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f13.net  |  f13.net General Forums  |  The Gaming Graveyard  |  Dungeons & Dragon Online  |  Topic: The Marketing of DDO, what's the vision? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
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Author Topic: The Marketing of DDO, what's the vision?  (Read 2407 times)
Xilren's Twin
Posts: 1648

on: October 15, 2005, 09:11:40 AM

(i posted this on the alpha boards too)

Forgive me if this runs a little long, but I wanted to get my thoughts down on where this project is headed as early as possible in the process. 

Already at this early stage, we can see some major differences between DDO and a typical mmorpg such as EQ, WoW or CoH.  But, what I think is critical to know in order to help give good recommendation and feedback is who this title is aimed at and what direction it is headed.  In other words, what's the target market?  Providing a successful ongoing service places a priority on both setting, and more importantly MANAGING expectations.  The time to begin doing that was the day this title was announced and continues over the life of the game, but setting the stage for a good release begins now.

So, let's explore the positive and negatives of that.  Offhand I can think of 3 similar yet distinct target market groups, but knowing who the audience is makes a bi difference in how to position this game and also how to steer development efforts.

Pen and Paper D&D players:
Pros: Know the ruleset and world setting very well.  Tend to travel as gaming groups so if you get one you get others.  Familiar with the Exp points from adventuring rather than grinding.  More focused on story rather than character advancement.
Cons: DDO cannot be a straight interpretation of the book rules (too many things just dont translate or are worth coding).  Quests are limited in how they can be completed to what success states have been coded.  No abilty for them to go outside the lines, i.e. creative uses of magic (use a fireball to make a smoke screen to get away), non lethal combat options (dress up in enermy guard's uniforms and bluff your way into a stronghold, knock out an important npc and hold prisoner/question for info).  No ability to be creative in terms of introducing content them dream up themselves (as we all know, a staple of p&p gaming is having a good DM that can roll with the story as it's being created/played through, something that just no doable in a computerized setting).

Players of computer games based on the D&D license:  The Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series, ToEE, Planscape Torment, heck even the old SSI gold box games.
Pros: Again familar with the ruleset and background.  Familiar with linear plot lines and following preset paths with side quests.  Story and goal focused rather than advancement for the sake of advancement
Cons: Used to controlling multiple characters.  Used to much more tactical combat (either turn based, or pausable).  Used to the start weak and be godly at the end, dripping with tons of powerful magical gear.  Used to being the center of the story.  Used to being able to save games and reload after failure.

Current MMORPG players: games like EQ, DAoC, WoW, CoH, ACs et al
Pros: Familar with the online persistant world model of gaming and all that brings with it (death penalties, downtime to regain health/magic, cool down times on abilities, user interface concepts).  Generally familar with the class system of rules, if not D&D specifically.  Ready for social formation and bonding of online gaming (grouping., guilds, online economies etc).  Used to filling non combat roles such as crafting.
Cons:  Used to advancement being the game (getting from lvl 1 to max level in minimum time is the goal) thus non story focused things like exp and loot farming/grinding and camping.  Used to their character being a summary of what gear they have accumulated.  Used to a max level end game state (be it PvP, plains raids, instance runs, new unlockable ladders, etc).  Used to time played being the sole determinant of character effectiveness instead of skill.  Willing to go outside the game (ebay, playerautction) to purchase in game advantage, even if against the rules.

Of course, the rub is any given person could easiely exist in one, two, or old of these markets.  That's why is so important to determine who you are targetting, and why, so you can play to thows strength and handles the minimize the weaknesses of the group.  You can't be all things to all people, so focus is critical, as is communicating the expectations you wish to set and manage of the life of the game.  Done well, you can capture a long term suscriber base of satisfied folks, done poorly and you are setting the stafe for disappointment and cancelled subs.


"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Posts: 59237

Reply #1 on: October 15, 2005, 09:26:53 AM

Well, from my couple hours playing (all I've had, le sigh) I can say this. The hardcore contingent definately wants in this alpha/beta/game. In the opening tavern there was a guy selling what looked and sounded like very high level platemail. Turned me off immediately. I mean, who wants to play a game when they see mid-high level gear in the alpha.

Aside from that, Turbine hasn't marketed an MMOG in a while. What audience is there to target outside of what WoW has shown us to be an extremely diverse group of casual players? This is Dungeons and Dragons - it's a big name. A very big name - that women have no interest in (Aside from Signe because she's awesome) and conservative parents don't want their children to have interest in, that leaves your typical male cross section of 16-35 year olds. Were I in marketing, I'd market the gameplay. I think that's what'll make this title stand out.

