think it will be just fine with the subs they do keep and hopefully that is enough for NCSOFT to keep the F2P calls at bay.
Blaugust has been fun and I am surprised I made it this long. I already have made more posts in August than all of July. I find myself writing a bit quicker, and leaving it all on the page. My old style was write most of it, leave it, revisit, edit edit edit... now It's just write, re-read, feel good, publish. Kind of liberating.
I have 16 drafts already done. Some of those are older drafts but most are things that I have sorted out in my daily routines - I find little inspirations and start a draft post so I have the seeds to revisit and post away. Most have still been in and around gaming but this one is not. A little social experiment, shall we?
I have two dogs. One is a boy and one is a girl. Which is which? I'm going to describe some traits, personalities and things about them and want you to guess which is the boy and which is the girl. For each descriptor, the one dog is the first description, the second description is about the second.
A is black and white, B is red and white
A is smaller (half the size), B is bigger.
Both are crate changed - A keeps its blankets rolled and organized, B's are scattered and strewn about.
A prances, B struts
A is smarter than B
A is older, B younger.
A is obedient, B is a rebel
Both are loving companions.
So, which do you think is which?
The reason why I even wrote this post was because when I was observing them I thought "wow, that's crazy". There are two ways to look at this - one, the obvious one, that A is a girl and B is a boy because the traditional traits and descriptions provided tend to lean that way. That a smaller, tidy, prancing, smarter, polite and obedient dog is the female. The pink blanket in for good measure.
The second way to look at it is because it is so obvious perhaps I am writing this to "throw you off". To show that while certain things are obvious and "typical", that I am sharing them in that way so start to get you to think the obvious and its a twist of some sort - because we have preconceived notions.
If this was a chapter in a Malcolm Gladwell book (it would be a bad chapter, to be fair...) he would quote a psychological study that would explain how people's brains absorb that information and their preconceived notions come into play. That given only specific - and limited - information, people tend to think a certain way. This isn't a well written Malcolm Gladwell book (unfortunately) and you are left with my thoughts.
A is a girl, B is the boy. I caught myself remarking how their personalities (the first is 5 years older than the second) were so perfectly suited to their sex. He's the goofy, clumsy, "dumb" but loveable pup and she is the pretty princess - both the same breed with different pedigrees. I wasn't messing around. My own self check after thinking that was that none of those traits are actually suited to specific genders and it was something for me to be mindful of in the future.
Brief programming note: this doesn't count as my Blaugust post (obviously) but I am having a tech problem.
Pingbacks stopped working. My last pingback was May 21, 2o13 (when sorting through comments on the menu).
I don't recall what (if anything) I changed then. I did notice that a few people HAVE tried to ping me back, but there is no notification for me and it just doesn't work. I had always just assumed no one was tracking back, or pinging back.
This is a self-hosted WordPress blog with JetPack installed.
I am not good at these things, and I do have a friend who hosted this for me but I also figured I'd reach out to the community to see if anyone had any ideas. I tried everything I could (right boxes are checked on my end) for my non-technical expertise. My Google-fu wasn't very helpful either.
If you have any suggestions or ideas would love to hear them!
The fun of Blaugust (even in this early stage) is that I am planning ahead on posts knowing I am trying to do one a day. So at the end of my day I am thinking about what I read, watched, and/or experienced and thinking what fits in a post? And although this has always been a gaming focused blog, I haven't played a game in 3 days and other content is going to seep into the blog. I think that is ok.
I finally watched the movie Oblivion and while it is easy to pick away plot holes and gaps in the story - I really enjoyed it. There is one part I think no one thinks about at the end of a movie (in general - purposely cryptic) but before I get too far into where this conversation is going I want to share some general thoughts about movies (I don't think I have spoken about movies here before) but even more importantly:
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW! IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN OBLIVION, OR WANT TO PRESERVE ANY TWISTS, YOU WILL NOT WANT TO READ BELOW.
[extra spacing for spoiler warning]
[ok - now a few general paragraphs about movies in general then spoilers - fair warnings!!]
I am not a movie connoisseur. Some of my favorite movies are easy to love or put on that list. I don't follow the Film Festival circuit(s) and most of my "going to the movie" events - pretty much all of them - are enjoying such classics as Thor: The Dark World, Captain America, Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs (1 and 2) and pretty much any other movie a 9 year old would want to see. I am months behind adult based new releases which is why Oblivion was so late.
