Author Topic: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre  (Read 1060 times)

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Jeshin Offline

[Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« on: April 30, 2017, 10:36:33 PM »
This week's article is about text-based games as a genre. How we have different difficulties from other game genres and how we still have hope for a bright future as a genre.

http://optionalrealities.com/2017/05/01/text-based-games-an-untapped-genre/
« Last Edit: April 30, 2017, 10:39:26 PM by Jeshin »

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2017, 12:56:55 AM »
It's a decent article, but I think you failed to hit on the hard part of trying to monetize a heavy role playing MUD.  The problem comes in that you have to find a way to punish people who are paying you because something they're doing wrong is impacting the quality of the game for others.

Jeshin Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2017, 01:45:08 AM »
Monetizing RP MUDs

There really isn't a problem here at least not a very big one, in my mind. The quality of roleplay should average out amongst the player base. Those who diverge too far from the average in a negative direction will probably experience shunning/stigma from their fellow players who are completely justified in choosing who they spend their time roleplaying with. Meanwhile, from a staff position, you're paid to provide the same story opportunity and quality to everyone.

1. This means you may lose players who do not "fit in" with your roleplay culture
2. This also means you are not catering to the lowest common denominator
3. The internet is large enough that if text-based games were to become viable you would (in theory) have enough average players to make a living
4. I can name two or three text-based RP games right now where there is often a large gap in quality between staff writing and player writing. It is understood that staff is responsible for staff and that player quality can vary. This is also the case in most multi-player online games where your experience may vary based on who you are playing with.

So that kind of addresses the "quality" issue that can crop up on a roleplaying game. I wouldn't view it differently than someone not liking the pvp or pve style of an MMO.

In the instance of policy issues and/or subjective policy, you'd probably want to err towards the customer always being right if it was an isolated incident that didn't affect another player/character directly. I would once again imagine this would be no different than other pay to play games dealing with their policy violators and/or benders.


EDIT - Now there is a significant problem if the average quality of roleplay on your game is lower than you like and you believe it's causing the product you're asking for money for to be less than it could be. More on that in another post!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 01:57:40 AM by Jeshin »

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2017, 03:13:07 PM »
EDIT - Now there is a significant problem if the average quality of roleplay on your game is lower than you like and you believe it's causing the product you're asking for money for to be less than it could be. More on that in another post!
It only took you your entire post to stumble onto my point.  While I should be annoyed your post didn't address this at all because you were off on a tangent, I'm oddly relieved that you figured out what I meant without my having to explain it again.

All friendly ribbing aside, the issue boils down to accounting for having to kick out paying customers.  Coming up with a plan for that is not a fun prospect.  I'll probably kick off a thread for it if you don't; the topic is lively on Discord.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2017, 04:28:16 PM by Many Faces »

Famine Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2017, 09:16:24 AM »
Couple things here.

I think you're mixing advertising and public relations together. They are essentially two separate things. MUD's in general don't have a lot of avenues to brand on that's not paid channels and has a lot of traffic for the target demographics we seek. Mudconnector.com for example is not a ideal platform anymore. It's something, but not a site that brings a lot of traffic these days. Other sites like PCGamer and so forth would be hard press to even feature MUD's because it doesn't really bring a lot of traffic their way. While it would be good for us, it won't be good for them unless you paid for it as sponsored content.

When it comes to advertising, as in real advertising, not communications on sites you can't track to a conversion (i.e.: new player account), you have a wide variety of avenues. However, most of these are all paid avenues that require investment. As most of our games are open source and free, this is where we hit a wall compared to PR. You have to spend money to make no money. Adwords, display (i.e.: banner ads), paid social (i.e.: Facebook ads) and more are all pretty expensive and highly competitive in gaming.

The best advertisement you have is word of mouth, organic search advertising (i.e.: your website optimized to show up in Google search for specific gaming terms) or specifically targeting players of these other bigger games to come towards your game unless you really want to take on the challenge of bringing in new users into the pool. Other than that, don't hold your breath on things like Steam featuring MUD's anytime soon. The only MUD's they would feature would likely be Iron Realm games as they are one of the few actually making profit enough to split with Valve.

That being said, I think many need to come to the reality that our demographic from 10 to 15+ years ago has aged and moved on. There is not a lot of RPG games out there that are truly RPG games. Many of our demographics who grew up on true RPG games have full-time jobs, families and very limited time. Kids today are not really that interested in learning a complex game. There is just so much better out there that's not going to require them to read a book to have fun. They want something easy to jump into, something that's somewhat challenging to master and something they can put down and come back to that hasn't changed dramatically. This is where the Skyrims or the Roguelites  or even *gulp* Diablo's of the world shine versus the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinters of the world.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2017, 09:33:39 AM by Famine »
Veteran MUD Administrator & AAA Developer

Bidmork Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2017, 06:06:31 AM »
For monetization you could create your RP mud as a writing co-op.
Publish ongoing short stories/anthologies on Amazon.  The legalities as far as ownership, rights, etc. would be interesting.

