Microtransactions: the scary monster under the bed or the opportunity for something new?
Like so many things, it's all about intent. We need some way to pay all the hard-working people who make 8Realms, but our priority is to make a game we love. As our name says, we're Just About the Game EXperience. We put the game first always.
So the world of Facebook games is obviously where all your minds go, but the difference between those games and8Realms is simple: in 8Realms there is a winner! They most often adopt what designers call a "parallel play" model, which means what I do in my game has little to no effect on your game. Like building Lego with friends, it's super fun and it doesn't matter if I'm building a castle or you're building a starship; we can all sit down together and enjoy ourselves.
From the start, 8Realms has been a competitive strategy game designed with microtransactions. The big decision Mod_ThatJim & I made early on in the design was that players should never be able to buy their way to victory. This is a cornerstone of the 8Realms design and will always remain so.
So, how do we plan to achieve this? Well, everything, bar the above cornerstone, is flexible and we are going to use the Closed Beta to try out a few ideas.
Some items are not game-affecting but look awesome, and give you a way not only to express yourself but to support a game you enjoy. There is not much "design tension" in this area.
The next item is convenience; we have all heard the phrase "time is money". Well, for a few coins we will help you out, but NEVER in a way to dull the competitive edge. For example, the ability to queue buildings, research or orders so that if you're going to be away from the game a while, you know your Empire has plans in place. :)
We are also looking at providing premium visualisations, data and statistics information for the more serious players. So they can get elbow deep in the strategy, analyse games, and in some cases just see the game in new cool ways.
Finally, we will be providing helper items for those of us who have fallen behind. We've all had an unexpected bad weekend in a game, and we want to supply a set of mechanisms for players who are not in the leaders' pack to catch up.
This ultimately makes the game more interesting for all players, we feel. It lets lagging players catch up, making the race more head-to-head, but will never give them an edge to push into the front - that is, and always will be, 100% skill based. It means players always have competition, and an exciting pack of players to work with or against.
Do we have all the answers? Nah, of course not, but we have some canny ideas. With your help, a few experiments and our awesome team, I'm confident we can build a new competitive model. I hope to see you all at the top.