I enjoyed Battleship and Pacific Rim - the plots were really full of holes, but as blockbuster summer movies they were enjoyable. I think those are good examples of when I get into a movie, the good parts of it (giant robots beating up giant inter-dimensional monsters) and the emotions elicited through obvious plot ploys (father of the love interest finally accepting ) typically trump the bad parts (overused plot elements). Plus, a summer blockbuster is supposed to be all explosions and "big" anyway, and I can enjoy that in that context. I'm not picking Oscar winners or anything.
Ok. That is a huge lead up. SPOILER TIME.
I liked Oblivion. I loved the plot twist that the astronauts sent to examine a giant object in space ended up being the clones that came back to attack and destroy earth. It's a different twist on exploration. The mindf*uck job that the alien entity played on the existing clones to protect its assets on earth from the existing, underground humans seemed believable. Why not? So the main hero is actually playing the villain as a Drone (that kills humans) tech repairer he just doesn't know it.
He is also a clone. Small plot importance there.
At the end of the movie we know that Tech-Jack-49 dies to save the planet, and Tech-Jack-52 finds the original Jack's wife 3 years later (now with Jack-49's child) with the rest of the survivors. My question there was:
What happened to Tech-Jack 1 through 48? And Tech-Jack 50/51? Presumably each of those were also responsible for drone repair in different areas of the earth, unbeknownst to each other as the planet was divvied up into self-policing "radiation zones". While the end was viewer friendly and "satisfying" I was left wondering what happened to all the other clones.
When the Tet(alien entity bent on absorbing the earth's natural resources) was destroyed, what did the Vika and Jack clones around the planet do? Were they emotionally destroyed by what the non-in-the-know clones thought was their passage to the rest of the human race (who, lied to, were told were relocated to Titan, Saturn's moon - and the Tet was the launching space station). When they lost contact with Mission Control did they try to go about their jobs (which, since all drones were now inactive, be impossible?) Did they move off of their safe and elevated platforms and re-colonize? Did the "in the know" survivors and clones search them out, exposing the fake radiation zones that acted as barriers so they didn't run into each other? Did they live peacefully, as lovers, ignorant to why they exist in the first place and the event that took away their "mission control?"
Why do I even care? Not entirely sure.
With no room for a sequel I'll never know. Perhaps I only even care because I enjoyed the movie as much as I did - but it would have been a nice, two minute explanation at the end of it all to satisfy my curiosity.
Clone, time travel and alternate reality/universe movies always mess with my mind.
I still click and visit River's site over at www.highlatencylife.com even though he has passed. Sometimes it's just out of habit and other times its to see if anyone else has stopped by to say something nice, or share a story. Of course, the site has gone quiet and I was saddened to see this.
Of course life goes on. And of course it wasn't going to be paid for or kept up for no reason - but it does act as a counter for the last post there. Has it really been 43 days already? Every Friday at minimum I enjoyed reading a post.
Going to the WordPress site has the blog blacked out (really dark) and non-legible and that is perhaps a nice way to remind us it is time to move on.
I officially moved the blog over to the WRIP section of my blogroll (Writers Resting In Paradise) except for once, the acronym actually serves true.
Loyalty (in MMO gaming terms) comes in several forms from consumer to the game. Here are three gamer type examples - there is a lot of in between, and parts of each, but for the most part most gaming is done in and around the three below examples. I am giving them names so we can continue to talk about them throughout the article.
Greg: This is my game, and I am playing it no matter what
Amanda: This is the game me and my friends play, and we are playing it together
Pat: This is my friends' game and I'm playing it to be with them.
They are ranked in general importance. You could argue Amanda is more valuable than Greg (because of the group of friends involved) but brand evangelists are the most important customer to have. Amanda will leave before Greg does, and Pat already has one foot out the door but is there to spend time with friends.
How does the gaming company treat each of these people? Let's have a look:
While loyalty (in MMO gaming terms) comes in several forms from consumer to the game itself, why isn't their loyalty and appreciation flowing from game to consumer? "Treat" is a pretty big generality. In game, there may tons of different "features" that attract each player and lots of things in game from raiding, to housing, to quests, PVP, role playing (etc.). These are things for gamers.
Why are they treated the same as customers? They aren't the same. They aren't motivated by the same things. They may share some motivations (enjoy gaming, MMOs, etc.) but let's take a closer look.
Greg, it turns out, is a University student and has a lot of free time. He plays 25+ hours a week, is on a hardcore raid team, and is a very active member of the community in forums and blogs and even has a podcast about the game! He has played for 39 months - since launch! He goes to MMOcon every year.