Many Faces Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2017, 11:30:00 PM »
You have to spend money to make no money.
Ha!  I love it.

That being said, I think many need to come to the reality that our demographic from 10 to 15+ years ago has aged and moved on. There is not a lot of RPG games out there that are truly RPG games. Many of our demographics who grew up on true RPG games have full-time jobs, families and very limited time. Kids today are not really that interested in learning a complex game. There is just so much better out there that's not going to require them to read a book to have fun.
I don't believe this is true as far as being a new development.  People always fall off due to jobs and family.  The role playing crowd has always been a small minority.  Real role playing games have always been rare compared to the number of games called RPGs (or just compared to the number of games in general).  It's not new.  Tabletop games are still selling and board games have actually gotten more complex, not less, with time.  There are still young people who read and they're still a minority.

For real numbers, though, it was revealed that Armageddon MUD had nearly 10K new accounts spread out over a period of 4.5 years but its unique logins remained relatively stable at 250 - 300 per week.  That was from 2010 to 2014 so it's recent data.  It's not that there wasn't an audience, it was that their churn rate was absolute garbage.  We can also look at IRE and see there's a decent-sized audience of people willing to pay to play MUDs right now.

I believe the problem is a combination of lack of novelty and shitty code bases.  The former doesn't require explanation; most games out there are fantasy, with some cyberpunk and a little fantasy-cyberpunk.  The latter... well, a lot of games try to be RPI but they're built on top of hack and slash engines so old they're past being dinosaurs and are now crude oil.  They have little to no support for concepts like reputation or social standing that can be felt in the game play without a staffer stepping in to make that happen.  There's also a distinct lack of sandbox-style building or realistic, modular crafting (using things with properties to make a thing, rather than using Specific Item 1 + Specific Item 2 = Specific Item 3 recipes), or dynamic economies.  That's not even touching on how pretty much no game's description of the societies of their world actually resembles how people play their characters in said societies.

The end result is most MUDs play like most other MUDs, with some variety in the difficulty and the amount of shittiness you expect from other people in the game.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 11:32:28 PM by Many Faces »

Famine Offline

Re: [Article] Text-based Games: An Untapped Genre
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2017, 09:09:49 AM »
I believe it would be hard to convince me that our market share is not shrunk considerably over the past few years. Whether or not there is still a large pool of players out there willing to play is a unknown unless someone actually has market research that says otherwise. Simply stating there are other RP games out there with confirmed RP players or similar RP games with similar RP players is really not going to cut it.

What we do know is many MUD's have had their playerbase cut in half or pretty much become dead. Why that has happened and why it's continuing to happen is also a unknown. We can only speculate using good logic that's it's likely because these MUD's have become stale, that other games have poached those players from other genres, and or the market has moved on to non-gaming due to real life reasons.

Overall, we know from actual data and actual facts that the gaming market overall is a multi-billion dollar one. We know users who at least play some form of game exist. There is someone to poach and bring over to a MUD genre game. We just don't have any solid data that actually says they would consider a text-based game over what they are playing today.

However, the chances of that happening is what I fear is hard because data shows us that many gamers are pretty much becoming the opposite of what our genre of game caters to. Things like mobile platforms for example are hard to play with MUD's. Other things like complex and new game systems are also not something easily digested by new players, and so much more including going from 2D/3D to completely text-based.

Does that mean there is not a pool of people you can target and swing on over? No, not at all. But to acquire those customers is not going to be cheap along with money into research to prove their is a market within a market that would play our genre is going to be difficult to justify. As most of us are doing this as hobbies for no money, it's going to be extremely hard to justify spending thousands of dollars to pull those gamers over unless you can get thousands of dollars of free PR from the top gaming sites who would write about you consistently.

At the end of the day, I really do believe good games will always thrive no matter the weather. Maybe the only missing piece here is the fact there are very few good games and most of the MUD's are all playing the exact same way. I've heard Iron Realms has not really done a lot of advertising in the sense of paid advertising. Yet, they have a pretty good customer base. Maybe all we need is just better game designers making better games that will attract players too.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2017, 09:15:29 AM by Famine »
Veteran MUD Administrator & AAA Developer