Category Archives: Barriers to Entry
I recently succumbed to the urge of playing through the classic Gabriel Knight adventure games. There are many reasons for this, some of which shall remain unknown for the time being, but having had it recommended by a very close friend was certainly chief among them. It also helped that Tim Curry and Mark Hamill are voice actors in the first game (though it will be strange hearing Curry voice a non-villain). This article isn’t so much about Gabriel Knight as it is about the vendor from which I purchased it though.
Rather than pirating the games I opted instead to acquire them through Good Old Games’ online store. As this was my first time using the site I had to create an account with which to track and download my purchases. So I went through the motions of punching in my pertinent info when I came across something that seemed a little… off.
GOG.com certainly appeals to a large number of demographics now doesn’t it?
“Perhaps they’re from the future,” I thought, “and in this future we failed to homogenize ourselves into a gender neutral species and instead branched off into a myriad of gender distinctions, each one a product of attitude honed to a fine edge along the evolutionary precipice. What a world that would be! So many new peoples to encounter… and hate! Where would we draw our figurative lines in the sand in that faraway time? Already we throw fits over gays and lesbians, what derogatory labels would these futuristic bigots apply to homosexual Breddas or Xippies? Would Jedi from Britain be referred to as Sith (you know, ’cause the accent automatically makes them evil)? And what the hell is a Bad bwai?!”
Well, whatever the case, so long as I can be a Funky Monkey it’s all the same to me.
Note: Adapted from my original post on MMeOw.net.
Now that we’ve moved on from account management issues as a barrier to entry in MMOs, it’s time we talk about another important barrier to entry: the game mechanics surrounding the MMO you’re playing or trying out.
As a term, “game mechanics” has certain connotations, so let’s define the term for use in this article. In this particular article, “game mechanics” shall refer to both internal (in-game) and external (relating to the game) aspects of MMO that a player can perceive and possibly use but not directly influence or change.
One common factor among MMO enthusiasts is that each has his own set of needs and expectations when it comes to playing a game. Because they are needs and expectations, satisfaction from the player can be derived when those needs and expectations are met through either research of the game in question or actual play. These needs and expectations also change through time, sometimes necessitating either an internal change from the player or an external change in the type of game played.
What am I talking about? Let’s take a look at the game mechanics of a couple of MMOs I’ve been through and how they relate to player needs and expectations for further insight.
Recent events and developments have impressed upon me the need to write about something that isn’t normally talked about when it comes to MMO games. That is, defining some barriers to entry in the MMO world.
This is the first in a short series of articles that aims to discuss certain aspects of MMOs that would, unfortunately, keep people from being a part of that game they want to be in.
The first barrier to entry in an MMO must certainly come not from the game itself, but from the means by which one enters the game they wish to play. That is, the account management and subscription page, or its equivalent.
Basically, I see two potential barriers to entry here: one is when you can’t sign up for or subscribe to the game you want to play, and the other is when you have to jump through technical hoops to make the system work for you in the first place.
The first is easy to describe, as my previous entries on LOTRO may have shown. Essentially, when one is unable to create even a trial account for a game, or is unable to subscribe to it, that places undue stress on the person who wants to play.
Now, downtimes for account registration and subscription are not uncommon. Even the giant we call World of Warcraft must have issues at times. When the only way to find out, however, is to attempt to create an account, then we have an issue that needs rectifying.
First off, a means by which the company in charge of account creation and subscription can test the system should be implemented in order to keep a close watch on it. This is doubly important when you’re offering free trials, as you turn away potential revenue when someone who wants to try your game can’t do so.
Second, making sure that any issues are visibly seen by the public would be much appreciated. It might annoy some people, but knowing that the system is down and that the company is acknowledging the issue on the main site rather than in some obscure part of the forums would be useful as well because, at the very least, subscribers and non-subscribers would immediately know that the issue is there, it is being addressed and there is an estimated time for a fix. Besides, most sites won’t even let non-subscribers post in their forums to ask if the account management page is down to begin with.
Now we come to what I feel is the more daunting barrier to entry when it comes to account management and subscription: jumping through technical hoops to get the job done.
We’re not done yet. Imagine that you checked those settings and already set them to the appropriate levels to allow for the game to initiate the account setup process. Yes, this is still the part where you register for an account.
Imagine it still doesn’t work, and you contact their support center for assistance, and a day and a half after sending your email, you get a response from them telling you to update your service packs as well and basically bring everything, including their specific browser of choice (let’s say Internet Explorer for kicks), to the latest upgrades.
And it still doesn’t work.
And you have to send them an email again explaining the issue in detail once again so that there’s no miscommunication.
Are you annoyed yet?
Unfortunately, this second one doesn’t have any clear-cut answers to alleviate it, other than additional tweaking of the most basic of systems to ensure it doesn’t happen to people. Heck, I’d even recommend additional further training of support folk or the creation of special technical templates so they can explain their answers fully and in detail to help the customer, but that’s just a suggestion and not a flat-out solution to a glaring issue.
All in all, these two barriers to entry are the most fundamental, for they are barriers that keep one from even experiencing the game to begin with. They definitely need solutions, but at the very least, someone needs to be paying attention to these issues so that they can be remedied to begin with.