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GDC Next adds Cryptic on avoiding pay-to-win MMOs, Animoca talks
GDC Next adds Cryptic on avoiding pay-to-win MMOs, Animoca talks
September 23, 2013 | By Staff

As early-rate pricing ends today, 'future of games' conference GDC Next organizers have added more exciting talks to its lineup, including Animoca's Henry Oh on choosing your next game platform, and D&D: Neverwinter developer Cryptic Studios on avoiding pay-to-win in F2P MMOs.

GDC Next is the spiritual successor to GDC Online, and will take place alongside the App Developers Conference on November 5th-7th, 2013 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

This new event aims to highlight the future of video game development, with session tracks organized around 'Next Generation Game Platforms', 'Free To Play & New Business Models', and 'Smartphone & Tablet Games', as well as cloud and indie game tracks.

Developers wanting to design an engaging and fair free-to-play MMO experience without offputting monetization traps should check out 'How to Avoid Pay-to-Win with F2P,' from Cryptic Studios CEO Jack Emmert. He will share how Cryptic weighed business needs against game balance while keeping players happy in its current MMOs, including Star Trek Online and Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter (pictured).

In 'How to Pick Your Next Game Platform,' Pretty Pet series publisher Animoca's director of strategic initiatives Henry Oh will present a framework for evaluating game platforms so devs can better target the right platforms for their games. Animoca has published over 200 apps on iOS, Android, Facebook, and more, which informs how Oh will speak about monetization, distribution potential, contractual issues, and technical requirements on these leading platforms.

Be sure to check out the GDC Next Session Scheduler to see these and other announced talks and begin your planning. Previously announced talks include Sega's move to free-to-play with Sonic and veteran Tom Hall (DOOM, Rise Of The Triad) on Diner Dash's mobile efforts.

Registration is in full swing for GDC Next and the co-located ADC, and today is the last day you can save over 30% on ADC, GDC Next, or a combined VIP All-Access Pass. For all the latest news on GDC Next, subscribe for updates via Facebook, Twitter, or RSS. Also, check out ADC's recently announced design talks: internet radio service Pandora's transition from web to mobile app, along with Immersion on tactile design for mobile users.

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John Trauger
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I notice nobody's talking about champions Online. Did it finally die or what? I don't remember hearing it died...

Keith Russell
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Disclaimer: I've been playing CO since a shortly after launch, so consider the bias.

Champions Online is the most cynical form of themepark MMO gaming around at this point. They're doing the absolute minimum to keep the lights on and new players churning, but they have no interest in growth or a sustained player base.

They've fallen into a cycle of making mostly-temporary events to sell gamblebox keys, then using that key money to make the next mostly-temporary event. There's been precious little in the form of substantive development since introducing vehicles last summer, and no announced plans to start anytime soon. Players have been told that anything that would indicate growth (new zones, new power sets, raising the level cap) are off the table.

Foundry support for CO has been on their "wishlist" ever since it was introduced in STO, but they've made no visible progress at all in 2 1/2 years. If anybody asks, it's still on their wishlist.

They built Cryptic North from the remains of Flying Lab to work on CO. So far, it just looks like they're using CO as a big tutorial for North to learn the engine, while more experienced people stay on STO and Neverwinter.

If it sounds like Cryptic doesn't talk about CO to outsiders, it's even worse internally.

Cryptic *never* told CO players about Cryptic North. The Gamasutra interview with Jack Emmert and Russell Williams in June was the first time we had heard about Cryptic North, even though they had allegedly been working on CO since January. It took somebody reading that interview and posting it to the forums for us to find out.

While STO and NW have had multiple "State of the Game" and "Ask Cryptic" columns from their executive producers over the last 15 months, CO has had one Ask Cryptic in February 2013 and zero SotGs. That Ask Cryptic addressed none of our concerns about the game's future, but it was how we found out that CO had a new executive producer. They never announced that Brad Stokan had been replaced by Tom Edwards, the name at the top of the Ask Cryptic just changed.

When the NW soft launch took down all three Cryptic games by overwhelming the account servers, that lone part-time community rep happened to be on vacation at the same time. While STO and NW got regular status updates and apologies, CO got one or two terse sentences from an STO developer who gave the impression that updating CO players was the last thing he wanted to be bothered with. When the dust had settled, STO and NW got apologies from their producers. CO did not.

Things have improved a wee bit in the past two months. Tom Edwards is a slightly more regular presence in the forums, though it's almost entirely concerning whatever's current on the Live and Public Test Servers. And the game is getting a long-overdue bug fix pass right now.

But we're coming up to the end of the long term plan of gamblebox events announced in that Ask Cryptic in February. We know that one more gamblebox event is coming between this bug hunt and the end-of-year holiday event. And after a year and a half of feeling like Cryptic could have pulled the plug after any one event in this cycle, and still could after the next one, there's a palpable sense of dread among CO players. We always feel like we're one poor-selling gamblebox away from joining City of Heroes in the Hell of Mismanaged Superhero MMOs.

Josh Duncan
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I find this sort of ironic, as both Neverwinter and Star Trek Online allow players to pay to win. I guess they really aren't the worst case scenarios though. In both games, you still have to level up, which you can't skip by paying. You're also not forced to pay to win. And some players do actually have to be playing to give you the opportunity to pay to win. But, at least in Neverwinter, you could skip months of grinding for the best end-game gear by just shelling out cash.

It is an interesting dynamic, and they do (mostly) avoid direct pay to win. If I was attending I'd definitely want to see this talk, and ask some questions. Still, I'm really surprised that it's happening.

Bruce Mills
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It will be amazing to see how he describes Cryptic's titles as not being Pay-to-Win.