As to Xilren's points:

Pen & Paper D&D players probably don't give a shit. The creativity is lost on them. Just like Star Wars fans didn't help SW:G much.
The computer game folks all like that type of game - this is nothing like them. I think familiarity with the ruleset and background don't matter.

For example, I was a big pen & paper player and I know only one thing about Eberron, it's a boring setting. Planescape, Dragonlance, and hell - even Forgotten Realms - are more interesting. I still read P&P boards here and there and Eberron isn't a big draw.

That leaves the current MMOG folks - and as I said above, the actual gameplay will make the difference. Polish it, baby it, make it smooth - fun - and most of all make it feel like an adventure. D&D (other than Dragonlance) was never about heroes. It wasn't about feeling special. It was about the group experience and the small victories. Sure, there were heroes in some campaigns, but normally they weren't the players. They are a singular group who come together to partake in a common quest.

Two minutes into combat I can see the potential. But are they willing to make the paradigm shift? It hurt to say that, but it's true. Like Stray, my faith in MMORPGs is faltering. Normally, this would be about what *I* want, unfortunately it's not this time. Turbine can't compete with Blizzard. Comparatively, the name ain't shit. Dungeons and Dragons can't compete with Warcraft - for every one CRPG and Pen&Paper fan there's 50 Blizzard fans. But they can do what I said in the WoW threads, not compete with them.

Holy shit, I ramble incoherently when I sleep. By the way, Xilren, never apologize on beta boards for a post less than 6 paragraphs. Unless you like rubbing salt in the eyes of the drooling masses. I know I do. Sometimes I apologize for something more than 1 sentence.
Posts: 335

Would you kindly produce a web game.

Reply #2 on: October 15, 2005, 10:05:05 AM

First, good post. I forwarded the link from the beta boards to the team and our marketing department.

To answer your question, all three of those groups are target markets, although they are prioritized. Your pros and cons are pretty much spot on.

You and Schild are both right, most hardcore pen-and-paper players (those who do not play CRPGs or MMOGs) will probably be a tough sell. Mostly because they are already playing Dungeons & Dragons, party-based, hand-crafted adventuring, in instanced areas...the instance just happens to be their living room. That said, we are putting some stuff in the game that could appeal to people who are hardcore pen-and-paper and who have at least dabbled a little in either CRPGs or MMOGs. The DDO.COM boards are full of people who are big PnP players although I suspect these folks also play D&D computer games of one sort or another. For the most part, if someone has played a few CRPGs and/or MMOGs I'd put them in those categories even if they've been a hardcore PnP player for 20 years.

Of the three groups, the MMOG players seem like the low hanging fruit, but again, DDO plays very differently from other MMOGs. If you just look at a bullet point list of DDO's features (combat, quests, instancing, items, etc.) you'd think it was very similar to other MMOGs. It's not until you start playing the game that you realize the experience feels different. And that's where I am hoping to help steer the messaging...on the experience, rather than detailed feature explanations. Then of course as Schild said, polish is the key. We have to deliver the experience that we promise.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2005, 01:39:02 PM by Calandryll »
Xilren's Twin
Posts: 1648

Reply #3 on: October 17, 2005, 04:11:27 PM

Holy crap I made a lot of typo's in that post.  (failed Save vs grammar)

Here's the think about marketing DDO.  While it's not surprise the primary group is existing mmorpg players, you have to have some competetive advantage or newness to bring to entire people not only to try DDO, but to stay.  What is it about the game that going to be different enough, or new compared to WoW and it's sisters?

Right now, there appears to be just a scant few answers.
1. Handcrafted quest instances with good stories, including some non combat activties and puzzle solving (and some of them are very good - I'm doing the sanctuary chain of quests now).
2. Experience granted for objectives/quests completion, not foozle whacking - that is very different, but may not be perceived as a positive unless you hammer it home early and often.  (explain WHY this is a good thing - better storytelling and more rpg like and no more mindless camping, grinding, exp sweet spots, unused areas, botting, kill stealing, etc etc)
3. D&D ruleset - which is near and dear to many, but as I think SWG and WoW have shown, a well know license can be as much as hindrence to success as a help.  To wit, WoW fanboys will see they are only 10 levels and scoff.  "Only 10? We have 60, and then the REAL game begins.." or "with only 10 levels the rate of advancement must be painfully slow, boring"

Those points are good, but I fear they simply aren't enough to keep people subscribed beyond a month or two.

Not I didn't include 4 the action style of combat (i.e. the blocking, dodging, right clicking like a hamster) b/c at this point I don't think it's enough of a point to be a postive.  Yeah, it's nice that I can watch monster animations and block/dodge out of the way of their attacks, and time mine to attempt to hit, but is this really somehing most mmorpg gamers would want?