Amanda is an officer in a serious but fun based guild. She knows a lot about the game and helps recruit and get new people into the guild. She has been with the same guild a long time, and plays with the same people all the time. Gaming is all about the people for Amanda! She plays 15 hours a week.
Pat doesn't love the game but doesn't hate it either. Pat does have lots of gaming friends who all enjoy it, so Pat plays a few hours each week (around 5) to do the aspects Pat loves in the game but mostly to say hi to Pat's friends there.
They are all different. They all have different motivations, use the developer and game resources differently. They all have invested differently into the game and differently into the developer.
Yet, they are treated all the same.
Starbucks, who has some of the best customer service in the world, treats their heavy users differently. They also have one of the top loyalty programs in the world. If you go to Starbucks once a week you get a coffee and a great service experience. Soon as you hit Gold Level status with Starbucks, you start getting free coffees after X number of visits, and instead of add on charges for syrups and what not, you get those for free too. You always get a free drink on your birthday and because they use purchase data and history they know your favorite drink and send you coupons and offers surrounding the type of experience you have shown to enjoy in the past. They also entice you with new and exciting things to try for a change! All of this is because Starbucks recognizes your contribution to their success as an organization and rewards you for your loyalty to their brand.
Why? Because there are how many coffee places in the world? Brands should be very thankful for consumers making the choice to visit them. It's not the same old marketplace it used to be. It is now about the customer, not the business itself. The business needs the customers more than the customers need the business - because there are so many options in every business.
I had a lot of fun in many subscription games and leaving was typically because hey - something new to try and I'm not getting the same feeling or joy from this game, for this price point. I know for sure I would have stayed longer in games at lower price points and found better justifications for paying and supporting the companies. WoW got 5+ years, two subs out of me - almost $2000 - and none of which funded additional development (had to buy my expansion packs...) and only a fraction of which paid for my bandwidth and resources (never needed CSM help, how much is 10 hours a week of bandwidth cost these days?) - in short, I was a very profitable player for them. I also built and maintained a guild - some of which, you could argue, wouldn't have played or enjoyed the game as much without my personal effort (and that of my guild team!) - point is, when you do the spinoff affect, I helped contribute thousands of dollars to that game. It was fun, and some of the best gaming I had done (so I don't regret the "cost") but they could have had me longer and made more money off of me if they for once, appreciated the positive contributions I put into their game - both monetary and subsidiary.
Unfortunately MMOs don't look at their customers as individuals, per se. And this is a shame, because they have some of the best data in the world on their customers. Hell, they have the type of data every major company would pay huge dollars for - and they get it for free!
Starbucks, back to that example, would pay a lot of money to know exactly what their customers did in their stores. What seats were always picked first? (And why?) How long did people sit in them? What ELSE were they doing while sitting in their seats? Were they talking to friends? Working on a laptop? Texting? What behaviors did they do, and most importantly, why? The reason why Starbucks would love this information in the first place, would be to make the experience better. If no one sits in 4 chairs, they would either make the chairs more comfortable, or but something else there to make everyone's experience better. It would give Starbucks the opportunity to improve for not only the bigger picture, but for the exact customer that comes in 4x a week. (there are many examples of this. Imagine if that customer went in 4 days a week, and always sat in the same chair? What if a team member recognized that, and one day when that customer went in, there was a sign on the chair saying "reserved for Kathy". Kathy would feel pretty good about that.)
MMOs are fortunate enough to know exactly what every player is doing at every moment in their game and they should leverage that to provide a more personal and engaging experience for their customers. There are many options in the MMO sphere like in life and what markets are realizing now is that personalization and customization are driving the best brands and most successful consumer markets. MMOs have all the information they need to provide next gen experiences and lead marketplaces in this regard. They just have to sort out how to make that work and how to engage and delight their customers. Not just with in game items and behaviors (although a good start) but also with how customers pay, access, and support (and get support from) the game outside of the game.
And here is a big hint - its not to treat everyone exactly the same.
I know it is challenging because of the scope and nature of number of players versus number of developers, but from my personal experiences in MMO gaming I am not a valued customer - I am just a number on a spreadsheet.
(End note: some community members in WoW have been memorialized for their contributions after death, etc. so kudos for that where it is due. I am talking a more frequent, common level however, to general customers - not just the extraordinary exceptional ones.)