Another insane week, and American Thanksgiving at the same time. Not sure if the in-laws were more stressful or the job, but hey - this kind of madness is clearly what we signed up for when we took on this task.
So in the spirit of keeping everyone up to date (ie sticking to our core mission of putting gamers first) - this week I am going to share our current thinking about how we will split "Basic" vs "Premium" accounts in APB: Reloaded.
When you turn a game into a Free2Play game, we generally expect that there will be several times more players playing the game than during its original run (mostly because people want to come check the game out, and since it's free the game tends to spread like wildfire once players are having a good time in the game). This is great for the gamers in general (more new players = more cannon-fodder for the experienced players), but clearly puts stress on all our systems (which in the end costs a lot of money to operate). The goal then becomes nudging the most hardcore players into "Premium" account status, in order to help pay the bills, while also letting people lease weapons and perform micro transactions for other items (usually various consumables).
At the same time, we really mean it when we say that we want free players to also enjoy the experience, while giving everyone great perks for becoming premium players. The perks usually involve things like making larger clans (like in WarRock), creating and controlling clans, or otherwise giving you various unique options and rewards (though they have to be meaningful in order to make sense).
For APB we have another great feature (and challenge) that we have to take into account as we design the new Basic vs Premium accounts - the customization system. The customization system can generate incredibly complex objects that at runtime get pushed to all the other players in a session, which means that the more complex the customization, the more stuff has to be pushed to everyone in a particular game.
Therefore one of the original RTW guys (now contracting with us) Johann, came up with what we think is a really elegant solution to the problem of getting flooded with complex content; instead of limiting what you can customize as a free player, you will be allowed to customize almost anything, but you will not be able to store (and share) complex customizations above a certain complexity level unless you are a Premium player AT THE TIME OF CUSTOMIZATION. This has several benefits, first it would limit the amount of content pushed to everyone else in the game from free players (which would reduce the amount of loading required), but it would also let you be Premium for just one month, create a lot of customizations that month, and then use those items later on (even if your Premium membership has lapsed).
There are other issues to consider (for example; we clearly do want people to still make content for the marketplace, and also to be able to buy things from the marketplace, without circumventing the limitations set by the Basic/Premium structure). The solution to that issue might be to make customized items have some automatic price correlation to the complexity of the item, but if you are a Premium player you get a discount when buying complex items (non-Premium players would pay more for complex items).
What does it all mean in practice; we presume that some incredibly talented artists will squeeze the living daylights out of the Basic complexity cap no matter what we set this at. In other words, whatever we set this cap at, we expect people to make some fantastic designs using every possible trick in the book, and then those who are really focused on their characters will clearly be very compelled to get Premium status (also for all the other perks we have not discussed yet). And the benefit to the whole game will be less complex characters in the game all around (unless you happen to be playing majority Premium players, which seems very unlikely).
Now I have to go back to eating Thanksgiving Left Overs, so this discussion (specifically what ELSE we will give to Premium accounts) will continue next week. But until then - very interested in hearing your opinions. I do expect there to be both intense Love and intense Anger at these types of suggestions, so keep in mind during the discussion that in the end the game has to actually make money, while being the best and most engaging experience possible for everyone.
Looking forward to all your opinions!