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The MMORPG

Source: http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring05/Hill/mmorpg.html

What is it?
• • • • • • MASSIVE MULTIPLAYER ONLINE ROLE PLAYING GAME

MMOG
Typically these involve the players having a client that allows them to log into the world, which continues to exist and change even when no one is on. Usually MMORPG’s charge a subscription service but occasionally they do not, typically the better games do though.

The Big Idea:
An interesting aspect of MMORPG’s is that they are constantly in flux. To keep the players happy the companies are typically continually working to improve and enhance the game. Players often log in to find that new zones and quests have been added. If the game does well enough players can usually expect expansion sets to come in the future. These expansions are giant additions to the game that players are required to buy.

In the beginning…
The first MMORPG is believed to have shown up in 1996, Meridian 59. It was originally released in 1996 by the 3DO company and was one of the first commercial online games available for sale in retail stores in the US. The game was purchased by Near Death Studios, Inc. in 2001 and relaunched commercially.

1997
It wasn’t until 1997, with Ultima Online, that the genre started to become popular.

Evolution
Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games evolved out of MUDs. These games host a large number of players logging into the same world to play out their game. These visual games are currently very big business. There have been a few attempts over time to create a successful MMORPG, but nothing was an extraordinary success until Everquest.

“Evercrack”
In 1999 Everquest was released by Sony Online Entertainment and was the most popular and commercially successful MMORPG until 2004. The game was so popular and captivating that it received the nick name Evercrack. It marked the beginning of the modern MMORPG push.

It is impossible to talk about MMORPG’s without discussing World of Warcraft (WoW), not just because it’s so many people’s game of choice -- but because it made history.

Wow!
Everquest dominated the MMORPG world for five years. In late 2004 WoW hit the shelves. In Wow’s first 24 hours it sold over 240,000 copies, more than any game in history. As of March, the game has sold over 1,500,000 copies worldwide and has at any given time an average of 500,000 users are online.

Woah!
WoW’s popularity has also been in some ways its bane. According to a Penny Arcade interview with Blizzard, the company saw that other popular MMORPG’s typically sold about 300,000 copies in it’s first year. Blizzard planned sell 600,000 copies during its first year.

They hit that number in six weeks.

This amount of players caused incredible problems because the system couldn’t handle it, Blizzard has since fixed many of the issues but occasionally finds this overpopulation to cause trouble.

…and then
Two expansions and billions later:

But wait…
Recently, it seems that every game company has been trying to get it’s own MMORPG on the market. Already gaming companies like blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft, Lucas Arts, Star Wars, and Sqaure Enix, maker of Final Fantasy XI have released their own world’s MMORPG based on the game series they put out. A number of MMORPG’s are based on existing worlds from movies, books and games. Future MMORPGs have included games from The Matrix, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars.

HW

• Play around with a free MMO: • http://us.runesofmagic.com/us/index.htm • http://www.onrpg.com/MMO/Free-MMORP

A Long-term Study of a Popular MMORPG
Wu-chang Feng Debanjan Saha David Brandt

Source: W. Feng, “A Long-term Study of a Popular MMORPG", NetGames 2007, Sept. 19-20, 2007.

Imagine yourself
• In charge of running a successful MMORPG • Your goal
– Make money – 100k+ people paying you $20 a month to play

Questions
• How many players will there be next week?
– Provision servers to support them

• What can I do to increase this number?
– Impact of game updates and promotions

• What can I do to make sure players don’t quit?
– Detecting disinterested players

Difficult questions to answer
• Requires player data from a successful MMORPGs over a long time period (fat chance!) • Never hurts to ask…
– Remember NetGames 2004? – David Brandt, CCP Games

EVE Online
• Single world sci-fi MMORPG

EVE Online statistics
• Launched in UK and USA on May 6, 2003
– Europe on May 23, 2003 – China on June 12, 2006

• As of August 3, 2007
– 190,000 active subscriptions – 35,000+ peak concurrent on-line players

• How does it stack up against other MMOs?

Not too shabby
• Source: http://mmogchart.com (6/2006)

EVE Online trace
• Anonymized authentication log of EVE Online throughout its existence
Duration May 6, 2003 – each – All session-related events forMarch 12, 2006 player Total sessions 67,060,901 Total unique 925,928 players Total player time 17,204 years

Questions
• How many players will there be next week?
– Provision servers to support them

• What can I do to increase this number?
– Impact of game updates and promotions

• What can I do to make sure players don’t quit?
– Detecting disinterested players

Previous study Gamespy
– 550 games (mostly FPS) – Nov 2002-Jan 2005 – 337.8k player years
C. Chambers, W. Feng, D. Saha, S. Sahu, “Traffic Characterization of a Collection of On-line Games”, IMC 2005 (Best student paper)

• Periodic

Game workloads

– Strong daily peaks with weaker weekend peaks

Gamespy

EVE Online

Game workloads
• Predictable over short-term
– Workload fluctuations small from weekto-week

Gamespy

EVE Online

Questions
• How many players will there be next week?
– Provision servers to support them

• What can I do to increase this number?
– Impact of game updates and promotions

• What can I do to make sure players don’t quit?
– Detecting disinterested players

EVE Online growth
• Active player population throughout trace

EVE Online

Mechanisms for increasing population
• New game content and updates • Promotions and marketing • Price reduction

Impact of game updates
• Gain in players after each game update in trace • Castor spikes
– Large gains after initial release – Modest gains after subsequent game updates – Competing sci-fi MMORPG shuttered – Marketing blitz during game conference (free accounts)

Questions
• How many players will there be next week?
– Provision servers to support them

• What can I do to increase this number?
– Impact of game updates and promotions

• What can I do to make sure players don’t quit?
– Detecting disinterested players

Player churn
• A fact of MMORPG life low acquisition rates – MMORPGs notorious for • Potential reasonsdisadvantage New players at a
– – Hard-core player population “tapped” out – EVE Online player acquisition rate drops over time

Acquiring new players is hard
Let’s keep the ones we have instead!

Can we measure disinterest?
• Examining play history to detect waning interest
– Minutes played per week – Session length statistics – Inter-session time statistics

Metric #1: Minutes played per week
• Minutes played per week throughout play history
– Players play less over time

Metric #2: Session times
• Session time distribution
– Session length of “final” session shorter than normal

Metric #3: Intersession times
• Intersession time distribution
– “Final” intersession time significantly longer than normal

Catching a disinterested player
• Aggregate not individual statistics • What percentile does final session and final inter-session times fall into versus player’s prior times?
– “Final” intersession time a very good predictor! – Addicts thrown in with casual gamers – Normalize per-player

Conclusion
• A close look at a popular MMORPG over a long period of time • Key observations
– Workload stability – Player acquisition and churn – Measuring disinterest

Questions?

Extra slides

Game workloads
• Unpredictable over long-term

Gamespy

Impact of game updates
• Player minutes per week as a function of last game update

Player sessions
• Many play for a short time