So what's the plan for the other parts of the mmorpg experience existing user will want to know? 
I.e. Will there be a player economy to speak of (auction houses, player vendors, ease of transactions)?
Will there be crafting/gathering (note, every time I read in the marketing survey about "non-combat roles for rogues and clerics" i cringed.  That is not what most players today mean by non-combat; they mean crafting)?
Will there be some form of PvP or direct competition between players?
Will there be dragon raids (you know this is coming, the game is named Dungeons and Dragons for Gygax's sake...)?
Will there be levels 10-20 added in an expansion?  Epic levels?
Player housing?
Guild support structure?
Magic item creation?
Employing NPC henchmen?
Custom content created by players?
Alignment driven gameplay?
Et al?

I know these concept aren't new; I just don't think i've seen them addressed anywhere.   Know what the rest of the plan is will help alot.


"..but I'm by no means normal." - Schild
Staff Emeritus
Posts: 41214

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you and other troops you control.

Reply #4 on: October 17, 2005, 05:06:34 PM

I think when trying to analzye the marketing of DDO, I have to ask the question that Cal probably can't answer. Just how many subs are you trying to net, or better yet, what's the baseline number you need to be profitable?

Posts: 335

Would you kindly produce a web game.

Reply #5 on: October 18, 2005, 09:08:42 AM

I think when trying to analzye the marketing of DDO, I have to ask the question that Cal probably can't answer. Just how many subs are you trying to net, or better yet, what's the baseline number you need to be profitable?
Yea unfortunately you are correct, I can't answer that. I can say that it's nowhere near as high as most people would probably guess. While we'd certainly love to have WoW's numbers, the plan doesn't require anything even near that high.
Staff Emeritus
Posts: 41214

Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you and other troops you control.

Reply #6 on: October 18, 2005, 11:53:00 AM

If any plan called for WoW numbers as an absolute minimum, I'd have to personally shoot the developer in his spleen with a harpoon gun for being a complete dumbass.

I was thinking more along the lines of you need CoH numbers, you want DAoC (release) numbers, and you'd be happy somewhere in between.

Terracotta Army
Posts: 761

Reply #7 on: November 18, 2005, 10:12:13 AM

Well from what I've played so far -- considering myself just having scratched the surface -- I am really liking the gameplay.

I tried to solo an adventure in the library beneath the lighthouse and was getting wailed on by zombies whom I could not turn. Thank goodness for my shield -- I blocked a heck of a lot of attacks while trying to come up with some plan to deal with these things -- drag them into the lightning bolt trap -- hope to outrun them -- etc. But the fact I could time my blocks was great. No more hoping the random number generator would block for me.

Calandryll, your combat mechanics programmers should go take a look at Mount & Blade to get a feel for what interactive fighting can feel like. It's much too hard and twitchy for the average MMO player, but for a game with cheap graphics, Mount & Blade has some really fun fighting gameplay.

I also like that I don't have to go on quests to kill "ten zombies" or Fedex the potion to the bereaved widow, etc. -- been there and done that TO DEATH. The quest I was describing above could be considered a Fedex quest -- it starts by being asked to get a book for a woman standing outside the library -- but once inside, it's a whole different ballgame, of overcoming monsters, traps, as well as exploring (my only gripe about that quest is that it seems to *require* a character with a high INT score to complete -- it cannot be completed otherwise, since some devices that must be used have an INT requirement. Of course, the 3 times I've tried to complete it now perhaps I'm just missing something...).

Already this game is head and shoulders above AC2 (not hard to do, I'm afraid), and so far this feel much more like computer RPGs than the EQ-model MMO. There's a bit of Guild Wars PvE in the instanced quests. But that's fine by me since the quests beyond the starter quests are becoming much less linear.

Looking forward to using the built-in voice chat in a group -- was already able to hear others in chat last night just didn't have my own mic set up properly -- followed the document on the beta board and it worked.

Voice chat needs multiple channels so you can switch from voice chatting in your group to voice chatting with your guild members to creating private chat groups (basically anything you might want to be able to do with something like Ventrilo or TeamSpeak you should be able to do wth D&D voice chat). I can see why design-wise it might be limited to your immediate group -- it adds to immersion. Silence spells in dungeons could make it impossible for you to voice chat (or even to text chat with or type emotes your party members could read). But as games like WoW have shown, enhancing game play by making communication tools (like in-game email) is greater benefit than simply following a design-idea.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2005, 10:38:13 AM by Sobelius »

"I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -- Voltaire
"A world without Vin Diesel is sad." -- me
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