Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Crowdsourcing your Raid Content

I am not optimistic that big budget MMOs are going to break the trend of losing 80% of their launch players within 1-3 months of launch.  This isn't intended as a blog post about why this happens or why I believe they won't break the trend.  The net is that if (for whatever reason) you agree with that premise, the likelihood of a great brand new "Raiding" MMO being released is pretty slim.

The rationale here is that "Raiding" content is time consuming and expensive to create and if your end-game is built around Raiding, you need to continually be developing net new content.  If you lose 80% of your players (particularly the paying ones) in the first 1-3 months of launch, then it's not practical or affordable to develop content at a pace that will keep your Raiders entertained and playing your game.

The concept of Crowdsourcing is pretty simple.  A company has a particularly difficult problem to solve and rather than pay an employee to create a solution, they turn the problem over to the public to solve it.

The how of it can take different forms.  In one sense, every Wiki is an example of Crowdsourcing and members contribute for the sake of community and shared knowledge.  Or alternately, a company can offer a prize for solving some particular challenge. Netflix offered up a $1,000,000 prize to come up with a better algorithm to predict what movies you would like based on previous ratings.

Blizzard has been Crowdsourcing the development of third-party addons for World of Warcraft since the game was introduced.  Even before that, Blizzard crowdsourced mods and maps for Warcraft 3 via it's World Editor.

The upside of Crowdsourcing is only partly about costs -- it's also about ideas.  Netflix had their own algorithm but by offering a prize, they found a better algorithm.

We can talk about Blizzard's "magic sauce" all day but this is one area that they always got right - the ability for the community to create things that change their own destiny.  Many of the features we see in today's WoW UI started first through WoW Addons (including the ability to move a part of the UI).  And without War3's World Editor, we never would have seen Defense of the Ancients (and therefore LoL).

The downside that is often cited about community created content is that it's generally of a lesser quality than what the developer themselves produce.  Sometimes that's true, or in the case of DoTA and many of the most popular addons, it's not true at all.

In any event, there are as many models to Crowdsourcing as you can creatively approach the problem of collaboratively interacting with others.   For example, a group of community leaders/developers could up vote content.   Or perhaps it's not complete level design but only partial -- making the artwork, models and layout of buildings but not attributing stats, abilities, AI or rewards. 

It seems to me that perhaps the next major innovative leap in "Raiding" shouldn't be about gameplay and entirely about how communities can get involved with the creation of such Raids.   Because at least as I see it, without some form of Crowdsourcing, I just don't see a new MMO developer entering the ranks of the MMOs that list "Raiding" as it's end-game for more than a few months.

As an aside, Crowdsourcing shouldn't be confused with Crowdfunding (such as Kickstarter).  There isn't any reason why you couldn't do both but they are different things.  One is about contributing an investment and the other is about contributing work product.

So let me pose this question for you... if an Indie developer had a "vision" that you agreed with strongly for how a Raid game "should" work, would you contribute hours and work product towards the development of that game if you had the means/ability?   I would.  

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