MMO Reporter On Coalgate: Worst Kind Of Cash-Shoppery

A user on reddit shared a podcast of MMO Reporter and the main topic of the episode is Neverwinter’s Coalgate. The statements are well reflected, so make sure to give the guys a click and enjoy the full show. The Neverwinter part about Coalgate starts at 13:50.

We need to get three things straight though. The episode is from the 15th and has been recorded even earlier so the guys couldn’t know that the change would hit PC as well. And while the mentioned leadership changes were blamed on exploiters, the Coalgate was not and solely explained by negative impacts on the economy. The podcast also includes a rant about the closing words of the official statement, which mentioned that they consider the community goals as accomplished. What could be interpreted as cynical might indeed be a reference to the community goals, which they see as accomplished even though they might not have the amount of twitter retweets and such they were asking for. So players were getting more free stuff.

For all those that rather read than listen, here’s a transcript that has been slightly shortened for readability. Chris also followed up by asking Scott Shicoff about the incident in their Maze Engine interview, but the Lead Designer had nothing to add really and just refereed to the announcements they made.

First and foremost, I am having a hell lot of fun in Neverwinter right now. That is in the forefront of my thoughts on this and clouding everything that I look at with all of this. So I want to try and find the good in here and it’s really hard.

It’s so managed now in the video games industry. There a very few games that just post information on the forums. Everything is managed, goes through levels of editing etc. They said they knew beforehand and they just didn’t have time in their cycle of communication to get it out to the players. But yes they did, they just had to sit their asses down in a chair the night before the patch and type it to the forums. It’s still a lose-lose situations, there’s no way you can win if you don’t get in front of this super early, but putting it out before would still be better than this.

I talked to producer Rob Overmeyer at PAX 2015 after the changes to leadership and the issue the players had taking Astral Diamonds, which are an ingame currency, out of the leadership crafting category. Players hated it, but they were in front of it and explained very clearly at that point why it was about the economy. It wasn’t having the effect in the game they wanted it to have, so they needed to change things up. I think they were doing it for all the right reasons.

I also do think they made the latest change because they didn’t like the current effect on the economy. That can mean a whole bunch of different things. That could mean that players weren’t spending enough ZEN, because if players aren’t spending enough money on ZEN, they can’t keep the game going. Or it could be ingame economy, maybe people were exploiting it and that’s actually what they ended up using as a reason for the change in the official announcement.

But even if that was the reason and they wanted to approach it in this way, if they had been ahead of it, awesome. They could have done it. It is a design decision, we can disagree with a design decision, but then it’s not a screw-up. So it comes down to whatever their intentions were, it doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t think that the gifts that they are looking at, which is going to for every 200 Trade Bars on your account you are going to get Coalescent Wards up to ten, are enough.

I do think they came from a good place and trying to do what’s best for the game. They could have been needing to upgrade the amount of ZEN people were purchasing, but I don’t think their intentions were evil. I don’t think they were like hey we’ll do this, we’ll bait and switch, but the fact is they did. The game is still absolutely fun, this is really stupid and dumb. I’m sad they did this.Chris

Well, my first take on this is it stinks of the worst kind of cash-shoppery, which is bait and switch, which is dumping game important items, like stuff you actually need to complete the game or to get to the “end”, and moving it to the pay only shop. That to me is worst case scenario. That’s what everybody is afraid of when they jump on board with a “free-to-play” game. It’s another kick in the nuts to that type of monetization for games. This isn’t even oops, it’s awful game management.

There’s only two ways this can go. It’s either horrible negligence on the part of the Neverwinter developers in that they didn’t see this forming and what the backlash of that silent change would be. Or it’s downright evil and they knew it is going to be an unpopular thing in the community and going to upset a bunch of people who were putting a bunch of effort into saving for these Coalescent Wards and then having all that effort wasted now. So it’s either evil or negligent, there’s no middle ground here. There’s no mitigating situation that I can see. This is a bad, bad thing.

The only way out of this I think is to completely reverse tag, pull the Coalescent Ward right out of the ZEN store and put them right back into the Trade Bar Store at the price that people thought that they were going to be. And then say “Oops, we’re really sorry” and move on to the next money making proposition. If they really needed to put something in the ZEN store to make money, they’re basically starting with a clean blackboard now for brainstorming ideas, because this is a failure. This isn’t even an oops, this isn’t even something you can sort of tweak and then come back from or offer an incentive to make up for it. This to me screams mega screw-up and the only way out is to completely reverse it.

Using exploiters as explanation for changes is weak though. If it’s exploiters then you nail the exploiters. If you can’t nail the exploiters then that’s basically failing or admitting that you’re bad at another part of your game management. Like if you can’t get the people who are exploiting, who wants to play your game? Exploiters are a terrible place to place blame.

Let’s set a perspective around this. This isn’t a game-breaking change, this doesn’t make Neverwinter an unplayable game. That said, in a bubble by itself, this is a really bad sign. Even if it’s not intentional, the fact that it’s handled incompetently is a bad situation and the only way out of it is to completely reverse course and if you need extra money from the ZEN store, start working on your next idea because this one didn’t work.Bill

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